Saturday, 13 September 2014

Obituary to Some Beautiful Beasties

I feel driven to post an obituary about all six of our beloved guinea fowl that have been killed by foxes in the last few days.  These quirky, beautiful creatures had become good friends.  Always hanging around the back door first thing in the morning and then again at teatime to get some corn.  They were real characters – noisy at times if strangers were around, but never digging up the flowerbeds like our hens are prone to do.  They had become part of the family – so to speak – and will be greatly missed.  Having said all of that, Mike was able to rescue a carcass which we will be eating with gusto tomorrow night!  Well rather us than Daddy Fox!!

There are always frequent comings and goings on farms and it is no different here at Fallowfield.  The newest arrivals are 24 store lambs that are Texel / Mule crosses.  I can report that even though they have been here less than 48 hours, I have spotted a major difference between sheep and alpacas.  No it is not the leg length, it is the fact that sheep are basically very stupid and alpacas are very intelligent.

Talking of intelligence, this is not a word that I would currently associate with BT or indeed any of the telephone companies.   Having had only intermittent telephone and internet connections for the past 10 days, I am not feeling kindly disposed towards the aforesaid.  Whenever you have a problem with your phones or internet, it takes ages to speak to a real person about the problem and then they keep you on the phone for ages, plugging and unplugging everything that moves or doesn’t in your house and surprise, surprise the fault is at the telephone exchange – again!!!  I was sorely tempted to tell them that they were entirely to blame for the lateness in posting my blog but I wasn’t entirely sure that they would appreciate this.    I keep having to remember that I wasn’t charged for the time the pigs ate the phone line!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Fighting Fit and Raring to Go!

Okay so maybe the “Fit” bit is a slight exaggeration when talking about myself, but I can always live in hope!

Having had a difficult time last winter, I felt the need for a bit of a sabbatical from blogging but now I’m back with a vengeance!

There have been so many comings and goings with livestock here at Fallowfield over the last few months that I thought a quick update would be in order.

Pigs came and went and are now feeding us very well, thank you very much. I can highly recommend Simpsons from Cockfield in Co. Durham, who handle the pigs very sensitively and make such good sausage and black pudding – yum, yum!

The guinea fowl are here and making their presence felt – you certainly know when you have guinea fowl and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone with close neighbours due to the racket they can make, but they are hilarious.  I’m still trying to work out which are males and which are females – any suggestions most welcome.  They just pootle about in a gang and don’t attempt to wreck the flowerbeds like the hens.  So looking forward to seeing some chicks and then I’ll be checking out some recipes.

And last but not least – our gorgeous alpacas.  We have lots of lovely crias again this year but inevitably some are more gorgeous than others.  Everyone loves Penelope, although we were definitely not trying to breed a multi!

Alicia (out of Grand Flowerdale Affirmation of Fallowfield and Houghton King) is a very special light fawn with one of the most tightly crimped fleeces we have ever bred.  She had a bit of a tricky start and needed plasma but she is thriving now.

One can never be certain what colour cria an alpaca is going to throw and this point was made clear to us this year.  Fallowfield Octavia has always thrown bright whites from her matings to Houghton King but this year she threw a very strong, light fawn male.  His fleece is very similar to Alicia’s – very high frequency crimp style and very bright – just a pity I can’t get a good enough photograph to show you.  Maybe it will be possible when he gets bigger - if I can hold him still long enough!

The photo below is of Prospero who is another of our little hooligans.  Thank goodness Mike has a telephoto lens or we wouldn't have a chance of getting a decent shot of him.

So, got to finish some baking now as it 's changeover day at our cottage in Corbridge on Fridays and I always leave them a home-made cake - so please keep your fingers crossed that I don't caramelise it by mistake!  Lemon drizzle cakes are good but not when they are burnt on the top!!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Hard to believe but the sun actually came out this afternoon in Northumberland and the temperature rose to double figures.  So, regardless of the fact that I have got acres of paperwork to do – including the VAT return – I spent some time outside absorbing that much needed Vitamin D.

So what’s new?  Well all of the animals currently on farm seem to be fine if very dirty – that’s the show team heading off to the NWAG show at Carlisle next weekend.  Well they would be, wouldn’t they! But of course we have now got decisions to make as to which studs we are going to use for our females.  Although we have got our own top class stud male, Houghton King, he is too closely related to many of our females for us to use solely and of course, variety is the spice of life – or so they say!

The chickens are fine – although it would be helpful if the Buff Orpingtons weren’t permanently broody and hence not laying.  I have tried to have a word with them but to no avail.  Maybe the imminent arrival of about ten guinea fowl might spur them on.  It will certainly make sure that we are well informed of any visitors to the farm as they are notoriously noisy if strangers appear.  The plus side is that they are exceptionally good to eat.  Talking of which, we are having pot roasted guinea fowl this evening.  I’m using Clarissa Dickson Wright’s recipe. The wonderfully irreverent Clarissa was not only a great cook but a great countrywoman and will be sadly missed.

So what else to decide upon?  Flowers, flowers and more flowers!  No I’ve not lost the plot (completely!) but Mike and I have decided that since it is physically impossible for us to consume all the veg. that we usually grow in our vegetable garden, we are going to turn it into a flower cutting garden.  So watch this space!

And of course, last but definitely not least – pigs! Oh yes!  No problem in deciding to stick with the Oxford and Sandy Blacks – they looked good and they tasted ever so good!  The next lot arrive on Sunday but we must decide whether we go for more bacon, sausage, or whatever – my mouth is watering at the thought!     

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Back Down To Earth!

The high heels are back in the cupboard and practicality wins the day!

I have to admit that I am feeling ever so slightly cream-crackered!  It’s not just my age – I hope! -  but it’s been a pretty full on weekend at the BAS National Show at Telford.  I know that show organisers across the country will definitely sympathise.  Having said all of that, it is hugely rewarding to be on the organising committee of a show that has been hailed as the best British Alpaca National Show ...EVER!!!!  Wow! What an accolade is that!

The show simply went like clockwork with alpacas going smoothly in and out of the ring.  Melania was our first one in and seemed pretty chilled.  Judge Nick Harrington Smith actually said that if you wanted to have your photo taken beside the perfect looking alpaca, then Melania was the one to choose.

It is great fun to take your alpacas to a big show like the Nationals and meet up with old friends from all over the world. Good too to catch up with the contingent from Finland once again - sorry to hear that you have got lots of snow back home!!!

It was great to see so many breeders from the North of England excelling against such tough opposition from the big breeders down south. Just goes to show that there are some top quality alpacas “Up North”! It was also good to see local alpaca breeder, Paul Vaclik of Broad Media Technology, presenting a great seminar on how to improve your company website.

Despite everyone’s concerns, I did manage to stay upright on my very high heels throughout the Champagne reception and Gala Dinner.  I really enjoyed dressing up – it doesn’t happen too often it has to be said!  Mind you, I’m quite glad to be back to the wellies.

I really don't want to bore for Britain about winning rosettes, but Fallowfield Alpacas did do rather well. We took five of our alpacas and they all came home with rosettes.  Not bad when this represented 25% of our herd.! So here are just a couple of  photos to remind ourselves of a great weekend and some lovely alpacas.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Going on Holiday?

Are we hell!  Actually we are getting ready to go to the BAS Nationals next weekend.  Since I am on the organising committee, I am off down to Telford on Thursday and Mike is following on with the alpacas on Friday morning.  The suitcase – Tesco’s best! – is packed full of show equipment, from microchip scanners to show coats to promotional material.  And of course, a National Show has to have a Gala Dinner – hence the high heels!  Have you got yours packed????!!!

Of course, our sales list has to be confirmed. but we were out this afternoon taking photos of the likely suspects.  Hermione definitely fancies herself as a bit of a star – and why not when you have produced Fallowfield Hester, who is a fabulous alpaca.

Supper this evening was Bill Granger’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad – really, really good!  I’d like to give you a little tip –  if you want to get as much juice out of limes and lemons as you can, roll them over your chopping board, pressing down hard, before you cut them in half and squeeze out the juice.  You would be amazed the difference it makes – particularly with limes.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Fresh Start

Ok so I’ve had a tough few weeks, but life goes on and so I am starting off afresh with my blog and will be wittering on about all the things that fill my life here at Fallowfield – animals, gardening cooking, sewing and of course my family.

We've had such lovely spring-like days here recently that your spirits are easily raised just by walking round the garden and in amongst the alpacas.  Sadly we have had quite a lot of tree damage during the winter storms but this particularly fine specimen remains untouched.  I can't quite remember what species it is - something my mother gave me years ago.

Alpacas are all doing fine .  Admittedly we've only just weaned these crias.  Thought we should err on the side of caution this year as the grass has been so poor and some of the them didn’t seem to be putting on the weight they should have.  I just hope Livia and Ignatius are this relaxed when they are in the show ring at the Nationals in 10 days time!!  At least they are looking somewhat drier these days.

 If like me you enjoy eating and cooking good food, you will probably really enjoy Georgina Fuggle’s great blog which I have just discovered.  Great ideas and some super photos.  Talking of food, time for me to go and check what’s in my fridge and get creative, as I’m beginning to feel peckish!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What is that???!!!

I do feel like asking for answers on a postcard but since this is supposedly the digital age, I’ve thought better of it.
Given that most of you already realise that I am ever so slightly keen on cooking – hate the word “foodie” with a passion! – it will come as no surprise to learn that this is something that is delicious to eat and not one of those slightly dubious substances to be found in the dusty cupboards of science labs in the 1960’s and 70’s.  The very thought brings to mind my school chemistry lessons with Mother Gertrude.  Despite dear old Gertie’s best efforts I never could get to grips with chemistry.  Maybe she should have just told me that it was cookery by another name and I would have been fine!
Anyway for those of you who haven’t guessed, this is a jar of griddled aubergines in olive oil.   I’m just salivating at the thought of eating them with some home-baked ham or cured meats.  Ok I do realise that you can go and buy a jar of this in any supermarket – yes even in the north of England! – but believe you me it won’t taste the same.

So if you fancy having a go at making some then just buy a couple of aubergines and slice thinly and sprinkle with salt to draw out the liquid.  Leave for about half an hour, then rinse and pat dry.  Brush with olive oil and fry in a very hot griddle pan on both sides until coloured and well cooked. Meanwhile gently heat some olive oil and thyme leaves in a pan and add aubergine slices and a dash of white wine vinegar and bring to the boil.  Then leave to cool and decant into a sterilised Kilner jar, making sure that the aubergine slices are completely covered with the oil.  Store in the fridge and use within a month of opening.  How easy is that!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Bored or boring?

Bored or Boring?

Maybe it’s something to do with my age, but I was brought up to believe that only boring people could be bored. 
At the risk of deceased family members rolling in their graves, I must admit to being seriously bored right now.  So what you might ask is the problem?  The answer in one word is MUD!

Ok – if you see the girls coming for their breakfast, things don’t look too bad

...until you take a closer look!

I admit that this part of Northumberland has been luckier than many areas of the UK, but regardless of this (boring?) fact, I am sick and tired of the brown, sticky, claggy stuff that is everywhere – in particular around the alpaca field shelters and the alpacas themselves.  For the uninitiated, the word “claggy” is a Northumbrian dialect term for “sticky” – never say that I don’t do my utmost to educate the masses!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Got out of bed with a bit of a spring in my step this morning - mentally not physically I have to say as I'm recovering from some physio a couple of days ago.  Perhaps it's simpler just to say that I was keen to crack on with a few jobs this morning.  So where to start...?

Show Entries. Yup it's a pretty scary thought but it's only just over 9 weeks until the BAS Nationals at Telford.  I suddenly realised that apart from having to actually complete the registrations,
we had to select the show team and then halter train the juniors.   This is a photo of Ignatius with Mum Isadora getting the once over by Mike.  Are we taking him to Telford....?

Next decision to be made - how many pigs shall we get this year.  We have been really, really pleased with the pork from our pigs.  And even if the pork had been rubbish - which it definitely wasn't - the pigs were huge fun.  We have decided to go with Oxford and Sandy blacks again this year, but it is just a question of how many to get.  Curing the pork proved to be an absolute doddle.  We have finished all of our bacon - it was just too good! We've now started using our pancetta which is pretty nice too.It goes jolly well with stir fried cabbage.  Yum, yum!

I had also been dithering over whether to launch into an attack on the dusting and hoovering.  Not Spring cleaning you understand.  Well it wouldn't be would it as a. it's patently not Spring yet and b. I hate Spring cleaning!  But as the sun was shining which is a pretty rare thing these days, I just went out for a bit of fresh air instead.  Hopefully this sunshine will have generated quite a bit of electricity today via our PV panels.

Guess what - the cleaning has to wait for another day!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Party's over!

Yup the party is definitely over and the post Christmas clean up has begun.  As we've had the odd blowy day round here, there is even more clearing up to do than usual. 

Melania is looking particularly sheepish - sorry should that be camelidish??!! - but I don't really think she can be blamed for this wrecked fence.

Mike is feeling pretty smug as he is definitely ahead of the game in the clean up stakes - at least compared to the inside of the house.  Just look at his tidy barn.

Believe you me this all looks a lot tidier than it did last week!