Tuesday 30 June 2015

Farmhouse cheese rant!

Safe and hygienic in the fridge
I suspect that some of you will be holidaying in rural France this summer and buying cheese at village markets. the cheese may have been made in a wooden shack on a Corsican mountain side or in a farmhouse kitchen despite the myriad regulations that apply to cheese making, storage and marketing in the EU but sensibly ignored in parts of the world's most civilised country. If attention is paid to clean milk production, hygienic processing and storage  nobody will be ill or die as a result of eating farmhouse cheese.

My cheese is made from fresh, clean, pasteurised milk with utensils that have been sanitised in a clean kitchen environment ( no cats or dogs allowed). I am allowed to eat this cheese (Kilchoan Crofter) myself or to give it to friends and family but can't sell it.

Any day I can find "Farmhouse cheese" in the supermarket, its never been anywhere near a farmhouse but it is deemed safe and appeals to some notion of a lost rural idyll.

You are able to buy" horse-burger"', wine sweetened with anti-freeze and sugary drinks coloured with industrial dyes but not artisan farmhouse cheese.

Thank you for your patience I needed to get that off my chest.

Monday 29 June 2015

Goats don't mow lawns but they will trash your garden

Species rich
 You can learn a lot about sheep, cattle, horses and goats by just quietly watching. I wouldn't normally turn animals into a field closed up for haylage but this week I put the goats into the hay park and just watched them. Its a species rich meadow, grasses, flowers, herbs and what we think of as grassland weeds flourish.

Unlike sheep and cattle the goats are highly selective in their feeding. Cattle move across the sward in a herd tearing up the grass with their tongues, sheep move in a similar way cropping the shortest grass stems with their incisors. The goats behave like us
at a buffet lunch picking up something attractive then moving on to make more selections and nearly always higher up the plants nipping off seed heads, fruits and flowers.They move like deer, daintily with low impact so don't flatten and trample the grass.

So another goat myth busted, they can't and don't mow lawns, they will however trash your roses and poison themselves by eating shrubs.

Heating with wood - A part time job

'When I renovated this house eight years ago I installed wood fired heating with a Rayburn. It works well, its renewable energy, I like the smell of wood smoke and its cheap if the opportunity cost of my labour is zero. I am retired  so it is zero! but  the decision to heat and cook with wood entails a part-time job. The job description,  might be;

" Part-time woodcutter, splitter,stacker and transporter wanted.,
 Must have two chainsaws, three tonne trailer and towing vehicle,
Good all round fitness and agility, personal protective equipment
needed together with willingness to work outdoors in all weathers.
No wage but can feel smug about carbon footprint."

Hughie at work with the splitter
I need ten to twelve tonnes of wood at 20 per cent moisture to keep me going for a year. I don't have any woodland so the logs have to be purchased from the Forestry Commission, collected from their depot and transported 100 km. Perhaps you can see where I am going? Just how smug can I be about my carbon footprint? Trees are a renewable energy source but like the "food miles" used to bring asparagus to Ft. William from Peru I am clocking up "wood miles", chainsaw and log splitter hours.

Felling, snedding and bucking into five foot lengths is done by the FC, then I have to saw the lengths into 15" logs. Timber has to be hauled to the depot then brought home by me. More energy is used by Hughie's log splitter. On Saturday we split five tonnes in three hours with his machine, if I had done it by hand it would have taken three days and left me in need of another holiday.

Somewhere in the literature on renewable energy there must be a way of attributing all of these costs to the carbon footprint of my Rayburn. Then there's the  Government's "Renewable Heat Initiative" which pays landowners with forests to heat their castles with wood which sounds a bit like socialism for the wealthy and not much benefit for the environment.