Friday, 16 August 2013

Gluts and Gluttons

We are in the thick of our busiest season (I feel like I say that in every other post). Our day's work runs from dawn to dark and, with the nights drawing in quickly now, we're running out of light before we run out of chores. Mike is out of bed before sunrise, to make sure his pheasants don't drop off roost into the waiting jaws of a predator. We've lost a few early risers but, as I say to him, everyone has to make a living, even foxes. He huffs and grumbles, and vows to get up earlier next morning. I don't see how that's possible unless he discovers a wormhole that allows him to time travel, and get up before he goes to bed.

The rain has come in- nature's way of reminding me that I should catch up on a month's worth of neglected farm paperwork. This included consulting a sheep gestation table to divine exactly when this autumn's lambing is due to start: less than five weeks from today. That leaves me just enough time to set up a fox-resistant fence at Milkweed, vaccinate and worm the expectant mothers, move them, and start them on extra rations. It doesn't leave me enough time to catch up on my sleep before lambs start dropping thick and fast.

A glut of lambs coincides with a glut of fruit, which I hope will be our year's supply of jams and chutneys. After a nearly fruit-less 2012, the cupboard is bare. I don't want to get caught out again and plan to preserve and store as much as I can. As much as I can, can. I've already started juicing windfall cooking apples to make apple cider vinegar, useful in the kitchen and as a tonic for most of our animals. Preserving the harvest is a very time-consuming job.

A lack of last year's chutney also means I have nothing to enter in this year's local country show. I'm full of good intentions in winter when the days are short and our workload has dwindled into something manageable. I always plan to enter a knitting project and some home made chutney at the very least. When the show schedule appears in July on the counter at the feed store or vets, we'e usually up to our armpits in pheasant poults. Knitwear and preserves are the very least of my worries, stored in my mental closet like so many winter coats and long underwear.

I manage to grab a few minutes while on pheasant patrol, or waiting for Dakota's acupuncture appointment, to knit a couple of rows on this winter's jumper but, at the moment, my knitting entry would consist of the back, plus a sleeve and a half of a ladies' cardigan-

Work In Progress

Picking it up and putting it down so much means the tension is all to hell, and those knitting judges are strict. If I entered my sloppy work, the judges would have my guts for garter stitches. I will have to take solace in the garment's warmth this winter, and forego the chance at a country fair ribbon.

I also had high hopes of entering Kitty in the coloured horse and veteran's classes at the show. She's got good conformation, and she's in the show condition (i.e. fat) that judges seem to prefer on cobs and native breeds.  We would definitely be in with a chance. Without a groom to help with all the preparation - washing, pulling, plaiting, chalking, oiling, - that goes with showing horses, I simply can't spare the time. I'm not even sure I will have enough free time to go to the show as a visitor which, frankly, isn't a bad thing. Last year I got slightly tipsy in the beer tent and bought a goat. It might be safer (and cheaper) to stay home.

I am making time to take Fraggle to her gun dog puppy training classes - that's a priority. The trainer is an hour's drive from here and Fraggle made it exactly halfway there before barfing over the front seat. She recovered, and made a good first impression on our trainer who said to me "That's going to be a fast dog. Stylish - but very fast." The thought of trying to keep up with this pup when she hits her rebellious teenager phase (in about 8 months' time) made me feel a little sick too. 

The meat chickens have doubled in size, and pound down a kilo of food each every week-

Like any hybrid crop, these meat birds will mature all at once and I'll have a glut of chicken to kill, hang, eviscerate, pluck (by machine, thankfully) and package for the freezer. Also time-consuming, but the harvest should last us a year.

The laying flock have another job to do this September: I've hired out a dozen chickens for filming. They will be extras in the movie being shot on the estate. I'll crate them up every morning and drop them at the big house. At the end of the filming day, they can simply see themselves home. Filming takes place around the orchard where they normally go scrumping windfall fruits that time of year anyway.

It seems only a small part of the filming will be here on the estate and tenant farms now. Lady S has also decreed that she will be exacting a 30% cut of any money paid to her tenant farmers for the use of their farms for filming. The farmers are grumbling about taxation without representation, and I'm firmly on their side. I'm waiting to see if she demands her cut of my chickens too (I wonder if she'll accept a check for £1.80). Maybe I can pay her in eggs; I have a glut of those. I haven't got a glut of cash.

Welcome to the real Downton Abbey, folks.


Pam said...

I remember when we purchased our spaniels many years ago the breeder warned me as we got in the car "Now dear, they do tend to get carsick". Sure enough, just a mile from home they both started doing the synchronized heaves. Maybe Fraggle gets a little nervous about going to 'school'?

marthaeliza said...

Nature shows no moderation. Here in Seattle, I am picking/eating blackberries and making preserves and syrups until my fingers are stained permanently purple. A kilo each month, year-round, would be far more convenient.

Lady S has given me a great idea! I'm going to tax my daughter's allowance.

Jennifer Montero said...

Pam - I laughed imagining synchronised heaving (a less popular Olympic sport?). Without exception, all our pups have been carsick but thankfully seem to grow out of it. I was impressed that Fraggle made it a whole half hour before the inevitable. I take the long route avoiding the windy country lanes, which I hope helps her.

Jennifer Montero said...

Marthaeliza- That's going to become a well-used phrase around here: Nature shows no moderation. My veg patch is patchy but the hedgerows are about to explode with a bumper crop. Do you encounter bears where you pick, or is it outside bear country?

Peruby said...

All I can, can. Love it! :)

janice bendixen said...

Ladies, your comments make me feel extra blessed. My Airedale Terrorist has ridden in vehicles, 4-wheelers, motorhomes and airplanes all her 4-year-old life and never been sick. She's super special, apparently. Or maybe I'm just biased. Good luck w all your can-can-canning, Jen. I wish I could come help.

Hazel said...

When we took our first puppy home (a whippet X lurcher) she was sick 14 times in 6 miles....

Christine said...

Beer and goats go together very well, indeed. You just need some fancy cheese (made from their milk) to go with them. I just escaped a tenant/farmer situation and couldn't be happier. All the best to you.

Rachel said...

This is fantastic!