Monday, 13 August 2012

Frolicking in the hay

120 bales of hay under that tarp, with Ian posing nicely for
a sense of scale 
We had a house meeting this week, I didn't understand a lot of what was said, but it is interesting watching people react and I knew some of the details already anyway, such as the issue with the heating inspector. The news is that the set up of the heating monitor is incorrect, but that is not the fault of the house, it is the fault of the heating company and in addition it has been an issue for the last three years and nothing has been done about it. The heating company are in the wrong also for not addressing concerns about the cold, they are meant to address the issue immediately on notification and not send a letter a month later. The company are also required to give one to two years notice of any termination of contract - not six months. Now it will be interesting to see what they make of all that.

Bella! "Wonder if I can get up there?"
This week was a quieter week as we didn't do much visiting, were not visited and I didn't have to help with the baling, so I have taken the opportunity of bottling up some of our harvest and now we have more bottles of cordial, jam, tomato sauce and chutney. It is interesting that the cordial I made, gooseberry, ginger and lemon tasted different to the jam I made from the leftover pulp. I love using the steamer to make juices and cordials, as it is so easy. For a juice I just pile the fruit in the steamer, stalks and leaves and all (washed of course) and then steam for one hour, what comes out is a lovely syrupy juice and these can be poured directly into warm, sterile jars and that is the end of that process. Cordials are similarly easy to do by layering in sugar as well. I use 6oz of sugar to 1lb of fruit and for the gooseberry, ginger, lemon cordial I put in 7oz of fresh ginger to 10 lb of fruit and the peel and juice of two lemons. I then put the pulp through the vegetable strainer on my kitchen aid, which works wonderfully when the right pieces are assembled together (not easy when I have several attachments in one box) and then add a little more sugar to the pulp to make jam. The cordial had a light refreshing taste that sort of reminds me of elderflower cordial, but the jam is much more lemony and almost tastes of lemon marmalade but without the peel and is a thick pulp jam not a jelly like consistency. Weird!

Our escapee alpaca, Herkules. Obviously the grass is
greener on the other side
Ian has continued to cut the grass and turn it this week and if we get a dry week it will be ready to bale. So far though it has been showery and so it is a good job that the majority of it is only fit for compost and we have already earmarked where it will be put so that is not a problem. So far we have 156 bales of hay stacked on the field where they were cut and have now moved another 120 to the hub of our land where most of our activities are. The alpacas have been given an extension to their paddock during the day when we are around. We have used the plastic temporary poles that they use for electric fences with a single wire but not electrified it and they seem quite happy with that, until yesterday that is when one of them found an escape route, fortunately the others didn't and they don't like be separated and so fairly easy to herd. They enjoyed finding all the dandelion leaves though, which we are really happy about but they don't seem so fond of ground elder which is a shame and so their paddock will have to be mowed to sort that problem out where they have eaten everything around them and left swathes of the dratted stuff. 

My surprise present! A rustic pergola for the grapevines
We had a lovely meal at one of our friends, cooked by an American family so that our friends didn't have to worry about leaving to see to their animals. Only trouble is that we had to leave a bit earlier to see to ours - such is the life of a farmer, albeit on a small scale at the moment. The meal was a fusion of tex-mex and Latvian as some of the ingredients are not quite what they would use at home and so we had crisps - the dorrito type, with guacamole and salsa followed by chicken enchiladas. It was lovely all the same and we also got to meet some new people, a kindergarten teacher and her husband who works for the electric company. It is nice getting to know more and more folks from our community and something we really enjoy doing, there is nothing better than getting to know folks sat around a table eating and chatting, beats the computer any day. 
Rose buds embroidered onto denim - a belated present for
my daughter's birthday

Daisies on denim

Close up of daisy

Close up of bullion knot roses

The rampant chilli plant. At our other apartment. I didn't
realise they could grow so big. At least it is finally
flowering. We have smaller plants of different varieties
 in the greenhouse
Our daughter and son-in-law arrived yesterday and so I thought I would make a banana and chocolate cake as you do. Well you know those stupid cook books that insult the intelligence by saying things like "first assemble the ingredients?" I should have used one of those as I found out in the process that I only had three ounces of flour. I can't ever remember running out of flour before. I probably have but it must have been so traumatic that I erased it from my memory. I had to blitz some cracked wheat and oats to make enough flour and I had to use bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. The resulting cake is okay, it does, but you can taste the bicarb and the cracked wheat wasn't totally blitzed and so there is an added crunch. Oh well! I tried. I also managed to throw a jar of roast tomato sauce on the floor and so wasted a quarter of a bucket of tomatoes. Hmph! Could have got the day off to a better start, but at least I got to see my daughter and lovely son-in-law.

Hoppy our hero. Hoppy due to being sick is used to being
handled and is quite small, so Ian took her on a trip around
the cabbage patch to eat all the caterpillars they could find
I saw a very entertaining video this week on the internet that talked about edible landscapes and reconnecting children with food, it was a wonderful talk with astute observations like
“There's so many people that don't really recognize a vegetable unless it's in a bit of plastic with an instruction packet on the top.”
The talk was about a group of people who have got together to encourage planting of edible plants in spare ground or in areas where they normally plant prickly bushes to keep people off. Instead they plant things that people can help themselves too, such as fruit bushes and trees, much more friendly.

One more piece of good news from this week, I have finally finished with the Inland Revenue (UK tax authorities). They owe me £4.25 and so I won't be spending it all at once but at least they got the message this time that we have finished with all connections with the UK 


  1. Connecting with the land and people - what could be better!

  2. the embroidery is lovely. the flowers look just right on the denim.

  3. well I hope you haven't completely cut the UK adrift...just the tax man....and remember your promise not to spend it all in the one shop!!!
    Your embroidery is delightful...hope she liked it. Well of course I am sure she loved it.

  4. I am fairly certain I will never return to live in the UK. It is not my home any more. Of course as long as I have relatives there we will continue to visit from time to time.

    Glad you liked the embroidery. It was fun to do something like that after so long. She did like it :o)

  5. ps like the pictures of the hay - where are the pictures of the frolicking ?!

  6. It was a little difficult to take a picture of the stacking of the hay, with Ian throwing the hay bales onto the top of the hay stack and me moving the bales along to their right positions by carefully navigating the bales underneath - that is as close to the frolicking as we got. We know how to enjoy ourselves! :o)

  7. I read with interest your description of making cordials.
    What does your "steamer" look like? I have something that looks like a double boiler with holes in the upper part -- that I use to steam vegetables. Is that what you use?
    Do you put water in the bottom to begin? If not, how do you keep the juice from burning when it drops onto the hot metal?
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    -- Lois Richter, pop-at-gotouring-dot-com

    1. My steamer does look rather like your description of your vegetable steamer. Hope that helps. I will try and remember to put a picture of it in use, hopefully the berries will be ready for steaming soon. I can't promise though, as I have a dreadful memory


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