Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Golden 'Mile'

Widow 'Min' hanging with the 'hins' now
Big News! I am almost certain that we have had a goose hatching event! No pictures yet and I have not actually seen any fluffy gosling heads poking up through Black Feather's immaculate white feathers, but today she seemed more than normally protective of her spot and I am 99% sure I heard the thin weedy 'wick week week' noises  of new-hatch goslings coming from under her. I heard them a couple of times but (don't you know it?) when I went in there to 'show' Liz, all was innocent silence and Black Feather looking at us as if to say "Yeah? What?". More patience required on this one. Tomorrow I hope to see some gos-fluff and I will probably put some food down in case 'anyone' should be feeling a bit more adventurous than today.

One of ten Goldie x Kiwi bunnies at 16 days.
Meanwhile, you'll just have to make do with some cute baby bunny pictures. This heroic litter of 10 'kittens' by Charlotte's 'Kiwi' out of the doe 'Goldie' we got from Anne are doing really well. You may recall that we had all sorts of problems last year with bunnies fading and dying for no apparent reason; we just kept finding a new one dead each morning. Later on we started post-mortem-ing them and were surprised to find them dead with full, bloated bladders but we never got to the bottom of whether this might be an infection passed on from Goldie, a 'first litter' problem, bad husbandry on our (inexperienced) part, or something genetic. So far we have had no problems with dead 'uns and long may this continue. These ten seem pretty vigorous to us anyway.

6 white and 4 'Goldie' coloured. 
We know we are lucky enough to live in a lovely part of the world but we were delighted last week to 'discover' a breathtakingly beautiful walk within a stone's throw of the house. We had heard about 'The Golden Mile'  from the promotional village book produced by Lisacul as part of the tourism promo "The Gathering 2013" and knew from what Carolyn had told us that it was quite close to her house but on the other side of the River (Lung) and 'through' the forestry at the back of her house. To get to it you have to go into the village, cross the River, and come out again the south bank.

Then we got talking to John Deere Bob after his little 'dust up' with Jim B ( see my earlier post ) and it turns out the Golden Mile is just a bit further down the lane (Ball Court Lane) in which Jim has his yard and workshop, starting and finishing at the 'Old Kiltooan Graveyard'. The old graveyard, now out of use and replaced by the spick and span modern graveyard in the village, was where the villages went to hold their services and bury their dead. There is even an old track to it from the village called 'Dead Man's Lane', the route trodden by the pall bearers in those times.

Old Kiltooan Graveyard
Many of JD Bob's older ancestors are buried there. There are graves investigated by the Irish Archaeologists Society which date from the 1600's but most now are weathered into illegibility. The site and all paths to and from had been overtaken by decay and undergrowth, buried among chest-high brambles, fallen old ash tress and collapsed walls. About 8 years ago, the village (Lisacul) got involved in an environmental project designed to promote and inform people about old hedgerows. As we understand it they utilised labour from the Government quango "FÁS" (pronounced 'Foss or (almost) 'Force'), the (then) "Irish National Training and Employment Agency" (since dissolved).

The Golden Mile
These were young lads on training courses who needed practical experience with landscaping, gardening and forestry equipment. Who better to put to work clearing fallen trees and undergrowth, opening up old pathways and tidying up an old graveyard? Well, they created a marvelous thing - a beautiful walk in sunken paths which starts with a skirt around the graveyard (though you can walk through it if you choose), heads off into the paths between fields and loops back round on some newer tarmac lanes, back to the graveyard. It is buzzing with insects and  green with hedgerow herbs, wild strawberry, cranesbill, violets, hart's tongue ferns and the like, way more species than I am able to identify.

Stone steps into the graveyard, over
the wall.
There is a nice interpretive board at the start telling the newcomer what he/she might expect, though it is not well way-marked, so that you could easily take a wrong turn at some of the junctions. As we had expressed an interest, Bob himself offered to show us round the route and show us his family plot within the graveyard. Bob is not the fit young man he once was and can get a bit breathless but we needn't have worried. The whole 'Mile' is, in fact, only 1.03 km and almost flat, so he was well able for it. He only admitted to us, rather shame-faced afterwards, that although he knew the area, he had not actually done the full walk himself in its 8 years in existence! I have already posted that I have joined the bumblebee survey group, which involves walking set 'transepts' on a monthly basis and recording bees seen. The Golden Mile is now one such walk, and today, in the warm sunshine, I was happy to record my first score in double figures. Go the bees!.

Hubbard chicks at 14 days enjoy the sunshine
Meanwhile, back at home, we are now regularly putting the Hubbard chicks outside. Today's forecast had Roscommon up to 17 to 19 degrees in the sunshine, so the babies were outside for most of the day, but the night time temps were due to drop down towards 6, so they are not yet staying out overnight. You can see from the picture that their wings are well feathered and the new paint brush feathers 'in pin' are coming on their legs, chests and around their vents (bums!).
Hubbard Chick at 14 days.
It will not be long before we declare them 'fully feathered' and able to spend warmer nights out in the 'hutch'.

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