Friday, November 30, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and man.

Future Forests
Future Forest head quarters in Bantry, Cork.
At last our long awaited order of trees and bushes has arrived, we had hoped that they would come before the soil cooled down but the nursery waits for the leaves to fall,which this year  has been very late.
 We had prepared the new beds for the raspberries by covering the soil with cardboard and then six inches of compost, the idea had been to make a hole through the  cardboard and compost  and just pop the raspberry canes into the holes, good plan, or so we thought until the order arrived, the canes have big roots and no way were they just going to pop into a hole made by a crowbar, so plan B, dig out a trench through the cardboard and plant them, this would have been fine had it not been for the large rocks, by large I mean 2.5 ft long 1.5 ft wide and 5inches deep, there were also plenty of smaller rocks, but only building size, clearly at one time there had been a building there, exactly where the raspberries were to be planted. I do however have a plan for the large rock, providing we can find some way of moving it. Anyway, Simon succeeded in planting all of the canes, twenty five of them, some Autumn fruiting and some summer ones. Next is the new fruit trees, hopefully over the weekend, there are eight of those, apples, plum, pears, damsons and quince, plus a peach tree which has been planted into a very large container and will live in the sun-room.
Not quite labby Rock, but big enough for what I want it for.
The real Labby Rock, Co. Sligo.

We still manage to get the odd day out and always head for the coast, Tuesday was a beautiful warm sunny day so we headed to the Sligo coast where we saw another beautiful sunset.
Sunset over Sligo bay.

                                                            Full moon rising.
Handsome but unwelcome visitor, hooded crow, feeling the cold?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stir up Sunday.

Every year we go through the 'Shall we skip Christmas ' scrip, and each year there seems to be a good reason why we can't, this years excuse is that one of our past helpers will be visiting us for a couple of days at the end of the month.
 So we will be having Christmas, just not on the 25th.
Today, being 'Stir Up Sunday' saw a flurry of activity in the kitchen, this used to be my domain, however Simon loves making cakes and Christmas puddings so he has taken over, I let him get on with it and make my self scarce, today was no exception, I am redecorating the hall way, a lengthy job, it is a very long hallway.
 So the cake is in the range cooking, it takes four hours to cook, and the two Christmas puddings are made and waiting to have their first boiling of six hours.
This completes our preparation for Christmas, the ducks are  in the  freezer and the chickens, the veg is in the garden , the decorations are still growing in the hedgerows, holly and ivy, I am pleased to say it will be very lean pickings for the shops from us.
Looking for the green grass.
This is a nice titbit.
The weather is decidedly wintry , the last three mornings have greeted us with very heavy frosts, it almost looks as though snow has landed, the  hens were very confused, no green grass, but it still does not put them off from doing their normal things.
 Our La Bresse cock has taken to wandering down our drive way with HIS girl, she is a jersey Giant that we hatched the same time as him, they are inseparable, him finding nice things and calling her over, she has just started to lay, with her first egg weighing in at 52g, just 1g short of a medium egg.
The Jersey Giants first egg.
Jersey Giant pullet.
Uneasy truce.
The cats are far from impressed with the weather, three of them after having breakfast head straight back to bed for the day , two of the others lay on top of the range to take advantage of the previous days heat. These two hate each other, but are prepared to tolerate each other in search of heat.

An Artists palette

   With the cold weather we are getting the most wonderful sunsets, incredible colours that range from pink to orange, I love to see beautiful sunset.

And now for the pink.
Shower of golden light.
Farewell to another day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Green Tomato Chutney and Pate`

5lb of mixed tomatoes.
The green tomatoes have been picked,  not all of them but Simon braved the weather and came in with 5lbs of tomatoes, once I had sorted and  de-stalked them I found that we had 1 lb of ripe tomatoes, not bad for the 13th of November, and just over 4lbs of green ones.
These have now been turned into Green Tomato Chutney. Chutney is just about the easiest thing to make as a winter preserve, and is a lovely accompaniment to cold meats or cheese. The 4lbs of tomatoes resulted in seven jars of chutney. Chutney can be made from a variety of things, one of my favourites was plum and fig when we had our own fig trees.
                                              To make Green Tomato Chutney.

2kg tomatoes, washed, there is no need to peel them.
500g onion, finely chopped.
500g cooking apples, finely chopped.
500-750 g brown sugar, depending on how sweet you like your pickle.
3/4lt vinegar , I use malt vinegar but any vinegar can be used.
500g Sultanas.
1 sachet (13g) of pickling spice, some people put these in a bag and then remove them, I leave them in.
Salt according to taste and fresh milled black pepper.

Green Tomato Chutney
Wash the tomatoes and put them into a heavy bottomed preserving pan, add the chopped onions, cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook at the lowest temperature possible for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally , make sure they don't burn. Mash them a little with a potato masher and then add the chopped apples, cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to the boil and maintain the heat until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened, stirring all the time. Be careful the boiling jam doesn't splash up and burn you, IT HURTS!

When reduced, pour into hot sterilised jars, place a ring of grease proof paper under the lid and tighten up the jars fully.
This chutney will improve with age, so try to keep some jars back to eat at Christmas.

4lb +of green tomatoes 1lb of ripe ones.

When we slaughter our poultry we always keep the livers back. We both love chicken or duck liver pate`.

I used to go to great lengths making Pate`, following various recipes religiously, many of them called for a Bain Maire and the addition of spirits of some type. I like to experiment when I cook, I don't generally like recipe books, making it up as you go along is fun, and you can adjust your recipe as you go along.

The latest Pate` is very simple and delicious.
Two chicken or duck livers.
 One small onion.
 2 Rashers of streaky bacon,
 Fresh thyme and sage leaves.
Salt, pepper.
2ozs of butter.
Finely chop all the ingredients.
Fresh home-made bread and Pate`
 Melt the butter, add the chopped ingredients, and sweat, don't allow to brown. This takes about 6 minutes.
Remove the cooked ingredient into a food processor and blitz them , you can make this as fine or coarse as you like.
Return to the pan, gently cook for a further couple of minutes , then put the mixture into a ramekin dish, push the mixture down firmly. Allow to cool completely, then melt 1 oz of butter and pour over the top, this will form a seal and the Pate` will keep for two weeks in the fridge, ( if you don't eat it all before hand.)
Serve with toast or fresh bread, with a slice of lemon.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last of the summer veg.

It has been a good year for our tomatoes, far too many for us to eat, so a good many of them have been bottled, I had to try out one bottle just to make sure they were good, they are! I doubt we will have enough to last until next year, but we wont be far short. There are still a lot of green ones waiting to be picked, (note to self pick the remaining tomatoes) I will make chutney from them so they wont be wasted.

The carrots that we had been so disappointed in have now come into their own, initially we had thought them tasteless, but now they have had a few frosts on them they are sweet and succulent, they are called flyaway, and are supposed to be carrot root fly resistant, we can't really judge as we had them under crop cover,  just to make sure, they have produced a good crop for us, and large roots as well, one carrot goes a long way when it weighs in at 6ozs, as we have plenty I will be able to make our favourite cake, carrot cake!

The weather continues to be mixed, today was beautiful, we even got the washing dry. We took advantage of such a lovely day to go to a poultry sale in Mayo, we didn't buy anything as we now have all the stock we need for next years breeding, our latest acquisition being two very young La Bresse birds, one cock and one pullet, from a different line from the ones that we already have. The gene pool of these birds is very small in Ireland so we hope to strengthen it, the new cock will be for our existing pullets and the new pullet is for our existing cock. They really are lovely birds, blue legs, white feathers and a brilliant red comb, they are also very nice natured birds.

The new kids on the block, about eight weeks old.
Our original cock in full flight, 24 weeks old.
Of course a trip to Mayo for us means more abbeys and Dolmens , today we visited Moyne Abbey, which unfortunately you can't get too close to it as you have to cross a field which contains a bull! We also saw a bronze age Dolmen.
                           To end, a couple of photos of wonderful sunsets and Autumn colour.


Saturday, November 3, 2012


Winter is officially here. According to Pagan beliefs and the Celtic calendar the first of November marks the start of winter, a time when animals were moved down to winter grazing from the hill sides, a time to take stock of both animals and food supplies for the winter months. Keeping up the tradition, our own produced meats supplies are now in the freezer, and plans are being made for next years crops.
It has been an interesting year regarding production of poultry for the table, specifically the ducks. Ducks that we reared ourselves as opposed to those reared by mum were larger, with more fat on them. The ones that the duck reared had a far larger ranging area then our own brooded ones, but that run was also shared by six full grown ducks, we always make sure that there is plenty of feed, and there would always be some left when it came to supper time so I don't think it was a case of the youngsters not getting enough to eat but more a case of using up their energy following mum. Next year we will take over the brooding even if the mums do the hatching, and keep the ducklings in a more confined run.
With the start of winter the weather has also changed, it is now very chilly with several frosts, quite windy and rain, the hens don't like it one bit, but they all have nice warm dry houses and the pullets also have lighting which comes on for them at 4am, it would be a shame, now they have started laying to disrupt them and hens do need 13-14 hours of light to keep laying.
Fruit of the Sea Buckthorne.
Dunguaire Castle

We had a trip to the Galway coast  earlier this week to the very pretty fishing village of Kinvara, it has an interesting restored castle there, Dunguaire Castle, which dates back to 1520. There are also many traditional thatched cottages in the area.

Traditional West of Ireland Thatched Cottage
We also discovered Sea Buckthorn growing by the coast, something I had not seen before, we took cuttings which may or may not strike, depending on which web site you are looking at, we also collected some of the fruit which requires three months in the fridge before planting. Hopefully we will get some success and any plants we manage to grow will be planted in our wind break/ bird feeding hedgerow. The leaves look very much like willow, and is also deciduous and is very thorny.