Friday, 7 September 2012

In Praise Of The Kerry Bog Pony. (Bracken Shows off his new bridle)

That's a photograph of 2 very rare Kerry Bog Ponies.  They live at the Kerry Bog Village in county Kerry.  There was only about twenty left in the 1980's in the whole of Ireland.  They used to be used for drawing the peat (the "Turf") from the peat bogs.  Now due to mechanization (yet again) on the farm and smallholding they have been made redundant.  The British also used them to carry ammunitions and provisions during the Napoleonic wars.  They are said to have a very good temperament and there's a great website with a video of them.  Just type: Kerry Bog Village.

I wonder if I could train Bracken our Shetland Pony to help me round the farm?  He seems quite happy at the moment living with the heifers and bullocks just eating the grass and looking very philosophical.

Here's Bracken:  We bought him the bridle for just 5 Euros and he does looks very posh.


  1. How did you get Bracken for 5 Euro, Dave?

  2. The bridle (harness) cost just 5 Euros Pat.

  3. Reminds me of the pit ponies we used to have, I can just remember the last of them being put out to grass when the pit closed.

    Sure you could find Bracken something to do, looks like a willing little chap.

  4. Great to have your back Cumbrian. I have been wanting to ask you about the 7 day wine kits. Is it really possible to make good wine in 7 days? The kits are on : Please will you have a look at them and tell me what you think?

    Bracken seems very content grazing with the cattle. Happy to report they are all back in the fields.

    What was your holiday trip like? Any chance of a report? How is Raggy Cat?


  5. Sorry I'ver only ever made one wine from kit, it was one I won in a pub raffle many years ago, and tried it. Didn't work very well, it was a red, can't remember much about it really, it was just about drinkable but not brilliant. The modern ones might be better, I know the beer kits have improved a lot, so maybe they'll be OK. Usually wine gets better with keeping, the darker and heavier the wine, the longer it keeps, some of the ports can be bought from decades ago for example.
    Had a look at the site, it doesn't say a lot about the kit, only way is to try it, worst that can happen you keep it a bit longer to improve?

    Trip went OK, Fuertaventura its usual hot dry self, welcomed back to Leeds-Bradford with cold, wind and rain, torrential in some parts on the M6. Fish & chips at Ilkley, they're not available in Fuertaventura.

    Grass has shot up, looking very green and lush.

    Beer brewing commenced, a batch of Woodfordes Nelsons Revenge started today. 4 djs wine ready to rack, tomorrows project.

    Raggy cat waiting on the decking in the rain, eating a fresh mouse, looking very wet and bedraggled; seemed well fed though, a real survivor it is. Re-aquainted itself with the joys of the fireside now.

    How's Domino getting along?

  6. Thanks for looking at the Home brew.IE site Cumbrian. I don't drink much wine myself, but I couldn't believe that you could make wine in a week. According to reports that I have read it's OK and equal to cheap supermarket wine if not being superior.

    Fish and chips in Yorkshire: Don't think there is a better county (even Lancashire) that can make fish and chips like they do in Yorkshire. The make some good ale also.

    Glad to hear Raggy cat is thriving and is a self supporter. Domino is climbing and trying to catch insects and seems to be a very intelligent little cat. Don't think any field mice will dare put their paws in the dwellings this Winter.


  7. No doubt you'll make something alcoholic in a week, whether it would classify as wine as we know it I don't know. Noticed they all seem to be in 30 bottle kits, pity you can't buy a 6 bottle kit to try first.
    It's probably worth a try, even if only as an experiment, any un-drunk can be kept for Xmas to offer to unsuspecting guests?

    Been racking today, all 4 now done, got a mouthful of the strawberry starting the syphon, tasted very nice it did too, think that one's going to come out very nice, a light wine, might even be ready to drink in a couple of months.

    Raggy cat soon got back into the routine. It's in disgrace at the moment, I put two little steaks out of the freezer last night, wrapped in plastic bag; little sod clawed the bag open and eat one of them. Didn't catch it in the act, so no point chastising it now, it won't know what it's for; I'll just have to remember to put stuff in the fridge in future.

    Pleased to hear Domino doing well.

  8. Thanks Cumbrian. That's a very good point you make about whether wine would classify as wine as we know it. They do sell a 6 bottle wine kit.

    A couple of questions for you if you please would answer them for us.

    What's hedgerow wine really like?

    Is it worth the trouble when you can purchase a good bottle of South African..., made by professionals? Or am I missing something? Why should somebody make their own wine?

    Also Cumbrian. Is it true that you can make your alcohol stronger by adding more sugar? I don't want to get drunk after two pints but I don't like it weak either.

    Raggy cat has very expensive tastes.


  9. Hedgerow wine can be mediocre to very good, just like any other home produced article; even the worst cooks have good days and the best cooks have bad days. That can also be said of supermarket wines, espacially at the lower end of the market.
    My experience is about the same as brewing, most of what I've made has been very drinkable, in fact I've never poured any down the sink yet, and some of it has been excellent.
    It won't compare with a grape wine, it's not supposed to, it's a different type of wine. Cost-wise, it's very cheap per bottle, only the sugar and yeast costing cash, and not much of it really, but expensive in time to gather, prepare, bottle then wait a long time.
    I see it as a hobby, so since I don't value the time, the cost is miniscule. I suppose it's like an allotment; if you value your time, the cost of produce looks high, but the pleasure of harvesting a good crop and enjoying eating it outweighs the monetary considerations.

    Generally, the more sugar, Yes, the stronger the result. But there's limits as to how much sugar the yeast will convert to alcohol, I'm not 100% sure but I think beer is about 12%. and it also has an effect on the taste. Wine I think is about 17% maximum. The way to get stronger is to distill your cattle medicine.

    Raggy cat has very expensive tastes, little sod. at least it ate it and didn't just ruin it.

  10. Thanks Cumbrian. I am just asking and in no way do I question your brewing attempts. You're right about the comparison of time and cost and effort outweighs the monetary considerations on an allotment. So Ithought I would ask your advice to see if it's OK. Thanks for the advice.

    There is also the freshness and knowledge that you and mother nature have helped to produce a very good crop or drink. I just can't remember drinking much home brewed wine.

    I am pleased with my bitter making efforts over the last few weeks (thanks mainly to you and my friend Pat) I can now brew a reasonable pint "wiv an head on it" and don't think I will be purchasing much shop bought stuff. Well maybe a few Theakstons or Newcastle Brown to top a flattish pint now and again.

    Raggy cat probably thinks he deserves some steak for his mouse hunting duties.

    I am not going down the road of distilling "the white lemonade". Not yet any way.


  11. Have a go at the wine, now's the time to go foraging in the hedgerows, brambles are very good this year, at least they are here; just about anything can be made into wine, just google it, you'll probably be surprised at the number of country wine recipies. My most unusual one was runner bean, doesn't taste remotely of the original beans, I nade it because Tesco had a box full of them 10p a bag. My bounty tonight was 3 x 400gr bundles of rhubarb, 10p each, so that's a new batch to start.
    Wine-making, like a lot of the old country cottage crafts and skills, seemed to be forgotten, but like home brewing, I think is experiencing a bit of a revival. The only investment is a few demi-johns and air locks, these are often found in charity shops and car boots and last forever, then some wine yeast (Wilkos) and sugar.
    Then a lot of patience.

    Pleased your brewing attemps are bearing fruit, the more you brew the better it seems to get, but be prepared for the (very) occasional not-too-good batch, it happens to all of us.

    Suppose a bit of steak now and again might seem a fair reward for a mouse-free house, and at least there was something else in the freezer, a nice mince & onion pie, served with baby new potatoes and baked beans, no fat of gristle there for Raggy cat.

    The white lemonade, funny enough (according to the literature) is very quick to make, takes about 4/5 days to ferment the wash, then a couple of hours to distill, nothing but yeast sugar and water, comes out about 55% vodka-type, then various essences can be added to produce just about any spirit or liquer you like.
    Big investment in the easy still, but anybody drinking a bottle a week would soon recover the initial cost.

  12. Thanks Cumbrian. You're right the hedgerows are full of free food, jam and wine making ingredients at the moment. Think I will have a go at making wine.

    I have a good book (Ben's Adventures In Winemaking) and there's Google and of course you for advice, so yes I think I will go for it. The patience bit is the only down side. What's the quickest time for making wine? Perhaps I should try one of the 6 bottles, 7 days kits first?

    Going to bake a loaf today and make some onion soup. It's time now to light the range in the morning. Will take photographs of bread and soup for a blog post. Alliums (onion family) are brilliant for keeping the colds away. We always grow lots of onions, leeks and garlic.

    Pies: That's a good idea to make a load of different pies. Do you know any good pie recipes Cumbrian?

    I have heard (and read) that 'da white lemonade' was made from barley and potatoes. I try to keep away from the top shelf but again spirits/ white lemonade mixed with hot water and sugar are excellent when you're ill and give you a great night's sleep. The brandy and eggs is also fantastic for sick pets like dogs or cats. Nature seems to heal when we rest.

    Thanks for the wine works site info.


  13. As far as I know, you can make a pie from just about anything apart from the usual pork, steak & kidney, meat & potato, cheese & onion, Cornish pasty, chicken & mushroom, and all the sweet fillings of apple, cherry, rhubarb, etc.
    There's all manner of exotic fillings, limited only by your imagination.

    I just can't seem to get the pastry right, so I don't make pies. But I manage steak & kidney puddings OK, using cold water suet pastry, stewing steak, kidney, onion and a stock cube or two; done in the slow cooker.

    Steak and Kidney Pudding Recipe:
    • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
    • 85g (3oz) shredded suet
    • Pinch salt
    • 450g (1lb) lean stewing steak, cut into cubes
    • 225 (8oz) ox or lamb kidney, cut into cubes
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
    • Freshly milled black pepper
    Preheat the slow cooker on HIGH. Grease a 1litre (1 3/4pt pudding bowl (greasing is important otherwise it won’t turn out, as I discovered!)
    Mix together the flour, suet and seasoning with enough water to make a soft dough. Reserve 1/3 for the lid and roll out the remainder on a lightly floured surface. Use this to line the pudding basin.
    Mix together the steak, kidney, onion, salt and pepper and pack carefully into the pastry-lined pudding basin. Add 2 tbsp water. The pudding should not quite fill the bowl to allow room for the crust to rise
    Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid. Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and press the lid into position. Cover with *greased greaseproof paper or foil.
    *I tore off enough to paper to allow me to fold a seam across the middle to give space for the pastry to rise, and sealed the paper down by tying string tightly round the rim.
    *To avoid scalding yourself, fold a length of foil which you leave under the bowl with the ends loose at the top to lift the bowl in and out.
    Using this lifting foil strap lower the bowl into the slow cooker. Pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the basin. Put the lid on, and cook on HIGH for 6-8 hours. Resist any temptation to peep!
    Take the bowl out of the slow cooker, again using the foil lifting strap. Remove the greaseproof paper, and turn the S&KP out onto a warmed plate. Serve with some vegetables that you can cook at the last moment.

    This is the original recipe, tweaked by using stock cubes not water, and foil not greaseproof paper.
    Don't know if it would work for other meat types or fruit puddings, might try if I get some last-minute bargain cooking apples, with a few raisins thrown in and maybe a splash of mead; served with cream, yoghurt, custard or ice cream. I'd try the rhubarb, but that's headed for the wine, maybe some more tonight, it tends to come in flushes, so there's a possibility of a fruit pudding experiment.
    I'll let you know how it turns out if/when it happens. Unless you've already tried it?

    Like you say, one of my favourites is fresh home baked bread 50% wholemeal, with my lentil soup, sadly not as frequent as we'd like due to scarcity of decent ham shanks (or any ham shanks at all)

    Cold damp and windy today, the fire's been on, Raggy cat luxuriating in front of it, displaying reluctance to move. Hedonistic little sod it's getting to be.

  14. Thanks a lot Cumbrian for the great steak and kidney pudding recipe.

    We have a book called Practical Cookery. It's for training chefs. I call it: "The Bible".

    Here's Shortcrust pastry. 8 ounces of plain flour, 2 ounces of lard, 2 ounces of margarine. 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, a pinch of salt. Sieve the salt and the flower, rub in the fat into the flour to a sandy texture. Make a well in the middle, add sufficient water to make a fairly firm paste. Handle as little and lightly as you can. Then just roll it out for your pie pastry.

    It works every time for us.

    What happens to your pastry Cumbrian? Is it too hard, soggy, shrunken or crumbly? The book will tell me what is wrong and I will let you know.

    Yes I would really like to hear about the fruit pudding experiment.

    We always make bread and pizza bases with no yeast. See next blog post for smallholder/ self supporter soup and bread.

    Seen a young rat feeding in the ducks pen to day. We are sure to get some heavy rain tonight. If the terrier starts eating grass I know it's time to build an ark.

    Thanks a lot Cumbrian.


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