Sliding around in the mud today, checking on the new calves, and falling on my butt, it’s hard to believe just four months ago this area was stricken with drought. Not that it was bad for us, but the farmers suffered. As did thirsty wild hares, because creeks and dams dried up. So they invaded the vineyard and bit holes in the irrigation pipes to get water. Sean, charged with scaring birds, brought down a hare with his shotgun. Did I want it? He asked, slinging this magnificent creature on my front steps. Do I what, I answered, since the hare and its mate had been nibbling perilously close to my lettuces for several weeks. I also believe you shouldn’t eat meat unless you’re prepared to stomach the unsettling process of killing and preparing it. But how to take a hare from furry rigor mortis to jugged or saddle of? Up close and dead they’re more macho than a rabbit – disarmingly muscular, in fact. Nothing in my New Zealand cookbooks (so much for Logan Brown’s “Hunger for the Wild”), so I looked up Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (known at Oxford as Hugh Fairly-Longname) and Australian Maggie Beer. After hanging the ungutted hare for three days in the tack shed I carried it and its smell in the wheelbarrow, far, far away from the house, carefully cut the skin around the middle and peeled it away from the body (realising why I said “skin a rabbit” when peeling jerseys of my little children all those years ago). Breathing through my mouth, I slit the abdomen and removed the innards – large kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and of course the paunch filled with our grapes. With an axe, the head and feet were removed, then I washed the rabbit in balsamic vinegar to get rid of some of the smell. For two days he marinated in a bottle of James Pinot Noir, then I casseroled him with lemon, pinenuts and sultanas until the meat fell away from the bone. Heaven on a plate.