Monday, 29 June 2015

Red Rag...

Red 'rag' to a 'Stag' Turkey? Liz's scarlet pyjamas
Liz got a nasty surprise recently when normally placid, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly, male turkey, 'Tom' decided to attack her. He did the proper rearing up, both feet off the ground, flying kick thing and caught her a couple of quite nasty bruises and abrasions one on each thigh. We'd seen him do plenty of displaying at both of us but only actually seen him square up to our 2nd-in-command rooster, 'Captain', so Liz, who had stepped out into the yard still in her PJs to enjoy the morning sun,  saw him stalk over and thought no more of it. She was taken by surprise when he launched himself and then she nipped indoors a bit quick to slam the door on the rude lad.

Is this the biggest single geranium plant you ever did see?
The variety is 'Orion'. 
We wondered if perhaps the bright red PJs had anything to do with it, and we are now sure that's what was riling him. Turkeys do very red facial displays, with all their fancy excrescences going from dull blue-grey, through bright blue to bright red, so it would be logical for red to be an unwise response. Liz has since tried the same move in all the other colours she wears, to no effect. She then tried the red PJs one more time, out at the front of the house just to test the theory with Tom way away over by the pond. He spotted her and made a bee-line charge across the drive and car port, so that she had to grab a Curver-bucket and plonk it over his head while she retreated backwards indoors. Mad bird (Tom, not Lizzie!). Generally, like most poultry keepers, we would not tolerate an aggressive cock-bird, but we are forgiving Tom for now as we can manage the behaviour by just not wearing bright red PJs out of doors during the breeding season.

In the 'craft' department, Liz has a new weapon in the armoury, a good second hand sewing machine found for her by local expert Carolyn (of the mini horses). Carolyn used to service and demonstrate machines to customers and now runs evening classes for the likes of Liz who is experienced but rusty and would be unfamiliar with these new machines with their fancy electronics and broad choice of stitch-types. Liz has one such class tonight and takes her own machine along to be shown new stuff on.

Carding Lily's first-cut wool
Meanwhile, Carolyn herself has been restoring and exploring an olde spinning wheel, using the fleece we sheared from our ewes, Polly and Lily. This is mainly Lily at the moment (just because she got that first and has put it through the washing stages and has now carded some of it). This turned out to be a bit of a problem because where I had made such a 'Horlicks' of shearing Lily in two halves (outer and inner wool), the wool strands are only half as long as they should be (2 inches instead of about 4) which makes carding easier but spinning is tricky. You have to tease lots of fibres out of the carded mass of wool and feed them onto the spinning wheel without the not-yet-spun strand of wool breaking.

Lily's wool on the spinning wheel. 
The spinning wheel is an old one from (Carloyn thinks) around the 40s and they have had to get it going again with no instructions, just from working out engineering "first principles" with only some explanatory videos on the web (and a helpful expert at the end of an e-mail). They are getting there but suffering from the machine over-spinning the wool so that it knots up and struggling to create knit-able, even wool strands. Nothing if not determined though, this wool is going to get spun and a garment or test square knitted from it "even if (she) then puts the machine away in a cupboard and never touches it again!" It is fascinating to watch the process but we think that maybe Liz has the easier task, mastering the modern electronics of the sewing machine. We all believe that there are no evening classes for this spinning skill for miles around.

Gorgeous lamb's liver paté
In the cookery department, several nice recent successes including 2 new recipes which will become 'keepers' and get filed on our repertoire. Both the new ones are from internet friends, one of whom has made a move a bit like ours, out of a long-term career (Accounting in her case) into a brand new life (professional cook/caterer). She had posted a version of cous-cous salad which sounded interesting mainly because it had no cous-sous in it (!). We like cous cous, but were intrigued by this alternative - cauliflower florets 'whizzed' up raw into tiny crumbs the size of cous-cous bits which you then steam only enough to cook them but so that they keep the nutty, lots-of-bits, mouth-feel of cooked cous-cous. You don't want them turning to veg-mush like overcooked courgette, Yuck. Then of course, you make up your salad with the usual fried/roasted peppers, toms, onions, garlic or what ever you'd normally use in a cous-cous. We were delighted.

We always say soufflé is easier and nicer with your own
good, very fresh, free range eggs. 
The other new-comer was a version of lamb-liver paté using allspice. It was suggested that if you were not an over-keen liver nut, and lamb's liver can be VERY liver-tasting, then this recipe reduced the 'livery-ness' a bit. What ever the truth, this paté was gorgeous, one of the best I have ever tasted. I like my paté a tad 'coarse' (bitty) in texture, so this was only 'blitzed' to a degree, but if you like a smooth paté then there would be no reason why you couldn't do all the fine sieving rigmarole to get the bits out. It would taste just as good. The third notable success was a cracking set of cheese soufflés, always easier and nicer with your own good, very fresh, free range eggs.

Not one to be proud of - probably should get the brake linings
checked before they are stripped bare and down to the metal!
In other news we are getting the car ready for sale (actually part-exchange) and we may have found a replacement but more on this in the next post. We do not want to tempt fate by describing a car and then it all going "Pete Tong" on us. Suffice to say that we could not look a salesman in the eye knowing that the front end of the car was making those metal-on-metal grinding noises (aside from the risk of driving around with rubbish front stopping-power), so the car was off this morning to get shiny new front discs and pads. Yesterday we had to play take off the tow hitch games. We may just buy a car for which the hitch was compatible and the said salesman had already said he'd be perfectly happy for us to excude it from any deal. No-one wants a tow hitch, he assured us.

The baby turkeys at three weeks old - they get to go outside
on warm dry days but get rescued back indoors at night. 
And finally a nice surprise greeted me under the elderberry bush. Regular readers may recall that we had what we thought was a rather hopeless mother Buff Orpington hen go broody under the bush and gave us some hand-wringing times with her fierce determination to stay right there, rather than get moved to somewhere safe and fox-proof. In the end we gave in and created a fox-barrier round her but she seemed to be too bored to be a successful broody. She first evicted one egg and left it, all lonely, outside the nest, never pulling it back under her skirts, and she spent more than an hour off the nest, sometimes two times a day just wandering around. We were sure the eggs would be chilled and lost but today (while she was off again) I checked the eggs and could see one was well into 'pipping', with the little chick's beak clearly visible moving about inside the hole it was making through the shell. Now, we have been in this game too long (even the short time we HAVE been!) to start counting babies when they are only half way out and Mum was quickly back on today. Only she will know what's going on under her skirts but Liz is joking that if she hatches more than "Hen with One Chick" she will be unbearable. We are suitably chastened and humbled by our lack of faith. The 'hopeless broody' has at least brought one to full term.


helbel said...

re Spinning - you're spinning singles. These will need to be plied to make yarn. The plying will sort out a lot of the extra twist. Also the machine isn't over spinning - that would be the spinner who controls the machine! If there is too much twist then draft more quickly or slow down treadling, or change the ratio to a slower one (if you have one, on a spinning wheel that old there may not be).

Also please go look at the Beginning Spinning forum of Ravelry, you'll see lots of peoples first attempts at spinning and also groups like UK Spinners (don't know if there is an Irish equivalent) will help with wheel mechanics etc. There is help out there.

Spinning is a skill that takes a lot of practice, 15 mins a day is recommended :)

Matt Care said...

Thanks for that, Helbel, I will pass that on, in its entirety, to our spinner.