Tuesday 28 November 2017

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord...

Stir up Sunday
A blog post with at least some of those words in it is by now almost an annual tradition. A blog of mystery and unpredictability, this is obviously not. We do love this process, though and can think of no finer way of creating the 'pud' and the Christmas cake. Off then on a special shopping mission on the Saturday (25th) and some of the dried fruit doused in Jameson overnight.

Hours of fun, too, on the Sunday adding final ingredients, mixing and doing the obligatory stirs before tipping the mixes into their respective cookware, lined with grease-proof or covered in same and foil, tied down with string like Mamma used to make. Now cooked too - 8 hours gentle blupping for the pud - and left to rest for the required amount of weeks. The icing of the cake is my department - I have a cunning plan but need to source some coloured icing, which could be tricky.

Temporary fences allow the sheep to access all areas. 
Friends of the Blog following our hosting of local gardening journalist, Paul Kirwan may have been expecting our story to appear in the Roscommon Herald today but unfortunately we got 'bumped'. Paul had had a story about his involvement in Golf Course "gardening" sitting on the back burner for weeks and the paper decided to go with that one this week. 'We' are therefore postponed to next week. More on that next week, maybe.

As bad as it got slush-wise.
We had a short burst of winter over the weekend. Nothing impressive or photogenic, just lots of raw, biting wind and wet wintry showers. No real frost either, so we are very sloppy under foot and pinned down to indoor jobs.

The ever reliable duck eggs. 
Rather bizarrely, our white Sussex hen, 'Connie', has decided to go broody. We have no idea why she thinks it is Spring but just maybe she has worked out that by doing the broody thing she can sit in a lovely warm nest in a shed and be given waiter-service on the food and water, protected from piratical 'sisters' trying to drop more eggs in on her by the cage I have built around her little hidey hole.

Not so much 'frozen' as covered in a
layer of part-melted slush. The pond
goes gun-metal grey.
I have, though, stitched her up. Not wanting any more chickens just for the moment, I have slipped 5 duck eggs under her. She will not be able to check on her diary but her instinctive Day-21 will come and go. Duck eggs take 24-28 days at least to incubate. Day 28 will put her right on Christmas Day so, with luck, our guests will get to see cute, new-hatched ducklings. Chickens will generally just sit tight, unaware of any problem and not visibly concerned that the chickens look a bit 'funny'. You do then need to take the babies off the Mum by about Day 10 because the Mums get quite upset that their babies will not learn to scratch and peck and do not try to stay dry. We'll have to see how that goes.

The turkeys are still thriving and impressing us with their size. We reared three because in previous years we have given them to family, one going to Sparks for a special dinner he used to do for a gang of his Dublin builder mates. Sparks is no longer in that world and now lives outside the capital, so tells us he doesn't need one, and neither, apparently, do any of the Silverwood gang so we have three turkeys and only ourselves and our guests to satisfy. Turkey for Easter anyone? St Patrick's Day?

Finally just a couple of pics for the usual reason, that I have them. First up, Lizzie. When you are wiped out by a cold and chilled to the bone, wrap up well in the 'onesie' and under a blanket. If that's not warm enough chuck a couple of cats and a dog on the bed too. Toasty.

Next up the two grown-up boy-cats, Blue and Soldier who have lately been fighting a bit over the best roosts and nests. Here they both grabbed the top of the book-case under the stairs, with their heads against the woodwork in a quiet stand off. Anywhere you can climb, I can climb higher? In the end Soldier blinked first and jumped down, leaving Blue to stretch out luxuriously across the case-top with a rather smug look on his face. The status quo is restored. For now.

Friday 24 November 2017

Some First Snow

'New' Potatoes from the poly-tunnel
The first snow flurries of this Winter are falling even as I put pen to paper (well, start tapping the keyboard, maybe) on this post. The day has been a bit like that, starting with a very gentle frost, mud still soft and the pond surface only a little bit 'crinkly'. It carried on cold with a biting breeze but shower clouds that always threatened a more crunchy version of rain. The wind is a strengthening NW-erly. More frost is forecast tonight.

Two more roosters get it in the neck. 
Not much to report. I am over my cold and back to full health. Liz is lagging a bit behind having waited a sensible 48 hours before catching it from me. She's still struggling with bursts of coughing and general sleepiness. She was probably a bit brave to accept the job of 'cleaning' two more roosters. No matter how careful you are there is always a certain amount "dander" comes off the feathers and poor Liz was pulling feathers with one hand and chugging cough medicine with the other. OK, maybe not, but you get the picture.

We are nearly through that nasty job now; six down and maybe 2 or 3 to go. These last 2 were, sadly, the beautiful black and gold birds who I have featured in an earlier post when I was still wishing they would stay as hens. No luck there - all three developed their male characteristics - lovely capes and tails, big, upright bodies and big flappy wattles to go with their tall combs. Roosters to a man. Bad move guys.

The Stanley range got a good 'muck-out'. If you use it 'idling',
ticking over with the air supply turned right down, it gradually
blocks up all its little baffles and convoluted airways with soot.
Like a car, it needs a good toasty roar up its 'venturis' to clean
it all out.  
They have killed out at just over 2 kg oven-ready. One is spatch-cocked for tonight's supper. Chickens don't come much fresher than that without plucking them while they are still warm! No food-miles, either. About 6 paces across the yard in my wellies.

Iris and Plum, our Mothers-of-pigs are both in the
family way.
Some progress to report off site. Our pig breeder/supplier (Hi Adrian) sends me a picture of his 2 'Mums', Plum and Iris, both of whom are in pig. This is promising news. If all goes well they will 'cook' for the famous "3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days", farrow successfully, and then 8 weeks later we could be back in the piggy game. April, maybe?

I have a new "friend" on Twitter, too, Irish author Felicity Hayes-McCoy. She popped up on one of the groups I was chatting on, chopped in with "Doing a small happy dance, having just hit the 75k word count on my latest #novel. Technically known as getting over the hump. 😊☕️🔥 #amwriting #amtakingabreak  #cupofteabythefire " I was amused by the idea of doing a 'happy dance' back while clutching cold-ridden hankies like some kind of manic Morris dancer and so we fell into conversation. I was almost finished my latest novel (a John le Carré) and was about to be out of reading material.

Back in the day I was a great fan of Maeve Binchy so when I asked Felicity what her books were like and she said "I think u'd like the series. My feelgood's like Maeve's - deffo not chick-lit, more can-do contemp rural Ireland - real-life (no leprechauns). Where funny, observational, not one-liners. Includes love; bolshy builders; dogs; county councillors; books. Lots of books. Also divorce.", that was good enough for me. Had to give her a try. I have now just received my first "FHMcC" from Amazon and am impressed by the first few chapters, anyway. I will let you know how I get on.

That's about it for this post. It seems to have stopped snowing for now (nothing "laid" or "stuck"). Keep warm and dry, everyone.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Plague Pit (a Hot Drop)

A "hot drop" for what ails you. Very
welcome when out exercising the dogs.
This is not a happy home the last few days. Both of us have been struck down by the 'lurgy'. It's just the common cold so don't go believing any bunkum you hear from me about man-flu, but it's very disabling and misery inducing. Colds are now, also nicely rare round here. When I was working in the UK my work involved moving between air-con offices and huge cold stores in a space shared by 600+ other fellow sufferers so I "always" seemed to be catching colds. It seemed like 3-4 a year and I can remember the 'weakling' shame of always being asked by our lovely neighbour (The Angel B), "have you got a cold AGAIN?"

No better lip-tingling marinade for the chicken stir fry when
the taste buds are a bit dull, than home made chilli oil.
Even then we would always generously stick the wedding vows... "all I have I share with you" .... and who ever caught the cold first would always try to share it with the other spouse.

When the jar of Hellman's "REAL" Mayonnaise runs out and
Liz is reduced to knocking up a quick bowl full of mayo from our
Free Range eggs. Hellman's is creamy white so our yellow mix
surely can't also be 'real'?
Now enjoying our outdoor lifestyle with no crowd of 600 warehousemen following me about and no air-con or cold stores, I have had a remarkable reduction in the colds per annum scores. We only ever get the one per year and sometimes, if memory serves, none at all. All the more annoying when you do pick one up, maybe.

By rigging some temporary fencing, I let the sheep get at the
grass on the walk BETWEEN their fields. They were more
interested in the ivy on the wall. 
Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining. Yes we have spent a few days dragging boxes of tissues round and dosing ourselves up on "Max Strength" Lemsip or taking ourselves off for extended naps (I took a "sickie" from Archery and Liz has, tonight, from Drama Group). But on the calendar was a note to strain the plum-vodka to separate the fruit from the booze after 3 months steeping. We kept the fruit, obviously, but the hooch proved to be delicious AND to be just too much to all fit in the posh bottle we had saved, so a small overflow ended up in a tiny tonic bottle. The cold sufferers found the idea of a 'hot drop' made with plum vodka instead of whiskey, very welcome when out exercising dogs on the breezy, drizzly front lawn. It was also a chance to break in my new(ish) thermos mug. Thank you Dan and Dan.

Not a brilliant pic but can you just see that the shell of this duck
egg is faintly ridged in a spiral pattern (in direction of the arrow).
The duck's vent must be grooved in spiral ridges like a gun barrel!
What else is new? Off on one of my missions into town, in this case for emergency supplies of (you guessed it) Lemsip and tissues, I spotted in a roadside paddock, 5 new outdoor piglets and immediately worked out that these must belong to some friends of ours, the man of which is a former pork butcher and ace maker of proper pork pies. I fired off a quick text to see if I could blag a cup of tea and an admire of the new piggies. Long story short, they are 13 week old weaners who are thriving and fast learning about electric fences. They are Gloucester Old Spots (crosses), 4 for the freezer and 1 as a keeper who will be joined by another breeding-quality gilt. The 2 ladies will be put to a Berkshire boar if our friends can find one.

The young turkey looking huge against the new chickens.
We also had a nice treat, a visit by the gardening journalist for the local paper who asked to look round the place and interview us about how we garden. Local readers may know this guy as Paul Kirwan, gardening writer for the Roscommon Herald but I must admit I only knew him as "the guy who runs the garden centre attached to the farmers' co-op in Balla-D, "Aurivo". Well, Paul came round yesterday just before it got dark and walked round the garden while we chatted and then enjoyed a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake when we adjourned indoors. Lovely bloke - fascinating story. 'We' should appear in the Herald which comes out next Tuesday (28th Nov) if you're interested and we will definitely be grabbing a couple of copies for our own interest and friends and family. Assuming he says nice things about our messy weed patch, of course!

Friday 17 November 2017

Hey! Those are MY Legs!

2 Calendars from the OSB Facebook groups. Pork on the left and
whole pigs on the right. 
As well as the Village Calendar, which I have already described in this blog, we get involved in a number of others. For the Village one, Liz is the main 'mover and shaker' and my contribution is in the photography and sometimes, collecting the box of printed ones from the printers (DS Signs of Ballaghaderreen, in that case).

Those are my whole legs on the left, being cured for the 'Parma'
style hams and bottom left on the right hand calendar is me
serving this year's pair their Guinness for their 6 month 'Birthday'.
Both these pics have appeared in this blog.
2 others come out of the Facebook groups for the breed of pig we have kept for the last 2 years, being 'Oxford Sandy and Black' or OSB for short. One group is for the pig keepers and breeders, so tends to go in for proud pics of people's lovely healthy pigs or cute piglets. The other is for the meat-production and charcuterie side so attracts the butchers, sausage makers, bakers and chefs. A lot of people are in both groups though I guess there are those who like their pigs as pets and friends and draw a veil over the original purpose of keeping OSBs. I have no problem with that. Each to their own.

All quiet in the Autumn sunshine. Pig Paddock.
I am in both groups and enjoy posting nice pics of our pig activities throughout the year and I was delighted when the lady in charge (Kim Brook) posted that she was assembling these calendars for 2018 and had liked some of my pics. She wanted clearance to use them which, of course, I gave.

Blue has been up on the chicken house roof. 
Both these calendars follow the same format, with not one big picture per month, but little montages of 5 or 6 images. They are very reasonably priced, so I bought one of each and, leafing through them I was delighted to find 3 of my pics, all of which have appeared already in this blog (and in my Facebook feed, of course).

Bobtail with three of her 4 ever-bigger chicks. We love the little
'Mini-Me' on the left, almost certainly a pure-bred Buff Orpington.
My pic of the pair of whole legs being cured for the 'Parma' style ham is there and the one of me crouched down with this year's pigs, serving them their Guinness at 6 months old. Both these are on their respective May page. Then on the December page for the 'meat' calendar is our old chum, Help-X Frenchman, Augustin. That neatly solves any problem we might have finding a small Christmas Present should we need one but shhhhhhh. Secret Santa! He may still be reading this.

This tiny rooster has avoided the cull by charming the Lady
of the House with his lovely iridescent green tail and red cape.
Green and red, so obviously he picked up the name 'Mayo'. 
Not much else going on as we cruise gently in towards Winter. I have already covered that the village drama group have settled on a play (Anyone Could Rob a Bank) which sounds like a real hoot of a hilarious farce. All parts have been cast and all other main jobs handed out. We'll say no more at this stage as I don't want to be stealing anyone's thunder or letting any theatrical cats out of bags.

Horse chestnut buds.
The cull of spare roosters has been parked up for now. We finished the biggest and most troublesome 6 and it has now gone very quiet and calm. The remaining young pretenders are keeping a wise low profile and not challenging our status quo or, indeed, trying to seduce any of the original ladies. If they keep that up, then they can stay for now. No more Death Warrants will be issued.

Always the last to go to bed. The ducks would hang about in the yard waiting for Mr Fox if we let them but they are happy to be shepherded home to the safety of the barn by about 5 pm. Everyone else is away and perched up long since. On that note I will also wish you readers good night too.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

'Oveja' está en el Congelador

A fine looking carcass
'Oveja' está en el congelador ('Oveja' (The ewe) is in the freezer). One good up-beat story tonight and, I'm sad to relate, a couple of less happy ones. First up, after the mixed feelings of slaughter-day and taking our bought-in ewe lamb (Oveja) on her last journey to town, a week later we get the happy job of seeing the carcass butchered up and bringing home the product.

Ignatius splits the carcass
We have a lot of time for the guys down there in Castlerea (Joe the Slaughterman and Ignatius G (Victualler). It is lovely to watch them work and we chat away. Do we want the legs as halves? Do we want the full shoulder or gigot-chops? Do we want the chops as 'racks' and how many chops to a rack?

Labelled for the freezer after cat inspection
I love the old chopping block in that shop - a massive lump of wood on a robust looking stand of darker wood. The block is actually made as a parquet-floor style bundle of smaller blocks, surrounded by a rim of thick planks and strapped at each corner with thick wrought-iron 90º pieces.

We got one rack back as chops so that we
could give a couple to a neighbour.  We
"tidied up" the rest in house.
By now it is shaped into big sweeping curves where they have chopped out big 'valleys' over time and left ridges, then obviously spun it round 180º at one stage and turned it over to use the other side. (I should have grabbed a photo, shouldn't I?). I asked them how long a block like that would last. Ignatius told me that 'this one' was 35 years old. The lads have had the shop about 40 years at this stage and there is an equally venerable block out 'back' which they got when they first bought the shop and had it 'done up'. Lovely.

A lovely "pie" to go with those chops. Leeks and cream cheese
The meat is now home, labelled and stashed in the freezer. This was only one lamb so we both doubt the store will see the year out but all being well the first 2018 babies might be born in January, so by June/July we might be able to restock. That's if Pedro (our new ram) continues to behave himself.

The 'late' Prada from my post on 19th Aug
My first "less happy" story involves the sad loss of our good friends, Sue and Rob's gorgeous St Bernard dog, 'Prada'. Sorry for your loss, S+R, we know how close you were to that lovely, soft old girl and how much she will be missed. Our commiserations.

Red sky in the morning? It rained all day.
These massive dogs do not tend to live very long because (Sue tells me) the heart was never really bred to cope with the size of the dog. S+R have always had St Bernards but have never managed to 'keep' one beyond about 5 years. Prada was 7/8 so the longest lived St-B they had ever had and they were always amazed by her. Rest in Peace, you gentle giant. We will miss you too.

The last of that lovely cream cheese went with bagels
and (properly) smoked salmon.
Finally another loss and this one I need to do on that 'no names no pack drill' basis which I do when I do not have the blessing of the main players. This one is the sad loss of the biological mother of a little girl who is very dear to us. Our deepest sympathies. Those concerned will know who I am talking about here. Sorry for your loss.

Rob took this lovely pic of Prada just
enjoying the company of their Grandson
as he fished. Happy days. 
That is probably enough for this post. Look after yourselves

Friday 10 November 2017

Cull a Cock Curry

Skinny light-weights. These roosters we are
culling are not even 21 weeks old yet, so
they are only making weights of 1.5-1.7 kg
in oven-ready form.
A genuinely short post this time as very little is currently happening. Even the one positive 'story' we had planned for today was postponed for 2 weeks. That was the arrival of our two new Guinea hens. The friend who was going to arrive with them was not, for various reasons, able to identify 2 females for us and then isolate them. Sexing Guinea Fowl is notoriously hard and usually based upon the females calling "buckwheat buckwheat" and the males not. If you are looking at a pen full of birds who are not calling, you are a bit stumped, as you can imagine. Better luck in the next fortnight, Billy.

What's in YOUR freezer? Although ours (plural) are well set
up, organized and everything labelled we do sometimes get nice
surprises, like this goodly rack of venison chops.
We have started the process of culling out these spare roosters. I killed 2 last night after lock-up. Going in there in the dark with just the head torch is the quietest way we have found. Nobody panics around flapping. The bird just allows himself to be "grabbed" enfolding his wings and carried out. Our normal system here is for me to rear and then kill the birds, which are then presented to Liz who processes them through the plucking and cleaning out stages. She loves that job and gets herself set up with a Radio 4 "In Our Time" pod or an Agatha Christie play on the laptop.

4 litres of goat's milk for the next cheese.
Thanks Sue and Rob.
The roosters here are being culled out to remove a 'too many men' problem, rather than because they are ready to eat. They are less than 21 weeks old so quite light-weight and, when plucked out look very rangy and skinny. They weigh in, oven-ready, at 1.5 to 1.7 kg which looks and feels very little when you are used to meaty Hubbard carcasses which go 3.5 kg at 80 days.

Ginger Wine (also from S+R). Sweet and
a bit 'viscous', more like a liqueur.
We don't mind that at all though. The Hubbards we always joint up prior to freezing because the two of us cannot manage more than a few bits (a thigh each or maybe 2 drumsticks). These little fellas do not need any of that - we will roast (or curry, or 'au vin', or spatch-cock or whatever) the whole bird and eat half each like you would with a poussin.

Cream cheese under construction. 
We took our fertile (we hope) duck eggs over to Sue and Rob's to go in their incubator, this being our plan to up the number of ducks on site. I took, as well, a load of empty plastic 2 and 3 litre milk bottles, which they use for the goat milking. I also took a small incubator part (con-rod for the egg rocker servo) which I had repaired, plus got a chance to admire their newly borrowed Suffolk ram. This guy has come from a nearby farm and was the lad we were also going to use but we then decided to keep bought-in ram lamb 'Pedro'. He is 4 years old, big and magnificent. He has already been 'at work', Rob told me, so they are hoping for lambs in April.

"Play" Station? Liz is inputting the entire text of the Drama
Group's chosen play into a word document.
When you go to S+R's bearing gifts, you never seem to come away empty handed. I came away with 4 litres of goat's milk, a bottle of ginger wine to try and a stack of old egg boxes, useful for when we next in 'glut' mode. Thanks Sue and Rob. You guys are the salt of the earth.

That's about it. Just a couple more pics because I have them. This one is of me sitting down to enjoy a farming 'pod' and quickly being invaded by dog 'Towser' and cat 'Chivers'. It was taken by Liz but I was very amused by the state of my feet which look about 2" too long and pointy at the ends. My socks must have ridden down when I was last in my wellies and I have not noticed. Ah well.

Then we found in the fridge, in need of using up by Stir-up Sunday, one of last year's Christmas puds - it frees up the silver thru'pences and the basin, you understand. In this house we go with the Hastings tradition of making the recipient of the slice choose whether the server cut to their left or right, so that they cannot see the coinage sticking out and 'cheat'. Here the coin is arrowed in yellow. And , no, I am not going to wish anyone a 'Merry Christmas' just yet - it's still early November.

Tuesday 7 November 2017

A Million Hens but No Eggs?

This very late cousin of "The Bishop" dahlia sneaks a few
flowers out before the first frost.
As I put out the 'Sold Out' sign on the egg Honesty Box again, I rue the bad timing that had me starting those sales just as, it seemed to me, the egg production dried up. I go round each morning and collect 2 or 3 duck eggs from the ever-reliable Khaki Campbells and then, at the moment, pick up the very sporadic 1-3 hen eggs through the day from the various hidey holes.

An unidentified fungus from the front lawn. 
We are knee deep in young chickens at present. We must have around 30 chickens total but regular readers will know that 26 of these are still deciding whether to shout cock-a-doodle-doo or to lay an egg. The old guard are currently on go-slow, presumably due to the weather.

Egg production stats.
It is not, in fact, as bad as it seems. Way back when we first came over, I used to haunt various Internet discussion groups on the subject of keeping chickens (Fowl.IE was one) and someone on there suggested we all keep score on our egg laying. I have done so ever since. I can see from these data that the current situation is by no means unprecedented and the current year is probably the best yet.

These things go in peaks and troughs. The total eggs produced in 2015 was 1639, 2016 was only 926 and this year we have 1563 so far and every chance of topping 2015's total by Dec 31st. Last year the hens laid fewer than 100 eggs per month from May right round to October even before half were wiped out by our fox attack in November. This year no months have seen hen eggs below 100 and we had 199 in May and 200 in August. Do not despair you poultry-watchers.

The late 'Oveja', bought-in ewe lamb.
Obviously we hope for a smart pick-up around Christmas as these new birds come of age and we are also upping the ante soon with our addition of 2 female Guinea Fowl. Also today, we have decided to increase the number of ducks so we have contacted friends Sue and Rob to arrange to bring them over half a dozen eggs to put in their incubator. These will be Khaki Campbell again though we may, at some point, look at a few more meaty birds - Muscovies for example.

Talking of 'meat' I noted in the previous post that our bought-in ewe lamb, 'Oveja' had come up ready, so we had booked her in for her final journey on Monday. I still hate these days - they feel like such a betrayal - but we have now done them enough that I am more confident that all the feared things that might go wrong, no longer scare me so much - Will we be able to catch the lambs? Will the trailer break? Will the car break down? Will the butcher reject them? Will the paperwork be OK? Will we be able to kiss them goodbye?

First 'fruits' - the offal, which you collect on D+1. Left to right
 here, kidneys still in their (suet) jackets, liver, heart and lungs.
The carcass hangs a week and will be collected next Monday.
We are now almost casual about it. I was determined this time not to drive Liz the usual amount of crazy with my pacing, worrying and drumming my fingers on the table. We shared a leisured tea/coffee, ran the sheep across to the race, separated and loaded our required 'cargo' (just Oveja), drove to Castlerea, unloaded and processed paperwork, swapped instructions with the butcher-guys and adjourned to nearby Benny's Deli for a croissant-based breakfast. Pride in a job well done.

We even 'got away with' that risk of having to drop your one sheep into the lonely empty 'lairage' pen where she would 'baa' piteously at you as you drove away - the pen had 6 ewe lambs already in it, so Oveja sprinted in there to be with her new 'friends'. Safety in numbers... for a while anyway. Today I picked up the offal but I did not see Joe, the slaughterman. I had asked him to check for me whether the lass was pregnant. When ewe lambs are run with their brothers past 5-6 months this can often happen and in our case it might give us an early indication that Oveja's brother 'Pedro' who we plan to keep as our breeding ram, is able for this job. Not very "nice", but one of those hard facts of life.

Village Calendar 2018
Meanwhile, Liz has created the next year's Village Calendar again based upon pictures from the 2016/7 "Lisacul 365" project, our photographic portrait of the 18 townlands as a 'Year in the Life'. Liz decided this time to mainly choose 'nature' pictures, so they are, I am proud to say, mainly mine. The calendar is a lovely thing and, this year, they are selling at only €5 (it was €10 last year) and going like hot cakes. Liz is looking at a 2nd print-run as the supply dwindles. If you want one (or more - they would be great stocking fillers) go to the village website - LisaculInfo.ie .

Hard to beat a good 'Cosyglo' fire. 
Liz's other main project at the moment, the Village Play, is also progressing. The group have been reading through various plays proposed by the 'boss' (Tom C) but have only had print-outs of olde-font play-scripts in PDF format to work with, so Liz has started typing these into her laptop so that they have a live version they can mess with as desired. The first (Her Step Husband by Larry Johnson) was over 30,000 words so it took her a while. To no avail, as it turned out - the players have now settled on 'Anyone Could Rob a Bank' by Tom Coffey (1960) and all the actors have now been cast, so Liz is going to have to get the laptop out again and fiddle another 20,000+ words into it. Ah well. Life is never easy for an Assistant Producer.

While we are on creative writing, I have just completed another week (my 3rd) as curator of the @SmallHolderIRL Twitter account, the 'voice of Irish small holders', if you like. I seem to go down OK on there and it suits my style of chattering and wittering. My Dad would have used the words "Happy" and "Garrulous", I expect, but hey, it works for me. I always get good feedback and also I get asked back to do it again so it can't all be bad.

This is not my picture, but may well have been 'my' buzzard.
Pic is by Michael Bell, who goes on Twitter as @learnnature
and was taken in Ballyleague (Co Roscommon). 
Finally I am in between, currently, the various wild-life recording events to which I contribute, on the (Irish) National Bio-Diversity database. The bumblebee survey finishes at the end of October and we don't start the big bird-watch till the end of November. What I do in the meantime is input any sightings I see of anything note-worthy including roadkill. Exciting, then, to see my first buzzard since I've been here. I am not even sure it was a buzzard (though I thought so) - it was soaring in the blue sky with its wings held in a rather high 'V', so more like a harrier but it was against the sun, so I could only see the black silhouette. It was nice later that day to get a post by Liz re-sharing a pic taken by a guy (Michael Bell, who Tweets under the name @LearnNature ) who had photo'd 2 buzzards soaring over Ballyleague. That town is a good 50 minutes drive east from here, right over by the River Shannon, but I'd seen my buzzard at 10 am and he was making good speed over the ground, so it might just have been the same bird.

....And that is enough for now. Good Luck.