Sunday, 21 February 2010

A week of courses

Tough, long, week. Held three courses in five days, a two day butchery course, a one day smallholding experience and then a three day combined butchery and smallholding course. I’m absolutely shattered now.
They were very nice people and great fun, but I don’t think we’ll do three on the bounce again. It’s too much, especially as this lot were all clever people, and the questions they asked were pretty complicated.
We butchered pigs from start to finish on our kitchen table – everything we teach is designed to happen in any normal kitchen. Butchered the pigs into chops and joints, and then made sausages, bacon, brawn, fagots, ham and gammon, before moving on to a little dairy, making a quick cheese, butter and yoghurt. Lunches were all homemade from the produce or hot soups with fresh bread straight from the oven.
Then we go out onto the land and teach people how to act around the animals and how to treat them kindly and safely. We make sure it’s very hands on. We make sure people touch the animals and bond with them. We show them basic care, such as how to foot trim and inject a sheep, and then encourage them to do it. We show them how to load a pig into a trailer, and how to inject that, and then encourage them to do the same.
We get them to feed the animals. We get them to check the animals, do the bedding and the watering – all under our supervision, but we get them to do it. We get them chasing chickens into bed, do the feeding and then collect the eggs, and then round-up the geese. They learn how to work my collie dog and how to drive the quad bike. In short, they experience the day in, day out, life of a self sufficient smallholder, mud, poo, good and bad smells, high and low moments and wonderful, hearty, homemade food. The lot (with us in control all the time, but try and make sure they are fully involved!).
I feel shattered, but you should see the people when they leave us. Some of them can’t talk, they’re that tired. They look punch-drunk. It’s a lot to take in. They wander off to their hotel or b&b and tell us they fall asleep while it’s still daylight. I guess it’s the same with any lifestyle, if you’re not used to it, it hits you hard. If I spent a day in an office with phones ringing continuously and people bustling about, and then went out in the evening to a club, it would wipe me out for days (that’s my idea of an alterative lifestyle, because obviously mine is totally normal).
So yeah, it’s been a busy week. But now it’s done, I can get on with the things I need to do, such as coppicing the woods – I desperately need to cut down enough wood to lay for next years heating. Might start that tomorrow.

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