Monday, 7 September 2015

Butchery and Buildery

Saturday saw us back involved in the butchering of pigs, specifically the split carcasses of two full grown sows for our friends Sue and Rob. These girls were actually the mums of the piglets we moved in an earlier post and the  helped catch and load on Wednesday evening (Sept 2nd). I find I love this work and thoroughly enjoy taking pride in trying to produce good looking cuts of meat, presentable racks of rib, sheets of spare rib and in knowing my way round a carcass. I should quickly add that I am no expert but I am learning fast with every side I cut up, so I was delighted to be invited over to help out.

Rob, I know, would have loved to have been there and wants to get involved in the next one, but this time, the issues loading the animals last week pushed the butchery back into a week when he had already booked on a flight home to visit Mum, so he missed it and just had to watch the pictures go up on Facebook. He'll be back for the sausage making though and for the onward processing of all the many joints which ended up in buckets of brine or dry salt cure.

A spot of belladonna to cure what ails ye?
He will also be there for the eating. I was joking with JD Bob about Sue's bulging freezer and he was rubbing his hands with glee and joking that "there'll be some ate-ing in that house this winter! The pan'll be frying!...." Thanks then Sue, for letting us 'play'. Being full grown sows they were HUGE compared to our little 6-month old Berkshire gilts. We think about 60 kg a side, so nearly a quarter ton of meat. We actually had to cut all the legs (except one for dry cure) into several pieces just to make manageable joints for cooking for three appetites. I now find myself looking at pictures of carcasses and starting to plan where I would make my cuts and where I'd saw through bones.

Old Arklow pottery
We were also able to get back into the buildering in a small way, a lovely nostagic job to take us right back to our own demolition-ing of 2011/12. No names, locations or pack-drill on this one as it is rightly someone else's story to tell and those who need to know are already enjoying the Facebook feed and pics, but I hope the owner of this tale will not mind me telling our little sub-tale of treasures found and historic interest. This is an old property bought by a family of friends we know just across the county boundary, which they will 'do up' over the coming months (years?) but which they bought, like we did, in an abandoned state still well stocked with old "stuff" - furniture, crockery, cutlery and so on.

A government pamphlet on coping with a nuclear
accident from the 60s and a pack of pills to help
with radiation sickness from year 2002.
The place was formerly owned by a little old lady who lived to over a hundred (she eventually died in a nursing home) but who seemed to have kept everything, certainly Birthday and Christmas cards, letters and notes going back decades, hand-written, pre-decimal financial records and the like. Now Lizzie, you will know, LOVES her history and gets expecially fascinated by the history of the ordinary people, rather than Kings, Queens and politicians, so this was like treasure trove to her, a veritable gold mine.

An old but intact clay pipe and this lovely
brass hand-bell were among the finds.
The friends invited us over to help with some of the early stages once they had gained access and for Liz that meant a chance to root through the 'stuff' a bit while clearing what she described as "30 years of old clothes and mouldy rugs" out towards a fire pit they had going. I was put to work lump-hammering render off the outside of what is now beautiful stonework, which will be properly pointed up with old fashioned lime-mortar (the lump hammer does less damage to the stone faces than would an electric 'kango' hammer-drill). Liz carried big rubbish out, barrowed the shovel-up smaller stuff out, and dived in to rescue interesting finds with the daughter of the house.

Some of this the friends did not want, so we have it, but other bits we are cleaning up for them to create a mini-museum display of treasures from the house. Mazy will be amused to know that Liz has therefore spent her afternoon up to her armpits in brown sauce and brasso (the sauce is the perfect combination of sticky and acid for "marinading" the tarnish off metal cuttlery; rinse, dry, elbow grease and polish. Bob's your Uncle). There was a small collection of silver and silver-ish cuttlery and a lovely brass hand-bell. There was an intact old clay-pipe and a broken one. There was a small amount of surviving pottery from the Arklow pottery, Ireland's "Staffordshire" back in the day. There were assorted bottles of booze - rum, armagnac, whiskey and others. All the family drugs were there including, we noted, a belladonna based one for stomach problems which we guess has been superceded by now (!). The drugs have, of course, been safely parceled up for sensible disposal.

Brush cutting long grass in autumn here has you discovering
stashes of free-range eggs - these are 16 guinea fowl eggs
One of the most fascinating things from my point of view was a government pamphlet posted out to all the citizens in the 60s explaining the new threat of nuclear accident and fall-out. The one Liz found is specifically aimed at farmers (I assume there was an urban version) and how they should go about protecting stock, crops and grass from the effects of fall out. With it she also found a government issued pack of Potassium Iodate tablets against radiation sickness but we have looked both items up and the tablets are much more recent. They were issued in 2002 after a political scandal when one TD (Irish MP) was accusing another of not having done anything about protecting the public etc etc..... The pills are use by 2005 so must be among the last things our old lady stashed away for safe keeping.

Our water station for the "Ros Go Run" half marathon. 
The only other thing to report is our involvement, once again, in setting up a watering-point for the thirsty (half) marathon runners of the 'Ros Go Run' fun-run. The runners lope past our front gate almost at the end of their efforts, in the 12th mile, so we set up a table and bottled water which we can pass to them as they whizz by, not breaking their stride (or they are happy to stop and chat for a rest if they are almost done in!). Last year the planners had badly timed the run so that it clashed with a run in the nearby big town (Westport, I recall) so they were disappointed to only get 67 runners and were hoping for more this year. We were ready. I do not yet know what went wrong with this but on the day there was a tiny turn-out, with only 21 runners doing the course and, because there were almost as many water-stations round the course as runners, I only actually gave out 6 cups of water. I suppose it is quite possible that the organisers will call it a day and there may not be a 'Ros Go Run' next year. We did our bit, anyway.

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