Tuesday, 7 January 2014

George and the Ladies' Christmas

Red Kuri Squash - nice fudgy texture when roasted.
Hot on the heels of my 'Wren Boys' post comes another tradition from these parts which was new to me, that of Ladies' Christmas. Mrs Silverwood's post in Facebook has it thus. “Nollaig na mBan” or “Little Women’s Christmas” is an old custom that’s still celebrated by women all over Ireland. It goes back to the days when large families were the norm. Men never lifted a finger in the house to help, and were never expected to. If a man washed the dishes, he would be called an “auld woman” by other men. No full blooded Irish man was prepared to risk that!

Ominous sky precedes our latest "Category Orange" storm, Christine
But each year, after the Christmas holiday, tired women finally got a break – for one day, at least. On January 6th (the same day as the Epiphany), men would take over of the housework, offering women a chance to go out to relax with each other." Nollaig na mBan would be pronounced 'Nollag na Morn' or there abouts. Now call me a cynic but I think this tradition might be more 'fondly dreamed about' than actually happening. I cannot see those kind of blokes, Irish or otherwise, who'd let their women do all the work and never lift a finger, suddenly bringing their women folk tea and toast in bed on Day 12 and happily volunteering to knock up a delicious curry for when they get back from the pub.

George and the author. Note rainbow.
Readers who have been with me for the past 12 months, will know of our goose in-breeding problem. Our first three geese, Goosey, Goocey and Gander joined us last January advertised as a breed-able trio and we didn't know enough then to spot that Gander had serious wry-tail (or to realise that this might be a problem). We also suspect that they may have been a sibling group possibly even from the same clutch, brother and sisters. They settled in and got nice and clean and healthy; it was when they started breeding that we got some problems - infertile and dead-in-shell goslings, deformed babies with necks twisted round, goslings who went lame after a month or two, completely losing the motor control of their legs or just fading and dying. Out of 17 eggs incubated, we ended up with just 2 full grown young ones.

We decided to cease breeding with these three birds and to either just collect eggs (which one of the geese is still producing every other day all through Christmas and the New Year) or to swap out the gander so that we could out-cross rather than in-breed. Step forward then, our friends Carolyn and Charlotte of the miniature horses who had come out of geese after all sorts of fun and games with mink attacks but had been left with one lonely successful gosling.

This bird, named George even before anyone could sex him was hand reared by Charlotte and is as dotty and tame as anything, loving to have his neck tickled and to be cuddled and handled. As he was on his own, he grew up with Charlotte's motley mixture of call ducks and 'Swedish' ducks and most recently was running with a couple of drakes whom he used to marshall and follow around. We THINK he is a gander. A friend of Charlotte's who keeps a lot of geese thinks he is, from the stance and behaviour but admittedly did not pick him up to check his equipment.

George meets his women (He is closest to camera)
To cut a long story short, we have swapped out 'Gander' with 'George' today and George, after an hour in a holding pen to make sure they'd not fight and to let him see his new surroundings in peace, is now released into the orchard with the girls. They were a bit shouty when their previous fella suddenly disappeared, perhaps anxious to attract him back, but seem to have settled down now with George. I am hoping they have bonded enough to be able to shepherd all three 'home' tonight and shut them up in the relatively confined space of their sleeping quarters. I may have to quarter them apart for this first night. So.... welcome aboard George.

Nearly finished. Raglan sweater.
In other news we are currently surviving the recent wind storms (latest was named Christine; I don't know when Atlantic anti-cyclones started to get names) with, thankfully, no more damage. We experimented with a red kuri squash, a gift from the Silverwoods, and found that roasted it has a lovely delicate flavour and a fudgy texture. We will keep some seeds and try to get it to grow in our calf muck heap. Liz has almost finished my raglan knit sweater, the biggest thing she has attempted in this recent burst of the craft. Meanwhile we are sploshing about in wellies with mud everywhere after the recent, seemingly relentless rain, and wishing spring would come and it would all dry out a bit.