Monday, 30 January 2017

My bike ride, and why....

Been for a bike ride this morning.
I thought I should make the effort to get myself moving again.
All my working life I have been sat down,
and being a writer and browser of the internet I still sit down for many an hour.
This has made my legs unhappy with me.
I have disregarded this unhappiness though,
and just carried on with what I am doing.
For years I have had a health condition, or thought I had, but again disregarded.
ME, (not MS), Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Failure, all these names have been assigned to this condition, with the medical people not knowing what causes it, some even disregarding the symptoms as imagination.
There is no cure.
Anyway, in the back of my mind early on in my adult life, I thought that I had something wrong,
but carried on nevertheless with my hectic and chaotic life.
Years passed, the symptoms persisted, getting stronger but I still ignored them as my life continued to bounce along.
2008, and France arrived.
June 2016, and down I went.
Together with the ME/Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Failure condition, I had also gathered to myself the condition of Fibromyalgia.
So what happened was this:
If you are me, when life is difficult and hectic, you fight on, that is what you do.
You do not give up, you keep on striving to overcome whatever difficulty is in front of you,
and you do not turn around and go in the opposite direction,
never will you do that.
Whatever challenge is set you by the Universe, then you do your best to conquer it.
And if you are me, you would look back and marvel at the amount of life learning you have absorbed as a result of rising up to meet these challenges.
You feel the growth of self, of the fullness of self, of those long years behind which were full of things happening, some good, some not so good, but nevertheless done well.
The cost, though, it is the cost that brought me low last year, because if you were me you would have been too busy, and not had the time, to have listened to what was happening to the body.
Then finally your body gives up on you, and says 'Enough!'.
What happened for me was that I was consumed with a heavy tiredness of which there seemed to end, coupled with the chronic muscular stiffness of Fibromyalgia, which had me taking half an hour to get out of bed because nothing would work, then moving about at the pace of a sloth.
So I slept for hours and hours, and worried, because I thought that this was the end, that I was on the downward path, because at that time I did not actually know what was wrong with me.
I just knew I was sick.
And if you were me, you would refuse to run to the doctor, but instead would find out what was actually wrong and get it sorted out yourself, which is what I did.
 God bless the Internet, because I embarked on hours of research, listing first all the symptoms I had, and then seeing if they fitted known illnesses. They did. It was scary. I now had names to put to the condition I had, and reality bit deep. As I say, this was a scary time.
But hey ho, if you were me you would refuse to give in, you learn to accept what is wrong with you, then you find ways to help yourself get better, but knowing in  your heart that it is going to take many months before you can say that you are well again, and trying to stay patient when the dark days happen, which they will, when you feel like you have taken a dozen steps backwards, that this is 'it' for the rest of your days, that life is not really worth all this effort. But you get up the next day and fight on. Perhaps it will be a better day, perhaps it won't, but you give it a try anyway, that is what you do if you are me.
I am not going into the exact physical symptoms, nor how I put myself back together again, but I have gradually improved. What is a bother, though, is that this period of ill health has left me with less physical strength than I used to have, and I need to get some of that back. I don't suppose that I shall ever be as fit as I was ten years ago, but I need to be fitter than what I am otherwise I shall not be able to live the self sufficiency life I want to live, which requires all sort of physical effort.
If you were me, you would need a target to head towards, and the Market Garden Project has arrived at just the right time. Not for me the slowness of retirement, of watching the days dwindle away, and of allowing the illness to settle over me like a blanket, oh no, not at all.
So, two bits of me need helping legs, and my upper arms and shoulders.
On Burns Night (25th Jan) we were invited to play for our supper at a friend's party, which needed me to start playing the accordion again if we were to respond to her request. I did, and we played. This has given me a thirst for playing the accordion again. I have trouble even lifting if off the floor at the moment. Not to worry, I can just about manage to do so, and the movement of the bellows in and out will stretch out my upper arms and shoulders. I would be satisfied if I could lift my left arm higher than the tope of my head. The right arm is happier.
As for my legs.....
I have got my exercise bike from out of its corner,
and have started pedalling.
100 light pedals
100 light pedals with upper arm stretches
100 pedals on the next level up.
Once a day, in the morning.
OK, so I have to do something gentle for half an hour afterwards, such as play exercises on the piano, or knit, or sew, but I definitely find myself moving better.
And here is the view I see as I cycle:

...out in to the courtyard, which is waiting to be made in to the first stage of the Market Garden Project.

... and here are my legs, waiting to be helped in to better physical shape.
I have another matching pair of socks somewhere,
probably snitched away by Blue, our sock and knicker stealer.
So if you were me, what you do now?
I would say 'thankyou' for reading this blog,
that if you have anything wrong with you healthwise, then you can always improved that condition if you want to, but that you need to have something to focus on to stop your head from moaning to you about how unwell you feel, this I know from experience.
And I did get to walk with the dogs round our Side Field last night,
which is the first time I have walked so far for months.
Bye for now,

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The hay adventure

These two, Lissie and Milly
And this one, the recently artificially inseminated ( by the bull On Time)
these three were the reason we were off out yesterday with trailer attached to the van,
the destination being a farm somewhere in the French countryside,
the instructions having been given over the phone,
and all in French of course,
which meant that it was going to be miracle if we found the farm at all.
We did.
The road dirt track to the barns was steeply downhill though,
oh dear, muddy and slidey, that is what the track was like,
easy to go down though,
just put the brakes on and let the car and trailer slide down to the bottom if necessary,
sort of like a mini ski slope.
But not to worry, this possible eventuality did not happen,
and at the barns we arrived, still intact, and under full mechanical control.
So why were we having this adventure?
We were on a recce to find someone who would sell us some hay,
our own stocks having become depleted to almost nothing.
With no local hay available, having been all sold out due to the weeks and weeks of cold weather. heavy frosts, and brilliant blue skies,
our field
Buying hay, that is what we were doing,
because we have none, it is all gone, eaten by the cows and the sheep,
because there is hardly any grazing out on the fields for them.
And visits to our two local suppliers were of no help in the search for hay,
because they have none to sell because of the exceptionally cold winter we are having.
So at this farmer we arrived,
and there he was, waiting in front of his sheep barn, with eight small bales of hay,
which is all he could spare.
They will only feed the cows for a couple of days, though,.
but not to worry,
at least we had found some hay to keep them going.
Hay paid for,
handshakes all round ( farmer's are friendly people here)
and up the muddy track we headed.
With a bit of sliding from side to side,
and the van moaning about having to make the effort,
and me shutting my eyes and hoping we made it up to the road OK without falling into the ditches on either side of the track, 
we arrived safe at the road.
Then homewards.
Hungry cows, but sheep OK.
Unloaded the trailer,
Untied a couple of the small bales
gave one each to the adult cows.
Wouldn't eat it.
Which did not seem very generous of them seeing as how we had made such an effort to find some hay for them.

 ...and this is the hay, looking all ruffled up because the two rottweiller girls have spent the day sleeping on it, because we had to go and buy hay from a different farmer, hay which we hoped would be more acceptable to the palate of those three cows.

...and here we are back home again. Two bales were on the trailer, the first has been wiggled off by Lester an inch at a time (it was at the wrong height for the big tractor to lift off so it had to be done manually) and he is just getting this one off. This was our second trip of the day, having already bought two bales from the farmer this morning. 
Now, ....where to put them..... oh here will do....

....we can still get through the front door, but the four bales do rather spoil the effect of the pots of lavender round the new front door, ........
But not to worry, these bales should hopefully last until the middle to end of February, when we shall have to hunt out another supply, but by then the grass should have hopefully started growing again.
Bye for now,

Thursday, 12 January 2017


The lambs have started arriving, these two first,

.....then these two,....

... with Mum keeping a close eye on them.
The lambs look fragile, but they are tough little beings.
I can remember the first lambs born here and how panicky we were about keeping  them warm.
I can remember the look on the French builders faces as we carried the lambs across the courtyard in from of them, taking them in to the Half Barn, where we made a pen for them and their mum.
I think they thought we were off our heads!
This was in December 2010:
We were still living in the caravans  then, so the ewe and lambs were actually warmer than we were!
Eventually we let this little family out onto the paddock because by then other lambs had started arriving and we realised that we could not house all of them in the Half Barn!
A year later, and we were able to start unpacking the caravans:

... and move in to the Half Barn:

....which was now clear of all clutter, including straw, sheep, and builder's things.
A year further on, and the Half Barn had become a cosy space for us to live in while the rest of the house was sorted out. The caravans had gone, and no more sheep came and visited us indoors!
Meanwhile, we had become more experienced with raising sheep,
and did not fuss any more if a ewe decided to have her lambs in the middle of inclement weather.
Orphan lambs, which are lambs rejected by their mums for one reason or another, well this was another steep learning curve, because there is always the urge to pick them up and give them a cuddle because they are so damn cute, but we resist this urge now because it can confuse the lambs  as to what species of animal they belong to, human or sheep, because they will bond to whoever is feeding them and looking after them.
So we do not bring young lambs in to the house anymore, but keep them with the flock, bottle feeding them amongst the other sheep and lambs so they do not attach too much to human beings, which they still do a little bit, but this soon goes once the lamb starts growing up.
As I say, lambs are much tougher than what they look!
..... and the only orphan lamb of 2015, after having had his bottle of milk,
and being taken back to the other youngsters of the flock....
I am off out to the sheep paddock to see if we have had any more lambs born,
so bye for now,

Monday, 9 January 2017

A bit of a relief.....

I don't complain and rant about things on this blog,
because I don't believe in passing on bad humour to my readers...
....with relief the temperatures are up a few degrees this morning!
For weeks we have had very cold and frosty mornings together with freezing fog.
The house has stayed reasonable with temperatures,
and we have not been lighting the wood burning Rayburn until after 5pm,
because the sunshine, which we have had most days, has heated everything up  a little bit.
However, the last two weeks we have had temperatures to minus 5C,
which I know is not that cold in comparison to other parts of the world,
but it is cold to us, spoilt as we are being, on a parallel to the Mediterranean.
And we have found ourselves getting irritable, tired, and generally miserable.
The Rayburn is just about coping with keeping the house off chill,
but we could keep it running for longer,
but we still have the wet season to get through,
so we need to conserve wood for that.
And yesterday morning it was freezing again.
But hooray!
By mid morning the weather started changing, and the freezing cold was lifted away.
I cannot tell you what a relief that was.
Simple things really.
A lift of a couple of degrees created quite a mood swing in us.
Living with the changing seasons makes life very interesting,
but really, this very long spell of freezing weather has been a bit much,
the sleep of hibernation being the driving need,
which means that things which ought to be done don't get done.
On the subject of the Market Garden Project:
Lester is collecting the wood, for the raised beds in the courtyard, from the local wood mill this afternoon. Six beds to be made and filled with camel and cow manure.
And to stop our heads from going round in a spin, we are taking each step at a time.
The seeds have been ordered for the back veg plots. These are the 'normal' vegetables, nothing fancy.
The raised beds are going to have the more unusual salad vegetables grown in them, with the emphasis being on baby veg, no F1 seeds, just heritage and heirloom seeds.
How we are going to make the step between growing for ourselves and growing for the public is still a mystery to us. How are we going to actually sell the salads and vegetables, ......well, that step will arrive when it is meant to.
We were having a 'this is too big a project for us' moment the other day, and arriving in my head came 'Le Jardin de Salad', (the Salad Garden) which is now the name of the project, and will have 'vegetables in season, fresh herbs, range of salads, all ancient varieties and bio, (or something like that)' tagged on to the title.
The arrival of the name was sufficient to lift our spirits, and push us on again.
I have no doubt that further inspiration will come when it needs to come.
Such trust in the Universe bailed me out of many pot holes in my life,
got us here to France, walked us through the renovation of the house, and the setting up of the smallholding, and lots of other things too numerous to mention, so I am holding fast to the trust that we shall get Le Jardin de Salad off the ground.
I hope.
...... and a snippet from the blog I wrote on Friday January 4th 2013:
'So it came to our afternoon 'stretching of our backs' in the bedroom caravan, which some people may call a 'siesta' but I think a siesta is a state of being whereby one drops the eyes shut for a space of time. 'Stretching of our backs' is just that: giving our spines a rest from the hours of sitting working at our PC's. Our eyes remain open, although may have a momentary droop, but definitely do not shut completely. Lester will be listening to his Ipod, and I will be drifting about in my thoughts, or reading French, or we will be having a family pow-wow. 

As soon as I was lying prone on the bed, straightway into my mind came 'HOPE' again. And this time the letters of the word became split up: 
H is Happiness: that living in hope will bring long term happiness. 
O is for Opportunities: that living in hope will not allow for any opportunities to pass you by. 
P is for Prosperity: not necessarily with copious amounts of money, but a richness of self. 
E is for Excitement: which is how you are going to feel if you live in HOPE because you will be living your life, not sitting on the sidelines and watching the days of your life pass you on by. 

But like all things, being Hopeful requires effort. No gain without pain, as the saying goes. What I mean is, that it is hard at first to learn to be Hopeful. But with practice, it becomes easier. 

I have been thinking of these words often over the two days. When I push them out, they pop back into my head. So I pass them on to you as well. I have definitely become filled with more optimism, something which had become drizzled away with the effort of making a fresh start in somebody else's country, and I feel my feet stepping lighter as a result. What I have been doing to achieve this state of being, is every time I have a worrisome or negative thought drift into my mind, I turn it around on itself by Hoping for a good outcome. 

I have found that the HOPE word is a very powerful assistance in lifting one's spirits. As I put on my Facebook page yesterday: to HOPE is to be a travelling-forward-in-life person. But to be without hope, and therefore HOPELESS, is to be a going no-where person.'

That's all for now,
off to get some lunch.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Seeing to the sheep......

Lester and Helper John,
on a mission to worm the sheep which should have been done a while ago,
but time has a habit of galloping by so it hasn't.
In the past I have been The Helper,
but Lester worries about the sheep barging in to me, bless him.
I don't think he has ever quite got over the time when a sheep took a flying leap,
and landed straight in the middle of my chest,
knocking me to the ground like a felled oak.
It was a miracle I did not break anything,
although I lay on the ground for ages waiting for my body to tell me what had got damaged.
Not to worry,
just a touch of concussion for a day or two,
then all was well.
So Helper John was going to do the task of filling the syringe with wormer today,
while I did a photo shoot.
I was supposed to be making cheese,
but I have learnt that when the recipe says 'leave for thirty minutes',
that that can be stretched to longer if necessary,
so each cheese I make does not have the same timings applied,
because I am always doing other things at the same time as making the cheese,
therefore each cheese wheel does not taste the same.
Artisan cheese, that's what I make.
Anyway, the cheese was in its 'waiting' stage in its pot in the kitchen,
giving me time to be outside for a while.

...... and instructions on how to measure the dosages....

... and all set to go...

Jakey Boy, our ram, was first because he was the biggest,
Lester sat him back on his haunches
which relaxed him,
Helper John handed the filled syringe over,
and apart from a little dribble of escaped wormer,
all went down into the tummy of Jakey.
He did not appreciate the manhandling though.
He did not like his dignity being away out of the window.

While I was waiting I had an opportunity to have a close look at the girls.
All have put on weight, so lambs due in the next few weeks,
but their coats are carrying a lovely range of colours,
which made me feel a pang of longing to get spinning again,
an activity I have pushed to one side of late,
mostly because the Loom Project has been put on hold because of the Market Garden Project,
(funds are likely to get quite stretched this year)
Looking at those fleeces which will be coming my way in June,
I must admit to getting the spinning and weaving hunger on me again.
But I shall try to squash it because there are plant pots and seed trays to buy, not to mention a raft load of seeds to get, and then there is the subject of the poly tunnel and the shed for the shop.
At this point I nipped back to the kitchen to stir the curds in the cheese pot.
They were slightly matted, but not to worry, they will do.
All done, and saying thank you to John for helping out.
Such friends are priceless.
Trying to avoid looking at the Internet shop which carries Looms,
I must now go and do something somewhere else.
Saying bye for now,


Monday, 2 January 2017

-5C. Crikey, that's cold!

Yesterday was -5C.
While the frost lacings on everything, and the murky misty fog gave a magical effect overall, it was just a touch on the cold side. So Rayburn lit as soon as Lester had finished milking, and I went back to bed. Yes, I did. Electric blanket on, and I hunkered down. Lester, meanwhile, manfully carried on with farm stuff, applying himself to the ordering of the vegetable seeds for the Back Veg Plots.
A word about the pigs, who are now no more....

Max, the boar, and Mum Pig.....

... our two adult Tamworths, who were not inclined to make any more piglets.
We had said at the beginning of 2016 that if they did not produce youngsters by the end of the year then they would have to go.
They didn't.
So they have.
But they had had a lovely few months out on the veg plots, digging up roots, tilling the soil, then resting in the sunshine, but time was going on, soon it would be the cold weather, then on to the New Year, and then early Spring when the pigs would have to be put back into their pens.
I knew they would not like that, not after having been free range out on the veg paddocks,
the financial cost was becoming a drain on our finances,
and still no sign of piglets.

Then it became time. The weather was dry, and fire wood was gathered.
Out of the courtyard the big tractor came.
I was handed the rifle.
Extra rations this morning..... milk, pasta, and bread.
Max to his food trough, Mum to hers, both close to the fence.
Everything calm, everything peaceful.
Rifle handed to Lester.
High velocity bullets put in the chamber.
Quietly he moved the barrel to within an inch of Max's forehead.
Max still happily munching his food.
In less than instant it was done.
Mum Pig still happily eating.
The same we did for her.
A pause, then, to let things become still again.
Then they were lifted over the fence,
the tractor just about managing to carry each one,
although there were a few scary moments when the tractor wobbled about a bit,
as if to tip over, but it didn't, which was good.
Then along to the fire, which was lit.
No butchering for these pigs.
Max would not have tasted very nice anyway,
and we felt too affectionate towards Mum Pig to eat her.
So Max had to be quartered so that he could be moved into the fire,
then Mum Pig was moved, still intact, to lie beside him.
This was not done with tears of emotions, but with respect for these two pigs.
They had lived together, made piglets together, argued together, and played together,
just like a well established married couple.
This had to be done.
And as they lay in the fire, side by side,
I thought that this was the best end we could have given them.
So no more pigs for the moment, but later on this year we shall be buying weaners to bring on, but we shall not have any more adult pigs. It was a grand experience, though, to have piglets, and I treasure the experience.

(March 2012)
Hope you laughed with me.
It is good to have shared laughter!
Bye for now