Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A Long Walk

Scorchio! This was Met Éireann's short-range forecast for
4pm today (29th May)
Scorchio! The island is currently enjoying a very nice, mini-heatwave with temperatures soaring up to 26 and 27ºC. All our friends are delightedly taking pictures of the lanes outside their farms and commenting how different they look from when there were 7' snow drifts only a few weeks ago.

A pleasant surprise in the polytunnel. I don't remember
planting this.
My diary tells me that we have not had any rain since about 3rd May except for one wet night on the 21st, between us shearing our sheep and then doing Sue and Rob's. The ground is as dry as dust and those sheep, which must be very relieved to be 'naked' spend most of the day sleeping under trees in the shade.

Of course, our Help-X volunteer, Laura, who hails from the South of France, is a bit disparaging of our 'heat'; she is more used to 40ºC as 'hot' but we let her away with that as she is still a brilliant help, an absolute boon, a very easy to please guest and very pleasant company. Her current jobs-of-choice are anything to do with mowing and keeping the garden bits spick and span.

This much-abused broom is finally doing colour
She will push that mower for 5 hours and only take breaks when you bully her inside for tea and cake or lunch. Today she was on 'edges' with the shears , edges of lawn, sides of raised beds, all round bases of young trees. We are in danger of looking like manicured parkland.

Laura's new admirer - the male turkey
follows her everywhere. Here she is
actually bring tea out to us but it looks
like she is fetching him some!
She is also what they would describe locally as "a mighty one for the walking". If not pushing a mower for all those hours, she likes to do at least 10 km per day. She walked from here to Ballaghaderreen one day (neither of us have ever tried it - it is a 15 minute car ride!), she climbed Holy Mountain 'Croagh Patrick' one day prior to coming here, having done a 10 km walk in the morning and then on Sunday managed a 4 hour, 20 km one.

Sorry poor photo (bad phone) but can you just
see the 3 foot roundel target 450 feet away down
this path? Nor can I. 
Archery has moved out of doors again for the Summer and our shooting field is almost exactly 20 km from here, south of Castlerea. Laura expressed an interest in coming to see what we were about but asked could she then walk home. We explained that it was 20 km up (gentle) hill and down dale and would take her all afternoon but, no, she knew all that and wanted to do it anyway.

Another fun target for the new outdoor season.
You have to shoot this life-size fox at 40 feet but
THROUGH the car tyre. In front of the stand is a
little owl-model at 20 feet if you need a warm-up.
I suggested that after 2 hours of archery, I would be driving past her on the way home, so I could always rescue her if she'd had enough. Well, I did pass her and stopped to offer a lift but she just smiled sweetly and declined, saying she'd see me later. She eventually wandered in home at ten past six, not a bother on her, as un-tired and un-ruffled as when she had set out. Oh to be 22 again.

3 of Shtumpy's new babies. 
Meanwhile we are enjoying a bit of a population explosion among the baby chickens. In the last post I described our 6 successful hatchings from the grey hen 'Cat Basket Lady'. Next up was our ace Mum with the deformed foot, 'Shtumpy' who managed 2 hatches last year and kept all her charges alive despite her 'disability'. She has just hatched 4 babies from 6 eggs and is now starting to bring them off the nest and show them the ropes.
Laura cooked us this superb apple tart.

This will, we hope, be followed by the 14 duck eggs in the incubator, due 'out' Thursday or soon there after. These are a mix of Sue and Rob's Muscovy ducks (the big meaty, bi-colour birds who are half way to being geese) and our last Khaki-Campbell eggs from just before the final female was out-foxed, plus a few KCs from Sue and Rob to make up the numbers. I don't know what % success to expect here - our KCs have been very low and these are the first Muscovies any of us have tried - but if we get all 14 we will be feeling a bit over-run. Fortunately, it is most unlikely. We may be lucky to get any.

Finally, an even sillier hatch story, and not my finest 'management' hour. Out in the goose-field/orchard, we have a 4' x 2' x 2' nest box intended for ducks, which we call, logically, "The Duck House". This was adopted by one of the hens (Donaldina) 12 days ago to go broody in, so I found her 8 eggs to sit on and promised to lock her up each night safe from the fox. As time went by I suspected that another hen (or more) was nipping in there each morning, bullying Donaldina off the nest and laying her own daily egg into the clutch.

When the politics goes the way you want it to....
I did not get an opportunity to check while there were no birds in there, till today. TWENTY eggs!!! The poor hen can barely spread her 'front' out enough to cover them all. The experienced chicken-keepers among you will also have spotted another problem looming. All the eggs are similar colour (so it's probably one hen repeat laying) so I cannot tell which are the original 8.

Montana putting on a good show.
Come June 7th, Donaldina will have brooded those 8 for the full 21 days but the others for fewer days, so the 8 will hatch (if we are lucky) leaving the nest full of part-developed embryos. If we rescued them to the incubator we might then get one hatching on the 8th, one the 9th and so on. That would be a tricky clutch of babies to manage. Ah well. We shall see. We will cross those bridges when we come to them.

Shtumpy's first hatch,.
There is just one tiny fly in the ointment of our warm days - last night we suffered our first theft from the honesty box. It has been there for months and never an egg or a single cent stolen (as far as I know). Last night, though, some toe-rag cleaned out my money tin and left the dozen eggs in there. It was just 20, 10 and 5 cent coins, total value no more than €1.30, so we'd guess kids, but we don't get any passing kids (on foot anyway) so we'll probably never know. Ah well, guys, who ever you are, don't go spending all that at once now.

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