February is a funny month to be a smallholder, and by 'funny' I don't mean 'funny ha ha' but 'funny odd'. For a start there is the promise of spring, with the start of the growing season which one anticipates with both eagerness and trepidation. Eagerness because the days are getting longer, the weather is going to warm up, things will need planting, and the outdoor days will begin. Trepidation because the slow pace of winter will be giving way to the hectic pace of the growing season, which is long here, from March to October / November, and that is without having a polytunnel to look after as yet.
February, when things start popping up in the flower garden, unless the chickens have been foraging and found the spring bulbs which were planted last autumn, although they have left the three hyacinth bulbs alone. And of wandering round the garden and seeing what has survived, what has not and of seeing buds filling out and hoping that a late frost does not pay a visit.
February, when the body feels the lack of being outside and feels slack within itself making one worry about where the energy to make the effort to do all those outside jobs is going to come from.
February, of watching the winter toll on the animals, of feeling concern for them out in their fields and pens, of hoping that they have had enough to eat, of wanting to protect them from the last of the winter weather, of knowing that there has to be a last sharp burst of wet and / or cold before it gets better for them.
February, when one realises that one is running out of time to get those inside jobs done, of looking forward to starting new projects outside, of still having long cosy evenings before the manic push of the growing season, of toes and fingers feeling relieved that they will not be frozzled again for lots of months ahead.
February, which is the start of the smallholder's year. Of wanting to hold on to the slowness of the month, but at the same time wanting it to hurry up so we can get to spring.
Back in the UK February was always difficult. Central heating made the air dry which in turn dried me up, causing sinus and bronchial conditions which laid me low. Too much TV watching created too many bad eating habits, and without hardly any exercise to burn those calories off, I put on weight, creating more health problems. I had so much time on my hands, much of which was wasted.
And then we came to France and became trainee renovators and smallholders. We don't have central heating, in fact we rarely have any fires on at all apart from in the bathroom, so we are in fresh air all the time and my sinus and bronchial problems have lessened. Over all my health is better. I still carry some weight and would always want to, but now there is a better percentage of muscle to fat. Life is simpler, we are healthier. And we are never bored. February is still a trying month, but far less so.
Puppies: two visits to the vets, one a proper one and the other an emergency. All sorted. So should we get cats or should we get a Jack Russell dog. Neither appeal. One climbs all over the furniture, eats birds and chicks, makes little creatures die slow deaths by playing with them, and the other yaps too much, gets under the feet, and is too little. So how are we going to manage to rat and mice problem. Any ideas?
House: Staircase coming on. Big upright beams in place, mezzanine over front door now waiting for the chestnut planking to be laid on it, measurements been taken for the concrete pour of the lower staircase and materials to be purchased today so the frame can be made.
Us: it was a cold weekend because all the doors were open because of the building work, so we had the electric fire on on Saturday evening, but didn't bother otherwise. The continuing rain is pulling us down, mostly because of our concern for the animals. Otherwise, we continue to press on.
The Bacon: this is probably at the end of the salt and sugar soak because the salt crystals are now staying on the surface of the pork rather than becoming liquidized, but just to be sure, I have laid the bacon in the last of the salt and sugar mix for another day.
So swinging along through February, and hope you are swinging along nicely as well.