Friday 19 June 2015

Lily Tidied Up.

On a gorgeous sunny day we bring the baby turkeys down
for a brief look at some Roscommon sky. 8 days old here.
With Lizzie missing again, I find myself of a mind to catch up on jobs and sort out things that have been hovering in the background. When Liz is around we seem to favour the bigger projects; we seem to be aware of the manhours available working as a pair; weeding the big bed, brush cutting and mowing, cleaning up that cattle race and so on. Liz is off to Silverwood-land again to help out with house-sitting while Mr and Mrs S head for the UK again on a family matter. 'Grandma' (Steak Lady) had been lined up to cover, but it's a complicated week which includes not only the eldest's 17th Birthday, but also her last 'Leaving Cert' exam - good luck with both of those, Em-J! Any parent will tell you that this is one big round of taxi-ing to activities - swimming, scouts, school runs etc, but Liz most recently reported that she was sitting there being fed chowder and steak. Times are hard and it's a tough job this niece-wrangling. I should quickly add that the Silverwood grown-ups have not abandoned their eldest daughter at this crucial time - they will be back for the Birthday and the post-exam.

Lily nicely tidied up.
My first 'tidy up' job was to re-shear the sheep Lily, of whom I had made such a dog's breakfast last time, my first ever go at shearing. She was a shaggy, sorry looking animal and Carolyn down the road had re-named her 'Polly Patch'. I was wary of letting her on the front lawn, in public view in case neighbours crashed their cars laughing. I had been trying to halter train her and had even made a rope halter and then bought to proper ones from the internet. The idea was that if I could get her to stand, calmly, tethered to the gate I could tidy her up upright, still on her feet, where she might feel more secure.

Halter training is, though, a slow old process on adult sheep. Lily has had 3 years of never feeling restrained in ropes around the head and neck, as she is big, heavy and strong enough to try to, should she feel the need, to buck, kick, pull and stampede to freedom. Gently, gently, over the days and weeks using short sessions of only a few minutes, I was getting her used to having the halter on her face, but I was not getting anywhere with restraining her and could see this tidy-up being so far away the rest of the wool on her body would have caught up.

She's not really two-tone. She'd just been rolling in the dust
on her right side. 
She needed to be shorn or risk the dreaded fly-strike (maggots burrowing into the flesh under daggy, thick, sweaty wool around sensitive areas). To cut a long story short, I decided to get stuck back in using as much 'upright' as I could (me straddling the sheep between my legs or leaning my knee into her shoulder against the gate while I worked on the rump) but then having to sit her down to finish the neck. We were all done in about 15 minutes, neither of us too traumatised (!) and she looks a whole lot more presentable, plus I have another bag of cleaner 'inner' wool for Carolyn. A daft part of my brain reminded me that I do indeed have a 'black sheep' and did produce '3 bags full' of wool. The sheep are on the front lawn today - I am proud of them again.

A row of the green-manure plant Phacelia
coming into flower conveniently close
to the hive
I've been needing to get a look into the hive to make sure that we were not bursting at the seams and in need of another honey-super (top box). If you let them run out of space they are more likely to swarm. On with the bee suit good and early this morning; it was about 07:30; the dogs and baby turkeys conspired to get me up at silly o'clock. I just needed to lift the hive lid and a cover board called the 'crown board' to see that, no, they were nowhere near filling the previous 'super'. They had drawn out the honey comb wax on a couple of frames, but there were still 8 frames of 'foundation' sheet available.

Lupins. Like sky-scrapers of colour for
the bees - mainly bumble bees. 
I am actually convincing myself here that the swarming season has come and gone without us - everyone we know round here had swarms a-plenty a couple of weeks back but our bees stayed put. This may be because having been moved here from Longford in April and given some new space then, they 'think' they have done the job already. Never say never, though. While I write this indoors on a Friday afternoon, all sorts might be going on out at the apiary.

This is my favourite of all our 'Granny's Bonnets'.
Most are reds and purples and this yellow makes a
nice change. 
On a lovely hot day recently, we let the baby turkeys out into an empty rabbit run in the yard so they could enjoy the sights and sounds (I thought), while I took the opportunity to swap out their baby-crate and the IR bulb, for a bigger brood box made out of two huge potato crisp boxes and using the new 'electric hen' heater plate. I had carried the birds down in a cat basket and left them in the run, still in the basket, with the basket door open. In fact, they are nervous little things and did not emerge from the basket all day even with food as temptation. However, they do like their new heater plate and we prefer that system to the IR bulbs which are lit 24/7 so the birds must never know when to sleep. They can now huddle down under 'Mum' as it gets dark and wake up with renewed vigour (and noisy demands for breakfast) as soon as it's light, which is about 05:30 round here at present. I wonder do they make electric hens with thick, blackout curtains.

Double flowered Granny's Bonnet
Our 'Hen with One Chick' is still doing a good job on the little one, who is now 4 and a half weeks old and well feathered. This morning I saw the pair of them in the grown-ups chicken house with Mum showing the baby how high are the top perches on the perching 'ladder'. The chick was a good 5 feet off the ground and must have got there by 3 hops up the ladder. It presumably got down safely as the pair were soon out in the garden again. You see it doing all the chicken behaviours in miniature - scratching, pecking, dust-bathing, nipping into the feeding melée to grab a treat, stretching up to flap its wings on tip-toe. Unfortunately this good news, new life story is balanced by a sad one. One of our old original Sussex Ponte hens who had been helping me garden and snatching worms not 15 minutes earlier, I found stood stock still looking very very sick - hunched over and with her back end sagged right down to the ground. Her eyes were shut. A quick inspection revealed that she'd had some kind of massive prolapse of either egg-duct or gut and had bled badly. There was no coming back from that so the kindest thing was to cull her quickly out. Then there were 2.

Enough mowing for today? The giants snooze under the
newest (empty) hive
Finally, I had been getting on with digging across the front of the house for our new flower bed. This bit was cut out from the lawn by the new sheep fence and is a strip 2.4m by 15m. It is due to be 'membrane'd, covered with pea-shingle and planted with (mainly) white flowers and spot-planted with roses. I'd been attacking it at an hour a day, which was enough to dig you from one fence post to the next. I put in an hour and a bit today to finish the job off. We have the membrane. Now we need to order the gravel - we need to get the terminology right in this "foreign" land. What I know as "pea shingle" from the UK is amber and goldie coloured, rounded stuff like small beach pebbles. I have seen that described here as 'drainage stone' and anything carrying the name "decorative stone" here is likely to get you green or blue glass 'beads' like you get round the graveyard. We are hoping that the contact name we have been given might let us come to his yard and choose from his stockpiles. It'll be grand.... it'll be fine... what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

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