Friday, 6 November 2009

The Woodcock Moon

picture courtesy of wikipedia

We've had the first full moon of November - known as the Woodcock Moon - when the woodcock begin their migration from Europe to England, presumably to feed in a milder climate. It will be a little while longer before we see many here in the west, but I can hardly wait. They are my favorite little bird because of their appearance, and because of the strange behaviours and folklore associated with them.

Their eyes are nearly on top of their heads so they can watch for predators while they feed. It's rarely observed but a female with a chick, when disturbed, will fly off carrying the chick between her legs. What a wild ride that must be for a youngster!

They are also crepuscular, a great word I rarely if ever get to use in a sentence. It means they are mainly active at dawn and dusk.

They are also by far my favorite game bird to eat, and also the hardest to shoot which makes the reward that much sweeter. I have only ever shot two. If you shoot two woodcock - a 'right and left' as it's known - without reloading or lowering your gun and in front of two witnesses, you can be admitted to the Shooting Times Woodcock Club. I don't know any members personally. All I know is I can't wait until I hear the whirring wingbeats crossing overhead at dusk.

At the moment, I'm doing 'indoor jobs' as the weather is horrid and uncooperative. It makes everything so much harder slogging through mud, wiping paw prints off of everything, toweling off dogs every time they go outside, wearing layers and peeling them off one at a time as they get soaked, and hanging them in front of the woodburner to dry. I'm down to a t-shirt and apron now. Both fires are going at the moment to keep the house warm and, more importantly, dry. We're shooting tomorrow so I'll have to face this wretched weather then.

Part of the indoor jobs included cooking. I finished tomorrow's lunch for the workers, plus some pureed pumpkin for the freezer and a pumpkin bread. I collected our half a pig from the farm today which means a nice change from venison. I boned out the front leg and roasted it for our tea, and all the pork fat will go to the dogs to help keep their weight up as work and the colder weather takes its toll on their reserves.

The next lot of meat for the freezer is the last 14 meat chickens which I will dispatch this Tuesday. Then it will be big lamb and little lamb. I'm still not looking forward to that day. I keep putting it off.


Poppy Cottage said...

I found a dead woodcock years ago. It too me ages to find out what it was. I thought it was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen, I was amamzed by the beak.

Lily has MTV on LOUD, as fireworks are being let off over head and she isn't too sure. I am off to work so Jose is babysitting next door. Jasper is really looking forward to tomorrow.

I might actually get a blog post done after work.

Take care xx

Pomona said...

You make me feel so inadequate, Jennifer! I have knitted two pairs of handwarmers, and am on to my third, the house is a sea of dog hair, and I haven't baked a cake all week. We made some very nice salted, roasted pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins - but those have all been eaten up. The woodcock looks far too sweet to shoot - I will have to avert my gaze and think about other things! And thank you for informing me about crepuscular - you know I had never bothered to look it up, so I am very glad to learn its meaning. I will be sure to use it very soon, if only for didactic purposes! Have a good weekend.

Pomona x

Poppy Cottage said...

I think Jen put's us all to shame!!

P said...

Hey! My house is full of dog hair too! When people ask what kind of dog Rufus in, I tell them he's a Prodigious Shedder.

Pork fat for the dogs? You mean you don't render it into lard? Pork fat rules... but lamb fat makes awesome gravy.

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette & Pomona - I did the cooking and cleaning at the expense of my knitting which is falling so behind. You two ROCK the knitting - it would take me 2 months to make a pair of wrist cuffs. Christmas is looming and I'm not ready!

I'm having a crisis about cleaning vs. crafting. How dirty to you let things get before you opt to clean over crafting? Advice please!

P- Rufus the prodigious shedder. I love it! You bring up a good point, I could render the lard. Then I'd have the basis for lots of lovely confits to make with the wild duck I shoot. I've never made lard - is it easy?

Pomona said...

Re cleaning - it depends who is coming to visit and whether the sun is shining which always makes things look worse!

Pomona x

Tamar said...

At last! Something I can tell you about -- lard rendering.

It's very easy. Just cut the fat in chunks (or run it through a meat grinder, which makes for a faster process) and put it in a heavy pot with about a cup of water. Turn the heat on low, and wait. The water evaporates, the fat renders, and you end up with a sea of melted lard with cracklings in it. Strain it, jar it, and you're done.

Let the pie crust begin!

Jennifer Montero said...

Thank you Tamar, that's sounds very easy! I'm going to render the next batch and the dogs can make do with the strained crackling. Confit here we come!!

Poppy Cottage said...


Bah humbug. I was given a post card once. Said something about when the judgement day come will they count the quilts you have made or how tidy your house was.

Out of choice, crafting should always win. Dog hair keeps the heating cost down as it acts as insulation.

When the J's leave home I intend to like in a mess EVERY day.