Monday 23 August 2010

The freezer has been fed

'They're coming tomorrow', Hubs said, breaking into my washing up reverie. 
"Who's coming", I said, posting up a list of things to do for 'them', whoever they were, in my head such as 'do 'they' need feeding and if so will 'they' make do with a cup of tea and a slice of cake, are 'they' going to need a tour of the house which means having a quick tidy-up of all including Courtyard, the house, and everywhere else.
"The men who are going to do the sheep".
Ah those men. 

So another list became posted up in my head: knives, freezer bags, buckets, tarps, empty kitchen to make work surfaces available, try not to get ratty with Hubs because I wasn't sure how I was going to manage the experience of seeing four sheep made deceased, try to be patient with Hubs as he prepped himself to be hands on with the deceasements. 

D-Day: Saturday morning. Tensions between us. Out into The Paddock. Catch the sheep, separate the four, let the others go on with their day. Not so easy. Sheep knew something was afoot. Wouldn't be caught. Up and down The Paddock we went, they went, round and round, all getting hot and puffed out. 

"Let Bools and Gus in" yelled Hubs as the sheep circled away from us for the enth time. "Perhaps they'll help".
In they came, and no, they were of no help whatsoever, preferring to romp around, Bools barking joyously, Gus finding a stick and preferring to chew on that. So out of The Paddock they were put. 

Finally, the three male youngsters were held in The Alley at the back of the Sheep Arbre. The ram was still free, his plan being to stay in the middle of the females so they acted as a barricade. 

We gave up. Other things to do. All sheep to stay in The Paddock. The young males to stay in The Alley. 

6pm. And arriving at the front gates came two Frenchmen, handsome young men but with stern faces suggesting meanness of spirit. A glance between me and Hubs: 'Don't want to make those two cross' is what that glance between us said. Paul, from down at La Maison du Chameaux, appeared as well. He had organised the Frenchmen and was going to help us.

So the freezer is now full of meat. Quickly the three young males were dispatched, then  deheaded, skinned and cleaned out of their interior systems. This we thought we would have to do ourselves. With relief we realised that we would be spared that particular experience this time. But the ram was difficult to catch, and Hubs had to do a flying rugby tackle on him to finally pin him down. However, none of the sheep showed fear, and the killing was done fast so they didn't suffer. Will not go into details of exactly how it was done, but suffice to say that it was done with great efficiency by the two men. 

Hubs stayed with them to assist when he could, and I worked in the kitchen with Paul, who is an ex-butcher. At one point we had one sheep, now in carcass form, on the long 'worktop', two on the 'dining room table' together with a middle sized Vietnemese Pot Bellied pig waiting to be 'cleaned' and so thus still entire, the ram in a wheelbarrow in the 'lounge' again in carcass form, and four Vietnemese piglets in a large container in the 'hallway' also waiting to be 'cleaned'.  Paul had asked if his piglets could also be done here because Carla, who was the mum of the piglets, had not been particularly fussed with seeing one of her offspring being barbequed the night before. On the floor by my feet was a large container of 'soft tissue' such as the livers. Sounds grim, doesn't it! But it wasn't because we didn't have time to think. We had a job to do so we gone on with doing it.

Once the Frenchmen left, who actually proved to be friendly hommes and very likeable, Hubs came into the kitchen and Paul showed him how to cut the meat up. I then bagged the portions up individually and got them into the freezer. Thank goodness I have been used to handling the dog food meat! Even the sight of Paul 'cleaning' out the piglets wasn't too bad. 

11pm and all was in the freezer, and the piglets were on their way to their own freezer.

The flock seems quieter now the males are no longer with them, but soon the Jacob ram will join them. No babies yet, though, but I think that most are expectant and will have their lambs this autumn or next spring. We were told by the Frenchmen that they could sell the lambs for us at 80 euros each. This is encouraging because it means that we can have some money coming in to help with feed and vet bills, so they will be paying for themselves.

All in all, it was one hell of an experience, and I have needed a couple of days to recover! But I held my ground, didn't go silly and girly, and got on with helping Hubs be a farmer-type man even though he threw a hell of a wobbler on Saturday morning because he was so worried about whether or not he would go squeamish and faint. This he only told me when we had finished. Bless. 

All the remaining bits of sheep and piglets were put in the fire pit out back, the hole which was excavated by the builders to be filled in with rubble but which has served as an excellent means of disposing of ruined tarps, and bags and bags of dock weeds, plus other unwanted rubbish. Into this pit was put the remains, some recently cut dock weeds, some wood, and doused with petrol. In went the lit match and up it all went, accompanied by an almighty explosive thud as one of the intestines exploded. "Lucky that was in the hole" said Hubs. Apparently the 'bang' would have been accompanied by a shower of stuff. 

Latest adventure for Boolie is do an explore into the now cold fire pit to see what is to be had. So far he has managed to find two feet, cooked and blackened but munchable. Unfortunately one of the Limousin hens also has a fancy for the feet, and troubled him no end for a morsel. 

So the freezer has been fed and we have sufficient meat for the next six months. Now looking for recipes to help me with the cooking of it. I will need loads of different recipes. There is a lot of meat now stored in the freezer.

Things I have learnt: That a piece of meat on a plate will have a history attached to it. 
That if one is going to be a smallholder then one has to square one's shoulders sometimes and get on with the task in hand. 
That for a few days afterwards, coming into one's mind will be 'snapshots' of instances which happened during the recent experience. It is important, therefore, to keep oneself busy with doing other things so these 'snapshots' do not become invasive.
That it is a relief to have a larder of food. Me and Hubs, in our lives we have been hungry, not knowing where the next meal is coming from for Hubs, and me having to keep to a strict budget. It feels good having our food sourced from us. 
That we can look after, and care for, our sheep because they will be able to help us with doing just that. 
That Hubs, if necessary, can remember his rugby days. 
That I, if necessary, can stand by his side and help him with some difficult tasks despite the fact that I would, probably, be a vegetarian! Ah but where would be the challenge in that! And the flock of sheep are having a good life, a better life that they were having before we bought them.

So any donations of lamb recipes would be of great help, and if any of you are in SW France and would like to have a munch of our meat, then book yourself in for a meal. Hopefully the porta-potti will be retired soon, thus enabling contributions to be made into our fosse via the absent-at-the-moment loo. 

Now what shall I cook tomorrow............


Diane said...

Sounds like it was a good day in the end with lots of food ready in the freezer. One thing I do not understand though is killing and freezing straight away. I always understood that meat needed to hang to tenderise. I always used to hang our meat in the good old Rhosesian days when we were farming. Diane

Vera said...

Would agree Diane. However, the logistics of having four large lambs plus one very huge ram being hung for even a day in the heat we are having at the moment was just not do-able, flies being the problem. Oh we could have wrapped them up to protect them from the flies, but flies being flies, well they would have still swarmed round the meat even if they couldn't actually get to it. Eventually we will have special facilities to enable us to hang the meat in clean and clinical conditions but until then, we will continue to do as we did at the weekend. Perhaps your farm was more sprawled out so you had the space. We are tiny, with no usable barn space at this time, so we had no option but to recycle the animals into the freezer speedier than we would have liked. I think your Rhodesian farm and our five hectare smallholding are not quite in the same league with each other!

DUTA said...

Lamb meat is very popular in the Middle East and you'll find plenty of recipes on the web. Most people like it grilled and with spicy rice addition.But you'll find also intricate lamb dishes.

Anyway, after reading this post, I'm going to turn vegetarian (LOL). The truth is I mostly eat fish as its meat is more delicate and I believe it helps maintain the optimal body weight.

Vera said...

Hello Duta: Thanks for pointing me in the direction of some recipes. Running a smallholding has many facets to it, and the meat issue was only one, and necessary for the survival of our small farm. I am not a great fish eater, although Hubs is. But that is not farmable! I could live on fruit and veg though, but the farm's needs dictates that I must make the compromise of handling the meat issue.