Friday, June 27, 2014

Working Clothes

Now Ben isn't the only one who does a bit of work about this place. Miss Martha gets home from a hard morning at nursery school, eats a bit of lunch, shucks off the school uniform, changes into her work gear and strides out to pick up litter, burn rubbish and feed pigs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Work Experience Report

Ben shovelling manure

Our Godson has been doing work experience with us this past week and has carried out a wide range of tasks willingly and enthusiastically.

This is my report.

TIMEKEEPING: Student has risen promptly each morning before 10:30am.

DEMEANOUR: Pleasant and respectful at all times. To me. Rather less respectful to Bert but this is down to the natural 'banter' and 'horseplay' among men in the workplace. The student has been advised that owing to advancements in political correctness and Health & Safety that this behaviour might not be as acceptable in the 'real' world. Bert has been advised to 'catch himself on.'


TREE SURGERY: The student assisted Bert in the task of removing a large branch from a tree. He demonstrated an awareness of basic Health & Safety guidelines, advising Bert that Crocs and a straw hat were not the best choice of clothing when up a 20 foot ladder brandishing a chainsaw.

CARING: The student had the opportunity of helping look after both pre-school children and the elderly. He showed patience and kindness to each group. The elderly pronounced his tea-making and pillow arranging skills exemplary and the preschoolers high-fived him.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: Helping out with feeding dogs, cats, pigs and hens. Throwing balls for dogs, stroking cats and assisting in the castration of calves.

FARMING: Bringing in the hay. We had a lot of visitors that day and Bert made them all go to the hayfield with them. The baler couldn't keep up with them.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE: Cleaned, sanded and varnished my shoe shelf. Removed the stairs and landing carpet using his bare hands. These were the same hands that Bert had said were 'all soft and girly.' Folded carpet and removed it for disposal then hoovered stairs and landing without being asked.

HORTICULTURE: Wheeled barrow loads of well rotted manure 'til the cows came home. Literally.

COFFEE: All the time. Whenever we wanted it.

CONCLUSION: An excellent student and  a wonderful Godson who blesses our life.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gardening With Cardboard

I planted an area of the polytunnel with spring onions and the weeds, mainly chickweed, took over so I decided to transplant the spring onions, what remained of them, to a raised bed. Rather than dig over the chickweedy bed I covered it with a couple of sheets of cardboard and left it for a couple of weeks. Today I removed the cardboard and underneath all traces of chickweed and spring onions were gone. all the area needed was a light hoeing to loosen the soil and a good watering. Not a weed in sight! It should be ready for planting tomorrow.

I cleared another area which was dry and full of small stones. I gave it a very thorough watering and added a thick layer of well rotted compost. Then I covered it with a good layer of cardboard and plonked four grow bags on it. I expect that in four weeks or so it will be in perfect condition for planting.

So - winning the war on weeds one battle at a time. In the polytunnel anyway. The War Against Convolvulous in the perennial beds may prove a much tougher match.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bad Books

It's been a bad week for books at Nellybert's. The first casualty was White Teeth by Zadie Smith. This book has been languishing in my Must Read pile for ten years or more until I decided it might be a good idea to keep a few books in the polytunnel and the tree house (my outdoor rooms) just in case I happened to be in either place and fancied a relaxing read. I've yet to bring books to the tree house but I did gather up White Teeth and took it to the tunnel. It wasn't the slightest bit what I expected and although it is a slow process I'm rather enjoying it. But the tunnel isn't the best place for books. It gets hot in there and pages curl up. No matter. I've decided to compost it when I've finished it. It has been a week now and I'm only half way through it. The book has been thoroughly watered several times and it looks a state but still readable. Note to self. Don't bring books I want to keep to that dirty, hot and humid place.

Keep Well Watered

The kitchen table isn't a safe place for books either. Especially if Bert is around. The other day I found him using one of Martha and Evie's favourite books as a plate to spread plum jam on toast. I snatched it from him before any harm was done.

Avoid Plum Jam

And only today I left How To Grow Food In Your Polytunnel All Year Round on the table after checking the correct spacing for planting sweetcorn plugs. When I returned from my planting task I noticed that the book was covered in breadcrumbs and bits of cheese. I dusted it off and went to put it away. It was then I saw the two cuts in the cover. Someone (Bert) had sliced a fresh crusty loaf on it. We do have cutting boards but I expect the book was handy. He (Bert) is in my Bad Books for that volume is my gardening bible and it cost me £10.95! Bert is every bit as bad as Joffrey Baratheon that time Joffrey used his Valyrian steel sword Widow's Wail to slice to shreds the rare and precious volume that his Uncle Tyrion had just presented as a wedding gift. Well maybe not quite as bad as that.

Not A Bread Board

Not A Book Lover

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Whilst Evie napped, Martha and I decided to cut down all the self-seeded saplings that were growing in silly places. When Martha realised that this would involve tree-felling and sharp, dangerous tools she decided we needed protective head gear. This is what she came up with.

And see Ziggy there. He is definitely becoming the sort of dog that is always lurking about the edges of photographs. Just like dear old Bonnie.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

What's Going On

Two weekends ago Pearlie got sick. On the Saturday night she was in a lot of pain. I thought it might be the crampy, colicky pains she suffers from occasionally and managed to settle her down. The following night I awoke at around 2am and was unable to get back to sleep. I was listening all the time to hear if she was crying out. Then at 4am I was just about to drop off when I heard her wailing. I raced downstairs. Her bedside lights were off and the overhead light was dim and I wasn't wearing my glasses so at first I did not see what ailed her. As I moved closer to the bed I saw that she had been vomiting blood. A lot of blood. I got Bert up and she continued to vomit. I called an emergency ambulance and they arrived about 30 minutes later.

She was kept in hospital for four days and several tests were carried out but they could not identify the point of the bleed. Gastritis was mentioned, as was a burst ulcer. She received a few blood transfusions. On the fourth day she was discharged. Five days later her tummy started to swell and her navel turned from an innie to an outie. Her skin was tinged a yellowy shade. I called the GP who was concerned enough to refer her back to hospital. They kept her for a few hours, did an X-ray and some blood tests and sent her home again none the wiser. Apparently it is 'normal' for an elderly person to have a tummy so hard and swollen that their navel pops out.

This is what I think. The hospital (Antrim Area) does not give one damn about patients in their late eighties. They are seen as nuisances and bed-blockers. And this is what I want. I want her to be at home but I want to know what is wrong with her so she can receive the appropriate care and support. As it is we live from day to day never knowing when there is going to be another incident. Bert and I are both so stressed.

And Pearlie? At the moment she is OK. Happy to be home. She is still bloated but does not seem to be in pain. So - until the next time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Our Ould Fellas

My father, Seamus Byrne - gone from us nine years today. 

Bert's father, Johnny Orr - gone from us seventeen years yesterday.

Matty died in late April. Our parents, so far,  have all died late Spring/ early Summer when the evenings are lengthening and the flowers are in bloom. I associate this time of the year with sadness and loss.