Tuesday 20 August 2013

One thing led to another...

Our 4 male bunnies, leant to Charlotte to try to sell them at the Swinford Show have come back to us unsold for the very good and simple reason that there was no Show, well not on that day, anyway. The lady with the stand on which Charlotte was to help out got her dates mixed up, asked Charlotte to help on the Sunday but then went on the Saturday without Charlotte and there was no 2nd day (Sunday). "That's her every time" was the exasperated cry! Charlotte was then looking to hang onto the boys anyway but the bunnies had other ideas and all spent the day trying to dig their way out of their run (interestingly something they do not do 'at home').

We took the opportunity of Charlotte being here with her rabbit-wrangling skills to finally sort out our 'children' into sex groups. We now have a run with all 6 bucks in it (1 from Padfoot, 3 from Ginny and 2 big ones from Goldie) and a run with 9 does (4 Pads, 4 Gin and 1 big albino from Goldie). We took Goldie herself out and put her with the other 2 Mums thinking she'd get on OK in there being too big to be any risk from the Silverwood pair and too docile to trouble them. This bit of the plan did not work and Ginny and Padfoot turned into aggressive bitches, wanting no part of this big docile brown invader, harrying and trying to kick her. By this morning she was hiding squeezed in behind the hutch with some tufts of fur around her, depressed and lethargic, the picture of misery and despondency.

I have rescued her now to the third run which was temporarily the night-roost for Broody Betty and her 8 Hubbard chicks, rendering them homeless. She (Goldie) is fully recovered and enjoying the peace, eating grass and mini-turnips and occasional treats of red clover flowers or stretched out in the sunshine. The 'bitches' are also back to normal and all the groups of bunnies are in happy family picnic mode on new grass on the front lawn. The turnips, incidentally we are a very successful size crop I grew of 'miniature' turnips (white flesh,  white skin, purple tops etc) which, for some reason, are unpleasantly bitter to the taste, so we humans are ignoring them but the rabbits love them.

Betty and the Hubbards will presumably gather in their usual place at around 8 pm waiting to be put to bed in 'their' run. We are going to try to persuade them that the real chicken coop is a perfectly good substitute. I am not sure Betty will wear this!

The Roscommoner's Vegetable Growing Bible, Klaus Laitenburger's "Vegetable For the Irish Garden" advises against trying to ripen your onions the UK way - lift them out of soil to break the roots, and lay them on the ground in the sunshine. They will just stay wet, he says, in the Irish weather and rot. Do it indoors, he advises, or in a greenhouse. That would definitely have been true last year when we all drowned, but this year we seem to be getting enough dry sunny breaks for it to be worth a try, so I have now lifted my spring-set crop and it is spread out across the front terrace table (which has a mesh top) doing a good job of drying out.

Time now for a quick warning to those readers who do not want to know about the messy side of meat production. Pass by these next paragraphs. If you are still with me, then another story of our inexperience and beginnerishness. In my head I had the figure that the goslings should be ready to start 'finishing' at 3 months old so I was psyching myself up for the unpleasant but necessary task. We had also noticed that the parent geese had started to reject the now fully feathered and grown-up looking young ones, bullying them off food and kicking one or two out of the family group.

We were told that they are coming to that stage where in the wild, the parents would evict them and they'd be off to find their own territory and groups of other youngsters. Charlotte even advised that we might need to clip some wings again else the young would be off across the Roscommon bog-lands and heading for Lough Feigh or Lough Glynn. I decided that it was time to start culling them out and to start with the one we could see being bullied by Goosey and Goocie. Not to go into any detail of the day, we did the deed and in so doing learned quite a bit including that 3 months is WAY TOO YOUNG. The one we culled had a live weight of only 2.974 kg (6 lbs or so - all our recipes talk about 5 kg (10 lb) oven-ready birds!), had a very proud sternum (breast bone), very thin breast muscles and was hell to pluck. The outer feathers came away easy enough but the downy layer feathers were mainly still 'in pin' (like little artists brushes in their tubes) and, in many cases only starting to erupt through the skin. The gutted out, 'oven ready' weight was only 1.628 kg.

We now know, of course, that these are all features of birds killed way too early; if we had given him the 5-6 months we know now is advised then his muscles would have filled out and the secondary feathering we were struggling with, would have grown through properly and could have been gripped properly between thumb and finger. We are advised that the norm would have been for a spring hatching but, Mentor Anne adds, goose fairs would normally be in November, with people buying the birds for finishing off by Christmas. We will be leaving the remaining birds for at least another 2 months and giving them plenty of corn to bulk them up.

With our culled bird out of the flock, the gang all seem to have settled down again, happy families and no bullying. Perhaps our bird was a gander or was provoking the bullying and eviction for some other reason. Either way they are all back together and even Fotherington Thomas is in the 'in crowd'. If it stays that way then all well and good. If there are any more outbreaks of friction we may need to think about penning them separately.

Meanwhile please feel free to have one more smile at our expense. The plucking inevitably leaves some fluffy down still on the goose and you are advised to singe this off with a blow torch (or, more bizarrely, strip it off using the hot strips ladies use to wax their legs with!). I do not have a sensible, hand held blow torch but, bought for our house-build, I do have a big flame-thrower torch used to melt torch-down tar felt. Some people use them to burn weeds out of gravel drives. Picture Liz trying to hold the plucked goose as far as possible away from her body while I selected the gentlest 'flame thrower' setting. Trust me. That bird has no more down!


Anne Wilson said...

You're right it would be quite bizarre to use ladies leg waxing strips, I can just imagine the look in the chemist shop going in to buy doz of boxes of leg wax strips, far easier and cheaper to buy poultry wax.

Matt Care said...

Ha ha! I assumed you meant the strips - I never knew there was such a thing as 'poultry wax'. I presume that is exactly what it is for? We will look into it ready for next time.

Anne Wilson said...

I cant find a supplier in Ireland, but have found one in the UK I think it said £65 for 25kg, are you going by car on your next trip to the UK, as I think it might be a bit expensive having it shipped over unless they would use one of the couriers.