Saturday 10 February 2018

Two Turkeys More But Down One Duck

The "Gang of Four" (Guinea Fowl) check out the new arrivals
We are offered by good friends Sue and Rob, a couple of spare young turkeys who survived the Christmas 'Matanza' because they were too small and scrawny to be worth the preparation. "Would you like them for growing on for Easter?" Of course we would and arrangements were made for Sue to catch our pair and bring them over on a visit where she could enjoy some tea and cake. Elizabeth and Sue have a bit of a quiet, friendly 'bake off' going on between the 2 kitchens and Rob and I are the happy beneficiaries.

The turkeys go out free range on Day 2
But then the most amazing thing happened. As they were getting ready to leave, their 3 dogs suddenly kicked off alarmingly, barking, growling and racing about, clearly disturbed by something. Rob looked out of the Sitting Room window gazing across to the sheep field over the heads of a huge flock of chickens and Guinea fowl, wondering if there might be a fox lurking among the tufts of tall rushes that grow there, 50 yards from the house.

They are good boots from the local farmers' co-op but they
don't last for ever. 
Only when he re-adjusted his vision, did he spot that among those chickens just outside the window on the lawn, was a big dog fox just standing there. The chickens for some reason had overcome their fear and were gathered round him full of curiosity. One of the Guineas was even taking a few exploratory pecks at his fur. Rob got over the shock and reached for the camera, calling Sue to come see too. The camera battery was flat, though and the fox seemed to spot Rob through the glass at that point and loped off, slinking into the cover of those rushes. I should have taken Rob's fox as an omen..... read on.

Shepherding ewe Lily and lamb Tigger round to the front lawn
each morning. 
Naturally, Sue and Rob are now on a rather nervous "fox-watch" for the next few days in case Brer Fox should return, and unwilling to leave the place unguarded. If I want my turkeys, I will have to go and collect them. Ah well. Sue's cake instead of the home stuff. It's flapjack this time. How we suffer. The turkeys turn out to be bigger than advertised, not "scrawny" at all. The little kitten-basket I show up with looks totally inadequate for the task, even for one bird. We fall back on that old safety net - we stuff them into woven feed sacks with cable ties sealing the top. Not ideal, but they are quiet enough and the journey home is only 20 minutes.

I land the turkeys in the big dog crate in our yard so that they can safely meet the home flock and get used to the sights, sounds and smells of their new home. This also lets my lot get a good look at them with no risk of anyone attacking the newcomers in the first 24 hours. They are let out next morning when it is nice and quiet, supervised, hoping they stay around till evening at least, when I can find them a bed for the night.

The snowdrops are looking good.
That plan works OK but wobbles a bit when the four Guineas decide to gang up together and charge the newcomers, sending them sprinting for cover by the caravan. I worry that they may even drive the new birds off site, into an unfamiliar corner from which they would not know the way home, only having been here 24 hours. The 'Gang of Four' though just seem to want to show the turkeys who is boss and, that done, they mainly leave them alone. By evening I grab a chance to shepherd them into the Tígín with the ewe and lamb, where they perch up on a straw bale and can sleep safe from Guinea harassment. The new pair seem to have no interest in our existing turkey (Gloria) and the feeling is mutual.

Then there were four? The 4 remaining ducks seem very quiet
and stay close to the sheds on Friday, here sleeping in the shade.
That evening (Thursday) I open the gate through to the (fenced) orchard and shepherd the geese home to their shed via the back door, and let the 5 ducks come through to the yard and garden for the last half hour or so before lock-up. It happens every night. It is never a problem. But tonight at lock up (about half past 5) there are suddenly only 4 ducks and the 4 who are left are very upset and anxious, quacking alarmingly for their lost sister and unwilling to go to bed without her.

The other three ewes have not yet lambed.
Are they even pregnant?
We fear the worst - maybe she has been snatched in a grab-and-run raid by the fox. If this is so, the fox most likely came in across the veg patch where I saw that one a couple of weeks back and nipped off the same way. Liz and I conduct an extensive search, sometimes with the other 4 ducks at heel (Find her Daddy, please find her!) as the dark descends. At one point I *think* I heard over the hubbub in the yard and shed, a single, distant, distressed quack, so maybe the last gasp of our duck as she was carried off, half a field away.

A recipe from the Johnnie Mountain 'Pork' book. This is pork
and apricot tagine with pistachio cous-cous. "Lush" was one
As dark fell, we had to give up the search. We were left clinging to the hope (against hope) that she'd just hunkered down somewhere to lay an egg and now that it was dark she'd stay there till morning. Maybe she would re-appear in the new day.

Lamb leg joint gets smeared with a mix of garlic, rosemary,
lemon zest and anchovy before being wrapped in foil for a long
slow roast. It does not need carving - a good shake and all the
meat falls off the bones. 
That is how we still are 36 hours later. The four ducks have settled down and I spent an hour and a half out there yesterday at the relevant time of evening keeping an eye; my own "fox watch" till I could shut all the doors and know that the fox had not come back for another bird to invite to dinner. Friends on the Internet have been nicely sympathetic and keep their hopes up, like us, that the missing duck might just be hunkered down on eggs, but hope is fading now. I find myself, when met by variations of the local 'condolences' (Sorry to hear about your duck.... ) etc, using another local expression "Ah well..... that's the way....."

Phil(omena) from the Red Cross leads a session on heart
 attacks, the defibrillator, CPR and strokes. 
Off the farm, I am increasingly involved in the local Mens' Shed charity group, our home-from-home for local menfolk who seek out a bit of company in a safe environment (no booze, no gambling, no smoking, no bullying).

Phil demo's the defribrillator. 
We do not have our actual shed yet (builders are still in there doing roof insulation etc) so we meet in a nearby Health Centre. The sessions are sometimes just chat, chess, cards and so on but sometimes the 'boss' (Pat) arranges experts to come in and do training.

"Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk". That's the rhythm you
need, by all accounts, for good CPR!
We've done a bit of an IT course and this week we had Phil(omena) from the local red cross showing us the defibrillator, CPR, and the symptoms and treatment of heart problems and strokes. I was amused by 2 surprising aspects of this compared to the old First Aid training from work days. By their very nature, some of these old boys have "been there" and done that with the heart attacks and strokes, so when Phil started to describe the symptoms as described to her, a group of our lads piped up with "Yes, when I had my first one, I felt I'd been smacked in the chest with a sledge hammer" and another replied - "It was like someone doing up a ratchet-strap round your chest!"

And then, because some of the lads are a bit tottery on their own legs, walking with sticks etc and unable to get down on their knees to kneel over the prone patient ("or if I did, I'd never get up again!"). One suggestion was that you might sit by the patient on a chair and do CPR with your heel. If you don't do anything, the man is going to die very soon anyway, so try anything rather than do nothing.

Ah well. That's the way.

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