Saturday, 12 August 2017

En Alabanza de Help-X

Pedro giving the hardcore yard a bit of
(In Praise of Help-X) In which we sadly come to the end of an epic, amazingly superb time, our 16 days of hosting our first ever Help-X volunteers, Manu and Pedro. If those two lads were typical, then the whole Help-X organisation from website to man-hours on the ground is praise-worthy indeed. They were THE BEST kind of guests (happy, friendly, easy going and very appreciative of our hospitality) as well as being brilliant, untiring workers for the "agreed" 4-5 hours a day. They also thoroughly enjoyed all the down time and leisure stuff, exploring, fishing, shopping and wood carving.

'Sparks' would be proud of us - measure
twice; cut once!
We are both delighted and impressed by how it has all gone and the place has never looked so good over all, all at once. Everywhere I look I see baize-short immaculate lawns, fields devoid of tall weeds, new woodwork and concrete scraped clean of invading grass.

New dog pen
It is quite a 'legacy' the lads have left behind, not only for the fancy bamboo pens and the lovely "Easter Island Man" totem pole head which they completed in the nick of time on their final day, yesterday. If I list it the old fashion "bullet point" way beloved of working life meetings, we have....

  • A cattle race scraped clear of invasive grass
  • The East Field devoid of tall weeds, mainly docks, rushes, nettles and thistles
  • 'Back of the Goose House' razed nettle patch
  • Huge veg patch back under control and 100 sq yards of it under plastic sheeting
  • Hedges and big willow pruned behind same.
  • Grass mowed everywhere, even into bits I have never mowed before AND all of it done with the grass-box on the back of the mower and the clippings carted away to composts or pigs (i.e. all better and tidier than I normally manage)
  • Orchard scythed and brush-cuttered to within a few inches.
  • The yard mowed. 
  • 2 lovely anti-chicken cages now protecting 2 strawberry beds
  • A lovely new 'picket' fence dog-pen leading off from the old back door.

The lads with their carved man. They think Liz
should knit him a little hat and scarf for the
If I have forgotten any achievements, I will come back and edit them into the list. Either way it has been epic and the lads have also thoroughly enjoyed us and Roscommon and being out here in the West of Ireland. They have enjoyed a lot of new 'work' experiences and learned such skills as I could share with them around the livestock, gardening and woodwork. K-Dub will no doubt laugh at the thought of me teaching them scarf-joints and a love of DeWalt tool-ery.

The boys cook us 'cachopo', a recipe from Asturias (northern
They enjoyed our good food and some local beers and took on a love of Guinness and, in Manu's case developed an addiction to whole-food style 'Meridian' peanut butter. They cooked for us twice, both excellent, and stretched Liz to the high notes of her cookery and provisioning. To finish with a 'bang', for example, our Last Supper was Hubbard chicken in BBQ sauce with a simple mushroom risotto, roasted toms and red peppers and an avocado-based salad. Pud was a rhubarb Pavlova and properly made Irish coffees to follow - black and white "like a little Guinness" in the words of the hugely impressed lads.

Miss Black with Manu-1 and Manu-2. Manu-3 appeared later.
I have already posted that when we collected the new lambs, we named the ram 'Pedro' after one of the boys. Then, to make sure the other lad didn't feel left out I told him that we had a black hen sitting on eggs, due to hatch on their (then) last day, Thursday 10th. We would name any successful hatches, Manu 1, Manu 2 etc.

Miss Black brings the babies out. They are so tiny; they are like
little bumble bees after we have got used to the previous clutches
of chicks which are now at least 6 weeks old. 
Good girl, Miss Black did the honours right on time, Day 21. Manu was able to see Manu 1 just after breakfast and later that day #2 and #3. The boys actually extended their stay till today, so they have also been able to enjoy the hen bringing the babies off the nest and out into the sunshine. Everyone's a winner.

Aughalustia Bridge, just south of Ballaghaderreen.
The boys also got into the fishing and finally started catching stuff. We had all been joking that this Irish fishing holiday thing was all a big con, the Lough Glynn Fishing Club was just a money-laundering scheme and that, in fact, there were fewer fish than snakes in Ireland. Having spent several fruitless hours at Lough Glynn, they moved to the beautiful Aughalustia Bridge up by Ballaghaderreen. At least there they'd be in easy pedalling range of the town's take-aways for a change of supper venue. The Bridge yielded no fish that time.

Teaching the Roscommon worms to swim.
Almost giving up on the angling thing Manu and Pedro biked down to the little local bridge as a last ditch effort and, Bingo! , started landing some roach. They caught more the 2nd day and then on Weds 9th, all encouraged, went back to Aughalustia Bridge to try again. They hauled out 3 more.

The lads are bottom right in this shot. It is a very scenic place
to fish. 
At that site there is a lovely wooden 'decking' platform with duck-board walkways etc where you are, we guess, "meant" to fish, but the lads found it all so weedy just off shore, they were frequently tangling their hooks in the submerged vegetation, so they moved along the bank to a less official place and we lent them two tripod "shooting seats". Hours of cheap fun for our budget travellers.

So, that was pretty much that. We fed them a breakfast this morning, retrieved all their dry laundry from our Utility Room and I ran them down to Castlerea station for their quarter to eleven train to Dublin. The 2nd fortnight of their tour is staying with a Help-X host farm with horses, somewhere over by Blessington, just outside Dublin, on the shore of the enormous 'Pollaphuca' Reservoir with its hydro-electric scheme and its water supply for the capital. If they can't find fish in there, we told them, then they are not trying hard enough!

We have joked with them that they will always be welcome back here so if they don't like it at Blessington, they will have to re-appear here under cover of darkness, tails between their legs. Please feed us, Lizzie, we want to come ba-ack! We didn't like it in Dublin. They didn't have Meridian peanut butter!

Seriously though, guys. You REALLY WILL be always welcome here, Help-X or not. If you are ever back this way then do get in touch and drop by.

Con the Archery Coach turns out to be a highly skilled exponent
of the mini-digger. 
What else is new? Only that in between all that I was over at archery coach, Con's place recently, when I was probably better off resting my damaged knee (almost better now, by the way), answering a call to come and help lay a land-drain.

Low point in my career. Down in the ditch trying not to lose
 a wellie.
He had hired a mini digger and had to give it back that evening, and they had all got a bit behind. So, out there for me, splodging about in wellies in a muddy ditch, trying not to lose my footwear, shovelling the drain 'fall' smooth, then building protective 'castles' out of salvaged blocks to protect the plumbing while Con back-filled the drain over the new pipe. Nice and restful on the knee, then? Maybe should have taken Pedro and Manu out there.

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