Friday, 30 September 2011

Pigging out

Shirley contacted me a while ago to let me know that she would shortly be sending her last porkers to slaughter, and to see if I would like a half pig this time.   I thought about this for maybe 30 seconds and said we would.

To clear space in the freezer, we've been eating up the last of February's pork. Not a chore, as it is so versatile.   We wanted to butcher the pig ourselves and we arranged to do it under Shirley's eye again. Last night we watched the videecam footage I took, which was great at reminding us about the Primary cuts, the belly and the leg - but as I stopped filming at that point to get stuck in, we couldn't watch anything about dealing with the loin or the shoulder.

Today was the day.  We took our list of what we had last time, what we'd like more/less of, what we'd like to try that we hadn't before.   Shirley did the primary cuts, then we decided to start with the belly.  Discussion on what we wanted to do (compared with last time), and DH started making the cuts. THat was quick, helped by the simplicity of our requirements and watching the video yesterday.   Leg was a bit longer to do, as we had to sort out the ham. Again DH did the cuts, then I started turning the remaining leg into lean dice, lean mince, and offcuts for sausages.   Quite a lot to do, but we were fine, with help from Shirley.

When we got to the loin,  we needed more help. We discussed what we wanted, and worked out where to cut.   We made a good team, and we  worked well together, with Shirley's advice and tutelage where necessary. 

Eventually all was done.  We packed the pig into the portable fridge, which was plugged-in in the car, came home, flicked the fast freeze switches on the freezers, and set about vacuum packing everything.  The freezable stuff is now i one or other of the freezers (we'll sort then out later when everything is frozen and normal temperature has been restored). We also have a load of stuff in the fridge, these are the bits we are going to process over the next 2 days.  

I'll come back and edit the post to put the weights in.  I don't want to get partially frozen meat out of the freezer, to be weighed, in this heat!

Pork for Processing

Loin (eye of loin) for Lorenzo 765g
Belly for Bacon 568g (which we decided to de-rind before curing)
Loin bottom for Lardons 828g (which we decided to de-rind before curing)
Loin piece for back bacon (we're going to use Shirley's maple cure)
Half leg for Ham (2.786kg)
Offcuts for sausages  
Belly fat for lard
Back fat for rendering into lard
1 pigs liver to be turned into pate

Pork for freezing
Lean Mince
Lean Dice
Lean Shoulder Dice (probably for pork pies)
Spare rib (shoulder) joint 1 for slow roasting
Spare rib (shoulder) joint 2 for slow roasting
Hand of Pork for slow roasting
Belly Pork joint 1 for slow roasting
Belly Pork joint 2 for slow roasting
Pork tenderloin
4 large loin chops 1.5 kg (actually just over)
2 trotters (for gelatin for pork pies)

1 pork hock
Spare ribs
Pork fat and rind for turning into scratchings

I'm a bit frustrated.

I'm fortunate to be able to work, from home, on a consultancy basis.  This means there are long periods of time when I am not doing paid work,  and then very concentrated periods when the only thing I have time to do is work.  A lot of this work is PC based.  I stand when I work at my PC, because I find this puts less strain on my back,  but it isn't great.

2 months ago (which was 6 weeks before my next frantic period of work was due to commence), we decided it would be worth spending the money on getting a special sort of sit/stand workstation for me. It was a small and mobile workstation, which means I could use it in the kitchen and wheel it (and my papers) away in the evening.  Currently my laptop occupies one of the worktops and, when I'm working, my papers are all over the table.

The item was out of stoock everywhere, and could only be ordered on request.  I ordered it with a 2 week lead time, and carried on.  The lead time slipped - through no fault of the reseller, I could see it was a problem at the supply end in the US.   Eventually I received a notification that it would be delivered today, 7 weeks after ordering.   

We were out today (more on that in a separate post later), but we were fortunate that the delivery came after we returned.  I was very excited.  The box was enormous, and takes up our hallway.  We opened the tape, and I took out the delivery note.  The item number did not look correct.  I asked DH to leave the thing in the box and to see if he could find the destructions.  I searched on the internet, and the item number was definitely wrong.  I checked my order, my order (thankfully) was correct.  I phoned the supplying company.  They toool some details and said they'd ring me back.  They rang back for more info.  I explained that the box was enormous and I would like them to get it removed.

They haven't phoned back.   I've emailed them now (couldn't get through on the phone).  I really, really, REALLY hope they haven't gone home for the weekend without calling me back.   This box is 1mx1mx0.75m.  We can't move it into the kitchen.  We are struggling to get past it in the hall.     I'm going to be more than frustrated if we have to wait until the middle of next week before it is gone.

And of course I'm frustrated that  I don't have my desk.  I'm concerned that this has been shipped directly from the manufacturer in the US,  and that I am going to have to wait for another 6 weeks before I get the replacement.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

My head is about to explode

It's been a trying couple of days.

I posted a number of items for sale on Ebay.  I try to give lots of information, and usually use up the allotted 12 pictures (for self hosted pics) to show the item fully.  

In my day job, I strongly believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question. If someone has a question, it's because either I, or the material, has not been clear.

With Ebay, I start off with the same premise.   After a series of questions (from the same person), I began to wonder if I was having my leg pulled.   I always answer politely, fully, and I never make reference to the fact that "if you bithered to read the blooming listing, you would see the answer to your question".   I usually post the question and response for all to see.   I wish I could share with you some of the things that I've been asked this time,  but it's probably best not to.

And then with work, I've had a hellofaday trying to sort out some supposedly  simple translations. 


Making hay while the sun shines

Another gorgeous day today, like a cross between spring and autumn. Blue sjy already, and it promises to be quite hot when the dew is burned off.

Going to take advantage of the warmth and am going to clean and Poultry Shield all 4 girl-coops on the allotment.   We're also doing a bee inspection, and have to be back so DH can take a call early afternoon,  so we're organising it with military precision.

Plan is that we both start emptying coops as soon as we get there.  When I've emptied my first one, I'll start spraying.  DH will continue emptying coops and then he'll move on to feeding and watering, and strimming around the allotment.  By that time I will hopefully havefinished spraying all coops (I purchased a large sprayer with a wand, which makes it so much quicker and less painful than the old squeeze-spraying days).  We can then leave them to dry while we do the bees. 

By that time, the first two coops at least will be dry, and we can put in fresh Aubiose and bedding etc.   And then the last two will be dry, and we can do those.   

Don't think we'll have time to do the Boys' shed.   Will do that at the weekend if the weather holds.

This afternoon, if I can keep up enthusiasm and the weather holds,  I might try and do the Cube as well.  Would be good to get it all done.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Letting the barriers down

At the allotment our pens are divided with netting.  The permanent residents, our breeding girls, have the largest pen and have 2 coops to choose from.  They swap around all the time.    The dinner girls have a separate pen with 2 coops;  the dinner boys (one of whom will be our replacement cockerel) have a separate pen and a large shed.

Our original plan was to wait until we were down to 1 cockerel and the two (maybe 3 at a push)  dinner girls we wanted to keep to extend our breeding flock,  and then to let them all free range together giving everone the choice of four coops and a shed to sleep in.

The Chicken of Fate has made us bring forward part of these arrangements.  Today DH moved the netting which separated the two pens of girls so they could share.      

We had discussed this, and I wasn't too keen originally.  I was concerned that it meant upsetting the status quo for all the dinner chickens, even those that we weren't going to be keeping long term.   If I'm honest, it also makes me a bit....can't think of the word.....squeamish; the physical separation between the Breeders and the Dinners helps me deal with the fate of the dinners,  and I'm not entirely sure how I will cope next time some of them are due to go. 

The reason we did it in the end is that it should be easier for the Chicken of Fate.  There will be a fair bit of confusion, and neither side will know that she is new to everyone. It also means she won't have to go through one set of hen-pecking in the Dinner pen,  and then another round of it when we merge the pens.

It's a shame that she will take one of the available places for the Dinner Girls. Still, it's not her fault;  and I'm sure I will love her as much as I love the others. Although not as much as I love Norman. No Allotment chook can ever mean as much to me as she does.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Chicken of Fate

Sometimes I read about people finding a "Chicken of Fate".  This is a chicken who suddenly appears or is found abandoned.    

We've now had our own "Chicken of Fate", but it's made me quite angry on her behalf.

DH came home yesterday from seeing to the chickens at the allotment.   He told me we somehow had acquired an extra chicken.    Our allotment is surrounded by Heras fencing,  and there is electric fencing around that.  No way could a bird find it's own way in.

It was in the pen with the young dinner girls, and we guessed that either someone had found a chicken wandering around the allotment, assumed it was ours, and lobbed her in;  or someone had an unwanted chicken and had dumped it in with ours.  At this stage DH wasn't sure if it was a very young pullet or a young cockerel,  the bird was quite upright and he wasn't able to catch it to look.

Today I went down to have a look-see.  It looks to me like a very young hybrid pullet.   Enquiries are continuing, and rumours were circulating,  about where she had come from.     It sounds like our assumption that she had been dumped was correct and, apparently, she had been removed from her own flock because the others were picking on her.  I don't want to give any more details than that.

I can't tell you how angry this made me.   The poor pullet was being picked on, so they "saved" her by dumping her in with another load of chickens!  The stupid idiots that did this obviously have no idea about chicken keeping.    It's a damn good job they didn't lob her in with our breeding flock - they are all old matriarchs, and it's likely she would have been mortally injured.   

It's a damn good job they didn't lob her in with the 3 remaining young cockerels.  On the occasions a cockerel has got in amongst the breeding girls, he has caused a whole heap of trouble, treading everythig in sight and being really rough with it. Just in the few minutes on the loose with the Big Girls has resulted in torn combs and feather stripping.  The thought of 1 poor girl being trapped with 3 hormonal boys just doesn't bear thinking about - she is likely to have been mortally injured.  

Even in with the young girls isn't great.  They aren't chasing her, but they do peck her if she comes close.  We'll need to make sure she gets a chance to feed and drink.

What a stupid, stupid thing to do.   

And that's just thinking about it from the poor pullet's point of view. What about the potential risk she might pose to our flock?!   If we had been asked and had agreed to take her on (which we wouldn't have done as I don't agree iwth introducing one lone bird) we would have gone through a quarantine period and then gradual integration.      It's too late now. If there is any damage, it'll have been done.

It's a good job I'm not involved in finding out who did this. I'm not sure I could keep my self-control.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Warm days

Another lovely warm day today. Warm in the sunshine, that is, not so warm elsewhere.

Florence has been broody for about a week now.  For the last few days I've been putting her in a dog crate in the run during the day (partly to break her out of being broody and partly to vacate the est box so the others can lay) but, because the weather is so unpredictable, I've been letting her back into the Cube at night.   The dog crate gives her plenty of room, she has food, water, a hanging block, and vegetables.   Today, she was really unhappy about being put in the crate - I mean, really unhappy,  even more unhappy than she usually is.  I felt sorry for her, so I let her out into the rest of the garden instead while I cleaned out and disinfected the run.  She munched her way round some shrubs and then ended up grazing next to the fruit cage, with the rest of the Girls on the inside of the fruit cage.  I relented and let her in.  Two minutes later, she was back in the Cube.

Tilda is walking around with a less pronounced limp now, but she is still spending a lot of time sitting. Sitting under the benches in the run, sitting under a gooseberry bush, sitting in the pampas.   She seems quite happy, until Custard decides to go and force her to move.  Custard is being a real bully towards Tilda, and I don't like it.

Tilda's been in the kitchen for cat food a couple of times.   I've also put a bit of cat food out for the others as they are looking a bit straggly.  No one seems to be in full moult yet though.

I started to use some new pecka block treats, one with insects in.  Same brand as I used before, just this new one has added bugs.  They only last a couple of hours. Milly, in particular,  just keeps on and on and on at it as soon as I put one up    So, they're rationed now.  I need to get some bug-free ones instead.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Funny week

It's been an odd week.

Tilda is looking better, but still spends time sitting quietly. She's also spends time sitting under the benches in the run, out of the way of the others.  I caught Custard chasing her today.  Chickens can be horrible sometimes.   I brought Tilda into the kitchen for a while; she had a good look round, ate some cat food, pooed on the floor (we have a solid floor so it's poo proof) and eventually decided  to go home.

DH made an enormous batch of chilli jam.   He picked apples, then increased the recipe to cater for the number of apples he'd picked. He didn't notice that the original recipe made 4 pounds of jam, which would last us 4 years probably.   He ended up making over 12 pounds. Tastes good, but isn't very hot.  Think it would make a good sweet and sour type thing.   I used a load with some tomato passata and cooked meatballs in it.  Very good.

We think we'll have enough tomatoes to make 1 final batch of Passata.  I'll count up how much we've made then,  it's a lot. The cupboard is stuffed with it.

DH also strained and racked off (or racked off and strained, not sure which way round) my cherry brandy,  and I bottled it today.  It's a bit....young.  Maybe it'll mature and smooth out a bit.

DH made some cheese.  He's making a Cheshire-type cheese, and a brie type cheese.  We're well out of the habit, and I hope these will coe out well as the last lot he made were delicious.

And then things start to get a bit surreal.

A few weeks ago I'd had some serious problems with my car.  I don't use it very much now, and we had decided to delay getting it fixed as it was still driveable and  we were thinking we'd replace it next year before the MOT was due. Why spend all that money replacing the gearbox when we're going to get rid of the car?

However, I needed to use it one day and I was unhappy driving it as it was. I either needed to bite the bullet and pay for the repair,  or bring forward the replacing.  We went to look at possible replacements, and I came home and worked out how we could afford to replace it now.   Things like improved fuel economy, cheaper tax, cheaper insuranceetc, came into play.  Fortunately I had been saving for the last 2 years towards it.

Although more expensive, I decided to buy from a garage rather than privately. This was mainly down to our experience when we replaced DH's car.  The one he bought (from a garage) ended up leaking badly when it rained; because we'd bought it from a garage we took it back for them to sort out. If we'd bought privately, we would have had to sort it out.   Buying from a garage also meant I could trade in my car, declared fault and all, and actually I got a bit more than I expected.    So, I now have my new little car sitting on the drive.  It all happened a bit quickly. There were 2 cars to choose from and I let my heart rule my head, which is a very rare occurence for me; as a result, I'm feeling a bit sheepish and  hoping I've done the right thing.  I'm sure I'll feel OK when I've driven her a bit more.

Meanwhile, an old friend emailed me out of the blue.  We had originally been really good friends, bff type of thing. We had lost touch some years ago and then, a couple of years ago, I bumped into her at the dentist. We had a quick chat, said it would be good to meet, you know the sort of thing.  It took me many months to contact her, we exchanged emails, and decided we'd meet up in the new year (as in new year 2011).   Things happened. I didn't contact her, she didn't contact me.  Time moved on, and I was embarrassed by the slippage - I had decided to wait until January and contact her then, as we could make a joke about not saying which new year.

She emailed me the other day.  I was really surprised and happy to see an email from her.  The news inside knocked me sideways. I tried to reply but couldn't, so I phoned her.  She was just the same as ever, so warm and friendly. She really is one of the smiliest and warmest people I have ever known.   We're planning to meet up in a few weeks - can't really do anything sooner as she's got a lot on her plate right now.   She's amazing, she really is.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Friday morning I noticed that Tilda was sitting beside the Pampas.  The Girls often sit in the Pampas,  or under the Pampas; they often stand beside the Pampas, but I don't recall them sitting there. That's why I noticed it.

Half an hour later, she was still sitting there.  And so it went on.  I threw some corn near her, which she ate.  Later on we were in the garden and we saw her move, and she was hobbling, badly.  With a heavy heart, I picked her up and examined her carefully.   No signs of a wound.  A very slight grip with her foot, but not much. No weight on her leg.  We discussed what to do.   We decided there wasn't any point taking her to the vet at the moment, as there wasn't a wound.  He wouldn't be able to bind her leg up, as bird bones fuse together too easily to risk it.  We decided we'd just keep an eye on her, and see how she did over the weekend.  We were out Friday evening, but we went out with a torch to make sure she had been able o get into bed OK.

Yesterday, I saw her sitting in different parts of the garden at different times of day.  She was limping a lot, but was eating and drinking.

Today was like yesterday, although she is moving a lot more easily.  She keeps out of the other Girls way, as they do tend to try and barge her.

To say that I am relieved is an understatement.  I'm not at all ready to lose her.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Pork spare rib roast

We're going to be getting another half pig at the end of September, so we're finishing up the pork in the freezer at the moment.

I had 2 remaining pork joint in the freezer. One was a large loin of pork (I'm not too keen on roast loin, I find it quite dry), and the other was an enormous spare rib roast.   For all the other roasting joints I've done (shoulder, belly, hand) I've followed Jamie's slow roast shoulder of pork recipe, and so we tried that with the spare rib roast.  It looked surprisingly the same as the picture on the recipe. 

Which turned out not to be so surprising, as "spare rib roast" is shoulder. Wish I'd read my notes earlier, as we could have used some of this this to make pork pies.

It was amazing. Again.   Jamie's bone-in recipe is for a 2kg shoulder of pork.  My spare rib roast was 3kg.   My joint had been out of the freezer on Thursday evening and in the fridge. On friday afternoon it was still solid (efficient fridge), so I put it under a food net on the counter until Saturday morning.   It wasn't a particularly warm or sunny day, so I wasn't worried.

I calculated additional cooking time which, in the end, we didn't need.  And i put extra veg under it. The veg in Jamie's recipe is for turning into gravy, but it is sooo delicious that I love to eat it as veg.

We invited DB1 to join us, pork was delicious!

On Sunday, I made chinese pancakes (the sort you have when you have Armoatic Crispy Duck).  We had shredded pork pancakes, with hoisin sauce, shreddded onion, and strips of cucumber.   Fantastic.   The remaining pancakes went into the freezer.  They can be quickly steamed from frozen for a couple of minutes for a similar meal another time.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


The young Roos had obviously been spending quite a bit of time on the shed roof, before we did wing clipping.   

In recent heavy rain, a large amount of poo was dislodged, down the drainpipe and into one of the water butts.  DH spotted it yesterday when he opened the water butt to use it. The other water but was empty, which is why DH had opened this one.  He emptied all the water away, and went to the hand pump to get the water for the drinkers.

This morning I had to take him to the station for 6.45 am, so on my way home I went to the allotment and scrubbed and disinfected both barrels While I was waiting for the disinfectant to takke effect, I decided I might as well disinfect all the drinkers while I was at it,  so spent the next half hour doing that, and then fetching water from the hand pump to rinse everything and refill. 

OC (Other Chap) has an electric pump, so he will bring that to the allotment later today to refill the water butts directly from the pump.

Two of the boys managed to sneak in with the big girls while I was moving between pens.   I managed to catch them quickly enough, and got them back into their area.  

Three of the Big Girls are broody.

Everything done, I locked up, walked back to the car and started to drive home.  About a mile into my journey, I couldn't recall locking the gate into the allotment.  "I must have done it automatically".   I drove on for a few yards.   The conversation in my head continued: "But the lock is quite stiff, it usually takes me a couple of minutes to do it".   Hmm.  I mentally retraced my steps. I pictured connecting the electric fence, and testing the fence.  I could not picture locking that gate.  "It doesn't matter. OC will be there later"  "It does matter."

Bother. Bother. Bother. I turned the car around, back to the allotment, walked to ours and, sure enough, it was locked.

Never mind. I ate half a box of Maltesers last night, so I need exercise.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Getting Juiced

Yesterday we pressed apples.  

I washed them, DH did the crushing and pressing and filtering.    37kilos of apples, mainly Golden Noble.     We have 2 demijohns of juice to be turned into a form of cider;  we pasteurised 7 litres in 500ml flasks; I have another litre, which I couldn't fit in the pasteuriser, in the fridge.

Glad we did it yesterday as the weather is filthy today. 

Last year we pressed apples in October and did over 100kilos.    This year the apples were ripe much earlier and the Golden Nobles don't keep well.

We had the trees pruned in the spring, so it's still a good harvest.   We've got one tree that isn't ripe yet.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Party time

Busy weekend.  My parents came to visit, first time they've been back for many years, and I hosted a birthday lunch for my dad, with  a large number of us from that side of the family.   I had planned to invite DSS1 and family, as they live relatively close,  but when the number reached 20 including some people I hadn't seen myself for more years than I can remember,  we decided it was probably better for my parents if we kept it to the B side of the family. (B side isn't a derogatory term by the way)..

I decided early on in the planning that a cold buffet would be the last stressful option.  Military planning, involving detailed lists, made it relatively straightforward.  LIsts organised food, chairs, lifts...

I did the non-perishable shopping a week before, including pink and white wines.   I started an Ocado order for the perishables.   DB1 took care of the soft drinks andfruit juice, DB2 took care of the beer and balloons.

The beef for roasting arrived a week before and went into the freezer.  The ham arrived a few days before and went into the fridge.

On Thursday, I worked out exactly what dish/bowl/plate/platter would be used to serve each and every item, and wrote a label for it. I then did the last minute shopping for things like M&S apple pie (easily as good as home made), cheesecake (I didn't have the time), and olives.

On Friday, I low-temperature roasted the two joints of beef, one rare and one well done.  Ocado delivered, I prepped the veg for crudites and vacuum packed them.  I made cakes (an apple cake and a fruit cake)  I measured out flours for the bread.   Long day

On Saturday, I was up at silly o'clock to start making bread dough.  THe breadmaker went on to make one particular batch, but everything else was by hand. Another list (and writing on cling filmed bowls) kept me on track of which dough was at what stage and where, and what time it needed to be handled again.    It didn't start so well, I forgot to put yeast in the first lot of dough I made.

Still, I realised my mistake before baking, and was able to redo. The breads came out well.  2 Partybrot (alternating brown and white-milk-loaf tear-and-share type loaves), 2 Focaccia,  1 walnut loaf (definitely be making that again), and a white loaf.  I also made some mini yorkshires to have cold. Yumm.

DB1 arrived with the fruit juice, and was then deployed decanting crisps and salad and so on onto the labelled receptacles, and pricking potatoes for baking.  He went off to pick up a couple of Aunts and an uncle.  DB2 and his OH and daughter arrived, and started blowing up balloons, putting up banners. DB2's son, my DN (Darling Nephew), and partner arrived and, as usual, brought lots of smiles with them.

We were supremely lucky with the weather,  and we put up all the chairs and tables, plus the gazebo with a table for the drinks. I wish I'd taken a picture actually.

I ran out of time, and things like the french dressing didn't get made.  But it all came together well,  and everyone was fantastic it looked good.   My DC (darling cousin) and his family arrived,  and his lovely wife (whom I haven't seen for 10 years or more) brought flowers, potato salad, and some lovely breaded and fried chicken livers.   That was so thoughtful of her, and they tasted delicious.

And it went well.  I'm so grateful to everyone.   Lunch was at 1.00, and I estimated that people would probably leave at about 5 or 6.  At 9pm we were all still there chatting away.  Most people hadn't seen most people for years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. DN's partner was busy amusing my Great Neice (who's 3, and so lovely).

Eventually people started to leave at about 9.30/10.00/11.00.    I wasn't too tired on Sunday as we cleared up (and DB1 came over to help with the leftovers)  but I am very tired today.