Sunday 26 January 2014

"Book Learning"

Book Learning. Grand as far as it goes. We are madly trying to absorb as much information as we can on the 2014 projects - bees and pigs - and have read our little socks off on books, magazines, websites and leaflets. We have talked to as many people as we could persuade to give us advice and we have, as you know, joined a 'club' and been to one bee-based meeting. We probably 'know' way more than it is healthy to know for 2 people neither of whom has ever opened a beehive and lifted out a bee frame to examine the contents, or been closer to bees than idly spotting them on the garden flowers ("Oooh! I think THAT one is a honey bee!") or had anything to do with pigs other than helping to run 2 porkers down the ramp from trailer to slaughterhouse (about 5 seconds!).

You can't beat a turf fire for visual effect.
No. We are now hungry for hands-on, practical experience and 'monkey-do' learning. We want the bee training sessions to start, and especially the apiary based practical ones. I want to try myself out in the middle of a wary, loud-humming, cloud of potential stinging insects to know that I can be as cool, calm, relaxed, gentle and slow moving as I am with rabbits, sheep, geese and chickens. I want to know that I can be sufficiently careful that I do not risk 'rolling' bees between the close spaced bee frames (which annoys them) or squashing any between hive sections when reassembling the boxes. I want to know that I can move among pigs and bond with them, come to understand them without being nervous of them - they are big, strong and heavy, potentially dangerous animals when full grown, which need treating with respect. I expect I will be OK on both counts; I generally am. We are currently looking out for a pig rearing/keeping course aimed at small holders. Tipperary in April looks favourite so far.

Meanwhile, one of our favourite annual celebrations came around, Burns Night, our chance to eat haggis with a clear conscience and, this time, to have some guests to supper, Carolyn and Charlotte of the mini-horses, plus K-Dub and little Henry (2 in February). Being lamb-rearers, of course, this is not some kind of commercial, mass produced haggis boiled in a plastic (or gut if you're lucky) sleeve. It is the home made version constructed by Liz from our own lamb products; this year some breast meat, heart, liver and 'lights', plus, of course, oatmeal, onion and spices. 'Lights' for the uninitiated, is lung tissue; we managed to persuade butcher Ignatius G that we really did want a lung (just one) to try out just this recipe. Liz bakes the whole in a casserole dish.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face..... haggis.
For a starter we diverged a bit away from Scottish fare with a favourite salad - leaves, pomegranate bits, goats cheese, pickled sweet red peppers and toasted pinenuts. The haggis came, of course, with neeps and tatties and an onion gravy. Dessert was a bit 'fusion food'. Liz crossed cranachan with pavlova (why not?) and came up with a pavlova with a meringue base, a good layer of cream, then blackberry coulis and berries, topped with toasted rolled oats.

Cranachan x Pavlova
We have, inevitably, a mountain of this food left over even though everybody bar Henry piled in with gusto and did it justice. H was a little excited at his first evening visit to 'Matt and Dizzy's' house and was not in the mood for settling down to eat this unfamiliar food but he was still a pleasure to entertain and he enjoyed himself. "Dizzy" (sorry, I mean Liz) has since been on the internet talking to chums who also have left over haggis and mashed spuds, and someone has come up with the very promising idea of haggis and potato 'pasties' which have GOT to be worth a try. We have very little 'neep' left so some of our lovely fresh sprouts may get thinly sliced and added to the pastie filling.

We had lit the fires at both ends of the house, so we had a lovely turf fire going in the living room as well as the range in the dining room. We do not usually have real turf in the house as we'd only use it on the open fire, which we don't light very often; it does not go very well in the range. However, I had taken some eggs round to neighbour Una and she was trying to pay me money for them. I asked instead if I might have some of the lovely long dry turfs she has in her shed; they look very picturesque in the log basket and would burn nicely on our fire for our guests when we adjourned through to the comfortable chairs. We didn't go very late. The visitors were mindful of the need to get little Henry to bed by 9:30-ish but, more importantly, K-Dub was due a very early (04:30) start as he's off to the Bavaria mountains on a motor bike, to be part of the annual "Elephant Rally", camping.

Rooster 'Mr Buff' shelters in the goose house. 
We take our hats off to you, buddy, rather you than me. The weather is not looking particularly promising, it is snowy and windy in Bavaria at present, but he has a good ex-military tent and a sleeping bag which is good to minus 30 degrees C and, anyway, hey! He's a ruffty tuffty biker. I used to enjoy my 2CV camps but they were generally in the summer and I had the car around me when I was driving to and from. K-Dub is on a bike in just his leathers and helmet through the night to Dublin, then all across Wales and England to the Channel Tunnel, then all across mainland Europe to his snowy forest 'home' and all his biker mates. Safe journey, K-Dub. Look after yourself.

1 comment:

anne wilson said...

Nice looking pavlova, my favorite!