Saturday, 29 August 2009

Hunting and Gathering, and an Unexpected Arrival

As I finished my blog post yesterday, I got a phone call from our chef friend Gordy in a panic, desperate for rabbits by that evening. He had a catering function and the menu said 'rabbit and foie gras terrine' and he was short the 'rabbit' part. Could I pop out and shoot him a few? I can't resist the pleadings of a mate in need (and it was a good excuse to put off mowing the lawn yet again) but it was mid morning on a windy day. This was not good rabbiting time or weather.

I tried all the hot spots which are usually carpeted in rabbits but after an hour driving around and stalking some burrows on a hillside, this was the sum total of my mid morning hunt:

I gave him my one fresh rabbit and my last frozen rabbit meat. I hope it was enough for the terrine.

It's been a quiet Saturday and after the animals were seen to, we thought we had better start gathering some of the wild hedgerow fruits before the birds beat us to it. The back of Mike's work truck makes an excellent mobile picking platform.

We picked sloes today, for sloe gin of course. Last year's batch has been drunk already (..ahem...) and there's another batch ageing in the pantry. Both were from sloes frozen two years ago. Last year was a terrible year for wild fruit and it was nearly impossible to find some in any reasonable quantity. Plus, in the bad years I think of the birds and animals that need it more than we do. Hence, we will make hay while the sun shines - or gin while the sloes are ripe and abundant, as the case may be. And we will pick a few extra pounds for the freezer, just in case.

We picked until it was time to feed the horses and check the birds at The Hill again. We stopped home for a quick cup of tea (gamekeeper fuel) and heard the recognisable cries of a lost chick. We checked both mother hens, then I remembered Gertie. Gertie is the little pekin who went broody on a dummy egg left in a nest to encourage the chickens to lay eggs there. She was so doggedly broody, I took pity on her and popped a few bantam eggs I'd found in a hidden nest (obviously nobody told that chicken about the whole dummy egg principle). I didn't even know if they were viable .

Turns out at least one was. And it has a terrible sense of direction. We found it wandering outside the chicken house, headed for the dog kennels. It's been reunited with its inattentive mother, and I knocked together a makeshift broody coop around the pair. We will keep our fingers crossed for the 2 or 3 siblings that may yet hatch.


Kerry said...

did you kill that rabbit by shooting its front paws off? I admit rabbit meat is my favorite, but when I eat it I imagine that it was like General Woundwort from Watership Down. Looks like you shot Fiver.

Pomona said...

Fantastic that you have a market for wild rabbit. We are plagued by them - it is a real issue, and the only solution is constantly monitored rabbit fencing. Unfortunately we don't have the wherewithal to fence the whole place, which is really what we need.

Pomona x

Poppy Cottage said...

You and Mike could have a holiday in Kent and help sort out Pomona's rabbits...... Although I'd bagsy to come along as her B&B looks so lovely. I have two carrier bags ful of Damsons. Jam or Chutney????????????

Jennifer Montero said...

Hey seester - I have to admit it wasn't my best shot, I took the shoulder out. But if it makes you feel any better I think that rabbit was dealing crack to the younger bunnies in the burrow.

Jennifer Montero said...

Hi Pomona - I bet you have a market for wild rabbit. We sell our spares to the local butcher for £1.50 a rabbit. It is a good source of cheap meat and lessens your pest problem all at once - if you feel up to killing them and preparing them.

I'm not hard. I hang most things then put them in the freezer to give myself time to 'forget' how they got there! Denial or what?

I bet there's someone near you who would love the opportunity to shoot, snare or ferret your rabbits, and would give you a cut or a fee? You probably know all this already. You're right - Fencing is the best solution for protecting your veggies.

Jennifer Montero said...

Hi Collette - Found a recipe on line for bullace or sloe chutney. I'm going to give it a try. Let me know if you want a copy.

You must do the same as me - pick sloes early and blet them in the freezer. I only filled up a colander-ful before I ran out of time and energy for the day.

I did have a go at spinning the icelandic fleece; it's easier if I wet it a bit