Monday 30 March 2015


The big Five-O earns Sparks this beautiful cake created by the
Silverwood ladies
Full of 'happy hormones' as Liz says (admittedly in a very different context) after my successful lambing and completion of the Bee Keeper exam, I am ready to enjoy the rest of the month's events. First up the Brother-in-Law, Sparks, makes the big Five-O. This is much to everyone's amazement as 'my' Liz, being 'BIG' sister to our hero, feels obliged (nay, legally REQUIRED) to do her BABY brother down at every opportunity. To tease him, take the mick, prick his bubble when he gets uppity and even attempt to remove him from the picture (OK, possible exaggeration here but I've never had a big sister, so what do I know?).

Sparks at 50
Famously there is even an old faded black and white picture of Liz, at 18 months old looking for all the world as if she is going to smother this new baby brother when he first arrived, with a pillow; this has been treasured in Dad's wallet for 50 years and was pulled out on Sparks's day. Well, Sparks has managed to survive all this skullduggery and was there on Sunday to enjoy a big family meal down at the Silverwoods' base in County Laois. This was a real 'Gathering of the Clan' with spouses and children rounded up.

The new dog-walk
This family all have a strong cooking gene in their DNA so we were in for a treat. The main course was boeuf en croute and the beef was sublime. The veg were gorgeous too, and I do like my veg - lovely cauli and courgette in cheese sauce with the top browned to perfection, carrots, superb roasties, boiled potatoes and gravy. The starter had been melon with parma ham. The Silverwood ladies had played a blinder and created a truly beautiful cake which shouted '50' from its top in a rainbow array of 'Skittles' (small sweets the size of Smarties, but chewy) and was fenced around with Kit-Kat fingers and bordered with more Skittles. The centre was a vanilla sponge but cleverly marbled in colour and taste by boring holes in the top and pouring in melted Skittles of various colours. The icing sticking it all together was creme-fraiche flavoured with melted orange Skittles. Low calorie it most certainly wasn't but, heh, who counts calories at a Silverwood 50th? Brilliant do everyone involved (including Liz once we got there) and thank you so much for having us. Happy Birthday and a huge congratulation on making the 50 to the Birthday Boy.

You can walk for miles across the bog here on these hard tracks
and even better, the dogs can come off the leads.
I have been exploring, looking out for possible additional survey walks for my bumble bee hunts. Less than 2 miles away, we had seen a sign promising a 'looped walk' in the nearby bog-land and forestry but had not got around to trying it, so that is where I headed on March 21st. Today, I returned with my camera. It is a lovely spot where I can let the dogs off the lead and we can walk for miles on hard tracks across the bog. The only flowers at present for the bees are on the gorse but it has the look of a place that might come alive with interesting vegetation species.

Old traditional hand-cutting turf 'works'. 
Way down off the road is a place where people have been cutting turf by hand in the old traditional way, with the fancy, L-shaped "slean" spade. Normally when you see this you know it is just for the tourists, but down here, there would be no tourists and the cuts were as fresh as the car tyre tracks and the boot prints - these guys had been out over the weekend. There was even an old, wooden-wheel turf barrow lying down there when I looked on the 21st, though that had gone by today. This "hand-won" turf could be the genuine article.

Pool of the Dappled Horses
One lovely place 'down there' is a point where the local stream widens out into a wide, size-able pond. The banks are grassed and you can imagine it would be a nice quiet, private picnic spot in the summer. The sign has been translated as best we can as "The pool of the dappled horses". Well, I can imagine the scene with a few of the local cobby ponies led down there to wade or drink, but there were no horses there today, only my three westies chasing about delighted by the freedom of off-lead action.

15 yards of new book shelf space.
Back at home we are, once more, officially "short of bookshelf space". Although Liz audited hard as we packed up the Kent house into the removal van and cleared boxes of books, we still brought a gazillion with us and we are now, three years later, back to stacks on the floor and double-depth stacks in shelves where we have run out of space. Our best solution to this in terms of reasonably priced but sturdy, solid shelves (we hate saggy book shelves!) is IKEA's 'Billy' range but IKEA in Ireland, means a trip to Dublin and, anyway, these are 8 foot tall cases, so they'd not fit in the little Fiat even as a flat pack. Luckily, we have a bro-in-law (see above) who might just be coming this way, right past IKEA's front door, with his shiny new 8-seater people-carrier Taxi. Sparks, of course!

Gorse in flower down at Kiltybranks
He is also bribe-able with food, so Liz cooked up a plan that she'd stay overnight at the party to get some longer bonding with her belov├ęd baby brother (not trying to kill him now, then?) and catch up on all the family gossip. I would zoom home on my own to rescue the dogs and look after the livestock and the next morning Sparks would bring Liz home accompanied by 3 big flat pack boxes of planks and we would do lunch here (chicken fajitas as it happened).

The lambs are now 4 days old
The book cases were unloaded and rattled together within an hour or two of the lunch eaten and taxi departing. Liz now has 45 feet (I think librarians measure it in yards, so 15 yards if you prefer) of clean, bare, shiny book shelf space to play with. The wall opposite the main open fire is no longer blank and decorated only with 4 prints of drawings of Dublin architecture. Liz is now puzzling over 'alphabetical order' and division of our goodly book collection by category.

Taddies at day ten, hatch from their individual jelly sacs
The only other thing to report for this one is that the tiny tadpoles, at day ten, have started to hatch from their individual jelly sacs. The next stage is that they gather on top of the spawn-mass, safe from predators below, while they eat off any more jelly they require before eventually dispersing into the safer bits of 'open water' and the tangle of vegetation. So far so good. They are also sufficiently far off-shore that our elderly but clever Marans hen will not be able to reach out over the pond and pick them off, as she does with water boatmen and pond skaters.


mazylou said...

I shall consult my daughter, the librarian for a ruling.

Matt Care said...

Ah now, Mazy. Greta is only a 'young wan' yet, so inevitably prefers metric, but my Mum, the 'Pud Lady' on here was also a librarian all her life and would still be in the yards and Dewey Decimal code. In my defence, these IKEA shelves may be sold by the mm but they are exactly 2 foot 6 inches long, 30", so they are a rather stupid 763 mm. Do you want this neat 45 feet of shelves displayed as 13.734 metres of shelf? Please.

Anne Wilson said...

Good luck with finding interesting plants Matt in this area they are 'very far and few between' I think twayblade and a white early purple orchid is as exciting as it gets. Let me know if you happen upon 'grass of Parnassus', we would have expected it on the bog lands but I have only seen it in the Burren

Matt Care said...

Yes, Anne. I am so bad at the bog plants I can see myself having to take a book down or draw some sketches and we may be on to you for an adjudication. If grass of parnassus is at all likely I will look it up before I go so that I know what I'm about. Are there any good books on specifically this in Ireland? I have an excellent all-Europe book (Fitter, Fitter and Blamey), all be it a tad old now.

Anne Wilson said...

Marjorie Blamey was a fantastic wild flower artist she did a book very early on called 'Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland', her drawings are very accurate. It was actually Simons uncle who got her taken on by Collins. As far as we are aware she is still alive, she must be close to 100 now. I personally find the readers digest 'Field guide to the wild flowers of Britain' a wonderful book, although too large to take on field trips. I always make sure I have a camera with me and photograph from different angles plus habitat, also take note of stem shapes, and number of leaves.

Matt Care said...

Good tips all. I will report back if I discover anything inreresting.