Sunday, 6 June 2010

Twenty minutes, times by three

The Dock Weed Battle: I have stopped cutting the seed heads of the docks in the Front Field because it has become a jungle and I find it too spooky working my way through the now head high vegetation. Keep expecting creatures to jump out at me, like serpents and lions and suchlike. So have given up for the moment with trying to keep the dock weeds under control in that field, Station Field having been given up on a while ago because it is so heavily infested with the weed.

Now last night some of the sheep decided to deaf-head us when we called them from the gate of the Station Field.  No amount of shaking the maize-pot could encourage them  to stop doing  whatever it was that they were doing, hidden as they were amongst the profusion of docks which have now thrown up high spikes of well laden seed heads, all of which carry the promise of  millions more dock babies. And there was a very delicate moment when the sheep who were already in the Paddock did decide to make a response to the maize-pot, and started making a charge towards the still open gate onto the lane. But quick footed Hubs managed to divert them away from their intent to get to the maize before the others. Good that he did. Might have had the flock scattered up and down the lane. Not  great to have that happen just as night falls. 

Anyway, into Station Field I had to go, following one of the trails the sheep have been making as they munch away at the grass. And I was surprised at how much effort they have put into doing this, both in trail-making and grass-eating. For one: it is easy to walk over the field. For two: they have kept the grass relatively short, so that the seed heads of the docks stand clear of the grass, and are not tangled up in the grass as in the Front Field. 

Therefore: It is much easier to get to the docks to cut those seed heads off before they drop those seeds onto the ground. Hooray! The Dock Battle can continue!

So: at six this morning, with assistants Bools and Gus who were not pleased that we were off into the field rather than continuing on down the lane for a doggy walk, I began The Attack, my machete being the bread knife from the kitchen. Twenty minutes to fill the wheelbarrow. Did three barrow loads. 'Oh well done me', I thought. Now another twenty minutes times by hundreds more barrowloads should see the dock problem contained. For this year at least. 


That's not supposed to be happening! 

Hubs/ Head Gardener: "Need to start fencing the Kitchen Field. Got to cut the grass first. It's head high. Can't get near the fence posts", he said. So out came strimmer number 1. But today it threw a 'sicky'. Has been getting increasingly awkward about working for some time. Shed its safety hood a while ago, but we kept on using it despite ending up being plastered all over with green mulch. But today, no. It was not going to work. So strimmer number two, which is a hefty brute of a strimmer, was woken up. And it started. Great. Not so great was the way in which the strimming wire unleashed itself from its interior coil.

But, Jean Pierre (our roofer) to the rescue. But no. The strimmer's head is sick. So hand shears it is then. Good for the muscles. Not so good for the back. Not to worry though, strimmer 1, strimmer 2, and ancient lawnmower which is also having a 'sicky', all of these most vital of implements have been taken into a shop in Plaisance which fixes these things. France being France, we are optimistic that they will be available for use this time next  year. But we have hand shears, which is good. 


"Those damn crows have stolen the cherries!" yelled Hubs / Chief Fruit Grower.
"Put some netting over them then", says me / Trainee Fruit Grower. 
"Can't", says Hubs / Don't Want To Be A Fruit Grower Anymore, "They've eaten the lot!"
And oh what a sad moment this was for Hubs, who has nurtured our fruit trees since he put them in. There were no fruit trees when we arrived, and Hubs has planted loads, all of which he waters with watering cans he fills from the river. By hand. And the reward is to see the fruit ripening on these little trees. Not much fruit for sure, but  sufficient to be encouraged to keep on looking after them for future years.  It was a sad and frustrating moment for Hubs, when he realised he had contributed to the food table of the local bird population. But not to worry. A cup of coffee and a piece of homemade cake soon had him fixed up, plus giving him John Seymour's 'The New And Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency' to read which always cheers him up, and enthuses him with inspiration.

Rabbit Project:

Here is Vincent and Melody come to collect the first addition to their family, which is one of our baby rabbits. Hubs is keeping the only white baby rabbit:

.....which means four left for the table. Will we be brave enough to eat them? Only time will tell. 

Things I have learnt: Not to be lazy and wear soft indoor-type shoes, instead of making the effort to put on my boots, when cleaning up the poo in the Sheep House. The reason being that these evacuations tend to have a glue-like tendency which enables  them to stick to the shoes if stood upon. Therefore,  in an endeavour to be a super-duper efficient smallholder, one must not  give in to such laziness. Boots on for outside tasks relevant to poo clearing. Soft shoes  on for indoors time. To not bother  with changing one's footwear will only lead to more work, because that which is glued to the soles of one's footwear will be surprisingly keen to transfer itself onto other things, like the cushions onto which one puts one's feet up on for a quick five minute rest after the sweaty and aromatic activity of cleaning up after the sheep.

I thought this stick, found by Bools but commandeered by me, would make an ideal shepherd's crook for Hubs / Chief Shepherd, a shepherds crook being a requirement for catching hold of an individual sheep. Looking at me in the usual long-suffering way  he does when I come up with Marvelous Ideas, he said no, it was not strong enough, but that it might be useful for grabbing hold of me! Aw, bless!


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Do things ever get any easier here? As I think all is finished and we are up to date, I come across another disaster. Our French neighbours had almosy completly restored their barn, they then decided to build a brand new house and sell. They are very happy but the new house has no character, not my taste at all. I will put up with what we have, so much more fun (sometimes!).

As for dock weed, we have not got as much as we did, but it keeps raising its miserable head!!

Have a good weekend. Diane

the fly in the web said...

Quite agree on the change of footwear...I wanted a sort of airlock when we moved here, to keep outside shoes from coming inside, but was over ruled....
As to the cherries, our neighbour's tree is very old and very tall, so when it obliged with fruit one year he had a problem. He hung CDs from the branches that he could reach...he had a radio playing in the crook of another branch, and then someone else told him that no birds would approach if he put guinea fowl at the foot of the tree.
He did.
To his wife's fury, the day when the main part of the crop was ripening he went out to some veteran's association meeting - for which read booze - and returned to catastrophe.
The starlings had struck, there wasn't a cherry to be seen and all his guinea fowl had escaped from their pen.

Vera said...

Ah, so you are familiar with the dreaded dock weed too, Diane. I actually find it a lovely plant to look at when the seed heads are ripening into that lovely reddy-rusty colour, but have hardened my heart to having it on the property. And I agree with you about new houses not having any character. I like the old as well. As you say, much more fun, especially when wondering when the windows are going to be put in, and if we are ever going to get a 'proper' loo and shower! Hope you have a good week.

Vera said...

Fly: an 'airlock' type of environment sounds an excellent idea. Oh so the starlings took your neighbours cherries did they! We don't seem to have starlings here, just loads of blackbirds. But I guess if one has fruit on one's trees then something is bound to come and eat it. It is just a race as to who that 'something' is!

DUTA said...

I was saddened by the crows' attack on the fruit trees and felt compassion for your husband. I'm a great fan of fruit trees myself because fruit is my greatest love (I should have been a fruitarian).

Anyway, with your faithful "assistants" Bools and Gus and people like the roofer Jean Pierre in addition to your and your husband's hard work and stubborness - you're hopefully going to overcome any obstacle in your way.

Roz said...

Love the photo with the strimmer - thats one of my jobs for the afternoon, working out how to re-do the strimmer cable - if you work it out before me let me know! and nothing keeps Neil happier than a bit of John Seymour - he must have inspired thousands of us x

Vera said...

Duta:) I could live on bananas. Other fruit I have to be careful with, because of the acidic content. Thanks for visiting. Hope you are well.

Roz:) Ah, John Seymour fans as well. Lester often reads to me snippets from 'The Bible' as he calls it, which is useful for when one is in a 'I don't know whether I want to carry on with this smallholding lark' mood. As for the strimmer - Lester's given up and put the strimmer into the menders, and has been seriously considering a scythe. Not sure about getting one of them as they seem a bit dangerous. But at least one does not have to mess about with that infernal tangle of strimmer wire.

French Fancy said...

Oh what a shame the birds beat you to it with the fruit I can just imagine your frustrations. As for your battle with the weeds - omg, Vera - you need to find some volunteers to help. Maybe throw a weeding party with free booze - that should motivate a few people. Put a silly notice up somewhere, get them interested...

good luck

PhilipH said...

I wonder how you find time to write such a great blog as this, including jolly decent snapshots too! How DO you manage all this?

The birds seem to hone in on my cherry trees when the fruit is almost right to pick. They tend to just take one bite of each cherry! Talk about cherry picking, eh? I would be less annoyed if they ate most of the cherry but no!

Oh well, that's life.

Vera said...

Julie, what a smashing idea! Cutting the docks down in an alcoholic fug! Not sure how far we would get, though as it is a fearsomely big field. But one barrowload cut is a load of docks who are not going to make progeny.

Philip:) How annoying that only a little bit is munched. Just enough to spoil the fruit. And thanks for your kind comment about the blog. At the moment it is the only writing I am doing, so I can spend time on it. It is also a record of how we are struggling our way towards self sufficiency. Plus it keeps me in touch with creating words on the page while I wait to find a window of time in which to write other things.
Hope you are well, and again thanks for your comment.

Ken Devine said...

Docks! Will we ever get rid of them?
Hope you get your equipment back sooner than next year.
A good read as usual. You are always so unflappable when things don't go right.

Vera said...

Ken;) Methinks your hope that our equipment would be mended has worked, because two items have indeed been mended. So thankyou!