Saturday 31 March 2018

The Struggling Writer in his Garret

Welcome aboard, Dan
We accommodate all flavours of holiday maker here. Our current visitor is (Mr) Dan of  'Dan and Dan' fame, frequent visitors and Friends of the Blog, married last year on that cruise ship off Italy. 'Mrs Dan' is famously the more enthusiastic about our livestock and was here with her Mum (Cousin Cathy), if you recall, a few weeks back, narrowly missing our ewe 'Rosie' having her twins and failing to see any ducklings hatch.

The best kind of 'struggling writer' came
bearing gifts. Thanks Dan!
This Spring, the couple had decided to visit separately because Mrs Dan wanted to treat her Mum to a birthday break, while Dan's visit needed to give him a week of total peace and quiet in which to write up a thesis as part of his final marks on his University "Masters" degree.

The writer in his garret. Also known as our
spare bedroom.
The 'Uni' in this case is London School of Economics, the Masters is in Business Management and the Thesis is in "Supply Chain Resilience" That subject is one close to our hearts as it was my bread and butter for most of my working life but is also currently quite topical and timely following well publicised failures in Danish shipping giant Maersk and in my own company, DHL's abortive attempt to take over chicken distribution for KFC. The former was as a result of a massive cyber 'hack'. The latter was just a dog's breakfast comedy of errors.

Emerging now and again for food.
So, Dan is here for a short week, closeted in the spare room where we have borrowed him a desk and given him a chair and even 2 turkey feathers for quills. He works away in 4 hour+ bursts emerging only occasionally for tea and stopping (otherwise) for just his meals and to sleep. He has 6000 words of brilliance to create by Tuesday and has already done a lot of taped interviewing with people in the business, which he is able to upload to a voice-recognition website which transcribes the audio and gives it back to you as text. Sometimes the text is even quite accurate but he still has to spend hours proof reading it to make sure his thesis makes sense. At other times he has to go on conference calls for his 'proper job'; this course is only really an allowed study-sabbatical. He also works well into the evening after supper, so we leave him alone for three hours or so when we nip off to the latest play rehearsal. He is getting on OK and is still on schedule to complete by Tuesday.

A tangle of lambs round his legs as Dan tries
to line up the bottle on the correct lamb's mouth.
He allowed himself one little 10 minute distraction when he decided to tease Mrs Dan by being caught on camera, bottle feeding the little ewe-lamb which she was so fed up to have missed being born. We were a bit concerned that this could be the end of a short but happy marriage but Dan happily pinged them across to Mrs Dan on 'messenger' and within seconds (he said) drew out the expected jokey/angry phone call.

The brilliant play-set created by the guys at the CE scheme.
Other than that, life has been all about The Play which is now getting scarily close. Dress Rehearsal is only 2 days away on Monday evening, and the performances are on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. By now, of course, they have the set built on the stage and everyone is mightily impressed and delighted with it. It features a 'Rayburn' style range made from the real, metal front and top but built to a wooden carcass as well as an old dresser for the 'good china' which had to be given 2 new doors made to look in keeping. Elizabeth stepped from 'Producer' to 'props' dept for an afternoon to knock out some matching curtains and cushion covers out of an old duvet cover, on the sewing machine.

The Players rehearsing a scene from "Anyone Can Rob a Bank"
The Lisacul Players are now in parachutists "ground-rush" mode, cramming in rehearsals every evening and even a couple to fine tune one of the acts on Sunday afternoon. No spoilers on this blog, of course, suffice to say it is all frantic hard work as the deadline looms, but "The Show will go on" and I'm predicting it will be a superb, funny success which will delight the audience and leave the team all exhausted but elated. Watch this space for progress reports.

Liz jointing up a turkey.
(Typing is interrupted at this point by the Guinea Fowl kicking off their alarm, and me letting the dogs loose just as the Heavens opened and a huge hail storm comes down. The dogs may or may not have found a scent-trail but they give up half way across the 5-acre field and race back to get under cover from the hail. Their route home crosses that of dozens of hens and roosters fleeing for cover too and I even saw the whole flock of ewes and lambs racing for the shelter. If Brer Fox was indeed on site and snatched a bird, then I suppose we should leave him welcome to that one.)

Clearing out the 'office' under the stairs.
...Which rather distracted me from my train of thought. What else is new? With the loss of my trusty old PC, the house lost the need for my own 'garret' - the little cubby hole under the stairs which had become an office and glory-hole. The Interior Design Department feel there are far better (and more attractive) uses for this space including, possibly, a comfy chair for herself, so the area is being dismantled for all my bodged shelving and the accumulated junk found better homes (or consigned to the wheelie bins in the best tradition of de-cluttering).

The late Cathy Chapman, featured in the
previous post (plus dog, Kes)
I suspect that is enough for now.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

'Tis the Season

No Turkeys! Out on that bank on our boundary, where Mr Fox
definitely comes patrolling, is NOT a good place to nest.
British Summer Time. Nice long evenings and the dogs waking me up a good hour later than they have been, driven as they are by their own light-level triggers. Spring is sprung and all that. 'Tis the season for procreational activities to break out all over, sometimes covertly.

Occupational hazard of fencing in these parts.
'Tis also the season for everyone to shore up those winter-damaged fences prior to letting the cattle out to the welcome grass. I got involved a bit in order to help a friend and came back with the usual lacerated forearms from the brambles, hawthorn and blackthorn. This was an early morning job, so Elizabeth found herself in charge of fox watch. The fox has never (yet) attacked in an early morning, so she thought she'd be safe enough snatching a rare 'lie-in' and covering the task sitting up in bed. The dogs were up there too so surely nothing could happen 'out there' which she'd not be aware of. Safe enough, you'd think.

Turkey eggs "hidden" in the scrub.
The morning's peaceful relaxing was shattered when the dogs suddenly started shouting and bouncing around on the windowsill. The Guinea fowl were also yelling and a quick look showed our fox-watch that at least one was up on a high perch. Jumping to the conclusion that Brer Fox was among us again, she raced down and outside, releasing the dogs to go do their thing.

The three ducks gave me a scare when the female fell asleep
on an dead clump of Lady's Mantle. She was so well matched
in colour, I thought we were down to 2 ducks.
A few minutes of retrieving Towser from the tarmac lane where he'd gone to round up the confused Guineas and the only reason for the shout seemed to be that 'tis also the season for roosters to start fighting and two of them were going hammer and tongs in the middle of the front lawn. Our dogs are, by now, pretty cool with 'ordinary' chickens but if they see a fight going on, fluttering and kicking, feathers flying the 'distressed prey animal / easy target' thing kicks in and they will as likely as not have a lunge.

So Mrs C was by now wide awake, of course and in her thorough search of the area, came across another 'Tis the Season' thing, a little clump of three turkey eggs hidden under some fine tree branches but right out by the bank over which Brer Fox comes when he does visit. Not a very sensible place to nest, Mrs Turk. (Gloria or Deo, we do not know whom yet.).

Some first "dandelions" for the bees. These
are coltsfoot, (Tussilago farfara)
Friends of the blog may recall that we lost our first turkey hen when she went right off site to go broody and never came back, presumably discovered by an earlier fox. We are pleased that this girl has at least nested on site and that we have found her. If we leave her a few eggs in the nest, she should keep laying there and not get upset and go off to find somewhere further afield to lay. If we let her build up a full clutch and go broody, we may be able to move her and the eggs to a safer place without making her desert.

Gandalf. King of the Hill.
So, as I said, 'tis also the season for roosters to start eyeing up their rivals 'women' covetously and even making the odd move on them. Our alpha-male, Gandalf is top dog here and it is his much smaller rival 'Herme' the Buff Orpington who is always looking to take over. We have two other much younger roo's, who run smaller gangs of peripheral hens, but they are not moving in on the top spot just yet. It was Gandalf and Herme who were doing the kick boxing display on the lawn that woke the dogs up.

Battle scarred Herme.
We wish these boys had a stronger sense of 'self awareness' and copped on a bit quicker that they were losing this fight and should probably pull out and run away. Herme seems to have no such rationale and he keeps in trying even though he is getting 7 bells kicked out of him. He comes away with his facial bits (wattles, comb, beak) well blooded. Those are long, sharp spurs on Gandalf's legs and Herme has no such equipment. Ah well. The fights are fast and furious but always finish just before we need to intervene. It's nature's way and we have plenty of space for the boys to keep apart if they prefer to.

Mucking out the lambing pens and
dismantling them. I get my shed back!
'Tis also the season to be done with lambing and I get that lovely (well, I enjoy it!) seasonal landmark task of mucking out the lambing pen(s) and dismantling them. I get my shed back. This year we have a minor 'hang-over' of that lamb, Bábóg, who needs bottle feeding and will continue to need that till she is weaned off the milk.

Rosie and her twins. Bábóg is on the right.
She is now on full bottle (500 ml) feeds 4 times a day, all now out in the field where she lives happily with her Mum, brother and all the other sheep. Mum likes to keep her close but will not let her suckle. The final feed of each day, 10 pm, is now in the dark, obviously, so we have fun wandering about the field with the LED head torch looking for the reflections of eyes, then hear the excited bleat and watch one pair of eyes detach from the group and come bouncing across the field in the darkness, homing in unerringly on that bottle-teat.

All is now well on the laptop. The PC is destined for the WEEE
What else is new? I am now settled into the laptop after causing only one quick wobble when I logged in as the owner and somehow changed her user account name to my email address. There were a couple of anxious hours while Mrs C worked out how to get admin rights and change the name back, plus to set me up an account where I could safely clomp about in my size 12 boots and not do any damage to 'her stuff'.

Finally. 'tis the season for baby chicks. These are Silvergirl's.
Finally, I just want to note the passing away of an English 'character' from this blog but way back in the Kent days, when life was all about the rebuild on the Thames sailing barge, SB Cambria. Two colleague-volunteers, Mark and Cathy Chapman had been on that project for years by the time I started and we had plenty of good times working with them. Cathy was English born (Edmonton) but unknown to me then, her roots were right here in Co Roscommon. Her Mum is still very much alive, but her Grandma was buried 20 minutes from here in the small town of Bellanagare. There are no other family here now, though some cousins live down in the SE, around Tallow. Cathy has since, sadly, died of cancer (aged 52) and expressed a wish that her ashes be brought 'home' to Grandma's gravesite for scattering or burial. So today a small dozen of us gathered at the graveside with a Priest to bury her ashes-urn and pay our final respects. Rest in Peace, Cathy and commiserations to Mark and to the rest of the family. Mark was delighted that he has an old friend reasonably near to his wife's grave who can "keep an eye on her".

Saturday 24 March 2018

Meet the Grandchildren

That play poster. Rehearsals are coming along
really well. It promises to be a superb production.
If you are looking to go, buy your tickets soon .
Some of the days are selling out already.
Bit of a mixed bag today and the first post on the borrowed laptop where I'm not 100% yet on the very sensitive keyboard or some of the options. If this post looks a bit ropy compared to normal (or better!) then bear with me and I'll wear it in like a new pair of boots. Elizabeth will probably never want to use it again and already does a good line in laughing at my typing rhythm. I use only first fingers and the occasional thumb on the space bar. I'm reasonably quick but will obviously never get as fast as a proper, 8 fingers and 2 thumbs typist.

Last knockings of the Christmas leg of ham. It has been splendid
throughout and the skeleton is now being turned into the best
stock for pea+ham soup EVER. 
To slow me down even more, the 'caterers' have just passed me a superb plate of our own 'Parma' (style) ham and wee dice of galia melon. This has been a superb product throughout and only now, in mid March, am I nibbling the last few scraps off the bones with my fancy, long-bladed, special Spanish ham carving knife.

The tiny cradle that takes the '2032' lithium battery.
But back to the sudden need for a laptop. The PC has finally died and will no longer load Google Chrome. We had read on the Internet that these "imminent death" warnings are just an artefact of the tiny, euro-coin sized lithium battery in your Mother-Board going flat. Like us, you may not have known that such a battery existed but may I assure you it does.

Flowering currant just starting.
Do not rush to stock up on these 70 cent batteries, however, because I fitted my new one this morning and I can further assure you it made not 70 cents worth of difference. Ah well. Our 2nd 'fix-it' option is that Mrs C buys a tablet and I inherit the laptop. That's the next move.

Some early uncrossed buns. They were lovely!
A minor rant, then. We wish that the companies that made medicine for sheeps, would cater better for we small holders who only have half a dozen sheep to treat,

The turkeys and Guineas were starting to damage the Spring
bulbs. We rescued the pots to a strawberry cage.
I needed to buy a fluke-drench for my 4 and the smallest quantity I could buy was a 1 litre bottle. The dose per ewe is 5.25 millilitres, so I have 190 doses here and the product only has a 2 year shelf life. We smallholders end up trying to buy co-operatively between a number of us, or risk throwing 9/10 of the stuff away. The bottle was €29.99 which is not a killer, but I'd love to have been able to buy the  25 ml bottle at a tenner. How about it big-pharma?

'Shawn' the dog? Deefer, post clip
The dogs got their long overdue clip. They were all three very shaggy and Deefer, especially, tangles her hair into dirty 'rat's tails', so I chose the first warm day and had at them. Deefer got done slowly, using my 3mm clipper head sliding slowly under all that tangle. All three came out looking like new lambs. Their hair was as short as a Jack Russell and they were sparkling white. Also soft and felty to the touch rather than 'ropy' and reminiscent if dreadlocks.

Daisy 'Dook' looking as cool as....
On the Thursday night, I went along with Elizabeth to watch the latest rehearsal of the village play, "Anyone Can Rob a Bank" and to take some pics for the website. No spoilers obviously, but it is looking very promising for a real fun evening. The Lisacul Players have put together a superb production with some superb farce, belly-laugh action in it. It's going to be GREAT. Tickets are 4th, 6th and 7th of April and are selling fast, so if you are thinking of going, don't leave it too late.

Out walking the dogs, I have got talking o some 'new' people - well new friends to us, anyway. Hi Joe and Olivia. They were very interested in our pigs and we are very interested in the fact that they have Dexter cattle, so some reciprocal visits are in order. Today they dropped in on us and came to admire Bo, Luke and Daisy. They proclaimed them very clean and healthy looking, plus enormous for their 10 week age. I gave them the number for our breeder and they are off hunting down some Oxford Sandy and Blacks very soon.

The entire flock muster on the front lawn.
Meanwhile, the newest lambs came up to the 2-week age this weekend and it is more than warm enough for them to go outside 24/7. So Mum 'Rosie', her suckled ram lamb and our bottle fed ewe-lamb 'Bábóg' all got shunted out onto the front lawn this morning where they were joined by the rest of the gang (being Lily with Tigger, Polly with her twins and slowcoach Myfanwy who does not know whether to be pregnant or not yet). It occurred to me that we therefore have 3 generations out there - Lily is Mum to our newest breeding ewe, Rosie and she has twins. Meet the Grandchildren, Lily?

Did you sneak in there trying to nick the bait, hen?
Not at all - what made you think that?
Sadly, I am going to finish on a down beat. At some point while we were either showing the visitors round or moving sheep, another female duck vanished, presumably snatched by Brer Fox. We saw nothing of him this time, nor heard anything and neither did the Giineas, unusually. Ah well. These things happen, but why did it have to be a female. We only have one duck left laying eggs now. The fox trap has caught only chickens!

Friday 23 March 2018

Ooops.... Dead PC

The shortest post in all history, just here in case all my readers are expecting the usual Friday evening missive. I am afraid that the predicted motherboard death foreseen in that 'American Megatrends' warning I showed you a couple of posts back, is finally come upon me. This is being typed into Elizabeth's laptop by way of apology. We are racing to find a tech solution but till we do there will be no more posts.

Talk to you again soon, we hope.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Lit From Within

Polly (centre) and her twins (top right) are back outdoors
24/7 again. 
In our experience, at about the 3 week mark, a ewe who has lambed indoors and then been allowed out with her babies during the day from about a Day 7 suddenly wants to go out full time. Some instinct seems to tell them on around Day 21 to stop co-operating with the evening-ly attempt to shepherd them 'home' to the shed.

In-flight refuelling. Bábóg takes on food
out on the front lawn.
Ours give us a big run-around in the yard, refusing to allow themselves to be either tempted in with the magic food-bucket or cornered and driven in. After a few minutes of this 'messing' we get the message, throw open the gate to the East Field and wish the family well as they sprint for the wide open spaces.

Bottle fed ewe-lamb 'Bábóg' looks in fine form at Day 8
Sometimes, Mum has a re-think and decides, because it's a bit chilly perhaps, that she'd like to go into the shed after all but hey, it's too late by then. If you hadn't 'misbehaved', you'd be in there. Have a good night.........

The annual name-plate for the collection screwed to the front
of the pig ark. 
Obviously we are not completely heartless and we'd not be putting (or letting) these families out into a snowstorm or the teeth of a 'Beast From The East' gale, but the ewes seem to pre-empt this and only 'ask' to be let go on warm evenings. So out went Polly with her ram-twins on Sunday (18th) at their Day 19 and they look very well on it. They are so tall now that when they dive in for a stereo suckle, one either side, they both drop down onto their elbows to get their chins low enough to still be able to latch onto that teat aiming slightly upwards.

3 dogs meet 3 piglets. The pigs were not coming within range
of those dodgy and dangerous looking white beasts.
This move also freed up one of the lambing pens in the Tígín and allowed us to move the bottle fed ewe-lamb, Bábóg, out of the Living Room. She was becoming very happy with the warm evenings by the fire, strolling round with her 'comet-tail' of intrigued Westies, stealing naps in the dog beds or nudging Mum's knee for yet another feed. Unfortunately the laws of physics say that if your lamb is consuming a litre of liquid each day, then unless she inflates or explodes, she is likely to need to unload a litre of liquid too. Enough said.

Settling in well.
She needed to be an out-door lamb, hanging with Mum and her brother. Mum tolerates her near but not actually suckling. Nurse Elizabeth has to nip out to the front lawn several times a day, where the lamb will spot her and home in on that bottle like a cruise missile. We are very pleased with her. She is thriving under this outdoor day, housed at night lifestyle and in another week she will join Polly & Co. on the 24/7 outdoors.

A very shaggy dog. Long overdue for a clip but every time I go
to do them it seems to start snowing. 
We have to confess to a little wobble with her brother, though readers may just think we were being paranoid after losing, 2 years ago, a 3-week old lamb who hunched into a proper "hungry lamb" position (knees and elbows touching) and would not respond to bottle feeding. In the last post you'll have read that this mother (Rosie) went sick and may have 'dried up' (no milk) briefly.

Blue giving something the evil eye?
We got the vet to Rosie and all seemed to be well with her but neither of us had seen the ram-lamb suckling, he looked about a week behind our bottle fed fatty, and he seemed to be starting to 'roach' his back (hunch). However, every time we tried to offer him some of the bottle he was half-hearted at best and his belly seemed to be full to bulging. It was a big relief when this Mum and Son were milling around the yard that day while we tried to chase Polly, when we saw the lamb's response to this confusion was to dive in for a suckle. We have seen him suckle many times since and he seems to have suddenly recovered to maybe only two days behind Bábóg. ....and relax.

The chicks stay close round Silvergirl's feet when there are
other hens about.
The chicks hatched by our grey hen 'Silvergirl' are also doing well. She brings them out every day and shows them the yard and the cattle race. With baby chicks I make sure several times a day, when I spot that Mum and chicks are in a secretive spot not overlooked by any other hens, to sneak them some extra food - either the chopped hard-boiled egg or chick crumb. That way they get full bellies without being out-competed by the 'aunties'. They are a fine looking bunch.

Mid March so the alder catkins are now open.
The pigs are settling in well despite their first few days here being beset by bitterly cold East winds which blow straight in through their ark doorway. They have a good foot of fresh straw in there, so they could get well hunkered down, buried among that but today it turned warm and I could enjoy the sight of 3 sleeping pig-flanks lying in a patch of sunlight streaming in through their doorway. Legs, tails and heads were all 'submerged' so I bet they were warm as toast. They happily came out for a slice of melon, mind you. They are starting to know me, my voice and my hi-low whistle that tells them food is in-coming. I am very happy with them too.

Our last-year hatch gosling has finally decided whether to be a goose or a gander. She laid us an egg yesterday so, we suspect she is the former (!). For the moment we have 3 laying geese and we are doing very well for eggs. Not many move through the Honesty Box, but we have plenty of outlets for them and they are very popular with guests. We also like a goose egg for that dippy-egg breakfast of Champions.

Apple buds starting to expand. They look
as if "lit from within" said our good chum
'Charlie' Moss.
Finally, I loved an expression used by our good friend Charlotte (Charlie) Moss, of 'C. Moss Perennials', grower of perennial plants based in the nearby Curlew Mountains. When describing buds of various thorn bushes which expand with a pink tinge, she said that they "looked lit from within". I loved it for it's up-beat, Spring-like flavour and thought I'd share it with you, old romantic that I am..... maybe.

Equinox Sunset. 
That's about it for this one, except that it is, by some reckoning, Vernal Equinox today, so it was lovely to have a really blue sky, windless day with a lot of heat in the sunshine. I am told that modern Equinox-spotters go with the exact second that the plane of Earth's equator splits the sun's disk in half, which was 16:15 pm today. Fans of the Olde Irish calendar and Druid history prefer to go with which day has its length nearest to 12 hours in your neighbourhood. Nearby town Castlerea achieved this back on the 18th. You pays your money and takes your choice. Happy Equinox, everybody.

Friday 16 March 2018

Bo, Luke and Daisy which I update you on a lot of exciting live-stock stuff including ewe 'Rosie' going sick and needing the vet, we collect this years pigs and the grey hen, 'Crate Lady' comes off the nest with 5 new babies. It's all go, for sure. We have left the slow-news days and short posts behind but I daren't give you too much detail on these stories or we'll all be here hours.

Towser tries to work out what flavour of dog this is.
The bottle feeding of the rejected ewe-lamb is going really well and she is thriving. She is also coming to love being indoors and socialising with the dogs, who have also now got used to her and we are not living on our nerves worried that they might turn on her and attack her. Indoor "sheep worrying" is definitely not needed. She is filling out and growing visibly before our eyes, so much so that she is leaving her "breast fed" brother behind, but more of that in a while.

Indoor sheep worrying?
I woke up to a worrying sight on Weds 14th, the new Mum, 'Rosie' standing miserably in her pen, facing away from me, showing no interest that breakfast might have arrived. She was also "scouring" (diarrhoea) badly and also passing some bloody remnants of after-birth from her vulva. A bucket of part-eaten food sat in the pen from the day before. All was not well. I needed to phone our wonderful vet, mentioned several times in this blog, "Aoife (rhymes with Deefer)". We tried taking her temperature (rectally) using our first aid kit mercury-in-glass and could not read it. We did not know then that 'normal' for a sheep is 38 to 39ºC, and our patient, who was at 41.5ºC pushed the mercury so far up the (human) thermometer that all you could see was mercury.

Baby-formula for lambs. The green tub is
"Survivor" brand colostrum. 
Armed with this knowledge, Aoife turned up in an impressive hurry. Hurry is her style, and when she talks to you it feels like a machine gun blast of information, symptoms and medicines to solve the thing. I find myself thinking "Whoa! I need to write this down". Sheep-folk here would generally do a lot of their own 'vetting', though possibly with 'prescription' meds which you can only get from the vet, so Aoife tends to do that day's injections but leaves you stuff for any treatments over the following days, making sure to show you how to do a subcuteneous jab or an intra-muscular one and that you are happy doing them.

Sheep meds and my scrappy notes of instruction.
To cut a long story short (well, shortER) our girl had a rake of issues. She was exhausted and still off her food from the labour and the lack of roughage (she was ignoring the hay) had stalled her rumen. She was also possibly in early stage liver-fluke attack. Her temperature was up, making her feel uncomfortable inside all that fleece. Aoife showed me that the inside of her eyelids was salmon pink rather than red, and that you could pull small tufts of fleece away with a little force - it was not falling away easily in hanks. Red eyes and fleece falling out are symptoms of advanced fluke infection.

The ram lamb gets a go at the formula milk.
She got injections of anti-biotics, a vitamin to stimulate the gut and anti-inflammatory to get her temperature down. I also had to take her off the 'crunch' (meusli with molasses) and put her on hay and water (plus small amounts of ivy) while she stopped scouring. Later that day and over the following days I had to mix up some 'by mouth' antibiotic from a sachet and do her two injections. If her temperature came down I needed to get her out on the grass. Under this regime (Thanks Aoife!) she perked up really quickly, got her appetite back and has stopped scouring. Everybody is out on the lawn during the days, even the bottle fed lass, who is now named 'Bábóg' (Irish for female baby or doll, say it 'bab' and the the og as in 'bogus').

First hatch for Crate Lady, our grey hen. 
My little comment about Bábóg out-performing her brother on the formula milk had us worrying today that her brother was looking a bit weedy, thin and 'meh'. We wondered whether Rosie's sickness might have also involved her drying up a bit and the lad not getting enough milk. Elizabeth took him in hand and tried him on a bit of Bábóg's bottled milk, which he sucked well enough, all be it nothing like as well as Bábóg. He will learn. We will offer him more 'little and often' over the next few days to supplement the real stuff. If Mum starts up again, he will presumably ignore the offered bottle.

Sorry about the rubbish photo - the grey hen comes off the nest
with 5 babies but into a small sunbeam in a dark shed. I will get
better pics when I can get her out into the sunshine.
The grey hen we call 'Crate Lady' came good at the end of the last post, with a first hatch on the Tuesday and she climbed off the nest on Thursday with 5 new babies. As she was famously down in a foot-deep crate, this meant me having to lift her down off her shelf and tilt the family carefully over  so that the little ones could get out of the crate - they were never going to be able to climb out. They are now all thriving and Crate Lady is bringing them out of the shed, our first new family of 2018.

Rather a lot of pig for one small car and two dodgy looking crates.
You may be able to see a snout at ground level in the left hand crate
down between the feet of the standing pig. 
Biggest news today was our collecting of this years piglets from our breeder in Boyle (Co. Roscommon). It was lovely to be able to go see our breeder (Adrian) again, see all his piglets and talk breeding and blood lines. I was slightly worried because he sells such big pigs. Last year's were 10 weeks old and we could barely fit 2 in the crate - I had asked for smaller, 8 weekers this year. However even though these were 8 and a half weeks old, the litter was only 3 pigs, so the babies had had so much milk that they were nearly as big as last year's. Adrian struggled to do that lift-them-by-the-back-legs; they must be 15-20 kgs already.

Landed safely.
We got them to the car (they got wheeled in a wheelie bin!) and loaded into my worryingly flimsy looking crates. I was definitely having second thoughts and it was an anxious journey home (at least to start with), as I could see in my rear view mirror, the two in the wire crate fidgeting about, trying to turn round, climbing over each other and sometimes pushing (inadvertently, I'm sure) against the sides and doors of the crate, looking like they might well burst the crate and I'd have loose pigs in the passenger seat.

Settling in and straight down to nose-based exploration, 
I knew that if I pressed on, a) I'd get home quicker and reduce the length of the risk and also b) pigs tend to be unhappy passengers and the movement and vibration of the car makes them go all quiet and subdued. I still sent Mrs C a text pleading with her to be ready in gloves and wellies as I might need to make an emergency landing!

No such worries in the end. The subdued pigs just lay in the bottoms of their crates, no more thoughts of bursting out, while we wheel-barrowed them round to their paddock and landed them outside the ark doorway. Another long story gets cut short here, as they are now settling in and looking very happy and they have even received 2 visitors. Everyone wants to see the new pigs.

Working on a suggestion from 'Sparks', I was trying to name them some combination of the characters from the old American TV comedy, "The Dukes of Hazzard" which has crooked and corrupt county commissioner Boss Hogg. But these pigs are 2 'bonhams' (males) and one gilt (female), so Elizabeth decided they should be the main Dukes of Hazzard characters, cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy. I now need to make the name plate.

What ever the case, they are here and we are very happy with them. Only one resident is not happy. The black hen we call 'Beeblebrox' had been, unbeknownst to me, laying her eggs in the ark, walking in to the pen each day. She had accumulated a clutch of 13 eggs, so may have been about to go broody. I found the eggs when I went to bed down the pigs. Beeb was in there when we landed the pigs and shut the gate. She does not know how to fly out (apparently) so we had to release her after she'd been chased a few times by the playful newcomers. Her eggs come to the kitchen but we don't know the exact age of them, so they get labelled 'With Care'. That way we know not to use them as hard-boiled and to always open them into a empty bowl before adding them to baking or scrambling them in case they are off.

Small...... Far away. 
As I said, there is a lot going on. Neither of us will need anyone to sing us a lullaby tonight. We will sleep like new hatched chicks, belly-full lambs or travel-exhausted piglets.