Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Morsbags / plastic bags

Found this info last year and recently connected with it. Funny thing is that it has been on my mind to sort out our plastic bag situation for a week or so, and have been interested in making a DIY bag for my choir music as well as using a few for carrying the shopping. Anyways, on perusing my long list of ‘sites to be further investigated when time permits’ I found the Morsbag site again, and thought it might be of interest to you.

So why would it be of interest? One plastic bag not used is one plastic bag that does not go into the environment one way or another. Not sure what to do with those smaller plastic bags that the veggies have to be put into at the supermarket. Been saving those. Thought I would cut them up into strips and crochet shopping bags as well. Plastic is a bit thin though, not sure if they would be very strong. Apparently you can iron plastic bags together to make a more rigid piece of 'fabric'. Not sure what I could do with that piece of 'fabric' afterwards. Will file that possibility away in the recesses of my mind for the moment. Will stick to making a few Morsbags. They are quick, easy, and I shall post up a photo when I have got round to making them!

Interestingly, it is suggested on the Morsbag site that you create a 'pod' of like minded people who go out and about donating these homemade bags for free in an effort to get make people more aware about using recyclable bags. I think that is a grand idea. I like the idea of forming a French pod. Not sure how I would fit that activity in though. Will put that idea on hold until I can find a window of time in which to explore further that idea. When I have finished scything. When I have caught up with the housework. When I written my books. When...... But it is nice to have lots of things on the go. It is better to have lots of interesting projects even if one does not get round to getting them all worked on, because it stops one from sitting around twiddling ones fingers in boredom. Keeping on learning new things and investigating new projects really does keep one interested in life, stops the brain from fugging up as well, plus does not allow houseroom in one's mind about the ever onward galloping of the days of one's life.

Been up since 5. Ploughed my way through 6lbs of plums for jamming. Then cooked up some wool in the dying pot. Top of my stove has a pot of simmering plums, a pot of simmering wool, and a pot of now cold cooked grain for the pigs.  It looks a mess. Not to worry, smallholding life demands such a diversity of things cooking away on the stove.

Have come to a bit of a halt with haymaking. We do not have any more storage space for the DIY hay bales, plus the physical effort of working out on the field while we have high temperatures and / or high humidity and / or high pressure due to cloudy skies is tiring me out. But I am not quitting the Hay Project just yet. Will continue on when the weather permits, but no more hay bales. I think it is time to have a go at building a hay stack. It will only be a smallish hay stack, but it should be quicker than doing the DIY hay bales.

So now I need to investigate how to do this task by going on to YouTube. Someone, somewhere, will know how. God bless YT! And God bless you! Hope you have a load of projects on the go as well. Hope you have a go at making a Morsbag or two, or three, etc.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A merry dance....

My life revolves around hay making. Getting up early, at first light which is a magical time when the world is still asleep, when the day is still thinking about what it is going to do weatherwise. There is a quietness. And there is a feeling within myself of feeling virtuous, of feeling quite smug if truth be told, as I march out to the Far Paddock in the Back Field booted and hatted and with my scythe carried at waist height across my body, not downwards, because it is newly sharpened and I don't want Boolie and Gus crashing into it and cutting themselves as they zip and dart about in delightful anticipation of the walk ahead.

Only once we reach the Far Paddock and I park up by my plastic chair, which is always left where I am working outside on a big project so I can have a sit down when my energies are all gone away and I need to get them back again, well once I have parked up in this treasured space in the middle of the field, then the dogs get fed up, knowing that they have become robbed of the delights of a proper dog walk and will now have to spend at least two hours sitting on damp grass, which they think is a total waste of their energies as they would prefer either to be out and about off our homestead, or asleep in their beds back at the house. Watching me does not do it for them.

Yesterday afternoon Gus took himself off for a wander, only he fetched up in the river. Don't know how he did that. The first I knew that he was up to mischief was when I heard him barking. He never barks, but he was. I was turning the hay, not scything. I only scythe in the mornings, between 7 and 10. After that the sun is up and roasting all. We are in the middle of a heat wave. To remain outside after 11 is torcher.

But I am getting behind with getting the hay baled, so there are piles of hay looking like pimples all over the parts of the field which have been cut. These piles need to be made into DIY hay bales so they can be brought in before the rains arrive, which they most surely will sometime or other.

So I was busy, raking up the hay into larger piles in preparation for making the bales, which I do after 7 in the evening when the sun is on its way down below the horizon and it is not quite so hot. I was in old patched trousers, an open shirt, sleeveless t-shirt, hat, boots. All was patched with the darkness of sweat. My face was shiny with sweat. Fronds of hair were dangling down my face which where in spirals of wetness. Indeed, rivulets of water where running down me everywhere. As I say, I was hot.

And Gussy, the fiend, was off and barking somewhere.

And it came to me, all of a sudden, that there might be people about on the river, it being a day when sensible people would be doing that sort of thing, like sitting by the river, paddling in the river, or even swimming in the river.

And a fear shot through me that perhaps Gussy, the horror, was causing a mischief with these people.

I flung my rake down. My temper boiled up. I had no energy to deal with him.

I marched down to the end of the field, through into the neighbours field, round to the little woodland by the river, down the little dip onto the little beach, straight into a bunch of pristine French people complete with a proper upright barbeque and proper plastic table and chairs, and properness everywhere.

All looked at me in amazement. I must have looked a state. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I was tidier and prettied up when working out on the farm. One of the projects for this winter is to make myself some pretty shirts, maybe put a ribbon on my sunhat so it does not make me look so much like Mrs Indiana Jones.

"Je travaille dans la terre. Je coupe l'herbe pour donner les brebis pendant le hiver"  (I work on the field. I cut grass to give to the sheep during the winter) I said, trying to excuse my appearance, whilst waving my arms in the direction along the river towards our land of Labartere.

All looked at me in silence. And this is when I regret not having the French language in my head. If these people had been English I would have cracked a joke about the weather, having to cut hay when it is so hot, wishing I was having a BBQ as well, wishing I was sitting in the shade with the option to have a dunk in the coolness of the river. Such situations remind me that I am an immigrant in a foreign land.

Anyway, not to worry. Had caught sight of Gus, the blasted nuisance of a dog, and he was parked up on a small river beach along aways, where the river is busily eroding the corner of the Far Paddock making a cliff several metres high. And he was stuck. I think I would have left him there, working on the theory that he would sort himself out eventually, but two young girls were busy wading their way over to him.

Now he is a sweet looking dog. Lovely eyes. Bright copper coloured coat. But he has a devil in him. People always head towards him rather than Boolie, who is bigger, noisier, and more boisterous, while Gussy, the devil-dog, looks so much more approachable. But then the devil will strike. Out will come a snap. But not always, just sometimes. Totally unpredicable is Gussy.

So then I had a dog in the river, who might snap at two young girls, whose family might then have a go at me, and all I wanted to do was to finish off raking the hay so I could have a shower, put some dry clothes on, and go lie down.

" Le chien (the dog).....c'est possible parler les enfants (is it possible to talk to the children)......le chien, il n'est pas bon (the dog, he is not good)"

The penny dropped. The lady who was standing in a black swimming costume with pearly white skin underneath which was a plumpness of feminine promise, spoke, but did not shout, at the two girls now getting closer to Gus, who was now shouting back at them even louder. I heard my voice, so much less ladylike than the woman in the black costume, yelling out to Gus. I suppose I hope he would hear me then come into the river towards me, but then he never does much what we ask him to do when his head is busily engaged with stuff. But at least the children pulled back, which was a relief.

Nothing for it but to do a retreat and leave these people to the quietness of their afternoon. Gussy was still barking. I am now fuming both at myself for my inadequacy with the French language which seems to desert me when I am under stress, and at the both dogs now, as Bools refuses to come with me but prefers to linger on with the nice little lady doggie of the French family. I hear my voice, more strident now, yelling at him. He had been growling at the big fat labrador who was also with the family, didn't want him to pick a fight with that dog. Wished I had left the dogs back at the house. Wished I was back at the house. Wished I was less hot and more dry.

At last Bools appears, not in a hurry, knows I am cross. Round to the edge of the Far Paddock I go. Look over the edge of the little cliff. There he is, Gus, still barking at the two girls who are now swimming gracefully around in the river. I yell at him. He looks up, oh so glad to be rescued. I verbally haul him along the bank a few metres. See a slope up which I hope he will have the common sense to climb. He does, with difficulty. I wave at the two girls, say thankyou. I look at Gus and growl some angry words at him.

Then I carry on with raking the hay.

Then I finish the job.

Then I walk back to the house.

Then I have  a shower.

Then I go to bed and have a sleep.

I felt better after that.......

Hay waiting to go into the Wood Shed

Hay inside the Wood Shed.

There is more hay in the Half Barn.

There is more ready baled hay out in the field waiting to be brought in.

There is more hay lying in heaps waiting to be baled.

There is more grass waiting to be cut to be made hay out of.

Today I am going to have a day off.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Visitor, coming and going

The other day Hubs had a surprise. Fortunately he was inattentive at the time having not fully woken up, which was my fault because I had not given him his cup of tea in bed which is a prerequisite if he is to get himself moving along into his day. 

Well this day I had been out in the fields scything, and had got carried away with the task becoming oblivious to the time of day it was. Sometimes I do that. To get the full benefit of scything I have to be at it for at least an hour, after which I go into a sort of odd mind zone wherein I am here but not here. Actually that is fairly normal a state of being I am in for most of the time, but out there in the fields I go into a sort of 'not here euphoria'. Now I know that sounds weird, but trust me when I say that it is the most perfect state of blissfulness. But it doesn't last for long, which is a shame, just for maybe half an hour or so, no longer, because then my sugar levels drop and I feel light headed, maybe irritable, definitely physically wobbly, so then it is indoors for something to eat and a quick lie down.

Anyway, as I say, this day I was in my euphoric mode and was not going to get out of that state of being until it went away of its own accord. Hubs was left, therefore, to make his way out of bed and on into the day as best he could. 

Geese and chickens fed. They were in a queue outside the front door anyway so were conveniently near to hand. Sheep out into field. They were already moaning about the hour being late, so hurried on behind Hubs, eager to be putting their noses into the waiting grass. Pigs and piglets next, piglets squealing at high pitch telling the world that they were being starved and that something should be done about relieving them of this state of being. Rabbits next. They are soundless in their need for attention, just active. They are going out into the field when new hutches are built, for now they are in concrete cages, not ideal, but the best we  can do for the moment. One little rabbit dead.     Needed to be recycled, that being done in the woodland. 

Hubs on way to woodland with deceased rabbit. Chickens following, hoping for a morsel. Nothing is wasted. Everything which has had life is recyclable. Hubs heard girl pigs chatting away. Thought it was to Max, the boar. Went over to have a look, just in case they were up to mischief, like burrowing under the fence to go visit Max, or busting out of the electric fencing and investigating the nearby veg plot.

No. They were not chatting to Max, not were they up to mischief. They were chatting to someone else. He was big. With tusks. A wild boar. Not so big as Max, but broad of front and lean of flank. Hubs, still mentally fugged up through lack of his early morning tea, looked at the wild boar. The wild boar looked back. Hubs turned to continue on towards the woods with the rabbit still in hand. The wild boar trundled on behind him, not aggressive, just ambling on, two beings going in the same direction for a moment in time. 

Hubs delivered the rabbit to its place of recyclement. Turned and walked back towards the house. The wild boar continued on, into the woodland, off into his day. 

I think the wild boar might have a passion for our Tamworth piggy girls. I think they were encouraging him as well. Not sure what Max was making of it all. Probably keeping quiet hoping no one would notice him, including the wild boar. 

We can't find our potatoes. We put a load in. Then other things intervened and we forgot about them, not even earthing them up, although I did pack them around with straw in an effort to contribute towards the earthing up process. At that time the potatoes still had their tops on. Now those tops are nowhere to be seen. The ground is rock hard, useless for getting potatoes up. It did rain for a couple of days last weekend, and I suppose we could have gone and got them dug up then, but other things pushed this thought out of our minds, so that job was not done. So they remain undiscovered. Perhaps we have a crop of potatoes, perhaps not. Next year I am going to investigate the art of growing potatoes in straw. Can't be any the less efficient than the way we have treated our potatoes this year. 

But I have managed to grow basil. Also coriander, also beetroot, but our tomatoes are still green although our beans are cropping well. 

Anyway, need to go out and do more scything, this time in the bottom paddock which has dried grass stems chin high and thick green grass knee high. Realised that this was urgent. As the daylight hours gradually decrease this makes less time to get the grass dried into hay. Time is pressing on. It is a tough paddock to work on. Not to worry. Keeps me fit.

Keeping a watch for adders and wild boar now, also flies that come visit my body to take a drink from me, and anything else which happens along.

Bye for now, staying chirpy despite all obstacles real or imagined, hope you are the same. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Little Piles

"Have you ordered anything over the Internet" Hubs called out to me as I was enjoying the delicious task of kneading some dough. I love the feel of the warm pliable pile of flour and yeast. I love the feeling of it coming alive beneath my hands.
...."Only a man's just called for directions. Are you expecting anything?"
No, I wasn't, although in a couple of weeks time I was, but for now, no.

This is our big Front Field. (Photo lower down) This is where I am scything at the moment. Or trying to. The bush blade scythe is getting on my nerves. It is being selective as to how much grass it will cut per swipe. The grass comprises fresh green grass, which can be wet and upright or soft and floppy depending on how much sun it has on it prior to the scythe being put to it, and tall dry grass seed heads, which can be rigid or bendy depending on how much moisture they have on them. Nevertheless I have been managing.

Yesterday, though, it was as if the scythe and the grass were mismatched. I nearly threw the scythe in the river. I started visualizing the purchase of a walk behind tractor with an mechanical cutting head. This is a bit of kit that Hubs keeps saying we need to purchase, but at 4000 euros, well, there are other things that money needs to be spent on. And anyway, I did try cutting the field with the lawnmower but got bored with walking up and down, up and down, up and down. Walking up and down, up and down, with a walk behind tractor would be much the same. Yuk. It would do my head in. Much prefer scything. At least that feels more interesting a way of cutting the field. If the scythe works. Which at the moment it isn't.

Cutting the grass may seem a waste of time if the sheep are grazing on it anyway. But the grass is romping away and putting on some growth. The sheep are mowing sections of the field, but there are a lot of places where the grass is deciding to go clumpy. This it must not do. We do not want to have wild  and untamed grass here, not in the fields anyway. Therefore it is necessary to top that upward growth on the romping away grass, thus encouraging the grass to grow sideways to make a thick carpet. So, to cut is necessary, that is what Hubs says. He says that if the fields aren't cut that we risk having to reseed the fields in a couple of years, that 'wild' fields encourage 'wild' weeds, like dock and thistle, that cut fields encourage meadow flowers.

So, this is our big Front Field:

..and those little pimples of yellowy brown are the raked up piles of hay. The bright green is where I have scythed. The yellow patch is still to do. The brown blob lower down is Gussy. He is waiting for me to do something interesting. Taking photos is not interesting. He wants action. So do I.  I need to sort my scythe out.

Dear, sweet, Hubs. That stirling trooper of a partner. The one who manages to cope with me as I do him. He took delivery of that parcel. Took control of seeing what was inside. And here he is trying to read the instruction manual. It is in French. But has pictures.

Aha! That bright red scimitar thingy on the floor by his knee? That is my brand new scythe. Ordered over the internet but not expected for at least a couple of more weeks. It is an Austrian scythe. We don't know how to assemble it properly. I go on the internet to have a search on You Tube. Find a man. See how its done. Lift the right knee up, lower handle to be placed at same level as hip. Put elbow on now fixed handle. Upper handle to be at finger tip height of that arm. Blade on. Must be angled in a certain way according to height of grass to be cut. Loosen blade. Insert small wooden wedge. Blade tightened. Put top of stave onto foot, blade at other end of stave. Swing blade along ground to see if blade at correct angle to itself. Don't understand what that means. Disregard that instruction. Take blade cover off. Panic. Looks an evil bit of kit. Worse than the bush blade scythe. Much longer. Thinner. Devilishly sharp.

The red blade is the new one. The blue blade is the bush blade scythe.

Yes, but does it work.

Well this is the patch I cut this morning. I have managed neat rows. Gus is still bored, wanting action. He is eyeballing me here, trying to psyche me out and make me do something else. I am proud of those rows. It does not look like there is much hay because the green fresh grass has not dried out yet, so all you can see are the yellow seed heads. This took me a couple of hours. Would have taken double that time with the other scythe. The new scythe is a stonkingly efficient bit of kit. I can now cut a metre wide swathe, sometimes more if I stretch out when swinging round from right to left.

My spirits are lifted. The field now feels more do-able. This is how much I have left to cut in this section:

Might have it done by Christmas! Just kidding!

And this is my holster. It is full of water. A wet stone is the grey thing poking its head up. When scything one has to stop every so often and re-sharpen the blade. This might seem a bit faddley, but it does give one an opportunity to rest and look at the surroundings while one hones.

I used to keep the wet stone in a pot of water on the ground. Now I can carry it with me.

I am armed and ready to do battle! Onwards with the hay making I go!

Things I have learnt:

- that a bush blade scythe does have its use and not to get cross at it because it can't do the job one wants it to do. Chucking it in the river would be a juvenile thing to do. One would only have to wade in and get it back out again when one calmed down.
- that it is best to put a tool away for a little while if it is not working in unison with one's self.
- that it is best to stop and have a cup of tea if one is becoming frustrated about not doing a job correctly.
- that the water carrier with the wet stone in it does not need to be full to the brim with water otherwise the water will splash and dribble out on to one's clothing and ultimately on to the skin of one's body.
- that the manner in which a woman walks dictates careful positioning of the water carrier, the swivel of the hips generating small water waves inside the carrier which, if filled too full, will cause these little waves to splash over the lip of the carrier, thus causing one to suffer the discomfort of wetness upon one's self.
- that one's winter fingerless gloves are useful on one's hands to stop rubbing problems causing blisters and eventual callouses.
- that it is fascinating to watch the changes to the shape of one's body as one continues with one's scything activities.
- that it is best not to look at how much one has to do, but instead to look at how much one has already done.
- that being outside as the day wakes up is an addictive delight.