Friday 30 September 2016

Ross's Turn

Down in the rain ditch, one of the pigs
manages to nudge the barbed wire aside
from the hawthorn roots. In this pic I
have wedged a spare sheep hurdle into the
gap and wired it down solid. 
After the dramas of the previous post about kitten suicide missions, the next day one of the pigs (Ross) decided that she, too, needed a bit of a break out. I am a creature of habit and routine and I always do the early morning livestock rounds in the same order; that way I don't miss anybody. I had fed, watered and released the baby chicks and Mums, the young Marans, fed the sheep, then the young Hubbards. All this time I can hear that the pigs are awake and getting all excited about their breakfast - low bassy grunts and some squeals come at me round and over the main chicken house.

Somerville fancies a taste of camera,
I gathered up the pig food and fruit, then walked down through the side-gate of the cattle race, expecting to go across the 5 yards of space to the pig-gate and be met by the pigs. I was a bit surprised then to find Ross wandering about in this gap but my worries about how I would recapture her evapourated when she looked up at me as if to say "Ahhhh, now THERE's a breakfast!" and she happily trotted after me down the 'race' to the gate and in through it to join her sister at the breakfast banquet. This was our first ever pig escape in 3 years and felt a bit like an initiation. I hunted down the escape hole which proved to be at the top of the rain ditch among the hawthorn roots and grabbed a spare sheep hurdle to wedge into it, wiring it firmly in place. When the pigs are gone I will fix this properly (I can't afford to just 'lose' a sheep hurdle into a hole in a fence!).

A 365 pic of a sunlit lane just after a shower
While I am on pigs, a fascinating fact I read in a book today ("Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes", Rosie Boycott, Pub Bloomsbury 2007). I knew, of course, that Truffle Pigs exist and get used down in Perigord (France) for hunting out these 'foodie' treats but I had no idea of the mechanism. It turns out that the truffles grow in symbiosis with the local oak trees where ever there is a shortage of phosphorus. The fungal mycorrhiza (filamentous roots) grow into the oak roots and act as an extra root system to extract the phosphorus from the soil and in return the oak supplies the fungus with carbohydrates. The oak can breed and spread via acorns but the fungus, being wholly underground has no easy way to spread its spores about.

Nicely back-lit teasel head.
Step forward the wild boars of that area which could find these truffles and then spread the spores on their snouts as they went rootling onward. In a rather clever example of co-evolution, the fungus adapted by producing and releasing a synthesised copy of a testosterone chemical called 5-alpha-antrostol which smells, to the female pigs, exactly like a randy boar. They go rooting around convinced that somewhere under those trees is a buried boyfriend. Everyone is a winner, I guess, except for the frustrated sow who never finds the boar. It is to be hoped that a supper of truffle fungus is compensation. Thank you for that gem, Rosie Boycott.

A nice afternoon snack - Autumn-fruiting raspberries and
a slab of ice cream. 
In Yoga, I am now 4 sessions to the good and I am definitely improving and still enjoying it. My Wednesday evenings are enlivened by a series of animals (OK Yoga positions); cobra, eagle, downward-facing dog and other weirdness (Warrior 2, Plank, 'Child' position etc). We blokes get well stretched about and warmed up trying to follow the very bendy instructor at the front but it now feels like good 'pain' and work to me. It's like freeing up a rusty hinge with a drop of 3-in-1 and then pushing/pulling the flaps ever further till you can move the hinge to its fully open/closed positions.

The muscles particularly feel as if they can now extend further when relaxed and tighten up further when retracted than they have had to do for decades. In one move I was whisked right back to childhood; lie on your front, flex a knee and grab your foot, then pull the foot all the way down till your heel is touching your thigh and your knee is bent to 180ยบ. Now, I should rapidly add, I can NOT do that one all the way like I remember we used to do as boys (we could all do it standing up on the other foot and hopping around pretending to be pirates), but 'teach' was quite impressed by how flexible I was after only these 4 sessions. And relax.

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
No progress on the Kitchen since the last post except that we have had our delivery of the timber and building materials and we have secured the fibre glass at a very reasonable price. We love that K-Dub who is used to his friendly Dublin prices where the quantity of stuff he buys from his tame builders' merchants gain him good trade-discounts, hates to re 'ripped' off by the smaller local shops out here in the sticks. He hunts around locally and finds the best price he can but still brands it daylight robbery and gets on the phone to his Dublin colleagues. He doesn't HAVE to do that. We love him for it.

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