Thursday, 8 October 2015

Farming to Keep the Grass Short

Multiple cheeses.
Liz returns from the UK well loaded down with goods - all manner of wool, handkerchiefs, taramasalata, books, knitting needles, sourdough flour, potato starch and, above all CHEESE. Lots of cheese. Enough fancy cheese and good old vintage cheddar to keep us in cheesy heaven for many a week. As well as going to the Isle of Wight for the wedding, which was a dream by all accounts. she was able to spend a couple of days in our old home haunts of Faversham in Kent where-at the suberb and highly recommended farm-shop-cum-world-deli Macknade Fine Foods.

Finally some reasonable apples from the orchard - these
are Red Windsor
This place is a veritable Alladin's cave of foodie stuff - from fancy cheeses and cold meats, vegs and exotic fruit, tins, packets and jars from all around the world. Need some African dried biltong meat? Jamaican spices? Greek salads? Pawpaws? Cajun food mix from the Deep South? Obscure Italian wines? Unusual teas or coffees? Spanish cheese? Macknade should be your first port of call and we never fail to drop in for a browse when we are in the area, even now we live 500 miles away.

Nearly late enoiugh to be 'Winter Fruiting' but no, this is my first
decent pick from the Autumn Bliss raspberry canes this year
This time, with Liz in the UK, I spotted a Macknade promo for the cheeses on Facebook and tipped her off. She came back with little 250 g sampler cuts of the Spanish cheeses Torralba Mahon, Garroxta and La Peral plus some Tomme de Savoie and some local (to Faversham) goat's cheese called "Fremlins Faversham Log" named after the goat, not the brewery! Macknade are so good at this that the sticker bearing the weights also has tasting notes for that cheese written on it so that we know for example that the Mahon is made with "semi- cured DOP Raw Milk: is close textured, salty and full flavoured with a peachy aroma from the paprika and oil-rubbed rind. (It comes) from Menorca in the Balearic Islands and is aged for 3-4 months"

Nice clean 'Orla' spuds now coming out of the ground.
We have tried all these as a mini cheese-course after a supper, but we are planning to do a real cheese-fest, tapas style meal with biscuits, grapes, French bread, port and other 'trimmings' on one of the weekend days, to give them all a proper road-test. Liz also returned with a house-brick sized block of vintage cheddar - this one was a Mazy inspired purchase - which we will use up at normal pace - it will take us about 6 weeks from the size of it.

At least one of the geese has come back into lay. 
With Liz currently working, I find myself back in the kitchen to a whole new degree and working my way through some old repertoire plus exploring some new avenues just to put the everyday supper on the table. Tonight I had some fun with Spaghetti Carbonara which is a dish I like but which we rarely get and I had not tried to cook before. It worked really well but the recipe demanded 7 ounces of bacon and 3 and a half of parmesan (this is Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Book). The bacon I had was some 'cooking bacon' of unknown precedence in the freezer since January and it may have been a bit salty because, with the parmesan and creme fraiche too, the final product was just a tad salty to be perfect. We ate it (proof of the pudding?) but if I use that bacon again I may well soak it in a couple of changes of water prior to frying it. For eggs, the recipe asked for 3 and one of our geese has conveniently come back into lay, so one goose eggs makes 3 hens any day in our kitchen. Thank you Miss Goose. I have also been able to produce some of those lovely meals where everything on the table is our own product. Yesterday our chicken was cooked in our tomato 'salsa' and served with our spuds and our chard.

Spaghetti carbonara.
Meanwhile, in the livestock dept, I could kid you with a lovely brag; I definitely 'rock' as a pig wrangler, to the degree that there is a risk I will become smug and complacent! Not seriously, of course, but the last few times I have tried to move pigs it has gone like a dream so that everyone watching thinks I am some kind of genius pig-whisperer who should be doing it for a living; I just hope my luck holds out. Today we had to try to load Sue and Rob's last pig, a full grown (and possibly in-pig) sow over at their place. She had been bought by a smallholding north of here but they had only managed to load the enormous boar (Rodney Trotter) yesterday; the sow was having none of it and charged off into the field. They sent the buyer off with the boar, promising to catch the sow today and deliver her.

I was there for about 10 am expecting a bit of fun and games. Sue was off delivering a cat to the vet, so Rob and I were on our own. Well, it took us about 3 minutes, certainly no more than 5. We had laid straw all over the trailer ramp, Rob tempted the sow down the 'race' and I brought up the rear with a sheet of currugated iron, trying to bar the way for any attempt by the sow to turn round and get back into the field. Well the sow was like a different animal. She sauntered down the race, took a brief and mildy concerned look over her shoulder at me and my sheet of metal, then spotted Rob theatrically throw his bucket of fruit and peelings into the trailer. She shugged her shoulders as if to say, 'ah well' then strolled up the ramp and ignored us leaping forward to slam the ramp/door shut on her. Rob and I could barely believe our luck. Sue came back and the job was pretty much done. Hitch up the trailer and head to the kitchen for a coffee. The sow is now delivered to the destination and reunited with Rodney, to much happy grunting from both pigs.

We had a deal, Mr Fox. Stay away and we will leave you alone.
Start messing about and this trap is ready for you. 
Here, we have the worrying arrival of another regular fox. This chap started coming every night while the clear skies and full moons were on around the lunar eclipse and the dogs were onto him, so we were getting some interupted sleeps. Regular readers will know that we had a fox problem in January and ended up (very unfortunately) having to have three shot. At that stage I made a little deal with any remaining foxes that if they stayed nocturnal and left my stock alone, then I'd leave them alone but if this lad is going to renage on his part of the deal, then we will be ready. I have the lend of a fox trap just in case but I have left this locked open at the moment so that Mr Fox can get used to it and come to believe that it is a harmless open metal box which occasionally has old fish heads in it.

Rambo has now worked his way round all three 'yows' and
can go home at the end of the month.
Finally, I was very amused to hear a couple of old boys discussing beef prices. One had apparently paid a bit more for some animals than he had liked but commented to his friend that "What else could I do? If I didn't do this, the grass would not stay short". That is now my new favourite farming philosophy - Farming to Keep the Grass Short! Not feeding the nation or making money or breeding the best pedigree animals you can breed, just keeping the grass mowed! Amen to that! Brilliant.

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