Monday, 23 December 2013

Count down to Christmas

We have been growing our Turkey's and Geese throughout the year carefully feeding them so they don't get too big, but are a decent size for peoples Christmas dinners. Quite difficult when we have very different breeds. We have a rare breed Bourbon Red Turkeys, then Wirral Black double breasted Turkeys which can grow quite large. Finally the geese which are a Pomeranian cross Emden, which have turned out to be large birds.
The Turkeys have caused a lot of damage this year, which is probably our fault for not cutting their wings to stop them from flying. They have broken several of the panelled fencing around the chicken pens. Their weight has been enough to snap the wood, especially when they launch themselves from the fences.
When they decided to use the polytunnel as a roost I had a slight sense of humour failure, especially when one used the side to scramble up. Plastic and sharp claws do not mix and I now have holes up the side and on top. Not a good mix.
We can honestly say it will be a pleasure to not have the Turkeys around any more.

So as the festive season approaches we make a plan of action and the hard work begins on the 17th December. We keep things as quiet and calm as possible so the birds don't get stressed. The only difference is the routine, feeding is later and birds are left shut in their houses for a little longer until we are ready.
With 11 turkeys to process we start the first day and get 5 plucked and hanging. It's cold, windy and wet so isn't the nicest of days for anyone.
They are much cleaner to pluck out this year, no broken breast feathers like last year. The fingers start to hurt by the end of the day and the muscles are screaming by the morning. Only another six to go. So three the next day and a goose and then the final three and a goose the last day. I leave Diz to pluck the final goose on his own while I work on my Christmas cake.

The geese have been quite friendly this year and were easy to pick up and take away without any commotion.
We always dread plucking the geese because it can take so long, but they were very good this year taking only a few hours instead of the 6!

So once Diz stopped looking like he had a pillow fight and lost he got on with preparing the birds for the oven.
Very impressed (and relieved) with the weights. The geese weighed 4.05kg or 9lb, which is the biggest we have ever had. So overall we are very pleased with our new gander, Bruiser and Spotless our faithful goose.

As for the two breeds of Turkeys, well the largest was 9.7kg or 21lb 4oz. Wow! I had to check with the receiver that she had a big enough oven! That was one of the Black Males, the Black females and Bourbon Red males weighed about 5 - 6kg or 11 - 12lb.
In the photo the single breasted Red male is on the left and the double breasted Black female is on the right. They weigh the same but the female has breasts to be proud of.
Once all the birds are prepared the fun job of matching the weights to the requests of the recipients. A lot of head scratching is involved.
The final part of the Christmas preparations is the cake. I take time to design and decorate our cake each year, taking pleasure in 'playing' in the evening and creating something I am proud of.
So here is 2013's cake. Two tier fruit cake (made in July), with Santa making his stop because we have been good this year.

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Lots of love, hugs and kisses
Stell, Diz, Jes, Kip and the remaining critters at Cloghermore.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Welcome Visitors... at last

We were fortunate to have some good friends come to visit after several years of trying to get here, along with their daughter who became our little helper for the week. Jude and Matt flew in from Belgium, where they are currently living, with Alicia, who was 'bursting' to meet all the animals. It was dark when they arrived so the following morning she was eager to get started.

After she was shown the morning and evening routine, she was off and running with us in tow. Although she wasn't too sure about the Turkeys as they were nearly as tall as her and very inquisitive and the geese got a wide birth.

And egg collecting at the end of the night is always a magical time. She could only just reach into the boxes to carefully collect each precious egg and carefully put it into the bucket.

We took a trip to Carrick on Shannon to have a wonder round the town and the river, with Alicia keen to walk one of the dogs at every opportunity. Initially she wasn't too sure about the dogs but it was long before they were all good friends, running around and playing together. It was funny to watch Jes run past the window followed by Alicia and then Alicia run past with Jes and Kip closely behind. By the end of the week, Kip was being picked up and plonked on the sofa next to her to watch TV.

The following day a farmer neighbour and his son allowed us into the milking parlour to have a go. Jude and Alicia nearly got covered in cow poo, which would have made a very funny photo, but they dodged it.

And we got to meet the smallest (a new three week old calf)

And the largest of his livestock. This is Ed, one of his newest breeding bulls

Later that day a trip to Boyle to have a look at some standing stones in the middle of field and then playing 'poo' sticks in the river, which Diz championed and is looking forward to defending his title next year.

We took a trip to the seaside on the most rotten day of the week. While we sat squeezed into the car being battered by the wind and rain, which lashed against the car sideways I had flash backs of some 'summer holidays' enjoyed as a kid. Just as we were about to give up and head home, we ate our butties in the car and then the rain stopped and we could actually see out the window. This was our cue to have an explore along the sand dunes and beach. The dogs had an amazing time running through the dunes, followed as closely as possible by Alicia. Matt and I skimmed stones into the sea, while we waited for Diz to take photo's and Jude sat enjoying the sound of the waves.
Just as we got back into the car, the heavens opened and the weather closed in.

Sadly our visitors had to leave all too soon, but we are hoping they will be back again very soon. Kip and Jess missed our little helper just as much as we did.
Thank you Alicia for all your help and we look forward to seeing you again soon. PS Don't forget to bring your Mum and Dad thumbleft

All the best
Stell and Diz

Friday, 8 November 2013

Rabbit Kits

The baby bunnies are growing fast and are now 2 weeks old.
They have a full coat of fur, cute ears and adorable large back feet. There is two black, two black and white spotty and one grey and white spotty.

We are trying to handle them as much as possible so they aren't quite so skitty. In another few days they will start to move round their house more and start nibbling the rabbit biscuits and I am sure they will fall out the hutch and start to cause all sorts of trouble for us outside. It's only a matter of time before they read it on their job description.
Mummy rabbit has been brilliant and is quite happy for us to touch the babies and is even friendlier herself.
Take care
Stell n Diz

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bunny Surprise

Going about our normal feeding routine this morning, I got a pleasant surprise. I say a surprise, but should really have expected it. A month ago we mated Spot and Jacko and hoped for the best. Jacko is still quite young so we weren't sure if he was up to the job. He has proved himself though.

We have been debating for the past few days whether Spot was looking fatter than normal, but she looked no different to me.
We have been looking for signs of 'nesting', fur pulling and a nest being made, but there has been nothing..... until this morning.
When I walked to run to feed, there was clumps of white fur outside the house and when I lifted the lid....

There was another pile of fur tucked in the corner and it moved! I was a little taken aback initially. Both females are in this run and house so things are going to be a little cosy and the kits may get squashed. Diz has finished the other house and run so they will be separated today.

Once Diz got the camera we had a sneaky peak at our new arrivals. We think there is five kits, but didn't want to poke around too much. Spot wasn't bothered by us looking as we stuck to our normal routine so she wouldn't feel threatened.
Looking forward to seeing them running around in a couple of weeks.
Diz of course has already commented that by the time they are ready for the pot, the other ingredients will have grown!

Stell n Diz xx

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Ginger and Spotty update

Last month we moved the pigs, Ginger and Spotty, to the old pig pen after they had completed their clearing duties of last years potato patch.

They have dug it and removed everything, but also outgrown their house. So time to move on. Normally when the fence is removed the pigs won't cross the line where the electric fence use to be for a while. But these boys were off almost as soon as the fence was turned off.

They weren't bothered by any of the other residence, only interested in what they could dig up next. While Diz put up the fence around the new pig pen I kept moving the boys on so they didn't dig up too much of the rest of the field. They can do a lot of damage in very short space of time.

Once the pen was ready it took some encouragement to get them into their new home. They were enjoying their new freedom and took some time to get them in the right place. And it took a few 'zaps' from the fence to keep them confined.

Once in they got down to the business of digging the new ground up and exploring.

And of course enjoying a good scratch.
We do enjoy having them in this pen, as we can watch them from the house. They can also see us more, which means feeding time is noisier than ever.
We have guests next week who are looking forward to meeting the boys, so we have delayed their departure. They have been booked in for their one way trip at the beginning of November and I have had to book some days off work in order to be able to help Diz with the butchering.

After the few days of recent rain, the pen has been turned into a mud pond, which the boys are enjoying. Well the two piggy boys are, Diz isn't so keen on fending off two large boars, very hungry fighting to get through him to get to the bucket while he is stuck in 2 foot of mud. It is a very funny sight each feeding time watching Diz trying to outsmart them and failing miserably. He gets covered in mud and pig snot every time!

We gave them a fresh bit of ground this morning, but as you can see they have turned it over already (5 hours to be precise) and are now looking very smug with themselves. They have also decided to start pulling their house apart. This will definitely be the last year for this pig house, if it survives another 13 days it will be a miracle. Spotty has been climbing up the side today and removing the roofing felt chomp by chomp. I think next years pigs will have to be gilts, the boars are just two troublesome!
They are so lovely and friendly though it will be sad to see them go.

Take care all
Stell n Diz xx

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Proud Grandparents

On Wednesday 28th August 2013 we became the proud Grandparents of baby India Disley.

She was a little overdue arriving, but once she decided it was time for her grand entrance to the world it didn't take long. Mummy Dee had a C section within a couple of hours of arriving at the hospital.
And Daddy Ben still doesn't know what all the fuss is about, he believes giving birth is nothing compared to his experience of standing on a 3 pin plug!

Granddad Diz winged his way over to welcome the new arrival, but sadly I had to both work and animal sit so couldn't make the trip and had to make do with Skype.

Great Grandma Joyce was also on the trip (wild horses wouldn't have stopped her).

Congratulations to Ben and Dee. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Too much work....

Too much work... can make life very difficult!! As I'm sure many of you know. We moved to Ireland to get away from all that 'rat race' stuff.
I have started a new Part Time job 7 weeks ago, which has unfortunately turned into nearly a full time job! This will hopefully only be for a short time and I will be back to less hours very soon as it is very difficult to juggle Cloghermore and all the animals and the job. Poor Diz feels a bit trapped as well, as I have the car and his bike isn't working at the moment. Sigh. 
This is also my excuse for being sooo lapse at writing anything on the blog, so my appologeese. I am hoping to take some up to date photos and get posting.
Take care all

Bar B Q Bread

I know its past the normal season for BBQ, (we will be Barna Qing untill it warms up again). A quick and tasty bread which improves immensely if cooked on charcoal but is a knock out if done on wood. Ash out of preference, but Beech is good for a less smokey taste. Something we tried earlier in the year and was a resounding success, especially if you can find a willing victim, I mean volunteer to cook the bread for you, so you can get on with something else.

To Make 8
500g strong flour or bread flour of your choice. A little extra for dusting.
5g powdered dried yeast.
10g fine salt
300ml warm water
A drizzle of oil 


Mix ingredients in a bowl (We use a bucket that had bird fat balls in). Start with the tepid water, add the salt and dissolve, add the yeast and swill/stir add the oil and the throw in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky mess then turn out onto a floured surface. Then Knead. 



When the dough becomes smooth and springy, shape into a round, coat with flour and pop it into the bowl (Stell prefers to coat with a little oil as it is easier to get it out of the bucket) 

Cover the bowl with cling film, put in a plastic bag or pop the lid on and leave to rise somewhere warm to rise to double its size. If you don't need the dough until a later just 'knock back' (push your fingers in it to deflate), leaving at least an hour for it to rise again by the time you need it. 

Tear small bits off and shape into small rounds. Squash them flat and leave to rise again for 10 mins or so, on a well floured sheet. 


Get a fire going in the BBQ and allow to burn down so the wood is white. 


I have halved some clay bricks as a heat sync which works well with the wood.
Cook for about 7 mins or so until cooked turning regularly to stop burning. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. 



The rolls freeze well and tastes just as good as fresh.

This recipe is out of the River Cottage Handbook No.3 Bread. Its got a lot of Ideas and recipes in.



Thursday, 5 September 2013

Feeling a little smug..

We definitely deserve a pat on the back for a good growing season. As we hit Autumn it is finally time to really start to reap the rewards of Diz's diligent watering and my care for the plants grown and feel particularly proud of providing ourselves with all of our own vegetables for the year.
The fruit crop earlier in the year was plenty and produced a number or delicious jams and the spring vegetables mixed with the home grown meat have not only fed us daily but also filled the freezer for the winter.
And now it is the turn of the Autumn cropping. As you will remember lasts years potato crop was a disaster, with nothing to show for all our hard work, even the pigs didn't find anything to dig up while pigavating the ground. This year I am delighted and a little smug.
I didn't plant half as many as last year, but I am delighted to have some, which will take us through the winter. They are our favourite's 'Desiree', a versatile cooking potato and is far better than anything we can buy in the shops in Ireland. Might have to have a baked potato tonight, drooling just thinking about it!

The thirty tomato plants are cropping fantastically and I have already bottled three shopping baskets full. Last year it was October before they even started to turn red so we are fortunate this year. I grew several plants of 'Beefy' tomatoes and most of them are bigger than the palm of my hand! And Diz's favourites are the Cherry tomatoes which he tells me are very sweet and quite delicious. I can't stand the taste of raw tomatoes but will eat them cooked.

Sweetcorn was very late to grow this year (for me), but there will be a few cobs although they will be smaller than previous years and a month later.

We tried something new this year on the recommendation of a friend, Kohlrabi. It's not the most attractive vegetable, but it has an interesting taste. It's a bit like a turnip but milder or the stalk of a cauliflower/broccoli. Can be eaten cooked or raw, it is best eaten about the size of a tennis ball and needs peeling first like a spud. Different and might be worth trying again next year. I'm looking for a few different things to try out next year.

The strawberries are on their second go and taste wonderful.

And as long as I can keep the Turkey's away from them, the Raspberries are fruiting well. The sheep gave them such a hard time at every opportunity, I doubted we would see anything on them. Not bad though, maybe more last year.

And the grape vine has had a bumper year, the grapes have had so much more sun this year so have grown plump and juicy. They are very very nearly ripe, another few days and we can dive in. Not sure what we will do with them all, not enough for wine but too many to eat as bunches. Never had this problem in previous years, will have to get onto my mate Google for inspiration.

The winter vegetables are coming on nicely, Brussels, leeks, parsnips and we should have another crop of cabbage and cauliflower before the end of the year. The sprouting broccoli will be our early spring crop.
A couple of weekends ago we had a spit roast with one of our lambs, which went to slaughter a couple of weeks back and we invited our like minded friends to celebrate the years crops. I'll write more in a different post later to tell you all about it.

I am not daft to think that the hard work is over it will still be a constant battle over the winter trying to keep the harvested crops protected, all depends on what type of winter Mother Nature decides to throw at us, but for now I will continue to feel smug and proud of this years achievements and start planning for the unknown next year.

Bye for now.
Stell n Diz

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Elphin Agricultural Show 2013

Another 12 months passes by and its time for the local village;s annual show. Last year I helped out in the Poultry section as a steward and this year was no different, but Diz got commandeered to also help out. He was going to stick around for an hour to help with the bird entries, but within a few minutes he was asked to help with bringing in the 'Scarecrows' instead. Once several entries got situated, it got hard to tell which were the scarecrows and which was Diz. Even the judges included him in the entry count!

We entered our Indian Game cockerel, some photos, some tomatoes and a cucumber. The cockerel got a third and one of the photos got a third, I was very disappointed the tomatoes didn't get anything but I didn't make them look pretty enough with sprigs of parsley! Mental note for next year! It is serious stuff this showing.

The show is predominantly for the farmers to show off their bovine stock, but there are a few sheep, goats and horses thrown in to make an interesting show. Their is also a poultry section which has done well for the past couple of years, with 160 birds (chickens, ducks and geese) entered this year. It is a noisy day with lots of questions from the public. We (the stewards) get free entry into the show though and fed, so it's not too bad. We make a lot of bird contacts as well, which always helps. There is a dog and cat section, but we haven't entered our dogs yet as Kip is too mad and Jes has gone shy. Maybe next year.
It is always amusing to see the cows washed, fluffed, buffed and polished for hours before they get in the ring. Some of the Black Belgium Blue's (not sue how that works) looked like they had coats of velvet, couldn't touch them though in case your hand got black (they get sprayed with something). The handsome beast in the picture is an Angus.

The cows were outside this year and lined up by colour and breed, they had a good contrast against the green grass and no mud in sight for a change.

Once all the judging is over and everyone collects their winnings, another year is over and planning for 2014 has already started.

All the best
Stella and Diz