Saturday 29 October 2016

Namaste, Goat Meat and 'Mush'

We love this conjunction of an orange
"red hot poker" and the autumn leaves
at the 'top' of Ballaghaderreen. It needs
slanting morning sunshine to set it on
fire but this pic gives you some idea
"Namaste" (nama-stay). Roughly translated from the Hindu, it says "I bow to the Divine within you" and is said with that well known palms-together, fingers pointing upwards, greeting gesture you see on so many statues and pictures. It is how Yoga students traditionally greet each other and thank each other at the end of a session. So at the end of 8 weeks I come to the end of my Yoga instruction 'term', 6 weeks of 'men's beginner' classes and then 2 more sessions we "might as well do to bring us up to 'half term' "

Liz found this lovely bowl at the Dublin "Knit and Stitch" Show
We started out with half a dozen blokes but that suddenly crashed in week 4 to just 2 of us, myself and a lad called Jim. He then dropped out and was replaced by a guy named Padraig so I was the only person to do all 8. Unfortunately this attrition has made the instructor decide not to run the 'men' sessions on after Hallowe'en, so if we want to continue we'd have to brave the ladies' "mixed ability" sessions or seek out a men's session somewhere else. We'll see.

The remaining orchard pears were used in this gorgeous
pear and chocolate gooey dessert with almonds, best eaten
warm with ice cream, advised Liz. I'm not arguing!
I feel that the sessions have done me a world of good in terms of increasing my flexibility, suppleness and, yes, my strength and balance. For those who have not met the 'discipline' those pictures you see of people in odd poses are not the whole story. The exercise and the good it does come from getting into those positions. They work by forcing the student to bend or balance or lean like that and then, when the hamstrings or joints are twanging and screaming for relief, encouraging him/her to stay in that pain, relax and breathe, allowing each exhale to 'sag' the body into even more stretch. In theory the instructor is saying "Don't over-do it. Only go as far as is comfortable, If it hurts too much come back into the 'child pose' or something easier on the joints or muscles"  In practise you are warmed up, into it, focused and you push yourself. All the major muscle blocks warm up beautifully and the sweat starts to drip down your face and your back and there is no way you are going to 'wuss' and sit that one out. Namaste.

Note the bare brown mud inside this run and the green grass
On a completely different subject, one of my private bug-bears is small holders who over-stock their ground so intensely that the vegetation is annihilated and the animals or birds are walking around in a brown desert of bare mush or wood chippings. The animals get bedraggled and sorry looking. Chickens in particular hate to be wet and to have to stand somewhere wet. They like to be able to get dry and (preferably) to be able to dust-bathe. They like to preen and I love to see them on dry, green, sunlit grass, bright of eye, clean of leg and immaculate of feather. 'Mush' is bad.

A rather grubby collection of "white" Hubbards at 80 days.
Most 'petting zoos' fall into this trap, cramming so many birds and animals into the space either side of the visitors' path so that the kiddies can be near them, that the visitors only see muddy, sad birds wading through the dead mush where no worms or grubs have lived for ages. We try to keep all our birds fully free range but you will recall that we made an exception of the Hubbards this year, looking to keep them (and their voluminous poo!) out of the yard and the barns. Well, we had such a wet summer and autumn that the big pen I built for them was rapidly destroyed by the growing poults and I found myself doing exactly the 'mud farming' here which I have just said that I abhor. As a result, the Hubbards at 80 days, have been allowed out. I was sure they would not invade the yard nor stray too far from 'home' and this proved to be the case. They wander out of the run and enjoy the green grass and the willow 'fedge' and the margins of the pond. They can scratch for grubs here successfully and dust bathe in the dry bits. They are immediately cleaner and happier looking. Every time I feed them they follow me and my food-tub back home and they still gravitate to their house at night. Everyone's a winner.

Goat chops
Meanwhile, we got to try some goat meat from that kid in the previous post, Henry Óg (Henno). Owner Carolyn very generously passed us a dozen chops in gratitude for our haulage, grazing, help, midwifery and other goat-based services. The verdict? Chops are slightly smaller than a lamb chop would be and have way less fat on the rib part. Taste was like a slightly stronger lamb flavour (maybe mutton, but I've never tried that) and there was absolutely none of the 'goaty' smell or taste that we were slightly worried about (this was a 7 month old billy and was starting to honk in life). The 'eye' muscle (round lean bit) was possibly a bit tougher and chewy-er than our equivalent lamb would be but I just fast-fried it 3 minutes each side. It was pink in the middle (how we like lamb) . I have been told since that it really needs a bit of slow cooking - fry it by all means but then simmer very gently in something like onion gravy or a sauce for an hour - it then melts like butter!

We progress by stages on the kitchen extension. K-Dub arrived on Friday with the window and door panels. That was fun and more physical than I'd imagined. A double glazed door and frame make a lumpy piece of kit (2-man lift) and it took some steadying while K-Dub secured it with the requisite number of screws, fixings and 'anchor's. It all looks very well, all be it still covered in its white tape to protect the (wood grain) finish. It also gives us a nice idea of how big the new space will be. It has yet to receive its trims and facings, plus the fascia and rain-guttering. We also have to do the lead 'flashing' which binds the roof to the walls and stops rain water sneaking down the walls past the roof.

On time and on budget and in spec! Liz lands her main
autumn project, the village calendar. 
I have also alluded to a village project being landed by Liz about which I was sworn to secrecy. This has now hit the ground and all can be revealed. We have a village calendar. It is a thing of beauty and will make superb Christmas presents or something to have on the kitchen wall. It is based around the pictures taken by the 20  contributors to the Lisacul 365 (Year in the life) photographic project and is receiving wide acclaim and praise.

Village Tea Party
The first batch came from the printers in Balla-D on Thursday, so was ready to "launch" at the village Tea Party last night - our annual gathering of anyone who fancies cooking food to share, a bit of a fund-raiser for the village. Liz gets heavily involved in that, too, both organising it, publicizing it and then, on the day, preparing the hall which spends most of its life as the pre-school room, full of children's toys and furniture and beautifully decorated with all the children's hand- and foot-painting (this week it is all scary spiders and Frankensteins for Hallowe'en)

Another Lizzie project landed - my
lovely new jumper!
Finally, then, for this one, one more project landed. A lovely new country-knit jumper for my good self with a beautiful cable panel up the front. It fits perfectly and is going to be a firm favourite through the winter months.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

(Nearly) Seeing it All

A first scrape-the-ice morning this morning.
The days I like best are the ones filled with livestock activities. Friend Charlotte phrased it best when she said that what she misses about having left home and gone off to college and to work in Dublin, is that before she departed and when the place was full of animals and birds, "There was always something to DO, even if it was just mucking out the rabbits". Regular readers will know that when she is back around, down here, she remains our No.1 go-to person to help with stock jobs.

Some '365' pics of a favourite local walk. The Golden Mile
The last 24 hours have been no exception and a real team effort, mainly because the main animal involved was one of hers, the 7 month old kid, originally born here, Henry-Óg (or 'Henno' for short). He had finally come round to his 'finish' - he is getting sexually mature and would have been harassing his Mum and falling foul of his big-horned 'step-father', 'Billy'. Smelling too, as Billy goats can. He needed ear-tagging and then hauling off to the butcher we use for our pigs, in Castlerea.

Stone stile into the old graveyard
He was a bit grown-up to be getting ear-tagged (it would hurt him and he was not going to like it) but when he was at the right (softer) age of 6 weeks, the family were in the process of moving to their new place in a different county, which meant that their herd number and supply of old tags no longer 'worked'. They have since had to apply to the new county and only now can buy tags with the new correct serial numbers. The new tags work with my 'pliers' (applicator) so I nipped across to do the deed while Charlotte held the very tame Henno in a firm grip lest he jump at the unwelcome and un-anaesthetised "ear piercings". He squeaked but was quickly OK. He, of course had no idea what was in store for him and why he needed the tags.

That was yesterday. Today I was back over there to collect him up, now meekly walking alongside Charlotte on dog-collar and lead and not objecting when boosted unceremoniously into the trailer. We drove him gently down and, because he'd be led 'round the back' I simply parked outside the butcher's in the street, no need to do that tricky road-blocking reverse into the tight alleyway up the side of the shop.

Liz was up to Dublin with the local Knitting Club on Sunday
and bought, she said, "ALL the wool"
So Charlotte led the lad in to meet his fate and I took the paperwork into the shop. I heard a short conversation about "doing him now" and I knew that Charlotte likes to get back all the 'gribbly bits' for dog treats, chews and food. Also that K-Dub fancied making knife handles from the horns, so they would be bring the head home too. Unbeknownst to me, C had led the goat into the shed and when the slaughterman suggested she might like to 'leave' and she'd replied that, no, she was 'grand' and happy to help, the guy had lifted the humane killer (captive-bolt gun), steadied Henno's head and popped him between the eyes, and had the sharp 'sticking' knife out practically before the lad hit the floor. A gush of blood and Henno was dead inside, Charlotte said, 5 seconds of being led in. It took her longer, she said, to get the dog-collar off him than it had taken for him to die; no drama, no pain, no awareness of what was happening. Clean, fast, efficient and humane. Surely the best way.

C then came back into the shop to talk offal and collection times and the boss said that if we wanted we could watch his man behead, skin and gut the late Henno there and then and take all the bits way with us, save coming back on an extra trip (I also got the impression that he would be relieved to pass us the head and bits lest they got lost during any intervening days!). It was all grist to the mill for hardy Charlotte but it would be my first time seeing this process but hey, in for a penny, I was sure I'd not let the side down by getting upset or 'gipping' all over the floor.

The sun rises through the trees around our house, as seen
from 2 fields away (to the West, obviously)
It was, I must admit, a bit of a shock to see him lying there with a bright red whoosh of blood coming from a gaping neck wound, his eyes still bright and his body steaming gently on the floor. We stood and chatted to the guy and saw a masterclass in cleaning a dead goat, with Charlotte steadily accumulating a bag of bits - the head, 'trotters' tail, scrotum and 'balls', then stomach (for the tripes), liver, heart, kidneys, lungs. It was like the pig "everything but the squeal" thing - the lad was pretty much left with just the intestines and skin (too goat-smelly). He had a good work out skinning the animal because, as in Henno, goats often have no fat beneath the skin so that the easy "fisting" thing they would do on sheep, pushing a fist between flesh and skin to separate the layers, is very hard on a goat.

All up we were in there less than an hour. Impressive and, as I said, re-assuring to know how humane, stress-free and painless it all is behind the scenes. The carcass now hangs in the cold store till Thursday when they can go down to collect it and see it cut up. For Charlotte and I, 'Phase 2' and the turn of my animals once we'd brought the trailer home and partaken of some nice banana/nut-loaf and a cup of tea (Liz was enjoying having been able to sub the job out to Charlotte and had baked but had also landed a 78 page document to proof read and correct for Mrs Silverwood).

We finally found venison! This from the Wicklow Mountains
but to us via Aldi (supermarket) in Roscommon. Cheap too!
My sheep were the ones in the frame now. I needed to fluke and worm drench all 4, inject new ewe-lamb 'Rosie' for Clostridium and fit her EID (electronic) ear tag to complete her legal identification now that we have decided to keep her as a breeding ewe. The latter went better than for Henno. Her ears must be softer or less sensitive (or I just missed all the nerves). She barely twitched as the 'pliers' closed, pushing the inner and outer halves of the tag together through her flesh. The drenching was 10 ml of each of two 'gloops' for each ewe, one white, one blue. These went OK and all ewes managed to swallow most of their 'shot' adroitly snuck into the side of the mouth while Charlotte held their nose high and sky-ward and their lips closed. No dribbling, ladies! Yes, it probably DOES taste awful but it's for your own good!

Soggy Doggies
At that point Charlotte's work here was done and I could deliver her home with her bags of offal etc and my afternoon "livestock" jobs were just all the feed rounds and taking the dogs for a lovely long walk across the Kiltybranks bog-land including a chance to leap into the stream and get nice and wet and muddy. Bless them. We have also been continuing their training on how to live with and love kittens and not eat them at the first opportunity. This is going a bit variably but so far no-one has been eaten, so I guess it's a success.

Deefer eye-ing up the hunting potential
of 2 kittens in Mum's easy chair.
Finally we remember our great friend Diane (also 'Diamond' on this blog) whose Birthday would have been today. RIP Diane. Still miss you. Never forgotten. Posh Cheese!

Friday 21 October 2016

Sheep Meds and Rising Sap

Sheep meds - against worms, fluke and Clostridium infection
A text message in the week from Sue and Rob reminds us that this is the time of year to catch up on our annual round of sheep medication. Both farms subscribe to the "nearly organic" school of management (Yes, I know the purists deny the existence of this one; you cannot be "nearly" organic, you either are, or you're not) - we do not do any un-necessary drugging, like the day to day dosing with antibiotics performed by the commercial boys, and we try to only use the vet when we have a known, proven disease.

The smallest bottle of Covexin you can buy - 50 ml.
3 conditions in sheep, though, have us convinced enough to be 'likely', so we allow these (worms, fluke and Clostridium infection) preventative meds in and hang the organic 'ticket'. The worms and fluke are just because it is wet, boggy land, and worse just outside our boundary, so that the little snails which act as secondary host to the fluke could easily get at us. Having said that, every time we slaughter a lamb we get the butchers to slice through the liver enough to confirm that it is 100% free from fluke damage and we have not had a bad one yet. In our defence we also own that the local farm co-ops all stock the fluker and wormer; a sure sign that plenty of farmers locally do this too.

The Clostridium thing is a little more complicated. We were not doing this up till winter 2015/16 and you may recall that in that autumn/winter we borrowed the lovely Suffolk ram 'Rambo' from Sue and Rob for 5 weeks to 'see to' all our ewes. A good job he did too, giving us 3 pairs of twins. All seemed well and we shipped him off back home with everybody happy and healthy. Or so we thought. I don't think I said this in the blog but, unfortunately, 2 weeks later, he suddenly upped and died for no apparent reason. They found him stretched out in the field at morning rounds.

The lovely bright red bark of dogwood.
Dogwood grows round here like weeds
Now, we don't know for sure that it was Clostridium that did for him (nobody spends money on post mortem on run-of-the-mill sheep like ours) but from our research and digging (including talking to our vet, of course) that is pretty much the only thing that causes fast, unexplained death with no prior symptoms and it can lie dormant in the animal and then be triggered by the stress of moving the sheep around. Obviously we also have no idea whether Rambo had it all along, or picked it up at home or at our place but the advice was to get everybody vaccinated.

A local donkey makes it into the '365' album
When you go to buy meds for sheep here you immediately hit a problem well known among smallholders and frequently moaned about. The manufacturers of the meds do not cater for us and the smallest quantity of drug you can buy is designed to meet the needs of normal size flocks.

Coming back into lay after the oddly late moult.
Our advised drug for the Clostridium (Covexin 10) comes down to 50 ml bottles and the dose is 1 ml, so you have to buy 50 doses. It is €37 or so so we have to try to share the 'pain' between a few smallholders. In our case, we bought the Covexin, Sue got the wormer and fluker. In fairness the drug lasts 3 years in the fridge and any new animals get introduced to the treatment via a double dose, 5-6 weeks apart, so between us we will get through about a third of it and only throw away about €25's worth. Ah well.

The 'new' kittens are 5 months old now.
So, over I went to do the first of the paired jabs  on 2 of Sue's new ewes and the new ram, Silas, replacement for the late Rambo (May the Lord have mercy etc). It was my first chance to clap eyes on him properly and weigh up his prospects of doing a good job for our ewes and I must admit to being a bit taken a-back by how tiny he seems compared to my mountainous Mummas. Apparently he is "all there" and has been making muddy foot prints on the flanks of Sue's ladies but he's only 6 months old and might not be 'man' enough. He is, though, our only option currently and we are going to raddle him up and give him the benefit of the doubt. In fairness we are not that pushed about getting a gazillion lambs off our 4 ewes so if he 'misses' or manages only singletons we will not be upset. We will look forward to using him again in 2017 when he is a big, strong 18 month old shearling. Good luck Silas.

Domesticity goes on for ever.
A little amusing aside on the meat-stock. Over the few years I have been here I have had a few happy chats with a neighbour about producing our own pork, lamb, chicken, etc. He is a life long beef farmer but amazed me by never having eaten any of his own meat - his animals go off to the big factories locally and into the supermarket food chain.

I was never intending to get that deep into Twitter. I seem to have
racked up 3000 'tweets' mainly chatting to the smallholder crew.
He tells me wryly that he is sure it is gorgeous (young, healthy, tender, almost organic (that one again!)) but that if the family wants beef on the table then herself has to trot off to the supermarket and buy anonymous meat in cling film packaging like "everyone" else. I joke with him that he is mad and surely just a little bit curious to sample his own product. Well he told me this week that he has decided to try it so a heifer has been chosen, taken off to local man Webb's (who does our pigs) and is currently hanging in the cold store there before being butchered up, and "herself" was sent off to town with a wad of money to buy a BIG freezer. Thought that'd amuse you.

This pic is a bit of a fake. The apples are
from our cider tree, variety Dabinette but
the cider is by the guy down the lane who
gave our pigs the pomace after squeezing
his normal dessert apples.
Meanwhile here today, everybody seems to be through their feather moult and feeling the sap rising. I have seen the Araucana cock dusting up with a Marans or two. Through the kitchen window I saw our #2 Buff Orp rooster set about the biggest male turkey poult and promptly get beaten up by all three poults acting together. One we think is a female, but maybe turkeys do this as a pack. Later I saw the big male turkey poult get hold of the smaller female by the scruff looking for all the world like he was about to mount. Child snatcher! On my afternoon rounds I inadvertently walked by that #2 rooster and felt the flap and strike of a kick-out. He'd had a little pop at me, the silly lad. He doesn't want to start that malarkey. We don't entertain human-aggressive roosters here. Then at lock up I had lost the turkeys. They were in the kitchen garden with the male in full display mode, tail erect and fanned, strutting his stuff like a pro. I had to shepherd them to bed. In his defence, as soon as he saw me his tail went down and he allowed himself to be shepherded.

Finally a fun pic taken by one of our archers, Yulia, who (with hubby 'Colly', of course) has recently brought lovely little Feliz Sophia into the world and now brings the baby along to our sessions to watch us 'arch' from her buggy-cot. I had offered to cuddle her (the baby, not Yulia!) during our coffee break to give Mum a chance to drink her tea, and she caught this cute pic of me doing bottle feeding duties. Ahhhhhhh.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Keepin' it 1600

It might be mid October but the sap's rising in Co. Roscommon.
This in-calf heifer got in with the 'boys' by mistake.
The reason this blog avoids the wise blogger's 'troika' of taboo subjects (politics, religion and money) has less to do, in the first case, with the wisdom and more to do with the fact that politics leaves me cold. I am delighted to vote on the day and have enough interest to make sure I am voting 'sensibly'. I then take an interest in the results but once they are in I pretty much put the whole malarkey back in its box till next time.

Whole leg of pork gets its dry-cure
Contrast that, if you like, with Liz's driving passion to eat, drink, sleep, knit (?) and work through every minute of the pre-match analysis, then stay up all night while the results roll in AND, afterwards, to stay well abreast of things and in touch with all the expert moves and howling gaffes of the candidates and politicians in power. This applies equally to UK, Irish, Euro and American elections as well as all the sideshows that come along in the form of referendums (referenda?); Yes Equality, Brexit, 'Repeal the 8th' and the like. When Liz is on her deathbed and some young relative asks, "Any Regrets, Auntie Lizzie?" I suspect that up there will be that when the results of the Blair/Labour Landslide were rolling in on that famous night, she went to bed in the early hours and missed the fall of Portillo.

Incidentally, the pics in this post bear no relation to anything written as, obviously, I do not get a lot of pics of political 'slebs' out here in Roscommon. But, where was I? Ah yes. If UK politics leave me cold and Irish Politics just confuse me (more on that later), the American politics have, up to now, left me frozen in a hypothermic torpor. Then the Trump/Clinton thing happened. Suddenly I am amused, amazed, appalled and wide awake, watching in horror as a country I always assumed would do the steady, sensible thing and occasionally get brave enough to make a Lady (gasp!) or a Black Guy (gasp!) President seems to have gone steaming happily off the rails. I am no expert and I have only recently been paying attention but it seems to me that our Mr Trump has got to be the Republican nominee despite no-one really wanting him there, despite them fearing that he is a loose cannon who might say the wrong things, watching him like rabbits caught in the headlights as he does just that, and now no-one knows how to undo the nomination. We seem to just have to go with this and hope that the election undoes him for us. There is wry comment about "a man like that getting within reach of the US Nuclear Codes"

Nugget enjoying her freedom
My recent interest has been helped by that relatively new thing in US Politics, the subscriber (cable) channel, political comment "pod cast". Liz has latched onto 3 main feeds in this - namely "Keepin' it 1600", "538" and "NPR Politics" (links at the bottom of this post). They have funky, modern, website-y names (the 1600 refers to the fact that the White House's address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there are 538 'college' votes in the state-by-state elections and NPR is National Public Radio) and comprise a small group of well informed, lively, experts (plus, sometimes guest panellists) just discussing the latest events, gaffes, TV debates or electioneering moves as if they were sitting in a pub relaxing and chatting.

Annual Pig Census arrived 2 days late for our two.
These are subscriber channels, so they feel no need to stick to BBC-style political correctness or balance and the language can wander into "fruity" if they are more excited or appalled than normal. Many of those taking part have 'done it for real' previously, for example running Barack Obama's campaign(s). I particularly like the 'Keepin' it 1600' one and, despite my professed dislike of such stuff, find myself asking Liz regularly, "Anything new from the 1600 lads?" If there is, we sit down and listen to it together and I then harass Liz with all manner of 'how does THAT work?' questions and we check out the latest graphs and graphics.

A morning moon.
It will all come out in the wash, I guess, on November 8th. Then I can put it all back in its box. "PussyGate" defeated by "Human Decency"? I have got to thinking though, how good it would be if we could get some of these political pod-casts going in Ireland. I said earlier that Irish politics confuses me. I come from a world where you knew (for a while!) what you were voting for - the Tories were the 'management', Labour was for the working class families and Union types and the Liberals were somewhere in the middle or were the only ones interested in stuff like organic farming, green issues and so on.

In Ireland we have the two big parties (Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - FF and FG for short) with no obvious policy (or recent record) differences between them. Even local political activists can not give you a clear answer if asked why I should vote FG or FF. A commonly held view is that these 2 became the main parties during the Civil War (in the 20's), with one voting for partition of the country into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (as being the best solution they thought they could realistically get), while the other party wanted to hold out for independence for the whole land mass as one entity. This conflict divided communities and villages, pitted brother against brother and father against son and for many it still rankles. They vote FG or FF now because in the 20's blah blah blah. They are still fighting the Civil War through the ballot box.

My frustration at not being able to get answers which matter to me (you know - pensions, Brexit, rural broad band, water supply, support for village life and , yes, even small holders) had me thinking how good it would be to get a few of these podcast discussions up and running, to hear what intelligent, informed, politically savvy people (Nate Silver with his statistics, Adrian Kavanagh - Irish University lecturer "whose main research interests focus on the geography of elections, with particular reference to the Republic of Ireland") are saying is good, bad, sound or unsound politics. Then I'd be able to go to vote having half an idea what I was voting for, rather than the 'attrition' method I use currently. (Not him or her because they support X, nor her because she won't say whether she supports Y or not.... ah well, that just leaves these ones then.... now what is '1st preference'?)

And now, just in case you are still awake, three links generously provided by Liz to those podcasts. Good Hunting.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Lazy Bones

One of the luxuries of being (pretty much) retired on account of being made redundant is that the working days are your own. Nobody chases you to clock/swipe in or makes you book holidays out of your measly allowance if you fancy a day off.  I do work round here occasionally, obviously, but I find I am an expert at winding down when a big job is completed and that 'momentous' occasion of a 'finish' comes round.

A gorgeous brawn from the pigs' heads. There were 3 such 'tubs'.
One is gone already and one in the freezer. This one made
 a handsome contribution to breakfast. Not all of it, obviously.
The latest such completion was the pigs - reared, taken on their final journey, brought home and butchered and variously frozen as joints, salted down as whole legs, cooked into dog treats (ears) or some 'scratchings' and even brawn (heads). Finally all tidied away out of sight. That was Tuesday and I have to confess to sitting down at that point and not really achieving much till this afternoon (fencing). Like I said - too good at winding down. Lazy bones.

Horse Chestnut. Needs a good frost to do
proper colour but it is trying.
It is one of the reasons why the veg garden is such a disgrace at the moment; the other being that I am also expert in what I believe the behaviour experts call "displacement activity", doing something else to avoid doing the job you should be doing. Office workers, faced with a big pile of jobs will reach, instead, for the "to do" list pad and spend ages compiling one, even adding jobs they have already completed so that they can enjoy the buzz of ticking one or two off.

Three of the ewes waiting for the ram to arrive next month.
In my case, this spring, every time I looked at the scary forest of docks, creeping buttercup, grasses and plantain which was winning in the veg patch, I then looked to my left at the huge pile of tree 'rounds' from our felled spruces and the hydraulic splitter I had borrowed. Needless to say, the logs got beautifully split and stacked and the weeds were left to grow even taller. There was building too and archery, pulling thistles in the East Field, brush-cutting in the woods or through the docks, the poly tunnel, mowing and so on. No end of ways to avoid that veg patch. When I did feel like weeding, there was always the big raised flower bed. I think that won because it is so much smaller and you could see progress and sense the end of the tunnel.

Big field mushrooms in the East Field
And so it went on; all the nice weeding weather of summer (well, there was SOME at least) came and went and still the veg patch is an embarrassment where I dare not take visitors. We even toyed with the idea at one stage of fencing it round stock-proof and letting the pigs or sheep at it.  But no, I cling to the idea that I will get stuck in one day, in my "little and often" mode (like my digging of the pond - 20 barrows (1 hour) a day across 5 months).

Soldier out for a stroll.
Some of we smallholders use volunteer labour - lads and lasses who sign up for a working 'holiday' through one of the green/organic/ecological organisations and will come and do yay amount of hours per day for you for the price of bed and board. We have a smaller scale version of that happening in spring when a friend from Kent who loves digging, weeding and veg gardening is coming here for a week. Some people whizz round in front of their 'cleaning lady' so she never sees how bad it was. I will be getting stuck into the weeding well before this guy arrives so that I can show him that I "made a start" and didn't wait round till May for him.

Nugget earns a free ranging winter by doing such a good
summer job in the bee hive dept.
Meanwhile, one worker who has definitely completed her assigned task is our one remaining rabbit, Nugget. She has done such a good job keeping the grass short around the bee hives that she has barely a leaf left and so she has earned a free ranging winter. She is very sensible and hangs around the house and buildings and must be good at avoiding Mr Fox (touch wood) because she survived last winter when she escaped by mistake and took ages to recapture. This (free ranging) is good because apart from a chunk of carrot I give her at breakfast just to keep her tame and give me a chance to check on her health (and presence) each day, I do not need to worry about feeding her or keeping her drinker topped up. She also might help with the weeding in the veg patch though I doubt it - she's never down there!

Extreme hedging
Over the last few days we have been "enjoying" the sight of someone else working hard - a local farmer brutalising his hedges with an impressive weapon. No flail-mower for him smashing the small branches in that so familiar way, leaving them shredded and a pale eye-sore. No this machine is a big and very fast-spinning circular saw on an arm that can pivot into every possible position. It slices through big ash trunks up to 5-6 inches thick with a loud "Ker-ANGGGG" and a roar of hard working diesel engine.

A 365 pic of, I think, a chunk of bog-oak but I don't really
know what species of tree it is. 
They use these things on hedges which have got away and grown up into tall rows of ash and sycamore. They slice up the sides to remove width and then buzz through all the tops sending big trunks and branches sliding and toppling down - OK if they fall into the field but requiring some rapid work with a grab to clear them off the road. In fairness these are mainly ash which coppices very well, so the hedges only look brutalised (all be it neat and boxy) round to spring time when they quickly bounce back in a healthy display of small leaves and shoots.

Nice colours from lichen and heather in Cloonargid Bog. 
The hedges don't need doing yearly when you do them this way but I can't help thinking they'd be better done little and often. Perhaps the lads have their own 'to do' lists and a rake of possible displacement activities.