Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Mind the Bike

Dan and Dan sign the Register in a gently rocking
environment. 
Friends of the Blog, frequent visitors and happy couple, Dan and Dan(ielle) were last seen about to take that stroll up The Aisle on board a cruise ship somewhere in the Med. Congratulations you guys; you obviously nailed it and sent us a rake of pictures to prove it. You both look splendid and look to be having a having a whale of a time. The very happiest and brightest of futures to both of you and we hope to see you again soon in your new guises and Mr and Mrs Dan. Thank you for sharing the day with us via social media.

Meanwhile, back in Roscommon, we are all feeling a bit quiet and subdued after the departure of "our Spanish lads", the Help-X pair, Manu and Pedro. They have moved on to a smallholding with horses near Blessington and we hope they are enjoying themselves  (almost) as much as they did here. They tell me there is no broad-band there, though, so they are reduced to text messaging and so on. We have written them a good review on the Help-X website and they may well write one about us. It should all help both parties find work or workers next year.

2 kinds of Spanish ham
We have been enjoying the wonderful 'stuff' the boys left in their wake and not just the 2 kinds of Spanish ham they surprised us with as their final act before getting into the car for their run to the railway station, one a big fat salami sausage, the other finely sliced 'Serrano' type ham.

Totem man carved by the lads
We've also been wandering round with big grins on our faces at the extremely tidy, parkland type look of our place and at the 'Easter Island Man' totem pole fella just inside our gate.

Back to normal for us, then (or what counts for normal round here), tidying, post-visit blitzing (tho' the guys were very tidy and generated very little mess) , a mountain of postponed laundry and ironing, repairing a couple of tools which did not survive the boot-camp, shopping and that sort of thing.

Puff balls
The old redundant, grassed over cow-muck heap behind what is now our goose house, celebrated by yielding half a dozen nice fresh white puff-balls. These have appeared before but we have never bothered with them and left them to go 'puff' with their dark green spores.

Lentils with sliced runner beans and puffball as part of a curry
menu. 
This time, I dived on 3 of them and brought them in to see if we could do a 'Food for Free' forage recipe. Liz quickly rattled up some recipes off the Internet and the puffballs have appeared for a couple of nights now as the 'mushroom' part of various dishes. We agree with the Internet advice that they have a very delicate (absent?) flavour and are best used "as tofu" as a creamy bland base for other flavours.

Beeblebrox's ever bigger chicks. 
I suppose I should quickly add a Health Warning for anyone reading this and trying to follow suit. Wild mushrooms and toadstools can be very poisonous and can be difficult to ID one from another. Small puffballs can look a lot like the scary 'Amanita' toadstool when it is still inside it's 'cowl' so you should always slice your prospective puffball in half down the middle to check that you have an amorphous white lump, not an embryonic mushroom- shaped structure about to burst out of it's ball-shaped cover. Also, make sure you are eating these guys fresh and white. Any discolouration of the flesh and they have gone over and may not be safe.

Honda Gold Wing under cover
Just for a change, we have been minding an enormous motor bike for some friends. It has gone 'home' now, so I am safe to reveal the fact. These are new friends, Les and Jean who are just starting in the Irish Smallholding game. They have bought the place a few km due south of here and have dropped in a couple of times to drop stuff and do a few bits, but they have not yet nailed down the immigration/changing jobs/money side of things. Jean is still working in the UK and Les is only at leisure because his work involves a school, so he is on Summer Hols.

How much dashboard do you need on a bike?
We got the bike to mind while they were both going to be away from their new place. We are not bikers but I had, at least heard of this beast, the Honda Gold Wing (Lead Wing to its detractors because of the weight).

Thunbergia.
It is a huge 'touring' style beast with very comfy leather armchair seats and a cocoon of panniers, boxes and storage baskets. The dashboard is a ridiculously well equipped panel like a plane cockpit with stereo speakers included. The engine, at 1500 cc is 50% bigger than the one in our car and the bike has a reverse gear! Launched in 1979 (Les tells me) these beasts are still for sale new but with an 1800 cc engine and costing around £24,000 (Sterling). So, a lot more than a new Fiat Panda then! No thanks, Bikers, you can keep that one. Les's isn't new, of course but he tells me he sold a classic old convertible Jag to find the money to buy this one.

Liz is producing some lovely clean carcasses and the birds are
making good weights. The last 4 have been 2.2, 2.5, 2.8 and
2.9 kg respectively. Not bad for 72 day old fowl.
Finally, as the Hubbard birds come up to 70 days old, we have started "harvesting" them in earnest. This is rather early compared to the advised age for full free-range ("slow grown") ones but we want to off them all by Liz's Birthday, so we have been sorting 2 a day. By now Liz is skillful enough at the plucking and dressing that the birds come out a lovely clean carcass and the last 4 have made very good weights oven ready; 2.2, 2.5, 2.8 and 2.9 kg.

These Lidl supermarket "cheapie" lilies have been a revelation.
In their tub just outside the front door, Liz tells me she can smell
them 15 feet away while pruning the roses and if we leave the
front door open, their scent fills the house. 
Amazingly, this batch of 12 chicks contained only one rooster. The chances of that would be 1 in 4096 (0.5 times 0.5, 12 times) but it doesn't really matter when you are only growing the birds for 70-80 days. The roosters may go slightly bigger but not much and we are more than happy with our 5-6 lb birds. 5 lb is way more than we two need for a meal, so most of them end up jointed up and the freezer fills up with bags labelled "4 Hubbard thighs" or what ever. It is, as ever, the most delicious, meaty and succulent chicken you are ever likely to eat. If you can, you smallholders, try to get hold of these Hubbard day-olds as your raw material for chicken-meat birds.

That is about it for this one. Catch up with you next time.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

En Alabanza de Help-X

Pedro giving the hardcore yard a bit of
punishment. 
(In Praise of Help-X) In which we sadly come to the end of an epic, amazingly superb time, our 16 days of hosting our first ever Help-X volunteers, Manu and Pedro. If those two lads were typical, then the whole Help-X organisation from website to man-hours on the ground is praise-worthy indeed. They were THE BEST kind of guests (happy, friendly, easy going and very appreciative of our hospitality) as well as being brilliant, untiring workers for the "agreed" 4-5 hours a day. They also thoroughly enjoyed all the down time and leisure stuff, exploring, fishing, shopping and wood carving.

'Sparks' would be proud of us - measure
twice; cut once!
We are both delighted and impressed by how it has all gone and the place has never looked so good over all, all at once. Everywhere I look I see baize-short immaculate lawns, fields devoid of tall weeds, new woodwork and concrete scraped clean of invading grass.

New dog pen
It is quite a 'legacy' the lads have left behind, not only for the fancy bamboo pens and the lovely "Easter Island Man" totem pole head which they completed in the nick of time on their final day, yesterday. If I list it the old fashion "bullet point" way beloved of working life meetings, we have....


  • A cattle race scraped clear of invasive grass
  • The East Field devoid of tall weeds, mainly docks, rushes, nettles and thistles
  • 'Back of the Goose House' razed nettle patch
  • Huge veg patch back under control and 100 sq yards of it under plastic sheeting
  • Hedges and big willow pruned behind same.
  • Grass mowed everywhere, even into bits I have never mowed before AND all of it done with the grass-box on the back of the mower and the clippings carted away to composts or pigs (i.e. all better and tidier than I normally manage)
  • Orchard scythed and brush-cuttered to within a few inches.
  • The yard mowed. 
  • 2 lovely anti-chicken cages now protecting 2 strawberry beds
  • A lovely new 'picket' fence dog-pen leading off from the old back door.


The lads with their carved man. They think Liz
should knit him a little hat and scarf for the
winter. 
If I have forgotten any achievements, I will come back and edit them into the list. Either way it has been epic and the lads have also thoroughly enjoyed us and Roscommon and being out here in the West of Ireland. They have enjoyed a lot of new 'work' experiences and learned such skills as I could share with them around the livestock, gardening and woodwork. K-Dub will no doubt laugh at the thought of me teaching them scarf-joints and a love of DeWalt tool-ery.

The boys cook us 'cachopo', a recipe from Asturias (northern
Spain)
They enjoyed our good food and some local beers and took on a love of Guinness and, in Manu's case developed an addiction to whole-food style 'Meridian' peanut butter. They cooked for us twice, both excellent, and stretched Liz to the high notes of her cookery and provisioning. To finish with a 'bang', for example, our Last Supper was Hubbard chicken in BBQ sauce with a simple mushroom risotto, roasted toms and red peppers and an avocado-based salad. Pud was a rhubarb Pavlova and properly made Irish coffees to follow - black and white "like a little Guinness" in the words of the hugely impressed lads.

Miss Black with Manu-1 and Manu-2. Manu-3 appeared later.
I have already posted that when we collected the new lambs, we named the ram 'Pedro' after one of the boys. Then, to make sure the other lad didn't feel left out I told him that we had a black hen sitting on eggs, due to hatch on their (then) last day, Thursday 10th. We would name any successful hatches, Manu 1, Manu 2 etc.

Miss Black brings the babies out. They are so tiny; they are like
little bumble bees after we have got used to the previous clutches
of chicks which are now at least 6 weeks old. 
Good girl, Miss Black did the honours right on time, Day 21. Manu was able to see Manu 1 just after breakfast and later that day #2 and #3. The boys actually extended their stay till today, so they have also been able to enjoy the hen bringing the babies off the nest and out into the sunshine. Everyone's a winner.

Aughalustia Bridge, just south of Ballaghaderreen.
The boys also got into the fishing and finally started catching stuff. We had all been joking that this Irish fishing holiday thing was all a big con, the Lough Glynn Fishing Club was just a money-laundering scheme and that, in fact, there were fewer fish than snakes in Ireland. Having spent several fruitless hours at Lough Glynn, they moved to the beautiful Aughalustia Bridge up by Ballaghaderreen. At least there they'd be in easy pedalling range of the town's take-aways for a change of supper venue. The Bridge yielded no fish that time.

Teaching the Roscommon worms to swim.
Almost giving up on the angling thing Manu and Pedro biked down to the little local bridge as a last ditch effort and, Bingo! , started landing some roach. They caught more the 2nd day and then on Weds 9th, all encouraged, went back to Aughalustia Bridge to try again. They hauled out 3 more.

The lads are bottom right in this shot. It is a very scenic place
to fish. 
At that site there is a lovely wooden 'decking' platform with duck-board walkways etc where you are, we guess, "meant" to fish, but the lads found it all so weedy just off shore, they were frequently tangling their hooks in the submerged vegetation, so they moved along the bank to a less official place and we lent them two tripod "shooting seats". Hours of cheap fun for our budget travellers.

So, that was pretty much that. We fed them a breakfast this morning, retrieved all their dry laundry from our Utility Room and I ran them down to Castlerea station for their quarter to eleven train to Dublin. The 2nd fortnight of their tour is staying with a Help-X host farm with horses, somewhere over by Blessington, just outside Dublin, on the shore of the enormous 'Pollaphuca' Reservoir with its hydro-electric scheme and its water supply for the capital. If they can't find fish in there, we told them, then they are not trying hard enough!

We have joked with them that they will always be welcome back here so if they don't like it at Blessington, they will have to re-appear here under cover of darkness, tails between their legs. Please feed us, Lizzie, we want to come ba-ack! We didn't like it in Dublin. They didn't have Meridian peanut butter!

Seriously though, guys. You REALLY WILL be always welcome here, Help-X or not. If you are ever back this way then do get in touch and drop by.

Con the Archery Coach turns out to be a highly skilled exponent
of the mini-digger. 
What else is new? Only that in between all that I was over at archery coach, Con's place recently, when I was probably better off resting my damaged knee (almost better now, by the way), answering a call to come and help lay a land-drain.

Low point in my career. Down in the ditch trying not to lose
 a wellie.
He had hired a mini digger and had to give it back that evening, and they had all got a bit behind. So, out there for me, splodging about in wellies in a muddy ditch, trying not to lose my footwear, shovelling the drain 'fall' smooth, then building protective 'castles' out of salvaged blocks to protect the plumbing while Con back-filled the drain over the new pipe. Nice and restful on the knee, then? Maybe should have taken Pedro and Manu out there.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Get me to the Ship on Time

Dan and Dan last November. Happy Wedding, guys!
We trust that by now, our good friends and frequent guests, Dan and Dan(ielle) are now Mr and Mrs Dan, married late this morning on a cruise ship somewhere (I think) in the Med. We all wished them well early this morning via Facebook and text messages when they said that they were scheduled to do the job at around 11 on board. As expected and for a load of good reasons, we have not heard anything since (They were kinda busy, we guess!) so we just hope it all went off without a hitch and they are now 'done'. Happy Wedding Day, you guys. See you soon-ish I expect.

We were, of course, involved in this set up in a small way as it was on one of their visits over here that Dan proposed. They were heading from here to Galway at the end of a stay and Dan secretly asked us for a suggested route which would include suitably beautiful scenery where he might stop the car and leap out to go down on one knee. People who know Danielle, know that she is such a bubbly, talkative soul, that he might have expected trouble getting her to go quiet so he could slide the big question in edge-ways. We had suggested driving via Cong and Connemara; plenty of scenic lakes and lovely views that way.

The ducks support the cause.
Dan headed off and found a suitably beautiful lake-side spot, stopped the car and got them both out. Ring-box hidden in his hand, he lunged down on one knee but just at that split second Danielle turned away and, overcome by the gorgeous lake-scene, scampered off down the beach towards the water bubbling over with plans to come back with canoes. Dan was left there on his knees while his intended got further away, wondering whether to shuffle forward on his knees or get up and walk (Take 2?) and Danielle only stopped gabbling when she realised it had gone a bit quite behind her and where was Dan? All sorted out in the end, Dan proposed, Danielle said 'Yes' and the rest is history.

Pedro at the whittlin'. 
Other than that, not much happening. We have the Help-X lads, Manu and Pedro with us till Saturday and we are continuing to be delighted and impressed by the whole deal. This place has never looked so tidy all at once; they have worked so hard bashing the nettles, docks and rushes, mowing as well as occasionally helping us move sheep about or rounding up cattle which have escaped into the lane.

Pedro and Manu 'relaxing'. 
They have finally caught some fish - 3 roach in the River Lung by Feigh Bridge. That was a relief. They'd been trying and trying at various "never fail" , popular sites and not even seen a fish never mind hooked one or landed one. They are off down there to try again even as I type this. They expressed an interest in wood carving so I supplied them with a big old spare fence post, chisels and an orbital sander, with which they intend to create a totem pole with face(s) on. They are struggling a bit with this as the wood proved to be very hard and dried out but we live in hope.

Hand made bamboo ball-point pens. 
They made a little diversion into hand-made biros made in green-bamboo tubes. These are very clever, with their ends at the joints in the bamboo and with the lids made in tube just big enough to telescope over the smaller pen-tube. Very clever. They have cooked for us once already but, when they decided to ask to extend their stay to Saturday, they offered to cook again. We are promised some kind of Spanish beef dish tonight. We are looking forward to it.

2 Hubbards jointed for the freezer.
Meanwhile, the Hubbard birds are so big now, that even though they are only 64 days old they are looking harvest-able. We have therefore 'offed' a couple, which came in at live weights of 3.38 and 3.58 kg respectively and the 'dressed' (oven ready) as 2.66 and 2.70 kg respectively. 5 lb birds at 64 days from a genuine free-range system with no growth promoters or excessive "pushing". Amazing.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Los Chicos están Despiertos

The boys offer to cook for us on Wednesday.
(The Boys are Awake) Finally a proper day off. The Help-X lads are off today on a train-ride adventure to the lovely town of Westport and I am just back from dropping them to Castlerea railway station to which they are not due to return till 07:15 pm tonight.

Chef and Sous-chef (we'll leave them to
argue over who's who). The food was delicious!
Liz has declared this a "Pyjama Day" and intends not to get out of her PJs till, at earliest, when I get the 'please pick us up' call this evening. I, too, am going to do only daily vital chores (live stock etc) and no big jobs.

It's not all dirty jungle-bashing for the lads.
They like a woodwork project for a change.
Don't be fooled, mind, into thinking that nothing will get done. Liz tends to start off with the good intention of a relaxing day and keeps the PJs on but as often as not slings an apron on over the PJs and gets just as covered in flour, the gentle bloom of oven-steam or the 'dusht' of a distraction into 'just tidying this'. I will have to go feed the bullocks for a friend and I also have a newly arrived smallholder couple to see, to sort out some safe storage for a motorbike.

Robbedy (9) gets to shoot a few arrows with the Roscommon
club, under instruction from our very generous coach, Con. 
Our 'days off' normally go this way. Last weekend I'd not long dropped the guys to the bus-stop (they were off to Galway that time) when Mrs Silverwood advised that they would be passing through here en route from home to Achill Island (Co. Mayo). Achill Island is 2 hours further NW from here and is in the Irish speaking part of the country (Gaelteacht) and older niece J-M was off there for 3 weeks incarceration where students are only allowed to speak Irish.

I can never see how this is comfortable but the stairs are a
favourite sleeping perch for dogs. 
Robyn did not fancy the extra 4 hours in the car so opted to stay here for the 6 hours and do a bit of 'farm' with Uncle Matt and Auntie Liz. Parents and grand-parents will know that a lively, excited 9-year-old, given an nicely unfamiliar environment and space to run about out of doors, is more than capable of turning 6 hours of relaxing day off into an exhausting marathon.

When Pedro told me that Spanish bread is mainly baguette-shaped
I had to have a go. Not as easy as it looks!
I took the lion's share of that, including taking her to 'see' the archery gang (which turned into shooting with them under the generously provided supervision of our coach, Con) while Liz realised the whole family would need feeding as they passed back through, and rattled up a splendid curry and the trimmings for 7 appetites. She'd already assembled a magnificent packed lunch for the Help-X lads, (Yay, it is written. No Irish Lady shall ever send forth their 'children' on an adventure to the foreign without a good pack-up!) so there was not a lot of relaxing going on in that kitchen, that day, either. We saved a bit of the curry for Manu and Pedro, who I had to shoot down and collect from Castlerea just after we un-shipped the Silverwood Five.

Beeblebrox (Beebs) with 6 of her chicks
Meanwhile, back on the 'farm' the various clutches of baby chicks are now reaching the 6-week age where their Mums lose interest in them and they are cast off to a life in the flock generally. Connie's three and Big-Red's 4 are pretty much 'flown' now, though Stumpy's 5 and Beebs's 7 are still hanging with Mumma. It is amusing to see these groups coalesce into bigger groups as they move about. Stumpy is regularly seen with 5+3 or 5+4 babies in tow and last night as I went out with the dogs I could see on the (nicely shaved) front lawn a coincidental Stumpy plus NINETEEN chicks. I wish I'd had my camera. Actually Beebs (Mum of 7) was there but hiding behind a tree stump and Connie's three were only passing through but it looked very sweet for that few seconds.

The new lambs, Pedro and 'Oveja' (Spanish for ewe)
We got word at last from Mayo-Liz that my lambs were now weaned and ready to collect from out by nearby town, Kiltimagh. I had 'ordered' these to meet our meat requirements when I accepted that we would produce none of our own this year and the freezers would be lamb-less. My phone call to Mayo-Liz though, found them still as "babies with their Mums", so I'd have to wait while they weaned. This sounded like an adventure the Help-X lads might enjoy. We hitched up the trailer and headed off to Liz and Ray's farm which sits a-top a mini-mountain jutting out of the Mayo plains.

The new pair (centre) in with the aunts.
The two lambs for us were penned but still needed ear-tagging before we could load which led to a bit of fun. Neither Manu nor Pedro had had any experience of handling sheep and between us we let the ewe-lamb escape with a flying leap past Manu's ear - she raced across a small sand-school to be with her gang. Easy enough to catch again and the boys couldn't quite believe their eyes when having cornered and grabbed the ewe, I flipped her up on to her rump while Ray ear-tagged her and then I lifted her up and carried her back to the pen and trailer. Pro-shepherd? Maybe not. The lads were impressed but I must admit I might have been showing off a little!

Photo-bombed by this Soprano Pipistrelle (circled) on a lovely
sunset. 
The new pair needed names, one girl and one boy. We toyed with Pedro and Emanuel  for a while but then went with Pedro and 'Oveja' which is Spanish for 'ewe'. We have a black hen sitting on eggs currently, due this Thursday, so we have told Manu that if he is feeling left out we will name the chicks Manu1, Manu2 and so on. As soon as I saw these beautiful lambs (Mayo-Liz's lambs are always well bred and gorgeous-looking), I wondered whether they might be a bit high quality for use as "just meat". They are Hampshire x 'mule' (which I guess just means they are 'mongrel' or, at best "half Hampshire") and the boy, especially might get saved his trip to Ignatius G (Victualler) and might bide a while here as possible stud-ram for our existing girls. Have to think about that one..... No such luck for Oveja, I suspect, or Liz's freezers will remain lamb-less and we would have to be looking for a butcher who does boxed, butchered, whole carcass deals.

New neighbours. 
What else is new? We have, at last, some new neighbours in the 5 Acre field to our west. Friends of the Blog will know that these fields around us changed hands last winter, so Mike-the-Cows had to take all his cattle off at the end of his tenancy. No cattle have set foot on this since and we have watched, nosily, as the fields seemed to be left to neglect. Occasionally we'd see the new owner's son exploring, taking soil samples or checking fences but he said that they did not have enough animals yet to sensibly use the land. Well, they have obviously been out shopping because a group of 30-40 mainly black animals were walked in there this week and set up with temporary fences and water bowser, "just to eat all that grass off". Welcome to our townland, guys.

Blue takes it easy in the sunshine.
That will do, I think, for this one. I will finish with a few random pictures just because I've taken them and don't like them to go to waste. Enjoy.
Veg garden looking a lot more under control.
If all these plums change colour and are not stolen by magpies
we are promised a bumper crop
Apple with a confusing variety name - "Irish Peach".

Monday, 31 July 2017

Shannon's Cross Remembers

Western People from 9th July 1980
At one end of our lane lies the village of Lisacul. At the other is a crossroads which everyone local knows as "Shannon's Cross" (or Shannon Cross(ing)). It is just your basic junction, where the road from Lough Glynn to Ballaghaderreen meets our lane and a road off to the village of Moyne so it is very useful to us but very much anonymous.

Police car shot up at the scene.
You will find no sign saying Shannon Cross, or any road-signs pointing to it. The only map I have ever seen it on is the hand-painted "interpretive" map in the Garden of Remembrance in Lisacul. As far as we know it is named for the fact that the Shannon family owned the farm here and is nothing to do with the mighty River Shannon half an hour's drive away.

5 and a half tonne of Kilkenny rock. It is a very
fine Memorial Stone. 
This quiet cross roads was violently thrust into the spotlight of the national news here on the 8th July 1980 when some bank robbers trying to escape Ballaghaderren, where they had just held up a bank, rammed their car into a Garda (Police) car racing from Castlerea to try to intercept them and in the ensuing gun fight (Armelite rifles and pistols) two Officers were tragically shot and killed.

It is not my place to re-tell the story so I will provide a summary from the Internet. Wikipedia covers it well with... "Henry Byrne and John Morley, two officers of the Garda Síochána, the police force of Ireland, were murdered on 7 July 1980 by alleged members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) during a pursuit in the aftermath of a bank robbery near Loughglynn, County Roscommon. 


Flags for Roscommon, Sligo and Mayo plus
the Irish Tri-colour and the flag of the Garda
Síochána 
The officers' deaths provoked national outrage. Three men were apprehended, convicted and sentenced to death for capital murder. Two of the sentences were later reduced to 40 years imprisonment while the third was overturned....and...

Police Brass Band doing the honours
"On 7 July 1980 three armed and masked men raided the Bank of Ireland in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon. The group held staff and customers at gunpoint before leaving with IR£35,000. Gardaí (Irish) police arrived on the scene but were unarmed and were unable to stop the armed men from escaping in a blue Ford Cortina.[1] The perpetrators were intercepted by a Garda patrol car from Castlerea station with four Gardaí, including Detective John Morley, who was armed with an Uzi submachine gun. The two cars collided at Shannon's Cross, Aghaderry, Loughglinn. One of the raiders jumped out of the Cortina and sprayed the patrol car with bullets, killing Garda Henry Byrne.


A good crowd for the unveiling.
One man left the Cortina and ran off while his two accomplices – wearing balaclavas – ran in the opposite direction. There was an exchange of shots in which Morley is believed to have wounded one of the men, but he himself was fatally wounded. Both of these men were later apprehended, while a third man - Peter Pringle- was arrested in the city of Galway almost two weeks later. The two other Gardaí - Sergeant Mick O'Malley and Garda Derek O'Kelly - survived the shootout".


The old original plaque on the wall of Castlerea Garda Station. 
There has been a Memorial plaque on the wall of the Castlerea Garda Station since the event, but the local people have now had erected a superb Memorial Stone on the crossroads and this was unveiled in a beautiful moving ceremony last week. There was a huge crowd, flags flying, politicians (4 from the 'lower' house, 2 including our friend Senator Frank Feighan from the upper) some giving speeches, a large group of Police including local 'top brass' and members of the Guards' families. 


A Memorial oak tree was planted by/for each
of the families at the Ceremony. 
Apart from the cross roads being a local junction, this blog can claim a couple of connections to the events of 1980 and to the Ceremony last week. First 'Civilian' on the scene after the shootings was none other than the Father and Son team who used to own and live at this house. Referred to in previous posts as the 'TK's they were father and brother to Friend of the Blog, 'Vendor Anna'. Dad was 70 at the time according to our old copy of Western People newspaper, son would have been (I think) 28. 


Manu (left) and Pedro (right)
They'd been shopping in Castlerea and were on their way home. Dad was a retired Guard. The paper tells that the killers "brandished guns at both and (Dad) struggled with one of them and knocked the gun from one before being overpowered". The killers then un-hitched Dad's trailer and hi-jacked his red VW Beetle to flee the scene. Dramatic stuff and very brave for an un-armed 70 year old retired 'cop' facing a man with an Armelite who had possibly already killed 2 Guards. More recently it has been some of Liz's work colleagues doing all the lovely stonework  for the Memorial, me taking a few pictures and Liz doing the Village website, Facebook and Twitter feeds advertising the event. It has been a lovely thing all together and the whole area has done the Guards and the families proud. The Memorial stone will be there for years to come. 


Manu in the 'gear'
In other news, we are continuing to enjoy and be impressed by our two Help-X lads, Manu and Pedro. They are working very hard and getting lots of good tidying, mowing, clearing and trimming done. We work solidly from 9 in the morning thru to 1 pm. They have settled in well and (regular readers will know we love this) are telling us that they feel very relaxed and at home. They are loving all the food and sleeping like logs. 


Tidying up the orchard. 
They are promising to cook for us (something Spanish) on Wednesday and Manu turns out to have an ability with the wood carving (totem poles etc!) so we have supplied him with a big tree-trunk and a set of chisels.  He will carve us "something to remember (them) by", he says. They have fallen in love with the pigs and now throw most of the cuttings/prunings in to the pigs rather than on the compost heap, so that they can say 'Hello' to the pigs and tickle them round the ears. The pigs are impressed too. More on these guys as their stay progresses.


Pedro's new 'best mate'? Pride.
2  minor dramas in the livestock section. One of the turkeys misjudges a leap from the 'patio' chair and gets his leg caught, leaving him half-hanging, chest on the ground but leg stranded 12 inches above him. I do not realise his distress for about an hour by which time his leg has gone numb. He is in the sick-bay now because his 'Brother' believes in kicking a man when he is down and was treading on him. Nice. He looks like he is getting the use back of his leg so we hope he will be better by morning. 


4 'minders' for the gosling. 
One of Beeb's 7 chicks, now 3 weeks old and quite well feathered, managed to get separated from the family by straying into the goose pen and incurring the wrath of Gorgeous George, the gander. The chick fled out the back of the pen and thus out of line of sight and sound of Mum. We tried to find her and re-unite them all but lost her in the long vegetation. We needn't have worried. She came back into the yard flying over a 3 foot wall, whirring wings like a pro! She landed close to Mum and scampered the rest of the way to a happy re-union. No mean flyer that baby.