March 2009

I left you with some joists and noggins. All that needed doing next was laying the floor. Which seemed to go OK…

Before putting the frame on (with the help of some redundant former work colleagues)…

And the cover on the frame…

Which looked a little tight at the bottom thanks to the marine-ply drip edge.

Tune in next time to see if I took the whole thing down and trimmed 1 cm off the platform all the way round – by hand.

(Is there any other way?)

I’ve been doing the occasional Planning Status Haiku or Reversed Haiku in the side bar over the last year or so, to keep myself amused and you informed (how time files when you’re having paperwork).

But poetry’s never been my strong point, so here’s some rather tedious exposition.

Daniel ‘The Hand’ Lamin, having steered our new land and old shack purchase through the CU, has prepared all the documentation for the Permis de Construire. He was supposed to have a meeting with the man from the newly created SPANK last week, who’s just back from a week’s holiday, about exactly where our sewerage will go. Then the paperwork will go off (if this is too boring you can go off and make a cup of tea if you like – oh, you’ve already gone) and, with a follow-up phone call from the mayor, come back in about a month. Approved. Hopefully.

(I ran into the mayor in town the other day – she looking very smart, me covered in the various layers of mud that say ‘English’ around here. She looked and said she was very happy for us, that it was all coming together at last. “Do you have a yurt up yet?” she asked. “No,” I said. “I’m just putting up a platform for the kids’ play yurt,” I added, thinking my platform may have been reported to her by an ill-meaning local. “Do whatever you want,” she said. We love our mayor.)

When we have the permis, we will have a meeting with the Notaire (solicitor), and the shack and land owner, buy the land and shack, put down adobe floors for a 26-foot and 18-foot yurt, and move in. It’s only taken just over two years at this point to go and “live in a tent in a field”. And we’re not even going to be in a field. Observably ridiculous.

There. I can get back to more interesting posts now. How was the tea?

The vegetarians have had a few weeks off pig talk (during which time one of them has reverted to carnivorous mode). But as we draw near to the end of processing our second and third pigs, I’d like to share a few thoughts before they slip my mind in favour of walling, carpentry, ditch-digging and other skills soon to be coming my way.

In no particular order, then:
o If you pick up your pig in two halves, head off and heart, lungs etc in a bag, you should realise that half a 90-kilo pig is still not half heavy. And a bit slippy. Not all that easy to take up the narrow stairs to the spare room. It’s probably worth having a strong friend round to help – or having your pig cut up into more manageable pieces that will fit easily into your car.
o Allow a week to process each pig from kitchen table to freezer. Bollocks to Hugh’s ‘Pig in a day’. His pig arrives cut into handy sized pieces. You’re doing it all yourself. Admittedly, this week includes slicing bacon, lardons and making sausages, but let’s be realistic. With our first pig, we ended up going to bed at 3am to finish doing the sausages – not great on a school night.
o Note to self: Process the abats the day they come back from the abattoir. Don’t wait, thinking there’ll be time in the next few days. There won’t. (Same goes for processing bacon that comes out of the brine.)
o There are some pieces of equipment you will need ready:
– a butcher’s saw
– a large machete-type knife
– a medium knife and a small boning knife
– a knife sharpener
– lots of medium to large hooks (suddenly those old nails sticking out of beams in country houses look seriously useful)
– an unfeasible amount of sausage skins (say, 30 metres per pig) and access to more at short notice
– half a dozen trays and/or washing-up bowls
– a six-foot section of kitchen side
– anti-bacterial cleaner
– an apron
– lots of freezer bags (mainly medium-sized)
– a plastic dustbin full of brine (allow half a day to make the brine and a day to let it cool)
– freezer blocks to keep the brine cool
– a bacon slicer
– a sausage machine
– a few wooden wine boxes for prosciuttos
– salt
– mace
– breadcrumbs and other sausage ingredients
– a serious weighing machine (going up to at least 10 kilos)
– butcher’s string, medium thick
– lots of freezer space
– and someone who’s done it before – at least the first time.
o Do not try to process more than one pig at a time. Especially during the half-term holiday. Even if you’re mostly making sausages – one front leg takes one and a half hours to bone out. Tunnel boning for dry cured hams even longer. Just don’t do it.
o When a recipe says: “Simply cut the head into four using a saw”, ignore the “Simply”. You’ll never want to be an Elizabethan ship’s surgeon again.

All the lessons learnt can’t be put into one post. I’ll just say that, our next pig will be killed on the land and processed immediately. Probably starting on a Monday morning towards the end of the year, during term time.

Really busy at the moment, doing an insane number of essentials things. Like digging these footings for the covered eating area:

And working out how to cover it (currently stripping pine for uprights and visualising the framework that sits on top). And moving pigs into the woods (TWO DAYS it took them to move along our beautiful electrified path – scaredy pigs). Et cetera.

I don’t know what you’d be more interested in at the moment.

The pigs…

The kids’ play yurt platform…

Or the footings I’m digging for the covered eating and BBQ area…

Because I’m not you.

You remember that tractor that used to live on our land? The one I thought I’d bought but found I hadn’t? Here it is behind the kid’s play yurt, a few metres from where we’re living at the moment:

Can’t see it? It’s here:

I told you it was cute.

I don’t know if Oliver Postgate was big into DIY, but followers of children’s programmes might be interested to know that each little bit of wood joining the big bits of wood in this picture…

…is called a: ‘Nogging’ (‘Nog’ in Scotland and New Zealand).

Must dash – I’ve dropped one of the clangers I was using to build a bagpuss.