Monday: Have loved telling everyone about my trip to River Cottage 😀 I followed the instructions we were sent home with on what to do with my cheeses, the Caerphilly is in the cupboard out the back ripening, the Camembert is sitting on the side with salt on ready to be turned and salted later and the ricotta is in the fridge waiting to be eaten. I made fresh bread this morning, so I will try some later on.Had an odd visitor looking to buy a duck for duck soup, something didn’t quite add up with him, did it Sally? lol. I told him I wasn’t selling because of the government lockdown and he thought I meant Brexit! He was also looking for a local Ag company to pick up a car from, he said, but he had a flat bed lorry, the type builders use, not going to get a car on there I thought, that’s the kind of thing you pick up on when something doesn’t seem right, suspicious minds 😝
I didn’t realise how tired I was from yesterday’s activities until I sat down with a cuppa in the afternoon, had to have a little nap 😴
The day did more than help me learn to make cheese because I met some likeminded people on the course who are also smallholders, there were others there who went just for the experience, some who were hoping to go into artisan cheese making businesses as well but when you start swapping stories and experiences with people in a similar situation it helps to underpin the way I think and do things. In this particular area of the country we are few and far between, compared to Wales for instance, which is a shame as there is no network as such, that’s one of the reasons I started the Oxfordshire Smallholders Facebook page, to try to link people up with goods, services and others in the same situation.
Tuesday: This morning, just so I can say I walk on the wild side 😝 I decided to do my jobs the other way round, normally I go straight out and do the animals after breakfast and then come in and tidy up the breakfast things put the washing on etc. It was quite nice coming back in to an already tidy kitchen with the washing ready to be hung up on the Shelia. I had an extra job to do which I will be doing everyday for two weeks, turn the Camembert, not a big job but an important one and I have left myself a note on the chalkboard to remind me. It’s cold, foggy and frosty again this morning but I’m kind of getting used to it now, if I can remember to fill up the water buckets in the afternoon when the pipes have thawed I will be doing well.
If anyone reading this in the area knows where I can get milk direct from the farm I would love to know, I have been looking online for a while but without much success the nearest is a good 40 mins away, not good for carbon footprint really but there must be something out there hidden away that I’m not aware of.
Wednesday: Another foggy, icy morning, I did the rounds and on the way back in noticed that the concrete areas were like an ice rink, I was practically skating, obviously the roads were to as the phone was ringing to tell me that my son in law had crashed and rolled his van on black ice, thankfully he is ok but it’s very treacherous out there these past few days. I’m hoping the sun will come out again as it did yesterday so that I can get water buckets filled later on this afternoon. There are press reports of another bird flu outbreak, I was hoping they would slow down to a stop but it seems that is unlikely, for the most part the hens are doing ok indoors, the ducks are not too bad either although they are still not laying, I think that is due to lack of privacy, the geese in the back paddock are becoming aggressive due to being shut in and the geese out the front are getting more vocal though not aggressive as yet. The quail are used to being brought in over winter so they are fine with it in fact they have started laying regularly so quail eggs are on sale in the little shed.
Thursday: I need to get paperwork done today so I rushed round and got the feeding and watering done first then came in and lit the Rayburn, it gets cold sitting down all day at the computer. I was busy adding up figures when I heard a noise rather like someone dragging a wheelbarrow round, knowing that only myself and the dogs were here I got up to investigate and suddenly realised that I had not turned on the pump 😖 and the water was boiling and banging. That’s the first time ever that I had forgotten to turn in on, I rushed to flick the switch and then shut down the spin wheel trying to get it back under control before I cracked the boiler casing, luckily with the pump now on it soon calmed down but it could have been a proper disaster. I will have to leave post it notes for myself I think 😜 I spent until mid afternoon getting every bit of paperwork done, bills paid etc I always feel cleansed when it’s done because it means I don’t have to think about it at all and can enjoy the weekend without stuff jumbling around in my head. Although now I have been in the warm all day I’m not looking forward to going back outside to do the afternoon rounds brrrrrrrrr.
Hells bells that wind is cold out there, did the horse as well today, finished doing all the feeding, and domestic stuff like putting the rubbish came in sorted the eggs and got the stew in the Rayburn, sat down feeling smug at all I have achieved today and read some post on Facebook (a smallholder) and she was talking about bread, suddenly realised I hadn’t made any today and there is none left, always something to do 😝
Friday: A run of the mill day with not much to write about to be honest 😝
Saturday: The rain has passed over and it’s quite warm in the Sun, I set about doing the morning feeding and watering, I also made up three lots of dust baths for the chickens in the indoor pens, some dry compost, DE and sulphur went in and I’m glad to say they got right down to using them. I cleaned out the quail while John cleaned out the birds in the rabbit run and cleared the leaves off of the roof, it was collecting water and making it wetter than it ought to be in there. The hen that had the poorly eye before has it again so I took into the boot room to clean it up, it was quite swollen and I had expected pus to come out but it was clear that this was a sour crop infection that has gone up through her nasal passage to her eye. As this is the second time it has happened I made the decision to cull her, I didn’t waste the meat (not that there was much as she is hybrid) but I cut out the breast and took off the legs for the dogs to eat later. While I was in that mind frame I decided to start on the drakes, unsure how it was going to go as we hadn’t done one before, I was surprised at how easy it was, easier than the chickens in fact. Then comes the plucking which takes a while especially as they have a lot of down which we usually scorch off with a blowtorch, I could just cut out the breast but I think a whole roast duck gives us a better return. Just on a coffee break because my feet got very cold, then I will be off out to do another and then hang them overnight to be gutted and dressed tomorrow. I will probably do a couple a day until they are done, that will just leave the surplus to requirements geese 😖 While I am busy doing that John is cutting down trees and getting the fire lit, he will probably be on feeding duty later while I get dinner sorted.
I did three ducks in the end, I won’t traumatise you with the before and during pictures, just the oven ready ones 😜, dry plucked and scorched, the last one was a bit older than the other two and had masses of beautiful pure white down, soft but a bugger to get off. In all honesty the ducks will probably only feed two as they are not meat birds but they will make a good meal when the time comes 😀
The fly mystery has returned again, yuk we have filled in a hole in the wooden floor, with some left over concrete, that I think they are coming through but there were still some on the floor after we did that so either they have found another way out or they are not coming from there just migrating to the spot. I have watched for them but they never appear only later when I’m not looking, it’s weird. Obviously if we have dead things in the wall, which we do, they are going to be around what I can’t work out is how they are getting out!
Tonight we have roast shoulder of lamb for dinner but I have already been looking up duck recipes and googling how long duck fat keeps for. 😀
Sunday: Got up and on with the morning rounds then inside to gut and finish the ducks that have been hanging overnight. I should have gone to spec savers or at least worn my glasses when plucking them as there was quite a bit of down left on the wings, as there is not much meat on those anyway, I cut them off and put them to one side for the dogs supper.
Now don’t expect it to look all clean and sharp like it does in the shops as I don’t have the equipment they do lol but it will taste just fine.
I think it’s fair to say that it pissed down for the rest of the day and so we didn’t do anymore outside apart from John did the afternoon feeding and egg collection. I stayed indoors and made some bread 🍞 and I had some notes to make for the running of the farm while I’m away next week.
It’s still raining into the evening which means it’s going to be orrible out there tomorrow, great, a soggy Monday morning is something nobody looks forward to 😝