Friday, 28 July 2017

Manu and Pedro

Manu takes a turn at the shovel.
Welcome aboard, then, Manu and Pedro, our first ever 'Help-X' volunteers. These are a lovely couple of lads, both 24 and currently students at one of the Madrid Universities. One is studying Agricultural Engineering and the other my own subject from Uni days, Environmental Science. They are both city-boys with no experience of farms or livestock and neither have been to Ireland before although one hails from Galicia in Northern Spain, where the scenery and green-ness are similar to Roscommon (he says).

Pedro shows off his brush cutter skills to the pigs.
They are both young and fit and willing to work hard for hours, so we are impressed already. They seem happy, too with our place, our accommodation and the food and drink so this one could be a winner all round. It is their first go at being Help-X volunteers as it is our at being hosts, so we are enjoying learning together. They are doing 2 weeks with us as part of a longer (1 month?) stay in Ireland; they want to go somewhere with better access to city life maybe near to Galway.

An interesting burst on yesterday's sour dough loaf. The
flavour was not impaired and this loaf has since gone the way
of all the others!
So we collected them from the train in Castlerea yesterday afternoon and had the afternoon and evening just for installing them, showing them round the place and getting to know one another. Their English is (as they'd say here) "middlin' good"; certainly better than my Spanish! We struggle on with the 2 lads occasionally running out of words, a quick discussion where one tries to rescue the other, and then with Liz and Manu whipping out their smart-phones and Googling up "Google Translate"

 I now know, for example that Pedro's Mum also makes sourdough bread and has a 'mara madre' (starter culture. Literally "original mother") in her fridge and we all know more words than we should around Guinea Fowl, black currants and fruit cordials! We are also both trying to say 'Madrid' with the soft Spanish 'the' sound instead of hard English 'D's. They are keen anglers and have brought some gear with them, so we have had to do a quick bit of local research to get them access to any likely fishing points. One is a keen photographer (Canon gear - good taste!). They also asked about hiring bikes, so we have come up with my old mountain bike, gathering dust in the caravan and K-Dub's little used pushbike, which he generously agreed to lend us for the duration.

I finally find an under-cabinet strip light
(LED) for the "office". Yay! I can
see the keyboard!
The guys were wiped out last night having only got 2 hours sleep on Wednesday night and then had a long day travelling so they crashed at 20:30, fairly quickly after a bit of a late supper and trying out some 'artisan' stout beers. They slept like logs, apparently but came bouncing down the stairs at 8 a.m. already in some overalls and work boots, keen and willing to get cracking. I got some quick breakfast into them, but then we were straight in.

I showed them the brush-cutter and explained 2-stroke fuel and so on; bit of a safety 'lecture' there. Well, it is Farm Safety Week this week. The fuel tank on that does you about 45 minutes of continuous fast running, so they alternated goes at that, whacking the tall stuff in the orchard, with scraping and sweeping the grass in the cattle race which was fast evolving from "the grass growing in the cracks in the concrete" to a "lawn".

Ouch! Taking chunks out of myself on the barbed wire. Nurse
Lizzie stepped forward with some nice sting-y TCP. 
I persuaded them (it was impressively difficult!) to stop for coffee mid-way but then we worked on through till 1 pm when Liz insisted we all stop for soup. I was very happy and so were they. You can, as they say, see where they've been! The cattle race is pristine and the little gosling can stride around the orchard in full view of his grown-up minders.

We decided to work mornings and they have their down-time afternoons. So, well fed on soup and bread, they have now disappeared on the bikes with their fishing gear in back-packs promising that if they would like some roast lamb with us tonight they will be back by 19:30 or they can eat later, plus they will bring back anything edible they catch. I'm not sure how 'allowed' this is; you may have to put every fish back into the lake but I expect they'll find out that soon enough.

The only fly in this ointment was my left knee. I fell over back on Tuesday, on some mud while trying to hop over some barbed wire. This was as I was while feeding some bullocks. I managed to bang the inside of my left knee as well as twisting it and, to add a cherry to this cake, scraped an 8" long surface cut down my calf. Ouch. I am hobbling around like an aul' wan, Nurse Liz has been at me with some very sting-y TCP so the cut is OK but the knee remains very stiff and sore. This is frustrating - I wanted to be fully fit to work alongside the Help-X lads, all be it I am 60 and they are 24. I am determined not to just sit there in the Director's Chair barking instructions through the 'bull horn' so I am limping about between locations and trying to keep at it, but at the stuff which is easier on the knee - pulling thistles rather than digging, for example.

The beautiful new Memorial Stone at Shannon's Cross prior
to the unveiling ceremony. 
And finally an end to the suspense that I expect you have not even noticed I have been trying to rack up; a promise of a 'reveal' on the story of the fancy stonework down at the crossroads. Spoiler Alert! The big unveiling happened today to big crowds, flags flying, the police brass-band and a series of politicians doing speeches from a real imported wooden pulpit/lectern. This the new memorial stone and garden to 2 Gardai (Policemen) tragically shot and killed in a bank robbery and car-chase back in 1980. Easily our biggest, most important local story. The full version of this in the next post.

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