Saturday, 6 August 2011

July 2011

July has been and gone in what feels like the blink of an eye; the most major thing to happen this month were the visits from my children culminating in me having a week with all 3 at the same time – the first time for around 6 years.  As you can imagine I was a rather happy mother.


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I planted a grape vine by the patio a couple of years back in preparation of me installing a pergola.  The pergola has yet to materialise but the vine has grown and begun its takeover of the surrounding fence.  So time for a bit of pruning.



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In keeping with the waste not want not philosophy, I decided to have a go at some vine leaves.

I trimmed and then blanched them and they are now in the freezer so I really need to get round to creating a meal with them.



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July also held some other excitement.  Meet Cato. His entry to the world was a bit of a performance.  I spotted the signs that Tabitha was about to give birth so thankfully was watching her while my friend Chris had come over to repair the outhouses.  Alpaca births are usually really quick, (see later in the post), so after a couple of minutes it was obvious all was not as usual.  I then saw that the head, and only the head was out which meant that the front legs that should be out first were jammed.  This being my first non-standard birth I abandoned helping Chris and telephoned the vet who was here in a little over 5 minutes.

DSCF0204So Cato was pushed back, feet located and puled out first, swiftly followed by the rest of him – he was already breathing air so it had to be done fast to stop him suffocating.  Tabitha was swiftly over the trauma too and quickly became a very proud mum.  As Cato’s fleece dried in the sun it turned a beautiful fawn colour.




Every so often my chickens have free range of the garden.  Sometimes this is because I’ve decided to let them out of their paddock for a change of scenery other times it’s because they’ve found their own way out.  I usually keep them in the paddock partly to stop them destroying my garden and partly to keep them safe from buzzards and foxes.  After one escape, I realised one of my hens was missing and thought she’d become a fox’s dinner – I’d seen 2 foxes on the edge of my property a day or so before.

DSCF0205 tinyThen after a few weeks I found her under the old rabbit hutches at the back of the house, along with the reason for her ‘disappearance’.




Ten beautiful chicks.

DSCF0206 tinyShe’d obviously got fed up with me removing the eggs from under her in the hen house – I really don’t want any more cockerels and didn’t want to have to deal with disposing of the excess cockerel.  So it looks like coq au vin is coming back onto the menu once I find someone to show me how to prepare them.

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I wasn’t sure if my second female Suri, Pandora, was pregnant as she was quite thin but I got my answer.  I’d been out shopping and was driving down the hill on the approach to my property and saw the alpacas moving across the fields in a way that just screamed out ‘imminent birth’ to me.

DSCF0225 tiny200 meters later and I was most of the way up the drive and drew a quick breath of relief as I could see the feet as well as the head.  50 meters further and I was parked and getting out of the car and the baby was born.  A quick yell to my children A and C who were in the house and I grabbed the camera and went over to the field.

DSCF0228 tinyPandora had produce a beautiful female which we have named Cassandra – Cassie for short.

What I found fascinating and is visible in this picture is that alpacas are born with covers over their nails – really practical but I just hadn’t thought about it before.


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Cassie the following day with her dry fleece.






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It’s been a bumper year for sloes here.  One bottle of sloe gin already in preparation, another batch of sloes in the freezer for when I remember to buy some more gin and 2 double batches in the freezer for sloe jelly.




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Even though it was a tough start to the growing year with many crop failures, those that did germinate are beginning to produce.

In the colander is one of the batches of sloes topped by strawberries, blackberries, mange touts and purple ‘green’ beans.  As you can see from the step it had rained and the shoes show the pick-up of mud I get due to the clay nature of my soil.


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Last year this tree was bare – it suffered badly, along with the other nectarine and peach from peach leaf curl.  There was no fruit and just about all the leaves dropped off and I thought that the tree might die.

It didn’t and this year I treated against the peach leaf curl and was amazed by the bumper harvest I got.  The other two trees have produced fruit this year too.  This one is a white fleshed nectarine while the other nectarine  is the yellow fleshed variety.  One thing I noticed this year was that the ants and hornets attacked the yellow fleshed variety and I only got a couple of undamaged fruits off it.  I don’t know why one was effected and not the other but I’m going to try and stop the ants next year as I’m wondering if it’s after they’ve eaten into the fruit that the hornets arrive.

DSCF0241 tinyAnother day’s pickings from the garden – even more sloes and ‘green’ beans and the start of the nectarines.  The large ones are the yellow fleshed ones.







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And yet more nectarines, these are being prepared for bottling, (canning).  They’ve been skinned and are being halved and the stones removed before being put in the bottling jars, a light syrup added and then processed.