Sunday, 2 August 2015

I'm the Daddy

Caldwell, or to give his his full title Caldwell II, thinks he's the daddy ......

... the daddy to these two little bundles of feather and fluff!!

Of course he's not, and biologically Mother Goose is not their Mum, but then parenting is just as confusing with chickens as it sometimes is with us humans  :-)

But it's good that he thinks he is the daddy because that makes him look out for them and keep them safe.  Not all cockerels are this 'fatherly' but we've found that all our bantam boys have been and it's lovely to see.  He offers them tasty tit bits and sits by them if Mum has wandered off and temporarily abandoned them.

They are feathering up nicely now and their proper Pekin Bantam tails of fluff and feather are looking quite impressive.  I thought that now they had successfully reached seven weeks of age it was time we gave them names, so after only a very brief deliberation, I came to the conclusion that their names were Jack and Jill.

Meet Jill, who I just couldn't get to look at the camera ....

... and Jack, who likewise faced away every time I tried to get a photo of him.

It's handy that they are boy and girl as it means I can easily tell them apart, unlike Poppy and Daisy, our other Lavender Pekin Bantams who look so alike, and even more so now they are older.

Here's Jack and Jill with Mum running to catch up with them, and Suky looking on in the background, I didn't notice her there until I came to crop the photo, needless to say I didn't crop it!

The chicks are always on the go, running up the hill and down the hill, they've never fetched a pail of water and Jack has never fell down and broken his crown, but the names Jack and Jill just suited them very well  ;-)

And I think Daddy approves!!

Sue xx

Saturday, 1 August 2015

An Alcoholic Kitchen

I did eventually get round to the jam making after leaving all the pans, bags of sugar and various bits and bobs warming on the Aga the other day.

The Damsons had been strained through muslin to separate them from the gin and the whisky, and then the alcohols were bottled.  Next the damsons were stoned as I showed on this post.  Then I added enough boiling water to cover the damsons in the pan and brought it back to the boil, it was left to simmer for around twenty minutes ....

....  then it was all tipped into the jelly bag and left to drip overnight.

It's always tempting to give the bag a squeeze to get every last drop out ... but DON'T, you get a much clearer jelly if leave it to drip naturally and slowly.

After weighing it I poured the luscious looking, and heavenly smelling liquid from the jug into my jam pan and added it's weight in sugar with a tablespoon of lemon juice, and brought it all to a rolling boil, once jam temperature had been reached I checked for a set on an ice cold saucer and decided to get it into the jars.

As you can see I managed two full sized jam jars , a smaller jar and a little sample for me to try on a slice of toast .... I love chef's perks ;-)

I could have stopped there, but I had a taste of the mush left in the jelly bag and yes, it still had lots of lovely flavour to impart and as I had spent so long stoning the fruit it would have been criminal not to have used it.  

So I set to and made some normal jam to go with my already made jelly.  

I added a little bit of water to the mush, just under it's own weight in sugar and another dash of lemon juice and off I went again.  I just about managed it before the Aga temperature dropped too much, having the top lids open is what causes an Aga to drop in temperature and it needs time to get back up to full performance.

So from two kilos of Damsons, one small bottle of whiskey, one large bottle of Gin and a couple of bags of sugar I got - three and a bit bottles of Damson Gin, three jars (and a taster) of Damson Gin Jelly .....

 .... five full sized and one smaller jar of Damson Gin Jam ....

... and two and a bit bottles of Damson Whisky ... and BOY is it strong!!

Not a bad few hours work.

Hic, hic!!   ;-)

Sue xx

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Gates

The gateposts are finally in.

Yesterday our wonderful builders put most of the tops stones in place on top of the new walls and got the gate posts up at the right levels and concreted in place.  These posts will take the weight of the gates and be hidden by stonework to match the walls.

And thanks to our morning out to the quarry near Caernarvon last Friday ....  yep, we go to all the best places together  ... we now have the stones that will cover the steel posts.  The same company Trefor Granite Quarry supplies the granite that makes curling stones, and some of our stones have the distinct curved edge that shows they were once part of a rock that has been turned into a curling stone.  The curved bits will be faced inwardly unfortunately so this 'claim to fame' will be hidden from view.

That trailer is holding two tons of stone, just enough for the three posts.

And then this morning .... ta da!!

The gates are on .... they most likely won't stay on for long but measurements had to be taken and fittings checked and I couldn't resist getting a quick photo of how it will soon look.  I've just had a quick peek out of the window, and yay ... the first few stones have been placed around the pedestrian gate post.

Next week on Monday, there is a very big delivery expected.  The steel supports that will be the framework of the garage and workshop have been made, galvanised and are almost ready for loading on the truck  :-)

It's all starting to come together rather nicely.

Sue xx

Thursday, 30 July 2015

On the Agenda Today

Well the Damson Gin is strained and into it's bottles ready for storing in the cupboard.  Now that just leaves me with the well soaked Damsons.  I can't actually remember when I put these to soak, it doesn't really matter how long you leave them steeping in the Gin as the alcohol preserves them, and actually the longer they are there the better the gin and the jam.  

Now it's time for the next step ..... taking the stones out of the damsons.  It's worth doing this as although they will float out in the boiling process it's a sticky and fiddly job to fish them out then and there are always some that get missed, and you get a much better jam to eat if you don't have to fish stones out of your mouth with every bite of your toast.  The easiest way to do it is to line up an empty dish, or the pan you will do the next stage in (I forgot to do this this time), the bowl full of damsons and your little compost bin.

And with the radio on so you can sing along and bop when the right tune comes on, you can start the process of pick up damson, squeeze out stone and put the right thing in the right container.  When you get to the halfway stage as I was in this photo, you can start to breathe a sigh of relief ... it's not the most riveting job in the world!!

But once you get to this stage ... it's all worth it :-)

Then you simply pour on enough water to just about cover them, bring it to the boil and then simmer for twenty or so minutes.

Once slightly cooled I usually give them a bit of a mash with my potato masher and  then ladle them into the straining bag.  I left this overnight and by this morning my jug was full of lovely damson juice.

As I sit here at the computer typing this my jars and lids are washed and draining ready to go into the bottom oven of the Aga for ten minutes or so to sterilise them ....

.... and the jam pan and bags of sugar are on top of the Aga getting nicely warmed up .... and as it was so wet here this morning when I walked the dogs round the paddock before seeing to the chickens, my jacket is drying too.

So one more cup of coffee, a whizz around blog world to see what you lovely lot are up to and then it will be time to make the jam.  I can't think of a better way to spend a wet, cold and dismal day than in the kitchen making a batch of jam.

Sue xx

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Death to the Food Thieves

If we are to have any chance of self sufficiency I do realise that meat has to be on the agenda.  Not for me I hasten to add, I could no more eat a pork chop than I could chow down on one of little Suky's legs, but Lovely Hubby is a meat eater through and through.

Last weekend saw the first proper go at keeping down the pesky food thieves on the hillside whilst putting meat in the freezer.  Two humongous rabbits were shot with the high powered air rifle and 
using his woodsman's knife (lost since the move and just recently discovered), he skinned and jointed the two 'victims'.  

The dogs had a wonderful supper of cooked rabbit trimmings and four large fillets were prepped for the freezer.  I must say that Lovely Hubby did all this very discretely with me up in the office on the computer while the butchery went on in the kitchen ..... with a rapt audience of dogs.

The only thing is now that she has tasted cooked rabbit I have visions of Rosy bringing her rabbit kills back to the house for cooking instead of eating them on the hillside .....yuk!!

Lovely Hubby's knife was made by Ben Orford who we met at River Cottage way back in 2010 (see HERE). 

As well as buying the knife we bought a couple of kitchen utensils and after seeing us scraping together all our available paper money to pay for the knife (he didn't take cards) Ben made me a lovely Spurtle on the spot.  

It's something I use to this day  .... although rarely for porridge!!

Hopefully in the future as well as rabbit for the freezer we are hoping to have our own chicken, lamb, and pork products as well as other cuts of meat that we may be able to barter for.  If you're doing this self sufficiency malarky you do sometimes have to do things you might not completely like.

Although we have decided to help me stay sane, that the large chest freezer that will be holding the meat is moving out of the house and into Lovely Hubby's new workshop as soon as it is built.  The house freezer will hold vegetables and just the week ahead's meat.

*** *** *** *** ***
Edited to add - After reading my post this morning my Mum sent me an email ......

  Subject: Sex after Death
 A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come
 back and inform the other if there is sex after death. Their
 biggest fear was that there was no after life at all. 
 After a long life together, the husband was the
 first to die.

 True to his word, he made the first contact:

 "Marion . . . Marion . . ."

 "Is that you, Bob?"

"Yes, I've come back like we agreed."

 "That's wonderful! What's it like?"

> > "Well, I get up in the morning, I have sex, I have
> breakfast, and then it's off to the golf course. I have
> sex again, bathe in the warm sun and have sex a couple of
> more times. Then I have lunch (you'd be proud - lots of
> greens). Another romp around the golf course, then
> pretty much have sex the rest of the afternoon. After
> supper, it's back to the golf course again. Then
> it's more sex until late at night. I catch some much
> needed sleep and then the next day it starts all over

"Oh, Bob, are you in Heaven?"

 "No...I'm a rabbit in Shropshire."

Sue xx