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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Currants and chicks.

It's been another hectic week so far, but maybe not in the way expected.

We don't know what has happened to the wood which was supposed to be coming on Saturday...then Monday. There is no wood at the yard, Dave has been there to see, but the naughty gypsies who conned us (how did they know we were expecting a wood delivery?) by not only saying part of our wood was here, but then took money for more than there was, which we couldn't know until we stacked it. From our wood man it seems these gypsies are going round to the ex-pats and telling them their ordered wood is here, so he is out of pocket. But he realised it was not our fault and said he would deliver  as agreed, but so far he doesn't have any to deliver. It's been a very wet week so maybe there is a problem working it.

On Tuesday we went off early to pick fruit and for Dave to have a milking lesson. We agreed if we picked currants we could go halves with the spoils. Well, I do love picking, so how could we refuse? Unfortunately it had rained hard in the night and with the weight of the fruit many of the blackcurrant branches were sitting in mud. Claggy mud! Undaunted we set to and managed to harvest a good amount. Many fell to the ground as they were so ripe, but after a break (tea and some scrummy potato and courgette cakes...yum) it was on to redcurrants and whitecurrants. Again, the reds were very ripe and some were hard to get at as the shrubs are not as open as the blackcurrants so...sort of...grew around the currants. The white were very squishy so I just picked a few to see what they were like and  also a few gooseberries. Then the heavens opened again and we called it a day after six hours...where did the time go? The garden was lovely though and we had the company of a pony and some chickens and turkeys....and thousands of snails, many of which ended up in the chickens.
Vitamin packed capsules, so ripe you had to catch them as they fell

In the thick of it

Redcurrant jewels

Gooseberries, might go back for some next week

Watching from under the plum tree, lovely girl

Yummy plums to munch on

Nice views

MrT showing off to Mrs T

Waiting for flying snails

Meanwhile Dave went off to his milking lesson and was chuffed that he managed to get the hang of it so quickly. Milly has turned out to be very amenable to milking and is now weaned from her two kids, though one is coming with her. So it was out with the camera to see what bugs I could find...shield bugs mostly, a butterfly and a caterpillar. Actually there were loads of butterflies, but as usual, they wouldn't pose. I was lucky to get the blurred picture....not helped by currant juice on the lens!
Three shield bugs...I think!

Tried googling this...but there are so many!

Slightly blurred butterfly

So back home to find there had been a torrential storm, knocking te garden about, flattening plants and there had been rivers of water running down the garden. Our meagre apricot harvest was lying bruised on the lawn...but worst of all poor Bonnie was in a right old state, bless her.

We set to cleaning's all very well picking them, that's easy, it's the preparation that takes the time. We were going to use some for codial so they didn't need much doing, just a check through for stray snails and leaves and a quick wash. But the ones for jam and the freezer needed a more thorough going over, de-stalked and all. We hadn't realised how many there were. But they have been frozen in batches of 2kg, an easy amount for processing. The gooseberries and some nice strands of redcurrants also went into the freezer and the rest of the redcurrants either bottled or cooked for their juice. Enough!

So yesterday the jam pan was on the go from before 6am, seven bottles filled with whole fruit in syrup and waterbathed, first batch of jam on early, then redcurrant jelly, then more jam, then whitecurrants stewed and put in a muslin bag to drip for the juice, the last of the blackcurrants stewed for the cordial and put into two bags...and the kitchen had a whole new colour...blackcurrant juice goes a long way!

Today I finished off the cordial and made the whitecurrant juice into mint jelly...which turned red! I think the flavour is a bit strong for the mint though, we'll see. Some of the jam, redcurrant jelly and mint jelly will be going back to it's origins, I'm sure they will let us know how it is. Meanwhile Dave has a year's supply of his favourite jam!
We rarely drink so have a shortage of bottles, so cordial had to go into jars too

Who knew that whitecurrants would turn red? With mint in jelly
Second batch of blackcurrant jam, bottled whole fruit, redcurrant jelly

Meanwhile there have been happenings in poultry towers. As mentioned before, Cagney's chicks were due at the weekend, but unfortunately it was not to be. The rotten eggs were chucked on the compost heap, but poor Cagney just couldn't give in. If anyone laid she was there in full broody mode, if the egg was taken away she looked for them. As it was market day Dave dashed down and bought five day old chicks home for her, making for a very happy hen. Ducky is, of course, even more puzzled by life...what IS going on in there?
Fresh from the market

Muuuummm, what you got there?

 Today the little family are out in the run with all the other poultry. Whether it's the space, or the fact that there are often youngsters about, or that Cagney is chief hen I have no idea, but chicks are rarely bothered by the older birds, whether with Mum or incubator hatched. They decide if it's warm enough to go out and have a bolt hole just in case. Cagney is busy catching flies for the babies which are out in force with the damp weather. But another storm is brewing so they will soon be back in their little separate area in the hen house...with Ducky in attendance of course.
Little fluff balls

I guess I'll just chill in the camomile...close to Mum

Dave has been in the garden supporting all the bashed plants, and I have to say you can't really tell there has been any damage. The apricots go straight to the bird run, as do any snails we find. But apart from all the plants looking heavy with water things are not too bad It looks as if we have flea beetle on the brassicas which is normal, as is whitefly, but I hope most will grow through them. The larger plants are mostly unaffected though a couple of kale are looking a bit unhappy. The Romanesco cauli/broccoli is starting to heart and the sprouting broccoli is throwing out shoots. Venka's animals are benefitting from overgrown courgettes and anyone who comes near is given cucumbers and beans (Though we have far too many, so does Venka now and five came over the wall the other day!) Te tomatoes are great, all but the San Marzano are being picked and used, multi coloured salads the order of the day. Favourites so far are te small, green cherry tomato. Green Envy which we had to bite to see if it was ready...we think we know now. The Chocolate stripes is really nice too, soft, juicy with a bit of tart, very meaty, where the green ones are crunchy and sweet and a bit sharp. The large yellow ones are OK, the pear shaped are bland and the red-ones-that-were-supposed-to-be-pink are a mixture of hard and knobbly cooking types, ordinary round ones and red beefsteak. Hmm...I shall be careful where I get my seed from next year.

The zinnias stand up to te weather well, two new colours

Stunning cosmos

Happy day lilies by the pool

I tried a burgamot petal and it was amazingly tasty, no wonder the bees love it

The gladdies and crocosmia should be out this week

The first of the hibiscus flowers

Scabious coming out in swathes

Lovely colour

The dunny's looking even better now

Self sown sunflowers in the chook pen, all coming into bloom. Happy bees

Looking colourful. These stripes were red, orange and yellow, another day it was orange, brown and green with very dark flesh

Simple fishcakes looking pretty

I fancied some beans the other day so picked a load of borlotti and used some in a casserole and froze some. Made some pasta and garlic bread and had a nice autumn type meal, with diced and fried halloumi on top. Also as Dave had been ill on his birthday I made a cheesecake with the remainder of the lemon and lime curd. Had it with stewed blackcurrants...our own though as this was before we went picking!
Maybe a few too many for one sitting!

A start for the freezer, they don't have their beautiful colour yet

Bean and summer veg pasta with halloumi and garlic bread

Lemon and lime cheesecake
 And finally, instead of more un-named bugs, Mrs swallow has begun sitting again

Actually, finally finally. Yesterday We reached 90000 page views which is great. So I would like to thank all those of you who visit regularly, old and new...and especially whoever read through so many posts yesterday that the tally was well over three hundred for the day!


  1. It's a pleasure to read, thank you.

  2. I'm so pleased I'm having a year off from preserving - my neighbour came and picked blackcurrants and the redcurrants can just rot! I've still got all of last year's harvest of blackcurrants, raspberries and blackberries in the freezer, which will probably get chucked. After 11 years I've had enough of it all anyway. A few fruit like strawbs and raspberries to eat fresh are OK.... :-) But you are enjoying yourselves and that is what counts!

    Love seeing the pics of Ducky, who is very handsome now, and bigger than his mum! Wish we could get some rain.... had some yesterday, but only watered a few cms of soil, and will evaporate by today. We are busy watering which is a bore! :-)

    1. Haha, careful what you wish for!

      You're right, it's hard work and we have no idea how long we will be doing it. Most of it is a way of getting out and mixing with people. I am thinking we might cut back a bit on the produce next year and grow just what we need for ourselves because it's not as if we gain anything (but chats) from selling the excess. Now we have made friends I'm not sure we need to do the car boot sales. But I really do enjoy picking and preserving...but prefer to eat fresh. Decisions decisions.

  3. Blackcurrant cordial sounds lovely. I think I shall have a go at that this year and will have to Google a recipe. Your bugs look disgusting! Making jam is quite a task, isn't it? Lovely to see it sitting on the shelf, though. Your industry is impressive.

    1. I don't drink soft drinks much, but I have to say this is very nice, with the added advantage of being organic with only sugar and blackcurrants.

  4. As always, I come away from reading your blog feeling very jealous of your garden and all that wonderful fruit and veg... I think your weather is more balanced than ours which would help but well done to you both. There is nothing cuter than chicks - what will you do if there are lots of boys?

    1. Ah, well, this time I am keeping my distance and if Dave wants to raise them for meat that is up to him. We have never had a problem getting rid of the boys but we have only ever raised pure bred Bulgarian Shumens. These are allsorts.

      And thank you for your kind comments.