Monday, 19 December 2011

Improved Creativity

One of the many reasons we moved here was to spend more time creating things. Too many evenings spent watching TV in the UK had left us feeling as though life was passing us by.

In Galicia we still have the TV but only for playing DVDs. We spend much more time playing cards and chatting together. Tim plays his guitar whilst I wail along, frightening the dogs. We have resurrected board games which get very competitive and staring at the wood fire whilst sipping wine in silence is a very nice way of passing the time.

Now Tim has a few weeks off he has decided to put one of his novels on Amazon for the kindle. Shortly to be followed by the rest as he transcribes them from scanned paper copies (The Mac died with all of his work on it). In his heart he is a writer and poet, and always has been. Its strange how people get identified by the jobs they do (Computer Programmer in Tims case) and yet so often there are secret urges buried within. Since coming out here Tim has started on his 4th novel, the first book he has written since we met. He may never be famous or rich but the act of creation is the most fulfilling. Else why are we here at all?

For those that are interested, you can find it here:

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Friends or Lunch?

Can you be friends with your Lunch?

As soon as you start to kill and eat your own meat some soul searching is bound to be involved. Before we came here we had never deliberately killed anything (except for the frog which I mercy killed with a brick as a child, my cat had eaten both of its legs -  the experience still haunts me).

Tim and I are very fond of our livestock but we try not to name those that are destined for the pot. Because we care we try to make the death process as quick and painless as we can. We also give them the best life we can offer. They are all free range, given the company of their own kind and fed well. We also give them the longest lifespan we can without making them inedible (Beta Drake was 9 months old before slaughter).

When I killed my first chicken earlier this year I really considered vegetarianism as an option, slaughter is not a 'nice' thing to do. After some thought I have decided that I am happy to eat meat as long as the animal has not suffered unduly. Our animals certainly live a better life than animals in the factory systems so beloved of the western style supermarkets.

So to answer my own question, yes, I am friends with the animals that I intend to eat for lunch. This allows me to meet their needs in the best way possible and I can show them respect both in life and death.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Homemade Yule

It occurred to me today that this coming Yule will hopefully be more home made than previous celebrations. We have our own goose in the freezer (thank you Daisy), chipolatas from my pigs, vegetables and herbs in the garden and I hope to make my own cake and pudding. Custard will be made using my own eggs and the mincemeat, and stuffing will have local ingredients including dried mushrooms from our fields.

There is something rather special about home made goods, time and effort goes into them which adds to the tastiness and the sense of a special day. Somehow supermarket mass produced goods miss the whole point of a celebration. The variables produced by human intervention are to be cherished. I hope that Tim will bear that in mind as he samples my variables. Next year who knows what we will have produced.... our own goats cream with the pudding perhaps, or a home cured jamon.

There will of course be the most important home made ingredient, plenty of love and good wishes all round,I can hardly wait...............

Friday, 18 November 2011

Puppy Training or Owner Training?

The pups are nearly 5 months old now and are turning from cute pups eager to please...onto larger hooligans eager to please. They do try awfully hard but enthusiasm often gets the better of them. Cleaning my used dishes on the worktop when my back is turned results in a large smashed pyrex dish and a puzzled dog (how did that happen?)
They adore eating poo of all kinds and there is a large choice here.
Mice caught in the mouse traps are great toys that last until they disintegrate and my recycling bin is a regular source of toys that can be ripped apart and redistributed.

Flora is on the left and Scrumpy on the right. Both sisters from the local dog rescue. I am still trying to figure out who is training who....

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Late Autumn Weather

Well the weather is very mixed but not really cold yet. All of our fields are full of parasol mushrooms which are delicious fried with garlic. I have dried some to preserve them and now I am picking them as required as they don't store well. The wild saffron crocuses continue to bloom and the leaf colours are wonderful.
Everyone is busily cutting wood for fires (next winter) which leaves me feeling rather inadequate. We don't have many trees on our land and so it is looking as though we will have to buy some again to lay down for next year. Although I am surrounded by woods, they all belong to someone and every farmer knows his wood resources intimately. It has often been said..."A Galician would rather you took his wife than his wood". At some point Tim and I want to grow wood for coppicing but the area needs fencing off first, which we can't currently afford.

Tim is slowly settling into life in Amsterdam but going back to a city after idyllic life in rural Galicia must be very hard. My puppy training is progressing slowly, they are still difficult at times but there are moments of joy as well and Scrumpy is developing a reassuring bark that keeps the bogey men at bay after it gets dark. It is rather wonderful to be so aware of the passing seasons here. I eat vegetables from local markets and therefore I eat seasonally which makes you appreciate everything. I am outdoors so much more than I used to be in the UK and starting to feel part of the landscape. Planning for next years vegetables is very exciting as well. I expect that the fantasy veg patch is much better than the reality but dreaming is what keeps us going when the evenings are dark and cold.

Monday, 7 November 2011


Sorry all for the lack of posts. Tim stopped blogging as he lost his job and we have spent several months trying to stay out here by finding other employment.

Finally I can say that Tim is working permanently as a website developer in Amsterdam and I have stayed behind in Galicia to keep the home fires burning and the various animals fed. Not the way we wanted it to be but sometimes you have to do these things.Going back to the UK was always going to be a last resort and we have managed to stave it off for the moment.

It has been an eventful time, we have raised and home slaughtered two pigs which now sit nicely in our freezer. We are now regularly killing home raised chickens for meat and have home raised and killed geese also in the freezer (its a big freezer).

Its not all killing however, we have two mad puppies from the local dog rescue, Scrumpy and Flora. Our chickens have bred so we have some new hens, all ruled over  by Rocky the Rooster who remains king of all he surveys. There is also Alpha Drake, a muscovie with his two ducky women who are laying eggs in unknown places.

Its hard to believe how much we have learnt and changed in a few months. The sight of Tim, an ex vegetarian covered in blood and feathers with his hand in a gooses bottom will stay with me for many a year.

Now I have time on my hands I hope to keep the blog going for a bit longer this time. We even have a camera so I hope to add pictures.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Birds and beasts

We are now up to five chickens: Rocky the Rooster and his consort Mabel have been joined by Dotty, Pearl and Ginger Rogers, in more or less that order of seniority. We think Pearl is at least partly a Poland, in that she has an amusing top-knot and the habit of running in the wrong direction. Ginger may be a Buff Orpington or something of the kind, and has the biggest pair of bloomers we have ever seen. Dotty is... well, dotty. Despite the surge in numbers, however, we are still depending on Mabel for egg production. Hopefully this will change as the days start to lengthen, otherwise the stewpot beckons.

This morning we took delivery of our first ever pigs. They arrived without much ceremony, being hauled in off the trailer despite their protests, but at ten weeks old they are still relatively portable. There are two: Spot and Ruby. We were very kindly introduced to the breeder by our neighbour, Pepe, a man who knows his way around a pig. As we are intending to keep them mostly outside, we opted for two of the darker and hairier ones. Spot is a (castrated) male, and Ruby his already slightly plumper sister. We are told that the ladies tend to put on fat as compared to the gentlemen, and looking at Ruby's bottom it is easy to believe it. They have luxurious quarters in the larger of our two stables, so technically they live in the house with us. This means they sleep warm and undisturbed by the local wolves.

We are intending to slaughter them (or, rather, get Pepe to slaughter them) in August, when one will play the starring role in a pig-roast and the other will be butchered for the freezer. Pepe has advised us to remove the hams before roasting as they will never cook through (again, reference to Ruby's bottom suggests he may be right).

There will be pictures as soon as we find our camera - such are the joys of moving house.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A warm welcome

Well, it has taken a while, but we are finally here and connected (albeit sporadically) to the Internet.

After a three-day drive we arrived at As Petas to be greeted by the welcome sight of smoke issuing from the shiny new flue of our log-burning stove. The ever-wonderful Billy had lit us a fire, which was just as well as at the time we had no other form of heating available. It has been a hard winter here - Jose, our roofer, called it "a mountain winter" - and keeping warm has been the biggest challenge so far. It is so cold that we have heard wolves in the night, driven down from the mountains. Luckily the cats have escaped unscathed so far.

The place is still in chaos but we have made progress on several fronts. Our fruit trees and bushes are all planted out, the roof has been patched up, a man has been booked to sort out our old and rather dodgy electrics, and best of all we have taken delivery of a load of firewood. In addition we have managed to get the ancient cocina economica up and running, which will give us an additional heat source and hopefully an extra option for cooking. So we are managing to sleep warm at nights, we are eating well, and the hot water is still working.

We have also acquired our first chickens, a little sooner than we intended. The other day we came home to find couple of chickens in the orchard (which we assumed belonged to next door) and a couple of gifts by the door: a pot of parsley and half a sack of chicken feed. The parsley led us to think (wrongly) that these had been left by our herb-growing Belgian friend Jan, we thought that the sack of feed was a gift towards our declared ambition of keeping chickens, and thought no more of it.

Later that evening there came a knocking at the door. It was our neighbour, an amiable man whose accent we find almost completely impenetrable (he is continually giving us what is doubtless excellent advice, if only we understood it). It seems there were some unauthorised chickens in his veg patch which he was convinced belonged to us. Despite all our protestations that we had no such creatures, he insisted on leading me to his veg patch where the miscreants were rounded up and handed over to us.

It turns out that once again we had Billy to thank. We are now the proud owners of Rocky the Rooster and his consort Mabel, enormous things that appear to be the result of the union between a Rhode Island Red and an ostrich. Apparently Mabel was also supposed to have been  a cockerel (they have clearly been bred for meat) but was wrongly sexed. This doesn't appear to have left her with any kind of complex, however. They are happily installed in the pig-room and Mabel has so far produced three eggs, even though it is still January. We hope to add to our flock shortly.

The chickens are just one example of the wonderful generosity we have experienced on all sides. Our friends Dawn and Steve braved the low temperatures and general anarchy to visit us, bringing a store of wise advice and a delicious lemon cake which has boosted morale more than once. Asun at the local bakery pulled strings with a friend of her father-in-law to get us a stash of firewood (which is like gold dust at the moment). There is an awful lot to do, but it is good to feel we are not facing it alone. We hope to repay some of this generosity when we can.