Thursday, March 23, 2017

The News

There is always too much news. Sometimes it comes from a distance and sometimes it is closer to home. Yesterday there was the news of the carnage at Westminster, too soon to say much about, just the hard facts, four people dead and many more injured. Anyone who has ever been to London will have walked or driven over Westminster Bridge. Indeed, my sister, until recently, walked over it regularly as part of her commute to work. Like all do, in this time of almost instant communication, I established that both London sisters were safe. And watched as the television news went round in circles showing the same sad and terrible footage over and over again.

And today's big news in Northern Ireland will be the funeral of Martin McGuinness, former Deputy First Minister at Stormont. Opinion on his legacy is, as might be expected, divided. We are a divided people here in these six counties but I'm happy to declare that I am on the side of those that respected him. I came late to that stance but then, we're all on a journey, are we not?

In Drumrankin, our wee bit of it anyway, the news is homelier. The chickens are free again and we are observing all the orders guidelines laid out by the government to protect them from avian flu. My main contribution will be to never set foot in a commercial chicken farming establishment. Should be easy enough to keep to.

Keep safe everyone, no matter where you are and don't believe everything you hear, even if you hear it from me.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Success (Of Sorts)

When all around the world goes sad, mad and bad, it is the simple pleasures that count - one's chickens, the new calf that was born today - Martha says her name is Ava and we must never sell her. I say that we must but she shall have first refusal. Our other pleasures include friends, family and music.

And, of course, there is food. This weekend was not one of my better ones when it came to home-cooked food. Supper was shop-bought sausage rolls, tinned beans and an interesting salad made from tender leaves of kale (home-grown), olives, tomatoes and little sweet peppers. The dressing came out of a jar. I made (at Evie's request) the steamed chocolate pudding, chocolate sauce and ice cream dessert.  It was the wrong ice cream. Not popping candy ice cream. I made the excuse that I'd forgotten to bring my glasses which was a lie. It didn't matter anyway as Evie had been to a birthday party and was full to the neck of sweets and cake. She didn't even have dessert, said she was 'tired of it.'

Breakfast was Kellogs Variety Pack and Peppa Pig on Netflix. I wasn't part of it as I was reading The Guardian in bed. Some lad from Buckna was supervising the young'uns, helping them eat Variety and watching Peppa Pig. Lunch was (hang my head in shame) shop-bought pizza. I attempted to jazz it up with extra toppings and Lidls mozzarella cheese. But then, my triumph, the food that made up for all other culinary shortcuts and shortcomings, my first successful sourdough loaf. For, even though the first attempt resulted in rolls that could have served as missiles, I kept the mother going and made this...

I know it is boastful but that loaf was not my only success this weekend. At Martha and Evie's storytime I selected a book of fables, beautifully illustrated by Janusz Grabianski. But one forgets how shite fables are. There is no real story, no satisfying ending, no resolution. The one I chose was about a fox who fell down a well and couldn't get out. Said fox tricks a decent old billy goat to jump into the well and help it escape. Then, the fox being wily and all, fucked right off mocking the billy goat for his gullibility. And that was the end. So I said to the girls,

I didn't think much of that story! I think I could make a better job of it!

So, putting down the book, beautiful illustrations and all, I finished the story bringing in two brave young animal rescuers called Martha and Evie, a grandfather (Bert) with a length of baler twine in his pocket, a lovely woman called Denise who was in need of a billy goat, then a billy goat in a new home in The Parks with two wives and four lovely kids (three girls and a boy) and a nasty fox who called round and ended up getting butted over a hedge never to be seen again while everyone got to live happily ever after. I believe I enjoyed telling it far more than the girls enjoyed listening to it. My reward came this morning when Evie joined me in bed and said,

That was a good story last night.

Thanks, Margaret Green (and Aesop) for the beginnings of the tale and thanks to Janusz Grabianski for the wonderful pictures.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Saint Patrick's Day And How I Gave Up Smoking

Saint Patrick's Day means little to me even though I am an Irishwoman. When we were children it meant a day off school which was marred by compulsory attendance at Mass where almost everyone would be wearing a clump of weedy shamrock and the choir would sing 'Hail Glorious Saint Patrick' which I rather enjoyed for I found the lyrics very rousing, more Unrepentant Republican than Devout Christian. At that stage of my life, I had yet to hear the Wolfe Tones.

Hail, glorious St. Patrick, dear saint of our isle,

On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now that you’re high in your mansions above,
On Erin's green valleys look down with your love.

On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
On Erin's green valleys look down with your love.

Hail, glorious St. Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan's wiles and a heretic throng;
Not less is thy might where in Heaven thou art;
Oh, come to our aid, in our battle take part!

In a war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear Saint, may thy children resist to the death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, and prayer,
Their banner the Cross, which they glory to bear.

Nowadays I don't go to Mass and all that the day means to me is remembering dear old Paddy, wondering if any of my younger relations will be arrested in the Holyland and despising eedjits who carry on like this.

And what is it with the four-leaved clover? The whole point of the shamrock's association with Saint Patrick is that he is supposed to have used the plant to explain the concept of the Trinity to the native Irish. It isn't known as trifolium for nothing.

Anyway, Paddy's Day, my hole. This is the best Paddy I ever knew. Thirteen years ago we fetched him from the shelter, and thirteen years and two days since I gave up smoking for he sure took my mind off tobacco. That's my main tip for giving up. Get a dog. And some chickens.

Paddy was a great fellow for the hens

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Springtime Resolutions

There is a stage in a person's life where she has to embrace the idea of change; either that or sink into a rut where she will drown at 70 or 80-something if she should live that long. That's where I am.

Things I think about? How much I eat and drink. My diet is not the best, too heavy on carbohydrates and sugars and I am very fond of wine, both homemade and shop bought.

Other things to ponder? The time I waste. There isn't such an awful lot of it left. Twenty years? It would be wise to make those hours count.

That said, I am currently enjoying an overlooked blackcurrant from 2014. Amazing how the extra time in the bottle has mellowed its flavour. So, I'm not going to over-concern myself with wine right now, other than enjoying it (in moderation). Instead, I am going to try very hard to spend my time wisely. It's like a Spring resolution.

What pissed me off today?

Bert not liking my parsnip soup.

Too many dead badgers on the roads. Slow down, people!

May. Trump. The usuals.

My chillis have yet to germinate.

Bert (him again!) nicking my private hose-pipe and carrying it to his side of the polytunnel.

What pleased me?

When I forgot to pay for my parking ticket and, more than thirty minutes later, returned to the carpark to find that the traffic wardens hadn't ticketed me. I said Memorares all the way to Castle Street and, once again, the BVM did not forsake me. I'm having such a struggle with my atheism these days.

The two shirts I bought with the money I saved from not having to pay a parking fine.

Sowing beans. I thought nine bean rows but sowed ten to be sure.

Les' yummy olive and tomato sourdough toasted. Really must get my act together with the sourdough. Tomorrow!

Knowing that my chickens will soon be released from their government imposed incarceration.

A book I've started by Patrick Ness. Apparently, it's for young adults. What do I care? I'm an adult, but hopefully, still young at heart.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dog Years

Today I looked at a file on my external hard drive entitled Blog Drafts and found this snippet from March 2013. I’m pretty sure it never made it to Nelly’s Garden. I even carried out a keyword search, ‘procreate’ and ‘Cesar’ which are words I rarely use and they are not there. So off we go, recycling time!

March 2013
Cesar Millan tells us that the method of calculating dog years by counting each year of their lives as seven years of ours is flawed. I've always thought so myself. After all, a dog at a year old can procreate and usually, at seven, humans don't. A more accurate way of counting dog years is to take their actual age and subtract 2 from it, multiply by 4 and add 21. It works! Using this method, puppy Jess born in October is 14 and a half and Judy, born in the summer of 2010 is 23 and a half. That fits. Jess is a crazy, hyped up teenager and Judy is a dignified 20 something with lots of energy and a busy social life. Jess eats like a savage and burns it all off and Judy watches her figure.

March 2017
How have they aged in the past four years?
Judy will be seven this summer. She is not quite as agile as she was and is beginning to go grey around the muzzle and flanks. Jess will be five in October. She appears to be in the prime of life. Let’s do the math.

Judy – 6 and three-quarters (approx.)

(6.75 - 2) x 4 = 19. Add 21 and that makes Judy 40.

She isn’t quite as nimble as she used to be but likes to keep herself in shape with swimming and ball fun.

Jess - almost 4 and a half.

(4.5 – 2) x 4 = 10. Adding 21 has Jess at 31 human years. Still a girl at heart.

Four years ago Roy was still living with Paddy Bell. He was far too fat (Roy, not Paddy) and getting very little exercise. For the past couple of years, he has been with us and is far more active even though he never leaves the farm. We think he will soon be eleven years old as he was around two when Nessie (his original owner) died and she’s gone 9 years now.

So if Roy is 10 and a half…

(10.5 – 2) x 4 = 34 add 21 makes Roy 55. Seems right enough for he wasn’t that far gone and a better diet and more activity took years off him.

When he was fat

I wonder what age I am in dog years? Subtract 21 from my actual age and I am 42 and a half (I wish) then divide by 4. That brings me to 11 and a half so, subtract 2 and I am coming ten in dog years. Shit! I’m not even as fit as Roy! I couldn’t run after those pigs the way he does. But then, Roy neither drinks wine nor eats chocolate. Time I caught myself on.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sourdough Day 7

Les said everything was ready to make the bread starter on Saturday evening but Mrs Banjo arrived and we drank prosecco (with hibiscus flowers?) and red wine and I sort of forgot. So it got begun yesterday and today I made my first loaf. It didn't rise! So I turned it into bread rolls and we ate it with roasted parsnip soup and Martha said it was fabulous and she had the sharp little teeth for it. Les came round this evening and heard the whole sad story and he pronounced me too impatient for I should have given the bread more time. I'm to try again tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sourdough Day 4

This picture shows the little pinholes that indicate that airborne yeast spores are active in my starter. Les reckons I will be able to bake my first loaves on Sunday.

The chickens finished the last of the Les disasters today. Several days old now, I had to soak them in water to make them crumble. Little feathered friends loved it and it must have put new vigour into the seven new hens for two of them escaped when I was cleaning out their house. It was the sawdust spooked them. Happy as clams as I scraped and brushed but when I started throwing fresh sawdust down two of them panicked and soared over the fence and into what we like to call an orchard (three scabby apple trees and a bunch of rushes) and it was some job catching them. To make matters worse I was breaking the law for had a Defra spy been driving past we would have been in obvious breach of the keeping chickens away from wild birds rule. Or would we? What wild bird would ever go near a crazy woman chasing two chickens around a so-called orchard? Not even Bert's two tame robins, the ones that are really pissed that he has run out of mealworms, would have come near me and my henny friends.

Anyway, I caught the buggers and was very pleased with myself that I managed it, for this is how my life has narrowed - the big achievement of the day catching escaped poultry. That,  and cleaning out two hen houses and starting a damson wine.