Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The hen in the bucket, and we are melting...

It has been hot, hot, hot, down here in SW France, with temperatures of around 40C, which is sucking the sap out of all of us, including the veg plot. We did have veggies growing in there this morning because I weeded a couple of rows of leeks. Oh alright, was only one row, because I was late in getting into the veg plot because we took our two cows for an amble down the river path so they could fill their tummies with grass and other forage because the field they spend their day in is now a shade of golden brown, the 'green' grass now having been frizzled to brown by the heat of the sun.

It has been hot, hot, hot....oops....sorry, forgot I had already said that! Anyway, if we did have a swimming pool I wouldn't go in it because I would get wet, and then I would have to dry off, and....well.....we don't need a swimming pool because we have the river.

However, the river levels are dropping and the sun is now getting through to the bed rock making the water go horridly full of bits of stuff which smells. So, no doing things in the river for me.

Now it would appear that I am not quite my rational self at the moment, and you are quite right. This heat is difficult to work in, and one feels one's self slowing down and down almost to a stop. Indeed if one did sit down for a quick five minutes, then the sleep angel visits very quickly, and off into the land of nod one goes.

But....swimming pool? Nooooooo. The effort of getting into one and getting back out of it again would be too much in this heat. I have no fantasies about having a swimming pool. Honestly I don't.

It is hard seeing everything wilting. We have lots more days of heat ahead apparently. But staying upbeat and positive, and trying to push out of our minds the worry of not having any grazing for the sheep and cows, but we can always buy some hay in, which we might have to do soon.

We are going to keep the cows in tomorrow. There is no way that we can let them be roasted out on the field again, despite having a small woodland to shelter in during the worst of the heat. The sheep seem to be less affected, perhaps because they were sheared a week ago and so must be very happy to be rid of that thick blanket of wool. The pigs are having showers several times a day to help keep them cool.

..... the beans along the fence, and the beans in the rows have been doing quite well, but we planted late so everything is going to have to catch up.

The left hand side of the veg plot. As you can see, looking very juvenile at the moment, but we have tamed it, so at least it looks like something 'proper' is growing there. The lovely rich growth in the right hand corner of the photo shows the luscious growth of weeds, which are growing very strongly.

....... and here is the 'untamed' rest of the veg plot!

So today Builder Jim was here to do some work. Mid morning.....coming into the front door after mixing some cement out front, he says, "That chicken under the bucket.....should it be there?"
What chicken! What bucket! It being hot making our brains work slower than they normally would, so Lester and me looked at each other, each trying to translate what Jim was saying as if he had been speaking a foreign language.
"The bucket by the tractor" he says, "it's moving about... there's a chicken underneath it......did you put it in there?" He is now looking worried, not wanting to seem to be questioning our actions......just in case this was some mysterious farm activity which was needing to be done here which involved a chicken and an upturned bucket.

He leads the way. And there, in the middle of the porch is indeed an upturned bucket. We lift it off, and there, squashed inside, is our second biggest hen, all squashed up, in a dreadful state of dedraglement, and an even worse state of heat exhaustion because the bucket had been in full sun for quite some time. In other words, the overturned bucket was acting like an oven, and she was being slowly cooked.

Oh dear. What to do...... cooled her down with a shower of water from the watering can, and left her to think about whether she was going to fight and stay alive or give up and pass over. She was in the shade, she had water beside her, it was now up to her.

Well,..... we expected to see the dogs romping round the courtyard with her carcass eventually, but no, she has soldiered on, and managed to waddle her way over to the rest of the chicken gang who have been spending their days beneath the very large and sprawly fig tree.

We have no explanation as to how she got underneath the bucket. It remains a mystery to us, and probably to her as well.

24 hours later: the hen is doing well, and is actually looking perkier than how she looked before her bucket experience. And for some reasons known only to herself, she seems to want to stay quite close to me when I am out in the courtyard. Earlier on today, when the sun was still obscured by heavy mist so it was cooler although the air was thick with moisture making it feel very humid,  I thought I really ought to get the sheep fleeces sorted out because the new juvenile chicks ( all fifteen of them) have now been let out of their runs and are busy investigating all that there is to be investigated, including toes (ouch!), and the pile of fleeces, which were quite clean a week or so ago but are now covered in straw, dust, and other general bits and pieces including, no doubt, the odd piece of chicken poo here and there because the juveniles view this pile of fleeces as mountains to be climbed.

Anyway, all the fleeces are in bags, ready to be brought indoors and put somewhere until it is their turn to be spun.

Been hesitating about buying the loom (last post), only because we are continuing to spend a lot of money as the renovation to the house rocks on. Not to worry, Lester and I do have moments of panic about the continual costs involved with getting this house into a workable state, and it is my turn to have one today, so I need to work on staying positive and pull out of the recesses of my mind the memory of the many times in the past when things looked a bit dodgy in my life but I stuck it through and everything worked out, in the end, very well. I am aware that we each have a life plan, pre-ordained by greater forces, it is just that I seem to have misplaced that plan somewhere so I need to find it again. Hoorah! Rooting around in the cupboards of my mind, that is what I am needing to do.

It is now nearly nine pm, and we are still cooking here. Lester has just come in from getting the animals in from the field, and said that there are humungous flies everywhere, that the well is not pumping very much water so we shall have to be frugal with watering the veg plot again, which is what we shall be doing in a minute, when I stop chatting with you, and he said to make sure that I drink a couple of glasses of water before I join him outside because I am likely to sweat that water out of me within a minute or two.

I need delay no longer........ and off I must go. saying bye for now,


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Spinning again, and weaving?

I have just made these skeins of wool on my spinning wheel, and now I need to give them a wash to set the twist in the yarn. This wool is from one of our Jacob sheep, one of the first really good fleeces we have had from the flock, and I am so longing to get working the new fleeces, which are still sitting on a tarpaulin in the courtyard waiting to be sorted out, because several of them have some grey from the under coat which should make for an interesting colour mix.

I don't sort out the fleeces into separate colours because I don't have the time to do so, all I do is spin one fleece at at time, letting the different colours of the fleece come as they want to. Neither to I prep the wool first (wash, card, etc), again because I do not have time to faff around....I spin directly from the fleece as it comes from the sheep, but without the daggy bits, but even then I can find myself with a nobble of this or that, which I most times remove, but I am sure that some small bits escape into the yarn. Not to worry, I do wash the wool once it is made into yarn though.....

As I say, with the new fleece calling to me, I need to up the time I spend on the spinning wheel. This urge to spin has also triggered off my thoughts again about buying a rigid heddle table loom so I can weave fabric from the yarn I have already made, and this is the loom I am thinking of buying

.... and thanking Ann from for her helping me in this process (these photos are 'borrowed' from her website). The loom is a Kromski Harp and is 80 cm (32 inches) wide, is reasonably priced, and is light enough to be taken hither and thither wherever the urge to weave comes upon me. However, I do not have a clue about weaving, so onto Amazon to order the 'how to'  books which Ann recommended, then on to YouTube to watch the 'how to' vids. To learn new things is very good for the soul, that is what I kept telling myself as I watched those vids, and I am sure that as with all things I have already learnt, that I shall understand this new challenge in time.

Meanwhile, I need to get my stash of yarn increased ready for when I start being a trainee weaver, which gives me an excuse to sit out under the oak tree with my spinning wheel, not that I need an excuse, but I do get side tracked by other things sometimes, which really are not as important as spinning under the oak.

Most of our fleece this year is either black or brown, with some splashes of white here and there. We still have some white mixed race sheep here but for some reason the fibre in these fleeces is quite short this year, possibly because we had quite a mild winter,so the sheep did not need too much protection from the cold, so I shall probably use them for dusting the house and will not spin them......but the dark fleeces of the pure bred Jacobs do have a longer length of hair so are ideal for spinning,  but dark brown is a bit, well, dark, so Ann suggested that I leave a fleece outside so that the sunlight fades it, which I think is a good idea especially since we have mid 30's C temperatures next week....might as well take advantage of that hot sun. At least that would give different tones to the dark brown.......

Builder Jim has built most of the wall dividing the hall with the back kitchen, we have also ordered front doors, and have found the floor tiles for the hallway. Out in the veg plot and I weeded about half a metre of a weed filled row of beetroot before I was beaten back indoors by the strength of the sun, and it is getting hotter over the next few days. All the fields look brown now, with hardly any grazing to be had by anyone, so Lester has kept the cows in for a couple of days to give them respite from the sun and flies. We think we might have to buy in hay to get the sheep and cows through to the autumn if we do not have a good quantity of rain during July. Last year it kept raining right the way through summer and everything and everyone kept getting muddy and wet. This year it is the exact opposite. Oh well, not to worry, we'll cope..........

Mostly, all is well here, and I hope your patch of the world is well as well!

Bye for now,


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Rescuing the seedlings, etc....

Weeding in the veg garden, that is the ongoing task at the moment, but it is good for my back providing I bend over straight and do not bend over and then do a sideways twist, and it is probably good for my leg muscles too, and it is nice to be amongst things which are growing, but not the weeds, oh no, not the weeds, which are growing so fast that some are nearly knee high and are putting down roots which are being difficult to tug up. But it is a joyous thing to find vegetable seedlings as the weeds are lifted out one by one. When I thought all was lost, and there....nestled in the forest of weeds....there I find a kale, chard, beetroot, cabbage, etc.....but once free to grow without pressure from surrounding weeds that seedling can fall over in a faint. Sometimes I can prop it up, but most times it does a flop and looks quite sorry for itself. So I give it a water, and hope that it manages to carry on living. 

There is something about being in the energy of a vegetable garden as it pushes towards the harvests. Quite some way to go on our patch yet though, so to encourage our seedlings to give their best I gave them all a feed of fertilizer yesterday. 

The sheep fleeces, (the sheep were sheared five days ago) have not been put away yet, and were still out by the sheep paddocks until last night, when cloudy skies at dusk suggested that perhaps we might get a drop of rain over night, which would have been a good thing for the fields and gardens, but not so good for anything else left out which should have been put away. If we had left everything where it was, it would have rained. But we covered everything over, and dragged the tarpaulin with the fleeces on it into the gate entrance. Of course it did not rain! 

I am still plodding my way through making the pork fat into lard. I do a parcel of fat every day, and still have three to go. But I have had a day here and there when I have not been of a mind to keep on making the lard and it is a job which should have finished....... not to worry, I shall plod on.

The afternoons of boiling heat have pushed me indoors, and I have been sewing again. Two pairs of pants made for made out of some left over navy blue cotton sheeting, and the other from some soft brushed cotton which apparently is very nice against the under carriage. I have made myself a blouse. It is good to start sewing again. 

I have also started spinning again. Was out under the oak tree as the day let go of itself last night, and I was spinning away. watching the dogs play nearby, hearing the sheep talking to each other, watching the last of the hens go back to the courtyard, enjoying the space of being outside. But I could spin for half an hour or so because spinning makes me dizzy. Not sure why this should be so, but it does, which perhaps is a good thing because I find sitting at the spinning wheel is addictive. But with the new fleeces waiting to be spun I need to start spinning again. Still not made anything with the stash of wool I am accumulating, but will start projects with it next winter.

Meanwhile, spinning under the oak tree is going to be a favourite occupation for the summer months ahead. I did have a yearning to buy a sunbed, I have this yearning every winter, and promise myself as the new year begins that I shall buy one when the summer stock appears in the local shops, thinking that I would spend endless hours in the sun reclining on it. Hah! I think not!!!! Too much I want to do........

Builder Jim is continuing on with the back kitchen, and today he is going to start building the wall to separate it off from the hallway. We have ordered the door for it, and also looked at front doors, the front door we have being the original but beyond redemption. It would be nice not to have huge gales of cold air blowing through the house via the gaps in the wood of the door, not to mention those gaps also allow in and out access for rats and mice.  I shall be sorry to see it go, but its time is done. 

Also tried to order the floor tiles in the hallway to match the ones already laid down, but couldn't, because they aren't made anymore. Oh *******!!! Now we have to go searching for tiles again..... Not complaining, just mentioning this minor irritation.....

It is now time for our day here to begin, so I must away. 

Hope all is well in your part of the world,

Sending blessings to you,