Tuesday 21 October 2014

If the Weather's Middlin'......

"If the weather's middlin'...", says John Deere Bob over the weekend, "I'd like you to cut down a couple of ash trees for me...." meaning on Tuesday (21st); he knew we were doing all the pig transport stuff on the Monday. Well, the weather was nowhere near "middling" as the tail end skirts of Hurricane Gonzalo roared through lashing us with a Sou'westerly gale and massive rain, which then veered to the North West and kept whacking us with squalls. The North West is our least favourite direction for winds, and the one which scares us most with its worrying rippling of our old out-building roofs. It has me racing around trying to think of new ways to shore up the weaknesses and lash down any potential flappy bits with wire and concrete blocks.

SW winds come at us all across Galway and finally come up against our massive black spruce trees in our 'woods' out front. The house itself is (we sincerely hope!) sound and the roof itself looked to us like one of the strong points in the property as purchased. At 2 storeys high it does a good job of shielding the outbuildings from the SW. It is the NW winds, thankfully not that frequent, which roar at us out of Clew Bay and in across Mayo, Kilmovee and the fields on that side of us, that have us having these conniptions. They hit the big concrete and rock gable end of the goose/chicken house and are pushed up and over like the wind on the leading edge of an aircraft wing. This puts all kind of lift on the dodgy corrugated iron and corrugated perspex sheets that make the South-facing roof slope, if not tied down, ripple along like (as Liz described it) like the keys on a cartoon piano.

I have shored them up to a degree but it is real bodgery, and if we ever win the lotto, we will be replacing that roof with new. Failing that I need to buy and install about 12 feet of some nice strong two by one and a half, which I can screw all the panels in that area to as a kind of 'not-fixed-down' top plate. That will replace what is there, in bits, mostly rotted out. You can not, of course insure these out buildings without the man from FBD wants to come and inspect them; I am sure any sensible insurance risk-assessor would take one look at ours and laugh like a drain. I wouldn't blame him! Anyway, Hurricane Gonzalo, as I write this, seems to have largely passed through leaving us with our roof panels shaken but not stirred. We appear to have gotten away with it this time.

Meanwhile, the Longford Bee Keepers group hold another of their monthly meetings, where a speaker will talk to us about swarm control but also about the training and exam for the next stage of our 'Bee School'. Coincidentally, they will also be able to give us our smart certificates for the last stage, our "Preliminary" certs. Most of 'us' got them last month but we missed that meeting, it being the day I flew home from the UK. Apparently there was an official photographer an' all, but we won't be in that one!

Extreme gardening - trimming brambles around the bee hive
Liz has already decided not to proceed on to the intermediate stage, which comprises three exams in a lot more depth than the first step, a written bee-science 'paper', a written method/process paper and a practical exam taken at your own apiary. She is happy, she says to stay on the nursery slopes. I am in two minds. I like the idea of going on, climbing through the official levels of 'expertise' up to the grand sounding "Bee Master" but some of these beekeepers get way more involved in their hives, more interfering, more 'control freak' and more fussing than we like to be with our own hive.

Liz gets to grips with our first
'pork' output.
We listen to our 'Two Marys' advising us to stop fussing, to leave the hive alone and let the bees get on with it. A lot of the fussing, the weekly (or even more frequent) cracking open of the hive to inspect it, is all about trying to squeeze every drop of honey out of the task. We are not that fussed about honey or maximising production, squeezing the assets as it were. We are more focused on the 'green' gardening, ecosystem, healthy population of pollinators aspect. I worry that to pass these exams and certainly to show sufficient experience with hive manipulation to convince the examiners that I am skilled enough to get the ticket, I will be forced to 'fuss' more than I am comfortable with. There's a conundrum for you.

Pig liver and heart. 
We dropped by the butcher today to collect our livers and hearts. The kidneys, apparently, one is still in each the carcass, the other gets cut about extracting samples for the trichinosis tests (which we have apparently 'passed' (i.e. negatives). The meat hangs in his fridge till Friday afternoon. Not having seen this before we were both amazed by how big an entire pig's liver is. They weighed about 1.75 kg each! They have now been cut up and bagged up as 9 sensible portions.

Finally, I am delighted to see that 'our' Whooper Swans are back, the first half a dozen have arrived at our local lough for their winter stay. I can now hear their fluting calls drifting up the ridge as I supervise the dogs in their off-the-lead session in the orchard. They must have flown in last night, so they have presumably had their own fun and games with Hurricane Gonzalo's skirt-train. Unless they were over on the Mayo coast, which would have given them quite a tail-wind, they would have been either skirting or battling into the storm. Autumn is definitely here.

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