Sunday, 6 September 2015

Only 80 growing days till Christmas

We’ve done our Christmas shopping early this year. And when I say shopping I don’t mean all the novelty underwear, boxes of Toffifee, soap-on-a-rope and all the other festive crap that we feel compelled to buy each year. I’m talking about the actual Christmas dinner. And the meal for Christmas Eve, and even perhaps Boxing Day if we’re lucky…

The one thing around here which won’t be having much luck from Saint Nick this year are the three Wirral Bronze turkey chicks, or the ostriches as we like to call them (check out the photo - they are very strange looking creatures). Although I would hasten to add that their luck is very much in at the moment given the amount of love and attention they are currently receiving from my husband with thrice daily meals and drinks, a top of the range heat lamp and (what was) my favourite organic cotton supersoft duvet cover which he has appropriated for their bedding. Never let it be said that I am jealous of other birds but….. It’s quite hard to believe at the moment that the strange, skittish creatures could actually grace our Christmas table. If the chap who sold them to us knows his stuff we may still be nipping down to Aldi to fight with the hordes and masses come Christmas Eve as they apparently have a strong suicidal streak and will “die for fun”. So we’ve removed all their belts, razors and shoe laces and are hoping for the best.

Christmas dinner. Maybe.

 By way of back up and to ensure we have the option of plenty of poultry based meals in the run up to the festive period, we’ve also just bought another load of Ross Cobb chicks.  The first batch have now been successfully dispatched after what, we hope, was a rather lovely life, clucking about in the sunshine with their best mates, munching on worms and corn with not a care in the world. The whole process was actually rather peaceful, no struggling or squawking or stress, which I’m convinced is reflected in the taste and texture of the meat. The chicken liver and heart pate which we made was to die for (if you pardon the pun) although that may have had something to do with the copious amounts of cognac which were involved in its creation. Ditto the thighs and wings which we enjoyed with a homemade barbecue sauce. We’ve also had a couple of whole birds for Sunday lunch. Needless to say we’ve munched our way through five birds already so we’ve gone for 20 chicks this time. We also decided to spare the cockerel from the first batch who is now rapidly approaching the size of a small pony and is still wandering about with a befuddled look on his face wondering how he managed to escape death row. We’ve called him Chauntecleer and his supposed new role in life is to ‘befriend’ our laying hens with the aim of producing our own cross-breed chicks.  What he is actually doing at the moment is eating all the layers pellets, shitting all over the eggs in the nesting boxes and making feeble attempts at crowing, sounding like some poor 13 year old choir boy attempting (and failing miserably) to hit the high notes. If he doesn’t buck up his act and work out what to do with it soon he’ll be at the front of the queue come the next D-Day (Dispatch Day).


You can’t have Christmas without a delicious baked ham, studded with cloves and smothered with honey for pure sweet and salty loveliness. Mmmmm.  Enter stage left, Peppa and George, our Berkshire and nearly Berkshire piglets (the latter of which was *ssshh whisper so we don’t hurt her feelings* an accident when the Gloucester Old Spot x Large White boar hurdled the gate into the Berkshire sow’s pen and spent a night of unbridled passion on the wrong side of the fence). At just three months old, they are smaller than the dog, fit easily in the back of the Landrover and, you would therefore think, are an absolute doddle to handle. Wrong, oh so wrong. Having lovingly prepared their new pig sty, complete with soft straw bed to sleep in and a Belfast sink (I know, a bloody BELFAST SINK that I campaigned hard to put aside for the new kitchen and lost out to some sodding pigs!) to eat out of, it was time to release them into their new home. Easy. Open door. Pick up pig. Carry pig to enclosure. Release pig. Only it didn’t quite work out like that. As soon as the back door of the Landrover was opened I swear to God I saw a definite glint in that piggy little eye as it paused, obviously eyeing up the situation and thinking, “these clowns clearly don’t have a clue what they are doing here - let’s have some fun with this”, before literally hurling itself at great velocity through my husband’s waiting arms and out into the open field. There ensued a good half hour of Benny Hill style escapades as one small piglet played two grown men off against each other, darting stealth like under bushes and charging through legs and open arms, going every which way but into the sty. Every time they got close it dodged breezily passed them with a snort and a squeal (I'm sure of laughter or delight) as my husband huffed and puffed after it like some lumbering big, bad wolf in his steel toe cap welly boots. It was into this scene of porcine chaos that our poor unsuspecting neighbours wandered, out for a quiet afternoon stroll with their grandchildren. I’m quite sure that the last thing they expected to see on their afternoon constitutional was a fully grown man launching himself like Shane Williams on the try line on top of a tiny piglet. With an almighty thud, a cloud of choice expletives and blood curdling screams the pig was recaptured. From that moment on I can categorically say without a shadow of a doubt that every single house in our valley (and the next) will be in no doubt that we now own pigs. Absolute comedy gold but admittedly not the most auspicious start to our pig husbandry career. Just as well pigs are hungry little buggers. A couple of days or rattling the bucket of pig nuts and we are all best friends again. All that is until we dust off the Delia Christmas recipe book and start planning the yuletide menu… 80 days to go and counting.


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