Tuesday 4 July 2017

Curlew Fidelma

The redcurrant jelly has a lovely colour this year.
This blog post nearly wasn't! Mid morning, while Liz was indoors and I was out shopping, the Internet died. Liz phoned the fault in (land line as well as the web) and was told that they had no idea what the problem was yet, so it might take up to 3 days to fix. THREE DAYS! How could we survive that? Ah, what did we do with ourselves before the Internet? Got on with real life, I guess.

This lovely pic posted by bro' Mark of (l-r) other bro' Tom, Mum
and Sis-in-Law Sue at Herstmonceux castle. Pronounce it  "Hurst-
mon-zoo" for that correct Sussex effect. 
We also told them that our elderly neighbour needed checking as she has no broadband or a mobile; they were pushing the boundaries a bit when they tried to suggest that both we and she may have suffered a coincidental synchronised equipment failure. All OK in the end - the fixers went out and did their stuff and a phone call told us we were back up by 3 pm.

Curlew - image blagged off the Internet
So, who, I hear you ask, is "Curlew Fidelma" then. She is the latest contact phone number added to my phone. How so? Well, friends of the blog will know that the curlew is a large wading bird which has become increasingly rare in Ireland for the usual reasons - changing farm practices and loss of habitat. It nests on the ground in wild places but is now quite unusual to see and even rarer to find nesting.

From little acorns.....
Step forward, then, our good friends and fellow archers, Con and Niamh who, on their smallholding south of Castlerea, have just had 5000 native, broad-leaved trees planted as a baby-forest, a move for which government grants are available because the Irish Government are obliged to up the % land-use as "forestry" under EEC rules. It had been languishing down in the 4% area. These grants are mainly for commercial forest but they are also available for 'amenity' and 'conservation' projects.

First 2017 chokes
In the conservation ones you get involved with the good folk of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who are, as expected, interested in the wildlife potential of your new forest, so Niamh has been visited by one of their people, the Fidelma named above. She was particularly interested in curlews and Niamh knew that I might have 'spotted' some in my comings and goings. So we had, a group of 18 seen from a road nearby but no nesting ones. These would just have been a migrating group moving through (it was October) but Fidelma was delighted to have "found some" and asked me to save her number so that I can tell her if we see any more. Happy to help.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) flowers.
The forest, incidentally, is quite fiercely controlled - you don't just take delivery of the saplings and dig them in. The work is all done by professional contractors who bring diggers and other gear, they ring the whole site with high deer-proof fencing and an inspector comes along a while later to check that you do have oaks in the mixture here, or that the trees are planted upright there, or that they are all sprouting leaves from the apex across the site. Any wrong planting, sloped trees or those showing die-back and side-sprouting have to be ripped out and re-planted. Only then does the contractor-man get his money.

New 'Jakoti' shears and the new-old "double bow" sprung-steel
Meanwhile, I promised an end to the sheep shearing stories for this year with a quick mention of my new 'Jakoti' shears and how brilliant they turned out to be for trimming the 'frilly knickers' and other tufts of wool off sheep I did not do very well with the electric shears.

Ewes with tidy nethers.
You may recall that back in May when I was doing my own animals, I was still very nervous of cutting the sheep's Achilles tendons, ears, folds of skin at 'armpits' and so on - anywhere I thought the wide teeth of the stationary 'comb' part of the shear might fit round a narrow edge or corner. I tended to ease off and pull back near these places, so I left tufts of uncut wool around knees and heels, under throats etc.

The last knockings of that first 'Parma'
ham. The bones have gone for soup.
The new 'Jakoti' shears have proved themselves the perfect weapon for tidying up these frills and tufts, so Liz and I penned the sheep into our hurdle-pen in the cattle race and nipped round them all in fairly short order. I am pleased with the results, the now tidy sheep.

Ever bigger, the fast growing turkey youngsters.
Other than that we have just been chugging around here looking after the first two clutches of baby chicks (joined today by a possible third for 'Mint Patch Girl' but more on that in the next post) and releasing the Hubbard poults into their bigger pen.
Very first raspberries. 
All serene here.

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