Saturday 24 July 2010

The Gang's here!!

They came two by two: two one day, two the following day. Not expected, but dropped off by a friend, 'Because they are getting on my husband's nerves' she said. 
I took one look at them and thought, 'Oh dear'. And you know when your instincts speak loud and clear? Well that is what mine did as I observed the mottley crew. 'Trouble'. That is what my instincts told me. 

And here they are:

Chickens! There are four, but one is being stood on by the Bareneck Chicken (the fawn coloured one). They will be let lose soon, once they have got their heads together about being moved. I treat the days before this happens with  much joy. Once they are out and about,  hooliganism will hit Labartere. They already chatter endlessly about their intended adventures, building plans of campaigns I suspect. 

And bless Hubs / Head Chicken Keeper. He recycled the pig arc to make them a temporary house:

Right outside the bedroom caravan, under the fig tree. If the cockerel should get his act together (three hens one cockerel) and start crowing at unreasonable hours it shouldn't be too difficult to lob something at him from our bed. At the moment he seems to have become de-feathered, and looks a bit nudey. Will have a hunt on Google to see why this is. Actually, there doesn't seem to be much of the 'cock' about him at the moment. Perhaps he is waiting for his testosterone to kick in and make a 'man' of him. 

Anyway, in the renovated pig arc The Gang will stay for a week or so, and then they will be let out. Bools and Gus have to get used to them being around. Last time Gus came across our neighbour's chickens he sat on one. Not sure that he knew what he had to do with it once he had caught it. But at least he didn't kill it. 

Veg Plot Project:

Yippee! The recent rain has enabled the Tamworths to start digging in earnest in their plot, which is to be next years veg plot. On passing their patch earlier on today, Tess was snoozing away in their hut, but Max was sprawled out along a furrow he had been working on. Obviously it had tired him, because it looked like he had collapsed on the job. 

And an idea has been posted by Hubs, that to help with the expense of feeding them, that it would be a good idea to partake of the acorn harvest soon to come from the many oak trees both on our property and in the surrounding woods. Great idea. But I suspect it will be another 'idea' which is slid over to me to put into practice. Ah well. Bools and Gus will enjoy being out and about while I wild forage. 

The Veg Plot proper has just fetched up a good harvest of potatoes:

Bools looking a bit p*****d off because he thought he was going on a dog walk, and  thinks it a waste of his time to be involved in a photo shoot of the potato harvest! The Veg Plot itself has gone tatty. Planted rows of seeds, but a lot didn't come up this year, I think because the weather has been so topsy turvey. Yesterday it felt as if we had skipped into late Autumn, because it has turned chilly and autumnal, so the plants must be confused. Anyway, now Le Tracteur is here, Hubs / Farmer In Chief, is going to plough up the Back Field and put it into crops, mostly to feed our animals, in particular, the pigs. We reckon that they eat about 2kg each per day, which at the moment is made up of purchased grain and food from the kitchen. 

Menu de Jour:
Potatoes (cooked, battered ones from the harvest). Pasta (left over from lunch). Lettuce (bolted). Beetroot tops. Carrot tops. Figs ( squishy ones from jam making). Carrots (mouldy ones left in a bag). Courgette (donated by neighbour). Tomatoes (inside core). Tin of Coeurs de Palmiers (thought I would try them and - yuk!) Gravy ( cold and  gone stodgy). Plums (tops of, after prepping for jam). Avocado skin ( from starter at lunch time). Bread (end of, too hard and does my teeth in!). Mushrooms. (Were supposed to be for Breaded Mushrooms, but carton had gone off)

This, then, is what the Tess and Max can eat in one sitting. Most of that which I have listed are bits and pieces which would have landed up on the compost heap, there to be recycled by the crows, magpies, Bools, Gus, and assorted other wild life, but the bulk would be the potatoes. So next year, to decrease the amount of bought in grain, we have to increase the vegetable material we grow here. Phew! That's going to be a task and a half! But John Seymour, the smallholder's guru, says it can be done, so we will have a go. 

And that's that for today, friends. Oh, the river beach is back, which I think I mentioned the other day, although has been temporarily flooded over again by the rising of the river water after the recent rains. But in a couple of days time it will be dry enough to enjoy again. This is taken from the bridge. All the vegetation to the right is our woodland, and the beach joins our land so I can walk out onto it. If you would like to come sit and enjoy the river with me, then please feel free to do so......Otherwise, sending you the piecefulness which it most times has - when the cars aren't whizzing over the bridge, and the young boys aren't racing around on their buzz bikes or splashing about in the water, which is actually quite large chunks of time.

Friday 23 July 2010

Another house on the plot

And this is Tess coming to say hi, having had a glorious soak in the wallow, but not much mud adhering to her today as she has been busy in and out of her mud bath. Max, meanwhile, has pole position in the wallow, which he will not give up unless Tess jams herself down beside him with such force that he has to shift over to make room for her. Since she is bigger than him, she will win the day. However, he is likely to try and maintain his position, which will give rise to squeals of outrage from her at his selfishness. I kid you not, when that squeal erupts from her you would think all hell has been let lose.

As I say, not much mud on her today, nor on Max. Normally they are so plastered that they can hardly see from out of their eyes and Hubs /Head Pig Carer, has to clean them up a bit so they can see properly. But they have to do this because of the flies and other insects which frequently bother them. And it has been a tough couple of weeks for the two of them after Tess had her hissy fit with the original pig house. Oh I know that it was not quite big enough to fit the pair of them in it, but Max could have been less protective of his space and let her go in it occasionally. Which he might have done if she had not decided to use the pig arc as a tank to ram the fence on her first full day here. 

 So they have been camping out under the stars. Fortunately the weather has been kind, giving Hubs / Chief Builder, time to get their new house sorted out. 

Bless him, this is first proper build, done without any help from anyone else except Moi / General Go-For.

Max also likes to help. At this particular moment we are trying to get the electric fencing sorted out again, after having to resite elements of it to accomodate the new house. 

Tess also was unable to remain aloof to the electric fence work, by which time Hubs had his own hissy fit at the pair of them. Sometimes, just sometimes, they can be like naughty children.  And the electric wire did get into a hell of a tangle with their efforts at helping us. 

Time to make the bed, with Max helping again.  In goes a bale of straw, nicely fluffed up. 
And in the pair of them go to have an investigation. The first thing they did was to shift the straw so they could have a rummage in the ground below which was bit alarming for Hubs / Chief Site Engineer, because he thought that they were trying to dismantle the fabric of their house. But no. It was just a quick look to see if there were any tasty roots in the ground to nibble on. 

And here is the new house on the plot. Built entirely by Hubs, and looking, quite rightly, proud of himself. By the way, the long bars seeming to sit on top of the the hut are the road bridge railings. And those Tams have so fallen in love with their new house that they are ever hardly out of it. Which is good, since the window of good weather was just sufficient to get the house done. It has been cold and wet ever since, and it would have played on our nerves to think about the two of them without any shelter. 

And do you know that Tams snore? Well they do. They zizz away the same as the rest of us. I often tiptoe over to their place to have a look-see through the air openings, and there they are, having made nests in the straw, snug as anything and snoring away, with their noses in the straw so the flies can't bother them. Aw. 

And here are the two homes, the Tams and ours. Eventually there will be a farmyard effect on this field, with a housing estate of other little homes of various shapes and sizes to house other animals. In the back of our house will be a door leading into the 'Kitchen '/ Builder's Storage Depote so that we can commute more easily to and fro our animals. We have a long way to go. But as the saying goes: A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step!

Things I have learnt: That when trying to re wire an electric fence, it is best to keep the wire the other side of the fence as this is being done. Especially if one has two Tamworths. Who will be only to willing to interfere. And make a tangle. Which will therefore test one's patience no end. 

That other animals snore as well. And need a bed to rest in. 

And a quick note: My blessings to Barry, a fellow blogger, who recently passed away with cancer. May God be with you, my friend, and thankyou for sharing your life travels right up to the very end. x

Tuesday 20 July 2010

The Orange Thingumyjig

It was a peaceful afternoon. Then a big rumble was heard. Ah, Ron. Popping in on his way round and about France driving his big transporter. Stirling Trooper Ron, of Ron and Val, both of whom had already helped transport our two caravans to us from various locations, and set them up for us so we could live in them. And now here he was again, come to visit us. And this time he had this:

Le Tracteur, no less. Plus other assorted bits: log cutter, plough, topper. 

So: time for a cuppa. 'Twas hot. All were sweaty. But excitement was in the air, so no time to linger. The tractor was woken up from its nap under the oak tree, and out into the Side Field Ron drove it. 

Man Pow-wow time:

This lever does this, that button does that, those pedals do  this, that, and the other. Le Tracteur was started and off Ron sent Lester. Round the perimeter of the field at a gentle chug-chug he went, with a grin a mile wide on his face. 

Oh, and by the way, this is the field in which the Dock Wars are still in motion. You can see their front line in the background. The ground I have won is the green bit. 

And then Ron got on board Le Tracteur and had a run up and down himself. With great enthusiasm written all over his face he ploughed through a line of dock weeds. Lester had already done quite a trim. A problem: the field would have been entirely cut of all dock weeds, judging by the enthusiasm which these two tractor drivers were showing towards the task of cutting them down. But then, all those millions of seeds would have been put into the ground. And I felt a fear that this should happen. That by cutting them down, they were winning the day. 

So I did stop those two men. Said "Enough, come inside for something to eat". It worked. The remaining docks, of which there are thousands, still stand tall. Most of the seed is still on them, apart from a small percentage which stick to the fleece of the sheep when they push through them. I suspect that next year, when the fleece is cut, that when I start working on the fleece to spin it, that I will be having to get those damn seeds from out amongst the fibres of the fleece. 

And so I continue to manually cut those docks down, putting them into big bags which are then carried out into the back where they are burned. No-one can understand why I do this. Sometimes I can't either. But my instinct says that if it is not done that the field will be lost. That the docks will hold full sway over the grass. 

So: The plan is that I cut them down, then hand the field over to Tractor Driver Hubs so that he can then use his machine to keep all vegetative growth to nine inches, which according to John Seymour, the guru for all smallholders, is the right height of grass. This should also stop the onrush of the docks, because they will be kept clipped so that they can't send up large seed heads ever again. Oh I know that they will still try, even perhaps managing to get some small sprouts to flower, but they will be tiny and therefore not a threat to the overall welfare of the field. 

Therefore, Trainee Tractor Driver Hubs has to practice for the day when he has management of the Side Field. 

A trial run in the Back Field, which he has been mowing with an ancient petrol lawnmower. It was a nervous time. Would Le Tracteur start? Would he manage the plethora of knobs and things? Would he mow down the young fruit trees? Would he fetch up in the river?

And here he is. One very happy man, trundling off into the distance, mowing his first field, enjoying being a Farmer Man. It was grand day for him. It was a grand day for me as well because he also managed to cut a wide path almost down to the river so it is easier for me to reach the mewly emerging river beach. 

Things I have learnt: that the Universe will provide you with what you need, even if you have to then find the money to pay for what is provided! That there are some very special people around in this world: immeasurable thanks to Ron (and Val).


Monday 12 July 2010

Stickiness, rompings, & bangings

And with super endeavour, here is the end product of the first jamming session. Approached with nervousness at first because I didn't want to ruin the fruit Hubs had recently picked, soon this was overcome as the pot began to bubble. 

Meanwhile Hubs was banging away outside, making the pig arbre to replace the one which Tess had seen fit to try and use as an armoured tank. 

 Not that she intended to make a break through the fence, and I am sure it was an accident that when she was wearing the ex-pig hut that the fence got rammed. You can see the remainder of this hut behind Hubs, who is at this very moment making a brand new  arbre for them. Much banging, digging, marching about with vigourous intent, and 'Do you know where ...... is' as he tries to find various tools which are generally scattered about the property. But I think he is learning that if he doesn't put things away after he has used them, then he will have to spend hours trying to locate them again when next he needs them.

Meanwhile: the jamming continued. Oh why do I end up with such a sticky mess? Is it part of the jam making experience? 
Last year I was jamming in the kitchen caravan, which produced a really awful amount of stickiness, so in comparison this is not too bad. I thought the towel underneath my working area was a good idea as it stopped some of the stickiness migrating. Must remember to put it in the dirty washing basket and not inadvertently put it back onto the towel rail where it normally resides, ready to assist in drying Hubs off when he has his occasional shower. 

Meanwhile: Tess and Max were rumbling about in their pen as Hubs was working beside them, making their new house. They didn't seem to be put off by the bangings and sawings that was going alongside them. Perhaps because Max was intent in having his way with Tess, and she was being sometimes coy sometimes keen sometimes bored. But he did  eventually get a home run. Several times, Hubs said. They spent the afternoon snuggled up in the wallow together. And quietness reigned. Since she came here there has been squeals, snorts, growls, grumbles, and grunts going on for much of the time. But it is quieter today. Perhaps because the job of procreation has been done. A bit quick, actually. Piglets next year, was more our intent. Ah well. 

And the male ram has been airing his undercarriage as well. Bless. 

Returning to the subject of stickiness: it was suggested to me by my French neighbour last year, that I turn the jam pots upside down after putting their cover on them. Obviously my first attempt to do this was unsuccessful! Not to worry, contents were not wasted, just scooped up and put into another jar. Notice to self: make sure the jam pot covers and lids are firmly in place before following through with this suggestion again.

So off out into the Side Field to do some more dock week cutting. Good for my back, good for the fresh air of the early summer morning,  good for my ongoing lesson of learning patience.

And homemade jam is a glorious thing to have when the year closes down. Sort of makes one feel connected to the summer sun. It is also good to know where it has come from, and that it has not been mass produced. Taking responsibility for what we eat, that is what smallholding is all about. 

Message to self (1): Do try not to keep sampling spoonfuls of the new jam. 
Message to self (2): Keep putting that one foot forward each day. 
Message to self (3): Smile when you see that very large field still mostly full of dried up seed heads of dock.


Thursday 8 July 2010

Dribbles down the chin

With a grin a mile wide, Hubs proudly handed me a peach. Fresh off the tree only moments before. Still warm from the sun. I bit into it. The flesh was soft and squelchy. So squelchy that the juices overwhelmed my mouth and dribbled down my chin. Plop. Onto my t-shirt. And my hands became sticky with the juice as other tiny dribbles ran  over them. And my arms grew tiny rivulets of stickiness as well, as tiny juice rivers ran over my skin. It was a joyous moment. The first peaches of the year. The start of the harvest. 

And Hubs and I relished those peaches, for they were hard earned after all the hard work Hubs had put into planting, watering and tending those young trees. 

Then: a decision. To pick or not to pick. We dawdled with the decision. But the birds took the decision away from us by munching the rest of the peaches themselves.  Hubs got into quite a rage over this, and quite rightly too. So, next crop to come in: the apricots. Still rock hard, could be left for a few days. Ah, but those birds! And what about that great big black cloud signalling a thunder storm on the way. So no dawdling this time. 


Still rock hard, could be left for a few days. Ah, but those birds! And what about that great big black cloud signalling a thunder storm on the way. So no dawdling this time. 

With a determination not to enhance the food table of the feathered population, Hubs poughed on with the apricot harvest.

Et voila! Proudly he shows you his first crop of apricots. And then he went and dug up the onions and garlic:

And then he clambered about in the fig tree and gathered the first harvest of figs:

Not a lot, but enough to make several pots of fig jam. So that's what I am going to do now: jamming. Apricots jam, and fig jam. Oh we could eat the fruit, but then in the middle of winter we wouldn't have the jam to remind us of the summer days. On a cold wintry day there is nothing like opening a pot of homemade jam made in the heat of the summer. 

And then there are the runner beans I have started harvesting, and freezing. and we are still at the start of the harvest season! Loads of work. Which is very rewarding. It is as if one is storing up a the sunshine, jamming and freezing our produce.
Meanwhile: In the pig pen there is a power struggle for the wallow. Prime position is with the back against the wall of the wallow. Max seems to be able to grab this position first, leaving Tess standing up, and trying to get him to shift by prodding him with her snout. He ignores her. After a while she either gives up and sinks down in whatever bit of the wallow she can manage to get into, or she gets out and goes stand in the shade of the oak tree. Either way, she is not entirely happy but nor is she seething like she was the other day. But somehow both of them manage time in the wallow because both are caked with mud, which dries to form a thick crust over their skin, thus protecting them from the hungry blood sucking insects.

Her rumble voice seems to have quietened down though, but Max seems to have raised his voice up a  notch especially when she is standing directly behind him. Then he does the lion-rumble deep down in his throat. Not sure what that is all about, but I think that Tess aggravates him deliberately by standing just close enough for Max's tale to not be able to do its normal twitching movement. When he is fed up with not being to do his swaggering twitch of the tail, he turns round and buts her in the lower stomach, at which movement she lets out a squeal so loud that one momentarily thinks the poor little girl has been done unto in a dreadful manner. 

Things I have learnt: that smallholding is terrifically hard work, such that I tend to lurch towards my bed at night because I am so exhausted, but when working with one's harvest, there is nothing to beat the pleasure that comes from laying up that harvest for the dark days of winter.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Tess's Hissy Fit

A loud thud boded ill. From the direction of Max and Tess it came. Out I rushed to see what had happened. Could see Max. No Tess. But then the pig arc did a spin and leap, and out she came from inside it, in one hell of a mood as was obvious by her hunched shoulders and generally cross demeanour. Not to worry, though, because the arc was still in the centre of the pen, well away from the fences. 

Back to the washing up I went, wondering how long Hubs would be, him having gone to the local sawmill to purchase wood for a new pig house. Another crash sounded, more ominous than the first. Out again I rushed. The arc was now jammed against the fences. To the electic box I went to switch off the current to the electric fencing. Didn't know if the arc was 'live' it now resting against one of the electric posts, so best to switch it off in case one of the pigs got fried. Raced back to the house. Grabbed some pig food. And camera. Rushed back to pen. Tess's rear was protruding from the arc. Looked like she was getting ready for another lift and heave. I yelled, trying to get her attention. She paused. Then pushed further inside. I grabbed a long piece of wood. Raced round to the arc. Banged on the roof, yelling all the while. Out she came. Man of man, but  she was one cross lady. Her shoulders were hunched and she emanated tension. She wanted the arc. Badly.


In she started to go again. With my stick I banged  frantically on the arc. With my voice I yelled. With my other hand I continued the camera-shoot. Max was busy elsewhere.

She changed her mind. Backed out again. And stood there psyching me out. You can see you tense she is. But then so would you be if you had had your babies taken away from you all in one go, then travelled in a campervan, then spent the night out under the stars in a strange place while the other pig had the safety of his pig arc. Nevertheless, I stood and psyched her back. We stood eyeballing each other for several minutes. I threw down some food to coax her into good humour. She turned her nose up at it.

But Max didn't. In he came, pushing Tess to one side with a thump in her abdomen to show he was still The Man. Infront of the arc he stood, as I drip fed him morsels of food, hoping to keep him in situ thus preventing Tess from getting inside the arc and bull dozing her way through the fence like an armoured tank. 

And then I looked over my shoulder at the road and the bridge behind me. And a badger was walking over the bridge, in the road, and then turned down our lane. A badger, crikey, a badger of all things. Not a cat. Or dog. Nor any other small creature of similar size. It was a badger. 'We don't have badgers around here' one bit of my mind said. And the other bit answered back 'Then what is a badger doing walking down the lane', then another bit of my mind said 'What the hell is it doing walking down the middle of a main road in the middle of the morning', these conversations coming to a halt as I yelled at Gus not to go investigate, me not wanting to have to untangle Gus from a situation, meanwhile leaving Tess to keep on with her assault on the arc.

And I had a moment of fazed-ness. Of the world being a very odd place sometimes. 

And then Hubs returned. Came out. Climbed in.

Tess, meanwhile, pretended indifference, as if the mischief caused was not done by her. But she was still cross. Nothing for it, but to get the arc out of the pen. Only way to do that was by doing this:

....upending the arc, not helped by the jostling of Max and Tess. At this point, Hubs said would I mind stopping photo-shooting as he thought I ought to help him get it sorted. Which I did. 

And lots of bangs and whacks and expletives later, this is the 'to be recycled' ex pig arc. 

And a strange thing: As the arc was dismantled, the tension seemed to ebb away from Tess. As if she had concenctrated all her angst in life on the arc, and now it was no more, then so too was her angst, such that a few hours later:

Please enlarge this photo, because it is one of joyful wallowing. Of two very content pigs having a soak in the water. There is nothing like seeing two pigs in the wallow. They ooze such contentment that one wishes one could get in there with them if one were of their animal type. 

And she has been a good girl ever since. 

However: She has this alarming tendency to sound like a lion. Not a roaring with open mouth lion, but one that rumbles away deep in its throat. That's what she does, a deep throated rumble that is quite alarming to hear at first. One half expects her to turn into some gigantic monster, but no, all she does is do this rumble. Nor does she charge at the fence in a manic attempt to escape. As I have said, since the arc is no more, so too is her ill humour. So I don't know what that rumble-speak is all about, but I am getting used to it, although at first I quite thought we actually did have a lion type animal around, especially since the acoustics of the courtyard tend to amplify any sounds coming in from the surrounding land.

Things I have learnt: That lady pigs can have 'bad hair' days as well, especially if they have recently been rehomed, and then suffered the idignity of having to spend a night outside while The Man spends his night under cover, and then wants to do boy-girl stuff the next day. 
Not to worry. Hubs is making a new home for them. We had erroneously thought that the old arc was going to be big enough for both of them, assuming that since Tess was a female she would automatically be smaller than him. Not so. She is a big lady. So both of them are sleeping out under the stars now. Bless.

Monday 5 July 2010


All is quiet. No movement around anywhere, including the campervan, sitting out back under the oak tree:

Ah, someone wakes up:

Tess. Foggy with sleep. Not best pleased with still being in her travelling vehicule. But here. Time to get her sorted:

Hubs is here too, after having driven her back from the Charente, six hours away, making a twelve hour round trip. And here he is undoing the electric fence wire which I had to clamber over last night to feed Max, who is at this moment eating his breakfast over the other side of the pen. 

Operation 'Get Tess Out Of The Van' begins. She is reluctant, still fazed from her recent road trip, but a pot of food under her nose is leading her forward.....

And down the make-shift wooden ramp, gingerly she shovels her way into her new life.

But Hubs rattles the pot of food, cooing and chatting to her, to encourage her forward. She comes.

And here she is. The bare patches along her back are from the scratching post in her pervious home. Tams like to rub themselves with a vigour which is quite alarming to behold. When  Max arrived and promptly took advantage of his hut by using that as his scratching post, we thought he would end up with no skin, such was his enthusiasm to have a scratch. But now he does this hardly at all. It might be because his wallow is quite deep so he is most times smothered in mud, dried or otherwise. Quite frankly this makes him look a mess, but he is living his life as he needs to live it, and if needs to have the pleasure of mud to cool his skin down, then so be it.  The sheep have their 'down between the thighs of my neighbour' habit, and also their coats of wool.  Max has his coat of mud, which, I think, also deters some of the biting insects, the dried mud acting as a barrier to the probe of the would be taker of the blood.

And Max is met. He is on the left. She is on the right. And she is big. So big, in fact, that she can go inside Max's hut and reposition it by lifting it on her back and re-siting it. Twice she has done this. The hut is very heavy. She is one strong girl. 

And the battle begins. Well, not 'battle' really, just Max showing Tess that he is The Man and this is His Patch. Round and round he chases her. But no malice, just the need for Max The Man to show her that he is the boss. 

And I fear that the campervan will never be quite the same again. But then we can't get it registered here anyway, so it may as well finish out its days as a workhorse. Who would have thought, when we first bought it ten years ago, back in the UK, that it would fetch up getting elderly on a small farm in France. Life is queer with its twists and turns, as no doubt the campervan said to itself as Tess looked out of its windows at the passing cars during her road trip.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Ou est Hubs?

Hubs is absent from his post of Head Gardener/ Chief Shepherd/ Keeper of the Livestock, etc.


What do you notice. A Helpful Hint for you: Where is the electric fence? It is BEHIND Max. What does that mean? That the person taking the photo is standing beside Max. With him. In his pen. And now who does all these photo-shoots. Moi. 

And here is a really grotty photo of 'Moi'. But look where my hand is resting. On the back of Max! 

So with Hubs away from his post, it fell to me to feed les animaux. Rabs easy. Dogs easy. Max....ooh my tum went all silly as I turned off the electric fence, undid the gate, cocked my leg ever so high to get it over the electic wires, cocked the other leg over to join the first, and then I was into Max's space. Down went his head, into the food I had just put out for him. There it remained while I did his water bucket, and then I decided to give him a bit of a hug, which he took in good grace. 

But.......I did it. Next the sheep. Of late they have had to be called in, but not tonight. As I was having another nervous tummy spell, wondering how I was going to get them across the lane single handed, I saw them all gathered around the gate waiting for me, bless them. They were soft with me as I opened the gate, and did a straight and true gallop right into their Arbre, leaving me with tears in my eyes at the site of their bouncing rears. 

So: where is Hubs? Somewhere in France. In the campervan. With a lady. 

He is at this very moment bringing home our first female Tamworth pig. Apparently she went into the campervan very well, but did not like the curtains closed, so she opened them so she could have a look-see at what was going on. As Hubs travels along the roads of France, what are the French going to think, when they see an English plated campervan, with a reddish coloured pig looking out of the windows!

Hubs was worried about being stopped by the Gendarmerie. I said "Just say that you taking your lady pig out for the evening".

Friday 2 July 2010

65130 592

65130 592: 65 is our region of the Haute Pyrenees. 130 is the number of our commune (Castelnau Riviere Basse). 592 is us. Add all this up together and you get 65130592. And that is our Cheptel number, individual to us, got at Tarbes yesterday after filling in some forms with the help of a young lady who had a fetching cream bra on which we could see everytime she leaned over to explain certain aspects of the form. Bless him, but Hubs managed to stay concentrated on his French nevertheless. 

And what it means is that we now have to put ear tags into the ears of our sheep, and our goats when we get them (chevre du noir are favourite at the moment). We don't know about the pigs because the young lady all of a sudden got into a hurry, scribbled an address for us to go to where people would apparently explain to us certain things. Not sure what those 'certain things' were, as couldn't understand her all of a sudden speeded up French. What we didn't realise was that it was 5 o'clock and time to shut the offices, so we are none the wiser as to what to do about legalising Max.
So why do we have to have ear tags? Because that makes us legal, and that if we sell any of our animals then they can go to the purchaser with the appropriate paper work, the paper work which no one else seems to bother with, because the animals we have already bought have not come with any paper work. But ours will. And our sheep will have pretty ear tags in their ears as well. Which will come in the post. Together with the necessary implement to put the tags in the ears.  I guess a bit like putting ear rings in us really. Hope the sheep don't yelp, only I remember doing a bit of a moan when I had my ears pierced a few years ago.

On the subject of Gussy:

 Gussy has found a new role for himself, and that is Guardian of the Door Mat. This means he can monitor all activity in and around the Courtyard as well as in the house itself, meanwhile he can avail himself of the comfort of a bit of carpet and have a bit of a snooze when things are quiet. 

Bools is usually to be found either underneath the Bedroom Caravan when it is hot, or hanging around the kitchen if I am busy cooking. His new role, now that he no longer has to use his energies up making sure Gussy does not step out of line, is Chaser of the Lizards. For some reason, this year he has become keen to guard us from these little creatures, who scamper up and down, round and about. And I am sure they tease him. In the above photo one has just shot past his feet, and in the underneath photo Bools is on the Chase while Hubs encourages him. They would both been in trouble if they had knocked over my plant pots.
Anyway, back to Gus. He has got to be trimmed. He is OK about his top half being done, but not his under-carriage. If I go anywhere near that area, then his lips sort of lift up a bit, thus exposing his gleaming sharp white teeth. 

Now it is of paramount importance that this area is sorted out, him liking to get wet either by romping in the ditches, or swimming in the river and then finishing off with a sleep on the ground, normally where the builders have been working, the ground therefore carrying a mixture of gravel, sand and cement, which mix really well with the moisture still in Gus's coat, the mix then drying nice and hard in the warmth of the sun. Ipso Facto. A mess. 

Not to worry. A visit to the vets has provided a solution for the trimming out of the mess: 1 cloth muzzle. 4 tranquillizers. The tablets take two hours to work, so care must be taken to keep him in the house, only a dozy Gussy is likely to slide away for a sleep under the ex-Kitchen Caravan, or behind the very heavy leather settees in the house. To get him out from either sleeping position will not be easy. 

But as far as Guardian of the Door Mat, he is ace. As shown recently when the young girl-builder who works for Danny (our builder man), did a peremptory knock at the open door above Gus's head. His response was to bite her. Not hard. And she did have jeans on. And his aim did collide with her phone in her pocket, and not flesh. And if she had only 'hallooed' in a lady like fashion I am sure he would not have been inspired to do Guard Dog Duty, only her knock was most unlady-like and quite threatening, after all everyone else just walks over his head and most times he ignores the people traffic, although if it is near lunch time then maybe he might do a bit of voice work just to remind us that he on the job and not slacking, and therefore worthy of his dinner should there be any coming his way. 

He is a sweet soul though. Normally. But it is nice to know that he will do guard duty if necessary. And him and the builder-girl are friends, as indeed everyone is with him, because he really is the cutest dog and very brave. 

And a lovely surprise:

On cleaning out the one and only cupboard in my temporary kitchen, eveything else being kept in plastic boxes, I did a general sort out of pots. Having been in a super duper chutney making mode last year, I made loads of Tomato Chutney of which there were still a few pots left all of which were going to be donated to Max the Pig to recycle. 

And there, right at the back of the stack of pots, was the last pot of Plum Jam. Gone un-opened because it was thought to be  Elderberry Jam which was not liked at all by Hubs because he said it was too pippy. Fair enough. I didn't pick the elderberries early enough, so they had manufactured some stirlingly strong pip seeds inside themselves, such that the jam pot only really comprised sugar and pips. 

Anyway, opened the jar of jam, dipped my finger into it to see if it was still pippily awful, and no! No pips! Just pieces of gorgeous plum. Now forgive me if I am going on, but after finishing off the last of the homemade jam several weeks ago, this was a divine delight. So: a cup of tea, a slice of toast (note: homemade bread) with homemade Plum Jam. Wahooo!!!

Re: The Sheep Scrum:
And here is a small example of the scrum I mentioned. This time the sheep are in a line, with their heads all down rather than being in a proper rubgy-type scrum, but I  wanted to show you what I was talking about. This scrum seemed to be more about putting their head together rather than up each others rear end, although the ewe on the right is in that position. 

Also, on the subject of docking (cutting the tails off at birth). None of ours have been done, and I was worrying lest this be something we ought to address. Docking is supposed to keep the rear end of the sheep clean, do that when they poo it does not get stuck to their tales. But on observing our sheep, I have noticed that they use their tails as flyswats, flicking them to and fro to ward off the flies. Therefore, in my opinion, they do need their tails. And I don't mind that this means extra work for me when it comes to cleaning their fleece prior to spinning it after they have been sheared. A bit of poo is no problem. After all, it is only recycled grass. 

And a thought: Is this why they put their faces beneath each other rears: To have a free and effortless flyswatting service? 
Things to do before the day is done: Go and have a lie down to think about life. It is, after all, very hot here. Go and pat Max, to let him know he is going to have a friend soon. Explain to Gus that having his undercarriage sorted out will be good for his Jock Rash. And to say thanks for visiting.