Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Busy Week

It's been a busy week. Monday was a family meal day with a lot of worry leading up to it. Zoe had only heard about the Pig Invasion, she hadn't seen it and I was fretting that she'd be completely gutted about the damage done. But she took the pragmatic view and I was greatly relieved.

Tuesday was a funeral service. It was an unusual one as the person whose funeral it was had died 10 weeks previously in Australia. Her husband brought her ashes back to Ireland for funeral and burial. It was a really lovely service. Afterwards, I went on a shopping expedition and bumped into a cousin. We went for coffee (and tea) and caught up with each other. Heard a very interesting piece of gossip about our Westminster representative who is currently in the news for all the wrong reasons. I feel a bye-election coming on which he'll probably win if he has the brass neck to stand and he will.

Wednesday I was not looking forward to as we were going to do some financial planning and had someone coming round to discuss it with us. But that wasn't as awful as I'd expected. Time for a bit of gardening and then off to Portballintrae to see Swisser. We had been asked for supper but had declined and she'd made it anyway so that was two suppers. I did not take the main course (a healthy vegetable dish) but did not refuse wine.

Thursday - the girls. We had an exciting trip to Portglenone then they had an exciting jaunt on the quad with Bert then it was the exciting trampoline for the rest of the day.

Yesterday I went to Belfast with Jazzer (whose sister's funeral was Tuesday) for another jaunt. The train was packed but it was an interesting trip as I got talking with some of the musicians from The McLain Family Band, a bluegrass band from Kentucky who'd been playing two nights in Ballymena and were on their way to Dublin.

In Belfast, we shopped a lot although I just bought Birkenstocks.  Between shops, we had coffee and a snack in the Linenhall Library, a drink in Maddens, dinner in The Apartment and another drink in the Europa Hotel. The train home wasn't as busy but I ran into a Facebook friend and we chatted all the way to Antrim.

From Antrim to Ballymena I got out my book, The Way I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, and came across a passage so shockingly harsh that I gasped. Closed the book and finished it later in the privacy of my own home. that evening. Very good read though not to everyone's taste I imagine.

That evening I watched the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and enjoyed it a great deal. Found myself grinning throughout. Hadley Freeman, my favourite columnist in the Guardian Weekend magazine, had raved about it and I get that. Not to everyone's taste, I imagine. For instance, Bert said he wouldn't like it as he doesn't like reality shows. This week he has sat through The Hateful Eight and Natural Born Killers. Not for me. I watched the tiniest bit of The Hateful Eight but the minute...


...Samuel L. Jackson got his bollocks shot off, I was out of there.

The pigs have been in Piggy Jail all week but we're making it up to them with extra rations. They had carrot cake today and liked it very much. It's not allowed to give them food that has been in a kitchen but we had it in the fridge in Bert's room which definitely isn't a kitchen and the only other thing that is kept in there is alcohol. Which the pigs also like.

Today it rained and it blew and I worked in the tunnel clearing weeds from where we harvested onions and garlic. Outside the bay tree blew over and the sunflowers were bent but not broken. When it all died down I put stronger stakes on all the tallest plants.

One more thing.

Today was our mother's birthday. She would have been 92 years old. I always thought she'd make it to her nineties but she didn't. And although I don't believe in an afterlife I wish I did because then I'd know she'd be looking out for a special person that she never got to meet but if she had, she'd have loved her very much.

Tomorrow is a day of rest.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Rusty and the Broad Beans

Free to good home, one crabbit kune kune pig. he took advantage of a thirty-minute window, squeezed his fat ass down a ditch and up through a hole in the hedge and into the polytunnel. He wasn't spotted until he was standing on the new lawn pondering crashing through my borders. We had a visitor, Richard who remarked,

Is piggy supposed to be in the garden?

Oh, Christ!

I said, and...

I bet he's been in the polytunnel!

And while Richard and Bert tried to drive him off the garden I rushed to check on the vegetables in the tunnel.

It was my sobbing that interrupted their efforts and they left Rusty to see what had happened. The broad beans, all three beds were destroyed, the sweetcorn ploughed through and the beetroot plugs I'd carefully planted this morning were all trodden into the ground.

While Richard comforted me (Bert was useless) and helped me repair the damage to the sweetcorn, Bert went back to deal with the unruly pig only to find him in our actual home interfering with and overturning all the dog bowls. Eventually, he managed to get the rotten pig into his pen but it wasn't easy.

It was so disheartening. All the work that Zoe and I put into growing vegetables and that fucker can ruin it all in a matter of minutes. Getting pet pigs is probably one of the biggest mistakes we've ever made. They're only cute for about five minutes.

I'm all for fencing the vegetable area but Bert is not one bit supportive of that idea. He is very opposed to fencing for some reason which is why the pigs can come and go as they please in the first place!

I spent ages last week repairing the damage to the beans from the first pig attack and manage to save about half of them. A waste of time.

So, yet again, does anyone want a pig? Still free but also ugly, unmanageable and probably doesn't even taste very nice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Choo-Choo!

My lovely grandson celebrated his third birthday today. Lots of presents and cards and his Daddy made him this cake. Young James is very, very keen on trains.

Meanwhile, in Springhill and beyond....

The garlic has all been lifted although little else achieved in the polytunnel today, apart from watering. Gathered a few strawberries, there were only a few! I think we should replace the plants. Raspberries are better but not as good as last year. They are yielding about a kilo a day.

Mother Nature doing well with the bilberries. We went for a walk in the Glens this evening and the bushes were laden. We ate our fill and walked on.

No floors mopped today!

Tomorrow I plan to have a lot of fun. Bert and I are taking Martha and Evie to Barrys in Portrush to go on all the rides. We're hoping Hannah can join us after she finishes work as we oldies are scared of going on the big dipper.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Harvesting Garlic and Planting Irises

The Propped Up Sidalcea

Today I harvested around one-third of the garlic. Zoe got her crop out before she went on holiday and today Bert drew my attention to it still growing scapes! I cut them all off as Bert said they would be depleting the bulbs. God! No-one told me how complicated horticulture could be. 

The scapes on the drying garlic

No seeds were sown but I did pot up some self-sown aquilegia, ash and sycamore seedlings that were growing in the garlic patch and I finished repairing the damage to the broad bean beds that suffered the kune kune attack. I'd say we lost half of the crop. I picked raspberries too. Early fruit yields have been very disappointing this year. The Beast From The East* must have got them at a crucial point.

Hair also on hold as I'd forgotten Tuesday is closing day at my salon. I shan't go tomorrow either as there are other places I want to be. The stranum isn't looking too awful since I stopped shampooing it. That's right, no soap has touched my locks for more than a fortnight now. Just plain, hot water in the shower every day.

The gravestone thing has been sorted out but not without an embarrassing faux pas. How was I to know that there are several monumental sculptors operating in the county, all from the same family and not really on speakers with each other?

Another thing. Bert took his walk along the back lane last night and came back all excited as he'd had a close encounter with a young and very huffy badger. I was jealous. Bert and Hannah are always meeting up with foxes and badgers on the back lane (they never have cameras) and I never see a thing. Bert was heading off for Gypsy Jazz with Les tonight and he said,

You should go out the back lane around half-nine tonight. The big field is bound to have foxes hunting frogs after the silage cut today. 

So I did. I brought my camera and not one fox did I see, nor even a frog. Just this lot.


Roy and the other two

The cat who goes for walks

...and Hubert's calves

You know what I didn't do today? Mop floors.

*The Beast From The East - what we on these islands call the cold wave that hit us late February-early March this year, but could also refer to the reptilian Vlad featured in the news this week. Whilst one world leader looked and spoke a shambles, Putin appeared to all the world a poisonous cobra ready to strike us all down. These are interesting, far too interesting times. 

One more thing, I was reading Glendinning's book on Leonard Woolf and this struck me.


Monday, July 16, 2018

The Collapsed Sidalcea

The collapsed sidalcea this morning

Last night I set myself six tasks and today managed to tackle five of them. I sent James a birthday card. I was cutting it very fine as his birthday is in two days time so I used Moonpig. 

I didn't cut back the collapsed sidalcea. Instead, Bert and I gathered them all up and staked them. Too late, but better than never. They will probably fall again. Hey-ho... still a completed task.

I sowed rainbow beetroot. The red sort, the yellow sort and the white sort. I planted kohl rabi and cauliflower plugs and a well-grown chilli that was in a pot. Also planted a four-foot sunflower in the garden. Started digging the garlic and other tidying-up tasks in the polytunnel. There is still a lot of clearing to do there.

Here I am updating the blog so that gets a tick.

I did not wash any floors. 

However, we finally got round to contacting a monumental sculptor about adding Pearlie to the family gravestone. It is her anniversary on Friday. Four years now since she died. That one has been on the to-do list for months. 

Tomorrow I should like to

Finish harvesting the garlic

Sow more seeds

Arrange to have my hair cut

Contact the monumental sculptor again as my email keeps getting bounced back

Take a picture of the propped up sidalcea

Maybe mop some floors?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Then The Rain Came

A picture from ten weeks ago. No lawn, and flower beds almost empty. The yellow tulips in the tubs were about the only thing in bloom. Bert is wearing his crocs and looks happy. Marty has on his favourite redneck teeshirt. Jess has a ball in her mouth. This photograph was quite spontaneous.

A picture from three days ago. We have a lawn and the borders are bursting. Marty has on his favourite redneck teeshirt, Bert is wearing his crocs and Jess has a stick in her mouth. This photograph was carefully staged and is the best of a poor bunch. Bert hates being told what to do which is why he looks unhappy.

The sidalcea just behind Bert is badly placed. Two plants, too close together and far too boisterous for the front of the border. They are beautiful healthy plants though and I intend to shift them at the end of the season. I might even gift one to another gardener. Another thing I should do is stake them early on. In the heatwave, they stood tall and proud with no support necessary - until the rain came.

We had three extra dogs last night and I was awakened by barking at around four in the morning. Strange noise coming from outside which must have disturbed them. Steady, medium-heavy welcome rain, much needed. I let the dogs out. It looked strange to see the yard all glistening wet after such a long dry spell. It was still raining this morning. The garden will be enjoying this, I thought and went out to look. The sidalcea had completely collapsed.

Ah well - no mind. I shall cut it back and maybe it will flower again. The Chelsea Crop.

There is something else I'm going to try to see if it enhances my life and that is - sharing a section of my To Do list.

To Do, Monday 16th July.

Send my only grandson a birthday card. He is going to be three on Wednesday.

Cut back the sidalcea,

Sow some beetroot.

Plant vegetable plugs.

Mop the floors. Seven dogs and rainy days are hard on them.

Update my blog.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Live Fast, Die Young

We have a family of robins that live in the polytunnel that Bert feeds with mealworms. Adult robins can be quite unafraid of people but the juveniles tend to be more timorous. Bert tells me that there is a young one that is unusually forward and will come very close to him when he produces the food.

My first encounter with it was when I was weeding the runner beans. It followed my busy hands at about a distance of half a metre showing no fear at all. The first picture was taken with my phone but I had to fetch the camera to take advantage of the zoom.

Here's  Robin sitting on a peach tree. Watching me, apparently fearless. I hardly needed to use the zoom lens.

The following morning at around eight am I was sitting outside drinking coffee and eating a toasted pancake and I heard a little commotion and there he (or she?) was again. Once again the camera comes out. I've never met a bird so quiet in my life.

Robin was not offered pancake crumbs. I'm sure they'd be bad for it and I wouldn't want to encourage it to come to the house because of the cats. But it just came closer and closer.

A tiny little creature like that should not be so unafraid of humans or dogs or cats. I feared it would not live long.

So delicate and vulnerable. Those tiny little legs seemed hardly strong enough to hold it. That was the last photograph I took. Friends came round and helped us make a paved area at the side of the new lawn. The robin fluttered around most of the day watching people work and swooped down occasionally to feast on the insects that they disturbed. Evening came and we did not see it again.

This morning Robin was nowhere to be seen. The adults were in the polytunnel as usual as were the other juveniles but no sign of the fearless one. Maybe a cat, maybe a sparrowhawk or a jay. We miss him.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

One Day, Two Outings

Bert and I went shopping yesterday, himself for horticultural supplies and myself for light cotton trousers and some summer shoes. But first, we went for breakfast.

Then Bert said, pulling up outside a tool shop.

I'll just go in here for a minute to see what price their drills are.

I was a bit put out as I hadn't brought a book, for like my father before me, I'm quite content to wait anywhere as long as I have something to read. And there wasn't anything in the van, not even a tool catalogue.

Don't be too long will you? It's boiling hot in here even with the windows open.
I'll only be a minute.

A quarter of an hour later he came out no wiser than when he went in.

I said nothing.

We were going to Junction One in Antrim and when we got there we split up. I went to Gap and bought a pair of cotton trousers. I spent a minute in another shop and went to the Nike store and started looking at white trainers. My phone rang. Bert.

Are you nearly finished? I'm parked outside and it's boiling hot.
I'll be ten minutes.

I'd picked a pair and was on my way to pay for them. Five minutes later I was walking towards the van. It was open and he wasn't in it! I waited five minutes and phoned him. Tinkle, tinkle, ting-a-ling - and there was his phone on the dashboard. He really should change his ringtone. It's like something a little elf would choose.

Five minutes later he turned up bearing three cans (three for a pound) of noxious fizzy drinks he'd bought in Poundland.

I said nothing. We went home and I changed into my new trousers. So cool! Temperature-wise anyway. Maybe not Kate Moss cool. Hannah and I decided to take the dogs for a walk and once again piled into the van. We chose to go to Tardree Forest. It was so hot but better under the trees.

We spent an hour walking then returned to the van. I started to drive out. I'd noticed when we arrived that there was a steep gradient on the way down to the parking area and it was very dry and gravelly. I actually had to apply very light pressure to the brakes to prevent sliding. But the only thing I was concerned about on the way out was meeting an oncoming vehicle. That didn't happen but I found it difficult getting out onto the road. I almost made it but then had to reverse as there was oncoming traffic. Then it happened. I hit a deep ridge, stalled and the van started to slide back. And got layered on a dyke. When I got out to look I saw that one of the back wheels was halfway over the dyke. Thankfully I had managed to stop for there was a three-foot drop into the meadow below.  Panic!

Hannah was great. So calm. For someone needed to be. Then all these men appeared and they were wonderful. Calmed the whole situation down, reassured me that it wasn't too bad and eventually managed to get us back on to the road. It took a while too but they were so patient and helpful. Sam and Dave and Dominic. We will never forget you.


Sam, Hannah and Dominic

And what did Bert think of it all? I phoned him to let him know what was going on. Preparing him for the worst if worse it should be. And what did he say?

Are the dogs alright?

They were. Not one bit worried about the three unfamiliar men who were working with their van. Not even the smallest growl. They knew those decent fellows were there to help.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Irresponsible Me

For the past eight months, I have been posting family group photographs on the Flickr photo-sharing website. Usually just one a day and in my own particular order. The family members are listed firstly by seniority and then alphabetically. That meant that the first postings were of an Anne and that everyone else in the picture would be younger than her. I'm nearly finished now, doing a Zoe and her juniors.

Mostly the project has been well-received by the family although I suppose they are the only ones actually interested in them. Sometimes I've failed to attribute the photographer but that's because I didn't know who it was for a good few of the pictures came from Matty's albums.

It's certainly brought back a lot of memories for me and not all of them are comfortable. Take that first picture for example. Zoe would be around four and a half years old, Katy about the same in months. They are sitting on a coal bunker and Zoe's feet are dangling more than a foot from the hard paved ground. I don't think I'd ever pose small children like that now as I'm far more risk-averse.

But back then, when I was in my mid-20s I was a very irresponsible parent.

Look at this one...

Not a helmet in sight. I'm sure that nowadays such reckless behaviour would be a matter for the police.

At first glance a happy little baby about five or six months old. But wait, is she standing up? The photographer (me) propped her up on the back of a park bench and ran round to snap the picture. Hannah did not fall over, roll off the bench, or hit her head on the hard ground. But she could have. I cringe to think of it.

It is little wonder that when Hannah reached her eighteenth birthday I breathed a sigh of relief. Made it! No danger of them being taken into care now.