Tuesday 22 May 2018

One Woman Went to Mow

Laura is quickly adopted by Towser.
Welcome to our humble abode, then, newest Help-X volunteer, Laura-D. She has settled in well and is already into an impressive work-rate. She is great - happy, relaxed, friendly and dead easy to host. My family will understand when I say she'd have you reminded of our cousin Jo when we were all that age (22) - outdoorsy, hiking, travelling, bursting with energy, health and enthusiasm, hungry for new adventures, places, culture and experiences. Keen too, to improve her English, which she is already good at; we have been enjoying some of the charming 'mistakes' and also reaching for the Collins Dictionary when smallholder type words come up that are not in anyone's French vocabulary ( Guinea Fowl = 'pintade', shear (of sheep) = tondre, etc).

Mowing round the pond.
She managed to avoid a possible adventure just getting here. Planned to arrive on Monday, which would have been easy for one of us collecting her from Ballaghaderreen bus-stop, she opted at the last minute, to journey down from Sligo town on the Saturday. I was car-less as the Woman of the House was down with Steak Lady enjoying the Royal Wedding but Laura was confident she could knit together a hitch-hike door to door.

That's exactly what happened, much to our amazement and she pitched up at 3 pm. She'd done the Sligo to Balla-D bit in two 'legs' with very little waiting, paused for lunch in Balla and then, walking towards the road out, was picked up by a lady who recognised Laura's description of us - our names, the 3 white dog-eens and the egg Honesty-Box out front. The lady, who we *think* may be named Mary, dropped Laura right to our gate. 60 km in 3 lifts with no waiting. Only in Ireland, I think!

I am always impressed when a Help-X volunteer turns up
with some decent, 'stout' boots.
New experience for me, then (Elizabeth usually does this one but she was absent), I had to show Laura to her room, the guest towels, how the shower worked and all that 'hospitality' stuff, plus feed the guest their first supper. It also meant she was landed and ready (keen) to start work on the Sunday. It was a good enough day, so I decided we might do some mowing. I anticipated we'd share the job, few 'laps' each, take turns to empty the box and move obstacles etc.

Pulling nettles (ortie) helped by various poultry.
Not a bit of it. Laura was straight into the groove and, after a quick training/safety session she was away. She tells me she LOVES mowing and "in the 'Ouse of my parents, this is my job ALL SUMMER!" Fair play. She mowed all around the pond garden (about an hour and a half), paused briefly to say 'Hello' to the returning Elizabeth and take refreshment but then asked for more. The orchard, by then, had been well grazed by the sheep and I had topped off the docks with the brush-cutter, so we moved them off onto the East Field and Laura mowed all that, too. We are so tidy, and all 2 days before I thought we'd even start.

Enough rhubarb to keep you going there,
So, that was Laura in and installed and now very much part of the picture for 2 weeks. "What else have we been up to?" I hear you ask. There was an interesting pig-related adventure which was, like greeting the new guest, a new one on me. The Guinea fowl had kicked off on one of their alarm shouts, so I raced to the kitchen door and let the dogs go streaming out free. They took off in the usual fox direction, to the 5-acre field. The Guineas, I immediately saw, were in a completely different direction, up on the walls of the cattle race and the chicken-house roof, so our problem was down by the pig-run. The dogs were out of it.

We found our first Guinea Fowl egg.
It was immediately apparent, too, that a magpie was shouting its head off too. Running round there I could see a floppy magpie shape down on the ground among the pigs and a magpie jumping up and down on the back of the gilt (female piglet), pecking her furiously and shouting like crazy. I *think* a young magpie had fallen out of the nest up there, landed among the pigs and got rapidly chewed despite a valiant defence by Mum.

Always a risk but worth it for the grazing done to the orchard
grass. Sheep damage to the bark of a young Bramley tree.
I raced for apples with which to distract the pigs while I rescued the baby but only 2 pigs came to greet me, Pig #3 turned up a few minutes later and spat out the half-chewed remains of a magpie wing so that there was room in that mouth for the apple. Thank you very much. Internet friends say that this is a frequent happening and reminds us regularly that pigs are, in fact, omnivorous and with a gut and tastes very similar to our own. Fresh, raw, tender baby magpie. Probably a delicacy somewhere!

Genevieve and Jezebel
On the Monday it rained 'cats and dogs' (Laura's expression!) but we were unconcerned. We mainly had indoor and car jobs lined up. We briefly 'owned' 6 cats, with 2 kittens joining the ranks for a couple of hours. These were 2 little cuties 'bred' by our friends Sue and Rob but destined for a life with 'Sparks'. We just had to collect them, sex them and hand them over when Sparks came to lunch.

We almost certainly saved this little mite's life when she fell out
of a nest-tray and could not get back in to Mum's nest.
Sue's kittens can sometimes be a bit feral, being born in one of their barns and only really seeing humans at feeding times. In this case, a black and white fluff-ball was actually quite friendly and welcomed a cuddle. It's sister (a grey fluff-ball) was a bit more feisty and will need some handling to get used to people. The first is now named Genevieve and the latter Jezebel.
Happy first breakfast

Yesterday, we came round to hatch-day for the hen which had gone broody in the spare cat-basket in our Tígín. Right on schedule, we could tell that she had at least one baby hatched - loud cheeping was coming from under her skirts. She is a first time Mum and this nearly went horribly wrong. Early in the brooding she had kept losing eggs out from under her, so I'd slid a garden-type seed-tray in there to make more of a compact 'bowl' for her nest. All good so far.

This is how you do it, baby.
When the hatch started, though, one little mite fell out of the tray into the basket as a whole and, unable to clamber back in got very cold. She would almost certainly have died of hypothermia had Elizabeth not gone out there to show her off to Sparks, and found the limp, very cold body on the verge of expiring. In our third 'new one on me' experience of this post, I took the chick into my hand and wrapped her up in the warmth of my skin. At first I could feel the coldness of her through the chick-fluff, not quite as bad as a lump of meat in the fridge, but well 'down there'.

Some first asparagus.
However, in 45 minutes I could feel the little body coming up to my skin temperature and then she started cheeping. We had almost certainly saved her life. When I was happy enough she'd made it, I took her back out to Mum and slipped her back under those skirts. I also moved the tray and wedged a piece of wood down the gap to avoid any more 'man overboard' accidents. This story does not end here but I will save the overnight survival, first feed and the addition of a second, and possibly a third chick or more?) for the next post.

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