Winter Farm Diary

We’ve been harvesting at the farm! No, we haven’t uploaded the wrong post, we really have been harvesting. When we harvested the barley back in August, we planted fodder beet in the fields which was ready to be lifted from the ground last month. We use it in the winter months to feed the sheep when grass supply is scarce, as it contains many important nutrients, which is especially important to any animal when the temperatures plummet. And they certainly have plummeted; we saw temperature drop to -2 degrees at the beginning of November and even a slight flurry of the white stuff. Fortunately it wasn’t quite in sledging quantities – no need for animal feed bags stuffed with hay.

Fodder beet 3

Back inside the farmhouse, the phone lines have been like hot potatoes with people calling to place Christmas orders for all sorts of different meats – geese, beef ribs, turkeys and decadent three-bird roasts, you name it. And of course we had turkeys flying (not literally, of course) everywhere for Thanksgiving celebrations at the end of November.

Now is not only the time to place your Christmas orders, but it’s also the last chance to get curing your own bacon for the Christmas period. If you’re a curing beginner, then bacon is one of the easier cured meats to start with, and belly – which makes great streaky bacon – is very economical for a first attempt, plus it’s an integral companion to Christmas. You can have a go at your own with some curing salt and a bit of sugar. Measure 5% of the total pork belly weight of curing salt, and add a healthy tablespoon of sugar. Massage this into the meat well, into every nook and cranny, and let the meat cure for a week in a plastic container in your fridge, turning it every day. It then needs the salt brushing off and then to be hung to ‘set’ – to dry a little and firm up enough to slice. The finished result is not only delicious and tender, but the satisfaction and earned gloating rites will be more than worth it!

On a different, yet still very merry note, Christmas came early for us at the Longhorn Cattle Society AGM. Tim was presented with the Paul Luckett Memorial Trophy, for the best new comer to the showing scene: http://www.longhorncattlesociety.com/library/news/2013/AGM_2013_awards.pdf (scroll halfway down to see Tim being presented with this lovely trophy). Our stockman Jim and stockwoman and baker Hayley also had a great day out to the Longhorn Cattle Society Northern area AGM at Carlisle. Our heifer Kedleston Maisie, who you may remember as one of the heifers we took to our first ever show, The Great Yorkshire back in July, won ‘Best Junior Heifer’ following the herd competition, which included competition from twenty-one other herds in the area.

Trophy

This month we’ve also been presenting some prizes, not only receiving them. At the Irish Wolfhound Health Group breed seminar at the end of November, the three main speakers – all veterinary cardiologists – were presented with a selection of Ginger Pig treats, a little hamper of Christmas pickles and jellies, and a Christmas pudding. Their expressions lead us to believe they were fairly happy with their bounty.Irish Wolfhound Health Group breed seminar

With all this merriment we feel like Christmas has already been, but not so, still two weeks to go! Here’s to an even busier couple of weeks as we get stuck in for Christmas, and then a well-deserved rest.