Tuesday 7 April 2015

One Swallow.....

One swallow, they tell us, does not make a Summer. We hear of one seen in County Clare today and he seems to be doing a blooming good job at the Summer thing. We have had a few days now of blue skies, no wind, warm sunshine and temperatures soaring up towards 18ºC which may not be that hot by global standards but it is pretty good for Co Roscommon in April. We have scanned the blue for our own swallows but none seen so far and unfortunately, when they do, thay may be disappointed again in the nest site searches.

They coped when our cats were tiny kittens but now Blue is a full grown and very athletic hunter who can defend our barn doors like a Premiership goalie defending an open goal. He can leap from a standing start to get an out-stretched paw to any part of the doorway. The swallows, diving from bright sunshine to the deep shade of the Tígín don't stand a chance and last year he caught one of the breeding pair and bit chunks out of it before we could do anything. We love this skill in Blue when he aims it at rats so we have to put up with it if he takes a few birds. The only mercy is that there are plenty more barns round here not 'defended' by Blue.

Purple sprouting broccoli - a bit late on parade but now
yeilding mightily.
By coincidence, the Irish Biodiversity Data Centre outfit sent us one of their periodic 'pep talk' reminders encouraging us to record even the most common-place mammals. "The Brown Rat", they said, "Are you guys not seeing them any more?" Apparently 'we' have only recorded 70 odd for the whole of Ireland in the last 12 months and the IBDC guessed that this was likely a lack of recording rather than the rats magically going extinct. I must admit I'd not been scoring the ones killed by Blue, who probably does for 20 or so per year. Blue promptly obliged me with a carcass left in the yard the next morning, so that one has been noted.

Much to the amusement of several friends I had been using the gloomy, windy, rainy days to carry on with that bit of knitting. Having done a pretty good job on the test-square I thought I had better make someting useful, so Liz found me a pattern for a 'beanie hat', just 24 cm of 109 stitch wide 'stocking stitch' (if that means anything to you) then some fancy reducing and a sew up of a seam. I'm not very fast, so it has taken a while and there were plenty of anguished calls for help to Liz where I had dropped a stitch or, on one occasion gone to grab a dog and slid a dozen off the end of a needle. I finished it yesterday and Liz has actually taken it off to Knitting Club tonight to show it off.

Fancy 'reducing' to get from 109 stitches to about 12.
She has been joking around that it is in rainbow colours because I will wear it to the Referendum on 22 May on Marriage Equality. Well, I'm a Brit so I can't vote in that one  (it's a Constitutional change) and anyway, we don't 'do' politics on this blog so I am not about to comment. The politics here baffles me after the more class-orientated UK format and, for any given policy (The new water charges are good/bad, for example) I am no more sure whether to vote Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil than I was when we arrived. Ah well. I think this was just a ball of wool which Liz had spare and disappointingly does not have any green for the true rainbow. I'll just wear it when it's cold again, shall I?

Those 'barge ends'; the diagonal "planks" of concrete capping
the gable walls.
Meanwhile, our white-washing of the barns ended up very well, with even the apparently thinner areas turning a good white as they dried. It all looks very smart and especially so from a distance. I have been doing a bit of research around lime plaster and it is, apparently, quite a skill which many tradesmen would have worked hard to learn before the days of modern concrete and mortars ( pre 1910-ish). Not only was there all the chemistry around quick-lime, slaked lime and the percentage of the hydroxide powder which was actually Calcium (you'd get 'CL90' grade delivered if you wanted 90% Calcium for fancy masonry for example.

A candidate for lime mortar? The north
end of the Tígín.
Then there was the ratio of sand to lime (taking into account that the lime swells as it wets) which they would estimate by decanting water into the sand to see how much water was needed to fill the gaps between the sand grains. All clever stuff; and old traditional skills forgotten when everyone started using modern cement, so now having to be re-learned by anyone wanting to restore old and listed buildings. I have seen on the internet, some people buying the 'lime mortar putty' by the lidded bucket load and using a 'gun' like the big brother of a bathroom mastic sealant gun to inject it into the gaps. It might be expensive, but I reckon I could cope with that without doing the 7 year Trades apprenticeship.

Off to enjoy some more sunshine now, then. Experience tells us it won't last.

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