Friday 25 May 2012

Don't call ush....

Like the worst tales you'd find in the "Year in Provence" tales by Peter Mayle, we are getting increasingly frustrated by the number of local tradesmen who talk a good game and promise that the job you're asking them to do is no problem, and they'll get back to you, but then vanish into silence. We are starting to form a club of the various workers and tradesmen who we are waiting to get back to us. These are currently as follows.

1) 804 Pete - Yes! Former total hero of the building project who we put firmly up there on his pedestal. He delivered the 804 sub-base gravel, he lent us a whacker plate, he offered no-bolt scaffolding, he did a good honest day's work with the mini-digger, clearing the yard, scraping the rubbish from around buildings, taking away the railway line sections and he put us in touch with the Midnight Joker (Maurice) who laid our concrete floors downstairs. However, now he has descended from the exalted ranks of "Project Hero" to the lower echelons of "the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel". His phone gives only voice mail and he never returns your call. We know not why. Last heard of driving off down the drive having looked at the mini-digger job in our yard, saying "Yeah... I'll give you a call back".
2) FBD insurance, who insure our house and now Mum's Fiat. They are meant to be calling Dad back after he clicked on "call about this quote" on their website, but we think that because Mum and Dad ended up with both cars on one quotation reference, the lady who phoned Mum has now set the reference to "sorted". Dad will have to phone back and wake them up.
3) Local jeweler who is meant to be re-sizing a wedding ring and re-stringing some pearls. I'll call you in a couple of days. Tumble weed blows by. Trees come into leaf. Birds sing.....
4) Gutter man. Flies out here like a scalded cat to measure up. I'll give you a call "one of the days". This local expression we have not yet been able to fathom. Does it mean 'One of the days this week'?
5) Local carpenter and door wrangler. We need a split "stable-door" for the Utility room. Called by his workshop 3 weeks ago and he wrote my number down. Called by again last week and he apologized that he'd written it on a random page of his diary and lost it. Wrote it down again and was going to call us Thursday (last night) evening. More tumble weed.
6) Local VW Golf afficionado who may have finally taken the old Sligo reg car from our brambles but turned out to be a carpenter willing to come and have a look at doing the doors on all our out buildings. Yes, I'm a bit busy at the moment but I'll call you one of the days (!) this week. Did he call? That'll be a 'no' then.
7) Car registration office who whizzed Mum's Fiat through in no time at all but stalled the 2CV because "it's a classic". We will phone you in a couple of days. We have to do a couple more checks.............

That's all I can think of for the moment but there are probably more. We pay these guys on time, in cash and we are always nice and appreciative of their work. We don't upset them in any way. Dad is paranoid that it's because he's British, but Sparks defends them all saying it's because they are busy.

Thank God then for Dushty-Sean who we called in to do the yard job in the absence of 804 Pete. He came at lunchtime when he said he would and sized up the job. He told us we didn't want the big coarse '804' we have been using on the drive because we'd not be able to walk comfortably on it in bare feet, and the pea-gravel we'd suggested would move around too much under foot. It'd be like trying to walk on a beach. No no, says he. You want the fine 804 - it's like fine "dusht". We need 10 tonnes of "dusht". He put us in touch with a guy we'll call Dave-the-Dusht. He can't deliver till Monday and will be up with his tractor and trailer during the morning while Sean prepares the ground. We'll wait and see.

Dushty Deefs

Thursday 24 May 2012

Piles of steaming....

With the lump of land ploughed and rotovated by Mike the Cows now starting to dry out a bit and some lovely warm weather showing up, it's time to move outdoors and start on the various bits of garden. Dad had, up to now, been digging and planting in a small bed in the 'secret garden', digging a bit, leaving it a few days before rotovating, planting first onion sets, then spuds and then beans and other stuff into the chopped up soil, moving down the garden like that doing it bit by bit. But now he has the great 25' by 125' tract ready all in one go, just needing a chop over with the small rotovator to have it ready.

Whilst Mike the Cows was doing his stuff, he told us that John Deere Bob has some well rotted calf manure going begging in his barns. JDB drops by every now and then to take tea and a biscuit with us (we love that he drives the tractor up the drive and parks it by the house, so we look like a proper farm!) so next time he appeared Dad asked about the manure and Bob was more than happy to oblige, especially of Dad came down and forked it himself. So it was arranged. Dad followed Bob back to his place and then loaded the box on the back of the tractor three times with loads to bring home.
Mum had to laugh when the old boy, Bob was 'training' Dad how to stack it onto the box to best advantage, in overlapping sheets (forkfulls tend to come away from the calf house floor in great sheets) "like you're building a haycock" explained Bob in his quiet local dialect. Here D's are softened into almost a 'th' sound, S's become 'sh' and anything Dad would say as 'ah' (like Garden, for example), Bob says as 'ear' (so more like "Gear-thun"). We end up with three nice steaming, fly-buzzed piles of poo, well worth a dog exploring!
 Next up came a start on what will be the kitchen garden in the space just west of the house and Tígín. We cannot finish this bit yet because the middle of it will have to support the concrete lorry when (if!) it eventually turns up to deliver the concrete for the apron (path around the house sloping away from house to shed water from the base of the walls). However, previous owner TK Min conveniently left us at least 11 railway sleepers in the woodland to the left of the drive and Mum has always had a yearning for a raised bed, sleeper style kitchen garden. It looks like she may finally get her dream. Have chain-saw, will do hard landscaping!
Finally a quick picture of today's purchases. This being an area given to proper agricultural markets, nobody pussy-foots around buying trays of 6 cabbage plants. You buy a hefty bundle of 100 rufty-tufty, 12 inch tall 'York' cabbage plants for €15. Admittedly we did buy trays of brussels because there were none 'by the bundle'. In all the space Dad has he's been able to plant the cabbages at 2 foot spacings in either direction. My job is to keep the rabbits off them.


...and the rest

I need to catch you up on a load of non-chicken stuff in case you think that life is all about chooks here these days. However, let me quickly finish the William the Conq' story for now. It turned out that the old boy had a simple chest infection. He was looking so much like he'd drop off his perch, or we'd have to call Aoife (Rhymes with Deefer), that Dad rescued him from the Lovely Girls and created the "Hospital Wing". This was actually the calf house bit we'd spent so much time and effort trying to exclude the Girls from last week but in here he could be free from female harassment, have his own food and water and some peace and quiet. It was touch and go for a couple of days, where he had a definite rattle from his chest and a slight discharge from the nose but by Tuesday 22nd he suddenly recovered, piling into his food again, drinking loads of water and striding about, demanding to be let out into the yard and showing an interest in everything.

For him to be let out, we dogs have to be corralled into the house as we are not yet trusted to chase the hens and William, so we are on a bit of time-share now. Our turn out? William's turn? William turns out to be a very sociable, human-friendly young lad who is happy to hang around while Mum and Dad are gardening, scratching around in the freshly dug soil at their feet, wandering over to peck at shoes, clothes or hands in a gentle exploratory way and easy to catch when he needs returning to the hospital wing. It has  been decided to leave him in 'hospital' while he gets his rump and tail back to full health (he was a bit pink and sore where the gals had had at him a couple of times) and possibly matures enough to give it some proud Cock-a-Doodle-Doo stuff. That should stop the Lovely Girls from thinking they can bully him! The Lovely Girls, for their part, as at 24th May had still not produced any eggs, so they want to be watching it themselves! There is ominous talk of stock pots.

Monday 21st saw humans and both cars headed for Sligo where they needed to submit the cars for inspection as part of the process of registering them in Ireland. Expecting a mundane drive to a government office, like they would have got if they were doing the reverse at the DVLA offices in Maidstone, they were delighted when the drive turned out to be an hour each way of GORGEOUS scenery. The country road twisted and turned up hill and down dale through classic 'drumlin' country and then through mountains (The Bricklieve Mountains) with rocky crags, caves, green fields and grey dry stone walls. They passed picturesque tumble-down cottages and passed through beautiful villages built from local stone, with names like Ballymote, Feenaghmore and Kesh Corran, threading a course between Lough Arrow and Lough Gara. It was pure joy, especially in the 2CV. Perfect roads for 'bowling along'. Sadly, because this was going to be a boring government / admin day no camera was taken, so there are no pics. However, the 2CV,being a "classic car" could not, like the Fiat, be cleared on that same day, so "in a few days" (you never want to believe that too closely in Ireland!) they will be called back to the office and will have to drive the route again. This time a camera will come too. Meanwhile the Fiat is now re-registered with an Irish 04-RN number (for 2004, Roscommon) number, insured for Ireland and in process of being taxed. In Ireland a car must display tax, insurance and the 'MOT' (called "NCT" here) in the windscreen.


Sunday 20 May 2012

Fowl Play?

When we last mentioned chickens, we had just bought the five hens ("hins" as they say round here) and they were settling in. We've had a bit of fun since then. The first run was built in a bit of a hurry and didn't allow the birds access to the out building which we'd designated as chicken house (formerly milking shed). We were therefore carrying them to/from morning and evening in a cardboard box.
On the Tuesday we were able to buy chicken wire and Dad constructed a bigger, more permanent run for the girls which let onto the back door of the milking shed. He then constructed a pop-hole in the door so that the chooks could get to and from under their own steam. The chooks, meanwhile had got used to roosting in the calf house manger which was actually at the 'wrong end' of the outbuilding, not in the bit we wanted them to have.
 Next job, then, was to build the chicken 'cage' within the outbuilding, restricting them to the correct end, where they were given perfectly good perches to replace the manger bar they'd adopted. 7 feet high should be good enough a barrier, considered Dad, so he built the mesh barrier up to wall height, leaving the apex up into the rafters open. However we did not have any decent wood to build a doorway out of so the 'wall' of chicken wire was left with a door-way opening into which Mum wedged the frame of the futon bed; it wasn't the full 7 feet tall but we figured it would keep the birds contained

Not a bit of it. The morning saw them all lined up on the former perch in the manger. No problem. Mum and Dad were amused by the girls' persistence and determination, to have hopped over the futon frame, but thought that with a proper 7-foot tall door would put a stop to their gallop. Amusingly, too we seemed to have the laziest chooks in Roscommon. Even though the pop-hole was open nobody went free ranging, it being cold and wet out. They remained indoors, preferring to be 'barn-reared' rather than free range, if that's alright with you, Mr Farmer!
The 7 foot tall door? Effective? Not a bit of it. When Dad went out to check on the gang last thing at night, not only were 2 chooks on the manger bar perch again, but the remaining 3 were sitting roosting on top of the 7 foot mesh barrier, obviously quite capable of getting up that high, probably in stages via the intended perches up the 'new end'. Nothing for it but to chicken wire all the way to the rafters and apex, which Dad did next day. The day was finally won, and the girls, vocal and annoyed that evening, are now contained in the right end. They'll get used to it.

Mum and Dad decided that as there were no neighbours to annoy, they would add a cockerel to the mix. The cock bird could marshall and help protect his ladies as well as sometimes getting them to go purposefully broody so that we might have replacement stock of young birds and some cockerel-pullets for the pot. They contacted Tom again from who told us he had cock birds for sale at 17 weeks old (a bit younger than our girls, who are now 23 weeks old and should be LAYING EGGS (Hint hint!) by now. On Friday 18th May, Mum and Dad drove down through Ballyhaunis and County Mayo to Athenry to collect their boy, who they decided should be called William the Conqueror to cement the Sussex connection and maybe inspire him to heroics and good protecting and marshalling. He looked rather fine, upright and proud all be it a bit stumpy where his tail feathers were mainly gone, presumably pulled out by the dozens and dozens of females in his rather crowded home-pen in Mayo.

Here again, the girls decided that all was not going to go according to plan. They did not love him and they did not want him in their run so they roughed him up a bit. The poor lamb did nothing to fight back and over the Friday and Saturday just seemed to get more and more bullied and more and more miserable. Nobody was actually hurting him or trying to peck him hard and injure him, but the 'Lovely Girls' (as they have now been named) would ignore him, have a quick peck as he went by, not roost with him and leave him behind when they went out to scratch in the sun (which they all now do happily after the first 3 lazy days). By this morning he was sitting hunched up in the hen house looking a picture of abject misery and we know from experience that chooks left like this will just go downhill, off their food and then fall off their perches, dead for no apparent reason.

Something had to be done. Mum and Dad were off shopping in Castlebar and decided that if William was still being pathetic by the time they got back, they'd force him out into the sunshine and make him see the grass and scenery. Bring him out of himself. This they did and it seems to have been the making of him. He seemed to come to in the sunshine and started striding about, scratching and pecking, eating grass and feed pellets, preening and doing a bit of sun bathing in the heat of today (it was very warm in the sunshine). We were a bit worried, even so, that the girls would take themselves off to bed last thing, leaving him out doors where Dad would have to round him up but, no, the last-thing checks revealed him indoors and roosting cuddled up to one of the girls. He must have taken himself off indoors with them. We hope this is a turning point, and tomorrow he'll be accepted into the gang properly.

Watch this space

Wednesday 16 May 2012

More Barding from 1998

From: "Haggis (Bah Humbug!)"
Subject: [WESTIE-L] Haggis-the-Bard's Christmas Humbug
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:47:24 -0000

(Why does everyone do soooooo much shopping?)
Haggis's Dad's TIRED..........

Haggis writes..........

Who invented mince pies?
Please tell me who it was
Who invented mince pies?
I want to know because..
I'm not allowed to eat them
What kind of Christmas fayre
Is that to waft-at-my pow'rful nose
Come on you sod, be fair!

You humans fill your kitchens
Your sideboards and your table
with goodies much too much to eat
much more than you are able
We dogs can only watch and hope
as good food goes to waste
You tell us all that shortbread
Is not to Westie taste

There's choc'late, sweets and nuts and pud
There's cream and beer and rum
But what is there that's Seasonal
to fill a Westie's tum?
You humans open up your gifts
Which chocolate will you choose?
And all I've got in MY gift wrap's
more bloody raw-hide chews

We're bored we've not been walked again
My Daddy's working late
I've watched his "second helpings"
but there's nothing on MY plate
You sit and snooze all bloated
The weight is off your feet
You're happy that you've given me
Some scrawny turkey meat

You're full of Festive spirit
You set the Christmas tone
But all I've got to feast on
Is this boring dried-up bone
So, who invented mince pies?
I'd love to meat the swine
I'd tell him, stick his mince pies
Up where the sun don't shine!

Megan, Haggis and Kalamazoo
Home for the Bewildered

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Haggis the Bard (1998)

As promised, a Haggis Poem, dredged up from Rootsweb in 1998

Subject: Haggis the Bard tries his hand at a pome
 Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 18:07:24 -0000

A poem to fill you with smiles
'bout the woods where we've just done 6 miles
Thru' the beech oak and larch
but it's muddy in March there's muddy paw marks on the tiles

Hear the cry...."Now you're BLACK!" Mummy wails
From your chins to the tips of your tails!
She don't want no cuddles
We've been leppin' thru puddles
and our waggy-tailed schmoozin', it fails!

We're both kind of grubby dark brown
To within half a foot from the ground
I might be the wetter
But Megan's no better
So we're deep in the poo, I'll be bound!

Our "Sorry!" din't get very far
When I shook my mud off in the car
There's no call for laughin'
We're due for a bathin'
with some shampoo, would be about par!

So a wet and a towel-off delight
We'll look like drowned ratties all right
But it's worth all the soaking
We know Mummy's just joking
They'll love us again when we're white

Haggis-the-Bard (I could have won that "Scrufts" if I'd only stayed clean yesterday!) Home for the Bewildered

Gotta love the old boy!

Farewell to Haggis

Today we bring you the sad news that the old boy Haggis, has passed away, put to sleep by the vet, Aoife-Rhymes-with-Deefer. The old fella had become increasingly frail and confused as well as at times almost unable to walk. He was pretty much sleeping all day, getting up only to pee and, bless him had no accidents right up to the end. He had become very thin and gaunt and Mum and Dad decided that he was no longer enjoying life. He was 15 years and 9 months old, which is an excellent innings for a Westie and had enjoyed a full, very happy and healthy life.
He was around, of course, way before I was born and started this blog and even before Facebook started (Yes! Imagine that, you young readers - there used to be no facebook!). In those days he used to post his own stuff on various Yahoo Groups (not even sure if they still exist) and something called "Westie List" and then Westie-L. Some of his stuff is still 'out there' so I may copy some down to here for you or post links. Anyway, for now, just to let you know the story. I am sure many readers will want to remember him as we do, and will miss the old boy. Sleep now, H-Man. You were a very special dog; easily the nicest, calmest, best temperament dog anyone knew, faithful friend and companion to Mum, Dad and Megan, and then a bit of a Father figure and 'mentor' to Coco, Maxwell, Lily and even my good self. Rest in Peace, Haggis. Deefs

Monday 14 May 2012

Goat Management Course

Can I just quickly say that this blog has, today, passed the 20,000 page views stage, running at 20,395 as of today as we hit 1173 posts. Not bad! Thank you for all your interest and support, readers. With plans to try to improve the grazing in the local fields and clear the rushes up, a job which neither sheep nor cattle will do and horses only if very hungry, we have been looking at goats as a possible option. They will eat the rushes when they are new growth (i.e. once topped), they can be used to browse out rubbish like bramble and nettles and, unlike horses they can be used for meat or used to produce milk which is reasonably easy to turn into cheeses, yogurt and then whey for use in baking (e.g. soda bread) or for feeding to chickens. Mum and Dad started to look around on the internet for goats in Roscommon and came across a small holding close by which runs Goat Management courses. The course we chose was a 6 hour one on a Saturday which claimed to include lots of hands-on dairy stuff from milking through cheese making and even eating the meat. Both Mum and Dad have had goat milk before from Tesco which they had found slightly unpleasantly 'goaty' so they were also keen to try some fresh, well produced stuff to see was this flavour a part of the territory. It isn't, incidentally. The farm and the course are run by the delightful family 'Kelemen' including Hungarian Judit and her sister Zsuzsa, Irishman, Pat and various children, primarily young lad Zoli who seems to be chief goat-herd and is definitely a skilled efficient milker. Incidentally, it occurred to Mum that she knows very few Hungarians and the vast majority (OK, 3) of them seemed to be called Zsuzsa. The zs by the way, is pronounced like the French "J" in Rosé d'Anjou. The farm keeps 2 purebred Saanen goats for milking (they are a good dairy breed but scrawny and rangy and not particularly good as meat), Charm and Lucky, and they get these girls into milk each season by siring with either a Saanen (if they want milker females) or the meatier Boer breed if they want meat-goats to either eat or barter with. They also keep a few sheep and lambs, ponies and lots of poultry. The course itself was brilliant and Mum and Dad come home singing its praises. The first half of the day is a classroom session going through legal stuff, the breeds, health, nutrition and feeding, housing, fencing (this is a big one - they are escapists!), managing the grazing (rotation etc), then milking and use of the products. There is a hand-out from the (excellently presented) Powerpoint session. The 2nd part is practical stuff where the gang meet the goats, lead them about, take them to a barn to see and do foot-trimming and be shown how you'd administer wormer doses and medicines. They are shown milking and given a chance to try, along with all the teat-cleaning, strip-cup stuff to check for mastitis and so on. Both Mum and Dad manage to get a good flow of milk going milking by hand so they are happy with that. They move into the kitchen area and get to try starting a cheese batch, a yogurt batch and even getting ricotta to separate from the whey (whey is the clearish liquid left once you've taken the main cheese curds off, but can be boiled and persuaded to produce yet more curds using rennit, and these curds can be made into ricotta cheese.) They also get to try lifting the cheese curd off the original whey for a cheese batch started the day before placing it in the moulds to further drain and dry, and learn to pasteurise milk. All through the day there are frequent breaks for food and coffee, the food being all goat-based products and sometimes Hungarian specialities to show the 'students' what can be done. There is delicious home made rolls and cheese, drinking-yogurt and normal yogurt, pasta parcels with spinach and cheese, rye bread and a variety of cheeses (e.g. with sun dried tomato in oil or with pesto made using wild garlic and salads to try. There were also a few barbecued ribs. It was all delicious and lovely, report Mum and Dad and with none of it showing any unpleasant 'goaty' flavour. There is even a blind trial where milk A and milk B are presented un-labelled to try and only one course member allowed to see the preparation and know which was which. Mum alone of all the group manages to correctly identify the goat's milk. Dad finds them so similar that had Judit said - haha, fooled you, they were both cows'! he'd have not been surprised. Finally there was a beautiful cheesecake made with goat cream cheese. Everyone was sold on the products. Mum and Dad, who took the 2CV to the course (and generated the usual amount of delighted comment and curiosity) drove home buzzing with goat facts and knowledge. They are almost convinced they will go ahead with goats as a plan but need the herd number to come through from the District Vet Office, and some fencing doing, so it may not be any time very soon. They feel they have enough to be going on with at present. More playmates! Deefs

Barns and Outbuildings.

Friday 11th, a beautiful day for a change, sees us out doors sorting out barns and outbuildings. The out building we call milking shed and calf house has, from the start had old, perished, broken transparent corrugated panels as its 'roof lights'. These let in the rain and short-term, Dad had just patched them up with metal sheets and planks, but now was the time to do a proper job, getting up on the roof and pulling out the twist-nails and washers holding the remains of the old panels in place. The roof is not particularly strong, with some dodgy rafters and some rotted out horizontals (battens or 'nailers') but the ridge is OK and the walls are the usual poured concrete with rocks, so Sparks and Dad figured that if the hung a ladder over the ridge and didn't put any weight on the corrugated sheeting, they'd be safe. They wore Hi-Viz coats, too as they are known to keep you safe! What could possibly go wrong? They had bought the transparent panels and a roll of bitumen tape. The existing corrugated iron panels, although reasonable, did have a few rust holes which would need patching. Working like this, they were quickly able to replace the transparent panels, with the chickens looking up at Sparks curiously from below, and Sparks slowly falling in love with the chickens, which are indeed, very watchable and intriguing beasties. Mum and Dad could sit and watch them for hours as they bimble about making little 'bwook-bwook' noises. They moved on to the tape patching. The tape, which came from LIDL as a special, turns out to be good stuff, which adheres well to even rusty sheeting. They patched all the holes they could see, then sent Dad inside the barns to look up at the roof to look for tell tale spots of sunlight shining in, mainly at nail-holes. Then it was time to move on to the hay barn. The big tall "3-Bay Hay Barn" as advertised in the Estate Agent's particulars rapidly turned into 'useless, tumble-down piece of scrap metal' at the first viewing, way back in Autumn 2011. The side walls are reasonably strong (and Thank God for that because...) the curved roof has collapsed and the curved panels hang on at the gutter facings only, flapping around in every breeze. The western end wall is gone completely, lying in a heap inside the barn. The end nearest the house we had thought was OK and indeed we have been parking cars near it and walking to and from under it confidently. Dad even leant the lengths of skirting board against it to dry once they'd been painted with sanding-sealer. Over the winter one of two sheets of currugated had come adrift and Dad had gone up a ladder to free up the remaining nail so that they fell safely to the ground and could no longer fall on someone, causing bad injury. Today, though, Sparks decided to bite the bullet and go up there with his angle-grinder, with Dad holding the bottom of the ladder. Sparks quickly realised, once he was aloft, that the top rail (the gutter facing) was not attached at either end and was held up only because it was nailed to the wall panels. He quickly came down a few feet and rested the ladder on a safer beam. Now he could cut away 2 panels and a block of three which brought him to the end of the barn nearest the house. Climbing the ladder again he saw to his horror that the barn end, a structure 25 feet long by about 10 feet tall, all 8 feet above the ground, was held to the side walls only by a piece of what looked like thick trellis wire and a nail or two. As he freed the last panel the vertical on which he was leaning moved 3 inches and the barn end with it. He shouted "You better MOVE THE CARS! This is coming down! RUN!" Dad rapidly moved the Fiat and then managed to flood the carburettor of the 2CV, so they shoved this bodily backwards free-wheeling!. Sparks moved his ladder to a safer place and the last wire on that end un-pinged, allowing the barn end to slowly swing out like an enormous gate, hinged on the other corner. It must weigh half a tonne. This was decidedly dangerous. Sparks moved the ladder round to the 'hinge' end of this new 'gate' and started to explore how to get the thing down, very aware that when the weight was released his end might buck and throw him off the ladder, but also that any wires or fixings might whip back and catch him that way. Mum was called to stand by with camera to catch the drama. With great care Sparks started to hacksaw the few remaining nails and wire, not quite able to believe how this barn stayed up through the winter winds. Then almost silently and calmly the great mass of timber and sheet steel came away and sagged to the ground, falling flat on its face. Mum retreated indoors to cook supper and open the wine. The boys decided to leave the south wall sheeting for another time. 19:20pm, after a full and tiring day, is no time to start a 2-hour, dangerous, barn-wrangling job. It is rather a time to square away tools and to chase Mum indoors before she necks too much of the wine. Deefs

Sunday 13 May 2012

Fire Place

While Sparks gets stuck into his left-over jobs, Dad starts to bring together the bits for the fire place, carefully dismantled during the build for reinstatement later. Sparks is wiring fire alarm kit, sockets, lights and switches in the Tígín and the milking shed. Dad digs out the various marble panels which make up the fireplace, from both sheds. The marble panels get a soap down to remove chicken poo and general dust and look lovely. The main marble is a lovely swirl of greens and reds with occasional streaks of blue or white. The detail is gold coloured paint and half-circle bosses of paler marble. The main arch of the fireplace has dark red tiles which are a bit damaged but we can work with them and repair them. There is a hood above the fire which seems to be metal with a leaf design in relief, so dark with grime we all assume it is iron like the fire surround and will need black-lead grate polish. But Dad notices a slight sheen coming through the grime and wonders if it might be brass. Taking a wad of Brasso to one corner, he confirms that it is bright metal underneath. Mum decides to bite the bullet on this one and, with the Leveson Enquiry running on the lap top, she decides to spend as long as it takes to get rid of all the grime and polish the thing. She seeks advice from Maisie L who is our main source of Kim and Aggie style cleaning advice.
Maisie suggests using tomato ketchup, smearing it on and leaving it so that the acid can cut down through the grime. Mum works away and the boys see progress every time they pause for breath. It is a labour of love. She is at it all day so the boys finish other jobs and start re-assembling the fireplace ready to install it, thermal-panel adhesive, cement and fire cement. You can see from the pictures that Mum eventually wins, and it is a thing of beauty. Mum gets to fit it back into place. It must be cleaner and shinier than it has been almost since new. We are all able to sit in the comfortable chairs, finally able to light a fire in the main hearth for the first time since they started breaking the house apart in January. Nice one, guys. Deefs

Topping and Ploughing

After our week of doing our own thing (mainly home-making) in the absence of Sparks who has been in Dublin working, John is coming back this week to finish off a few little jobs. He gets delayed by a day because his son is poorly so we get another day of bringing stuff in from the Tígín, unpacking, cleaning if needed and finding a home for it in the new house. Some of it will actually end up surplus to requirements as we do not want to clutter up the new house as much as the old one, so we are going to invest in some lidded dry plastic crates in which stuff will stay safe if it is banished to the Tígín or the Utility Room. Meanwhile the chooks prove to be the laziest bunch of gals in Roscommon. In theory they are free range. They have the whole milking shed and calf house to wander about in, and a pop-hole which is open all day leading to a size-able run. In practise they seem to stay sitting on their overnight perch in the calf house which leads to amusing posts on Facebook where Dad adds speech bubbles to his pictures of the girls all in a row on the perch. Dad also gets a chance to expand the veg patch in the 'Secret Garden', planting broad beans, chard and Dwarf French beans. The Onions are getting on well and the first potato leaves are emerging through the soil. On the morning of Wednesday, Sparks turns up but we also have a flurry of excitement around the cattle. We are rapidly wrangled indoors to keep us out of the way as Mike the Cows and a mate show up. They need to round up the cows and bring them a kilometer down the lane to a yard so that they can be TB tested by the Government Vet. They are scatty enough anyway and run in all directions and the theory is that if we were 'helping' they'd be at it all day. Mike and his mate are doing 'quiet and gentle persuasion' rattling buckets of grub and hoping the cows will follow them. Most do. Some take off in the other direction and some, once in the lane, head off along our front fence, the wrong way. Eventually everybody is corralled and set off in the right direction. The gates are all shut and we dogs are allowed out again. While he's here, Mike the Cows makes a proposition to Dad, asking can he have his cows graze the eastern field (1.5 acres) if he agrees to top both fields (mow them off to 3-4 inches including the rushes) and to plough and rotovate the 25' by 125' slice of the western field which Dad is going to use as his allotment. This will save Dad weeks of digging so we all agree and Mike turns up with a variety of kit to top and plough. He will let the ground dry a bit before he tractor-rotovates.

Monday 7 May 2012

Back in the Chicken Game!

We'd been nosing around on the internet trying to find a source of Light Sussex chickens preferably at about 22 weeks age (known as "point of lay" or POL; your girls are just about to start their egg laying careers and the boys, who breeders do not really want too many of, have become obviously male and can be weeded out). But the discussion forums were very quiet and no-one was coming forward in reply to any of our entreaties. All the for sale birds seemed to be miles away, mainly in Northern Ireland. Thinking it might take a while to find birds, we'd not done anything about building housing or a chicken run. Then on Friday Dad chanced upon a clickable button saying "future sales" and four clicks in found a poultry sale in Roscommon on Sunday, 2 days away! Rosco is at the other end of the county but is still only half an hour away. Thinking this might be a professional sale where traders are auctioning off thousands of birds, Mum and Dad grabbed one of the big packing boxes and headed off on Sunday morning, not too full of hope. We found the sale in a rough old car park opposite the cattle market and we could tell immediately that this was not a professional event. It was more like a little car boot sale - the car park was full of very agricultural looking vans, cars and trailers and a crowd of rather disreputable looking lad and lasses hanging round each. Our hearts sank. The poultry was 'displayed' in a collection of badly soiled crates and boxes, many crammed with way too many ducks or chickens, some cockerels let loose to run around doing their own thing. The birds looked, for the most part, fairly grubby and were obviously not going to have any kind of quality or health guarantee or certification. Many were obviously of mixed lineage, so 'mongrel' chickens, generic "poultry". This was cash-only and you'd be lucky to even get a name of whom you were trading with. None the less Mum and Dad worked their way round counter-clockwise and at half way point came across a guy with a few Light Sussex (they thought, though there were no labels). Unfortunately there was also a bloke at the stall buying a couple of those, couple of them, one of them and.... Mum and Dad thought they'd be lucky to get 2 birds... they walked on. Then, amazing revelation, they came across a stand which had a neat row of clearly labelled crates with no more than 5 hens in each crate, a different breed in each crate, with back up stock in the clean van. Clear labels carried a photo of the variety and a laminated sign told that these were vaccinated against all manner of disease. The bloke, Tom, was bright and helpful, happy to furnish Mum with his business card and website address. He turned out to be a company called Rainbow Free Range Poultry from Athenry, Co. Galway, website; a nice website which carries a virtual tour of the place and an interview with one of the lady staff. His Sussex hens were labelled "Sussex Ponte" which we understand is a hybrid/utility version of the same thing (Crossed with a Rhode Island), they were €15 each, they were exactly the right age (22 weeks) and he was happy to sell us 5 plus give us a carrier bag of feed to see us through to Tuesday (Monday is a Bank Holiday). Dad went to bring the car and our box round and the chooks were loaded, Tom carrying four at once by the wings! Mum and Dad hurried home via a likely seller of chicken-wire, but they were closed. The chooks were left in the car while Dad quickly wrangled a run out of Sparks's old fence panels and a chunk of Thermal Panel, behind the caravan, on one end of the milking shed. The chickens were let out and allowed to settle down and explore. Being dogs, Coco and I are instinctively driven to try to get at them. Dad thinks he will eventually achieve peace like he did with Megan and Haggis and the last lot of chickens, back 10 years ago, but for now Mum and Dad have us excitedly charging round and round the run trying find, chew or dig a way in and we are subject to frequent shouts of "Deefer! Leave THEM ALONE!" Coco, amusingly, charges through a patch of stinging nettles in his excitement and stings his feet and under carriage. He is in for an uncomfortable night, rubbing himself on the bedding, trying to rub away the itches. The chooks are moved to the calf-shed for the night, being the most dog and fox proof building we had (there are discussions of whether they should live in the 2CV or the caravan, but sense prevails. The quickly clamber and scramble up to the timber which runs across the top of the feed manger - it would have been above the cow's necks as they fed - and use that as a perch. In the morning they stay put there as the rain comes down. They seem to be opting for a battery lifestyle rather than free-range, but Mum and Dad are happy to leave them be. it gives them a chance to go buy chicken wire and then to build a bigger, more serious run with a pop-hole through the door back into the manger-perch. The chooks are eventually encouraged out to come see this big new space in the sun shine of afternoon, and we dogs revert to our chasing about trying to find a way in. Not much chance there. This is chicken wire buried into the ground - no way under , over or through for a Westie and a Yorkie. As we go to press, evening is falling and Dad is patiently waiting for the girls to suss out what to do with the pop-hole. They are not very bright Deefs

Sunday 6 May 2012

Dust Collectors

At risk of being seen as dust collectors, Dad has enjoyed being able to bring over to the new house his esoteric collection of 2CV models etc. This sat around the bay window in Faversham and was probably the bane of anyone's life who ever tried to dust in there (hey Angel B?). Well it all made the journey via BGL to the new house and is now being broken out again and has earned its place lined up along the book shelf-cum-mantle shelf in the spare bedroom. Some of these models are mini works of art. In France, where the 2CV is obviously an icon you can find all through the flea markets and tat shops, little 2CV models made from old tin cans, usually with the original design of the tin left on, so your 2CV will carry Schweppes soft drink logos or Coca Cola. One of our favourites is made from the tin which used to contain cockroach killer (Anti-Cafard). It always amused Mum, Dad and Diamond that the French go in for whole shops proudly geared to rat traps, vermin control, cockroach sprays and so on. None of your hidden-in-a-back-shelf delicacy for these French traders - great big logos in the front window with huge pictures of cockroaches, rats, mice, fleas etc and in-your-face gung-ho pictures of dead ones, weapons to kills them and so on. The "Anti-Cafard" shop in the 18th Arrondisement (Montmartre) was always a must-see landmark in their tours of Paris. So, finding an actual Anti-Cafard 2CV model was a treasured find! Also a picture of me finding out what the sink in the Utility Room is there for. I'm told this is because I rolled in some Charolais poo, but I can't see that's a good justification, can you? Mad Deefs

Diamond Visits

By Wednesday 2nd May we are ready for our first ever house guest, Diamond, Mum's best buddy from Faversham. She flies into Knock Airport and Mum and Dad are delighted to do the airport run. In the UK these were always fairly arduous and involved the M25 motorway and other busy roads, plus every airport was at least an hour and a bit away, so you seemed to be tied up for at least 3 hours to do a run. The Roscommon house is a mere 22 minutes from Knock Airport along a beautiful twisty turny country road from the bridge just north of Lisacul, till it comes out on the N17 just by the airport itself. The airport is so tiny there are no problems parking, finding your way around or, if you're the flyer, no problems with queues, baggage reclaim etc. You can be out, person collected and dropped and back indoors within the hour. Diamond is an easy guest to 'entertain' and she seems delighted with the house we've "built", impressed by the warm, dry and light rooms. She's been following the build story on this blog and on Face Book anyway, so she's familiar with the horror stories we inherited and knows how much hard work we've put in. She says that the spare room bed in comfortable and she sleeps well, generally waking and descending the stairs as she hears Dad wrangling the fire in the stove into life. She is happy to be shown the delights of Castlerea including the Cattle Market. Mum and Dad take her in there out of curiosity themselves, wondering if there are any goats to be had, and we're all happy that no-one catches the auctioneer's eye and accidentally bids on any of the calves. The Auctioneer is one of those fast speaking ones as well as speaking in the Roscommon accent so that none of Mum, Dad or Diamond come out with any kind of clue as to how much the little calves were going for. Diamond, like 'our lot' is a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore but was mildly upset by the sight of tiny calves being hustled in and out of the ring, bought and sold in what seemed a rather clinical, cool manner. Castlerea was the Thursday. On the Friday the mission was to look round Ballaghaderreen, our 'other local town', smaller but just as interesting. From Balla-D they took a scenic drive out beyond Boyle up to Lough Key and Lough Arrow to see if they could find the location of Mum and Dad's Goat Keeping course for next Saturday. Forgetting the helpfully printed map, they got close but did not actually find "Harmony farm". The visit is a nice chance for Mum to explore the capabilities of the new kitchen, cooking up some good food for everyone, like the pork bellies and pears in perry (pear-cider) sauce shown here. She also bangs out a full Irish fried breakfast on Saturday, Diamond's last morning. We are delighted to find that the kitchen, which we'd been calling a 'morning kitchen' as the early morning sunlight floods in through the back door, as seen in the picture here of Coco sunbathing. However, as we got round to evening, it turns out that the sun sinks below the horizon also lined up with the 'back' windows of the kitchen, so that we get another flood of evening sunlight too! A kitchen for both ends of the day! Deefs.