Wednesday, 1 August 2018


Ireland missed the 'blood moon' lunar eclipse due
to cloud/rain but I've been waking early lately and seen some
lovely sunrises. A bit misty, this one.
SPOILER ALERT: Self pitying aul' git on a minor rant. Fans of the healthy, happy blogger might like to skip the first few paragraphs.

The heatwave officially ended when
the 'Mighty Coat' came back out of the
Health update: Readers of the posts about the hospital stay might like a progress on the recovery. A few days ago, when I was planning this post, this section was going to be  a right old 'woe is me' whinge. I was not happy and the recovery seemed to be going all to Hell. Now I find myself in a much better frame of mind and waxing pragmatic and realistic.

The mountain ashes think it's Autumn already.
You'll know that I am in a 4 week 'stabilising' phase now, taking great care on the fluid intake, taking the tapered end of the steroids course (3 more days till I'm off them), weighing myself every day and watching anxiously for weight gains of 1-2 kg per day, taking it easy, letting my lungs recover. I came out of hospital thinking that'd be easy, buoyed up by my famous recovery in there, clearing my lungs and losing 14 kg of fluid in 14 days, surrounded by cheering nurses, delighted, enthusiastic medics and a blizzard of well wishers.

Our lovely current Help-X volunteers,
Emma (l) and Flora.
I am now back home and down with a bump into a more realistic rate of recovery. The limited fluids began as a real pain; I was craving water, wet food and juicy fruit, eking out my ration, scoring every sip I took with pills on my sheet and enviously watching Elizabeth and the guests sloshing generous slugs of supper time water into their glasses of elderflower cordial. Despite all that "hardship" I was still putting on weight at about half a kilo a day. A worrying trend which had me looking down the barrel of more congestion, re-swollen ankles, no breathing and a return to hospital.

That lost raised bed which the girls have been clearing.
Anyone else putting on lots of weight (what would you even eat if you WANTED to put on half a kilo a day?) might be thinking "Who ate all the pies?" but in my current state it is a water retention and 'water-works' control issue. Obviously I am back in touch with the doctors (well, trying to be. They not that easy to reach!) and keeping a careful eye on the figures. We even started putting a tape measure round my ankles to spot swelling.

Self seeded mullein (Verbascum) at last.
A couple of frustrated, scared, upset, wobbly days then but we have now put the water thing on a much more manageable method. I am allowed a (250 ml) coffee with each of he three main meals and the remaining 750 ml I take as a 750 ml bottle of water which I keep in the fridge (out of sight and.....) and sip away at. I have got used to this and find myself not only not craving water all day, but actually being left with some, un-drunk.

"Kuku", Iranian spinach tortilla. Beautifully light and
fresh-tasting after the spud-based Spanish one.
If ever I fancy something else (a tiny beer, for example), I decant the equivalent amount of water into the sink. There may also have been an alleged problem with me 'horsing' the carbs on my return to civvie street (Hey, I was ill, weak, needing to build my strength up!) but the catering dept is on that one and carefully watching my portion control!

The girls helped make the meringue for this black currant
Pavlova. They also picked the currants.
In these parts they have a lovely expression for if you are not good but not bad. In that superbly understated Irish way, where you'd not want to 'put yourself forward' by claiming to be either very healthy or very ill, they reply to 'How are you?', with "Ahhh middlin' ". I am going to adopt this now and give that reply to anyone who asks. I am streets ahead of where I was 3 weeks ago, but not quite yet fixed, so 'middling' nails it.

Falafels and banana bread.
But enough of this  medical malarkey. How about the rest of the place? I am now back in the groove here (all be it on light duties, no heavy lifting) assisted by our lovely current Help X volunteers, Emma and Flora. I have had them doing all manner of gardening and tidying jobs including mowing and brush cutter-ing, cleaning out a duck house, clearing the big raised bed and rescuing all the plants.

Emma scratching some piggy backs.
One of them, Flora, turned out to be a closet vegetarian. She'd not told us in advance (we told her off for that, silly girl!) and had been trying not to give the game away to Liz in that first week, taking the plates of food but quietly pushing the meat bits to one side. Once she was 'out', Elizabeth was able to adjust the menu to suit and happy to join her in 3 weeks of exploring the vegetarian repertoire and we have all enjoyed some real delights and revelations. It has become an evening job for the Woman of the House, pulling out the little used cook-books and choosing what to cook for tomorrow.

We have had a delightful range of baking (cheese and onion pie, anyone?), some lovely soups (butternut and coconut?), an Iranian spinach tortilla (kuku), desserts like pavlova and, yesterday, a gorgeous Mexican spread of wraps, nachos, tomato and pepper hot-stuff, sweetcorn salad, salsas, cheeses and so on. The girls are also keen students in the kitchen and we have had them learning and helping in the baking and food prep. Most recently this was a banana bread and the falafels for lunch.

All aboard! Familiarising the pigs with
the trailer-of-doom.
We have also "harvested" 2 lambs and the biggest pig. The sheep we can round up ourselves at this stage but it was good to have some help from the Help X lasses on my campaign to train the pigs to go into the trailer. This, you may recall, we do by showing them the trailer with tempting food inside for a couple of days before the 'off' so that, on the morning, they will scurry up the ramp quite innocent of our betrayal. This time pushing the trailer around on my own is a bit outside my "light duties" remit, so the girls have been a real God-send. The pigs flew up the ramp at the first try, and we ended up having fun trying to ensure that only the pig we needed (Daisy) was in there (not all three) so that we could close the gate on her.

Off to the butchers then on Monday morning with the two lambs (including the big ram lamb) and on Tuesday morning with that pig. We will now get all that meat back for the freezer. The lamb offal we collected yesterday. The half-pigs will be collected on Thursday. We will butcher those ourselves, The lamb we will collect next Monday.

Buff-tip moth caterpillar.
A little entomological mini-drama this week when Flora spotted a caterpillar on my '60th Birthday present' white-barked birch tree. When I went back to the tree with the camera I saw that there were actually dozens of them and that they nearly had the tree defoliated. Still, we are following organic principles here, so caterpillars are grist to the mill, Elizabeth posted a few pics up on Facebook to see if we could get an ID.

Clockwise from top left, lamb hearts, livers and kidneys
(still in their suet "jackets")
A UK friend was on to us saying we might have a problem. It might be buff-tip moth but it MIGHT be something called the "Oak processional moth". The latter is a frightening invasive species, notifiable to the Ministry, able to devastate broad leaved forests. It has not made Ireland yet, but the Ministry ask us all to keep a careful eye. Elizabeth fired off pics and an email just in case. Don't panic, came back the Ministry, 'That is just a buff tip moth, but thank you for the notification". There's a relief.

That is enough for this one. When I next post we will be nearing the last days of the girls' stay with us and we will have the pork back from Webb's. I will also, I hope, have had the car re-tested and passed its NCT. Myself, I will almost certainly still be middlin'.

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