Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cry freedom!

Oh yes! Raspberry glut begins
Sorry once again for being late, but yesterday we only finished eating rather late after baling hay since early afternoon. Ian finished at 8:30pm but I finished earlier to go to a house meeting. So all in all, there wasn’t enough hours or energy in the day to write a blog. Anyway onto the events of the week. 

Feeding the alpacas
I enjoyed having a helper this week, who was up for any job I could throw at her. As I mentioned before she picked and sorted strawberries, which meant I got quite a few frozen and bottled up. She helped me pick peas, put sawdust down to create new paths, picked weeds, strawed up potatoes that I had weeded and plenty of other jobs too. She just made jobs go twice as fast, but there was still plenty for us both to do. She also got to live a few crazy ideas, such as swimming in a river and hanging out with the alpacas looking very Peruvian in her Peruvian poncho. Obviously we had a blast and had numerous crazy and serious chats whilst working. 
Caption competition here! Any offers? No prizes, just some fun

Haymaking art
Once our helper left we got on with haymaking. Ian actually started cutting with the two wheeled tractor the afternoon before, which didn’t take him quite as long as it usually takes me. He then cut the rest with the bigger tractor. He is definitely getting faster, but it still took him about 7 hours. We had a panic though as it rained quite heavily while he was cutting. The weather forecasters had been promising rain all week on Friday and so we had decided we were going to cut this week, then they changed their minds on the Thursday and forecast rain midweek. We decided to start earlier rather than risk the rain, except they changed their minds back again sometime on the Friday. We either have to get better at forecasting our own weather or we just resign ourselves to the weathermen getting it wrong from time to time. The problem is that the one thing that is crucial is the hay, that will feed not just our three alpacas this year, but another four female alpacas, two of who will be pregnant and possibly some sheep. Fortunately the weather has been that dry that it didn't seem to be too disastrous and the hay dried well. 

No hay bale photos yet! We've only just finished. Instead
a hay field flower, Scabious. I always wanted to grow these
in a flower bed, but obviously it prefers the freedom of the
open field and they grow quite happily there
Our activities are more or less governed by the weather, but we still try to have at least a day a week where we take things very easy, only it is not always Sunday. This week it was Saturday, as the hay needed time to dry and so it was cut on Friday and due to the rain turned on Sunday. In fact we took Saturday so easy we slept for two hours in the afternoon. Now in the summer it is not unusual for us to have a kip midday, as we can start early and finish late, but the heat of the afternoon can be unbearable, but that is usually for an hour, not two. I guess we needed it though as we both slept well again that night. It's nice though to have the freedom to choose when to do things, well weather permitting. At least the weather has held up till now and all the hay is baled. It would be good if it didn't rain until we collect them in, but we have left them out for the time being to cure a little, in case they are slightly damp. They cannot stop out long though, unlike the big bales as they can get wet. That's a job for tomorrow.

Finishing off the hutch
It is not just us enjoying the freedom of the countryside, so are our chickens - the older ones that is. As we will need the arks for our new chicks we decided to re-home our older ones in a new hutch set in the alpaca paddock. Last week's photos showed the half finished hutch, but Ian got it finished just in time before haymaking time and we both transferred the chickens one evening to their new abode, except for poor Charlie. He was earmarked for the pot, because he wouldn't go in at night and didn't seem to look after his ladies terribly well, unlike James. However, he has got a reprieve as he is not an aggressive chicken, he has the chance at a new home to replace another chicken who is turning aggressive, we are just waiting for him to be collected. Our James has also been getting a bit aggressive, but hopefully we have put him in his place and is getting the idea that humans are higher up the pecking order than chickens. He seems to place alpacas at the top and us at the bottom - or tried to.

The freedom of the open field
Our chickens have certainly taken to their freedom, they strut around with tails up and wander far too far. We hope they are not going to become a meal for Mr. Fox, as they were supposed to stay in close proximity to the alpacas, but they have other ideas. They do go into the alpaca house on a daily basis to have a good old rummage around - hopefully finding lots of juicy fly larvae in the process, they like a bunch of cleaners marching in, quite funny to watch. The alpacas don't seem unduly concerned about this and after the initial curiosity they now seem to ignore them totally. One of the problems with their wanderings is that they now are wandering around my new cranberry bed. So far the cranberries seem safe, but that is probably because they are green. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to protect them from the chickens though, they were looking ever so nice too. Oh well, back to the planning board on that one.

Poor Charlie, he lost his women and he's now waiting for
his new home
I mentioned earlier that we had a house meeting. From time to time all the folks who live in the apartment block are invited to a house meeting, where we decide on what is going to happen about the heating, what is going to happen with the house in general, the heating, what needs repairing, the heating, and any other problems. Yes I know I've mentioned the heating more than once, it comes up every single time and we still haven't resolved the issue. Some folks are just willing to continue to pay stupid sums of money for inadequate heating, rather than tackle the issue together or get a new form of heating. We have another meeting later on in the week to try and resolve that one, yet again. The other issue that gets recycled is the issue of non-payment. Some people were refusing to pay because of - well lots of reasons. It is not a great deal of money each month and it goes towards paying electric bills and various other costs, but it is not enough to do major work, because not everyone is paying and because it is not getting done they won't pay and so it goes on and on. It looks like it is heading towards being sorted though, with the worse culprits being given ultimatums, pay up by a certain time or agree a payment plan or court. Drastic, but possibly necessary.

These little fellas look quite odd as they are still waiting for
the feathers on their heads. These are our first batch of
chicks this year waiting to be moved up to the bigger ark soon
In an effort not to waste anything, I have been getting more experimental and trying different foods. We cooked bulrushes tonight with our tea. From three bulrushes when we first dug the pond, we are now getting lots of them popping up all over and they are in danger of taking over our pond. I read somewhere though that a lot of the bulrush plant is edible and so we gave the base of the stems a try today. Apparently bulrushes can pick up all sorts of nasty chemicals and that's why they are good for cleaning water, but since our ponds are not contaminated they should be fine. We found out that it is only really the inner core that is properly edible, or the very young shoots, the rest is a bit fibrous, but they do taste good. At least when we clear the ponds out, we have no need to throw away all the plants. Just going to see what to do with the roots and I know baskets can be made from the leaves but I will leave that for another time.

Our water situation is okay, but that brown ring shows how
much water has been lost. We think there must be a spring
because even though the water table is dropping, this still
fills, but slowly
The other challenge we had was lots of small fish we were given. They taste good but the bones are a nightmare. I was determined to find a way to cook them that would have the same effect on the bones as tinned fish and I have found it - the pressure cooker. I marinated the little bream in oil, vinegar, onion and herbs and then pressure cooked them for about half an hour. Result! The bones are a bit like the bones in tinned salmon, a bit brittle but edible and the meat of the fish was fine. I would now like to see if I can do a batch job in jars and then we can eat them out in the caravan for a quick meal.

Black hollyhocks. Well that is what they are
supposed to be, but in reality they are a very
deep maroon colour
We had a surprise visitor tonight, just as we were about to leave, a black and tan dog turned up. It was the friendliest of creatures, didn't go silly with the cats, seemed quite affectionate without being overly fussy, didn't jump up and most certainly did not look like a stray. I managed to get hold of one of our neighbours, as I remembered that she said she might get a new dog sometime as their old guard dog was getting very, very old. Sure enough it turned out to be theirs. It had been a stray and when their dog died they gave it a home. Glad my hunch turned out to be right. Their dog was very happy to hang around while we waited for them to turn up to collect it though. Ian is not a dog lover, but that one was okay in his books.

I will try and upload a couple of videos of the chickens and the alpacas, as soon as I have worked it out that is. I will not be winning any awards for my filming but they are fun.


  1. Eating bulrushes! Never heard of that before. Talk about waste not, want not. Sounds like you'll need a whole storehouse never mind a fridge/freezer to keep all your produce. Good for you.

  2. I know Mavis, I was surprised to learn they were edible. We are planning a root store already for storing our produce. Just have to decide how to go about it.

  3. i don enjoy your pics. i love the blue of scabius.

  4. Glad you like them Liz. I hear that there are certain people who only look at the pictures, but they will remain nameless :D and before anyone jumps to conclusions, it is not Liz :). I love the colour of scabious too

  5. you eat the strangest things!! would you like a food parcel? black pudding perhaps?

  6. I wouldn't say no Karen :D, but don't forget a nice piece of crumbly Lancashire cheese.

    Seriously there are so many things we could eat, some are best forgotten in the past, as really they don't taste that good and take too long to prepare, but sometimes they aren't bad really. We regularly eat ground elder and nettles in the spring and they are quite tasty, invasive and the first things to appear after the snow. The bulrushes are multiplying rather rapidly and need bringing under control and are surprisingly tasty.


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