Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A lamb to slaughter

Chops, our oldest lamb was taken to slaughter last week and we picked him up from the butchers yesterday. He looked a good weight going off to slaughter, but exceeded our expectations on return. As a general rule of thumb, the walking weight of the lamb should be around 40kg for an on the hook weight of 40lb, (can't beat a bit of mixing units of measure). Not having an agricultural weighing scale, we guesstimated him to be around the 40 Kilo range. We were pleasantly surprised to find he weighed 46lb-21Kg (dead weight).

The idea was to convert the whole carcass into chops as we eat quite a lot of them, hence his name. However the shoulders proved a bit of a head ache to work out how to chop them so they ended up boned and rolled into roasting joints. A trip to our butcher for a lesson or two might be good before the next two come back.

In a relatively short space of time (2 hours) the whole carcass can be cut up, bagged and thrown into the freezer. The hardest part is trying to decide which bit to eat for dinner that night. We settled on the best bit, cutlets and were not disappointed. Considering we had a lack of grass and had to feed the lambs finisher nuts, he tasted pretty good. Better than from the supermarket!!
Our last two lambs Shoulders and Shanks are eating up the last of the finishing nuts and then they to will be on a one way trip. Not sure how Jes will react as Shanks is her favourite and he use to suckle on the end of Jes' ear when he was younger. She didn't seem to have too much of a problem when she was chomping on Chop's shoulder bone last night. 

Diz and Stell

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A cake to order

I have enjoyed making cakes for friends and family, but when I was asked to do an anniversary cake for a complete stranger and be paid for it, that was a different kettle of fish.
The lady wanted a square cake with a white background and silver icing. Plain and simple. Anyone who decorates cakes will know that silver and gold are not as simple as other colours. They would come out more grey and yellow using food colouring. So after some investigation I found some silver dust and instructions for what to do. I love google and you tube!
The lady wanted sponge cake so I could only make it a couple of days before which meant the pressure was on as I would normally make a fruit cake and give myself plenty of time to 'play'. The first day I made the sponge cake, waited until it was cool and then butter iced it. I then made some white hearts and painted them silver with the dust I had acquired.  Following day I covered the cake in white fondant icing and smoothed it out as best I could (I'm not an expert at this yet). I then piped on the writing and decoration, waited for it to dry and then carefully painted on the silver to finish it off.
It looks such a simple cake and every time I look at the photo I think 'why did it take so long, there's nothing to it?'. It took me the best part of two days to do and I was so relieved to get rid of it to the customer.
She was pleased with it, so I was happy.
All the best

Turkey update

We have had some fantastic weather over the past few weeks with wall to wall sunshine and not a drop of rain in site. One day our underfloor heating thermometer recorded the outside temp as 32 degrees celsius, pretty impressive for Ireland.
So with all this lovely warm weather we have been able to get the young turkeys off heat and outside to free range. There is two weeks difference between the two groups of Turkey poults that we have. The Bourbon Reds were four weeks and the Wirral Black were two weeks. Still a bit early for the blacks but the reds could go out as they were nearly fully feathered.

They are still very pale, but will grow darker red feathers as they get bigger. They loved their new found freedom, enjoying a big open space for them to spread their wings.

It wasn't long before they were exploring their new surroundings and eating grass. We will try to keep them shut in their pen until the sheep have gone and they are a bit bigger to defend themselves against the geese. I say 'try to keep them shut in' because within two days of them being in their new pen some had learnt to fly up onto the gate and drop down the other side. Some had miss calculated their training flights and had gone over the fence to where the grass is greener. They then spend the rest of the day trying to get back into their house.

By the end of the week and with the glorious weather continuing we decided to chance our luck and put the blacks out as well. Wasn't a problem at all and they all instantly got along.
I love watching these little creatures, they make me laugh and cry. Even at a couple of days old the stags started to strut their stuff and display their feather (well they would have done if they had any, not quite as impressive with 'fluff'). Now they are out and about the displays are getting better.
They are now 6 & 4 weeks old , so we moved the little trouble makers this morning to a pen with more grass, but they have no respect for fencing, its just a challenge. It's there more for their safety than trying to keep them in. We know that doesn't work. They have already flown onto the top of their tin house and have been eyeing up the branches in the conifer trees above, it's only a matter of time.
We have fourteen turkeys this year for the Christmas market, I already have 5 orders which we had from the beginning of the year. In August I will text our previous customers to see if anyone is interested in a bird this year, but for now we are happy for them to keep us entertained.

Stell & Diz

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Pile of rocks

Finally with some fabulous weather we decided to have a day off and have a day out. We have both been working very hard and weeks seem to be mingling into each other without us even noticing. We are so behind with all our own jobs and the endless things to be done around Cloghermore, that one more day away will not make any difference.
After checking all the animals have plenty of water we load the dogs into the car, pack the camera's and picnic and off we go. Diz has wanted to head over to 'the Burren' in Co Clare for a couple of years which have the most amazing limestone pavements, ruined castles and rugged coastline, but in particular a 'pile of rocks' that he has wanted to photograph for some time.
First stop, a small village by the sea, time for lunch and a stretch. Poor Jes has started to get car sick so Diz cleared up the back while I take them for a walk. Unfortunately the tide is out so we can't paddle in the sea but there is plenty for them to sniff and loads of people about for a fuss.

Then onto the pile of rocks and the limestone pavements. This particular pile of rocks is the 'Poulnabrone' Dolman, which means 'Hole of Sorrows'. It's a portal tomb dating from neolithic times and is a particular good example, especially because of the limestone background. While Diz set up his camera the dogs and I had an explore and were amazed at the number of small unusual wild flowers to be found in the crevices of the pavement.   
There were plenty of tourists fleeting in and out, which provided some entertainment, especially when the women in red got into Diz's shot totally oblivious he was even there and wouldn't move because she was on the phone. He was patient, while muttering under his breath.
He was using inferred film so it will be interesting to see how they come out. This is one taken from our small digital camara.

We had such a lovely day and just while we were thinking how nice it would be to do again and soon, we returned home to find we had been visited by Mr Fox! It had taken one of the mother hens, Manc our black hen and fabulous mum and one of her seven chicks. We initially couldn't find Tuft, our white mother hen who had just hatched 10 chicks, but found some of her chicks running around desperately calling for her. I eventually found her in the barn looking terrified and returned her to her chicks only to find she had lost four of her babies. We lost one of our new Barnevelda hens and thought a couple of the adults had gone as well as there were several piles of brown feathers, but they were all there. On closer inspection one of them was missing a lot of tail feathers!! Aaaahhhhh, well my language was a lot stronger than that! 
So we are now on Fox watch as it is bound to return for it's free meal, but we will hopefully be waiting.
Take care
Stell n Diz