Tuesday 29 July 2014

Mr Fox is Back

Heaviest Hubbard 'roo' carcass this year - 2.873 kg.
Mr Fox has been around a few more times but has not had any more success hunting our birds and beasts (Touch Wood!). The first of these visits, a few nights back set off the big rabbit 'Goldie' in thumping the ground with her back feet to warn all the rest of the bunnies of danger. She probably did better than the hoped, as she was inside one of the run 'bedrooms', with a plywood floor a couple of inches above ground and a box shape with even a 'sound-hole' - the 'BOOM BOOM' was probably audible for miles! It certainly had all the dogs awake and therefore, pretty soon, ourselves, so we were up and shining torches through windows. The fox was in the middle of the lawn, close to the bunnies, but scarpered.

Funky new apiary gate.
The 2nd time we heard but did not see 'him'. He seemed to us to be working his way down the lane from up by Una's, down towards Bobby's place, and shouting that soft-ended yowly bark every few yards as he slowly made his way. In theory we know that a vixen will make a noise called 'the Vixen Scream', and this bark would be a dog fox but we have since explored the sound clips available on You Tube and apparently both sexes sometimes do both noises, as well as various other play, fight, warning and mating call shouts. We're going with 'dog fox' for now but it makes little odds, either way we wish he'd leave us alone. We hope he is only showing up repeatedly following his keet raid success, hoping we'll re-stock the run for him!

Plentiful greens. I am in a strange position having just
sprinted into shot!
If 2013 was 'Year of Beans' here, then this year is promising to be 'Year of Greens' and I am becoming a bit of a bore with my statements of "Look at this! This is definitely the best xxx I have ever grown!" The beans did so well last year - bumper harvests of French, runners and broads (as well as peas) that we are still working our way through the bags in the freezer, so I decided to grow no runners this year, instead I did runner "Borlotti" beans. These whiz up canes like normal runners but you leave the pods on the bines to ripen, the pods turning dry and papery and the beans drying to lovely patchy colour schemes of purple and white. You store them dry as you would lentils. But it is the greens which have taken me by surprise this year and I have huge forests of ball-head and pointed cabbage, red cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, black (Tuscan) kale, and calabrese. We are going to be very well off for greens this summer and autumn.

Honeycomb 'drawn' out on our new frames and starting
 to be filled with honey. The dark cells to the right are
 pollen stores.
Hard at work too are the bees. Bizarrely they still refuse to forage in our own garden, but they are off 'out there' somewhere gathering plenty of nectar and pollen and are expanding the colony well into our first 'super' (honey store box). We only do weekly inspections (mindful of the Two Marys insisting that we don't fuss them!) but each time we crack open the lid and peer in, a few more areas of the flat, embossed beeswax "foundation" have been drawn up into the hexagonal tubes everyone knows as "honeycomb".

The girls admiring their new, pristine
honeycomb tubes.
Some of the areas have tubes part filled with nectar. You may know that the bees have to convert this into honey before they cap the cells over with wax as stores. Nectar is quite wet, runny and liquid and contains mainly complex (disaccharide) sugars. The bees have to process it in their 'honey stomachs' using enzymes to 'invert' the sugars into simple sugars (glucose, fructose) and to get the water content down to below 20%, aiming for 17% to stop it fermenting. That is a fascinating subject on its own- the way bees will avoid upward pointing flowers after rain because the nectar will be diluted, and will follow the sun round hunting dried out flowers with more concentrated nectar; but it's probably not for here!

Leeks from 2013 in flower - a feeding
frenzy for bumble bees and wasps less
than 20 feet from the hive. Not a single
honey bee on them!
You may have noticed the picture of our lovely new blue and white wooden gate through to the apiary (= Ginny and Padfoot's run, too). It was a neat piece of recycling. Regular readers will know I built a pig ark recently and this involved cutting two 4 foot radius half-circles out of two 8 by 4 sheets of floor ply, leaving me with 4 off-cuts which seemed too good to throw away.... The gate needed to be roughly 4 foot by 4 foot.

Wasps doing the pollinating here.
Sunday saw us off to one of the local garden centres, Horkan's out towards Castlebar. Generally Ireland doesn't 'do' garden centres to the same degree as the UK, and those that do exist are like the most homogenous, commercial UK ones - just a limited range of varieties of plants that "are popular". There do not seem to be any specialist nurseries so we have to do anything a bit different by going on line, Future Forests for the trees, Johnstown (up near Dublin) for unusual plants, etc. We have started to get into growing things which 'do well round here' (lupins, crocosmia, aquilegia and so on)

A bizarre mobile - chunks of belly pork
salted and now drying in muslin bags
as bacon. 
This time though we were more in search of ideas than specific plants, so we found ourselves taken by things which had attracted a good few bees in the display racks (a nice blue Nepeta was covered in bumble bees) but also at our regular comb through the "sad and lonely" (discount) racks. We always feel sorry for the lost souls you find there, looking like they are near death and we like the challenge of getting them well again (plus the fact that they are one or two Euro!) Several of our now thriving huge plants arrived here in this sorry state, rescued from the Sad and Lonely racks.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

We have only done six hubbards so far as it's still too warm to hang them in the shower, so they are hanging in the spare fridge, not ideal. Bit disappointed in them this year, far too heavy, our two smallest have been 2.93 cleaned, the largest so far 3.6 cleaned so we are removing legs and thighs and keeping the crowns for roasting. Not too sure if we will bother doing them again if they are going to be so big.