Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Bidding in Builth

Off to the National Ram Sale on Monday to buy a ram (obviously), but also some ewes.
The aptly named Toyboy is now too closely related to the breeding flock so has gone off to bonk his way across Exmoor leaving me to head to Wales on the hunt for his replacement.
Those auction palpitations never fail to get you. The females aren't so much of a problem as you can buy as many or as few as you have room for in the trailer, so an extra one here or there doesn't matter. But a ram? I only want one Torddu ram, and there are several possibilities in the various pens, so when do I bid, and when not? I can't afford NOT to come home with one as it'll mean yet more expensive traipsing around the country, what with the majority being in Wales and very few if any in Devon, but I can't come home with two. That really puts the pressure on. I mark my catalogue with those I don't want - too fat (loads of them are wobbly with fat rather than muscle and I want a working not a show ram), too young (I need a proven sire), too ugly (personal bias), problematic horns and so on. I bid for one that comes before my preferred choice but the auctioneer doesn't see me wave my catalogue even though I am sat right in front of him and by now have had several sheep knocked down to me, so I am a real bidder, parting with genuine dosh. Ah well. My fave then comes into the ring and I get all excited - he is a really big chap, sound, strong, muscular, great horns, with a fabulously endowed set of bollocks. Just what I need. No. Rewind. Just what my ewes need.
Just a couple of other bidders are interested as they are mostly showing folk at this Badger Face Society annual show and sale, and he has the attributes of a worker. He's knocked down to me at a decent price.
Wormed and vaccinated he is now in the ram's paddock, looking a little lost, stamping his feet, snorting through his nostrils, every ounce trembling with testosterone. If he breathed fire I wouldn't be surprised, so I'm not going to introduce him to Samson until tupping is finished. If the two rams get into a fight and something happens, that's zero lamb next year.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Sex and the single pig

Oh my. I've been at the sharp end of pig sex. Not having a boar, and not wanting to go to the hassle of hiring in a pedigree beast and having to feed it and put up with its hugeness and unfamiliarity, Aunt Agatha has been artificially inseminated. Not just once, but three times. The vet came out to show us and then decided the sow wasn't quite ready, so came back the following morning when we all played our part, me doing the sexing up bit, pretending to be the boar (major massage, rub and general physical labour stuff) whilst the others were at the business end with a half metre long catheter and a bottle of semen.
That afternoon we were on our own, and there I was, puffing and blowing and getting my pig in the mood. First thing this morning, the third and final bottle is squished down a fresh catheter and I'm done in with the physicality of it all, whilst OH does the techie bit with a squirt of Boarmate and a-twiddling of tubes and a-squeezing of bottles. A picture of the complete sex kit is attached - Boarmate spray, semen and the corkscrew tipped catheter - without the knackered helper. If I smoked I'd be off for a fag.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


What with there being nine growing and rambunctious piglets, it's practically impossible to get all of them in shot at the same time. As these three snored in the sun, the mud from their wallow caked on their backs, the other six were rushing about making their distinctive excitable woofing noises.
All of them will be in their new homes in the next week or so and I will miss their joyous, curious natures. Now weaned, they seem a self sufficient bunch, and certainly Aunt Agatha is not missing their insistent nuzzling; she is sleeping the sleep of a tired sow, catching up on me time as her milk starts to dry up.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Nick's plum sauce

With the final batch of Victoria and round red plums I decide to make plum sauce. I want it for crispy duck pancakes and to smear on pork ribs. I want an authentic Chinese recipe, and find one. I stone and chop and stone and chop. The pot bubbles and I stir on and on for hours until I have a thick hoisiny mixture. I lean in to inhale and blast my sinuses adrift from their usual resting place. The acid of the vinegar is so overpowering my eyes water. So I taste. Bleurghhh. I recheck the recipe. The ratio of sugar to vinegar is very low, so I add some more, boil and bubble and retaste. And add more sugar. And reboil and retaste. And add yet more sugar and retaste. Hmm. That might be right.
I know, as an old chutney maker, that these things need to mellow over time, but there are limits. Acrid is never good.
So, just to check that there wasn't a typo in the recipe book I email the publisher who passes the message on toot sweet to the author.
Next morning there's an email in my inbox: "I'm sorry the recipe didn't work for you. I'm not sure why. I was picking plums last weekend in Buckinghamshire with Camilla, who passed me the original recipe. Her father opened the first Chinese restaurant in the UK and would make up this recipe seasonally as plum sauce wasn't available commercially then. Maybe the tartness of the plums has affected your recipe. In any case it's not nice when you invest time in a recipe and you don't like the end result. I am making some over the next couple of days and will send you some of mine."
And guess what dropped into the post box today? Isn't that lovely of him? I've sent a wee pot of my own back in exchange. Fair's fair.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Snowmail - Channel 4 news

"And so to sheep. At Lydd Primary School, Romney Marsh, Kent to be precise, where the head has raised a school sheep to show children where mint sauce comes into play and how food really happens etc etc. Trouble is, it is now chops o'clock for Marcus the sheep and some parents are upset, complaining their precious things cannot sleep and all manner of weepiness.
Not that I am unsympathetic - this being Kent the poor darlings already have the trauma of the 11 plus to contend with. After which a little abattoir action ought to be a piece of cake, or slice of lamb..."

This wanged its way into my email box this pm from Alex Thomson of Channel 4 news. Oh gawd. More people who think meat comes in polystyrene trays wrapped in cling film. No more burgers for you, chums.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Yesterday Suffolks, today Mules

No, not MULE, Mule.
Keeping on the sheep theme, this is another of the breeds grazing on the farm.
But thinking about it, I'd love a donkey. Not sure what I'd do with it, apart from stroke its ears in times of stress.
Perhaps some uses for donkeys suggestions might help persuade me? Keep 'em legal.
Oh, and the photo's much better large - do click on it.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Suffolks in Devon

I'm having one of those infuriating days when the synapses in the brain are making far too many connections. First one idea, then another, pops into my head. I can't start to juggle half of them and my desk is strewn with stuff, stuff that needs attention, now interlayered with new things.
If there were a group of egomaniacs in the room, not one of them could get a word in edgeways, full of blabber, blather and babble as I am.
It's also slashing it down with rain, so I don't even feel able to go and stride out with the dogs until it calms down a bit.
So, when the dogs start to woof and I see a stream of chunky suffolks fill the yard, it's a welcome respite.