I don’t think James has ever been quite as excited about pork chops as he was when we collected the four vast boxes of meat from our farmer-cum-butcher this week. Who’d have thought that so much would come from just two Gloucestershire Old Spots? We invested in a freezer back in the new year for the very task and were extremely glad we had opted for the tallest available. A large amount was stashed away for our own consumption, but there was still masses to sell.
We had huge fun playing shop on Saturday afternoon and dropped off packs of sausages, chops and pork belly to the friends and members of our families who’d placed their orders. However, among the deliveries we also had a collection to make. A friend of James’s had begged him to take on a cockerel she had been mistakenly sold along with two hens. Her neighbours were ready to take up their pitchforks if she didn’t get rid of it and she couldn’t think what else to do. James said we’d only take him on to be dispatched and eaten as we had no time to make a pen and house to make him safe from our dogs (and didn’t want him to run with our flock), so she agreed and we dropped round at 6.30pm, expecting to knock on the door, but instead Karen was waiting on the drive with the chicken already in his cardboard box. She explained in whispers that her youngest daughter had become quite attached to Twiglet and that she would have to break the news of his departure to him in the morning. So we put him in the boot under the cover of darkness and sped off to finish our rounds. Fully intending to dispatch the six-month-old Orpington when we reached home, we opened up the box to behold the handsomest cockerel we’ve ever seen.
That spelled an end to our plans and we gave him food, water and shelter in the currently spare henhouse. Unfortunately, this dwelling is only around 20 foot from our nearest neighbours Gloria and Larry. Naturally, on Sunday morning Twiglet began doing what he does best at about 5.45am. We opened up the window on the landing (our bedroom is the other side of the house to where the coop is located) and listened to him vocalising beautifully but deafeningly. We felt a little sheepish and when Gloria walked past the gate at the end of our drive on her way out for a ramble, James seized the chance to apologise and explain. He invited her in to see the perpetrator for herself and she, being very kind, agreed that he was a stunner and that she couldn’t have done the deed either, even after an curtailed Sunday lie-in. As an apology, we gave her various pork goods and a box of eggs. Later, Larry said the steak was the sweetest he had ever eaten and that he was sure he could taste apples (which we had fed the pigs continuously through the autumn). It was so satisfying to offer our porcine produce to smooth over another smallholding difficulty! We didn’t feel we could expect good neighbourly relations to continue with Twiglet resident in the garden, so instead James delivered him to our friend Peter who lives in the middle of nowhere and wanted a mate for his lone hen. So the cockerel’s reprieve worked out nicely in the end.
More gratifying feedback about our homegrown meat ensued, this time from my CL colleagues including CL Food and Drink Editor Alison Walker who not only bought sausages and chops, but enthusiastically purchased a roasting joint and belly. Bacon to follow in a few weeks. Her seal of approval was the ultimate accolade and James wore a particularly big smile on his face when he heard her compliments. I am on my way to CL HQ this morning carrying a basket containing three boxes of eggs and two packs of frozen sausages today and I, too, am grinning from ear to ear.