Saturday, 18 April 2015

As Fit as a Butcher's Dog?

3 dogs with a burnin' yearnin' to get amongst those piggies.
Poppy (Poppea) is closest to camera. 
It is almost a standing joke that a lot of folk who own dogs the size of our Westies, let them get way over weight. Rotund little barrels of flab with a leg at each corner, they waddle along slowly, slack on their leads in front of little old ladies who are bimbling along equally slowly. They never get any real exercise and they are spoiled rotten by over-indulgent "parents" who see them as their babies. They cannot run and they certainly cannot turn round to lick themselves clean. They usually die fairly young (maybe 7 or 8 for a Westie which might otherwise manage 14 or 15). I am, of course, carefully not mentioning any weight issues for the human; I am a bit short on moral high-ground there.

Towser (sitting) and Poppy
We have always tried to keep our dogs a bit leaner and more fit and in this we are completely at one with friend, vet-skills trainee and experienced show-dog preparer, Charlotte. Charlotte is quite evangelical on getting definition into that 'waist' and being able to feel ribs through the sub-cutaneous fat and feeling spinal processes. She tells us that fertility in particular in dogs, falls away as weight increases. She is currently involved in an amusing 'battle' with a Dalamatian bitch owner who would get her dog into pup using the services of Charlotte's superbly fit stud-boy 'Pongo'. At the moment this is failing because the lady-dog is, to put it mildly, 'indulged' and Charlotte is patiently (and generously) letting the lady try and try again (normally you'd get one try and a follow-up for the stud fee) while trying to subtly get through to the lady at each visit, that if she could only get some weight off......

Deefer chilling.
Well, in our case, Towser and Deefer have always been fairly slim and fit, but young Poppy was always given to scrounging round the other dogs' bowls after they had eaten. Up till about 6 months ago we were feeding tinned food (the best brand round here seems to be "Brandy") but also a biscuit mixer. The dogs were not eating the whole bowl full, they were sometimes not interested at all and they were also given, as Westies can be, to squitty bums. Charlotte noticed the extra 'cover' on Poppy at one of the groomings and commented, only voicing what we already knew but had been letting slide. Time for a diet, then for all three. We took them off the biscuits entirely and reduced their ration to one third of a tin each morning and evening. They only get the smallest (dried meat) treats occasionally and very rarely get bones and never kitchen scraps or offerings from the table while we are eating.

Well, you can see from the pictures that the new regime has worked, especially on "the Popstar" and their new slim lines are revealed after their April 13th spring buzz-cut. That 2 inch fleece no longer hides a multitude of sins. We hope Charlotte will be pleased. The bad news from this is for Pirate the formerly emaciated stray cat. He has definitely piled on the weight since we 'rescued him' and Charlotte is now zeroing in on him for being covered in "rolls of blubber" so he too is now on reduced ration. 2/3 of a tin per day instead of the full tin. He's not happy and comes wailing for food if he hears us in the yard but, hey, he's a lucky rescue stray and does not need to be quite that rotund. Meanwhile, 'Poppy' is mainly Liz's dog and I have been instructed that Liz's prefered spelling is 'Poppea'. Who am I to argue. Poppea it is from now on.

These narcissi are following on nicely
from the big daff-shaped daffs. 
On a completely unrelated tack, a previous post had me noting that I had found hand-cut turf workings down at the Kiltybranks dog walk, and I put some pics up on here of the cut areas. By complete coincidence, a guy living near here was in Googling "Hand cut turf Kiltybranks" and was amazed and delighted to see my pics of his workings and got in touch. To cut a long story short, I met him down there (we'll call him Paul the Turf) on one of my dog walks and we got talking and comparing notes. It turns out he is also a Brit and has been over here just a few months more than we have.

One of our new hellebores.
He and his good lady actually looked at our house when they were house hunting but she didn't fancy it because it was 'spooky'. He remembers the old VW Golf in the bramble patch. They just fancied a chunk of turf cutting bog, so they bought a slice of Kiltybranks and he has been happily cutting and drying his own turf ever since. Lovely bloke and a good contact. He also has a lively rescue dog called Sam, a collie, who was more than happy to race around with my three while Paul and I chewed the fat.

In beekeeper land, I am still without my faithful 'colleague' (Liz is down in Silverwood till Tuesday) but our new 'oppo' T-McC was around this weekend and the weather was gorgeous on Friday, so we two decided to go ahead with the big job of moving the bees (and frames etc) from the 'new' hive to my old white boxes. This mostly went OK but (shhhhh) between you and me, I have to admit to a bit of a scary, messy, error which nearly undid us, in which we narrowly averted disaster and which served to remind us that we are yet only beginners at this art. I won't go into huge detail - that'd be interesting only to beekeepers, but basically we decided (on the hoof) that we needed the brood frames out first, as they would go into the bottom box of the new build. I would therefore crack off the whole 'super' (shallow top box = honey store) and lay it to one side while we lifted out the brood frames one by one.

Unfortunately the gift colony was set up as 'brood and a half', with nothing between the brood box and the super above, and the bees had done a good job of gluing the frames below to the ones above using 'wild' honey comb (brace comb). When I went to lift the super, which was really heavy with honey anyway, some of the brood frames below came with it leaving me with a seriously heavy chunk of hive which I could not put down to sort out, could not slot back in place without risking bad damage (including to bees and the queen) and could barely hold up. Big problem!

Liz and Mr SL visit on Friday to admire the piggies.
I managed to put it down at a jaunty angle to avoid squashing too many bees, but the gaps meant that bees were pouring out of the tower in huge numbers and T and I were at serious risk of getting attacked and stung. Well, this is the short version of the adventure, so suffice to say that we remained calm and  withdrew a few feet to let the bees all calm down and they amazed us by all starting to relax and go back inside the badly stacked hive boxes. We were able to go on with the job, briskly reverting to Plan A, which was to take out the super-frames one by one before starting on the brood box and, that way, we got it all moved and reassembled before barrowing away all the now redundant hive boxes and frames, retreating, pleased not to be followed by any bees who might still be upset with us. Within ten minutes the flying bees were all back round the entrance and queuing to go back indoors.

One problem remains. In our rush to rescue the situation we did not thoroughly search every frame for the queen, so we did not see her and there remains a risk that I have inadvertantly killed her in the bodged job. We know she is (wing) clipped and marked, so if she fell from any of the frames onto the grass, she would be lost and unable to fly back into the hive (some bee keepers believe in cutting off half the wings on one side to prevent queens flying off when it is swarming time). I will not know for sure that she is still with us until we can examine the hive again and either find her or find new laid eggs which would be evidence that she survived our abuse. We finished the day determined to leave well alone for at least a week to let everybody (including the bee keepers) get over the trauma. We learned a lot. There you have it, warts and all.

In one final 'story', before the bee task, I received a lovely visit on the Friday from Liz, who brought Mr SL and Mrs Silverwood up on a flying visit, mainly so that they could meet the piggies, lambs and the rest of the gang. The pigs came out and were charm itself for their guests, who were bribing them with slices of apple. We all adjourned to JD Bob's favourite eaterie, Durkin's in Ballaghaderreen for a spot of lunch. Very nice too.

You will be relieved to know that the bees are all calm now and spent Saturday coming and going from the hive as normal. I will let you know how Her Majesty is (or isn't) in a future post.

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