Wednesday 16 April 2014

One Swallow....

Not all presents are sensible; loved this mug and coaster!
The Birthday is done and dusted all over for another year. We now turn the corner into proper Summer type jobs starting with thoughts of the 2nd coat of whitewash on the barns. This job was (and is again) traditionally done over the Easter weekend which is 2 days away. Last year we developed a mix of white cement and the hydrated lime but we have since been told that we might not need the cement. We have a little of the White Rhino left over, so we must try a mix over the next day or so before we rush out and buy the materials for this task.

Lovely hand made card from Carolyn!
As if in celebration of these Summer-thoughts our swallow(s) are back - we saw the first one yesterday (15th April) zooming along parallel to the lane and later nipping about overhead while we sat by the pond taking a breather from that other perennial Summer task, weeding. I was in the veg plot pulling creeping buttercup, self sown rush, grass and nettles out from between my emerging raspberries. Liz was in the raised beds cleaning up around the perennials and in the kitchen garden where we also noticed the first little tips of emerging asparagus. These are very young plants and will probably only do us one portion for cooking before we need to rest them and let them build up the strength from photosynthesis in the fronds.

Confused looking sheep! Loved the bees.
We get a text from the Beekeeper Group advising us of another extra session in which 'The Exam' will be discussed and revised for and practical, hands on apiary sessions will be organised for those of us (11) in the class (of 23) who are so beginner-ish that we have never handled bees or cracked open a working hive. For us this is going to be very generously laid on by one of the ladies on the Committee at her home apiary down by the Royal Canal, weather permitting - you need warm days or there is a risk of any brood in frames you lift out getting chilled, especially if you are a bit slow and disorganised, as we will inevitably be.

Last night saw me torn between two masters - the Organic folk who do not approve of the use of chemical fertilisers and the desire to be a good neighbour and help a friend in need. I was helping to get some good old fashioned pelletized nitrogen/potassium spread onto John Deere Bob's pasture land. You would have laughed if you had seen us - a modern, efficient, lean, mean agricultural operation we were definitely NOT. Bob, bless him, is 70 now and was able to clamber up over the trailer tailboard but was only really helpful grabbing empty sacks to stop them blowing away. Mr McG had volunteered his enormous tractor and his fertilizer spreader which will take a tonne of the pellets, but his back is damaged at present and he is not able for the 50 kg sacks in which Bob had bought the stuff. So then there was me, already aching from the gardening, trying to manhandle the sacks sideways from pallet (on trailer) to the hopper rim, slit them open and aim the flow of fertilizer into the hopper. Not too hard when the top bags on the pallet were higher than the hopper rim, not so easy when we were working uphill.

'They' are not really meant to sell this stuff in 50 kg sacks, modern manual handling lifting limits are down on the 20-40 kg area. Mr McG no longer buys his fertilzer by the 'small' sack, but takes his tractor to the depot and gets them to hoist a 1 tonne bulk bag above his hopper with the forklift, where they slit the bottom and bingo! A tonne loaded without anyone having done any physical stuff. But Bobby is Bobby and he has always done it by the bag, so we sigh in a resigned way, cast our eyes to Heaven and get on with it. At least the spreading, once it's in the hopper is modern and efficient, Mr McG races off up the lane, swings in through one of Bob's field gates and has each 5 acre field done in what feels like about 10 minutes. In 30 minutes he is back for another tonne, the 2nd and thankfully final one. Home to a supper of Greek style rabbit casserole and a nip of my Birthday present Bushmills. Happy Birthday.

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