Wednesday 30 March 2016

Bull's Eye

4 weeks into my archery training and I am beginning to feel like I know what I am at. I have got so so lucky with this course. Roscommon Archery hold their courses twice a year and can cater for up to 6 novices per course, but this Spring, for what ever reason, only 3 people applied to join. One of these fell by the wayside for no apparent reason and a 2nd had to stay in India due to work commitments, so I inherited the course on my ownsome - one to one tuition!

Bit of pride might be sneaking in here! Not a bad grouping
for a 40' target. 
My instructor goes by the name of Con and is a top bloke. I pay close attention to him and try to absorb everything he says and he is delighted to have someone who listens to him and does what they are told. I gather it can get a bit doubting or rebellious on occasion. Between us we have got me well into the all-important CONSISTENT shooting. At my level hitting the bull is less important than getting your arrows into a close group or "pattern". The theory goes that if you stand exactly the same, breathe the same and handle the bow the same for every shot, all your arrows should arrive at the same place. Once you are consistent, you can then move the 'sighting' (aiming) onto the bull and up the distances without peppering the hall or surrounding scenery with random arrows.

Here I am in week 4 able to create a decent pattern even at the longest indoor range (18m or roughly 60 feet) onto a 2 foot square target or, if Con is messing about a bit, 'caging' and nailing small drinks bottles of coffee cups pinned to the target. On this course (I cannot answer for others) you start by using a small plastic 'sight' on the bow while you get your consistency sorted (your eye lines up bow-string, sight and bull's eye) and later (next week!) you convert from sighted to "instinctive" shooting. I presume there is a stage where you sight the target and then take a sneaky look where your arrow-head is lined up before loosing the arrow but that's all in the future. Not very far into the future, admittedly. Con says it all goes to pot but then you realise how good you are and you prefer the unsighted shooting. Everything else he has said has worked so what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Charlotte's Trixie - an ace ratting dog
He has also sent me off to browse around equipment supply websites but I must not buy anything because I have not yet been 'measured up' for bow length (riser and limbs), arrow length and draw weight (poundage). I am glad about that. I went onto one website and have to admit to being completely baffled by the choice of gear available. We are confident, though, that I can bring in a full set of equipment at under my "half a 2CV" budget.

Meanwhile, months back, I may have sneaked in a reference to a new village project with which Lizzie has got involved. I was sworn to secrecy back in the early days as it was all a bit tentative and Liz did not know what form her involvement might take. Now it can be told - the village Amateur Dramatics group (The Lisacul Players) is staging 3 nights of Michael Joseph Ginnelly's comedy "A Wake in the West" -loads more detail on this one the village website including (soon) a review by me of the Opening Night which was a superb and thoroughly enjoyable riot.

The Lisacul Players (dress) rehearsing 'A Wake in the West'
As well as the 'admin' support that goes with her job (the play is happening in her building); tickets and books and so on; she is the official 'prompt' as well as costume adjuster/seamstress. Yes. She has a little seat just outside the window (stage right) and a heap of blankets because of the cold and draughts and her script and she has to follow every actor's every performance to make sure no-one misses a line or freezes. If they do she has to 'whisper' the line through her window and hope that the actor wakes up and cops on seamlessly.

The chicken eggs start to hatch.
For most of the cast this works well, she tells me, but one of the cast is (deliberately) a rambling drunk given to mumbling as if very well lubricated, in a heavy local accent. For this guy she is usually laughing behind the scenes, unable to understand half of what he says and totally unable to detect if he has missed a line or a cue. She tongue-in-cheek, gives out to him at each act-interval for being such a convincing drunk. "Years of practise", he says.

They wont be needing these any more.
Meanwhile in the livestock dept, we have a happy event to announce. Well, reasonably happy. Our chicken eggs in the incubator came round towards Day 21 and there was a mad scramble to pip and hatch. Unfortunately I missed the signs on Day 20 and failed to remove the dividers in the incubator or block up the floor-gaps which allow you to roll the eggs. Chicken #1 hatched and fell down the gap, so drowned in the water reservoir. Ooops.

After that plenty hatched safely or nearly hatched (they can get exhausted or stuck half way out) but for some unknown reason a couple have died since. You just find them flaked out on the floor. One other hatched successfully but has badly made legs and cannot get up off the floor. He/she flails around like a frog and we will have to cull this one out. Net result so far, then, just 4 healthy chicks (from 13 eggs), but, hey, it is still only March. Plenty of time for more batches and some incubated by broody hens. That is the way it goes sometimes. On the bright side, 10/13 eggs were fertile, so there is not a lot wrong with our roosters.

Friday 25 March 2016

Are You Kidding?

Nanny gets her nose into the trough. 
Guest goat, Nanny Óg is still keeping us guessing and waiting. Will she kid? How many babies? When? She seems to us to be continuously growing in girth but her udder should soon start to look full to bursting rather than just big-but-saggy. Owner Carolyn has recently upped her estimate of when things might start to happen. Going by our knowledge of when we collected Nanny from the breeder (and thereby separated her from her men-folk) and of the gestation period, we had mentally had April 14th as the last likely date. If she was not done by then, she must just be fat or very late.

3 of the lambs, nice and stocky now, start to show a healthy
interest in the grown-ups' food. 
Now, though, Carolyn thinks that when we brought Nanny Óg back to meet Billy and she didn't want to know him (so we all surmised that she was 'with child'), that might have just been a 'first impression'. The pair were left together for a couple of weeks(?) before Billy started showing signs of head-butting Nanny in the flank when she tried to eat from either of the food buckets (his or hers). Carolyn became concerned about injury to Nanny or to any unborn children in that abdomen and separated them. If Billy had, in fact, managed to get his wicked way while humans were off watch, then the 'last-likely' date might stretch as far as the end of April. As the song says, "It goes to show you never can tell"

Mum makes a comfortable bed. 
Meanwhile, regular readers will recall an angst-filled post about the issue of dogs worrying pregnant sheep ( ) which described the frustrations we were having with a local collie and its owner's inability to prevent the dog from straying (in our direction). That story ended with me having a bit of a rant at the lady of the house and, fair play to the people, they obviously heard me and strove to keep the offending lad under control. We never saw him again all through lambing and, in fact, right round to a couple of nights ago.

A nicer pic of the front of the house, sans trees
An apologetic Easter Egg from a dog?
When all hell broke loose among our dogs at 03:30 that morning we knew straight away that the dog was back. This time, we found, he was dragging 8 feet or so of chain behind him and I suppose that it was the unusual noise of this chain being dragged across our gravel drive and front lawn that was detected by our dogs. We sorted it in the usual way (all be it struggling to raise the owner in the middle of the night) and the guy could see from the fitting on the end of the dog's chain, how he had broken free. So, a load of apologies and off they went promising, as usual to hold the dog secure again.

No such luck that time, and we left the house the next evening so that I could drop Liz into the village, and who did we meet just outside the front door? Yes, our furry chum. More phone calls and a text message had us struggling to contact the owner, so I loaded the dog into our car and set out to drive him home, but then crossed paths with the guy half way there. He spotted us, turned round and followed us home. Usual apologies and promises but this time a nice sweetener. The dog had apparently been out and bought us a nice Lindor Easter Egg as an apology for all the trouble and inconvenience he is causing. Thoughtful dog.

Nice open view from the bedroom window. 
Back at the ranch our most pressing big (in terms of man hours and graft!) project is to start splitting our enormous pile of tree rounds into sizes that will help them season but will also fit into the solid-fuel range that does the heat and hot-water task round these parts. Local wisdom has it that this species of wood is easier to split up when it is new and green, than when seasoned. That is a bit counter-intuitive, as we expect log rounds to start splitting almost by themselves as they dry out. Black spruce, we are told, sets like rock when dry. We do not want to leave the pile there while we find out so I have had feelers out re log-splitting technology.

This little 'car trailer' sized splitter has a Honda engine and
punches well above its weight, with a 25 tonne blade force. 
I checked with our tree fellers to see would they come and do "some of" the wood - I don't need it all split just yet. They, however, have to come all the way from Strokestown so the 'logistics' (their word) of them doing it do not really pay - half a day's splitting would still cost €250 because of the 'call out' segment. They did say. mind. that they would kill half to 2/3 of our pile in that half day.

An hour's log splitting just to "make sure the machine was
working" generates quite a pile.
Step forward then, my bloke from down the road who came and sliced up the tree which got blown over in my pig-run 2 Novembers ago. He owns, I knew, a small car-trailer sized hydraulic splitter powered by a small Honda petrol engine. This beast proved to be very easy to operate once set up and is man enough to drive its wedge into your slice of tree with a force of up to 25 tonnes. That makes the engine grunt a bit but it soldiers on and to see a 2-3 foot diameter slice of  tree suddenly crack open is quite an impressive experience.

My man brought the machine here, set it up and showed me how to use it over the course of an hour's "checking it worked - it hasn't been used for 2 years". You can see from the picture how much wood we split in that hour. Loads of fun for me over the next few days or more working my way through the pile. All volunteers to help welcome!

87 growth rings on the stumps of one of the three trees. 1929!
On the subject of trees and wood we are still delighted with the new open views up to the house from the lane and from the bedroom window down the drive. The last few nights have been near-full moons so we get good views even at night across the lawn and, from my pillow, I can see sky and even the actual moon. It is quite bright all of a sudden. With all these logs it should be warm for years too.

Why do donkeys always appear to be judging you? This is not our animal, but I thought it would make a good '365' photo. It did, and it is now up on the Lisacul website (

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Tree Fellers

Apologies for the subject line - please feel free to insert you favourite cod-Oirish joke here and yes, there were only two of them. I have mentioned in previous posts that we had a plan to get the three big Black Spruce trees on our front lawn taken down; the three trees we fear most likely to fall on the house when some 'cousin' of Storm Desmond comes rattling through from the SW. I had warned you to listen out for shouts of "Timber!" A phone call last night confirmed that they would be here today and asked me to please take down the post and rail fence as agreed.

A fascinating machine to watch - a tracked
cherry-picker which deploys 4 'feet' hydraulically
That would have worked really well if my ancient and 'last legs' 14V Bosch electric screw driver had not chosen to die last night and refuse to take on any charge overnight. Huge thank you to K-Dub who lent me a very nice De-Walt version for the day worth, I hear, about €350. Gulp - look after it!

Three quarter tonne of diesel shredder/chipper which made
short work even of branches up to 4-5 inches thick
If readers were expecting these 'lumberjacks' to turn up in dungarees and check shirts, all beardy and 'pioneer'-ish, to cut a great wedge at the base of the tree and send 65 feet of tree crashing into the horizontal position amid heroic shouts, then they were in for a shock. These guys are very careful and professional tree surgeons clad in all the safety gear, kevlar trousers and mesh-visor hard hats. They work their way up the tree lopping off all the side branches, using a cherry picker to get about 2/3 of the way up but then putting on foot irons, full climbing harness and a loop of rope round the tree at waist-height to carry on up till the main trunk was sufficiently thin to be worth cutting through. Then they work their way back down cutting off 5 foot (ish) chunks of trunk till they get to cherry-picker height. At that stage cherry-picker man takes over again and works his way down slicing off 12" thick rounds (for me to split up with the axe later) till he gets to about 10 feet, which they refer to as the 'butt'. This bit alone gets the 'Timber!' treatment, getting dropped to horizontal before being sliced up.

Starting his 'walk' up the tree.
All the time, the lads are working a clear-as-you-go policy shredding all the branches with a huge diesel powered chipper which fires its output into their tipper lorry. You can have this for garden mulch and paths - they are more than happy to park the heap where ever they can get to.  Finally they do a huge clear up raking and shovelling up rubbish, barrowing it away to a position of your choice and even using a leaf-blower to turn your grass back to green and your drive back to gravel-grey. The 'logs' they stack where ever you want, within reason, obviously.

One of the lads is in the cherry picker here but
top left you can just see the walk-up harness guy
removing the last few branches on his tree
So there you had it. 2 lads 'removed' 3 huge fir trees in about 8 hours. Every thing is tidier than when they arrived (we don't leaf-blow our driveway in general!), nobody got hurt, no tree trunks fell on our house and the only casualty was my Bosch screwdriver. They are brilliant lads and charge a really fair price and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone.

Finishing off the stumps. 
We no longer have the fear of those trees blowing down and we have a lovely, open, well lit aspect to the front of the house.It does not look all 'loomed over'. It has room to breathe. Tomorrow morning, from my pillow, I will be able to see sky instead of just ten feet or so of tree trunk. As we come in through the main gate in the car, we can now see the whole house, not just the right hand side of it. I need to re-instate the fence, but I will wait till I have replaced the dead screwdriver before I do that.

Job done and squared away - about 6pm in this picture so
getting dusky but you can see how open the view now is.
That task kept us all entertained all day; we even spent some of the day sitting outside on our front terrace in the garden-chairs just leaning back and watching the lads clambering about and dropping bits of tree. It was easier that way to look up, rather than stand with your neck all cricked, looking upwards. All done now, though. The guys had tea and accepted some of Liz's goo-ey chocolate cake leaving us to admire the new 'big sky' view of the house from the lane. We are very pleased.

Nanny Óg looking big. Here watched by Marta (lamb)
In other news, Charlotte is back from college for a bit of Easter Holidays (all be it having to nip back to Dublin each weekend for her paid job), so we have told Nanny Óg that she can now get on with the job of kidding. Nanny Óg does not seem at all interested though she did spend a lot of today lying down in the straw shelter looking huge.

Barbara (front) displays right back at Tom.
The turkeys took us by surprise today with a new (to us) behaviour. We have seen lots and lots of Tom displaying; he is quite obsessive about it. We have not had any eggs yet as far as we know, though Barbara may be hiding them. Today, though, she started doing a male-style display right back at Tom - tail erect and fanned, back-feathers all raised and wings pressed down hard to the ground. We have no explanation for this. The presence of the 'strangers' (our tree guys) and their big noisy shredder/chipper may have had something to do with it.

Anyway, enough for this one post. I will leave you with a nice shot of the geese splashing about in their bath (George the gander and one of the ladies here) in the sunshine.

Friday 18 March 2016


Towser is all done and wants just to get off that table
Another bit of red-tape comes our way hot on the heels of Water Charges, Property Tax and Goat Herd Numbers. We hear on the radio that it will become mandatory from 1st April that all dogs must be micro-chipped. We can hear 50% of our neighbours guffaw-ing with the same response they had to finding out that we actually went out and got our dogs licensed when this was mooted. Yeah Right.

Dog Micro-Chip docs.
The locals seem to have a fairly loose, open minded approach to such things - I am not sure how many people have started paying the water rates, but it is still a hot political potato and the take up has only been in the 30-50% area to my knowledge. There are also plenty of folk not yet paying Property Tax, not registering septic tanks and so on. We are probably unusually stupid in this respect and suckers for everything but a) I still feel like a guest in this country, and it would be unreasonable to come here expecting a welcome and acceptance but to straight way start breaking the rules. b) once we had signed up to dog licences, I think it would be quite a risk to not do the micro chip thing - their database might be a bit ropey but I think that at least they'd be able to check whether the licenced dogs were tagged. And c) we know our luck. Get Liz to tell you her TV Licence story one time, and you'll agree.

So, in we booked to the Castlerea vet to an evening clinic and we took the dogs along tonight to get them done. The micro chip is a tiny pellet the size of a grain of rice, which the vet injects just under the skin between the shoulder blades. The needle looked fairly big (like one of my sheep ones) - the bore had to fit the pellet, so I expected some shouting, especially from Poppea, our drama-queen. Fair play to Pops, who we put in last. I got a small squeak from Deefer and Towser but not a whisper from Poppea; just a pained look and a tensing of the face around the eyes.

Happy St Patrick's from the chooks
Next, of course, as this as all about getting owner personal details onto a Government database, came the paperwork. Triplicate forms - dogs names, breeds and dates of birth, owner name address and phone number and a fair amount of vet details. Bar codes everywhere. The authorities claim that this will help them (the dog warden etc) find you if your dog gets lost and will stop them having to euthenase the poor mite but I can't help feeling that it is more about making sure they get the €20 per year dog licence money from all the nation's dogs. Ah well.

Frost on pussy willow.
The chipping was only €25 per dog and there are charity animal welfare organisations who will do it for free if you are hard up. We, at least, are legal. I remain amused that we only knew this was going on because we had heard about it on our radio station of choice, 'Today FM'. We have had no notification from Government nor seen anything in newspapers. You would think that at least the dog licencing boys would be posting out mail shots to their "customers" or the vets, who stand to make that €25 per dog, would have been contacting clients.

Blue sky for my Kiltybranks dog walk today
Meanwhile our run of blue skies continue all be it with frosty mornings. I've been able to get out on some lovely dog walks and today I returned to Kiltybranks where I can let the gang off the leads. Regular readers may recall that I have found down there a bloke (Paul) who does his own turf cutting and has become a bit of a friend. He goes down there with his collie 'Sam' who has befriended our 3 dogs and, while we humans chat, Sam chases around the guy's turf cuttings pursued by 3 mad westies.

Frosty spider web.
Sam is a long legged, fast dog given to 'Lassie Super-dog' leaps from cut to cut across canyons which leave my short leggedy westies miles behind trying to decide whether to try to jump the gap or run down into it and back up. You see Sam flowing across the tops, barely touching the heather followed by three mad, white, bouncing, tongue-lolling shapes trying to sprong through the heather like salmon trying to jump up a fish-ladder. Today, Paul's partner (Sharon) was there too, so the dogs had a new person to schmooze up and her being a goat breeder, I had a new source of advice on how to tell if Nanny Óg might be about to kid. Nan is, of course, playing her cards close to her chest still.

The flowering currants (Ribes) take a frost hit prior to opening
I spent my St Patrick's Day over at the Sligo house helping K-Dub to start the flooring. The floors downstairs are going to be a bit special. None of your B&Q laminates or cheap tiles there. This is going to be a grid of 4' squares made out of the thinner size of old scaffold boards, infilled with huge slabs of Indian limestone. You can probably not see that in your mind's eye but, trust me, with the boards sanded down and sealed and the stone also sealed it is going to look spectacular. Photo's when some of it is complete.

Bacon and cabbage Roscommon style.
Enough for now. I wish you good night and a happy St Patrick's weekend from our dog-legal, micro-chipped Friday Night pizza and red wine heaven.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Blesséd are the Cheese Makers?

Cheese Making Kit
...because everyone needs a Monty Python quote in their blog now and again. Making cheese is something into which we had never delved. Years back we went on a goat-keeping course which included dealing with the dairy products of milking goats. The course was excellent but I have to admit we were rather put off the dairying side by all the talk of food grade plastics, spotless cleanliness and perfect maintenance of temperatures. In theory you could make goaty cheese in a 'normal' kitchen but what we were seeing looked more complicated, precise and careful than any kind of kitchen we felt able to reproduce in our tiny 8 feet by 6 feet space.

Pouring the curds and whey through the muslin and colander
Ah well, that was then. Recently we had the Mum-in-Law up to stay and, as a thank you, she bought us a cheese making kit in a box as an enjoyable taster. This kit, the "Big Cheese Making Kit" is by a company called "The Big Cheese" of Tranent, East Lothian, EH33 1AZ (UK) but we got it via Mr Middleton's Garden Shop which is, we believe, the Irish version of Thompson and Morgan. Google any of those names and you are sure to find it. Our kit makes up to 10 batches each of Mozzarella and Ricotta, each batch being based on 4.5 litres of full cream milk and yielding 1-2 lbs of cheese. The kit contains instruction sheets plus all the things you might not have in a standard kitchen needed for the job - thermometer, butter muslin sheets, veggie rennet, citric acid powder and fine organic sea-salt. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Ricotta cheese - small granular crumby curds
So, I was dispatched to the local shops to buy 9 litres of milk while Liz set up the necessary pots and pans and colander. I won't bore you with all the details of method but suffice to say it went really well and worked like a dream. We did the ricotta first as that looked simplest (add citric acid to milk and heat to 85ºC - you will have curds like magic). The mozzarella was a little more complex as there was rennet to add and the curds formed at only 35ºC but more slowly. There is then a repeat microwaving and kneading stage like bread dough but which you do with the Marigolds on as the curd mass is too hot to handle with bare hands.

Portioning up the finished mozzarella
You squish and knead and fold and stretch like someone trying to get life back into old, dried up Blu-Tack. You end up with a much denser (than ricotta) shiny, stretchy lump which you can then portion up into rounds or flat lumps for storage (freeze and/or submerge in brine or whey). The whey can be a bit of a problem, as you get nearly as much whey back as you started with milk but there are recipes on line for using it in stock and soups. I would not recommend chucking it down the drain as it must have an Oxygen Demand (BOD) similar to milk and you may kill all the local fish! You are also not technically allowed to feed it to pigs (as in Danish Bacon) as it is from a human kitchen. For want of knowing what to do with it for the moment we have frozen it in the milk bottles.

How blue do you like your sky?
With rather delightful timing, we had no sooner made these lovely light, Summer salad cheeses than the sun finally came out and has given us 2 days of beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. All our puddles are gone daffs are coming out all over the gaff and even the primroses have started along our 'Primrose Path'. My quince tree, previously the last fruit type to break bud and not moving till May, is racing out into leaf in a solid first place. All around the local ditches and ponds, frogs are 'at it' and the ditches are alive with masses of frog spawn. Not in our pond though, for some reason. The froggy 'house hunters' seem to have passed us by this year. Perhaps last year's were scouts and when the tadpoles were all eaten by our newts or water beetles, the word went round. Stay away.

Those trees again. Enjoy them while you can.
In the tree felling dept, we have now been visited by the man from the 'tree care' company in a mighty 4 wheel drive. He was calm, professional and completely unfazed by my "mighty" trees, quoted us a very favourable price and promised that, weather permitting, he might be back next week to drop them, slice up the trunks and shred up all the debris. I just have to take down the fence around the bases but as this is a post and rail with no high-tensile wire involved, I can do that with my fencing pliers and a screwdriver. It all sounds very promising.

Coffee in the garden but if you bring cake out, don't
tell the chickens!
All parties are now convinced that our guest-goat, Nanny Óg is, in fact, pregnant. This from the size of her, which everyone thinks is much bigger than when they last looked, 3 weeks ago. Maybe only with the single kid, though, says Carolyn (the owner). Also from the fact that she is definitely bagging up in the udder dept. Everyone is quite calm about this as she is an experienced Mum. Carolyn thinks that it is not yet imminent, anyway. We can all relax. The deal I did with Nanny Óg to hold off till Charlotte came home from college might still work although I told the goat St Patrick's Day (17th) and she is not now coming home till Monday. Hang in there Nanny!

Gimme that cake!
Looking at her today, I wondered whether we might all get a rapid surprise. She was only half interested in lunch (she's normally first in the queue even before our ewe Lily). She did a big solid poo (normally it is all as little pellets like over-size rabbit droppings) and seemed to be quite pink round the vulva. She was holding her tail quite high up and, yesterday, she was doing a weird dance on top of the grassy knoll, swinging her head back and forth from all the way round to her left shoulder blade, to round to the right one and back.

However, when we went back to check on her a few minutes later she was back down in her favourite corner of the field lying on a slew of old hay looking as relaxed and not-in-labour as any goat could look. Chilled in the sunshine enjoying the sun's warmth on her ample belly. Maybe she will hold off to Monday after all. Meanwhile Liz spotted a good website/blog about goat breeding which suggested that if a goat only has one kid then it can start to favour only one side of the udder leading to a situation where the owner needs to milk out the other side so that the poor Mum does not swell up and get painful. Now if only we had a use for all that spare goat milk!

Friday 11 March 2016

Three Flavours of Fame

21 Today!
First up (how could we do anything else?) a HUGE Happy Birthday to our good friend and favourite 'Mother Goose', Pig grappler, Sheep wrangler and duck chaser, Charlotte, who is 21 today! Charlotte is away at college at the mo so cannot get home to spend the day with the gang here, but is being looked after by the Dublin arm of the family while she battles with assignments and essays. She gets a good length 'Easter' holiday this year as it runs from St Patrick's (17th March) round through Easter and we have promised to talk possibly pregnant Nanny Goat, Nanny Óg, into holding off kidding till she is home. You have a great day, Charlotte and we will see you very soon. Now I don't want to get anyone into trouble but young Henry (4) was arguing the toss with me today that you are actually 36. What do I know? Incidentally, we moved the billy goat over to your new abode today where he is showing every sign of enjoying the sudden wealth of old brambles, young Christmas trees and other hedgerow rubbish. He had eaten our pig run clean of anything browse-able.

Healthy lambs, Ebony, Ivory and Rosie.
On the not-so-good news dept, I am sad to report the loss of that lamb we were bottle feeding, Lucy. We bottle fed her through Monday and Tuesday but always felt that we were persuading her and almost forcing it on her. I am advised since that this is not how it goes - a hungry lamb will be almost ripping the teat off the bottle in her eagerness to get at the milk. When Charlotte was feeding 5 they were climbing over each other (and her shoulders!) to get at the bucket before she had a chance to pour it into the 5-way feeder.

Outdoor rhubarb starting to move.
On Wednesday morning, early, I went out with my nice warm bottle of milk and tub of 'crunch' and my heart sank when I saw Lucy stretched out flat on the straw, barely moving, occasionally gasping what looked like her last breaths; so shallow that they were mouth-gasps and did not seem to be filling her lungs. I gathered her up and brought her indoors, then sat with her on my lap trying to massage some hope back into her. Liz joined me but both of us could see there was little hope. Liz put her on the sofa wrapped in a blanket, safe from the madly curious terriers and went back to check on her ten minutes later but she was gone. We are sad, obviously but we take comfort from our friends advice that she was probably a 'wrong-un' doomed to fail and there was nothing we could have done. We have learned many lessons from this, mind - how to spot a hungry lamb, how to bottle feed and maybe to bring it indoors to the 'nursery' sooner rather than later. And then there were five.

Facebook post about the lost wedding ring
But what of my title about 'fame'? Three (sets of) friends seem to be courting the spotlight this week. First up our friends from the local Post Office have hit the headlines by losing and then being re-united with, the lady's wedding ring. She (Anne) lost it in town when it fell from her finger because she had been wearing it on the 'wrong' finger after injuring the right one. In Ireland, though, it is common to get the wedding ring engraved on the inside with the date of the wedding, so that even as she was hunting it down by re-tracing her steps, it had been found and the finder was tracking her down from the date. Happy reunion and for the (1968) happy couple, over 27,000 hits on facebook and the phone in the Post Office jumping off the hook with well wishers ringing from all around the world, their son in the UK and so on. They were tickled pink.

2nd up, a good friend and neighbour has got himself into the local papers by contributing to a lovely project organised by local writer/journo, Gerry Boland. He tapped into the local Rural Mens' Groups and rounded up "38 Men" to tell stories and relate memories from their history in Ireland. The Book, called "From Ballaghaderreen to Drumboylan: 38 Men Talking" is now for sale in lots of shops locally. We are going to buy one tomorrow and casually lay it in front of our friend (2nd from left in my pic, if you can recognise him!) and get him to autograph it.

Maureen O'Sullivan - Liz's English Teacher and possible
candidate for "Speaker of the House"
Thirdly, regular readers will know that Lizzie is fascinated by politics and elections almost to the point of obsession. One facet she follows particularly closely is the carreer of her former English teacher, Maureen O'Sullivan who, having narrowly squeaked her seat in the house (Dáil) at the recent General Election was tipped for higher things. She was, for a while, front running favourite for the postion "Ceann Comhairle" (pronounced, roughly, 'Key-ann Corl-yer'), the Speaker of the House.

Is this goat pregnant or just fat? She is keeping us guessing
Thousands of her former pupils were texting and 'tweet'-ing support and Liz thought that there could be no better authority controlling the unruly debating chamber. Liz remembers that when 'Mo' was fed up with the class room full of Liz's contemporaries she would admonish them with a catch phrase, "YOU PEOPLE need to ***********" Liz tweeted this and many many pupils picked up on it. Sadly, this dream gig was not to be. The 2 main parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) were so evenly matched that they spotted a chance to take out one vote of the 'enemy' - all the FF guys voted for the FG man and vice versa. Maureen (an Independent) came a lowly 3rd in the race.

When this tiny part on your Zanussi dishwasher clogs up
with food particles, expect a €110 bill from the engineer!
Ah well, enough for this one. We are enjoying a quiet evening for a change with nothing organised - we are not out and nobody is dropping in. I was chef; we had baked cod with new potatoes and Mediterranean roast veg. I am tired from the 'buildering' - we have been 'slabbing' the Sligo house - fitting plasterboard and insulated slabs up into the "open to the rafters", 45º ceilings. Liz has been working hard on the village website. Do go visit it - you will be in good company. It seems to be taking off as the news spreads by word of 'mouth'