Friday, 24 March 2017

False Economy

Piglets at 9 days
This is another one of those blog posts where nothing too exciting happens and we bimble along, same old same old, and spring takes place around us. We receive another nice email from our pig breeder, Adrian, with pictures attached showing our piglets at 9 days. I am quite keen that we end up with the 2 very spotty ones in this picture but I probably need to go into negotiations with our good friends Sue and Rob who might also have chosen those two or, indeed, the breeder, who may even has his own ideas on what should go where.

Otto Lenghi's cauliflower cake
Our egg supply increases and starts to push us into 'glut' mode. Even the three female geese hit 100% this week - 3 eggs every other day. We are giving away as many as we can - I took half a dozen goose eggs over to our good friends in Sligo yesterday - and Liz is digging our all our multi-egg recipes to try to use them up. We use Guardian 'celebrity' chef Otto Lenghi for some of this, in particular his "Cauliflower cake" which is very much a Spanish tortilla focused on cauliflower.

530 grammes of cleaned up beeswax
We worked our way through the 'dead hive' recycling and felt like we were doing almost a pig thing - using everything but the squeal. There was an awful lot of ivy honey and debris in there but we managed to extract and clean up a nice disc of 530 grammes of clean beeswax, which Liz will be able to put to good use in her furniture polish (50/50 with coconut oil).

The honey final score was 1.69 kg of rather dark, hazy honey. Friends of the blog may be disappointed that we will not be giving out any of this partly because there are only 3 jars and also because we do not 100% trust it, coming from the failed hive as it did. If you visit, we will happily give you a taster as it is delicious and full of all those flavour ingredients that you do not get with commercial, often heat-treated and finely filtered honey (like pollen, bits of bee, proteins, amino acids, volatiles, free minerals, chemicals from plants; all the kind of stuff that bakers of WHITE bread would tell you, you were better off without!).

Bees from our surviving hive all over the dumped 'cake'.
The stuff we sieved out of the melted comb (mainly lumps of pollen, solid ivy honey, dead 'babies' and other lovely stuff) ended up as a 'cake' which we chucked onto the compost heap thinking that maybe the magpies could use it up. There were bees all over this today, presumably mopping up the honey residues.

Not too far to go. On the right the good hive. On the left my
bag of old frames now being cleaned up by the bees.
The old frames, I decided not to try to re-use in any new hive or colony (assuming we go there) but would leave it out for the bees to clean, then burn them. One stack I put down into the apiary and these were quickly found by the bees who I saw making regular short trips from hive to stash and then cleaning up any honey left on the wood and the fragments of comb. The other stash, I put out onto a scrap-wood pile round by our wheelie bins, a good hundred yards from the hive. But these bees are nothing if not good scouts and they found this too. Grabbing up wood for kindling this afternoon, I had to be careful not to get stung.

Wax-soaked wood makes for interesting kindling.
The final use is of this wood, cleaned by bees, as firewood. The wax and residual honey on this wood can make for some interesting fire-lighting. It burns very well. Reduce, re-use, recycle.

Nice strong buckets
But what of my 'Fasle Economy' title. I was delighted this week to find a source of some decent, strong "Curver' buckets. These big, flexible tubs are the most brilliant, useful items around a small holding. We use them almost daily for mucking out, carrying weeds about and even mixing cement and concrete.

The daffs out front along our lane. 
They were first made by the firm 'Curver' and were used almost ubiquitously by the 'horsey' set. Then, inevitably, the cheap imitations came on sale and here, where the locals love a bargain, the genuine articles were eclipsed and almost forced out of the market. Why pay €12 for the real thing when you can get this pretty pink/yellow one for €5 in the local pound-shop. Yes, even I fell for it.

Plum blossom started today
Why? I will tell you why. I brought one of the €5 ones home and promptly started to muck out the goose house. I loaded the bucket with a goodly pile of wet goose-muck wood shavings and went to lift it to carry it to the compost. Blow me if both handles did not break on that first lift. I had not even used it once and it was already useless. I learned my lesson and have ever since been trying to find the real heavy-duty Curver buckets.

How many is 'too many' animals on the bed?
Nearest to furthest here are Deefer, Poppea,
Kato, Soldier and Chivers (cats) and then
Towser on Liz's pillow.
Well, this week I had that sorted. The local farmers' co-op has both the Curver brand stiff buckets with rope handles AND a tough looking flexible bucket called "Gorilla". I'll let you know how I get on with these.

Slow cooked rolled-rib of pork with roasties, carrots and steamed
green cabbage
I think that's about it. Spring is chugging along nicely, the sun is shining, I have been out to Kiltybranks for my dog walks and the young poults have been successfully moved from their kindergarten (a rabbit run) to 'big school' (the proper out-building chicken coop).
Tulips

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

That's another Fine Mess....

Bacon and Cabbage - your only man for Paddy's Night. This
was actually bacon and mash with curly kale. 
Friends of the blog will probably know of my love of that favourite Irish traditional fare 'bacon and cabbage', compulsory on 'Paddy's Day' and Birthdays. How many, though, will know that this leads by a small margin, in close 2nd place, "corned beef". My brothers, Mark and Tom, and probably my Mum have all just read that and collapsed in a shocked heap! Corned Beef? Surely not.

Proper  corned beef (aka salt beef). A rolled slab of brisket
brined by us earlier gets some of the salt soaked out in clean
water over night. 
Brits from my generation and older will know of corned beef as a rather dubious, purple/brown, very fibrous "meat" which came in tins from Fray Bentos and was down there with such picnic delicacies as Spam and those oval tins of (?) Plumrose ham which came with a small metal key with which to unwind the strip of metal to open the tin. Fear not. I am not singing the praises of that aul' Uruguayan tackle here. No. In Ireland "corned beef" is what we Brits would call 'salt beef'.

Head for your local 'proper' butcher and acquire a decent sized slab of beef brisket. Drop this into your home-made recipe sweet cure (salt, sugar and spices) for however many days it says in the book (probably about 3). Lift out of brine, rinse off excess cure, pat dry, roll and tie. Freeze till required. The day before you need it, remove from freezer and allow to thaw out submerged in clean water over night. Cook as per recipe but if you are going to eat it cold as sliced meat, make sure you let it cool down still in its water. Tender, melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

The 45-odd tractors muster outside Liz's work ready for the off. 
With Paddy's Day done and all these lovely foods consumed, we had a bit of fun getting involved in a Tractor Run organised by the village 'Foróige' group. For my Brit chums, 'Foróige' is a nation-wide organisation of youth clubs mainly in rural areas. Technically the "National Youth Council of Ireland" it would be as well know as Young Farmers or the WI in Britain. Tractor Runs are a brilliant social event which everyone enjoys as much as I used to love a good 2CV convoy. Just heavier, noisier and full of hugely more expensive vehicles - these big new(ish) 4WD tractors can easily set you back €70k and be €40k as ten-year-old 2nd-hand trade-ins. One of my fellow-photographers looked at the line-up and commented wryly "...and they say there's no money in farming?"

Our local Foróige recently re-formed after a year 'out' and were determined to make the "We're Back" statement. They decided to do it as a charity fund-raiser for Arthritis Ireland and did a marvellous job of setting it up though never sure how many tractors they would get on the day. They had to liaise with the police, agree the route, organise the venue, make all the signage and buy in professional signs for the village cross-roads, do all the publicity and get themselves a set of the bright orange 'AI' tee-shirts. On the day, they had to register everybody and feed them any necessary refreshments and get them lined up ready for the off at around 1pm. Impressive effort, especially as some are quite young (11s and 12s).

First day of spring? Whatever.
I am delighted to say, it was all a huge success. They got 45 tractors on the day. The place was heaving. It's not a very wide road there but they got all the vehicles mustered and dozens of people came out to see the 'show'. Some tractors were driven by the youngsters themselves (you can get a licence at 16 or 17 here) but yet more were driven by 'Dad' with a bevvy of small children up in the 'cubby' seats up in the cab.

That's more spring-like. Our young
flowering cherry. 
Modern industry regs mean your tractor has to have good lights AND orange flashing lights on the roof. That makes for an exciting and impressive convoy, especially when they are all roaring along noisily at about 30 mph. When you saw them out you could tell they were all enjoying it immensely, everybody grinning, waving and thumbs up-ing, beeping horns in greeting whenever anyone waved back. Excellent noisy fun and fair play to Foróige boss Caroline and all her team. I took lots of pics but as most of them included children I would not, obviously, be allowed to use them on the Internet. I have sent them in to the Village committee and they will pass them to Foróige who can them use them as they see fit and are allowed with all the legal permissions pertaining. Some may appear on the village website soon. (LisaculInfo.ie).

Huge potential for mess. Old broken up
honeycomb.
The 'mess' in my title refers to our inevitably sticky and sordid attempts to extract any usable honey and beeswax from the dead hive. The honey was always going to be a problem as this was late in the season and therefore mainly ivy honey which sets hard in the comb. It still has enormous capacity to make everything sticky because there is always some parts of any comb which are blossom or 'run' honey.

Empty comb awaits 'washing'.
The wax is potentially even messier mainly because the wax melts at a bit above room temperature (62ºC) but if you clean the equipment with hot water and then it cools, everything but everything gets covered with a thin film of re-set wax. This includes your sink plumbing, sewer waste etc. You are better off cleaning it with cold water so that the gritty bits of wax stay solid.

Beeswax looking still very dark after only one wash.
The wax comes out of your hive a filthy dark brown - tens of thousands of bees have been walking all over it just back from outdoor sorties plus there is all the normal hive debris - dead bees and bits of bee, dead eggs and larvae, old pollen and unwelcome visitors like earwigs, slugs and centipedes. Outdoor dirt. To get it back to that pale sandy yellow we all expect you have to melt it with a similar volume of hot water, stir it about and hope that the grot is happy to fall out of the wax and dissolve (or at least suspend) in the water. Then you let it all cool down, the debris sinks and stays in the water while the wax floats to the top and sets like a sheet of ice on a pond. You lift off the wax disc, throw away the dirty water and repeat the melt process for around 4 'cycles', ending up with a nice clean disc of pristine yellow beeswax. It says here.

Just a supermarket 'cheapie' but this hellebore is doing well
for us a few years later. 
That's enough for this post. A pic of the clean wax in the next post. Spring Equinox today even though we were woken by a massive hail storm at about 0600 and then woke up to light snow falling at around half 7. First day of spring? Maybe not. The forecast has minus 4ºC tonight. Stay warm.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Buzz of Chainsaws but not of Bees

Patriotic contributions from goose, duck and hen.
Well, a happy St Patrick's Day to you all; your annual chance to celebrate all things genuinely Irish, cod-Irish, Oirish, kitsch and fakery, Gaelic and, as the trendy types seem to now have it "Ass Gwale-guh". We have a horrible day for it here - a biting Westerly and showers of driving rain. A good day for avoiding those Parades and a day like those Lizzie recalls from her school days, blue knees, chattering teeth and poor fingers too cold to grip your green, white and orange flag. They won't, though. Avoid it, I mean. The locals. Hardy, they are and bred to it. There will be the same little troops of perishingly cold kiddies in yellow and black striped costumes from the 'Busy Bees' pre-school, their little cellophane wings ripped and broken by the wind. Hey, WE might even go but don't count on it. At the moment, though, we are happy to be warm and dry indoors, catching up on the Social Media (Twitter, Facebook etc).

Shiny new chain for the saw.
In the last post, I alluded to having treated myself to a new chain for the chain saw to help with the job of cutting up the 'Doris' tree. Chain saws are like many other tools in that the age, dullness, bluntness and slowness tend to creep up on you imperceptibly and you don't really 'get' how bad it was till you buy a new part or a replacement tool. Yes, chain saws go blunt and yes, you can fend off the evil hour by regular sharpening with special hand files or more brutally with a special grinder rig but eventually you need to spend the money.

For the technically minded amongst you, a chain saw works by dragging a series of 'chisel' bits across the wood, preceded by a 'depth' gauge which stops the cutting edge from going deeper than 0.6 mm into the wood (see pic). The chisels are about 3 mm wide so, on a sharp, new chain your saw should be throwing off chips of wood roughly 0.6 mm 'deep' by 3 mm wide, size-able chunks to be bashed off at 45 mph and hence the advice to wear a mesh visor. One of your first and best clues that the saw is getting blunt is that the chip size drops till you are just throwing off saw-dust. Next comes the fact that you are actually having to 'saw' with the saw - moving it about across the wood and trying to get the tip to dig in to new depth of cut. With a new chain on you should just be able to gently lower the saw through the log allowing it to do all the work - you are just there to keep it straight and then stop it falling out of the bottom of the log where it might hit the ground. Stones and dirt would blunt it as quick as anything.

That dead hive, Honey frames on the left, empty brood
comb on the right.
St Pat's is also the time of year when the bee keeper should expect to go round inspecting his or her hives. I knew that one of mine - the newer colony - was good as I'd seen plenty of flying every time we had temperatures above about 12ºC but all was quiet in the other, older hive. That had always been the weaker colony but had built up some excellent honey stores last autumn and I had snugged it down with a house-foam insulating 'eke' in September. It should have been OK.

A good frame of honey. All the crinkly white cappings are
wax put there to seal in the finished, store-able honey
Sadly not. It was all dead. That hive had been what they call "brood and a half" format. Bottom was the standard brood chamber with the taller frames for holding the foot-ball sized colony with the egg-laying queen surrounded by a mass of bees to keep the nest at a steady 36ºC. Above that but NOT separated by a queen-excluder was the 'super' box with its thicker but shallower frames of honey comb, where the colony stored its food.

A beautifully clean, empty frame of brood comb, just ready
and waiting for the queen to lay it up with eggs.
Shame she was dead. 
The fact that we have been left the super almost full of honey (it weighs about 40 lbs total but I doubt we'll get quite that much honey off it) tells me that the colony 'died' last autumn. If they'd lived through the winter they would have been using up the stored honey to keep the colony fed and alive - that is why they store honey, after all. It is not for the benefit of humans and bee-keepers!

Back to our lovely "parkland" look after a first mow. 
The brood frames below were mainly completely cleaned out, empty, pristine sheets of (worker) cells (drone-comb is slightly bigger). This suggests that the queen died back in the autumn by which time the colony would not be able to start a new queen and/or get her out on a good flying day to get mated. If she died the colony would have carried on brooding any eggs she had laid up till then, helping them to emerge from the cells and then cleaning out the cells ready for Queenie to come back round laying them up again, as they famously do, at 1100+ eggs per day. If something else had killed the colony AND the queen while they were still a going concern, then these brood frames would be full of eggs, larvae, pupae and adults like a 'still' from any movie of a day in the life of a hive.

Mango and Kiwi chutney. A house favourite
So, where does that leave us? We lost a colony, which is a shame, so we are back down to one hive. We will probably not buy another colony unless someone makes us a good offer but will try, instead, to capture a colony from someone else using the lure-box(es) we deployed last year or REcapture any swarm that might come from our own hive. Meanwhile we can have some fun extracting the wax and honey from these dead frames. Ah the opportunity for mess and waxy stickiness. Need to start saving jam jars or (gasp) buy some proper honey jars.

No sign of any 'bagging up' (udder
enlargement) on Rosie yet. 
Finally, our other entertainments at this time of year in 2017, are to gaze wonderingly at the butt end of some sheep and to take some rubbish photo's. I will explain. Friends of the Blog will know that we put the ram (Silas) to our ewes on 1st November 2016, so the maths says we might start to see lambing from 25th March 2017. We didn't see Silas getting 'anywhere' at first, so we think this is more likely to be mid April onwards, if at all this year.

Looking down on Myfanwy - is she wider or is that just wool?
We are left watching the back ends of our 4 ewes carefully to see signs of "bagging up" (the udder gets bigger a few days before lambing)  or just general 'broad-in-the-beam' ness about the abdomen. None so far. All quiet. I am hoping I can do my visit to the UK safely without leaving Lizzie in the lurch coping with lambing solo.

A spare duvet left by the side of the road.
The 'rubbish' thing was an unusual commission from the village for whom I seem to have become the unofficial photographer. The Tidy Towns group had had a request from the Environmental Health wing of Roscommon County Council to get pictures of fly tipping and road side drops of rubbish. Happy to help, obviously. I went out with local Margaret T. A few posts ago I suggested that I might be the only weird eccentric locally who went around with hi-viz jacket, litter picker and sacks.

Time to do something about littering?
Apparently not. I have since seen a lady doing this up by Crenane Bridge and the issue was raised by another local lady at a recent Village Committee meeting. Margaret T too now, so there are at least 4 of us and, I expect, a whole quiet army creeping about surreptitiously cleaning up their verges.

Happy St Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Break Through

I am currently struggling with my camera/PC link (mainly due to having nearly 16 Gig of pics on the camera card, which takes the PC more than 10 minutes to riffle through looking for new ones it has not seen before! It gets fed up looking and times out declaring, like a teenager sent to find their school uniform in a typical bedroom, "Nope.... It's not there"). This post may get published sans pictures and I will edit some in at a later date. If you are reading it now like that, then do come back in a day or two and check them out.

Kitchen looking from 'old' to 'new'
We reached a major landmark in the kitchen extension project on Sunday, finally breaking through the inner wall to reveal the true size of the new room. You may recall that the wall here was the traditional Roscommon blend of boulders and concrete (at least down here on the ground floor - upstairs this changes to modern cavity blocks telling us that this rear extension was built in 2 stages) 11 inches thick inside of which we, when we rebuilt, we added standard studwork framed with '3 by 2' timber, infilled with 3" insulating foam but then covered with half inch plywood and then the plaster-board. The ply being to let the wall take the weight of any shelving we might decide to put in there and load to the gunwales, as we do. Total wall thickness then, 15 inches. No mean wall.

...and from new to old
You may also recall that we had kango'd our hole from the outside inwards but left all the stud-wall intact (with a sheet of MDF across the window) so as not to fill the kitchen with dust and rubble. Eventually though, we were going to have to make the new end (door/windows unit) draught-tight and lock-able and then cut out our aperture through the stud-wall. That was, as I said, Sunday's game. We also made the concrete step which rises you from the old kitchen. 3" or so up to the new.

Our replacement suite
You can now stand in the kitchen and see the full size of the the new space. It was (and still is) 8 feet wide but was, up to now, only 8'3" long. A bit 'bijou' and hence Liz having to do all her bakery prep, bread-kneading etc in the Dining Room as well as us having to store a lot of kitchen gear, bakery stores and crockery in there too. The extension adds 11'9" to that length giving us a new dimension of 20 feet. I don't think we have ever owned a room with a 20' length in any house.

There is icing on this cake and a cherry on top, too! The icing is that we now have a big area of glass looking out at the garden, the raised flower bed and the big pond, plus at sunsets in Summer. OK, it also looks out at the car-port and the various piles of wood, pallets and straw bales there-in but every silver lining has a cloud. We have never had a window looking out that way up till now (except the old kitchen window which was always a bit 'tunnel vision' buried as it was 11 feet down between house and Tígín). It is also nice when I am walking the dogs or working out there to be able to look in, see the kitchen light on and wave to anyone in the kitchen. After a couple of weeks with the west window aperture boarded up with that MDF it is also amazingly light in the new kitchen now that we have the acres of glass.

I treated my chain saw to a new chain for the 'Doris' tree
The 'cherry' is undoubtedly the cat flap. Cat-folk will know that cats can be very demanding of being allowed in and out and you spend a good part of any day hearing the pleading 'miaow' and getting up from what you are doing to open a door for the animal. If it's raining they tend to get you to try all the doors in succession just in case it might not be raining out of the 'next' one. They will also happily use the house as a corridor, miaowing to come in the front door, then striding through the house and straightway asking to be let out the back. Or asking to be let out and then sprinting round to another door to be let back in.

The tree looks much diminished now
it's all cut up.
We have 4 cats at present so all of the above is four-fold. Each cat has its own way of making its demands known. Blue will scrabble and scratch at the aluminium threshold at the bottom of the front door. Soldier seems to fling himself at the door like some kind of DEA policeman on a drugs bust and hangs by his front claws from the window panel with his chin just high enough to look in accusingly like the "What? No Meat?" character in the war-time cartoon. He has destroyed the paintwork and scratched up the wood quite badly. If we can ever break him of the habit it will take quite some filler, sanding and painting to get the front door back to its glossy red of 5 years ago.

Messing with the bottom slice of tree.
Up to now we have not been able to do a cat-flap - both the front and back door are good strong ones with fancy panels which would not take a shop-bought cat flap. The new kitchen 'end' though has flat panels (all be it 3 cms thick) so we installed one and are now getting the cats used to it. All 4 quickly learned how to use it and that it is always open, even when humans are asleep or not indoors or (Heaven forbid!) saying things like "No - I just let you in the other door...you can bloomin' well wait!"

No more need, soon then, for our in house 'scoring' system which we use to decide whose turn it is NOW to let the cat in/out. We started with a simple "Please, Liz, I have a dog on my lap" - if you had a dog on your lap you were exempted from cat doorman duties, making coffee/tea or what ever. This then got a bit more complicated if we both had a dog, and a whole Poker-score system evolved. A dog on your lap AND a kitten on your shoulder trumped a mere dog. A single cat trumps a single dog. A cat and knitting trumps any combination not containing knitting. I'm on the phone/email/Twitter/Facebook carries some weight but not much. Ultimately, if all else is equal then a simple "I did the last one" settles it.

Our dogs never do "lying in a heap". None can stand being
in contact with another to sleep - so 3 dogs, 3 beds!
Possibly, just possibly, all that will go away and all the cats will exclusively use the cat flap. There will be no more need of humans attending doors, upstairs windows (yep, they quickly worked out that you can shout in through the main bedroom window from the new kitchen roof; you just leap onto the cattle-race wall and from there up the Tígín north gable, then walk along the ridge of that building and descend to the roof at the south end. Wait on the kitchen roof though - a half asleep human might knock you off the window sill when they open the window for you). What could POSSibly go wrong?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

It's a Wood Lemon.

Wedge cut from a tree being felled. "It's
a wood lemon!" says H (5)
We don't have a huge number of friends round here with any children of baby-sitting age, so we don't get to do a lot of it. In the week, through circumstances and a clashing appointment or two for Carolyn (she of the Mini-Horses) led to me minding young H(5) for a couple of hours during the day. He's a great lad and dead easy to keep entertained and happy, particularly with the option of "exploring" the local fields, hedges and abandoned buildings. He made me smile, though, when he discovered a wedge of tree trunk of the type you cut out to make the tree fall in the right direction and said "It's a wood lemon!" You knew immediately what he meant.

Our ever more magnificent Marans rooster, Gandalf
He is a carpenter's son, though, and a curious, enthusiastic helper of Dad in the workshop when ever he gets a chance, so I tried to steer him down the correct route (wedge, tree, felling etc). He just took all my 'man-splaining' in, nodded sagely and said "Yes, but it's still a wood lemon and that's what I will call it". No arguing with that, then, H.

Both these pieces now evicted, the leather
 sofa and the single-chair.
But now I must change to sombre funereal tones for a couple of paragraphs (cue dirge-y violin music) while I relate the sad passing of a much loved item in this house and family, the prized leather, 3-seat sofa. This huge item was a lovely thing. It was tan colour leather and had a seat long enough for me to lie down in full stretch (and to use as a guest bed) at over 6 feet. Indeed, I have enjoyed many an afternoon nap on it.

In with the 'new'. Our replacement
furniture starts to arrive. Liz is still
playing book-shelf games..
I have long forgotten but Liz tells me it came from John Lewis 10-15 years ago and cost over £1000 even then in a sale. I do remember that we had to get the double glazed bay-window unit taken out of the Faversham house to get it into the room and again when we were moving here. We also had some fun getting it in here with Liz giving 'Sparks' and I a hard time, convinced that it wouldn't fit if Sparks assembled the stairs banister BEFORE we tried to wrangle it in.

New peas in the poly tunnel.
We have had the thing for all those years and,obviously, it is no longer pristine - normal human wear and tear, dogs and so on but that was all OK until last Summer. At that stage, we obtained the new kittens and they were given that room as a safe haven from dogs while they grew up a bit. That was our mistake. We'd given the kittens a litter tray, of course, and they were doing possibly as much as 95% of their pee and poo in it but we knew we were getting the odd accident, where we had to  clear up cat-mess. Obviously the room smelled a bit 'niffy' sometimes but we thought we were on top of it and were sure that once the kittens had grown up and evicted from the room, we could clean and air it all away.

The peach tree survived and is now putting out new leaves.
No such luck. Despite all our cleaning, the sofa continued to reek and we started to dismantle it, stripping covers off cushions and even putting leather covers through the washing machine but to no avail. On one occasion Liz found my 'washed' covers drying and thought from the continuing smell that I'd forgotten to wash them, so they went through again. Liz even started to research professional cleaning companies and preparations but cat pee is some kind of special chemical brew - its scent chemicals 'glue' to fabrics in an enzyme reaction, so you need chemicals to undo that. Probably not cheap, or even possible out here in the sticks.

A familiar sight from buildering days - a
stack of plaster and foam "slabs" taking
up most of the floor space where they will
eventually end up on walls and ceiling
There we were, then, making the tough decision like you would for an elderly pet, and deciding to put the belovéd sofa out of it's misery. It is now out by the sheep field waiting to become the base of this year's bonfire and we have been handing cash to the proprietor of a furniture shop in Balla-D. This morning the replacement suite turned up. Because it was a suite - sofa and 2 chairs, we also needed to evict Liz's lovely single-seat chair which came to us originally from Diane, but that is not for the bonfire. We donated that to the suite delivery guys who said they would be able to sell it 2nd hand.

New kitchen access for cats. 
Friends of the Blog who know the Lady of this House will not be surprised to know that all this furniture moving was all too much temptation to not blitz and clean the entire room. That has been Liz today including unloading book shelves (we have many)  to move those so that floors could be cleaned under, moving every other piece of furniture, pictures on walls, standard and desk lamps and even hoovering top corners for cobwebs, polishing windows and on and on.

Curried hake, leek and butter bean stew. 
As of now that is still happening, so pictures of the finished room will be saved for the next post. Meanwhile the room is now NO LONGER AVAILABLE to unsupervised cats and dogs so it is being kept for 'best' like an old Irish 'Parlour' or 'Best Room'. We have a series of guests through April. They will be relieved to not have to recline in puddles of cat pee or go home with their clothes "smelling a bit funny".