Sunday 29 September 2013

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

(Apologies to John Keats, I guess). All the people round here that I know of who were interested in the blackberries have long since taken their fill from the hedgerows, made their wine, jam, cassis, desserts and pies and moved on. There are still many many left in the hedges for the birds and these are now being joined by equally bountiful crops of elder berries and hawthorn haws. The birds and small mammals are going to go into this winter very well fed and good luck to them.

Let's hope they don't need it too badly - so far we are enjoying another 2013 warm spell. Our first two complete years in Ireland really have shown us the extremes of what is possible for the warmer seasons - from the absolute unrelenting drenching of 2012 when we always seemed to have puddles and standing water, to the droughts of 2013 starting with our 19 rain-less days in February. We can't believe that it can do either wetter or drier and we are assuming that all our remaining years will be in between; we think we will be always saying "Ah well, it's wet alright, but do you remember 2012?" Never say never, of course.

The season too for gentle slowing down, die-back, decay and mushrooms. I've been enjoying these guys who come up in their delicate dozens where ever I have spread calf muck about. They are a real early riser of a fungus. At only about an inch across and 3 tall, they stand proud with their new white caps at 07:00 as I do my early morning feed and release rounds, but by 09:00 or so the caps have auto-digested to a blob of black ink atop the stem, presumably dribbling their spores away, their job done. By the time the sun touches them they have collapsed and shriveled back to nothing.

I have no idea of the name but they are a lovely thing to find on these misty moisty mornings. For a while we were also getting edible field mushrooms in the lawn but these now seem to have finished and the bigger mushrooms are all now centred around a long-since sawn off tree stump.

These look a bit parasol-ish so might be edible but I know enough about mushrooms to know that their identification can be tricky to the non expert, sometimes involving detail of cap colour, gill shape and colour, detail of whether there is any kind of skin-collar left around the stem and even the colour of a spore-print left overnight to form on white paper by the spores falling from the cap laid on the paper. Pud Lady used to be very good at it and knowledge-able and we all survived her cookery experiments but we tend to leave them be.

It is also the season when we can start 'harvesting' our meat products so we have been enjoying some meals of young rabbit and also of this La Bresse rooster who was starting to be a problem for William the Conqueror and some of the ladies. He was 22 weeks old and a hefty lad, so that he came out oven-ready as this fine 2.475 kg carcass, at the time, the biggest poultry lump we'd produced. Liz actually jointed him up and just cooked the legs and wings on the day but even that was more than we needed so Liz left a drumstick and me the wing on the side of our plates for cold left overs.

I said the biggest "we'd produced" meaning up to then. We have since had another young goose unexpectedly up and die on us for no obvious reason (possibly another victim of the in-breeding problem we already know about). This one cleaned out at 3.605 kg, not huge for a goose, but not bad for one at still only 4 months old.

On other news, our lambs continue to thrive and we are sure they must be approaching the target 50 kg weight but we have not heard a whisper from sheep mentor, Kenny about coming to weigh them and decide on their dates. Here they are joined at the feed trough, rather cheekily, by some of the Hubbard chicks, our other thriving babies who are 60 days old today. They are reckoned, in a commercial set up, to need only 90 days but we are looking at their huge feet and thinking they might go a bit longer than that and get huge. We should probably take advice from Anne on that one - huge and late may not be good attributes in terms of tenderness or flavour.

Finally we have one of the mini-horses, Falabella 'Cody' back with us for a while. You will remember that we had him and the other two amigos here in the spring time, keeping our grass short and doing a favour for Charlotte and Carolyn when fodder was hard to come by. Cody is the stallion of the gang, being the only one who is still 'entire'. Not for long, it seems. He has been making a nuisance of himself escaping and going in search of mares. The market for miniature foals, along with most other Irish markets has collapsed so that nobody needs the boy at stud at present and his fate is sealed.

He can't have his 'op' just now because the current hot spell has brought the horse flies (locally 'creabhars' or 'craws') out again en masse and it is not fair to create an open, healing wound on a horse with those about, so he is waiting till mid October for his visit from Aoife (Rhymes with Deefer). Our field is secure though, he loves it here because we fuss and spoil him, there is loads of grass despite the 5 sheep, and he is, we are told, OK with sheep. He likes the company, apparently. So he's back among us for now.

That is about it. We are ambling along happily doing lots of tidying, weeding and some planting as well as all the muck spreading in this lovely warm dry weather.


Anne Wilson said...

The smaller fungi is probably one of the inkcaps, but which one we are not sure, these must NEVER be eaten with alcohol in fact not within 48hours of booze.
The second one looks as though it might be 'The Prince' Agaricus Augustus,if it is it should have a white ring around it, the flesh should be white and will smell strongly of Bitter Almonds, it makes good eating.

Matt Care said...

I am thinking Pholiota squarrosa (Shaggy pholiota) because of the shaggy stems, pale yellow flesh and location (base of a coniferous tree) but we couldn't smell either bitter almonds (Prince) or radishes (Pholiota) so we are not 100% sure. Either way we are not going to eat it.