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12 June 2017

Last week the Guest House was taken over by a group of American Harley ‘there is no substitute for cubic inches’  Davidson bikers – and a small prize to the first person who can name the 70s film from which I quote. You could tell that they were on their way about five minutes before they arrived home from one of their excursions  – the whole house would start to vibrate to the low bass thrum of their engines. I was chatting with them before they set off to do the Antrim Coastal Route – ‘supposed to be one of the top 5 bike rides in the World, according to the guide,’  I was told. We sometimes forget the magnificence of what is on our own doorstep. ‘It’s the best drive on the Planet’ I assured them.

See you soon.



05 JUNE 2017

The Swift boxes I mentioned in the email a couple of weeks ago. There’s a small speaker (not visible in the photo) attached to the bottom of the nearest box which plays the call of the swift in an effort to entice next year’s would be parents to identify these boxes as a good place to bring up children. There will be a small prize to anyone who can show me a photograph of a swift either entering or leaving one of the boxes. I should say this is not an entirely forlorn hop as swifts are routinely seen above the yard. Hein tried to explain how you distinguish a swallow from a swift: a swallow in profile is like a fighter jet, a swift more like a glider. Plus swifts tend to fly higher. I know what he means, but he has better eyes than I and I still struggle to tell the difference.

See you soon



15 May 2017

Ten days ago, Patricia and I got up at 5 o’clock in the morning and set off for Tipperary. It is, as you will know from the song, a long way to Tipperary. This photograph was taken just outside Nenagh, and in it you can see Billy Collins, who breeds Tamworths and Durocs, leading three hopefully pregnant Tamworth sows onto our trailer, in order for us to bring them back to Ballylagan.

We contacted Billy some weeks ago in search of Tamworth breeding stock and after a prolonged exchange of emails and texts, he suddenly asked us if we had a boar and what was its name. He suspected that our boar (Nightpark Glen) was the only surviving direct male progeny of a boar his mother had bought from Bellevue Zoo about twenty years ago. Photographs were emailed and stud books consulted – a bit like internet dating for pigs. The outcome of all this was that two months ago Billy collected our boar and took him down to Nenagh to meet all sorts of nice young things. We saw him when we were picking up these sows – he’s on a diet, not so much to improve his already impressive good looks but to make sure he doesn’t crush any of his beloveds during the act of courtship.

Patricia and I returned home with the our three sows at about 5 o’clock in the evening. They have taken up residence in the front field where they can easily be seen.

See you soon.


08 May 2017

Those of you have been paying attention will have noticed that International Dawn Chorus Day was yesterday and may even have been aware that Ballylagan Farm was hosting an event. 23 people turned up for our walk which set off at exactly at 0530 as dawn broke. Points of interest:
We attracted more walkers than The Archers did on radio 4 despite the multi-billion pound resources of the BBC.
We had a perfect (and I mean perfect) morning for the walk. As my mother would have said: I have never seen weather like it.
The birdsong was magical, plentiful and various and our 3 RSPB guides were astonishing in their knowledge and enthusiasm – many thanks to Brenda, Paul and Kate. A total of 25 species were either seen or heard during the course of the walk – which to my mind ain’t bad.
The breakfast bar-b-q was a great success and my thanks to Patricia, Sarah and Ilse for putting on such a great spread.
We will be presenting the RSPB with a cheque for the £100 raised on the day.
Which brings me to a rather curious bird happening on the dam a week ago. As I drove up our drive towards the Ballylagan Road at about 0745 last Tuesday, I was forced to a halt by a procession of moorhens exiting the dam in single file, crossing the drive and popping through the hedge into the front field to join Murphy the horse. I wasn’t until I returned home that the explanation for this rather odd behaviour became apparent – two large geese were on the dam.
Clearly moorhen have their standards. As do pigs:
'Twas an evening in November, as I very well remember,
I was walking down the street in drunken pride.
But my knees went all a-flutter, so I rested in a gutter,
And a pig came round to lay down by my side.
Yes, I lay there in the gutter, thinking thoughts I could not utter,
When a colleen passing by did softly say:
"You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses."
And at that, the pig got up and walked away!

See you soon