2 years on……

Maisy

Skippy dressed up for Xmas

Maisy looking feisty
Louise farrowing
Pippa with 3 day old piglets, Skippy I centre of photo before we realised she was injured

Wow, how time flies, almost 2 years since the last update in which I promised to blog every month🙄.

The farm is doing very well, last year we dedicated a lot of time to planting, growing, improving the land. We’ve been converting the vegetable garden to no-dig, and it’s working well. Our biggest successes last year were definitely the pumpkins, squashes and melons, they were prolific. We had 3 crops of watermelons from the same plants, some weighing as much as 7kgs! Tons of Petite Gris de Rennes canteloupe, which tasted like honey or brown sugar, delicious and definitely worth growing if you can find the seeds. The rabbits loved them too, so we had to over them with plastic olive crates as they ripened. We grew about 10 different varieties of pumpkin and squash, including spaghetti squash and oil seed pumpkins. We were inundated with courgettes and cucumbers and grew a lovely yellow tomato called lemon tree, which was good eaten both fresh and cooked.

We planted more trees, lemon, lime, grapefruit and avocado. Had our first (small) crop of apricots and nectarines – had a much bigger crop of apricots already this year – and the June berries produced abundantly for the first time. The apples and pears have improved every year since we’ve been here, we harvested at least 60 kg from one pear tree last year, and that was after thinning out the crop in June, and feeding loads to the pigs as we were picking. We canned a lot of pears, made pear butter and pear wine – which was actually delicious.

The grape harvest was ok, we made 60 litres of wine, but unfortunately, like all the wine produced in our village, it has an after-taste of cheese and onion crisps 😖

The figs were great again, and I dried many kilos, froze a few kilos and made about 30 jars of fig chutney. That fig chutney has become legendary around here, and I’ve given loads away, and even had chutney making sessions with friends!

Animals….

Maisy had her calf in October 17, a bull we called Bo, for various reasons we still didn’t get round to milking her. Bo grew into a strapping beef steer, and is now in the freezer. Maisy is due to calf again any day now, and she will be milked!

We still have Georgia and Hazel, and they are producing 1.5 litres a day, which is enough for us. I make feta, mozzarella, halloumi, chevre and paneer. Gave up on the cheddar as it was too sharp.

We’ve been unlucky with our sheep this year, one ewe died (We think pregnancy toxaemia) in the New Year, she was pregnant with twin lambs; one of our first time mum’s wouldn’t feed her lamb, so we bottle-fed her, she’s now fine. Another first-timer had a lamb that died after 3 or 4 days, during a cold snap, either the mum wasn’t feeding enough, or not keeping the lamb warm, so very sad.

Pippa, the spotty pig, had a litter of 12 piglets in September, unfortunately one was ill and had to be dispatched, and the next day Pippa crushed one of her piglets and sat on another, breaking both its legs! That piglet was struggling to survive, as it couldn’t get to it’s mum to feed, so after a few days of bottle feeding her, we decided to bring her into the house. We called her Skippy, as she could only hop around, rather than walk. An X-ray confirmed that she had 2 broken femurs and the vet said she was unlikely to walk again. Skippy lived in the house with us for a couple of months (which was interesting) and then when she was 2 months old, we built her a house in the garden, where she lived, and ran around, until she was 6 months old. There came a time, as we knew it would, when she would get too heavy to be able to get around easily, and when that time came, we dispatched her humanely, through floods of tears, and into the freezer she went!

In September we acquired another sow, Louise, a British Berkshire. She came to us for our boar to ‘service’ her, and decided to stay with us 😁. She had 16 piglets on 30th December, not a great birth, as piglet no. 3 was stuck inside her. Our daughter, Holly, being the less squimish, and having the smallest hands, went in at the business end and pulled that piglet out! Piglet 15 was still-born and piglet 16, the runt, was nowhere to be found next morning, either it wandered outside the run and Louise was too exhausted to stop it, or she ate it, knowing it was unlikely to survive. Anyway, Louise was just the best mother, never getting upset when they constantly tried to feed from her, exceptionally gentle when she laid down near them, and all 14 survived. We still have 2 of her daughter’s.

We did little to the house last year, but we did build a log cabin for guests. This year we plan to finish the house, and are having a new roof put on the main part of the house at the end of this month

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The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!


We have approximately 15 fig trees of various types, white, black, yellow, bright green ( even when fully ripe) and one that has green and yellow stripes. This year they have been prolific. I’ve processed over 30 kgs so far, mostly drying them halved or whole. I’ve made fig and orange jam, which is so-so (and definitely not as good as the cherry or apricot jams I’ve made this year, or the marmalade). I made figs in balsamic vinegar (lovely) and took that a step further by making figs in homemade blackberry vinegar (heavenly) and then came across this recipe from A Mother in France blog site. Not only is this the best fig chutney ever, it’s about as close to Branston Pickle as you could get!

For any Brits living overseas who crave Branston but can’t find it this is the recipe to try – and believe me, I’ve tried every Branston copy cat recipe on the internet, none have come close.

 

Source: The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!

More Lemons – zero waste

Apologies to anyone who has already read this on my Facebook page last week (before I deleted my account), but I’m going to repeat that post here.

My neighbour bought over huge bucket of lemons last week, about 60 – so I spent the whole weekend processing them.

10 went into a jar with salt and spices to make Moroccan preserved lemons

another 10 sliced and frozen to put in summer drinks

the rest were zested and juiced, the juice and half the zest frozen for later use.

The remaining zest is being steeped in aguadente ( local fire water) and will become Limoncello in about a month or so.

Manky zest and scrap ends of lemons put into a container to make citrus enzyme cleaner.

left over pith boiled up for a couple hours to make pectin, now frozen in ice cube trays for later use in jam-making

Half the boiled up pith became the marinade for that night’s lemon and tarragon chicken, and the rest was fed to the pigs.

The zest that is currently making Limoncello will be blended and used in a dessert, and the leftovers from the citrus cleaner will be composted, absolutely zero-waste!

 

 

 

 

Blackberry and Hibiscus Jam

This has to be one of the nicest jams I’ve ever made, and so simple. It is tangy and fruity and not too sweet, I don’t like sweet jams, which is why I don’t buy commercially prepared ones!

1 500ml jug full of blackberries
1 500ml jug of strong hibiscus infusion
1/2 a 500ml jug of sugar ( preferably raw organic)
Couple of teaspoons of lemon juice.

Throw it all in the pan on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, and then turn up the heat to a rolling boil until it starts to thicken, about 30 minutes.

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The hibiscus infusion gives it a lovely deep red colour.

I also added in a handful of black currants that I’d had left over from breakfast, so the final colour came out quite dark, but lovely.

Blackberry jam can quickly go beyond setting point, and becomes as hard as rock. You think it hasn’t reached setting point, and the minute you’re convinced it has, it’s too late. I know this from bitter experience. I once made about a dozen jars of the stuff and it was inedible. Great flavour, just couldn’t get it out of the jars!

The trick is, when it’s reduced to the point that it’s spitting out of the pan, do the frozen plate test. Leave the jam to cool on the frozen plate for about a minute and then run your finger through the splodge, if the two halves don’t join back together it’s done. If it has already formed a crinkly skin when you try to push your finger through, it may be too late 😦

The above recipe made 2 x 250ml jars, with a little bit left over for eating immediately with some warm crusty bread, nom nom!

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Tangerine Marmalade

32 orange/tangerine trees is a lot of citrus – there are hundreds of fruits on each tree! Oranges  keep fairly well in the fridge, possibly up to a month, tangerines not so well. I will need to come up with lots of ingenious ways to preserve all this fruit but my first thought was to make some marmalade. The tangerines were the first to ripen in early December so time to experiment with tangerine marmalade.

I’m a lazy marmalade maker, just slicing the whole fruit thinly and throwing them in a pan, but even that takes a lot of time! I used about 5 kilos of tangerines.

image I simmered the fruit in a little water for about an hour to soften the peels, you can just go away and leave it to do it’s thing, just checking on it every so often to make sure the water hasn’t boiled away. Some people soak their peels overnight in water to help the softening process, but that would require being organised, so I don’t do that…

When the peels were softer (not mushy, al dente – I want to taste those rinds in my marmalade) I added in 2kgs of raw sugar –  because that’s all I had (refer to note above about not being organised!) and the juice of half a lemon, and once the sugar had dissolved, turned it up to a rapid boil. On reflection, I should have made a smaller batch because it took blooming ages to reduce and set- about 90 minutes. I poured into sterilised jars and left it overnight to cool.

When I checked the next morning, it hadn’t actually set, it must have been wishful thinking on my part the previous night as I was thoroughly bored with the process by them time I’d jarred up.

That evening after work, it all went back in the pan for another 30 minutes, all the jars had to be washed and sterilised again, thereby doubling up the workload (and washing up!)

However, the end result was worth it, a tangy thick marmalade and the rinds have just enough bite to them, a great result. For my next batch I’ll add cardamon pods to the tangerines, taking them out before I add the sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Lime Marmalade

The sweet limes are finally ripening, and I picked a few kilos last weekend
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I first discovered sweet limes when we lived in India. They have a sweet/sour flavour, almost a cross between a lime and an orange, and the juice is sweet enough to drink without the addition of sugar. They also make fantastic marmalade and pickle.

So for my sweet lime marmalade I followed the standard marmalade making procedure, but only used half as much sugar as usual. The end result is a murky olive green, nothing like the day-glo lime green of the commercially made product, but it tastes so much better! It’s surprisingly tart (considering the fresh fruit isn’t) and actually tastes of real limes – I love it.

Off to pick some more now to make a hot pickle to go with curry.

Busy Weekend

Busy weekend, homemade lemongrass and ginger soap with a copper mica topping ( bit OTT but smells amazing); berry flavoured Shea butter lip balm; home- made ketchup, used the last of the Roma tomatoes, and bone broth – all before lunch!

i have milk kefir fermenting ( thanks to Aisha for the scoby) and have been converting some of the grains to water kefir over the last week or so. I now have 2 bottles of cranberry kefir brewing, and 2 bottles of grape. Will post separately on the process and the results.