Saturday 22 April 2017

Enda on the Exit Slope

Poor Enda. When a hen looks this rough there is usually
only one outcome. 
Enda on the Exit slope? No, no, no, not beleaguered politician Mr. Kenny currently battling to stay in charge of the country. This Enda is Enda 'Vaneera' our now longest serving chicken. We fear she may be on the exit slip-road of hen life. We've had her 5 years now and for the most recent 2 of these she has strutted around in charge of all hens, a real alpha female. She has also batted away any male attention - we are sure she has been barren for 2 years - and has been the keenest garden-helper when ever she saw a human weeding or disturbing soil.

Parrot tulips
Recently she amazed us by coming back into lay, giving us about a fortnight's worth of good eggs but this, sadly, seemed to be a reproductive swan song (at risk of mangling my metaphorage here!). A few days back she woke up suddenly unable to cope with the attentions of our rooster. He jumped her and rolled her onto her side, then finished and she just lay there instead of the usual huffy get to your feet and shake out those feathers. Seeing her still there, apparently submissive he did it again and again till I had to shoo him off and rescue the poor girl.

Pear blossom
I could see that all was not well and gave her some days in the sick bay and isolation to let her regroup. Bad news, I'm afraid, she is not recovering and is going downhill. Friends of the Blog will know that in our experience, chickens don't do "sick". They go from perfect health to dead with nothing in between, so it is amazing that she has lasted these few days. I think she will shuffle off the mortal coil today. I'll let you know.

'Our' pigs with their Mum (Iris) on their first day out of the
sty.  17th April here so 6 weeks old. 
Happily, there are winners as well as losers for every post. Our pig breeder (Hi Adrian) sent us the latest pictures of our soon-to-be piglets who are (we hear) bounding with health and full of mischief. He has also told us when we can collect them, any time from 7th May. We are so excited. We are getting 2 of these, probably a (castrated) male and a female, and our friends Sue and Rob another 2. I presume Adrian has also sold the 5th.

'Parma' Ham, Roscommon stylee. The "Parma" word has
protected geographic status dictating permitted breed, diet
and 'terroir' but we do our best with our local beasts. 
While we are on pigs, with our latest visitor, Mum in Law (Steak Lady to this blog) on site we wanted to crack open this season's first Parma-style ham so that we could taste some and declare it ready. Mum is often in the part of Spain which does the 'Serrano' equivalent and has even brought us back an official, wickedly sharp, designed-for-the-job, "Cuchillo Jamonero" carving knife, with its 9" long by slender 5/8" 'deep' blade which lets you slice off almost transparent slices of ham. The ham was a great success and we have been slicing bits off ever since for starters and tasters.

Our other local fan of this meat is Charlotte, normally now a Dublin resident but, by coincidence (or did she smell the ham?) down here for a few days to look after little H (5) while Mum and Dad were at a wedding. Obviously we had to have her over for a taster and packed her off with a size-able "doggie bag".

The ladies try out the new ham.
This whole leg will do us about 4 kg of ham, we think - the muscle loses 30% of its weight, ideally, during the air-drying process. The 2nd leg is being saved for similar treatment at Christmas. Any friends of the blog reading this and fancying a taster, get in touch while we still have some. We'll be good for about a month but it won't go much longer than that even as 'back up stores' in the freezer assuming there is any left for that.

We love the way Mum does these roasties. Liz calls them
"hedgehog" potatoes but I am told they are officially called
Hasselback. That could just be a foreign word for hedgehog.
Mum's visit, meanwhile, went off really well and was enjoyed by both guest and host. At one stage she even took over the kitchen and cooked for us - she know the way to our hearts! She had bought with her a lovely beef roasting joint knowing that we do our own lamb, pork, chicken and duck. She did this with a stir-fry of veg plus some superb special potatoes. These are cooked whole but see no water or par-boil prior to roasting. They are sliced almost through into very thin slices and the whole then wiped in oil including trying to get some oil down into the cuts. It is great to eat them in these slices. It is like having all the best bits of a roastie in your mouth at once!

Mutt and Jeff. NZ White cross bunnies.
I also took Mum across to see Rob (Sue was in UK) - she loves their place and is quite taken with Rob as he is with her. I think it is the nearly OVER-stocked air of chaos. "How many chickens have you got?" We had a lovely welcome from Rob and the enthusiastic, small and huge dogs ("Woool-ufs" says Mum) - they have terriers plus a St Bernard and a mad maybe-Newfoundland pup which is even bigger than the St B.

Get that grass cut you bunnies!
We came away with a couple of half grown bunnies. These lads (named Mutt and Jeff by Mum) are NZ White crosses, quite a big breed. They are surplus to Rob's breeding programme so, if they can avoid Mr Fox, they can spend the summer doing lawn-mower in our apiary. Bees, famously, hate the vibration of a petrol lawnmower, so rabbits are the perfect solution - the bees ignore them and they ignore the bees. The grass stays short so the bees will always recognise 'home' by sight.

A nearly full house for Friday night. Wednesday
and Saturday were quickly sold out. 
Last but not least among our "Winners" in this post, THE PLAY. This village event, having had a good but slightly wobbly dress rehearsal, played a real 'blinder' on the First Night. It went really well with no hitches and delighted the audience into gales of laughter and frequent enthusiastic applause. Everyone is over the moon. I have written a good review which is now up on the website ( ) and Facebook and Twitter have been a-buzz with nice pictures and favourable comment. As I write this (Saturday morning) we have also had a brilliant 2nd night and we have high hopes for Last Night which is tonight.

Watch this space.

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