Friday, September 10, 2010
Farmer Roger's farm lies directly between our house and Brad's office at the Hamilton Institute. Much to Nikolai's delight, we get to watch his sheep and cows grazing every time we leave the estate. Skipping across Roger's fields would be the best way to get to work; however, it is not an option for Brad, as the Rye river cuts his fields in two and there is no bridge. As such, it is Roger's tractors (one green and one blue) that one often sees rolling down the main street of Maynooth, and, much to Nikolai's delight, up past our estate.
For a few months now, we have been getting duck eggs from Roger via a very top secret drop off location that involves a fairly muddy walk in his lands on our side of the river (€2 left in a jar per 1/2 doz). As I collected yesterday, I left Nikolai dozing in his buggy at the side of the road while I took my 5 minute walk to fetch eggs... and reflected that THIS was definitely something one could never imagine doing in Vancouver... or Victoria for that matter; one's wallet and cellphone would definitely be at risk.
But Farmer Roger's story expands at the point when he offered Brad a half a lamb for €65 (one of the sheep we've been watching grow up on our doorstep since February). And I must warn everyone that, when Brad was offered that half a lamb, the less vegetarian side of Farmer Roger's story began to unfold.
Now, Brad has never really been a full vegetarian, but eating meat was something he would only do if the meat was local and ethically raised (two marks in Roger's favor). The only thing was, I wasn't going to have ANYTHING to do with cooking meat for Brad. So he was basically a vegetarian with a twice a year meat fix, when our parents splurged on something just for him. And it would have stayed this way if Nikolai hadn't turned out to be a voracious carnivore. His first taste of meat was sitting on Panda's lap at Great-Panda's wake. It was a resounding success, to say the least. Nikolai's always been a protein maniac. Most children love cookies, pasta, bread... not Nikolai, dahl and nuts are definitely his favorite food. He'd rather starve than eat Mac and Cheese for dinner (Interestingly, KD ...Kraft dinner... is not available in Ireland. In fact no one seems to understand macaroni and cheese as a dinner item at all.) Nikolai clearly didn't inherit my blood type A-... if there's anything at all to that theory, then he must be an O ;-).
Anyways, last year Brad decided that perhaps we ought to allow Nikolai the occasional taste of a free-range, organic, local chicken, as he so clearly craved the protein (he's been limited to once a month affair). And the amazing thing is that Nikolai loves that chicken dinner (and he does understand that it's an animal. Yummy peep peep!). In fact he'd probably eat half a chicken all by himself in a single sitting if given the chance. Well, to cut this all short, Brad has exchanged his once a month serving of chicken for a once a month serving of lamb.
Now, the only trick is that Brad had to help Farmer Roger butcher the lamb... and I decided that if Nikolai wants to eat meat... he should definitely UNDERSTAND what gave their life for his food. I came along just in case the whole thing turned out to be too much for Nikolai. It did not, Nikolai loved the farm. And he certainly didn't mind watching the lamb be chopped up. He loved the sow named Betsy, tired of her 9 little suckling piglets (they're a month old and have just started to eat apples, so in a week she'll be able to go for walks without them). He liked the chickens, chased around the ducks (apparently he doesn't take after Claire either), got close to the sheep, petted the two labs, poked his nose into every field, stall and corner of the farm, and got his "lightening shoes" thoroughly covered in farm guck.
It was Brad's adventure, ironically enough, that was probably more than he bargained for. Brad has a well developed sense of clean... and that sense of clean got thoroughly trampled on yesterday evening.
Roger and his son Gavin (who is probably the first person I've ever met that deserves to be discribed as strapping) both arrived on tractors in their rather dirty farm clothes. Then Roger held a bucket of water for Betsy (the piglets always tip it over), then he petted the dogs, and then he butchered the lamb. What was missing in that description? Well, anything that involved washing, or water, or perhaps the white butchers coat that Brad had figured into his imagination. I'm guessing that circa 1800 barn (complete with arrow slits) figured into Brad's purview, but he probably didn't foresee the unwashed hands. Ah well, he'll have to get over that as Brad is now the proud owner of 11 kg of lamb... enough to last him a meal a month until next year! (For any Maynoothians interested in this pursuit, I'm sure that the meat is safe to eat. As a BC'er we have an over developed sense of clean that has resulted in extreme abattoir regulations.)
I wished we'd brought our camera with us, as it was truly a very nice farm. Though perhaps next time we visit, I'll have Nikolai in his wellies (rain boots).
Today Nikolai has croup and we're off to Sligo, so perhaps another blog is in the works. No farm photos... but Nikolai eating dahl.