Tuesday, July 28, 2015

28th July 2015

There are only 365.25 days in a year so it's not that great a coincidence when folk share birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Even so,  at 20 years old, I was quite taken that my new boyfriend and my mother shared the same birth date.

Forty-two years later my mum has gone, the new boyfriend is an ex-husband and still a friend. We have between us, three daughters, two grand-daughters and a grandson. Today is Mick and Matty's birthday. For the first time in decades he is here in Northern Ireland and staying with us for a couple of days. He's had a lovely day and said as much on Facebook. Today he went to Belfast Zoo with his partner Linda, his two lovely daughters, his two lovely grand-daughters and Fergus. Zoe made him a cake. Tonight he and Linda are here with me and we're watching TV and generally having a nice time.

Matty would be delighted. She was very fond of Mick. Last night I was sorting out a few things and I came across her handbag, the handbag she used for the last year of her life and a gift from me. We got it in an outlet centre in Antrim. For some reason it ended up here and it was a couple of years before I could even open it. It contains a purse full of euros, all her various cards and this photograph. It was taken not long before she died. It's not even a proper photograph, just a sample from some Photobox pictures that Zoe ordered.

Martha Amy is in the foreground, the only one of her great-grandchildren she ever got to meet, and she is wearing a crazy hat that Matty knitted, And that would be one of the last things Matty ever made. I wonder where it is now? Some one of us will be treasuring it I'm sure, just as I treasure her handbag which is in the picture, sitting at her right hand.

Ah Matty. Missing you still. Happy birthday Mum.

Mick's birthday card

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

It appears to be after midnight. I prepped white currants, raspberries and gooseberries for the freezer as I watched two episodes of The Newsroom. I could have named this post Sticky Fingers.

Things that occurred today -

1. It was Sweet Baby James' one week old anniversary. Judging by the photographs his parents send he appears to be fairly contented with his life so far. Six more sleeps 'til I set eyes on the little blighter.

2. I was rude and cutting to one caller today because he stood too close to me as I was weeding. I ordered him to back out of my personal space and he threatened to sit on my knee so obviously I told him that I'd stab him  with my secateurs if he even dared. He stepped back.  A very wise move.

3. While I was in the fruit garden I spotted a swarm in an apple tree. Bert donned protective gear and knocked it into a yellow bucket. He then decanted them into a nuc. They all marched in then, finding their new quarters not to their pleasing, marched right out again and set up home in the yellow bucket. Bert decanted them into the nuc again and, fingers crossed, there they stayed. This swarm was from afar. Last week our own bees swarmed and although Bert tried to persuade them into another box they refused to stay and bogged off.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Cutting Kind

My youngest daughter writes a blog  entitled The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure and she has recently been writing pen portraits about the people in her life. Most recently she wrote about her mother and it was most interesting to me. This was my favourite part,

...Nelly is one of the kindest people on the planet. She is intelligent, sharp and witty but she could cut you like a knife. And she'd have no qualms about doing so. 

If I read that about someone else I'd be intrigued. Kind and cutting. I like it. I want very much to live up to that description. This blog needs lots more kindness and cutting remarks. It also needs more updating.

The week before last I could barely settle to write as we were all waiting for Katkin to give birth and then after Sweet Baby James arrived there was so much to do in the garden to get ready for my two weeks in England being Mary Poppins that by the time I finished for the night I was too tired to write anything. Only seven more sleeps now until I see him.

Until then I'll try to write more and will also endeavour to be more cutting.

So here goes,

I really love this time of year because there is so much to do in the garden. I particularly like picking fruit and preparing it for the freezer. What better way to bear the inconvenience of boring visitors than having a nice bowl of white currants or gooseberries to top and tail as they witter on.

Now these particular visitors tell me that they don't 'do social media' so I'm banking on this never being seen by them. Oh I do hope they don't stumble upon it. That's my kind side coming through.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Good Life

Fruit picking season has begun. It's been a damp summer and there have been better strawberries but the currants and gooseberries have been great. I haven't even started on the blackcurrants yet. We moved the hens in with the fruit bushes. It's a smaller run than they had before but Foxy has two fences to get through to get at them and so far he hasn't managed it. There is a new rooster in with the chickens. He is still a baby and the girls are being very hard on him. He came from an egg farm, one of the very few males that got through the vetting process. He was used to thousand of chickens and anonymity. Now he's the centre of attention and spends most days skulking under blackcurrant bushes waiting to be attacked.

I'm spending the evenings preparing the fruit for the freezer as I watch episodes of  The Newsroom. Last week was an anxious one as we were all waiting for Katkin to give birth. She was due a week ago today and he arrived yesterday and he's a darling. That's three beautiful grandchildren we have now. Life is good.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Week Goes By

On Mondays I usually make supper for Martha, Evie and their parents. Last Monday Hannah came too. Of course everyone brings their dogs so we had three extra hounds knocking about. So - one husband, two adult children, two grandchildren, their dad, six dogs and two cats. I made creamed sweetcorn soup, Hannah made a selection of sandwiches. There was a crumble made from our own rhubarb and raspberries.  For the topping I use Nigella's recipe for gooseberry-cream crumble but I cut down on the sugar. She's heavy handed with the sugar is Nigella. The girls don't like crumble, even though mine is delicious so they had home made ice lollies made from apples/blackcurrants and carrots/orange. Freshly squeezed juice of course. Sometimes I even impress myself.

On Tuesday I did not do very much. Bit of gardening, bit of wine making, bit of housework. I have also been catching up on Channel 4's Humans. Most enjoyable.

Wednesday was much the same as Tuesday.

On Thursday morning I received the girls for a sleepover. The family were heading off to Connemara on a 'tenting' holiday so I offered to keep the wee darlings until the Friday evening to give their parents a chance to pack and prepare in peace. I had also arranged for three other children to spend the afternoon. They call it a play-date. So – one husband, one young mum, five little girls, three dogs and two cats. It was all very pleasant if a tad exhausting. Foolishly I stayed up far too late and was wakened at a quarter past three when war broke out. Evie had kicked Martha awake and there was quite a row. It was four before I got back to sleep and at ten past seven Martha was standing beside my bed expecting her breakfast. I stayed tired all day.

Martha spent part of Friday morning devising a barrier that would prevent Evie from kicking her as they slept. She brought a guard rail from the attic and put it in the middle of the bed. They both tried it out but it was deemed impractical. She asked Bert if he could make a fence for the middle of the bed and he suggested bringing in the electric fencing unit but she didn't like that idea. My suggestion, that they sleep in separate rooms did not go down well either. Because they were going to be presented to their parents at seven that evening fed, bathed, coiffed, pyjamas on and teeth cleaned, I let them run around unwashed and unbrushed the entire day. Of course this meant that I couldn't take them anywhere but as they had found and demolished Bert's chocolate stash they were totally grounded anyway.

Before I left them into their parents Martha took one last dash into the hen run to look for eggs. I never thought to check her. So I delivered two sparkling clean and shiny children to their grateful parents and first thing Martha does is upstairs to greet her Daddy and spreads chickenshit on every step of the staircase. Oops! Failed again.

On Saturday the Banjos came. With their dogs and their banjo. Later on Hannah and Gus turned up. One husband, four adults, a teenager, six dogs and two cats. Hannah lit the pot-bellied stove in the tree house and that's where we socialised, sang, played music and drank wine. Five of the dogs joined us. Not Roy, he doesn't do stairs. There was one disaster. The hen house door blew closed and the hens all went to roost under the blackcurrant bushes. We managed to find eight of them but Madam Black II was still at large. It's not easy finding a black hen in a blackcurrant bush in the dark. We left her to take her chances.

This morning, Sunday, there she was waiting patiently outside the hen house for her chums to join her. There are usually a couple of dogs watching me from the other side of the gate as I carry out my morning chicken duties. This morning there were six of them. Watching my every move.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Rethinking Foxes

I encouraged Bert to go visit Paddy in the Old Folk's Home today as I needed to get my head showered.

Getting one's head showered features in this Van Morrison number. It's a Northern Ireland thing.

He took the dogs with him (not Roy) as he intended to take a long walk afterwards. When he got back he told me he'd walked the fields around Maxwellswalls where his mother's people had come from. He started off at his mother's home place. It's not being farmed now and has turned in to a beautiful wilderness. He spotted one lizard, ten hares (he counted them as the dogs raised them) and an old dog fox with raggedy ears.

While he was communing with nature on the land his family once owned (they don't any more and there hangs an interesting tale) I weeded, planted vegetable and annual flower plugs, home grown. An enjoyable evening indeed. When Bert returned he was excited to tell me about the critters he had seen. He also reported that the dogs had got very excited about the hares but had taken the fox in their stride.

I've been rethinking foxes. After the last raids on our chickens, six lost altogether, I was raging, got Bert to keep the gun handy in case the cheeky bastard turned up in the yard or round about. Although we both had misgivings as it was cubbing season. An adult fox killed can mean slow starvation for the young ones. Then last Monday I spotted a fox cub dead at the side of the road, close to our lane. For some crazy reason I dwelt on it all day. And then I thought about foxes for the rest of the week. This is my conclusion. Foxes are just pesky but they deserve to have their lives. If they get my chickens it is because I'm not looking after them properly. I'm going to try very hard to keep the run fox proof and if one of my feather-brained flock jumps the fence because she just hates to lay her eggs along with the other hens and Foxy finds her, well, that's just one of those things. Foxes just be foxy, chickens be stupid and humans just need to make the best fences they can. Ours don't have the huge run they did before. They have an enclosure within an enclosure but it is still a lot bigger than most chickens enjoy.

Long run the fox. And I really mean that.

Interestingly Ganching has also been blogging about foxes.