Blogs

Write new blog
toddie

Well I've just come back from a really informative weekend at East Ilkerton Farm (Hidden Valley Pigs) in North Devon where I got to sample the life of a ‘small holder' through an introduction course run by Simon & Debbie Dawson of UKTV's local hero acclaim.

 

Being my first ever SH course (and incidentally a generous birthday present) I was somewhat unsure as to what to expect (& what I should really already know) if I'm honest, but I need not worry as Simon & Debbie confidently took the reins and casually talked us through the delights that lay in store for my partner & I over a cuppa tea & excited introduction by Darcy the dane!

 

Moments later the practical education started with the butchery segment of the course (lead by Debbie) in which the main cuts & inside tips/techniques required to deal with such a beast were explained, demonstrated & finally supervised. Before I knew it everything was portioned up ready for the pot/freezer & I'd gained the confidence needed to have a go again myself once at home. It was then on to the Bacon curing & sausage making lesson which was yet another first for me! Still having been tipped off that pork may be on the menu I'd taken the liberty of packing a bottle of my own home made cider (12%ABV of clear Dorset liquor) to which I received a very warm response as to its suggested inclusion (with fresh garden Rosemary) into the sausage mix. **Although this was only ‘officially' received after an obligatory taste & quality check by Simon ;-)**  Now although they didn't get  the full rest needed to mature the flavours it has to be said that these home made porkers were an absolutely fab lunch when combined with Debbie's freshly made butter, still warm white loaf & runner bean chutney (incidentally I must get the recipe for that).

 

Following lunch we tool a walk around the grounds, pointed out the chickens we intended for the pot and worked our way down the step hill side to the barn where the beautiful conditioned birds met their maker in a humane & swift fashion. With Simon's every observant eye keeping us in check, we set about dry plucking the birds & managed a half decent job before darkness finally got its way & North Devon's unpredictable climate finished off our resolve with an unpleasantly cold down poor. However all thoughts of the cold were pull to one side once we'd been handed yet another much needed cuppa tea & warmed up in front of the cottage fire in time for supper.

 

On Sunday morning (after a poor nights sleep in the ‘boutique' hotel in Lynton, courtesy of yet more un-seasonal howling winds) we returned to East Ilkerton Farm to receive our days schedule & obligatory cuppa tea before setting off down the hill side for pig manoeuvre's! Pre-warned by Simon that some may prove to be easier than others I was felt mentally prepared for any stubborn old sow Simon could conjure up (I'd got ahead on myself at this point), but boy I hadn't banked on "Geraldine". For sure she's a beautiful beast, being a Wild boar crossed with a Tamworth but "stubborn" really doesn't do justice to her & so I have to admit partial defeat when discussing how ‘we' loaded her into the trailer as the truth be told, she really only loaded herself in after a large about of bribing with pig nuts & some strenuous jostling from Simon, Debbie & myself! Still loaded she was & so we were on our way to reunite her & her offspring in the new enclosure.

 

After that ordeal I made a mental note to myself (along the lines of "serious consider things before taking on any pigs in years to come!" before watching Simon reverse the now empty trailer up to the ‘General's' pen, lower the ramp & very quickly step back as the huge Berkshire Boar jumped straight in with no prompting what so ever! It seams that offer of food & sex that inevitable follows a ride in the trailer for the ‘General' has left and impression somewhat! However unfortunately for him it was just food and an injection behind the ear this time.

 

With the pigs sorted and a healthy hunger on us we retired to the cottage once more for another cuppa, warm up by the fire & chicken butchery lesson. All went well with the lesson  (another box ticked) until the smell of burn soda bread permeating from the oven demonstrated that even old hands can get it wrong at times! Still as tasty as ever (even if a little over done) Debbie dished up her bread & veg soup as our final meal with the delightful couple before detailing the animal husbandry tasks for the afternoon.

 

Off once again we headed up to the opposite side of the valley to round up the sheep, Grey Faced Dartmoor crosses I believe & every bit as compliant as Simon had lad us to believe after the Geraldine fiasco that very same morning. Upended, feet clipped, mineral injected & head spray tagged to denote ‘done', we worked are way through a good few before the weather closed in on us once again & it was time to call it a day. I guess the ‘weekenders' realisation of the long drive back (to land locked Oxfordshire & world of F1 on Monday morning) in wet cloths has dissolved the remaining enthusiasm I had.

 

All in all the weekend was a great success (thanks again guys) & so I would hole heartedly recommend that anyone thinking about the idea of becoming a small holder should go on such a course as it really does give you a good incite into "real" life you could end up with. However "keep it real" as the shock of working in a rural landscape & barn, compared to the exuberant air conditioned office I normally have was somewhat of a culture shock!

 

Still given enough time to ride out the credit crunch, provision of a suitable plot & good willing I'm quite sure which lifestyle I prefer & it doesn't come with a 7 way reclining chair!

 

All the very best guys & I hope you help convert many move to the joys of rural scene.

 

 

 

 

1 reply
Replied on

spell check is a wonderful thing when you remember to use it. sorry folks!

To leave a response to the post you will need to be a registered user. Sign-up here or Login here
@rivercottage
  • WATCH! Only 24 hours to find 10 mins to enter Rising Star - it turned Sam’s life upside-down: link link
  • Only 24 hours to go to enter this year’s Rising Star and show us what you can do! RT, and spread the word! link
  • Think like @Biff_Stancombe you could be our new Rising Star? You’ve got a day to get your video over to us! link
  • Another top Rising Star entry, this time by Biff! Watch her Drunken White Rabbit recipe here: link link
  • RT @RCChefsSchool: Whatever #GCSEresults you receive, we're here for you.Our award-winning #apprenticeship scheme has a few places left! ht…
  • RT @RCChefsSchool: Amazing Rising Star entry from @Biff_Stancombe! Looks incredible. Watch and upload your own: link
  • RT @JamiesFoodTube: More #classic @rivercottage to get you through the day. Hugh whips up a seafood salsa for the crowds of @Bestival http:…
  • RT @RCChefsSchool: If you love baking & #gbbo, come & learn the ropes at our Chefs' School at @rivercottage. Last apprenticeship places htt…
  • RT @WinCanteen: Drop in your CV at our recruitment day, today till 5pm @WinchesterCity Guildhall. Come and complete our team! link
  • RT @heatherkmak: as a self-professed @rivercottage groupie, really excited for this next cookbook! link @BloomsburyCooks
  • Thinking of entering #RisingStar? You have until Friday to enter! Check out the competitors so far here: link
  • RT @RCChefsSchool: Come and say hello! We're in @Princesshay #exeter bringing @rivercottage to the streets!
  • . @johnmushroom But we have no such modesty. The third is John's excellent Mushrooms Handbook @BloomsburyBooks link
  • @johnmushroom Living the dream! x
  • @johnmushroom You are on fire this morning with all these top twitter tips! #mushrooming
  • RT @johnmushroom: Bonus mushrooming tip: All mushrooms are magic, but some are more magic than others.
  • RT @RCHQEvents: Check out the fab #mushroom #foraging tips on @johnmushroom's account today. Need further help? Come on our course! http://…
  • RT @johnmushroom: Mushrooming tips 2: Obvious, but ignoring it has been the downfall of many: Only ever eat something if you are 100% sure …
  • @johnmushroom Have you taken any snaps of the early appearances? #mushroomfun
  • RT @johnmushroom: Mushrooms now appearing so a few tips: 1. Avoid speculatively picking a large quantity of unknown fungus. It may be rare.…
  • WATCH! Think you could impress Hugh and the gang? Enter our #RisingStar before Friday's cut-off link
  • Seen our latest Rising Star entries? It's not too late to get one in if you're up to the challenge! https://t.co/HCvuTL4PHV
  • @KloEllaDeVille Nice one, Chloe! #RisingStar
  • RT @KloEllaDeVille: Ok so I've entered the @rivercottage Rising star 2014 competition! Check it out here https://t.co/uETkIqEt0Z
  • And another entry for our #RisingStar, this time from Sophie. The competition is really hotting up! link
  • Think you could impress Hugh and the gang? Enter our #RisingStar comp now, you have until Friday! link
  • Will Chloe's scrummy wild plum semifreddo take her all the way to the #RisingStar final? link
  • RT @JamiesFoodTube: Bumper harvest this year? Time for some Classic @rivercottage to get the juices flowing. link http:/…
  • RT @RCHQEvents: Last places on our One Day Cookery Course this Thurs and Fri, call the team now for an amazing late deal 01297 630314 http:…
  • @trishaocf Wow, nicely done! This is definitely a question for our @johnmushroom...
  • Fruity, fabulous + free! Enjoy blackberries with this Bramble Jelly recipe: link @JamiesFoodTube link
  • RT @the_tank: Inspiring two days @rivercottage with @ChrispOnions. Reinvigorated my passion for ethical cooking. Well organised by @RCHQEve
  • RT @RCHQEvents: WIN: Last chance to enter our competition to win a lovely break, thanks to @CornwallVW - don't miss! link
  • Think you could do better than Jamie? You have until Friday to knock together a video for #RisingStar MORE: link
  • Jamie Glover is our latest Rising Star hopeful, check out his great video entry here: https://t.co/0K5gnsHL1V
  • RT @Seachangeagency: we have an exciting new designer job vacancy in our NEW studio in Bridport Dorset link link
  • One for the future! “@mumlovestojam: @rivercottage One of my sons @JammyBakers would love this opportunity, but he is only 10 at the mo!!”
  • So the competition is really hotting up! Are you, or is someone you know our new Rising Star? It changed Sam's life! link
  • There's plenty of time left this weekend to knock together a Rising Star entry of your own! Are you our new star? link
  • Good stuff Ben Cronin, our latest Rising Star hopeful. Watch his entry and let us know what you think! link
  • RT @RCHQEvents: @rivercottage #EarlyBird returns with 20% off select #courses & #dining experiences Nov-Feb.Book now: link
  • RT @rchqevents: Ever wondered how fishermen enjoy a bumper catch from the shoreline?Join us+ @Fishing_Tails: link #fishing
  • RT @RCHQEvents: #Foraging & #Fungus based Q's answered by @johnmushroom at our #SummerDining events on 20 & 21 August link
  • Think you could better our new entries? This weekend is the ideal time to find 10 minutes to show us what you can do! link
  • Meanwhile 21-year-old Gregory McCaig rustles up a fishy treat for Rising Star - what do you think? link
  • NEW RISING STAR ENTRY KLAXON! Watch hopeful Alex Dome find inspiration from an elderberry tree link
  • RT @YorkieAH: Probably the best title to an email I have ever received! Lol @rivercottage #yummy link
  • RT @GelfAlderson: Black pudding started for tomorrow @RCHQEvents @rivercottage link
  • RT @RCHQEvents:smoked mackerel tartar on rye&ale crispbreads..salivating?Come to Hugh's book launch on 4/9 to sample! link
  • RT @WCCFreshFish: Fantastic Hand Dived Scallops off to @GelfAlderson @rivercottage #fishyfriday #eatmorefish link
Login or Sign-up

Login & Sign-up

Forgotten your password? Retrieve it here
Or connect via Facebook
Connect with Facebook
Join River Cottage
Close
Shopping basket: 0 items £0.00