Tuesday, 17 October 2017

They Also Serve, Who Only Stand and Wait

There were some impressively colourful wind maps.
Friends of the Blog will know by now that the feared 'Hurricane' Ophelia has now been and gone, leaving us relieved, delighted and grateful to have largely got away with it. The feeling among my small-holdering friends is that up here in Roscommon we "dodged the bullet". Nationally the storm killed 3 people, felled a gazillion trees, left 360,000 without power and caused all manner of damage along the south, west and southeast coasts.

About as bad as it got for Roscommon (lined in blue). The red areas
are Force 8+. We stayed in the green (Force 6) and yellow (7). This
my favoured source, being Met √Čireann's short-range forecast.
There were pictures and video all over Twitter and Facebook including, notably 2 bits showing the roof of a school gymnasium going airborne for several hundred yards before landing neatly between some houses without killing anyone. I also saw some road-side trees rocking away from the camera with their roots lifting bits of tarmac and road-base up like cartoon mouths opening and closing.

For us, though, mercifully a scary day and some exhausting watching, especially between about 2 pm  and 8 pm but the only damage was a few small branches broken down from trees and scattered across the lawn, and my big house-sign tumbled over. I must say, in fairness, how exactly spot on and correct (almost to the hour) were the forecasts considering this was an "unprecedented" event - Hurricanes never come over this side of the Atlantic - so they can't have had much practice.

A perfect spiral, uninterrupted by fronts. 
Ophelia was a perfect spiral so we knew as she passed up the west coast, hopping over a few headlands (like County Clare for example!) that we'd get winds which nearly went round the compass. We woke up to Nor'easterlies which get right into our yard. These veered round to the East and then the South; passing through the worrying trajectory of our remaining trees tall enough to hit the house. They carried on swinging through SE, where we are OK-ish and into full West where, again we are vulnerable for the poly tunnel and the barn which Doris took the roof off. It was not an easy day.

The Black Spruces got a good buffeting but
stayed put
There was (as forecast) a nice lull mid morning when the sun even came out and then one at bedtime but Ophelia had a possible sting in her tail with those Westerlies strengthening from midnight to about 04:00 Tuesday (today). The spiral had a diameter roughly 3 times as wide as the country, so as the eye cruised up 'our' side of the Island, the strongest winds were the Southerlies hitting the south coast and then sliding up past Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow up to Dublin.

The willow hedge gets turned inside out with each gust.
All we could do was stay indoors and sit it out. The only driving we did that day was to nip out to feed some bullocks for a friend. Our Help-X volunteer got introduced to the concept of "They also serve, who only stand and wait". Yes AB. You really CAN retreat to your room and sleep or play video games. We will shout if we need you. Your job today is to "stand by". You may physically achieve precisely nothing but we will still value you immensely. Honest.

A fine pair of legs
That, though, is surely enough on the Fair Ophelia. The only other news is that the 'Parma' style ham legs have progressed on from dry salt-cure to the air-drying stage. These big ol' lumps of carcass get 16 days in the mix of sugar, salt and spices being patted down each day with new cure and drained of any brine which the dry salt sucks out of the meat. They darken and become quite firm to the touch as they dry out. In this part of the world, the wise man does this stage in the fridge to give the salt a good head-start against the risk of flies and food-poisoning nasties.

Prior to scrubbing off the salt. 
After 16 days they are lifted out of the dry salt and the spare salt is scrubbed off using a stiff brush dipped in cider vinegar. They are then wrapped in rather nifty Muslin bags created by Lizzie, to deter the flies and hung somewhere fairly dry but with air movement for between 4 and 18 months.

Hung in the air for 4-18 months
During this time the meat continues to dry out and the flavour sweetens and matures. You are aiming for a 30% weight loss; too much and your ham will be as hard as wood; too little and the ham will not cure sufficiently (so may not be safe to eat). The 4-18 month thing is personal choice - how firm/dry do you like your Parma? We do 2 legs. One for eating in Summer (so about 11 months) and one for Christmas (15 months). Like us, the reader will just have to preserve their souls in patience and see how we get on come next August. It is not a fast food.

Enjoy the calm days after the storm. We certainly are.

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