Saturday 29 September 2018

Farewell to the Help-X

Teamwork. Sonja and Asbjörn help Elizabeth laying weed proof
membrane across the big flower bed.
This post brings us to the end of the current fortnight of Help-X and our hosting of Sonja and Asbjörn. They are up. packed and breakfasted, and Elizabeth has just now set off with them and their huge hiker back-packs for Castlerea station. They are off up to Dublin to spend a few days relaxing and touristing before heading for the airport on Tuesday for their flights home (Berlin and Frankfurt). They have been great and we will miss them a lot, but more on that story later.

Jean with Molly and the new pup.
I am sorry to bring sad news, but we heard this week that our UK friend Jean had to say goodbye to our own #1 bitch Deefer's birth Mother, Molly, who would have been 14 years or so old, a good age for a Westie. Jean is widow of my very good friend and closest colleague, Steve, who is also no longer with us and much missed. Steve and Jean bred 3 pups, Deefer, Ellie-Bez (still with us) and Archie (RIP).

Deefer's birth Mum, Molly.
All their dogs were named after characters in the Scottish TV series "Monarch of the Glen" (remember "Och, Don't be silly, Molly, 'Tis only Golly the Ghillie!" ???). I still love to hear from Jean occasionally with news of the dogs. She is carrying on the Westie tradition with a new pup recently purchased. Her dogs always look pristine, clean and white compared to our poo-encrusted farm mutts! Good luck, Jean.

Lucifer planted down the fence.
So the Help-X-ers served out their time and have now departed. They were good hard workers and got stuff done way and above the call of duty, often working well into the afternoon. The unwritten "contract" such as it is, says you feed and house them for about 24 hours work a week.

A small mountain of thistles.
In the last few days of the stay they helped lay the membrane across that flower bed, they divided a huge clump of Crocosmia 'Lucifer' and planted chunks all down the driveway fence and pulled/dug a gazillion thistles out of the East Field. They cleared a pile of fallen, rotting wood (optimistically called the "Habitat Pile") from the woods and piled it on an ever growing bonfire heap. They mowed the orchard and down the pig 'race' and created a dog-proof "kerb" from concrete blocks under the pig gate. There was no stopping them - they hated to leave a job unfinished. On their last day (Friday) we give them free choice of the jobs on the "to do" list, but they still chose mowing and thistling. The Lady of the House had to nip out for more petrol for the mower.

German style apple cake with a nutty base layer and the set-but
-creamy custard 'roof'
They have proved very useful in the kitchen, they took over the table laying task and were quick to clear away and fill/empty the dish washer as soon as a meal finished. They also did more cooking. Sonja is a dab hand at the sweets, and created a superb German style apple cake. We have also been enjoying Elizabeth's more impressive end of the repertoire. The 'unlucky'*** rooster became a delicious pot roast (and then a pasta sauce) and the 'Last Supper' for these guests show-cased traditional "Dublin Coddle" and an Elizabeth David choc-mousse (just eggs and chocolate!).

*** That rooster. He was the white one who featured as 'lucky' in my 4th Sept post; he'd been saved from the usual fate of spare roosters by archery friends Con and Niamh needing a replacement bird after a fox strike. However, the month of pig-harvest and other busy-ness went by and C+N did not get round to building their bigger, stronger, more fox proof chicken run, so they decided not to take him after all.

In the pot he went then and deliciously tender he was. He was this year hatch, so would only have been 6 months old. He was, anyway, another in that fine Feigh tradition of our never being able to breed FEMALE white birds. 6 years we have been at the 'Sussex' chickens and the law of averages has still not delivered any hens. Every white chick we have ever hatched turns into a rooster. We have three little (white) half-grown newly feathered chicks out there at the moment and even they have been seen squaring up to one another in that baby-rooster, play-fighting way they have  so all our money is on them being roo's too!

Tom hanging in the shed.
'(Un)Lucky' was joined this morning on the chopping block by the Turkey-Tom. I have posted before about him starting to attack me and getting himself a verbal warning. Yesterday I went out to check on progress by the mowing Help-X crew and he started doing the karate kicks in the orchard. I'm a bit breathless at the minute, and Sonja had to fend him off with a broken rake handle while I made good my escape. He was definitely playing a dangerous game. The next part of this story is also ME playing a dangerous game and for the first stupid time, pushing my luck well outside of the Doctor's "Take it Easy" advice. Silly, reckless me. (I have been properly told off). Read on.

So I was letting all the birds out this morning, on my own, with everyone else still in bed, when the turkey put in his most determined attack yet and chased me, fending him off with the feed bucket, into the Tígín. I was safe enough but cornered, so I decided if I was going to off him, then it might as well be now. I grabbed a big plastic dog bed and dropped it over him upside down, pinning him down. I reached in and grabbed his legs, swung him out, grabbed the wood axe with my other hand and brought the edge of it down on his neck. Bye bye turkey BUT he is about 8 kg and the axe is a good weight so I was way outside 'light duties' and was suddenly coughing enough to nearly be sick. I was in real trouble for a while there and had to sit down a bit smart-ish to get my breath back. There was no way I could lift the bird up to tie twine round his legs and hang him up to bleed out, but at that point Sonja heard me struggling for breath and came down to see if I needed help. Lesson well learned, Readers. Apologies. It will not happen again.

Once the guests are gone, it does not take long
for the dogs and cats to take back over "their"
Enough drama for this post, I guess. It's all nice and quiet here now (except for the "weeping") female turkey who is wondering where her boyfriend went. The females make a repeated 'Pew-pew-pew' noise which we are, of course, now blaming on her grief. We hope she will get over it. Turkeys form a very close pair-bond and we have experience in the past of a 'tom' pining away when he lost his hen to a fox. I'll keep you posted.

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