Thursday, 14 January 2010

Not a day for vegetarians

I'm not very good at killing things. For years, I shied away from killing mosquitoes, although 18 months in Minnesota (where the mosquito is the state bird) cured me of that. And yet barely a meal goes by where meat is not on the table (my partner says I'd make a lousy vegetarian). In the last over a year or so, much of that meat has been ours; but those pigs were taken to the abattoir and the business of 'dispatching' them was done by some faceless person in white.

More recently, I've had to take things into my own hands. I killed a chicken who'd been sick for a while and didn't respond to drugs (we tried). And a rabbit who had been bred for the table (I won't go into details). Both were very difficult, especially as, which may make no sense, I tried to do it by surprise.

Today, I took things to the next level. (If you want to stop reading now, go ahead. This post is largely for me.) A friend with a chasse licence and a powerful rifle came round this morning and shot one of the pigs through the head. (This is legal here if it's for your own consumption, which it is. Or so I'm told.) We decided on this method after a lot of reading and talking. The locals favour stringing the pig up by the back leg(s) and slitting the throat. But this makes a lot of noise and would distress us, the pig and his brother and sisters (one of whom is heavily pregnant) nearby.

It felt like cheating, having someone else pull the trigger (and very much like cheating when he showed me how to kill and skin two rabbits that were overdue for the pot). But it was a relief to have someone so experienced in killing animals on hand (it's very lonely when it's just you). My friend told me he thinks of the good life the animal had, instead of the animals that are farmed more intensively for the supermarket or restaurant. Certainly, this pig lived nearly a year longer than he otherwise would have (we took him instead of the abattoir) and ranged free in the woods. He will now feed us for many weeks and I am very grateful to him.

But I can't help wondering that there's something ethically 'wrong' in keeping an animal with the intention of eating it (even if that's the only reason it's alive). And that it might be easier to kill an animal in the 'wild' (but then I suspect, being the namby pamby green-tinged neo-spiritual liberal that I am, that I would let the animal go off and keep doing its natural thing). Next time it may have to be me, pulling the trigger. Or even, the trigger of my own gun.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Here's something you won't have seen before

Last year I found holes using, variously, a spade, a fork, my hands and a JCB. Here's one I found with a chainsaw.

A woodpecker made it.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The wood and the trees

One of the many urgent jobs on the list, now the kids have gone back to school, is to build a rabbit run for those fast-growing kittens you didn't exactly see a couple of blog posts ago.

Being fantastically poor, it has to be done on the cheap. Preferably free. So I took some of the wood I bought to make the kitchen cabinet frames - rough wood, roughly 250 x 8 x 4 (cm not in) - and started to cut it lengthways. Which was quickly surprisingly tiring (I didn't get a day off on Sunday - we were moving bamboo to make a fence, among other things - and my body's feeling it right now).

Not wanting to waste what little energy I had, I phoned a friend and asked if they had a jigsaw I could borrow. They did, but they didn't have a blade. Which is sometimes The Way of Things.

Then Her Outdoors asked me why I didn't use some of the wood we've got lying around in the... um... woods. Slightly unwillingly, I grabbed a couple of weapons and spent an excellent couple of hours turning some hawthorn I'd cut down in the summer into some (hopefully) useful materials. Which I'll show you more of, soon.

Next time, I won't be quite so unwilling.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Crystal gazing

I was walking the wheelbarrow across the land the other day at about 8.30 in the morning, heading towards the rising sun, when I noticed that all the ice crystals on all the blades of grass were perfect, tiny little rainbows.

Either that, or I need my eyes testing.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Belt tightened

Yesterday, I finally worked out how much weight I've lost in the last two and a half years, from my previous soul-numbing existence as a desk-bound commuter to my current infinitely more pleasant life as a peasant smallholder.

I knew it was quite a lot, as I'm still wearing the same belt. But 30.5lbs (13.9kg). More than half a sack of cracked maize. Or two-thirds of a bag of potatoes. Or 30 bags of sugar. No wonder my old trousers look so ridiculous.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Full moon. New life. New blog.

Here's a terrible picture of our rabbit, Susan (not our choice - we inherited her), and her first litter of kittens. Yes, that really is what they're called.

Maybe I should have turned the auto flash off. Ah, well.