Monday, 4 January 2016

New year, new livestock and new pecking order

Happy New Year!

New years are always full of promise and expectation. I personally refrain from making 'new year’s resolutions' as such, as they tend to be short lived. Or others have an expectation that it will fizzle out. New Year’s do however create a time frame by which we consciously, or otherwise assess what we have (or haven’t) achieved within that previous year. Or what we could or should do better.

For us, this year it seems more timely than usual. This New Year has brought with it a few new additions.  On Saturday we welcomed Sophia, not that we were in the market for another sow. But when we contacted someone we knew to source a companion weaner sow for someone else who was buying our last girl, we were offered the opportunity to purchase her, as the owner wanted her to go to a good home. Although I am not sure she would agree at present, or at least until she finds her place. Just that the others are trying to assert their place in the ‘pecking order’.

The owner believed she may potentially be ‘in pig’, to be honest I think she had just been spending time with his boar. But if she is that’s great, as the bloodlines would be separate from ours, if not I am sure our boar will let us (and her) know soon enough. She is a very healthy and good looking ‘short nosed’ Berkshire sow and roughly 10-11 months old. And although that would make her the youngest, she is a fair bit bigger than our youngest girl Rosemary (whom is still regaining condition after her first litter)… though she doesn’t seem to be letting that stop her from asserting dominance over the new girl. Yesterday we witnessed Rosemary arch her back and trot stiff legged (as if on tip toes) toward her- making herself appear bigger! On a positive note, Sophia was eating with them yesterday, which is a big step towards integration.

It’s funny as when I have discussed ‘pecking orders’ in the past, I have generally been discussing birds; whether it had been chickens, ducks or turkeys. But the truth is that it is not restricted to bird behaviour. It is true of almost all species.

There is also a little ‘pecking order’ to be worked out in amongst laying chickens too. Having had a poor run of luck since our flock was devastated over the Christmas- New Year week last year. We acquired a couple of older Coronation Sussex in October who had been keeping our remaining Light Sussex girl company. But in December we also acquired another trio of Coronation Sussex (from another bloodline), roughly the same age as our growing Light Sussex pullets. So whilst they had been introduced to these girls, they have all now graduated to the large laying pen and garden… so there is a little bit to be worked out. For us the most positive being we are once again getting a regular supply of eggs. We now have a laying flock of 8 hens of varying ages (and a young roo), allowing us to retire some later on and continue a staggered breeding of replacements. (Hopefully we won’t lose them all at once). This also means that we now have sufficient numbers,  that once the younger ones begin to lay, we can separate a few into a tractor with an Indian Game rooster to (hopefully continue to) breed a few table birds.

The buzz of an exciting new project

What do you get your partner for Christmas, when you live on a farm (smallholding)... bee hives! Of course!

Well that what my other half bought me, and I couldn't be more estatic! They were second hand, and whilst they we're structurally sound, they were definitiely in need of some TLC- so he spent a hours painting, putting in new doorways and re-wiring the racks.

We're a bit away from making honey (or wax) as we need to acquire some more equipment before that process along with some bees.
We have joined the local club and will (hopefully) be attending our first meeting at the end of the month.  

But the idea being not only the added produce from the bees themselves, but hopefully the added production from their everyday business. I mean the improved pollentation of our plants and trees, and hopefully subsequent produce from them too.

Our first ever Mango season

Well obviously there have been 'mango season's' before. And in the past we have succesfully begged, borrowed or bartered. This year however is our first, with mangoes of our own!

We planted a 'dwarf' mango tree when we moved in. It was a house warming gift from friends. And after 4 1/2 years we have finally been able to harvest.

The juvenile tree did fruit last year; however the few small fruits it did produce died before they even matured. So this marks a mile stone for us. It is also handy as many of our neighbours have an abundance of mangoes of varying varieties. As they are locally grown people here tend to prefer ‘Bowens’ (or Kensington pride as they are known elsewhere) varieties, although R2E2’s are widely available along with ‘common’ mangoes. These tend to be stringy and are not very popular for eating, although quite good for chutneys. We collect these where possible, along with over ripe or fallen fruit as they make great pig feed. Something most locals are willing for us to do, as the fallen (or rotting fruit) smells sickly and attracts bats.  

Another tree we planted a few months after moving in was our first Mulberry tree (we have two). This has fruited before (and earlier this year). The biggest challenge is collecting the fruit (once ripe) before the birds get them! We missed out on the last batch as the birds ate them first; need to invest in some garden nets. So far I may have enough to make a jar of jam...

What I do have enough to make jam from; well more of a butter/curd anyway are passionfruit. Our vine is now around 4 years old and we have been harvesting the most enormous fruit for over 18 months now.

For passionfruit butter I cheat and use my thermo-cheap... yes I have a cheapie version not the real deal, but recipe is pretty much the same. Would be straight forward to do over stove too, just this is one of the few things I actually use my thermos-cheap for. (I know many people rave about them, personally mine doesn’t get a lot of use).



100g passionfruit pulp
5g vanilla bean paste, less if you dont want a strong vanilla flavour
10g lemon juice
55g sugar
80g unsalted butter
2 eggs

Thermo-cheap method-

1.Place all ingredients into bowl.
2.Insert whisk attachment.
3.Cook on 80 degrees for 9 mins on speed 3
4.It should coat the back of a spoon nicely once done.

If it doesn't, cook for a further 4-5 mins
Alternatively for Mango butter the ingredients are;
80g, Unsalted Butter
20ml, Lemon Juice
125g, Sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Large Mango

I gave a few jars of this away as part of gifts, Christmas hampers. As it is delicious, but as it contains eggs and butter, it is best stored in the fridge and consumed within about a week.

Therefore I am scooping out the pulp from these ripe fruit and freezing them. You could do this in an ice cube tray; I'm using a 'kubie' a baby food storage system, same principle only it divides food into slightly bigger (more useful) portions- roughly 30ml. I use these to store meat fats/dripping, sauces and gravy’s. And then once frozen dispense into a (labelled) freezer bag. Then you can defrost as many or few as you like/need.