Holidays…. The Aftermath

Taking a week off to go relax in the Orkneys was a great idea. The weather was fantastic (teeshirt weather! Hardly any wind! Glorious blue skies! It ain’t always so nice up there…) and we all had a lovely time, explored new places, marvelled at the ingenious and industrious lives our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors must have led to leave such monuments behind (the Rings of Brodgar and Stenness, Skara Brae, the Broch of Gurness, Maes Howe, the Tombs of the Eagles and of the Otters) and, incidentally, took good note of the very wide range of natural resources available.

I may have an unusual family, I’ll admit, but we’d hardly been there ten minutes before my mother was exclaiming at the various wild plants that could be foraged from the roadsides. My sister and brother-in-law had had a couple of days up there ahead of our arrival and had pinned down what times the local seal checked out the salmon tanks just off ‘our’ beach, and we all put our heads together identifying wild plants we hadn’t met before.

Anyway, the holiday was great, we all relaxed and enjoyed ourselves, breathed lots of fresh sea air, admired craftwork, bought souvenirs and went beach-combing together.

When we got back, however, my first stop was out in the rabbit shed to check out the babies. The lights didn’t work.

In itself, not a problem. I walked over to the boiler shed at the end of the line of four sheds (rabbits in no.3) and flipped the circuit breaker back to ‘on’ again. Hey presto, lights.

Unfortunately, the lights and power in the shed are all controlled by that one circuit breaker so the freezers had been off, too. I lifted the lid, poked a flabby, soft package of venison and confirmed that it was a home disaster.

Two freezers, all defrosted. All my lovely home-slaughtered bunny meat, the dog food, the skins waiting for tanning, all the veg from the allotment we’d frozen, meat, eggs….. we had to throw the whole lot out. Sunday, the day after we’d come home, we spent mostly binning stuff, or throwing it on the compost and, with the skins, hurriedly mixing up an alum-and-salt solution and submerging them in the hope of salvaging something.

It’s just as well we have one freezer on the house electrical circuits and also dry and pickle produce, or it could have been even worse! It’s a blow, yes, but it’s not a major calamity.

Some sleuthing, texts to my daughter (she’d gone down to London on the Friday morning) and chatting to neighbours established that the village had had a brown-out on Tuesday morning. That’s enough to flip the trip in the shed – for some reason it seems unusually sensitive to power fluctuations, even though the house circuits just shrug them off. Michelle, being young and lacking life-experience, noted the lights were off but didn’t think about the freezers or go check the trip switch (or even email/text me and say anything about it!) Oh well – now she has the life-experience for the next time it happens….

We also had to pick up the dogs from kennels, the other car from the park-and-ride where Michelle had left it when she flew to London, Michelle herself coming back from London, muck out the bunnies and the chickens, work through the collected mail…. Sunday was a loooong day.

Monday we did a walk-round in the garden, I went and looked after someone’s dogs (they’ve gone on holiday) and the secretary of the gun club phoned to tell me my application to join had been approved and please could I send my subs to him! This is great news as I’d started to wonder what had happened – do I have a secret police record I know nothing of? Had they lost my application? Had my referees told them I was unfit to be trusted with a firecracker? Anyway, this is a big step forward in the quest towards gaining a firearms certificate, as I can now attend the club and my sponsor will provide some instruction and intros to others. In about 6 months time I will, hopefully, be applying for my FAC and can then buy a rifle of my own to practice with instead of being reliant on good-natured people at the range loaning me theirs for a few shots here and there!

[For those outside the UK – when I say ‘secret police record’ I don’t mean a record with the secret police, I mean a secret record with the ordinary police. As far as I know, we haven’t fallen so far as secret police – and the way British civil servants leave data and computers all over commuter trains, I don’t think they could keep secret records if they tried!]

Tuesday we managed to get back to the allotment and started fighting the weeds off again. We did bring home 3.75kg of courgettes (some big enough to call marrows!), a pound of carrots, a day’s food for the rabbits, some strawberries, a meal’s worth of calebrese (the last of this year’s crop) and nearly 5kg of cabbages. So, when we got home, we made 4lbs of beet relish (the beetroot in the garden have turned into cannonballs instead of golfballs!), I’ve started a saurkraut culture, we brined 3lbs of marrows and some of the cabbage for more chutney and pickled cabbage, and feasted on home-grown produce again. I boiled up the carrots and mashed them, they’re the first item back in the freezer, the first step back to re-establishing our food stocks.

In the evening I also pulled the rabbit skins out of the tanning mixture and peeled the inner membrane off the skins, then refreshed the pickle and dumped them back in again. There may be a little fur-slip but on the whole I’m cautiously encouraged I might be able to salvage something of them.

Today has been another allotment and cooking day, with about 6lbs of marrow chutney cooling on the side at the moment and another couple of pounds of mashed carrots chilling in the fridge ready to freeze. We’ve pulled up the last of the peas and composted them, pulled up the calabrese plants and fed them to the chickens, and the rabbits are all comatose in their cages surrounded by weeds and greens. We almost feel caught-up again!

I’m going to put another page up in the next few days with all the recipes on it for future reference.

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