Tuesday, 24 February 2009

A Clean Slate!

This is my first post for seven months. Since my last blog many things have happened, as they do in life, and the time to sit and write has passed me by. I gave birth to my first beautiful baby in July of last year and have been a little tied up ever since. Now that her little personality is shining through and she is happy to play and amuse herself for 5 minutes, I am now able to take hold of my passion for growing the food for my family once more.

The second half of 2008 was eventful to say the least. Sadly, my beloved tabby Poodle cat, Pupsy, just became too ill in October of last year and had to be put to sleep. I miss her desperately and even now, keep thinking that I see her out of the corner of my eye. She was a real friend and companion and I shall miss her forever.

My Grandma also very sadly passed away late last year which has devastated our family. She loved the farm and really enjoyed her time here when she came to stay and said that the place reminded her of her home in Scotland and made her feel young again. It was always so nice to see her hang her walking stick up for the week once she arrived. She never used it here, just never felt the need for it! She was a very special lady who will always be loved and never forgotten.

2009 will see more of a small holding feel to the Pottingshed rather than just the nurture and harvest of vegetables. As we have so much space to utilise we have decided to take the bull by the horns (or should I say 'the pig by the tail') and introduce some further livestock into the equation.

We are teaming up with some close friends of ours, the bogshack boys, to rear our own Pork. For the last few weeks we have been researching the best kind of pigs for Parma Ham, beautiful sausages and every cut of the meat you can think of. We are decided on four Mangalitsa Swallow bellied pigs.

The Arks were very skillfully made for them today and the open barn cleared of old horse manure and straw from days of old. The Mangalitsa's should be arriving in just over a week and we are very excited to be able to introduce them to the farm and their new home for the next seven months.

In order to keep pigs on your land, you need to obtain a 'holding number' called a County Parish Holding number. The DEFRA website has all the information you need in regard to this but it is vital you have this BEFORE pigs come on to your land. It doesn't cost anything and can be set up and arranged in a phone call with your number arriving approx. a week later by post.

This will be a totally new adventure for me and also a challenge to see whether I can do it, or not, emotionally speaking. I have been trying my best to embrace all aspects of the self-sufficient lifestyle and plucked and gutted my first chicken last week. It wasn't a pleasant experience I have to say and it took half a bottle of brandy for me to do it, but I got there in the end and the roast we had on Sunday was just wonderful! I didn't kill the chicken though. I made a deal with my other half that if he did the deed then I would do the plucking and gutting. His end of the deal didn't go to well but he got there eventually, though felt terrible afterwards. We need to find and easier, quicker way.

I did some research into the best possible breed for meat purposes and decided on some Dorking hens after some good advice from a fellow self sufficient friend of mine. I bought 3 hens and a Cockerel and was also offered the choice of either Maran or Buff Orpington Cockerel's 'free to a good home', for eating. Having spent a great deal of time with Buff Orpingtons (please see my previous blog in 2008) there was no way I could take one for food as they really are the most friendly creatures ever. The Maran's on the other hand are slightly awkward but a great size for eventual eating. I chose two black Cockerel's and convinced myself they looked like Basil (the Cochin Cockerell that attacked me last year and got roasted)!!!

After getting them all back home on the farm and in their respective stables, I noticed that one of the Maran's had a bit of a limp. We decided to 'do him' sooner rather than later, rather than letting him live on with unnecessary pain. I had never plucked and gutted a bird before and didn't realise how difficult and time consuming it would be. Before I donned my marigolds and slugged back my brandy I tried to find some informative stuff on U-Tube to assist me in my mission. Disappointingly, I found a couple of videos of a 'chicken plucker machine' which looked very like an over-sized salad spinner with elastic bands on the inside. Sure enough it worked very quickly but I wasn't fortunate enough to have one of those. I gave up and just decided to go at it with the best of British attitude. String the blighter up and let's go!!!
I couldn't believe how hard it was to pull the feathers out, you really have to rip them with the whole downward force of your arm.
The gutting was the worst bit. The insides were still warm and I couldn't look at what I was pulling out into the bin. I rinsed the cavity of the bird under the tap as I was doing it so that it wouldn't be quite so horrific. And there he was in the end, plucked, gutted, done!

So onward into 2009. The veggie patch's have been planned for the year and seeds and sets have been purchased and are at the ready.

Patch 1 is nearly dug over and just needs compost added, whereas patch 2 is in a little more need. Most of the potatoes I planted last year are still rotting in the ground as we were just too busy to dig them up so a little more work is needed there.

The greenhouse has only just been cleared of the old tomato plants and is being spruced up and cleaned for the new ones for this year. The weeds need to be treated but other than that it's not in such bad shape. I'm hoping I won't have the same battle with the snails in there like last year, I'm still finding the odd one that managed to sneak past me!

This year is going to be exciting so please stay tuned ...

1 comment:

Emma said...

Welcome back Katy - I have missed 'In the potting shed'!