Sunday, 13 December 2009

11 Days and Counting

A quick update from the estate as Christmas preparations are in full swing -

Bertie the tree is up and decorated, sitting on a reindeer skin in the front hall. I made a kissing bough for the warm habitable room, and a holly wreath for the front door. Old Bertie's got a bit of a lean to him - I must remember to stuff some newspaper in the tree holder to straighten him up before the 'big day'

I took Hazel out on the less formal boundary shoot yesterday, with her collar on, and she worked very well the whole day. She didn't run off, which was our goal, and she found a lost cock pheasant so a big pat for her. We have a few things to work on like quicker recall but it's a good start.

I pleased to say that Dulcie is fully recovered from her injury and has been given the 'all clear' to go back to work. I'm going to take her for a half day tomorrow so she can build her fitness level back up and expel some of that spaniel energy.

Things are mixed on the chicken front. The little barbu d'uccle hen is still fighting on but only marginally improved. Still she's so independent even with a paralysed leg that neither Mike nor I can face taking her to visit the log pile.

However, one of the young brown pullets has taken a beating from her siblings. The only thing crueler than teenage girls are chickens. The minute they draw blood, they don't stop until they've killed (chickens not teenage girls). They can be brutes and bullies (chickens AND teenage girls). This poor hen had both eyes swollen shut and blood-encrusted neck feathers from being pecked. I syringed fluids and a special food with antibiotics into her and put her on her own in the spare kennel to recover. I hope the shock of the attack doesn't kill her.

I also meant to go out a harvest a deer but the gamedealer had a spare 40kg youngster gralloched and skinned which he's left for me in the chiller. I can practice my butchery skills, but it's going in the freezer. We've eaten too much venison recently, I'm going to grow antlers.

Mike is making Christmas dinner this year (more fool him for volunteering) and he's decided on chicken. Fresh chicken. The meat cockerel still free-ranging in the garden who has just started to crow. So I'll be plucking next week. There's still a meat hen left in the garden but she's small and may lay eggs so we'll wait til spring to decide her fate. Depends how empty the freezer is then.

I still have a few cards to write and a few presents to make but it's getting there. I hope you all are ready for Christmas with full larders and time to relax and enjoy a well-earned rest.


Pomona said...

We now have a completely gun shy Border collie - she ran off when my son was shooting earlier this week, and today when my brother in law fired a gun she ran off, across the fence and down the road - thank goodness it is a quiet lane and no car was coming. Each time she has then spent several hours curled up in her bed as if in shock. She doesn't have to be a gun dog, and I am not one for shooting anyway, but it worries me that she is so very frightened - we have people shooting around us, and I don't want her running off in a panic just because she hears someone shooting in the next field. I am not quite sure what to do on that one - I know collies are often nervy, and her family are gun-shy, but I don't really know how to damp down her reaction at all.

We are still managing to eat from our own production, and are back in pork again - the family don't seem to mind, but it would be nice if there was a little more variety on the meat front! Their minds are running along chickens and sheep at the moment, but I think sheep is a bit of a project - not nearly so easy as pigs!

Pomona x

Poppy Cottage said...

Not even one card written or made here. So much for good intentions!!

Tamar said...

I keep thinking rural living is hardening me, and then my heart melts when I read about a chicken being pecked by her flockmates.

I feel so sorry for our hen who got in a tussle with a hawk and has a bald spot on her back. Is she too cold? Does it hurt? Do the other hens see her as weak? Now that I've got the teenage-girl analogy in my head, I'm sure the answer to that last one is a resounding 'yes.'

This whole red-in-tooth-and-claw thing really gets to me.

Jennifer Montero said...

Pomona - I'm no expert believe me but I introduce my dogs to gunshot in the company of another working who gets really excited and happy when the gun goes off. The collie would be able to lean on her friend for comfort and pick up the 'this is something great' vibe. It's an idea anyway.

Glad to hear you are back in pork. Sheep are supposed to be a bit more complex but I'm sure you'd excel. I started with the orphans. The pro is easy to manage, short term (no breeding or shearing issues). The con is they become like pets. I know I'm in trouble because I give my big sheep a kiss sometimes. You shouldn't kiss your food.

Jennifer Montero said...

I think you should always keep your sense of empathy even in rural life. How else can you give your livestock the best life before it gets to the table? I think it's admirable. But then I could be saying that because I knitted scarves for my first flock of chickens as a Christmas present...

Unfortunately that beaten hen died overnight. Chicken vigilantism, I just wish I knew what she'd done to incur their collective wrath.

Have you read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin? You may find it interesting. I hope your hen is healing well. The cold weather should encourage her to feather up on her back, though it may wait til she moults to come in.

Paula said...

Glad to hear Dulcie is up and around.

Pomona said...

That is really interesting - Kep was absolutely fine last year on an organized rough shoot - out all day and enjoyed herself. Possibly she has learned a bit of gun shyness from the Border terrier who shivers and hides, and she was out on her own last week with the boys just shooting rabbits in the orchard. Maybe she needs moral support.
You might not kiss your food, but the Head Chef spends a lot of time stroking and scratching his pigs!

Pomona x