Making our own amusements

The weekend continued on the theme of simple pleasures, with a puzzling session in bed on Friday evening, limbering up in readiness for Monday’s SUMS Puzzle Hunt. We printed off a crossword from the Guardian and a few of the Puzzlebomb sheets, poured a glass of wine apiece and got stuck in. One of the things that I like most about puzzling is that it leads to Learning New Things. It really can be enlightening.

Saturday saw the island’s annual Stock Judging competition, another simple pleasure. It’s perhaps not everyone’s notion of fun but we enjoy its understated pleasures. I was looking back to see what I scored last year but find that I failed to blog about the event. I did however Blip a photo, though failed to record my score so I have no idea if I did better this year or worse. Apparently last year I judged one pen correctly. This year I failed to manage that.

As we have not spoken of stock judging previously, let me explain. The competition is run by the local Agricultural Society. The member farmers take turns to host. The event is open to all to attend and participate. There are classes for visitors and children and, quaintly in this day and age, classes for Men and Women in sections of Under 26 and over that age. Refreshments are provided, lavishly in view of the £1 entry fee. It is a lengthy afternoon but a very social occasion.

The animals are penned in a byre, with 4 pens each for sheep and cattle:

  • Cows
  • Steer Calves
  • Heifer Calves
  • Steers
  • Ewes
  • Gimmers
  • Lambs
  • Ewe Lambs

Each pen holds four examples and they are marked A, B, X and Y. Our task is to rank the animals in anticipation of the judge’s ordering, in a booklet that is then handed in for scoring. The judge then considers their verdict and the scoring is done while soup and sandwiches, cake and wine/beer are handed round and consumed.

Stock Judging Competition  2015 - non-participant coos
Stock Judging Competition 2015 – non-participant coos

Scores having been counted, participants are ranked and the results announced. The judge then kindly goes around the pens again and explains their ranking. A lively exchange of views may ensue. This is entertaining.

This year with added cat interest
This year with added cat interest

The scoring method is a mystery to us and I do not even know what a full score might be. I guess it to be 400, with 5o marks available per pen.

Going by this year’s performance I would say that my greatest stock-judging skill is in reversing the pairs 1&2 and 3&4 as I repeatedly mirrored the judge this way. Anyway, I racked up 278 and am recording it here so that next year I can look it up and see how I am progressing.

There are sheep
There are sheep

Overall I have to say that selecting the best animal is a whole lot easier at the Annual Show, where one can get a decent view of the beast. When 4 similar-looking animals are crushed up in a pen and refusing to make themselves properly seen, it is a far harder task. This is however a skill that any farmer needs – to go to market, swiftly run their eye over the stock available and judge which to be worth the buying.

There are cattle
There are cattle

I’m glad that I am not a farmer. I’d be a terrible example, I think.


This year the event, held at Colligarth,  unfortunately clashed with the children’s Halloween party and so a clutch of youngsters in full fancy dress were to be seen doing their judging early. Had I known that they were going to be disappearing soon I would have had my camera out but sadly I missed recording that spectacle though I did accidentally capture the judge at work.

Judge at work
Judge at work

We went home to the dinner that I had prepared earlier – I had a Lamb Tagine slow-cooking in the Aga. It was delicious but put rather in the shade I thought, by the magnificence of the cumin-topped  flatbread that I had made to go with it (the shop being out of couscous). Totally Nailed It. More by accident than design I reckon. I used the recipe from the Raymond Blanc Baked Cheese Fondue recipe at the BBC but made the dough before we went out and left it to slow rise in the fridge. When we came home I brought it out to come to room temperature until such time as we had run (it takes 20 minutes!) and enjoyed our bath (longer than that). The Aga by this time was good and hot, as was the pizza stone that now resides in there on a permanent basis. I shaped the bread and slapped the first one on the stone. It was ready in ten minutes, whereupon the second one went in. By the time that we had mopped up some stew with bread #1, bread #2 was ready to come out of the oven and be eaten with our second helping of stew (we couldn’t help being greedy, it was very good indeed.) What a success they were – light, golden, puffy – with a lovely dusty lightly-charred and nicely-crispy bottom. The best to date. Can’t see how I could improve that particular skill any further.

We downloaded Dr Who, annoyed at how long we had to wait to do that, then took him to bed on the lap top before crashing out, worn out.

Today appears to be an easy day. Mr L had planned to fit Brunhilde’s solar panel but has decided that there is too much wind for working up on her roof. We shall move to the front room later and I shall knit (yes, I will!) while he plays guitar. I do not plan to cook today, with yesterday’s dinner still fresh in our minds. We shall have a Sunday Tea instead – salad sandwiches and cakes to follow.

Yes, simple pleasures all round. Who needs more than that?

If you want me this coming week, I shall be the one with their head in a pile of puzzle sheets. Currently enjoying being temporarily #2 in the rankings (by virtue of prompt registration) – we shall not see that position again. Current stats: 128 teams, 54 of which are Australian, and a total of 361 participants. Why not join in and have a go?

Before I go – a Question for you. Game of Thrones – worth investing in a DVD set to watch it or no? I cannot say that I have seen anything but praise for the series so I am assuming yes, but personal views are encouraged, please. Tell me what you think.

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