Tuesday 12 June 2018

Appleyards and Cayugas

Cayuga duck. They lay black eggs. 
My title for this post includes, for the unfamiliar, 2 varieties of duck, but time enough for ducks further down the post.

Laura's legacy. Our ground is as neat as manicured parkland.
At the time of last writing, I was about to post our wonderful Help-X volunteer, Laura-D, onto a train at Castlerea station, bound for Kilkenny. Kilkenny is a lot further south in Ireland than here, and Laura's last few weeks were going to be spent in that part of the Island, doing a week's work in Kilkenny, then one in Cork and one in Tralee (Co. Kerry).

I don't mind admitting I was sad to see her go. She is a lovely person and brightened up the place as nicely as the heatwave she brought with her. We both wish her all the best in her future weeks, we hope she finds nice friendly people 'down south' (I'm sure she will) and she knows she is welcome back here any time, working or not.

Figs this year? It is a very young tree.
I have had a couple of texts since, saying that she was delighted to have found a direct bus from Tullamore to Kilkenny, that she was a bit sad over the weekend to have left us, to say that she thought of us as she was given a mower for her first job Monday in Kilkenny and that, no, she had not yet tried porridge (!)

Normal for here. 2 geese gone broody in the same nest. 
With no Laura and with Elizabeth away house-sitting for Mum, I was back on my own but with a healthy list of 'just jobs' to catch up on in the garden. I had a rake of stuff to re-pot and move on (cherry tomatoes, chervil, salad onions, basil, night scented stocks and shasta daisies, fennel and horse radish).

I had to 'coppice' out an ash which I'd planted too close to neighbouring chestnuts and oak and a 'Golden Hornet' crab apple which had been badly ring-barked by the geese. This tree had struggled on with its main trunk for a couple of years but never got enough water aloft to give it proper expansion of leaves (or much fruit), but had then shot out a back-up 2nd 'trunk' from low down. I have now cut the old tree down at 3' high and used the old trunk as a tree-stake for the new whip. Should work. Elizabeth's rescued peach tree is currently doing the same, so may get the same 'repair'.

Breakfast does not come with fewer food-miles than this.
Our own eggs and our home grown, home cured bacon.
The sunshine had brought the local silagers out but I was delighted to get a text from a friend locally who had managed to make hay. Now THAT would not be at all common here-abouts, as the correct grass stage (full grown but not over-grown) rarely coincides with a reliable 7 days of sunshine, so fair play to our friend for managing to make 400 bales of good, fresh green hay. More important, fair play to him for texting me to see if I would like some. Yes please! 5 bales.

Golden Hornet crab apple cut down and
re-started from a low down 'coppice' shoot.
He tells me that he put the hay up on "the Internet" for sale but the word went round the village so fast that he sold it all in a couple of hours and had to take the web-ad down again un-used. Then, cherry on the cake, while he was delivering my hay he asked did I know anyone who might want some young ducks.

Landing the new Appleyard family.
Readers will know that we are exactly those people, so the next day saw me round at his place with the dog-crate collecting a Mum-duck of the 'Appleyard' variety, plus 5 half grown but well feathered ducklings. Appleyards look very much like the wild mallards from which they are derived - green head, narrow white collar, purple chest for the boys, flecky brown 'camo' for the lasses. However, they do come in a range of bred colours right down to 'silver' (aka white!).

The grass is a bit too long for ducks in the Hubbard pen but
they will surely sort it out. 
The only sensible place I could think of to 'land' these newbies, was our old "Hubbard pen", scene of several rearings of the meat-chickens we have done in the past. The grass was very long in there and, unbeknownst to me, down among the brambles at the back, there was a hole in the fence, but in they went and promptly vanished into the forest of grass and new trees. They (especially Mum) are a bit wild and have not been handled at all so they tend to sprint for cover as soon as a person appears.

Mum duck is in there somewhere, watching me warily.
This is not usually a problem and we always allow a good bit of settling down time but on this occasion I needed, that evening, to persuade them back out of the long grass and into the fox-proof house. I set up a series of fence panels as a 'duck-blind' to guide them in. It nearly worked. The five babies went into the house as good as gold, but Mumma at the last minute took a left turn and vanished into the long grass UNDER the house. She then (horror of horrors!) reappeared outside the pen. She had found the hole I did not know was there.

'Shtumpy' teaching her 4 baby chicks to dust-bathe. The chicks
are close in to her chest here, not clearly visible. 
There followed 3 hours of trying to coax her home with half a dozen near misses. Every time she tried to come back she would quack to the babies, who would set up loud 'peep'-ing from the box, but she could not work out that she needed to go ROUND the fencing to get back in. Eventually I managed to corner her and grab her as she frantically tried to squeeze through the chicken-wire.

7 turkey eggs currently being brooded in a corner of the Tígín
but by a hen. She has nipped off for a toilet break. 
She was "home" and re-united with her children but I was definitely the Bogey-man. I had stolen her from her home using a dog crate, given her her first car-ride, dumped her in a grassy forest and then, several hours later, chased her back out, split her from her babies for 3 hours of run-around. Then finally I had unceremoniously grabbed her and man-handled her into this new, unfamiliar house through the roof. It may take her a while to learn to love me! You will be delighted to know that there was no repeat of this drama tonight. I set up my 'duck-blind' more carefully and the family shot into their house in seconds. No wrong turns or escapes tonight.

The bees are very busy in this hot weather. Ignore the ash seed.
It has just fallen from the tree above and landed there. 
While I'm on ducks, as well as these Appleyards, I had put the word out with our friend and ace stock wrangler, now back from Dublin, living at home and starting to accumulate stock, Charlotte. She currently has ducks, both Muscovy and the black variety Cayuga, which lays black eggs. She is hatching some of both varieties and will have some for me shortly. More on these when they arrive.

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