Friday, 12 November 2010

The morning queue

Opening my door this morning, and look:

The girls and boy parked up and waiting for their breakfast!

Barging their way in!

Aw. but they were stirling troopers yesterday. With the weather being a tad on the wet side, the sheep have been in their barn more that usual. We had managed to get the floor cleaned up and fresh straw put down, but they had still been in that space for more or less twenty four hours. Upon a quick recce at lunchtime, I saw that the straw was now trampled flat and overlain with copious amounts of piles of poo, which was going to take quite some time to clean up.

But no time to do it, so abandoned the task to go do lunch. Left the paddock gate open. Me and the dogs walked through it, passing the White Cockerel, calling out, "Come on girls, follow me", on his way into the paddock.

Late afternoon: into the paddock I went, with wheel barrow and shovel, ready to load up. Nothing. There was no sign of poo-piles anywhere. Plus, all the straw had been raked around and fluffed up, looking almost as good as new. The White Cockerel's girl-gang had been and done the housework for me! Now I wonder if I can get them to 'do' the floor of the house for me. Oh of course they would. Eagerly, and with great joy, as can be seen by the charge through the door in the photo above.

One problem, though. Unfortunately they go to the loo wherever they feel like it, so perhaps not in the house. Oh, by the way, as well as being recyclers of sheep poo, they are also providing a solution to the mouse problem. Hubs has to keep mousetraps down all the time, and catches one or two per day. They don't live in the house, but come in from the rough ground of the Middle Barn and Tall Barn through the holes in the walls. Can't stop them from doing that at the moment, but also can't have them running about in the house. Hubs has already caught two frogs, but these he puts outside. But the mice have to be trapped.

But what to do with the dead mouse. Easy. Give it to the Limousins, which are the large greyish/white hens in the photo. Down in one go, thats what happens to the mouse. Great recycling! The hens get the mice, we get their eggs, and they lay the biggest eggs of all of the girls, so are deserving of a treat.

Back on the sheep front: The ewe which is almost ready to lamb was looking very weak and wobbly yesterday. Looked like she was going to lamb at any second, because she was holding her tail away from her rear end and we could see that her botty looked active. Trouble was, that she also seems to have got the runs, perhaps because of the grain and hay which she has to eat because of the weather. She could have grazed on grass, but our girls do not like the wet, so we have to feed them the dry stuff. Hope she gets on alright. She is a nice girl.

The Jacob boy is getting brave, and has pushed his way into the feeding bowl of the lambs now, which I let him do. I don't let the girls push their way in, but him I do. Making friends with each other, that is what we are doing. Lambs are putting on a lot of fat now, which is good. Got some cold weather ahead, and they don't have a mum to cuddle up to.

Apart from that, have made my first skeins of spun wool. That spinning wheel! Makes yarn so fast! Tamworths are quiet, although their paddock is one huge mud bath at the moment because of the rain, so they are to go out into the electric fence paddock today to give them a change.

Remembrance Day yesterday: Went up to Castelnau village. Quite a crowd. Mostly French, some English. Stood to one side. And watched.

The memorial overlooks the plains of the valley. In the background the Pyrenees, snow covered now, the first snows of winter having now fallen. It is a magical view. And beside me the little service for the fallen. They individually read the names of the village men who have died in the wars. Two elderly man stand proudly holding French flags aloft. They flutter in the sunshine and light breeze. My poncho does the same.  I look around me. At the old buildings. At the history. And the reality of the First and Second World Wars are with me, because I am standing in a country which was actually invaded. This makes those wars seem more real somehow.

The minute silence. Tears drift ever so slightly in my eyes. "Crikey, I'm in France! Who'd have thought I would ever do this! Not me, that's for sure!" Then the French national anthem played on a portable CD player. The tears do a bit more of a drizzle. "Who'd have thought that I would ever get to be standing beneath a French flag," was in my thoughts.

If you are a life traveller, then you take up opportunities which come  your way, even if you are not quite sure where that presented opportunity is going to lead you. Trust that everything will work out OK, and it will, even if along the way there are times when the panic about making the opportunity work threatens to overwhelm.

And I met a lady, English and with a mum soon to be one hundred years old, both living in the village, who mentioned bees. And so the Bee Project is resurrected, but more about that another time.

Pigs  and sheep to get up and out, chickens to be shooed out of the house again (front door is open because it is warmer outside than it is inside), dogs to be fed and walked, Hubs to be got up with a cup of tea, chicken mum and babies to be cooed over, sickly ewe to be chatted with so she feels looked after. Ah the joys of smallholding. And the mud has dried up, and the sun came out and baked us yesterday, and I had a moving moment underneath the French flags, grew in appreciation of how it must have felt like to have a foreign army camped in your country, and felt a wave of amazement that I am actually living here.


Jean said...

A lovely post. I remember feeling humble and honoured to be present at the Remembrance service we attended a few years ago in our little French village, amazed but pleased that the names of all the dead were read out. I was slightly tearful, too, it was very moving.

DUTA said...

Vera, I must admit I don't like the recycling of the mouse by the chickens (although I scarcely eat meat nowadays).

Very moving your description of the memorial held in the Castelnau village!
And , of course, you're right about " you take up opportunities which come your way".

Vera said...

Jean: Hi! Thanks for stopping by, and it is nice to know someone else is as sensitive as me!

Duta: Unfortunately if we didn't keep the mice population down, then we would be over run with mice! And it is better to put them to good use rather that putting them in the dustbin or down the loo. And if they were put on the compost heap, then the dogs would eat them. So: chickens it is! Now off to get something to eat, as I have just read your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hello Vera,
What super photos, and what lovely birds, especially the White Cockerel, and don't they all look so different to how they did when you first got them!!
Armistice Day is very thought provoking, and can send me into a spiral of introspection as my family in Belgium suffered a great deal during the war.
Ondine xx

Anonymous said...

Hello again,
Have tried crispy mushrooms as you said, and they were much better, though another time will use home made breadcrumbs, not shop. Have still got some mushrooms left so am going to try tempura tonight!!

Vera said...

Hi Ondine: I hadn't thought to look at those older photos to make a comparison between now and then in regards to the chicken flock, but will do so. I have noticed that our chickens seem to look bright in themselves in comparison to other people's flocks. This may be because they are totally free range and can please themselves where they spend their days, which includes the house if they can manage it, and my flower pots.
Armistice Day is always thought provoking for me as well, and I am glad I made the effort to go to our village commemoration. It's good to remember those who have fought for the freedom we have now, and which most take utterly for granted.
What's 'tempura'? Is it easy to make? Always on the lookout for recipes which are quick and easy. I bake my own bread, so rub the uncut loaf along a grater to make the breadcrumbs. Could toast a couple of slices up, I suppose, and crumble them.
Hope you had a good weekend, and that the week runs sweetly for you.

Anonymous said...

Hello Vera,
Tempura is a very light quickly cooked batter ~ I make it with half and half plain flour and cornflour (but you can buy tempura batter mix) mix with chilled sparkling water, don't worry about any lumps. Use to coat quick to cook strips of fish or veg. (I've done oysters and shellfish) then deep fry. It is used on stuffed courgette flowers which I must try.
Thank you for the kind wishes for a sweet week, it is a long time since I had one of those, so here's hoping!!
Ondine XX

Vera said...

Thanks for that, Ondine. Will have a go when time permits.

Land of shimp said...

Oh Vera, did you ever see the movie Chicken Run? It's rather charming, just a retelling of the Great Escape, really, featuring chickens...and unfortunately Mel Gibson's voice, but this was before he revealed himself to be wholly unpleasant as a human being.

Anyway, I've probably mentioned this before in response to your tales of chickens but whenever you have a picture, I end up thinking, "Them Chickens is up to something. Them Chickens is organized." and then I get the giggles.

What a wonderful thing to evoke in anyone. A good, solid case of the helpless giggles. But many of your tales do that. I am not made of sturdy farming stock, that's for sure, but oh how I love to read your tales of the various adventures. Thank you.

Also, I love that you had your moment of excitement, a frisson of glee even at the fact that you live where you do, with beautiful, ordinary magic all around you.

Vera said...

I love that you connect with our chickens, and I would agree with you that the chickens give off an air of being organized, of being up to something. They sculk about, obviously trying to hide the mischief they are up to! Soooo glad you giggle. I giggle too. Keeps life sweet, don't you think!