Tuesday 18 November 2014

Smallholder Buys Shop Eggs! Shock!

The shame of it! Shop bought eggs. 
Yes, all the girls seem to be in moult or sulking through the short length days and misty mornings and we are currently down to one or zero eggs from the 9 hens (plus guinea fowl) each day. We are just about supplying John Deere Bob with his half dozen but today, when Liz needed 5 for an extra gloopy chocolate fudge cake for some visitors we had to submit to the inevitable and buy half a dozen like 'normal' people do, in an actual shop. We have not bought eggs since our first batch of Sussex Ponte hens came into lay yonks ago.

The solid clean chap formerly known as skanky emaciated
stray with bits missing, Pirate the cat.  
We are not alone it seems. Anne, I know is also a bit quiet at the moment and friend Dawn was telling me this week that she had also had to buy half a dozen for the first time in years. Ah well. Don't get too excited, though, Lidl. You do not have a new income stream. Your free range eggs were OK but not a patch on our own for freshness or for the rich full yellow colour of the yolks. We will be going back to ours as soon as the girls decide that spring is round the corner.

Sorting the lamb meat out. Roughly 104 kg from the 4 lambs
Monday 17th saw us down at lamb butcher, Ignatius G (Victualler) of Castlerea Main Street, to collect our lambs and watch them being butchered up. They have been hanging in his cold store 'relaxing' for 7 days. We love Ig-G; he is an absolute joy to do business with. A well padded (but huge and strong) traditional looking butcher with a happy, smiley face, he is definitely a 'front of house' type bloke, bantering with the customers in his butcher's apron. His No.2, Joe, is maybe a bit quieter and seems to have his days for the banter but sometimes seems to prefer the quiet of the back room and his vicious-looking band saw.

Bagged for the freezer
That day was an out-front day and we had a great laugh with the two of them as they prepared our order to Liz's specification; we needed one of the lambs split between Mrs Silverwood and Steak Lady but also some parts of the order done as a million chops, while others needed to be in racks of ribs, some big joints but some half-leg or half shoulder. The guys don't mind, you can have it as simple or as complicated as you like. They have even bagged each individual portion for us before now, as they went along, printing labels on the 'till/weigher' for us describing the cuts (lamb chops, gigot chops, half shoulder etc). We get the distinct impression that they appreciate anyone who knows about meat and respects their work and their business.

Local grown!
While we are on meat, we have been delighted to find that sometimes now we can do a Sunday roast or a main meal and see that everything on the plate has come from this holding. On Sunday we had the first leg joint from the pigs and spotted that the meat, potatoes, sprouts, turnip and even the apple sauce was from here. Our apple harvest was a bit of a flop but the few we got we guarded jealously. Liz made the (single) Bramley and one of the James Grieves into apple sauce back in September, freezing it to be kept for the occasion of our first pork Sunday roast. Our only 'oops' of that meal was that Liz, without thinking, 'nicked' one of the rabbits' cheap carrots; we have carrots in the ground but I'd not brought any in that day. All delicious and succulent, laced with that added pride of having grown it ourselves.

Leg roast. Excellent.
We are very pleased, in particular, with the flavour of the Tamworth pigs and this leg cut was even a bit less fatty than the shoulder. Liz was able to make very good crackling with the skin still on the joint; for the shoulder she had stripped the skin off and blasted that separately.

We have sneaked through our little hiatus of freezer space. Sparks was down today to collect his lamb, he took away a bit of pork too and tomorrow Liz is off down to the Silverwoods' with theirs and Steak Lady's plus the pork for those 'customers'. By that time we should be able to freeze the 'overflow' which we have put into the 'fridge' parts of those fridge-freezers for safe keeping and we will not have needed to buy either the 5th freezer or to borrow the generously offered freezer space at Dawn's. A narrow squeak but we got away with it. Next year, as I said, we will be sure to de-synchronise the lamb and pork harvests a bit better.

Finally just a quick update on the stray cat, Pirate. You can see from my top picture that he is now quite a solid (OK fat!) chap but his body is now beautifully cleaned up and cleared of all the scar tissue, scabby stuff between the fur and places where he had been gnawing on itchy skin. Also nicks and cuts inflicted by, we presume, barbed wire, brambles or dogs and cats chasing him off. Only his face is still a bit 'mashed', his nose always seems to be a bit red and scuffed, or dried up and scabby and his eye(s) are generally a bit weepy looking. He is a very affectionate young boy and loves to be picked up and fussed (though not carried about, curiously, he gets very fidgety if he thinks you are "taking him somewhere"). He has pretty much taken over the Utility Room and owns it to the exclusion of our other cat Blue. He has the freezers in there pushing out heat and a radiator. He has an old cat bed lined with one of my old fleecy jackets and he is brought regular food - at least a tin a day plus the odd sliver of ice cream when I go out there to help myself. We see him come out to pee or poo somewhere in the yard before nipping back 'indoors'. He seems as happy as Larry and is definitely improved in health out of all recognition from the poor emaciated, cut about, battered and bruised little mite who first showed up driven to steal our cats' food by hunger, bravely coming in through the open kitchen window braving the wrath of our dogs, cats and, for all he knew, us. Fallen on his feet, has Pirate.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Good to see Pirate looking so plump. If you needed eggs you should have called in, plenty here.