Wednesday 16 October 2013

As Sharp as a Tack

I have been helping John Deere Bob with a few jobs, most recently stripping some ivy off his cattle barn, which had got a firm grip and some 2 inch 'trunks' clinging to the block-work. Being a climber and not needing to support its own weight, ivy is never that tough and I made short work of it with a billhook, loppers and a standard hand saw. I had to cut it off at ground level and then rip it off as far as the top of the block wall. Bob had no ladder available so he told me to 'leave that top stuff to die by itself'. He was delighted and came by the place later to bring us a sack of his good dry (local) turf for the fire; he was all full of beans having sold some beef animals to the 'factory in Ballyhaunis' for a very good price.

Buff Orpington rooster at 25 weeks. 
We love ol' Bob - he's a really sound old boy! We think he's about 72 but he's as sharp as a tack and full of mischievous humour and a ready, breathy laugh. He gets about on his tractor (his only vehicle) and looks after his 20 or so cattle. He is one of these guys who you get the impression is ready to retire but is frightened that if he stops he will seize up, so having sold one lot of cattle he's quickly off to buy the next lot. He loves his politics and is delighted that, in Liz, he has met a worthy adversary in debating his opinions.

He had an opposite view to Liz in the recent Seanad (Senate) Referendum and the two of them sat poring over Liz's lap top as she flashed up results table and maps from the results websites. He knew the results for Roscommon and local counties but wanted to know the percentages for counties further a-field, like Waterford and the Dublin turf and talked about the 'panel' voting system which gets the Senators voted in. For me there is an extra pleasure in just hearing him talk away in the soft gentle local accent, where the stress is on the second syllable of 'Mayo' and where 'meal' becomes 'male' and where S's have an almost 'th' thud mixed up in them which is impossible to write phonetically (County S(th)ligo?). Then he decides he has been here long enough, jumps up rubbing his palms together. Well! Good luck Now! he tells us as he reaches for the door. Lovely old boy. I pray that I am as fit as he is when I am 72.

We've decided to try out a new type of animal bedding, replacing wood shavings with milled straw. Both come in bales of 100 litres at about €7, the straw a few cents more but being finer, you get more coverage for your money. We have been OK with the wood shavings but various people on the poultry forum and Mentor Anne have advised that this straw is better after use as garden compost as it breaks down faster than the wood shavings.

Marans looking all woe-begone in full moult.
I am mildly concerned that it comes "medicated" with some kind of chemical claiming to be a 'Salmonella inhibitor' (but being a bedding rather than a feed, it does not have to tell you what this chemical is). It just smacks a bit to me of 'preventative' medication which is one of the things we organic types are meant to be 'anti'. I also asked whether an anti-bacterial agent in the straw might also mean anti rotting on the compost heap, but I am assured that this is not the case. So far so good anyway, I have done my mucking out today and bedded everything (rabbits, chickens and geese) down with this stuff. It looks nice and fresh and clean. One of the claims on the packaging made me smile - it is 'screened to inhibit dust' I read through streaming eyes as I choked on the wafts of something remarkably like dust when spreading it around on the goose house floor.

One more laugh for today - having some meat left over from the huge Jersey Giant rooster we culled out recently, Liz made a version of shepherd's pie with a mashed potato crust and a fill of the meat, leeks and mushrooms. Delicious! But what to call it? Shepherd's Pie is obviously the lamb/mutton version, and Cottage Pie is the beef version. I put it to my Poultry forum to come up with a name and one lad who uses the name 'Jemsey' on the forum suggested the inspired moniker "Cull-a-Cock Pie". Excellent!

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