19th August 2012 – Quacking weekend

I confess a weakness for poor puns,  so having spent a large proportion of the weekend killing, plucking and drawing ducks I couldn’t resist the title. People still ask me how I bring myself to kill animals which I have reared, but worries about those things are such a distant recollection and I do it so often, that it’s really just business as usual. Compassion without sentimentality are, I was once told the qualities of a good vet and I believe that holds true for anyone dealing with stock.  Most of us eat meat and someone has to kill it, so personally I’d rather face up to the responsibility and ensure each animal is killed in the most humane way possible.

We’ve produced better ducks, but this year’s batch are still fine,  so slow roasted duck, confit, crispy duck pancakes and much more besides are secured for another 12 months.

On Friday I headed down to Paley farm to spend a quiet hour in my favourite fishing hole.  It’s a bend in the small stream crowded with leaning hazels and sallow, where in the spring wild garlic carpets the banks and mini  flood plain. The approach is across a meadow  festooned with field ant hills and between these small mounds, many of which have been excavated by green woodpeckers, towering marsh thistles  are thick with deep purple bloom. Fritillaries and other butterflies flit in huge numbers between these spined beauties,  whilst above them turquoise damselflies potter to and fro. In short the place is a small piece of paradise where, with my feet jutting over the grassy bank I can sit in silence with my rod. Today I thought fondly of another pair of legs, smaller than my own jiggling above the water beside me and I hope it shan’t be many years before Gabriel comes with me everywhere.

I caught several roach and dace and lost a particularly nice perch. Another smaller perch went home for dinner and when cleaning it I noticed a sizeable piece of crayfish down its gullet. One hears a great deal about signal crayfish stripping our waterways for food, but little of them being food themselves! Save for trout, perch is the finest of river fish for the table, its flesh being sweet and firm not unlike tilapia, which I have tried once or twice.

The heat has been close to unbearable and in the dark, distant droning speaks of the harvest being gathered whilst the weather allows.

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