I planned to breast out a dose of pheasants as the price the game dealers is giving us is unsustainable, but Mike shook an extra few pence out of him, and all the birds were sold and gone before I could plunder the game larder. Rain and fog have postponed my stalking plans. I gave one of our stalkers free rein to shoot a deer on my patch - he likes shooting them, and I like eating them - and he missed a roe doe. My stomach is grumbling as I write this, trying to take consolation in my cheese sandwich.
"But what about the turkeys?" you say. As Mike has already purchased a goose for our Christmas dinner, I think it's safe to say that my Rafter (collective noun, apparently) of turkeys will see in the New Year. Unless those Mayans were right, anyway.
We've named the stag Sage and the two hens Cranberry and Onion. Names yes, but a reminder of their eventual purpose. They're North American Wild x Bronze. The wild genetics means that they attempt to roost - in the apple tree, or on the roof of the porch, or the whelping kennel. Roosting on the kennel gives them a view of the TV, and they seem to enjoy both BBC evening news and the Arts channel - my charges are nothing if not highbrow in their tastes.
How can they see anything through that dirty window? Another job for the list then.
Although very personable, I am starting to tire of catching them up on dark every night to put them in a coop. I'm too old to climb the apple tree, in the dark, one-handed, wrestling with a flapping turkey. At least when they roost on the roof or kennel, one semi-skilled swipe with my shepherd's crook dislodges them, ready for bed.
As it's still raining, we switched to Job number two: Christmas preparations. We decided a walk in the woods to collect some material for decorations was just the thing. We traded the guns for secateurs, and brought Podge who enjoys a wet, woodland ramble. To get to the woods, we had to find a passable route on the flooded roads. Mike gives it the "Welly Test" -
If it's not as deep as your boots, the truck can get through. A failed welly test can end in wet feet, so I let Mike do the honours. We rode through here on horses the next morning and it was a foot higher, up to the smallest pony's belly and just below my stirrups.
On our walk, we found some clematis vines that I wove into wreath forms. I don't look filled with the Christmas spirit in this photo, but we had a nice afternnon.
We found a little bit of holly with berries still on, but I left the holly in a bucket outside the back door. Within the reach of the turkeys. They made quick work of those berries, and I had to pick some more. Woven into the clematis wreaths, with a bit of ribbon added, and hey presto! A holly berry wreath -
At least until the turkeys find it.
The turkeys are a big hit with some of our chickens, three of which have taken to sleeping in the turkey pen. First my one-eyed hen of dubious breeding moved in. Then Mrs Cadbury lost her chick, Chip - it had always been sickly and never grew. She seemed to take the loss to heart. Mrs Cadbury began a monumental moult, and she moved in with the turkeys. I've tried popping her out over the fence in the mornings, but she wriggles back through gaps in my not-very-turkey proof fencing and rejoins them. Meh, who am I to judge? Then yesterday, a brown hen moved in. It's getting crowded on the turkey perch.
Last spring, Mrs Cadbury raised a hatch of four French Maran chicks, all of which appear to be hens. One has started to lay those deep brown eggs. And her preferred laying spot? The back of the Kubota ATV. She waits until the boys have loaded it with ten or twelve bags of wheat, then chooses a bag at random and lays her egg. The boys now take bets on who will find the egg when they're emptying the bags of wheat into the pheasant feeders. It gets put in a glove, in the cup holder, and returned to me.
So, I have highbrow turkeys and well-travelled eggs. And there's still nothing in the freezer.