Friday 18 September 2015

Bespoke Livestockman's Dressing Gown?

Deefer at 9
Happy Birthday to my 'Number 1 Daughter', Deefer Dawg after whom this blog is named, 9 years old on Thursday 17th. She had a day of extra fusses and all three dogs got raw pork bones which pass for doggie Birthday Cake in this family. Happy Birthday too, to her litter mates, bro' Archie and sis' Ellie-Bezz who are both back in Kent and still in contact via their owners on Facebook. I don't know if Arch and Ellie get bones but if not, then they are missing out.

Our 'alpha' rooster, The Lieutenant with a Buff hen
Our bones were of course those from recent pig butchery of our Berkshires. I cut the shoulder prime-joints through close to the spine and ribcage so that all possible meat stays wrapped round the shoulder blade and we cook them bone-in. The few front-most ribs and associated vertebrae are our dog bones. I can remember watching the meat factory lads cutting up the pork for a friend of ours a few years back and using a hydraulic puller to rip the shoulder blade out of the joint.

The new flock line-up in the East Field
You'll be pleased to know that the new ram (Rambo) has settled in well with our ewes and our existing young ram-lamb, Dylan. Within hours he was 'with' them, very much part of the flock and very much taking his duties responsibly in terms of 'marshall and protect'. When I walk the dogs around outside their fence, the ewes will usuallly look up and get a bit nervous, though they are well used to the dogs by now, but Rambo grunts and moves to defend the ewes, placing his body squarely between the dogs and his women and even coming to the fence to glare at the dogs.

The turkeys have now taught the chickens to steal catfood
through the kitchen window.
Of course, he is really quite tame and as soft as grease, so he also wanders over to any passing human to get his head stroked and his chin petted. As to his real job, we have seen him schmoozing the girls up, sniffing their vulvae and so on, but so far we have seen no actual mounting. I have read that the presence of the ram will bring the girls into season but I don't recall how long this might take. I will have to do some research. Also, worryingly, Myfanwy is still very occasionally allowing Dylan to suckle,and I think that this will stop her coming on heat. Ah well, we have the lend of Rambo for as long as it takes so we are still hopeful of a good result.

All taken! 4 hens in 4 nestboxes. 
On that one, I find I have been too clever, using the word 'tup' and 'tupping' for all this maleness. It is the word the UK sheep farmers use, so it is in our sheep 'bible' Tim Tyne's "The Sheep Book for Smallholders" but in these parts no-one uses it and I completely bamboozled our lamb-butcher and slaughterman (They asked what word I was saying and how did I spell it!) by talking about this year's tup. They say, simply, that you "let the ram in" or "let the ram out (into the ewes' field)".

Dry salt cure for this leg complete. Now it gets air-dried
While we are on pork and butchery, our dry salt-cured complete leg of pork is now through the salting process. It gets covered in salt for 21 days, with daily draining of the brine water which is sucked out of the meat by osmosis and repairs to the salt crust 'patted' onto it all over. This salts the outside very well and dries the outside to a nice safe preserved dark-red state. The salt and spices are then washed off and the leg patted dry before being enclosed in a muslin bag and hung up to dry in a good cool drafty place for between 4 and 18 months.

Full leg in its muslin bag.
The muslin keeps the flies and dust off the meat while the salt diffuses throughout the meat and the inner/outer saltiness evens up, plus various other chemical changes happen to mature the meat. You hope that you have left no bits uncured to go off. If the meat starts to smell you cannot recover it and just have to throw it away, though you are allowed to scrub surface moulds off the outside with vinegar during the curing time. We are hoping for a 'parma ham' type effect but we might be a while showing you any results. 18 months? What is that all about? Patience is the thing.

Music sessions at the local pub are still going strong.
Here 8 musicians make a goodly noise
The need for a muslin bag led Liz to break out the sewing machine and write out a list of projects on which to try her skills even though sewing 'school' is currently broken up for a 4 week holiday due to all the others involved being tied up on other jobs. The muslin bag turned out to be no simple wrap-around shroud - it had posh seams and a draw-string tie at the top. The string was even plaited for extra strength and the whole leg is now hanging on this from a screw in the loft-hatch.

Skilled hands work another seam.
Better still, Liz decided to try to make me an entire replacement copy of my Summer-weight dressing gown, originally a rather posh 'designer' (Calvin Klein) one, a gift from Liz decades ago. It is my habit to 'sprint' round on my first livestock round in the dressing gown (plus crocs or wellies if necessary and, of course coat and hat if it is raining) and I have over the years snagged the old one a couple of times on fences or doors and worn it thin so that it was looking a bit disreputable. I can then 'lep' back into bed for a sneaky lie-in till it is a sensible time to bring Liz her cup of tea.

Who needs Calvin Klein?
To the rescue, then, a redundant dark blue kingsize bedsheet, 8 feet by 8 feet of flat, blank "canvas" onto which Liz could chalk the shapes of the panels of the old one and the parts of sleeves, belt, pockets, collar. I just had to do 'model' occasionally, standing on chairs or next to Liz who was on a chair with pins between her lips and tape measure in hand; we had a number of fittings for this tailoring. The "bespoke" and "livestockman's" words in my title? It was during one of these fittings that Liz asked about pockets and I admitted that the pockets were only ever used for carrying two carrots, those for rabbits Ginny and Goldie who I reach further round the 'rounds' and that I only ever use the left hip pocket and the left breast pocket. The two hip pockets Liz had already made up quickly got re-pinned to these locations on the gown and Bingo! A unique one-off garment but one which Liz is delighted to find that she could easily turn out again if needed. I am very pleased with it and the Calvin Klein original is currently in the blue wheelie bin, just rags now. Up-cycling at its best.

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