Wednesday 31 December 2014

New Year Trivia which I sweep out the last corners of the 2014 story cupboard, the last anecdotal dust-bunnies and cigarette end memories to give myself a nice clean, clear run at it in 2015. First though, anxious readers may like an update on our fox attack story and sheep debuts of yesterday's post. You'll be relieved to know that everyone survived the night. I still have ten of the young Buff-Orp poults and all the grown up hens, 5 geese, 4 rabbits, Min the (Guinea Fowl) Hin and, of course, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Buffton Tuffton (Sah!) , our splendid Alpha-chicken and rooster. I also have two sheep, which is handy, and they are delightful creatures, hand-tame and sorted on the human=good=feed bucket=grub thing. My 'babies' from Kenny in the past have taken 2 weeks at least before they'd even approach us and 4 weeks to be baa-ing for their food, these more mature (and definitely more frequently handled) ladies are in there from the get go.

While I'm on 'death and destruction' I'll do the slaughter-based stories sooner rather than later (Don't worry, not too traumatic). Sometimes when we are labeling stuff for the freezer, we don't stick rigidly to the rules, so we end up with packs labeled "The best curry sauce EVEH!" or some such lunacy. In 2014, when we went through the process of slaughtering the big Hubbard chickens, I was stretching their necks at 1, 2 or 3 a day depending on the pace at which the plucking and dressing department (Liz) could process them. From the start I'd had my eye on one particularly big, tall, broad, white rooster who I thought might make a good weight, so I'd go out each day to do the deed, intending to grab him, but each day one of the others would wander into reach (they never really sussed that I'd turned from the harmless man who fed them, to a much less benign force!) and I'd despatch that one, leaving my big boy for the next day. It became like Captain Ahab hunting the white whale, an epic saga of many failed 'hunts'. Unbeknownst to me, when I did finally catch up with him, Liz labeled all 'his' freezer bags "Moby". We'd long since forgotten this but it all came back to us yesterday when we went to thaw out one of the bags to eat the chicken pieces there-in.

The house's alpha-cat playing with the mouse.
Liz joins the 'onesie' Sisterhood
While we've been feeling the pain of a fox attack and chicken loss, we have been very aware of how fortunate we are compared to poor Charlotte of the Mini Horses who on the same morning as our bushy-tail visit, woke up to all her 10 ducks killed, badly injured or traumatised by a mink attack. Touch wood, we do not seem to get mink this far from the river; they are vicious and bloodthirsty killers. The fox will snatch a chicken in the open and run off with it leaving you just a few feathers (Yes, I know they will do feeding frenzy if they get into the chicken house or an enclosed space) but the mink will kill all your birds one by one by biting through the neck to get at the blood, sometimes taking the head off altogether and leaving you the bloodied, sickening corpses. The other birds just have to watch helplessly.

Charlotte's visitor killed 5, injured three more and left the other two so traumatised that they could only stand in a corner shivering, especially one poor little call-duck who had seen her life-long buddy executed. Charlotte was understandably upset and didn't relish the task of putting the injured birds out of their misery, so I volunteered. Nobody likes the job but I had no bond to these ducks, so I could do it quickly and cleanly, out of sight of Charlotte. Not nice. She is now, for the moment at least, out of ducks.

On a happier note, the last two days have seen some heavy frosts, with Sunday night getting down to -3ºC and Tuesday night -6ºC. Monday froze our big pond over and Tuesday thickened up the ice impressively. Step forward our big fluffy cat, Blue, who decided that some ice skating would be fun. On my feed and release round that morning I found him strolling around in the middle of the pond and on that first morning the ice was creaking under him; I had visions of him going through it and me having to wade out in the freezing cold water to rescue him. I have no idea where a cat gets the instinct to know that a pond might be a safe place for a stroll.

Torville and Dean, it aint!
On the 2nd morning the ice did not creak and he got quite confident, skittering about and looking like he enjoyed falling down, writhing round to bat the ice, or maybe his reflection, which had just 'got' him. He would not come off the ice to my call, but he must have known what he was at - when I walked off to go in to animal breakfasts, he was at my heel 'asking' to be let in. This morning we have a thaw and while the ice sheet is still there, it is now wet and melting on top, so I expect Blue's ice dancing days are done for now.

JD Bob gets comfy with the dogs, yarning by the fire.
We had a nice visit from our good friend and near-neighbour, John Deere Bob last night. We had the fire going in the Living room and he got sat down on the sofa with the dogs, a nice cup of 'tay' in his hand and settled down for a good aul' yarn. We thought he was going to doze off at one stage. He normally only stays 10-20 minutes but seemed to decide that warm and cosy was a good thing. We love it. He tells us that back in the day 'that' room would have been kept for best and only opened for special high days and holidays, visits from the Priest and so on, so that although he'd been in the house a few times, he'd never been allowed in the Living Room.

Amongst the gifts this Christmas came a very nice cheese knife set. I had not heard of the maker, though by coincidence, it was mentioned in the knife-making section of the Gubbeen book I described in an earlier post. Laguiole is, like Sabatier, a well respected and 'quality' knife maker and rather sweetly, their logo is a honey bee. See picture for details. Thank you, Santa.

Tasting as good as it looked, but nearly all gone now.
That just about does me for 2014 so I will wish all my readers a Happy New Year. We are having the home made haggis and home grown 'neeps' plus, if it is thawed enough for me to get at them, the home grown 'bashit tatties'. The Christmas whiskey seems to have all vanished (thirsty mice!) so we may be out today to do a bit of re-stocking just in the interest of First Footing, you understand.

Happy New Year 

No comments: