Wednesday, 24 December 2008

our own christmas tonic, bottled & ready to go under the tree

I've just spent the morning bottling our Christmas tonic ready to give as presents. It's been fermenting since August so it's a bit special.

Here's how we made it:
1 litre of whisky or vodka
1 lb (500g) sugar
1 lb (500g) winter berries
Leave in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months, giving it a good shake every week or so. Then strain & bottle. Serve either in suitably smart liqueur glasses to sip in a genteel manner or in a hip flask to nip from while enjoying the great outdoors.

This year we used a mixture of blackberries, raspberries & redcurrants, however you could use any berries. We made a whisky and a vodka, however you could also use brandy instead, or gin is great with sloe berries. If you do make a sloe gin, the sloe skins need to be broken - instead of pricking each individual berry you can freeze them, spread out on a tray, for 24 hours then defrost them so the skin breaks.

We did have a cheeky taster at the weekend & it definitely warms you up! We'll be keeping a few bottles for sure & I'm already planning to make some for our wedding next year. Any new recipe ideas would be welcome...

Juliet D-H

Digg! submit to reddit

Sunday, 21 December 2008

naming the rhea - it's a tie!

The votes are in - our poll to choose the name of our crazy white Rhea has closed and it's a tie!

Castro and Santana got an equal number of votes, with Che coming in a close third. So Mum gets the casting vote and, for anyone who knows her, slightly unsurprisingly she's gone for... SANTANA!

The likeness is almost uncanny...

Thanks for your votes x

Juliet D-H

Digg! submit to reddit

buy a $10 raffle ticket from menu for hope

Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by a revolving group of food bloggers around the world. Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired them to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair, raising funds to support worthy causes worldwide. In 2007, Menu for Hope raised nearly $100K to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry.

Each December, food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone can buy raffle tickets to bid on these prizes. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

The Menu for Hope V fundraiser runs from December 15-24.

Click here for the European prize list on the European host blog, Miss Adventures In Italy , including details about how to get involved & how to donate.

Click here for the blog of the American-based originator, Chez Pim.

Having only just come across the campaign this year, we haven't been able to offer a prize because we can currently only deliver locally in East & South East England. However we hope to get involved next year & will be buying a good few raffle tickets to be in with a chance of snaffling one of the fab prizes on offer!

Juliet D-H

Digg! submit to reddit

eclectic eccentricity called me a jezebelle

I've purchased more than a few pressies this year from one of my favourite online jewellers, Eclectic Eccentricity. And when I bought some pieces in December as Christmas presents, Lucy & her team sent me a beautiful little surprise - the Jezebelle Rose Ring. Thank you very much... it'll look marvellous on a hand wrapped around a glass of Christmas champagne!

Juliet D-H
Digg! submit to reddit

Friday, 19 December 2008

experiment #573: rolled pork joints, roasted in wild garlic leaves

I've just found some pics on my old camera from a weekend at M&D's few weeks ago. Apart from reminding me how much better my new camera is, they also reminded me of my most recent experiment.

I was doing the Sunday roast to give Mum a break & nipped out to the herb bed to get some mint for the potatoes when I spotted some wild garlic. I wrenched some leaves from it and proceeded to stuff them, with some difficulty, through the string holding together the two small(ish) rolled pork joints we were having. Then rubbed in plenty of salt & oil and popped them in the lovely aga...

They looked a little scary after roasting...

The wild garlic leaves were delicious - like mildly garlicky seaweed - but didn't seem to flavour the pork enough to notice, obviously because I'd put them on the outside & because the pork is quite strongly flavoured (that's the marvellousness of the rare breed pig, of course). So, next time probably best to use garlic cloves & save the wild garlic for salads or stuffing chicken breasts. Good experiment though.

Here's more about eating wild garlic

Juliet D-H
Digg! submit to reddit

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

eat local, buy local, grow local

I've just found this great poster by Christopher Silas Neal. It's a good motto for what we're trying to do on the farm & I like the simple illustration.

It's from a set of five posters, all free to download, commissioned by the American magazine Readymade. The magazine asked five designers to use The Great Depression's populist poster art as inspiration for depicting our current economic and cultural times.

Click here to link to the posters online to download PDFs for free.

Juliet D-H
Digg! submit to reddit

Monday, 15 December 2008

if you go down to the woods today

While Jim & Co were busy working on the farm I went off to my day-job's Christmas do...

We didn't know where we going but had been told to meet at Waterloo station at 7am, dressed for what was touted as a day in the freezing cold. Now the boss lives in Somerset, so we had our inklings. Hopping off the train 2 hours later at Axminster we weren't surprised by our location but we still hadn't worked it out. And noone was taking my whale-watching suggestion very seriously. A minibus scooted us through Axminster, where we rode past Hugh F-W's River Cottage shop. Aha! That must be it... we're off to make cider with Hugh's lads. Our official organiser Susie kept her poker face on but we were smug in our detective work.

As we drove further out of Axminster we started to um and er... could we be wrong? Susie directed the sideburned Somerset driver past farm after farm. We couldn't see a River or a Cottage. Then we pulled in sharply to Higher Holditch Farm. Now we were confused.

We piled out of the minibuses looking puzzled to be hailed by the boss & his dog who still refused to let slip what the hell we were actually doing here. Wellies on, overnight bags stowed, we duly followed him through a field and into the woods...

... where to our surprise found a teepee and tents set up with green woodworking equipment!

We spent the day with Guy Mallinson (an ex-furniture designer who trained with the RCA) and his expert team, worked with freshly cut sycamore (which cut like butter) using traditional tools. We carved individual pieces of a totem pole, made spatulas and an Aboriginal bull-roarer and were treated to a pole-lathe display in which Mace (tree-surgeon by Winter, woodworker by Spring) made a rounders bat inside 20 minutes.

We ate a seriously good homemade lunch of fish pie & rhubarb crumble in the teepee then drank homemade cider with homemade cake around the fire at the end of the day. Then, feeling the surge of accomplishment, we lugged our creations back up the now lantern-lit path to the boss' house for a boozy supper, an embarrassing office quiz & secret Santas.

Best Christmas work-do ever!

Mallinson's 2009 woodwork course dates are available here.
As there were 20 of us, we had a private booking, which can be organised here.

Juliet D-H
Digg! submit to reddit

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Blog reader

I've just started using the blog reader It means you can follow lots of blogs in one place - it works with any site with an RSS feed (ie: blogs). Love it.

Click here to follow this blog with bloglovin´

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Trials & tribulations of a herd and its boss

Being seen as the boss of all the animals is an extremely important part of looking after a herd of cattle. If the herd gets an inkling that I'm not in charge they would run riot. The two animals I am most likely to come to loggerheads with are the bull Bernard & matriarch Kitty.

Although Bernard, as the lone bull, is used to getting his own way and knows just how big he is (having broken our crush once by bending 1 inch thick metal bars), Kitty has had to defend her title repeatedly. She has to be the most ferocious when it comes to a challenge as her technical fighting ability is of extreme importance in order to be queen of the fields. A cow further down the pecking order is more likely to pick a fight when Kitty is under the weather but she cannot lose face in front of any of the other members of the herd without jeopardising her position.

Losing face in other arenas is also a serious taboo. Bernard has pride of place at the feed troughs, with Kitty a close second. When it comes to moving the cattle between distant fields, none of them particularly like going in the trailer but both have to be unflappable. It is generally easier for us to move Bernard first then leave Kitty till last, as if she doesn't want to move not a lot is going to make her!

As you work down the pecking order there are more subtle changes. Younger cows move up the ranks by challenging their elders. Because we have both horned White Parks and non-horned Red Polls the complexeties get even more confusing. Of the Red Polls it is only really Ruby who presents a challange to any of the White Parks. As the matriarch of the Reds she has to be able to stand up to most of the horned cattle, even Kitty, putting her in the top three for the overall leadership.

When a new Heffer is born they are intigrated into the herd at the same level as their mother. When they are young, the calves compete between themselves to establish a place in the herd that is above their mother's position. Bull calves also fight for practice in later life. All of which means I must avoid being between them at the wrong time to ensure I don't lose control (or the seat of my trousers!).

Jim D-H
Digg! submit to reddit

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

annabel's new site

The newest member of the (human) family, Jim's wife Annabel, has just launched her new website promoting her fantastic floristry business, Rosehip Flowers. When she's not helping Jim on the farm, she is busy preparing marvels of floral decoration for weddings, parties & all sorts of events.

To book her for an event or just to check out her flower gallery, visit her website
Digg! submit to reddit