Friday 12 October 2018

Callum Comes a-Calling

Storm Callum
Named storm 'Callum' arrives heralded by the usual colourful wind maps and weather warnings from Met Éireann and (National broadcaster) RTE. He looks from the first predictions, that he will split up either side of the island's SW corner and will mainly be a coast problem. Co Roscommon is a land-locked county, so we only got a 'yellow' warning (for rain).

Upholstery "stuff" will need an official
storage place.
And so it turned out. We'd taken all the normal precautions (hives strapped down, lumps of concrete on hutch roofs etc) and we have our new chicken house roof, so we felt safe enough but no-one here was complacent and we all saw the sorry pictures of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael which took out great tracts of Florida. I was woken by heavy rain at about 3 a.m. and then again at 6 a.m. and there were puddles but we got away with no damage.

Rooster Gandalf (right) minds a group of hens sunning them
selves and preening. 
We had even got away with a 2 day "Indian Summer" prior to Callum, with the south winds bringing unseasonably warm air up from Spain. We'd been able to sit outside, in my case with the camera, and take a few pics of the various birds relaxing in what might be their last warm days this year. For 2 days we did not light the range (I have now!). There was plenty of bee activity in both the hive and the swarm box.

Despite appearances, we think this may be a hen.
I noted in a recent post that we did not seem to be able to produce here, a white coloured hen despite having Sussex birds in the flock for all the 6 years we have done chickens here. All our white babies seemed to grow up into roosters, way outside the Law of Averages.

Rooster Gandalf has had enough of being magnificent and full
of breeding season glory. He goes for the moult.
Very recently we 'offed' the last youngster as it started to shout Cock-a-Doodle-Dooooo! and grew an impressive long tail and the big facial features (wattle, comb) of a cockerel. He also started trying to jump/rape women belonging to Gandalf and Herme and was getting a good kicking from those two boys. It was not going to end well.

Now, that lad was one of a small clutch of babies hatched in spring, a 2nd one of which was also white, and we watched anxiously as the two white "boys" both grew up, were seen play-fighting one another and seemed to be heading for similar tall stature. We were sure they were both roosters.

Pretty hen enjoying the sunshine
Then a month or 2 ago, the 2nd bird suddenly stopped growing and never developed the tall tail or big face, never crowed and did not start harassing the 'sisters'. She(?) is a bit rangey and long limbed so she will be a big bird but we think we might just have a hen, there.

Turkey hen, 'Deo' seems quite happy solo.
We have been keeping a close eye on the turkey hen, 'Deo' after we had to cull out the 'tom' ('Excelsis' - there was a bit of a Christmas theme developing there, for a while). Turkeys can form very close pair bonds and can pine away and die at the loss of their partner. Deo seems to be OK and happy enough hanging with the three Guinea Fowl cock-birds. So far so good anyway.

In line for some culling action, these two "spare" Appleyard
Also in this inadvertent tale of culling and death we have 2 'spare' drakes quietly getting on with enjoying a bit of a stay of execution. They were due to go on their final journey back at the end of our Help-X visit by Sonja and Asbjörn but that was when the turkey-tom decided to lose the plot and attack me. He stepped into harm's way and the processing department had enough on its plate. Never mind, the Lady of the House will not be that busy for ever and their turn will come.

I can never see how this is comfortable.
Did I say 'busy'. Oh yes, I have not yet mentioned that that other big 'time-suck' that mops up our free time each year, is about to re-start..... The Village Play. The Lisacul Players wake up about now each year and start planning the next Easter's production. The 'wake up' meeting was on Wednesday and involved a big gang of them (13) reading one of the (3) plays short-listed by main man and Producer Tommy C. I went along as the reading started late enough that I had all the birds locked up safe from Mr Fox. I am sorry I did not make a note of the play or writer but it was by a well known and prolific local play-wright.

Plenty of bee activity round the swarm box in the warm days.
The Players have to try to find a play that suits their male/female cast balance and they also prefer plays where there is not just one major spoken part. We prefer well balanced 'ensemble' plays. The one we read was very good and very funny and may end up being "The Play", but the Players are going to read another one next week and another the week after, and then decide. I will keep you posted.

Finally, we came to time for the big 'Parma' ham legs of pork to come out of their dry salt/sugar cure and to move on to the next phase: 4-18 months of air drying hanging up from the ceiling in a nice airy, well ventilated space. This change involves having to scrub off all the encrusted salt using cider vinegar (or the odd splash of hot water which you must quickly pat off once the salt is gone).

Legs scrubbed clean of salt
They get wrapped in a muslin sheath or a pillow case to deter the flies but they should not really need that, being so salty and vinegar-y by now on all the cut surfaces and skin. I could not actually find the muslin when I went to do this but pending a rescue, hung them up naked anyway and I have seen no flies on or around them, so we should be OK. They hang for 4-18 months gently drying out and maturing, and losing around 30% of their weight.

That must be about it for this post so I will wish you Good Luck and hope you all survived 'Callum' as painlessly as we did.

Oh - one last thing. We have had our first goose eggs of this season

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