Friday, 28 March 2014

"Swolly" Hole

We find ourselves both involved in errands of mercy. For Lizzie a run to Galway with Carolyn of the mini-horses. This is mainly about a hospital visit but the girls also go for an explore around Galway, being a city close to us that we had not actually visited yet. It was known to have a Marks and Spencer for the clothes and underwear but Liz also discovered a branch of that favourite source of bed linen, a TK Maxx. The M&S proved to have an excellent vintage cheddar cheese, in this case their "Cornish Cruncher" variety from the Davidstow Creamery.

Wind-felled, Ivy-clad, hawthorn tree
For me, a call from John Deere Bob to cut up a couple of size-able trees blown down in the storms of November and now causing him fencing issues as he goes to turn out cows onto the spring grass. As well as the fields in the immediate vicinity of his house, Bob owns 12 acres the other side of Lisacul village in an area of small fields with overgrown mossy stone walls from the tops of which sprout way overgrown hawthorn and ash trees which were presumably once the boundary hedge. They are now 20-30 feet high and weighed down with a dense canopy of ivy. No one has maintained these hedges for a good few decades (not just Bob, everyone in the area does the same) and the trees are now top heavy and get blown over by the gales of November taking lines of fencing with them. The ivy stems criss-crossing round the trunks to form a tubular 'net' of ivy wrapped around the hawthorn wood make the cutting up of these trees an interesting task, and the thick leafy shroud make it hard to see where to cut anyway. It is slow work. I always take my bill hook down with me and chop away some of the ivy so I can see what I am at.

JD Bob's Swallow Hole
The piece of ground is also interesting to the physical geographer in me. The geology here is lower carboniferous sandstone and (mainly) limestone, so features the occasional swallow hole (they say it "swolly hole" here) and Bob has one at the bottom of one of these fields. It is a good sized feature. The stream running through here is a good 5 feet wide and 2 deep even when it is running slowly; the clear but brown stained water coming off the local peaty soils and bogs. At the hole this all just gurgles away through some openings in the big blocky rocks, to reappear, Bob tells me, way down the valley, below the village, quite near to the main river (The River Lung).

Yellow arrows show the 2 main holes
At the site of the swallow hole is a large basin looking like a nearly dried up lake, with a good lot of twigs and bits of rush and reed at the 'tideline'. Obviously, when the stream is in spate, the swallow hole gets partially blocked by this debris and cannot cope with all that volume of water, which fills up the 'lake' but I could see no sign that the lake overflows as a surface stream. It must be quite an impressive sight to see all that water spiraling round the "plug-hole" as it gurgles away underground.

Meanwhile in the 'zoo' we have a couple of breeding attempts to report which seem to have got parked up for now. The Guinea Fowl have given up on their daily disappearances across the lane, which we had put down to the possible daily egg laying. They did this 7 times but have now stopped. We never found the alleged nest so we will probably never know why this happened and then stopped happening. Maybe she was just having a practise run, maybe she did lay eggs and they got predated by rats or mink, maybe the current chilly NE winds put her off thoughts of spring. The birds remain our most wander-lusty and today we saw them at the far side of the East Field and the wrong side of the fence, actually outside our property, so maybe they are still at it.

When I last posted on the subject of geese, one of the females (Smudge, named for a bruise like dark smudge in the feathers on the right hand side of her head, behind the eye) had accumulated 16 eggs and we were expecting her to go broody any minute. Well, that was the 21st March, and it's now the 28th, so she is now perched on top of 19 eggs as she goes to lay (or her sister does), some of which are double stacked and she still shows no intention of sitting. I am not sure what to do about this. Do we give up and clear the eggs away, or do we keep on keeping on? One thing is for sure - if she DOES go broody over the next few days, I will not be leaving her all 19 to incubate. 19 baby goslings is a bit more than we can cope with.

We have decided to breed from Goldie again, taking advantage of the fact that Charlotte (mini horses) has just bought a NZ White buck ("Kiwi") who seems to be a bit of a go-er and she has him working his way round any of her lady rabbits who she wants bigger kits from. Our meat-breed doe, Goldie, you may recall, had a bit of a thin time of it in the motherhood stakes last year, kindling 7 babies but all bar 2 suffered overnight deaths for reasons we still are not sure of. Some of the later ones, when autopsied, had hugely full bladders so it is possible that some kind of urine-tract issue (blockages?) was the problem. We are giving her another go this year hoping that this was not genetic or was just a 'first litter' one-off. Watch this space. She was mated today, and they take 31 days to cook, so due date is 28th April. Maybe by then we will have broody geese, hidden up broody Guinea Fowl and maybe even our hen Broody Betty back on the case.


anne wilson said...

Have you been date marking the goose eggs? If so I would remove the oldest, you can use them for baking and keep to ten or twelve eggs removing the oldest one when a new one gets laid.

Mr Silverwood said...

You really are going to have your hands full this year then, will be great for the kids in the summer, that is of course if you don't mind us invading again and we are not completely banned yet.

Matt Care said...

Thanks for that, Anne. I have, of course, been date marking them, so I will nip out and retrieve the spare 8 or so now. They are a bit soiled looking having been rolled around under a the hay for a month, but Liz will open them carefully into a bowl.

And Mr S, we always seem to have our hands full and no, of course your tribe are not banned.... not yet anyway. We have a rake of jobs for them to help with, and you can also put the Bonfire day/night in your diaries if interested.

anne wilson said...

Rather than opening them which might be smelly although I doubt it, put them in a bowl of cold water if they float, dump them (without opening).
They should be fine though, they would only go off if incubated for any time or if the weather showed any signs of being warm! What a joke.

Matt Care said...

Thanks for that. We actually opened one last night (the oldest, a February laid one) and it was fine - got cooked as an omelette for slicing into strips in a cous-cous salad. Tasted lovely, but we will keep checking them.