Tuesday 5 May 2015

Treasure in the Dusty Shoe Box.

Your blogger in about 1959.
I expect that in many families there is, in some dusty corner of an attic or a lost filing system, the "box of family photographs". Blow the dust off that old shoe-box and there are the packets of Kodak black and white prints and negatives, often of long departed and barely remembered relatives who your Mum or possibly Grand-Ma might still be able to recognise as "That's Alison, who used to visit Mrs Conquest, who lived next to us in Pilot Road" (or where-ever). Maybe like us, the number of pictures reduces with each child born - those keen new parents in the 50s keen to click away with the Kodak Brownie and capture every move and new clothes item of No.1 Son, had become a bit jaded by the time No.2 arrived and barely took any of No.3. Our shoe-box contains hundreds of pictures of my 'big brother', Tom, around a dozen of me and only a couple for younger bro', Mark.

All grown up? 1981 by now and allowed out to play in the
Research Station Land Rover
It was Mark though (and fair play to him!) who now has the time and technology to volunteer (crazy fool!) to scan in all these pictures, digitize them and then spread them around the family in the modern way. Liz had this job for all the old slides of the Dublin/Portmarnock tribe, but Mark is now on a mission to create an (electronic?) "photobook" which can be run through the projector at family gatherings now that most of those children and cousins are in their own 50s and the original photographers, if still with us, are into their Autumn years.

A sofa-load of cousins. I am far right.
The rest of us have seen the occasional one pinged out on Facebook for a sense-check. How old were you in this picture? Here is one of all three brothers - anyone know the date/ages? We've also been enjoying remembering all those "Nana-knit jumpers" and some dodgy haircuts. Mark has now assembled the prototype photo-book which he will air at as many family gatherings as he can get at so that everyone can comment, correct mis-captions and so on before he officially goes to press with the finished version. I am looking forward to it. Good luck with that project, Mark. The joys of retiring and suddenly, in theory anyway, having time to do all these things.

Our wooden bowls get the beeswax treatment.
That furniture polish we made from beeswax and coconut oil is proving to be excellent stuff altogether and we are using it all around the place, on furniture, wooden bowls and now also the handles of garden tools and the like. Because it is all food-grade we don't mind getting it on our skin and this is, without doubt, the easiest way to use it. You scoop out a finger-sized blob and briefly soften it with the warmth of your hands, then basically massage it in to the wood by getting palm and fingers all over it. It's a bit like buttering a baking tin but you try not to leave quite so much loose on the surface. Twenty minutes at room temperature sees all the oilier elements soak into the wood grain whereupon a good buff with the cloth gives you a lovely polished lustre

Talking of old family pictures, 2 of the bowls give us a special pleasure as they were made by my Uncle Barrie who got very keen on wood turning at one stage and kitted his workshop out with special lathes and other gear. He made beautiful bowls out of some special woods and then, rather helpfully, used to burn in (engrave?) with a soldering iron (?) the name of the wood and the year as well as his own name. So in the pic of three bowls above, I can tell you that the paler bowl on the right is of "spalted ash" in 1993. Spalting is the confused-grain scar-tissue which trees produce around wounds and broken off limbs.

Liz getting adventurous with the stripes.
Ash didn't mean anything special to me back in 1993 but now, in Ireland where we are cutting our own trees and logs for the fire, ash is the local 'weed' tree that grows everywhere but which I now love for it's bright white cut ends under the chain saw, its dense, hot-burning well seasoned logs and its co-operation under the axe and splitting wedge. It is also the wood used traditionally for the Irish 'Hurley stick' (the 'camán') and is now causing concern by coming under attack from a new fungal disease, Ash Die-Back (fungus Chalara fraxinea). The other bowl pictured is of 'Amazaque' wood about which I know even less - it is a Columbian forest tree, allegedly.

It's raining at ground level, but maybe
if I go out OVER the top of the back door
I won't get wet?
Meanwhile we seem to be in a brief return to winter. Our lovely warm spell of April is almost a lost memory as we wake up each morning to tanking rain and the huge puddles we know so well. The pond is brim full and all the animal feed bowls have to be tipped out of water before I can feed anyone - only the sheep trough stays dry under the shelter and the trees. The cat is very annoyed that we can't seem to find him an exit where it is not raining. He tries the front door (with his mewing and pleading looks) but then when it is opened for him he flicks his tail in indecision and retreats back in to try a different door or window.

Ah well, not everyone loses. My 2015 'Million trees' batch went into lovely wet soil so there is no chance their roots will dry out - they should get away nicely. The return to chill has caused us a return to lighting the range every day which makes the spare room, with its radiator, right above the (Dining) room with the range, the warmest room in the house. We have been able to turn off the infra-red heater-lamp over the Hubbard chicks so that they can now learn about day and night and can get some proper rest and sleep when it is dark. And we are TRYING TO SLEEP. Bless them. If it just stopped raining we are even looking to let them feel a bit of warm Roscommon sunshine on their backs and the grass under their feet (though they'd obviously be rescued back indoors for the nights, they are barely 2 weeks old yet).

Buff Orpington broody hen
And finally our newest 'Mum', the broody Buff Orp is still hanging in there, sitting tight in her chosen location between some concrete blocks and a camping chemical toilet. We rescued her to a seed tray full of hay as she was almost on bare concrete, but she's now on day 11 of her 21 day sit and looking very focused and content.

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