Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A pig of a week!

Actually it’s been a pretty good week all in all.  On Wednesday we got some of our crias sheared.  There’s always a bit of a discussion about whether we should or we shouldn’t cria shear, but the fleece does seem to benefit if you do shear them.   They do look really cute if slightly bonkers after shearing.

Thursday saw the birth of what finally proved to be the last cria of 2013 with the arrival of Imogen’s cria.  Imogen is one of our agisted females and I have to say that I worry more about those girls than any of ours.  Ridiculous isn’t it!  All went very smoothly, but it did make us look a lot more closely at the two remaining girls yet to drop.  One of them was our special girl, Fallowfield Athena, and the other was another agisted female.  Athena did really look pregnant, the other one less so, but after doing spits at the weekend, we realised that neither had held on to their pregnancies. Looking on the bright side, at least it means that when Mike and I disappear on Friday for a couple of days – yes we are having time off! – We won’t be worrying about a possible birth in our absence.

Then on Friday, we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary (not 39th as I had originally thought it was!)  There was no way that either Mike or I could have imagined when we were married all those years ago that we would be celebrating 38 years on by curing bacon and making sausages from our pig that we had just got back from the butchers.  Ten out of ten for Simpsons of Cockfield near Staindrop for their sensitive handling of the pigs and excellent butchery.  They also made us the best black pudding from the pig’s blood that I have ever tasted.  I exaggerate not!  So guys, if you are trying to find the perfect Christmas present for your better half, just follow Mike’s example and buy a couple of pigs!  No brainer actually!

Curing the bacon, pancetta and prosciutto was really easy and great fun – not tasted any of it yet of course but I would recommend you check out www.sausagemaking.org for all your supplies. One of the frequent criticisms about rare breed pork is that it is too fatty.  Our pigs completely bucked the trend as it was the leanest pork that I have ever seen.  We made quite a lot of sausage, but I suspect that we might get the butchers to do this for us next year.  I rather think that theirs might be superior to ours, although ours do look the part.  One of the best bits though was making chorizo last night.  If it tastes half as good as it looks then we are on to a winner.

Mike had a trip over the border on Sunday with Houghton King as he had a couple of hot dates with two of the alpacas belonging to John and Juliet Miller of the Border Mill.  It was good to have a catch up with them and to hear of all the exciting developments with their business.

Then just to round off the week, we had a visitor from Scotland yesterday who bought 6 of our females who will be the start of his new breeding herd.  It’s really good when you get someone who is so positive about alpacas and wants to start with a quality herd.  So yet more of our girls will be going north of the border in a short while.  Not quite like exporting to Sweden but exporting nonetheless!




Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Our weekend exploits - good and bad!

There were definitely some highs and lows about last weekend’s activities.  On the plus side, the pigs went off to the butchers on Sunday morning with the minimum of stress.  Mike was able to lead them straight into the trailer.  The journey only took about an hour at pretty slow speed and the boys were pretty relaxed as they were gently escorted into their pen for the night.  We were assured that the guys there always go to a lot of trouble to quietly lead the pigs out of their pen, with no raised voices to cause the minimum of stress.  We are very satisfied with these arrangements and are looking forward to getting the pork back on Friday, with a busy day of sausage making and ham and bacon curing in store.

Another plus, was the start of the Christening robe.  I had to trace off the pattern and that all went off without a hitch.  The glass of rose is optional when making a Christening robe, but the sun was over the yard arm and the colour did co-ordinate with my cutting mat!  The jury is still out regarding smocking or pin-tucks.  I would really like to smock the front, but as I have never tried this before and am struggling to find some basic instructions, I’m wondering if this is really the time for experimentation.

Talking of experimentation, my nectarine jam didn’t turn out particularly well – in fact it was a bit of a disaster, being quite honest.  I was talking to one of our Australian B and B guests on Sunday morning who said that she had once made nectarine jam but it was a bit tasteless.  So – I thought it might be a good idea to chuck in some raspberries plus a slosh of Framboise liqueur for good measure.    The only positive outcome was that I got a really good set!  Despite leaving the jam for some minutes before potting into jars, the fruit still rose to the top.  Although it didn’t look great, I thought it should taste ok – but it doesn’t.  I think it is probably the worst jam I’ve ever made.  The pieces of nectarine are chewy and it is far too sweet.  Maybe I should forget the experimentation where jam is concerned and stick to tried and tested recipes!!

In case you are wondering if those last three crias have arrived – they haven’t.  In fact the mums don’t look any more pregnant than they did a month ago.   This photograph is of one our agisted girls who definitely looks pregnant! So when oh when are these babies going to arrive? Perhaps I should run a sweepstake – or not!

Friday, 16 August 2013

So what are you doing this weekend?


Don’t you just hate that question apparently beloved of all hairdressers?   Mike had a certain amount of wicked amusement the other day when asked at the hairdressers what he was going to be doing at the weekend – his answer was “Taking my pigs to the abattoir!” Stony silence from hairdresser.  After a few minutes, she asked “So what do you do then?”  Mike replied “I’m an architect!”  Needless to say there was no more conversation whatsoever.  She was probably trying to get her head round what the hell an architect was doing taking pigs to an abattoir or more likely, thinking that she was cutting the hair of a madman!!!

But yes, Pigfest is looming fast.  It seems no time at all since the pigs arrived but they are now 25 weeks old and are off to be slaughtered this weekend.  Any regrets – none whatsoever!  Will we eat the meat – absolutely yes!  Despite lots of people telling us that we wouldn’t be able to eat the pigs, we don’t have a problem with this.  They have had a great life here and hopefully that will be reflected in the quality of the meat.  They are going a relatively short distance to be slaughtered by a butcher, so no big abattoir for them.

We still have three alpacas waiting to give birth.   Needless to say, these three alpacas are not the girls in waiting! We often get asked “How long is the gestation period of an alpaca?”  we usually say about eleven and a half months but I’m beginning to think – if this year is anything to go by – that it would be more accurate if I replied “How long is a piece of string?”

The nights are drawing in now and so I feel drawn to getting out my sewing machine once again.  I love sewing and seem to do more soft furnishings than anything else these days, but now that I’m an ancient grandmother of three gorgeous boys, I am finding myself tempted to try different projects.  The first on the list is a Christening robe for our youngest grandson Billy.  I have selected a very traditional / heritage style.  The only debate is do I smock the front or do pin tucks which might be a jolly sight quicker.

So what’s it to be Billy – smocking or pin tucks?

My other sewing project planned for the next few weeks, is to try my hand at making some fabric toys.  Not done this before but I have so many scraps of lovely fabrics and trimmings that I would like to give it a go.

Jam is also on the menu this weekend.  Eating it definitely!  Making some most probably!  Last Saturday I bought some great fresh apricots from the farmers market in Hexham and made some really nice apricot and vanilla jam. I love to pile it on to my toast – especially when Mike isn’t looking and likely to make sarcastic comments like “Would you like some toast on your jam?”  I’ve already done a batch of strawberry, so I think I will probably do some peach or nectarine tomorrow.  I’m not sure that it’s economically viable for me to make jam as I do eat rather a lot of my home-made stuff but then it is so good.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Happy Days!

By some people’s standards we have had a pretty busy few days, but actually it’s felt pretty chilled really.  Especially compared to last weekend’s Open Day!!!
Hermione’s cria – still unnamed – who was born in the pouring rain last Monday is doing well and is piling on the weight.  Don’t you just love an experienced alpaca Mum that has loads of milk!  The cria was born with one rather weak back leg, but it seems to be getting stronger now.  I’m just glad that I was out there when he was born as it might have been a very different situation if he had been lying there in the rain.
 After lots of false alarms, Pandora finally gave birth on Thursday to a really healthy male cria.  Paul and Rachel are thrilled – surprise, surprise! – especially as Pandora’s cria last year didn’t survive.  Though it has to be said that he is not yet using the more orthodox method of accessing the milk bar!

So we have had three female and three male crias born this year so far – another three to go!
 I've tried to catch up with a few photos of the little ones. 
 This is Hermione's little chap - looking fairly chilled!  Must try and name him soon.
This is Isadora's cria.  Pity I couldn't get close enough to get a really good shot.  He is pretty special - but you will just have to take my word for that tonight!

And last but not least is my gorgeous little Livia.  She is not only everyone's pet but she has a beautiful fleece.
All these attempts at photography were in between poo -picking.  We were out for supper last night and I know most people would take a bottle of wine and maybe some chocolates, but we settled for some home-made chocolate biscuits and 6 bags of alpaca poo!!  Well our hosts do have a lovely walled garden with some gorgeous roses and they were thrilled with their gifts -  well that’s what they said....!  I  even managed to find time to photograph the chief swineherd after he had done a stint of paddock topping.  At least he did what he was told and sat still long enough for me to get a good photograph.  Thanks Mr. D!! xx

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Phew - what a week!



I had assumed – wrongly! – that as this was not the first Open Day to be held at Fallowfield, that it would be pretty straightforward.  I was under no illusions about the amount of work involved, but I had lists, spread sheets and more lists.  I had even sub-contracted the teas out to Wall W.I. – which was a real stroke of genius.  Beat the hell out of my friends and I baking for what seemed like weeks in advance and then having to serve the stuff as well.  I had lined up a great team of helpers to man the stalls, the raffle and the car park – so what could go wrong? 

No it wasn’t the weather – it was those damned pigs.  They had finally chewed right through the telephone cable, thus depriving us of any landline or internet connection from last Tuesday onwards.  Even my I-pad seemed to adopt a go-slow regime, so I was forced to try and carry on business in Cafe Nero in Hexham.    So hence the reason for complete lack of blogging since the 30th July -  note to myself "Must improve"!!

At least we woke up to a gloriously sunny day on Sunday morning so we decided that we would have a fun day regardless and we absolutely did.  We had such a lot of visitors who all loved the alpacas – especially the new crias.  The children loved being able to take alpacas for walks – well supervised! – and had great fun climbing on the tractor and quad bike.  Just how many children can you get on a quad bike? 

We ended the day with a barbeque – not a gourmet experience but a great way to relax and thank all of those who had helped us make the day such a success. Please ignore the smoke - neither Mike nor I have any skill at cooking on a barbeque!!  Sweet peas on the table looked good though!

I had hoped to have a quiet day on Monday as I was feeling pretty shattered, but Pandora looked as if she was going to give birth at any time.  In fact she had changed her mind by lunchtime but, completely without warning, Hermione gave birth to a tiny little boy.  Oh, I forgot to say that Isadora finally gave birth last Friday to a seriously gorgeous little boy.  He has a fabulous fleece that I will try and photograph soon.  She was terribly overdue but he was okay, although we did give him some supplementary colostrum as he was a bit slow to feed at first.