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.
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!