Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Stirring it Up.... Early

Stir It Up..... Christmas Pudding Mix
Normally we would be looking to make up our Christmas Pudding mixes on the 'proper' day, "Stir Up Sunday" which, as you will probably know falls on the last Sunday before Advent. This year that is the 20th November. However, this year Liz wanted to make extra puds to give away as Christmas presents, one of which will be going to some UK visitors who are here soon; way too soon to have a pud mixed on 20th November.

...because sometimes you need to leave yourself a reminder
for the next morning.
So as I sit here writing this on a Tuesday evening with Liz off at knitting club and then drama group, I am actually supervising three puds 'blupping' away gently in three different places. this just to make sure nobody boils dry. I have to turn off the hob pair at 10 p.m. but the slow-cooker one can keep on a-going till Liz gets home. The house seems to be acknowledging that Christmas is just around the corner (though we are not ones for early decorating or playing any Christmas songs till much nearer the day).

One of the puds simmering gently (lid removed for photo)
This very mild, food-based, Christmas feeling is also spreading to our sense of 'harvest time'. I like to get all the killing done by the Solstice (21st Dec) because then I can go into Christmas in a constructive frame of mind, not a destructive one. I mentally turn a corner on that date and start my getting ready for Spring. We have started to "finish" (that aul' euphemism!) the Hubbard meat-birds who are currently on day 93; you may recall that we try to finish them all between days 80 and 100 so that they a big and meaty but still very young and tender. Superb meat. So tasty and succulent.

Hubbard carcasses. These two were 2.4 and 2.7 kg oven-ready
This year I am mildly concerned that following a good 'harvest' of our pork and our lambs, the freezers are a bit full to be accepting a dozen biggish chickens but Liz is calm and tells me not to fret. "Keep on killing them", she says, "and I will keep on plucking them, dressing them, jointing, packing and freezing them". She shuffles up the smaller items already frozen to make more space and immediately capitalizes on any vacant places gained by us whipping out a joint, a frozen left-overs tub or a bottle of stock.

Rolled Rib Roast of pork
Reading Anne's blog, she found that this batch were unusual in their inconsistent oven-ready weights. "There is a wide range of weights", she writes, "with these latest birds which are supposed to be Hubbards, a slow growing strain. They have ranged in weight from six and a half pounds (2.94 kg) to nine pounds three ounces (4.17 kg). We really  do have our doubts as to whether they were in fact Hubbards. None of our previous batches have weighed so much yet they were reared and fed exactly the same as previous batches". We have killed our biggest 4 roosters here so far, with weights ranging from 2.4 to 2.7 kg - the hen birds all look quite a bit smaller.

With Charlotte now off in Dublin working for a living (good
luck Charlotte!) I had to clip my own dogs. I know! Outrageous!
My other comment on them would be about the dirtiness of them. Regular readers will know that this year, to avoid wading through lazy, over-fed Hubbard poults (and their poo!) as soon as we stepped out of the kitchen into the yard, I confined them to a pen out by the 5-Acre field-gate. They quickly mashed this ground to a muddy desert and, not being ones for perching or roosting up out of the wet, they ended up more brown than white and looking very bedraggled.

Liz enjoying Mum's car. 
I shovelled in no end of shredded wood to try to dry them out and eventually let them out fully free range so they could walk the clean, green grass. Their upper sides and backs were quickly cleaner but the damage was done on their bellies and breasts, their feathers worn and mudded to discoloured "stubble" which was not a lot of fun for Liz to pluck out. I don't know what the answer is to this - it rained so much through August and September. Ah well, they look OK as carcasses with all those soiled feathers gone and in the bin, and they were happy and healthy enough despite the muddy pen.

These 6 youngsters escaped into the lane once too often and
the owner decided to take them 'home'
The local cattle have all been taken 'home', the ones who rent the land surrounding ours. As they ran out of grass in the field, they started trying to push through the fences and hedges to get at the greener grass beyond. This happens and is normal (I am told) and it is usually the youngsters who get out first because they are smaller.

Walking our summer guests home.
Several times last week I'd return from a dog walk or drive and find the lane "filled" with calves all happily grazing the verges (the "Long Acre") and helped by either random passers by or Liz, we'd be rounding them up and shepherding them back into their field. Each time I'd text the owner but then send him another text to say "sorted". The owner had been hanging on as long as possible because these Mums and children run with the bull (young cousin of the original 'Felix') and he did not want the bull mixing it with the ladies he already had nearer home.

Those 'kattens' are due their operations this week. We don't
want any dodgy brother-sister incest. 
Eventually even he got fed up with all the escapes and came down with a small crew of walkers and followers (plus vehicles) to take everybody home. We'll miss them and, with the land now having changed hands, that will be the last time we see them. We got quite good at shepherding the calves about.

That is pretty much it for this one. I was hoping to get some pics of the 'super-moon' - last night's full moon which was meant to be the closest to earth (and therefore biggest and brightest) for 70 odd years. Well, Roscommon did it's usual 10/10 cloud and misty morning so there was no moon to see that night. I did get a glimpse of it on my morning rounds as the sun burned off the mist on the 5-Acre field to our west. That would have been about 07:45 and almost full daylight. I could have probably got a pale photo but, hey, had my hands full of bird food and sheep crunch. Such is life.


Anne Wilson said...

How strange with the weights of your birds, that is the weights that you would expect from Hubbards, How did you feed your birds and did you alter the way that you raised them in any way? We raised ours exactly the same way as we have before with exactly the same feed. As chicks yours came out of the same box as ours. I'm certain that they are not Hubbards but Cobbs or Ross. Ours were fed on organic chick crumb until six weeks then onto organic growers till point of dispatch at 84 days bang on.

Matt Care said...

Ours were fed the same as previous batches/years which is a start on standard "commercial" chick crumb (Red Mills, I think) and then growers, and then after about 8 weeks moved onto our just normal bulk ration which everybody else here gets - 1/3 flaked barley, 1/3 whole wheat and 1/3 layers. Again these are 'normal' commercial pellets, with all the GM and non-organic soya meal etc we know you guys avoid.

The main difference from last year would be the penning of them away from the yard in an area they quickly turned into a brown desert and therefore came to rely 100% on me turning up with breakfast, lunch and supper. This probably explains the slightly lighter birds Iand certainly the shameful dirtiness of them.

We have just killed 2 more today - a roo who came out at 2.6 kg and a hen at 1,7 kg oven-ready.