Friday 11 October 2013

The North Wind shall Blow

Cody finds the grass a bit white and crisp
I wake up this morning to our first frost, the grass white and crunchy as I'm going about my release and feed rounds. At this time of year that comes, of course, with clear skies, bright sunshine and, often that NE wind coming down from Donegal at us. The clear skies give us, in this land of little light-pollution, nights of a million stars. You can clearly see the Milky Way, which I never managed while living in Kent and it is actually hard to pick out the constellations you think you know, because they are surrounded and 'enhanced' by thousands of other stars. What I have not yet managed to get is any kind of a photograph of this magnificent star field but one day I am determined to get out there with my camera and tripod and see what I can manage.

This blog quietly slips through the 60,000 page view mark so there are still plenty of readers out there, for which I thank you. It is good to know that I am not just firing these posts off into the ether. I am not writing a best seller here, I realise and most of my readers are friends and family but I know from the 'SiteMeter' reports that there are a few other regulars who presumably just like reading these posts - it is fun to imagine them on the other side of the globe, looking in to this small part of Ireland through the window of Blogspot.

The chilly weather and, of course, the emptiness of the wood-store, have us back on the logging task. This has made me break out the 'new' chainsaw. It's new to me, though in fact is an almost mint condition saw from the 1990's once belonging to TK Min (former resident of this house) and then also Vendor Anne but neither of these owners have ever fired it up or run it for more than a few minutes. That at least, is the opinion of our tame Chainsaw expert, Felix-the-Fix who checked it over for me and declared it to have no wear and tear at all where a used saw would show wear.
Goldie dozes in the early morning sun

I had been a bit wary of this saw for various silly reasons. I had killed my previous one as you may have read, part-seizing the engine and damaging the piston through over-work and possibly incorrect fuel/oil mixture. The problem is, I don't know what killed it and I was nervous of doing the same to this one. Being an older type of saw it also has no rubber 'blister' easy-start primer, so you have to pull the cord 4 times on full choke, then drop down to a #2 position to start it, then quickly blip the throttle to remove the choke and put the lever down to #3 (warm running) position. All a bit fraught. Add to that the Main Dealer had told us scary stories of 'modern fuels' having all manner of highly volatile ingredients so you should drain the tank and run the carburettor dry before storing the saw for more than 3 months.

However, I had been out and treated myself to some Kevlar chainsaw trousers, so I could not just give up and buy wood, I had to steel myself and get stuck in. In the event I needn't have worried, the saw started perfectly and ran well, cut beautifully with its new, unworn chain and only needed that little tighten up which all new chains need after a few minutes of running-in. Liz came out and helped with clearing up the logs I was producing as I dropped three smallish (black spruce) trees in the 'Secret Garden', one of which was leaning at a jaunty 45 degree angle anyway. I also took the opportunity to cut up the pile of old door frames ripped from our outbuildings by K-Dub when he replaced the doors. That was a good bit of tidying.

Goose and Rooster stock
Autumn too, in the livestock dept, so some of the poultry are coming to the ends of their planned careers. Most recently this has included our Jersey Giant rooster who was starting to be a problem both for William the Conqueror (who he was challenging and getting the odd wallop from, so there was a risk of him getting injured) as well as for some of the girls. The JG is a very long bodied bird and was trying to 'tread' some of the hens, especially the mini-Buffs but when he was on board, his bits were a mile away from the hen's and he could not mate successfully. He just held on tight, crushing all the wind out of the hen, straining to arch his back end round. We could not allow this to go on and he was, to us, looking an attractive big bird for the freezer.

He was culled out on Wednesday and had a live weight of (what we thought was..) a huge 4.24 kg (9 lb 5 oz). Liz, who already does all the plucking, decided that he was going to be her first go at gutting out and cleaning, so in she went and created an oven ready carcase weighing exactly 3.000 kg (6 lb 9.75 oz) again, we thought impressive and certainly the biggest chicken so far. It's only talking to Mentor Anne since that we learned that these Jersey Giant variety birds are well named - they continue to grow till they are around a year old or more and can reach live weights of up to 15 lbs which must be some impressive bird! We would have had lots of squashed hens around the place looking like they had been steam-rollered! We are now watching his sister who, at 23 weeks is not quite the size of the rooster, but will presumably grow on too. William is going to be asking for a box to stand on so that he can cope. You live and learn.

As it was, the 'roo' was jointed up by Liz and for our first meal, just the legs roasted, separated into thighs and drumsticks. These were served with chunked Thai-seasoned spuds, artichokes and Romanesco cauliflower and, guess what, we could only manage a thigh each, so the drumsticks are back in the fridge as cold roast chicken. The remainder of the carcase is already portioned up into wings and 'oyster' bits, and breast meat, so we should get 4 meals for two off this one even though he was only half grown.

The bones, combined with those of the La Bresse 'roo' and the recent goose are now bubbling away in our huge stock pot creating what looks like a magnificent stock. The hearts, livers and gizzards are saved in the freezer for later. We don't quite use "every part except the squeal" but we come close.

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