Thursday, August 28, 2014

Last hatch of the year.

Earlier on in the year our Muscovy ducks totally failed in their effort to hatch out young, normally Muscovy's are very reliable, both as broodies and as mothers so we were a little worried that the drake, Arnold, that we had bought last year was not doing his job. As the incubator was finished with for hatching hens eggs this year we decided to put in eighteen duck eggs although we would not normally hatch so late in the year,
One day old.
to our delight eleven healthy ducklings hatched although Muscovy eggs have the reputation of being very hard to incubate.
 We followed to the letter the instructions given on a poultry web site, 'Backyard Poultry'. Out of the ones that failed to hatch, two had died just at the point of pipping , the others had failed about a week from the end. So Arnold has proved he is up for the job, 100% fertility, even late in the season.
Once again this has been a busy week, Tuesday we got the second pig back from the butcher, so four hours were spent doing the butchery and bagging up,
Two sides of pork curing for bacon.
then getting the belly of the pig salted and placed in the curing container, we dry cure  bacon, this process takes ten days, then the bacon has to be hung to further cure before smoking it. The last sides that we did we found hard to cut thinly enough for frying as we came to the ends, this time round the friend that keeps us supplied with fish will be slicing it up on the bacon slicer where he works, we will then be able to freeze it in small amounts. Once it is sliced you cant keep it unfrozen but it does mean that none will go hard.
We are also wet curing the pigs cheek to make Bath Chap, a west country delicacy.
Doing our own butchery and curing makes us appreciate the way of life we witnessed when we lived in Galicia.  We lived in a very small aldea with just five family's still living there. All these families not only grew their own pork but did the slaughtering, butchery and curing as a matter of course. All the houses had their own smoker. They also grew the crops on which to feed their pigs. All of them made wine although wine is cheap enough to buy it was a matter of pride with these lovely hard working people. They also made several different types of liquors, our favourite one was coffee, made from the spent coffee grounds. Unfortunately this way of life is dying, so few of the young people remain in the countyside or value the traditions, soon it will all be a distant memory, relegated to the realms of history books.
These true county people must find the new ways very strange, we certainly do. Watching a program last week we were dismayed to find that in the UK, only one in six people cook a meal from scratch on a daily basis, children all around eleven years old who were given a crash course in preparing a meal did not know the different vegetables, they could not even pick out which were onion and which were carrots. Something has gone very wrong both in family life and school education. What is the point of having an academic education if there is no education in life skills?
Anyone who knows us knows that we love cats, they all have their different personalities and habits.
Felix trying the door.
  Felix, now our fourth youngest cat, just a year old is an expert door opener, two nights ago at midnight we found that all the cats including the kittens were out , something which is not allowed after dark. Felix had mastered the heavy glass sliding door in the kitchen, now we have to keep it locked. Today he gave a demonstration of how he does it, lying down using the wall as a brace, he then can slide the door with his front paws.
Caught in the act, at least he looks guilty.
              Too clever for his own good.
Freddy and Misty are no longer the youngest members of the family, yesterday we received
Maddy, an eight week old tortoiseshell.
We have called her Maddy as she is totally mad, but very cute, she has been very well accepted by all the others,
including Suzy, which was very surprising to us, he normally does not like kittens at all.
Bergamot and Heather.
Finally this weeks flowers, mainly purples now, but still lovely.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three years on.

Peacock butterfly sunning it's self.
Although we are still in August the weather feels and looks far more like autumn. The plans that had been made for today went out of the window and into the heavy rain. A day of gardening had been planned,
Susy and Zara inspecting the new bed.
the new bed has been completed and given the once over by two of our cats, but I still have plenty of things waiting to be planted in it, and the new hedge was to have been started, some people might say that there is no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing, maybe they are right but there is not much enjoyment or need to make a martyr of yourself and get soaking.
Planting will have to wait for another day.
Not getting outside I was browsing through the thousands of photos that we have stored on the computer I came across photos of the cottage and grounds as they were when we first saw the place.
2011 when we first viewed the place.
Two bare fields, bordered by low hedging, it was a blank canvas.
Three years on and the cottage can barely be seen.
 We are both amazed at how much we have planted and how things have grown in just three short years.
                                    We are still developing the gardens,
Our garden outside the kitchen.
one day we might reach the stage where they just have to be maintained.
 However, the veg garden produces all we need plus surplus that we can give to friends and the flower garden gives me flowers for the house for at least eight months of the year, I'm still working on the other four months.
We have been given inspiration by some of the Secret gardens of Sligo that we have been visiting, the last one was  manicured but not too inspiring
No mud would dare to show it's self.
apart from the beautiful easy to use raised veg beds, very well laid out but the gardens lacked character.
A very neat herb bed.
The herb garden was very nice and practical, no muddy feet here.
Ripe now we think and ready to pick.
Our peaches are now just about ready for picking, we are debating as to whether we should leave the tree where it is in the sunroom or forfeit some space in the tunnel, one for us to think about over the coming months.
Hopefully a years supply.
The onions and garlic have now dried and have been platted, they are now hanging in the workshop, ready for winter use.
Misty and Freddy, the best of friends again.
Freddy is now back to normal and has had his stiches out, he and Misty are again the best of friends. I'm not too sure how happy they are going to be later on this week, a friend has asked us if we can give a home to one of his late fathers kittens, as this friend keeps us well supplied in fresh trout and salmon we cant really refuse, not that we needed too much convincing. I just hope the kittens take to the new one.
Red Admiral enjoying the Marjoram flowers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Moving towards Autumn.

This weeks flowers.
There is a definite chill in the air once the sun has gone down, the  summer is slowly moving towards autumn.
Another three pounds of cherry tomatoes.
Tomatoes are ripening quickly now and we should be able to bottle some or make tomato puree. The beans and peas are still producing masses of pods, we can't keep up with the runner beans or the cucumbers, the root crops are all doing well, lots of veg for winter soups and stews.
Purple sprouting broccoli and curly kale planted as four inch high seedlings only a month ago have now turned into triffids, this is the last of the green crop plantings for this year, all that remains is planting of Garlic in October and over wintering Onions in November, it will then be time to put the veg garden to bed with lots of compost on the beds, to rot down during the winter.
The Tansy is looking great.
The high summer flowers are now giving way to late summer ones which seem to be mainly yellows
Bergamot, the leaves are highly scented.
and purple, very 1960's colouring.
There is always something to be done in the garden.
There will be new flower plants to plant into the latest bed currently under construction,  some well established plants need to be split,  a new hedge needs to be planted,and no doubt I will find room for more bulbs,
I do like a colourful garden, I wish I could find something that blooms during November and December, I'm sure there is something other than winter heathers and pansies.
Freddy making a good recovery.
Freddy is now home and making good progress, he and Misty are now the best of friends again, Misty seems to have got over her jealousy and they have wonderful games together.
Today Porky the second pig went to the butcher, Matt turned up on the dot of eight am with the promised extra pair of hands,  Simon armed with a bucket of feed and a packet of ginger biscuits led the pig, Matt behind her cut of any chance of her going backwards. The whole loading was done in just twenty three minutes, a vast improvement on last weeks effort of an hour  and a half, maybe we can repay the favour to Matt by helping when his pigs have to take the final trip. Many thanks Matt.

Gladiolus Murielae, highly perfumed and late flowering.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The perfect garden.

Once again this weekend saw us taking a trip to Co. Sligo to yet another Secret Garden.
The best use of Artichoke.
 This one was a coastal walled garden ( every gardeners dream) in Easkey, a place renowned for it's surfing beaches.
If I ever won the lottery and money was no object this garden is exactly what I would have designed.
The Old Rectory in Easkey is a two acre garden set within walls
, wonderful herbaceous beds, full of colour, with some unusual plants
                                including a giant Bromeliad,
a youngish orchard of about one acre in which their hens roam freely,
and a superb Victorian Potager garden
                                                divided into four large beds
                                       with a pond at the centre.
This is the fourth garden that we have visited and is by far the best one, there is no way it could be improved,
it has everything that a gardener connoisseur could want. I just wish it was mine.
                                 Just a stones throw away is the beach and big waves,
                                            just the thing to blow away the cobwebs.
There is also the remains of a castle hanging on to the edge of the sea.
                             This castle is known as O'Dowd's castle and was built in 1207.
  Once  again our trip took us across the Ox Mountains, such a beautiful place and so tranquil, just the wind, the sheep
Mountain stream
and babbling streams, there are few cottages remaining here, but you can see the remains of what at one time would have been quite a community. It would have been a hard life for people living there in days long gone, but a few hang on.
The last week has been eventful and not as planned.
 On Monday it was clear that Freddy our little tabby kitten was not well, so the vet was called, she came out and gave him an antibiotic injection which she thought would sort him out quickly, by Tuesday morning he was if anything worse, so we took him to the veterinary hospital some thirty k away where there is an excellent English vet and a cat owner herself. Her best guess was that he had ingested some string or something similar which was causing an obstruction.
 Poor kitten had to undergo an operation which showed no obstruction but his intestines were inflamed and not contracting, he had no temperature, but  would not eat and was also not passing anything, so he was put onto a drip to keep him hydrated. By now the weekend was approaching and it was clear that he needed constant nursing and attention so Susy the vet took him home with her, thankfully by Sunday he was showing improvement and today he came home. He is eating well and is constantly telling us all about it. he was welcomed home by all the other cats
Number one for a few days.
with the exception of his sister, she is being very rude to him, she had us all to herself for six days and although it was clear she missed him she liked being number one.
Misty playing ghosts with a bag.
She is at the moment in a sulk with us, no doubt she will get over it, and it's nice to have the cats all back together again .
Thursday was D day for the pigs, Matt, a friend arrived at eight am with his trailer to take them to the butcher, the first pig, Bess, went down the race and into the trailer without too much bother, her sister however refused point blank to comply, maybe she knew what was in store for them. there is little you can do to get a pig to do what you want it to if it doesn't wish to, 125kg of pig is not something you can pick up. Time was going by and we were under instruction by the butcher to have them there by ten am, at nine thirty we gave up and went with the one. there is to be an action replay this Thursday, I hope it goes better this time, Matt is hoping to bring along another pair of hands, surely one pig won't defeat four of us, or will she?
Liver and Bacon  and veg straight from the garden. 100% home produced.
We have had the first carcass back today and we have now finished doing the butchery, we ended up with 84.6kg of meat, which works out to just under two euros ten cents a kg, this price includes the buying of the pig, her feed, and the slaughtering cost. Of course if we had been prepared to feed non Organic, GMO feed the cost would have been much reduced but that would have been defeating the object of producing something that we cant buy in the shops. All in all well worth while doing.

Monday, August 11, 2014


We took our eye of the ball, or rather we took our eyes of the growth of the pigs. We had been aiming for a live weight of 80-90kg for Porky and Bess, our friend Kay had visited them a month or so back and considered that they would be ready at the end of August. Today finally, we got around to measuring them to do the weight conversion, they are both around the 125kg weight, so now we have to frantically find someone with a trailer who is willing to transport them to their final destination, the local butcher who will do the slaughtering for us, and also confirm when the butcher can in fact take them for us.
Porky and Bess enjoying supper.
                             I just hope our large freezer is big enough.
A mountain in Sligo.
Sunday saw us visiting another Secret Garden of Sligo, this garden was mainly set out as a series of outside rooms with the main features being the large mature trees, a small area was given to raised vegetable beds and another small area was planted as an Irish wild flower meadow. It was a very calm and pleasant garden but sadly lacking in colour, very few flowers were apparent, maybe in spring time it has  flowering bulbs. We will look forward to the next garden that we plan to visit.
The garden however was in Sligo, a place we never need an excuse to visit,
                   so we explored the area taking the long way home,
A barrow on top of the hill, possibly a passage tomb.
                  the views made the whole trip well worth while.
Parks Castle, on the shore of Lough Gill.
Summer seems to be slowly moving towards autumn, the evenings are definitely getting a little chilly, the summer flowers are giving way to  autumn ones,
the Lucifer Montbretia  is nearly over but it looks fantastic against the White Foxgloves.
The roses are now enjoying their second flush, Gladioli are just about to bloom, garden colour will remain for a few more weeks hopefully.
All of this years chicks are doing well,
Three la Bresse, two Copper Marrans, one Buff Orpington, one ??? 
and are now all outside enjoying the sunshine.
Hatching is more or less over for this year apart from duck eggs which we have in the incubator,
Arnold, the Muscovy drake.
the ducks having failed to hatch any of their own eggs this year, we have had to take over although we would have preferred not to be having young at this late stage in the season, still that is rather counting our ducks before they hatch, we might fail as well.
The kittens get cuter by the day,
Freddy looking cute, again!.
again just a photo of Freddy, Misty does not stay still for long, Freddy is far more laid back.
Waves from the big storm, 3rd February, Lissadel, Co Sligo.
As requested by Gabriella and Stewart, the picture which gave us first prize at the local agricultural show.
Gabriella and Stewart have a lovely blog;

Permaculture in

Well worth checking out for people interested in Permaculture.