Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Good Gosling News or the Bad?

In the nick of time, a new baby gosling.
Regular readers may recall that back on 10th June I posted news and a picture of a new arrival; our first and only (at the time) new-hatched gosling. On the 13th I posted pics of his first exploration out of doors, being 'minded' by his bodyguard of Mum, Aunt(s) and Dad. Those readers may be wondering why they have not heard from him since. I have neglected to mention a small tragedy that happened here, the disappearance of this first gosling.

Our 2nd 2017 gosling - we hope he fares better than the first.
I discovered the loss on the first day of shearing those Texels (20th June). I had been out all morning at the sheep, so I had left the birds all shut up for the time I was absent, ever fearful of a repeat of our day-time fox-raid back in November. Everybody, including the gosling, had all gone to bed as normal on the evening before.

I'll just build a cage round these beans then,
to stop the chickens, shall I?
Only when I got back from the shearing and let them out, did I see the three adult geese come marching out as normal with not a bother on them but no gosling. I thought at first that he might be having a lie in, still in the nest with the still-broody 4th bird. Also pointing to this was the complete lack of excitement and separation-anxiety that parent geese show when momentarily separated from their babies.

Good chard and calabrese coming off the Kitchen Garden
Well, later in the day the 4th bird came off and no sign of the gosling. I have had a good look round and can find no little carcass or fluff or any sign of him. He could not have got out of the house so my best guess is that either a predator (rat? mink?) has come in through one of the small above-ground holes) and taken him, or he has nipped out from the goose-bit into the wider coop and been either nabbed there or got himself wedged in a tight spot between tools, the wood pile or what ever. If the latter then he must have been dead by that lunchtime because all was silent; no baby goslings screaming for release. When the geese finally finish with the nest (more of that later!) I will have a complete de-clutter and deep clean in there and may find his little dried up form but I don't hold out much hope.

Tubs and Toms out front
Since the 20th, our always-chaotic goose-breeding 'system' has involved just waiting for the #4 adult, who had stayed on the nest, to get bored and decide that the ancient eggs on which she sat were never going to hatch. By last weekend we were running out of patience, Liz had started asking when I would be able to deep-clean that shed and I was thinking I would wait till the goose went out for a 'toilet break', close the door on her and clean it all out from "under her", as it were.

Stumpy and her 5 chicks.
Well, just to prove that sometimes the sitting bird knows best, I went out to shepherd them home on Sunday 9th July and behold! There was a tiny new hatched gosling out on the grass with them. A nice surprise and #4 bird has earned herself a stay of execution. I will give her another good week before the bedders move in to change the sheets and make the beds. I will also be on tenterhooks and not wanting to leave them in of a morning for a week or so, in case the "safe from foxes" jinx strikes twice.

Big Red and her 4
While I'm on birds, I was witness to a very sweet "Mother and Toddler Group" meeting a few days back, when all 3 'yard' hens and their baby chicks wandered round through the cattle race and into the kitchen garden where 'Beebs', our mint-patch hen, is still minding her 7. So I had, briefly all 4 Mums and 19 chicks milling about, mingling a bit. The three visitors were quite cool with this liaison but Beebs was chuntering a bit at the 'encroachment' onto HER territory and called for her gang to gather close. Eventually our big sex-change rooster, Herme wandered over curious as to what all the excitement was about and then all 4 Mums gathered their tribes and melted away. Meeting over.

Glut of chard leaves? Liz makes this lovely "Tourtes aux Blettes"
See text. 
Meanwhile, in the kitchen we have both been busy based on the very successful harvest of our first blackcurrants - 3 kg already from our few bushes, some good calabrese, courgettes, an armful of chard leaves and the arrival of my 'banneton'. The latter is a special ridged bowl for making your sour-dough finish its final prove in a professional shape.

A 'banneton'. A fancy proving bowl for your sour dough.
The black currants have mainly gone into the freezer as we have a great stash of jam from previous years and need no more. Some have re-appeared as a dessert tart and more as home-grown 'Ribena'. More will be re-incarnated as Creme de Cassis which we love mixing with fizz to make Kir (Royale). The calabrese just got steamed that night with our roast chicken and fresher, darker, squeakier veg you would struggle to find. Gorgeous.

Sour dough loaf ex the new banneton. 
The chard gets split stems from leaf blades and the blades, Liz tried out in a new (to us) recipe, Tourtes aux Blettes. "Chard Pie?" I hear you squeak dubiously. Well this one is from Mediterranean cookery and was a revelation. It is quite sweet and the filling includes the chard leaves for body but also raisins soaked in brandy overnight, pine nuts, grated apple, eggs and sugar. The pastry is extra-short and includes icing sugar. Unusual but delicious. If you have a chard glut, then give it a try. Recipes are all over the Internet.

You saw that focaccia in the last post, still raw. This is the same
cooked to golden perfection. I was impressed. 
My banneton sourdough proving-bowl was a great success. It is a very lightweight thing, apparently made from paper like that used in egg boxes, so you'd never want to get it wet washing it up. You dust it well (with rice flour in this case) to stop the dough sticking, then when you tip the finished dough-ball out, give the bowl a sharp tap to shake off excess dusting flour. Mazy, I know, has a rattan/wicker one.

Finally a couple of pictures of that focaccia which I had not yet put into the oven as I went to press last time. Here it is now cooked to golden perfection. It was gorgeous and has earned it's place in our "keepers" recipe files.

Our dark buddliea. Not a butterfly in sight on these rainy
windy July days. Ah well.
Most of it disappeared as a sauce-dipping bread in a pasta I cooked a couple of days back with a bacon, mushroom, onion and tomato cream sauce. Perfect.

And that's about it for this one.

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