A new game

Before Christmas, I tracked down a mint-condition copy of Kingmaker on EBay.  This was my favourite boardgame at boarding school in the 1970s.

The price was kind of expensive, but at about double what a similar game would cost in the shops today, I thought it was worth it.

Kingmaker is about the Wars of the Roses in England in the mid-1400s.  The counter for King Henry VI starts in London, and his rival Richard of York starts in York.  There are five other royal counters, of both the red and white rose factions, scattered over England.

The players typically start with two or three noble characters, possibly with special titles like the Marshal of England.  Each noble has a counter showing their unique heraldry, and (adding all their cards together) they command a certain number of troops.

The game is about controlling the royal pieces and eliminating rivals.  Combat is simple but effective.  There are many more wrinkles, as the game is actually quite complicated, but essentially that’s it.

This was the second edition of the game, produced from 1975, and the box had never been opened.  I was charmed to see an included note on software for the TRS-80, the first microcomputer readily available in Australia — with all of 4 Kb of RAM!  I remember them well.  So this box must have been produced in about 1979.

We’ve had two games so far, once with wwoofers and once with other friends too.  We didn’t get to finish either game (limited time, too many distractions) and we agreed that it shows promise.  It’s 30 years since I played this game, so some of the finer points of the rules are still coming back to me.

More Meat, More Meat

Dairy cows need to have calves every year to keep up their milk production.  Mostly the calves are turned into dog food in their first couple of days of life.

Some friends collected three baby calves from a dairy, fed them on artificial milk, then planned to raise them on grass.  As it turns out, growing calves need an enormous amount of grass, more than they had, and so they ended up at Cockatrice Farm.  With all the wet weather, we have had heaps of grass.

After a year, the steers (ie grown up desexed male cattle) started going through our sometimes dubious fences.  We asked about taking them to the abattoir, but that had a number of practical difficulties.  We don’t have an adequate loading ramp, for instance.

Allison found one of the steers in Barker’s Lane, from where he could have wandered onto the Hume Highway — a serious traffic risk.  So it became urgent to deal with them.

One of the people at my work recommended a Goulburn mobile butcher.  He was happy to come, and the price was excellent.

We rounded up the steers without incident.  We have a cattle crush coming off our round yard, and that worked well.

Each steer was put through the crush, and knocked out quickly and humanely with a stun gun, technically a “captive bolt pistol” where the bolt is fired with gunpowder but the bolt doesn’t actually leave the pistol.  The butcher slit the throat for bleeding and then the neighbour’s ancient tractor was used to haul the carcass away for skinning and quartering.

We had some initial problems getting the tractor going (thanks Jim for solving that one) but otherwise it was an efficient process.  The butcher has plenty of abattoir experience, and is a master with a knife.

The butcher left the quarters in a mobile coolroom at the farm for 10 days — the meat needs to hang to become tender and for the fats to harden.  Then the butcher came back and chopped the meat up into all the standard meat cuts.

To get the best price, we had to pack the meat ourselves into plastic bags the butcher provided.  So we would get a huge plastic tub with each cut, for which he printed labels showing the cut and the packing date.  For the most part we packed two of each thing per bag: sometimes it’s just Allison and myself, or us plus wwoofers, or random amounts of friends.

We got roasts, enormous numbers of steaks, schnitzels (which he tenderised), osso buccos, even ribs and soup bones.  There was corned beef, sausages plus about 50kg of mince per beast.  Immense amounts of meat.  We got a tongue, but didn’t take the kidneys and liver though we easily could have.  We decided not to tan the hides — too much work at the moment.

We ended up with a barbecue with our friends, for which the butcher joined us.  The meat is great and we’re very happy with the results.

A cool summer

On 7 December, someone wrote into the Sydney Morning Herald urging “that summer be adjourned to a date to be fixed”.

This has apparently been the coldest summer for 50 years on the eastern seaboard.  Lots of storms, heaps of rain.  I have to have long, hot showers to keep some freeboard in the rainwater tank.

I was never terribly keen on summer anyway.  Most days now are about 24 degrees, which I reckon is just about right.

I think we’re in for a long cooler period like the 1960s and 70s.  Just natural cycles in action.  Yes, I’m still a climate change “denier”, or rather I’m sorry that climate science has been subverted by a few individuals with personal or political agendas.

Christmas Day was our first real summer’s day – it reached 30 degrees, and has since cooled again.  We went for a swim in the dam.

In recent years, we’ve had a European-style christmas on the 24th, then gone to Sydney for an Aussie christmas with Allison’s family.  This year, they came to us, so we had two christmas dinners with various combinations of friends and family.

I roasted two of our geese for the 24th, followed by various flans for dessert – thanks to wwoofers Ryo and Sarah for help with those.  Then Allison did the Aussie christmas dinner on the 25th – cold meat, salad and seafood – followed by a spectacular icecream cake amongst several rich desserts.