Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Rain Dance

Neither of us ever anticipated in all this 'move-to-the-West-of-Ireland' project that we would ever be standing in County Roscommon disappointed at the lack of rain. We are not the kind of people who moan about the wet weather and then straight way transfer all that grumble to the heat after just a single hot day. We have been enjoying the blue skies and taking the close sweatiness and midges that sometimes come with it, on the chin. Stoic to the end, us. But my diary records that this run of 'scorchio' started on 11th May, all be it with a couple of showery days around the 20th, so have a heart, Met √Čireann; we are sated. You even sneaked the perfect Bank Holiday weekend in there.

Some nice artichokes for a tapas style meal
We are happy, content, have had all we could ask and more. When the run of hot days appeared to be breaking with an 'orange' warning for thunderstorms and heavy rain on (Bank Holiday) Monday, we got stuck into some good weeding, mowed all the grass and raced several lines of washing through the laundry system. We watched with happy anticipation as the promised massive black cloud banks rolled in mid-afternoon. Back in Kent Liz would have been telling our lovely neighbour, 'Angel' Betty and myself off suspecting that we were doing rain dances because we were fed up with all the watering. Here we listened out for the distant rumbles of thunder on the N, S, E and W horizons, commenting cheerfully... "Yes! It's a-coming!"

Alliums
No such drama for us here, though. Friends in all directions were reporting rain. Sue and Rob talked of "monsoon" conditions. Carolyn in Sligo reported lashing rain and cousin Keith in Dublin spoke of massive downpours, impressively heavy although short lived. We stayed dry as the 'dusht' and missed it all. Our clouds built impressively and dispersed. We stayed oppressively hot and clammy and felt quite miffed. Cheated, even. It didn't rain all evening, then a tiny front doorstep-dampening drip came later on and the night was dry. We know we should be careful what we wish for and I am glad that I got the mowing done - I would have been cursing if the shaggy grass had got wetted and then taken days to dry out again. It has not rained today either. Ah well.

In the local bogs the turf cutters are taking full advantage
of the drought. This turf is "footed" up to get some air through
it and we have seen some being cleared and carted away to
store. This is Kiltybranks.
Meanwhile in archery I am still having a whale of a time, loving my new hobby. When weather permits we are out of doors and the instructor is doing his best to get us ready for an assault on nearby inter-county "Field Archery" competitions. Field Archery is where you go yomping around through the woods and fields trying to find and then hit model animals made of dense foam rubber. The beasts are a bit larger than life (to give us half a chance - the crows are more like ravens and the partridges are as big as chickens, for example).

We have also been introduced to the black arts of scoring so that we can see whether we are improving week on week. The animal models are marked with an oval roughly corresponding to the chest/lungs position and a smaller oval where the heart would be. The scores vary according to size, range and difficulty of the target/shot but might be, for example, 15 for a kill (dead hit on the heart), 10 for a 'wound' (chest area) and 5 for a 'hit' (anywhere else on the animal). There is much banter around how the animal is not officially dead even though you have just banged an arrow through his head, in one eye and out the other. There are also silly scores for some of the more ridiculously tricky shots - a rat on a log THIRTY metres away (!). Hit that one, you get 40, knock him off his log with your arrow stuck in him and you score 60. I have not got within a foot of the blighter.

The pigs this evening.
I should quickly add, just to quiet the fears of people who think I have got a bit blood-thirsty, that it is ILLEGAL everywhere in the British Isles to hunt anything with a bow and arrow, even a cross-bow. If you want to go a-hunting you need a licence , a pretty fierce draw-strength bow and you need to be on mainland Europe - Germany, Italy and some of France, I think. We are definitely just playing at it. It is just more entertaining to go 'hunting' between the trees, than to spend 2 hours lobbing arrows down a Badminton hall.

Pastures new. The sheep are back in the orchard. 
What ever way about it, I was 'on fire' on Sunday and it seemed I could not miss those targets. After my first try out 3 weeks back when I scored just 65 as a combination of 13 'hits', no wounds and no kills, I was suitably humble and knew my place - the beginner/new boy/trainee. On Sunday, for some reason, I found myself transformed into Dead-eye Dick. I got 2 kills in the first group and hit several other 'animals' more than once (you get 3 arrows per target). I had surpassed my 65 one third of the way in! I must admit it did not go as 'deadly' as that all through and I still missed my due portion of targets with all three arrows (of course, I have still not bagged 'log rat') but I ended with a score of 145, over twice my first one. No pressure for next week!

Liz (in orange) gives the sheep strict instructions not to eat
or break off the trees. 
The sheep, meanwhile, Have razed the front lawn to the ground and left only a few grass-flower stalks and some now obvious nettles and thistles. The lack of rain has no doubt contributed and the grass has stopped growing. We do not want to let them back into the East Field yet as that is resting, so we have rather bravely moved the gang into the orchard tonight. This is with some trepidation as we know what damage sheep can do to young trees by browsing and by scratching their itches by rubbing at them. We are hoping our trees are that bit bigger and taller so that they can afford to lose a few lower leaf-clusters (raising their 'skirts' or 'Savannah-ing' we call it here). They are also in some cases still guarded by the tree guards we originally fitted when we used this field before, several years ago. We are hoping that the sheep will focus on the lush grass and buttercups and leave the trees alone. Liz has read them The Riot Act.

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