Tuesday 15 July 2014

Extreme Weeding?

Weeding a bit close to the hive for comfort (yellow arrows)
I felt like I was taking my life in my hands today, weeding on the raised bed veg plot but having now got all the way down to the bottom of the ridges and very close to the loud-buzzing beehive. It was a warm day and there were bees pinging everywhere, a good couple of dozen out at the front of the hive, taking off, landing, flying 'circuits' or 'taxi-ing' at any one time. I needed to get down that last 'path', round the end just under the hive's launch ramp and then back up at the left side of this picture.

'Extreme weeding' it may have been but you would have smiled at the lack of bravery of this hands-and-knees weeder. I had my wide brim straw hat well down on my head and my head down so that the bees might not recognise me as human (!) I pretty much slithered over the ridge at the bottom, arms bent, chest nearly in the dirt - I must have looked like either a Commando-crawl or (more likely), Gollum out of Lord of the Rings! I was not raising my profile more than about 18 inches that close to the colony. Then I was round the corner and racing back up to the left of this picture ripping at the lank grass, white clover, nettles and plantains like a madman, anxious to get back to about ten feet from the hive. The bees, of course, were just calmly going about their business - a hive will buzz gently on a warm day when they are happy and contented and we all read and re-read the 'fact' that bees will not attack you unless they are convinced you are about to attack them but when you are that close to the hum, your faith can wear a bit thin.

A 2013 Hubbard goes broody.
Back in the comparative safety of chicken-land we have had 2 nice coincidences happen, which may well add up to a happy third. We have long been thinking that we like the Buff Orpington as a breed and may well shift, by what they used to call 'natural wastage', from our current motley crew of hens centred round the original Sussex Ponte 'Lovely Girls', over to Buff Orps just by replacing all our deaths and culls with that breed. As it happens we have among our troops a breed-able pair of Orps which came as eggs last year from Mentor Anne, and the rooster is our only roo' at present, so if 'Mrs Buff' is laying fertile eggs, then they will be Buff Orp pure-breds.

17 Buff Orpington eggs 'set' in the incubator
No good though when she was laying any old where in among all the other hens, but recently she started laying in a secret place among the nettles where only she was laying. What is more she was reliably laying every day, more than you could say for the other reprobates. And then one of last year's Hubbards decided to go broody. This bird would be a new Mum, so you'd not trust her with valuable eggs but we came up with a plan to collect the Orp eggs and re-borrow the incubator from Charlotte (Thanks, Ch), we could then stick half a dozen mixed eggs under the Hubbard and she'd be hatching them just as the incubator set hatched - an opportunity to sneak the new hatchlings under a real Mum for some 'proper' rearing. This plan got even better when we asked Anne and Simon whether they might have a few Buff Orp eggs to throw into the mix, and we were delighted when they were able to lay their hands on nine to go with our eight. So today I was able to 'set' (as we say) seventeen eggs in the 'Incy'. Wish us luck. We hope we are not guilty of too much chicken-counting with all this might and if forward planning.

Purring away like crazy with his eyes closed in ecstasy,
Pirate is a very happy affectionate lad.
As well as the weeding and messing with eggs today, we have been round to Una's for a 2nd pick at her black currant bushes and we have stripped our own for black currants and goose berries. The main off-site task today, though, was to finally get the disreputable feline, 'Pirate' off to his date with vet Aoife. We'd had to catch him Sunday to make sure of having him today and the lad had lived, apparently calm and happy, in a dog-crate in our caravan for 48 hours. This morning we just had to persuade him into the cat basket and drive him the short distance to Lough Glynn village and Aoife's surgery.

Ongoing 'meds' for Pirate
We were relieved and delighted when instead of throwing up her hands in despair and horror, Aoife took a good look and then calmly took him from us, assuring us that he looked OK and that she'd sort him out and phone us this afternoon. As good as her word, she texted us to come and get him at 3:30 p.m. (it was already 10:30 a.m. when we dropped him off). There he was, still a bit droopy from the sedative but she had cleaned him up a bit, sewn up his empty right eye-socket with dissolvable stitches, spayed him, treated him for worms and fleas and given him a whacking dose of antibiotics for anything else that ailed him.

We are to keep him in the caravan for 4-5 days while we work him through the rest of the dose of antibiotics (Kesium/amoxicillin) and try to get some eye ointment (Maxitrol) onto his left eye twice a day and so that he can also get over the soreness of his neutering op and the stitches in his bad eye. He does not seem to have any problems with this and is very soppy and affectionate when ever we go near him, racing up to us, nuzzling and rubbing himself against our hands and legs in ecstatic purring, rolling over to get his tummy tickled and so on. He is, we think, going to prove to be a very loving little lad but, of course, once he is released from the caravan the whole lane and all his old haunts are once again his oyster. It is not a prison, just a haven.

Mussels, wild from the Irish Atlantic shoreline
Thank you very much, Anne and Simon, too for a generous gift of some wild mussels from the Sligo shore-line. They had been to the Strandhill / Lissadel area to show the Irish Atlantic beauty off to their current student/helper and had gathered a good haul  from the beach. They were very flavoursome, gorgeously fresh and smelling beautifully of the clean sea-side. (I say 'clean' here because coming from Hastings, "smelling of the sea side" would not be anything you would aspire to, and the reader would have worrying images of human sewage, stinking tourist debris and rotting dogfish carcasses discarded by the beach-landed local fishing fleet. No. This is clean Atlantic surf crashing onto a beautiful Sligo shore, a very different kettle of 'fish' altogether).

Mussels cooked 'naked', the sauce was on the side. 
Liz purged them with a couple of changes of water and cooked them in just fresh water so that we could enjoy the pure mussel flavour. There was a sauce of cream, mustard, red onion and brandy, but that was kept on the side as an option. They were delicious. It was actually Bastille Day and we would normally do something French but that had slipped our attention, so we were glad we'd had 'moules' even if they were 'sans frites' and definitely 'Irlandais' rather than French. There was a French dressing on the salad but I don't suppose that really counts.


Anne Wilson said...

Sligo coast Matt, not Mayo. If you do go to collect some yourselves make sure to check the tide times and to take some large water proof sacks to collect washed up seaweed, best compost you can have for the garden.

Matt Care said...

Ooops, yes, Sligo of course! Corrected on post.