The Reprieve

Sunset

This evening as the sun set on the horizon the sheepies were in the third paddock instead of the abattoir.

I walked down the fields to call them up, followed by hopeful pigs. Hopeful that I would let them in as well. But whatever about the sheep, there is no chance the pigs are getting in at this time of year.

The sheep galloped over as soon as I called. I’m glad they’re still here really. I wasn’t looking forward to sending them off one little bit. I will miss their quiet calm presence as they wait in anticipation for breakfast every morning when I go out.

The reason for the reprieve – the clutch began to fail in my jeep around the end of October. Last Sunday reversing in the wonky black van for Cake Dames’ first market was the icing on the cake (pun intended) and the smell of burning was something else. In fact I can still smell it when I walk past. It’s sickening because it has less than 85k on clock and it’s only 4 years old.

Waiting for breakfast

However, we are where we are and the sheepies get to stay here until the beginning of January or when the abattoir gears up again. They will still be classed as lamb as they were born last March.

The turkeys have really begun to fatten up. They were very small for ages but recently I realised they’ve been helping themselves to the pigs’ buckets left ready for the next feed in the shed. They’re not the brightest birds but they’re not stupid either. I’m an awful eijit but I’ll miss them too. They’re a nice presence about the place as they whistle and cluck to each other going about their business.

November was a horrible month. I think I hate it most of all the months. I hate the dark evenings and mornings – it always seems endless. The only redeeming feature this year was the autumn colour which was spectacular but the relentless rain and wind took it’s toll on every creature here. The ground normally dry was a quagmire and I saw the pigs taking convoluted routes to avoid the worst of it and standing at the fence looking longingly at the good grass fenced off.

December has started off promisingly and it’s only 19 days to the winter solstice and “a cock’s step in a dunghill” as the days begin to slowly lengthen. You start to notice the “grand stretch” from the beginning of January and somehow the cold and rainy days seem less grim thanks to the light.

Hopefully we have experienced the worst of the rain and the wind although I have never lived in such a windy place before. The wind is unreal. I had two gates damaged until yesterday, when a neighbour arrived with a drill. Gates that were bolted or wedged with a big stone. Didn’t make one bit of difference, the wind still slammed them shut breaking one hinge and knocking a latt off the other.

Christmas draws ever closer and for the first time I will have produced my own turkey and ham. I don’t think you appreciate how much work or how much feeding goes into an animal until you do it yourself. But at least I know mine had a good life and good feeding and somehow that makes me feel better about it. I also have a couple of young roosters who will soon be ready for despatch.

So another year comes to an end and now I’m here just over two years. Hard to believe how time flies. I’m already looking forward to ordering and getting a real polytunnel for next year. I still have the Mickey Mouse one and who knows I might even get it covered with proper polythene. The list of stuff “to do” never shortens unfortunately but that’s the same for everyone I’m sure. You are certainly never finished in an old place.

Sunset

The First Day(s)

To me the first day was the day with all my animals around me and to me my animals are family (even the ones for eating). You can’t say, “ah the poor cratur has no one else”,  because I have felt like this all my life. I consider animals as part of my family and always have done. I grew up with animals and I cannot envisage a life without them.

Waking up and going out to feed the pigs and let the hens and ducks out on a lovely sunny autumn day in my new place was magical.

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Honky sunning herself

 

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Lady L loving all the grass and dry ground

Watching them stroll off to explore their new place with tails up is my abiding memory of that day. The ground was firm and dry. They had left a quagmire in Meath. The soil here is so much dryer and sandier.

I kept the poultry in the old shed for a day or two. It had been used as a pigsty in the past. There was the sleeping area and the feed trough that was fed from the outside (now blocked up with a sheet of corrugated iron) and presumably the “toilet” area. It is hard to imagine two fully grown sows in here but there was. Even back then pigs were treated abominably. I wouldn’t even put Parker the KuneKune in here to sleep and he’s a small pig.

Initially I had some fun with wandering hens but the funniest had to be the young duck who decided to fly into the neighbours late one evening around Halloween. I went looking for her and the kids all piled out to help in full Halloween costume. Picture me, the parents and three kids dressed up as ghosts and ghouls chasing a poor duck. The kids got a lesson that evening on how to catch an animal. We herded her into their porch and as she flew up I grabbed her. Various hens got out into the lane way between me and these neighbours but were relatively easy to shoo back. It doesn’t take long for them to realise where home is.

It took the cats a full month to explore outside. The fat cat hid in a hole in the lining in the bottom of one of the couches when anyone called in. He shot out the door one night after about three weeks as I was calling the dogs in. I was sure I’d never see him again and was distraught. But next morning he appeared and shot back in when I went out to feed the pigs. He didn’t go out again for about three weeks. Now I can’t get him in.  On the plus side when I first moved here I couldn’t keep up replacing poison. The place was overrun with mice. Once the cats went out, no more poison taken.

The dogs loved it from the beginning particularly the beach. I’m only five minutes from Duncannon and in the winter it’s MY beach, Now it’s full of day trippers and I hate it.

 

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I will never forget the first time I realised I was so close to the beach. The estate agent had muttered something about beaches when he first showed me the house. But it wasn’t until the second viewing when we drove down to Roche’s in Duncannon for lunch. When you come around the bend at the top of the hill,  the whole bay is there in front of you glistening seductively. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. The sea, the estuary, the Waterford coast, Duncannon Fort and the old lighthouse, now a private house. That view is good for the soul.

Every time I walked on the beach I felt the urge to pinch myself to wake up from a lovely dream. I also kept thinking about dad. Was he up there somewhere watching me and quietly pleased he had engineered the whole thing? I like to think he was. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the beach since where he hasn’t come into my head in some shape or form.

It was promising to be a lovely autumn and although there had been mutterings and forecasts about a dire winter I put them out of my head. There had been so many before and they’d always been wrong………