Monday, 27 May 2013

Our Beautiful Taz

We all gush about 'our' pets and how wonderful they are and are very upset when they pass away. Sadly it's our turn to gush about 'our wonderful Taz' who passed away last week.

Taz was a Lurcher and the most gentle kind natured companion you could ever meet. Every one who met her adored her and she was every ones friend.

She went everywhere with Diz from the first moment she entered our lives. She was full of life and loved being outdoors. As a puppy she tormented us until she finally calmed down. She destroyed a dining room suit, re landscaped the back garden to her taste with lots of mounds, trenches and hills, she dug a hole in a door and a carpet and even ate the pet Rat Ruddy, but didn't swallow thankfully and it survived several more encounters.

She followed us around the UK, over to the Channel Islands where she loved the beach and then to Ireland to see out the last of her years. After her companion Sammy died a few years ago we watched her grow old gracefully until, at 15, it was finally time to say good bye. Hardest thing we have ever had to do.

She is buried next to Sammy in our field, where the geese have already made use of the freshly dug ground. Our little Border Terrier Kip, who arrived a year after Sammy died and who Taz never really took to, watched us cover Taz with earth and then spent the next few minutes searching for her. Quite sad. She continued to look for her throughout the next couple of days, which was heart breaking.
So we say good bye to Our Beautiful Taz and will remember her always in our heart.
Stell & Diz

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Not expecting that . . . . .

We have had a little visitor stealing the chickens food overnight for a few days, so I set the traps. The first peanut was stolen without capture so I used some trusty peanut butter. Patience paid off and I got the culprit the next day.
One of the traps was still set to see if anything else was about, but I wasn't expecting this.....
It has been leaving it's slug trails around the utility room for weeks, but didn't realize it was that big!

Made me giggle when I saw it this morning. Kip was disappointed though, I could almost here the 'what the ** is that!!' If only dogs could talk.

Stella xx

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Just as you think it's safe to trust her. . . . .

The little cow lets you down.
Jes has been coming along brilliantly, she is trusted to be left unattended around the house and hasn't let us down, she hasn't chewed anything that doesn't belong to her, no mess, just a little angel.
Then this morning she does this.....
Just one lie in, that's all I wanted. At 0630 this morning they were all awake, but I just wanted another half hour, that's all. Not too much to ask for on a Sunday morning. And this is how I'm repaid!
I wouldn't have minded too much had she just chewed the top, they were still usable. No she had to make a hole further down as well. It was pouring with rain this morning and there were puddles everywhere. All I can say is thank goodness for guest wellies'!

As you can see though she is growing rapidly and we have to keep reminding ourselves that she is only 5 months old. She has learnt so much in such a short space of time. She sit's, retrieves, leaves or gives it to you and recalls when requested. She does still bite at the chickens though and digs! Mm might see if I can get her to dig the trenches for the spuds, there's a thought. Then again she will probably grab the spuds and run away with them, I'll do it myself.

Taz on the other hand is getting older and stiffer and completely puddled. Her back legs are very stiff sometimes and when they are at their worst she struggles to get up and walk, very often going round in circles. One day she is very very bad and I think 'OK time to say goodbye' and then the next day she is oh so better, still puddled but can walk no problems. Poor old girl. Taking it day by day with her at the moment, which we will probably be doing for another 12 months. The hardest thing is trying to work out if she is in pain, because she never complains, no whimper, or bark, nothing she just gets on with it.

Take care
Stella xx

Friday, 10 May 2013

New toy - Dutch Oven

I enjoy cooking out doors, so to compliment spit roast, smoking and Bar BQ, we invested in a Dutch oven. Its nothing more complicated than a cast iron pot with a cast iron lid. This means it can be used on most heat sources apart from induction hob (what ever that is). Once the new black art is sussed, I will be using it on wood and home made charcoal, but the learning process is with commercial briquettes which burn consistently, 24 of them will give me approx 350deg F.

The first attempt was rosemary chicken and veg. A natural trivet of onion and some veg were put on the base, marinated chicken put on top and rest of veg around. Spuds went in last and a little marinade poured over. A little water added to keep everything moist.

The charcoal fired up and divided.

Dutch Oven placed over top and the other half of the coals placed on top.

The Dutch Oven is 1/4 turned every 15 mins or so to ensure even heat distribution. The lid turned the same but in the opposite direction.

About half way through the cook more coals were fired up for the top to brown off, turned out to be unnecessary as the original coals had sufficient heat to take from the bottom and put on the top.
The finished product

The taste test was not bad. The chicken (plastic one from the supermarket) wasn't the best, but was palatable. The veg was good but a little less liquid would of made them better. All in all a pleasant meal from a new method (aided by sat in the barn with a good book, glass of whiskey and Jethro Tull in concert playing in the background) With more practice, it should turn out some superb food.


Lambs & Pigs

Sadly we lost another lamb, the black ewe that we have been struggling with. One minute she was fine and the next dead! We were going to stick with the two and then we got another phone call asking if we wanted a 3 week old Ram who's mother had died the night before.
So just as I thought I was finished with bottle feeding, it was time to dig the stuff out again. This poor little boy was a little shell shocked, he was missing his mum and was not use to humans at all. It was going to be a struggle to bottle feed him. He is a big lamb for 3 weeks, big legs and small body, so he was named Shanks.
Initially we kept him in the Turkey house on his own until he got a bit more use to us. Bottle feeding was a fight every time, but we managed to get some milk into him.

After a couple of days we decided to let him run with the other two, hoping that he would get more comfortable around us when he could see the other two being handled by us. It has worked to a degree, but I still have to catch him and fight with the bottle. He is copying the others and eating grass and leaves, so I'm not too worried, he will just be a lot slower growing. The other two are as fat as anything and come running as soon as they hear my voice or a tub of nuts rattling. Chops will definitely make it to the freezer before the others as he is very large.

Finally Pigs! They are on the way. We popped down to choose our two from the litter and will be picking them up in just over a week.
The mother is a Duroc cross and the father is a Gloucester Old Spot cross Duroc cross Tamworth. The mother is very big, but so gentle and therefore the piglets have her temperament. With getting them so late it means we could be struggling with the weather later in the year when we are finishing them off. On a plus it will be cooler when we butcher them and they will get more goodies from the poly tunnel.

We haven't decided on any names yet. Any suggestion? Does my little naming guru have any thoughts? They are both boys (I think).
Looking forward to their arrival. Our little smallholding will then be complete for this year.

Stella xx

Christmas Dinners growing well

Yes I know it's only May, but our little Christmas dinners are growing very well. We had a day of Sun and they doubled in size overnight!
These guys rule the roost in the field, everyone else stays out of their way or else. We don't even let strangers into the field, especially children because they are quite nasty! Diz has earned mutual respect from Bruiser but he will still push the boundary with me. It's hard to believe that the little ones are only four weeks old in this photo, their feathers are growing rapidly now.
We haven't actively tried to sell any for Christmas, but we will keep two for ourselves and either keep the others for orders or sell them as Gosling's. It will all depend on what they look like.
Once they get a little bigger so they can't fit through the gap in the gate, we will try to strip graze the ground so that the grass has a chance to grow before it's nibbled, this way it might last a little longer.

I have just taken delivery of our other Christmas dinners, in the form of eggs. These are Bourbon Red Turkey eggs, they will have red feathers instead of the traditional Bronze. Fingers crossed they hatch, in twenty eight days we will find out. Can't wait, the Turkeys are great fun. We really enjoyed raising them ourselves two years ago. We probably won't need 18, that's a lot of plucking!!

Stella xx

At last chicks!

In plural! We incubated 24 eggs three weeks ago and 15 were fertile and on Friday 3rd May 11 little chicks hatched.

I have seen the hatchings loads of time now but I still can't stop myself from checking for cracks in the eggs every couple of hours from hatching day and getting so excited when an egg cheeps or shows the first sign of exit. 

One is soon joined by more and the wait is on, will they all hatch, do they need any help, should I help?

Finally the eleven are all fluffed and ready for their new home. There are 10 white and one brown, don't know what breeds they will be as we took the eggs from our egg layers running with the Light Sussex cockerel Buddy. Hopefully some of them will be Sussex hens, but it doesn't matter as they will be grown on for the freezer (sorry).

Diz has built a new brooder for the chicks instead of using a heat lamp, which will be cheaper on the electric. The material tassels replicate the chicks getting under the mothers feathers (use your imagination please), which will be raised as the chicks get bigger.

We have also just got some Barnevelder chicks, which are a new breed for us. They are meant to be good winter layers, which is what we need to keep our customers happy and lay a very dark egg. We have decided to get rid of the Rhode Island Red's and have these instead. They are not so readily available in Ireland, but thankfully a breeder we have used before has a flock, so got the babies from him. He also threw in a couple of Golden Brahma's which make brilliant broody birds and are big so they can hatch a lot of eggs. I'm not that keen on them as they have feathery legs, but good brooders are what we need.
They look so cute at this age. Kip spends hours glued to the side of their run waiting for movement, I think she sees 'mice'!
We are waiting for Indy to hatch her 6 eggs, she is due on Mon 13th and another hen has just sat on 12 eggs which I will candle on Sun 12th to see what is fertile. Fingers crossed.
Stella xx

Birthday Bar BQ

Yes it's time for that annual event again, Diz's birthday. Happens same time every year. Time for another gathering for a Bar BQ, or Barna Q depending on the weather, which was not looking promising.

So fishing umbrella was utilised to keep the rain at bay. Although the weather man said it was not going to rain, he got it very wrong (as normal). Doesn't stop us and everyone is happy to huddle around the fire and under the umbrella. Everyone else was dressed for winter, but not Diz. In fact his mother got him some funky birthday shorts and loud tie, but he took them off before I could get a photo, he was in danger of setting fire to the tie over the fire and the shorts were too tight!

I spent all day Friday creating his 2 tier chocolate birthday cake, which he wasn't happy about sharing. It took less time to eat it than it did to create it, which I will take as a compliment.
So another year older, see you all again next year.