Tuesday 9 December 2014

Calming Down

After a run of calm and frosty days we are back into (yellow) Weather Warnings over here, from tonight round to Thursday morning, mainly for the wind strength  as a 'dacent' Atlantic depression comes a-howling through. All the poultry is firmly shut away and there are rocks on the roofs of rabbit hutches (plus I may also do this to the bee hive, but it is quite sheltered over there). We are all safely gathered in tonight and enjoying the warmth of the range, which seems to like these SW winds and gets that extra bit of brightness going which self-cleans the mica-glass 'window'. The blog, I notice, is also creeping up on a milestone, that of 100,000 page-views; I don't think I can claim to be JK Rowling just yet, but my faithful 20-30 visits per post, mainly from friends and family, have kept me chugging along across the 8 years I have been posting. Thank you for that.

The range going well.
We are calming down here on the run in to Christmas which, for us, keeps changing shape. We were going to be going it alone, then we were to have a visitor, then we weren't and now we are again. with a different person. We are a good way through the gift buying and picked up a couple more bits at the local craft fair in Lisacul, our nearest village. We will be off down to the Silverwoods' a few days after Christmas but this will be a flying visit timed around our livestock needs.

Blue and Towser help their 'Dad' to a post-prandial
glass of red wine. Towser is on my knees. 
Really, though, I can never get too excited about all this 25th December malarkey which is now really just a spending spree and a short break for over-eating. When I was working this was especially true, as the supermarkets (who paid my salary) went completely ga-ga busy at Christmas and 'up-steam' on the supply chain we found ourselves working right up to mid afternoon on Christmas Eve and then back in at 06:00 on Boxing Day to get lorries ready with re-stock commodities (often, Cadbury's creme eggs; a cause of much hollow laughter and gallows humour to the exhausted crews). I used to hear of people who got the fortnight off or a long break by only having to take a few days out of their annual holiday (this sometimes included Liz if the dates fell right) and thought I might be in the wrong industry. I appreciated, of course, that there were plenty 'worse off' than me - the Emergency Services, Nurses and the like who had to work right through including the night shifts. It definitely knocked all the pre-Christmas excitement out of a bloke, anyway.

Those modeling paints, little 14 ml tins.  
In my head, I am more excited about 2 other dates in December. First comes the 13th, this Saturday, being the first date I can collect our sheep. The 14th is the date for the Ministry sheep census, so we may be able to report some ewes. 2nd, comes the 21st, the Winter Solstice. Don't worry - I am not going all Druidic and 'weird' on you, but the 21st is the shortest day, so by the 22nd  I am mentally into increasing day length and signs of Spring. I feel like I have got the worst part of winter over by then and even if it snows and blows a gale, in my head it will soon be over, it 'can't last' and we can look forward to daffodils, crocuses, blossom and so on.

Testing the cured pork leg.
On this, a conversation with neighbouring farmer, Michael McG stopped me in my tracks just by striking me with a different point of view, which I wasn't expecting, but which I quite liked and may adopt. We were chatting about the weather and the possible wind and rain to come when he said "....ah but it can only now be a short winter". He was saying that we had already done September, October, November and some of December with only mild and calm weather, effectively putting half the possible months to bed with no damage. Impressively philosophical.

Sniffing the crochet hook you just stabbed into the meat.
On an unrelated subject, our pork curing efforts seem to be progressing OK. The thick chunks of leg meat came through their 28 days of being rubbed and sprinkled with the salt, sugar, herbs and spices mix and are now air-drying in the coolest, driest place we can find - hanging from the loft hatch in the spare room with the radiator turned off in that room. Our instructions are to wait a week and then to test the meat by stabbing it with a needle, which you then withdraw and sniff. If you can smell any off smells then you have a problem. You should only be able to smell salt, sugar and a 'ham' smell reminiscent of Parma, Serrano or Pancetta type meat which is the area we are aiming for. We were fine and the meat now goes back up to hang and dry some more - you want it firm and 'stiff' but not rock-hard (we read) so this is likely to mean 8-10 weeks drying. That brings us to the start of February. I am looking forward to it.

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