Saturday, 9 November 2013

You Live and Learn

Oven ready Hubbard 'roo'. Apologies for
the imperfect plucking and torn skin. 
First up today, the weights on that Hubbard rooster, as promised. He was at 97 days old and had a live weight of 3.645 kg ( 8 lb and half an ounce ). In oven-ready form he weighed 2.470 kg ( 5 lb 7 oz ) so a fine big lad and one we would not normally roast intact for just the two of us, so Liz has jointed him up and we will get 4 meals out of him easily. We started that evening with a roast thigh and a 'fore-arm' a-piece which Liz deliberately cooked with just oil so that we could assess the full unadulterated Hubbard flavour. Meaty and delicious served with potato wedges, home made coleslaw and home made mayo, all washed down with a very nice Italian red wine, Montepulciano which we are getting currently from Lidl at just under €30 for 6 bottles. These Hubbards are declared a success and if we get a chance we may do them again. This is an 'if' just because we only ever got these through a bizarre sequence of events (you may recall) - our 'clocker' (broody hen) was rearing some very young ducklings having incubated the eggs for 28 days and we wanted something to slip under her when we took the ducklings back to their owner, Mentor Anne. Anne happened to be driving right up to the hatchery on the Northern Ireland border to collect some day old Hubbards for herself and a friend and offered to collect 8 for us on the run.

I said that when we decided to buy a pair of Guinea fowl we knew next to nothing about them - only what we'd read in books, been told by the seller and found out by a quick internet search. We have since had some fun picking the brains of Anne and Simon and the many many poultry experts and keepers on a couple of internet discussion forums, one of which I am one of the Moderators on. Well, now we know all sorts of facts, myths, legends and 'what I reckon' comments, probably more than you need and definitely in some cases a little 'embellished'.

They can be a devil to persuade to stay around and difficult to teach that new home is a their new home. They love to roost up high in trees and one lad suggested that they can predict the weather better than Met Éireann, choosing to roost out on nights where it will definitely not rain, but roosting in their coop when there is risk of rain. They free range like crazy - another member of the group said he'd often seen his out half a mile from home during the day but that they were always home by supper time. It is said that they might attack your chicken-roosters. They are allegedly as thick as a plank - more stupid than any other bird. Anne, who keeps quail and does not have a very high opinion of quail brain-power, says that Guinea Fowl "make quail look intellectual". Another lad says they are "far from stupid". The eggs are apparently nice but a very pointy shape, almost triangular (says Simon) and Anne commented that the shells are so tough that if you are trying to do the eggs and toast soldiers thing, you almost need a hacksaw to do the neat decapitation. Pick the bones, as they say, out of that little lot!

We have had to part company with our friend, miniature Falabella cross stallion Cody. He'd been in our sheep field since a month or two back because his alpha-male hormones had been driving him to escape the 'home field' and go in search of mares. This had led to an interesting hour one day for Carolyn when she'd had to go 'rescue' him from a field of three full sized mares who were playing 'hard to get' teasing him as he chased them in his randy way while they tried to kick his head in, playing rough. Carolyn, who is not much bigger than Liz, had to dive into this mêlée and pull Cody out for his own safety and get him to the gate without any of the mare kicks connecting, while Cody wanted to stay in there and work on his seduction technique.

Cody ended up in our field where he'd be OK with the sheep because he was such a chilled out lad that he was OK with anything and, indeed, that was the case. He became a boss-sheep and used to give the 5 sheep the run around occasionally but was only playing and never seemed to be trying to do them any damage. Happy days. He was going to be gelded by Aoife (Rhymes with Deefer) the Vet but the warm autumn had meant that the risk of fly/maggot infection in the gelding scar was too great and this has not yet happened. Then yesterday it seemed to turn nasty and a bit serious. I went out at 4-ish to find Cody beating up one of the ram lambs, Cody had the ram pinned down between his front 'knees' and seemed to be trying to bite chunks out of the ram's woolly flanks. I raced into the field and, yelling at Cody and smacking him on the nose, managed to separate the 'protagonists'. I got Cody into a head collar and tethered him to the fence. The sheep seemed to be OK, just a small reddish wound near one eye and chunks of wool hanging off, but they all piled into their supper and certainly looked OK by this morning.

We phoned Carolyn for advice and she decided that the lad had better be brought home, so Charlotte was dropped off to walk him home. He is now back home in the sand-school but where he can get to a lot of grass growing round the edges. His gelding operation is now timed for some point in the next 2 weeks and fairly soon after that our sheep will have gone for their last journey anyway, so he can safely come back into our field while his hormones calm down. Then he can be reunited with his two amigos, Bob and Romeo. Complicated this horse management, isn't it? Maybe we should stick to our highly intelligent Guinea Fowl?

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