Friday, 13 May 2016

'Plane' Sailing

No, not a spelling mistake, this really was an aircraft (a Boeing 767 no less) taking a trip by sea up the West coast of Ireland from Shannon all round Galway and Mayo to end up in Enniscrone on the N coast of Sligo. Only in Ireland I suspect. The story caught the imagination of the social media (the Twitter feed was tagged as #planesailing) and then National radio and we just lapped it up.

Blue the Cat rolling about on the roof of the car.
Businessman David McGowan is mainly an undertaker but in a big way (runs training courses for other undertakers etc) but is your essentially eccentric entrepreneur and turns his hand to anything and has a very amusing and love-able way about him in radio interviews. He has started a transport based 'posh' camping site (glamorous camping = glamping) and already had a load of taxis, buses and other vehicles in there but he needed a focal point. A plane! Why not? Hunting about he found a de-commissioned Russian 767 at Shannon airport and was not put off by not getting permission to move it by road; he spent €25,000 or so hiring cranes and a barge and took it out of Sligo airport "via the back door".

The apple trees are LOADED with blossom
this year.
I think he had the whole country rooting for him in the end and following the every move of barges, tugs, tides and winds. Even the weather man co-operated and only a heavy swell in Killala Bay held him up for 12 hours trying to land the barge on the beach. The plane is now safely delivered to the glamping site and the media circus has moved on but I don't suppose David McGowan was that upset by the massive publicity. Fair play to him!

As ever, much more parochial here. We have been blessed by a succession of scorching hot, blue sky days which have brought out the fruit blossom in bounty and the bees have been having a field day pollinating them. OK, this is Roscommon, so it has only been up to about 21ÂșC but we are not used to it here and we wilt in heaps and stop working for a good siesta, sit by the pond and watch the blue sky.

Whole leg of Tamworth, salt cured then air dried for 8 months
Even slower at its 'work' (tenuous Radio 4 style link there!) has been our first attempt at 'Parma' ham. You may recall that we 'saved' this whole leg of Tamworth pig when we butchered our pair of gilts at the end of August 2015. We smothered it in a spicy salt-cure for 3 weeks, regularly replacing the salt and draining off the brine that the salt "sucked" out of the meat.

Salt cured air dried ham. 8 months in the making.
We then wrapped it in a purpose built muslin bag made by Liz and hung it up in the spare room (all the heating turned off and window vents open); our "cool dry place" for 8 months round till now. Well, this week, curiosity got the better of us and we interpreted the instruction to "hang it for 4-12 months" as 8 months. We took it down, unbagged it, scrubbed the (allowed) minor mould off the outside with vinegar, then cut away the surface skin and fat. We were delighted - it is lovely! It smells sweet and sound and tastes perfect. As an added bonus we have eaten some and NOT got food poisoning or died in the night, so we guess it is a success.

The ever-more adventurous ducks at 6 weeks.
In '365' project land we have a new mini sub-project. Next week is "Bio-Diversity Week" and the village is submitting an entry in the national "Tidy Towns" competition as their environmental category. This is, of course, right up our street and we were heavily involved in our Kent days in the local equivalent "Calor Gas Village of the Year", even judging. We have both offered our services and been to a meeting discussing the 'Action Plan' but for now we are just asked to do website stuff and to gear the 365 photos that week to flora and fauna. No problem. Happy to oblige.

5 of the ducks have a bath. The 6th, for some reason, sits this
one out under the honeysuckle top left.
On fauna, a little hiccup in the local pollination department. Our good friend T McC who keeps bees one ridge away in a neighbouring townland has 5 hives and was steaming along in his bee keeping work, pushing way ahead of our beginner-ish efforts. However, last Autumn he was hit by that problem all bee keepers fear, a bad allergic reaction to a sting. He suffered mild anaphyllactic shock and as he was on his own, called an ambulance.

One of my girls on apple blossom. 
In fact he had started to recover by the time the paramedics arrived so he spent the winter wondering whether to give up the bee keeping and getting medical tests done, gearing up with tablets and an 'epi-pen' (epinephrine auto-injector). He hoped to be able to start back into it this Spring at his first hive inspections, with me as stand-by / back-up able to summon an ambulance if it all went a bit pear-shaped again. Well, his bees jumped the gun on him today and he got stung while he was just wandering in the garden and came over all woozy again. He decided that this was too risky and too silly and that this would be the end to his bee keeping. He is going to disperse the hives to good homes and sell off his mountain of brand new, unused equipment to friends in the game. The silver lining on poor T's cloud for us is that I have put in a bid for one of his colonies and he is happy for me to buy this and then to give him 'visiting rights' and the odd jar of local honey.

The new poults are also fully feathered at 7 weeks.
Watch this space for our adventure collecting this colony soon. T McC is not strictly speaking far enough away from us - some of the bees out exploring from our hive site may come across bits of 'map' that they recognise from their old missions and follow the old 'roads' home to T's place, but we hope not too many and, anyway, 'summer' bees only live 6 weeks so pretty soon the hive will be full of new workers born and hatched here, who have never seen T's place. Sympathies, T McC. We'll miss you bee keeping and our mutual cross-support at inspections and manipulations.

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