Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Slugs with Chainsaws?

Bee's Lemon Kniphofia
After many years of gardening and searching, having seen one in a book, we have got hold of a nice example of a 'red hot poker' (Kniphofia) but in the less common colour of pale lemon. We have been searching for the variety 'Bee's Sunset' for ages; well this one is Bee's Lemon so it will do for now. It stands proud in a half barrel full of a goodly mixture of our good loam and some muck from the mini-horses and after spending the summer as a tuft of leaves, has now produced an excellent stand of flower spikes. So far so good!

Slug damage to a Kniphofia stem.
Maddeningly though, the early spikes were being knocked over by something and being full of sap and brittle, they appeared to be almost snapped off. I suspected clumsy chickens but then noticed that at the 'break' there was not an actual break in the stem, but a 'cave' dug out, starting as a small pit in the skin of the stalk but then being hollowed out till there was just the skin at the 'back' of the stalk. The skin on its own was not enough to support the heavy flower head, so my 'vandal' was felling them. Pale brown slugs were quickly found to be the culprit. They were felling a stem and then getting bored (or full up?) and leaving them. They were proceeding through my stand of 'pokers' like a logging gang with chainsaws, felling a stand of forest. We are trying to be a bit organic and wildlife-friendly here, so I could not reach for the slug pellets; I am reduced to sneaking out at night with my head-light on, picking the little devils off and either flinging them as far away as possible or stomping on them on the gravel yard. This battle seems to be working reasonably well and I have, at time of writing, almost a dozen flower stems now starting to open.

These flies are everywhere, confusing me by looking very
like our bees. You are OK once you get your eye in; the
flight and eyes are wrong and only one pair of wings.
On the tenth of this month, the pigs reach 5 months age, so needed measuring again for the 'bust squared' weight estimates. They have now reached 66-70 kg so they are fast approaching 'ready' We are going for pork weight (carcass at 55 kg-ish) rather than baconers (80 kg) so it is looking like our 'bible' (Liz Shankland's (Haynes) Pig Manual) could be spot on with her 6 months estimate. Liz is already eye-ing them up in terms of joints of meat and recipes; she has an evil glint in her eye as she compliments their 'magnificence'. I need to get organised on creating the 'race' up from their field gate to a place I can get to with the trailer so that we can get them used to exploring, finding the trailer and enjoying the treats and straw there-in. That way the final journey will not be too traumatic of difficult for either us, or the pigs. We are not looking forward to that day, but it comes with the territory.

A possible white cornflower from an 'insect friendly' seed mix.
We had a nice treat today. John Deere Bob needed driving to nearby town Ballyhaunis to collect some money from the meat factory where he had sent 5 bullocks. He wanted to thank us for our help and invited the two of us to join him for lunch in a pub in the town. You never know exactly how much money you will get for cattle, he tells us, as it depends on a variable pence per kg figure and on the final, cleaned carcass weights of your beasts, but he was very happy today and proudly showed us the paperwork. He is not 'rich' for long, though, he joked; on Thursday he has to go to Castlerea mart to shell out for ten replacement 'weanlings' he has bought.

Californian poppy (Eschscholzia)
The pub was excellent. Called 'Val's Bar and Deli' it is a lovely pub with excellent service and delicious food. We three all had the fish but with differing choices of veg and salad. The lady saw that we looked like a hungry crowd and threw in a great bowl of chips for us. For me, too, a rare chance to get some Guinness down me with Liz offering to drive home. I love the 'black stuff' but amazingly I have now lived in Ireland for over 2 years and have probably drunk fewer than a dozen pints in that time. It is a pub drink (the cans or bottles are just not the same) and we are rarely in pubs as one of us would have to drive home. It is lucky, I guess, we did not buy a house within walking distance of a Guinness pub!

Finally a picture of Pirate enjoying a bit of sunshine in the yard - we are enjoying a week of 'Indian Summer' which is much appreciated after our rather wet chilly July and August.


Anne Wilson said...

We had slug attack on our red hot pokers early in the season, they recovered and went on to bloom. That white flower looks as though it could be a white cornflower?

Mr Silverwood said...

See, I told you slugs are horrible, lol