Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Of Kittens, Lambs, Streaky Bacon and Bins

When I went "to press" on the last post we had one kitten and just the one picture of same, taken by Liz on the phone-cam. I also noted that we had decided to take pity on the one lonely sibling-kitten left behind and not yet found a home. We figured (and were proved right) that the little mite(s) would settle in much faster if they had each other to play with than if we had to teach the baby to love Soldier or Blue and vice versa.

'Little Chip' 
Back to the vet for us, then, on the Saturday morning as soon as we were allowed, to collect the 2nd kitten, which proved to be a female (the receptionist assured us but we will definitely get Charlotte to double check next time she is here). She is named 'Little Chip' after the 2nd brand of marmalade, this one an Irish one which Liz knows of old. The boy is, of course "Chivers". Unlike Chivers, Chip has both eyes clear of infection and seems to be in the pink of health. Chivers is recovering after his antibiotic eye-drops.

With great timing, we had the perfect place for these kittens to 'land' - our Sitting Room is not due any sleeping  humans for a while and now housed the incubator with its dozen Marans eggs, so the door was locked to stop doggie and feline interference. We put the dog-crate in there with a cushion and blanket, the cat litter tray and feed/water/milk bowls and the kits had 24 hours in the crate while they got used to house sounds and smells, before we opened the crate-door.

They now have access to the whole room and, being cats in a new environment, they have promptly vanished into and under the put-me-up bed. They emerge when they want to play, feed or use the facilities (the cat litter tray is still in the crate). We have declared the crate a safe zone for them - if they go in there then we do not touch them - and we are making frequent visits in there and letting them get used to us and our comings and goings. They come to us and we then are 'allowed' to pick them up and cuddle them. Chivers is 24 hours ahead on this 'taming' and will sit happily on your lap purring madly while you pet him around the head, neck and shoulders. Chip still tends to wriggle and try to escape - Gerrrofff!

Ivory and Ebony loaded in the trailer awaiting their last journey
Meanwhile, our two ram lambs, Ebony and Ivory came up to their 4 months birthday and, though they were still not as big as lambs we have sent to the butcher in the past, they might have started 'bothering' their female cousins or our adult ewes. This is not a part of the job either of us enjoy but it is a necessary evil. These guys had to go on their final journey to our man Ignatius G in Castlerea Main Street.

Half 'cooked', the dozen Marans eggs in the incubator.
The way we do this is by gathering all 8 sheep into the cattle race where we can grab the two we want and steer them into the trailer. Easy? Well, not this time apparently. The boys are young, fit and strong and took some catching. At one point I mis-grabbed Ivory and ended up doing a failed version of a rugby tackle, landing with a real crunch on my right knee. 2 nice abrasions even through the trousers and some good bruising, I shouldn't wonder. I am hobbling about like an aul' wan and unable to do any jobs which involve kneeling. We got the lads into the trailer and away to our butcher/slaughterman, Ignatius G so that today I had to nip down there to collect the offal - kidneys, hearts, livers and a lung (for the haggis). The main carcasses hang for a week in G's cold store, before we nip down next Monday to see them cut up, collect them and possibly pass Steak Lady's one to her.

Streaky bacon - dry cured Berkshire bellies.
The pork bellies I had salted down and then air dried came ready today, so I was able to de-rind the bellies and then slice the bacon up into 250 g packs of good streaky bacon. We have a cousin visiting at present, so we were able to try out the rashers for a nice breakfast which went down well with all customers. The cousin (Keith) commented that it was the "proper smell of Sunday" he could remember from childhood.

For a while, we thought we were being converted to a pay-by-weight system on the wheelie bins. These have up to now been just a standard charge for each 6 months (€175) but a law has been passed which would make the waste companies charge in a more complicated way. You would think the companies would be keen to write to their customers, to warn us and explain this change but no. In a rather shambolic advisory campaign we finally got first notification about a week before the change was due AND it comes in the form of a strange cartoon-ish "The good, the bad and the ugly" sheet of A4 from which you'd be hard pressed to tell how much you will be charged.

I think the €175 fixed charge has been replaced by a €102  'service charge' with blue bin recycling free but black bin (land fill) charged at €0.22c per kg of "lift". The good/bad/ugly sheet then tells us that if you keep the landfill to below 16kg per (fortnightly) "lift" you are "good" - I take that to mean my total bill for the 6 months might be less than I am paying now, bad is 25kg (about par) and ugly is 34 kg (pay a lot more than now).

Yellow loosestrife
I would reckon that our landfill bin is always so empty that sometimes I don't even bother taking it down to the gate, so I should be OK but we will not be lobbing any more 8 kg dead turkey cock bodies in there! To add to the confusion, inevitably we were just about to go live when there was such an uproar in the Dáil (Parliament) that the Dept got cold feet and are rumoured to have suspended the go-live for now. Naturally, we have heard nothing from the waste company again on this, so I will put my bins out on Monday completely in the dark as to how I am paying. I have paid their suggested 'pre-emptive' charge, so I am covered for 6 more months plus/minus any weight adjustments.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Chivers Marmalade

Love the old beans tin protecting the exhaust on this old
bog-hopper but I can't help thinking that protection is a bit
late in arriving.
One of those days today that seem to be so full of "stuff" that you get to the end and say, "Wow! That was quite a day!" For Liz too, though she managed hers totally out of synch with everybody else by pulling an all-nighter. Brexit of course with its BBC coverage all through the night as the results rolled in and hacked off at least 48% of the nation. The referendum is now done and dusted, of course, and you will know the result unless you have seriously been trying to avoid it. We are not sure what happens now and how it might affect us in Ireland either from the 'Brit living abroad' aspect or from the Northern Ireland border angle - all we really know is that David Cameron is baling out by the October Tory Conference and the replacement (BoJo? Gove?) will be left to lie in the 'bed' they have just made. Good luck with that, lads.

A picture for Liz's boss of one of the
planters currently being built by the
scheme lads, at Lough Glynn church.
Locally it meant that Liz stayed up all night to watch the results coming in and had taken today off work to recover, as is her normal wont at anything election-based (Ireland, UK or USA). This gave myself and Charlotte (of the mini horses) a clear field to put into action a cunning conspiracy which had been a few weeks in the planning. I have not been able to say anything on here yet, obviously, but the plan was to secretly find a new kitten and bring it home to Liz. The conspiracy had involved a number of friends all sworn to secrecy but all putting feelers out to find someone with kittens they were trying to re-home.

Marmalade kitten - "Chivers" of course (pic by Liz)
Our little mission over to Mayo-Liz's place to collect the Marans hatching-eggs bore fruit first as a volunteer-led rescue centre based around a Claremorris vet had suitable youngsters and the timing could not be better with Liz possibly needing cheering up after the Brexit thing. We managed to appear with kitten as she was waking up from her catch-up slumbers

Honeysuckle growing in our hedge - we didn't plant it.
She was as delighted as we were sure she would be so we got all brave and put Phase 2 into action. We had found out in Claremorris that this little marmalade lad was, in fact, one of a pair of 'left over' kittens, all that remained of a litter of 5, and by taking one we were splitting up 2 siblings. We guessed that when we told Liz this she would agree that we should take both, which she did, so a quick (pre-arranged) text to the vet's confirmed us returning to Claremorris tomorrow morning to gather up marmalade #2 and bring him/her back to his/her brother. We suspect these 2 marmalades will get named Chivers and 'Little Chip' (which unbeknownst to me is another brand of the orangey breakfast delight.) More pics in the next post; Chivers is not that keen on us yet or getting his pic taken and we don't want to stress him out.

Guinea Fowl 'Belvedere' shouts from
the top of our road gate.
The cat-wrangling, though, was fitted into a full day. K-Dub is now sporadically back from working in the big smoke, so I am back into the buildering. We are currently filling and sanding (K-Dub) and painting (me) the place. I had also taken my foot-trimming shears over with me so that we could trim the feet of the three goats, Billy, Nanny Óg and 'Henno' the kid (him for the first time). Then after all the cat-based fun I needed to run Charlotte back to Sligo but via nipping into Supervalue for kitten based supplies (kitty litter, food, kitten-milk, bowls) before whizzing home to do long-overdue dog exercising etc

You're a funny colour for a Buff Orpington chick. Are you SURE
you're one of mine?
On the calendar, not only was there written "Brexit Vote" and "Brexit Count" but also "Day 21 for box #4 Broody". This hen had done a marvellously consistent job sitting in her quiet nest box in the proper chicken coop (where they are ALL meant to lay and sit but the word does not seem to have gone round!). All around her hens were trying to sit on fresh air or getting hooshed off nests while other poultry wanted to lay eggs in the nest like a cuckoo, eggs were getting trampled and broken, or thrown out of nests with half-formed embryos in them.

Black babies. Nigel Farage would never approve.
Box #4 broody, once we had dropped in 3 blue eggs from Sue and Rob just to try her out, sat there serene and did the job properly for 21 days and came due on Brexit day. We think she hatched at least 2 of these on the day because those babies were buzzing around, as dry and fluffy as day-olds this afternoon. They look like they will definitely need letting out of the box (it has quite a high lip) tomorrow. They look quite cute in their black (Araucana) fluff next to their huge golden Mum. More pictures of these guys soon along with the kitten pics.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pork Pies (A Passion for Pig)

Stately procession led by a vintage hearse. 
On Saturday an unusual commission for me from the 365 project; could I snatch a few pictures of the funeral of one Paddy Lavin (103), late of Ballaghaderreen and our local village, Lisacul. Not a proper invitation from the family, you understand (I knew them not), more a "you should come along to that; we're going". Well, I did it and I got some passable photo's but I felt very awkward doing it, and worried that I was intruding on the family's grief in a sensationalist, rather callous, journalistic way, sneaking around with a long-ish lens praying that I'd not get spotted, challenged or (worse still) invited in 'properly'. I would have died of embarrassment but I have been told since that that was silly, nobody would have minded and they would all have been quite proud to have been 'zapped' for the 365 project. Ah well, I guess I am not yet fully integrated into the local ways.

Pork Pie filling - shoulder pork, bacon rashers, apricots, sage,
allspice and nutmeg.
I was 'home alone' again over that weekend as Liz had headed off to Silverwood land to spend a few nights en famille and celebrating niece Em-J's 18th Birthday. They did the girl proud, it is reported and her 'special meal' of choice was "proper fish and chips like we had at Grandma Pollards (Todmorden) when we were narrow boating".

10 ml sheep-meds syringe (clean, obvs) used to inject trotter jelly
through the steam hole of the cooked pies.
That, we all remember, included, local (to Yorkshire) speciality 'dabs' - a thin but complete slice of potato covered in beer batter and deep fried, plus huge sausages for the non fish-eaters. No cooking challenge too great for Mrs S and the sous-chefs; it all looked delicious. There was also a 'grown-up' sherry trifle from Liz (no jelly, posh fruit soaked in orange juice, and custard made properly with eggs. Also a goodly quantity of cream. Bellies were groaning and many diners needed a lie-down. Liz stayed down there to recover and then, when it was time to return to these parts accepted a lift from Steak Lady and Auntie Mary who had both decided they would quite like another 'sleep-over' here.

The finished pie with a dollop of Liz's mango chutney. 
While they were all gone and I had the kitchen to myself I decided to try a recipe I had been looking at for a while, that for 'proper' Melton Mowbray style pork pies. These are made with a special "hot water crust" pastry and are injected after cooking, with that greyish jelly that aficionados of pies love to have, cold and solid in their pies. I went with a recipe from our Johnnie Mountain cookery book, "Cooking with a Passion for Pig". I had trotters in the freezer from 2015 and hauled a shoulder joint out of the freezer to thaw so that I could lop off the required 7 ounces of lean before slow-roasting the rest for that day's supper.

A lazy cop-out day on the home-alone menu - pizza and a beer. 
I was delighted with the results which not only looked great but were delicious. Unfortunately in our big muffin tin, the recipe only made 6 pies and I only got to eat 2 of them - I was so proud of them that I was inflicting them on any passers-by and drop-in visitors ("Here - you have GOT to try these!"). Liz and the sleep-over ladies used up the last of them at lunchtime on Tuesday and I have been instructed in no uncertain terms to make them again, only with 3 times the recipe so you make 18. I will need 2 more muffin tins for this. We only own one. I have also been toying with the idea of making those pies with egg up the middle (Gala pies?) so I suppose I could use one of the bigger loaf tins instead of little muffin trays.

Soft goat's cheese with an interesting
"spongy" effect, like bread but the holes
were, of course, filled with whey, not air.
I also came by another 6 litres of the goats milk from Sue and Rob, so I tried another version of the cheese, called simply "soft goat's cheese" in our (Strawbridge) book. This recipe was a piece of cake to follow - warm the milk to 30ºC, add starter and rennet, leave 12 hours at room temperature to curdle, scoop curds into cheese-cloth/colander, hang up to drain for 12 more hours. It worked well and tastes correct but when I had finished draining it and took it down to cut it open, I was curious to find it had a spongy texture and looked a bit like bread - full of spherical cavities.

I had seen these cavities when scooping my curds across (at which point they were filled with whey, of course) but assumed they would collapse as the curds drained leaving me with a professional looking, rather fudgy textured, solid-ish cheese. The recipe says nothing about cutting up the curds before scooping them, or pressing the cheese, though it does say that you can do the draining in a cheese mould which you would turn over a couple of times during the 12 hours. Both the cutting and the moulding (and certainly the pressing) might help to deflate this cheese for next time but this time I will just mash it into plastic pots or boxes before I refrigerate. We are also getting a bit over-run with cheese so I have put a chunk of this one into the freezer to see if it can realistically be frozen and thawed without damage.

The neighbour's cattle. 
Nothing else to report except that my attempts to get nice significant pictures for 365 of the Solstice sunset (20th at 22:00) and sunrise (21st at 05:00) both failed as ugly grey cloud banks obscured the sun both times and gave us no colours at all except slate grey. Also, more cheerfully, we have now secured our dozen hatching eggs of Marans chickens, which are now in the incubator, due to hatch on around the 12th July. These came from our sheep-supplier, Mayo-Liz's farrier, who is called Roy, via the lady herself. I nipped out to their place with Charlotte who wanted to see Liz again after a long gap.

Roe deer (I think) in the local deer farm.
It turns out that Mayo-Liz may be down-sizing the livestock operation including selling some of the horses and most of the sheep which means that she may be trying to find "nice homes" for a couple of elderly ladies who have been more like pet ewes than any commercial sheep. We already have sheep of 7 and 9 years old and these two may be even older but are still sound and pushing out single lambs each year even though technically retired. I am tempted. I find I love these gentle old girls and we could probably absorb 2 more without too much trouble.

I am thinking about it. Maybe I am going soft in my old age, myself.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Goats Milk Cheese

Excellent curds forming.
With the guests safely returned to their homes we had the house back and quickly moved on to new ways of 'messy-ing' it up. We now have 2 sets of friends who are into the milking of goats and producing more milk than they can handle. Charlotte you will already know about, milking just Nanny Óg and her only on a 50/50 share basis with the kid (Henry Óg, but now shortened to 'Henno'). Well Sue and Rob have recently sold off all their many kids at just 6-8 weeks old, so have inherited, as a result, 3 milking nannies who are going at it like mad things - producing good rich milk and lots of it.

Scooping out the curds
As soon as we heard this we put in a bid for "at least 5 litres" (that is a sensible batch size for cheese making) and Sue and Rob duly turned up with 8 creamy litres, fresh and raw. The only cheese making we had done up to that point was the (supermarket) cow's milk Ricotta and then Mozzarella from the kit which I wrote about in a recent post ( http://deefer-dawg.blogspot.ie/2016/03/blessed-are-cheese-makers.html )  and then Liz's small rapid batch the other day. Nothing ventured, though, nothing gained. I chose a recipe from our 'Strawbridge' books for "Feta style" cheese and nabbed the first 5 litres. Liz did an Internet hunt for a soft goat cheese "with rind" with the remaining 3 litres. Both these batches are currently mid process.

We were both amazed by the amount of curd you get from this raw, full cream goat's milk. When the cow's milk curded it separated into the curds, floating on the surface as a 2 inch thick mass with almost clear whey under it. From the 5 litres of  cow's milk we actually got back over 4 litres of whey for the pigs (I soak their flaked barley in it, they love it). Because of this, in my ignorance, when I went to cut the curds for this cheese, I only sliced the knife in about 3 inches. When I went to scoop out the curds with the draining spoon, I found that the curds ran right to the bottom - the whole depth of milk had 'set' and the whey was only going to leak out of the cut surfaces of the curd blocks. We both made way more cheese than we had imagined we would.

The drained mass from the sieve and cheesecloth.
The curds, once cut, scooped and set to drain, do actually leak that whey slowly so they need to sit in cheesecloth on a sieve or colander and will sag slowly down to about half the volume as the cheese starts to become more dense (and would be pressed for hard cheeses). For my 'Feta' (not actually allowed to call it that as Feta is one of these protected geographic names) the cheese mass now gets spread out on plates and sprinkled with salt to continue the 'cure' while being drained every day.

Liz filling the moulds.
Liz's rinded one goes into moulds to drain further and then gets tipped out of the moulds and left to start forming that fungal 'rind' that anyone who likes the French 'chevre' cheeses would be familiar with. That is the stage we are now at for each, the 'Feta' is curing and the rinded one is growing its rind. More on these in future posts. We do not actually possess cheese moulds, of course, so the 'moulds' were a makeshift collection of plastic cups and punnets with lots of holes punched into them using the hot meat-skewer method

Makeshift moulds.
All this cheese making put us into 'food processes' mode. We are starting to come into the season for 'harvesting' (nice euphemism) some of the stock so we need freezer space. We generally go through the four freezers doing a bit of an audit deciding what we really need to use up, consolidating the few remaining bits into one or two of the freezers so that we can defrost and clean the empty ones.

Trying to grow rinds. 
All this efficiency threw up some pig's trotters which I have been meaning to slow-boil into pork jelly for use in some Melton Mowbray style pork pies. It also showed that we have way too many chunks of pork belly left and I could salt some down for streaky bacon rashers (which would admittedly probably end up back in the freezer). Thus spurred on I hauled these goodies out and thawed them for onward processing. The jelly is now made and the pork pies will be made this weekend. The bellies are dry-salted and being drained of brine each day (the salt on the surface draws a huge amount of water out of the meat) for 7 days. There will be room for young Ebony and Ivory, our ram lambs, when they come back from the butcher's on the 4th of July.

I am no expert but i *think* this is a lesser
butterfly orchid found in one of the local
All this food prep has left little time for any other entertainments. I had a nice early start on one of the mornings, woken at some ungodly (but dawn-lit) hour by a loud cacophony of magpie and jackdaw screeches and croaks. A Hell of a din. In my barely awake, befuddled state as I came to hearing this my brain was shouting "Mink in the chicken coop!", "Pine Marten eating the gosling!" and "Fox!", not registering that it was the maggies I was hearing. Leaping out of bed, then, in a hurry, I raced outside in wellies, jocks and my fleecy jacket (I know! Quite a look!) and found Blue the cat had one of our newly-fledged baby magpies on the ground in the cattle race and the rest of the magpie family plus half a dozen jackdaws all "mobbing" him. Soldier, our other cat was moving in too.

Blue was not actually touching the bird but sitting a few inches away, the way cats do, tempting it to try to take off so that he could pounce on it again. The baby just sat there in shock. I reached down and picked up the unprotesting bird and moved it to safety on a compost heap where the cats seemed to lose sight of it and I could hustle them indoors. When I went out later at a more sensible getting up time (07:30), to do the stock, it was gone and later that day I saw the maggies feeding 2 babies which is all we think they have this time, so my youngster may have made it. I am not sure I love magpies - they steal too many chicken eggs - so perhaps I should have dinged this one when I had the chance, but it was too early in the morning and my merciful streak got the better of me. Perhaps they will name the lad 'Lucky'.

They do, do they? 
Ah well. Enough for this one. More on those cheeses, slabs of bacon and pork pies next time. Cheers.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Fastest Cheese in the Wesht?

Our Arum has finally produced some clean spathes. Last year
they all seemed to get frosted, drowned or munched.
...in which we saw an end to the blue skies, for now at least, experienced a 'first' in the wildlife dept, had our shaggy dogs visited by our tame dog-groomer and played host to some rels.

Yes, the run of blue skies and heatwave temperatures came to an end but we quite welcomed it and saw it as a bit of a relief and the garden has definitely appreciated the refreshment. The 'wildlife' drama was our first sighting, in Ireland, of deer and much to our delight and surprise they were just a mile away, in our own home lane, not even as far as the local village.

Bog Asphodel in Kiltybranks.
These were 2 female fallow deer and we 'caught' them wandering on the lane as we headed off to Balla-D on a mission to retrieve (would you believe) our chemical toilet. The lane is straight so we could see the buff/white shapes  at a distance and first thought they might be dogs. According to the bio-diversity maps, we are 'meant' to have fallow deer all over Co Roscommon and I've been hunting around with my eyes open as this is a species I know well, love and 'follow' from the Kent days. In Kent, when I was involved in the Challock Forest 'friends'
First peas of 2016 - in the poly-tunnel, obviously.
I was the one doing the 'expert' (ha!) guided walks for the public during the rut, and it was fallow deer that we were looking at. I have not seen hide nor hair, not a whisper of a fallow deer in all the 4 and a half years we have been in Ireland. I have missed them. Then there they were, not a 5 minute drive from home, clearly visible and definitely fallow does till they saw us arriving and nipped off down the bank into the young forestry to the left of the lane. We have been back that way many times since but, of course, not a sign. There is one not-so-good possibility for this sighting before we all get too excited. We know that there is a deer farm locally though we have not, so far, found it and I have no idea whether it is fallow deer the man keeps, but these two might just be farm escapes. Never mind. I have added them to the bio-diversity database with that rider in the notes.

Towser gets it in the neck from Charlotte. Everywhere else, too!
The dogs were long overdue for a clip and I took it easy with them all through the hot spell. Regular readers will know that I clip them myself and would normally do them around about my birthday in mid April. This year though, they were booked in long ago for some more special, 'professional' treatment. Our friend Charlotte, trainee vet assistant, animal wrangler and also dog groomer had her eyes on them for some pictures before and after of the 'Westie Cut' (and other styles) for her curriculum vitae, so we were saving them up.

Come on you boys in green? Poppea is ready for the footie. 
She loves doing the westies and as they are white, she can also practise playing with her colours/dyes. These are only the cheap, last-a-few-days, water-based inks which wash off so the dogs do not have to worry long about their street cred. There would be no market round here (says Charlotte) for the proper, €6-a-bottle colours used by the "Creative Groomers" that you might get to use in a city 'salon'.

Towser loves C anyway, even though she
has really 'done' him this time!
So, Towser got a (golden) lion cut which, once photographed, got all cut off again so that his head and shoulders would be cool and he finished up with a 'Gay Pride' style rainbow and many coloured dots. Poppea got an Irish tricolour on one side and a goal net on the other so she'd be ready for the footie (Euros). Deefer got butterflies on 3 sides and a desert-island palm tree (green leaves, brown tree trunks, golden sand) on her rump.

3 flavours of goat cheese - plain, garlic and chives.
There was, too, a nice bonus to this day. Charlotte is now milking that guest-goat (Nanny Óg) on a 50/50 share basis with the kid and pulling off more milk than they have need for over there, so she offered some to us and we, of course, spotted the chance to make some more cheese - we love a feta in particular but also all the younger, softer goat cheeses. I collected Charlotte and all the grooming gear plus the milk at about midday. Unbeknownst to me, while we worked outside, Liz had nipped onto the Internet and found a goat-cheese recipe which only needed lemon juice and heat and a couple of hours. By the time we had done dogs, Liz re-appeared with a chilled pink wine and three flavours of perfectly good goats cheese, plain, garlic and chives. I don't suppose cheese has ever been made faster than that (or eaten!). We are looking forward to more milk as it comes available and have also been offered some from friends Sue and Rob who have now sold all their kids and are milking 3 nannies. They have milk coming out of their ears by all accounts. Blesséd are the cheese makers?

The ducks finally work out what the pond is for. Liz and
Mary look on.
Meanwhile, we have also played host to the Mum-in-Law (Steak Lady)  and Auntie Mary who came up for an over-night and a relaxing look around the farm, plus a visit to Strokestown House. The weather held off for long enough for them to enjoy the out doors and Liz has also enjoyed a bit of feeding the pigs while managing this time NOT to be chased by the gander. The ducks finally worked out what the pond is for and are now regulars dabbling and up-ending so that the ladies were able to sit on our big ash-log and watch them busily going about duck-business. Mercifully, this has not, so far, been too damaging to the pond.

As I write this we are relaxing back indoors after the Strokestown visit (enormous Ploughman's Lunch but too much rain for more than one border of the walled garden) and soon to drop the guests back to the railway station. It has been a lovely relaxing interlude and all the better for being a shade cooler after all that heat but, no, that was NOT the sound of me complaining about the weather.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Blink and You'd Miss It

My pathetic best silaging picture so far. 
I am, as you'd know, always on the look out for new subjects for the 365 photographic project. A year in the life of our village and its townlands (sub-parishes). Silage making time was upon us; surely a crucial, can't miss, event in the year of a farming community. The weather forecast predicted a violent end to our lovely run of hot days so you'd KNOW the silage contractors would be biting on the bit, raring to go. On Wednesday evening I heard my first mowing machine roaring away a few fields out so I expected to be able to photograph the cutting stages followed by the baling and wrapping.

Last of the blue skies for now. Our next
door field with the suckler herd. We call it
(Vendor) Anna's 5-Acres. It probably has a
(better) real name.
Not on your life! So fast were these crews working that I saw a couple of fields mown and in their drying/wilting rows (I'd missed the mowing) but by the time I could get out again with the camera the grass was baled, carted and wrapped. I was left looking at a tightly shorn, rather surprised looking field. These boys do not hang about. The nearest I could get to a picture for '365' was a long-lens shot across the valley, of some baled silage awaiting the carting stage. All we had here was the to-ing and fro-ing of the contractor's bale-trailers gathering the harvest in to the local farm yards rumbling up and down the lane setting the dogs off barking.

A lovely stand of Aconites still going strong in the garden
 of a long-abandoned dilapidated cottage.  
In theory the hot spell has currently ended and we are returning to "normal" weather for June in the 'Wesht' of Ireland. I have to say that I had not noticed it getting much cooler. The clouds have returned and, mercifully, the little grey midges have departed so that I was able to clear a ditch and hedge for a neighbour without being driven to distraction. I don't have a problem with the 'bitey' ones - the real mozzies and midges - they don't seem to find me tasty. My beef is with the tiny grey ones who land in your sweat and then just walk about on your face. I hate them.

Dublin Bay rose always does well for us.
It seems we may have the daftest bunch of ducks in the land. These are our six 'Khaki Campbell' youngsters hatched at the beginning of March and now fully feathered and, you'd guess, as waterproof and buoyant as any duck could hope to be. For some reason they are frightened of going into the big pond. They love a splash about in their paddling pool and even though it is quite a big one, the 6 of them in there together leave very little room for any of them to move about.

Liz's pic of the ducks as close as they ever get to the water.
Feet on dry land and tips of bills in the water.
These guys are fully free-range and can walk pretty much anywhere on the 'farm' in their amusing waddling 'crocodile' of single file ducks. They have been all around the pond and seen it from all (dry land) angles but the nearest they ever get to getting in is when they all line up on the bank, feet on Terra Firma, to dip their beaks in and dabble at the marginal plants.

Interior of our local (RC) church for the
365 project.
I should quickly say that I am more than happy. Regular readers will know that I was always against having ducks because I think/thought that they destroy ponds leaving you with a stagnant, shitty mess with no pond life in it. Your standard village duck-pond in effect, an ecological desert, ringed by bare, brown, eroded bank mud. So to be able to have ducks and not get your pond wrecked seems too good to be true and I am leaving these ducks well alone. If they want to wash and brush up in the paddling pool and touch my lovely pond only with their bill-tips, then I am not going to argue with them. Neither of us can actually see this lasting and we are both quietly hoping to be the one out there with a camera when our little file of 6 ducks set off serenely across the pond leaving just a V of wake and their little feet under the water going like a train, out of sight.