Way back when we were planning our WWOOFing adventure we wrote a list of things we’d like our life to have more of, things we’d like to do, see, experience.
A big thing on our list was rearing our own meat. As confirmed carnivores (we may err more towards the omnivore category these days than we used to but we still have meat or fish pretty much every day in some form) but with high ideals of animal welfare we knew that the only possible compromise (and it is still a compromise, I accept that and will ever have a massive amount of respect and admiration for my vegan friends, however much I love bacon!) is to rear as much of the meat in our diets ourselves. This week four of the dinners we’ll eat will be Rum venison, Croft 3 chicken, Croft 3 pork or caught of the coast of Rum mackerel. Today for lunch I had Croft 3 foraged Rum bramble jam and our cakes, pancakes and egg based meals are all using our own Croft 3 eggs too. I still season lots of our cooking with dried herbs grown here from seed last year and the first salad of the season won’t be too far away.
We’re pretty proud of that.
For the last few weeks we’ve been observing our chickens. From an inital stock of 10 hens and a cockerel we now have a flock of over 40. Some were bred here from our starting birds, some were rehomed from a friend in the village. Last years chicks have slow grown and hit maturity so we have had the first eggs from hens and the cockerels have been starting to find their crowing voices, sparring with each other and mating with the hens. The crowing is fine. I like the noise of cocks growing and we have no neighbours to disturb. But the fighting between themselves is not great and the poor hens were starting to look a bit hunted – every time they sat down they were getting leapt on from behind by one cockerel or another.
So over the last couple of days Ady and I have been watching and picking out the ones we want to keep. The rehomed bantam cock from the village gets to stay – he is father to lots of the young ‘uns and is a nice natured, friendly to people cockerel. He handles Bonnie well and keeps the flock in order. Next on the safe list is a mini- Dave, the original cockerel who died over the winter had a son who looks just like him so he gets to stay. Two of the cocks match hens really nicely – a buff coloured one who has hung out with one of the prettier hens since they were tiny chicks and is always to be found with her still. There is a black and white speckledy boy who has a gaggle of about four matching hens and is very pretty so he gets to stay. There is a brown and black cock who hangs around up near us whenever we are our working on the croft. He can stay. That left eight cocks to kill.
So Ady and I went down and spent time this morning feeding them and doing the deed. We got six of the eight – the two who got away eluded us this time but will be for the pot in the next few weeks. We do the deed with respect, kindness, minimum disruption to all of the rest of the birds. We both plucked, Ady gutted and by lunchtime we had six oven ready birds. Four for the freezer and two for our dinner this evening.
They are small, very lean and browner meat than supermarket birds. The flavour is more gamey than bland and is perfect for curries, casseroles and similar but tonight we just roasted them.
Also high on our list of experiences was seeing various sights – wildlife such as golden eagles, red deer, otters, whales – all of which we see regularly here on Rum. And the Northern Lights – an ambition of mine since I was a girl, now shared by the other three. We came close various times while traveling and often slept with the curtains open in the campervan just in case. I’m signed up to text and email alerts and have stayed up late on several occasions in the hopes of a glimpse. But to no avail. Until tonight that is.
It was the kids bedtime when a text and an email came through from two different friends and Ady glanced at the news website to see the aurora was visible in various parts of the UK so we opened the curtains and sure enough there they were! We all put coats and wellies on over pjs and crowded outside onto the pallets to watch the ripples and dancing lights. The colours were not as vivid as I have seen in photos, pale green and pale pinkish but undeniably the northern lights dancing across the sky above our croft.
We watched until they began to fade and we began to shiver so came inside. The kids to watch from their beds and me to sit on the sofa and carry on watching. It clouded over and went pitch dark outside but is now starting to clear again so I will sit awhile longer and hope they return.
Sometimes dreams take a whole lot of chasing. It tends to mean they are all the magical when they finally come true.