Monday, May 30, 2016

Bad Start To The Day

After yesterday's post I'm looking for a loaded shotgun myself or maybe even a  ball peen hammer. Coming downstairs I see The Bastard Fred playing with a piece of something on the hall floor, a wine cork maybe, or a piece of dried grass? No. A dead wren. We had a wren's nest this year in an old rusting piece of farm machinery and now there is one less wren in the world. Sometimes I hate cats.

Update: Once again I got it wrong. I didn't examine the corpse very closely and judged it on size. The little bird was a goldcrest. Bert is fit to be tied.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Birds

Last week we went to visit Bert's Aunt Lizzie who had been in hospital. She was in a cranky mood, very cross with the magpies and the crows that were taking the food from her bird table. For Lizzie's birdy feasts are for pretty little songbirds, the blue bonnets and the finches, not the great greedy members of the corvidae family. She said to Bert that she wished he'd brought his gun, as if he was in the habit of travelling around with a loaded shotgun ever ready to blast crows and magpies off old ladies' bird tables. She went on at length about how much she hated magpies because of the damage they do to smaller birds. I pointed out how domestic cats are very hard on birds and she wouldn't want Bert to shoot them, would she? Lizzie is very fond of cats. I'm afraid that she is, like her sister Pearlie before her, very particular about the kind of birds she likes. 

Pearlie hated magpies, buzzards and pigeons. She loved blue bonnets (tits), robins and swallows. She looked forward to the swallows yearly arrival and there is a piece of family folk lore that has her saying,

I wish the wee boys were here. It'll be great when they come.

There has been swallows nesting in the sheds for as long as anyone can remember but this year there are none. They were spotted briefly but did not stay. Pearlie would have been disappointed.

Evie is a keen observer of birds. She is always pointing them out to me and is good at identifying them. She spotted one in the car park outside her nursery school and asked me,

Granny! Do you see that bird? Do you know what it is?

I wasn't sure and answered,

I think it's a starling.
No Granny! It's a jackdaw.

As Les says, 

Every day is a learning day.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bert's Tough Day

Bert had a tough day yesterday. First of all he had to move the herd, all seven of them, from one field to another. This involved shunting them out of one field, crossing a busy B road, and shunting them into another. He had at his disposal three sturdy cow hands, Les, Peter and myself. Les was in charge of halting the traffic at the Portglenone end, I took care of the Cully side and Peter and Bert gathered them up. That was the plan anyway. One of the 'bastes' was a visitor, a young bull belonging to Clint - that was in with our lot to act as a teaser. A young Lothario there to help Bert figure out when the girls were ready for the AI* man. And he was a teaser all right. With no intentions of doing the right thing he made a mad dash for the hedge and charged through a barbed wire fence into another man's field - and the two calves along with him. Meanwhile the cows were all in the new field enjoying the luscious grass. Peter and Bert did their best but they hadn't a hope. We brought one of the cows back and eventually the calves joined her and back to the luscious grass they went but no sign of Clint's bull. Bert tramped the fields but no sign of the teaser. He had to tell Clint who, it turned out, took a philosophical view of the matter.

They both went out to look for the bull, Clint driving the roads and Bert tramping the fields in torrential rain. At last the bull was found and penned and Clint drove off to get a trailer. Bert trudged home, soaked to the skin. He had just reached the end of the lane when one of the neighbours stopped him, a trim woman in her fifties, driving a smart little car. She called him over.

Bert, I was meaning to ask you. What are you doing about the trees?
The trees? What trees? 
The wood. The wood at the back of our house. What are you doing about it? 
Nothing. Why do you ask?
It's just that we were told it was only going to be there for fifteen or twenty years and now we can't see the road or the nice green fields. All we can see are those trees. We all hate them. 
Well I have no plans to do anything with them in the near future. They'll be there for a while yet.

Bert was disconcerted about this exchange. It never occurred to him that anyone would have a problem with the wood. He loves it, loves the wild life that lives there and is delighted that bluebells are beginning to flourish in it.

He told Clint who was practical as always.
Huh! If she doesn't like it she should move house. It's the countryside. Things change.
Later that afternoon the AI man turned up. Not Henry VIII this time, his brother Prince Arthur. He'd been caught in a short, sharp hailstorm where big chunks of ice had hit his car. We could actually see where the paint had flecked off. That made the downpour we'd had seem like a treat.

It faired up later and Bert took four dogs and the wee grey cat for a walk in the woods where they saw a fox. It wasn't a bad end to the day but it made me nervous for the hens, especially as he'd spotted fox cubs earlier whilst tramping other fields looking for Clint's young bull.

Bert's Wood

AI* Artificial insemination.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dreamland Rejection

If I'm only going to write this blog when I have interesting thoughts or experiences then I'm not going to be writing it very often. That being so, I have decided that from now on I am going to report on mundanity and tedium until the cows come home. Who knows, some may even find it mildly interesting.

So, shall I start with this morning's dreams or my current method of menu-planning? Definitely the dream. I'll share the one where I attempted to enlist with the Parachute Regiment. This is something I'd never wish to do whilst awake but in Dreamland it seemed like a terribly good idea. I went along to the recruiting office where I was interviewed by one of those English military types, tall and thin, wearing slacks and a regimental blazer and sporting a little white moustache. He was awfully polite and turned me down on the grounds that my fitness levels weren't up to scratch. Nobody mentioned my age. I was thanked for coming and offered a lift home but I declined saying I had my bus pass.

I got up at seven o'clock, attended to the chickens, then put the kettle on.  My next task was a visit to the downstairs bathroom. As I sat there pondering my narrow escape in Dreamland I heard this crunching noise,  looked to the left and there, sitting in the corner was that big ginger bastard Fred, eating a pied wagtail. Not a pleasant sight. Feathers everywhere and he'd already demolished the head. I tried to forget it and made coffee. I'd clean the birdy mess afterwards. Coffee upstairs but before I even took a sip I stepped on my new scales. Three pounds lighter than yesterday. This was unacceptable. I stepped off, got on again and was only one pound lighter than yesterday. Not too sure about these new scales. I've dropped twenty pounds since January but when the old scales packed up the replacement  ones immediately showed me a gain of six pounds which took the nice look of my spreadsheet chart.

So much drama and it wasn't even eight o'clock! But at least I didn't fall off the back step like Monday, two weeks ago. The black eye has almost disappeared but the staved left hand is still a little achey.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Stop Thief!

My youngest brother was robbed of a shed load of gardening equipment this week. The most expensive item was his ride-on mower. The thing is, his own lawn is tiny, he mainly uses his gardening tools to maintain our late mother's home.

This is the time of year for garden equipment thefts. I'm informed it is big business. Tools, garden ornaments, patio furniture, barbecue equipment  all make good money when the weather improves and we get back into our outdoor spaces.

I sometimes wonder about these daring daylight robbers who break in to sheds and garages and make off with people's belongings,, I wonder too about the people who buy these ill-gotten goods. Do they ever consider the misery they bring to their victims? I expect they don't. Ride-on mowers and quad bikes are particularly popular with thieves. Which means, of course, that there is a ready pool of punters prepared to buy these items at knock-off prices.

I'll never forget a night, a few years back, when I was driving on the A26 between Antrim and Ballymena. There were blue lights flashing ahead, an accident. As I drew abreast there was a dead bullock, being winched on to a truck. Other cattle lay in the road waiting to be removed, It was a horrible sight. Next day I heard the story. A local farmer, someone I knew, had a quad bike stolen from his property. The thieves, in their rush to escape, had left gates open and cattle being cattle, they strayed on to the dual carriageway at evening rush hour. One vehicle ploughed into them, injuring several of the animals and the car driver. It could have been a lot worse. Just one man in hospital, the injured animals shot by a vet and removed from the scene. And all for a stolen quad bike. I wonder who bought it? For it was bloody - it may only have been cattle but they hurt too.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Garden Show Ireland, 2016

For the third year running I attended Garden Show Ireland in Antrim's delightful Castle Grounds. The first year I went on my own. But for the past two years I've been going with Martha, Evie and Zoe and it has been much more enjoyable. It helps that we are all interested in gardens and plants. Martha saw lots of show gardens that delighted her and made sure that I got a picture so we could remember them.

This was a feature in a 'fairy' garden. Both girls liked it very much.

Take a photograph Granny!

So I did.

There were a couple of mildly unfortunate incidents.

Evie's strop. It didn't last long.

Martha not making it to the top of the climbing tower. She did very well for a first-timer.

Martha and Evie take the weight off their legs.

Zoe admiring the wonderful willow baskets on display.

It was a very enjoyable day and I even bought some plants - some variety of comfrey, unlabelled.  I'll take a chance. And inspired by all we had seen I actually planted out my allium pots today, weeded and watered, made a start on the sweet william and now have a very sore left paw. Despite my achey hand I henceforward mean to spend all fine days in the garden. The housework can go to pot!

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Yes We Have No Bananas

1st May - Martha and Evie were here for a sleepover. We had fun. They watched Charlotte's Web again and I caught up with  Indian Summers which is silly and enjoyable.  We had stories at bedtime. I read Rapunzel to them, then told them stories from real life. Martha wants to hear stories about her great-grandmother Martha and I was happy to tell them. Both girls managed to sleep through the night without falling out of bed.

2nd May - Bank Holiday. It started badly for me when I tripped on the back door step and fell on the side of my face on the asphalt. Massive black eye, cut brow, grazed knees, very sore left hand and cut right hand. I was enraged. Bert  got up to see what I was roaring about, decided my injuries weren't life-threatening and returned to his bed. Once again, I was enraged.

The day after. 

I had promised Martha her favourite dinner and had a lot to do. Later that day someone asked if I'd put ice on my eye. I said I hadn't, instead I baked a cake. Martha's requested dinner was pepporoni pizza and cake with icing and sprinkles for pudding. So that is what we made. My hands were very sore but adrenalin kept me going. That night I was exhausted.

3rd May - I was expecting visitors, Peggy and Jim from New Zealand and Jim and Val from Australia. The house was a tip. I got up at seven and started in. Originally I had intended to bake scones and apple tarts and other homely fare but there was no time and my hands were too sore. So I went to the local bakery and bought what I needed. The visit went well. I hadn't seen the New Zealand cousins for years and I'd never met the Australian cousins. Swisser turned up too and the entertainment went on for several hours. It was a great bit of craic but that evening I was super-exhausted.

Cousins big and small

4th May - did a little bit of gardening and an awful lot of slacking.

5th May - The Assembly elections. I had Martha and Evie all day because both school and nursery were closed to facilitate the elections. I took them with me when I voted and had great fun explaining to them what elections were all about and I think Martha thoroughly enjoyed my explanation of the proportional representation system and how the single transferable vote works. Evie's advice was that I should vote for the Garden Party so I may have to think about starting it. That afternoon we had Laura and her three daughters and Hannah and Fergus. There was great deal of bouncing on the trampoline.

6th May - lots of gardening and partying. Swisser came and offended me when she said that Indian Summers was a ridiculous show because there were banana plantations in the first episode and there were definitely no bananas growing in the foothills of the Himalayas as she'd been there and didn't see any such thing. I was sure she was wrong. She also said the doctors think she has some kind of tropical disease which would serve her right for swanking. To make up for this evil thought I gave her my last bottle of the dandelion as she said it gave ease to her tropical disease. We were already drinking an elderberry which she wouldn't even taste because she was driving as even a sip would impair her driving. I have evil thoughts about this as well but that's as far as I'll go. Anyway she went on about how delicios the elderberry smelled so I gave her a bottle of that too and lifted a damson to be going on with. A couple of people turned up and they had a small glass of the damson as well and Bert had two glasses and I had the rest.

7th May - woke up very early and there were two things bothering me. One was the effects of the wine and the other was Swisser correct about bananas not being cultivated in Shimla? I couldn't stop fretting about it and got the laptop fired up. Wikipedia suggested that there were no bananas in the foothills of the Himalayas. I have to research this matter further and it's not that I need to be right. I just want Swisser to be wrong.

Then I put it all behind me, got up, showered, dressed and went to Garden Show Ireland with Zoe and the girls. I'll blog about that tomorrow. This banana thing is killing me.

A scene from Indian Summers. My new theory is that these are not even bananas. I will win the banana argument, win it or die trying.