It’s been a hectic month, wwoofers coming and going, family visiting, losing animals and finding them again, the weathers just as crazy, constantly changing moods, though it’s erring on the side of rain, mostly. And we still haven’t finished haymaking! We had too few hands at the most critical time, and the haymaking drags on well into August. We’ve had just about every problem you can think of. Ran out of wire, ran out of posts, ran out of people. The mower broke down- at least five times, once when it burst into flames! Wasp nests pose a constant threat to my partner who has a severe allergy. But through all that, hay is being made and the loft is slowly filling up. The problem now is we can’t seem to get more than one day of sun in a row, so we have to wait and wait, as the days shorten and the air cools, leaving a heavy dew every morning. We have been very lucky wih surprise wwoofers, and now have six extra pairs of hands here! The racks are going up faster than they’re coming down, and we’ve had to buy alot of new wire, and prepare more poles too. I recently survived my first pressure canning experiment! We bought an enormous pressure canner from the US so that we can preserve low acid foods without insane use of salt or sugar or a freezer. I read the manual several times from front to back, including numerous health and safety warnings before attempting anything, which succeeded in making me absolutely terrified that the whole thing was going to blow up. My main concern was that, as we only have a wood fired stove, it was going to be very difficult to control the heat- and thus the pressure. This concern turned out to be very well grounded! Everything was going smoothly- steam had started escaping so i put on the pressure weight set to 15pounds. The pressure started increasing.. And increasing.. It reached 15 pounds and the weight was going crazy- The alarm bells started ringing. Taking no chances i went outside to read the manual again, while a worried wwoofer watched me. It stated very clearly that the weight must not be allowed to jiggle constantly. That was when i panicked. I quickly went back inside and scooped out all the fire into a metal bucket and carried it outside. Then all i could do was wait for the whole thing to calm down. I was canning peas, and they are meant to be proccessed for 45 minutes, so i waited in anticipation, while biting my nails and reading the manual again, and keeping an eye on the pressure gauge. After the time was up, it took another hour for the canner to completely reduce the pressure. But i think, after all that…i did actually can peas!
We finally managed to get our heifers back! Audhumbla, who we caught some time ago, escaped by charging through the gate when some unsuspecting woofers were leaving. I spent an entire morning chasing her and the other cows round the forest, but it was hopeless by myself. The next day there was no sign of them, even after four of us spent another whole morning looking for them. Some weeks later, Hornfagr was spotted along the ridge, several kilometers away but we didn’t manage to find her. It was just over a week ago that we were out looking for them and found Audhumla with another heifer not far from where Hornfagr had been sighted. We managed to lead them all the way back to the farm with a bucket of barley pellets, which was maybe 6 kilometers. I was very surprised that they didn’t lose interest! It was such a relief to get her through that gate (for the second time) We intended to inseminate her when she came on heat, (which was just a few days after we got her back) but found out that the sperm was not available, so we will have to wait until next time. But she went so crazy in those few days that she broke out when some other cows came near the fence, and we didn’t realise she was gone until the next day when it was suspiciously quiet in the farmyard. Fortunately, by some miracle, the next day she appeared at the gate with her friends, and we just led her in with some food! (Same trick, never gets old!) We managed to get Hornfagr back today, with the help of some other farmers whose cows she was with. My partner and two woofers went up there and led her back, but had to use a halter this time, as she wasn’t quite so willing! When she arrived the two mooed to each other- and then had a fight, head to head, which surprisingly ended up with hornfagr getting a face full of mud! It seems they’re not as good friends as they once were, but we hope they can find some way to reconcile their differences. It’s so lovely to have them back, after such a long time- and they’re all grown up!
From the garden we now have courgettes, kale, peas, carrots, chard, lettuce, the first beans, potatoes and turnips. I was particularly pleased with the courgettes as they looked like they were about to die until about a month ago, when they suddenly turned green and started growing like hell! Now we are getting one from each plant every couple of days. My favorite thing to make with them is fritters- just grate them up, squeeze the juice out (you can drink it, it’s good!) and mix with egg and flour to make a thick batter, add salt, baking powder and savoury, and dollop into a hot frying pan. Fry on both sides until golden and eat it with sour cream. I have also starting picking berries- the most abundant thing in the garden is our redcurrant bushes, so im picking them whenever i have time and drying them. I’ve started filling the cellar with jams and jellies too (against the wishes of my purist boyfriend- yes ideally we shouldn’t buy sugar). We also have blackcurrants and gooseberries and up the hill there are masses of wild blueberries – and cloudberries (though someone seems to have beat me to it this year- they’re something of a delicacy in Norway.)
As the days shorten I am frequently reminded of the coming winter, and in some ways i look forward to it- to the long nights when we will have more time for handicrafts, and to improve some things around the house. But before then there’s still so much to do! Soon our attention will turn to the grains, which are ripening in the field, the barley already yellowing and bowing their heads. Our potatoes need harvesting soon too- we got blight due to the damp weather, so we cut off all the foliage to stop the disease spreading to the tubers. We should wait at least three weeks before digging them up, to reduce risk of infection from spores on the surface of the soil, then we will harvest them and store them in the root cellar. We’ve decided to put an end to haymaking this year. It’s such a shame that we didn’t manage to cut the whole field, but it’s so difficult to dry it now and we need to use time on other things. There’s fencing to do so that the heiffers have somewhere to graze for the autumn (can’t risk releasing them again!) and also somewhere for the sheep that we will get in a couple of months. Peas also need to be harvested, and the farmer hopes to do some shredding (harvesting leaves) which will provide extra nutrition for the animals in winter. The kittens are growing up fast, and are an unending source of joy to me- and an unending source of worry for their mother, who tends to panic whenever they stray more than a metre from her.