Sunday, 15 August 2010


All the pheasants have been put to wood now. Grouse season opened four days ago. Partridge season opens on the 1 September. We start shooting one month from today. Basic preparations are underway.

Mike and underkeeper Pete have had their second fitting for their new tweed suits: plus fours, waistcoat, tweed jacket. This morning I've "tested" and bottled our sloe gin and cherry brandy from last year -

Workers' provisions. I also need to harvest a deer for workers' lunches. It needs a few days to hang in the chiller, and I need to butcher it and bag it by the end of the month. I have over 50 meals to make, and a whole deer minced or cubed will make a dent in the season's menu. Rabbits, pheasant, and partridge will do the rest. If I give them enough of the sloe gin and cherry brandy to drink, they won't care what's for lunch.

The swallow chicks have fledged. The nest is empty this morning. The early mornings feel autumnal. There's a good crop of field mushrooms in the horse paddock, and I harvest them every morning when I feed Kitty and Alan. They're not bothered with the fungi, and are content to watch me over the top of their buckets while they eat their breakfast and I collect mushrooms for my dinner.

There are tomatoes slow-cooking in the oven, and cucumbers in salt which I'll turn into pickles this evening. I plyed another skein of wool so I can finish the sweater I'm knitting - another rustic number, warm and functional. This skein includes wool from our own sheep -

It's hanging in the apple tree to dry. A bit of weight from my shepherd's crook helps to set the twist in the fibres.

I'll work on the sweater tonight while Mike and I sit outside in front of the open fire and enjoy the last warm summer evenings, and hopefully some meteor showers.

The apple harvest looks promising. Our cooking apples are coloring up -

The chickens are clearing up the windfalls already. Just as I can't bear to eat any more zucchini bread, we'll be on to apple cake. Change is a good thing.


Poppy Cottage said...

Yes but that zucchini bread was really lovely. I spun this morning before going to work, now need to card some more fleece so that I can do some more in the wee small hours. I have Tuss's fleece drying on my bedroom floor, ready to be carded for the winter evenings. The way you write is really lovely Jen. Don't forget I have plenty of eaters here.

Thank you for the plying lesson the other day. I can't wait for Autumn. There is something so magical about it.

C xx

Captain Shagrat said...

Any chance you could have a look at the hedgerow berries on my site, I would love to make sloe gin or sloe brandy but can't be 100% certain the berries are actually sloes

Paula said...

Yay! Autumn's coming- my favorite time of year! I don't have apples yet and won't for a few years, but I did do pumpkins this year, so it will be pumpkin breads and pie (and maybe ravioli and soup if I can find some decent recipes). After reading this post, I sure hope you realize what an idyllic life it is you lead.

So- I'm interested in your shoot lunch making. I'm gathering from what you've written that you're responsible for feeding the estate owners' guests? Are you responsible for paying for it too? How did you get stuck with that duty- just by being the gamekeeper's wife? Correct me if I guessed wrong. It just doesn't seem fair.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

Nice post.....taking us through your day is very interesting. You sure are a busy girl!


Wow. That's all i can say. So impressed.

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - Hope you're getting on alright with the plying. I would love some eating apples when they're ready, thanks.

Captain S - The photos look like sloes to me. I've left you a comment. Feel free to email me if you need anymore info.

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - My pumpkins pooped out this year. I know - how can you screw up a pumpkin?!? Answer is early season powdery mildew. The ravioli sounds delicious.

re. shoot lunch making: Lunch is served to the guests and to the workforce. There's a chef proper that feeds the ten or so guests in a cafe. I only cook for the workers: keepers, beaters, pickers-up and there around 30 of us. Our lunch is hot, filling and has to be made in crock-pots as we eat in the village hall (no kitchen facilities).

Most keepers' wives take on the job of cooking for the workers but it's because it is a good gig. I make a good part of my year's income providing workers' dinners.

You're right, it would be unthinkable if we were expected to do it for nothing, out of pocket. All the costs - including feeding the guests and the workers - are built into the cost of a day's shooting. The workers get their lunch for free, plus a small wage, and a brace of birds to take home at the end of the day.

Jennifer Montero said...

Karen - I never feel busy compared to what I read on other people's blogs. You must have your hands full with all those lovely Gordon puppies!

SPP - Thanks for the kind words ;-)

Captain Shagrat said...

Thankyou very much for the comments about the sloes, sound advice about picking the sloes early to avoid disappointment. Indeed the early bird catches the worm;-)

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I could practically feel the chill in the air reading your post. It's hard to imagine needing a sweater and wanting hot cider when it's still the dog days of August, but fall is inevitable.

What kills me is how you just take for granted that you can go out and 'harvest' a deer. Here, I've been planning for a year to try and get one -- I took the classes, got my license, got a shotgun, am trying to learn how to use it -- and still it's nothing like a certainty. But, for you, it's all in a day's work. Jeez.

By the way, if you ever need help testing that sloe gin or cherry brandy, I'm an unbelievably good tester.

Maria said...

I too think you are immensely productive and should be proud of all your work!
and I also wanted to ask about your deer harvesting - does this mean you will be spending time in your high seat, or have you other plans which allow certainty in the finding of deer? Just curious.
PS you've reminded me to decant the damsons from my last year's damson gin, which is still in a jar, sometime soon.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - We're lousy with deer here, so with a little effort and some luck it's a good possibility. I feel the same way when I read your posts about fishing. I mean LEFTOVER LOBSTER!?!

I would be more than happy to send you some sloe gin, to sample with your next catch of the day.

Maria - You're too kind. I don't post about the things I haven't finished yet, so it gives the illusion of productiveness!

I will be spending time in the highseat soon, but I'm practicing my fieldcraft first and stalking a piece of woodland with a good population of roe deer. In fact I got lucky and bagged a small roe buck this evening.

I'm certain of seeing them - we have such a large population of deer that I don't go a day without seeing one. I saw 6 this evening. The uncertainty is whether it's in season (males only at the moment), whether it's in shot and safe, and whether you can hit it (BIG if for me!!)

Damson gin - that sounds delicious. Damsons are harder to find here than deer, but if I get lucky and find some I'll ask you for the recipe.

Maria said...

Hi Jen,
yes, just saw your post on your 1st bagged deer. You say they're plentiful, but I'm sure there's still a lot of skill involved - especially in the hitting it bit (I have terrible, terrible aiming skills, with anything).
Damson gin recipe is very simple. I've just remembered that it was when googling "damson gin recipe" that I found Fiona's blog at Cottage Smallholder. Which I think then lead me to yours! anyway, it's here:

I have to confess I cheated and bought damson when they were for sale at the farm shop near work.. I also disrespected the recipe and adjusted quantities depending on how much fruit I had, and how much gin I could fit into my jars once I'd put in fruit & sugar.