Friday 15 January 2016

Ah Sure, He had the Breathing...

Liz gets a good Radio 4 programme running and
loses herself in a bit of rooster plucking
With the Christmas and New Year shenanigans all over, we are back into the old groove. Liz has gone back to the 'proper work' and I have been back at the buildering, livestock management and homestead stuff. This meant that the stay of execution enjoyed by the June born lamb (Dylan) and the 'two-chick' roosters was all up and they variously went on their final journeys. This post may be a bit full of killing for some tastes. Dylan was man-handled into the trailer on Monday 11th Jan and off to our excellent local small-business slaughterman/butcher, Ignatius G Victualler.

There are 2 roosters to process today, so I get to pluck
one of them
We never enjoy that job and we don't know anyone who does, but in our opinion you should never keep these meat animals unless you are happy with the exit strategy and are comfortable with the end game; otherwise you'd end up knee deep in geriatric livestock. Heartbreaking though this time - it is no problem dropping off your beloved 'child' in the slaughterman's lairage if there are a few animals already in there from some other customer. The lamb struggles to avoid being penned but then suddenly looks up as if to say "Ooh - new friends! Must go meet them!". This time, no such luck. The pens were empty, so we had to drive away turning a blind eye (and ear) to Dylan's little face looking at us through the gate and calling for his Mum, alone for the first time in his little life. It is a wrench.

The dodgy looking 'witches' cauldron' of a haggis boil-up
We collect the offal (heart, kidneys, liver and 'lights' (lungs)) on the following day. The carcass hangs for a week in the cold store and we go down to collect it on the following Monday morning (18th). The liver and kidneys get used fresh for supper that day (and very nice they are too). The hearts and lights go into a rather dodgy looking 'witches' cauldron' boil up prior to being 'whizzed' and added to the oatmeal, 'lean' trimmings (of neck in this case, from an earlier lamb), mace, nutmeg and cumin; our home made haggis, of course. We don't actually pack this into a sheep's "paunch" as per the official recipes - Liz does a 'tray bake' version in a greased (lamb fat) Pyrex oven dish with foil and the lid pressed down to exclude air. It works very well. Roll on Burns' Night.

Two identically fed roosters, one white, one 'red' in feather
turn out to have very different skin colour in carcass form.
Regular readers may recall the 'two chick' roosters hatched under an elderberry bush in our woods last summer. These lads were becoming a nuisance and, hunting as a pair, they were 'nailing' rather too many of our hens and we already had the two official roo's here, both Buff Orpington pure-breds. Once New Year was gone I needed to cull them out but I wanted to do this in our usual minimum stress, quick style. If you set out to catch a bird on a given day and fail, you just end up winding the poor things up by chasing them till the carcass would be so full of adrenalin it would be like jelly.

Haggis under construction
I wander about going to my normal business and wait till one makes the mistake of getting himself cornered where I can grab him quickly and then 'cuddle' him under my arm to calm him down while I walk to where my bill hook is and then to the quiet, secret place out of sight of all the other birds. Both these guys obliged me on Weds 13th when they took shelter from a rain shower in the turkey-house, formerly a milking shed, a place full of corners and bays. Easy pickings. One of these lads will end up as a standard roast chicken but with the other Liz fancies having a go at the 'sous-vide' cookery we have seen talked about and for which you need the carcass to be vac-packed.

The south gable stonework finished
With the coming of January, Winter turned up with a yellow warning for Co Roscommon for snow (orange for Co. Sligo). As I said, I was back at the buildering and was helping finish the stone-mason-ing up to the top of the south gable end (the boss was laying the stones - I was keeping him supplied up on his scaffold with buckets of mortar and plenty of stones). We'd just finished at about midday when I noticed that the sunshine on the gable and the ominous black cloud behind would make a good picture, so I'd called out the Lady of the House and her camera to come take a few pics (one is shown here). Half an hour later we were in drinking coffee when the cloud decided to deliver the 'orange warning' snow; an impressive heavy blizzard which immediately called a stop to our outdoor efforts and had the gritter lorries and snowploughs out to keep the road drive-able.

Only a dusting of snow for us in Roscommon but a rather
pretty thaw.
Meanwhile, Sparks will be sad to note the passing of a real character from our own house build, 'Suicide Dog'. This collie cross from down the lane plagued us every time we drove off site, down to Castlerea. He would sit in wait for cars and then charge out as if to bite the tyres and chase you along the lane. Real name 'Junior', we never knew whether to carry on maintaining speed and direction so that he could predict us and miss us, or to slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid him. We named him 'Suicide Dog', he seemed Hell-bent on self destruction under one of our cars. Well, he was fairly long in the tooth then and in the four years since we have noticed a slowing down in him and a reluctance to chase us. Only when we had a sheep trailer on would he jump up and run after us. More recently I had not seen him at all so I asked after him when I met the owner in the Post Office. Sadly they had had to have the lad put down. The owner was typically quiet on the subject and only volunteered "Ah sure, he had the breathing". We assume some kind of respiratory complaint. RIP Junior (Suicide Dog). We will miss you.

Guinness trying out some of the old fashioned flavours. 
Just one more thing. The goats are now well settled into their routines here and feel quite at home. I was joking with their real owner, Carolyn (of the mini horses) that now that I have a goat herd number, she ought to transfer them to my smallholding to make it legal. She was (tongue in cheek) worried that I might be trying to claim them as my own goats and she wants to hang onto them. I was joking that if the (possible) kids are born here then I would have to ear tag them with MY numbers. Well, she won that game of chess when she read in her own book of regs that she can move them 'to temporary grazing' without involving me or my paperwork. Sneaky.

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