Monday, 26 October 2015

An Extra Hour in Bed?

1,28 kg of 'Golden Hornet' crab apples. Our best tree this year.
We come to that weekend when we change all the clocks back and out comes that cliché that "we get an extra hour in bed". Indeed we held to that view when we had 'normal' jobs with fixed hours. This is always followed by a spate of Mums protesting, "Extra Hour? Not if you've a three year old child waking up" and now that we are out here doing the small holdering mallarkey, we have moved over to that view. We have no need of curtains in the windows here so the daylight comes streaming in 24 hours after it did yesterday and the westies don't know that it's now "only 7 o'clock" instead of 8 a.m. GMT.

The lovely golden pink of crab apple jelly.
They start bouncing around, wide awake so that you know they'll need a 'comfort stop' soon. The roosters are cock-a-doodling like billy-oh and the sheep start calling for their breakfasts. We are up and at 'em. In my case I was off 'buildering' in Sligo and Liz knew she had a load of crab apples to turn into crab apple jelly and we both knew that we'd have a normal length day with that odd jet-lag evening where all your senses are telling you that it is bed time but the clock says "No, not yet".

Too meaty for dogs? This chunk of beef spine/rib. 
If you are not familiar with UK or Irish TV you may not know of a recent successful advert for which the punchline has now gone into common usage in the same way as "Go to work on an egg" or "For Mash get Smash" did back in the day. That is the ad for the optician and spectacles shop, 'Specsavers' and the quip comes out when ever anyone has done something suggesting they are blind or poorly sighted, "He should have gone to Specsavers". The ad used amusing film of the sheepdog barely escaping the shearing shed where he'd been (badly) shorn along with the sheep.

Beef braised slowly in beer, to an adapted Nigel
Slater recipe. 
Where am I going with this? Nearby there is a butcher specialising in beef but who cuts the joints and ribs to suit the Irish customer. They love to see meat cut well clear of any connective tissue, cartilege, sinew etc and "well boned out" with the result that this butcher's scraps and "bones for the dogs" have so much meat wrapped around them that customers in the know joke delightedly with each other that the guy must have poor eyesight to have "missed" it and (inevitably) should've gone to Specsavers! To us he is now referred to as the 'Specsavers Butcher'.

I remember that my Mum (Pud Lady) had similar luck - she frequented a game shop near Hastings where the 'bones for the dog' were frequently casseroled into a very meaty venison casserole for us humans before the bones went anywhere near the dog. We recently came by a superbly meaty bit of spine/rib (Thank you generous benefactor - you know who you are!) which I converted into a superb braised stew taking a Nigel Slater recipe and swapping out his suggested Rioja (that must almost be a criminal act... Rioja indeed!) for beer and adding more veg. I reckoned that if I slow-cooked it long enough we'd be able to slap one of the big 2-vertebra chunks onto the plate and then forage the meat off that, with the veg and gravy doing a good job of mushing into the mashed potato (not too buttery, advises Nigel... keep it fluffy/floury to better take up the gravy). That was a very successful meal and the left overs, cooked up some more, may become a future pie filling.

Paired off? Belvedere now seems very attached to the widow
bird 'Min', here with inseperable buddy 'Squawk' the Marans
Way back when, our first Guinea Fowl were called Henry and Min after the daft Goon Show aul' folks, because they walked around stooped over like the old folks on the 'Old People Crossing' roadsign. Then, readers may recall, Henry met with an accident out on the road and Min has been driving us mad for 12 months calling her lonely mate-seeking 'Buckwheat Buckwheat' call. We acquired two young birds hoping that at least one would grow up a cock-bird and pair up with her.

Dylan tore his eartag out on a fence but we have found it
so we should be OK handing it in to the butcher with him
when the time comes. 
These 'guys' were named Apollo and Belvedere (it's a long story involving that 'Min' might actually be the Greek Goddess 'Minerva', so she'd need an Apollo for her mate and that there is a famous Renaissance statue called the Apollo Belvedere. We had two possible boys, so we needed 2 names. With me so far?). Well, it now seems that one young bird (Belvedere) has paired off with Min. He abandons his former gang (young turkeys and Guineas) for big chunks of most days and you can find him trotting along or mooching about closely paired off with Min and (inevitably) her inseperable buddy, the Marans hen 'Squawk'. Poor Squawk will be feeling like one of those less pretty  'best friends' who gets left behind when they grow up and her prettier friend starts to discover boys before she does.

The other young Guinea we think is almost certainly a hen but may be a bit confused as to her species. You see her doing a very flirty dance with the young male turkeys, where she runs in circles with her wings splayed, then squats down on the ground in front of the chosen boy. The chosen male turkey gets all excited and also start running in circles calling, but never quite works out (mercifully!) what he is meant to be doing, so the Guinea Hen runs round some more and squats again in front of him. Maybe he looks, to her, like a big Guinea cock-bird. Should've gone to Specsavers?

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