Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Food for free

Today is a jam making day, or more correctly a marmalade making day. Monday we were at friends for the day and they have a large, heavily laden orange tree in their garden,the winter months are when the oranges are ripe, one of those trees that flower and fruit together, we came away with eight pounds of oranges, far too many for us to either eat or make into juice but we both love marmalade, I have the first three pound simmering away, marmalade is not a quick job unlike most of the jams that we make, it requires several stages. This Christmas I was given a zester, so half of the orange peal has been zested and the other half grated, hopefully by this evening we will have our first batch of marmalade made. Of course marmalade is normally made with Sevilla oranges, however I have never been able to find them in Spain, maybe they all go for export.
So far the winter has been kind to us unlike other parts of Europe, we are getting lovely sunny days, very little frost and just one day of snow, it's also been quite dry, with only a few wet days. We just hope that the snow is not storing up ready for the peach blossom, this happened a couple of years ago resulting in a failed peach crop.
The new kids are doing well and enjoying themselves frolicking around in the field with the other kid.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

An eventfull week

However much we have tried to skip Xmas it just never happens and we now concede that it's a good time to have friends round and enjoy a meal together, compleat with all the trimmings.
This year was mainly home produced,however, I dont think prawns are something we can grow ourselves, well I suppose we could try fresh water cray fish but that might be taking self sufficiency a tad too far, so we are happy enough that the geese and the veg were ours, the sausage rolls, mince pies, Christmas pud and cake all home made, the greenery to decorate the dining room was all from the hedge rows, decorations that did not entail the uprooting or cutting down of a tree. Keeping it simple is fun although a lot of work! somewhat a contradiction in terms.
The past week seems to have be very busy, Simon had the last three of our table birds to slaughter, they all weighed about the same 6.5 lbs, and are definately worth doing, we have only cooked one so far, and it tasted like chicken should. Then came the slaughtering of the Xmas geese, this is quite hard work, and they are one thing that neither of us feels quite right about killing, geese have real personalities. Still that's the price we are prepared to pay. So the job was done, and all that was left was the baking, until Thursday. Simon went out to pick the greenery for the decorations and came back in with a new born kid, we instantly named him Noel, photo taken and the kid returned to mum and there was the second one. So we now have two more kids, Noel and his sister Gabrielle.
Christmas day was bright in more ways than one, we had our two newly married friends over with their helper, and after the meal played silly Xmas games,and had deep conversations, putting the world to rights, although it was conceded that is no longer possible to do so. The latest Wikileaks are an eye opener.We are glad that we did 'DO' Christmas this year, for who knows what the future has in store?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Organic chicken

Today we have slaughtered the first of the four table birds that we got three months back, we have reared them for around 100 days, and the first one has weighed in at 6lb 4ozs, approximately 28000 grams, he looks good and has good breast length, under organic standards, slaughtering should not happen until at least 84 days so we were more or less on target. At least we know what he was fed on, and that he enjoyed his life. He will get stuffed with a few herbs and served with all our own veg.
Wednesday has been set aside for the slaughtering of the two geese that we reared this year, this is our Yule tide celebration meal which we will be sharing with some friends, although we shall miss having so many geese around we know that our dinner enjoyed their life's and have been fed on the best of feed, totally GM free. Hopefully they will taste as good as they look.
There have been a few hard frosts, but so far no more snow, the days are still sunny for the most part, tonight there seems to be a fog descending.
This coming Tuesday is the solstice, [the shortest day] and there is a Lunar eclipse, I'm sure this must have some significance, although we don't know what it is, no doubt someone will tell us. We are not too sure if we will be able to see it, I shall have to Google to see where it is visible from.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Yule Tide

For two decades we have tried to skip Christmas and to some degree we have been successful, we refuse to become part of the consumer frenzy which surrounds this time of year, it is above all the celebration of the shortest day, and looking to the future, the longer days, the planting of the new crops and of new life in the spring, somehow it has been hijacked by the big corporations to make loads of money. Even here in Galicia we saw the first signs of Xmas at the end of Oct. We will celebrate, but it is very home spun, we always make a cake, but this is because we like a nice rich fruit cake, we will have a special meal,but they are still running around the field at the moment,[goose] and we always have a 'Xmas Pudding' but again, this is because we both love Xmas pudding, the veg is from the garden. What day we will have our Yule Tide meal has yet to be decided.If we do decorate the house it will be done a day before our celebration from whatever greenery we can find.As we have no open fires we can't have a Yule log, but we always make a candle holder from whatever interesting log we find.
We have a puppy lodging with us for the next month,owned by friends who have gone to the warmth of Tenerife for a month, he has settled well and our cats are fine with him, however our two kittens do not like him, they have had little contact with our own dogs, but no doubt, after a month they will at least tolerate him.
The last couple of weeks have been unseasonally warm, this warmth followed early snow which was very pretty and didn't last long, today however it feels as though the weather is about to change again, although sunny there is a distinct chill in the air.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Winter has arrived

The weather has up until now been quite good, it was a very mild and dry autumn, just a few days of rain although a couple of those days it did rain quite heavly, a few light frosts, just enough to give good autumn colour.
Today we seem to have caught up with the rest of Europe and have had our first fall of snow, a couple of inches fell overnight and everything has a lovely frosting. It's nice to look out at. Our house is a warm house mainly because of the metre thick walls, double glazing, useful in the summer as well to keep the heat out, and of course lots of roof insulation, I dont think you can have enough insulation, the cost envolved is money well spent. Of course we also have our wood burning stoves, the Aga, which does both our hot water and radiators. So we are nice and snug, mainly thanks to a great helper, Rod, who spent a week or so cutting and chopping this years wood supply. Many thanks Rod.
I have still not planted either the onions or the broad beans, next week we have warmer weather forecast so hopefully I can get them done then.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Two paces of life in Spain

Most things in Spain are done slowly, well anything that involves bureaucracy at least, however, last week there was the exception to the rule .We have friends who were wanting to get married, the main delay seems to have been waiting for official translations of birth certificates and waiting for their interview to assure the authorities that theirs was not a marriage of convenience, after being together for twenty four years hardly likely. We had made the cake some weeks before hand and had done the first layer of icing but had delayed finishing it as the icing would have been too hard. Monday I received an excited phone call, 'we have the date for the wedding'. Great! weeks of waiting and it was really happening, so when is it I asked? This Friday at 1pm !Help,! I could here Mike in the background and there were definite sounds of panic, also at our end. Although I had been trained as a cook this was many years ago, and cake decoration was not something I had ever enjoyed, probably due to the fact that I don't like icing, however, there was a job to be done, and done quickly. In the end it took just two hours, and come the day, Mike and John were over the moon with it.It was a beautiful day, crisp and sunny, the food, all done by Mike and John was superb, and we were all waited on by their two exceptional helpxers. Well done to every one who made this day so special for two very special people.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


This year seems to have gone with the blink of an eye, it's hard to realise that it's only a month until the Winter Solstice and the nights will start drawing out again, however living this far west we don't get the very long winter nights and it is still not quite dark at six thirty.
We are still picking strawberries but not too many, they are back to being a luxury, still we will probably get yet another picking before they take a well earned rest.
The weather so far is being kind,although we have had rain the last couple of days, it is still very mild and we have even seen a viburnum bursting into bloom.
With the days fast heading towards the end of the year reminds us that we have still done nothing about making a cake or pudding for Xmas, maybe we really can skip it this year, what a lovely thought.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Winter is on it's way

We had avoided all the bad storms that we had been hearing about however it has sort of caught up with us now. We had visited friends on the coast yesterday and by the evening it started raining and the wind started blowing, the drive home was a little hair raising over the mountains, as by then the rain was very heavy with a gale force wind blowing, but when we got to Lugo there was no sign of the rain. Today things changed a little with some heavy showers and hail stones and it is now feeling quite chilly, time to start lighting the fires I think.
On our trip yesterday we did get some nice photos of the wild horses, although we have seen them in the distance before we had never managed to get good photos.
We now have our Organic hen feed from an Organic coop about 60k from us, they have to import the maize from Italy, as they explained to us that all the Spanish maize is now GM contaminated. The hens love it and cost wise it is only 50cents a 40kg bag more expensive than the conventional feed.This coop also do Organic feed for cattle, pigs and rabbits, make Organic cheese and we think are probably the main producers of Organic eggs with some 30.000 organic hens between several farms, it made us quite nostalgic and brought back happy memories.It was nice to talk to Organic people again, although our Spanish is still bad.
We have collected quite a lot of wild mushrooms and have dried them, we hope that they will retain their flavour so we can use them for soup.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Organic hen food

After months of trying to find Organic hen feed we have at last tracked it down,I had some months ago contacted an Organic farm who kept hens but heard nothing from them. Friday we found organic eggs on sale in Lugo so bought half a doz so we could contact them to locate the feed, when we got home there was a email from the farm that we had contacted months ago, they had replied but realised from talking to a helper that we had never received their reply. The Company that they told us about was the same company that we had just bought the eggs from, so I guess fate has had a hand in all this. We have now made the important phone call and will picking up the feed tomorrow, it is only a little bit higher in price than the conventional GM feed. The the hunt is now over. We will continue to use the sprouted grain as well,the hens like it, and of course we have the worm banks all active for them so they should be the best feed hens in Galicia.
The weather is now wet, but although the forecast said it would be cold it is still mild, we are still picking strawberries from the tunnel but we have now picked the last of the tomatoes. There are still potatoes waiting to be lifted, but they will have to wait for a dryer day, I hope it's not too far away as we want to plant winter barley to keep the ground covered throughout the winter.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A new kid is born

We were trying to reduce our stock, well goats really, however one of our elderly nannies presented us with a beautiful male kid on Sunday, she doesn't have that much milk so once again we are bottle feeding.
Our green manure is now well germinated and growing well, this month[where did it go?] has been very mild and we have had very little rain, the last time we had an October like this we paid for it come the following April when we got snow just as all the fruit trees were coming into bloom, still there seems to be no set weather pattern nowadays so maybe it wont be a repeat performance.
I have had to plant yet more carrots, this time in the tunnel as the mice or voles had devastated our crop, also helping themselves to parsnips.These little pests were something we didn't have to contend with in Ireland which is just as well as part of our income was from veg and herbs, still we have had a few good pickings of wild mushrooms so that's some compensation.
Our friends that came for lunch a couple of weeks ago are now realising that you should never take the word of an estate agent, S is studying for his PHD and one requirement when they were house hunting was internet connection, of course the agent reassured them, pointing out houses that he said had connection, although how he would have know this is somewhat of a mystery, and of course was not true. S and M are now faced with having to pay the best part of 1000 euros to get a satalite connection,added to that they also have to have a new roof although again the agent had reassured them that the roof was sound, in most countries you would employ a surveyor before buying a house, and maybe the Spanish do, but most of the expats don't,and end up with very costly bills, of course, if you are buying a house that seems to be cheap it would follow that you have a lot of work to do, and compared to UK prices houses are still cheap in Spain, but renovating a house, even doing it yourself is a costly past time as we have found out. Although we have built two houses in the past we had not realised just how expensive restoring an old house can be, agents will reassure you that you can do it for X number of euros, but if you double their figure and add another 10% that will bring you somewhere nearer the investment required.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Wedding cakes and tomato puree

Our beef goulash with lyonnaise potatoes went down very well and our guests were full of praise, we followed it with crepes filled with fresh raspberries and topped with our home made yoghurt, this is delicious and makes a nice change from the normal lemon topping.
Sunday was spent catching up in the garden, the weather still being warm, we have pruned most of the blackcurrant bushes and taken cuttings for anyone of our friends who want them, we have also made a start expanding the fruit cage and have transplanted thirty raspberry canes, they had done a take over bid of the fruit cage and were smothering our rhubarb, this has now been transplanted into the veg garden, after all it is a veg and not a fruit, we then took stock of what the mice- voles etc have left us with root veg wise, not a lot, once again we are feeding the wild life of Galicia. I have planted more carrots in the tunnel other wise we will be having no carrot cake at all, they have left us a few parsnips, some carrots and we have a few small swede, the leeks bolted this year, it was just too dry, but we have plenty of cabbage and kale plus cauliflower and broccoli.
A friend very kindly has lent us some small jars so I have been able to make nine jars of tomato puree.
Today has been spent making a wedding cake for friends of ours, normally we don't ice our rich fruit cakes as neither of us like icing,but we both have a passion for marzipan, however these are special people so the cake will be iced for them. I did have to get eggs from a friend for the cake as it takes a lot of eggs, it was interesting to compare the difference between her eggs and ours, although her hens are free range they are fed on GM feed, ours are just getting wheat and barley, the yokes are however much brighter colour with the non GM fed hens.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Food for free

We have now been able to pick some mushrooms, last week we found a few chanterelle mushrooms but it might be a bit early for them, last year it was November but we have gathered some field and parasols today to go into the goulash that we will be cooking tomorrow for some friends.We have to hope that it works out well as one of the people coming is a trained chef, so it has to be good! However, I hate recipes books, this probably goes back many years when I was doing my hotel and catering course, I was taught by a great cook who never used a book, she just remembered it all, the good thing about learning this way is that you can ask questions, with a recipe book you cant, I also have an aversion to all these cookery programs, once again you cant ask questions and the chefs never explain the why and wherefore.There is one program that we both enjoy however, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall of River Cottage fame makes cooking fun, he is not a chef by trade but he is passionate about Organic and Local food and has done a tremendous amount for the green movement plus his campaigns over poultry, he is very much a finger dipper, if it tastes right leave it alone, if it doesn't, work out what's missing.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The last month has been very busy, we have had friends from France who we hadn't seen since we left Catalonia staying for a few days so there was a lot of catching up to do, we also had helpers here at the same time, most of my time was spent cooking and exchanging recipes.
We have had a bumper crop of peaches this year but I only had nineteen jars left for bottling so gave friends the rest. We have also had a mass of butternut squashes, so far we have harvested twenty from just two plants and there are at least another six to come providing we don't get any early frosts.
We also have a load of tomatoes, I had hope to be making tomato puree again this year, but have run out of jars, now that we are making our own yoghurt we don't get any jars.
Our maize was disappointing, a number of factors contributed to this, firstly geese attack, then the goats thought they would help themselves and the drought didn't help matters, still they are harvested now and stored away from mice, we hope! The ground has been cleared from weeds and rotorvated and now has been seeded with green manure, a combination of red clover alfalfa and phacelia, we are hoping that the weather is kind to us and we get decent germination, then next spring both the goats and geese can help themselves before we rotorvate it all in.
We will be growing more herbs next year, adding Arnica and Echinacea to our collection, this is thanks to a virtual WORLD BAN on herbal remedies, it is fortunate that I had done a herbal course years ago so will be able to make most of what we would normally use, there are some exceptions, so I guess we will just have to wait and see just how Draconian these bans are going to be.
We have had some rain in the last week, so now is the time for us to go forraging for mushrooms, we are hoping to find more Chanterelles than we did last year, once tasted, never forgotten, just lightly fried in a little butter and black pepper and served with home made bread, wonderful. Of course there other mushroom worth collecting,field mushrooms are good, as are the parasols and the inkcaps, many people use wild mushrooms in various recipes, but to us it seems a shame to loose all that subtle flavour by adding other things to them, unless of course you have a glut of them.
We also have had our first real harvest of walnuts, despite pruning the trees in Feb, which is not the right time,and they bled profusely, they had a second pruning from the council in Aug, which is the correct time, although we lost quite a few of them at this time we still have around seven kgs , enough to last us even though they are one of our favourites, we will be trying the rabbits on the chestnuts, I have couple of recipes to try out, but they are not one of my favourite things, still, we hate waste so will give them a go.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Big Secret

Our next helper is not due for a few weeks, it would appear from her emails that she is well travelled and likes to use public transport, before she comes to us she will be staying in another part of Galicia and had wished to travel to us by bus. We have tried to get the necessary information for her via the internet.
Although the bus companies have web sites, none appear to publish time tables. This appears to be a great 'State Secret', they give information as to the fleet of buses and the fact that you can get discounts, even pictures of their offices, nice to see that they have desks and chairs,one has a picture of a road with their bus on it,maybe to reassure you that they do have a bus, but no time tables!
We have come across this problem before when wanting to travel from our village to Lugo, it appears that to find out the times we have to go to the bus station in Lugo and ask there, there are several companies that operate within Galicia, but the information is only obtainable from the different kiosks at the bus station, often these are only manned for twenty minutes before a bus is due to leave.
Last year we also had a problem in trying to get the train time table, the only way to get this was to have a password to enter the website, this has now been changed, but it did result in us taking a plane for an internal journey, not very eco friendly.
Tourism has always been a big part of Spain's economy and it does have quite a good public transport system. So come on Galicia, get your act together and publish the times of transport, don't be so shy, people do want to use it.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Future of Food - Introduction

Friday, 17 September 2010

The forecasters had promised us some rain this week and then changed their minds so we are still having to keep the garden watered in the hope that we will get a spurt of growth, I have had to plant more chard and leeks also swede, I will not be defeated, I have also made further sowings of carrots to compensate for the feasting of the mice.
Our young birds are still doing well and we think, well we hope, that we have defeated the pine martin, the chicks are now being fed on straight grains, wheat and barley which we are sprouting for them, they seem happy enough with the new feed.
We have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to continue with rearing quail for the table, these little birds are something that we farmed years ago with no problems and they were ready to eat at six to seven weeks weighing around 200 grams at this age,the birds we are rearing now are just not putting on the weight and at five weeks are just 2 ozs whatever that is in grams, this is consistent with all the reports that we have read regarding animals feed on GM's, we don't think it is possible to grind grain small enough to feed to them when they are first hatched.
I have just started reading a book 'Genetic Roulette' written by Jeffrey Smith, Jeffrey is considered to be the worlds leading expert in understanding the health issues surrounding GM's, his previous book 'Seeds of Deceit' exposes the corrupt dealings of the Bio-tec companies with government bodies. For anyone interested in in their health and the environment these books are must reads.Easy to read and understand, maybe these ministers who make the laws should be locked into a room and made to read these books.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

We have now given up trying to obtain GM free feed for the hens and will have to be feed straight grain, in a last ditch attempt to find feed we bought some eggs from an Organic Co-Op here in Galicia, this producer used to produce Organic eggs, now they only produce 'Free Range'due to GMO contamination.
We find certain world leaders have a double standard, the two in question have been the leaders in trying to convince the consumer that GMO's are fine, and in allowing the planting of the crops. both these leaders claim to be Christians, and in fact one, not so long ago converted to Catholicism, we were under the impression that the Christian hand book was the bible, well either these leaders are not familiar with it, or are selective in which parts they wish to abide by.

Jeremiah 2:7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.

"Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth" Gen 1:11.

To us, both these verses are clear,so what part of them do these Christians not understand?

Monday, 6 September 2010

This time of year I always feel as though I have a lot in common with squirrels, I cant stand waste, and was brought up in the post war era when nothing was wasted. String and paper from parcels was always saved for re-use, buttons were always cut off from garments that had reached the end of their days and put in the button box, always a source of delight for kids to play with, the garments themselves became dusters or went to the rag and bone man. This year we have had a bumper crop of pears but not so many plums, I would normally use extra plums for the chutney, but this year it's the pears, which with the figs have been turned into chutney, and it's delicious. Of course I have also bottled pears and we have the peaches to come yet,the pantry is already nearly full.
We have grown two butternut squashes plants this year for the first time, no one warned me that they would take over the garden and that they produce so many squashes, they keep very well, and we should have squashes for the entire winter.
We have drawn a blank in our quest to find Organic feed for our hens or at least GM free feed, we contacted a company advertising Organic feed by email, after a week when they failed to respond we phoned them, they only supply in Cantabria which for us is a ten hour round trip. We then tried contacting the Galician organic certifying body, their email address does not work, neither does their website and when you try to phone it just goes to fax. so, back to plan one, feed the birds with straight grain and make worm banks for the winter protein.In trying to track down non contaminated feed has been interesting, and raises many issues, as Spain grows the most GM crops in the EU, why is animal feed the dearest in Europe? Maybe the answer is simple, according to the US government it is now accepted that GM crops do not produce higher yields, funny, I remember that this was one of the boasts of the GM companies way back in the 90's! Also, according to scientific evidence, GM crops have lower nutritional value resulting in lower weight gains for the animals that are feed with it, and although there has been no control group study carried out, there has been an increase in allergies in humans since the introduction of GM's into the animal feed. Independent research also has found it causes infertility and liver damage in animals.Note the wording, INDEPENDENT! not research carried out by GM companies, who do not make their findings public. There seems to be something very wrong somewhere.
It is also interesting to note that 93% of all patented seeds are owned by one company, I'm not giving any prizes for guessing who that company might be, but a clue,it is one of the companies responsible for the manufacturing of Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam war.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Today was a day off, we went with friends to visit the Roman Gold Mines at Las Medulas, in Leon. The site is Fantastic, covering some 2000ha, with no less than 50 archaeological sites it is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The gold had first been discovered by the Asturs, people indigenous to the area, but then the Romans came. The only problem was how to extract the gold that lay within the mountain rocks. The Romans were incredible engineers and figured the best way to deal with the problem of a few mountains was to wash them away! This was done by means of building aqueducts, or rather enslaving the Asturs to build them, take water from the Sil river and several others, and just wash the problem away. They left the mines in the 3rd century, even though they were still working mines containing gold, the reason is not clear.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

At last we have had a nice drop of rain, it lasted for a couple of hours and has at least cooled things down a bit.
The Autumn raspberries are now starting, and hopefully, will continue to the first frosts.
We have hatched a few quail for the table but it was not a good hatch, the incubator is erratic. We have however found another use for it, Yoghurt. For one reason or another, in Spain, we have not made our own yoghurt, in Ireland we always did, maybe because we always had milking animals, sometime cattle and sometimes goats,and we had a range which was on all the time. Although we still have goats, somehow we have neglected to milk them, too much work on the house. Anyway, inspired by another blog I decided that I would go back to making our own, we have been buying a locally produced organic yoghurt until now, but it is expensive,at 3 euro for 700grams, and I'm sure that the supermarket is making a very good profit from it, more than the producer. Fresh milk is available but no organic fresh, so I thought I would have a go with the Organic UHT that we always buy, one litre for 1.27 plus three desert spoons of the organic yoghurt and four hours in the incubator at 40c and we have just over 1 lt. of organic yoghurt for half the price of 700grams. It turned out lovely and thick, so it's back to making our own.
We spotted a chicken in the woods fungi earlier this week and should have harvested it, but it has reminded us that the mushroom season is nearly here, we now know where to find the Chanterelle mushroom, in our opinion the best of all the fungi, so next week we will start making regular hunts for it. especially if we get a little more rain.

Monday, 23 August 2010

I guess if we still lived in Ireland we wouldn't be welcoming the rain, according to a friend there it hasn't stopped all summer, but here in Galicia it is a novelty this summer, the last real rain was nearly three months ago, but this afternoon the promised rain arrived, too late for some of our plants,mainly flowers which we didn't find time to keep watered, it has however arrived just in time for my third planting of swede, which planted last Tues have now germinated, also another planting of carrots, we seem to use a lot of carrots, not just as a veg, we both love carrot cake and have a great recipe from "Cranks" recipe book.
Yesterday we found time to make our first batch of soap, I had halved the quantities given in the recipe as this was something I had never done before and I wanted to make sure it would work, it does, although it took a long time to reach the trace, we think this was due either to reducing the amounts, or not working fast enough and allowing it to cool to quickly.For colouring I used saffron which has given a delicate apple green colour. Tomorrow I will have another go using the full amounts as in the recipe.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

This week has flown by, I have been very busy bottling fruit, we have had a bumper harvest of pears and have bottled 15 jars, plus the figs and plums, we still have a lot of figs and pears on the trees but we can only eat so much in a year, I will try using the pears with the figs for chutney, last year we made plum and fig and it was great, but this is the bumper harvest year for the pears.We do not bother preserving any veg, the first year we were here we rushed out and bought a freezer, we filled it with beans and peas and cauliflower, yesterday we cleaned out the freezer to make room for suckling pig that friends of ours produce,the veg from three years ago was still there and is now on the compost. What we had not realised three years ago was the fact that we produce veg all the year round, despite the best efforts of the mice and moles to destroy our crops.The hens are a little doubtful about their new diet, plus I have to remember to soak the lentils and then cook them, but someone has now provided us with a possible source of Organic feed, it remains to be seen if we can arrange transport.
All the old breed chicks that we incubated are doing well, giving us a total of twenty breeding stock for our meat production, however this will not happen until the new year, so we have bought four brown broilers which should be ready the middle of Oct, so we will have chicken dinners once a month for four months by which time we should be incubating eggs from our own stock. Anyone who has eaten real chicken will understand why we are going to so much bother. We enjoy our food, but it does have to be real food and good.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

We have now come to the conclusion that we are no longer going to be able to get GM free feed for our hens, unless we can find an importer from France, which for about thirty hens is not really practical we have decided that we must turn the clock back some sixty years when there was little commercial poultry feed, and feed our hens on grains. Having been involved with poultry for a good number of years now one of the greatest problems is maintaining a diet with sufficient protein and amino acids,the amino acids, we hope, will be provided by numerous invertebrates, during the winter months we will have to provide worm banks, the protein will come from lentils which are 24% protein. We refuse to allow the international feed companies to dictate our choices, and in fact they have removed our right to make choices, which are informed choices.
Spain since 2001 has shown a 2.5 fold increase in Organic production, 60% of this is in Andalucia nearly 26% of this is arable, with some 121.000ha, the third highest in the EU, so WHY cant we buy Organic feed, the answer is quite simple, GMO contamination. 50% of Spain's organic sales are imported, this makes no sense whatsoever,it is also interesting to note that conventional feed costs in Spain are one of the highest in the EU, given the fact that they have embraced GM Maize so whole heartedly surly feed costs should be lower if we are to believe the sales pitch given by the GM companies. Spain can grow just about everything, here in the province of Lugo it is hard to find anything Organic,honey, mainly imported, milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese if you know where to look and if you are lucky, eggs . Organic meat is non existent,it is possible to buy free range chicken but at the same cost as you would pay for an organic chicken in the UK or Ireland, these free range chickens are almost certainly being feed on feed containing GMO's, which is why we wish to produce our own. Why the beef herds are not organic also makes little sense, all the cattle in our area are grass feed, and during the winter, if they cant go out are feed on hay or silage.The land is managed well, so why are they not part of the Organic production, there must surely be a market for it, and in fact we know that Irish Organic beef is imported into Spain.
Galicia as a whole would have been the ideal place to have been GM free region, and an Organic Flag Ship for the rest of Spain, in fact it has one of the lowest amount of Organic farms in all of Spain, could this be possible due to the fact that the province as a whole, with the exception of it's excellent fish does not have a food culture? Although all the ingredients are here, the knowledge of use of what they have is limited, presentation is non existent in the average restaurant, it is substantial, but food for the body and not for the soul. Maybe we were spoiled having lived in Catalonia which has a superb food culture.

Monday, 16 August 2010

GMO contamination.
For some time we have been trying to find hen food free from genetically modified maize. Up until a year ago this was quite possible, we do grow a small amount of non-GMO maize but insufficient for our needs. In desperation we have contacted the Junta in Santiago de Compostela but received no reply, we then contacted Greenpeace who were helpful but confirmed our worst fears. It appears that the consumer has no say in these matters and the corporations have won. Below is the reply from Greenpeace.


Spain is the biggest grower of MON810 - GE maize - in the EU, and subsequently it is very hard to find uncontaminated maize. We have spoken to various large scale organic farmers and producers and many are resigned to importing GE free maize from France. I think your best bet would be to feed the chickens something other than maize that is still grown in Spain.

I will forward your message to our Spanish office as well, and ask them to contact you if they have more information, although Greenpeace does not endorse specific products/brands, they may be able to help you.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Once again it feels as though we are feeding all the wild life in Galicia, the mice or voles are having a garden party at the expense of our potatoes, we combated the Colorado beetle, we suffered blight and now the vermin are eating our spuds, well not just them, they are also helping themselves to our carrots and Jerusalem Artichokes, the flea beetles are trying to destroy our precious swede, helped by slugs, and the slugs are feasting on the lettuce, apart from that the brassicas are suffering from sun burn. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse, we could have a plague of locusts. I will not be defeated however, I shall plant yet more swede, more carrots and we have already put potatoes in one of the tunnels.
At last we have found a use for green figs, a friend gave us a recipe for Fig Konfyt, it's a long preparation , however, if the figs taste as good as the heavy syrup they end up in they should be good, we have adapted the recipe slightly by adding ginger which we both have a passion for.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

When it comes to the latest technology we are both Luddites, and quite proud of it as well, however, we are always open to having things demonstrated to us, who knows, we might be missing out on something.Our last helper, had a Satnav and demonstrated it to us several times, we were impressed, especially when with it's aid, we cut nearly a quarter of an hour off our normal time to a friends house.
We have just had a charming couple camping with us for three day's, they are house hunting. We had been told of a property close to where our friends live, and we also wanted to show our visitors our friends house,a very old Galician place that needed total renovation, including the roof, which our friends have restored on their own. As we were unsure of the new route as demonstrated by our helpers Satnav we thought it would be a good idea to make use of our visitors equipment. Well this one let technology down very badly, it took us up hill and down dale, up mountains and down again, ending up where we had started, some two and a half hours later it proudly announced that we had reached our destination, No! we were nearly at the top of yet another mountain with just a rubbish bin for company, so yes, OK, the rubbish bin did state that we were in the Consello of our destination, but that was about it. Had the equipment belonged to us at this stage we would have strangled the voice, and binned it in the basura! The journey ended up taking us two and three quarter hours instead of fifty minutes. The upside to the journey was the sight of fields of sunflowers, such a cheerful plant, and not GMO'd ...YET.

There is one thing that we seldom see in Galicia, road kill, a sight which was common both in Ireland and the UK. Since we have been here we have seen a few poor hedgehogs, normally young ones which did not make the road crossing, a couple of rabbits but not much else, probably due to the many forests the wild life has no need to leave the safety of the woodlands, this week we saw a young deer lying at the side of the road, obviously having been killed by a car. We were on our way to Lugo so it was not practical to stop and put it in the boot. Imagine our surprise when on our return trip, some three hours later, the deer was still laying there, unheard of in the UK or Ireland, never ones for refusing a free meal we put it in the boot, half an hour later it was skinned, jointed and in the freezer, it yielded twelve pounds of meat, we hope to enjoy part of our bounty tomorrow for Sunday dinner.We are unsure as to the legal position in Spain regarding road kill, but it is an unusual sight.

Monday, 9 August 2010

I had planed to be making our own soap this week as I'm still supposed to be resting my foot, however this has turned out to be a non starter as it seems impossible to get all the necessary ingredients locally, essential oils are quite limited and as I have found in the past not that good a quality, also expensive. Caustic soda was easy to find but coconut oil was in a small bottle and again expensive, so good old Google was called for. I found a great site, with everything that I need including recipes, oils and natural colourants at reasonable prices,
supplies everything that is needed for soap making , natural cleaning products and even candle making equipment. I would have preferred to have bought locally, or at least Spanish, but it was not to be. Gone are the days when I could just go to one of Ireland's many health shops and get everything I needed.
Not to be thwarted by lack of products I have gone back to making my all purpose burn and cut ointment, I would normally have just used Calendula but we have so many lavender flowers I thought I would add some to the potion, this seems to have worked very well and has maintained the perfume. I was unable to find white fat so have used pork fat, again this is know for it's healing properties, some olive oil in which I infused the herbs in a bain-marie , rendered the pigs fat, cooled and then added some of the coconut oil, this should cover most household injuries.
Hopefully I will soon receive my soap making order and do what I have wanted to try for so long.

We always try to make time to relax with our helpers, we enjoy taking them out for the day and either having a picnic or a menu de dia, after all Helpx is about exchange, and not just work, we often meet up with other hosts and exchange stories and it's nice for the helpers to meet other helpers in the area, it's also nice to relax at home with a nice glass of wine and just chat. The house seems strangely quiet now with no helper due until Sept.