There are scaredy cats, and then there are scaredy pups. We’ve been living with scaredy cat Charlie for years, with his fear of the hoover, his hatred of the guitar and his noisy plastic bag phobia. Now we have scaredy pup, the collie who’s afraid of traffic, barking dogs, bats, inanimate objects and who, on encountering 30 errant sheep rampaging in our field, turned tail, ran home and left Dave to do the herding all alone. Don’t expect to see Dave and Teri on “One Man & his Dog” any time soon. In fact, the only things Teri isn’t afraid of are people and cats. She enthusiastically greets any stranger and refuses to be rebuffed by the spittings & hissings aimed in her direction by the Three Amigos. Toilet training has been successfully completed (praise the Lord!), but there’s a long way to go with every other form of training. I growl, I praise, I shout “no, no, no”, I wag my finger menacingly, I give up and sacrifice my slippers for a moment of peace and quiet.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Dave and Phil Herriot were called into service for the first time this week. The Welsummer chickens have stopped laying for the moment, but the Rhode Island Reds have been merrily popping out one a day since they started laying back in February.
Then Athena stopped laying and we noticed a large object hanging from her rear end. We were concerned that she may have had a prolapse (inside out vent - nasty). This could mean that she wouldn’t survive, so we donned our veterinary gear and attempted to examine her. The first stage involved Phil herding the chickens towards me, and then I tried to throw a blanket over Athena. Sounds straight forward enough, but for the fact that chickens are surprisingly speedy, especially as they are free range and not used to being handled. This went on for a while and turned into a bit of a farce, more Tristan Farnham than James Herriot!
I eventually caught her, and she remained quite calm so we whisked her into the clinic (the utility room in disguise), and ran her a warm bath. She appeared to have a huge hard growth on the exterior which was blocking her vent (the egg exit hole next to the poo exit hole, for those not familiar with a chicken's rear end). After 5 minutes in the bath and some careful massaging, the lump started breaking up, and an unpleasant aroma filled the air. The good news was that it wasn’t a prolapse, but several days worth of solidified chicken poo! It was so hard that Phil had to cut away her feathers to get the last bit off.
On returning her to the run (after a liberal application of Anusol to her sore behind - no really, that's what the poultry forum recommended - it works for piles so it works for sore chicken bums), she immediately went off and layed an egg. I can only imagine how eye watering it must have been hanging on to that poo rock for 2 days!
Monday, 20 September 2010
For nigh on 38 years I’ve waged war against parsnips. As a child I disliked seeing my yummy Sunday lunch roast potatoes sharing a bowl with yucky parsnips and would gingerly pick out the tatties from amongst the devil’s root vegetables lurking in the bowl. As an adult, I’ve avoided that same root vegetable in all its forms, soup, mashed, roast, snuck into a casserole. Yesterday, something strange happened. I ate a parsnip and I liked it. I didn’t love it. Let’s not get carried away. It wasn’t too sweet. It wasn’t too mushy. It was a whopper and it came out of my garden. Perhaps I’m psychologically predisposed to favour my own vegetables, or maybe the thrill of eating a meal consisting almost entirely of my own produce (until Hera meets her maker that is) simply overpowers my parsnip phobia.
Aside from whopper parsnips, colourful chard and carrots with legs, the garden continues to yield fruit and veg of all shapes and sizes. The debut blueberry harvest amounted to a bumper three berry crop. Hmm what to make ... blueberry muffin, blueberry pie, blueberry yoghurt … so many options so few berries.
The damsons are falling from the tree faster than we can gather them. A wheel barrow was needed to carry the squash home.
The brussel sprouts are ready about two months too early and are growing to cabbage proportions. The chillies are fiery red and doubling up as a source of entertainment for Dave (I’ve spared you the chilli earrings and comedy mouth shots).
And my one and only aubergine is a weeble.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Fruit, fruit, glorious fruit. The old damson tree is laden with fruit this autumn. I eye them greedy on a daily basis waiting to pluck them at their peak of fruity loveliness. I dream of having oozy dark damson jam for breakfast again. After last seasons bumper crop of sloes there are none this year, but with plenty of damsons on offer we’ll be steeping a batch of damson gin for a Christmas snifter or two. The apples are also thriving after years of neglect, so the freezer will be packed with stewed apple for those emergency crumbles when Squaddie Dad comes to stay and, heaven forbid, I’ve forgotten about pudding.
We’re big fans of braised red cabbage, so this year I ditched some slug magnet savoys to make way for the red drumhead cabbage. I’ve been watching the dusty purple leaves curl in tightly as the heads swell. I’ve scattered eggshells and slug pellets galore to protect these braising beauties. Then lo and behold, I turn my back for a day and my prize drumhead cracks wide open, unable to hold herself in for a moment longer. Quick as a flash I whipped her out of the ground and into the kitchen before any sodding slug could squelch its way inside. Hmmm, yummy with a juicy pork chop.
This time last year I was searching for recipes to use up my sorry looking basketfuls of green tomatoes, but no such problems this year. The tomatoes went into ripening overdrive a couple of weeks ago and are still going strong – one batch of roasted tomato sauce is already in the freezer, and tomorrow it’s time for the passata. Cherry tomatoes have been a success story – we tried “Minibel” this year (not to be confused with Ba-ba-ba ba-babybel) – so I’m going to test my new found confidence in the kitchen and attempt to turn the trug load sitting on the kitchen counter into jars of slow roasted tomatoes in olive oil.
With the dip in temperature as the autumn weather approaches, the conveyor belt of courgettes and cucumbers is finally slowing down. None of the glut has gone to waste though, as the pigs scoff those that are too far gone and large enough to house a family of mice and their aunts, uncles and cousins, and the rest have magically (after much chopping and a fair few minutes of slaving over the vinegary fumes of a hot maslin pan) become jars of relish. Dave has already blown my cover and blurted out the secret plan to sell my wares to the unwary tourists of Covent Garden. My poor little jars looked a little lonely on the shelf, but as of today I have reinforcements ready to keep them company, and each jar has its own little mob cap. The shop launches this Saturday - get there early to avoid disappointment!
Saturday, 11 September 2010
The furry whirling dervish that is Teri the pup is taking a wee nap, so I have time for a little work around the property. Taking on a small puppy is no mean feat, especially in the area of toilet training. Pups like to “eliminate” after drinking, eating, sleeping and playing, and you have a 60 second window to catch her before she decides to do her business.
We currently have a routine where the alarm goes at 6.30 am and one of us gets up to try to catch the morning rituals. If neither of us are feeling up to it, a sleepy game of paper, scissors, rock decides who goes down. After this the early bird is allowed to go back to bed, and at 7.30 the one left in bed has to go and let the pup out again and feed the rest of the animals.
With the pup asleep, Phil slipped off to Lampeter to get some more books from the library and a plethora of jam jar sundries. She has been a busy bee over the last few days as we have been given a small display in a shop in Covent Garden to sell our wares and promote the holiday business. The shop is called Tribe and is being set up by our friend “Chelsea” Ali. It is the brain child of her employer entrepreneur Serge Bueno and is about promoting new businesses.
As you can see we’ve only sent a few jars of preserves, but the next batch is on it’s way and will be there before the opening later in September.
With Phil out I sneaked out up to the poly tunnel to harvest a load of tomatoes.
I plan to roast them with olive oil, basil and seasoning before turning into yummy passata to freeze for consumption during the dark winter months.
Well Teri has resurfaced so I must take her………….bugger!
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Puppy power is alive and well and causing havoc at Banceithin.
Behind this innocent looking face is the cold, calculating mind of a pooing, biting, licking, weeing, jumping, chewing machine. Life, our dining room chairs and my slippers, will never be the same again. And I’m not sure if the cats will ever forgive me no matter how many consolatory cuddles and treats I dish out. If looks could kill I’d be six under feet by now. Stevie and Nessa have conveniently forgotten that they were once the incoming usurpers.
The puppy training regime is going well. Teri can now jump when she should sit, sit when she should walk, and walk when she should be “eliminating” in the designated spot. At this rate we won’t need to buy another bag of chocolate training treats for a year or two. My favourite time of day is sleep time, as it’s only then that I can get in and out of the kitchen without being ambushed by a ball of fluff.
Here’s a question for all you dog owners. Why, oh why, do dogs eat poo? I’d heard tales of this less than endearing canine habit, but thought (and hoped) it was a nasty urban myth. Unfortunately this has proved not to be the case and for Teri a walk around the house is an all you can eat buffet serving a smorgasbord of tasty chicken poo treats. And I thought having cats who lick each others bottoms was bad! Goodness only knows what the chickens get up to in their house at night.
Saturday, 4 September 2010
I should imagine this post will not be of interest to everyone, but I couldn’t resist recording my achievement for prosperity. As you may or may not be aware, I let Philippa go away for a weeks holiday in June, and I am now starting to cash in my green cards. One card is for next year to go on a boys trip to Glastonbury, especially as one of my best friends has moved very close to Worthy Farm in Somerset, allowing us to pop back for a hot shower if it turns into a mud bath. The other cards consist of several ‘fishing’ passes.
So yesterday, with the sun blazing, I cashed in a token and headed off to Teglan, a local freshwater lake. Due to the heat I struggled all day for meagre reward. The fish were just cruising about on the surface, enjoying the sunshine, and mocking me at the same time. I decided to try and tempt them with floating bread crust, but whenever a carp started heading towards the bait, the local team of Mallard ducks decided to do a sweep of the area, shovelling up all bread in their path. By six o’clock I decided I had had enough and gave Philippa a call informing her of my intention to return before dusk, I decided to give it 30 extra minutes and, as most fisherman do at this stage, say a prayer to the God of Fishing (“I’m not asking for much, just one decent fish before I go home etc etc…..”).
And to my joy, I spent the next 10 minutes fighting this little beauty (in the eyes of the beholder!)
Luckily there was someone at the lake to help me land the fish, having no scales we estimated about 17lb which beats my previous carp best of 15lb.
As is the way with coarse fishing, the fish was carefully returned to the lake to fight another day.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Death has been on my mind a lot recently. I worry about my bee colony - have they built up sufficient honey stores to make it through their first winter or did my accidental killing of a handful or two of bees hamper their efforts. I worry about Hera - will she ever lay another egg or do Dave’s dark mutterings about “pay her way”, “return on investment” and “casserole” mean an early demise for her. And as of yesterday I worry about the pigs – will I cope knowing that we’re counting down their final 56 days or will I break down at the last minute, denounce pork products and embrace the quorn burger.
Yes, the pigs have a date with destiny and their journey to the big wallow in the sky begins on 27th October. I’ve put many dates in my diary over the years, but I can confidently say that “slaughter day” is not one I’ve ever pencilled in before. It’s just as well that we’re now on the slippery slope towards the slaughterhouse as the bigger my porky girls get, the more difficult feeding them becomes. Distraction is key to a successful feeding time. Throwing in a handful or two of tasty grass & yummy chard leaves, gives me time to get to the feed bin, fill the feed bucket & get to the gate. It used to get me safely through the gate, but the girls are now wise to my tricks. These days I struggle to get in the gate without the pigs getting out, I fight to get to the trough without the pigs knocking me over or having my feet for breakfast, and I usually fail to get the feed in the trough before it disappears under a mass of heads, ears, snouts and trotters. This hasn’t stopped the girls from fattening up nicely though. Alice may think the back scratching and belly rubbing is purely for her enjoyment, when in reality what’s actually going through Dave’s mind is “how many chops”, “how many rashers” and “how big a ham”. Harsh but true. Repeat after me, pigs are not pets, pigs are not pets ….