Friday 24 December 2010

Season's Greetings

Just wanted to wish you all a Joyeux Noel.
And take time out to recharge your batteries,
So that you can be ready to hit 2011 on the chin,
And have the courage to make those decisions which have been put off for too long.
'I can do': let that be your motto for the New Year.

And today we found a stash of eggs, hidden away behind the wood being dried in the gateway. Unfortunately Gus and Bools raided the hideaway and got to the eggs before we remembered to pick them up. Message To Selves: Always pick up eggs when first we see them as other members of the household will seize the opportunity for a snack.

And so it came to pass, that in the Land of the Chicken Hut unrest began oozing into all who resided there. A voice began to speak. A voice hitherto without shape or form. Just a gargled croak. A couple of coughs really. That was all. But this voice started growing, each time a little bit more. And The White Cockerel took umbrage at this strange sound. For was not he the King of the Patch. The Chosen One. The One who had The Voice. And so he felt driven to speak out about his kingship. At many moments of the day he felt the need. And still that odd sounding voice did speak. And over time it began emulating the flow of The White Cockerel's voice. But not the sound. The White Cockerel's voice was high and bright. T'other one was dark and gruff.

But who was the one who was making this sound. Who was the usurper to the kingship. Which princeling had arisen from out of the flock, because that is what that sound was saying. 'I am a king in waiting, and dare you to upset me oh White Cockerel, and I will take you down'.

'Twas not good. But who?

So Her and Him started keeping an eye on the members of the Land. And it was observed by Her that the young black chicken was the likely candidate for the mischief, Her noticing that he was starting to grow quite a fancy dancy tail, and a bright red flash of flesh upon his head. Him was not so sure. And he was right. For he espied Young Black Cockerel's friend, the Plump Brown Chicken suddenly raise up 'her' head and make that deep dark song.

But what is this now! How can this be. For was this not the next canditate for the egg laying championships? Was she not oozing feminity, with lovely plump thighs, and a partly bushy bum. I say 'partly bushy' because Her had become a little fazed by the sight of two cockerel-type feathers swishing up from out of the chicken's rear which no other girls in the Land sported. And so where was the red flash of masculinity on the head as well! No, this was a Hen in waiting to start laying, this is what Her said. But Him said, "No. She is a He", his assessment justified when 'She/He' did that song.

Uno problemo now in the Land. The White Cockerel holds pole position, but the Young Black One-eyed Cockerel ('one eyed' because he got poked about at birth after his early eviction from the nest) seems to be an up and coming princeling. However. It would appear that there is another princeling, who is more like a princess, who is coming from out of the ranks as well.

Uno questiono: Should the Black One-eye be allowed to stand up to the White Cockerel? Or should Whitey be allowed to keep tending his girls? And should Brown CockHen be allowed to develop whatever sexuality he/she has, even perhaps becoming the King, or Queen? Or should he/she be put into the pot. Along with One-eye, who is a nervous wreck because he is unable to see incoming attacks from the others when they have a mind to put him in his place as a very, very, under-princeling. For some reason, the others do not do this to Brown CockHen.

These questions, my friend, will have to be answered if peace is to reign once more in the Land.

And why, pray tell, is the Land being attacked from below. For of late there has been uprisings in the earth beneath their very feet. Fresh soil is seen in new piles daily. Is this a manifestation of the unrest within The Flock? Princelings, you see, make the Chosen One want to reinforce his position as king. This he does frequently. From 5.30 in the morning. Sometimes earlier. Is this why the soil is in revolt?

And is this unrest within the very soil the reason why The White Cockerel has seen fit to relocate the Land.

And this is his chosen residence. Or so he would like. For has he not taken one of the Virgin Hens to a new nest site especially chosen by himself and just inside the huge new house of the Land. And did she not unvirgin herself and lay her very first egg in that chosen spot. Is this not significant for a renewal of life in a new Land.

But then a dreadful noise was heard, and the White Cockerel and his ladies became dire afraid. And fled they back to the old Land, complete with its unrestful soil. For another Him had come, and he did have two appliances: one which made musique loud and strident to Whitey's ears, and the other made rumbles which jiggled the very toe nails on his feet.

But let us not feel sorrow for the woes of the Land. For as is the manner of all things, these troubles will pass in the fulness of time. Dark though that voice is, the lightness and brightness of Whitey's voice will hold sway. For the time being. Him and Her watch.

So wishing all in the Land of the Chicken Hut, and all in the Land of the Humans, Joyeux Noel......xx

Thursday 23 December 2010


Plenty of wagging tails, friendly licks, and doggy romps between Springer boy Bools and Springer girl Ella.  Would they, or wouldn't they make babies. No, they wouldn't. When Bools was willing, Ella wasn't. When Ella was keen, Bools was off the boil.

Not to worry, I got to have an adventure, paddle in some snow, and have a proper shower, the first for a very long time.

So where did I go? Across to the Ari├Ęge, four hours drive time away, or three hours if car driven by someone else, only I do have a tendency to dawdle along because I like to look at the scenery as I travel, being of the opinion that since I might not travel this way again, that it is best to pay attention. Get maximum benefit. Enjoy. Could do a rush and be fixated by time and the need to arrive. Not me.

Not sure about the logistics of getting Bools and Ella into parenthood, though. For now, at any rate, they remain friends only.

It was a good trip.

To return was even better.

Sunday 19 December 2010

And then were three!

Ahha! First efforts at doing a vid! Cuts off a bit quick at the end, and the vid is a bit blurry, but at least I had a go! Also might take a while to upload. Hubs /Head IT Man, says I have to 'compress the file'. Clueless as to how I should to that, so left it up to Google to sort out. Any helpful hints in regards to uploading vids would be much appreciated. Also any help with the picture quality would also be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

You could also try:

But most importantly: Lookee here: (You will need to make the photo larger though)

So: House in the background. Tall Barn to the right, roof almost finished.
In front: The sheep. In centre of photo the two new born lambs, doing a frolic. Swing your eyes right towards the two sheep far right. What do you see? sheep plus (yes, - go one.....) another lamb? CORREct!!!! Trois enfants!

Into the Sheep Barn yesterday went Hubs / Head Honcho SheepMan. Saw one lamb. Looked for the other one. Good. Survived their first night outside in Sheep Barn and not inside the Half Barn. Mum OK. Hubs sinking into his early morning fugginess. Jolted out of his fug  he became though, when he saw a third lamb. Thought his eyes were playing tricks on him he did!

So where had this new one arrived from? Well, from a ewe we thought not to be in expectant mode, having remained very trim and looking so different to all the other sheep who are, quite frankly, getting to be a bunch of tubbies. Anyway, she surprisingly gave unto us another infant. So that makes three! Crikey!

Can't stay too long writing this, only we have had an urgent phone call from Catherine down in the Pyrenees. Prior arrangements in regards to Ella. Needs help with making the future generation. Time is now.

So off in the car I go to help out, taking Bools with me. Reluctantly he will sit in the back seat, looking forlorn and miserable. Four hours later (with a bit of luck and no snow blockages) he will suddenly become bright eyed and full of 'I can do this job you have given me to do'. So wish Bools good luck, as he journeys forth with me as his chauffeuresse, down to Ariege to go courting Ella, a lovely Springer Spaniel just like he is.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Oi! What yoos doing in ma hoos!

And so a member of the Labartere crew moves into the Half Barn. The same snuggly, draft free, insulated space, which has been designated as the sleeping quarters for us, The Head Honchos. 

Look! Here she is again! All toasty and warm. Because, at dawn yesterday, on the most freezing of days (-5) she decided to deliver unto us these:

Aw! Two littl'uns. So here we go again! Only this time we are wiser and more experienced, so we acted quickly. No time to dawdle. Get them into the warmest space on the property. And so the Half Barn it was.

She didn't go too much on the idea, though, but followed her babies as Head Shepherd & Co carried the littl'uns out of the Sheep Barn and into the Half Barn, despite Bools and Gus romping around getting in everyone's way, and the chickens clucking and flapping in horror at this hugest of animals which seemed to be invading their space.

A tarp had been laid down on the floor, straw piled upon it, the builder and gardening paraphanalia shoved back to make floor space, and fencing wire stretched across wall to wall. There! Home for now!

Sunny afternoon: out she went to stretch her legs and get some grass.

And so the cycle of life continues on.....

Last Sunday I did a 'down day'. Floated around in my dressing gown until lunchtime. Even laid outside on the garden bench to get some sunshine to my legs. (Pardon my odd socks!) It's not so cold today either. Until one starts unpeeling the layers. I have seven on up top. Plus hat. Plus scarf. Just three layers on the lower half. Two pairs of socks. Boots. And that's indoors! So I don't feel cold. But try undressing to go to bed at night, and that is another matter! Boy oh boy is it chilly! Not to worry. Sunny days do appear, and the bod can then get some heat into its bones when it does. 

According to Jean Pierre, our roofer, who has had all his appendages frozzled whilst clambering about on the Tall Barn roof, it is going to snow tomorrow. Not to worry, though. We are plodding through winter, nearly Christmas and therefore half way through the long nights. I am not wanting to wish my life away, but every day of winter that one gets through is another step towards Spring.

Am out tonight. Have joined a choir, and we are having a practice tonight. Concert on Saturday. It is partly English, but mostly French. The English are singing English carols, and the French are singing French ones. Then we sing some together. Normally the choir sings as a whole unit, and in French. Should stretch my ability  in regards to the French language. Might improve me. I can only hope! Sang with the English contingent in a Maison de retraite. (Care Home) yesterday, up in Castelnau village. Seemed weird singing in a French Care Home for the elderly. Still seems surreal, me being here, in France.

So jobs to get on with: break the ice from the water containers for all, drizzle some hay into the pig arbre so they can have a mid-day snack, have a hunt for some eggs (chickens been clucking about all morning. Sounds like they are recce-ing out some new nest sites, but have been finding two eggs per day for the last three days ), check on the new mum and her lambs who are out in the field stretching their legs, tea to warm Jean Pierre up, tea to warm Hubs / Head Shepherd/ Keeper of the Fire up ( we have our log fire on today. Normally light it at six in the evening, but Head Fire Keeper decided that enough was enough, and so he lit the fire at ten this morning), and I thought I would put the Christmas tree up. The same Christmas tree which had not seen the light of day for at least seven years, having remained boxed up both in the UK and here. But it fell out of its box the other day, and is residing on the floor in what will be the kitchen. Thought that it was telling me to get my bott into gear. Like an omen. 'Get me dressed up, or else....'

Oh so now all I have to do is find the Chrissy decs.........

Hope you remain in good spirits. Hope the winter cold is not getting you down.

Saturday 11 December 2010

R. I. P.

I went to a cremation yesterday. Didn't have to go far. Just a few metres. Stayed in farm gear: wellies, woolly hat, thermals, - the usual.
There was a bit of a bang when the match was thrown, though. Actually it was more like a mini explosion. It was the petrol, you see. Makes quite a blast when combined with an open flame.

Hubs kept me company for a while, then off to Plaisance with the car for its two yearly MOT. It failed. Now wears a label saying that it is an illegal car. Ten things wrong: windscreen crack, a leak somewhere in the internals, head lights, etc. Costly. So there goes the rebate he has just had from the Inland Revenue.

I attended the cremation for a while afterwards, though. Reflecting on life. Of the frailty of it. Of having to take decisions that are for the best, but are, nevertheless, still hard.

Wobbly lamb? Making good piles of little round balls of poo two days ago. Had a good day of feeding off milk and hay. Head up. Legs still not working. But wagging his tail at me. And calling for me when he knew I was nearby. Next morning: poo making a return to its watery state. Head laid down.

We got him up, supporting his weight. His body has changed shape. Got more pudgy round the middle, legs looking spindlier.

He took his weight on his front legs. Oh good. They seemed to be working. But what about his back legs. Why did they remained curled, disinterested.

And it came upon us the knowledge that perhaps all of his four legs were never going to work again as they should. Two in front looked like they were willing, but the back two, no.

We laid him down. His head flopped over. His eyes closed. All effort expired. So we expired him.

It is no good to keep pushing life into a living creature that has not the spirit to meet you halfway. That living creature must want to live, must want to keep in life, and you must see it in their eyes if you are going to keep up with the support work.

So we stood as a team, and expired the lamb. And it was to his cremation I went. No recycling into the freezer for him. Just a fast despatchment in total.

And so the steep learning curve continues.

RIP little lamb, and thankyou for contributing to that learning curve.

Thursday 9 December 2010

The wobbly lamb

One of our lambs is not doing so good at the moment. Came off his feet on Sunday and has stayed off his feet ever since. I think he gave up after spending an hour or so in a ditch Sunday afternoon and we didn't notice, being too busy elsewhere. He isn't injured, but has a runny tum. Have put him back on his bottle of milk, and prop him up despite his tendency to flop over, and pack him around with hay to nibble on. I do physiotherapy on his legs to remind him that he does have four legs, and keep changing his position so he doesn't get bed sores. If he wants to give up, he can. But not on my watch!

Up on the Tall Barn roof, all is well. Up and down the ladder Jean Pierre and helpmate Tony go, carrying the roof tiles on their shoulders. Crikey but that ladder has a million rungs on it! Those men must have strong thighs. Might be a good idea if I did a bit of ladder climbing. Haven't climbed a staircase in ages, and I think my legs will have a hell of a moan when they are next confronted with anything going upwards which has more than one step to it!

It has been summer here the last couple of days, and this morning it was as if spring had arrived. But then the weather decided it would stop messing about, and it has turned chillier the last couple of hours. The last couple of days, though, coming into the house has been like walking into a freezer, with the outside temperatures high enough to require a removal of the top several layers of clothing.

Ahho....chickeny sounds in the hallway. Better go shoo them out. Just a minute.....(a little while later) No, they weren't in the hallway. They were having a recce in the kitchen! And that is where I ought to be heading, with an empty space in my head where 'cooking thoughts' should be. So homemade pizza it is today!

And the lovely weather has given us some respite from the coldness of winter, and I am hoping that this might inspire the chickens to donate more than one egg a day, which is all the effort they are making at the moment. Fifteen chickens, one egg between the lot of them. Not good.

It's no use, can't spend any more time chatting to you. Just remembered I am supposed to be having a rehearsel this afternoon with the French flute playing lady, so had better get a move on.

Bye for now.

Friday 3 December 2010

So what I am doing is...

So what I am doing is trying to get back in the saddle with my writing. I have a huge list of book titles to work through, all coming into my head at odd times over the past few years. All I now need is the words to fill in those books. Where they are I do not know. Waiting to be found, I hope. I keep trying to search the closets in my head, but nope! It's like searching through a dusty attic for an elusive article that refuses to be found. So I thought I would write to you instead!

How are you? Most people seem to be experiencing snow. The UK and France up north. South of us as well, according to our roofer who is still working, despite freezing temperatures, putting on the Tall Barn's hat. But us? Nope! Feel quite left out. Anyway, if you have snow, throw a snow ball for us, and keep warm. This you are likely to be doing more efficiently than we are.

Because: 1) We have a small wood burning stove which was destined for the ex Pig/Chicken/ Office Hut. That was installed in the room which is now the sitting room/office/workroom.
2) We have a humungous pile of wood which was the entire wood complement of the house. It is stacked outside of the Courtyard in an untidy  heap. And it really is a huge pile of wood. Of huge oak beams, and sundry other beams of various shapes and sizes. All removed from the house when the house was in its ruinous state.
3) So: wood cut into smaller pieces. Into the stove. Heat.

Ah. Mmmmmmm. Perhaps not. You see, we have also had weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of rain. And this rain has given the wood in the humungous wood pile a jolly good bath. In other words, it is soaked. And towel drying it will not work.

Now you might say 'Why didn't you get some of that wood put somewhere dry."
Because we didn't have anywhere dry to put it, that's why! And our heads have been full of other things. And the pile was too unwieldy to get a tarp over. And too dangerous to clamber over as well, being full of nails and sharp edges.

And, so, anyway, our wood is soaked. Not to worry. Gate entrance has become reasonably clear so have wiggled and pulled some carry-able pieces of wood and stacked them there, the theory being that the current of air flowing through the gateway might dry them off a bit.

Meanwhile, I have an oil filled radiator tucked up beside me when I am at my PC, with me on one side of it, Bools and Gus tucked up on their beds taking up the rest of the space. Lester has a halogen heater tucked up beside him when he is at work. So we have small portions of heat in an otherwise coolish space of a house.

Not to worry, though. Layers. One thermal vest. Two long sleeved T-shirts. One fleece. One handknit cardi. One handknit scarf. One pair thermal longjohns. One handmade wincyette petticoat. One thick skirt. One handmade crochet beanie upon my head. One pair handmade fingerless mittens upon my hands.  And over all, one huge handmade crochet shawl which is more like a blanket. Sexy, heh?

But we are dry. And in a better state of being than  the last two winters.

And would like to bring our flock of sheep, our two Tamworth pigs including Miserable Max, the Tamworth boar, who is still not happy, all the chickens, and our roofers, ...I would like to bring them all inside to have a huddle around my oil filled radiator. I am, at least, warmer than what they are. And I hope you are staying warm, and that you remain optimistic about the various difficulties in your life. When I have to move away from my warm spot into other areas of the house I have started singing. Having recently joined a choir, I have made it a requirement of myself to get my voice into a more rust-free state. So I practice singing exercises I found on Youtube. These, I have found, are a great way to divert my mind away from the fact that I am a tad on the chilly side. Seems to work.

And so I must close off. Need to wake Hubs up with his cup of tea. So singing my way into the arctic kitchen, off I go.

Blessings to you this day, and hope your day is a bright and shiny one. If you feel under a cloud, try singing. Try this: Say 'Bbbbrrrr', as you would do as if you are saying 'Bbbbrrrrr, its cold'. See how your lips vibrate as you pout them forward to make the Bbbrrr sound? Now through the Bbbrrr sing a scale. Go on! Have a go! If you are doing this properly, you will realise that you have to push the sounds out via your diaphram. So not only does this exercise your voice, it also exercises your tummy muscles, as well as your mouth muscles and your ability to hold a goodly portioned pout!

Au revoir!