Tuesday 2 June 2015

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch....

The only 'Med' pic I have so far - Methana (Greece)
With Liz currently out in "the foreign" on her rather sad mission (see last post) to square away Diane's loose ends but also concurrently suffering 'techie' problems on her Apple i-phone I am a bit short on Mediterranean updates. I have just the two pics so far from the beleaguered phone which she can only occasionally get to find the internet (e.g. while on a modern inter-island ferry with free wi-fi), this one of Methana on the southernmost mainland peninsula and one of a rather disappointing scone she was fed on a ferry. We have been in contact, though, via old fashioned voice telephone (remember those?) so I know she is having a rather emotional time of it but has worked her way round most of the people she needed to meet. More on that when she's back (Friday).

Carolyn finishes assembly on my latest jumper for the reward
of a Lizzie-bake honey, orange and polenta cake.
Thanks you knitters and bakers.
So this post is, of necessity, a "meanwhile, back at the ranch" catch up of the burbling along livestock routine and sundry contact with humans. I have been doing the rounds a bit and receiving some nice welcome visits, plus crossing paths with new friend Sue while we were both out and about, me walking dogs, she trying not to run us over in the big 4x4, with their gorgeous St Bernard in the back. I've been down to Carolyn's to pass over a cake Liz had baked, and collect a jumper.

Pretty as a picture - Vendor Anna's
new pup, Bella at 4 months.
I have today nipped over to Vendor Anna in Carrick to meet her new dog, Bella, a lovely little soft haired shih-tzu pup, 4 months old. Anna was a bit anxious about Bella's eating or lack of it but I think (I hope, Anna!) she's sorted now. Good luck with her, anyway. She is a lovely dog and we've agreed that we should meet up, 3 westies onto one tiny shih-tzu. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? Don't worry, Anna, we will keep a careful control on it; we know what we are at. Actually while we are on that subject, we have now successfully integrated the new cat, Soldier, into the indoor family and even got as far as Soldier being able to sleep, curled up on the chair with one of the Westies, Poppea.

Soldier out and about.
We are delighted. The three together can make up a fearsome attacking pack, as found out by the mink a few weeks back (as can any three dogs no matter what the owner might tell you about them being really gentle and not harming a fly). Soldier is also now able to come and go happily through doors and windows which is excellent news as he can now do his 'business' outside and we can take up the horrible, smelly, cat litter-tray (one of my pet hates). My other inbound visit today was  from the Mum and 2 daughters of the family who used to own this cat, so I was pleased to be able to show off their cat living among us and not torn to pieces.

Poppea and Soldier asleep on a chair.
The girls especially love to see round the 'petting zoo', feed apples to the pigs etc, but we were all amused (except the poor girl herself) by the middle daughter's not coping very well with her first meeting with a full grown turkey. This was Tom, of course, who decided that these intruders needed the full on, red-face, tail up, wings down display and it was all too much for Niamh (who plans to become an RSPCA inspector) who couldn't get away fast enough! We tried to persuade her that Tom was just displaying and does not attack people but she was not convinced. Hope she doesn't meet too many turkey farmers in the vet/RSPCA training!

Feste at 5 months
Our first born lamb, Feste (of the 12th Night, middle of the field, rainy night surprise birth), is now coming up on 5 months and looking splendidly chunky. He's off on his final journey on Tuesday next (9th). We were all wondering how long it is since this 'farm' last produced lambs, and the concensus seems to be "the eighties". Back in the day, most farms would have had a mixture of animals and Michael McG tells me that he can certainly remember his father keeping about 30 which they would shear by hand with those spring-steel "scissors" style shears. JD Bob thinks TK Max would have had sheep here till the eighties, and Vendor Anna (who grew up here) tells us that it was her job as a youngster (early 70's maybe?) to run round first thing before school gathering up any new-borns who needed bringing indoors. She can remember them being dried and warmed up in the bottom 'oven' of the Rayburn, the range which was still there when we moved in. Once she was in her teens, she says, she stopped all that, you couldn't be a 'cool' teenager if you went to school smelling of sheep's wool lanolin and birth-related mess.

A forest of sweet cicely, but what do you do with it?
I did my bust/length pig-weight estimate yesterday (see also the post at http://deefer-dawg.blogspot.ie/2014/07/bust-squared-x-length-x-693.html ) and came up with Isabelle and Mary at 29 and 31 kg respectively at the 15 week mark. This is a slightly slower rate of weight gain than last year's Tamworths but that is fine with us and is deliberate. I am more closely controlling the food intake because we do not want that three quarter inch layer of fat under the skin that the Tams put on, it just gets wasted (or (shhhhh) fed to the birds) and it has all cost money at yay amount per bag of pig nuts.

In safe hands. Broody-Buff steps out with the single chick
In the poultry department, Miss Broody-Buff is doing a fine job of rearing the single chick and the Hubbard poults are steaming ahead in their free range mode. They are close outside the front door, and we find that we can not appear in the front garden without an 11-bird charge towards our feet. We have to be careful if we have the dogs (on leads, obviously) as they will even sprint towards the amazed threesome, veering away only when they realise that there is a definite risk to their being fed. I have to nip out with the chick-crumb first, to focus them on eating, and then squeeze out past with the dogs on a tight rein. The turkey eggs are still just cooking in the incubator but we have good hopes because our friend Sue managed at 4/5 hatch from the batch we gave her.

Bank Holiday Ireland vanishes under the coloured rainbelts
of a powerful 'Low' on this AA Weatherwatch rainfall radar map.
Finally, we are hoping that Liz will bring some 'day-cent' weather back with her from Greece. The wind and rain have battled on through the end of May and joined us for the June Bank Holiday Monday and now, the wind is sharing the Tuesday too. I have been able to get out into the garden off and on but not much is growing outside and all my new seeds seem to be sulking under ground. At least the brassicas get away well when transplanted from the polytunnel, and do not spend that familiar three days lying limply on the new ground before they spring up and get cracking.

Dog watching garb on the Bank Holiday. 
Here, they seem to be able to get vertical by that evening or never sag in the first place. Better weather is forecast, but I guess I will believe that when it arrives.
Blue smoke from a chimney round these parts generally means
a good turf fire against the winter cold.... but on 31st May?

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