Saturday, April 26, 2014

Porky and Bess.

Today saw us up at the crack of dawn, well not really, but for us very early. It was piglet collection day.
Several friends had said that it would take about three hours to get to where the piglets were, but in fact the journey was simple and quick, taking us just one hour forty minutes, which was in fact ten minutes quicker than Goole maps had said. We met the breeder at a garage in his town, garages in Ireland seem to be the main meeting points, we of course were over an hour early for our appointment but it was not a problem, we then followed Richard, the breeder, to his farm a few miles out of town. We had a choice of piglets and settled on two ten week old gilts, Tamworth X Saddleback.
After the initial shock of being grabbed and bundled into a very large dog kennel the piglets soon settled down, but not before they had tossed straw all over themselves, and had a good root through it. They then bedded themselves down under a duvet of straw and slept for the entire journey to their new home.
Warm and snug.
Once we arrived they were transported to their run, still in the kennel  where they were quite happy to stay,
One eye open.
it took them about half an hour to venture out, squeals and grunts of pleasure as they started rooting. Then the dogs came over to investigate. Tess is fascinated but a little confused, I'm sure she expected them to bark, all she got was a grunt and a definite look of distain.
Our old dog Robbie however greeted them with a growl and a bared tooth, yes, tooth, being as old as he is he only has one tooth, poor old chap. Piglets have now found that electric fencing bites, so we are hopeful that we will not have any escape attempts, but knowing pigs this is something we cant take for granted, but we can hope.
Just five minutes work.
They have been given their supper but are far more interested in rooting, clearly they are energy saving rotovators.
We have been very impressed with the efficiency of the Department of Agriculture dealing with our pig licence application.  The application forms arrived the day after we had applied for them, despite there being a long bank holiday weekend, we had our inspection on Wednesday, just one week after sending the forms in, on Thursday we were issued with our herd number, by phone, with all the associated paper work arriving on Friday. The efficiency might be something to do with our local office closing down, with the loss of jobs for all the clerical staff. All paper work will now come from a different county, Cavan. I have my doubts if this will lead to greater efficiency, and it certainly means yet more money being taken out of the local economy.
On our travels we went through some very pretty country side, Bluebells and Garlic Ransoms are already out down country.
 We spotted a very pretty Irish thatched cottage, a different style of thatching to where we live,
and some interesting modern metal sculptures,
unfortunately we couldn't get very good photos of them as it was a very busy road
                                                 and it was raining.
Tess our Golden lab has a new best friend, she had been friends with one of our old cats Emily, who sadly died at Christmas. Tess was very sad at the time as they used to play together, however, Felix, our young black and white boy has decided that he prefers Tess to the other cats, one of them , we are not too sure who, caught a mouse,
Felix and Tess took turns in playing with the poor mouse, neither wanting to eat it, just to play.   

Monday, April 21, 2014

Six minus four equals five.

                                          This is a strange story, but true.
 In February we bought some rabbits, one doe with two kittens, who met an unfortunate end due to mink attack, and two bucks, one of whom turned out to be a doe. This girl who we have called Snowdrop had six kittens, four which died, possible killed by the other rabbit who was in with her and was in fact her brother.
 As soon as we realised that these two rabbits were in fact male and female they were separated, leaving Snowdrop with her two remaining kittens, they have grown well and are now nine weeks old. We also have another doe, Daisy, she has six kittens, now six weeks old. All eight kitten are pure white, just like their mums.
Two plus three new arrivals.
The rabbits get moved twice a day, morning and evening, rabbits  eat quite a lot of grass, our environmentally friendly lawnmowers. Last night when Simon when to move the runs he though that Daisy's kits had escaped and got into Snowdrops run, suddenly there were five kits with her, but one was black! We don't have any black rabbits.
The run is double wired, taking no chances with the mink.
The new arrivals are slightly smaller than the two originals, if they are the same breed as ours they are probably a couple of weeks younger,  fortunately Snowdrop doesn't seem to mind the sudden increase in her families size, and they seem healthy enough, but why do people think they can dump unwanted animals onto other people, why do some people seem to have no conscience of going onto other peoples land?
We never used to lock our house when we went out, in fact the last time we felt we needed to do so we were still living in the UK, over twenty five years ago, but that  changed when we found that on a couple of occasions visitors had called, found us out but still entered our house, once even leaving a   note. To us this is not acceptable behaviour however well you might know people. Since then we have started to lock up. It now seems that we will also have to padlock the gates to stop more unwanted animals being dumped on us, and I'm guessing that we will never know where they came from.
We have now booked our piglets, two Tamworths, or as they should correctly be called, Irish Rooting pigs, we had always thought that this breed originated in the UK but apparently they are an Irish breed. All we need now is the visit from the man from the Dept. and our herd number.
            The garden has a beautiful array of flowing bulbs now,
many of them perfumed, with the Wall Flowers the perfume is quite heady.
                                       I had not realised how many different types of
This little daffodil has a white ring around the trumpet.
                             daffodils and narcissi we have planted over the last three years.
Beautiful colour and shape.
Some of the newest bulbs were Tulips, many have incredible shape as well as colour to them.
such vibrant colours.
I hope that with a good top dressing of blood fish and bone meal they will continue for many years to come.
I love these frilled tulips.
                                             The hedge rows are white with the
                                                    blossom of Blackthorn,
            and banks full of violets, primroses and the humble dandelion.
It is a very colourful spring time. The Swallows arrived last week and at last we have  heard the cuckoo, later than last year, but it seems that summer is on it's way.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Traditions.

Hot Cross buns have long been associated with Easter and adopted by the Christian religion many century's ago but they date back far further than Christianity. Easter is named after a Pagan goddess Eostre, the goddess of light, gifts of small buns were offered to her, each one had a cross marked on it symbolising the four quarters of the moon. However, does it really matter how or from when they originated?
Hot and steaming.
They are delicious and very easy to make, eaten warm with lashings of butter, yum!!
The last week has flown by, we had friends from Spain staying for a few days, far too few, they are great company and very interesting people, the house seems very empty without them. They are both teachers of English in Spain and are now on their last term before doing the summer schools and then heading for South America for nine months, it might be over a year before we see them again which is a shame as they are such good company. We will look forward to the next instalment of their adventurous life, and will look forward to their next visit.
While they were with us we managed a trip to the Mayo coast, we had hoped to show them the Ceide Fields near Ballycastle, but unfortunately by the time we had stopped off for a cup of coffee and a picnic on the coast we were too late for them to see the Ceide fields.
Beautiful colours in the rock face.
This is the oldest known field system in the world, dating back 5.5 thousand years, under the peat bog they have discovered field walls, house and tombs. A truly wonderful Neolithic land scape.
                                      The nearby  cliffs are truly spectacular,
It's a long way down.
                  and high, not for me I'm afraid, I will enjoy them from the road side.
The garden keeps on giving, so much rhubarb and now purple sprouting broccoli,  curly kale, we still have plenty of carrots and parsnip also celery. The very early potatoes are growing well, these are in bags, Ratte, kindly donated by a friend. the earlies in the garden are  now through, but no sign of the Sarpo yet, this was our own seed saved from last year, and we still have plenty in store, hopefully they will last until the  earlies are ready. It will be touch and go on the onions though but we might last out until the new crop is ready. The tomato plants are looking good and are now needing to be planted in their  summer space, we hope for a good crop. Meanwhile seeds keep growing, and that includes the weeds, always something to be done when you grow your own.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blosom Everywhere.

The garden is now full of colour,
                                         each day brings more surprises
So many things giving colour now.
from bulbs planted last Autumn and forgotten about. I wish I had had the foresight to keep a planting plan and the names of what I planted. One bulb in particular has been a real surprise,
Is this a Tulip? I'm not sure.
I'm not even sure if it is a Tulip, it is highly perfumed and very pretty, it has tulip type leafs, but the flower is more like a lily. I hope I will find it in this years bulb catalogues, I will definitely get more. We are also surprised at the number of different types of
Yet another type of tulip.
                                               and tulips that we have,
I'm sure not all of these came from my last bulb order, but they didn't bloom last year, maybe they just needed time to establish.
The rockery is established now.
The country side is also full of colour, primroses are blooming everywhere, yellow gorse which never seems to be out of bloom, it is said that gorse blooms for eleven months of the year, we have yet to find out which month it misses.
Damson in Bloom.
The fruit trees are also coming into bloom, I hope we don't get a late frost. We have even seen the first butterflies, but have yet to hear the Cuckoo.
We have friends staying with us at the moment, always a good excuse for cooking, like ourselves they are foodies and really enjoy their food. They have travelled extensively and have enjoyed a very extensive cuisine,
Freshly baked strawberry cheese cake.
I enjoy cooking for people like them!
The pig runs are now finished bar the electric tape which will be put round the whole paddock, we know from past experience that pigs are very intelligent, and even if they have everything that they can possible need in their run, they will always explore  a new opportunity to escape. Twenty years on and we still remember chasing pigs around twelve acres. We are too old for such capers now.
Pig run completed, barring the electric tape.
I think we will find that the two paddock system will work well especially as the pig house has a back and front entrance, so there will no need to move it at all.
Work has recommenced on the straw bale barn, our friends are giving it the first coat of lime plaster. With luck it will be totally finished by the end of the month as long as this lovely weather continues.      

Monday, April 7, 2014

New season vegtable.

           We have now had the first couple of pickings of  Purple Sprouting Broccoli,
First pickings.
this plant takes a long time to grow, the best part of a year from sowing the seed to cropping, but is always well worth the effort. The seeds for next years crop have also been sown in root trainers, they will get planted out in a couple of months. We are coming to the end of the last year veg,
Nearly the last of the leeks.
maybe a couple more pickings of leeks, but plenty of carrots, swede,  parsnips potatoes and onions, also curly kale. Cauliflowers are just starting to form their curds, we will look forward to them. Swede and turnips have germinated in the garden and various brassicas are growing away in their seed trays. The tomato plants are all looking good, potatoes all planted, various squashes and courgettes in their pots, the new season has begun.
Yesterday saw us again over in North Roscommon for a plant swap day, meeting up with like minded friends, talking gardens and swapping plants. Although several of us live in the west of the county we seem to gravitate to the north of the county where there is more energy and alternative  thinking people.
 Had we been looking for soft fruits we could have planted a whole field with the amount of black and redcurrant cuttings, raspberries and strawberry plants as well, but our soft fruit garden is completed although it has cost quite a bit, but we could have done it all for free from the plant swap.
Plants from the plant swap.
We came away with some lovely plants including Agapanthus, Arum lily, Bamboo, Red Bergamot and  Perennial Purslane, plus other bits and pieces. Seven of us then descended on the local garden centre, never a good idea, the excuse being we all wanted a good cup of coffee. Needless to say we all ended up with a little more than coffee, but by and large we were all quite good!  We sound like a bunch of naughty kids in a sweet shop, for the group of friends that we were with, a garden centre is the adult equivalent, the coffee is just the excuse.
Starting off with a board for the base frame.
Inspired by the previous weeks basket making course we have now made a large willow obelisk for our runner bean support,
Now all we need are the beans.
it not only looks good but came free from nature and took just an hour to make.
Daffy is not too sure about Felix.
Our two youngest cats, Sparky and Felix have fascination with a couple of our ducks, Daffy duck who likes to spend time in our garden when she is wanting to lay a clutch of eggs
What is that duck doing?
and a white Indian Runner who we have had to remove from the run as she had a bad leg. On closer examination we found  that her leg band had cut right into her leg, this we had great difficulty in removing and she is still limping, so she has her own sick bay and we give her a daily swim in the pond as physiotherapy.
The cats just do not understand how these friends appear to be able to walk on water, they have both tested out the pond with their paws and found it to be wet, Sparky has had a bath in the pond, but still has not quite worked it all out.
Strange friendship.