Thursday, 8 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Pheasant shooting continues apace. Our regular schedule is Friday - Saturday - Monday, with the odd Tuesday thrown in to keep us off the streets. With Christmas approaching like an oncoming train, I could use some time on the streets to do a bit of shopping. Instead, I headed into the woods to collect greenery for decorating. I hoped that arranging a few swags and putting up a tree would inspire me, girding my loins with holiday spirit enough to brave the shops.

Quincy accompanied me to collect ivy and holly with bright red berries, and pine cones which she indeed helped to collect, retrieving a few to add to the bucket.

The long vines of ivy leaves now adorn the banister and the deer antlers in our hall.

I had lots of ivy leftover, so I took it to the sheep this morning as a treat. I also wanted to show them the hat I'd finished knitting for myself, from their own wool, with my own hands. Sheep don't show the requisite amount of enthusiasm for my skills, but they appreciated the ivy breakfast.

I stopped at the chiller on my way from the sheep field. The game dealer hasn't been yet and there were lots of pheasants with long tail feathers.

I plucked a few handfuls and used them to decorate a wreath, and in a display over the wood stove.

The pheasant haul is a result of two big days' shooting this past weekend. On the Friday shoot, I got to meet the singer Bryan Ferry. I happened to be stood in a river when Mike introduced us. Mike said I blushed like a school girl. On Saturday, I got a burly kiss from the Crown Prince of Somewhereorother for finding his favourite alpine hat which he'd left behind on a log.

I cut our Christmas tree yesterday, from the plantation of trees Mike uses as pheasant cover. Pip came along for the ride. She's recovering from Tuesday's shoot day where she worked hard in the beating line, finding pheasants and shooing them over the waiting gun line. Pip filled in for Spud, who is out of action for another ten days after tearing open her chest on barbed wire. Spud has a three inch line of Frankenstein-like stitches to show off to her mates.

I've got the tree up and decorated -

Tree cutting and trimming is less festive when you fit it in between trips to the abattoir to collect cow stomachs. The dogs don't care about the tree but they're Joy to the World about tripe for dinner -

That's me, modelling my new hat while cutting up tripe. I'm wearing long animal examination gloves, to keep the smell off my hands and sleeves. Folks, I don't think it gets any more festive than this.

So I foraged, and decorated, and finished knitting my hat, and dyed the hat I knit for Mike's present, and cut up tripe, and fed our neighbour's chickens, and treated some of our own chickens for scaly leg, and got fires lit in both wood stoves. Our own dinner of lamb stew is simmering in a crock pot, and later I'll make a venison stew for tomorrow's shoot day lunch. Seems I haven't found time to get to the shops after all.


Hazel said...

Hand knitted, home 'grown' hat, pheasant and home grown tress and greenery- who needs the shops?!

I've knitted DD2 a similar hat, but with some wool I bought on holiday in the Lakes last year. It was natural and pink yarn, so I knew I wanted to knit her something, it's just taken until now to decide what!

You house looks lovely. Did you ever read What Katy Did Next? When she's in Europe she decorates their apartment with local greenery. If you've never read it (though it is an American book, so there's a greater chance than when I mention it to English ) that will mean nothing, but anyway, your photos remind me of the description.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Great post! The bit about the cow stomach and the last paragraph sound vaguely familiar... Love the interior decorating shots as well. I couldn't help but noticed the leg traps on the walls, love the touch, given your job. And I laughed as we have friends who want to know where we butcher the chickens, so they know 'where not to look' even when it's not butcher day... Normal to us is novelty to others.... Merry Christmas!

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I know you think your life is just your average life, there. It's yours, after all. But reading about your days, looking at your home, and the pictures of things you do in your "average" day - it just all makes me smile because it is SO different from my own. I can't just go collect holly, and ivy, and pheasant feathers, but you do, and you throw up those decorations so casually, but they look SO elegant, so perfectly lovely, my heart actually skips a beat. Until you get to cow stomachs, then I'm back to thinking, "hmm, guess I'm glad I'm sitting at the computer at school, working, today..." Not really. I'd rather be hauling cow stomachs to the dogs and decorating with pheasant feathers, but...
Anyways, just wanted to remind you how much I love reading about your days there. Hope all is well! Crown Prince of Somewhereorother... yeah, we have a lot of THEM in Western New York! :)

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I love your decorations! They have a spiky, woodsy look that seems to suit.

And I also love your hat. When Kevin and I talked about tanning the hide of the raccoon we have yet to trap and kill, I told him I wanted to make a hat out of it. "So you'll have first-hand food and a first-hand hat," he said.

You beat me to the first-hand hat.

Maria said...

really enjoyed your post! I haven't made it to the shops either, and my list of accomplishments isn't as long as yours.
I decided this year that one of the things I really love about my mother and sister is they aren't very good at making it to the shops either. More to the point, my mother advocates an 'if you don't need it, why buy it / or gift it?' approach. Now I know that sounds scrooge-like, but balance it against the excesses of Christmas and the temptation to buy loads of pointless tat... Like you said about Mike - he gets 3 pairs of boots for Christmas, which is handy, as that's how many pairs he gets through in a year!

Poppy Cottage said...

Hat is fantastic Jen. Have a look at and let me know if you fancy a Tuesday Night Knit Night (after Christmas that is. Your Christmas decorations look really nice.

Paula said...

Oh good grief- you're making me tired! I like the pheasant feathers in the decorations, though- very festive!

Bryan Ferry!!?? (can I just say I love his music?) I'd have been much worse than blushing like a school girl, and I just bet Mike anticipated some kind of fun reaction from you.

And on top of being all busy with everything, you still have time to cut tripe for the dogs- which makes you the penultimate dog-mommy of the world. And A-OK in my book.

I can't help but feel that helping you during shoot season (maybe not the whole season) would be an interesting time.

Mimi and Anna said...

Perfectly beautiful decorations! It makes all the difference in a busy life, doesn't it, to be able to bring a little outdoor beauty inside? I enjoyed your post, although now I feel a little guilty since my house isn't decorated yet (although we do have bunches of holly and winterberry waiting on the porch) and I don't even have tripe as an excuse! Maybe this weekend!

Sara said...

Love the gathered greenery and feathers for decoration. I can't help but think how people probably used the same materials hundreds of years ago around Christmas or Yule to adorn. And how an animal sacrifice or slaughter was usually performed at that time, too. They were probably making their own woolen clothes for winter and taking care of animals, too. They may not have been meeting famous musicians, but I'd say all you have to do to have an analogous Yule experience as our ancestors is to be constantly drinking ale. Though your homemade gin could count. :)

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

how do you treat scaly leg?

Jen said...

HKS - chemical method: Frontline for cats spray. Spray it on the legs and rub in with an old toothbrush. Non-chemical method (just tried it): cover the legs with Petroleum Jelly or Bag Balm to suffocate the mites. You do have to be thorough though. Non-chemical method works great on ticks as well as mites.

Heidianne said...

I love the decorations, the holly swag made me envious, can't have holly inside due to the felines, and since I don't want to poison my cats, no holly.Your home looks cozy, festive and very Christmassy indeed.
You met Brian Ferry? How cool is that?! There is nothing wrong with blushing like a school girl at meeting one of the best singers of all time! Jen you have an amazing life there, even with the tripe cutting..ugh..

Kate said...

Wow, so pretty! Except the cow stomach of course. You are one busy and accomplished woman! Puts me to shame. I got the tree up, and I ended up buying a wreath. But I felt okay about that because I bought it from a local farm that I heard through the grapevine is just barely holding on. It's local, very tasteful, and I consider it money well spent. I may actually not do any proper shopping for Christmas. Most people on the list are getting only baked goods and Heifer certificates. That's the way I like Christmas and I'm getting to the point where I'd just as soon please myself.

Misty said...

I have a question regarding the pheasants: Why are pheasants hung whole in the cooler without being gutted first? I would assume it is an English practice. I think this happens with rabbits, too? I don't understand why they're not bled first. Can you explain? Thanks.

Jennifer Montero said...

Misty - I wish I could explain it more except to say, like so many Biritish traditions, it's just always been done that way.

Now we hang them by the head but originally pheasants were left with guts in and hung by the feet so the juices ran into the breastmeat and flavoured it. The longer it hung, the more 'high' or flavourful the meat.

Current tastes are for less strongly flavoured game. Hanging the birds by the head gives the flesh time to relax and tenderise, but the guts aren't pressed up against the breast meat and juices run out of the bird instead of in.

Pheasants are hung now about 3-5 days, partridge less. Rabbits not really at all. The leaner the meat, the less time it can be hung; it's the fat content that "protects" it.

Just to be confusing, hare is bled but the blood saved to use in cooking the hare - definitely an acquired taste!

I bleed out chickens to keep the meat white - if not bled, the meat is cris-crossed with a mesh of veins and there's an 'iron-y' taste to it. I hang my chickens gutted and bled for a few days, to relax. Saves me brining them.

I hope that helps!