Sunday, 27 January 2008

Venison and chickens

There are times, as I sit here in my modern-day croft, with a dog at my feet and the wind whistling outside, that I feel like a real countrywoman. And when I read Wendy Wood's From a Highland Croft I really feel that I understand how she felt. Most of the time that is. Most of the time I could imagine myself living her life. Most of the time. Not in January though...
"Even on freezing nights my pony is quite content to be outside...In winter she grows a marvellous coat, almost vieing with the Highland cattle...But snow time is not the coldest in the glen, and the frost can make harder conditions for the beasts when every waterfall is static, every burn looks like blurred glass, and the water hole in the broken ice gets lower and lower. Tanks are frozen, and that strange medley of old baths, sinks and tubs which acts as field supplies for stock is filled with ice as solid as the metal.
On a day showing the first signs of thaw I crossed the hill to get the food supply. Below me lay the mountain loch, still gripped in ice, and to my amazement, in that still atmosphere the loch roared! It roared exactly like a lion. It was some time before I gained its shore and found that the wind was getting under cracks; the level of the loch had dropped since it froze, the imprisoned wind was roaring to get out. Had I heard such a sound in the darkness I certainly would have wished for a rifle in my hand. On the hill beside the loch lay a fine young stag: it had died of thirst beside the frozen water. There was the spoor of a wild cat that had taken advantage of a bigger prey than it could have brought down for itself.
Next day I took up a saw and cleaver and brought down some of the carcass for the dogs. Judging by the latters' behaviour, I think it must have been a dog's dream of paradise, after so many meatless days, to have a whole leg of venison thrown to him, all the better for being a bit 'high'."

Cutting up dead animals that I might bump into on the hill is, I must confess, way beyond my capacities as a country dweller, though I suspect I am not alone in that these days!

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