Tuesday 8 July 2014

Of Cookery (and Other) Failures

The best laid plans, so they say.....

Here is a picture of our very disreputable and grubby looking 'project cat', Pirate, the starving stray who has been hanging around and seems to want to be fed by us and possibly move in. Since the last post this story has moved on. We had been feeding him for around 3 weeks but he was only showing up for food and then slinking away. Suddenly a week ago he was all over us like a rash, accepting food and strokings, yowling for attention if he heard us talking by the pond or in front of the house.

Pirate the Cat
Suddenly he was here for most of the day and sleeping in the shade on the roof of the 2CV in the car port. The plan is to get him some vet attention (mainly a spay, worming and a look at his poor eyes, one of which is absent (there is just a pink, open empty socket which is a bit spooky to look at), the other looks very misty; we are surprised he can see at all). This would involve catching him and putting him in a cat basket, so I put the basket on the car roof with a bit of 'Vet-Bed' blanket in it and the boy adopted it immediately. He slept there a couple of nights and in the morning, when he heard me feeding breakfast to our two cats, would emerge, stretch luxuriously in the sunshine and stroll across to get his share. I was suddenly able to brush him through to ascertain he had no fleas, which was a relief.

Accepting strokes and even a brush-through for fleas.
We thought we were on for the vet and contacted Aoife. We started to arrange check ups and what meds she could bring to get the ball rolling. Also, by the by, neighbour Una invited us down to pick her black currants and in the tea and scones chat afterwards, when the subject of cats came up she said that she had been seeing a dirty white cat with bad eyes for a while - it had been calling on her for food but had recently stopped coming. Pirate is obviously one of these fellas who keeps a lot of options open. But now it seems to be all over for the moment. As quickly and as decisively as he decided to 'adopt' us, he seems to have dropped us again like a hot potato. He has gone back to showing up very late (10 pm+) and quickly eating food left down before slinking away. He is not staying the night and not using the cat basket. He did not show for breakfast this morning and we have not seen him all day. Perhaps he heard me planning his treatments with Aoife and has skedaddled.

Bronze fennel
Also in the 'failures' department, we finally got round to trying our pea-pod 'Burgundy' made last August. I must admit I had not been confident. I made an awful lot of wine as a teenager and the best stuff was always made from fairly promising raw materials - sweet fruit or full bodied stuff like root veg, rhubarb stems, grains and, of course grapes. The stuff made with flavoured but 'gutless' materials never seemed to be worth much unless I was going for the strongly scented light wines like rose-petal or elder-flower. I could not see pea pod working but we made it for a laugh mainly because it is mentioned in the 'Good Life' TV series. Ah well, we tried some today prior to bottling it off and it just tasted thin and very pea-pod-ish, so it was glugged unceremoniously over the compost heap.

And then, we have had John Deere Bob, who is a diabetic, fondly remembering a local confection called 'Brown Cake' but, being Bob, he has no idea what's in it - he thinks maybe ginger and treacle. We asked around the local ladies and Vendor Anna and were able to come up with two local delicacies which he 'might mean', one a gingery treacle-bread, the other a version of soda bread with treacle added. Rather dubiously, Liz had a go at the first one and the complete cake was set aside to await Bob's next visit. It was brown alright and looked OK but a bit un-interesting. 3 days went by and Bob hadn't appeared, so we decided to try a slice with this afternoon's coffee. It was dry and dull and mainly tasted of the burnt/caramelized tones of treacle or dark brown sugar. 'Ooooh no!' we said, sure that this could not be anything Bob (or anyone) would be fondly remembering. We whistled up the chickens and, being way less discerning than we are, they happily polished it off. Ginger and treacle flavoured eggs, anyone?

Lovage - a gift from Steak Lady
But it's not all failures. Liz has made some excellent paté from the less talked about parts of rabbits and culled out chickens and, today, we knocked out 7 jars of delicious black currant jam from Una's fruit. We have also bottled up 14 bottles of elder-flower 'champagne' which tastes very promising so far but now needs a week to fall bright and build up some 'fizz'.

Lettuce. The red leaves are from the heritage variety
'Little leprechaun' from Brown Envelope Seeds.
I have been back onto the DIY projects, creating a nice run for the ever growing guinea fowl keets. Pictures of this when it is finished, but I am delighted to be able to make this for almost zero cost - about a tenner in hinges, bolts and 'big staples', plus €20's worth of fruit-cage netting for the 'roof'. The chicken wire for the 'walls' came as a cast off roll from our fencing contractor, Paul. The posts were pulled out of a bit of redundant fencing inside what is now the pig paddock. Up-cycling.

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