Tuesday, 7 December 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

I love winter, even if it adds to our morning chores. The frosty vignettes are beautiful -

The view over our fence

I have to defrost outdoor pipes and water bowls with hot water from the kettle. I have make countless trips from the wood burners to the wood pile, and hump hay around Milkweed for hungry sheep and horses. But I kind of like it.

It's all about insulation this time of year. There's external insulation, like throwing extra horse blankets over the chicken houses -

And there's our internal insulation: food. The wild birds are emptying the peanut feeders as fast as I can replenish them. The chickens pick up the fallout from the feeders, and enjoy extras from the kitchen, like last night's rice -

The dogs are doing well with the addition of the heat lamps to their kennels. Dulcie is healing so quickly that she's been allowed back into the kennels this morning, to be with her pack. I've made a deal with our game seller to take all the deer hearts and livers off his hands. They're usually considered waste (there's not a lot of call of game offal). I roast them for the dogs as both extra calories and a treat, a thanks for all their hard work.

I'm adding more to our own larder today. I managed to get another roe deer this week and have broken it down into prime cuts for the freezer -

My medlar harvest is finally bletted enough to attempt my first batch of medlar jelly -

It's simmering on the stove, and the smell of the medlars combined with the smell of the partridge roasting in the oven is very homey and evocative of harvest. And it smells way better than roasting offal.

We were very busy shooting in November, but we've a few days respite this week. I've started a few Christmas preparations, like making a wreath for the front door -

Lady S let me raid the big house garden for bay leaves, rosehips, and crab apples to make the wreath. I picked up a few windfall pears too, and I'll bake those in a tart this afternoon.

I've just ordered a goose from the farm down the road, for Christmas dinner. The medlar jelly will be a nice accompaniment. We're not suffering for lack of internal insulation.

Next job: cutting down a Christmas tree.


Kate said...

Looks like your winter has thus far been more severe than ours. I have a feeling we'll catch up to you though. Nice wreath; big hips! Never eaten a medlar. Could you compare the taste to anything familiar to most of us? Game offal for the dogs is a great idea. Do you get it for free? A poultry farmer I know of feeds his dogs primarily on the offal/organs. Not sure whether he cooks them or feeds raw, but he's got some healthy looking dogs. But he must be freezing some too, otherwise his small number of dogs would go from feast to famine between batches of birds.

Maria said...

you're busy as ever then! I see you are still frozen pretty solidly! Further up in London/Oxfordshire we had snow which last two days last week, but now it's mostly gone. Glad Dulcie is healing quickly. I love your wreath :o) wonder if I could manage something approximating a wreath....
And good luck with the medlars.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

You are so busy over there! I love how you make the most of everything you have. No waste. I admire that. Love your wreath and I'm hoping you'll post a pick of your Christmas tree! Did I miss something? What happened to Dulcie?

Jennifer Montero said...

Kate - I've just put the medlar jelly into jars and had a little taste. It's very sweet, quite apple-y with vanilla and honey tones. I'll definitely make it again.

We do get the offal for free, which helps offset the cost of feeding 8 dogs. I'm using the offal to supplement their complete kibble. They're working hard and trying to keep warm, and need the extra calories. To be honest, I've never seen them look so good. Their coats look amazing. I expect poultry offal would do the same.

I know you can feed it raw, but I cook it thinking my little dogs enjoy a warm breakfast.

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - Looking at the news, you copped more snow than we did. It is beautiful, when you don't have to drive to work in it anyway.

The wreaths are easy - I bought an oasis wreath frame and just poked greenery into it until I ran out. I wish I could say it required more artistic talent! Have a go, there's so much to be found for free in the hedgerows.

Karen - I will post a picture of the tree in situ and the final decorated product, but it's only ever a rustic, homemade affair. Poor Dulcie - she tore her cruciate ligament and had to have an operation to repair it. She can't work this season, but she'll be as good as new next year. I hope your Gordons are all doing well.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

It kills me that I've been pulling out all the stops, trying to get one lousy whitetail, and here you are, off-handedly showing us the beautiful butchering job you did on YET ANOTHER DEER. Kills me.

But I love a wreath you can turn into jelly after Christmas!

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Was going to also ask about the Medlars, but you've answered that one, and it sounds yummy, since I love apples, honey AND vanilla! Your wreathe is BEAUTIFUL. So Christmasy looking, in that English sort of way (as opposed to the pine wreathe that I usually have). I love it. I would love to make one but don't know that I would be able to even buy the supplies, and there is something better about just being able to go out and make use of what's there. Beautiful.
I've been saving left over chicken or beef fat, and left over veggies, and rice, stuff that's good for the dogs, and making a sort of "dog soup" the past two weeks to give them in the morning before I hook them out. Mine aren't active like yours, just hooked to runs for 7 hours, but since it's cold, I think they, too, need the little extra. It helps make me feel not QUITE so bad for not being able to be home to coddle them in the house all day in the snowy winter.

Paula said...

Jennifer- do you have a crockpot? My neighbor in Jacksonville used to buy a big bag of chicken wings when she could get them from Winn Dixie for $.29 a pound, and then she'd cook them in water in a crockpot for twenty-four hours in the garage. She cooked them in the garage because she could stand the smell. Anyway, after cooking them that long the bones would just turn to mush, so no splinter worries. She'd pack it up into freezer containers and freeze it, and then thaw a carton when she needed it which she added to kibble. I would wager the dogs wouldn't mind cooked as opposed to roasted offal, and you could put off the smell somewhere else. Just an idea.

Your wreath turned out really pretty and I think those are the biggest rose hips I've ever seen!

Anonymous said...

Your post title caught my eye. And of course I read the entire blog post. Wonderful. Makes me wish I was at home now...

Tovar said...

Congrats on the deer, Jen. And Happy Holidays!