Friday 5 January 2018

Eleanor and Fionn

The top limb of a larch tree blocking the driveway.
Friends of the Blog will recall the fun and games here last February when Storm Doris came raging through ripping the roof off the main chicken building and felling a decent sized spruce across the driveway. They may also recall more recent entertainment provided by Ex-Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Dylan. Those two were equally well advertised and came with Met Éireann 'Orange Alert' warnings for high winds, though we mercifully escaped any significant damage from either.

The topless larch. Lots of new sky!
In the last post I described the latest storm (Eleanor) who came with no such warnings (only 'yellow' status) but which, at the time of writing sounded noisier and more scary than any of the previous crew, certainly for the hour or so around 18:30 pm, when I was typing that post. A real screamer - Hurricane style noises howling through the tree tops. We learned a new meteorological term that night - a "Sting Jet". This is a narrow area of intense wind formed as an eddy inside the storm spiral-system. They never had these when I was at school learning Geography / Meteorology so they may be just a more exciting, 'tabloid-y' expression for what has always been there, or they may have been 'invented' as storm-science moves on and learns more detail. What ever the case, we were impressed and we could certainly believe it.

It was with trepidation then, that I went my rounds of the place looking for damage. Relief too, obviously, that we humans were unscathed and even more so to find that all the buildings and livestock were unhurt. That poor, long-suffering 'Doris' tarpaulin over the main chicken house was still hanging in there. The only damage was that the drive was blocked (again!), this time by a big branch broken off the top of one of our lovely, gnarly larches down by the main gate, a small, weedy spruce had been thinned out of the row at the top of the East Field and a hedge-row hawthorn had been felled across the veg patch.

Horizontal hawthorn
The rest was just the usual wheelie-bins gone walk-about, twigs all over the grass and other light stuff (flower pots etc) in some unlikely places. Nothing we couldn't handle with my little chain-saw and some strong-arm branch-dragging.

Silver lining for the sheep. They get to browse the ivy leaves
off the broken branches we toss in to their field. 
The spruce had fallen across the sheep fence, so needed some nifty cutting up and moving lest the sheep walk out over the now 6" tall barrier. That proved to be one of those you get warned about in the chain-saw training manuals, where the (incomplete) break is still under a lot of 'bend' tension and cannot wait for you to uncouple the weight of the tree's 'top' before it springs back upright taking the saw and arm/chin of any idiot, unwary chain-saw man with it. In my case it pinged up so fast it passed through vertical and whip-lashed itself backwards, completing the original break. I'm still here, obviously, so you'll know I was ready and saw that coming.

Not that many logs once they are all tidied up.
It continued more reasonably windy for that whole day and into the next (Thursday 4th) by which time we were getting a bit fed up with 'windy' as an idea. It turned out that a smaller storm (Fionn) was being pulled along behind 'Mum' but that lad mercifully followed a more southerly track and only really affected the island's SE corner, Wexford mainly.

That spruce that came down across the sheep
fence at the top of out East Field.
So what else is going on for us at the moment, in between the blasts of gale-force wind? Mercifully, no more appearances by our fox - and we have been doing a lot of waiting, watching and listening, believe me. We have sprinted out to check at every alarm call from the Guinea Fowl and every burst of goose-based cacophony.

A neighbour's hay barn was 50% shorter after Eleanor and his
cattle-race a bit fuller of scrap iron.
Naturally, in the absence of real fox scares, I had to give myself a self-inflicted DIY scare-myself-silly. On Thursday, I had a 'thing' in nearby town Balla-D at 5.30 pm, so I was racing about a bit trying to get some bread made and all the birds locked up by 5. That would usually be calm and no problem but one of the young Guineas managed to get 'trapped' in the East Field; happy to fly over the gate one way and then can't work out how to get back. I had shepherded the ducks home and then had to back-track to rescue the Guinea, but then very happily sorted her and closed the door behind her as she sprinted indoors to join her 3 colleagues.

Storm Fionn slides by to the south of the island.
Off I went to my meeting, came back at 8 pm to a late supper and a relaxed evening, then went out to do last minute checks at 10 pm. Ooops. The ducks were 'still' out and now very upset at being in the cold and dark and unable to get home; locked out! They had been vulnerable to fox-attack for 5 hours. They must have strolled back out for a final nibble of grass while I was rounding up that Guinea Fowl and I had missed them in my relief at re-capturing her. Lesson learned and a stricter roll-call introduced for lock-up. How can you miss 5 noisy ducks?

Blue perches on the full but still open crates
of Christmas. What could possibly go wrong?
We also dismantled Christmas and stashed the stuff away back into crates in the Tígín. Tomorrow (6th Jan) is the date for that much-loved Irish tradition, Nollaig na mBan (say it nollag na morn) , Ladies' Christmas or 'Little Christmas'. This is those hard-pressed ladies' 'Day of Rest' where we blokes take the helm of the 'farm kitchen' and they get to relax and be spoiled after 2 weeks of solid hard work giving everyone else a superb Christmas. Liz likes to dismantle Christmas and pack it away on the 5th including wrestling with the drying out Tree or, she says, she would just end up hoovering up needles on Nollaig na mBan. Nobody wants that. More on how that went in the next post.

Stay safe, people.

1 comment:

Matt Care said...

Let the record show (as they say) that this 2nd one was not Storm Fionn at all. Fionn came along a good week later (around Mon/Tues 15th/16th Jan coinciding with our first lambing - see next 2 posts. I am not sure where we'd picked up the wrong status and name from but we won't have invented it. Perhaps the Met Éireann folk un-named this one and found a better one to tag as Fionn. Ah well. It matters not.