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Archive for March, 2009

We are lambing in the paddy fields at Crake Trees Manor, 6 am – 4 singles 4 sets twins and a set of triplets all alive, quite remarkable considering the weather. Ruth did the school run as all was quite on the Bed and Breakfast front. Kay was busy doing the Brew House self catering cottage which is always booked.

Four hours later Colin arrives, we move twins to back of beathams 1 and singles to b of b 2 (less shelter in there), we have a casualty in one of the pens Colin removed its jacket and an orphan gets a new mum!!!

More problems motor bike trailer gets a flat tyre, and we are low on petrol.

Into Penrith 4.30 pm Harold’s Tyres ever reliable fix it, tea with Laura Lee and Bill Back into my work shop sort out wood for benches for Arboretum in Oxford then home for supper

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Pig Killing Day

I can remember the mighty affairs that pig killings were, in the 1960’s. Dad was the Crosby Ravensworth pig man, a more unlikely pig killer you could not imagine, him being the most gentle and good tempered dad.

I cannot imagine how he came to the job. Maybe it was a profitable diversification for a hard pushed small dairy farmer and he was a renowned local good shot with a rifle.

Saturday was pig killing day, a day rigidly divided between the sexes, as to each part of the process from live pig to well hung carcass. My male cousins were allowed to witness the death, even pull the trigger on the gun, if they had turned 12, we girls hung around the far end of the yard, waiting for the squeal, we could all now heave a sigh of relief, and the most horrible of tasks was over.

We would scurry back to the house, with just a glimpse into the milking parlour (temporary abattoir) to see if we dare catch sight of the deceased pig. Us farm girls were not fazed by the process of pig killing, but there were usually some town cousins or village girls who made a real fool of themselves with their ashen faces and retching stomachs, I was full of self importance, after all my dad was the most important man of the day, his attitude and skill was the pivot to the success of the operation. It was imperative we all were quiet and behaved, or we were banished to the farmhouse sitting room to look after the babies…Yuk!

It didn’t seem more than a few minutes until the calm farmhouse kitchen changed suddenly to production line factory. Up to 4 sisters or sister-in-law were ready for action, fully aproned and ready to make black pudding.

My memories of the actual process are unclear but I remember the great stainless steel buckets of blood, the constant battle to keep the cats out of the kitchen, and the smell, that is most vivid, not horrible, but unique, THE smell of pig killing mixed with the smells of spices, salt, warm oatmeal and the humid atmosphere amongst vats of boiling water. Above all, the constant stirring, and stirring, of the fresh blood. It was essential the blood be kept moving; it must not coagulate, so I can remember sharp voices and much tension as every spare hand was kept busy with massive wooden spoons stirring and stirring till the blood was cold.

What happened next I’m not sure, but by evening the blood was cold, and mixed with the oatmeal, salt & spices & left in the dairy, ready to be mixed with chopped white fat and cooked on Monday in an array of flat baking trays in the bottom ovens of the Aga.

The men folk meanwhile set to scalding, shaving and opening the pig carcass, that would hang upside down from the strongest beam of the coolest outhouse.

All this went on as quickly and quietly as possible. Far away from the pig pens, so that the poor pig’s mates would not be upset, needless to say the other pigs didn’t eat much for a few days but they soon seemed to forget. The afternoon soon came to an end, all was washed down, tea time approached and Dad had to get back home for milking.

I had enjoyed the whole day, spent with my cousins, with great drama & excitement, a good dinner, lots of snippets of grown up gossip to digest, and the knowledge that my Dad was the best pig killer in the whole parish of Crosby Ravensworth.

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