Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Final 9... and a half

Colin has a bit of a sort out of the sheared ewes
In the last post, I promised an end soon to talk of sheep shearing. This is definitely the last word on that subject or at least the penultimate one. Friends of the blog will know that on Saturday I was booked over to Co. Sligo again to nail the final 9 Texel ewes plus, it turned out, a little grey mountainy animal who had nearly sheared herself by losing her winter coat except for some shaggy pantaloons and a fluffy (un-docked) tail. Some sheep breeds do this, the Wiltshire Horn for example, so this girl, Molly, may have some of that DNA in her mix. She was our "and a half" sheep.

For this session our French student assistant was absent, given a lie-in by the family as she'd been working her socks off all week and was exhausted. It was just Colin and I but that was OK. The 3rd hand is useful but not vital. Anne joined us late morning when we were just 2 sheep from the end of the task, a nice "bringing on a fresh sub" move.  We took it fairly steady and got through all ten animals between 9 a.m. and 11:30 even with a break for coffee mid way and a bit of a pause to sort and treat a fly-strike victim.

Fly strike lesion on right side of ewe. Cleaned up in this pic.
You'll recall that one of the main reasons for shearing early-ish in the year (May?) is to avoid the over-heated sheep getting blow flies lay their eggs down among the fleece. These eggs hatch and the maggots crawl down to the skin and start eating that, causing, as you can imagine, all manner of discomfort to the sheep and eventually worse ills.

Letting them all go back out to pasture.
Fly strike is messy, smelly and not nice. We only found the one case, a ewe with maggots down in her groin area. These sheep-keepers though, know their stuff and had what felt like 4 different lotions and potions on hand to wipe on, sponge on, massage in and then (a very bright yellow cream) smear around the outside of the place. Once we had got rid of all the maggots all you can do is prevent more and let the wound, which was not very deep in this case, dry and heal.

So that was me, sheared out for the year. I could clean the shears, de-tension them and send the blades away to be sharpened. Luckily I mentioned this to Alayne, who sends her horse-trimmers off like this and when I told her of the 'brilliant place' on Achill Island I have used before she was able to advise me that that one is closed following the tragic death of the business owner. She gave me an alternative place to get them sharpened.

Had to try these new "Jakoti" hand shears
The reason for my "penultimate" possibility is that I have been tempted by all the @smallholderIRL Twitterer sheep-folk into buying a new toy.

Connie takes her 3 babies to visit 'Big Red' in the Utility Room,
who has just hatched 4 for herself. She does not receive an
enthusiastic welcome. 
This is a pair of Jakoti hand shears looking like an extended pair of Felco secateurs. All the sheep people swear by them now and have been abandoning the olde fashion sprung-steel "double bow" type. I have now received these just after having finished shearing proper but I have one tidy up job I can try them out on - those frilly knickers and woolly dewlaps I left on my own sheep before I had all this practise on Southdowns and Texels.

The Hubbards at 3 weeks are fast out-growing "baby chick"
Meanwhile, back home we are awash with baby chicks and more on the way. You'll know we got the 13 (now dozen) Hubbards hatched on 5th June. In the last post I spoke of 3 chicks hatched under our #1 broody, Sussex 'Connie', with Utility Room broody coming up to Day 21 yesterday. Well, right on schedule, UR-Broody (we'll call her Big Red) hatched hers, 4 chicks in her case. Hot on her heels should come 'Stumpy', Due 7th July and now we have found a 4th 'clocker', the part-Araucana we call 'Beeblebrox' whom we THINK will be due on the 15th. We are furiously trying NOT to count our chickens.....

Foaming porridge? A sour dough starter. 
Tipped off by our visitors from Dorset, Mazy Lou and Airy Fox and then encouraged by the 'curator' of that Twitter account (@MagsMorrisey) who did a week of bread making Tweets, I have decided to try my hand at the sour-dough bread. Both of us have tried plenty of yeast bread since we have been here (and before) but never sour-dough. I will not go into detail as this 'muck and magic' has been covered intensively else where but in brief, the bread rises due to the activity of a 'starter' which you keep active, instead of dried or fresh yeast.

Bread makers love and cherish their starter cultures, feed them and tend them like any other livestock. They even give them names. Mine came over from Mazy in Liz's hand luggage and I named it Reginald after the ram I had just sheared. Ooops - sorry, that slipped out.

Anyway, long story short, we have fed Reg for the required week and, finding him foaming like a swamp, I made the first loaf today. Even though I failed to artistically score the top of the lump of dough and scorched it a little by forgetting how fierce our oven can be, it came out very well and is delicious.

Hard to beat. Your own pork. The bread-crumb crust covers
shredded courgette in creamy garlic sauce
Other than that, a nice bit of progress on the kitchen project. We'd been looking for a suitable worktop for in there against the bare stone wall plus wondering how to mount it given the lack of cupboards, then sitting down at our Dining Table to scratch our heads and drink coffee. This is what we need, we agreed, something like the top of the table. Solid wood, 4 cms thick, honey-coloured oak (or similar?), 6 foot long, stripped of varnish and cherished for years with something like our beeswax polish.

New kitchen gets an up-cycled dining table work top. 
BING! Light-bulb moment. Why don't we either find another table and cut it up (well, get K-Dub, our ace carpenter, to do it) or find one to replace this one and cut this one up? So we did. I was out in Boyle last Friday and spotted a "Pre-Loved Furniture" shop (yoiks) and there, right in the front window was the very table. We nipped out to collect it yesterday and texted K-Dub, and he came round today. Bingo! Liz has a perfect-height, solid wood worktop which even has a 'splash-back' with twin double sockets for the various kitchen gadgets. Marvellous.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Love the work top, it looks great.