Thursday, August 25, 2016

Something New

At Sea*

Almost time for the new school year to begin and this year Miss Evie goes into year one at Big School. Doesn't time fly past? I say that even though it is a pet peeve how people talk of time flying.

What happened to the endless hours waiting for the school bell to ring at the end of the day, the ever lasting months in the run up to Christmas and that long, long stretch of summer holiday viewed from the first day of July? Time didn't fly back then and I'll bet Miss Evie thinks it was half a lifetime ago when she started off at nursery school. 

I read somewhere that all it takes to make time slow down is to do something different so I'm doing something different tonight, going to an event in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. I'm looking forward to seeing Glen Hansard (part-timer) and I'm looking forward to seeing my brother-in-law Breanndan Ó Mhuircheartaigh and the Kerry Sister. 

*I am not certain of the provenance of the picture. I think it is by Kerry Sister.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Off Again!

No posting this weekend as I'm off to Donegal for a couple of days. And with all the potting, watering, cleaning, packing and catching up with my wine-making I really need a break!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peaches and Oak Trees

This has been a wonderful year for raspberries and peaches. Raspberries are over now. A week of wet weather and the wasps finished them off but not before we shared, made gallons of wine and filled the freezer. The peach trees cropped heavily too; the free standing tree lost a branch under the weight of fruit. I need to improve the management  of these trees with more summer pruning and thinning. Meanwhile I need to continue giving them away, making peach wine and peach and raspberry wine, chopping and freezing for even more wine and the odd pudding. Howard was here this evening helping me get the fruit on the highest branches and he said that peaches are rather good soaked in rum and eaten with cream. That might well do for a Saturday treat.

Peaches and garlic

I took four dogs and a cat for a walk in the wood today in the hope I might catch a glance of an owl. All I spotted were wood pigeons. This is a shameful admission but it is over a year since I've been in there - Bert's wood, only five minutes from my door. It's also been quite a while since I've climbed the stairs to the tree house. Thirty seconds from my door. I really must do better.

Whilst in the wood I saw Matty's oak tree, a little sapling that she had in a pot by her back door. It was given to Mum by her friend Marie who, I think, grew it from an acorn. That's what Matty said anyway. Bert planted it in a good place and now that I know exactly where it is I'll have to keep an eye on its progress.

Little oak tree

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Return of the Owls

One fine evening last week I went out to check that the chickens were closed in and heard the long-missed sound of young long eared owls calling for food. It's a strange call, almost like a creaking wooden gate. At this stage of their lives the young owls will be able to fly short distances and are agile enough to move from branch to branch, even from tree to tree in a wooded area. They still depend on the adult owls to bring them food and the calls are to let the parents know where they are. There were at least two calling.

Chances of seeing them are slim for they live in the wood now. Back in 2007 they nested close to our house and were easily spotted even during the day. But even if I cannot see them or photograph them it is wonderful to know that they are breeding near us. Owls and buzzards. We are blessed.

There is more good news. My mother's wedding ring which was lost for more than a year has turned up. I found it wedged under the skirting board in my private, secret sitting room. What a relief. I'd never even told my siblings it was missing. Obviously if I was more of a thorough housewife, dusting my skirtings regularly, I'd have found it long ago.

And here - post from seven years ago with photograph of a juvenile owl. Perhaps it is a parent or grandparent of the ones we hear now.

I Miss My Baby Owls

baby owl springhill 2009, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
For the second year running there has been no long eared owl babies at Springhill. I miss them very much.

We think that buzzards took over their nesting site. Last year there were at least three young buzzards reared on our land. Buzzards are OK but I'd much rather have owls.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Horticultural Tale

Many years ago when I lived in town I had these very unexpected visitors. Mick, my first husband, was at work and myself and the girls were all at home. I was washing dishes and noticed a parked car with at least four adult occupants. It seemed out of place at nine o'clock in the morning but I never thought it would have anything to do with me. Then the door knocked and there on the doorstep they all stood, the occupants of the car, and the tall bearded one was brandishing a piece of paper which he said was a warrant to search my house for drugs. He might have announced it differently but that is how I remember it. They were one woman, three men and a golden labrador. The woman sort of herded the children and I into the living room while the men and the dog set to searching the house. Katy, who was about six, was very excited about the dog and wanted to know if we could keep it. I was worried. About a year previously I'd held a party in the house and someone had cannabis and I fretted that there might be a fleck of it left behind for at that time people were being charged and taken to court for very small amounts of hash.

The police officer who was 'guarding' us attempted light conversation. She noticed some unfinished patchwork I'd been working on and talked about that. Apparently she had an interest in needlecraft too. I couldn't really engage with her for worrying about the untidiness of the home that they were rampaging through. At last the bearded one appeared. He asked me to come into the kitchen. My heart sank. Had they found cigarette papers, a grain of dope? No. I walked into my kitchen to find one of the officers holding a house plant. Beardy said,

Can you tell me what this is?

I was amazed and relieved and answered,

It's a plant my friend bought me for my birthday. She got it in a florist shop in Wellington Street. You're joking. You can't really think that it's a cannabis plant?

He wasn't joking.

We're taking it with us for investigation.

I got cheeky.

Well, I'll be wanting it back and you'd better water it!

They left.

A week later I'd heard no word so I went to the phone box at the bottom of the estate and phoned the police station and got through to the switchboard.

Hello. This is Nelly Moser. I'd like to speak to Sergeant Willis please.
I'm afraid he's not in his office today. 
I'd like to leave a message for him.
Ask him if he has completed his investigations regarding my house plant I'd like it returned please.

The switchboard woman tittered and said,

I'll make sure he gets the message.

A couple of days later the door knocked and there standing on the doorstep was one of my unexpected visitors from that morning, the youngest of them, given the shit job of returning my birthday present. I took it from him and noticed it was light.

This plant hasn't been watered since you took it. It's bone dry.
We watered it every day!
I don't believe you.

A couple of months later my sister and I were at a friend's gig in the  Smithfield Bar and I noticed Beardy Willis and his drug squad chums sitting at the back. I quietly pointed them out to her,

That's the crowd that took my house plant.

They left soon after and the landlady set two drinks in front of us.

What's this?
That's from Sergeant Willis.

And that was that. My dizygotheca elegantissima lived on for a few years but eventually died and was never replaced. It never got to be as big as the one in Belfast's Botanic Gardens.

Dizygotheca elegantissima or False Aralia

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Distant Donkeys

A person could nearly be happy if it wasn't for the relentless brutality of the reported news. Today Bert and I travelled to Loughgall to pick up clematis liners in one location, compost in another. There were friendly people,  friendly dogs, and slightly distant donkeys - Armagh and Tyrone are pleasant places. The orchards in Armagh are laden with apples but apparently it's not good news for farmers. More work for the growers with lower prices and the Irish cider companies have quotas. This is how market forces work in the 21st century, the better things are the worse they are.

In Springhill there is a glut of raspberries and blackcurrants and, hopefully, of peaches. This is a good thing. Nelly fills the freezer, all the visitors get free fruit and the birds, insects and pigs eat the leftovers. No money involved. When I'm picking currants one hen, the smart hen, follows me around eating the fruit that I drop. She's not actually that smart because she hasn't figured out she can pick the fruit straight off the branches. Those blackbirds could teach her a thing or two.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


So many weeds to pull and so much fruit to pick. I say to Bert,

The days aren't long enough,

And he says,

You can see them getting shorter too! Winter is coming!

Damn you Bert, I may have anxiety but you are a pessimist. Yet it may be that I have nurtured my own optimism as an antidote to my anxiety.

In the right (wrong) frame of mind I can turn any pleasant thought to a negative.

My word, the raspberries are doing fine this year,

To be followed by,

I wonder how many years I have left in which to enjoy raspberries.

Short lived delights like laburnum bring sad thoughts too. It is glorious in the few weeks when it blooms, so loud with busy pollinating insects. Evie calls it the corn tree because, to her, the drooping acid yellow blossom look like corn cobs. Every year the laburnum's glory is tinged with sadness as I remember that my time to enjoy it grows less and less.

Perhaps it is me who is the pessimist.