Skin Deep

Phew – another pretty busy day.

We had to be up even earlier today although I found it very difficult indeed to get Tony out of bed; in fact we only had about five minutes to spare before he eventually surfaced.  The pigs had thankfully slept well but had eaten much of their bedding so there was a slight delay whilst we restocked the trailer with plenty more straw & threw in yet more feed for them to search for, en route.  I gave them a quick check when we reached the top of the drive – pigs do not generally travel well & can get extremely stressed – however they were contentedly grubbing through the straw & did not seem to notice the trailer’s movement (but then Tony is a superb chauffeur to all his animal passengers!).

I read the first couple of chapters of ‘The Science of Ice Cream’ whilst we travelled to Haverfordwest & learned some fascinating stuff about the chemistry of ice itself such as how & why things freeze & how different manufacturing techniques can alter the texture of the finished frozen product.  Although I’m no scientist myself I did find it quite an engaging read & although I struggled with some of the more technical aspects, I do feel more fully equipped to make a better ice cream as a result – as I now understand why certain ingredients react with each other in particular ways.  Also I didn’t know that prior to going into politics, Margaret Thatcher was an ice cream scientist! 

Offloading the pigs was thankfully much easier than last night’s trials of getting them onto the trailer; Bacon happily followed the bucket down the ramp although Tony had to give Sausage a hefty shove to get her to shift.  Once the sows were in the holding pen I made sure they had plenty more food to root around for; & they were quite content & not at all stressed when the end came – so again, at least we had that cold comfort. 

After thoroughly washing down & disinfecting the trailer we took it to a local car wash & gave it a ‘full monty’ clean as we were anxious to return it to Lloyd in pristine condition. Unfortunately, on the way back along a particularly bumpy stretch of country lane, the rear ramp flew open in spite of our check that all catches were secure before we’d set off again.  Thankfully of course we weren’t carrying any livestock & there was no other traffic on the road; but it did slightly scratch the ramp’s buffer strip where it contacts the ground as it dragged a couple of metres before Tony could stop the vehicle.  Unfortunately it would appear to be a design flaw on the trailer – so lesson learned, next time we’ll arm ourselves with some split pins to ensure the tailgate is securely locked.  As Lloyd wasn’t about we could only apologise to Helen & offer to pay for any damage that might have occurred.

We headed homewards to hurry through the rest of the chores before going to our next private class with  Nanuk.  On arrival Nanuk was her characteristic effervescent self, leaping out of the back of the truck & immediately pulling like a train on her lead.  Tony & I both groaned inwardly when we saw the dreaded check chain in Jean’s hand – admittedly we much prefer walking Nanuk on the halter as she is so much quieter & easier.  Also as she was so excited we had a feeling the lesson wouldn’t go well.  However, once we started working, Nanuk quickly settled – & to our amazed delight was soon walking nicely to heel on the chain.  I’m so pleased, it seems all my hard work coupled with Jean’s patient tuition is paying off at last – & Tony is also more confident about working with the dog.  We finished the lesson by fitting Nanuk’s new ‘Gentle Leader’ halter, & then headed off again – this time hurrying straight to Tan Y Groes to collect our salvaged goatskins as the sun set over the coast.

It was cold & cloudy, again; with the unforgiving wind still whistling across the coast at Aberporth.  I went down to the salting sheds clutching a bagful of beer as a ‘thank you’ for literally (!) saving our skins – luckily they had been mixed up with some calfskins at Haverfordwest but true to his word, the Rendering Plant manager had readily identified them & immediately salted them & kindly put them aside for us.  One of the skins had been damaged slightly at the neck – & the poor chap was quite upset as I sadly, fondly held the skin & said chokingly, “Ah, this was poor little Arvel.”  However on chatting to Nicki this afternoon (who runs the UK’s only organically-licensed tannery & is going to process the skins for us)  she started her business tanning the skins from her own surplus British Toggenburg male goats – & she is of the definite opinion that the best thing for a BT male, is to be flat – as they’re much quieter & easy to handle! 

Armed with a big sackful of salt we headed homewards once more; this time to finish the evening chores before retrieving the skins & laying them out as flat as possible.  It seemed uncomfortably quiet on the yard in the dying light of the day without the squeals & grunts of the pigs demanding their supper or the loud bawling of cheeky little Addaon, trying to woo his sisters. 

The skins had already started drying quite well throughout the day; so we continued the process by carefully resalting each individual hide & then stacking them as flat as possible, on top of each other.  We were surprised & impressed at how large the skins actually are – much more substantial than we’d expected; & quite beautiful .  I tenderly recognised the folorn remains of each little chap; but somehow it did make the whole thing easier to come to terms with – after all, as our neighbour Helen sadly observed when earlier discussing the weighty trials & tribulations surrounding Tuberculosis in UK cattle – indiscriminate culling of stock seems unfortunately to be part & parcel of farming these days.  What with TB, FMD & BTV, we wonder what on earth will be the next body blow to the industry….?

By the time we’d finished I really didn’t feel like slaving over a hot stove, so we opted to treat ourselves to a rare evening out for a meal instead.  We set off initially for the Nag’s Head; however, to our amazement it was closed – on a Friday evening too. I had tried phoning ahead to book a table; however as the ‘phone was continually engaged we’d decided to chance it anyway.  What with the trouble at Tresaith we’re beginning to get a complex about the local establishments in our area, continually closing their doors on us….!  However I know that during the ‘off’ season the inn usually does close for a couple of weeks anyway.

We went instead to another favourite, the cosy ‘Three Horseshoes’ in Cenarth; a fortuitous choice not only for the good meal we enjoyed but also because as we chatted to the landlord it transpired he would be very interested in selling our ice cream in their beautiful little Thatched Cottage Tea Shop next Summer (especially if I’ll make him some banana flavour!).  Although it is a short season there, it is a productive one; as Cenarth is a lovely village famous for its’ stunning series of waterfalls & the old mill on the river bank, which always attract a large number of visitors in the warmer weather.  So I get the feeling we really need to ‘get our (ice cream) skates on’, now – I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves & get stuck in!


About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Animals, Diary, Farming, Food, Ice Cream, Life, Livestock, November 2007, Restaurants, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

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