Friday 13 October 2017

Soft you now, the fair Ophelia...

Hurricane Ophelia's predicted track. 
Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, this post finds us sitting here wondering whether the next few days will bring us brutal weather and the tree-toppling, airborne chicken house roof dramas of our former 'girlfriend', Storm Doris. If you believe the more dramatic and alarmist weather forecasters, we are looking down the barrel of Hurricane Ophelia.

Ophelia's southward track so far.
This angry young lady has already shown herself to be a bit weird, having formed up off the coast of Newfoundland and tracked SW down the US east coast before doing a small loop-the-loop and hanging a left out to sea off Florida. Not for her the usual targets of Haiti, Houston,Texas or Puerto Rico; she's steering well clear of Trump's Twitter storms.

The beech in the pig run starts to turn
I am, naturally, quite nervous despite this jokey bravado. We do not need any bad storms this winter. Friends of the Blog will recall that Storm Doris ripped a good bit of the roof off our main chicken house and this building spent the summer shored up with a nice new tarpaulin.

The plan was for K-Dub and I to replace the roof this year with corrugated iron salvaged from his house in Sligo, but the need to do the kitchen extension kind of got in the way. You can only do so many buildering projects a year. Re-roofing weather is probably done now till next spring, so our chicken house must go through this winter and Hurricane Ophelia (and friends) on a wing, a prayer and a hopefully strong tarpaulin. What could POSSibly go wrong? Soft you now, the fair Ophelia - be gentle with us.

Bank behind the poly tunnel now cleared of nettles and brambles
and over-hanging elder branches.
That said, we have had reasonably good weather so far and rain and wind have not yet interfered too much with the Autumn clear-ups I have been doing, working with my Help-X volunteer, AB. This is still mainly the wilder areas of perimeter including various neglected banks behind the poly tunnel. As well as nettles and weeds, these often have dumped piles of tree prunings and hedge cuttings which I could not burn on the day I cut them.

The bank also known as "The Turf Mine". Every home should
have one?
On one of these, regular readers may recall, we came across a buried stash of turf-fuel. The previous owner had obviously had a clamp of turf there which had at some stage been sheeted over with old (used) silage wrap and then piled up with good top-soil scraped from some other part of the farm. It has been, for us, the gift that keeps on giving - every time I need turf for fuel, I just clear some more weeds, burrow into the bank, pull out a few barrow loads to dry in the poly tunnel. Bingo.

Poly tunnel becomes turf-dryer for a few months. 
As part of the Autumn thing and part of battening down the hatches for the storm, we also decided to take down the Honeybee swarm 'lure box'. This, readers will recall, gets hung optimistically from the big ash tree down by the bee hive in the hope of tempting any emerging swarm to take up residence and not vanish over the horizon.

Brace comb created in the swarm-box.
Well, apart from a little flurry of comings and goings by scout bees from the hive when I first hoisted it into the tree (when you deploy it you load it with 'bait' of old comb, old honey and lemon-smelling plants like lemon balm or lemon grass), I had seen no activity.

Goat's cheese. Delicious. 
Bit of a surprise then, on getting it down and opening it, to find 4 nice chunks of "brace comb" in there. All dead and redundant now but there were some dead bees in there and some of the comb cells had obviously contained honey or pollen at one stage. No signs of any egg-laying or a brood nest, though.

I have perhaps been over-critical of the veg garden, suggesting
it was a disaster this year. It is giving us plenty of kale and chard
at this back end.
We are not experts, but we imagine that at some point during the year, while we were not watching, there was a swarm or a proper swarm followed by a 2nd "cast" swarm, probably with either no queen or a problem, infertile queen. These bees would have come out of the main hive, decided to set up in the swarm box and started to create wax comb where the new colony would be able to start storing honey and pollen. When no queen showed up or started successfully to lay eggs, this colony would have faded and died along with its new (start-up) workers, each bee only living about 6 weeks in summer here. Nice to know and Liz, at least, got the few ounces of beeswax from this.

Finally a bit of fun and a new experience for me. I have sheared sheep and clipped dogs but I had never done any human hair cuts. Today our Help-X lad decided that he was fed up with his flowing locks and that they were getting in the way of his 'farmering'. I joked that I could take him to the local barber's shop (lady rather nicely named "Barbara"!) or I could run the Wahl dog-clippers over him. He rather warily inspected the clippers (I think he thought they'd be as big and industrial as my shears!) and then decided that, hey, at least it'd save him the €10.

AB takes one for the team. Pics by Liz.
So, much to Liz's amusement we set up shop out front on the terrace furniture, I looked him in the eye one last time to check it was REALLY what he wanted and then went for it. No going back now, AB. 5 minutes later he was a "Number 5 all over" and delighted. For some reason Liz didn't choose to have the same and, when we went back indoors it was to find Towser, worried by the clipper noise, hunkered down in the tiny gap below the oven.

Young Scots pine all set up for next year. 
That's a bout it for this one.
Venison pie.
Keep your fingers crossed for us over the weekend and I hope to be able to post a safe, intact 'All Clear' post on Tuesday.

Mullein still in flower.

No comments: