Saturday 27 September 2014

Pig Race

Pale purple Phacelia is now enjoyed by the bees just 30 feet
from the hive.
Liz is away on Phase 2 of the parental house move. The first stage got them as far as all the boxes moved in to the new house but there was a hold up on the paperwork somewhere else in the 'chain' so they had to wait a week before they could claim the keys and start opening boxes. John Deere Bob has a brilliant local expression. "Ah, those solicitors always manage to turn it to shlobber!" That is all now sorted ('de-shlobbered?) and they are all down there this weekend to unpack. Meanwhile Steak Lady has been cheering up all the local shop keepers by buying stuff for the new house; 2 new double beds for starters.

New 'race' from pig-gate up to the trailer 'socket'.
I have been bimbling away doing tidy-up type jobs, weeding and readying bed for broad beans (which seem to do best here in over-winter mode, planted about now and getting a few inches of growth up before the frosts, then getting an early start in Spring), extending trellis for the climbing roses, gathering more dry turf from the "mine", a bit of fencing and a bit of 'fedge' weaving.

I let the geese out for a bit of an explore in the sunshine.
As the piggies approach the end of this year's 'project' (yes, that is a euphemism) we are getting the exit ready in terms of creating the 'race' that we will use to bring them up from the gate of their pen, to the waiting trailer, which will be on higher ground so that I do not get a problem pulling it out, loaded with pigs, if the day proves to be wet. I have built a fence 5 feet or so from the main orchard fence and running up to the orchard gate so that I can reverse the back of the trailer into this gap creating a pig-proof joint. With the trailer 'plugged in' to this and the ramp down, the plan is to coax the pigs up the race and in to the trailer, bravely clippety-clopping up the unfamiliar ramp coaxed by tempting food in the trailer. We have actually practised this manouvre already and the pigs slowly but calmly explored the new set up so we are reasonably confident this will work on the day. The day is currently looking like soon after October 10th. They will be 6 months old on the 10th and, we think, 'finished' (i.e. heavy and big enough).

Sorry for the poor picture - my woven willow fence/hedge
The 'fedge', for those who have not met this expression, is a living, growing, woven willow fence/hedge. Most people start these with willow rods cut to length and stuck into the ground at perfect angles to do basket weaving on the way up, with rods already leaning at 45 degrees left or right so that they can be woven. Typically we didn't do anything as well organised as this, instead planting a long line of prunings about 6 inches apart, planning to do something with them once they were rooted, established and growing.

Jam labels, did not quite work as intended.
Needless to say the prunings took or did not and then grew at different speeds and with differing amounts of branching all along the line. My weaving is therefore a bit rough and ready and you would not call it 'art' but it does look nicer now than before I started and it will hopefully improve with age and be a good wind-break for the orchard.

Also in the 'not quite as beautiful as planned' category, we had a go at designing some jam pot labels using the old image we have of the house in 1900 with the two pony and traps loaded with smartly dressed family. The plan was to fade the image, already lacking in contrast as it comes from a photocopy, into the background as a watermark, and write the jam name across the top. You can see from the picture that this works OK close-up. Unfortunately when you look at the pots from longer range, the grey house picture just looks like a dirty inky grey finger-smudge, which rather spoils the effect. Back to the drawing board.

Our new 'visitor' this stray collie.
Meanwhile Carolyn of the mini horses pointed me in the direction of that rare thing, a brilliant company giving speedy and efficient service. This was for the periodic sharpening of my dog grooming clippers which eventually go blunt battling through the furry coats of Deefer, Poppy and Towser. In Kent we got very lucky with this, with the European service centre for the company 'Wahl' (who make the clippers), being a ten minute drive from where we lived. Here in the West of Ireland I guessed we might have problems but no, step forward "Clipsharp" who live on Achill Island, just off the western extremity of County Mayo. Carolyn assured me that there would be a 2 day turn-around and that proved to be the case - I posted them off on Tuesday and they were there, cleaned, oiled, sharpened and packed in individual sleeves, in my post box on Thursday morning! I was very impressed, especially as I had visions of some poor bloke taking them out to the island in his boat; I am only slightly less impressed now I know that Achill Island is so close to the mainland that it is linked by a bridge and has been since the 1887 (there is now a newer bridge, built in 2008).

My final picture is of a lovely, friendly, soft-coated male collie who has been hanging around. We have had him before and he apparently comes from north of the bog-land which is between here and Ballaghaderreen. He is good natured and affectionate and just seems to want a fuss making of him, he has not, to date done any harm, eaten any chickens or chased the sheep. Last time his owner eventually came a-hunting for him, saying that the dog's brother never strays, but they are not strong on 'under control' or 'on the lead' with dogs in these parts. I had the man's number but have since deleted it from my phone, which is not now that useful. Perhaps he just wants a hair cut?

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