Monday 29 August 2016

I Ran Out of Bullets

Nice surprise for Liz sneakily organised by the guests - the
Dining Room got decorated while she was outside, seeing
to some catering.
First a big Happy Birthday to the lovely Lizzie for Saturday. She bravely agrees to remove all chance of rest and swanning around getting spoiled, by inviting two guests over to stay the night (and then a 2nd night). These are a lovely couple and the best of guests, Dan and Danielle who jointly get referred to as "the children" even though they are grown up, working adults. This is because Danielle is daughter to Liz's closest cousin while she was a child, Cathy, so both of them should feel like a whole generation 'below' us (hence 'children') but, of course, we are all young at heart (cough) so they are just like 'normal' friends and we thoroughly enjoy their visits.

One of the ducks does the honours here. 
Dan lives a fairly high-power, management life, so he mainly loves the chance to relax in our brand of serene calm, but Danielle is mad keen to get involved in the small holdering, dealing with the stock and asking a gazillion questions. If anyone was sure to have her own place 'one day' then it is this Lady. Joking around, we have assembled a training course with tasks at various levels of difficulty and we sign her off as she progresses up through the "Stock Wrangler" skills.

Happy Livestock Wrangler. Here with a rather anxious
looking 13 day old Hubbard chick. (Pic by Dan)
Level 1: Basic early morning rounds, feed, water and release and basic evening round locking up.

Level 2: Shepherd 6 ducks to and from sleeping quarters to orchard without losing or panicking anyone. Mimicking duck's waddle as you follow them optional.

Level 3:  Load 12 Hubbard chicks from brooder to cardboard box and transfer to warm, sunny rabbit run without losing any.

That was going to be it for this visit but then she got bumped up to the next class when she was suddenly asked to do....

Picture by Dan
Level 4: Sort out which chick currently under successful broody hen B is actually in the wrong 'family' having snuck across from hen A when first brought off the nest for an explore. This only really possible because nest B chicks are either still a bit damp from the egg or less mobile than the 'A' chicks which hatched 2 days ago. The boss Stockman will help by lifting Hen B up a couple of inches so you can see under her skirts.

Danielle is no longer "The Children" but is now "My Level 4 Stock Assistant". All good fun.

Dustbin Lady shows off her first hatched.
While they were with us we were delighted by a huge amount of luck in the broody hens dept. In the last post I wrote of our 2 broody Buff Orps, Dustbin Lady and Crate Lady who had started on 6th and 8th Aug respectively, and as a result we just might have happy events while the guests were here (21 days later). Well in the event, both girls hit the target so a delighted (even tearful at one stage) Danielle was able to see 2 new chicks under 'Dusty' on Sunday and then a 3rd plus 2 under Crate Lady this morning (Monday). Dan was happy too, of course, but is a bit calmer and says he is "only the official photographer".

...and then a second.
Danielle also got involved in the chick-abduction mentioned under 'Level 4' above. One of Dustbin's three, when brought off the nest by Mum, wandered round the divider to Crate Lady in the 'next bed', walked right up to her chest, looked up at her huge 'same as my Mum' shape and presumably asked "Are you my Mummy?" Real Mum was going nuts behind the chick trying to contain the other 2 while calling the wanderer back, but Crate Lady said "I am now!" and promptly scooped the chick up under her skirts. It was a theft so fast and efficient that, had I not been there, I would have assumed all was well till I counted the 'dud' eggs left over, by which time the abducted chick would have bonded to not-Mum and would not have been returnable.

Dan takes some time out to study for his
soon-to-start first year at LSE and the kitten
may not have been much help. (Pic by Danielle)
What ever the outcome, we currently have 5 chicks from ten eggs which is not a bad score. The whole visit was the usual feast of excellent food, sensible drinking (yes, we do that now!) lovely chat and relaxation in lovely company. The guests' first plan was to stay one night here and go camping on the 2nd night somewhere in Wexford but they were so happy here and not entirely convinced they actually wanted to camp, that when we offered them a 2nd night, they jumped at the chance.

Blue gets 'Danielle'd. Pic by Dan
They took themselves off touristing on the Sunday instead, exploring Killala Bay, Enniscrone and the Ceide Fields. They had lovely warm weather for it. This morning we fed them the traditionally full-fry breakfast and off they went to find their ferry home. They have already booked their next visit. What do we give Danielle for her Level 5 test?

'Moloch' gets it in the beak
While the guests were away, I went, as usual on Sunday pm, archery-ing. I still love this and Sunday was a beautifully warm, sunny one, so we were out doors shooting at the foam rubber animals again. I was doing OK and managing to hit most targets plus, at one stage, for the first time ever I nailed the elusive 'Moloch', a fist sized owl who sits glaring at you from 25 yards away. If you need to know about the name Moloch, I refer you to 1 Kings 11:7. Impressed? Don't be. I only know this because our 'coach' Con told us. He is some flavour of dodgy Israeli false god. The owl, not the coach. I got him right in the beak (again, the owl, not....) and we were all so amazed we had to take a pic. Of course the lens-man and a friend and fellow archer, Paul, then went one better by nailing Moloch and the equally difficult 'Log Rat' with 2 SEQUENTIAL arrows. Show off! Also of course, neither of us could do a thing to refute the 'fluke' accusations - we never got near either target again.

Poppea not quite eclipsing my ample belly with
her own. 
Don't get too excited about looking for me in the Olympics, however. This was an out door shoot so all of us, expert and beginner alike, tend to lose a few arrows in the grass, or shoot high over the bank into a bramble patch, or ping the arrow, nose first, off an underground stone, or undershoot the target and hit the woodwork of the stand. This arrow-carnage can run you out of 'ammo' in a bit of a hurry and, since starting back in spring, I was getting through my original dozen and another 6 I had bought from a local guy. Fortunately some of the damage was only tips broken off at the 'join' and I have the tapering tool, glue and tips to repair these.

That day, though, I lost 2, snapped 2 more in half and someone smacked one of my successful arrows up the back end like Robin Hood, breaking the 'nock' into which the bow-string fits. It was half past 4 by then and I'd had enough when the instructor asked "have you run out of bullets?" Nothing for it but to pack up my stuff and head home to rejoin the house, where the guests were already back from Mayo/Sligo. Since then the archers who stayed to the bitter end actually found 2 of my lost arrows in the grass and I have been able to re-tip 5 more, so I am good to go back into action next week. Watch out Log-Rat.

Friday 26 August 2016

Flat Pack Queen

The Flat Pack Queen and her Assistant get up close and personal
 with yet another shelving unit. 
With visitors over from the UK this weekend to coincide with her Birthday, Liz is in maximum Domestic Goddess mode getting the house ship shape, baking all manner of goodies, blitzing the kitchen from top to bottom and so on. No going to work for a rest, though as the (Montessori) Pre-School group which operates in her building takes delivery of a sizable batch of new "stuff".

Inevitable downside of flat pack assembly - huge pile of
cardboard boxes, foam and strapping.
They get a good range of educational toys (model farm, dolls' house, a 'den', a child-sized shop, a 'polar explorer' ship with penguins, whales, sea-lions etc) as well as chairs, tables of various sizes and robust shelving and storage units. Most ingeniously (in my opinion) there is also a rack for drying dozens of paintings in a vertical stack with about half an inch between pages - genius!

Cattle in the morning mist
The main school mistress is widely acknowledged to be brilliant in many respects but is by her own admission "hopeless" at the DIY and all the above stuff except the plastic chairs came in flat pack or part assembled in boxes. A daunting task with school restarting very soon. Step forward, then, our own Queen of the Flat Packs, Liz, who did all of our flat pack furniture during the house build. Sparks and I were happy to lug those boxes that weighed as much as, and would soon become, wardrobes or book cases, in from the van, but also happy to place them on the new floor of their appropriate room where Liz would fall upon them with allen keys, electric screw driver and a knife to open the boxes. Sparks and I would creep off on some other job and, Bingo! , by next tea break we had complete units and a pile of cardboard outers for the bonfire.

So that is how she spent a couple of days this week. On the first day they built most of the 'toys' but also started on the shelving units which, as anyone who has done this will tell you, involves a certain amount of waving heavy wood parts around, leaning into the unit at unlikely angles, twisting round to tighten up screws and fixings upwards, sideways and backwards. This usually while taking the weight of some heavy part with a spare arm till you can get a screw into it. You use muscles which don't get a lot of practise and you ache, especially the morning after. No respite for Liz though, day #2 involved a load more toys and 4 more of those solid shelving units. Liz came away on Thursday night determined to do NOTHING towards the house-blitz that night and demanding a beer! School Mistress lady is delighted to have all her stuff put together. Everyone's a winner.

Would you like some lamb with your marinade? In all this
yogurt-y slop is a leg of lamb.
We are hoping, of course, that the guests enjoy their stay here and the baking mentioned above is only part of it. They are going to be guinea pigs in a try out of a rather special 'new' recipe we will do on one of our legs of lamb. This is Madhur Jaffrey's book version of "Shahjahani leg of pork", which allegedly "belongs to the very finest tradition of Muslim banquet cookery" Shahjahani, Liz tells me, is the man who had the Taj Mahal built. This recipe involves marinading your lamb, stripped of all skin, fat and membrane (caul) for 48 hours in a mix of yogurt, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and garam massala. Non-'curry' eaters (I was one) may be a bit alarmed by all this spice but we have found throughout this book that Madhur J delivers food which is very brightly and interestingly flavoured without ever being stupidly and off-puttingly hot. Trust me and try some.

Aduki bean sprouts
While I'm on food, I will finish with a rather foolish admission of omission (if that is not too tangled a phrase). For some reason I have lately got back into Chinese food and stir fries. I used to do a lot of these while a student but have since branched out into other things and left the stir fries behind a bit. Back then we were the sandal-wearing (well Ugg Boots anyway) "health food" nuts - I remember we were labelled "wallies" by our fish and chip eating brethren. Bean sprouts were everywhere - you could buy the dried 'mung' beans and sprout them yourself in a wet jam jar on the window sill, or you could buy pre-sprouted packs, tins and so on. 30 years later (and now in Ireland),

Mmmmm. One of these swallows might actually be a jackdaw!
I tried to get back into this and found that no-one does mung beans any more and certainly not pre-sprouted bean sprouts. I could only find split dried mung (or moong in the Indian shops) beans which I guess you cook as per lentils. What to do? I eventually got a tip off from friend Anne that a shop in town had 'Aduki' beans which would sprout in the same way as mung beans, so I bought a packet and set a load to work in a small tupperware box. I was going to do the best ever stir fry the following Wednesday and I planned it and dreamed about it for the week.

Wednesday came and, having finished 'harvesting' the Hubbard chickens, I kept back some meat from the freezer and created a very successful and delicious chicken stir fry. It was only the next day when I went to do the daily rinse/drain/re-pack on the "remaining" sprouts, that I realised that they were untouched - I had not used the precious things at all! Ah well, I have since corrected this by doing a little side-dish of stir fry including bean sprouts to go with a chili con carne. They are as nice as I remember and the rest will definitely get used up over the next few days even if not as part of the guest menu. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Known to the Police?

The village 'Centre' gets new varnish in the main hall in
this 365 offering.
First, a little more on the Gallowglass Warrior featured in the last post, if you'll bear with me. I had a root around (not too hard!) and found that our man is the work of an African born, UK-working sculptor name of Clare Bigger. The website has it that "Clare Bigger’s sculptures are all about movement.  With subjects ranging from athletes and dancers  to race horses, cats and birds of prey, her sculptures can be anything from 10cm – 10m high.  She works in stainless steel which allows her to create light airy structures which are both strong and weather resistant.

A bird in the hand? Hubbard Chick.
Clare has always had a keen interest in sport (which includes a black belt in Tae Kwon Do) and her work often reflects this, its dynamic nature capturing a dancer balancing on point or a sprinter in full flight. Clare Bigger’s sculptures are a revelation, a celebration of life and the spontaneity of movement.

She was born and brought up in Africa and has since travelled extensively with destinations including Solomon Islands, Bhutan and Costa Rica."

Some good curds in the latest goats' milk cheese batch.
Her website has an impressive gallery of pics of her work. I contacted her just to say how much I admired her warrior, that I had posted a blog on the subject (I hoped she approved) and that I was trying to get a picture of the guy silhouetted against the sunset. She replied that she was delighted that I liked him, had enjoyed the blog and was looking forward to my sunset pics. I have since found out that a local pub is holding a light hearted competition to choose him a name - I'm not sure what Clare would make of that! I suppose it depends on what name they choose.

Pre-game huddle for the boys in black and white.
Meanwhile the ever more diverse campaign to find interesting things to photograph for '365' took me into the world of sports photography. Not having a big interest in sport, I do not go there every often and had not actually been to the local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association - it covers all the good honest Irish sports like Irish football, hurling and handball) ground when a game was on in all the 4+ years we have been here. It was a bit of an adventure with me the nervous newcomer creeping warily onto this hallowed turf of all things rough, tough, Irish, athletic and sporty.

Ah well, I shmoozed up all the right people and even went to see club chairman to check it was OK to sneak around the boundary with my big 'pap' lens, a 100-400 mm telephoto like a newspaper man's. The club (Éire Óg - pronounce it 'air' and then 'og' as in bogus; it just means "Young Ireland") were playing rivals 'St Croan's' that day. Our lot play in black and white, so I just had to make sure to get good pics of the boys in black in the sunny first half before the drizzle set in at half time and I had to pack away the gear. Our lot co-operated by putting in plenty of attacks which brought them up 'my end' so I got some pics which have pleased those in the know who have seen them so far. I have found out since, however, that 'we' lost in the end 2-6 to 0-16 (12 points to 16) but I enjoyed my involvement and they know I am happy to come take some more in future games.

Carrying on with the Hubbard harvest. This is bird #7 of 12. 
So, what's all this about the Police, then, in my title? Well, it's like this, m'lud. UK readers may not know that the Irish Police are called "An Garda Síochána" (The Guardians of the Peace), and the officers are known as 'Guards' or 'Gardái' (gard-ee), Garda Sergeant and so on. They are a modern force, very similar to the UK force, equipped with all the modern gear you'd expect and dealing with similar problems plus given to a bit of cruising around getting to know the locals and the territory - Community Policing, I suppose. Out on my dog walks I occasionally see them driving about but none had ever stopped to chat or ask me anything and I'm fine with that. Probably like everyone else, I immediately start to feel guilty if a policemen stops me and start dreaming up things I might have done or seen, so easier if you just avert your gaze and slope by un-noticed!

Our current pair of broodies - 'Crate Girl' and 'Dustbin Girl', both
due in the next couple of days. Can we arrange a happy event
while the guests are here?
Not so a couple of days back when the car stopped and the boys in blue fancied a lengthy chat with me. This is how I described it on Facebook.

"(Relatively) new kid in town, happy to chat and 'explain myself' to two coppers (Gardái) in a car who pulled up when they saw me out with the dogs. Anxious, of course to let them know that I was 100% law-abiding, harmless, no trouble etc. Gave them the abridged life story, bit about the house we've done up (which was once owned by retired guard so is well known here-abouts). Of course, being police, you'd know that they were sussing you out between the lines etc but hey, open and honest me, Officer. Cheerio then, off they drive.
It's only then I look down and see the lurid spray of blood on my trouser leg which can only have come from the chicken I dinged just before the dog walk. They flap their last, sometimes and the blood can go everywhere. That's my story, anyway. " Ooops. One friend on FB even offered to cook me a cake with a metal file inside it in case I got arrested next time and slung in the local lock-up.

Not the best pic - I only had the standard lens on when this
dragon fly started laying egg after egg in our pond margin.
This shot is cropped out of the middle of a bigger pic so has
lost quite a lot of detail. Sorry, species is unknown. 
The rest of our news is about getting ready for an invasion by some UK guests; these are a couple we have had before but in the interim had used 'their' room as storage for the house-move-to-Sligo dept. They could have slept in there but would have been sleeping in fear of an avalanche of boxes and black bin-liners falling on them in the night. We shifted all that stuff yesterday and were able to give Liz "her room back" so today has been a blizzard of cleaning that room and assorted heroics in other rooms prior to the guests arriving on Saturday.

Tidy Towns picnic
I have been out exploring for new walks, too, but was in that search, disappointed. I had gone armed with a very pretty, helpful brochure from the local tourist-y department, ('Lakes and Legends') which told me of a way-marked 'bogland trail' brim full of historic and wildlife interest. A nice country walk, in fact, which would surely see me way off the beaten track, climbing the local hill (Bockagh Hill) where I could get views out across Sligo and could see an historic 'Mass Rock' (a secret religious site dating from when Catholicism was outlawed).

The Young Pretender, "Corporal".
Unimpressed, then, to find that the 'trail' was just a 4.5 km loop of tarmac lanes fenced either side to keep you out of the cattle fields or off the actual bog. A few green arrows on posts led the way but there were no interpretive boards, just one rustic seat to sit on to look at Sligo and a complete absence of signage for the advertised "diversion" to the Mass Rock. To add insult to injury we didn't even get near the summit of Bockagh Hill itself - our tarmac lane skirted by on the lower slopes about half a mile east of the summit. If I want to walk 4.5 kms of tarmac, guys, I can do that just outside the house gate here. I won't be coming back to try the other walks on your brochure.

Rosie, our 'keeper' ewe. She was born this year beautifully
marked in blacks, greys and whites. All that remains of this
now are a few white spots on her face. She's having a good
old chew on her cud in this picture. 
Finally a village event which WAS a pleasant surprise. We were invited (open invitation to the whole village) to a picnic to be held in the central garden area at the village cross roads to celebrate the end of a busy season by the Tidy Towns team. They had asked people to bake a cake or turn up with some food; Liz had baked a gorgeous fruit cake. It was very pleasant - good company including many people we know anyway from the village, a nice sit down, chattering away being plied with good tea and superb cakes and biscuits. There were some children playing or sitting on a duvet cover someone had spread out for a 'picnic blanket'. It was warm and almost windless and the midges mostly stayed away. Very pleasant.

No, it is not a trick of the light. Deefer (top)
really is green from having rolled in the newly
mowed lawn  just before supper. Poppea
(bott) has a few smears while Towser (mid)
is un-accountably clean.
We couldn't stay long there, as Liz had another engagement, a meeting for the upcoming Half-Marathon which pants exhaustedly past our gate in September. Liz got involved with the publicity this year so ended up attending a few evening meetings either at the village centre, or down at the GAA ground. What rock'n'roll lives we do lead?

Friday 19 August 2016


One aspect of Irish life which regularly impresses us is the quality of their road-side art and sculpture. The nearby town of Ballaghaderreen is ringed by lovely wicker-work cattle, milk churns, men, huge urns, a big fish as well as various arches and arbours or shapes made out of woven willow. It is all very dramatic and interesting to see as you drive about, but they have now exceeded even all this by commissioning an impressive, 16 feet tall sword-wielding warrior in a bright (chrome?) stainless steel to stand by the west-bound side of the new bypass.

Locals will know that this guy has actually been there a while and is not, technically, still 'news'. He arrived in May this year; it is just that I have never yet got around to nipping over to take his picture. It is not a piece of road we would drive; we come and go from Balla-D rather than whizzing by from west to east.

As seen from the East-bound carriageway. 
He is, in fact, a "Gallowglass" warrior. Says everybody's tame expert, "Wikipedia", "The gallowglasses (also spelt galloglass, gallowglas or galloglas; from Irish: gall óglaigh meaning foreign warriors) were a class of elite mercenary warriors who were principally members of the Norse-Gaelic clans of Scotland between the mid 13th century and late 16th century." If you were an Irish regional king or warlord and you really wanted to win that fight with your neighbour, you would hire these guys to strike fear into your rival's army (and presumably duff them up a bit).

This clematis has decided not to climb my convenient ash
 poles this year, but to scramble instead, through the Lady's Mantle.
I love this piece of sculpture which I imagine cost the town a fair amount. He is on a nice rise in the ground and I keep meaning to pick a nice sunset evening and go get him silhouetted against the colours of the sunset. If you want to see him, next time you are coming in through Frenchpark and you join the by-pass, don't come off at the first exit to Cooney's, Tibohine and Ballaghaderreen, but carry on to the next exit. He is just after that first exit on your left.

This one is going to be for me! Liz completes
this lovely cabling pattern on the front panel
of the latest jumper.
Out on the Sligo house project we progress. Having pretty much finished the house, so we have moved outside back onto the 'hard landscaping'. This is all about making a garden and yard around the dwelling instead of it sitting in the middle of a building site (usual stuff - piles of rubble, stone, scrap wood, old, dead wheel barrows, a big yellow digger, dead cement bags and so on). Some of it is the stone wall building, so K-Dub and I are back remembering the old skills of stone laying, cement mixing and lugging stuff about. This rather handily uses up the piles of stone and avoids us having to double handle it. It's come from the demolished walls of the house and been stacked around the house while the house got itself built. Some of it went back into the house on the new walls and bigger gables but the rest is now being scavenged up for these garden walls. Very efficient.

Branching out from the straight knitting, Liz has now enrolled
onto some crochet lessons. This is the first, ever, test square. 
We both love this stone - Sligo stone is some manner of stratified sandstone which comes out of the ground already in flat slabs and pieces. Most of it is between about 1 and 4 inches thick, so it is like long or broad bricks which means you can lay it in a bond like brickwork. Our stone here in Roscommon is in rounded boulders about the size of your head, so impossible to lay into walls - walls here were always poured between a sandwich of timber shutters as a mix of boulders and concrete or cement. They are thick and strong but nobody would ever call them elegant, neat or beautiful.

Our friends came a-visiting with their huge St Bernard who
rides in state in the back of their capacious 4 x 4. 
Just down the hill from where we are working a proper professional stone mason is doing a gorgeous job with his stones all chipped away to size and perfect fit. His wall will be smooth like the pyramids with tiny thin joints. We are in awe of that skill but we are, even so, well pleased and delighted with our efforts. Neither of us claim to be stone masons and we know we can do this well only as a result of the lovely "pre-prepared" (by nature and by previous wall -builders!) stone we are lucky enough to have lying about the place.

Prada. Beautiful dog. 
There, by happy chance, a whole post about crafts, skills and working with your hands.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Blue Skies, Butterflies and Bog Hoppers

Our long wet July and August were beginning to feel like the slide into Autumn had started without us ever getting any Summer but, no, out of nowhere we are suddenly blessed with 2 good, honest, blue sky, sunny days. In proper, genuine Irish fashion, poor Liz even manages to pick up a minor sun-burn. She dozed off while listening to a historical pod-cast on the i-phone while wearing a spaghetti-straps top and sitting out on our terrace so she has gone an interesting red colour about the shoulders. Nothing too alarming, mind. We do not anticipate her skin falling off .

Small tortoiseshell on purple verbena
The sunshine has brought out an explosion in butterflies such as I have not seen in the time we have been over here. I had come to accept that butterflies in Ireland were a few orange-tips in May and perhaps one or two large whites to lay their eggs in your brassicas. I'd not seen a single butterfly on our buddleia. I am not that good on butterfly ID; I know the 'usual suspects' (peacocks, commas, red admirals etc) but I get very lost around browns, gatekeepers, fritillaries and the like.

Red admiral
Over these two days of heat, then, I have had to try to get a few pics and sort out some IDs. Please correct me if I must be wrong, but the lane out here is alive with what I think are speckled woods (No picture - they do not stop long enough and get very nervous if you loom over them). The flower garden is a-flutter with red admirals, small tortoiseshells, peacocks and a tiny white one which I do not know - each wing is not much bigger than a thumbnail. That one might even be a moth. It is all rather lovely and summer-ish after a dreary month.

Your chicks arrive at a day old in these neat,
4-chambered boxes.
Regular readers will know that our first batch of Hubbard (meat) chickens are now getting "harvested" (there's a euphemism for you!). They will give us 12 good sized birds for the freezer but would expect to see us only about as far as Christmas so when our friends and ace chicken procurers, Anne and Simon offered to get us a second batch in August, we jumped at the chance. Our friends Sue and Rob, who took 6 of our last lot (of 18) also asked to come in on this order, so A+S headed off to the huge hatchery near Monaghan with quite an order.

24 balls of fluff. How cute can you get?
Hubbards are excellent birds and are known among we free range (and in some cases organic) keepers for the big, tender and tasty carcasses so Anne was joking with us that as soon as the word goes round that she has birds, all the gang descend on her placing their orders and she is (her own admission!) a bit too soft with them and lets all her birds go leaving she and Simon with only a few for their own freezer. Last time A+S did all the work, as usual and only got to eat half a dozen of the birds so this time they went prepared and came home with enough for everyone. Thanks, as ever, Anne and Simon - we will make sure to do the birds proud. They are day olds now (well, 2 days as I write this) so we hope to be seeing them 'finished' in mid November. That will re-stock the freezer for the spring time.

Out free ranging. Marans birds at 5 weeks.
While I'm on chickens, the Marans poults are now 5 weeks old and, in this hot sunshine, are getting to explore the patch each day. I make sure they get a good breakfast into them, then throw open the rabbit run in which they sleep. In practise they do not go far yet - day 3 and they stay in the yard being visited by all the other chooks and Guinea Fowl who patrol around the place in big circuits, passing through the yard frequently. As they get bigger and braver they will start to range further but probably stay in their little tight-knit group of half a dozen.

The gosling's left leg (red circle) is held up at this odd angle
as he/she hops along on the right foot.
Meanwhile our nearly full-grown gosling has suddenly gone lame with symptoms echoing, worryingly, the problem of the old mother/aunt bird a couple of weeks back who never really recovered from being broody. He/she (I'll go with 'she' for ease) holds her left leg up against her body and hops along on her right helped sometimes by wing flaps and the (damaged?) heel of her flexed leg.

One of the local bogs (Cloonargid = Silver
Field) is bright with heather.
We would normally cull such a bird out as they struggle and get very distressed when lame as they are so front-heavy but this one seems to be coping OK. She hops out of the coop in the morning and moves around with the healthy four adults, gets to water and to food and then makes it home in the evening. I carried her in just the once when she was newly lame and had not mastered the one-legged gait, but she has not needed help since. We will observe her and, for the moment, give her the benefit of the doubt. The speed of the problem would indicate injury rather than a developmental thing but we are not sure as we know that 2 of the mums are almost certainly recessive for 'wry-tail' which can cause pelvis (and hence leg) problems.

An early duck egg. 
At least one of our ducks has come into lay. They have rather sneaked this one up on us, though we should have known to expect this at around week 26. I had seen sexual behaviours out in the orchard. Then 4 days ago I picked up an egg from the yard broken into by a magpie. It looked pale but I thought no more of it. 3 days ago there was another pale egg just inside the chicken house (where the ducks sleep) on the floor. Liz had that one as a poached egg but still didn't click. Another got used in cakes.

Bog Trotters - our 3 westies at Cloonargid bog.
We are slow learners here (!) and only when Liz cracked #4 into the frying pan and noted the pale colour of shell, the thicker 'egg white' and the stronger membranes did the shout go up. "This is a duck egg!". Of course we are onto it now and I know to find the daily egg at ground level once I've hooshed the ducks out to grass. Ducks, of course, don't do above ground chicken nest-boxes. I presume if we get to breeding these birds and need a 'nest' to go broody on I do something at ground level; I need to ask someone who KNOWS about ducks.

Bacon boiled in Coca Cola. I kid you not. Finally there is a
valid use for the stuff other than as hang-over cure of choice
for the late, lamented 'Diamond'. 
So, there you have it for this one. Other than the above we have just weeded, knitted, crocheted, cooked, taken pics for '365' and fended off visits from stray dog 'Bobby' and drunk oceans of tea through the days. Loving the sunshine, though.

Saturday 13 August 2016

Slow News Day

365 this week has focused on local colour
in the form of gardens, planters and
hanging baskets. 
On the very few occasions where friends, knowing I have this blog running, and are thinking of starting one up, ask me for tips and suggestions, my main advice is always this. Make sure you have something to say - a story you need to tell or an opinion you are burning to express. The other side of that coin is, of course - if you have nothing to say then shut up. There is nothing worse to read than a blog post which says "I'm bored" or "Nothing much happened". I know how much easier it was to write a 'good' post while we were building the house than when I was in Kent working, walking the dogs, eating and sleeping.

This advice might also be followed up with instruction to stay within what ever rules you have set for yourself. Some of what I do is really part of someone else's story and it would feel wrong to go into any detail on stuff which they should be describing themselves or want to post in Facebook or Twitter or some other favoured medium. Or it involves friends who, for perfectly good reasons, do not want their picture or any details of their comings and goings put up on the internet for "everyone to see". It is not everyone's cup of tea.

Orange montbretia - grows like a weed in all the hedgerows
around here. 
Following my own advice, then, most of what I have done since the last post is out of bounds or, unless you want to hear about a dog needing ear drops or a cat needing wormer, is not exciting enough to make a post out of. Even my pictures this time are just 365 pics. So, I will keep this one nice and short and hope for a bit more inspiration by my next 'due date', Tuesday.

A lovely old tumble-down barn.
Good Luck Now

These pink-wrapped silage bales are done by farmers as part of
a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. They pay extra
for the wrap and the difference goes to the charity. You do not see
many round here but I spotted these tucked into the back of a
farm yard. Fair play that farmer. Proud of you.