Monday, 21 December 2015

Winter Waffle (A Sense of Solstice)

I quite like this shot of myself and 3 dogs, which Lizzie took in
the monochrome mode on her phone. 
The 21st December, the Winter Solstice is probably now my absolute favourite single day in the calendar. This is probably because in this life 'over here' we spend so much time out of doors and the weather, the day length and the dark evenings matter more - when I was in Kent I'd be up at just gone 04:00 but then work all day inside a huge chilled warehouse with air-con offices and it didn't matter a hoot what the weather was doing outside. You would only meet it when running from covered reception area to your car across the car-park top storey.

I am on Christmas cake duties this
year. Here the cake gets its marzipan.
Now the 21st is the day on which the days stop getting shorter and start to get longer, the evenings brighter and the Springtime 'officially' closer. It is a definite turn-around in fortunes when all manner of aspects of life stop getting 'worse' and start to improve. Lately I have made it the day by which I make sure all the killing, the livestock harvest is done so that mentally I can now think of the current members of the menagerie as our 'fighting weight' from which we will start to build again for the new season. There are one or two more animals to finish, including our June-born lamb Dylan but we will get well through this season before we look at him. I can do the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th, and so on, on a rising, creative trajectory; we are cooking meals, creating food and preparing for Christmas, making things rather than ending lives and 'destroying' or finishing things. Just me being sentimental perhaps.

The  final turkey 'harvest' gets it in the neck. 
This re-start has, this year, added extra facets. This year we got into turkeys which are probably the epitome of harvesting at the Solstice. I killed our last poult this morning and we had her plucked and 'dressed' in time for Vendor Anna to collect her at lunchtime. This one was unusual in that Anna only wanted a 'crown' (the breasts, sternum and underlying ribs) so we have a rather unusual looking breastless carcass in the freezer which we may try to roast spine-uppermost on a bed of spuds, parsnips etc at some stage. Luckily we are both partial to the red meat.

Spatchcocked young Silver Brahma rooster. 
Those roosters I described in the last post turn out to be a breed called "Silver Brahma". One of them was more than a year old and seemed very tough so he went for stock, but one of the young ones got spatchcocked and roasted last night and, despite his 'scrawny' looks, turned out to be a revelation in terms of being meaty enough to feed 2 of us with left overs and having a flavour up there alongside the Hubbard meat birds we do each summer.

Liz coming to of a morning armed with Kindle,
 cat, onesie and the red flame of a fire in the
From my own point of view (I can only speak for myself here) I am also including the unexpectedly solid closure I got from the Theo funeral - my Theo era ended pre Solstice and I am now able to start the post-Theo synchronised with this turning point in the year. Down at the Sligo house-build we have also pretty much done with demolition, so the post-Sostice jobs are mainly going to be building and creating. We do actually have a chimney to pull down -  it was central to the old roof ridge but the new roof will sit back a couple of feet and be a tiny bit higher, so we need to create a new stack on that new line.

15 bales of straw for JD's cattle. 
We have been getting into this buildering with the new block-walls at the back of the house and, most recently, what is known as a 'ring beam'. I had not heard of this, but it is a continuously poured beam of concrete reinforced with steel bars (rebar) running all around the tops of your walls at roof height. You create wooden shuttering up from the outside and inside of the walls and heft buckets of wet concrete up ladders to pour into the channel you created. Loads of fun. Tiring, too!

A tree in the nick of time.
It has, though, been an unusually 'close to the wire' Christmas. It is the 21st today and we have a long list of things not yet done or only just done what with delays related to Liz now working, Liz heading for Silverwood land to child-mind while the adults headed for the UK, and the funeral. Things like buying the tree and decorating it, we like to do as a couple, so it was not as if I could have nipped off, bagged our tree and presented it to Liz on her return 'ta-daaaa!' So it was not till Sunday that we bought the thing and tonight we put it up. This was almost too close - Supervalue where we buy the tree had started with hundreds back in early December but by now they only had 4 left. We were lucky to find a decent one among them. Today, too, I have been marzipanning the cake and Liz has been doing Domestic Goddess. We have nipped out with the trailer for 15 bales of straw for some nearby cattle - they have the 'all is safely gathered in' feeling too. We may, between us all, actually be ready on the 25th to enjoy the day. I hope you are too. Now, where's that ruby port?

No comments: