Sunday, 27 July 2014

Culdaff in the Sun


With the spell of good weather continuing I shoehorned the aged parents into my horseless carriage on Thursday and headed off into the heat. They had expressed a preference for a coastal destination so I determined upon Cudaff in County Donegal as an appropriate venue.
The temperature was more akin to the Mediterranean than the most northerly county of what is now the Republic of Ireland. We parked at Bunagee Pier which overlooks the beach. A fishing boat was unloading a catch of lobsters swiftly followed by the now empty, "pots." A youngish papa circled the bay on a jet ski accompanied by his slightly terrified children. He was enjoying himself and his offspring were dam well going to enjoy themselves!


Overlooking the pier is a now disused RNLI station. The funds to erect the station were provided by a Mrs Montgomery of the Views, Littleover, Derby in memory of her only son, William Arthur Patrick who died on 12th April 1891. In view of the relative proximity to Moville, it strikes me that the deceased may have been related to the Field Marshall's family.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Scotland is a Tunnock Teacake?

I wasn't able to watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games live. I did however view the, "highlights," later. Was I the only person who cringed at the efforts to promote, "Scottishness?" Tunnock Teacakes cavorting across the stage! Nessie! Scottie Dogs! A melee of self conscious individuals attired in kilts, (several of them looking anything but fit), passing a baton/torch thingy amongst themselves as they jogged! Giant slabs of shortcake! Gretna Green! It wasn't slick it was very embarrassing. Hopefully the sport will help people forget what prefaced the competition.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Billy Old Rectory, Castlecat, Bushmills.

Another Saturday and another garden open under the auspices of the National Trust's Ulster Garden Scheme. The garden which was welcoming visitors today was that at Billy Old Rectory a few miles outside the village of Bushmills.


It is a good size garden, extending to about three acres. The rectory was constructed in 1810 for some £810 by the then rector, Rev. J. Babington. The doorway to the three bay dwelling is through a doorway which is situated halfway between the basement and ground floor in the three storey bow which fronts the house. Somewhat surprisingly the stairway from the entrance to the ground floor only winds from the right hand side. A pleasant symetery would have been achieved if one could advance from either of two flights of stairs from the entrance.


There is a small gate lodge to the property which is well kept. Leading from the entrance gates is a well maintained gravel drive with extensive lawns on the right hand side. These are flanked by a mature woodland area with bark covered walks.


Behind the dwelling are the orchard, the vegetable garden and herb garden. There is also a duck pond. Sadly it seems to have a solitary inhabitant. At one time there may have been bees and chickens for company. The bee hives and chicken houses remain to provide interest but they are presently uninhabited.


A small summerhouse overlooks the lily pond. It certainly would have attractions on a summer evening with the allure of a stiff snifter seated in front of you.




Friday, 18 July 2014

Summer Veg Selection


This is turning out to be the best summer in this corner of the realm since I think 1995. Not in the league of 1975 or 1976 but still spiffing weather. Long sultry summer evenings invite you to enjoy your garden and not just work in it.


It isn't only flowers and shrubs that look better in the sun, even boring old vegetables look quite nice and more appetising when smothered in the golden glow of summer warmth. Tonight's big decision was to decide whether to consume peas, courgettes or calabrese. Calabrese won.



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

All Fenced In



It may not be the Mason-Dixon Line but methinks it is as straight. I spent the bank holiday erecting a new post and wire fence with the assistance of a friend. Well if the truth be known it was my mate who carried out the bulk of the work and I was the gofer. He was the individual with the practical knowledge. I was merely the person who carried out his instructions.


I had been meaning to replace the fence that runs alongside the county road for some time. Posts had rotted and wire had sagged and I was in imminent danger of a cattle incursion. I took the advice of my friend as to the fencing requirements. Strainers, posts, barbed wire, sheep fencing and staples were duly purchased. The bill was for a trifle over £200. Not, I think, too bad for a seventy metre stretch. The fencing came in 50m rolls so I am left with 30m and there is 60m of barbed wire remaining. No doubt this will be needed at sometime.



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Mexican Runner Abroad


We had a foreigner in our midst during yesterday's training. The individual concerned was one Juan Luis Barrios. I can't say that this is a name that meant anything to me although perhaps it should have. After all I still participate in athletics and he is an athlete. It is however a matter of standard. Juan Luis is a full time international athlete almost at the height of his powers. I on the other hand am the club athlete who is trying desperately to hang on to youth or even middle age as I slide inexorably through the age categories of masters' athletics.


In so far as one can judge someone from a few minutes conversation he seemed both affable and modest. He has already competed for his native Mexico in the 5,000m at two Olympic Games and his aim is qualify for the next two Olympics. I suspect that he will move up in distance to the marathon. His first outing over that distance was in 2011 when he ran 2hr 14min. 20sec.


On Friday night he competed at the Morton Games in Dublin running 7.44.21 to win the 3000m. In less than another hour he will be toeing the line in a mile race in Letterkenny which is likely to be won in under four minutes. Several of the competitors (including him) already have a, "sub 4," on their CV. Thereafter he heads to Belgium for a 5k race. He regards this weekend's efforts as his, "sharpeners."




Friday, 11 July 2014

All Out! - For a Day's Holiday?

So local council officials and others were on strike today. I wonder what percentage voted for this action? I also wonder what percentage of local council officials who weren't at work today were actually, "on strike.". It would be interesting to know the number of absentees who had elected to take a day's holiday. Maybe the apparent support for work absence is not what it appears! I wonder if anyone will submit a freedom of information request to all the Councils and the other relevant employers throughout the UK enquiring as to the number of requests for a day's holiday on 10th July 2014? I would be interested in seeing the stats.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Graip and the Potatoes.


Fourteen weeks have passed since I planted the early potatoes. This morning I extracted the well worn graip from the tack room and advanced upon the waiting tubers. It was time to dig the first potatoes of the year.


Would there be a plethora of good sized, "spuds," waiting to be teased to the surface or would the weather have presented me with several marble sized results latching on to the haulms? The greenery of the top which I attacked suggested a decent crop and it didn't deceive. Some nine medium sized potatoes came to the surface as a result of my ministrations with the graip, (aka fork). I have now consumed certain of their number having basted them with a liberal sprinkling of home made mint sauce.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Garlic Time


The foliage of the garlic plants had become progressively yellow over the past few weeks. It was time to lift them and to start drying them in the greenhouse. Sunday afternoon was the designated cropping day. Until you actually dig the bulbs up you really don't know whether you are going to end up with nice fat creamy cloves or shrivelled memories of what might have been. Most of the bulbs are about two inches in diameter so a very satisfactory result. I expect that quite a few cloves will be roasted and frozen for winter use. The freezer still houses some of last year's crop.


The ground freed up as a result of my Sunday afternoon's exertions is now in use again. The new residents include thirty parsley plants, two dozen lettuce and some cabbage and cavolo nero. This is the time of year when space is at a premium in the vegetable garden.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Vegetable Sputnik


I don't remember where I read about kohlrabi being referred to as the vegetable Sputnik but it is quite an apposite description They are rather strange looking vegetables with their antennae- like shoots. I pulled two specimens today. They were probably four inches or five inches in diameter. Tonight will see the leaves consumed. The bulbous stems will form the vegetable basis of tomorrow night's munchies. I have heard the raw taste being likened to that of apple. Not my recollection from when I last grew them but I will report back once I consume some of this produce duly grated and incorporated into a summer salad.


Ducks, Swans and a Run


I managed to drag myself from the comforts of sleep this morning in sufficent time to convey myself to Antrim to partake of the joys and benefits, real and imagined, of their 5k Park Run. Half past nine is really a bit early in the morning for me to be at my modest running best, but hey ho that's the designated time for Park Runs. The weather forecast had foretold heavy showers. Thankfully Mr. Fish's employers were wrong in this instance. It wasn't that warm but it was bright and brisk and the rain was absent.


The start line for the run was on the banks of the Six Mile Water River about one hundred yards from where it enters Lough Neagh. The assembled ducks and swans seemed relatively uninterested and undisturbed by the one hundred and six humans who had decided to expend some early morning calories.


This was the first tine that I had attended this particular Park Run. The only downside to the route was a barrier across the riverside path which necessitated a shimmy through the gap in the barrier. Thankfully there was no one particularly close to me on the outward route or the return journey so I was able to get through the gap without too much delay or without digging my elbows into anyone running alongside of me. I was aiming to beat my age category best time for this venue. Thankfully it wasn't too onerous a target and I managed to better it by just over a minute. Not a brilliant time but the benefit of the dear old age tables tells me that my time equates to about 15.30 for an under 35 year old runner. I would have settled for that in the day!


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Cucurbits and Gin


It is almost that time of year. The cucumbers are growing apace and I will soon be able to drop a slice of homegrown cucurbit, (aka cucumber) into an awaiting gin. Perhaps I will choose two or three fingers of Caorunn as the recipient of the first cool slice. A few ice cubes with borage flowers entombed within might be an appropriate addition before I add several splashes of tonic, Fever - Tree methinks. The perfect summer drink.


Eggplants Should not be Leggy


This is the first year that I have grown aubergines. I suspect that the vagaries of the summer weather in Northern Ireland would not be conducive to growing them outside so I am providing them with a relatively cosseted billet in the back section of the greenhouse alongside the cucumbers.


Based on the number of purple flowers that are now adorning the plants it looks as if I should have seven or eight fruit from each of them. Perhaps eight plants will prove to be a mite too many! A few of the lower leaves were nibbled by unseen slugs but not sufficiently to prevent the plants establishing themselves. The avaricious gastropods appear to have now disappeared in search of more appetising food.


All but one of the plants have shot up to over a foot in height and accordingly, as recommended, I have pinched out the growing tips. This should keep them stocky and stable.


I wonder when the first moussaka will be called for.