Tuesday 28 February 2017

Pub Quizzing and Extreme(?) Archery

Snow flurries are very fashionable this week
With Storm Doris now a memory and her successor (Ewan) a comparatively mild (though very wet) one I should have been able to report by now all the damage repaired and secured and the mess tidied away. Sadly, the weather has lately been a succession of wet, windy days featuring a bitingly cold NW wind and flurries of snow and sleet and hail storms. The ground is very wet underfoot and we have returned to puddles everywhere. We have been rather pinned down and not keen to go out and do garden stuff, so the entertainments have all been indoor flavoured.

The ewes in a sleet-flurry
Liz got back involved in our much-loved Kent-days hobby of pub-quizzing. The 'Centre' (really the 'Village Hall') where she works, organise a table quiz annually as a fund raiser for the Hall and Liz, in her 'admin' role was looking at doing 'scorer'. I had cried off on the grounds that the questions would all have an Irish flavour and leave me feeling foolish in my ignorance of Irish history, politics, geography, GAA/sports and so on. At the 11th hour another scorer volunteered and Liz was free to join a table and compete.

New dark green tarp turns white in the wet snow.
In the event it was a hugely successful night and Liz had a great time. Her table came 4th behind the winning (Chairman's) gang and 2nd placed table Captained by her boss, so appropriate, politically correct decorum was maintained! The questions were not very Irish at all, so my fears were groundless and I regretted not going - I have put my name down for the next one. In fact, Liz won a decent meat-voucher in the raffle, so she came out of the night in profit. Everyone's a winner!

Assembling the target 'tug' - that little
Mercedes by Paul's right foot.
My indoor entertainment came in the form of a rather silly fun-shoot at archery, jokingly called "Extreme Archery, Moving Targets" on Sunday. Club coach (Con) had decided we should all shoot at balloons towed behind a radio controlled, battery operated toy car which he would drive up and down in front of the big, arrow-stopping, target 'butts'. Helium balloons would be used to hold up the ends of the tow-rope and the shoot-able balloons would be tied on half way up this. That way, the car would zoom across the range dragging all the targets in its wake like an upside-down bridal wedding train. Mad? It was.

Three archers start shooting as the yellow balloon (sorry,
 barely visible in this pic) enters the top right corner of the
killing zone. 
Just in time we established a rule that you could only shoot at targets while they were in front of the butts. That way we should get fewer arrows embedded in the nice, clean, new plastered walls.

About to let fly. 
You were very rarely able to hit the helium balloons because these only trailed down into the zone when the car was going full speed, straight across the range. I finally nailed those (both with one arrow!) late in the game and we found that the one remaining helium one was not buoyant enough to hold up the train. The game was over and we had to go back to serious target-shooting. It was all very silly but good fun.

Warming Winter food - roast chicken 'saddles' and 'champ'
Which brings us to pancake day. As I sit here and write this, I am comfortably full of pancakes expertly cooked, as ever, by the Lady of the House. Liz is long established as the best pancake cook 'we' know and we spent many a Shrove Tuesday with Diane and John. plus D's step-father Denis consuming Liz's output so fast that she had to put her foot down at the end and save some for herself, or she'd have used up all the batter watching us hoover them up. For me, the ONLY WAY is lemon juice and sugar but Liz does occasionally sneak a 'Nutella' one down.

Liz is off tonight at the latest play rehearsal while she digests hers - these days 'we' let all the pancakes get cooked and stacked in the warm oven before either of 'us' starts one. I don't suppose I actually could keep up with her 2-pan cookery but it'd be fun trying. Pass me the next lemon and the jar of vanilla sugar, now.

Friday 24 February 2017

Doris Raises The Roof

"Entry Wound"? Only 3 panels ripped off the front of this
out building. 
From an unpromising start, the latest 'named' storm, Doris, blew up to become our scariest and most damaging yet. She felled a tree, ripped a huge hole in the main hen-house, flung two jackdaw pots into our East Field and damaged the poly tunnel. But let me start the story a bit more gently than that while she was still only 'looming' and we were going to bed. We'd seen the weather warnings but by bed time we still only had light winds. I even left a window a-jar to let the cats in and out.

"Exit Wound"? Half the roof is missing this side!
Around midnight I'd been woken a couple of times by the rising wind noise but, you know, cosy warm under the duvet, safe in the nice strong house.... At around 3 a.m. the bedroom door slammed shut - not a normal occurrence. I was immediately awake and quickly aware that there was quite some storm blowing. The a-jar window had been blown fully open and I sprinted round battening down the hatches - pulling all the windows properly closed and closing vents.

We're not leaving the site till this tree is out of the way.
In the right side of the pic between the green and the grey
tree-trunks you can see the root-plate of the down one.
I couldn't stop the noise though and lay there wide awake listening to every blast and buffet, every flex and reaction of the house, every external noise and howl of the wind in the wires and chimneys. I was scared stiff imagining all manner of destruction and wrecking going on out in the dark, unable to do a single thing about it, offering up fervent prayers that surely it would soon be over and the gaps between gusts were surely getting longer.

More firewood. I cut a gap in the tree so that we could come
and go up the driveway.
We woke up at first light - around 7 a.m. to Poppea barking madly - we still do not know what she was hearing; there was plenty of choice once we started looking out and exploring. One of the medium sized trees in our 'woods' had fallen across the drive and was lying half way across the lawn and part buried in the fence. We could see 3 panels had been ripped off the chicken house on the yard side (front). Half the roof was missing from the back, with 8 foot long corrugated sheets and pieces of roof timber strewn across the East Field. One corner of the poly tunnel had been 'walked' sideways so that the door no longer fitted and had been twisted off the bottom hinge. 2 of the jackdaw pots had been flung down from the chimneys; one was half way across the field.

Chicken shed with temporary tarpaulin covers.
But that was it and the rest of the 'damage' was just superficial stuff - pots and an rabbit hutch over-turned. The fence. The garden strewn with blown bits of twig and tree. They were all manageable problems and some even had up-sides. We were just going to have a couple of busy days sorting stuff out. No humans or livestock had been killed or hurt in the storm. The only immediate cost was that I had no tarpaulin big enough to cover that hole at 6m by 6m - I managed to find a 6 x 8 one at €130 on the Internet. The supplier could get it to me by "tomorrow" on the excellent couriers that ply our roads.

Once I had sliced out my chunk of tree
the stump gently rocked itself back upright
3 good friends (Sue and Rob plus 'new' friend Jim B) heard of our plight and volunteered smaller, temporary tarpaulins and the man hours of help needed to rig them. They would also return today when I had my new, big, tarpaulin. Angels. I love that about small-holders. Helping each other in times of difficulty goes with the spirit of the thing.

The trunk appears to hover 3 feet above
the ground. 
Our tree proved to be a black spruce aged 53 years. It had been 22m (72 feet) tall and was 1.42m (4.6') circumference at chest height. It was easy enough to cut out the drive-way gap and the trunk is, amusingly, now suspended at about 3' from the ground sitting on its side-branches as if it was on the perfect saw-horse. The bottom ten feet or so of trunk gently rocked back upright pushed by the springiness of the huge roots and pulled by the weight of the root plate. When you are a rookie chain-saw man you learn that trees can do this violently and with a real whip-action as soon as you cut the heavy top-parts free of the base and if you are wise, you position yourself and saw accordingly.

Life under canvas for the chickens and ducks. 
So with the drive clear, my crew turned up and Sue and Rob had brought spare old tyres (for weighing down the tarps) and a big reel of fencing cable to use as "guy-ropes". That was Thursday and Doris had not quite finished with us. It was still quite squally with some hail-storms so battling the tarps over the roof was quite challenging. It was a cold, wet gang who retreated indoors to welcome tea and buns laid on by the Lady of the House. The chooks were not too keen to re-enter their building - as well as having scared them half to death last night by falling apart while they slept, it was now semi-transparent and had a flappy roof.

That's more like it. Big new tough tarp well lashed down. 
By today my shiny new bigger tarpaulin had been delivered, so all my crew had told me to call them back for Round 2. By today the wind was mercifully almost gone and it had stopped raining and hailing. We made fairly short work of the big new tarp and the house looks like it could cope with a bit of weather again. The birds were much keener to go in on this 2nd day, even though it is now dark inside.

Rosy has been at the mineral lick again.
Note the brown nose and lips!
We are all praying that the next storm (Ewan) does not come along any time soon and that we will fairly soon be able to do a proper repair, replacing all this canvas with new corrugated. Friends of the Blog though, may find all this very reminiscent of the winter snug-down of the Cambria Sailing Barge - tarpaulins laced down with ropes, rubber tyres hung 'over the side' to protect you from damage to the paintwork against stone piers and wharves while you rode up and down on the tide at the moorings. We are very happy with this 'bodge' and reasonably confident of its ability to take some weather. The birds are snug inside. We will cope.

Still in the pet-carrier.
Finally a couple of pics of the new poults, our "Suzy's Six" mentioned in the last post but without a picture. Also a HUGE Thank You to my riggers who generously supplied tarps, tyres, 'string' and manhours, Sue and Rob plus Jim B, and to Liz of course for throwing ropes over the roof in between cooking up marvellous scones, dillisk biscuits, cake and tea. What a team.
Released into the covered rabbit run.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

A 50-Pound Pull

Nothing to do with us - just a superb Birthday Cake picture
posted to Twitter, made for a lad called Jake who is 6. I'm not
100% comfortable with encouraging the love of chainsaws
by 6-year olds but they probably have it under control. 
Rain, rain and more rain. It has not stopped all day. Everything is dripping including the coat I wore to walk the dogs at lunchtime (dog towels for them and a complete change of clothes and a shower for me!). Everywhere depressed has puddles and everywhere else the ground under foot has that sloppy, spongy first half inch. Deep joy. The ducks, ducklings and geese are, of course, loving it while all the other birds are happy to cower indoors in the various sheds, car-port and the wood store. It drains away fast enough as soon as it stops raining but it's a nuisance while it is so wet.

We have re-started archery after our February 'recess'. No, not some political 'holiday', but the owners of our hall/venue ("The Hub" in Castlerea) take the whole complex back for 3 weeks while the town's Am-Drams stage an elaborate musical and make a pot of money. This year it is the famous show "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and the players need 2 weeks to construct the set and rehearse on the proper stage and then a week to perform it.

Fly true you arrows
We got the venue back in time for our 19th Feb session. The session included dragging all the gear (big target butts, straw roundels etc) back out of the hidey hole we had put it in for the 'Scoundrels'. That may have contributed but, Boy! how I ached across the chest and shoulders that night. It is quite vigorous stuff, this archery and my bow is a '50-pound' draw.

I got one in the right place, anyway!
Centre-bull, 10 points!
With your right arm (in my case) extended out straight holding the bow, you then pull the string back to level with your mouth with a force of 50 lbs. We lash off 3 arrows at each of 12 targets per round and 2 rounds in the 2 hours. It's not breathlessly exhausting in any kind of 'aerobic' way but it warms up all those muscle blocks and tones you up really well - you know you've been there and over the weeks you build up some power. I shouldn't have been surprised that I went so 'rusty' on the three weeks off but I did and I was. Ah well, back to it now weekly to get all that tone back.

If you are impressed by the 50 lb draw thing, then don't be too in awe. Back in Medieval times everyone in the village would have been obliged to practise their archery every Sunday and the elite long-bow men who did such a good job at, e.g. Agincourt would have been pulling 120 lbs+ (historians think up towards 200 lbs) - those guys had a range (all be it not hugely accurate) getting up towards a mile and would have 2 more arrows in the air by the time the first hail of arrows was falling on the enemy ranks. Archaeologists have found skeletal remains on some of these battle sites where the chests and shoulders of the men seemed all deformed and non-symmetrical. Archers, of course, doing it every week of their lives since they were about 6 years old and developing a frame to cope with the massive forces. Makes our 50 lb pull and lashing arrows 60 feet down a Badminton hall seem quite puny!

A nice change yesterday in the supper menu as Liz took us back to her youth and the time spent in France, doing au-pair to a size-able family down by Toulouse. "I just fancied a bit of boiled fowl" she opined and re-created a trad French 'Pot-au-Feu' supper from one of our frozen Hubbard birds. This would have been standard family filling food belovéd of the thrifty housewife and I could see why. In brief it is a single-pot, chicken 'stew' where the whole carcass, intact, gets slow-cooked in stock and veg for several hours. It would have been some tough old rooster back in the day and all they could afford. You serve it, though, as a three course meal. First comes the 'soup' - the stock eaten as a soup with a chunk of crusty bread and cheese floated in it to mop up the delicious 'grease'. This would have used up the last of that day's bread, bread being bought fresh daily in those parts. Next you would get a plate full of the vegetables and finally the meat would be brought to the table so that you could (easily) pull off a thigh or what ever and a dollop of home-made mayonnaise. Three very satisfying courses from one pot and one chicken. Bon appetite!

My only other news concerns a social visit to our small holdering friends, Sue and Rob. My plan was just to meet up, catch up on the gossip, admire their new-born goat kids and maybe scrounge a cup of coffee and a slice of fruit cake. S+R had other ideas. Sue seems to have a decent sized incubator running right round the year so always has "too many" chickens and geese. At the moment, there are a gazillion roosters running about the place so she tried to ply me with one but Friends of the Blog will know that we have our own issues with roosters just now so I had to decline. Not to be denied, she then tempted me with some nice young poults who (if they are female) will make splendid replacements for our fox-losses. I came home with 6. She also gave me half a dozen unfertilized duck eggs in exchange for fertilized ones not yet laid by our birds (yes, for the incubator, of course!). Thanks so much for those, Sue and Rob and for the rest of the hospitality and farm-tour. You are salt of the earth.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Then I'll Do It Myself (Said the Little Red Hen...)

...and she did!

As sick as a dog. Deefer on Thursday
Poor Deefer was not well. She was, literally, as sick as a dog. She did not have a good night on Wednesday, nor a particularly good day Thursday. I'm not 100% sure why. I suspect she reacted badly to a cooked roast-pork bone, a chunk of shoulder blade I gave her as a 'treat'. RAW pork bones are their absolute favourite food and have only good, positive effects but this may not be true of the cooked version. As we went to bed, I could tell she was not comfortable, restless, sometimes panting. By 5 o'clock she was 'telling me' she needed to go outside.

Oh Dear Oh Dear. Not happy. 
That walk round finding coat, wellies, dog-leads etc showed me that she had actually been up several times in the night and done an impressive collection of squitty poos and sicks. In 15 minutes or so outside she unloaded a bit more but then seemed brighter, so we all went back to bed. We repeated this at 6 and she continued to improve. She had a fairly 'moopy' day spending most of it just looking sad and sometimes shivering. She just wanted lots of cuddles and declined all food, treats and did not want the daily walk at midday, so I let her off. By evening she was almost back to normal, ate her supper (though not with the usual hoovering gusto) and we all got a nice long night's sleep.

A good haul of beer cans and food packaging
for an hour walking with my litter-picker.
There was even a dumped CD player. 
While I'm on dog walking, I will ask you to bear with me while I have a rare moan. Fly tipping and jettisoning rubbish from your car as you drive along. I was almost certainly deluded and naive when I was planning to move to Ireland, but in my head I had conflated the known respect the Irish have for children/parenting with the '40 shades of green' thing and calculated that the Irish must be much 'greener' and environmentally aware than are we Brits. Foolish Boy! I was quite disappointed when I arrived and started exploring and found that the locals are just as bad as the Brits for tossing beer cans, fag packets, dead CD players and food packaging out of cars as they drive along.

Back in the goose egg game.
There is no equivalent here of the council guy sent out to pick up litter with his Hi-Viz jacket and his neat little row of filled bags along the verge waiting for the lorry-crew to round them up. Tidying up here is all done by volunteers working with the appropriately named "Tidy Towns" group - the local equivalent of the "Village of the Year" thing we were part of in Kent. Tidy Towns do a brilliant and much appreciated job but they mainly do it around the village and they only do it (understandably) in Summer. If you want it doing out here in the 'sticks' and in Winter then you're on your own. I will do it myself, said the little red hen... and she did.

And I do. The locals may see me as a weirdo-eccentric (though a couple have stopped to chat, empathised with my annoyance at those who litter and complimented me) but I just decided one day that this would be one way of giving something back to the area and the environment. I usually wait till just after the verges are mowed so that I can see the stuff lying in the grass but this most recent time was because I was particularly aggrieved by a bigger-than normal dump of a dozen cans and a shopping bag containing glass bottles (broken by now, of course).

This goose may have been interrupted in her egg-making.
An egg and a bit?
I will draw a veil over the fact that these were cans of alcoholic drinks lobbed out of a moving car. Other piles have been of children's orange drink sachets with straws, so I would guess dumped by a family outing with parents present. Hey ho. At least for a short while you can now drive down our lane and admire the 40 shades of green verges and lack of shiny, colourful cans and Coke bottles.

A chicken having a re-think? 'Herme'
Finally and while I am still on red hens, we have a strange tale to tell of odd sexual happenings among the chooks. In short, one of our Buff Orpington hens seems to be having a re-think and turning into a rooster. Friends of the Blog will know that we recently offed our #1 rooster for being aggressive to humans and were left, we thought, with our newest Marans lad, Gandalf. So far so good though we believe, now looking back on it, that one of the buff hens has looked 'different' enough to have been described by us as "the one with the long neck" or the bright cape.

The ducklings discover the paddling pool. 
So this morning I noticed that this particular bird was chasing one of the paler girls about and this afternoon 'she' surprised Liz by jumping onto a hen and "treading" her like a rooster would. We are now seeing 'her' in a new light and can see that 'she' does indeed walk taller than a hen. She also has a bigger, brighter cape and a medium-big red 'face' (comb, wattles) but from thorax down 'she' is still a hen - little feet with no spurs, stumpy hen-tail, no big fluffy rooster 'pantaloons'.

So, what have we here? A very slow, late developer? She was hatched in spring 2016. Her clutch-mates and brothers have long since matured/differentiated into roosters and gone down that route (culled by me or killed by the fox). Google and 'book-learning' give you three possible other explanations which are rare enough to have me shying away from 'claiming' them - proper 'hermaphroditism' where the sexual differentiation gets muddled and the bird is neither one thing nor another, 'gynandromorhism' where the bird is 50/50, sometimes 'sided', where the left half of the bird is fully male and the right side female (these are usually sterile) or, thirdly showing "spontaneous sexual reversal (SSR)". In SSR, the left ovary gets damaged and stops producing oestrogen, so the bird changes sex. So far so rare and so weird.

Our 'weirdo' has been named 'Herme' by Liz because he/she may be hermaphrodite and we'll just keep an eye on him/her. If he/she turns into a full active rooster, then all well and good as long as he stays off the human-aggression malarkey. If the preferred route is to stay 'Little Red Hen' then we can do that too. Watch this space.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Legal 'Beagle's

Doggie Documentation
This is another rather short blog post as befits the relative lack of 'stuff' going on.

Our three dogs are so flippin' legal as of today that they were last heard of combing the Internet for a doggie lawyer in case they should need representation the next time they are caught chasing the kittens. In Ireland domestic dogs not only need to be licenced, they also need to be radio-chipped; one of those tiny grain-of-rice sized smart-tags injected under the skin between the shoulder blades.

The Ros go Run Committee pick up their sponsorship
cheque from Drury Oils.
The chipping is a one-off which we did last year, but the licencing works on an annual reminder - you trot along to your local post office with €20 cash per dog in your little paw. This year we had thought we might have got away with it, forgotten in the battle to get everyone chipped. The reminders normally come in December and we had made it through that month and January with ne'ery a whisper. Perhaps it was not happening? No such luck and the three reminder postcards hit the post-box with a resounding 'thunk' on Monday. I've been down today to pay up, tidying up the Postmistress's pad of forms in the process with documents number  599 and 600.

Buffers in process.
I mentioned in the last post that our #2 rooster, the Buff Orpington lad, 'Buffers' had started to attack us when we were trying to feed the birds or what ever, and was likely to need sorting. He persisted despite us warning him  so he is now 'late'. I went out after dark to collect him quietly from his perch (the least stressful way) and he is now  a rather lovely and extremely tender Coq-au-vin. He was a beautifully clean bird, completely lacking parasites or any damage and very, very well feathered, especially around the big, fluffy, Buff-Orp 'pantaloons'. He weighed 2.94 kg oven-ready.

Kato decides to help the plucking process by using the
sink full of fluff as a feather bed. 
He was plucked and then portioned up with all the easy bits (thighs, wings, breast, drumsticks etc) going into the Coq-au-vin via a 24 hour marinade in red wine - a whole bottle! The big remaining chunks (back, pelvis, neck) got boiled as stock and the meat stripped off the boiled bones for the dogs. The 'gribbly bits' (liver, gizzard, heart) went to the cats.

24 hours submerged in some generic Bordeaux softened
him up beautifully. 
It turned out a very successful 'processing' and Buffers should know that he did not die in vain. He went into the slow cooker yesterday afternoon but we judged that he was not really 'done' by supper time. We juggled the menu and decided to eat him tonight, so he got all that evening (6 hours) and then most of today (8 hours) in the crock-pot. You will probably guess he was fall-off-the-bone tender and seriously delicious. Without doubt the best cull-rooster meal I have ever had. That Lizzie is surely a genius in the kitchen.

The young ducks get some closely supervised 'out' while they
meet Mum and Dad. 
Meanwhile, on birds, the 'ducklings' are now almost 6 weeks old and quickly out-growing their little 2m x 1m rabbit run. Today we started the process of introducing them to the adult duck and drake (Mary and William) who are actually their biological parents (and sole duck survivors of the fox attack in November). Of course, the Drake does not know this and has no reason to be particularly nice to them - they are just unknown birds invading his patch and needing telling who is boss. We have to supervise to make sure this stays within decent bounds and nobody gets hurt. Ducks can be quite the violent bullies/rapists if that is how the mood takes them.

I am interested to see how the sexes work out on these three youngsters. The adult birds, as I said, are the 2 survivors from our original group of 6 which were 2 drakes and 4 females and which we noticed had what looked like sex-linked colour patterns. All 4 females had big splashes of white feathers down throat and chest, where the drakes both had solid dark heads and necks and brown bodies. They also had that mallard-style green iridescence on their heads.

We do not know whether white chested females is a Khaki-Campbell breed trait or possibly just true for this family/strain but the three new 'babies' all have this white throat/chest thing (see photo). I am hopeful that all three will be females, bringing our egg-laying number straight back up to the 2016 pre-fox level (4) without any wasteful drake appetites slowing me down. Too much to ask? Maybe not.

Friday 10 February 2017

Last Logs and First Fixes

The Pulmonaria in the woods start into flower
A nice, compact, portable, user friendly, post today as we are in that quiet time between all the excitement of recent posts, and the burst of activity which is Spring. I have done a bit of planting in the tunnel and we have been buying seeds but the main (outdoor) garden is developing an "Elephant in the Room" status. It is THE BIG JOB this year. Fighting back into control of the 25*100 foot patch of ridged soil which I shamefully lost control of in 2016. I keep looking at it but the frosty weather, the rain and today's bitter wintry showers have so far stopped me getting the knee pads on and making a start.

The last bit of black spruce from the 2016
felling project, finally gets dragged out of
the woods and sliced up. 
If I feel bad about that, then I have been doing some bits outside lately to balance the books. I broke out the chain saw today and went round finishing off some jobs that had been on the list for a while too long. The last piece of black spruce trunk left from the 2016 'trees-on-the-lawn' felling project finally got dragged out of the woods and sliced up. Various fallen branches which had been lying in the sheep field and used as scratching posts and 'mineral' nibbles (sheep will nibble tree bark and twiggy bits when grass is not sufficiently nutritious) were chopped up so that they can be barrowed home as logs.

An elder and its neighbour growing from our boundary
bank at 45º were starting to impede our progress round to
the tunnel. (Base stump arrowed)
There were also a few branches stashed under the log store that needed dealing with - the bits were too long to go into the range (16" maximum) and the last of the "telegraph pole" sections and some big gnarly bits which needed splitting (too big diameter).

The dogs enjoying their daily off-lead time
Finally there were a couple of big, overgrown elders in the hedge by the poly-tunnel which had grown out of the bank at 45º. Each year they delight us with flowers and berries at easy-pick heights BUT they had begun to impede the progress of anyone walking dogs round the 'estate' or trying to get to the tunnel. I took these 'lads' down foot by foot and generated another useful stack of barrow-able logs, all be it elder is not that good a species for firewood.

Kitchen electrics 'first-fix'
The only other news is that we had our new 'Sparks' round to first-fix the electrics in the kitchen. It's not a massive job - we only need a light in the ceiling and a couple of double sockets with the new worktop. Only the latter bit gave the guy pause for a while - the plan had been to run a spur off a Sitting Room socket by drilling through the back of that socket to emerge in the kitchen.

When our original Sparks tried this he had the modern 'SDS' drill but had to buy a 1m long bit to get through our 50 cm walls at a 30º upward angle - he was installing 'carriage lights' out front. Conferring with this guy we decided that rather than buy another bit, we would take our spur from the old kitchen and 'chase' it through at one end of the new. This is now done and K-Dub and I can now proceed with the slabbing etc.

One of the marmalades makes short work of a chunk of
roast chicken pelvis. 
That is pretty much it. If you are feeling deprived (ha!) and in need of more 'Care Brothers' waffle, then let me point you at the blog of my younger bro', Mark. If my version of the retirement dream was to buy the 'farm' and keep livestock, then his was definitely to travel the world. He is a keen writer about these missions and packs his 'travelogue' posts with plenty of lovely photo's of the places he and his good lady have visited.

Most recently they have done a 4-weeker in New Zealand in which they drew heavily on the advice of a 'consultant/guide' for the itinerary. They went pretty much EVERYwhere and did lots of different things, so they have a wealth of pictures - scenery, cities, restaurants and food, a cathedral hit by the recent earthquake, dolphins. albatrosses and sea lions, 4 x 4 driving on dirt roads over the mountains, kayaking, even dropping in on 'Hastings' the town named after our own birthplace. The highlight for me, though was when they managed to do a light-aircraft "Sky Safari" over a superbly beautiful range of snow-capped, glacier-iced 'alps' on what must have been the blue-est sky clear conditions you could only dream about.

Go take a look at http://caretowers.blogspot.ie/2017/01/new-zealand-2017-day-20-day-in-tekapo.html . Nice one Mark!

Tuesday 7 February 2017

New Twins for Nanny

Nanny and the new kids, not yet 48 hours old here, under the
IR heat lamp.
A text from our good friend Carolyn tells us that her 'Nanny' goat has just landed twins. The timing of these new babies is correct for full term, going off the dates Carolyn has in her diary for when 'Billy' (they do like original names over there!) was with Nanny but they are tiny. Charlotte, currently working full time in Dublin (missed the birth again, Char'!) , juggles some holiday entitlement and races down to assist. One (curiously the larger of the twins) is struggling a bit, is very sluggish, breathes huskily, needs help getting onto a teat and starts to 'scour' (diarrhoea).

Those 2 kids.
They are put under a heat lamp to keep them warm. The vet is called in a hurry and the kid gets 2 injections, an anti-scour dose and electrolytes. 48 hours on he is much better - a bit 'drunk' but trying to do some clumsy bouncing around. Mum is doing a good attentive job but is (understandably?) very wary of cleaning the poo-ey end of the scouring one.

Charlotte steps in to clean him up a bit but Nanny seems to be thinking of abandoning him; Charlotte guesses that it is the new, cleaned, human smell off him putting her off so she smears a bit of the local Nanny 'flavour' back onto him and Nanny re-adopts him. Phew! It's all go in that Maternity Unit. As I go to 'print' everyone is still with us and it's all looking hopeful.

Sibling bonding. The twins nuzzling each other.
Followers of this blog who were with us a year ago will recall that this 'Nanny' is the same goat who spent last winter with us while C+C were moving house and were temporarily without an adequately fenced field to house the pregnant Nanny and her new beau Billy. Nanny gave birth to the big singleton kid 'Henry Óg' under the trees in our East Field. Billy was not, in that case, the sire. Nanny had been pregnant when purchased and collected by Charlotte and I from over by Kiltimagh (Co. Mayo). During the course of 2016, the humans sorted out some field fencing and we shipped the goats to their new home in the summer. Nanny is a lovely, sweet, animal and we have kept 'in touch' with her since, so we are delighted that she has now kidded successfully again.

Meanwhile a new venture for us, trying to organise a bit of a get together of the members of the Facebook group "West of Ireland Smallholders" of which I am co-admin. Pictures in this section have nothing to do with that event; they were just pretty frost scenes from our recent cold snap. Once a 365-er... always a 365-er? Anyway, there are 250 members in the group but these are spread very thinly right up the western half of the country, all the way from Buncrana (Donegal) down to Baltimore (Cork) - a distance of 600 km, or 8 hours driving. It was never going to be easy to get many of them together; would you drive 4 hours to a pub in the middle for breakfast and a chat, then 4 hours home? Nor would I.

Ewes with frosty backs get a bit of breakfast
In a post/thread on the group which was originally about still-born goat-kids some posters got into discussing how we on the group should meet up properly in 'real life'. This happens a lot on the Internet and can sometimes be easy enough to organise but our lot seemed to be fluffing around in "we should do lunch" style and nothing concrete was being set down. I decided to set up a 'straw-man' with a suggested date, time and venue which people could then either accept or argue with different suggestions. I went with today at 11 for 11:30 at Hester's 'Golden Eagle' (pub) in Castlerea which is easy to find, and sells very good, honest "pub grub" and breakfasts at comfortable prices.

Frosty bog-land view to the North from our East Field
My suggestion met with the expected mild flurry of interest as well as a smattering of counter-suggestions and some apologies for, as expected, distance, lack of transport, prior engagements, livestock issues, busy-ness etc. There were enough positives, though, for us to go ahead - we thought we might get a few takers even if there were last minute blow-outs, which there were - one poor friend had fallen badly and smashed a knee while racing to rescue laundry from a hail storm and another had "emergency dentistry" scheduled for the very time we were getting served our breakfasts.

Our willow tunnel. 
In the event, it all went off rather nicely. Half a dozen of us sat down for a chat at 11 am over tea and coffee before segue-ing gently into ordering breakfasts or sandwiches according to taste while the tea and coffee kept coming. It was lovely to meet the new faces and to put real 'people' to the Facebook versions and the chat meandered in a lively fashion around goats, pasture improvement, Tr*mp, Br*x*t and a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, pension arrangements, newspapers and even music. A very pleasant morning's event. Hester's had done us proud (as expected) with the food and drink.

We are not sure where we go from here. Should we make it monthly and see if the numbers build? Should we start to move it around the patch - let someone from a distant corner of the 'West' organise one and start to get a network going? Should we possibly say that, No, we only attracted 4 people so there is not really a demand for this even though people talk a 'good game' on the net? My instinct is to sit back now and see if there is any ground-swell of support asking for a repeat and promising to come to another one. Watch, as they say, this space.