Friday, 28 August 2015

Honey, I'm waxed

My plans for a hive-full of honey have been poleaxed by the wax moth, Achroia grisella. Against the advice of my mentor, Miguel the honey man, I had kept a hive without a queen. The results - a weakened hive unable to defend itself against the moth - are dramatic:

Moth invasion

Coo-coo cocoon

I took down the hive at the weekend, scattering the few bees left there to the four winds, and incinerated the whole lot as a precaution.

Burn 'em all

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dropping Beauty

This is the Two-Tailed Pasha, Charaxes jasius, feeding on chicken droppings outside the Croft.

Pasha-nate about poultry products

Beautiful, isn't she? Despite the diet...

Thursday, 6 August 2015

And over to Skye...

Benbecula, the sheep who lived, has given birth. Our second lamb in two days. 

The new boy on the block is called Skye, and he's a strong wee chap:

Likes a drink, does Skye

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Thistle and Spike

Yesterday evening our oldest ewe gave birth to Spike. Born at only 3.5kg he is underweight.

Thistle's thirsty boy

Thistle is not the world's greatest ewe, and has never been very good at feeding her lambs. We have lost some as a consequence. 

So we all helped; we dried Spike off and then spent an hour trying to get him onto the teat - in vain. I milked Thistle to get some of the precious colostrum, and then fed it from a syringe into Spike's mouth. By midnight Spike was still not feeding, but he was looking a lot better. 

This morning he was still wandering around the place a bit aimlessly, but when his wanders took him near Thistle he suckled. He will probably be fine, but I will be checking him each hour to make sure.

Lambing - it's a nerve-wracking business.

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!