Sunday, 20 December 2009

Plucking Hard Work

I woke up to our first dusting of snow. After the initial oh..ah..pretty, it was hot kettles to melt the animals' frozen water troughs and to warm their breakfast bowls. The dogs got extra fat in their breakfast and the sheep and horses some extra hay, to keep them warm on the inside. The sheep had a sheet of ice on their backs - shows what good insulation their in-built wooly jumpers are. And it reminded me that I'm behind on my knitting, as usual.

On the board for today: preparing the Christmas chicken. Our lone surviving meat cockerel started crowing a week ago, and so put himself on the christmas menu. The meat will need a few days to hang in the chiller to improve its flavor and tenderness, so it was a trip to the log pile this morning. I noticed he got in a quick "visit" with some of his lady friends first, which made me smile.

Plucking and bleeding

Singeing the fine feathers
I noticed he didn't lay down as much fat as our more pampered meat chickens, but he did have bigger legs and thighs. I'm interested to see if his varied diet and access to the organic mixed pasture behind the house has added anything to the meat.

ready to hang out and chill (in the chiller!) til Christmas eve

Anyone who plucks birds for a living has my respect and deserves a raise. It took me nearly an hour to pluck and finish one chicken. My fingers are already cracked and painful from the cold weather. Plucking just added insult to injury. Now I must really get on and finish knitting, as the lanolin in the wool is the only thing that seems to properly heal my hands. Spinning is even better. Sheep - bloody marvellous things!

We finished shooting yesterday; now both we and the birds get a break until 26th December, Boxing Day. I've had an invite to go pheasant and duck shooting on Tuesday which I'm looking forward to. It's my first day shooting pheasant this season. No break for their birds!

I helped a lady gun yesterday who is new to driven pheasant shooting. I like helping the women but I wish they weren't all so stunningly beautiful. I feel like the fat, sway back shetland pony in a field of thoroughbreds. Mike's comment is always "Huh. She doesn't look like she could carry a bag of wheat up a steep hill." I'm choosing to take that as a compliment.

Barry and Mike taught me something yesterday and I thought it worth sharing: Tips for selecting a good brace of pheasant for the table:

1) select hens if possible, and cock birds without spurs. Hens make the best eating because they put down more fat than cock birds. Only older, tougher cock birds have spurs.

2) Give the back ribs a gentle squeeze. If it feels "crunchy", it was probably crushed by an over-enthusiastic dog during the retrieve. Choose birds with intact ribs

3) Hold the bird by the neck and give it a shake. Do the legs dangle about? "If they'll never dance again, they're no good for the table". Broken legs can mean shot taken in the abdomen, rupturing the guts. This can taint the meat or worse. Save these for "breasting out" only

And a quick Dulcie update: After making a great recovery from her last injury, she managed to split open her front leg on the first drive of her first full day back at work. Another rogue stick. So it was back to the vets for a GA and some stitches. And another week of antibiotics and bed rest. If she's angling for workman's compensation, she's out of luck, though I am seriously looking into dog armor for her.

A very cheery Dulcie in spite of it all


Poppy Cottage said...

Hello my dear. Managed to pick up lots of someone first attempt at spinning and plying when I was rooting through the chariety shops in Lyme yesterday. Looking forward to doing something with it after Christmas. Poor old Dulcie. She seems to be having one of those 'wish I hadn't got up' few days at the moment. Yep take it as a compliment from Mike. I am well behind on ALL Christmas gifts. So haveing a mass crack down today! (she says!!)

Hope to see you soon.

If not Happy Chirstmas to you and Mike and I am so so glad that I have met you, you really are a very special person and I am very proud to think of you as my friend. Gush!!

Paula said...

Don't worry about the looks department- you can hold your own, and I'm sure Mike didn't mean it as a compliment but as his best measure of the ideal woman.

That's a great picture of Dulcie! She looks like a very game girl, and I"m sorry she keeps running into sticks.

Tamar said...

It was our first snow as well, only there was two feet of it. We were conveniently out of town, and it was our neighbor who had to take waterer full of unfrozen water down our 500-foot driveway, shovel a space so she could open the run door, and give the chickens their freedom and a morning drink.

Now, five hours of shoveling later, taking the water out to the coop doesn't seem like such hard work -- but I'm glad I didn't have to come back to a chicken that needed killing and plucking.

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - You have a gift for finding those treasures, I hope you are managing to find some time to craft etc. Did you get time to sell some things at the craft fair? Bless you for the kind words :-)

Paula - Yes Mike has a unique and refreshing view of women which I appreciate. Dulcie is doing fine, though a friend's dog had the same injury yesterday when we were out shooting. Far too common this time of year.

Tamar - I miss the snow but I don't miss the shoveling. We get an inch and this country grinds to a halt. I still roll my eyes at them with Yankee disdain!

Have your chickens started to get frostbitten combs and wattles yet?

Kevin F. said...

I'm with Mike. I will take a woman who can pull oars with me over one I can just look at any day of the week. If she can hold her own in a debate that counts for double!
Kevin F.

Jennifer Montero said...

Kevin - Nice to hear from a man who appreciates a woman for her brains too!