Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Free Range Guineas

The Guinea Fowl have now been with us a week and have settled down well to the routine, living in the Kitchen Garden and sleeping in the Tígín. I was confident that they would stick around if released to range with the rest of the poultry and would be home tonight to roost back in the Tíg'. It was another beautiful, blue skied warm, almost windless day so with my chores all done I opened their gate and their inner door and sat down with a coffee. I love these 'release' days what ever the species and new group, clutch or family. I am proud that we are able to do full free range on our birds and that they get good green grass underfoot and the sun on their backs. It is pure joy to watch them start to explore their new environment.

Henry and Min were as good as gold (those are the Goon Show names we have given them inspired by them looking to me like the old folks on the road sign walking hunched forward as they do, and being (by all accounts) rather dim). They quietly and calmly explored the yard, the chicken and goose houses, the cattle race and then out towards the Secret Garden and the big pond. They creep about rather tentatively muttering high pitched 'chat chat' clucks to each other. They met some Hubbards first and were confident and unperturbed. When a Hubbard 'roo' decided to square up to one of the Guineas, the Guinea squared up right back at him and he backed down in a hurry. I watched them for the first hour and then went about my business, calling back to check on them during the day.

The Guineas claim the centre of the scattered seed.
At one stage in the afternoon I went to throw my usual handful of wheat and oats onto the ground of the yard to give the chickens something to do their 'feeding frenzy' on and something amazing happened. The Guineas had not yet approached me at all, tending to back away nervously at my approach, but as all the chooks came running (as they do), the Guineas joined in the charge and raced towards me in the thick of things and then, even more surprisingly, claimed the centre ground of the scattered food, pecking it up furiously and shooing away any competition so that I had the two Guineas at the centre of a ring of confused chickens (even William) who were left to pick up the crumbs from the Guinea's banquet table! Go Henry and Min.

600 g parsnip.
With the first frosts now well under our belts we have been enjoying some root vegetables, notably parsnips and more recently some Jerusalem artichokes. Many of the parsnips are grown huge and fat. The one pictured weighs 600 g. They are, though, still delightfully tender and young tasting. Liz cooked a roast beef on Sunday with all the Yorkshire pud and onion-gravy that goes with and the roast parsnips that came with it were pure delight. Our only problem, with the parsnips being this big, they were roasted in chunks which looked very like the roast spuds in the bowl, so we were having to look carefully to make sure we got some of both.

The Jerusalem Artichokes have also done remarkably well. Their 8 foot tops looking like sunflower plants have now started to die back and go black with the frost but the soil is so loamy and crumbly that you can harvest the chokes just by pulling up the main stem. This bowl with its 2.1 kg of chokes comes from a single plant. These are, if my plans are to be believed, the old fashioned knobbly variety, though they look as smooth, swollen and clean as any I have seen. We have also grown a ridge of the modern 'Fuseau' variety which purport to be less knobbly. It is possible that I have cross labelled (though I doubt it) so it will be interesting to dig some of those and see what shape they are. Liz has been surfing the net for interesting artichoke recipes and I think we have something along those lines on the menu for tonight. I will let you know how we got on.

Finally, Joy of Joys, I found in the bottom of a drawer an old English tin of that elixir of boot cleaning potions, Kiwi "Dubbin". This stuff is brilliant for keeping work boots and hiking boots waterproof and the leather supple but try as I might, I have been unable to find it for sale in Ireland. I have been smearing my boots with goose grease which kinda works but is a bit messy and does not seem to stay put very long. Now, though, all is well with the world. The tin did not have much in, just enough for half a dozen 'goes' maybe, but for today my boots are clean, dry and with that lustre that neutral Dubbin lends to them. I am a happy 'stockman' clomping about after Henry and Min.

1 comment:

anne wilson said...

Try the shoe repair man in Roscommon I will be surprised if he doesn't have it, I'm sure I saw a pair of riding boots last time we were in there and riders must be able to get dubbing somewhere.