Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Rain plus soil, more rain, then more rain equals a muddy slosh everywhere. Look on meteo, the French weather station, see more rain, and more rain, and more rain forecast. Dare not look at the sheep barn. Know the pig paddocks are all a-swim. Still, trees look happy, so do the geese who are trundling along from puddle to puddle quite cheerfully. Everyone else is looking miserable. Last night the new sheep mum was standing at the field gate with her two day old lamb, her stance saying ‘Get my little one out of this weather.’ Couldn’t do that because she would expect all  the flock to come too. They travel in a heap do sheep. One for all and all for one, unless a pile of maize is lying on the ground, and they will head butt each other and forget the team spirit which most times they have. The other night a couple of people came to collect two more of our black lambs. The sheep knew what was going to happen this time and would not go into the places where it would be easy for those lambs to be caught, like the Sheep Barn, or the sectioned off part of the Paddock. People think that sheep are stupid, but they aren’t.

Benjie and Tooey, our two bottle fed lambs are no longer being fed milk, so are weaned. They don’t think they are though. They think that they are still deserving of milk. Aw bless. Tooey in particular tends to break loose from the flock when Hubs is herding them back into their Paddock for the night, and will come and find me if she can. It tweaks my heart strings when she does that. And they can both give off quite a mournful bleat, perfect it sounds, just right for making me relent and give them a drop of milk. But Hubs says no, so I don’t. But what I have started doing is roughing them up a bit, giving them a hearty fondle, a bit of a pat, just to let them know that I am here, sort of like a surrogate mum figure. That seems to be all they need. Just a bit of mum love.

Haven’t been sleeping too well these last few nights. Rain pounding on the roof made me concerned for the sheep in the Sheep Barn. I slept, but that concern was in the back of my mind. Then we heard the geese do a shout about in the Courtyard. It was the early hours of the night. Got up to investigate, worried lest it be the fox come back for another meal, but no, the female goose had decided to lay another egg. Quite why she was doing it at that time of night is beyond us. Ah well, I suppose the urge was upon her and that urge had to be obeyed.
After the fox got our best laying hen the other night, the chickens have become very sensible about where they spend the night, some staying in the tree but getting higher up, and the rest in their little hut, with none sleeping on top of the hut, which was their habit even during the freezing temperatures of last February when I used to give them hot pasta for breakfast to warm them up, as they were covered in layers of frost, particularly over their backs. Would have brought them inside to warm up, but the house was not much warmer, the doors being open for most of the time because our builders were working here. Had to have porridge for breakfast ourselves to help unthaw us.

The foxes are hungry. One goose taken from down the lane, and twenty hens taken from our friends place in Madiran, most of those twenty not eaten but carnaged, mangled, wasted. Heads, bodies, feathers here, there, and everywhere.
We now have two piglets left out of the nine, so seven have been sold. Mum was not too pleased, looked sulky, didn’t eat her food. Alright today. Spent her time digging a stupendous hole running the length of the fence dividing the Pig Paddocks. This is a bit alarming. Max and her sister are currently residing in the other pen. Wouldn’t want everyone to get together. Maxt harm the littl’uns although he does chortle and chat with through the fence. Might be different if no fence was between them. He might eat them, or attack the little male piggy. Best to do something about that weakened fence. Not sure what at the moment. The rain it raineth. The mud it groweth. The other day Hubs / Keeper of the pigs had to go into MumTess’s paddock to sort out the electric fencing again. Had wellies on, but they leaked. They also kept getting sucked down in to the muddy muck. Had to go barefoot. In the cold wet mud, he had to tread with naked feet. He was not a happy bunny. Strode off to the house in diva-mode. OK, though, after a shower.

Ummmmmmm, upon casting an eye over Max and his girlfriend, I noticed a difference to her rear end. It is getting plump and juicy looking, but not erotically so. What I mean is, that it is not for Max's attentions that the plump pinkness is happening. What I mean is, that she resembles Mum Tamworth. What I mean is, that I think she is preggers. And this morning I looked again, and the teats nearest her rear end have started to show plumpness as well. What I mean is, that she is most definitely preggers! Don't panic, I keep saying to Lester, we have a while yet to sort out her maternity accommodation. What I mean is, really, Do Panic, because I don't think she is too far off.

And the rain it raineth. And the wind it bloweth. And **** I wish this weather would clear up. Always at the back of our minds there is the welfare of the animals. At this moment I am aware that the sheep are out in the Side Field getting soaked. Oh I know that they have fleece which is heavily oiled so moisture does not get through to their skins. But this still does not stop me from being concerned. The chickens I am OK with at this moment. They will be in the Tall Barn. It's during the night that in the background of my mind there is an awareness of foxes. The geese will be rollicking about in puddles, so they are OK. Again, it is night time when I am aware for their safety such that if they do have a mutter between themselves I wake up. I am learning their voices. I know when they are upset, and have also learnt that the huge fuss they make, and which has had me shooting out of bed to go and rescue them, is not fox-alert but heralding the dawn.

Our next project is to build Max a super duper home pen. I am tagging on to that a proper chicken hut and goose pen. I would like to start getting the Courtyard into some semblance of a garden. It is bare earthed at the moment because of the wheels from the builders van, the scratching and walking of the chickens, and the big flat feet and beaky digging of the geese. 

I think the potatoes we planted two weeks might have rotted.

I can't dig because the ground is so heavy with moisture.

I can't plant seeds because the ground is too cold. Not even the tomato seeds in the Tardis have appeared.

I have gone back into full thermals, including lacy long johns.

Our boots and shoes are continually sopping wet.

Still, on the positive side, there should be enough supplies of ground water to help us through the summer, when it arrives. And at least we are no longer in the caravans. At least we are dry.

Things I have learnt:
That smallholding in the rain is not a task that brings joy to the soul.
That if it stops raining then at that very moment one must get outside and do whatever jobs one can. That the rain cloud will not say 'I shall not oblige by dumping water on you while you cook dinner, put your feet up for a nap, surf the Internet, etc....  I shall do it my way, and that is to dump when I want to dump, and if that dumping is when you have just put your boots on to make time in your oh so busy day to come outside, then tough, you'll just have to get wet!'
That animals become like family members, even truculant Max, whose face can crinkle up at me so that he looks like a teddy bear when he is in a soft frame of mind.
That one can become quite upset when one of the family is taken away by stealth.
That there is nothing better than leading a smallholding life, even in the wet.
...even though sometimes one has to search very hard to find those blessings to count, 'Counting one's blessings' being a way in which to survive times which are not quite as good as they might be.

PS. Humungous gale just arrived. Sheep huddled at gate. All now brought in. Everyone is indoors. Pigs, chickens, sheep, dogs, us, all dozing away the hours of the gale, except me because I am chatting to you and the geese who are, as ever, paddling about somewhere.


Leon and Sue Sims said...

We are leaving Melbourne in wet cold conditions for the same in France!!!!!!

Leon and Sue Sims said...

We are leaving cold wet windy melbourne for the same in France next week - Brrrrr.

Vera said...

Hi Leon and Sue, don't worry, the weather should be changing for the better soon. What part of France are you coming to? Are you on holiday?

Horst in Edmonton said...

I used to hate those long cold wet days in the spring, that was when I was on the farm. That's when the rubber boots and the raincoats came out. Things will get better when the Sun decides to make a show of it. Hope you have a great week Vera and lots of Sun.

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

The weather here is really foul at the moment and I have to admit that I am glad in this weather that we have no animals. It is a good excuse to stay in bed late with the wind howling round and the rain beating on the skylight. Sorry just trying to make you jealous, but really I do miss my animals:)
My potatoes I covered as I was scared of the cold mornings so just maybe they will have not rotted. All my other seedlings are in the passage in the house trying to get out. I keep telling them it is too cold but they are all leaning towards the door and daylight:)

rosaria williams said...

Oh Vera, you are an amazing writer! I'm there in that damp and cold farm, worrying with you about everything and everyone, and praying and sorting and hoping with you.
You have taken me along, word by word, through the muck and the mud and the chill, and I'm in awe at all you do, and you describe everything.

Vera said...

Horst, we have had some sunshine today, and it has most certainly lifted our spirits. Rain tomorrow, and the next few days, forecasted. But at least the sun shone today.

Diane, I most definitely prefer to be cold and wet and have animals! Good idea about the potatoes. Too late now, but might try next year if we have similar weather.

Rosaria, thank you so much.

DUTA said...

I've enjoyed the whole post, especially the paragraph with the repetitive "what I mean is.." regarding the pig's girlfriend.

As for the rain, the worries, the sleepless nights - it's all part of the 'bargain' of smallholding. It will soon be replaced by sunny days and optimism.

Vera said...

Hello Duta, most of the time we are optimistic, but we are spoilt here...we have so much sunshine that when we get extended patches of wet, cold, and windy weather, it wears us down a bit. Everyone here is the same. But you are right, no doubt that soon I shall be making comments about how hot it is getting!

Jean said...

Vera, after what I thought was a gruelling week at work (it was, really), I am at least grateful that my time was spent indoors.
You deserve a medal, for valor in the mud.
What a wonderful post. I always enjoy catching up on your blog and often wait to read it when I can dedicate time to it properly and savour it, with a cup of tea and a piece of cake or a biscuit !!

Vera said...

Jean, thank you for your kind words, and glad you enjoy my blog as you take time out for tea and cake!