Wednesday 16 August 2017

Mind the Bike

Dan and Dan sign the Register in a gently rocking
Friends of the Blog, frequent visitors and happy couple, Dan and Dan(ielle) were last seen about to take that stroll up The Aisle on board a cruise ship somewhere in the Med. Congratulations you guys; you obviously nailed it and sent us a rake of pictures to prove it. You both look splendid and look to be having a having a whale of a time. The very happiest and brightest of futures to both of you and we hope to see you again soon in your new guises and Mr and Mrs Dan. Thank you for sharing the day with us via social media.

Meanwhile, back in Roscommon, we are all feeling a bit quiet and subdued after the departure of "our Spanish lads", the Help-X pair, Manu and Pedro. They have moved on to a smallholding with horses near Blessington and we hope they are enjoying themselves  (almost) as much as they did here. They tell me there is no broad-band there, though, so they are reduced to text messaging and so on. We have written them a good review on the Help-X website and they may well write one about us. It should all help both parties find work or workers next year.

2 kinds of Spanish ham
We have been enjoying the wonderful 'stuff' the boys left in their wake and not just the 2 kinds of Spanish ham they surprised us with as their final act before getting into the car for their run to the railway station, one a big fat salami sausage, the other finely sliced 'Serrano' type ham.

Totem man carved by the lads
We've also been wandering round with big grins on our faces at the extremely tidy, parkland type look of our place and at the 'Easter Island Man' totem pole fella just inside our gate.

Back to normal for us, then (or what counts for normal round here), tidying, post-visit blitzing (tho' the guys were very tidy and generated very little mess) , a mountain of postponed laundry and ironing, repairing a couple of tools which did not survive the boot-camp, shopping and that sort of thing.

Puff balls
The old redundant, grassed over cow-muck heap behind what is now our goose house, celebrated by yielding half a dozen nice fresh white puff-balls. These have appeared before but we have never bothered with them and left them to go 'puff' with their dark green spores.

Lentils with sliced runner beans and puffball as part of a curry
This time, I dived on 3 of them and brought them in to see if we could do a 'Food for Free' forage recipe. Liz quickly rattled up some recipes off the Internet and the puffballs have appeared for a couple of nights now as the 'mushroom' part of various dishes. We agree with the Internet advice that they have a very delicate (absent?) flavour and are best used "as tofu" as a creamy bland base for other flavours.

Beeblebrox's ever bigger chicks. 
I suppose I should quickly add a Health Warning for anyone reading this and trying to follow suit. Wild mushrooms and toadstools can be very poisonous and can be difficult to ID one from another. Small puffballs can look a lot like the scary 'Amanita' toadstool when it is still inside it's 'cowl' so you should always slice your prospective puffball in half down the middle to check that you have an amorphous white lump, not an embryonic mushroom- shaped structure about to burst out of it's ball-shaped cover. Also, make sure you are eating these guys fresh and white. Any discolouration of the flesh and they have gone over and may not be safe.

Honda Gold Wing under cover
Just for a change, we have been minding an enormous motor bike for some friends. It has gone 'home' now, so I am safe to reveal the fact. These are new friends, Les and Jean who are just starting in the Irish Smallholding game. They have bought the place a few km due south of here and have dropped in a couple of times to drop stuff and do a few bits, but they have not yet nailed down the immigration/changing jobs/money side of things. Jean is still working in the UK and Les is only at leisure because his work involves a school, so he is on Summer Hols.

How much dashboard do you need on a bike?
We got the bike to mind while they were both going to be away from their new place. We are not bikers but I had, at least heard of this beast, the Honda Gold Wing (Lead Wing to its detractors because of the weight).

It is a huge 'touring' style beast with very comfy leather armchair seats and a cocoon of panniers, boxes and storage baskets. The dashboard is a ridiculously well equipped panel like a plane cockpit with stereo speakers included. The engine, at 1500 cc is 50% bigger than the one in our car and the bike has a reverse gear! Launched in 1979 (Les tells me) these beasts are still for sale new but with an 1800 cc engine and costing around £24,000 (Sterling). So, a lot more than a new Fiat Panda then! No thanks, Bikers, you can keep that one. Les's isn't new, of course but he tells me he sold a classic old convertible Jag to find the money to buy this one.

Liz is producing some lovely clean carcasses and the birds are
making good weights. The last 4 have been 2.2, 2.5, 2.8 and
2.9 kg respectively. Not bad for 72 day old fowl.
Finally, as the Hubbard birds come up to 70 days old, we have started "harvesting" them in earnest. This is rather early compared to the advised age for full free-range ("slow grown") ones but we want to off them all by Liz's Birthday, so we have been sorting 2 a day. By now Liz is skillful enough at the plucking and dressing that the birds come out a lovely clean carcass and the last 4 have made very good weights oven ready; 2.2, 2.5, 2.8 and 2.9 kg.

These Lidl supermarket "cheapie" lilies have been a revelation.
In their tub just outside the front door, Liz tells me she can smell
them 15 feet away while pruning the roses and if we leave the
front door open, their scent fills the house. 
Amazingly, this batch of 12 chicks contained only one rooster. The chances of that would be 1 in 4096 (0.5 times 0.5, 12 times) but it doesn't really matter when you are only growing the birds for 70-80 days. The roosters may go slightly bigger but not much and we are more than happy with our 5-6 lb birds. 5 lb is way more than we two need for a meal, so most of them end up jointed up and the freezer fills up with bags labelled "4 Hubbard thighs" or what ever. It is, as ever, the most delicious, meaty and succulent chicken you are ever likely to eat. If you can, you smallholders, try to get hold of these Hubbard day-olds as your raw material for chicken-meat birds.

That is about it for this one. Catch up with you next time.

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