Saturday 1 March 2014

Breaking 'The Codes'

The mini horse of whom we have had custody in our acre and a half of 'East Field' for the winter, is still waiting to have his gelding operation slotted in between the end of the risk of frost (which causes blood clotting problems) and the spring start up of the nasty flies which prey on horses and give them such a hard time in the warm weather. Well, I don't suppose HE is waiting in any sense, but we followers are. Cody is his name, but he's a pedigree with a name longer than he is which ends with "Da Vinci Code" so he gets called Cody, Codes, 'the Codes' and so on, hence my title.

He had been Carolyn and Charlotte's stud stallion but the market has fallen right out of almost every type of horse now, so there is no point in using him to breed with, so no need to put up with his 'stallion-ness', hence the decision to have the boy 'done'. So what to do with him? Charlotte decided to break him to the harness for towing, as has been done with his two amigos (Bob and Romeo). This way he can pull the cart and, for a bit of fun, also be used to drag logs back across Vendor Anna's land the old way so that he works and stays fit and strong. Charlotte asked me would I like to help, watch, learn and join in the fun and games

So Thursday saw us rounding up Cody and Charlotte started to wrangle him into all his leather gear, the big yoke across his back to take the weight of the cart-shafts, his head piece and the 'bit' for his mouth, straps from 'pommel' to the back of his head to stop him lowering his head, one from his girth (tummy) to his chin to stop him raising it too far, one round his tail across his bum to stop everything sliding forward... the poor boy was well trussed up.

There are presumably proper names for all these bits, so Carolyn and Charlotte will be laughing fit to bust by now but you get the idea, and Cody was familiar with NONE of this, so day one was about him getting used to all the leather squeaking, pulling and pinching in unfamiliar places, and noises behind him, out of sight. He did very well, the lad. We 'lunged' him round in circles for a while, then Charlotte led him from behind as if in the cart, steering him with the bit. Finally we tried him on his first 'load', just a car tyre. This was to get him used to the idea of the gentle (and sometimes catchy-jerking) tug on his harness plus the noise of the tyre sliding along the road on its little chain.

One of the fascinations for me, beginner that I am, is Charlotte's running commentary as we work away. The local old boys, rather than be annoyed that they are being held up by two muppets blocking the road with a horse pulling a tyre, will melt with nostalgia as they remember the horses they had to break in before and after "the Emergency" (WW2). This is very gentle breaking-in we are doing. The Gypsies break their horses "hard" but you know what? They are the quietest horses you can get - if you want to put a small child or a beginner on a horse, then horses broken by our Traveler friends are the perfect choice.

Guinea fowl inner feather
Unfortunately for Cody, in the middle of all this, Charlotte spotted a small patch of 'Rain Scald' on Cody's back. This is a bacterial ailment which happens mainly in wet weather where the horse fails to use your nice rain shelter and stands around outside, permanently wet. It is itchy and results in small patches of scabby skin and small tufts of hair coming out, but if caught soon, it is easy to cure. Cody has been taken home to spend some time in the dry of a stable (enforced dryness!) while being given tea-tree shampoo baths and some TLC. His hair is re-growing already. We were going to buy him a get well card but maybe that's a bit soft!

Meanwhile we are happy to report that Goldie the rabbit has now 2 perfectly clean, pink, mite-free ears and Lieutenant Colonel Sir Bufton-Tufton is also off the endangered list, strutting around and looking after the needs of his various women. Following up on a lead from Mentor Anne, we have also found a source of good, vintage Cheddar cheese which satisfies us, this being one John McMillan and his stand "Carlton Cheese and Olives" who do Saturdays at Boyle Farmer's Market. We also came by some good Wensleydale and some hard goats cheese (plus some pesto olives) so we are cheesed up for now. Thank you for that, Anne.

€100 Euro's worth of bee gear. Frames, smoker, hive tool
Finally, we are back off to the "Two Marys" today to collect the remaining parts of our hive, the frames, wax foundation and nails, plus our smoker and hive-tool. We love these ladies, They are so helpful and generous with their advice, happily talking us through all manner of nips and tucks which we might be able to do ourselves rather than spending €8 or so in their own shop (on a 3-frames-wide 'dummy' frame to reduce the space available for the newly established colony lest the brood get chilled). They also chat away happily about which hive-tool you might prefer to prise frames away from each other when the bees have glued them all solid with 'propolis'.

Tomorrow we are back into visitor mode, potentially with 12 for lunch. The biggest pork leg joint you ever saw (6.2 kg) is in the oven getting a very gentle roast to a 24 hour (!) recipe, chocolate mousse cakes have been made, ice cream bought and a rhubarb and date crumble constructed. Bring on the Silverwoods who are showing up divided between a train journey for the car-overflow and a car bringing a hand-me-down fridge-freezer from the Steak Lady, plus the Cody-owning crew from down the road, Carolyn, Charlotte, K-Dub and young H. Chaos? It probably will be!

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