Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kick Boxing in the Snow

More snow.
I may have been making too many references lately to Spring-like warmth and things drying out, tempting providence to too high a degree. The Roscommon Weather Gods decided to teach me a lesson and we got another wintry front come through with appropriate weather warnings for the wind and the white stuff.

View across the pond to the new willow 'arbour'
In the event the mornings we woke up to were pretty and picturesque but not disabling - plenty of beautiful white stuck to trees and fences, but only about an inch on the ground. Elizabeth has been heard complaining that the weather keeps "messing about" and she wishes that we got some "proper snow", indicating a depth of about 2 feet with her hand. Careful what you wish for, there.

"Not a lot of drying in that!" Possibly should have rescued these
tee-shirts before the rain came at lunchtime. They are as stiff
as boards this morning. 
I was worried (at the warnings) that I might not get to town to collect our lamb meat; Pedro's carcass. I drove over compacted snow and ice most of the way, only coming onto cleared (salted) tarmac when I was almost there. The slaughter-man was there at the (butcher's) shop on his lonesome that morning so he was a busy lad. However he had no new animals to 'off' that day, so he was relaxed and chatting as he worked away speedily, breaking down our carcass into the various cuts as we specified - racks of chops, full shoulders instead of gigot chops, half legs and so on.

The Kentish souvenir fallow-buck antlers
get a dusting of Irish snow.
We know him well, by now, of course, having used 'them' 5 years running, but it was nice that he remembered Liz's love of the more unusual cuts and found us an ox-tongue to throw into our bag. As usual, I brought the bag home and we spread it out on the dining table - it was bagged into thin bags but not labelled. I like to 're-assemble' the animal so that I can label it shoulder, leg (upper/lower), shanks, loin chops, rib chops etc.

I also wanted to write 'Pedro' as he was both male and the oldest 'lamb' we had killed, so potentially the nearest to 'mutton' flavour. That's now all in the freezer.

Turkeys kick-boxing, battling for Gloria's hand in marriage?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our two new turkeys are increasingly convinced they are both male, even though we selected a big one and a small from the group. This morning, when I was only just up, I could hear some seriously loud 'gobble-gobble' male turkey noise from just outside the front door. I mean, maybe INCHes beyond the door. I looked out and could see both the dark new turkeys strutting that tail-up display they do and circling each other. The 'old' turkey, 'Gloria' was looking on with interest.

Pedro in kit form.
The dark ones were looking like males and one is 30% bigger again than the other. Any fight was not going to be well matched. If it was going to go on for more than a few seconds, I would have to intervene. Well, it didn't. There were a couple of very quick bouts of kick-boxing and the smaller lad retreated sensibly. Game over. Gloria wandered off with the bigger lad.

I have been very impressed by, and very much enjoying a book by one Louise Gray, feature writer on 'The Environment' for big papers like the Scotsman and the Telegraph. There she specialises in food, farming and climate change. Louise decided that for a year (which became 2) she was only going to eat meat (including fish) she had killed and for which she knew the history. She had to also know the growing conditions of the specific animal and for that industry she also to have researched the welfare statistics, environmental impact and so on. She also writes a blog.

As you'd expect, this limited her meat consumption to start with, never having killed an animal thus far, so she wryly comments that she was "mainly vegetarian". But she then takes us with her as she shoots her first rabbit, visits her first abattoir, goes deer stalking or fly fishing, goes out on a commercial fishing boat, learns about control of edible 'vermin' (like grey squirrels where the conservationists do not want them driving out the reds), and the use of roadkill.

An enormous vat of lamb ragu under construction.
She is a brilliant writer and I take my hat off to her - you can feel the nerves as she goes for that first rabbit and the upset when the rabbit runs off despite being shot and the shooters cannot confirm that it is dead. You feel her revulsion and horror at the first slaughter-house visit but she is fair, balanced and thorough through-out.

The new incubator. Same model as the borrowed one you may
have seen in posts from previous years. 
If you are not on social media for these subjects (farming groups, smallholders, animal welfare people) you will not be aware that there is currently a fierce and heated debate raging about the rights and wrongs of meat eating, going vegetarian, the activities of vegan 'activists' (think the bad old days of animal libbers). There is a lot of passion getting aired and no end of ill-informed and even bigoted anger flying back and forth often with bad language.

Louise's book is easily the best written, most thoroughly researched, fair and balanced contribution to this debate that I have ever seen. I try my best on this blog, but if I could write anything half as good as "The Ethical Carnivore" I would be a happy writer.

Duck eggs set in the incubator. 28-35 days should see them
Finally, Friends of the Blog will know that Mr Fox is gradually nibbling away at our laying duck numbers, and that our fight-back is taking the form of finally buying our own incubator and setting some duck eggs this spring, so that we can hear, once again, the splatter of tiny webbed feet. This week the exciting big parcel arrived and I have been stock piling the eggs since I placed the order, so I was able to start the batch this morning with 9. I will add any laid overnight tonight - the 16 hour head start for the 9 will make precious little difference. So, wish us luck and wait on my reports from around the 13th March. Peep peep. Quack quack.

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