Friday 29 July 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Yoiks! Not a howling success then, that 'hard' cheese. 
I have always tried 'on here' to report our story. like Cromwell's portrait, warts and all. Thankfully embarrassing howlers are infrequent and most readers' comments focus on the good stories with happy outcomes - "living the dream" and all that jazz. I think you can probably place my latest cheese making attempt and my first try at hard-ish cheese, firmly in the 'warts' camp. I have definitely missed a stage in the process and the lovely white, semi-hard cheese I hung up in a muslin bag to ripen started showing very dark through the cloth within a couple of weeks. I have, it seems, hung a lovely moist, nutritious chunk of fungus-food up at air temperature in a non-sterile bag in a non-sterile air flow. Spores must have been queueing up to come to this party. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I can't quite believe how stupid that sounds now. Back to square one - I will go read some more book and talk to our goat-milk supplier and (now) successful cheese-making mentor (Hi Sue! Congrats on your "promotion"!).

Ouch. Yellow arrow shows where the girl's sting went in. The
big red patch was the itchy, alarming result but I am still here
to tell the tale.
Then I was just off to enjoy a bit of archery on Sunday and took the opportunity to water the courgettes growing in the polytunnel. I leaned over my water tank wielding my watering can, then stood up and flexed my arm to lift the can just as a wasp zoomed up from the tank and through the crook of my elbow. Bang. I half-crushed Miss Wasp and she reacted as wasps do, zapping me before I could flick her off. She fell into the water and a less merciful soul would have wished her good luck.

I am currently feeding these lads for a neighbour. Grub's up.
I am silly enough that I rescued her with the spout of my watering can and, as far as I know, she lives to sting again. I was alone in the house at that stage and could only wait the few minutes to see if, like my Mother, I am allergic to wasp venom and there would be anaphyllactic shock dramatics, ambulances and paramedics. Fortunately, no. A tiny white pimple with a fan-shaped red patch below it was my only injury. It itched like fury and 'Nurse Lizzie' administered Piriton and a chilling 'Wasp-Eze' spray but I was able to go to archery and lash the required number of arrows down the hall as if nothing had happened.

Yes, I know we have a bowl each. but....
With Thursday came the piggies' 6-Month Birthday. Local tradition (all be it only 3 years old as an event) has it that the pigs get an extra meal that day at lunchtime which includes Guinness poured into their barley. It is very simple as kiddies' parties go; there's no jelly or crisps trodden into the carpet, no disappointing magician or balloon-animal guy, no party bags and no tears before bedtime, but we like it and so do the pigs. They can't believe their luck - an extra meal! And beer in it - which they have never tasted before (and won't again). I also got them some banana and cherry tomatoes (both on special offer from Lidl; I wonder if their marketing bods know that their special offers are the must-have fruit choices for 6 month old gilts party fodder?)

A Birthday back-scratch. All pigs love a good, hard,
dig-your-finger-nails-in, rake-over. Get that dandruff flying!
The Guinness was almost a story in itself. I'd bought 2 cans and was only going to give the 'babies' one between them, but I took the other can (the pigman's share?) in with me to make a better photo. I put it down while I messed with bowls and barley but Ross took a shine to this new object and promptly gave it a good chomp. She pierced the thin can with her teeth and set the whole thing off with a spray of beer like a fire extinguisher. Rather than waste it I glugged the rest into the bowls and the pigs got a can each.

Two very happy little piggies schlurrrrped up the beer-soaked mixture and the fruit with more gusto (and saliva) than normal and then did a good job of cleaning the ground around the bowls. No waste there, then. At that point they pretty much headed for the ark and a mission to sleep off the full bellies on the straw. Later I was barrowing in some shredded wood to 'repair' the poached up muddy bits and it was only at the 2nd barrow that two bleary eyed pigs woke up to investigate, shaking strands of straw from their noses as they wandered over.

Of course, we have now probably spoiled them rotten and they were 'asking' for more barley and beer at lunchtime today but I only gave them a couple of chopped up apples to shut them up. Over feeding was the mistake I made on the Tamworths in 2014, handing them food every time they squealed. That way madness lies (and pork chops where 30% of the weight is the skin and subcutaneous fat!). I am pleased to say that my pics of these ladies at 6 months, posted to Facebook yesterday, have been complimented by our breeder/supplier who says they look "perfect".

On that subject, too, on the day we went to collect these pigs, the breeder passed me the phone number of another customer of his, who is now a breeder of 'Oxford Sandy and Black' pigs only half an hour's drive away. I contacted that guy yesterday to see how that project was going and the man was delighted to talk to me and have me as a likely future buyer of his piglets along with our friends Sue and Rob, who are also looking to get back into the pig game with a couple of these. More on that next year, probably.

Happy Birthday, Somerville and Ross.

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