Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Elderflowers, Lambs, and a Wet June

I think it's rained for most of June so far. It's cold enough today that I'm wearing a scarf indoors. If I had any wood left I would light the wood stove. Instead I'm making do with a sweater and a hot water bottle.

Until this rain came in. I was getting stuck into my tractor mowing. I still have a few fields to cut and the grass is getting too long to be of good feed value. The weather stopped my work, as did my run-in with a tree branch -

I was watching the mower out of the other window and didn't see the cut branch sticking out. I've ordered another window and will pick up the mowing again when the new window and dry weather arrive.

Just before the rain came, I managed to pick some elderflower heads to make elderflower cordial, a sweet floral drink that is great as a soft drink in sparkling water, or as an addition to gin or prosecco. 

Common elderflower (Sambucus nigra) grows worldwide and is easy to identify. You want to pick the flowering heads when they're creamy white. The photo below shows flower heads not yet open (green), at their peak (behind), and gone over (right). If you use the overripe flowers, your cordial will have a musty, compost-like taste.

I use the River Cottage recipe as a guideline. I do pick them early and on a warm day. I drop all the heads in a bag and give it a half hour for the bugs to leave the flower heads. 

When the cordial is made, I freeze it in batches in plastic leftover containers.

It's not glamorous or Instagram worthy to look at, but it's simple and effective.

When they're frozen, I slide all the batches between wax paper and into a plastic ziplock bag to save freezer space. I can just pull out a few servings at a time through the year.

I also sent my first Dorset x Friesian lamb to Ice Camp -

The carcase looks pretty good. Leaner than a pedigree Dorset.

When I ringed this lamb's testicles I missed one, so he grew a lot quicker than the others. I wanted to put him in the freezer before any hormones made him taste gamey. I butchered him myself so I could have the bones and scraps for the dogs.

I can't tell you yet how he tastes. The same afternoon that I set about breaking down the carcase, Mike was given a whole sea bass from our friend Scotty, and a selection of game meats to try from a new butcher. We've been spoiled for choice!

I had another lamb born last week - a big ram lamb. 

Friendly ewe will lamb next, by the weekend I expect. And I still bottle feed lamb number 7 in the field once a day to keep her topped up as mother hasn't got much milk.

As I'm rained out of the garden and fields, I got on and delivered my fleeces to the Irish wool buyers early this morning.

I still had the big delivery van from delivering pheasant chicks yesterday so I made good use of it. Each of those bags is called a "sheet" so I have two wool sheets to sell. The buyers will grade the fleece then send payment, so I have to wait and see how we did this year.

On a positive note, I've just finished last year's tax return and for the first time I have a tax bill to pay! Normally I make so little on the farm after deductions and capital investments that the government pays me a small refund. This year I owe them - only £28 but still a small milestone for the farm business.


Anonymous said...

It's kind of weird to congratulation someone for making enough to pay taxes? But I'll do it anyway 'cause it is a milestone as you said :-D

Brennie Lee said...

I think your sense of gratitude towards paying tax is inspiring. Go you! Hope your summer is marvellous and the lambing is easy. Cheers,Brennie

Jennifer Montero said...

Brennie - As I live in a country with socialised healthcare and can visit a doctor for free any time and prescriptions are £9 no matter what the medication, paying taxes is really not a hardship at all :)

Janice Bendixen said...

Thank you for the darling lamb photos Jenn! They are adorable. I would gladly help with that chore any day :) and congratulations on achieving that tax milestone. Since we Alaska Natives/Native Americans are blessed with prepaid “free” health care + meds, I share your appreciation of a system that works well.

Kristin W. said...

Oh! You've been busy! I like the elderflower tutorial. I made elderberry vodka last year (have yet to taste it for some reason). I know of at least one elderberry bush/tree here on the property. I need to get in gear and see if I am not too late for the flowers. I did make lilac syrup this year (that has been on my list for a while). Next year I'll be sure and make more.

Bummer about the tractor! I'm still learning all about tractoring. I tipped the tractor twice yesterday while moving dirt in the bucket. Scared me but I kept at it. Thankfully it wasn't a bad tipping. Just enough to come off the ground a bit while going downhill. Yikes!

Jennifer Montero said...

Kristin - It's a scary feeling when the tractor tips. I'm glad you're ok and bravo for persisting!

Christine said...

I'm so glad you're back. I just stopped in today on the off chance that you blogged after last year's long hiatus, and it turns out you've been writing for more than half a year! And the posts are all lovely. This one is an awesome one because you turned a profit, and hot damn that's hard while farming. Sounds like you've been busting your butt.

Never made elderflower cordial before, but I harvested a basket of elderflowers last week to go into some fever tea for the baby over the winter. It's been a rainy spring here too in Massachusetts so it's a bit late in flowering. Still good. Lots of good things going on.