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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Mud...glorious mud!

It always amazes us that the sticky, slippy, slidy mud we have here is so good for growing veggies. At the moment my sister's dog is here and having three large dogs in and out all the time tests even my un-houseproud nature. A trip round the garden and they all come in with mud stilts, Bonnie being the worst as she has longer nails which grasp the grassy sods when she does a kick-back. But the days are so often too pleasant to keep the door shut, despite low temperatures at night and snow hanging about. Unfortunately with all the different fences up for the birds and goats we don't have enough fencing to section the veggie patch off. Never mind, it's not forever.
According to our neighbours, the frosted rape will be ploughed in as fertiliser

We have heavy snow forecast for this weekend, just after the rain washed away the last batch, and temperatures receding at night to near -20, and by day around -4. So I have braved the mud and pulled the pathetic remains of the carrots, beets and outdoor sprouts. Pathetic they might be but tasty as any prize specimens. Half way down the short row my boots were almost too heavy to move. I knocked what I could off but by the time I had grabbed the sprouts (whole plants) they were far too heavy and were abandoned in favour of bare feet...luckily I made it to the path first. Crazy stuff, but productive. And we ave fresh veg for a couple of days. The rest of the sprouts, broccoli, kale and cabbage are in the polytunnel so should be fine and accessible wen needed. We still have all the frozen variety and squash and sweet potatoes too. I am definitely not doing sweet potatoes next year, they are proving to be full of black tunnels and most of them are going on to the compost can't even feed them to the goats!
The veggies have lasted well really, though the ones in the open are a bit sad and scrappy now
The lettuce, onions and garlic look dead, but they will come back

Spring is definitely in the air, if a bit early, with snowdrops coming out in the 'lawn', birds singing, noisy ducks and amazing sunrises. Also there are buds fattening on trees and bushes. This week, our friends at Morgan's Plants  have asked for our orders for seed potatoes which just adds to the feeling that we are moving forward. This year we have more choice than ever which makes things a bit difficult as I want to have them all! But I am going to have to settle for five. The thing is, where one variety might fail another might flourish and the more varieties we have the more chance that we will get enough to store this year....though whether I can convince Dave I have no idea. But though there were no long keepers last year, I am still working through the half cooked roasties I froze when they started to go off.

Up in the corridor the two chilli plants are still looking green and healthy, the geraniums need the flowers removing again and in their little mini greenhouse bottles we have onion, fennel, tomato and pepper seedlings through. After next week they will be pricked out into large cells or vending cups.

Another sign of spring is the incubator being full of eggs. These are the ones we thought would not be fertile being so early, cold and with young fowl. Dave wanted to make sure the machine was working properly before putting in a proper batch. But it seems there is a high percentage of fertile eggs so we may have a decent early hatch. Most are Sussex but Dave filled one row with ex-batt eggs and it seems Dandy is being a good new husband! Time for Dave to get the new nursery (original hen house) set up I think.

Dandy with his favourite lady, the last remaining Shumen hen, Cheren. They always go to bed together, before the others....aaahhhh

It seems our neighbours might be going to have a change in their livestock. They are amazed that we have been able to give them eggs all winter and have, it seems, decided to see if they can get their own. They usually just keep chickens for meat and the occasional egg is a bonus. They are also toying with getting meat ducks and as mentioned before, are considering not having a calf this year. So Dave took them to get layers' mash as it's cheaper where we get it than by the kilo locally. While they were out and about they also got some sheep feed (they have lambs at the moment) and got all their gas bottles filled, so they will be OK if the snow does come down heavy.

This week we made two lots of cheese. The first was a cheddar style and won't be ready for at least three months, the other a softer cheese with garlic and parsley. All the frozen milk has now been used and the cheeses are both happily growing a rind in the cupboard before being oiled and stored in a warm fridge.

Curds cut and the pan heating in a sink of hot water

Keeping a careful check on the temperature

Not much curd from a gallon and a half of milk

Drained and salted ready for the mold and pressing

Pressed and drying. There was actually 1 lb 11 oz of cheese, more than we thought.

Garlic and parsley

A nice rind forming after three days

Meanwhile Milly's milk seems to be trailing off and as we think she may be pregnant (fingers crossed) we will stop milking her as soon as we know she will not be coming into season. They seem to be quite happy to stay indoors when the weather is not good, coming out when the sun shines.I would like to get some milk to try cow cheese.....will have to get Dave to have a word with his friend Violetta!

Elsewhere in the kitchen I am fighting a losing battle with the egg mountain. I made loads of quiches, cakes, Yorkshire puds and pasta with carbonara sauce. I will be doing lemon curd too. We have had them scrambled, with chips, omelettes. But Just can't keep up. A good problem to have I think! A friend preserved some last year....I will have to ask how they were done and how they tasted. Freezing is an option but it takes space and they don't tend to get used.

Lots of eggs used, fresh pasta with salmon and veg in lemon egg sauce
Yorkies always a favourite, this time with lamb from the village, our own roasties mentioned earlier,some of our sprouts, fennel and redcurrants for the jelly from Morgan's 

As mentioned earlier we have Bracken with us for a short time. He is a big lad to fit into a small space with two other largish dogs and there has been a bit of shuffling of beds. Bonnie likes Bracken's bed so we have had to bring her's down. Bella wants to be with everyone and usually finds herself over Dave's shoulders, the cats are largely ignored by Bracken now though when he first arrived Spud remembered he was chased last time and took steps to stay out of the way. But he's over it now. And with the snow coming down I have three large dogs and two cats sprawled all over the place! I don't know how people cope with half a dozen dogs at a time!

'Helping' Dave sweep the yard, Bella looking confused....sticks are for chewing, surely (not that she's allowed to)

Gone to bed...

...and ousted by Bonnie

Big lad

Spud took refuge in one of the nest boxes in the wall

Or up in the apricot tree. Enjoying the sun

Baba Danka's notice on the door.


  1. Another few weeks and i will be getting into seed sowing, we have been slipping around in mud for weeks or months so it seems but now have a nice frozen snap :-)

    1. No mud here today, a foot of snow and still falling, but thawing too so plenty of mud to look forward to. Unfortunately the polytunnel couldn't cope and has collapsed.

  2. I love reading what you have been up too.

  3. Thank you for another informative and entertaining post. I find the Bulgarian custom of posting pictures of home owners who've passed on a lovely way to honour them . I have lived in a few old houses here in England(as well as my flat now) and wonder about who lived in them before me. When your decorating and you think "who though woodchip was a good idea? Or why a bright pink bedroom" when I've walked around Bulgarian villages you can see just who has lived where and when look at their faces and think about them. Thank you for your latest post. Kath

    1. Thank you Kath. Yes, they celebrate life here. After the forty day mourning is over there is a six month remembrance, then every year friends and neighbours receive a plate of food to remember loved ones. I suppose it depends how much family is about (none live in the village) but Baba Danka was quite religious. Dave was thanked by the grandson the other day for the help and stores we used to give her, so she did appreciate the help. He speaks English as he works there seasonally. The notices do make you think of them as you pass, I just wish there weren't so many.

  4. Well it's either mud or frost (or snow) at this time of year - normally. My snowdrops are up too and my nasturtiums are finally mush and can be composted! Your cheese looks very good. Cross fingers for the eggs in the incubator.

    1. Had a bit of a panic when the electricity went off but we were lucky, it was just for an hour or so. Others in the village had none for two days.

  5. What a lovely time of year with Spring just around the corner and the feeling of optimism it brings. Enjoy your seed order and all the treasures in store this year!

  6. Interesting read! You cheese looks wonderful....I've made butter, yogurt but never cheese. Must give it a try:)

    1. Early days...I hope after three months minimum it is at least edible! Used to make butter when we got milk from the farm, but though I dabbled with the idea for a separator for the goat milk I have decided it would be a waste of money as I wouldn't like the butter or cream anyway. I can only stomach the milk on certain things