Turning Eggs, Sweet Cicely and the Hungry Questions

For the past twenty days I have been turning eggs.

eggs being collected - turned each day

To be more accurate, I have been turning eggs for at least ten days more than this, as they require turning once a day even while you are collecting them to put in the incubator, but these twenty days are the ones that count as the eggs incubate.

Incubator - eggs on view through window




We lay them out on trays of sawdust, marked with a O on one side and a X on the other with an arrow on one egg per tray to remind me which way to turn them*.  Over twenty years ago we bought a large, second-hand paraffin powered 100 egg incubator. This old beast has been temperamentally incubating our eggs each year ever since.

eggs in the incubator tray - thermometer held at top of egg level

Modern, and expensive, incubators automatically turn eggs for you, each of our eggs has to be turned over, morning one way 180 degrees, evening back the other way the same, gently by hand, rotated not flipped. *(Though this is to prevent the yolk from settling on one side of the egg it’s not a good idea to keep rotating in the same direction as this can create a ‘spiralling’ effect on the contents)

Though there are about 80 eggs in the incubator they are not all from our own flock, which we have reduced to just seven laying hens, as the maximum premium collection time is just 10 days and they don’t lay quite that many! So a number of the eggs are from a friend’s flock of mixed hens giving a wide range of shell colour (and eventually, we hope, chickens)

And that is it – not counting your chickens until they have hatched! One thing you learn in doing your own incubation of eggs is that the number you get out bears little resemblance to the number of eggs put in. So, we wait to see …


Rhubarb and fronds of Sweet Cicely

Another harbinger of spring for me is eating the first rhubarb of the year – slender, tender stalks of fresh rhubarb sweetened by laying a few fronds of Sweet Cicely over them as they cook.   If you have never come across this amazing natural sweetener then be prepared to be amazed, I was! A friend at the market gave me a couple of uninspiring looking roots, which I planted and which took (I am not green fingered, so this was a bonus) and grew these delicate cow-parsley-like fronds. A few of which, laid across rhubarb or cooking apples, will lend them such a sweetness that no added sugar is necessary! You just lift the fronds off after cooking and dispose of them (into your compost bin of course).

Now for the Hungry Questions  – then a little goat-kid video about it …

If you have been following my Fat Woman Thinning? posts you’ll know I’ve said you shouldn’t go hungry between meals – I know – counter intuitive isn’t it.. I mean, what diet ever said you shouldn’t feel hungry. (BTW if you are following the results from last week are on the FWT? drop-down – 1lb down!)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking how you know when you are hungry.

Fact is half (or more) of the times that you think you are feeling hungry; you are actually thirsty. Doing the resistance weights course you are advised to make sure you drink plenty of water anyway – it helps metabolise the fat your body is burning. And I have said I always drink a glass of water about 10 minutes before I eat a meal, it cuts out the ‘thirst’ part of ‘feeling hungry’ and perhaps helps you feel full earlier so you don’t tend to overeat. So, first stop when feeling ‘hungry’ is to check you are not thirsty. (NB. it is possible to over-do the water – be sensible about it)

Then there is the ‘bored’ sense of feeling hungry. Yes, if you are bored sometimes your brain suggests that you might feel peckish … So, if this is the case you need to ask yourself – do I feel hungry just because I am feeling bored? And if answer is ‘yes’ then go and do something well away from the temptation. (difficult, I know, if you have to be working in the kitchen) My main ‘bored’ time for ‘feeling hungry’ is often while I am occupied – with doing the boring work of cleaning, but now I recognise the signs I can easily fight them and will have my ‘safe munchie’ (safe for me – as one is usually enough) of a cube of plain chocolate and a brazil nut with some hot water and milk to drive away that hungry feeling.

Ok, so you are not thirsty and you are not bored, and there is pudding on offer after your meal. Do you eat it? Are you still hungry or is it just ‘habit’. Do you ‘always’ have a dessert?  Now, I love a dessert – especially with fruit – and cream oh and sometimes meringue too! So, if it is just habit but you don’t want to cut out your lovely puds then pop it away for an in-between meals snack. No, you wouldn’t want to do this everyday with a high carb pud – but a plain yoghurt or stewed fruit (with sweet cicely) would be great.

Lastly there is the ‘am I hungry or am I just tired’ question. Yes, feeling tired can trigger a feeling that you are hungry, that you need a ‘quick-fix’ and you will crave the sweet high carb foods. Ok, so you may not be able to take a ‘power-nap’ (ten minute shut-eye) but if you can this may sort the problem. Otherwise resort to the drink and your safe munchie solution, combined with doing something that occupies your mind happily and you may get through until you can get enough sleep not to feel tired.

I guess these two might be hungry! They nearly have lift-off!

and maybe you might just be hungry too, look it’s lunch time already!

But before you go and eat – have you entered my great Draw to win a Kindle or 1 of 4 other great prizes, including ecopies of my three novels … and if you have, have you made sure all your friends and family have entered.. there’s only 398  places left so don’t delay click here for all the details.
And as always – I love to read your comments on whatever part of the blog interestes you!


Life, death and losing weight.

I know the title sounds dramatic  – but week 14 of my FWT? odyssey has been just that.

The other half was away for a week and then everything began to go wrong. Fair enough, Monday was set to be a busy day before I had even started as quite a few orders had come in over the weekend, I had to carry out some important household repairs and had a Poetry meeting in the afternoon and WI committee meeting in the evening.

Luckily I had taken time out on Sunday to get most of the orders packed so when I received an email that told me I had to get to a shop, which had stocked my annmade slate-ware on a sale or return basis, some 13 miles away within the hour to collect the remaining goods as they had gone bankrupt, I was able to put the parcels in the car and set off immediately.

The goods collected and the parcels posted I just had time to check on the livestock before getting lunch ready. All was well. After working on making a shower waterproof and fixing a few other items I headed off for Poetry meeting and arrived back a few hours later to find that one of the nanny goats had produced two kids. Early.  Just dropped them and moved on. She wasn’t interested in them, despite their pitiful bleats – and they were so small, but I thought that perhaps this type of goats had much smaller kids. Grabbed up, rubbed dry, cuddled to get them warm, placed in the straw ready in a house, my 85 year old father and I then tried to lure their mother with tasty tidbits out of the field, away from the herd, and into the goat-house. She really didn’t want to come! She didn’t want to leave the others.

Eventually we got her into the house and by kneeling on the floor and supporting the kid with my hand under its small body, its spindly legs seemingly unable to hold it up, I managed to get the stronger of the two kids to suckle (The nanny was not keen on this either, kept flicking her leg out at the kid) The other was too weak to suckle – so a small amount of milk was squeezed from her mother’s tiny teats into a syringe and squirted into this baby goat’s mouth.

This to be repeated at intervals until it had enough strength to have a go at suckling with support.

Now you have to understand that we have kept goats successfully for over 25 years – just different goats – larger ones, milking goats with large teats that are easy to milk! We know how to look after goats, but this mother wasn’t keen on being a mother and even needed the distraction of food to allow her youngsters to feed.

I kept this routine up until by the third day she started standing to let them feed, they were both strong enough to get a feed and they seemed to be able to feed themselves having both been observed doing just that. I was confident that they were going to make it after all!

The next morning the weaker of the two was found dead. Well, this happens, if you keep livestock you have to expect some casualties (as a farmer friend of my father’s used to warn). The second kid would have a better chance, I thought, and so was shaken when my husband found this one cold and dead the following morning as well. Perhaps they were never destined to make it and who knows, perhaps their mother knew this from the start, but you can’t help feeling saddened.

On a happier note the other goats have produced since and we now have four very pretty goat kids to show for it, two nannys, two billys, and I can now see that those first kids were very undersized compared to some of the later progeny. Here are two of them, a girl and a boy – about 2 days old!


And as for ‘losing weight’ well,  this should be the week 14 round-up!

All in all, I really didn’t have any time to spare to write up my meals or my exercises before I fell exhausted into bed gone midnight. In fact, as this goat drama coincided with a family drama (where my father fell over and hurt his back, meaning I had to take over the night care for my mother on top of running the household and my slate business), I was so run off my feet that I didn’t even have time to do the exercises on those first three days (though I did plenty of exercise involving running around with half bales of hay and straw, and 25kg sacks of animal feed). However, I did get back on track and the results on Sunday morning showed another 1lb drop and half an inch off both measurements at waist level. So, my apologies to my cheerleaders for the lack of up-dates, but we are still on track, yay!

My thanks go to those lovely people who kept re-tweeting and sharing the wonderful Win a KINDLE draw that I am running on this blog especially on the days I had time only to make an odd tweet about it late at night. Please keep sharing!

Have you had times when everything seems to whirl out of control, how did you keep on track? I love to hear your comments!


One day….

Just over two weeks ago I performed a first – the first time I trimmed our goats’ hooves. Usually this is a job for the husband but he was away and the job needed doing. With my father on hand to advise (he has had plenty of experience at this task but at 85 finds goat wrestling a little difficult) we set to.

Luring the six nannies (or does as they seem to call these Boer goats) out of their field and into a pair of connected goat houses was easier than I had expected, even if it did present a funny picture as I ran ahead rattling a small white bucket, quarter full of sugar-beet pellets and calling, ‘come on then’ followed by galloping goats, ears all a-flapping, until I dived in through one door, ducked through the connecting door between the houses and led them right through (to where I had placed a trough of cut-up veg to stop them in their tracks) then I slipped out through the other pen gate and round to close the connecting door between the houses. I was exhausted but we had only just started!

One by one we brought the goats out to the stand. Now these goats are smaller than the ones we were used to and I took a small wooden stool to sit on so that I didn’t have to kneel on the damp concrete. With my legs stuck out under the goat I tipped a goat foot up and started working, paring away the outer hoof and then the inner, carefully so as not to go too far. When it came to Peggy, the oldest and heaviest, she decided to fold up her legs and sit her whole weight on my legs! And as for the youngest, Nougat, no way was she going to be led anywhere… I had to pick her up and carry her out! Not only did this process take me nearly three hours start to finish but the hard wooden stool left my rear-end bruised for days!!

Today, prior to their sharing their field with the Billy (or buck as they call the male Boer goats) we did the whole process again, but with the husband doing the honours trimming the hooves and me just doing the herding, catching and fussing (to keep them peaceful) while he worked. Six females and one male goat done in a hour and a half!

Just as well because (after a good hot shower to de-goatify myself) I had an appointment to take a selection of new slate based products to a shop in a local market town, to see if they wished to stock these items. This is a shop that specialises in things grown or made in Cornwall so I had made some of my usual designs (salt and pepper pinch-pots, tea-light stand, heart-shaped coasters and hang-ups) but used reclaimed Delabole slate to base them on. Delabole, for those of you outside Cornwall, is a famous slate quarry on the north Cornish coast producing a beautiful soft-grey slate (colour not hardness). However, as it ages and the weather affects it, as lichens grow on it and the sun bleaches, it mutates to the most delicate shades of colours, with browns and gold from traces of iron pyrites, shiny sparkles of mica and silica and the original soft grey all intermingled. Of course to find this you have to scrape and rub off all the grime, and not every reclaimed slate responds the same, but it is well worth it when you find the pretty ones.

This evening I finished off and packaged up thirty Cornish slate fridge magnets that I have been making on and off over the weekend, then chaired a WI committee meeting, ‘cooked’ twenty slate cheeseboards and olive-oil conditioned them and wrote this blog….



New Goats!!

The last of the new goats arrived today, a kid called Nougat, she joins our other five new British Boer Goats, all brown and white blotches and floppy ears. Jasmine, Splash, Snowflake, Tallulah and Blazey.Some of the new Boer goats


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