Wednesday 9 January 2013

Rubber eggs and BIG trees

Our friends and mentors, Anne and Simon have been having some fun trying to dissuade their local magpies from stealing the eggs from their chicken house. At first this was just by fitting a 'pop hole' through the main, human-sized, door so that they could shut it, but the magpies had developed such an obsession with the eggs in that house that they soon worked out that they could nip in through the pop hole and steal them anyway.

We know, obviously, that you can buy 'dummy' eggs from poultry specialists - made of pottery, they are used to train young hens where they should be laying (i.e. in a nest box! Are you listening, Wandering Wendy?) and can be used to help a broody hen get settled while you accumulate a size-able clutch of real eggs, which you then slip under the hen all in one go, retrieving the dummies. They are also used to teach any hens who might start egg-pecking that this is not a good plan. But Anne and Simon were poking around in our local Aladdin's Cave general store, "Wispy's" of Castlerea, when they spotted in the toy section, these rubber eggs. They supposed that if you put rubber eggs in the boxes, the egg-pecking thing might also dissuade the magpies.

They bought a couple and put them in the box and sat back to wait. They vanished! We guess the magpies had them but took them away elsewhere to try to break them open. Anne and Simon never saw the eggs again, so that was some Euro-cents wasted but undeterred, they nipped back to Wispy's for some more and this time fixed cords to them using screws and washers to stop them being stolen. At last the problem is solved, so Anne is amusing herself with thoughts of a confused magpie with a sore beak wondering why eggs suddenly got to be unbreakable and un-thieve-able. Anyway, they've not been back and Anne thought we'd also be able to use these eggs at some stage so they bought 3 for us as a Christmas present. Thanks very much, Anne and Simon!

With the return of the windless dry (and frosty) weather, I head back out into the field out west of us to have a go at the big ash tree which John Deere Bob wanted felling and logging up. I was not at all sure that this big old thing might be too big for my little, fairly cheap (Lidl's special!) chain saw with its 16 inch "bar" but Bob thought I'd be OK and he's got a lot more experience at these things than I have. Anything too thick, he said, you just attack once from either side. In for a penny, as they say. My top picture shows how thick was the trunk but also shows that it is now felled.

My hike across the frosty grass this morning left me with clown-shoe toe-caps 'swollen' with slushy domes. Incidentally, the dogs do not come with me when I am chain sawing (not a good mix) - these pics were taken in the afternoon when Liz came out to see the tree. We took the dogs and the cats came too. Blue is pictured here in a yellow circle.

I cut out my 'wedge' on the falling side of the tree without difficulty and then tried to do the cut in from the back. Here I hit the short-bar problem - I could not get the back cut to go right across the tree - I had to climb into the hedge a bit to get round to the other side. The tree was so reluctant to fall that at one stage I was almost convinced that I had cut though it and it was balancing on its stump but, no (obviously not!) eventually it did that bass-y crunching deep crack noise which you know means it has started, imperceptibly to move, and it's time to get the hell outta there. It is wise at that point to get clear a bit quick, because the trunk can bounce on the branches as the top end hits the ground and the bottom end can jump several feet in any direction, 'down' the fall line, back 'up' towards the stump or to left or right. You need to stand clear till everything stops moving and only then start assessing which branches to log up first.

My third picture shows the small stand of coppiced ash which I have been attacking prior to felling Bob's big tree. Deefer is down there bottom right - she's the only dog we trust off the lead at present, not to vanish through the hedge and over the hills and far away. The light was a bit low and slanting, evening style but you may be able to make out the pale coloured stumps, down by Deefer where I have been already and explaining the lack of tall stems in the right hand side of the stand. I have deliberately left the thinner, young trunks to take over and supply future logs years hence.

 And finally, just a shot of the 'Take Liz to See' walk this afternoon. Lis is following Bob's tractor tyre tracks out to the site and Blue, in his yellow circle again, joining in the fun. He tends to tread carefully over the poached up, cow foot printed bits of grass but then seems to lift up his skirts and scamper good distances, bounding across the turf with his big, broad tail up like a mad raccoon

Topp Logging! as Molesworth might have said.

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