Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Blue Skies, Butterflies and Bog Hoppers

Our long wet July and August were beginning to feel like the slide into Autumn had started without us ever getting any Summer but, no, out of nowhere we are suddenly blessed with 2 good, honest, blue sky, sunny days. In proper, genuine Irish fashion, poor Liz even manages to pick up a minor sun-burn. She dozed off while listening to a historical pod-cast on the i-phone while wearing a spaghetti-straps top and sitting out on our terrace so she has gone an interesting red colour about the shoulders. Nothing too alarming, mind. We do not anticipate her skin falling off .

Small tortoiseshell on purple verbena
The sunshine has brought out an explosion in butterflies such as I have not seen in the time we have been over here. I had come to accept that butterflies in Ireland were a few orange-tips in May and perhaps one or two large whites to lay their eggs in your brassicas. I'd not seen a single butterfly on our buddleia. I am not that good on butterfly ID; I know the 'usual suspects' (peacocks, commas, red admirals etc) but I get very lost around browns, gatekeepers, fritillaries and the like.

Red admiral
Over these two days of heat, then, I have had to try to get a few pics and sort out some IDs. Please correct me if I must be wrong, but the lane out here is alive with what I think are speckled woods (No picture - they do not stop long enough and get very nervous if you loom over them). The flower garden is a-flutter with red admirals, small tortoiseshells, peacocks and a tiny white one which I do not know - each wing is not much bigger than a thumbnail. That one might even be a moth. It is all rather lovely and summer-ish after a dreary month.

Your chicks arrive at a day old in these neat,
4-chambered boxes.
Regular readers will know that our first batch of Hubbard (meat) chickens are now getting "harvested" (there's a euphemism for you!). They will give us 12 good sized birds for the freezer but would expect to see us only about as far as Christmas so when our friends and ace chicken procurers, Anne and Simon offered to get us a second batch in August, we jumped at the chance. Our friends Sue and Rob, who took 6 of our last lot (of 18) also asked to come in on this order, so A+S headed off to the huge hatchery near Monaghan with quite an order.

24 balls of fluff. How cute can you get?
Hubbards are excellent birds and are known among we free range (and in some cases organic) keepers for the big, tender and tasty carcasses so Anne was joking with us that as soon as the word goes round that she has birds, all the gang descend on her placing their orders and she is (her own admission!) a bit too soft with them and lets all her birds go leaving she and Simon with only a few for their own freezer. Last time A+S did all the work, as usual and only got to eat half a dozen of the birds so this time they went prepared and came home with enough for everyone. Thanks, as ever, Anne and Simon - we will make sure to do the birds proud. They are day olds now (well, 2 days as I write this) so we hope to be seeing them 'finished' in mid November. That will re-stock the freezer for the spring time.

Out free ranging. Marans birds at 5 weeks.
While I'm on chickens, the Marans poults are now 5 weeks old and, in this hot sunshine, are getting to explore the patch each day. I make sure they get a good breakfast into them, then throw open the rabbit run in which they sleep. In practise they do not go far yet - day 3 and they stay in the yard being visited by all the other chooks and Guinea Fowl who patrol around the place in big circuits, passing through the yard frequently. As they get bigger and braver they will start to range further but probably stay in their little tight-knit group of half a dozen.

The gosling's left leg (red circle) is held up at this odd angle
as he/she hops along on the right foot.
Meanwhile our nearly full-grown gosling has suddenly gone lame with symptoms echoing, worryingly, the problem of the old mother/aunt bird a couple of weeks back who never really recovered from being broody. He/she (I'll go with 'she' for ease) holds her left leg up against her body and hops along on her right helped sometimes by wing flaps and the (damaged?) heel of her flexed leg.

One of the local bogs (Cloonargid = Silver
Field) is bright with heather.
We would normally cull such a bird out as they struggle and get very distressed when lame as they are so front-heavy but this one seems to be coping OK. She hops out of the coop in the morning and moves around with the healthy four adults, gets to water and to food and then makes it home in the evening. I carried her in just the once when she was newly lame and had not mastered the one-legged gait, but she has not needed help since. We will observe her and, for the moment, give her the benefit of the doubt. The speed of the problem would indicate injury rather than a developmental thing but we are not sure as we know that 2 of the mums are almost certainly recessive for 'wry-tail' which can cause pelvis (and hence leg) problems.

An early duck egg. 
At least one of our ducks has come into lay. They have rather sneaked this one up on us, though we should have known to expect this at around week 26. I had seen sexual behaviours out in the orchard. Then 4 days ago I picked up an egg from the yard broken into by a magpie. It looked pale but I thought no more of it. 3 days ago there was another pale egg just inside the chicken house (where the ducks sleep) on the floor. Liz had that one as a poached egg but still didn't click. Another got used in cakes.

Bog Trotters - our 3 westies at Cloonargid bog.
We are slow learners here (!) and only when Liz cracked #4 into the frying pan and noted the pale colour of shell, the thicker 'egg white' and the stronger membranes did the shout go up. "This is a duck egg!". Of course we are onto it now and I know to find the daily egg at ground level once I've hooshed the ducks out to grass. Ducks, of course, don't do above ground chicken nest-boxes. I presume if we get to breeding these birds and need a 'nest' to go broody on I do something at ground level; I need to ask someone who KNOWS about ducks.

Bacon boiled in Coca Cola. I kid you not. Finally there is a
valid use for the stuff other than as hang-over cure of choice
for the late, lamented 'Diamond'. 
So, there you have it for this one. Other than the above we have just weeded, knitted, crocheted, cooked, taken pics for '365' and fended off visits from stray dog 'Bobby' and drunk oceans of tea through the days. Loving the sunshine, though.

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