Sunday 9 February 2014

Keeping in Touch

SB Cambria; Picture by Susan Martin
Naturally. 99% of our time these days is taken up with the 'new life', the farm, the livestock, the new place and our new friends and acquaintances. Every now and then, though, our 'old life' gets a look in and we are staying in touch with some of our old Kentish interests and contacts. One of the biggest ones for me in those days, as you'll know from reading this blog, was the restoration of the Thames Sailing Barge S.B.Cambria. During the 3 and a half year restoration I was heavily involved as a working volunteer but also described all the adventures by writing the blog on their website which started as a quite modest affair managed by a small family firm based in the Kent town of Sandwich.

Well, now the restoration is complete and the barge relaunched and back on the water operating as a proper company on a charity basis. The website was moved from the Sandwich team to a bigger provider company called 'Blue Ant' based in Faversham and at the same time, I was asked to take over the management of the site content as well as continuing to write the blog and, more recently, Liz and I have also been asked to take over the production and writing of the 3-times-a-year Newsletter. The website

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is quite a big and full one with many pages which are quite time-sensitive; there is a calendar, and there are pages entitled 'recent events' or 'future plans' all of which go out of date if you are not in there fairly frequently re-writing them and you need to keep posting new pictures so that the site stays fresh to any 'surfer' coming back for another look. I've put in a good few hours lately re-writing chunks of this, updating pictures and writing blog posts. Liz and I have also spent the time needed in producing the January 2014 Newsletter which will be published soon and I will post a link here to that. Obviously all the real work is happening 500 miles away in Kent, so this has to be done at a distance but in these days of the internet, digital pictures and e-mail this makes little difference except that I am heavily reliant on the locals to take the pictures and feed me the stories. It keeps me out of mischief.

Not starving with Liz away. Lamb chops and Cajun roast veg
Welcome back to Liz who has been away for the week ministering to the poorly Mrs Silverwood and wrangling children on school runs, taxis to Karate and baton twirling. She has been supervising them though homework and cooking fridges full of future foods to keep the family going while Mrs S, now home from hospital and mixing interesting cocktails of three drugs with long names, continues to recover. Liz is exhausted, she says, and takes her hat off to all the 'real' Mums who do this kind of thing as a full time job, not just for the one week. On the Saturday , Steak Lady (and Mr SL) rode in like the cavalry to relieve Liz and unloaded from their car, catering quantities of the type of high class 'ready meals' that the Portmarnock folk sometimes use for dinner parties when they do not want to cook, huge trays of top-of-the-range lasagna, chicken curry, cottage pie, stuffing them into Mrs S's fridge till it cried "Enough!". There was even a chocolate cake for us - Thanks Steak Lady! The relief effort work there was done and, after one more round of taxi-ing to karate and baton twirling, Liz could drive home.

Assembling the flat pack hive.
Of course, I miss her being around but I keep myself pretty busy coping with the 'farm' on my Jack Jones and there is always plenty of food stacked up in our own fridge and freezer and I am a pretty good cook, so I cope fairly well. My speciality at present is roasted veg seasoned with Cajun seasoning - I use our own, huge, sweet parsnips, onions and (shop) tomatoes and butternut squash, as well as sometimes including our own Mira spuds roasted alongside the veg. In the case above, there were also our own sprouts and lamb cutlets. Delicious.

Clara climbs up the ramp from yard to cattle race.
I also fired up the poor, neglected 2CV and took her for a quick blat a few times round the house, through the yard and up through the cattle race just to make her feel a bit loved, to get the oil circulating, some fresh petrol into the carb, the brakes freed up and wiped clean of rust and the suspension moving about. She is actually off the road at the moment and will be put on a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN) in May, a month before her current tax expires. The tax was only €99 (it goes by engine size here) but it will be nice not to have to pay the insurance. The latter always annoyed me - it seems that in Ireland you cannot insure a car that is more than 15 years old, for more than 3rd Party, not even fire and theft. If I damaged her or she caught fire or was stolen I would just be taking a 100% loss on the chin. She's not worth a great deal, but with an NCT would probably get you €1000. In the UK you could at least get a fully comp deal on a pre-agreed value (the national 2CV club would do an estimate for the insurers) and a limited mileage (I only ever did 2-3000 miles per year). I will be happy to not have to pay our Irish insurer for that one.

Egg glut
The geese and chickens are now cranking out record amounts of eggs each day; sometimes I have had 2 goose and 8 chicken eggs. Even one of the Marans girls has come back into lay (Bless 'em, they have got to be 6 years old at this stage!) That's a lot more eggs than I either can eat or palm off on neighbours when I am here on my own, so Liz returned to something of a glut, a dozen in the 'posh' box plus 5 goose eggs and a good 9 chicken eggs in the overflow bowl. That called for a blast of baking to use some up, so the table is now groaning with home made lemon curd (lovely and sharp, the way we like it, made with un-waxed, organic lemons), home made mayonnaise, blackberry 'clafoutis' (posh tart), sponge cake and Liz's famed 'chilli, cheese and bacon biscuits'. We also foisted some eggs on Carolyn (K-Dub is back from his motorbiking Bavarian Forest 'Elefant' adventure and it is little H's 2nd birthday soon, so she's baking too) so the glut is looking a lot less glut-like now.

Fancy a stroll down the Lane, Henry? Why not, Min?
Meanwhile, the Guineas seem to have temporarily given up on their wanderings down the tarmac lane (the picture here was taken while I rounded them up and shoo'd them back into the drive one more time) but only because Henry has managed to hurt his right leg and is limping. Poultry tend to be famous for either being fully fit, or dead, with only very quick 'sick' intervals between. Each work-a-day bird is also usually only worth a few Euro. Hence few poultry keepers call the vet to their hobby birds and most vets, anyway, have little experience of fowl. We tend to try to isolate them, keep them quiet, ensure they have food and water and hope for the best. They either fall off the perch or perk up, problem solved either way. We cannot see any obvious cause on Henry, so we think he has pulled a muscle higher up his leg, or bruised himself, maybe in the hip, knee or 'ankle' joint.

Recent damp has put green algae on our Kentish
fallow deer antlers. But look at that blue sky!
Guinea fowl also tend to be very strongly pair-bonded, always scurrying about on foot as a pair. If they ever get separated then they call anxiously to one another and this can be quite loud. Henry's injury has slowed him up a bit, so Min takes off at the usual sprint and poor H is left behind. There is a lot of noisy calling till they can be re-united. But he does get about, hopping along favouring the poorly leg in a new characteristic bounding gait. We fancy that each day he seems to be slightly better; we hope this isn't just wishful thinking. He is not, anyway, getting any worse, so we live in hope that he will recover and go back to aggressively running at all the hens to drive them off and secure the food for his 'Min'. The thought occurs that he may have got injured by trying this on with one of our roosters and been taught a lesson by them.

But, some days are definitely 2-yolk days and Saturday was one of them, with Liz having a problem free 2 hour run up the roads and motorway from the Silverwood's to here, home in time for 'wine o'clock'. It is good to have her back. This place works so much better with 2 of us knocking it into shape and enjoying the fruits (and veg's!) of our labours. Thank you Mrs S for allowing her to come home. Get well soon and enjoy all that 'sugo', cock-a-leekie soup, chicken curry, lasagna and cottage pie.


Mr Silverwood said...

It was great having her down, really help with Mrs S, thanks again.

anne wilson said...

Can you email me the chili cheese and bacon recipe please Matt, they are definitely yummy.

mazylou said...

Good old Lizzie, she's a great bunch of lads. I hope MrsSilverwood will soon be feeling better.

Matt Care said...

That barge Newsletter is on

Look for the January 2014 link. It downloads as a PDF file.