Friday, 14 January 2011

Comings and Goings

Eudora has come through her recent illness with remarkable vigour. Although she was loathe to give up the special molasses feed on offer in the Sheep Intensive Care cum Kennel unit, she was missing her flock. Well, I assumed this was the case because of her near constant bleating, a different bleat from her pestering "Is it dinnertime yet?" bleat. This was a louder "Is anybody out there?" bleat. It was time to move her to the Recovery Field with her friends. They could give her the comfort a flock animal needs. So last Sunday, Underkeeper Pete and I wrestled her into the back of the truck, ready to rejoin her group.

Country Roooaaad.....Take me Hoooome...

The last time she made this short trip, she was too ill to stand up, or even open her eyes. Now she could enjoy the ride and the view, which must be interesting compared to the view of the kennel wall she's had for the past fortnight.

I was still nervous about leaving her to her own sheepy competence. I wasn't sure how much sight she had regained and I couldn't exactly ask her "How many fingers am I holding up?" to assess it. Like so much in life, I had to wing it and hope for the best. The other sheep seemed happy to see her again, and brought her back into the fold.

 I'm so glad humans just shake hands...

As long as she could see enough to follow the other whitish lumps, and would put her head down and graze, her chances looked pretty good. It was nice to have all ten together in one place. And my sleep-challenged brain was glad to be off the hook for the 2 a.m. feeds.

 That's Eudora, front and left

Our friends happened to stop by for a visit with their 2 children, Erin and Aston, just as we were moving Eudora. Never one to miss the opportunity for free child labor, I immediately recruited the kids to act as sheepdogs. They did a great job.

Hey kid....You got any molasses?

It's now Friday, and Eudora has managed well. She's still earning her Queen of Sheepa title. It's I who must walk over to her, and hand feed her a few choice morsels picked out of the flock's feed bucket before the others get a look in. I also give her a kiss on her nose, which she accepts with as much dignity as a sheep being kissed in public can manage. I don't care what the other farmers think, even if she does.

From lamb to pork. After we moved Eudora, I had my home cured bacon to finish. It hung overnight in the fridge to dry, suspended from the most jury-rigged contraption I've ever made: a cooling rack wedged in a groove on one side and held up by a tower of bean tins and margarine tubs.

Blue Peter, eat your heart out.

I don't have a bacon slicer so I sliced the belly by hand. The slices were thick - rustic and hand-hewn if you please - but they looked like bacon.

Home made bacon is nothing like commercially produced bacon. It's hammy, slightly salty, with just enough fat, and the rind crisps up like crackling in the pan. I gave it a trial run in bacon sandwiches - an English tradition - for Mike and Pete, and it was a unanimous thumbs up.

I was riding high from my success with Eudora and my homemade bacon, and excited about the prospect of unbroken sleep. Then I woke up to these -

I forgot that Spence our chicken guy was dropping off some black Cobb chicks for me. Because of their black feather tips they were being bullied in his large commercial unit. He dropped them in as I was getting ready for another shoot day, and I had to find them somewhere warm with food and water, and get them settled before I left for work.

More jury-rigging, this time with a fish box, horse hay for bedding, a desk lamp, and a bread tray tied over the top with baling twine -

I stuck them in the pantry and pushed the couch in front of the door to deter Dakota and her murderous intent while I was out at work. After work, I moved the chicks to safer digs in the whelping kennel behind the house. The chicks are growing well and should be ready for the freezer in about 7 weeks' time. I'll be glad of a break from pheasant by then.

I forgot to mention the dog. And I haven't even got a clever segue into the topic, which is akin to how Lily arrived; it all happened at once, in the middle of all these coming and goings and a very busy week. We had so many commitments that poor Lily has had to settle herself in.

Lily is a 3 year old chocolate labrador. She's been well cared for but made homeless because of a relationship break-up. Lily has a great temperament, and she's made friends with the whole pack, even the old, grumpy ones. She's already enjoying "chase me" games with Spud and Pip.

We're only her foster home and she will be going to her permanent home when I've had a chance to give her a bit of gun dog training. I expect she will be with us for six months or so. Any more than that and I'll get too attached.

Lily has made it known that she prefers the house to the kennel, and has already taken over the prime spot on the sheepskin in front of the wood burner.

That looks pretty settled to me. Of course, that's Pip's favorite sleeping spot but, being a generous soul, Pip has conceded and made other arrangements -

Looks like I'm going to have to sleep in the kennel.


Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Yay for healthier sheeps, warm and cozy dogs, and new chicks peeping away.
Glad things are looking up, even if crazy-busy for you!

Paula said...

I'm really glad to hear that Eudora is going to be okay! You have been super busy, it appears. I would love to make my own bacon, but finding a belly for it would probably be more trouble than it's worth. I may have to wait that until I can score part of a pastured pig. Unfortunately, Steve and I go through several bellies in the course of a year. We eat a lot of bacon. You didn't mention whether you had smoked it or not....I'm curious. I have read that home-cured is the bomb, though.

I like your solution for the chicks. Makes me want to see what I have lying around that I could use when I get my chicks sometime this spring.

I'm not sure that I wouldn't be attached to Lily inside of six months- more like six weeks, to me.

And Pip looks absolutely spoiled.

Maria said...

Sheep and bacon and chicks and dogs oh my!! never a dull moment.

More seriously: woo hoo!! for Eudora's recovery.

Plus, your bacon looks awesome and Lily looks like a gorgeous lab.

Poppy Cottage said...

What is it about Lily's............My lily favours Pip's sleeping place. If I am really lucky I might get a look in.

Mass dog walk soon...... You name the day.

Anonymous said...

I love the margarine tower bacon rack, the chicks behind the couch and the dog in bed! Lily looks like a good one, but then I'm partial to retrievers.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Hey, Rube! Nice makeshift apparatuses you've got there. I particularly like the bacon hanger.

And I'm delighted that Eudora is back to being her old ovine self. It must have a been a big sigh of relief to see her rejoin her friends.

But those chickens! They're worse than teenage girls. I was weird and funny-looking AND on the debate team when I was an adolescent, and even I wasn't bullied to the extent that I had to be relocated. And all these guys did was have black-tipped wings. It's probably the best thing that ever happened to them (short of commutation of their death sentence) since I know they'll live well wtih you.

Terry Scoville said...

I am happy to hear about Eudora's return to health and the flock. The bacon looks grreat and as for Lily, Wow what a beaut. Very generous of Pip to yield and be your bedwarmer. Hope you manage to get some well deserved rest, soon!

Hazel said...

Love the thought of you embarrassing Eudora by kissing her in public! I bet she doesn't mind really, she just does the eye rolling for the benefit of the other sheep.:0)

We've made our own bacon on and off for the past few years and did eventually buy a bacon slicer- as much as anything it makes the bacon go further.
If there is an Aldi or Lidl near you in deepest darkest Dorset, we got ours from one of them (can't remember which) and it's been fine. I'm sure there are better slicers, but we didn't want to spend a fortune and it's been up to occasional cured meat slicing. (We've used it for ham and salami too).
Must make some bacon soon- it's an ideal birthday present for my dad, who is impossible to buy for: bacon,sausages,duck eggs,bread and marmalade; an all home made (or home produced in the case of the eggs) breakfast in a box!

And yes, Lily definitely looks as though she's fallen on her feet...

Kate said...

It's great to hear such happy news all 'round from M&T. I was away for a bit and am just now catching up on my favorite reads. I couldn't have asked for a more pleasant update from across the pond. Yay! Your bacon looks marvelous!