Monday, 29 August 2011

End of summer?

It might still be August - and even a Bank Holiday - but the signs are there that summer is coming to a close. When I opened the back door this morning one of the last brood of blackbirds was sitting on the step. Before I could get my camera it had been escorted by his father to the top of the shippon roof. I don't think there's anymore in the nest - it's all gone quiet - but hopefully they'll be back next year.

It's been a very good year for swallows, with more than ever swirling round the yard. But now their gatherings seem to have more purpose and you can almost hear them planning the trip south.

Our Triticale is turning more golden and the ears are drooping. If all goes to plan we'll get it in (as wholecrop) by the end of the week. We use a contractor with the specialist machinery, and if possible I'll get some photos, or videos.

Meanwhile, today is Judgment Day. The judge for the North West Shorthorn Society's Herd Competition is with us. At least it's fine and sunnyish - and I think the stock is looking good. Watch this space for the results in December.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

In The Groove

Grooving in action
The smooth concrete round the parlour, yard and cattle housing can be hazardous to cows (and humans), so we have got someone to carve criss-cross grooves. The cost will be a worthwhile investment if it prevents injury to even one cow or heifer.
I was going to put a link to a relevant song - but there are too many to choose - "In The Groove", "A Groovy Kind of Love" etc, but in the end went for these two related songs (nothing to do with cows, but songs about cows slipping are hard to find - and I like them!)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Wild Plum Jam

I'm sure you all know how to make jam - but just for the record, this is more or less what I did to turn our wild harvest into a row of golden pots of jam.

8 lb wild plums (I used yellow - it will be red next week)
8 lb of granulated sugar (no need for special jam sugar)

The plums were frozen so I put them in a large jam pan on the slow  plate of the Aga. When they thawed I moved them to the hot plate and stirred and cooked till they were soft and mushy. I then whizzed them about with a stick blender (so the stones were separated). I poured them through a large colander and wiggled and pressed until only the stones were left. I returned to the pan, added the sugar and kept on the slow plate until the sugar had dissolved. I then moved the pan to the hot plate and brought to a rolling boil. There was quite a bit of scum, which I skimmed off. I boiled for about 15 minutes and tested on a cold plate. It seemed to be setting so I poured into heated (bottom oven) jam jars and sealed with screw tops. I kept tightening the lids while the jam cooled. From the 8 pounds of fruit I got fifteen and a half jars.

I think 8 pounds of fruit is as much as I can do at once, as it did rise up to the top of the pan when boiling.

Monday, 22 August 2011

It's fine, it's sunny (at the moment)

. . . so it's out with the mower again.

Just big bales this time - the pits are full (with just enough room on top for the Triticale)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

At last!

We knew they came visiting - plenty of piles of evidence - but we've never seen one till now. The camera has been out of action for a while, but now in full working order, James has set it up. We've several photos of James' legs, then this one -

and now you see it -

Part of the view was obscured by the camera strap, so next time it will be even better. (We also have several photos of pigeons and herons)

Not quite a forgotten skill

Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to make jam (from our raspberries, currants and gooseberries, and any free fruit I could find)., but I don't think I've touched a jam pan for over 20 years. But the freezer is full of our wild plums (red as well as yellow now), so I've made a cautious return to preserves. Just in case I'd forgotten whatever skill I may have had, I started with a small amount, and we now have seven pots of Wild Plum Jam cooling on the table. It looks OK (and the various drips and splatters taste OK), so we'll try it on fresh bread tomorrow morning (home made of course).

Monday, 15 August 2011

Plus ca change. .

. . . but it's not always, "la meme chose".

Today Henry and James took three new calved cows and heifers to Penrith Shorthorn Show and Sale. In "The Olden Days" this was a much bigger event, but it's still going strong. There was plenty of interest round the ring and we got the two highest prices with two of our cows. Overall we were very pleased. I stayed at home, so there are no photographs - but here's one of Strickley Goldie 4 at Penrith in the 30's (I think). And that's one thing that's not the same  - it's a long time since we had cows looking like that. Look at photos on our website to see the changes in breeding.

Selling three in-milk cows means there will be less milk in the tank tonight, but we've just brought in  a cow that calved last night, and two more are on calving.
Calvings and new calves in the herd - that is "la meme chose".

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Holidays - nobody said it would be easy

Holidays - a time to relax and not have to worry about anything.

Not necessarily true.

Remember earlier this year when Henry and I had four days in the caravan? No hot water, intermittent cold water, broken fridge, car troubles.

Then last month Rob, Claire, Izzy and Quinn came to Strickley for a relaxing few days. Izzy being a young girl who knows what she likes to wear, packed her own case. A pity she didn't see (or not see) it being put in the car. Or maybe it was just a ruse to have to buy some more clothes? But we can't really blame Quinn for the puncture on his buggy.

But worse than this, James and family have had to pack up their tent and come home early from Wales. A broken tent pole means the holiday is cut short.

Good Luck Victoria when you go camping in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Recipe of the Day


A large bowl of freshly picked wild yellow plums
Several spoonfuls of sugar
One pint of fresh full fat raw organic milk
4 eggs
Caster sugar to taste
I desertsp of cornflour

Put the plums and sugar in an ovenproof bowl in the Aga for about 30 minutes (checking regularly, in case it's one of the Aga's hot days).
Set aside to cool (on a granite table in a cool pantry is best)
Heat the milk.
Mix the eggs, caster sugar and cornflour.
Pour on the warm milk.
Return to the pan and whisk until thick and cooked.
Set aside to cool.

When the plums have cooled a bit, bash about with a wooden spoon to loosen the stones (and if you have a heavy duty processor whizz for about 10 seconds).
Push through a colander (or sieve if you're really really keen).
Return the puree to the processor and whizz till smooth. Add the cooling custard.
Pour into small dishes (or larger depending on your appetite).

Enjoy for supper and freeze the excess.

Fruit Harvest

Today marks the start of our fruit harvest (not counting the strawberries in the pot by the door). A few years ago we planted some Blackthorn in a hedge, and up till now we've had no cause to doubt they were Blackthorn. But this year we have an abundance of wild plums - both yellow and red. We picked a few samples and checked (on Google of course), cautiously nibbled and marked them as fit to eat. The yellow ones are ripe and almost ready to drop, so this morning Henry took the Manitou down and picked three bucketfuls. They taste as plums should, but there's too many just to eat - so this afternoon I'll be trying out a few recipes and freezing. There's loads more, and the red ones (which taste much better) are not ripe yet. Next month it will be apples and pears (we've still got some in the freezer from last year, so I'll have to try to get on top of them).

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A sudden rush of calves

Last autumn we were feeling pleased when we PD's a batch of heifers and they had all held. Well it's come back to bite us on the bum - they're all calving at once. We've had over 30 in the past three weeks. It's almost like block calving and we've gone from Henry been in the house at 5.30 pm some days, to 7 pm (calving/fetching cow and calf in/moving calves to make room for more etc). But we're not really complaining; no calvings = no milk = no income.

You may have noticed I keep fiddling with the weather - the latest being a summary at the top of the Blog. Today I added the forecast to this. It's updated every 10 minutes, so it's not too out of date. Of course you can see the full statistics and analysis by clicking on the link on the right.