Tuesday 19 January 2016

Curator (The Voice)

Possibly our new species for 2016 - ducks. To be more
precise, Muscovy ducks.
This week I am wired up to the internet like some teenager, thumbs glued to the touch screen and eyes taking in the feed of 'tweets' racing up the screen, oblivious to any real life going by, neglecting my duties, grumbling when interupted and asked to do chores....... Well, OK, not really; you can imagine I'd not actually last 5 minutes like that. I am, though, as predicted, this week's 'curator' of the Irish smallholders' Twitter account (@smallholdersIRL), the (Twitter) voice of Irish smallholdering, which I took over on Sunday night from the first ever 'curator', our friend Margaret from the Old Farm pig-management training courses in Tipperary.

The Goat Herd Registration docs finally arrive.
She'd done a good job and attracted 160-odd new followers and there was some excellent lively discussion and sharing, so I was a bit nervous of this responsibility and anxious that I might not do as well. In for a penny, though. I am, after all a fairly waffly and garrulous old sod and, after 4 years, a little bit knowledgable as to the ins and outs of smallholdering. We have worked through a lot of the common problems and we are still here. We knew that we could dish out advice with the best of them so I cracked on and seem to be well received and reasonably popular curator. Well... I was. At present Twitter is having a sneezing fit globally and users the world over are in and out like a fiddler's elbow suffering "internal server errors".

We decided to vac-pak that haggis to see could we simulate
the boil it would normally get in the chunk of sheep gut.
I am trying to be a little bit organised and 'themed' about my posts. Day 1 was an introduction and showing the readers ('followers') around the place, getting to know a few of them and letting them know a bit about me and our set up here. Today, when I can get it working, is a day for advising newbies and wannabes, people who might only be planning to make the leap into smallholdering and are still researching, dreaming and budgeting, of things they might want to think about and include in a realistic budget. If we knew then what we now now.... that kind of thing. Things like the usefulness of out-buildings and a cattle-race, the likely cost of getting connected to mains water and electricity, septic tanks, a trailer and tow hitch for the car and so on.

Breakfast of Champions - home made (pork) rillette
You are, of course welcome to go take a peek into Twitter and watch all this go through but if you are doing that go sooner rather than later. As I've already said, Twitter is a fast moving blizzard of short comments. Leave it an hour and the 'tweet' you are looking for is pages and pages of scrolling down the screen. Ephemeral is the word. More on this when I've done my week (and when Twitter is actually working, of course!) and I have a clearer idea of how good a curator I proved to be. Margaret loved her week and is quite missing it now; lots of time suddenly on her hands, she tells me.

Billy nose dives into the ivy branches.
A bit of a catch up then while Twitter is having its hissy-fit. Here the 2 guest-goats have settled in well. Nanny Óg does well out in her big field and happily follows me home to the shed of an evening. There have been no problems between her and the ewes. Billy has eaten himself out of house and home - there is not a leaf of browse (ivy, hawthorn or herbs) left in the pig run which he can get at. I had to phone his 'Mum' today to see if he was allowed ivy - I have whole forests of that on the other side of the patch which I could bring him but I needed to make sure it was not toxic. I remember our first sheep used to love it but I was advised not to let them have too many flowers or berries. Well, it turns out Billy can work away, so I have started cutting down great boughs of the stuff and dragging them across to hang them on his fence and he is in there, nose first with a huge smile on his face. At last! Someone who knows what a goat likes to eat! Sheep 'crunch' and slices of bread? I ask you!

Nanny Óg creating a Savannah browse-line
under our spruce trees.
I was saying a few posts back that we are quite good at the food date-rotation, using up the left-overs and minimising kitchen waste. This week we had a classic example. I had slow-cooked a chunk of pork loin (like 5 thick chops still welded together) in cider with apple to great success. We could not eat it all so a lot of the sauce and some of the meat and fat were left over. Liz took the sauce, enhanced with garlic and more apple, cream and mustard and turned some Hubbard chicken thighs into the kind of meal that had me proposing all over again. The remaining meat, shredded and combined with some of the apple-y fat became a rather gorgeous 'rillette' which I am using up as breakfasts on toast. Anything else went into a stock for a risotto and some soup. Waste not want not.

The big pond has fallen gin-clear in the cold weather
Amusingly we currently have the freezers so successfully loaded with portions of left overs that we were worried we'd not fit the lamb meat from Dylan into them and Liz has issued one of her periodic embargoes on eating 'stage 1' food - raw meat, raw veg, raw offal, shop bought stuff like frozen pizzas and so on. We must use up these portion pots and the cold-roast meat packs. Last year I was able to keep up with this as I would deliberately target them when ever Liz was away. It was nicer to eat a 'ready' meal, than to try roasting a great big joint and only use up one portion of it. Lately, though, Liz has not been on any of her away-missions, so we've been eating (and cooking) together.

Poppea in Jack Russel mode. No skirt. No feathering on the feet
We got fed up with the dogs always being muddy and wet and bringing the farm indoors, taking ages to dry out even when they lay in front of the fire. In Kent we had always clipped the westies in September and then let them go shaggy right round to my Birthday in April, so they'd be warm on their winter walks. I always cut them, too, in my (sorry) imitation of the Westie show-dog cut, big heads, skirts under the belly and great feathery feet like a cart horse. It is the skirts and feet, in particular, which pick up and then retain the mud like an old scrap of soggy carpet strapped to the dog's belly.

Pussy willow starting
This winter we reckon it has been mild enough that they could well do without, so at the weekend we ganged up on the little skanks. I took each dog in turn out to the Utility Room where I battled through the matted mess with the dog clippers, whipping off belly skirts and paring away all footy excesses. We are calling this the 'Jack Russell Cut'. As I brought each dog back indoors in turn Liz was there in swimming cozzie to grapple them upstairs for the multi-shampoo shower of their lives. Poppea, who was foolish enough to go out after this and roll in something, came back in as Liz was still in her dressing gown and about to take her own shower - she got it all again, much to her disgust. 2 showers in one day, Pops! In fact that day was one of those rare ones where all the planets align - the dogs were clean and dry, we had had showers too, Liz had blitzed the bedroom with hoover and broom AND we had changed all the bed linen. 2 people went clean and dry to bed with 3 clean dogs into a clean bed in a clean room - LUXURY. That does not happen that often on a smallholding in Roscommon in a wet winter. It was warm, dry, mudless, gritless, dog footprintless, damp dog-smell-less bliss.


Mazylou said...

Time for a jaunt, Lizzie!

Cinque Cento said...

I'm waiting for the AGM!