Thursday, 6 May 2010

'Character building'

I think it's called 'character-building'. You know, when things pile in and in and in, and you feel as if your smile is slipping a bit but you try and keep it pasted up anyway. And you and your partner are sort of having 'verbal dabs' at each other, and you have to keep reminding yourself that  your partner is really the bestest partner in the whole wide world and to be patience therefore. 

So this is all what was going through my head as I stood in the pouring rain. At midnight this was. In the dark. Looking at the white blobs which refused to move. Our sheep no less. Who were also standing in the pouring rain. Some even having decided to lay down for a snooze. And had not Hubs and myself spent the last couple of hours trying to get their house rain-proofed by hoisting up aluminuim roofing sheets purchased by Hubs with the help of Mr T earlier on that day. They were light, but bendy, and we put them up temporarily because the tarps were done unto death by the torrential rain we are presently experiencing. 

I, also, in my role as Under Trainee Shepherdess, had also thought that perhaps to recycle the tarp by putting it on the now muddy ground would help make the sheep feel cosier. Keep their feet dry. Make them feel warmer. Also, perhaps an old black tarp on the side wall, to stop the drafts. Little things. To make the flock feel happier. 

Soaking. We were absolutely soaking by the time we were done. It was dark. Into the house we trotted. Off we peeled our sodden clothes. Glad to be indoors and not in the caravan. In a degree of tidyness, even though it was cold. No fires in the house as yet. Good idea popped into my head: electric fire still in the now redundant kitchen caravan. Went and fetched it. Gave a tiny ring of warmth, sufficient to keep our toes warm. 
Heard the bleet of a lamb. Oh now what. Went out to investigate. All sheep in a row observing their newly refurbished home. Not inside though. Just outside moaning away. Expletives flew through the air at them. Left them to it. "Get wet if you want to", we said.

But we each have this dratted thing called a conscience, and on hearing a couple of more complaints we donned rain gear again, and out we went. Out came the ground tarp, off came the black side-wall tarp, in went some grain to tempt them to get in out of the wet, and off we went. 

 A while later: and they were still at the end of the Paddock. Getting soaked. At which point Hubs / Head Trainee Shepherd decided to go do something urgently on his PC. After first having tried to shoo them towards their house. They didn't move.

 And that is how I came to be standing in the pouring rain at midnight. With my large, half broken, black and white golfing umbrella, which I was waving up and down in an attempt to make them move down the Paddock. And all they did was stand and look at me in amazement. "What Do you think you are doing?" being written all over their faces. I get the same look when I am speaking soppily to Bools, our Spaniel. Now I was getting it from the flock. 
I tried making odd noises. I tried flapping the umbrella about like a sail. All they did was regard me with amusement. But I would not be thwarted. For ages I flapped and squeaked. Finally they turned round and ambled down the Paddock. They faded from sight. Not to upset them again, I turned down the lane, and crossed over to the gateway of Labartere across the front garden. Well, more like a front field really. With pot holes and furrows. But I remained in one piece nevertheless. I had already collapsed the umbrella over my head so it looked like a pointy hat and not like a kite. I didn't want to sheep to espy it and amble back up the Paddock again. Because now I could see that they had all decided to call it a day and had gone to bed. All in the Sheep House. Bless. Now all I had to do was unpeel myself from yet another load of soaked clothing and try and defrost. Which I had managed by morning. 

Our next arrival is Max. A male Tamworth pig. To be brought here at the weekend by lovely people down near Lannamazan. So: Tamworth Project. 

To stop Max from being lonely, we have decided to make him a new plot by the Veg Plot. Had plenty of time to do so. Only Hubs became attached to a nail on his foot, which slowed him down no end. Not to worry, still plenty of time to get the poles in. And then the rains fell. And the holes in which the poles were to be cemented became mini-ponds. So, no way can Max come this weekend. Not to worry. Next weekend then. 


And then the builders came to do some work. Only the rain was raining very hard, so no-way were they going to get up and down the ladders safely. Ah. Time to do the doorways in the house. Only I wasn't warned. So all is now covered with inches of dust, the main zone for the fall-out of this dust being the kitchen. 

Also: two of the doorways now have scaffolding poles holding the upper walls. On these upper walls lie the weight of the roof. Apparently the cement beams across the doorways will be done next week. Which leaves quite a few days in which to fret lest we fetch up with a collapsed roof. 

Hubs looked at the weather forecast. Apparently there is more rain on the way, and winds. Crikey, but somehow we have to get the roof of the Sheep House more secure, and hope that the wind does not shimmy and shake our house so much that the scaffolding poles can't maintain the weight of the roof. 

And this is all character building. That is what I keep saying to myself. And the River Adour has risen very high, but not much water has come onto our fields, just some in the woodland, so that is something to be glad about. The sheep are becoming more docile with us, although still regard Gus as a hooligan: they don't like the way he sits and 'psyches' them out. It puts them all in a lather. No noise does he make. Just sits and looks at them intently, which freaks them. We still have all the sheep, having thought that we could possibly have some mortality, what with the sudden change in living accomodation plus the sudden plunge into cold and wet weather. The female rabbit is pregnant. We still have a roof. The sheep still have a roof. Blessings indeed. And we haven't had to do one bit of watering. And the beam in the Sheep House which fell on Hubs's head only dented his head a bit and left a sizeable red patch. But he is still on his feet, damp though they might be because all of his boots, shoes and wellies are wet.

And we either have the makings of a swimming pool, or the makings of the fosse (which is the drainage for the loo, showers, and all liquid deposits in the house), depending on whether the water goes away or not.

And the sheep across the lane in Station Field, almost drowning in a sea of lush grass. And so life goes on here, down on the mini-farm in SW France. We are well, if damp and sneezy and our characters are continuing to be built. Not sure what into, though!


Roz said...

Oh my god. Animals are trying aren't they!!
I was wondering how you were getting on. Well done you for being tenacious and trying to do your best for them, and I look forward to seeing pics of Max when he arrives xx

Vera said...

Thanks Roz. Need words of encouragement at the moment! Good to see that you are making progress on your place as well.

Previously (Very) Lost in France said...

Oh Vera, animals are so contrary aren't they? Reminded me of a very snowy night I spent trying to persuade a shetland pony foal into a field shelter. He just stood and looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. What sort of sheep are they? Some breeds will rarely go under cover but as long as you are providing them with a dry laying area then it's up to them to decide whether or not to use it. They've got lovely thick,oily fleeces so the water will just run off anyway.

DUTA said...

You and your hubs care for your animals like parents do for their children, and that's touching.
Good Luck with Max the pig, the upcoming new 'member of the family'!
I agree with you - all the small and big happenings at your little farm are certainly building your character.

Macnean Farm said...

Please try and get Max a friend. Pigs are gregarious creatures.



Vera said...

Macnean Farms;) Thanks for visiting, and had a look at your website, and wow! Another John Seymour desciple! And just to reassure you that Max is our first, and that the ladies are following on in a couple of months time. Also, that we are keen to further the Tamworth here in France, and are getting to know other people who are also with the same way of thinking. Good luck to you over in Ireland, from over here in France.

Previously Lost, you are right about animals deciding for themselves whether they want to go into a dry space or not. And I have finally stopped worrying during the night about whether they are cold or not. Mind you, I have got an extra bail of hay in reserve just in case it turns a tad on the cold side. Sort of like having a spare duvet!

Bless you, Duta.You've captured us exactly. For was it not only last night that I felt a warm glow in my heart when I thought about the flock out in the Paddock all fast asleep, and the rabbits all tucked up in the Courtyard, and us all tucked up in the caravan.

French Fancy said...

I bet when you eventually fall into bed at the moment you have that glorious feeling of days well spent, despite getting soaked to the skin and having to deal with truculent animals. Your poor hubby with the nail in his foot and the banged head - it will all be worth it in the end.

Vera said...

You are absolutely right, FF. I do have a huge sense of achievement paddling alongside the tendency towards panic! And it is a wonderful experience to be having, and worth all the ups and downs.

Ken Devine said...

Hi Vera
It makes good reading. You made me laugh as the Under Trainee Shepherdess.

I'm so looking forward to you moving into the house and being completely cosy and weathertight.