Tuesday 28 March 2017

The Quality of Mercy

A hen called Doris
That's it. It's official. We have gone soft. We are no longer the hard-nosed, mercenary, calculating, efficient small holding managers we may have claimed to be in the past. We have a PET chicken. Yep. A completely useless, non-productive birdie eating up the 'profits' (Ha! That'd be nice) and not contributing a single egg or any meat.

Meet 'Doris'. I am not sure how we came by that name; it was nothing to do with the storm as far as I know, but the name is a recent acquisition of hers; she's only been Doris for about 3 weeks. Doris has been through the wars with us a bit, surviving all manner of ill and harm, putting up with too-frequent attention from our series of various roosters and faithfully knocking out a good egg each day right round the year, sometimes as the sole egg layer in our motley band of better looking hens. She is a survivor of both fox attacks and the mink's visit, the bad winter storms, snow, ice and heat waves.

Giving the invalid a bit of sunshine in the dog-crate.
She has always been a stumpy-legged thing who walked with a waddle and, because of the frequent attentions of roosters, usually with a baldy back and a bald top of the head. She is just your generic 'red' hen with darker wing and tail feathers, possible from 'Sussex' DNA. She came to us as a 'day old' from Mentor Anne which we hoped would be pure Buff Orpington but she and her sister had a different father. They stayed short and 'bantam'-y and were named the "Mini-Buffs" but, as I said, they were excellent reliable layers so we kept them alongside the buffs for all these years past. We love(d) them. One died of natural causes last year.

Enjoying a 3-day mini heatwave.
Doris was relegated from 'productive' status to pet by our 2016 fox who, we think, bit her and damaged a leg, though she survived. On that day all the surviving chooks were scared to go back into their real coop and moved into the Tígín for 'safety'. Most then recovered and ventured back out doors (or died of their injuries) but this hen, obviously crippled and hobbling, stayed put and we went through winter bringing food and water to her where she hid under some planks.

I've been minding 20 bullocks for a guy down the lane.
This is a handsome Limousin lad. 
It was obvious she was not going to walk properly again and our then three 'spare' Marans roosters all picked on her and 'gang raped' her till we realised what was happening and separated the birds for her safety. She was in a sorry state and the sensible hard-nosed thing would have been to cull her out. Hey ho. She's still with us and still in 'protective custody' given that new name and even carried carefully out in the recent sunshine to enjoy some warmth in the dog-crate. Still has a healthy appetite and was last seen schmoozing up the sex-change hen-rooster "Herme". She hops along on one foot with the other leg jutted out at a jaunty angle, used as a crutch to stop her over-balancing but mainly held off the ground. She stretched out her wings to sunbathe, lying on her side like any other chicken. Bless her. She always looks to me on the point of "falling off her perch" but never quite does so.

Finally making a start on the daunting task
of weeding this jungle bed.
The last three days have seen us enjoying superb weather - you'd say "Spring like" but really it was more like a Roscommon Summer. We have been spending all our time outdoors and got stuck into some long overdue gardening. Weeding, to be precise. We have attacked all the railway sleeper beds in the 'Kitchen Garden' and started on the rather daunting task of rescuing the 100' x 25' veg' patch from its sorry neglect of 2016. Long story but I lost the plot, nearly literally.

4 of the 'lads'enjoy some afternoon sun
with their 'meal' in the trough. 
I have also been minding 20 bullocks for our chum down the road, who was over to the UK for family reasons. This was no problem at all as I love some part time cattle involvement. They needed feeding (forking silage to them)  and checking in the morning, then feeding again plus letting some of them out for a drink in the evening.

The 'slatted house' boys. Well, 5 of them.
16 of them have an automatically filled drinker in their 'slatted house' (as in slatted floor - all the muck falls through to a big sump and can be pumped out) but another 4 have no such facilities in a concrete floored barn. They have to be let out to access an enamel bath which you refill from a hose. Getting at water only once a day gives them a big thirst. 4 of them will half-empty the bath at one 'sitting'. These guys also get mucked out, sometimes by me, but not this weekend. They'd just been mucked before I arrived and would not need it again till my friend was back from the UK. Easy life. Beef farming? A breeze! (OK, maybe not).

'Creeny' sheep's cheese from Corleggy of Belturbet, Co Cavan
Finally, we have "found" a new artisan cheese-maker. Well, technically it has been found for us by a friend who knows of our cheese-love and was visiting a Farmers' Market in Carrick. They tried the cheese, 'quite' liked it and decided to buy a chunk for us as well as some for themselves and generously brought it to me for us to try out and see what we would 'pair' it with.

Concrete floored barn.
The cheese-maker, 'Corleggy' (it means small windy hill!) is based in Belturbet up by the Northern Ireland border in Co. Cavan and this cheese is made from unpasteurised sheep's milk. It is called 'Creeny'. It is fierce and tangy and has quite a 'pong' coming off it. I love it but for Liz it was rather too fierce/sharp. In blue cheese Liz would love the creamy "Cashel Blue" but finds the sharp twang of Danish Blue too much. Creeny would be the same to her. It has just stepped over that line from 'very tasty' to 'too much'. 'Very nice', she says, ' but you'd need to pair it with a sweet chutney' (like the mango/kiwi chutney she makes here).  Our friend who bought it originally was last heard of "still trying to decide whether (she) likes it or not!

This post has been squeezed in just prior to us starting a whirlwind of visits in and out, but more on that in the next post. One of the visits promises to be VERY EXCITING but you will have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Care Towers said...

Well, fancy you going "soft"! It had to happen in the end though, didn't it?