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Herald Delivered – A Bull Story in a Storm

An exciting moment has arrived for us and our fellow herd investors. Herald, our new bull, is finally delivered to T & N’s place. If you’d like to find out about the beginning of this story you can do so here and here.

It’s Thursday and there is a gale blowing, the first of many storms to come. The wind is roaring, making a constant deep rushing and rumble as it whips through the trees and around structures. By the sound, I know that a whole assortment of things will make be making a bid for freedom and I fret about slates and sheets of corrugated iron flying through the air, just waiting to decapitate the unwary. I have an unsuccessful wrestle with a tarp which has come loose, it slaps me in the face with a sharp wet sting. The deluged land is saturated and more heavy rain is predicted.

Soggy Ground

A cunning use of an old carpet

So why this day?

Because it is 60 days since Herald had his TB test and this is the last day that he can be moved, otherwise the process needs to be repeated again. We’re not sure how this time went by, but go by it did. There was a little hiccup with a payment going astray to a random bank account but still, where did that time go?

We climb into the landrover and make our way over to the farm where Herald is staying. The roads are littered with branches and wet leaves. In the farmhouse the farmer finishes his tea and we chat about dogs, farming and his health problems. He apologises for Herald being so mucky as all his stock is now indoors.

First T hitches the trailer on. Then we go to the big barn and the farmer finds Herald and ushers him out. He is very obedient and his expression seems to say Am I bothered?

Hereford Bull Passport

Heralds Passport

Hitching a trailer

Herding Cattle

Hereford Bull

He’s a bit mucky…

Hereford Bull

Hereford Bull in Race

In the race

He had a bit of a moment in the race when he realised that something unusual was happening but settled down quickly. I missed the bit when he was being loaded as I was holding a gate to prevent him from taking a wrong turn.

Hereford Bull

Hereford Bull

Apologies for out of focus I was trying to keep up!

Hereford Bull

Herald and some of the new owners

He went straight into the barn and started munching some hay…until…exciting moment!

Hereford Bull

Heralds first whiff of his new cows

Hereford Bull

Let’s do that again

Traditional Hereford Cattle

Hereford Bull

Is it love?

It all went off without a hitch, much to our collective relief, and Herald seems really quiet. T has reported that he has been stroking him while eating hay so it all bodes well. His early life was amongst a small herd and the children of the family were quite used to handling him. Infact he appears to be more domesticated than Lucy, Belita or Mary-Rose…but maybe that’s becuse they are teenagers! It is said you must never trust a bull entirely so I will bear this in mind.


Outside, Everywhere – In Which I Pay Homage to Green

Green got into my soul on Wednesday

Magical Spring


Flaking Green Paint

Blades of Grass, Tree Trunk

Flaking Khaki Paint on Cattle Crush

Blades of Grass, Flaking Paint

Flaking Green Paint, Old Machinery



Old Canoe
Going Nowhere

Mossand Shadows

Duck Weed on Water Trough

Green Plastic Tarp and Ladder


Pegs on Line

Making Mincemeat for a Pie Fest

No, I did not make these pies…
nor did I photograph them! (thanks Channel 4)

Is anyone else intrigued by the idea of making mince pies with real meat, the way it used to be back in the 17th century?

The filling contained real meat – quite a lot of it. Sadly, Pepys did not leave us a recipe though we can get a good idea from the Receipt Book written by an Oxfordshire aristocrat in 1609. Elinor Fettiplace’s filling was made of equal parts of minced cooked mutton, beef suet, currants and raisins with ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, salt and a tiny quantity of sugar.

This is from an Independent article written by Christopher Hirst about the history of the mince pie which you can read here if you’re so inclined, it’s a must for any mince pie lover/obsessive/the curious. I’d just like to be called Elinor Fettiplace. It’s interesting that it says a tiny quantity of sugar – most modern recipes call for lots of dark brown muscavado but I think the fruit is so sweet anyway that you don’t need as much.

Anyway, this year I’m going to attempt a few meat and mincemeat pies and see how they go down. I can see why mutton might be the meat of choice – it’s strong flavour would work well with the spices and the rich fruit. Not sure I can get mutton, I asked at the butcher once and they said I could have a whole carcass as there wasn’t much demand for it these days. Hmm, that’s a lot of meat. Probably better to stick to lamb, the Moroccans eat it spiced with apricots and prunes, so it’s on the same kind of flavour spectrum.

But first for the fruity bit…which I did last week.

Mincemeat making

A load of vine fruits, bramley apples, lemon and orange rind and juice – I doctored a Delia recipe – adding sour cherries and more almonds cos I like it nutty, I also used more lemon rind than it said.

Chopped Almonds on Chopping Board
Chopping the almonds, supposed to be slivers but that’s a bit challenging, actually I gave up and did them in the grinder for a few pulses. Nutmeg also. I discovered the Microplane a few years ago, it has improved life no end. And the wooden squeezer, what a joy!

Mincemeat making
Adding the mixed peel, nuts, sugar, spices and suet – I don’t think those Atora boxes have changed for decades. Stir it all around.

This is what it looks like after mixing

Mincemeat resting
Cover with a cloth, leave overnight to infuse

Mincemeat and Brandy Bottle
After it’s resting period you put in a very slow oven for 3 hours, this melts the fat and cooks the apples and coats all the ingredients so it’s well preserved. It goes its typical dark browny colour. Leave it to cool and when it’s cold stir in the brandy

Esse Stove
I sterilised the jar in the oven

Mincemeat Storage
Et voila! Put the mincemeat in a cool place. It will last for about a year but usually it’s gone before that

Slipping into Winter – the Breath of Beating Wings

Today it feels like we’ve slipped into winter – how did that happen?

Winter Sky

Today the trees look stark against the beautiful sky, it is damp and cold, and there is an earthy smell of decay. But strange discrepancies abound too. A Foxglove is in flower still, it’s delicately freckled throat facing the sun.

November Foxglove

Today the sky was dramatic, pristine. It has been clear blue, shot through with every conceivable shape and shuffle that a cloud can make, smoky puffs of dark grey, silvery sides of mackeral , a mountain range in the distance kissed by low sun and a wash of the softest brush.

Today I feel sad.

Today I wish that my father was still alive, and that B & G were not ill, and that I could capture what is not possible.

Winter Sky

Winter Sky www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comWinter Sky

Winter Sky with Starlings

I can hear the whirr of the starlings wings as they approach, flying along the valley edge, making their way to the roost on Bodmin Moor. And then they are gone, the breath of their beating wings landing on my shoulders.

Our Constant Companion – Reframing a View

Beings which are sociable, intelligent, adaptable, full of ingenuity and like nothing more than a good laugh. No, I’m not talking about human beings, I’m talking about rats.

Brown Rat Hole

It really tickled me to discover this week that rats emit short, high frequency, ultrasonic, socially induced vocalization – infact, a kind of chirping, expressed during rough and tumble play, and when tickled. They have certain areas of the body that generate more laughter response than other areas and the laughter is apparently associated with positive emotional feelings. During the course of this research it was also found that those that laughed the most also played the most, and those that laughed the most preferred to spend more time with other laughing rats. However, as the rats got older, there did appear to be a decline in the tendency to laugh and in the response to being tickled. Although this research was unable to prove that rats actually have a sense of humour, it did indicate that they laugh and express joy. (Panksepp & Burgdorf 2003)

Of course they are also known for their aggressiveness which is another characteristic they share with us, and they have also been found to possess metacognition, the ability to essentially think about thinking, a mental ability previously only found in humans and some primates.

We are so caught up in our negative feelings about Rattus norvegicus (our common brown rat) that it is easy forget that they have been a little bit unfairly demonised. Of course you don’t want to share your living space with them as they will eat your food, make a really horrible rodent smell and an even worse noise – one rat behind the wall can sound like a monster of gigantic proportions – so measures do need to be taken.

But their ultra bad press all started with the Black Death, the plague which killed so many people. It is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis which preyed on Rattus rattus (the black rat) living in European cities of the day. But these rats were victims of the plague themselves.

And while modern wild rats can carry Leptospirosis and some other zoonotic conditions (those which can be transferred across species, to humans, for example), these conditions are in fact rarely found in temperate places. Wild rats living in good environments are typically healthy and robust animals. Wild rats living in cities may suffer from poor diets and internal parasites and mites, but do not generally spread disease to humans.

When we lived in London we were happy for the rats to live at the bottom of the garden in the compost heap, they were just doing their thing, as long as they didn’t make incursion into the house. And now it makes me smile to think of the big city floating on top of a cushion of giggling.

When we were renovating our house down here we lived in a temporary straw bale structure attached to a caravan and I’m afraid we did have to commit murder, as the rats were very fond of the cosy warm straw to make a nest. And who can blame them? We all need a place to live.

It’s getting to that time of year when rats are looking to be in the warm so it’s essential to block up every single hole or crevice in the house. If there’s a way in, they’ll find it, as they are very ingenious creatures. Their psychology, in many ways, is similar to human beings.

Hopefully, we can make the house secure. The barns on the other hand are completely different. Any farmer will tell you that where there’s animal feed there’s a rat not far away and they are fond of an outbuilding, particularly if it’s got straw or hay in it. The local farm shop has a whole aisle dedicated to rat poison, and though my friend H the vet would categorically disagree, sometimes it’s the only way, though we will do our best to protect the cattle feed without resorting to it.

It’s hard to find anyone with anything positive to say about a rat but I did find this poem by Hayden Carruth, a North American poet whose work was informed by his political radicalism and sense of cultural responsibility. And learning a little more about them has certainly made me reframe how I think. I will dwell on their bright button eyes, inquisitive whiskers and their ability to have a good laugh.

Little Citizen, Little Survivor

A brown rat has taken up residence with me.
A little brown rat with pinkish ears and lovely
almond-shaped eyes. He and his wife live
in the woodpile by my back door, and they are
so equal I cannot tell which is which when they
poke their noses out of the crevices among
the sticks of firewood and then venture farther
in search of sunflower seeds spilled from the feeder.
I can’t tell you, my friend, how glad I am to see them.
I haven’t seen a fox for years, or a mink, or
a fisher cat, or an eagle, or a porcupine, I haven’t
seen any of my old company of the woods
and the fields, we who used to live in such
close affection and admiration. Well, I remember
when the coons would tap on my window, when
the ravens would speak to me from the edge of their
little precipice. Where are they now? Everyone knows.
Gone. Scattered in this terrible dispersal. But at least
the brown rat that most people so revile and fear
and castigate has brought his wife to live with me
again. Welcome, little citizen, little survivor.
Lend me your presence, and I will lend you mine.

Hayden Carruth 1921 – 2008

Drowned Brown Rat

Ah, poor rat.


What Have the Cows Been Doing This Week


Traditional Herefords Lying Down

Traditional Hereford Heifers Lying Down

Belita, Lucy, Mary-Rose


Traditional Hereford Heifers on Hedgebank


Traditional Hereford Heifers Eating Hay

It’s only fair they get some tea too

Traditional Hereford Heifers Eating Hay
We made our hay in August, this was very late but it was such a wet summer. You can find out about it here and here if you’re interested.

Moon in Autumn Sky

The moon was full



How to make a Cornish Cream Tea – Let’s Cowgirl Up to Baking Scones

Cowgirls www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comI’m pretty sure a real cowgirl wouldn’t be seen dead baking scones and you can read about some of them here, including a few feisty historical ones, in this wonderful piece by fellow blogger LL. Thanks to her illuminating article I can now make free with the verb ‘to cowgirl up’, doesn’t it just slip off the tongue? It basically means that you saddle up to any job with gusto and purpose. Which is how I intend to approach the baking of scones for a Cornish Cream Tea.

I have my mother to thank for any baking skills I’ve acquired, who passed on her extensive knowledge to me and my siblings from an early age, though I was probably thirty five before it dawned on me it wasn’t a matter of life and death that you got EVERY SINGLE BIT of cake mixture out of the bowl, a necessary frugality in time of war and rationing, likely passed by my grandmother to my mother who carried it on into the 1960’s and beyond.

A first attempt at Rock Cakes, I must have been four or five and my sister H seven, resulted in some foul tasting pale green lumps, a consequence of the blue shoe polish which we’d (or maybe it was me, can’t remember) been using only minutes before the mixing. Stirring the Christmas Pudding was always an important event, each ingredient, including a sixpence (I just about remember these) or a ten pence piece (ok money in those days!) adding to the unctuous whole. I never did actually like the pudding itself but I loved the ritual. Mincemeat on the other hand I still usually make (better get on with it…), you really can’t beat a homemade Mince Pie, can you?

Since then, bread has been added to the repertoire, but for some reason I haven’t baked many scones and when I have the results have been indifferent, let’s say flatter, than one would like. You can find a comprehensive overview on the baking of the perfect Scone here if you’re interested, a Guardian article by Felicity Cloake, it’s really good.

Anyway, my mum, stepfather and sister are coming for tea so I thought I’d give them a Cornish Cream Tea – scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Baking is part of our family story as it is with many families. Participatory and comforting, it draws people together, plus you get to eat really yummy things as well. Some of my best memories of being at home are when my mum used to bake a cake on a Sunday afternoon in wintertime and we’d all gather from our fairly disparate lives and have tea in front of the fire. Favourites included Hot Lemon Teacake which involved copious amounts of butter melted between the still warm cakes, a really good idea because you don’t even have to let the sponge cool down, how great is that. Then there was Mozart Cake, I’ve no idea why it was called that, which was made with ground hazelnuts and spices and had a slab of thick dark chocolate on the top, this was my choice for a birthday cake for years. Then there was the regular Victoria Sandwich, still my all time top favourite cake, and a basic Chocolate Sponge with Coffee Icing – this one went down a few rungs on the ladder after an episode of over-indulgence.

For this tea I fell for the marketing of Womens Institute jam which is the mass produced version of a tried and tested recipe, which thousands of people have been cooking up in their kitchens for decades. I was hoping to use my neighbours’ jam which she sells outside her house but she had no strawberry and any purist will tell you that this is the one it’s got to be for a cream tea.

But let the scone show begin!

Ingredients for Scones

Ingredients: Flour, Salt, Butter, Bicarbonate of Soda, Cream of Tartar, Milk

Whisk Dry Ingredients Together

Whisk dry ingredients together, then rub in the butter and add the milk.

Scone Dough and Cutter

Knead dough quickly, roll out to 1 inch and cut rounds, I think speed is the key

Messy Kitchen

Oh dear what would Mary and Paul from the Great British Bake Off say about the state of my workstation?

Scones on Baking Tray

Brush the scones with egg and bake in a hot oven for roughly 10 minutes. Can’t believe it, I’ve had rising! Must try this cowgirling thing again.

Scone on Cooling Tray

No, really, LOOK!

Clotted Cream

Get the clotted cream, I prefer it not straight from the fridge.

Womens Institute Jam Pot

And the jam…

Tea Time

Make the tea, and assemble the scones, jam and cream

Plate of Scones

Vintage china always helps

Cream Tea Assemblage

Get your guests to help themselves. There are differing opinions (the source of many a tea time squabble) about whether it’s jam or cream first, but as long as they’re both on there who cares

Cornish Cream Tea

Et Voila

Cornish Cream Tea


Go on, please tell us about your baking memories and favourite cakes!

PS. A tearoom related blog which I’m enjoying

PPS. Are you a Downton Abbey fan? Try this funny post from my friend T, plus there’s loads of nice pictures of old kitchens.

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