Archive for September, 2009

Home-made, fat-free chips!

If, like me, you’re a massive fan of the humble chip, then you should try our method of making them as they are delicious, cheap, easy to make, contain nothing other than what you add to them (which you don’t have to) and did I mention how tasty they are?!

Admittedly, some people have encountered problems in making them, hence this simple ‘how to’ blog post, with pictures!

The method is simple.

Slice ’em, grill ’em, eat ’em.

One medium or large potato will do for each person, depending on appetite and how much other stuff is being consumed.

First, wash your potato. Don’t peel it, just slice it:

The sliced potatoes waiting for the grill to heat up

The sliced potatoes waiting for the grill to heat up

How thick the slices are will affect how they cook. Thin ones goes crispy, too thin and they’ll burn… Thick ones are softer inside but too thick and they won’t cook… The ones in the photo (apologies for its quality, BTW) are as thick as I tend to do them, though it’s all a bit random and depends on where the knife falls.

You don’t need to add oil or anything – they might stick to the grill rack in a couple of places, but not badly and can be easily removed without destroying the chip.

To cook, preheat the grill to its maximum temperature and put the grill pan in the middle.

Check on them after about 10-12 minutes. If they are golden brown, it’s time to turn them:

At the half way point, after about 12 minutes under the grill

At the half way point, after about 12 minutes under the grill

Once you’ve turned them, you can add seasoning or herbs, etc. I rarely bother, but it’s up to you!

Oh – if the skin puffs out during cooking, worry not, it’s meant to do that!

Put them back under the grill and check them in another ten minutes. Once the tops have also turned golden brown, it’s time to tuck in!

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I suppose, they’re really “grilled potato slices”, but “burgers and grilled potato slices” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…!

Let sleeping pigs lie

Bailey - 6 September 2009

Bailey - 6 September 2009

Tia - 6 September 2009

Tia - 6 September 2009

Bless!

(Not) enjoying the sun

Yes, you read that title right. It’s been a wonderfully sunny week, the gorgeous September we were all dreaming of during the downpour that counted as summer. The sun’s shining, the leaves are still green, the grass is still growing.

Brini and Scrumpy - 9 September 2009

Brini and Scrumpy - 9 September 2009

Yet I, dear readers, have been at work all week, and have therefore been unable to partake in this delightful weather.

I shall have the day off on Sunday.

I hear it will be cloudy…

Happy birthday, Curly!

Keeping young Master Curly until his first birthday wasn’t exactly how I planned things, but Fate intervened and Curly has endured. This is a miracle in itself, as I wasn’t expecting Scrumpy to farrow when she did – but neither was she, as I discovered her in the ark with all but one piglet, a pink boar, which was screaming for his mummy outside in the cold and wet… I picked him up, put him in with his siblings, whereupon he found a teat and has never looked back.

Scrumpy and her newborn piglets - 10 September 2008

Scrumpy and her newborn piglets - 10 September 2008

Curly and Squeak - 18 October 2008

Curly and Squeak - 18 October 2008

Curly - 9 August 2009

Curly - 9 August 2009

Not quite the Triffids … but close!

Thanks to my work commitments and the various chores and duties around the farm, with the exception of digging up several rows of potatoes, I managed to ignore my vegetable garden for a week. Possibly more. Well, definitely more. Call it ten days.

This was, it turns out, a big mistake…

Why?

Because the last time I checked, there were a couple of courgettes, similar in size to this:

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

Yesterday, I remembered the courgettes.

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

Ooops!

What a day!

As days go, yesterday was one of those…

It started well enough, a bit chilly, but not enough to make me want to put a jumper on. Why would you, when the sun was shining bright in the sky for the first time in, well, ages?!

View of the field - 5 September 2009

View of the field - 5 September 2009

I started feeding the pigs, but only made it as far as Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini when I discovered that Brini was lame. Her appetite wasn’t diminished: in fact, I spotted her limping when she had finished her food and was making her way over to steal Perky’s!

Using the offer of a belly rub as bribery, I persuaded her to lie down and examined her off fore leg (front right), suspecting a thorn. The thick mud obscured things somewhat, so I tentatively cleaned it off, all the while keeping up the belly rubs with my other hand, wishing (not for the first time) that I had an extra set of hands. However, it came as a shock to discover the true cause of her lameness. Not a thorn, but a deep cut where she (or one of the others) had obviously trod on her foot in the night.

At this point, Brini decided that enough was enough and scrambled to her feet, snorting in disgust at my probing. Watching her limp off through the mud, I realised what my first course of action must be: get them off that patch, onto somewhere drier. Cleaning it would be a waste of time if she had no means of keeping it clean afterwards…

Unfortunately, the only mud-free (ish) patch of land was Tia and Bailey’s enclosure, to the east of the field, where they were helpfully grazing down the long grass before winter. What’s more, there was a large area to the west of their enclosure, which could be incorporated into the pen by adjusting the electric netting. This would be perfect for Brini, as the long grass was still wet with the morning dew, which would do a great job of cleaning the cut out naturally, making my job that much easier.

It took of a bit of skilful manoeuvring, but I eventually swapped the two groups over, despite Fergie’s insistence on leading the way, despite not actually knowing the way…

The four pigs were thrilled with their unexpected move:

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Tia and Bailey were not as happy. In fact, they were downright miserable and Tia spent the rest of the day giving me *that* look. The look that says she’s going to cause trouble. And judging from her previous behaviour, I believe her… I just wish I had somewhere for them to go! Even though the pair had the largest run with the best grass, leaving the four pigs a much smaller ratio of space and grass per pig, the “unfairness” of this was overwhelmingly compensated by removing Tia’s urge to roam whenever she had less than perfect grazing…

Oh well, the electric fence is on, the battery has been recently charged, and they’ll just have to put up with the mud for another week. *Gulp*!

Moving the six pigs and adjusting two hundred metres of electric netting took me over two hours so it was late in the morning by the time I had the opportunity to re-examine Brini’s foot. As I’d hoped, the long wet grass did a wonderful job of cleaning the cut and it was virtually mud free, and that meant I was able to see that there was no blood and that the cut was the porcine equivalent of cutting the skin around your nail. Painful, but not as bad as cutting anywhere else on the finger.

Even better, the heat and swelling had both gone down considerably (so much so that I had to double check I had the right foot) and watching her walk, it was evident that the she was feeling much better, as she wasn’t limping nearly as much as she had been.

I (finally) headed back to the feed shed, checked the chickens, who were most indignant at being ignored for so long, popped to the loo (note to self: always, always go before feeding the pigs!), grabbed my wonderful Purple Spray, and walked back to the pigs, intending to settle Brini down and spray her foot to (hopefully) kill off any infection that may be lurking.

As plans go, that one sucked. Scrumpy wanted belly rubs, Fergie wanted belly rubs, Perky wanted belly rubs … Brini told me to go to hell. And continued to do so for the rest of the day. I know because I went back every hour or so and the pattern was the same. Every other pig was thrilled with the idea of belly rubs in the afternoon sun. Not Brini. In fact, she was so determined that she never did get her belly rub and I never did get to inspect and spray her foot!

Having said that, not only did she make a break for Perky’s food again that evening, but she actually ran after me when she got a whiff of the contents of the their veggie bucket and realised that bananas were on the menu.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s recovery continues and that her foot heals itself without any further problems – or infection. I’ll obviously try again today, hoping that it’s not a case of bolting the stable door after the fact, and will keep all fingers crossed for a speedy and trouble-free recovery.

And the rest of the day? Well, having lost the whole morning, in the afternoon I culled and plucked the three bantam cockerels, checked Brini, cleaned out the chicken houses, moved the Pekins and Silkies out of the horrible old wooden ark and back into the Eglu, which had been acting as a temporary broiler ark for the boys, collected the eggs (four today, bringing the total for 2009 to an astonishing 1003!), checked Brini, cut the grass around the chickens’ electric netting, had a very late lunch, checked Brini, walked the dogs, dug up a row of potatoes, checked Brini, cut up the pigs’ fruit and veg, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, checking Brini one last time as a I did so, then headed for home, knowing that I still had the three chickens to draw and one to cook, putting the other two in the freezer.

The Trio - 16 August 2009

The Trio - 16 August 2009

I hate drawing (aka gutting) chickens, and never seem to do a neat job. Still, practice makes perfect, and I’ve now done the grand total of five cockerels and therefore know one thing to be true: big chickens are much easier than small ones…

I decided to try poached chicken, intending to make a chicken and vegetable broth. B’s away at her parents, so although I know the broth was missing something, I don’t know what that something was (B’s a skilled cook, I just cook…). It was still tasty though, and there’s plenty in the freezer, not to mention some extra stock!

I eventually fell into bed with a well-deserved bowl of chicken broth at about ten o’clock.

Phew!

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Rain, rain, rain…

Like everyone, I am sick and tired of the British climate and my daydreams of what I would do if I won the Lottery are increasingly focussing on one thought: emigrate! All I want is a farm, nothing too big or fancy, so long as it’s located somewhere that still has the four seasons: lush, green springs which turn into long, lazy summers. They, in turn, fade into a crisp autumn, followed by a cold, snowy winter… Is that too much to ask? I don’t want to live in a hot climate, as rain makes the grass green and enables crops to grow. But the amount we’ve had for the past three years is just depressing.

Back in the real world, the field is quickly turning into a sea of mud, which is making it difficult to manage the grazing between now and winter (you know, still wet but cold and dark). Ideally, the pigs should be in the middle of the field, which is too wet to use in winter, but I need at least a week of (*whispers*) no rain to dry it from the recent deluges before I can put them back there, which means that instead of lightly mowing their winter grazing in the north of the field, the pigs are rapidly making the grass vanish … and poaching it up at the same time. If we can just have a dry September, I can pull them off there and it should recover, but that’s looking less likely as the days slip by.

Still, at least the shortening days lead to some beautiful scenes at dusk.

Dusk at the farm - 3 September 2009

Dusk at the farm - 3 September 2009

Ben and Jerry’s Hubby Hubby love!

Now, can someone please explain to me why I don’t live in Vermont:

Ben & Jerry’s, known for its euphoric ice cream flavors and dedication to social justice, celebrates the beginning of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont with the symbolic renaming of its well-known ice cream flavor “Chubby Hubby” to “Hubby Hubby.” In partnership with Freedom to Marry, Ben & Jerry’s aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and, to show its support, will serve “Hubby Hubby” sundaes in Vermont Scoop Shops throughout the month of September. [more]

Ben and Jerry's: Hubby Hubby!

Ben and Jerry's: Hubby Hubby!

See here for more information!