Wednesday 30 March 2011

Ah! Those piglets, and strewth: the caravan!

So a couple of days ago the Man in the White Van called again. Outcome of visit? Confirmed that he would collect the caravan in four weeks.

"Four weeks?" I said to Hubs as he relayed the man-deal he had made. "So where are we going to sleep then?"
"In the Half Barn"
"But it's not been finished".
"Oh just put some curtains up, and give it a sweep through".
I looked at him. That is all I could do. Because he was obviously in 'a good fairy from somewhere or other is going to sort it all for me' mode.

But the Half Barn is still waiting for Danny to come and finish the walls and tile the floor, and then it has to be painted. I wanted this all to be done before we moved into it properly. This looks like not being the case. If you could see the interior of the Half Barn then you would be flinching about sleeping there as well!

So into 'Good Fairy' mode I have gone. I reckon I have about three weeks to clean out the stones in the wall, and get at least the first couple of coats of paint on the walls and ceiling. That allows for a week to get the caravan scrubbed through. If we had been giving it away like the last one I would not be so bothered about the state of it, but it is being sold so I must make an effort to get it as pristine as I can.

I had a twenty hour sleep at the weekend. Might need another long sleep sometime soon!

And as for those little rascals:

That was two days ago, and yesterday they found another escape route. Fortunately they headed towards the sheep barn, finding it a delight to munch on the sheep manure, and there I found them, deep in muck, the recent rain having made the ground into a bog. Had Bools and Gus with me, but not to worry. All did a general romp round, until the two piggy hooligans were encouraged back into their patch and more barriers were built to try to keep them there.

Today I have seen evidence that they are trying the tunnelling technique to get them back into their favourite spot in all the world. A close eye, I think, needs to be kept on these two little piglets!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Whitey's rule ends as Big Boy arrives

Whitey has been a good cockerel to have around. Full of noise and bluster as a cockerel should be, he has giving us a good introduction into the ways of the chicken family.

A lot of people just keep hens, preferring not to have the complications of a having a cockerel around. They do, after all, crow. Especially early in the morning, and also during the day as well. It is as if they are saying, "Come on everybody, time to get up" if it is around early dawn, or "Oi you two, one of you give us some food" this being said at the front door of our house, or "Come on girls, here's a good place to have a nice nest so you can lay some eggs which I will fertilize for you if you let me get on board which I am going to do anyway", or "You other boys in the neighbourhood, I am one hell of a cockerel and if you visit here to pleasure my girls, I will beat you up reeeeeaaaallll good" this being said at dawn and frequently throughout the day, or "Gosh I feel good and I am going to tell everyone that I am one hell of a boy", or "I'm here girls, come and join me" this being said when some of his girls have gone off on a wander without him and he thinks that they shouldn't have done so.

As you can see, Whitey can use his crow to say many things. And that is without all the cooing and clucking sounds he makes when trying to keep friendly with his hens. It is actually quite hard work being a cockerel.

Anyway, Whitey is showy, strutty, his plummage blows about gaily in the breeze, and he is keen to procreate. But he is small. And produces small chicklets. And we need to have bigger birds so we can eat them as well as use the eggs. We are, after all, a smallholding.

So: Hubs took it into his head that we needed to upsize the cockerel. Big Boy arrived, plus his girlfriend.

We are novices, that I will freely admit to being. And in our noviceate stage we thought that perhaps the cockerels would get along together.

They didn't.

Once let out, it was heads down and war. Whitey was going to defend his turf with an aggression which far outweighed his size.

The battle became hard to watch, so we separated them, letting Big Boy roam while Whitey was put in the dog kennel to calm down. He didn't. Meanwhile the hens didn't seem to be bothered at all, and just kept calmly on with their egg laying duties and other henly goings on.

The hours ticked by. Hubs decided to let Whitey out again, but this time penned Big Boy in the chicken run. With great rage did Whitey charge across the Courtyard. Aimed himself straight for the chicken run. So no. He had not calmed down.

Meanwhile, I was in the kitchen sorting out dinner. In came Hubs saying "I've done it".
"Done what?"
"Killed Whitey".
"Oh" was all I managed to say for a moment, and then, "I can't eat him....." imagining a plucked Whitey going into the freezer.
"No, I buried him....."
"Under the oak tree".

So that is where Whitey is now residing. For the life of me I could not have cooked him, let alone taken a mouthful of him. He fought his battle, and he did himself proud. His spirit still floats around in the air, though. That he seems to have left here.

So Big Boy is now in charge. But is he! Because the small black cockerel has suddenly put on a spurt of growing, and has been seen to be climbing on board a couple of the hens so he has hit procreation mode.

We did hope to keep him, as he has a glamour similar to Whitey, who was, after all, his father. Maybe that is why Whitey's spirit lives on. His son is carrying on where he left off. The son does have the vigour and passion of the father, that is for sure. Big Boy is far more laid back, doesn't seem to struck overly much, and doesn't give the girls so much bother either. Myself, I think I would secretly prefer Whitey Junior to be the cockerel around here.

Curiously enough, the son is deep dark black, with amazing drifts of green and rust through his feathers. He even has black feathery legs, as if he is wearing boots. He looks naughty, is naughty, behaves like a stud with the girls and is forever trying to seduce them away from the main flock so he can get on board out of sight of Big Boy, who even then does not show huge aggression towards him, preferring instead to chastise the hen for letting the black son of Whitey have their way with them. This, I think, is unfair to the hen. I think he should give Black Whitey a telling off, not the hen.

Anyway, that is as far as we've got in regards to our family of chickens, and I must let you get on with your day, which I hope, is a good one for you.

Meanwhile, though, forgot to mention that we have 'lost' two bantam hens, and two other bantams are sitting on eggs donated from the other hens who don't seem to be bothered about doing nest sitting duties. If all goes well, we should be getting some chicks. Would be an irony if they all turned out to be the progeny of Whitey's black son! The 'lost' bantams, by the way we hope, are sitting on nests somewhere and not be got at by foxes or other somesuch animal.

Bye for now......

Tuesday 22 March 2011

I am seeting 'ere wiv de plonk

Should be choir rehearsal this evening down in Maubourget village, but at 6 pm I did a crash landing on the settee, and that was that. Moi was deado to the world for nearly an hour which meant no time to get ready for the rehearsel.

Not sure why that happened. Could have been the digging I have been doing out in the front garden, or the de-weeding I have been doing out in the veg plot, or the moving of loads of electric fence posts out in the Front Field so the sheep can get some good grass to munch on, or the trundling of the wheel barrow from front to back loaded with hay for the big piggies, or emptying the Side Barn of stuff, or shooing the chickens away from their determined efforts at getting into the house whenever the door is opened, .......... and so the list of things to do goes on!

So Hubs had a need to pop into Plaisance for some plonk, and delivered unto me a bottle of Bailey's. And a bar of choccie. Oh yummy yums. Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a need to indulge one's self.

I would offer you a piece of choccy but I have eaten it all up. And the Bailey's is off limits to all except moi.

Ummm. A thought. Was my crash onto the settee brought about by the removal, yes I repeat, the removal, of my thermal vest yesterday. Not only that, but such was the heat of the sun and myself that I saw fit to change into a sleeveless summer top. No vest. No layers of clothing. Just one little vest top. Ahha! Must be more careful in future. Now where is my medicine........just one little sip then off to bed for an early night in the hopes that I would have finished being crashed by morning time and will be able to spring out of bed with the verve and energy which living on a smallholding in France requires of one if one is going to get through the endless tasks of the day.

Must mention before I go, that the White Cockerel is not interred beneath the Oak tree, and that we have a new cockerel, who unfortunately seems to have a bit of a prob with his throat because it sort of has a gargly, wheezy sound whenever he tries to speak. Made a blessing for him, so hope the prob clears up soon for him. He is a Buff Orpington and quite big. If he manages to stay well, then we hope to have some good sized offspring from him eventually. He is certainly managing to do his job in that department, although has less energy than Whitey had.

The girls are quieter now that Whitey has become no more, calmer and more sedate somehow. Unless the small black cockerel is around. Then everyone is on their guard because he is ever so willing to help out with the procreative duties required of cockerels. We hope to keep him, though. He is a handsome black devil of a bird, and has behaviour to match.

Anyways, that's all for now.

Message to self: One Baileys at any one time must be the rule. Any more and the bottle will empty quicker.

That it is OK to stop every now and then, even if it means missing choir practice.

That eating one whole bar of choccy is a bit over the top, and maybe half a bar would have been sufficient.

And stop thinking about how much there is to do, but focus on how much we have done.

Remember to count my blessings before I go to sleep each night, because I have a whole sackful which sometimes I forget that I have.


Friday 18 March 2011

The metal man, the excavators, the ping!

Out in the front garden, taking advantage of the rainy weather to do some digging, and along comes a man in a van. He stops. The only word I can make out is 'metal'. Presume he wants some. Have old washing machine in gate porch. 'Machine a laver?' I say. Seems to do the trick. To the gate he drives.

Uploads machine. Hubs appears. Takes over. Man offers money for the caravan. Can't have it. We are still bedding down there. No sign of builders yet to come and remedy the situation by finishing off the Half Barn for us. No probs, though - they will come when it is time for them to do so. Meanwhile....

Man goes, saying something about 'cinq avril'. Question Hubs. Does he mean he is coming to pick up the caravan on the 5th April? 'Bit inconvenient', I think. Too cold for sleeping outside in a tent. Inside is not do-able. Rats, you see, are still floating around although most are now in heaven swinging about amongst the clouds as rat-angels, although not in the Half Barn which is rat-proof. We think.

Anyway: 5th April. 'No' says Hubs, 'He's coming to pick up two lambs'.

'Oh', is all I manage to say.

'The young male..... (oh.....the one I bottle fed, still comes and says hello, and is our first born lamb) ......and one of the young females'.

We look at each other. And go on with our day. Quietly. Pondering. Not saying much to each other. Just in thought.

Lunchtime. Reclining on settees for a few minutes, Hub say, 'I'm not going to let him take the lambs. It's not right......' With much relief I hear him echoing my own thoughts. Not that I am necessarily attached to the male lamb. I always knew he was going to head towards the freezer eventually. It's just that I wanted to be with him as he was sent heavenwards. Sort of honouring his life. Saying thankyou to him for the lessons he has taught me, which are many.

The metal man offered a fair price for the two lambs, which would have contributed to half the feed bill for all the animals for one month.  But he did not have the look of an animal person about him. He saw only profit. To buy and sell. That is what he does. Which is OK for inanimate objects, not for real live beings. In other words, he would not have respected them.

We are going to eat our lambs, and we will pass on our surplus to wherever it needs to go. Hopefully some of it will be sold to pay for the animal feed. But we will make sure those lambs will have a good life right up until the moment when they cease to breathe. That  mindset was reinforced for us after the visit from the metal man. So another step in the learning curve of How to Make a Small Farm out of nothing. Taking responsibility for what we eat, that is what we are trying to do here.

Ping! Oh what a mighty shock was had by our chief excavator. The trainee excavators are doing very well in the Sheep Paddock, and have dug up half their patch already. Hubs thinks he ought to get some electric fencing toute suite, as they seem to prefer the margins of their patch, just by the fence. He fears lest they make an escape sometime soon. Trying to catch the little ones in the confined space of the ex-office he found to be quite stressful. Slippery things, piglets are. And they squirm and go all wriggly when held. Having them out and about and galloping hither and thither? Absolutely not! Trying to catch them again, would, quite frankly, be a nightmare.

But the fences of Max and Tess's paddocks are strong, with poles securely cemented in, strong wire, and an inner fence of electric. The electric works a treat. Hubs has had a jolt. Max has had a jolt. Tess has had a jolt. And I have too, although only a small one which came up through the shears I was using to cut the grass which was busy using the electric wire as a support.

Feeding time. Out goes Hubs with the buckets of food. Both Tams were prancey, Max pushing and shoving Tess out of the way so he could stand by the fence and get first go at the food. Tess was in a mood, as could be seen by her lowered head. She can sulk big time, can our Tessy. It's surprising how miserable she can look sometimes, and I have come to the conclusion that female pigs are real drama queens. This was confirmed by the squeals of outrage which came from the littl'uns in their nursery paddock after Hubs let the sheep out but didn't then go on to feed them. They squealed and squealed at him as he walked away. He told them that he waiting for their feed to cool down, but they weren't listening. Drama queens of whatever pursuasion rarely do.

So: Hubs was fiddling about with something or other and was slow to give the Tams their food. This enabled Tessy to get in between the fence and Max, which is rare. Unfortunately Max then took it into his mind to shove Tess away, but pushed her into the fence. Electric on? Yep. Shock sent through? Yep.

The thing is, that when electricity is travelling through soft tissue it will keep going. This Maxy found out.

Now such is the way of a male pig, that he feels the need to have a regular sniff of the rear end of the female pig, just in case she happens to be having an unexpected season. So he doesn't miss the opportunity to make babies, that's why he does that.

And so, because he was in the right position to have a sniff, midway through the shove to get her out of the way of the imminent arrival of food, he took a quick moment to have that quicky sniff, which put his nose exactly at the other end of her body. Unfortunately his actions did not do well by him, because the shove pushed her onto the electric fence, which then catapaulted a charge of electricity through her which carried straight on into Max via his snout which was resting deliciously on her fanny. Ping!!!!

Apparently he sprang back, surveying the much longed for botty of Tess with surprise written all over him. Meanwhile, she got first munch of the food, was noticeably more cheerful, and I suspect that she was secretly pleased that Max had been given a 'reward' for his bullying behaviour! It remains to be seen whether or not he will now develop a phobia about her rear. Hopefully he will not regard that part of her as a no-go area and will get over his fright at what happened when he was giving her a friendly sniffing. We hope so too, although Hubs is investigating artificial insemination as a possible alternative in the future, if he does not manage to do his job. But he still will have the opportunity to father piglets with the two new girls next year. All that is in the future, though. For now, he is steering clear of the apparently high energy area of the rear end of Tess. Aw! Bless.

The Chicken Project: The White Cockerel now permamently resides in the ground by the Oak Tree, being interred there by Hubs last weekend. So what happened? Well, he was a small bird, but a mighty General nevertheless. He kept all the hens on their toes, and was a good leader of the band. But he was too small for the bigger hens, and we need those big hens to be the provider of the table birds, the bantams being too small to eat really.

Ummmmm......oooopppppssss....I have just realised that this blog is turning out to be a tad on the long side, so I will tell you what happened in the next blog!

Bye for now, and hope I have made you smile.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Change of accommodation

So the Tam piglets rested in the ex-office for a few days, then needed to have a change of environment.

"Lets get them down in the Woodland Paddock", says Hubs.

"That's too far away. They're only babies. They are too tiny", says I, feeling lurchings of maternal instincts cruise through me.

So a Plan One was hatched, which was to make a small paddock in the Courtyard where the kitchen caravan used to be. Off to the local DIY shop I was sent to buy some metal poles. Won't say too much about that, but they were flippin' heavy, and sharp enough to puncture the flesh of my hands several times. Not that I  am complaining. After all, I am Chief GoFor, and I must do what I am sent to do.

So: Poles bought. Twelve.

Uno problemo, though. The ground of the Courtyard has become very firm, having become compressed by wheels and feet. So firm in fact, that it is rock hard. After bending three metal poles as he endeavoured to get them hammered in, Hubs gave up, and ditched Plan One. We needed another plan.

So what to do.......Ahha! "Why don't we take a part of the Sheep Paddock", says moi. GoFors can come up with some good ideas sometimes, because that became Plan Two.

Please excuse the white spot in the photo. Must sort out why they have started appearing. Anyway, here is Hubs executing Plan Two, with Gussy on guard duty. Behing Gussy is the temporary little piglet shelter, and Hubs is building a fence across the end of the Sheep Paddock. The sheep are not amused. They think that they should be given some grain, which normally happens when Hubs appears in their Paddock. But it is not evening, so they can't have their supper just yet. Bless! They really took on quite an attitude for the rest of the day after this, especially this one:

She is the mum of the twin lambs born at Christmas, and she has a sort of slobbery "Baa", and is one of the ringleaders for mischief, and she stood behind Hubs and made known her disgust at not having any grain, and "Why is that? What sort of establishment is this!" is what she is having a moan about.

Not to worry, though. Hubs stoically carried on....

Off to fetch the girls he went.........

Squeeling with outrage at such manhandling, which sheep watching with great interest, the girls were relocated into their temporary home. Down to the wood they will go when they are bigger, and once we have built teamwork between us all.

And all came to examine these two new little beings with great interest, who, however, were more interested in the grass having been on concrete for the past five days. Promptly they went into rotovator mode, as their noses dug into the ground and made the first of the furrows.

And here they are! Oh! Can't you see them? That's because they are asleep. Look closely and to the left you can see one little ear poking up from the straw!

So, Plan Two done. They still jump about and carry on in a dreadful fright when things happen around them. They do 'drama queen' mode very well, do our two new girls.

Saying bye for now.........

Thursday 10 March 2011

An increase in numbers

It has been a bit of a trudge, but the end of Winter has now arrived, even if Winter still has a grumble and says it doesn't want to go, it still has to leave because Spring is elbowing her way in. The birds are singing, the frogs are croaking, the fruit trees are blossoming, and soon my thermal vest will be removed and the electric blanket will be switched off.

And today I had my usual soap-and-flannel-in-a-bowl wash, and today, oh today, wonderful today, I didn't get goosebumps anywhere at all!

Now I am not a tease, so I will now give you some info about our new ones.

So what happened was this:

Last year we saw some Tam piglets for sale, didn't buy them, but kept in touch with the owner, who emailed me to say that new piglets had arrived and would we like a couple. So off Lester went, half way up France, to go fetch them. In the car. That's all the transport we had, our campervan having died on us, and our battered old trailer having been kept by the garage to which Lester had taken it to be given the once over and the Frenchmen who were going to give it the once over split their sides laughing at the state it was in and refused to let Lester have it back again because it was too dangerous they said and only fit to be given to the waste metal man when next he called.

So  a plan was needed, and that was to go get some wood to make a transport box which would be small enough to fit on the back seat of the car but big enough to take the two girls and this entailed going to the local DIY shop and getting them to measure the car door and then cut up some wood of suitable size to make the box are you following me?

Anyway, box done, and Hubs duly waived off at four in the morning with the box in the back cushioned all around with duvets and pillows, and on the front seat some sarnies, maps, choccy, cheesie biscuits, and travel instructions.

I was left to get on with my day. Which I did after first having gone back to bed, waking up at half past nine, which is an hour later than I should have woken up because I was now in charge of all at Labartere. However, 'all' seemed to be conspiring to let me have a lie-in, because the sheep were quiet, the Tams were still asleep, and the chickens had given up sitting on the front door step and had cleared off to do a raid on the veg plot.

A very tired Hubs arrived back home early evening, together with those two. Aw! Bless! They were all tired after their journey.

Anyway, have to close now, as it is time for bed, and I am going over to the caravan to switch the electric blanket on, even though it is not particularly cold tonight. x

And two little Tam girls saying hi and bye!

Monday 7 March 2011

Emerging from the Winter's sleep

And the first blossom of Spring signalling that the year is moving on a great gallop.

However: I seemed to have stopped galloping for the moment. I was alright up until the beginning of February, but then I seemed to come to a stop. As if traffic lights had suddenly appeared and flashed themselves onto red, which halted me in my tracks. And then I caught a cold, which further sunk me. All effort ceased.

But the good news is that drizzles of energy are seeping into me, although not a lot. But at least I am starting to pick up the pace again, although feel far from doing a gallop just yet. Anyway, that is why I have not blogged. When I am flatlining words evaporate. And in my head space there is this sort of warm emptiness which is actually quite relaxing. As if my head has gone on holiday for a while.

Yesterday, though, the old familiar urge to write started perching itself in my head again. So here I am, having had a bit of a rest, and saying hi to you all, and hoping that February has been a good month for you, and hoping that the rest of the year is full of doings which make you smile and make you feel glad to be alive.

We have two new additions to the family, but I will tell you about them in the next blog.

Saying 'Bye for now'......

Yippee!!! Spring is on its way, because the trees are bursting into blossom. Yipppeeee!!!!