Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Oh, just a day in the life of us.....

Up early. Needed to get going with the day because we are off out to a small dairy nearby to see their milking operation, and we need to be there by 9am.

Everything going well. Cows out in field. Last one left in the barn was the little male calf. Lester went to fetch him. Put the rope on him to lead him out to the field, which he doesn't like. Resisted all the way, pulling backwards, sideways, and every ways, letting his upset about the rope be most thoroughly known. Nothing for it but to put a hand behind his rump to chivvy him along, something which Lester often does.....sort of pushing him in the direction he needs to be going in. So, hand behind rump, Lester still clean and tidy, calf does a squirt of milky poo from his rear end, Lester's hand deflects poo, ends up getting covered in a spray of poo, Lester now not clean and tidy. Not to worry, a quick change and off out to the dairy we went.

24 hours later:

So there I was, in the old Mercedes, driving up the lane from Sarah's animal park, following Lester on the big tractor which was towing the trailer carrying the blue wheelbarrow and spade. And I found myself marvelling at the experience of following my husband home along a very long lane in France, and felt a rush of gratitude towards the Universe for presenting the opportunity ten years ago to make the lifestyle change needed to release us from our old UK lifestyle. I also had a moment of feeling in awe at the courage it took for us to take up that opportunity. I remembered Lester going off to work in the time before we came here, smart shirt, tie, polished shoes, and suit, looking very pristine and shiny. I looked at him now on the tractor in front of me, and know that he is covered in manure, has yesterday's work clothes on because he had to get dressed in a rush, and that he is fretting about getting the tractor back home, because............

........ we are tired. We had a broken night's sleep having been woken up in the early hours by the rottweiller girls barking.  Heard another bark from outside, quite close to the house, sounded like it was coming from the sheep pen. "There's a dog in with the sheep" Lester shouts as he hurtles out of bed. I follow on, but much slower. Outside now. Very dark. Very cold. I am glad that I thought to put my dressing gown although my feet are slowly freezing because they have my indoor sandals on. "Here, hold this|" Lester says as he hands me the rifle. I do as I am told. I am, after all, his right hand man woman. Then he is off with the torch, after saying that the dog is chasing the sheep. I can hear the dog barking. I feel of rush of affection for our sheep. I hold the gun carefully.

Lester returns after a while. Says that a chunk of the perimeter fencing has been damaged. Looks like the sheep barged into it as they were being chased. Said he could only count six pairs of eyes. We have eight sheep, so there should be eight pairs of eyes. The dog keeps barking  but seems to be further away.

The rifle was not used. But if had needed to be then it would have been.

Previous to that.....

Back at the dairy yesterday....seeing four cows being milked by a portable milking machine, each milking taking all of five minutes individually which is so different to the thirty minutes (at least) that it takes Lester to milk one of our cows. Plus the milk went straight from udder to milk churn, whereas  the bucket placed under the udders of one of our cows being milked risks having a mucky cow hoof put in it, or being knocked over as the cow fidgets. We were also impressed by the serene and patient look the cows in the dairy had during milking. Ours often have a 'oh do get on with it' look when they are being milked, which is why they can get fidgety.

Lester is enthused about getting milking machine, but is not so impressed with the price of them, so he is thinking about building one out of the spare parts you can get online. This project, therefore, will be put on hold for the time being.

And then it was on to see where the cheese is made. I was very impressed, but not enough to want to invest in the equipment they had. I am perfectly happy using a two gallon stainless steel pot to make the cheese in, and have no inclination towards having a seventy gallon container, nor a curd table, nor huge great fridges. I shall potter along with my cottage industry style of cheese making because it is a more interesting thing to do.

A good visit though, and it was nice to see Lissie's mum again. (Our first cow came from this farm)

Back home, a quick coffee, and then off down the lane to Sarah's place, together with the tractor towing the trailer carrying the blue wheelbarrow, and spade. I followed on in the Mercedes..... it is due to be scrapped any day soon but still has half a tank of petrol on board so it is sensible to use it for short drives to use the petrol up.

What were we doing going off down the lane? Sarah's camel barn is full of the most scrumptious and
 crumbly camel poo, which is of such a good quality that it can be used immediately to grow things in. The barn needed to be cleared so that the winter bedding could be put down, and we shall be needing to fill the raised beds in the courtyard when they are made. So the task of the day was to use the tractor to dig out the poo in the barn, dump that in the trailer, and then bring the trailer back up the lane to our place, unload the poo in the courtyard, and then make a return to Sarah's place to reload.

I, meanwhile, sat and chatted in the glorious sunshine with Sarah, leaving our two husbands to get on with the work. Time to get the animals in for the night, and still three quarters of the barn still left to do. Tractor and trailer and blue wheelbarrow and spade all left down at Sarah's so work on the poo shifting could carry on tomorrow. Nice pile of poo up at our place though. Very satisfied.

And then the dog came to harass our sheep. If  it came once, then it will come again. It is worrying to think that this might happen when the ewes have their lambs, which is around the middle of December. So all plans changed. Need to have the tractor and trailer back here so the fence can be repaired, which is why I was driving back up the lane with Lester in front on the tractor. The perimeter fencing needs to be sorted out, that is now the urgent task of the day. The poo collecting will now have to wait for a while.

This type of lifestyle certainly requires us to be adaptive, that is another thought I had as we drove up the lane this morning, and 'hooray' for that!  Meanwhile, sending out thoughts to the owners of the dog to keep it under control. Meanwhile enjoying this lovely weather while we still have it.

Bye for now,
Vx

21 comments:

Mama Pea said...

Being a person who likes a schedule and knows what's happening when (not necessarily the best trait, I realize), I think developing the ability to adapt was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn in this homesteading life of ours. But it all builds character, right? (Yeah, and what doesn't kill ya, makes ya stronger!) Wouldn't trade our lifestyle for anything else.

Can totally appreciate your excitement over lovely camel poo. (Wonder how many hundreds of miles we'd have to go to find some??)

My Life in the Charente said...

Oh no you do not need a dog around to bully your sheep and possibley kill the lambs if not the adults. If they break the fence when scared they could also have a heart attack. I get the idea someone is going to be sitting up at night keeping watch, how else are you going to get rid of the beast. Sleepless nights ahead me thinks!!! Take care Diane

Cottontail Farm said...

Oh goodness Vera, did you find the other two sheep?

The Broad said...

I'm afraid if it were up to me I'd be leaving all the poo shovelling to the men! You and Lester have such a wonderful partnership and are so beautifully supportive of one another -- it is truly beautiful to read about. I can well imagine you two travelling up the French lanes -- even get the occasional pungent odour of you-know-what!

Vera said...

MAMA PEA, when our schedules get upset it takes a day or two to pick up the momentum again, that is what we are finding. If I do not start the first tasks of the day in a certain order then I am in a muddle all day! But would not change our lifestyle for anything either!

DIANE, we are hoping that the dog does not visit again, but think that it probably will. You are right about the sheep having heart attacks if frightened too much. Those sheep are part of our family here, and we feel very protective of them.

COTTONTAIL FARM, yes, we still do have eight sheep. They must have got separated from the rest last night.

THE BROAD, I did leave the poo shovelling to the men, and so did Sarah! The camel smell does not smell at all, but then neither does the sheep or cow poo. But perhaps our noses have got used to the aromas!

DUTA said...

I don't know what your UK lifestyle was, but you certainly showed great courage in your attempt to change it by moving to France and starting a farm. It's quite extraordinary considering that you have other options (music, computer) less difficult, perhaps even more rewarding, and that most of your family is in UK.
But I'll take your word for it that you wouldn't change the current lifestyle.

Janice said...

Hi Vera, Have you read about the cheese that Dave makes at NEW START, NEW LIFE IN BULGARIA? He said he does very well with it at the car boot sales. Things are getting very exciting with all your planning. I had heard that camel/alpaca/llama poop is very good for your veggie beds and can be used right away. Very handy!!

Cro Magnon said...

Why does your friend Sarah keep Camels? Do they give some commercial by-product (other than poo)?

Vera said...

DUTA, there is nothing more rewarding for us than working on the land and with our animals, plus we can fit in time to work on our computers and play music in between, that is why we love this lifestyle, which is better than working for other people to earn a wage so we can then spend it on amusing ourselves, which is what we did in the UK!

JANICE, yes, I am following Dave's blog, and have read that he is doing well with his goat cheese product. I am not sure what dairy product we are going to sell in the future as I am busy experimenting with various options!

CRO MAGNON, Sarah has four camels and they are part of an animal park with various other animals. She does a lot of demonstrations with these animals for the many children who visit with their families, and she gets the camels to sit down and be brushed by the children. The camels are female and are very gentle, although huge! She also trains veterinary students from the UK, and having the camels makes life interesting for those students, and gets them used to being around larger animals. So the 'by product' of these camels is the people coming to see them and the training of those students. The poo, by the way, is free!

Coco said...

Glad the sheep are all present and accounted for. What´s the reasoning behind not lambing in the Spring?

Camel poo does sound wonderful!

Dawn McHugh said...

Camel poo and Alpaca poo are the same as the animals are related, great stuff for the garden, I hope you get the dog that is causing you problems, its one of the things I dread.

northsider dave said...

I always enjoy reading about your smallholding adventures Vera. Is it soft cheese you make? We miss the English cheese here in Ireland.

Vera said...

COCO, we do not keep the ram separate to the ewes because the flock is small in numbers. so we let them stay together all year round. This means that the ewes follow a natural cycle of reproduction, so when it is time for them to mate with the ram then it happens naturally rather being organised by us, which I think is better for their well being!

DAWN, Lester has been out in the field today mending the perimeter fencing wire. He said that several holes had been dug under the fencing, which is alarming. Hope our animals, and your animals, stay safe.

NORTHSIDER DAVE, I make semi hard cheeses, ones that can be eaten young at one month, or they can be left to mature for several months. But I have learnt that it is best to eat the cheese young. Soft cheese have to be eaten within a week, are quick to make, but Lester does not like them!

Sol said...

oh Vera how scary about the dog. could you rig up tin cans that will clatter if something gets in?

Vera said...

SOL, excellent idea about the cans, but I think that the sound of those cans would spook the sheep as much as the dog would!

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

You all always get so much done! I wish there was a good source of camel poo nearby ;-) Camels just seem to be hard to come by in my region...

Jean said...

Glad to hear all the sheep are accounted for.
Do you know who owns the dog that is making a nuisance of itself? I wondered if the owner might keep it under control if they knew about its activities.

Anonymous said...

Hope everything is fine with you and Lester. Have a lovely holiday.

Kerry said...

Hope all is well with you both as its unusual for you not to post x

Anonymous said...

Hopefully everything is fine with you and Lester, Miss your updates.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vera, I check your blog most days and am starting to worry that you have decided to stop blogging. We so enjoy reading about your life in France and do hope that you are well and will soon return. We wish you both a Merry Christmas and very happy New Year.
Ann W