Friday, 30 November 2012

Pulled Pork

Friday 30th November 2012
Woodpigeons flight at dawn
When it's cold, snuggle in close.

Daisy and the piglets are doing very well indeed. Despite the cold, all eleven are growing fast and have become real little chubsters.
But before you get too googly eyed over them, we must remember that they are not pets. So meanwhile, pork sales trundle along at a steady pace. This is important as Daisy's life depends on it! We have run out of sausages again, but there are still plenty of chops and leg joints left in the freezer.

We continue to try out new ideas for cooking pork, and today's little project was pulled pork. I started by taking the skin off a small shoulder joint, seasoning it and browning it. Then a long, slow cook at 160 in milk with added herbs and lemon slices.

I was not convinced by this recipe, as the lemon would surely curdle the milk. And it did, a little. But all those fresh, zingy, herby flavours actually percolated nicely into the pork. After cooling a little I took two forks to it and shredded it. The succulent meat fell apart.


Along with a few knobs of crackling I had made from the skin and a good, hearty chunk of seedy wholemeal bread, we had a very simple, very tasty meal.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Monster Parsnip Harvest

Thursday 29th November 2012
 
 
Of late we have had some very dirty geese.
For they have discovered the delights of the remains of the potato harvest and have started digging deep for them.
This I did not mind... until they discovered the parsnips!








I had been waiting for the frost to sweeten the parsnips, though last year this strategy did not work as the carrot flies delighted in the late season meal. But with no carrots this year, I thought the risk was worth it.









I was expecting good things from the parsnips this year. Even as thinnings they were close on a foot long. And I was not disappointed. Most went down further than I could excavate and were huge. Strangely, just a few had totally failed to develop any root at all - maybe they were hit by slugs when young, or is this just something that happens sometimes?







Back when we bought our first house, over 20 years ago, all the furniture we had was a dozen tea chests to serve as tables, storage vessels and seats. Some have now rotted away, having spent years in damp cellars or cold lofts, but a few have survived our various abuses. So today, one of them became my winter parsnip storage.

Any parsnips damaged while being dug up, plus the couple of 3-legged oddities, got cooked and whizzed into parsnip and ginger soup. The rest are buried in neat regiments in the tea chest and stored in the cool, dark garage.
Hopefully they'll provide us with tasty treats through the winter.


 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Piglets' progress

Hiding in the straw.
How many can you see in this picture?
Wednesday 28th November 2012
  
It's amazing how quickly piglets grow.
I estimate they double in size every week.

And with it grow their characters. In the early days they are helpless little bundles of wrinkled skin, totally dependent upon their mother. But it's not long before these intelligent creatures begin to wander and investigate.


Next comes playfulness, spurts of energy and a natural wariness.
But Daisy knows me well now and is happy for me to spend time with her young family. The initial bolting and yelping when I appear at the door are quickly replaced by a line of inquisitive noses all edging closer to nudge my hand. Then there are those that prefer to creep round the back, nibbling at my trainers or tugging at my back pocket flaps as if they were mum's teats.











If, like me, you are looking at these cute little piglets and thinking sausages, chops and slow-roast shoulder, then they will be for sale in about a month's time. Girls are £45 each, boys just £35.

 

Just call me to reserve one.
 
Or you could sponsor one of them. If taking on a pig is too daunting, I'll look after it, feed it and raise it for you until it's ready to go on its final journey. But you'll be missing out on a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wild, wet and windy...and more wet



I do try not to moan about our good old British weather. I try to live by the seasons and accept the extremes.

But COME ON! When is it ever going to stop raining? At least we're somewhat protected here from the worst excesses of flooding, but that doesn't prevent the ground being totally sodden.

There is plenty of standing water in the fields and the dyke at the end of the land has more water in than at any time since we moved in. The ducks and geese don't seem to mind, but the rest of the poultry are not so impressed.

And the poor pigs are wallowing around knee-deep in mud, though if they really didn't like it there's still dryish ground they could move onto. As soon as I can clear a stable room I'll move them inside for a while though, if anything else to give the land a chance to recover.

 
Tuesday 27th November 2012
Grey skies after another very wet night


If only the dyke had this much water
in all the time (I'm thinking wildfowl)


Good job the chicken houses
are on stilts.
  






























Imagine the wader list if it had been
like this back in late summer


























 

 

Monday, 26 November 2012

35 sun rises to go.

My temporary lull in blogging has not meant that I've forgotten about seeing every sunrise in 2012. The last week has only seen one actual visible sunrise, but the weather has been dramatic and morning skies have been varied.

I now have to wait till 7:45 am for the sun to peek over the horizon, which means I often take the photo on the way back from feeding the animals. More scarily, it's only just over 8 hours later that it disappears again in the western sky. This severely limits the amount of outdoor work I can get done, though the weather is not very conducive to achieving anything at the moment.

Roll on the shortest day. From there it's downhill all the way.

So I give you the last week's sunrises, in all their glory.

Wednesday 21st November 2012
Remarkably similar to yesterday's picture.
Thursday 22nd November 2012
Today I had my second Ofsted inspection in two weeks.
So forgive me being too preoccupied
to properly appreciate this gorgeous sunrise..
Friday 23rd November 2012
An amazing low bank of cloud on the horizon
Saturday 24th November 2012
An unusual combo of fog and frost.
Sunday 25th November 2012
Ominous clouds loom.
The lying water tells its own story of last night's storm
which unleashed itself on already saturated fields.
Monday 26th November 2012
More moisture in the air.
Let's hope it stays there.

The beam

Well, it's been a while since my last post. The building work has somewhat overturned all other routines, but it will be worth it in the end. The office is gone, to become a bathroom, so the computer has been unplugged for a while. It's now re-established in the lounge, so it's blogging time again.



The beam
The subject of today's post is the beam. That huge chunk of pitch pine which we unearthed at Patrick's wood salvage yard. It came complete with nails, holes, notches and many years of grime.


Transformed.





So much history enshrined in a colossal piece of timber, not to mention the decades, or even centuries it stood somewhere in a Scottish forest.

Me and the beam spent two days in each others company last week as I lovingly brought it back to it's former glory. We had been a little worried that it would dominate the room or look out of place, but now that Jason and his mate Ernie have somehow managed to lift it into position we are positively beaming. In fact, we spent about an hour just gazing at it, we are that happy with it. And I can always look up at it and think "I did that".


Just as importantly the beam is doing a wonderful job supporting the ceiling above, which always seemed as if it was about to cave in every time anybody moved around in the bedroom above.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Southfork


Tuesday 20th November 2012


I have a new favourite place.
It is called Patrick's, a salvage yard in the village of Murrow.

It's where all the old girders, beams, gates, windows, toilets and sinks go to die. The place spreads out organically. There is no particular organisation to it. You just go and climb over things till you find what you need.
On the face of it, quite an intimidating place, especailly for a not-so-practical person like me, but the family that run the place were actually very friendly and helpful.
So last week I met my builder there and we trudged around looking for a steel RSJ to stop the new kitchen / diner collapsing in the middle. I didn't have a clue what I was looking for, but Jason's keen eyes eventually spotted a pair of U-beams which would do the job perfectly.

This fits in perfectly with two of my strongest principles in life.

1. Try to re-use everything.
2. Try to save money n everything.

The house which has been built next to the salvage yard is a wonder. Extravagantly pieced together using every characterful piece of salvage that has come in over the years, it looks like a Disney version of the Adams Family house.

But it gets even better. For at the other end of the village stand a pair of grandiose house built wiht the bricks salvaged from an old grammar school, complete with columns. This placed is appropriatley named Southfork Farm and is strongly influenced by the architecture of its namesake in Dallas.

Here lies an absolute treasure - the salvage wood yard.
An old boy called Fred runs the place and he has the same appreciation for old wood as I do.
It was here that we found the beam to go across the living room, a beautifully aged hunk of ancient pitch pine. And here too we found 10" wide floorboards and antique pine to make all the new doors we need.

On the outside, this wood shows the scars of years and years of wear and abuse. But Fred has a couple of monster machines, especially a planer that fills a whole room, which transform it, shaving off the grease and grime and the worst of the knocks, but leaving that wonderfully aged colour and grain that's impossible to recreate with new wood.

The moment Sue clapped eyes on the wide floorboards, that was it. We were destined to have wooden floors in the bedrooms! I must say, I fell in love with them too.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Absolutely Offal

Monday 19th November 2012
A very chilly breeze greeted me this morning.

 
There is a saying that the only bit of a pig you can't eat is the oink.
Well, I must say I'm a bit more fussy than that, but I do have very good intentions to use as much as I can of any animal that I raise for meat.

Having said that, the last thing left in the freezer will probably be a heart, a couple of kidneys or a wodge of liver. I think this is more because we have not been brought up to eat much offal and so we need to educate ourselves. Sue did make lots of liver pate out of the livers from the last pigs to go off, but it didn't turn out great. Very tasty, we just need to get the texture a bit finer.
We do enjoy fried liver, with bacon and onions. But a pig's liver is absolutely huge, so we need to eat it more often.
But as for the kidneys, heart and lungs...

There was a recipe on TV the other day for making faggots, which used liver, kidney, heart and even some lung (an organ which we have no idea how to use and always ends up going to a friend's very appreciative dogs).


So when the lambs came back at the end of last week, we dutifully placed the offal in the fridge with every good intention of doing something exciting with it while it was still fresh.
But please remember, this is set in the context of a kitchen being ripped apart and brick dust everywhere. Come last night, the bowl of offal was still sitting there. I decided that faggots would have to wait for another day, so sent the lungs off to the dog again.
But for a quick meal I decided we would have sausages and chips and throw in a little liver, kidney and heart. In the past, many years ago, I've cooked the latter two to oblivion in an effort to make them not appear like the actual organs of an animal!

But today I heeded all the advice dished out by celebrity chefs and just fried them all gently.

The result was absolutely delicious! I can't believe we've been missing out on this for all of our lives. Best of all was the heart - if I closed my eyes I would have thought it was best fillet steak, and I'm not exaggerating.

So offal is not so awful after all.

Now for those trotters sitting at the bottom of the freezer.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

No brick unturned

Building work continues unabated, at times providing us with some fairly challenging living conditions!
Old doorways (most of which were designed for persons considerably shorter than myself, as the top of my head can attest) have been blocked up and new openings have appeared.













                   Today came the biggest change. Dust and debris flew as the kitchen and dining room became one.
The end product certainly is becoming easier to imagine now, though I think it's fair to say it's still some way off yet!

Before...

and after!!

Meanwhile farm life continues as if nothing were happening. But there are housing upheavals on the horizon for the poultry too. The ducks need to move into the veg garden along with the geese, and I really want to find a way of moving the guinea fowl closer to the Ash trees. Hopefully they will eventually make them their night-time roost.

Saturday 17th November 2012
Sunday 18th November 2012
A sharp frost

Friday, 16 November 2012

Welcome back Number Ten and Number Eighteen




Today I picked up my two friendly Zwarbles lambs       ...from the butcher.

The butcher was quite surprised at how "long" they were, but then I guess he doesn't get many Zwartbles in and they are certainly a tall and elegant breed of sheep. I was quite pleased with their weights though, as a friend had recently taken hers (from the same batch) and they were just over 20kg.
So what do you get from one lamb?

Four legs! (no surprises there)
Four shoulders.
I had the bone left in all of these celebration joints, for flavour and drama.
About a dozen pairs of chops (I was too busy to count exactly)
Five packs of mince.
A couple of loin chumps.
Lungs, liver, kidneys.

I for one am very much looking forward to tucking into them. We would never dream of buying chops normally, or even  leg these days.
In fact, if I can manage their grazing more effectively I may even keep a couple more next year, maybe to raise on to make mutton.
It could well make more economic sense to be raising these for meat than raising pigs, certainly in terms of selling the meat.

The key difference is that pigs need constant feeding with brought in feed which is ever-increasing in price. It's also possibly the least environmentally sustainable part of everything we are doing here.
In contrast, the main cost of the lambs was the initial purchase, a little bit on medication and the butchery costs. In all they have worked out about £92 per lamb. So that's in the region of £5 per kilo of meat.

That is, of course, if you don't factor in the £85 it cost me today to replace the tyre which got pot-holed while driving back with the meat last night! Wouldn't have been so bad if I could have removed the wheel nuts!



For ourselves, I reckon a couple of weaners and a couple of sheep a year, along with a few chickens, guinea fowl and a couple of geese, would keep us quite splendidly supplied with meat...

Maybe a cow too...

Or a goat...!!
Friday 16th November 2012
A sunrise to forget.
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