Friday, 23 September 2016

An Embarrassment of Pig Nuts

The area is currently a vision in green and red - Mayo are
in the All Ireland (again); a replay on Saturday week.
For some reason I have gone, this week, from nearly running out of pig feed, to having an embarrassment of riches. We get 99% of our stock feed here from one particular supplier in a nearby town, mainly because through time we have been let down too many times by the local branches of a 'co-op' (no names, no pack drill). The latter are well known locally for running out of stock of vital lines (barley, pig feed, layers pellets etc). Even if you are trying to be loyal, this annoys you and sends to scurrying off to other 'shops' where, if you find satisfaction like we did, you tend to stay.

365  picture. 
It is all a big shock then when you let your own stock run down a bit, and you rock up at Mr Reliable Supplier to be told that, sorry, we just sold the last bag. Back to the co-op then, to be told that they no longer stock pig-feed because nobody ever wants it. You hold back from saying that nobody tries to buy it here because you never had it in stock! To cut a long story short I asked both if they could get me some in and both promised to. Mr RS even took a phone number to contact me on when it arrived. I gave my word to the Co-op guy that I would come back and buy his bag if he could, indeed, get it by next Wednesday. I would not leave him sitting on stock. Although it is a dry mix feed, it does have a limited shelf life.

The start of Autumn colour.
Then today as I was talking to Charlotte of the Mini Horses, she said that a branch of the co-op in another town "usually had it". So today I called by there and the guys had a bag, so I bought it. Within half an hour Mr RS had phoned me back to say that his lorry had just turned into the yard and he could see the pink pig-meal bags on the load. I now have 2 bags and next Wednesday, if Co-op guy #1 amazes me by producing the goods, I will be morally bound to buy the third. More pig food than I can use in the limited time these pigs have left. Ah well. Lesson learned; never "nearly run out" of pig food.

I use shredded paper from Liz's work as bedding when I can
get it. Yesterday's had an amazing array of bright coloured paper
in it. I hope the turkeys don't get disturbed, psychedelic dreams.
That Guinea Fowl was just having us on. After 2 nights roosting out elsewhere and me working out dates on the calendar for likely hatchings, she meekly returned to the fold with her husband and is now roosting back indoors. We may never know whether there were eggs or what happened.

New toys for Lizzie.
I will keep this one a bit short as the rest of the week was just the 'buildering' (we were back on the stone walling) and the usual round of shopping, taxi-ing and missions of mercy.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Road Trip(s)

'Golden Hornet' crab apples ripe for the picking. 
We do very little driving around for its own sake but since the last post I have found myself on two very different but equally remarkable road trips, one in an olde tractor and one in the 'normal' car. The tractor ride came about because a good friend of ours was having his little old 2 wheel drive John Deere fixed at a workshop down beyond Castlerea - only 28 km but that's a decent tarmac drive for a tractor, likely to take an hour and a half at least. He didn't fancy the job so when I volunteered he looked at me as if I must be mad but readily accepted.

A few more weeks and the pears will also be ripe.
All the serious farmers round here and the contractors have, by now, much bigger machines - big 4 wheel drive 100 hp+ with fancy sprung, air-con, sound proofed cabs, very comfortable seats, all automatic drive and gearing and assorted bells and whistles. It is only the old boys on the tiny farms who retain the smaller, simpler tractors which I would know; which I would have driven back in my farming days 40 years ago. Or the restoration/vintage enthusiasts, of course. This was one such - I was going to be bounced around and deafened all the way home but I have a kind of masochistic nostalgic delight in these rattle-buckets.

A '365' pic of the road down to the old graveyard.
I ran the route on Google Maps and wrote down the following figures, just for interest. The journey was only 28.3 km (17.6 miles) but took 1 hour and 50 minutes so I was able to average only 15.43 km/hr (9.58 mph). Total hearing loss was about 70% (Wha'...? Pardon?) and I was delighted to finally get the tractor home, 'strangle' the engine and park the hydraulics. For some of the route I was following the road markings painted down for the half marathon a few weeks back - 5m, 6m and so on. I actually FELT like a marathon man slowly creeping towards his finish and anticipating the cheers of the crowds.

Kilrooan old graveyard
The other road trip was a very different affair, my 2nd down to Co. Tipperary (I was down there for my pig training course 2+ years ago ) and our first to Cashel (as in "The Rock of.."). As the song goes - it is, indeed, a long way and we planned a 3 hour run down to the funeral (brother of friend) to be in time for the midday Funeral Mass. We made it and did the honours at church and then at the graveyard but ended up with no time at all to look round what looks like a beautiful town and the castle/rock itself.

The 'posh' shoes don't get many outings. I had to brush the
dust off for the funeral. 
The journey home was a little longer but we broke it with a small diversion into Mum's place for soup, tea and cake. That was a long old day. It was also the day of the 'All Ireland' GAA football final between Mayo and 'the Dubs' (they drew) so Liz (outbound driver) picked up some traffic reminiscent of our Kent days on what are normally empty roads, with all the Mayo lads heading up to the capital.

Nice harvest moon - this would be a 'Hopping Moon' in Kent
(from the hop-picking)
In other news, young Deefer, our oldest dog made her 10th birthday (17th Sept) and the Guinea hen (Min) may have gone broody. She went AWOL Sunday and Monday nights and was not there at lock-up. We had a quick patrol but not with any hope of success as it was getting dark. We reckoned that as we have seen no mating behaviour or eggs for months, she might be doing a sneaky stash somewhere and on Monday we kept a bead on the 'boys'.

An early breakfast for the ewes on Funeral Day. 
When they were both loitering with intent, looking guilty. next day between the caravan and the 'Mad Max' vehicle, we deduced that she might well be among the old rafters slid under the caravan, where she might be quite safe as it would be a tight squeeze for Mr Fox (if not the mink) and, anyway, we'd not be able to extract her. Subsequently she has been off the eggs and wandering round with the boys enough to make us doubt her commitment to this broody thing but we keep and open mind since so many hens we have doubted have, in the event, produced the goods. Tonight, though, she is back roosting in the coop up in the rafters with her beau, so that might be that. I will keep you posted.

Existing tiny 8' square kitchen, looking at
the window which will  soon be a bigger
Finally a start soon on a house project which has been on the cards for a while, the kitchen extension. We have put up with the old floor plan since our rebuild. This includes a 50's "council style" extension to the back of the house which holds the kitchen downstairs and a flat-roof bathroom upstairs. The kitchen is only 8 feet square which dictates that a lot of stuff (fridge, freezers, crockery and cutlery) end up in other parts of the house and pretty much fixes the design options (path up the middle, oven one side, sink the other)

The 'Pottery' and that window from the
Ours, however, came with a tempting opportunity to expand with a lean-to or conservatory style (ish) extension. The west facing window looks out over a bit of concrete 'path' between the exterior house wall and the out-building we call the Tígín (wee housey), an area we optimistically named the 'Pottery'. It was going to be a garden for pots, planters and tubs but hey, the best laid plans etc. It never happened and it exists merely as a pad of concrete where the chickens come to scrounge cat food through the open window. It is an 8 feet wide and 11 feet long blank bit of wasted space inches away from the poor over-crowded chef who is crying out for more elbow room and storage area. Well, not for much longer. More on this soon.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Ivy Honey (The End of the Year?)

Ivy flowers about to open
Irish honey bees are different from all other 'tribes' in being adapted to cope with the long, mild, wet winters here. Their dark (mellanistic) bodies give them the name Apis Mellifera (sub-sp Mellifera or AMM for short) make them easy to spot and their special attributes make mockery of the global trends in commercial bee-keeping (Let's buy queens from Italy! Let's use these fantastic "Buckfast" hybrids from Devon!) - Irish beekeepers tend to be looking now, only for genuine dark Irish bees.

The ivy flowers start to open.
Worker bees hatching around now are physiologically very different from the short-lived 'Summer' bees; they can live for 6 months and this is not just because they do not have to go out and do all that exhausting foraging for nectar and pollen (and water and propolis). They have fatty 'bodies' under the skin in their abdomen where they can lay down fat to help them through the bad times. The fat comes mainly from ivy pollen, which is good news in Ireland where ivy is hugely abundant (hence, presumably, the co-evolution).

These 'super' frames are in pristine mint condition with none
of the wax 'foundation' drawn up into hexagonal honeycomb
Top frame in this pic has drawn comb over all but only
capped-off wax (white crinkly bits) on a small area. The bottom
frame is a bit better.
Ivy, though, is good for bees, but bad for Irish bee keepers (well, pushy, asset-squeezing, exploitative bee keepers, anyway). The nectar the bees gather from those pollen-rich flowers, when converted to honey by bees and packed into honey comb, sets like concrete! You cannot extract it from the combs in any easy way, so bee keepers make sure that they go through their hives taking off the summer and early autumn honey BEFORE the ivy flowers start to open - about now in these parts. This is the end of the year in honey-harvest terms.

I was pretty sure I'd have no honey to harvest. Regular readers will know that I looked in a while back and saw two completely empty 'super' boxes containing frames of foundation wax like new, as if no bee had ever walked that box and none had started to draw up the hexagonal tubes of honeycomb. I put the lack of honey down to the wet and horrible June and July when the bees would have been unable to go out foraging and would have used up any stores ( gathered in April and May) keeping the larvae alive.

Dark Irish workers on capped honey. 
One of the hives today was true to this story. The super was still clean and untouched. The bees have probably been 'up' there for an explore but have not needed it yet as a larder. They seem perfectly good and vigorous below this in the "brood and a half" boxes. There are stages to this honey comb. You start by giving the bees your frames of wax sheet embossed with a hexagonal pattern (foundation). The bees add more wax to this, building up the hexagonal tubes of the 'honeycomb' we know. These tubes are then filled with nectar/honey as the stores are dried out and chemically changed (to invert sugars). When the gloop is dry. stiff and changed enough to be honey, the cells are capped off with more wax, crinkly and white this time. Job done.

Arum berries in the local hedges.
The style of bee keeping we do in our apiary is very different (I have suggested above) from the intensive, manipulative pushiness of the commercial boys. They are in it to make a living from honey or selling new colonies. I am just trying to sustain colonies on site here to help with pollination (and because I like having them around). If I get honey then that is a bonus. My second hive does, in fact, have some capped (extractable) honey in it but is patchy and light. An Irish hive colony needs around 40-50 lbs honey to see it through the winter. The bees work all summer trying to accumulate this amount FOR THEMSELVES, not so that humans can 'harvest' it. The commercial boys will take honey anyway and if that leaves their hive short they will replace the 'stolen' honey with sugar syrup. I do not do that. I leave them the first 40-50 lbs (about what would be found in the first 'super box') and would only take crop from any 2nd, 3rd or higher boxes. (Some colonies get so strong in a good year, the bee keeper can stack 10 supers up like a hi-rise block)

To cut a long story short, these amounts of honey are not worth extracting and it would do too much damage to the hives to do so, so I have decided to leave them with it this year. Hence, you hopefuls who have been asking whether there would be any honey, I am sorry to disappoint you this year. That's how it goes with 'Natural' beekeeping, I am afraid.

BIG thistles.
In other news, we sadly lost one of the tiny Buff Orp chicks this week. We don't know what did for him/her - I spotted that the 2 mums had only 4 chicks with them and went round trying to see if the little mite might be stuck somewhere in need of rescue. I found the body clean and dry, with not a feather out of place, but stretched out on the grass, stiff and lifeless. These things happen. Small Holders have a wry comment to one another to cover this - "Ah well... where there is livestock, there is dead stock". Just not a thriver, I guess.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Anyone for Yoga?

Morning sky on the 11th
Readers who know my brothers and I will know that we went through our first 50 or so years without a sporty bit in our DNA. We know nothing of soccer and at school would swerve outdoor team stuff as often as possible when options like cross country running or canoeing were available. We have precious little interest in any other sports (except maybe rallying, off roading or possibly Formula 1). Gyms were BAD places and, as far as I know, none of us did that 'subscription' thing when gyms became fashionable.

Yellow hot poker?
Lately, youngest bro, Mark, has been getting into the weight loss and fitness thing, and his blog posts and Facebook have been well laced with various exercise classes and words like 'biceps curl' and 'abs'. Most recently he has been doing "Total Body Conditioning" and "Balance Classes". I have no idea what these involve so, Mark, you'll have to forgive me if I have an image in my head of you balancing along one of those 3" wide beams like a latter-day Nadia Comaneci.

Blue the cat (top centre) looking a bit beleaguered when his
day time hidey hole is invaded by all the birds taking shelter
from the rain. Blue hates chickens and always gives them a
wide berth.
I am not sure I have been inspired by all this but when Liz organised some Yoga classes at work and included, for the first time, a men's beginners class, I found myself agreeing to support this worthy clause. I was, of course, scared stiff as it would be a first time doing anything formally 'fitness' and I was also worried that I might be the only bloke who turned up. I felt a bit like a school kid being dropped off at school by her Mum as Liz drove me down there and waved me off. Her 'Mixed Ability (Ladies) class had their session after ours. I am also, I think, the only bloke in Roscommon who doesn't own jogging 'pants' so I was attired in a pair of rarely used long pyjama bottoms which were dark-ish and could pass muster in a dim light. (Yoga instructors seem to like dim light and tinkly piano music for atmosphere).

Nice low angle shot of one of the hens with all 5 babies.
Well, it went OK in the end. There were 4 other lads there, mostly as old and creaky as me. I have to admit to spending the first 15 minutes (warming up time?) feeling a bit rebellious, hurting at the unprecedented pain being done to hip joints and convinced that I had done what I agreed to - go along and try it the once - so I could bow out after this session. Yoga? Tried it once but it wasn't for me. But then, as I warmed up, I began to enjoy the stretches, the heat and the pain in under-used muscles and joints. It helped that I didn't feel completely useless as the lads around me were groaning and gasping just as loud as me and the man to my left at one stage grunted a very audible 'Aaahh Jeeeeezus!' which had us falling about laughing.

30 minutes in I had changed my mind completely and was determined to come back for the remaining (5?) sessions of the course and I have to also admit to a lot of respect and admiration for our teacher, easily the bendiest woman I have ever seen in action (maybe with the exception of Nadia C?). She apparently races around Roscommon doing these classes in all manner of villages and towns, most evenings. She is in huge demand and Liz was (she says) so lucky to get her for Lisacul. Yep, I was actually quite proud of myself that evening and the next day, wearing my whole-body aches and pains with pride. I knew I had had a good work out and hope that those joints and muscles will all be a little better for it, all be it I will never be as flexible as 'Teach'.

Who knew that the membranes inside your 'dippy egg' could
have this honeycomb structure?
If I am getting healthier, though, the Health-bogeyman must have spotted me and decided to whack me on Sunday-Monday with a horrible stomach bug. I 'never' get these (We can remember just one from our marriage which hit me on a Christmas in Hastings) so the pain and seriously 'ill' feelings come as much a shock as debilitating. I got first signs on the Sunday night, spending all that night very uncomfortable and not sleeping very well. I woke up at normal time and forced myself to do livestock rounds (waves of hot-flush and sweaty nausea), and then engaged in a 3 hour drive/hang around getting the right people to the butchers to see the lamb cut up and re-homed. At that point I was packed off to bed by Nurse Lizzie.

The ivy starting to flower. Bee keepers need to be getting their
honey off the hives - ivy nectar sets like rock once the bees
have processed it into honey.
I spent most of that day in the sickbay. Meanwhile, Liz (snr) was due up for a visit, mainly to go blackberrying with us. Not that day though - every time they fired up the car it lashed down with rain! I woke up at lunchtime feeling a little better and tried some flat 7-Up (a family cure for dodgy tummies) and some sieved (bitless) borscht. I sat and chatted for a while but was quickly needing to get rid of lunch. Back to bed for me, then and Liz beating me into submission - SHE would do the livestock rounds and no arguing. The good news is that I woke up this morning with all pain gone and happily tried some toast to no ill effect. I have eaten normally today and drunk normal amounts of coffee and tea - no dizziness, no nausea, no sweaty hot flushes and no excuse to not go to Yoga on Wednesday. I guess a winter-vomiting bug picked up from somewhere, or maybe Liz is sneaking the strychnine into the BBQ chicken.

Liz and Liz at the blackberrying
Today also dawned beautifully sunny and warm, so we grabbed our tubs and buckets and headed off for the brambly hedges of the fields of a very good farming friend. The fruit grows lush and bold in those fields and, them being a silage fields, I know they never get sprayed with anything except slurry and fertilized with anything but inorganic NPK to help the grass after each silage cut. In an hour and a half we had quickly accumulated 4 kgs+ of lovely ripe fruit. The sun was starting to get to me (maybe not as fully recovered as I thought?) by then and Mum was feeling tired, so we stopped at the one big bucket. We have an option to go back for more. There are plenty there. We didn't even get all the way round the first (of two) field(s).

I think that'll do for this one. Here, though, is some lovely, mad, china Mum brought up as a gift. Thank you so much, Liz (snr)

Friday, 9 September 2016

Four by Four (or Twos and Fives)

I made it 45 swallows on the wires this afternoon, 46 if you
include the one just left of the pole. 
As our very wet August does its drippy 'segue' into soggy September (and I have my usual debate with myself whether that should be pronounced 'segway' or 'seeg') we start to give up on Summer and look down the barrel of Autumn. Today is a particularly wet example - it is doing that rain which I have only ever experienced here in Ireland. It is 'heavy' in the sense that there is a lot coming down but the drops are like big drizzle falling slowly and landing without drama. There is no roar of hammering raindrops bouncing off the tarmac but you get wet very fast because of the density of the drops. It is surely this kind of rain that was first described as a 'soft' day.

The half-feathered 2nd batch of Hubbard chickens at 4 weeks
looking at their most "velociraptor"
I feel a bit like 'Lady Muck' going round the village distributing cakes to the poor peasants when I am doing my livestock rounds. The sheep and pigs are fine and probably sheltering in their lean-to or ark but the birds are all either young, so I like to give them food under cover, or holed up in various places around the farm sheltering from the rain - under the trailer, in the car-port, in the sheds and coops, under the bottom shelf of the log store and so on.

This hedgehog called by one evening and I came upon
him unsuspecting with dogs, hence he is curled up in a ball.
I take the appropriate feed for the groups round in 1 litre yogurt tubs and slide a portion in onto their dry ground without worrying them into getting to their feet and sprinting out into the rain to avoid me. The geese and ducks, of course, have no problem and show every sign of loving the warm shower. They will happily hoover up wet food from the rain soaked ground. The chickens, Guineas and (now) turkeys (of which more later) all hate to get their feet wet and will not eat wet food.

Mr/Mrs Tiggy Winkle uncurls and sets off after the doggie
It must be time for a livestock round up; I know some of the readers like to hear the latest moves and worry if they have not heard from xxx for a while. Pigs are good and ever bigger. We have had no repeats of the belly-ache wobble by Somerville which scared me to death last week. I must measure them again for a weight estimate. I may do that tonight if I can 'borrow' Liz's dress-making (soft) tape measure again. I will let you know. Our current thoughts are to 'finish' them in late October.

Chip with his damaged pupil. It seems to not be able to close
from the right side of his face but he manages. 
We are now down to our 'ground zero' on the sheep flock with the last two lambs-for-meat being away at the butchers hanging for their week before they get cut up in our presence next Monday. The 4 keeper 'yows' going in 'steps and stairs' in ages down from 7 year old Lily, 5 year old Polly, through 3 year old Myfanwy and now this year's 'replacement' Rosie. We will probably stick with 4 as that gives us potentially more than enough lambs but you may recall that we have offered to rehome a couple of 'geriatrics' for our Mayo breeder friend who may be coming out of sheep.

Firing on all cylinders - 100% hit rate from the ducks, all be it
one is still sneaking out the smaller 'first' eggs
('fairy' eggs or 'witch' eggs).
The ducks amazed us by all coming into lay - we got 4 eggs from 4 females. Admittedly one of these was one of the small 'fairy' or 'witch' eggs which new birds do as they stutter their pipework into action. These eggs usually have no yolk or a funny, embryonic squiggle of 'germ'. You can eat them (though I prefer to discard the squiggle!) but the birds quickly come on line properly with a normal size egg after a couple of days. These are young ducks only hatched in March, so I assumed they'd not come into lay till spring. Their '4 x 4' productivity out-does anything we have ever managed from the chickens (or the geese for that matter) where I think our best was 9 eggs from (then) 11 likely hens.

I was getting a bit carried away with my flavoured goats
cheeses. Here left to right, chive and garlic, parsley and marigold
and then honey and paprika. Great fun. 
No such excitement from the hens of similar age to the ducks, the 'Corporal' and his 3 ladies. Not a one egg yet there. The other adult chooks are bimbling along disappointingly rarely giving even 3 eggs per day (from 7 eligible grown ups); I am excluding the 3 Buffs who are currently tied up rearing youngsters, the Corp's lot and the 2 month old Marans.

Badge of Honour? You've not lived till you have been snotted
on the left man-boob by 60 kg of hungry pig.
Our two most recent broodies (briefly here as "Dustbin Lady and Crate Lady" if you look back a few posts) have delighted us by forming a nice little family group looking like a pair of London Nannies taking their charges out to the park each day. Both Mums share the job and the 5 babies seem to happily interchange between the two 'parents'. They are so close now that I call them the "Two and Fives". The five chicks are all thriving, with little buff coloured true feathers coming on their wings between the chick-fluff.

There is always paperwork.
The other 'former broody' is way further forward with her little 'Araucana' chicks (the 'black babies'). These guys were hatched in late June so are 11 weeks old and should probably have left home by now, off to University or earning their own wages. It may be that they are little 'bantam' sized things and Mum thinks they are still 'her babies' but we still see her with them, minding them. Being Araucanas (or at least A x game) they are tricky to sex - both sexes have the fancy top-knot and an erect tail so we may have to wait till they reach 'point of lay' (21 weeks?) as we did for the white silkies in Kent, to see do they lay an egg or shout cock-a-doodle-dooooo!

Turkey Poults
This week we took delivery (Thanks Sue) of our three handsome turkey poults, settled them in for a day and then let them go free range. Up to now they had lived under cover in a shed and (said Sue) were long overdue for some sunshine and freedom. They spent settling in day out in a small triangular run in our yard, gazing up at the sky and the passing poultry. Yesterday they went free and had a good old explore of the site. Today, in the rain they were back indoors looking a bit less impressed but at least they are under cover voluntarily so it still might count as an improvement.

Free range turkeys.
The three is made up of 2 bigger (older) birds and a youngster. The bigger ones may even be children of our own late lamented Tom and Barbara who gave us some eggs in spring prior to Barbara going off to do her suicide-nest in the fields. I passed these to Sue for hatching but I have no idea whether those eggs became these particular birds. It would be nice to think that the DNA is carrying on but these birds are for Christmas so any boys will be 'gone' before they turn into  red-pyjama-hating, Liz-attacking, kick-boxing hooligans.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Field of Dreams?

If I play my cards right, this should be one of my most carefully worded blog posts ever.

View from our '2nd' gate, across the lane to
the field opposite
Regular readers will recall that when we bought this place we bought the house and the 1.5 acres around its south, west and north but then put in a (successful) plea for the 1 acre field to our east, thereby getting a nice square chunk of land with the house and buildings at its centre. The total buy was just a tad over the hectare (1.03 hectares or some such). The family kept hold of the rest of the holding (28 more acres) at that stage. Those readers will also recall that we have since dreamed of buying the field opposite (1.5 acres) so that we could keep a Dexter cow and calf having first fenced it properly and put up a shelter for the animals which would also collect rainwater into a couple of those 1000 litre butts (IBCs). So far so good.

That field from its SW corner. You can just see the new gate
centre left. 
All of that is already 'out there' in the public domain. Newly 'out there' comes word that the family have now decided to sell the property via local auctioneer "Callaghan Auctioneering" as 3 options - all of it both sides of the road (28 acres) or, separately, the 1.5 acres opposite us and the 26.5 acres to our west and north. This is crunch time. If we want to buy it, then we need to make up our minds now and get cracking. Once 'our field' is sold it is unlikely to come up available again.

All of which pitches us into the murky waters of "Private Treaty" wherein, if you are wise, you play your cards very close to your chest lest you prejudice your or anyone else's moves. Buyers must bid for the property in a closed-bid auction, sealed envelopes discretely delivered to the auctioneer. You don't know what anyone else has bid or even who has done so for the very good reason that no-one wants anyone else to know their business or their worth. They might share a pint in the local pub, but they are, of course, rival businesses, farmers who might have to try to out-do their neighbour next time they buy or sell animals. It's a cut throat, hard nosed business, farming, especially since the crash. If someone is going under then you don't want it to be you.

Another 'flavour' of livestock feed in bulk;
another silly cartoon on a dustbin lid!
Obviously, in this fog of 'smoke and mirrors' a good few of them are also "experts" with fixed opinions on who has bid and how much. "Ah.... surely he will have bid", " Oooh, about €70 grand, I expect", "Ah yes, but he's just spent a load of money on xxx" and so on. Fevered conjecture with not a fact to base any of it on! A dream for gossip and village politics and mainly harmless fun.

Maybe I'll just buy a tractor instead. Love this local one.
Hence me being so careful about what I know and what I may or may not have done about it. Will we bid? How much should we bid - what price would secure the land (or how little could we get away with!)? When do we bid - smack one in early or bide our time and wait right to the wire. Do we have that kind of money? Can we winkle it out of dusty-laden reserves or should we start doing the lottery? Don't hold your breath waiting for these answers. A guy in the pub told me it'll be at least 2 months....... OK, not really.

Deefer loving the new bed. The old 2nd hand cushions were
well past their sell by date.
Meanwhile, as if all this fevered speculation was not enough Lizzie has been trying to commit suicide by excess committee work and is only now starting to see some light at the end of a very packed tunnel - committees on organising the local Half Marathon/10 k runs (she looks after the publicity and has introduced them to the world of websites and social media), on what play the drama group should do next, on the future use of the Village Hall (actually the "Community Resource Centre", no less) as well as establishing yoga sessions, restarting the pre-school and Active age groups. Then there is knitting (and now crochet lessons), plus we have had visitors and we are due some more.

Half Marathon-ers pull away from the start line. 
It is a real relief to 'finish' some of these projects and lay them to rest for another year and, this weekend just gone, 'we' (the village) landed the 10k and Half Marathon. It went like a dream and, on the day, there was no more publicity to be done, so 'we' (mainly Liz) were able to swan around the start enjoying the well organised chaos and busy-ness, talking to some of the runners (incl. one from Miami!) taking pictures, see the runs set off and then zoom back to our place to set up and run our watering station while we waited for the Half Marathon to power round the first 12 miles.

The front of the pack are the highly trained and motivated runners who tend to decline your offers of water; they stay focused on the steps, the times, their heart rates and so on, but you start to get 'customers' for your water from further down the field. Some grab your water, others even stop for a breather and a chat. "I have nothing left to give" they say before sprinting on over the crest and down to the finish. There's a fair amount of waiting around between runners and Liz filled it this time with a bit of crocheting, working her way round and round an ever increasing square. One lady ran by who we knew and joked that "It's nice that some of us have time to knit!" Quick as a flash, Liz countered with "It's crochet and, anyway, you've only been round once - I've been round this twice!"

Our MEP Luke (Ming) Flanagan does the 10K with a buggy!
As an aside, we also saw local MEP Luke (Ming) Flanagan set off at the back of the 10K course jogging but pushing a push chair with sleeping baby. I photographed him passing and later sent the pic to him via Twitter. He said that the girl in the buggy always seems to beat him over the line. Did she sleep all the way round? All 10K, said Ming. We can see her in a few years in the playground swanking it up... "10K? Call that a distance? I used to do those in my sleep!"

Back on the 'farm' a couple of less happy events. Our two ewe lambs 'for meat' came to the end of their journey and were deemed big enough to go on that car-ride to destiny (well, trailer ride). I was down today to collect the offal and the slaughterman amazed me by  saying that these were the best 2 lambs we had ever given him. He is sometimes a bit of a one for the tease or a curmudgeonly comment (too fat, too big, wrong sex (he 'hates' doing rams, he says), black wool (never as good allegedly)) so I take that as praise indeed. The same day as we took our two down, Sue asked us to take 3 (tiny ram lambs) for her to the 'other' butcher (which she uses) because Rob has allegedly chained their trailer to a concrete block and then gone on a trip to UK without knowing where the key is. Allegedly.

September is here, then.
It's a job you have to do, but it's never easy and it always feels like a bad betrayal of both the trusting lambs, and the Mum (in this case Myfanwy) from whom you have 'stolen' the children. Poor Myf' called for them through the gate for most of the afternoon. Then, as if the bloodthirsty gods had not given me enough angst, the now full-grown gosling who had already lost the use of one leg (see a previous post) and was coping OK, today lost use of the other leaving him/her helplessly stuck in one bit of field. That is the end of the road in these cases, so her end came tonight when she failed to make it home to the goose-house at lock-up. Again, not a fun job but a necessary one.

On a happier note, to finish, I received a gift from a lad in the lane, of a bucket of rather green windfall apples for the pigs. I was doubtful, thinking I might give them belly ache so I started gently (a few apples, rapidly hoovered up) and then dished out a dozen per lunchtime. They looked to be enjoying it. Sobering then to see poor old Somerville stagger out for her supper in a very moopy state and play with her food while Ross guzzled hers with the usual gusto. Poor girl did not look well at all - quite a scare for me as I have never had a pig go sick before. I was fairly sure she'd just got your standard kid's belly ache and the advice on the pig groups was consistent with that. Keep an eye, they said. She will probably recover overnight. Anxious morning rounds this morning, then, till I was delighted and relieved to see that familiar sandy coloured shape sprinting up and down the fence with her sister yelling for breakfast. Anyone would think she'd missed a meal.... oh yes, so she had!