Friday 3 August 2018

Daisy Cutters

Cat Basket Lady with 3 of her 4 chicks
Friends of the Blog may recall that we are now down to our last broody birds at what will probably be the end of this year's breeding season. The last indoor bird, Cat Basket Lady, came off the nest this week with her 4 successful hatches, 3 yellow and one black. She is now well into the "teaching them to be chickens" phase and we see her all around the site, the yard and the grass.

A lovely vegetarian Mex spread for one
 of the suppers
That leaves us with just 2 birds AWOL who we hope are out there somewhere, hidden up in the hedges, sitting on eggs and trying not to be eaten by the fox. One is the Guinea hen who went "off piste" 5 days before I came out of hospital. If she's still out there, that makes her due in a week and a half. Just maybe she will shepherd any successful babies ("keets") home to us and delight us (and her 3 patient 'husbands') one day.

We passed our NCT (= MOT) and I was delighted to be reminded
that this car is still not 10 years old, so NCTs are only every OTHER
year. Expires 2020.
Also out there but not quite so promising is a white hen we call Connie. As of now she has been out there way too long, her eggs will be well past it and we also have a mini-tragedy in her motherhood career.

2 nice steaks made a change to the diet of vegetarian food.
Last week, one morning, when I was the only one up, a commotion of geese in the yard called me running, thinking we had a fox. The Guineas were screaming and I let the dogs go to do their thing. Well, there was no fox, but as the geese moved off I saw a sad, lemon-yellow fluff-ball lying in the yard where they'd been. I also noticed that Connie the hen, AWOL for 3 weeks or so, was back in the yard and chuntering in an upset way.

Daisy the Pig as back seat passenger.
The fluff turned out to be a very new, but dead hen-chick, so my best guess at what had happened was this. Connie had come off her AWOL nest with a single successful chick, but then led it into the yard and way too close to the goslings. The geese would not have tolerated that and quickly killed it. Poor Connie. She stuck around for the morning, chuntering, and then disappeared AWOL again. She may have gone back to the nest to try some more, but the eggs will have been badly chilled in the interim, and she will almost certainly fail, get bored and return to us. If the fox does not find her first.

Have new OSB apron. I'm going in!
The Help-X lasses have gone a-touristing, a train journey to Westport yesterday and then a bus trip out to very popular tourist destination Achill Island, to stay overnight and return tonight (Fri). One of them is a vegetarian and we have been exploring the veggie repertoire out of solidarity with her but, 2-3 weeks in we were starting to crave meat. With the girls off site, it was the perfect opportunity to have steak and chips. Also, by happy chance, it was also the day we collected the pig carcass from town, so we would have a chance to butcher that up without inadvertently upsetting anyone, and squirrel it away in the freezer, out of sight.

The new pork-butcher extricates a sheet of ribs
We had a thoroughly enjoyable time at the cutting. With me being still restricted to 'light duties', we did this one on a 50/50 basis, Elizabeth doing her sawing and knife work while I took a breather and advised her. This was her first pig. It was great teamwork and we had the whole pig (Daisy) cut up in about an hour and a half. That is now wrapped, bagged, labelled and in the freezer. All except for a huge 'ham' joint which we will brine up and keep for Christmas.

Hubble bubble boil and....... The split head gets boiled down.
We also got back the heart, liver, the head (split) for brawn, and a bonus couple of trays of sausage rolls. This morning The Woman of the House took on the boiled head and has produced some rather lovely looking brawn (low salt, by all accounts, for the sake of the 'heart patient'), a rillette made from a pot of neck meat so tender and light looking it might be crab meat, and a stock so rich it sets as jelly when cool. The dogs will get the ears and tail roasted and chopped up as treats, the chickens get a few gribbly bits and we only threw away the skull bones.

A good size ham joint waiting for its fancy spiced brine to cool.
We are now coming to then end of our little time with these Help-X-ers, Emma and Flora. They are home again tonight from Achill, then around for Saturday (we will not make them work!) but on to a train or bus on Sunday morning bound for Sligo and their next 'placement'. On the Monday we take delivery of our next Help-X, a lad this time, Rafael, another Frenchman.

Cuts of Daisy the Pig
He is with us for 3 weeks and by another happy coincidence we may be replacing that chicken house roof. Builder friend K-Dub has us booked in for the 13th and has come to measure up and given me a list of timber and materials to buy in the interim. With me 'Tom-Dick', I was worried I'd not be able to help, passing timbers and sheets of corrugated up to K-Dub up his ladder, but with new guy Rafael here we should be well manned up. That poor 'house' has been under its "temporary" tarpaulin roof for 18 months now and I'd be very worried asking the tarp to survive another winter.

Butcher's bonus. A gift of sausage rolls.
Enough for this one. Good luck now.

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