Tuesday 27 February 2018

The Pest From The West

Dippy Goose Eggs. Breakfast of Champions.
Friends of the Blog will know that we had started our goose egg season with a first one laid on the 18th, the day after the layer's sister-bird had been killed by the fox. By tradition, though, in this house we get to eat these first eggs (rather than selling them giving them away) jointly at a breakfast, as 'dippy eggs'. We therefore have to wait for the 2nd egg to arrive (that was the 21st) and then for both of us to be available and in breakfasty mood. That brought us round to Saturday morning (24th) but the eggs did not disappoint. They were well worth the wait. Happy First-Goose-Eggs-of-the-Year-Day everyone.

Anchovy flavoured pizza.
We have also been messing around with pizza. Now that I am steadily into the sourdough baking (we buy very little shop bread any more) I was curious to see whether sourdough could be used as pizza base. Of course it can and no end of my contacts suggested recipes.

Pizzas (raw)
This will have the average 'Mum' laughing in her socks. These days they cut their baby-chef's teeth on pizza assembly; it is real kid's stuff taught to 4 year olds, but at 60 years old I had never actually made my own pizza base and then covered it in ingredients.

Chopped pork pizza
I am happy to report another cookery triumph and one of those in which you can claim a good few ingredients as home made from home grown basics. The sourdough was mine. The 'ragu' had been made by Elizabeth using the rib and breast trimming bits of our most recent lamb. The chopped roast pork which went into one of them was from our own pigs. Other ingredients were probably better than used in supermarket pizza - we used extra mature cheddar for the cheese for example and whole anchovy fillets, fresh salad peppers and onion. These bad boys positively BUZZed with flavour.

Fast growing lamb, Tigger, still takes Mumma's milk but is also
keen on grass, hay and the breakfast 'crunch'. 
The down side of this is that I may have shot myself in the foot. The Head Chef enjoyed it so much that she said "Right - THIS is how we do pizza from now on. No more shop bought stuff!"

Thick ice on the goose bath.
Meanwhile, we are now seeing the first real effects of the cold easterly air stream coming across UK and this island from Siberia, for which everyone now seems to be using the handle " #TheBeastFromTheEast " . We have had the dry, bitter winds for a week now and we are beautifully dried out and frozen firm most mornings, but across today and through to Friday the 'Beast' is forecast to up the ante and start dropping snow and hail on us.

Straw bales keep the wind out of the sheep shelter. The sheep
can hunker down behind a bale. 
Naturally, fore-warned we have been able to stock up on coal and animal feeds and I have bought extra straw bales to give protection to the eastern side of my sheep shelter. That is the theory anyway. In fact the sheep have mainly gone right over to the East side of the field and lain down under the thick hawthorn hedge. The bales are used by lamb Tigger for bouncing up and down 'stairs' on. If I had a Euro for every time I'd stood the walls back up.......

Feathers mark the murder scene and the arrow shows the
villain's escape route. 
In other news then, if the storm is called #TheBeastFromTheEast, then I am calling my fox, who comes from the other direction, #ThePestFromTheWest. Yes. He has been back. On Monday (26th) we were both indoors relaxing prior to me going out to do 'Fox-Watch' from about 4:30 pm till lock up, when suddenly the shout went up from the ever-reliable Guinea Fowl. Rushing to the front window I saw a stream of fleeing chickens sprinting right to left, away from the pond side.

Our #1 Buff Orpington rooster. This is Herme. He survived.
His son, who looked very similar, was the victim
Rushing into footwear and coats we raced out but we were too late. We found the sorry patch of feathers which marked the murder scene and from the colour we knew the fox had snatched a Buff Orpington chicken. We quickly checked all the survivors and worked out that the fox had snatched our #2 Buff Orpington rooster, 'Orion'. I let the dogs off - we now trust them not to kill chickens on the way out or back and they chased around for the trail but they were way too late.

Getting in supplies of feed and coalite to see us through
"The Beast"
Upside(s) to this story. This attack had me chasing up the fox-trap supplier and finding that all their orders for these traps would be dispatched today (27th) as they had now been received by them on the Monday. We should get that this week, all being well. Also a new rooster just coming of age and possibly becoming a nuisance is now saved from the 'relegation zone' and promoted to #3. He looks a bit Marans so might make a future replacement for our #1 bird, 'Gandalf'. Assuming Brer Fox does not get him, of course. Thirdly, the attack put me back on high alert so that today I spent a good part of the day patrolling around outside (yes, in the cold!) and happened to be out with the dogs this afternoon at 4 pm when The Pest came back.

The local Tidy Towns group kicked off
their 2018 season with a very good talk
on composting. 
The Guineas kicked off and I saw a duck fly up and bonk down again onto the frozen pond but I was quickly able to let the dogs out of the lawn-field and was very satisfied to see the three streak away in echelon formation, hot on the heels of the fleeing fox. I don't suppose they caught him for one moment (little legs!) but they were gone out of sight for a good 15-20 minutes and returned breathless and buzzing. Maybe the fox will think twice tomorrow, now he know the dogs here are not ALWAYS under 'control'.

Finally, with The Beast coming across over the next few days, and The Pest very much a factor, we watched the black clouds building in the East and the first flurries of hail and snow come down on a squally wind. I looked across at Polly, our next ewe due to lamb, who was the far side of that East Field and saw that she was pawing at the ground. A definite sign of imminent lambing, though I'd not thought she was 'bagging up' that much yet. Still, we made an executive decision to get her indoors - I was mainly thinking of the cold and wet, but the Assistant Shepherd noted that Brer Fox would almost certainly be attracted to all that birth-fluid smell and fresh blood. Foxes will readily steal a new born lamb while it is helpless. I could not bear that.

So she is now in the pen in the Tígín on new straw, with a bucket of water and some grub. She is not totally happy about this but this is one of those times where the humans need to 'play God' and decide what is best for the animals in their charge. Polly's instincts might all be shouting to her to go find a lonely corner of the field and go it alone, but she doesn't know what we know about the Beast and that hungry, frustrated fox who just missed his duck dinner. Lastly, good luck to all our UK friends, who are mainly around the SE which seems to be the place posting the snowiest pictures on Facebook and may be getting The Beastly snow storms in the neck. Stay warm and dry. 

1 comment:

Care Towers said...

Good stuff on the sourdough pizzas - we're well in to the same with home made bases and ragu - though we don't quite reach as far as home grown meat & poultry! We've not bought bread for probably a year now, with the homemade sourdough, buns, muffins, seedy rolls, etc. keeping us well stocked. Have you tried the granary sourdough - 75% granary flour (I use a local mill's, but I'm sure you'll something similar!), 25% white bread flour? It's well worth the extra kneading!