Tuesday 26 September 2017

As Easy as AB, See?

Venison on the menu.
The cupboard is bare! The sales of eggs from the 'Honesty Box' have just this week started to motor and when I looked in this morning there was not an egg to be seen. Instead, of course, a good handful of coins in the Tupperware box. We were sold out. I have had to re-stock with the reserves indoors. It is a good feeling but I might have to go have a word with the girls to see if we can up the production a wee bit. The hens, of course. The poor ducks are already going at 100%, putting the chooks to shame. 3 eggs from 3 ducks EVERY DAY.

Augustin gets an archery 'taster' session. His hand is on his
first ever bull's eye. 
Welcome aboard the Blog, though, our new Help-X lad. Augustin, 18 from the Eastern suburbs of Paris, joined us on Friday 22nd. A lovely bloke - big and strong (handy around here!) he is also very happy and relaxed, always ready with a witticism, very easy to get along with and very appreciative of our food and hospitality. No farming experience but very willing to try anything and already ticking off the new skills. He is settling in well. He is enjoying trying to improve his English (with added Irish expressions)  and Liz is enjoying being able to use her French again.

Taster session at the archery.
For the purposes of this blog, Augustin is actually "AB". It's a bit complicated. I had just about got the hang of nailing the correct pronunciation (too many options on all 3 syllables! Ow/Awww/Agg followed by Gus or Goose (or one in between) and then tan/tin/teen. I kept 'landing' the feminine versions (tin/teen).

Our man tried to put me out of my misery by suggesting "Call me Gus" but we can't use Gus at the moment - a TV series we are glued to in boxed set (Breaking Bad) has the worst bad guy named Gus. So we've gone with 'AB' (Augustin's initials) and he is delighted. Our other options from his long list of childhood nick-names are 'Doctor' (for his regular clever witticisms "like a Professor") or 'Ancien' (the old guy, after his love of wearing old fashion hats (flat caps, berets) and having a beard. Anyway, AB it is.

AB winds some pressure onto the cider press
while K-Dub holds it all down.
AB, then, was straight into things even though his first days were weekend. Archery coach, Con, had put out a call for volunteers to come and dismantle the club's big marquee / party tent. It was a bit windy to be messing with canvas but AB and I are 'substantial' lads and did not think we'd get blown away. Con was very grateful for our efforts and invited AB to come and have a taster session at the archery the next day (Sunday), where he was already due to start the latest Beginners' course. It all went well and AB even signed up for the next few Sundays. 

Home made cider press. 
The Monday saw us at the cider making. K-Dub announced that the cider press was now ready and we should bring all the apples over, so we raced round the orchard picking all we could see. When we got to K-Dub's place we also found that he had built a home made shredder - a wooden hopper with a plastic pipe slotted in at the bottom into which had been part-screwed, dozens of screws and into the end of which slotted a handle to turn this 'drum'.

I take a turn at the winding. We later graduated
to fitting a steel tube to the handle to give us
more leverage. It worked well. 
The apples fall to the bottom of the hopper where the exposed screw-heads rip them to bits. The shredded apple then goes in a 'pillowcase' assembled in minutes by Carolyn (she of the mini-horses) from a tea towel and some muslin-like fabric and gets pressed by the mighty press. K-Dub was well impressed by his own welding, with the new welder.

AB turns pig farmer as we train the pigs
to climb, fearlessly, into the trailer. 
The top of the press is a 12 mm thick chunk of sheet steel but the winding action was able to slightly bow this; a considerable pressure exerted on the apple pulp but nothing broke. Long story short, we extracted 3 and a half litres of juice from our (not many) apples but K-Dub tells me today that they have since sourced more apples and extracted another 7 litres. The juice is with Carolyn for the next stage. She knows a bit about brewing! Hopes are high for some delicious scrumpy.

All loaded. 
Our other main activity with the Help-X assistance has been that the pigs have 'come ready' and needed taking on their final journey today (Tuesday). AB helped me over the Sunday/Monday to train them to the trailer. Even though he has no experience of farming, he happily joined me among them, in the pen, with the pigs snuffling around this 'new' person, sniffing his legs and boots, nudging him out of the way. He stayed relaxed and calm (as instructed) so that Empress and Pride quickly climbed the ramp and we were sure we'd have a problem free 'loading day'.

Sunrise through the trees
I am happy to say that that worst-of-all small-holdering days is now done. We all managed to get up early, the pigs loaded as if they couldn't wait to get at their breakfasts (thin portion sizes today - they need to go to the butcher "fasted") , we had problem free haulage and drop off. Obviously we all hate to have to do this and we wish we didn't but that is a discussion for elsewhere. The pigs are, presumably by now, 'late' and the carcasses get 48 hours to cool and 'set'. We collect them on Thursday and AB can then see the next stage in the process. He likes his pork, we are told. It will have been an interesting experience for him. And he has not yet run away screaming!

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