The snow always tells a story. It tells me that we have lots of night time visitors as these (rat?) prints weren’t there when I locked up at 9:30. Ste will have to get out with his gun (and try to not nod off whilst waiting), which is his favourite past time!
Today we moved the geese, as every night since the fox came, they have been squatting in the sheep stable. The sheep are coming indoors for January and February, so the ever indispensable mesh covered greenhouse frame, which housed the Ross Cobbs (meat birds) until recently, was set up ready for the geese tonight. When changing the bedding over, we found broody gooses eggs so we’ve moved them.
Every animal is getting additional feed at the moment, the sheep are having hay morning and night as there’s no grass for them. One of the horses decided she fancied some too this morning, which was cute!
I tidied the pantry out yesterday as it was becoming our dumping ground for the Christmas chocolate and food gifts we received. I had been moaning to Ste about the spice jars in there as there was a few and I kept knocking them off. An hour later he walked back in with this:
I was very impressed and pleased. How kind.
Something I need to get back in to is cooking all of our meals. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited out by friends and family through December, which has taken its toll on the hips and how we feel. We are feeling the need for clean eating, if you know what I mean? Starting off with Saturday soup! Today is pea and bacon from bbcgoodfood and it was delicious.
Chop an onion and soften, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a spoonful of my souper mix and fry for a minute. Add 3/4 bag frozen peas (this was around 750g) and 750ml stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins whilst you grill some bacon.
I blended mine immediately with a stick blender then served. Add bacon bits on to the top if you’re a fan, I am and it was amazing. Highly recommended.
In other thoughts, I buy Grow Your Own magazine as one of the treats to myself (some may laugh!) and they send seeds with every issue. I recently received some cauliflower seeds, all year round variety, which I decided to sow today. A bit early maybe, but what the hell.
I also purchased onion seeds from Real Seed which means I can keep some for saving the seed at the end of the season. It’s a very reasonably priced website that has a lot of heritage seeds which I love. These are the onion seeds I got delivered which were also sown.
They went into the Vitopod as onion seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. 4 trays, 1 for each variety. The cauliflower seeds went into an unheated propagator, however after testing it, I have put the kerosene heater on in the shed, just to keep the edge off. It will be interesting to see how cold it gets in there. All learning for us still and I love that!
The heater is on a flat stone just to be safe and I’ve checked it a few times until I am confident it’s safe.
Finally, here is Buster and Annie this morning after breakfast having a relaxing time together. Rodney watches over them but never lays with them, so far!
Today I made a list for our 2018 plans using my new notebook which was a lovely surprise from Louise. I love it!!
When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging). I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices. We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.
Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze! This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).
It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.
As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.
Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!
No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.
We have had the best weekend. We’re starting with the Christmas decorations which we love! This is our 2nd Christmas on the smallholding and we’re making more of our own decorations as well as the ones we already have. The kids have been busy stuffing orange slices with cloves and helping me with the Christmas pudding on Stir up Sunday, which many people already do each year, and I hope is going to be a tradition for us too.
Stir up Sunday is an old tradition which I think is lovely. It’s the last Sunday before Advent Sunday apparently. We’re not overly religious but I do like this. We all took a turn at stirring the mixture of which we had a good giggle to when I insisted we took photos for the blog.
Tomorrow I’m going to share the mincemeat recipe with you as part of Monday night preserves. I still owe a recipe for stock powder but that can follow at any point. I hope you’ve all had a fabulous weekend.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ll admit it. We tried to shear our own sheep a weekend or two ago. We read up on it, ordered electric shears and watched lots and lots of YouTube videos, so we were totally prepared, right? Wrong!! So, so wrong.
It was due to be very hot on the Saturday onwards, so on the Friday after work we put the horses out in the fields to free up the stables, where they all had a good roll and enjoyed the sun on their backs.
We herded the sheep into the stables where we had the gear set up. Ste decided which one we were to do first and put her on her back in the correct position. She fought, she wasn’t supposed to do that. We must have something wrong. So we adjusted, and she settled. Off we went. “Shoot”, the shears don’t glide through like they do on YouTube. We percivere and lose about 10 litres of water though sweat. After what feels like 2 hours but in reality is 20 minutes, we give up as we’re stressing her and us.
We resorted to manual shears and the sheep standing on all 4 legs! She stood better that way. I think we did a grand job but turns out not haha!
We fear her friends were laughing at her, so we put a cry for help out.
We are so lucky that a friend of ours responded that same night, only 2 hours later, she and her lovely husband turned up with clippers who know what they were doing! He does it for a living and had just finished his flock.
He did our 3 in no time and I am pleased to say we have an agreement for the next few years too!
In another stroke of luck, we had a couple of beers afterwards and they offered us their tup called Charlie for use at home before they use him on theirs!! This is amazing news for us and goes to show what a bit of friendship and luck can do for us smallholders.