Friday, 19 June 2015

Flame of life

Yesterday night we had to put out the flame of life of our wonderful tup, Phoenix. 

He was born here on the Croft on 8th November 2007 the son of a black sheep, Mildred. Black sheep represent good luck here in Catalonia and I was lucky with him. Phoneix was the ram with hay fever, and the father of all the lambs born on the Croft in the last seven years.


Mum, son, and daughter

You learn from animals, and I have learned a lot about sheep from Phoenix. Starting with his birth; I thought that Mildred was just a bit overweight... I went up to the field on that day in November and found a new lamb, and an old sheep (Polly) dead of natural causes. His flame of life ignited as hers went out.

Butt me no buts

And now the cycle has been repeated, although this time with more knowledge - on the part of the humans - about what is going on. For one day before Phoenix' flame was put out a new lamb - we called him Flama - was born.
 
The new flame

The flame of life burns on.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

I'm jamming...

Today's batch of apricot jam looks pretty good:




I adapted the recipe from my favourite jams and conserves cook book: "Confits, Confitures et Conserves" by Henriette Lasnet de Lanty and Michèle Parfonry (Dargaud, Paris, 1978). Just in case you don't have your copy handy, here's the instructions:

1kg of apricots
450g of sugar
Zest and juice of one lemon

Stone the apricots. Reserve six stones and crack them open. Put the kernels into the pan.

Chop up the apricots into rough dice. Pop into the pan.

Zest the lemon and put zest and juice into the pan.

Heat up gently to boiling, stirring to ensure it does not stick. Boil with the lid on for 5 minutes. This softens the fruit into a mush. Cook approximately 15 minutes. Take off the heat

Add sugar. Stir, until all the sugar is dissolved.

Return pan to the cooker, and heat up to fast boil.

Test for temperature with a jam thermometer. When it reaches 102ºC turn off the heat.

You will need 3-4 jars, washed, rinsed  and heated in the oven.

When you have potted the jam, put the jars in a bain marie (i.e. in a pan of water, up to their necks.) I put a tea towel in the base of the pan to stop the jars banging about too much. Bring up to boil, and boil for 20 minutes. Screw down lids tight.

Label and store. The flavour from the kernels will spread through the jam, so store for a week or two at least.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Chick feed

We planted chickpeas for the first time this year, and keep finding the pods empty.

Now I know why:


Helicoverpa armigera?

It looks like the moths lay an egg inside the chick pea pod. They are possibly Helicoverpa spp, conceivably Helicoverpa armigera. According to the Queensland Dept of Agriculture site "chickpeas secrete an organic acid (malic acid) from hairs on their leaves, stems and pods, making the crop unattractive" but the moth larvae enter the pod and eat my chickpeas. Here is a pod with a scar where it has been penetrated:


I'm in here eating your chickpeas, Crofter!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Make hay while the sun shines...

...and it has been shining. Rather too much in fact - today we hit 30ºC at mid day. The Croft is 330m (1,000 ft) above sea level, and even here it's roasting.


Hot spot
 We cropped a record 63 small bales from our two main fields:

Baling hay, the old way...
The sheep have been sheared:
Cool sheep

 It's summer, but it's early, so everyone here in Montseny is starting to worry about forest fires...


Monday, 18 May 2015

Beaky

Our Great Tit (Parus major) chicks are getting ready to fly. We counted six of them...


Eating, Parus-style

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Repro Croft

Everyone seems to be reproducing this Spring - er, apart from your writer. The Treecreepers have made a nest in an old fruit tree and are bringing up a clutch of four or five young.

Certhia brachydactyla, in a hole


Meanwhile, round the corner these two were having a good time on a flower stalk. I am hopeless at bug identification but I think these might be Scentless Plant Bugs. Order Hemiptera, Family Rhopalidae. But any better suggestions very welcome.

He's bugging me...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Passer over Parus

We have had double bubble this year with the nesting boxes.

Here (look closely) is one, with a busy parent just back from feeding the chicks:


Tree sparrow, Passer montanus

And here is the other. This one has a video camera inside, so I can see four chicks, and the parents coming in every three or four minutes with food.

Great Tit, Parus major
Nature is blooming on the Croft.