Monday 17 December 2012

"Here a Year" and Logging Games

With the passing of the 12th Dec, comes the Anniversary of our moving here. It was on the afternoon of the 11th, through to the morning of the 12th, that we made the long run here across UK, on the overnight ferry and then the morning drive west across Ireland to arrive at the solicitor's office in Strokestown (Co. Roscommon) for 09:00 in the morning to collect our front door key. It's probably all here in the blog but I must admit I've not been to check. With the keys clutched in our fist we completed the journey in the Fiat and 2CV plus trailer convoy, creaking open the rusty gates and slithering the cars up the drive, then coated with 15 years of rotten pine needles. It feels like a long time since then and we have certainly achieved a massive amount - more than we ever dreamed we'd be called upon to achieve.

By happy coincidence it was on the 12th that we found ourselves back in that same solicitor's office, but this time making our Wills. We had Wills in the UK, obviously, but these can only cover UK assets, not the Irish house or the now-Irish cars and any other stuff or bank accounts.

After all the frenetic hard work stuff of that first 12 months, we have also now settled down into a more sensible routine, the business of just living here, settling in and making friends. Our main local contact is John Deere Bob, a local guy who has adopted us and we are happy to now think of as a good friend. He calls by once or twice a week and comes in sits down and chats, tells us his latest news and answers our queries (where are local Doctors, who would you see for fencing etc). You can see from this picture that the dogs have also adopted him and consider him a bit of a soft touch on the ginger biscuits. Not so the cats. Bob doesn't do cats, and if any of them try it you hear Bob's superbly accented "Gooworrrn! Get away!" We love his twinkly eyed breathy laugh, which is usually his response to Liz teasing him that he will have the young ladies chasing him at the Dance he's off to tonight, or some such joking.

In the garden, as we approach Winter Solstice (Dec 21st) we have been attacking the seed catalogues. Our mentor, Anne W, has received her catalogues for Thompson and Morgan and for a local supplier who are local agents for same and who can supply the blight resistant varieties of seed potatoes which we probably need to grow round here, Sarpo Mira. Mira is due to be in short supply this year as a result of the poor season, so we are advised to get in there a bit quick. We converge on Anne and Simon's place to rattle in our order (we are combining forces to save postage) and while I'm on spuds, I include the kale and greens, carrots, parsnips etc as well as the nasturtiums and marigolds that I like to grow alongside for pollination reasons. It is good to do this job each year as you start to get a real feeling that there is going to be a 2013 season, Spring WILL eventually come, the rain might ease off and this winter will be history.

In the animals dept, the 'baby' chicks are now 8 weeks old and are out and about all day with the main flock and William the Rooster. They are coping well and doing OK. My on-line 'experts' (the Irish fowl discussion forum) have seen the pictures and have been telling me since these guys were tiny, that they look like roosters, but they do admit it can be a bit hit and miss sexing baby chicks. If they are roosters then I am afraid they will end up in the freezer as William will not put up with them (and we do not want to be paying for food for non-productive birds), so I am hoping that the experts have it wrong, and that these two are in fact pullets who can join the egg-laying gang when they get to 21 weeks or so (mid April).

I have also been out logging again as the wood store has been depleted a bit by our burning wood, especially during the recent cold snap (which lasted a few days but has now been replaced by mild but wet weather). Partly this is in association with John Deere Bob who is convinced we should be harvesting the lovely ash trees growing in the land owned by the Three Sisters (the bit we didn't buy). We have, of course, checked with Vendor Anna for permission to do this and she has let us take wood as long as the tree is free standing and not part of a hedge.

There is a small row of half a dozen coppiced ash trees down in the NW corner of the property, so I have gone down, felled and logged up a first one of these trunks, but I am not convinced Bob will get his tractor down there through some of the very muddy field gateways, so I have stopped for now and started work back 'home' where logs can be gathered up in a wheel barrow. This has also involved me nipping down to Bob's farm to cut up some gnarly, bottom-of-tree bits which are too tough and knotty for him to split with his axe.

In the process, I have badly blunted a 2nd chain-saw chain, so that filing them sharp no longer really works. It gives you a few minutes of 'edge' but what chain saw blades really need every now and then is a proper sharpen with a special angle-grinder disk 'rig'. Now, it so happens, that when I first got the saw and Sparks needed to pay me for some petrol, I got him to pay me with a spare chain but also one of these angle-grinder rigs which good old Lidl's (Supermarket) were doing on special for about £30 to go with their saws. Over the intervening months I had got as far as un-boxing this machine and setting it up but had never actually switched it on or used it in anger. If I'm honest, I was a bit scared of it having seen and heard the screaming violence meted out by Sparks's various angle-grinder-based builder's machine tools (stone cutters, rip saws, the metal-cutters) when we were house-building (demolishing actually).

I needn't have worried! This thing turns out to be so quiet and 'gentle' you don't actually know it's running unless you look, and , because all it was doing is putting the edge back on each 'chisel' tip of the chainsaw chain, there is little drama when grinding, and a tiny 'shower' of sparks a few inches long (see picture). It works though! The saw was like new! When chain saws lose their edge the 'saw-dust' they throw out goes from being coarse wood-chips up to a cm in size, to smaller bits and then finally actual dust. Obviously they also start to take a lot longer to go through the tree and eventually they start to glaze over the cut ends (scorching them) rather than making a clean cut with its normal parallel lines where the saw blade has buzzed through. These things I have been told but was pleased today to prove them to myself. The belov├ęd saw is now blasting through the spruce and the ash in the Secret Garden, showering me with big wood chips and slicing through foot diameter trunks in seconds. Wish I'd done it sooner!

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