Tuesday 6 June 2017

A 4-Way Birthday and some New Babies

Early Purple Orchid at Kiltybranks
Friends of the blog may recall that Jun 3rd is Birthday for 3 of our main animals (was 4) who are all 5 years old. The pups, Towser and Poppea were getting born on that night down in Mrs Silverwood's house in County Laois while we were also waiting for news of a birth of kittens at Mrs S's friend's house just around the corner. The two joyful news, triumphant phone calls met in the middle at breakfast.

'Twayblade' (orchid) at Kiltybranks
Lily had whelped 7 (I think) pups and the cat had kitted 3 little balls of fluff. Since then we have lost one of the kittens (Rolo) to an RTA but we have gained a rescue cat (Soldier) of whom we do not know a birth date. We have therefore given Soldier the 3rd of June too, so HAPPY  5th BIRTHDAY the 4 of you, Soldier plus Blue, Towser and Poppea.

Getting the painting gear out. 
My main news events since the last post, though concern not these animals, but a coat of paint (or two) on the kitchen and the arrival of yet more livestock. The new kitchen got its paint on Saturday and we decided to carry the colour on throughout the old which has been up to now Brilliant White.

Liz had fallen in love with the colour of the dry, bare plaster (a very pale grey) and could not think of a better colour to sit alongside the new floor tiles, the bare, raked-out-and-repointed stone wall or, in fact, the existing splash-back on the sink in the old kitchen. As anyone who has decorated their house will know, you can now pretty much get paint in any colour you like. The shop stocks white base paint and has a high tech, computerised colour dosing machine that mixes the tin to the shade you have chosen from the swatch cards.

The new paint looks well against the stone
wall. Ignore the dodgy plastic wall socket.
That is only there temporarily. 
We had tried the older method of buying small 'match-pots' and painting little test patches but could not get a pale enough grey - the kitchen risked looking like a WW2 battleship! Wouldn't you know it, the ideal colour was from the (Dulux?) "Colour Trends" range, the most expensive paint in the shop. This was going to be €36 for the 2.5 litres we doubted would go the whole room even once.

Watercress in a bog ditch. I had thought that stiff needed a clear
flowing, pure chalky stream.
To our rescue, the shop guy who is probably well used to penny pinching customers (his shop is in Roscommon!) who said that he quite often makes up the colour in the "standard" Dulux version of the base-paint and it always works. That was now €19 for the tin which was especially nice when it became obvious that we'd run out of paint and need a 5 litre tin to finish the first, and complete the 2nd coat. 5 litres was €29 which was not so bad. I didn't ask what a 5 litre tin of the real 'Colour Trends' version would have been.

The 10 week turkey poults arrive
Today, then, saw delivered both our turkey poults and our day old Hubbard meat-bird chickens. The turkeys come from Sue and Rob who are currently breeding them by the dozen, hoping to sell birds for people to 'grow' for the Christmas market. It is nice to know that her parent birds are, in some cases, raised from the eggs laid by our own (late) Tom and Barbara pair, so the DNA has been working away over there and is now coming 'home' in a sense.

Sue and Rob hatch these either in an incubator or sneaked under any broody hen who has space under her skirts. One such "clocker" (broody hen) got a mention in my recent sheep-shearing post when we discovered a hatched turkey during a pause from the wool clipping. Once hatched they are kept under good heat; an 'electric hen' AND and Infra Red bulb till they are about 9 weeks old. They then get a week off heat before they go to their new homes, acclimatized.

We have 'landed' ours into one of our well used redundant rabbit runs, which have a cosy, draught-free, bedroom at one end. They spend a week or two in there getting used to the sights, sounds and smells of our yard and all the other birds (and cats and us), before we start letting them out free range and try to persuade them to move home to the proper chicken/goose coops. This year we will be more careful around the start of cold weather and the increased braveness of foxes. Last year we lost all three in November and had beef for Christmas dinner. It was lovely but we still hated that fox for stealing our turkey(s)!

Hubbard chick at day 1
Friends of the blog will also know that we have done several batches of the Hubbard chickens as meat over the years, lately one from May-June to August and a 2nd Aug to Oct/Nov. We join in with Anne and Simon who have access to a big commercial hatchery (long term friends of the Manager) and when they drive all the way up there to get their birds, they always ask us would we like some too. Thank you very much, Anne and Simon.

The Hubbard is a popular variety in Ireland among the commercial boys who are supplying supermarkets with Free Range and/or Organic birds. They make a nicely keeled oven-ready carcass and have a phenomenal growth rate, achieving 2-4 kg (oven ready) in 80-120 days. We kill ours at about 100 days on our 'genuine free range' system and it has always been the tastiest, most succulent chicken meat you ever tasted.

Long may it continue. We also enjoy having Anne and Simon in for a chat, a cup of tea and either dillisk, or chilli-cheese-and-bacon biscuits (or both) which Liz rustles up within minutes of us all sitting down at the table.  We got 13 chicks this year (a miscount at the source!) instead of the straight dozen and we have been amazed by the speed with which they have learned to peck up their own food. In previous years I have spent some time pecking at the food with the point of a chopstick to 'show' them what to do and, even, picking up bits of food and carrying it to their little, hopeful, upward pointing beaks. This lot were straight in. Good luck to them.

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