Thursday, February 26, 2015

Revisiting the Past

Sorting out the photographs on my external hard drive has me living in the past and tonight I'm back in 2011. I wondered what was happening on this day four years ago and as there is this online diary thing called Nelly's Garden I was able to find out in just a few clicks. It seems I was right here in Springhill after spending a short spell in Drumkeeran looking after Matty.

Things weren't working out exactly as I'd hoped.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cleansing Pow'r

I decided to have a lovely relaxing bath this afternoon. Lots of hot water, lots of bubbles, a towel to keep my hair out of the bubbles and something intellectual to peruse. Heaven. It's wonderful to live in the quiet of the country.

Hark! There's Plum crowing. Never mind. A rooster crowing is part of the country atmosphere. Outside Bert opens up the chainsaw. Never mind. The noise of wood clearance is all part of living on a farm. The back door opens. It's one of Pearlie's carers. It's the singing one. She is singing, at the very top of her voice, “Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb”. She puts the kettle on. Singing away, thumping time on the counter tops as she waits for it to boil.

I lie in my suds. I usually seethe at the Singing Carer but who gives a hoot? I'm home for a little while. Let her sing her hymns. The mad old bat.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Visit To Asia Supermarket

My young friend and fellow blogger Hails loves Korean food and the last time we were in Belfast we visited Cafe Arirang on Botanic Avenue. Hails was more than pleased with it and I was glad of her advice as to what would be good to eat as she was familiar with all the dishes on offer. As she should be having spent quite a few years living in South Korea.

I asked her if she'd ever visited the Asia Supermarket on the Ormeau Road. She hadn't so we made a plan to go as soon as we could. Today was that day and as we neared it I said,

You're going to dance with joy when you see this place.

And her feet were jigging before we even got inside. She could smell the lovely spicy aroma as we approached the door.

Of course she knew what everything was. When we left Hails was loaded with ingredients and I'd got a few bits and pieces myself. I idly enquired what her plans for the evening were and she answered,

Cooking Korean food!

Of course. Silly question.

At Cafe Arirang I had 만두 and I didn't catch what Hails had but it came with 김치 and she polished it off with much enjoyment.

만두 - mandu or steamed dumplings
김치 - kimchi or fermented cabbage

When I got home Bert raided my shopping bag as usual and fell to the dried seaweed and kimchi with gusto. We had to decant the kimchi into a Kilner jar as we feared its pungency would affect everything else in the fridge. Apparently in Korea people have dedicated kimchi fridges but that is because they make a years supply at one go.

So what did Nellybert have for supper? We had bacon, spuds and peas although Bert did have a side of kimchi with his.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

And What Of The Pigs?

My Facebook posts concerning the little black pigs. 

7th February. I wonder if anyone knows of a lost Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig? Very young. It is running terrified through fields near Cullybackey. We have tried to find it but have not been successful. It was found in a shed in a farm off the Kilrea line but escaped before it could be taken to a place of safety. I wonder if the poor thing has been dumped. Unwanted Christmas present perhaps? If so, the person who dumped it is a horrible, uncaring, stupid piece of shit. If that piglet doesn't get to a place of safety it will die very soon.

8th February. Bert has been searching for the abandoned pig. Sighted it today and there are two of them! This gives them a better chance of survival. We have hopes that they will be brought to safety. If they cannot be captured and they are boy and girl there may soon be herds of wild pigs roaming the hedgerows and plantations of Cullybackey.

9th February. And then there were three! All boars so it is likely that they were abandoned by the breeder.

10th February. Man arrived in yard today to ask if we had lost two black pigs. Two piglets sighted in another area. The thing is, are they two of the original trio or, are there 5 of them? Bert has gone to search the place where we first saw them.

11th February. Two callers to the yard yesterday, both hoping that the abandoned pigs were our responsibility. Two sighted on another farm frightening sheep and scaring the horses. The authorities have been contacted and vets are trying to locate them. It won't end well for the pigs and it will cost DARD money, probably quite a lot. And all because a breeder off-loaded his/her responsibilities on to other people. I hope this person is found and prosecuted.

12th February. Five pigs spotted today! At least one was a sow.

And then it all went very quiet. This is what I think happened. The pigs weren't unwanted pets. They had not been abandoned by a breeder. They most likely belonged to a near neighbour of the lady who first contacted us. It seems they had simply escaped from a poorly fenced paddock and were happily exploring the surrounding countryside. The lady, let's call her Suzie, approached the likely pig-owner and he said that they couldn't possibly be his pigs as he counted them every night and they were all present and correct. I'd guess that if he had been counting them during the day the roll-call would have shown a few absentees. Since Suzie called with him the pigs have not been seen.  So I reckon he is keeping them indoors. Poor little pigs. They must have been having the time of their lives exploring the surrounding townlands.

It brings to mind that Van Morrison song.

When it's nobody's business the way that you want to live
I just have to remember there'll be days like this 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crazy Jack and the Chickpeas

So, after I cleaned my grubby spice rack the next spot to tackle was the store cupboard. While there were no unpleasant surprises in the larder there were some elderly dried goods such as an unopened 2kg bag of chickpeas older than Martha. The cupboard was crammed with chickpeas both dried and tinned and obviously we never eat them except for that time Bert took a great notion of making hummus. The 2kg bag will be used as animal feed and I'll have to hoke out that hummus recipe for Bert.

The oldest item in the cupboard was the organic brown rice. If that packet of unopened brown rice were a child it would be at secondary school by now. What kind of idiot lets packets of food sit on her shelves for endless years? What type of deluded fool keeps buying chickpeas and then has them languish in her cupboard for over a decade? If it were another person with a store of ancient food in their pantries I'd call that person a food hoarder.

If anyone has any delicious recipes where chickpeas are one of the main ingredient please let me know.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Smoked Paprika Weevil

I decided to give my spice rack a long overdue cull. I remember Katy buying the smoked paprika for a chicken dish she prepared for her Northern Irish friends shortly before her wedding. It didn't seem that long ago but when I think of it, Miss Martha was actually a babe in arms and she is in her sixth year now.

That was a great evening. Delicious food, good company and the best of craic.  And nearly five years ago. That smoked paprika definitely was up for review. I opened it, sniffed it. Hardly any aroma. Much as I expected. But what was that? A grain of rice? A grain of rice that wriggled? It was a grub. I called Bert in to see. You should keep that, he said. See what it turns into.

No thanks! I don't think I want to see the kind of creature that pupates in hot pepper. Seems devilish. I sieved the paprika to see if there were any more. There wasn't. I took a photograph then flung the larva into the yard. See how it manages in a cold, wet, Irish February far away from its beloved paprika.

Naturally I Googled this and apparently it is not uncommon to find larvae in old paprika. It is actually best to keep it in the fridge. Who knew?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What I Learned

In my first year at the University of Ulster our class had a Friday afternoon lecture with the controversial eugenicist, Professor Richard Lynn. The subject of the  lecture  was an introduction to Psychology and it was mind-numbingly tedious. There was no hint of Lynn's particular areas of interest apart from his scanning the group looking for North-East Asian faces. He once called one of our friends down after the lecture to enquire after her ethnicity. She told us afterwards that he seemed disappointed to find out that despite her being from Vietnam her family actually had a Chinese background.

As I said, the lecture was extremely dull and I found myself half asleep during it. Little wonder I only got a 2:2. However Professor Lynn did teach me something that term, something I have never forgotten.

He was lecturing us on anxiety disorders and depression. He was speaking of anxiety and how it can consume one. He said,

Each of you this afternoon has a worry. Something that is troubling you greatly. I will tell you this - when we meet in this lecture hall next Friday, you will not be thinking about your present worry, you will be worrying about something else altogether!

And I thought about my worry. Probably something about an overdue assignment. And on the following Friday I cast my mind back. The Professor was right. I wasn't the least bit concerned about last week's problem. I was worrying about something new.

That has comforted me so many times when I have had a niggling, troubling concern. I just tell myself that in seven days time it won't be concerning me at all so why worry now?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Three Little Pigs In The Big Bad World

So there were these two little abandoned pigs wandering the fields and hedgerows of deepest, darkest Cullybackey. Bert and I went out this morning to fetch them out and feed them finest kind pig food with a view to their rescue and rehabilitation. We took one dog only, our Jess for she is good at sniffing out pigs and, unlike Judy, she does not hate the porcine race.

She did her work, sniffed them out and over the crest of a hill appeared one pig and the other. Then another. Three of the beggars! Bert emptied out the pig meal and they all tucked in. The way they were scoffing it was obvious that they were no stranger to meal and that it had been more than a day or two since they'd had any. They might be three or four months, all the same age, litter mates for sure and they are all boars. They've been dumped by the person who bred them.

This is a big problem. No one wants boars. If they were to go for pets they'd need to be castrated and that should have happened already.

I'm not sure what is going to happen. But we're not giving up on them yet. Whatever the outcome is they are going to be fed.

So we'll be back tomorrow. Fingers and trotters crossed there won't be four of them standing there.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Here Be Pigs

We were contacted yesterday by friends of a friend to find out if we were missing a pig. An exotic specimen had turned up in the yard of another of their friends. This lady kept horses and her horses were mortally afraid of pigs. This seemed odd to me but it seems that many horses are wary of pigs. Out of curiosity and some concern for the pig we agreed to go check it out.

The pig was in a huge barn and the five of us strolled in. The pig, a potbelly, was in the corner of the barn. It was only a baby, maybe a few months old. Anyway it got spooked and made for the door which was closed but it found a little breach and off it went. Pigs are great escapologists. The last we saw it was haring up the side of a hedge. Bert decided to take to the fields to see if he could find it but had no success. I met him in Clint's yard. This lady's place was a mile or two by road but only a couple of field lengths as the crow flies.

We were cross with ourselves because that time in the shed was our best chance of capturing it. I must say it preyed on both our minds that poor wee thing was out in the open without food or shelter. I was angry too with whoever had owned it because it seemed very likely that it had been abandoned. It was just about the right age to have been small and cute at Christmas time. Perhaps it was a gift that turned out unsuitable. The practice of dumping unwanted pets is common here and over the years I've come across it many times. Our big ginger cat, Fred, was actually dumped from a car in the Doagh Road as I was walking there.

What do people be thinking of when they do that? Do they think that their unwanted pet will be picked up by a kind stranger and taken in? I've been that kind stranger on a number of occasions but, believe me, there are not enough kind strangers to go round. A few years back Bert had to scrape a pulverised dog off the road and bury it. He did this on the off chance that it was someone's lost pet and that the sight of it would be too upsetting for them. But no one came looking and it is probable that the dog was dumped on our road and got hit by a car.

The little pig was on our mind and Bert went out with the dogs yesterday evening to see if he could find it. They had no joy. It wasn't a cold evening and we were hopeful that it would survive to live another day. He and his friend went out again today. Máirtín is a city boy and enjoys the things we do here. Dosing calves, potting up clematis, burning stuff , driving tractors and searching for pigs - Máirtín loves it all. Jess led them to the pig, two pigs! Two potbellies grazing at the edge of a copse, enjoying the late winter sun and not overly afraid of humans or dogs. Still too skittish to be caught. They are only a field length away from Clint's place and he says that if they turn up in his wood they can stay!

I'm glad there are two of them. It will increase their chance of survival but I cannot help wondering what is going on. Two dumped pigs or two lost pigs. Will we ever find out?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Happy Birthday Leitrim Sister

A photograph from a few years back featuring the sister and the daughter. Happy birthday Dede!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Protests and Birthdays

Yesterday I went out protesting with Hails from Coffee Helps. It's been a while since I attended such an event. The last time we were all chanting Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out!  On that occasion I got my picture on the front page of the Irish News so, needless to say, on Saturday, I dressed with care and made sure I combed my hair. It was a good day. I caught up with Hayley, met some new people and ate Korean food at Cafe Arirang. The protest went well too. About a thousand people turned up which isn't bad for Belfast on a freezing cold January day.

When I got home I found that Bert hadn't as much as lifted a spoon but he had made some great progress playing Stardust on his clarinet. I was too tired to bother with anything so watched a Meryl Streep film and went to bed reasonably early with the Guardian. But before I retired I researched 30 minute clean up on Google. For Kerry Sister is up in the North and she'd be visiting the next day and was keen to see my new private sitting room. And due to the massive clearing out I've been doing there were boxes and boxes of hoardy stuff sitting there and it was all a bit of a mess.

Happy Birthday Brendan. Photograph by Patricia Mhuircheartaigh

This morning I bounced out of bed at a quarter to eight, let all the domestic animals out for a pee in the snow, made coffee, buttered malt loaf and went back to bed for another read of the Guardian. Forty minutes later I bounced back out of bed and started on my 30 minute clean up. I thought it might take a wee bit longer than thirty minutes. First off was put on the laundry, then I had to take a laundry basket and gather up all the clutter. I filled three laundry baskets and this did not include the boxes of Pearlie's old aprons, Bert's old toys and all the birthday cards he received since he was one year old and The Sash His Father Wore. And Johnny's white gloves and all the ribbons that were tied to the ceremonial sword. Bert says I can give the ribbons to Martha and Evie to tie up their bonny brown hair. So darling grandchilder you may look forward to receiving a bunch of ribbons colours red, white, blue, purple and orange.

I did manage to do everything on the 30 minute clean up list and was just wiping the last drip off the floor with my Whizz mop when the Kerry car pulled into the yard and it had only taken me 94 minutes.

All to the good though for the Kerry Sister and myself were able to relax in my clutter free and private sitting room while Bert and the Kerry Man tramped up Slemish in the snow. It was the Kerry Man's birthday and tramping up icy mountains is just the sort of birthday outing he enjoys. Before they left I gave him a lovely present - two bags of County Antrim's finest turf. He was delighted. Who wouldn't be?