A Castle in the Sky

In March 2013, after years of talking about it we eventually sell up and move out of the city with our 2 year old, Gracie. We both grew up in the countryside and this is what we want for our daughter. So we swap a 2 bed flat in London for a small country pile on the west coast of Scotland that needs a lot of work. I've done a bit of interior design and my partner, Ed has a good knowledge of the outdoors – but we're on a tight budget and we've both got a lot to learn. It's a life time's project and this is a record of our adventure…


The last supper…(Nov 1)

Note to my vegetarian friends – you might not want to read this.

A week ago we went up to give ‘the pigs’ their final supper – the last of the fallen apples from the orchard.  They never did make it down here as we couldn’t find the time to repair our fencing – but they’ve had a happy life up at the farm.


They came back from the butchers today as follows x 2.  A box for Mr C and one for us:

6 x 500 g of mince

12 sausages

2 shanks

2 cheeks (including ears)

2 flat belly pork – 1 kilo each

1 loin – steak

1 loin – rolled joint

2 back legs – rolled for hams to cure

2 fore legs rolled

6 thick cut chops

4 trotters

It wasn’t the most pleasant job working out which bit was which (nothing was labelled) and involved a couple of calls to the butcher and a lot of blood.    It certainly put us in touch with the reality of the situation – and a reality check seems in order if we’re going to carry on eating meat.   At least this way nothing will be wasted.

After an hour’s work, it’s all in pristine bags and appropriately marked up in the chest freezer.   It should last us a year.  The first thing I’m planning is my own cured ham.   The trotters seem like more of a challenge.

I have to admit that after today’s exercise I do feel a little queasy about eating it (it’s something to do with the butcher’s shop smell – reality check cont’d) but that may not last. Ed feels the same.  Having said that, Mr C has 2 sheep set aside for the new year and next time Ed’s talking about doing the butchering himself….

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A couple of ‘pretend’ pigs (May 3)

Friends are here so we go up to the farm to feed the lambs.   While we’re there we meet the pigs  (see Oink Oink – Apr 9).  Mr C has never kept pigs before so it appears they have our name on them…or I should say Ed’s name on them.  I’m abrogating all responsibility at this stage.

If they are going to make their way down to us then we’ll need to fence them in and like all animals they’ll take some daily looking after, so we can reconvene on this subject once Ed is back from his trip.

Ed and I have vaguely talked about the possibility; they could clear our brambles, eat our annual surplus of apples from the orchard, and help us get started on turning the paddock into a meadow.  All sounds very idyllic but then comes the difficult bit; as once this is all done, at the end of the year they would then provide both us and Mr C with a freezer full of meat…

The prospect of slaughtering animals is something I’ve thought about over the years – I’ve wondered how I would react if I had to do any killing myself or get nearer to it.   I’ve watched lambs in the fields here skipping about this spring and for some reason I’m more aware than ever of where they are headed.    I suppose the practicalities of country living are more apparent once you’ re living it instead of just day-dreaming about it.

I’m not suggesting that I should do the actual deed  (there are clearly those better qualified) but rearing and eating our own at least feels like a step in a more responsible direction.  Having said that chickens might have been an easier way to start…

Gracie meanwhile has independently come to the conclusion that the meat we eat is ‘pretend’.  So faced with a chicken dinner she’s liable to say “It’s not real chicken though is it mummy, just pretend chicken?”   We are going along with this for now as she’s only 3 and I figure this particular horror can wait.  However, I’ve been told that when it comes to it young children are very matter of fact about the slaughtering of animals that are home-reared…as long as we don’t give them pet names.  So ‘the pigs’ it is.