Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Silence of the Jams

We get through quite a lot of jam and marmalade here in the trenches and when I have the fruit available I like to make my own. I'm not sure that it works out cheaper than shop bought but I do know what has gone into it.

We had a marmalade crisis at the weekend, as in we ran out, and R has had to have honey on his toast instead, so that was top of the list. I buy the seville oranges in january, the only time they are available, and pop them in the freezer. My recipe works from frozen fruit which saves me from spending a whole week making marmalade in one go. The only bit I dont like is chopping the peel, I have tried doing it in the food processor but its just not right so I'll stick with the big knife.

Since I had to dig in the freezer I also got out some Damsons to make jam. These came from our own tree and we had a really good crop last autumn. Again I freeze them raw in bags then use as I need for crumbles jam or simply stewed. Damsons are easy to make jam with as they have loads of pectin and reach setting point quickly. The only fiddly bit is getting the stones out, the recipes usually tell you that the stones float to the surface and you can skim them off........ not mine they dont, I usually cook the fruit till they are all fallen to pieces then cool it and using a fork and my fingers fish out most of the stones. There are always a few remaining but that just proves its made from real fruit.

End result 11lbs of Seville Orange Marmalade and 14 lbs of Damson Jam. the store cupboard is looking full again.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Beautiful Feet

Our cows are hard working ladies and given that they are not exactly size zero, their feet suffer, they get overgrown and the hooves curl up at the front like arabian slippers.
Cows have cloven hooves like sheep and goats, and sometimes they get infections between the two digits.
Both these things cause pain and a sore cow is not a happy cow, she just wants to sit down and not visit the manger and eat, no eating and drinking means no milk then we also become sad.

Richard sorts out foot problems as we go, but once a year we get the Foot trimmer to come and go through all those in the herd that need a bit of tidying up. Its very impressive, he has a specialised trimming crush which is the size of a cattle trailer, it holds the cow securely so she cant damage herself or the operator. It has motorised winches to lift each of the cows feet in turn and hold them while he trims the hoof with a knife then finishes with an angle grinder, think emery board for cows. They don't get nail varnish but if they have an interdigital infection they get purple foot spray!

After a few cows it looks like it has snowed with all the trimmings scattered around. Afterwards the cows mince about as if wearing the wrong size shoes, but by the next day they are walking much better.

Spring has been very late here, and even now we don't have much grass as the soil is still too cold. However the cows are out, and very happy to have grass to eat and sun on their backs.

The hedges are just coming into leaf and the Damson trees have blossom, the apples and plums have swelling buds but no more and since we are still getting night frosts I hope they hold off a bit longer.

The daffs were all very late but they we had a fantastic display as they all seemed to come at once, I have been driving past these on the village green while doing the school run for a couple of weeks and only yesterday stopped to take a picture, they are past their best but still lovely.

We are working up to bringing the sheep home to lamb next week, the field is now sheep proof, I have to make some notices warning dog walkers to be extra careful as there is a public footpath across the field.

The children are filled with excitement and if they don't get an orphan or rejected lamb to look after I think they plan to kidnap one.

Richard and I are worried as it's all new to us. ETA is the 8th may but probably from the 1st onwards........