Friday, 23 March 2012

a thorny issue

In my efforts to assist Rick with the build I recently undertook a clearing job for a neighbour in our valley in exchange for some chestnut trees for the roof shingles. Most of it was straightforward, until the end when I had a huge bank and river bed of brambles to clear. I managed the bank, which was too steep for the brush cutter, so I did it by hand with my Felco secateurs, I gave up with the river bed and got Rick in with a big choppy/slicy thing as I'd injured myself.

I am forever on the hunt for the ultimate gardening glove. I don't generally use gloves for most gardening jobs, only mucky ones (wet manure) or brambles. I like to get my hands dirty and feel the soil etc. I am not a sadist, I'm generally not doing anything that will cause me physical pain (other than the usual back ache etc.). Every year I have a sort out of all the gloves I've gone through, and I mean quite literally gone through. To be honest all gardening gloves are crap, the more expensive they are the more crap they are in my opinion. Heres a selection of my gloves

Lets start with these big boys,

was so chuffed when I found them in my local chain saw fixing shop and reduced from €20 to €10. They are soft and padded, they fit, they are lined, they've even got a velcro fastening bit on the wrist. They lasted 5 minutes

Next up some English gauntlets, was a big fan of these (have had at least 5 pairs) but they always go in the same place, tips of my fingers (whats with that), useless and expensive

These are cheapish, English ones, good for mucky wet jobs but not a lot else

I'm not sure what I have been doing with these but they are not looking good

These ones I call my spiderman gloves, they are great for climbing the scaffolding on cold, frosty mornings

Next, a selection of Portuguese gloves, all useless and all worn out at the finger tip, now I don't consider myself to have particularly big hands for a woman, but all the decent gloves here are for men i.e. too big for me

Today I tried these, soldering gloves

Again, useless but nice and long which is a plus

Next up I'm trying the blacksmith gloves (from the forge in Mount Doom), which are enormous but super super padded with armour or something

You may wonder why I'm bleating on about this, but it's an important issue, can't someone make some proper gloves/gauntlets that actually are thorn proo, fit my hands and last for more than a day. Because of all the badly made gloves I have (other than the blacksmith ones, which I haven't tried) I now have several thorns embedded in my left thumb which has rendered me useless. I have been in almost constant pain, I hit a post with the truck and had to spend a morning with my mechanic getting the back light cage and light fixed cause I can't drive properly (well thats my excuse anyway), I have given myself open thumb surgery and now an infection. I've bought a magnifying glass.

I've tried savlon, a portuguese anti-biotic cream, I've tried wrapping my thumb in an onion, I've tried soaking my petit pouce in a phial of apple cider vinegar, i've done the homepathic thing (silica), i've done hot soapy water, hot salty water. There are 3 remedies left that I haven't tried, one is soaking a bit of bread in water or milk and making a poulitice, another is making a poultice with a piece of potato and the other is baking soda.

I am now leaving it alone and have gone back to a tried and tested remedy, pine resin. It's anti-biotic, anti-septic, very soothing if a little sticky, but it seems to be working. If there are any glove manufacturers out there reading this, please help me out and design a proper gardening glove

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

from pigs to peaches

Now that the pigs have finally gone, we've taken all the fencing down, re-instated the gate at the far end to keep the wild boar out and had the whole meadow rotavated. The plan is to plant soya at one end and milho (maize) at the other and sunflowers everywhere all this will go towards next years chicken feed supply.

This meadow one day will become the chicken field, for breeding chickens to eat with a proper secure house and a run, but that day is a long way off so I've planted about 15 peach tree runners to create some shade for the future.

We did jokingly think that the meadow would also make a great football pitch, tennis court, croquet lawn or even a skate board park, but joking aside it's a great space but needs some more work. The little stream that runs for some of the year needs some repair work to the edges, the pigs pulled all the rocks out, the grape vines are looking a bit worn from the pigs constantly rubbing up against them. But for now my work is done here, just waiting for some rain so I can scatter some seed around and plant some food.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

tray baked pork chops with parsnips and pears

Thanks to all the feedback I got from the previous entry I was able to eat our own pork. I've decided that it is ok to love your livestock, surely thats got to be better than abusing it or not caring at all, also that it is ok that I don't kill it, chickens and smaller things I can cope with, killing a pig is a big job and not always very pleasant, whatever your method. It's not completely necessary to do the whole thing, the rearing bit I can do, some of the butchering and then the eating. Thats fine with me

Friday, 9 March 2012

food for thought

When we moved to Portugal we came with a lot of ideas about how we wanted to live, most of them are quite do-able and with a little bit of patience (well quite a lot actually), alot of stamina and a huge amount of spirit, not to mention tools and skills we've pretty much put in to practice most of our original ideas. Some have been successful, some not. But we keep plugging away, old ideas get replaced by slightly more realistic ones but the main principal hasn't changed.

When we got our pigs the idea was to fatten them up on a large meadow which they would rotavate and fertilise and at the end of it we would also have meat. The reality of that wasn't quite as simple. First of all they never really rooted around just lay around, they did fertilise but only in one place, they procreated alot which left us with unwanted piglets and lots of dead ones too (see previous piggy posts). The male was despatched last year and went towards supplying us with meat. The two females were despatched this morning, a little late as they were past their best and it's already quite warm, but it was complicated.

I had been left in charge of the pigs whilst Rick got on with building the house, which is fair enough, but what I wasn't expecting was my total inability to deal with getting rid of them and then eating them. I never ate any of the male (I didn't like the taste) and I doubt very much I'll be able to eat the females. It's pathetic really, having always been a firm believer in "if you can't kill it, you shouldn't eat it" theory, well the truth is I got too attached. I've spoken to lots of people about this and am assured that it gets easier, but it still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak, should I really be eating meat if I can't kill? is it OK to be sentimental? is it OK to have got attached? will i ever get over it?