A little over a week ago we packed our little car to ridiculous levels.  We each, the lovely Sharon and I, packed ourselves a modest sports bag of clothes and a few books that we believed, naively, we might get a chance to read.  The two bags fitted neatly into the foot wells of the back seats leaving the remaining volume of the entire car for the little man’s accoutrements and gubbins.  Walker, bath, pram, steriliser, nappies, toys, and two (that’s two!) sports bags full of clothes.  With a heavily loaded car we headed into the heart of Fermanagh for our holidays.

Hours of driving later, we arrived in the general vicinity of the house for the week.  It was an old converted stable that had been turned into what looked like a lovely self catering apartment.  I relied on the lovely Sharon for navigation, and regretted it.  In the mountains she is a focused and accurate navigator, taking pacings and timings much more seriously than myself.  However, in the passenger seat of a car she takes on a trance like state looking at the hedges and the trees.  We usually miss our turn, drive on several tens of miles, before she comes round and insists that our turn-off should be coming up soon.  Prior to leaving on our holidays she informed me that she had looked up the web site and committed the directions to memory.  Inside my mind I was already shaking my head.  Things went reasonably well until we got down to the fine details of finding the stables.  As we passed an old wall Sharon came alive with enthusiasm that the directions mentioned a stone wall.  This sounded encouraging until she said the same thing about a primary school, an old tree, a church, a lake (there are a lot of lakes in Fermanagh), and a hedge.  She was clutching at straws and I knew that, from that moment on, our holidays would rely on blind luck.

There were not many people about to stop and ask directions.  After driving past one particular house several times we spotted a beekeeper tending to his hives and decided to stop, admit defeat, and ask advice.  The lovely Sharon headed up the drive of the house to face the beekeeper.  The little man and I were left in the car wondering if we would ever find our home for the week.  As time began to pass the little man began to protest quite strenuously at his confinement in the car and I began to wonder what was taking so long.  The time taken to discuss directions had passed and I began to wonder what they could be talking about as I watched from the bottom of the lane.  It turned out that the house we had stopped at was actually our destination and the topic of conversation had turned to bees as the beekeeper was in the process of catching a swarm from one of his hives.

 Honeycomb from our host’s beehives

The weather was brilliant for our week in Fermanagh.  We did the usual thing of the big parks and gardens.  In the evenings we put our feet up in the garden and listened to the plants grow as we read our books.  It was a mostly relaxing holiday if you subtract the worry and stress of the little man having a throat infection and suffering a high fever for three nights in a row.  A trip to Enniskillen Hospital was called for on one evening to get a diagnosis and some antibiotics.  We are told that this is all just part of normal parenting.

 blue sky and a halcyon still lake around lough Erne

When we arrived back at the cottage yesterday we found our own little garden had moved on without us.  There is another crop of blackcurrants ready to be turned into jam and a large crop of broad beans that needs to be eaten.  Tonight we dragged out the cookery books for inspiration.  On broad beans we believe that Nigel Slater seems to have the upper hand and we have made a wee list of herbs and cheeses that need to be purchased over the coming days. After our brief holiday in a house that had a massive vegetable garden and a cockerel, chicks and chickens, we are inspired to move along with our own chickens.  We are pondering the idea of making a permanent area for chickens and possibly rearing our own for the plate.  It is an idea that is not for the present, but maybe for next year.  We have an eye on an area below the old beech tree and an empty shed that could be converted into a nice coop if it can survive being moved.

This evening I had a look at the hives.  As I leant down to listen to one I could hear a very un-bee-like sound.  A scratching could be heard above the soft whisper of the bees.  Could a mouse have taken up residence?  It is possible, but my understanding was that mouse guards did not need to be added to the hives until September.  We hope to inspect the hives properly tomorrow and find out what is going on.  As I walked over to the other hive at the cottage I thought that nothing could surprise me more than the scratching until I looked at the front of the second hive.  A small number of bees had decided to collectively form a plug at the entrance.  I had read about this happening several times but have found no satisfactory explanation.  Living space could not possibly be the issue as we added a super box to the hive just before we left for our holiday.  It is a little mystery that is fascinating, unusual and strange.

hanging about at the entrance tonight

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