Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Sunday lunch

Well. Today I cooked Sunday lunch – and this one was different. Last summer, we hatched some chicks under our broody hens. They were very cute and fluffy. Sadly, of the nine, six were cockerels, and they got bigger… and bigger… and by January we realised that we had to do something. Six huge cockerels makes for a lot of noise. And very unhappy hens. So the cockerels were dispatched and today we had one for our lunch. I made coq au vin with garlic, onions, shallots, mushrooms, piles of fresh thyme and a whole bottle of red wine. We had new potatoes and broccoli with it, and very nice it was too.

I have to say, there was something very satisfying about eating meat from a bird we’d reared. I knew that the bird had had a happy life, I knew it had been well fed, and had been free to wander at will. And I knew that it had a quick, stress-free death. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll do this again, but I am glad I’ve had the experience. It’s impossible to be detached from the realities of eating meat when you’ve a pile of dead birds on your kitchen floor, and when the cooking process involves pulling tendons out of the legs!

As today was a birthday for one of our guests, I made a lemon drizzle cake. What a perfect cake for a spring lunchtime – especially when decorated with snowdrops and a silver candle!

I served it with creme fraiche, which I sweetened with a touch of icing sugar and a gurgle of limoncello – a wholly successful experiment which I shall be sure to repeat.

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Well, our broody hens finally produced some chicks. We don’t keep a cockerel so we got some eggs from someone who did, and put them under the hens. Of the three, two are wonderful mothers. Ada, the white hen, is a bit vicious to the chicks that aren’t hers, but very loving of her own. Audrey, the brown hen, is gorgeous and wants to be mother to every single chick. Josephine, the speckledy, hatched one chick and promptly kicked it out of the nest. And then swanned off as though nothing had happened. I suppose even in other species there are those who wouldn’t opt for motherhood… The poorly chick is under a heat lamp in the kitchen, and seems to be doing well, apart from having a bad leg. We hope to persuade Audrey to foster it in due course.

Anyway, Mr SowandSew spent the weekend building the Hilton of henhouses, and the two mums and their broods have moved in. But enough of that – I know you’ll want to see pictures!

Here’s Ada with her babies:

And Audrey with hers:

And here’s Mr SowandSew holding two of the little fluffballs:

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This week we had our sheep sheared. It has been so warm lately that I’ve felt sorry for them in their big heavy coats. Even so, we’re among the first round here to shear.

First, they needed to be rounded up into a little holding pen:

Then is was shearing time, which involves rather a lot of manhandling:

and some quite undigified positions:

But it must be quite a relief to be in summer fashions at last:

And here’s the pile of fleece – all this wool from thirteen sheep!

We’ll split the fleece with our co-flock owners, so half of that will be mine, and I still have three fleeces from last year’s shearing, so it’s getting to the point where I really need to start doing something with it.

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Mini egg

We found this little egg (shown with a normal sized egg, so you can see how small it is) in the henhouse. We think that it was laid by Audrey, our brown hen, who was attacked by a Jack Russell in December and had to be sewn up by Mr SowandSew in a two-hour operation on our kitchen table. We didn’t expect her to pull through, but pull through she did; and apart from a slight limp, she is apparently unscathed. However, a shock can put a hen off lay, and I imagine being ripped open by a dog can be counted as a shock. So we think that this is Audrey’s first foray back into egg-laying. Tough old bird isn’t in it – well done, Audrey!

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This is Tess. Tess came to live with us in October, having been rescued from a farm where she was having a very bad time indeed. She was underweight, very smelly, and had been through the mill a bit. She was also very affectionate and friendly, and when we gave her a name she quickly learned it. She settled in well and she and I fell in love.

She was very nervy, and the longer we had her the clearer it was that she’d been very cruelly treated. Still, she became more secure and we had hopes she would come right. It still astonishes me that dogs can be as cruelly treated as Tess was and still have the capacity for loyalty and affection.

Sadly, the more Tess bonded to me, the more protective and jealous she became. She wouldn’t let our other dog near me, and this soon led to pitched battles. Collies are often very sensitive to noise and movement, and in a house with a toddler there’s a lot of both. And when she started growling at the children when I picked them up, it was clear that things were not going to work out. She wasn’t happy and the children were at risk.

So this week, Tess went to a new home, where she will live with a retired couple who have no other pets and no children. She will be much happier. I know it’s for the best, but it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do for a long time.

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This is Mws doing what our neighbours call his ‘cartoon dog’ face.

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