Friday 29 July 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Yoiks! Not a howling success then, that 'hard' cheese. 
I have always tried 'on here' to report our story. like Cromwell's portrait, warts and all. Thankfully embarrassing howlers are infrequent and most readers' comments focus on the good stories with happy outcomes - "living the dream" and all that jazz. I think you can probably place my latest cheese making attempt and my first try at hard-ish cheese, firmly in the 'warts' camp. I have definitely missed a stage in the process and the lovely white, semi-hard cheese I hung up in a muslin bag to ripen started showing very dark through the cloth within a couple of weeks. I have, it seems, hung a lovely moist, nutritious chunk of fungus-food up at air temperature in a non-sterile bag in a non-sterile air flow. Spores must have been queueing up to come to this party. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I can't quite believe how stupid that sounds now. Back to square one - I will go read some more book and talk to our goat-milk supplier and (now) successful cheese-making mentor (Hi Sue! Congrats on your "promotion"!).

Ouch. Yellow arrow shows where the girl's sting went in. The
big red patch was the itchy, alarming result but I am still here
to tell the tale.
Then I was just off to enjoy a bit of archery on Sunday and took the opportunity to water the courgettes growing in the polytunnel. I leaned over my water tank wielding my watering can, then stood up and flexed my arm to lift the can just as a wasp zoomed up from the tank and through the crook of my elbow. Bang. I half-crushed Miss Wasp and she reacted as wasps do, zapping me before I could flick her off. She fell into the water and a less merciful soul would have wished her good luck.

I am currently feeding these lads for a neighbour. Grub's up.
I am silly enough that I rescued her with the spout of my watering can and, as far as I know, she lives to sting again. I was alone in the house at that stage and could only wait the few minutes to see if, like my Mother, I am allergic to wasp venom and there would be anaphyllactic shock dramatics, ambulances and paramedics. Fortunately, no. A tiny white pimple with a fan-shaped red patch below it was my only injury. It itched like fury and 'Nurse Lizzie' administered Piriton and a chilling 'Wasp-Eze' spray but I was able to go to archery and lash the required number of arrows down the hall as if nothing had happened.

Yes, I know we have a bowl each. but....
With Thursday came the piggies' 6-Month Birthday. Local tradition (all be it only 3 years old as an event) has it that the pigs get an extra meal that day at lunchtime which includes Guinness poured into their barley. It is very simple as kiddies' parties go; there's no jelly or crisps trodden into the carpet, no disappointing magician or balloon-animal guy, no party bags and no tears before bedtime, but we like it and so do the pigs. They can't believe their luck - an extra meal! And beer in it - which they have never tasted before (and won't again). I also got them some banana and cherry tomatoes (both on special offer from Lidl; I wonder if their marketing bods know that their special offers are the must-have fruit choices for 6 month old gilts party fodder?)

A Birthday back-scratch. All pigs love a good, hard,
dig-your-finger-nails-in, rake-over. Get that dandruff flying!
The Guinness was almost a story in itself. I'd bought 2 cans and was only going to give the 'babies' one between them, but I took the other can (the pigman's share?) in with me to make a better photo. I put it down while I messed with bowls and barley but Ross took a shine to this new object and promptly gave it a good chomp. She pierced the thin can with her teeth and set the whole thing off with a spray of beer like a fire extinguisher. Rather than waste it I glugged the rest into the bowls and the pigs got a can each.

Two very happy little piggies schlurrrrped up the beer-soaked mixture and the fruit with more gusto (and saliva) than normal and then did a good job of cleaning the ground around the bowls. No waste there, then. At that point they pretty much headed for the ark and a mission to sleep off the full bellies on the straw. Later I was barrowing in some shredded wood to 'repair' the poached up muddy bits and it was only at the 2nd barrow that two bleary eyed pigs woke up to investigate, shaking strands of straw from their noses as they wandered over.

Of course, we have now probably spoiled them rotten and they were 'asking' for more barley and beer at lunchtime today but I only gave them a couple of chopped up apples to shut them up. Over feeding was the mistake I made on the Tamworths in 2014, handing them food every time they squealed. That way madness lies (and pork chops where 30% of the weight is the skin and subcutaneous fat!). I am pleased to say that my pics of these ladies at 6 months, posted to Facebook yesterday, have been complimented by our breeder/supplier who says they look "perfect".

On that subject, too, on the day we went to collect these pigs, the breeder passed me the phone number of another customer of his, who is now a breeder of 'Oxford Sandy and Black' pigs only half an hour's drive away. I contacted that guy yesterday to see how that project was going and the man was delighted to talk to me and have me as a likely future buyer of his piglets along with our friends Sue and Rob, who are also looking to get back into the pig game with a couple of these. More on that next year, probably.

Happy Birthday, Somerville and Ross.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Work(s) in Progress

Those beautiful floors made of Indian limestone slabs and
skimmed skinny-size scaffold boards. 
This pic does not really do justice to the intense torquoise
colour of the hand made kitchen
I got so carried away with my bats in the last post, I completely omitted the biggest news story that week, the (near) completion of the Sligo house rebuild to the point where K-Dub and the family were able to finally move in. 'Near' here is just because there is a small amount of the inevitable de-snagging - touch of paint here, connect up something over there, plumb in the hob, that sort of thing. But we spent most of Thursday scrubbing those floors to within an inch of their lives so that K-Dub could spend the evening sealing the woodwork and lacquering the stone, leaving them overnight to dry.

The "we" here as with all these Sligo house posts, you will know by now to mentally add "Mainly K-Dub" to every time I use it - we built this, we moved that, we painted the other. I have helped, but I am only the part-time labour. All the skilled stuff and the lion's share of the man hours are definitely due to K-Dub himself and I know he is as proud as he has every right to be, of the house "we" have built, as are the ladies (who have also helped). I have moved endless amounts of rock, shoveled and swept tonnes of sawdust and wood shavings and run a gazillion 'mixes' through the cement mixer, but in the house itself I have laid at most half a dozen blocks (mine are above the front door!) and stuck a few stones in the exterior stone-masonry. I have 'held' some stuff while the boss screwed it into place and that kind of thing but, as I said, 'we' is definitely K-Dub for 99% of this house.

I love these stairs also built from skinny
scaffold boards. 
So on the Friday (22nd) the buildering paused and we turned our minds to humping furniture about. The family have all the 'stuff' from their old house stored in a single storey abandoned building over the road and in our spare room here. We got into a good rhythm with K-Dub and Charlotte pulling the stuff out of the store, me bringing it across the road to the new house and Carolyn blitzing it with cleaners and furniture polish before it could be assembled , the cushions added or it be moved into its final position. Finally K-Dub and I, 2-handed the heavy stuff (Welsh dresser etc) across before we started on boxes of kitchen gear, bags of bedding and all the other bits that anyone who moves house will know all too well.

K-Dub and Carolyn feeling like they are in. Young H (4) is there
too but has curled himself into the easy chair in such a way that
you'd miss him if you looked quickly.
The family were looking at a fairly mad weekend - no gentle getting moved in, unpacked and sorted out for them. K-Dub's best mate from Dublin was down on the Friday night (there might be drinking involved with that one) and then K-Dub's sister and her little boy are down from the Saturday round to the Thursday (28th). It all sounds a bit hectic.

'Medieval' tented round houses. 
Meanwhile, in archery land, I have been helping with a completely different 'build'. Instructor, 'Con', is a man of many talents. As well as a former army weapons trainer and now archery coach for us lot, he is an ace leather-worker and respected national expert in the construction of medieval footwear (for which he makes 'repro' copies for shows and museums) but is also a knowledgeable enthusiast on all things medieval, Celtic history, Druid-ing and the like.

Inside one of the round houses. 
At his place near Castlerea he has created the earth-banks for various forts and encampments and every year he hosts a "Celtic Lughnasa Games" (Lughnasa being a Celtic festival which happens at the end of July into August). Families can come, camp the nights, socialise and then try their hand at the 'taster sessions' on games like spear-throwing, axe-throwing, knife-throwing and, of course, archery all in a controlled and safe, strictly managed (and sober!) environment. For obvious reasons Con forbids the mixing of booze with dangerous sports; he also (maybe more tongue in cheek) forbids discussion on Religion or Politics while anyone is armed!  

We got the car through the NCT at the re-test stage.
In the centre of all this - the public and socialising areas - he creates a tented 'village' a bit like the space for a jousting tournament, with wooden framed (and skirted) round houses and stripey 'viewing tents', plus a big fire-pit for the evening storey-telling etc. That was our bit - a couple of Saturdays spent as volunteers banging in posts, fixing planking, erecting the middle post and the 'rafters' and then wrangling the tarpaulin canvas 'hat' over the whole thing. Con and co kept us supplied with breakfast, cups of tea and a bit of lunch and we all had a great deal of fun and happy banter throwing these buildings up and getting to know each other. Different but brilliant. I assume we will all reconvene after the event to pull it all down again but I have not heard of that yet. Good luck Con over the weekend. Hope the rain holds off and you get a good croud of reasonably well behaved 'students'.

Meanwhile we chug along through a very wet July, making progress in some other departments, too. The Hubbards continue to thrive and put on weight. At 70 days they are looking decidedly edible and we are looking forward to starting to 'harvest' the big ones (mainly the three roosters). The ducks are also definitely starting to look adult and, so Charlotte tells us, we should definitely start to consider a couple of them who are getting a lovely dark green 'Mallard-ish' sheen to their heads, as drakes.

Note dark green 'mallard-ish' sheen on the heads of the
two rear-most ducks here. Drakes, maybe?
Houdini Duck continued to escape every day through the sheep wire of the orchard and would go on the pond but as there was only one of him he seemed not to be doing much damage and the pond was starting to recover. Then H-D made a fatal mistake and showed one of the others how to get out and invited her to join him on the pond (or poss her/him/her). I have had to nip out today and invest in some 2-inch-hole, 2 foot tall chicken wire to run along these fences to stop the rot. I seem to have settled their hash for now.

One of the Hubbard roosters at 70 days
The very-baby Marans chicks are coming on well too and are getting well feathered despite being only 14 days old. They spend their days out in the rabbit run, all be it able to retreat into the nice, dry, warm, draught free 'bedroom' bit if they fancy a break from the fresh air. We bring them back indoors at night and they can huddle under their 'electric hen' warming plate but on these very warm nights we are looking forward to thinking about risking them outside. It won't be long (maybe 2 weeks?) before we scratch our collective chins and say.. "No...... I think they're done" and pack away the brooder boxes and the elctric hen. Our breeding season will be over. The year is flying by.

Friday 22 July 2016

Roamin' in the Gloamin'

Leisler's (lesser noctule) bat. All three of these bat pics
are blagged off the Internet - just Google the species and
click on 'images'.

The young Hubbard poults are now penned in an area out towards our Western boundary and they have a fox proof coop of their own out in their run. This move has resulted in me having to "teach" them to go to bed inside the coop (not under it, you numpties!) and, being youthful, adolescent stop-outs, this is only possible as deepest dusk descends. It is pointless trying to round up 12 chickens and steer them through a dark pop-hole to "safety" before they are good and ready.

Our ever-useful bat detector box. 
So every evening, at that time when it looks much darker outdoors through the windows of a lit room, than it really is if you went out there, I find myself playing "chicken" with Mr Fox. The Hubbards are away from the house and a bit exposed were our brush-tailed chum to come exploring so, as it starts to look dark outside, I soon crack and have to go check on them to see if they might oblige me by going to bed. This has, in turn, led to me spending a lot more time outdoors in the gloaming than has recently been the case and I have rediscovered my fascination for bats.

The local bogs are a blanket of colour -
here is purple loosestrife and meadowsweet
in Currasallagh bog.
In Kent we were very keen on bats and could sit outside on our terrace any summer evening as the sun went down with the bat detector box standing on the table between the glasses of wine. We'd be chatting away till we were inevitably interupted by the patter, squelch, tick and 'raspberry' noises of bats passing over the garden(s) hunting their midges and mozzies.

We had lost the habit here for several reasons. First, dusk is an hour and a half later here in the West of Ireland than it is on the Greenwich Meridian, so we were already starting to think about bed by the time the bats came out. Second, those midges and mozzies - sitting outside in the half light here is not necessarily pleasant or restful. There also seemed to be far fewer bats, so we had several fruitless sits in conditions which would always have 'caught' you a bat or 6 in Kent. Also, in my head the bats we saw all seemed to be Pipistrelles.

These two move in just down the lane
Pips are perfectly good bats and users of bat-boxes like ours know there are "now" 2 species emitting their chirrups and squelches at 2 different frequencies. Normal Pips emit at around 45 kHz, and the 'new' Soprano Pips do their thing at 55 kHz. Obviously both those frequencies are well outside human hearing-range, but the bat box is there to 'Doppler' it all down pro-rata into human-audible noise. Google 'bat detector box' for details - they are around €120

There I was, then, wandering around in the half light whispering sweet lullabyes to a load of unco-operative white chickens when I found mysef being buzzed by a much bigger bat, obviously too big to be a pipistrelle. My brain was raking around the usual suspects like "Greater Horseshoe Bat" (just because it has the word 'greater' in its name) and Dubenton's bat because it happened to be cruising up and down above our big pond. But I had no idea whether we had GHBs in Ireland (we don't) and I was not sure whether you could pin Daubenton's down to species by bat-box frequency (you can't - he is one of the annoying 'mid-range' bats who shout at the same frequency as lots of other bats).

We may get this good at cheese making some day. This
pretend 'Parmesan' is from Sue and Rob
Off to the internet then to consult my 'tame' experts, Kent Wildlife Trust and then blog-regular, our own Mrs Silverwood who has been on ID training courses as part of the Irish bat-survey. I had forgotten that. She suggested Leisler's bat (aka the 'Lesser Noctule') Nyctalus leisleri. This is the biggest Irish bat (I now know) but one with which I have never crossed paths. Now I have and I am sure from my recent research that my bat was a Leisler's. This guy is reasonably easy to 'detect' as he emits at 20-30 kHz with nothing below 20. Naturally, I have been out each night since and not seen 'him' again but, heh, why would you expect co-operative bats when you are trying to guide unco-operative chickens to bed?

Tuesday 19 July 2016

The Heat was Hot.

We don't get many weather maps here with this much yellow
and brown on them!
Scorchio! Out of nowhere we have been delighted to receive 2 blisteringly hot days. No wind and very very close with the promise of thunderstorms to come on the Tuesday evening. As I write this we are clouding over and we can believe the storms, but we are waiting, as you do, for the weather to 'break'. We read that in yesterday's bit of the heat wave, our local mountain (Mt. Dillon, Co. Roscommon) was the hottest place in Ireland at 27.3ºC. Pah! (I hear you cry) Not that impressive by the standards of the British Isles as a whole, but fairly unusual for us out on the Atlantic margins. [Newsflash from Weds a.m. Mt Dillon repeated the 'hottest place' feat on the Tuesday with an even hotter record; 30.4ºC !]

It's official. Hottest place in Ireland!
We are amused anyway by being the record holders. We moved here from Faversham in Kent which had also been, since 30th Sept 2003, the hottest place in the UK. The weather station at Brogdale, the fruit research station, recorded a 38.5º on that date putting Faversham firmly on the map. I have just searched Google etc because in my head somewhere is a glimmer of memory that Brogdale was recently out-done and knocked off the top spot, but I can find nothing on t'Internet to confirm this. Ah well, we must enjoy this burst of heat while we can. We were wondering whether summer had come and gone with the lovely 3 weeks in May/June so we are relieved that there may be more where that came from.

Mumma-Buff with her two "black babies". We believe they
Araucana x English Game crosses.
The warmth has given us a chance to do a lot of livestock jobs out of doors. The little Marans chicks, still no more than a week old, have been allowed some 'out' in one of the rabbit runs. Typically for tiny chicks, they do not really do much with this time, making only occasional short forays out onto the grass from the safety of their dark, 'bedroom' section but they are thriving and I am very happy with them. That is, all be it that EVERYthing seems to grow very slowly compared to the Hubbard poults who, at 60 days or so are great big rollicking, fully feathered young chickens who are already starting to look edible.

The roses are doing a cracking job in the garden.
This is "The Lovers". Beautifully scented.
The one Buff Orp hen who managed to do the broody job correctly is now doing an equally good job rearing her two little sparrow-like offspring. The eggs were blue, so we thought they might be of the 'fancy fowl' variety, Araucana but Sue and Rob (who know these varieties and supplied the eggs) say that the flecked brown chests on them make them more likely to have been fathered by their English Game cock.

Apples coming along nicely.
Also outdoors for some first exploring are the two Marmalade kittens, Chivers and Chip. They, too, are thriving and Liz is trying to keep their lives full of stimulus and interest despite them being too tiny to risk any close interaction yet with the dogs. They are locked in the Sitting Room while the dogs are about and let out while I have the dogs out for a walk or in the bedroom for a nap. Today, in the heat and with the dogs tired from a long morning walk in the local bog, we sneaked the kittens out into the front garden for a chase about. They met the Guinea Fowl and our elderly Sussex Ponte hen (Enda) and survived.

As pants the Westie for cooling streams,
when heated in the chase?
One sad bit of news. A few posts back, I reported that one of the geese was struggling to get back on her feet after her session doing 'broody'. Well, she was showing no signs of improvement and I was concerned at the anguished cries of pain and upset she made every time the rest of the geese left her behind and she flopped about trying to struggle upright. Today I culled her out and as I type this, Liz is even now plucking her. We have no idea how she will cook and eat - she will be in very poor condition after the nesting and the subsequent inability to move about much to graze. She might also be quite old.

The pigs come up to 6 months.
If she is one of our original ladies from Jan 2013, then she'd be a 2012 bird and 4 years old. A challenge for Liz's slow-cooker skills, perhaps, or maybe a 'render down' for stock and goose fat (with the liver probably rescued!). She will decide when she sees the girl 'naked'. Even a fat healthy goose can look very scrawny and meatless along side a turkey for example.

Curly tail equals happy pig.
Also a teeny bit less "meaty" than previous efforts are our happy pair of piggies, Somerville and Ross. Regular readers will know that we estimate pig weights using a standard method out of our pig 'Bible', called the "Bust squared times length" method. [Search this blog for the link]. Well, these ladies are approaching 6 months and are around 48 kg. This, as I said, is lighter than our Tamworths (2014) or the Berkshires (2015) but we are very happy with this and it is deliberate. I am a bit of a 'feeder' (says Charlotte) and tend to overfeed my animals unless you beat me with a stick. Our pork up to now has been quite fatty. This year we are sticking more rigidly to the Bible's "maintenance diet" and these pigs are growing measurably slower than previous years, which we like.

Finally a couple of nice bits of nostalgia which came my way, deriving from my long interest in olde wooden sail-powered work boats. First we heard from a Kent friend (thanks Joanna) that there was to be a programme on Irish TV about the 'Galway Hookers' or, more specifically, about the last owners and sailors of the 'species', the 'Bádóirí' (boatmen). I managed to scramble up writing this on the calendar and tried to turn it on a month after it had aired, so I had a frantic search and rescue job trying to obtain a DVD or find a link to somewhere it might be archived. To the rescue the gents from the film company and a magazine which had set it up who managed to find me the DVD and posted it to me. Thank you very much Joe St Leger and the team. The film was superb but might be a bit 'specialist' if old boats are not your thing.

Nick Ardley's latest book.
2nd in the boats dept, a copy of the latest book by my friend from the Cambria era (he used to read my reconstruction blog and comment upon it), Nick Ardley. Nick is nearly the same age as I am but his family home was a converted Thames Sailing Barge (the May Flower) so there is not much he does not know about them. He is now a mad keen sailor who spends his leisure time exploring the creeks and inlets of his home county (Essex) looking at old barge ports, old boats and hulks, old military installations and industrial heritage. He has written a number of books starting with one about his childhood growing up on the barge. When I find out he has a new book out I always try to get hold of a copy and this latest one he generously agreed to post to me here and has written a nice inscription and signed it. If he ever becomes rich and famous....... If you are at all interested in the history of barging and of the Essex coast and Thames Estuary, I recommend it.

Injuns in them thar hills? OK, just a silly garden feature made
with broken arrows and holes drilled in the wood with my drill.
And that is pretty much it for this one. 21:40 now and it has started raining.

Friday 15 July 2016

Not Yellow but Primrose.

At some signal unknown to we smallholding observers, the geese suddenly decide that the time for sitting brooding on those last eggs or empty nests is over and we should all wake up one morning, stride purposefully out of the goose house and go graze the good orchard grass. This gives me a chance, at last, to nip the door shut and muck the place out. It is long overdue - so long that some of the debris underfoot is turkey feathers and we last had a turkey here on May 9th!

Marans chick.
Our final score on the goslings was just the one but we are delighted with that. Regular readers will know that we are frantically trying NOT to breed geese; we steal all the eggs we can for the kitchen and only get out-manouvred right at the end of the season when a goose goes broody on us overnight. This gosling is a possible keeper (unless he turns out to be a gander) as we have a possible problem with one of the adult birds going lame.

Take a large mixing bowl and add half a dozen newly hatched
Since her turn at brooding she struggles to get back onto her feet but we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. Every time we get worried about her and start thinking we may need to make the tough decision, we then see all the adult birds wandering about the orchard with the gosling and not a bother on them. Maybe she is just "a bit stiff in the morning". Geese are a poor shape to be suffering from aching ankles and knees - all the weight of the breast, neck and head is well forward of the legs. Watch this space.

We love the monochrome effect of the black, grey and white
fluff on these guys.
A lot more success, fortunately, where we did want it, in the incubator hatch of the Marans eggs. Here we ended up with 6 babies in a lovely range of blacks, greys and whites. The remaining 6 eggs were infertile - just yolk and white like the day we bought them. We have passed the results to our supplier. It is not a complaint. These things happen. We just know that people would rather know that their rooster is maybe under performing. 50% is not bad in the scheme of things.

A screen-grab of the Lisacul website
Meanwhile, Liz has been having a load of fun setting up and running the village website ( ). She does this as part of her work and you will know that the '365' photographic project was born out of it and continues to supply most of the pictures which are used on the site. I am not just saying this out of loyalty - go check for yourselves - but it is a fine, bright and fresh site, always with something new to look at. It is currently being very well received by the village's on-line community but also, we know, the Lisacul diaspora all around the world. It is a website to be proud of and we both are.

Happy farmer in a recent 365 picture.
The most recent bit of fun on it was a tease around the support of Roscommon's GAA team which made the Connacht final, drew the game with Galway and must now play the replay on Sunday. I came up with the idea of taking a load of yellow and blue pics of every day objects (yellow bucket on blue trailer, coffee mugs, a WD40 can, yellow and blue flowers etc) which Liz then used in a jokey "we are being impartial in our support, honest" web-page. Incidentally, I stand corrected on this. I have been rattling on about 'yellow and blue' and I now know that we are technically 'primrose and blue'. Get back in yer box, lens-man.

Other than that, I have got over my cold and I am a picture of health again (yeah, OK). I have been out to the buildering and got involved with a fascinating 'new' technique (new to me, anyway), that of using a rough and tough version of a cake icing syringe to fire wet mortar into the gaps between the stones of an old wall.

Little Chip
This wall had been left with very fluffy 'mortar' or just dirt with a tiny bit of lime in it (and lots of rat's nest debris) between the stones, so that it looked more like a dry stone wall than a house wall. K-Dub had then made it 'worse' by raking out all the loose debris, so that the pointing cracks were 3-4 inches deep. The icing syringe, which is actually like a 3 times normal size mastic-gun, forces mortar right down into these cracks and fills them from the 'back'. If you tried to use a trowel you might get the outside filled but you would likely have great air gaps and cavities behind your pointing.

I didn't have the camera, sadly, but it is a technique I am definitely going to use on the end of my goose house, where the wall has that same 'dry stone wall' effect. I gather that the 'pros' even use a pump version to fire in a continuous tooth-paste bead from a bucket of mortar without all the business of having to refill the syringe.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Yellow and Blue

A sports fan? Well, maybe not.....
Go the Rossie Boys! When we upped sticks and moved from our old jobs to the 'Wesht' of Ireland, I seem to have come from one sport mad environment (the DHL/Sainsbury warehouse) to another (this whole country!). The local area is knee deep in fans of soccer and of the 2 GAA sports ('football' and hurling, use the 'football' word round here and everyone will assume you are talking about Gaelic-rules footie. The UK 'permiereship, Man-U and all that jazz is always specified as soccer).

A 365 pic from my "yellow and blue" period. 
All my friends and rels will know that we 3 brothers managed to get born without the 'football' gene strand in our DNA. We have had no interest in the game for our whole lives and what we know about it you could write in capitals on the back of a postage stamp. I have happily carried that on into Ireland and the GAA game but you'd have to be blind here to not know there was something going on.

The strawberry season is upon us.
The whole county is a-flutter with the yellow and blue Roscommon flags; cars, flag poles in front gardens, sheep sprayed in those colours. Roscommon has not, up till now been known for its sporting prowess but while all sporty eyes were turned towards an exciting run in the soccer 'Euro's' which took the national team to the final 16 for the first time ever, The (GAA) Rossie boys have been sneaking up on the final of the Connacht (province) championship. The 'Big Game' was to be against the heroic Galway team and 'we' were definitely underdogs.

Peas and beans from the polytunnel.
Liz had bought me the top for Christmas and had been talking to her boss (John, who is a genuine fan) about my hopelessness as a fan - all in good part, I have to say, and in fun. They had decided that I should wear the shirt for the main games in the run up as it seemed to be having a good and talismanic effect - they kept winning! With tongue in cheek, she also gave me some 'authentic' lines to say should I get asked any tricky questions (like "did you see the match?" for example). I am (allegedly) very happy with the season so far and also delighted that 'they' are finally doing up the (Douglas) Hyde ground because the surface has been unplayable all through the winter when ever it rains.

Summer fruiting raspberries
Well, underdogs or not, I wore the shirt as advised at the weekend and Roscommon drew with Galway, so there is a replay game on Saturday evening. My only other involvement has been that I thought it would be fun to do a series of '365' pics for the project during the intervening week, based on the Rossie colours blue and yellow, so I have been wandering about looking for anything to shoot where blue and yellow are in conjunction and are the main colours.

Coo. There's a whole exciting world out there!
Meanwhile, back in real life my dozen Marans eggs have now 'cooked' in the incubator and have started hatching but in an unusual way. Normally 12 eggs set on the same day in an incubator will almost synchronise their hatching - the theory is that they all feel each other moving within their respective shells, rocking about and hear each other cheeping, so they all get encouraged to greater efforts. You get a great surge of pipping and hatching and so few in the 'tail' end that it is not really worth keeping the incubator going in case of stragglers. Well, not for us this time, it seems.

Early Bird
We got 2 really early birds on day 17 (should be 21), followed by a pause, then a burst of 3 more on day 20 and only one today (Day 21). 6 chicks now, then, and the remaining 6 eggs all quiet with no signs of even any pipping. We are guessing that the strange spread is due to how the eggs were stored before we got them - they have managed to sneak in 4 days of early development before they ever went into our incubator so possibly they were kept warm.

A first try at mould-pressed, matured, harder goats cheese
I will give the final 6 eggs till tomorrow (Day 22) evening before I take them out and carefully open them (one at once, obviously) out at the compost heap. They may be sterile, addled or 'dead in shell', ones which failed to make it out of the egg. If any turn out to be alive (oops) I will put the rest back in and give them a few more days but I would be amazed if this is the case.

Blue the floofy cat in one of his more classy sleeping poses.
That's it for this one. I am afraid I have a cold and I am bunged up, fed up and not able for happy creative writing. Forgive me.