Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Life In A Day

I've been trying to get up one minute earlier every day. I had just got to 7:03am when British Summer Time arrived. Today I got up at 7:59am.

First things first. Charlie goes out to pee and start on the many hundreds of 'rounds' he clocks up every day. This done I returned to bed with coffee and got up again around half-eight. The other two dogs got up and we all went out to sort the pigs and hens.

Charlie has taken a great dislike to pigs and would torment them given the opportunity. However I found a way to deter him when I picked up a length of alkathene piping. The minute he saw it he shot off and watched the proceedings from a safe and respectable distance. I think his previous carer must have whacked him with alkathene piping on more than one occasion. I'll not be doing that which I'm sure he'll soon discover and then poor Lily and Rusty will have to watch out.

I attended to Pearlie then breakfasted on a new-laid egg and some home made bread after which I headed to the poly tunnel to sow cucumber, peppers and okra.

New baby

Clint came to help Bert move the new calf and her mother to the meadow. He was back and forth all morning in a variety of tractors. Don't ask - it's a Clint thing.

Bert cleared off to deliver clematis and I had a light lunch of beetroot soup and sandwiches. I think it was beetroot soup but it was from the Polish shop and all information was in Polish. Maybe it was blackcurrant soup. It was very nice anyway and I ate it sitting in the sunshine. Young Rooney called. He crawled about under my car for a wee while and his long shorts slipped down and I saw his bum but I pretended I didn't. Bert returned and Clint arrived up in another tractor and a road sign that said Men at Work. He looked over at us and said,

Youse boys'll hardly be needing this then.

I said,

Did you not see Young Rooney under my car? He was working. For about a minute anyway.

Clint and Bert had a very boring conversation about manuring the meadow and Clint was whinging about the price of manure. I asked him if he couldn't just use shite and he said you need the artificial stuff to give the shite a bit of a push. I think he just wants the excuse to get out on his tractor. Young Rooney said he could get him plenty of horse manure but Clint said sarcastically,

Aye! If I wanted my fields to grow every weed under the sun I would!

Then Rod (and his mum) arrived with the fruit and veg for the pigs and we gave him six hen eggs and a goose egg and his mum gave me a pen which she does every time I see her.

When we got the yard cleared of folk I did a bit of weeding, bit of housework, started the dinner and made scones for Bert's music night.

In among times I kept Pearlie's fire going. Pearlie likes a fire no matter what the weather is like. Today, while everyone else was in tee-shirts and her carer had the top off her sports car, my mother-in-law sat there with a fire roaring up the chimney, all her windows and doors tight closed and wearing, on top of her normal clothes, two shawls, with two blankets over her lap and a hot water bottle. I'm afraid I was cruel come mid-afternoon and opened a window a chink and let her fire go out as I believed she was at risk of heatstroke.

Boys all arrived for music night and since then I've mostly been sitting here scanning photographs. I got a HP Photosmart from one of the boys as my previous machine would not work with Ubuntu. I've been going through Matty's photographs but I think I've scanned the best of them already.

Then I tried to take a photograph of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus. Sadly I couldn't find the important part of my tripod so it wasn't much good. As you can see.

Camera shake

Friday, March 23, 2012

What Makes Blogs Shit

What makes blogs shit is when bloggers keep on posting even when they've got nothing to say.

What makes blogging shit is when bloggers have got lots to say but, because they try to be decent and tactful people, they don't blog about it.

'Twas ever thus.

These past few days I have spent a lot of time with family members near and wide. It has been mostly very good. Today was particularly good. I have heard stories mad, sad, fantastic and true.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have been trying to compile a tree-like plan of the Nelly family right down to Miss Martha's third cousins. This has entailed much cyber-stalking and looking at photographs of friends and friends of friends on Facebook. I have discovered a number of things. One is that boys are much less likely than girls to concern themselves about privacy and another is that I have a lot of young (mostly) female cousins who pose seductively in their temptressy going out outfits right in front of pictures of the Sacred Heart. Mind you that is an improvement on the cousins who posed in short sequins and cleavage against a background of mops and buckets and other kitchen squalor.

Another thing I found is that more than a dozen of my young relatives are excellent sportsmen and sportswomen within the Gaelic sphere. Which brought to mind a comment my naughty cousin J. made today. He spoke of a young neighbour lad who was that good at hurling that he ought to be put out to stud. I couldn't help saying that I had many young female relatives who should, for the sake of the GAA, be introduced to him.

Yes. I know I'm an eedjit. But as someone once said, and on a very special day, at least not a boring bastard.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Five Minute Bread.

I subscribe to a monthly publication called Home Farmer, because it has interesting articles about growing in polytunnels, bee keeping and wine making. It also has some good recipes. This month there was an article that was titled 'Fresh home-made bread every day – in just five minutes?' I resolved to try it. The recipe comes from a book also called Five Minute Bread by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

This is what you do.

Get a large container. I used a wine fermentation bucket. Throw together 900g of white flour. I used strong white flour that I'd had for far too long. Probably past its sell-by date but I checked for weevils and there were none. To this I added 750ml of lukewarm water. A teaspoon of salt and three sachets of fast acting bread yeast. Quick stir together, cover (not supposed to be airtight) and into Pearlie's lovely warm room to rise. I left it for a few hours. I could see why the cover did not need to be airtight because I used clingfilm and when I lifted it the fumes of fermenting yeast would have taken the sight from your eyes.

This mixture is supposed to make 4 loaves. You can keep it in the fridge and use it whenever you need it and this is supposed to be better because it takes the stickiness out of the dough. I got two loaves and a huge pizza base out of it but because it was so sticky I think I probably washed half a loaf's worth down the sink when I washed my hands.

The recipe says the bread should be rested for an hour but I've only just noticed that and mine went straight into the oven at 230C (450F, Gas 8) for about 25-30 minutes.

The pizza dough was drizzled with olive oil before being topped, the loaves were dusted with flour and I had a bowl of hot water in the oven to keep the crust from becoming tough. The end result wasn't bad at all. Bert has eaten lots of it and he says it's a bit like ciabatta. The actual work with the bread was only about five minutes if you don't count the rising and resting time. I'll definitely be making it again.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In A Graveyard

So that is St Patrick's Day and Mother's Day over for another year. We had a few friends around last night and the talk came round to parading. Swisser complained that she had been held up earlier by an Orange parade and Bert and me had a little disagreement when I opined that I thought Orange Men only paraded on St Patrick's Day for complete twistedness and he opined that I was a sectarian bigot.

Usually on Mother's Day it slips my mind that I am a mother and have been so for 37 years. It always seemed far more important that I was a daughter and I had a mother. I visited her grave today and left a little posy that I plucked from my garden. Hannah went with me. I took her photograph by the grave and afterwards I said, “Were you smiling in that picture?” and she said, “Yes. Everybody puts on a solemn face by a grave. I didn't want to.” I've never been in St Comgall's cemetery with Hannah alone and we walked around and I told her stories about the people I knew who were buried there.

There was an Aunt who died of cancer when I was a teenager. She had the most beautiful smile and she loved to laugh. Her daughter was seven years older than me and she had a really quirky sense of humour. One day I went to visit my Aunt and my cousin was there as well. She came out with some remark (I forget it now) that I found so funny that I laughed until I wet myself. My Aunt was tickled pink at this disaster and she laughed until tears ran down her face. She died not long after this.

I knew so many stories about people who were buried there. There wasn't the time to tell her all of them but I did tell her one about Father Vincent Davey who was Parish Priest in Antrim when I was a girl. In those days the Parish Priest was a figure of authority and although Father Davey seemed to be a jovial sort of man, we children were taught to fear him. Father Davey had been a missionary priest in Nigeria from 1922-1932 and was still devoted to that cause. He was very skilled at raising funds or, to put it another way, squeezing money out of his parishioners. As I remember, the bulk of his sermons were fund-raising drives and exhortations for money. Still the people of the Parish would far rather have given their money to the Missions or the Parish than to the Government.

I would have been around fifteen and becoming very wilful and defiant and my parents were despairing of me. Matty had the bright idea of sending me in to Father Davey for a good talking to and I was given the busfare to Antrim and instructed to go and see him. I can't have been that bad a girl or I wouldn't have went near the Parochial House but anyway I stood at that bus stop and I got on that bus and I was trembling with fear and I'm sure there are people who've gone to the scaffold who were not as afraid as me.

I got off the bus at the Chapel Corner and presented myself at the Parochial House. I knocked the door and, after what seemed like a long time, it was opened by the old dragon of a housekeeper. She looked down at me with great disdain. “Yes. What do you want?” I quaked and said in a very tiny voice. “I'm here to see Father Davey.” She went off and a few minutes later he appeared at the door. I must have interrupted his meal for he was wiping his mouth. He was pink and shiny and not terribly cross looking at all. I said, “My mammy sent...” He stopped me, looked at me benignly and he said, “Now – you're to be a good girl, say your prayers, work hard at school and do what your Mammy and Daddy tell you,” and with that he smiled at me and closed the door. I was delighted to have got off so lightly and made my way home with a far lighter heart.

I did not make Matty much wiser as to what had passed between me and the Parish Priest and I'm afraid that I did not take his advice to heart for I did not say my prayers, nor did I work hard at school or do what my parents told me. But I probably should have.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Three Marthas

It has been a 'brave while' since I posted to The Garden. Too much going on. That's when I get the block on. Meanwhile, thanks to a family visit and the gift of a digital photograph of my great-grandmother I am head and ears back at the old family tree. It calms me. If anyone is going to make a record of the many descendants of Granda Ned then that is going to be me. There are plenty others working on the ancestors and the ten thousand cousins in Australia. I'll concentrate on the ones that are (mostly) still with us. So far I have discovered that if it wasn't for Granda Ned the whole G.A.A. scene in County Antrim would be much the poorer.

This is Martha who was my mother Martha's grandmother. She died in 1939 when my mother was thirteen.
Martha, my mother and Miss Martha's great-granny, pictured shortly after her grandmother died.

And this is Miss Martha who is a great-great-great granddaughter of the lady who was Miss Martha Donnelly from Randalstown before she married James McAnespie in Belfast. Does anyone else see a similarity in the brow area? It is a family trait that helps us give good frown faces.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


We had the digger (1) man round the other evening. There are a lot of drains needing cleared out in the wood and a very boggy patch at the bottom of one of the fields. Bert said,

When can you come?

He said,

I don't know about that now. There is a lot of frogspawn (2) in those sheughs. (3)

I saw that myself. What do you reckon?

Well I could lift it in the bucket and move it to another hole but there'd be a lot of it lost. I'd as soon leave it until May at the earliest.
That'll do then.

When Bert reported this conversation to Hannah and myself we were both delighted with the digger man. Hannah said,

Good old Gorgeous Gage for caring about the wee frogs.

Is it any wonder he is our favourite digger man?

(1) Digger/ Backhoe

(2) Frogspawn is produced in huge quantities because of the high mortality rate. Only the strongest eggs will survive. The eggs are also an important food source for newts, dragonfly larvae and water boatmen. Out of 2000 eggs in a blob of frogspawn fewer than five frogs will ever reach breeding age.

(3) Sheugh – Ulster Scots. A narrow open drain or ditch, often with water in it.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Things I Hate

I hate doing Bert's books. He records his incomings and outgoings in a tatty little yellow notebook and uses the first writing implement that comes to hand be in pen, pencil or crayon. And did I mention that his writing is horribly illegible? Letters I can work out but numbers are awful. His 4s and his 9s are indistinguishable and his 5s and 3s aren't much better. There are difficulties with 6 and 0 as he can hardly be bothered to close his zeroes. His customers and suppliers he calls by differing names, sometimes it's their first name, sometimes it's their town and sometimes he actually uses the company name. It gets confusing. There is no ordering either. The year 2010 comes after 2004 and 2009 is followed by 2011. There are crossings out and there are arrows pointing to little notes in the margins. I despair of it all.

So I spend many torturous hours deciphering all this then I send it by email to his accountant in the form of a nice neat spreadsheet. She needs checking up on too. I sent her an email in September which she claimed not to have received and had to send again in January. She probably spends five minutes on it, sends it on to Her Majesty and charges Bertie Boy 400 for her professional services.

The world is ill-divided. Next year I must, I really must, cut her out of the loop so I can have the 400 plus notes. It can't be that hard to self-certify.