Monday 12 May 2014

Black Feather's Day 31.

Hunting for Guinea Fowl eggs. 
Monday the 12th May and day 31 for the Black Feather goose incubation, so we are hovering around all expectantly and keep poking our noses into the girl's private bedroom to see if we can see or hear any evidence of fluffy gosling heads poking up from between the sitter's pristine white feathers. If solid and consistent sitting is anything to go by then Black Feather should be an A1 brooder - she has stuck to the job with first rate professionalism for the whole period, only coming off the eggs for her 'allowed' 20-30 minutes each day to eat, bathe in the big pond and presumably to do her toilet. As I type this, though, at 14:30 on the first likely day we have no movement so far, but that would be normal. These things go at their own pace and the poultry-man must go by the 'watched pot never boils' school of patience.

Guinea Fowl nest with 16 eggs
Sadly, we have a tragic event to include today, the 'loss' of our Guinea Fowl cock-bird Henry, he of the frequent hanging about in the lane and on the verge  keeping watch while the hen bird (Min) laid her daily egg in the bushes. My top photo shows Liz at the nest site which we eventually found. It was with a grim inevitability that we found Henry's sorry, flattened body on the tarmac on Friday afternoon. We quickly checked that Min was 'home' and realised that we might have the same noisy grieving process from Min as we have recently described for the rescue Guinea 'Blondie'. This is a definite failure on our part but would be part of keeping your birds completely free range. We could only have prevented it by caging the Guineas in some kind of tall-sided aviary and that is not how we do things here - we would sooner not keep birds, but it is still an unhappy 'first' for us a bird killed on the road.

Guinea Fowl eggs.
Mercifully (for us and for her!) Min does not seem to be suffering the loss as much as Blondie did hers, so we are not getting long periods of loud, strident, carrying, heart-rending, 'Buckwheat buckwheat' calls; we just get a short burst morning and another in the evening. We put this down to the Guineas having been well integrated into our flock as a whole, so Min is nothing like as lonely as Blondie and in between the calling she hangs out with the hens moving about with them, feeding, sheltering from showers and so on. Also Mercifully, she has completely given up on the nest across the lane and does not go out of the gate any more, not even to look for Henry. This observation had Mentor Anne asking "so who was leading who astray, then?"

Setting the Guinea eggs in the incubator.
We decided that we might as well gather up the eggs from Min's possible nest and see if we might hatch any; we'd keep Henry's DNA going even if we'd lost Henry himself. A quick rummage through the hedge had Liz discovering Min's little stash among the ground elder and snowberry close by the abandoned cottage opposite us; 16 eggs down in a neat mossy bowl. Charlotte of the mini-horses has leant us her incubator for the 28 days and the eggs are now sitting in this being turned twice a day.

Anne and Simon have managed to hatch Guinea eggs before but under a broody bantam, they are notoriously hard-shelled and you can have problems at the end with the little 'keets' unable to escape the eggs. G-Day 28 will be Friday 6th June, the day after, all being well, we collect our pigs. I have to smile. We were never going to get into all this - hand rearing, brooder boxes, Infra Red lights, incubators. We were just going to keep a few hens for the eggs, and if anyone went broody than that was a bonus. Now we suddenly have an incubator set, the Hubbards in their brood box* and a feeling that this poultry 'thang' has crept up on us and is taking over!

Scrubbed up for M's Communion 'do'
Back on the 'humans' though for our main event yesterday, a visit down to the Silverwoods for the First Holy Communion of No. 2 nephew, M who is now 8. For my non-Irish readers, this is major Rite of Passage - almost all Irish school children will have their First Holy Communion aged around 8 and then, still organised by the school, their Confirmation at age around 12. The event becomes a big Family Event with all the relations and friends gathering, suited and booted, new outfits, bouncy castles, outings and restaurant meals. Lately, this being modern 'austerity' Ireland, there has been some controversy around the amount of money being spent on these 'do's (the little girls' dresses can be as elabourate and expensive as wedding dresses and some families go a bit mad with stretched limos hired to get to the church and so on). There are questions asked about why this is still part of school life (Despite appearances to the contrary the Catholic church is NOT an 'established' church in Ireland, there is officially NO established church) and why there are even Government grants available to help you pay for the bouncy castle and the dress if you if you have fallen on hard times, lest your child feel excluded from the bulk of society.

Family catering. Liz is on the flapjack job.
I have to quickly say here that the Silverwoods do no such excessive thing, there are no stretched limos prowling their streets and they do not avail themselves of government aid but Mr S. says it is still "a bit like paying for a wedding" - they do have to budget for it. Be all that as it may, it was a lovely day for everyone and we did little M proud, He looked superbly dapper and handsome in his light sandstone linen suit, the church service was dignified and genuine (this class of 20-odd boys slotted in to a normal 12 o'clock Mass well attended by the normal parishioners). We adjourned to a small local hall for the 'party' which had a hot food caterer but baking done by family and friends, there was a puppet show and magician for the little ones and a bit of a 'disco' with no end of balloons flying about to burn off some party calories. Some of the grown ups sneaked off into the kitchen area and set up a laptop to watch the Liverpool game, this being the final day of the footie season and crucial to decide whether the Silverwoods' beloved 'Pool' might pip Man City to top spot in the Premiership. (No such luck). Thank you all the Silverwoods for inviting us down. It was a pleasure to be part of it all and we thoroughly enjoyed the day and the superb spread of food. Thank you, too, Charlotte, for 'dog-sitting' to give us a bit of extra time at the event.

Sheep's Liver and garlic about to become paté
Probably enough for this one. Just a quick Kitchen note - Liz gave a try to a recipe idea you may not have thought of. Liver paté with whiskey is common enough but we have a bottle of home made Cassis knocking about. This makes for an interesting paté with a novel sweet twang. Beautiful on your toast or on a bagel. Signing off now, must go check on that Black Feather goose again. I will let you know as soon as we have news.

12 day old Hubbards get to walk on the grass. 
*These guys actually had a little look at the outside world today as we had some lovely warm sunshine. We snuck them down in the cat basket and let them have a scratch of the good green grass and a little sun on their backs. They are well feathered on the wings but still only 12 days old, though, so not really allowed out yet and we rounded them all back up to their box before they got a chance to get cold.


anne wilson said...

So sad about Henry, lets hope you hatch some of his offspring.
Your nephew looks very smart and handsome in his suit, cute lad.
Here's hoping you have a good hatch with the geese, we are down to just the one, it was just too much for the other two being batted around by cats at just a day old, hoping you will have two spare ones over and above your needs. Meanwhile I have put one of the Hubbard chicks in with it for company.

Matt Care said...

No gosling hatch here yet (Monday) but we will keep you posted.

Mr Silverwood said...

Thanks for coming down, M really enjoyed the day.

Hopefully Henry's and Mins eggs hatch, it would be nice to have one around maybe.

Will be up some time soon, seems like ages since we have been up.