Saturday 13 June 2015

Down-Sized Daggin'

After the relatively heavy duty, 'industrial' task of shearing and dagging the sheep, the 'medical team' here takes a marked, factor-of-ten (at least) move down the sizes to deal with a rabbit problem. Our fairly geriatric, ex-Silverwood, rabbit, Ginny, who has always been 100% healthy and fastidiously clean, came out of the wet, cold May with an odd fringe of fluff around her 'seat' and what looked like a dark shadow under her back end as she hopped away from you. It turned out that she was badly dagged up having, we guess, caught a dose of diarrhoea and not been able to keep herself clean.

Strawberry bed looking good and will soon be in need of
protection from the birds - wild and domestic.
She was a candidate for the Medical Wing, but so fine is her fur, so tiny were the actual lumps of 'dag' and so delicate the skin of a rabbit, that this was not a job for clippers or even big scissors. This was a two person job, one holding Ginny to keep her calm (me in this case), the other (Liz) using little 'nibbling' actions with the nail-scissors to cut away the wads of soiled fur. Ginny was as good as gold. If we were given to anthropomorphism we might even suggest that she volunteered for this help, coming to find us and then letting Liz just gather her up without any chase or a fight.

Well, we managed to cut away all the big stuff and decided to leave the last few flecks and her scut a few days while she got over the indignity, planning to give her a rear-end bath, shampoo and conditioner in a few days. We inspected the patient again today and she had done such a good job of cleaning up the rest, we let her off the bath, and just trimmed away that last scut fur. She is as good as new. Having her out of the apiary run gave us an opportunity to swap rabbits around. She is a small rabbit and now on her own, she had not really been keeping on top of the grass growth where as the 'giants', Goldie and Nugget have theirs grazed down "to the clay" almost.

Spuds (British Queen, new) doing well in the tunnel
So we rounded up those two and moved them to the apiary today. They can nibble off all the grass and creeping buttercup, and I will pull the last few stinging nettles. It is important in an apiary not to suddenly change the environment (for example by brush-cutting long stuff) as the bees can get their visual maps of the way home confused and can get lost. There is also an issue with vibration of, for example, chugging lawn mowers, which can cause a gazillion bees to come out of the hive to fend off the 'attack'. Rabbits are the perfect solution -they only change the grass height slowly and they are not a bother at all to bees.

New hive boxes, painted with linseed oil.
That swarm-lure box, meanwhile, still has bees visiting so, this long after the first visit, they can no longer be a swarm scouting for a new place to live. They must, by now, be a swarm which has moved in (Yay! free bonus bees!) all be it, we think from the small numbers, a secondary or 'cast' swarm, rather then a big, 10,000 bee 'prime' swarm. Next job then was to buy boxes for a 2nd hive and to think about getting the new colony down from the tree where I have optimistically lashed the lure box. Regular readers will know that the rule for moving bees is "fewer than 3 feet or more than 3 miles". Bees find their way home using a remembered mental map and if you move the hive more than 3 feet, they cannot adjust this. They just mill about at the old location till they run out of energy and then die. It is OK to move them 2 feet a day, they can cope with that. So to get them down from being tied to a tree ten feet up, I will have to lower them down against the ladder at 2 feet a day, till they are ground level, and then I can open the box and see if we have a colony worth giving a nice new home (hive) to.

A young Scots Pine from the 2014
'Million Trees' batch.
These boxes came from local Alladin's Cave emporium, where the guy has more out-buildings and sheds behind his main shop than anyone really needs - one for fishing tackle and (I saw) crossbows and archery gear, one for the salting operation of pork, one for the bee keeping equipment and so on. While I was ferreting around in there, I also rather nicely got the car washed - there was a gang of jet-wash people cleaning cars in support of the Castlerea Agricultural Show at a fiver a go. It's cleaner now than it has been since we came over here - I never wash our cars. It is a job, surely, for the Sunday Morning, English, striped lawns, semi-detached suburban Mr Jones crowd. One of my 'company' cars used to be so 'agricultural' inside that when a colleague borrowed it (they were owned by the employer so you had to allow them to be used as pool cars while you were on site) to nip out somewhere with another lad, he joked when he got back that he had had to tell the lad off for treading mud all over the carpark from my car. Yeah, yeah, Shane, very funny!

Starting to dig a new flower bed along the front of the house
from what was once lawn. 
Readers may recall that Liz and her gang of internet chat forum chums hold regular weekend meetings in 'real life' to socialise. They are scattered all over the globe, and the person who volunteers to host the weekend invites the friends to their town or city to get a flavour of local food, drink, culture and social life. They either troop round as a gang to chosen restaurants for joint meals or they are welcome to go off exploring (or jogging, walking etc) using the host's place (or recommended hotels and pubs) as a base. Late last year, you may recall. Liz nipped over to the UK to be part of one in Bridport, hosted by our friend 'Airy Fox'.

Vicarious Madrid via i-Phone, laptop, wine, dog and
warm fire. 
This weekend, some of these friends are in Madrid, where a British friend happens to be working and Liz was so recently back from Greece that she opted out, wanting to spend some time here. But these are, after all initially INTERNET friends and you cannot escape them that easily, so Liz has managed to spend the weekend enjoying Madrid vicariously and hearing all about it, regularly supplied with pictures of food, drink, Madrid's terracotta roof-scapes and fancy architecture. She is tongue-in-cheek pretending to be envious,so we sent 'them' this picture of Liz curled up next to an Irish turf fire out of last night's chilly northerly breeze.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hola Matt! We had a great time, which could only have been improved if Lizzie had been with us. And you would both have approved of our dedication to checking on the quality of the caf├ęs and restaurants!