Tuesday 30 September 2014

Free tasting of "Kilchoan Crofter" cheese.

According to Dormouse,  saving the labels from the cheese that I ate on holiday means I'm a "Geek".

I see it as further evidence of my love for all things French and cheesy, that's why they are stuck on the cheese cupboard door. Cabecou and Rocamadour, small "chevre" cheeses with distinctive taste and texture from the Quercy region of south central France.

This is the standard I'm aiming for in my cheese making and I'm still a long way off achieving it.

 On holiday I questioned goat farmers, waiters and hotel patrons, "what is it that gives these cheeses their distinctive qualities" the answer was, "le terroir". In other words the environment the soil, the vegetation, the climate and of course the cheese maker's experience.

David and Michelle tell me that my cheese is good and getting better, I believe them, Michelle is French after all and qualified to judge.  Although the "terroir" can't be replicated in Lochaber perhaps I can make a cheese of similar distinction if I persevere.

If you are passing call in and try it. It's a free tasting because I don't meet any of the regulations and so can't sell it and I value your opinion. If I was French and living in France ( the most civilised country in the World) I would just ignore the regulations and sell it anyway.

Sunday 21 September 2014

New Ixworth genes

After a failed attempt last year to start a new flock of Ixworths with hatching eggs from four different breeders I am trying again. Last year's attempt failed because of inbreeding. The birds in each flock supplying eggs were too closely related. This is a common problem with rare breeds, only three eggs hatched out of twenty four.

New stock and new genes
Last week I exchanged a pen of three Bresse Gauloise hens and a cockerel for two Ixworth pullets and a cockerel. Fergus Morrison has maintained two distinct families of Ixworths, the pullets are from one and the cockerel from the other. The result of this mating should be that the eggs are fertile and the offspring more vigorous.

It meant a 200 mile round trip to "Drum"  (Drumnadrochit) on referendum day (I had a postal vote) the road was festooned with "YES" placards. Sadly we will have to store them for the next time, which might not be too far off if the government in Westminster fails to keep its promises.

Slow!......Children and animals

My house and the croft buildings are on opposite sides of  an unclassified road, its narrow and visibility isn't good. Despite this the national speed limit applies, sixty miles an hour!

Four times a day we cross the road with goats, before and after milking.

 Hens rake about the verges doing "traffic calming" and now my grand daughter is walking and crossing the road, albeit under supervision.

From time to time we have a drove of sheep crossing from the hill and down to the fank ( sheep pens).

Most drivers approach the buildings with caution, some don't. Time to do something about it so I have put up a weatherproof warning at one end and a hand lettered notice on a black board at the other.  The black board was a lot cheaper but the yellow and black looks more authoritative.

Monday 15 September 2014

Dude crofting 2::The Dude and the ragwort

You may remember back in May we were providing recreational opportunities for the metropolitan elite with "Dude Crofting".  You might think after seeing the photograph that this was an audition for the remake of, "Deliverance" its the hat that does it.

Today we had Alasdair digging ragwort, he even brought his own ragwort fork to uproot them. He did an excellent job and even bagged them up afterwards.

It was pointed out to me a couple of years ago that ragwort is a much misunderstood weed. People will tell you that its "notifiable" ,you have to report it to DEFRA or SGRPID, its not and you don't. This mythology arose early in the last century when a merchant was successfully sued by the owner of horses which died as a result of eating ragwort in the hay that he supplied.

It can be toxic when dried and eaten by horses but some Dutch research concluded that a sheep or a goat would have to eat its own bodyweight in ragwort before it died. This would be highly unlikely because the material is so bitter and unpalatable.

We'll continue to uproot it in the hay park but I'm not too worried about it elsewhere and it is an essential plant for some of our rarer moths.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Quadcopter over Craigard

Is it a bird......?
Mike and Alasdair are at Cruachan this weekend with the latest aerial photography gizmo, the "Octocopter" a remote controlled drone. They are surveying the Ormsaigbeg landscape and its archaeology.  The goats were fascinated by this little aircraft as it buzzed around the croft at high speed about 50' above the ground. Images are transmitted back to Mike's hand held control box and display screen.

They stood together watching and snorting, slightly alarmed. Did they think it was a rather noisy goat eating bird of prey perhaps? Then I thought,
Crigard Croft from space
no! they are too intelligent for that they are just fascinated by high tech gizmos and the antics of the humans that come with them.

The hens took cover immediately but of course they are bird brains.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Its the "Terroir"that makes the difference....Goats cheese and the environment

I think it was General de Gaulle who claimed that a country with 900 different cheeses was impossible to govern. I am just back from A walking holiday in France where we were tasting some of those 900 cheeses.
Alpine and Saanen goats in their "Chevrerie"
On the limestone plateau above the Dordogne river they make some remarkable cheese under the generic title of "Rocamadur" . These are soft "chevre" type cheeses with unique flavour and delicious texture. So why can't I make cheese like this I asked?

The responses were always, "le terroir", in other words the total cheese making  environment; its what the goats eat; herbs, grasses, shrubs and good herb rich hay. Then of course there is the experience of the cheese makers and the storage conditions. Basically they were telling me you no chance of making anything like this in Scotland.

I'll just have to persevere. The fall back position is that if there is reincarnation I'm putting my name down now to come back as a an "eleveur des chevres" and artisan cheese maker in southern France.  But I'm told I'll have to work on improving my karma or I'll be back as a cockroach.