Thursday, 10 September 2015

Starsky and Hutch

Jars from the rebuild house 'treasure' haul.
If I may, I will briefly catch up on a couple of stories from previous posts. The 'rebuild' house yielded up a couple more bits of treasure before moving to "completely cleared out" status, with Liz briefly sweeping the floors clear just in time to see her efforts come to naught in a shower of jackdaw nests, rubble, clinker and soot as the middle chimney got cleared out downwards. These treasures were a couple of nice little glass vases which can be used for table decoration or some such, and a government pamphlet from year 2001 concerning voting in the referendum on (among other things) stopping Capital Punishment.

Lasagne style composting - this calf muck gets alternated with
weeds and grass cuttings
I had not realised that Ireland still legally had the Death Penalty until the 90s, although it had last been used in 1954 when the State asked our own UK hangman (Albert Pierrepoint) to come over and do the job on a rapist/murderer. After that the Death Penalty could still be handed down for crimes such as killing a Guard (policeman) but it was always commuted to 'Life'. In the 90s it was removed from statute and in this 2001 Referendum the Constitution was changed to outlaw it as well as to ratify two Euro-treaties (Nice and Rome). There. Every day is a school day.

Em-J's book.
My other catch-up concerns our Irish nieces, the older of whom, Em-J, we noted in a recent post getting good results in her Leaving Cert. She is also starring in another way. I will quickly say that I know very little of this subject and would fail badly in any test of knowledge of the current sub-culture of Japanese style 'graphic novels' (comics to we older ones) in the "Animé" genre. Em-J loves them and reads them avidly as well as using her considerable skill and talent as a cartoonist to produce her own pictures in the style. This drive led her to get accepted onto a course up in Dublin where all the budding writers and would-be illustrators got to help in the making of a proper, published book, "Demons in Disguise".

Our first outdoor spuds in this slow, chilly season. These are
variety Orla
This being a proper book is now published and is subject to a proper launch up in Dublin, to which, naturally, all the contributors have been invited. Em-J is going up there tonight 'en famille' with proud Auntie Liz in support as one of the drivers. She will be bringing the little ones home to Silverwood at a sensible 'school night' hour and then stay overnight a couple of nights to catch up on the family gossip. Also to congratulate the other niece, J-M who is following hot on the heels of big sister, with some good results in her Junior Cert (equivalent to 'O' levels, roughly) published yesterday and getting herself onto national television (RTE) news, no less. It's all happening for those girls. Their Dad is sure they must get their brains from their Mum!

Starsky style knitted jacket. 
As she was Silverwood-bound, Liz decided she also had a chance to see Mrs S and to produce a nice, though 40 year late, surprise. Readers who are as old as us may recall American cop thriller series, Starsky and Hutch, from the 70s and may remember that Starsky was often seen wearing chunky knitted patterned jackets with big roll collars. Back then they became a fashion item you could often see in shops and Liz tells me that Mrs S has always regreted that she "never got her Starsky jacket". So when Liz saw a pattern for one on line and had a supply of the necessary chunky-knit wool, she realised she could rattle one up fairly quickly.

Gladioli doing well.
This turned out to be true up to a point. Knitting up chunky knit is quite fast because of the size of the wool, so Liz zoomed up the back panel, cracked off the sleeves, pockets and front panels. There was a little hiatus as she picked up all the hundreds of stitches up one front edge, round the collar and back down, so that she could knit the "button band" (no buttons) outwards at 90º to the front panels. Then came sewing all the bits together which is Liz's least favourite bit but with Em-J's book launch now looming, time was running out and things were getting a bit pressured, that is to say heated. We are thinking of getting some of those labels for these garments which say things like "Hand knitted with pride by ...etc" but ours are going to read "Hand knitted without too much swearing by....". Anyway, as I type this at half eight on Thursday evening the garment is complete and has been delivered. Mrs S is delighted to have finally "got her Starsky jacket", a bit of an early Christmas present. They are all at the book launch, so maybe she is even wearing it.

Apple variety "Irish Peach"
Meanwhile, back at the 'ranch' we have been enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer. The weather came good on the 4th of September and is due to fall off a cliff tomorrow (11th) so maybe at 7 days long it is more of a Summer-een but it has been lovely to get out into the garden properly. I have done a mountain of weeding and harvested some first outdoor spuds. These were variety 'Orla' which struggled so through the chill wet July and August that they never really put on any tops. They never reached a foot high and didn't flower, so when they started to do autumn fade I first feared blight and then just worried that there would be nothing underground. There was, in fact, no blight and they have done an amazing weight of good sized spuds which cook beautifully in the skin-bursting 'floury' Irish style that just asks for a lash of butter to be melted into them as they are served.

Czar plums pecked to destruction by crows or magpies.
Less succesful have been my plums - a tree loaded with lovely Czar. This was my most successful tree and I had watched with mounting excitement as the fruit enlarged and started to ripen but today, while the fruit was still way too sour and hard for us to enjoy, the bountiful crop (20-30 fruits) is pecked about and stolen by the crows or magpies. I even found one carried to a handy fence post to be pecked to pieces. Some fruits were on the ground where the slugs were now finishing off the robbery. I have around 6 fruits left on the tree and I can't see the maggies suddenly going off plums and letting me keep those, can you? Annoyingly this same tree did a lovely crop 2 years ago and not a one magpie stole any. Perhaps they have learned this like the old bluetits used to do with tin-foil bottle tops on the doorstep.

Twins Thelma and Louise grazing with youngster Dylan
looking hopefully at the cameraman. 
Finally, our little March-born lamb twins, Thelma and Louise have now reached an age and size where they must go on their final journey, so they are booked in to our friend and butcher-man, Ignatius G Victualler for next week. With them out of the way I am a bit happier about getting our tup round to service the grown up ladies. I did not want anybody too young to get hurt or to get involved in that, though Ignatius tells me that they get a surprising number of ewe lambs coming through their place themselves in-lamb where they have been got at by a brother or 'cousin'. We are hoping that our boy 'Rambo' will complete his mission around the end of this month, which we hope will give us all three ewes (Polly. Lily and Myfanwy) in lamb through the winter and due end of February or into March. Fervent prayers are being offered up.

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