Friday 26 August 2011

The five have become eight!

So the five little chicks, who have become hooligans, were supposed to spend several weeks in the evacuated chicken run while they put on body weight and gained height so that they could then be let out to run free without the bother of being got at by anything which would want to eat them because they were bite sized morsels of little beings.

Well that didn't happen. They just could not see any point whatsoever in  being kept in that environment when there was a big world outside to investigate. Not only that, but they wouldn't eat the food I put in for them but preferred the vegetation which was already growing in that space, the rest of the flock not having been in it for some time, them preferring to go to bed in the fig tree above the run, thereby letting sundry plants populate, and thrive, in the rich dungyness of that space.

And inside the run there grew Deadly Nightshade, for which the chicks seemed to develop a passion such that they demolished most of the plants by jumping up and eating the leaves. Was worried when first I saw them do this thinking that they might be poisoning themselves, but they didn't. They just seemed to get more energy to jump. I think perhaps that they found it more fun to jump up and try to grab bits of leaf. I think that those five are bright little beings and were find it boring to be stuck in the run. I think that it was driving them nuts!

So, with Hubs in agreement, I let them out despite being worried that they might get eaten by anything passing which was of a mind to eat them. Like the crows, buzzards, or magpies. So far, however, we still have the five.

Oh and by the way, every day the swifts are gathering. A few days ago, just a few. Each day a few more. And so they are building up a gathering, getting ready to depart this land for the coming winter. Down to South Africa they will go. A fearsome journey indeed. Always I am in awe of their efforts. Always I am made to feel insignificant in the face of such a task. Always I am enthused with energy to keep going on when I watch those birds.

Anyway, back to our five. I think that they are mostly cockerels. Therefore they will be in the freezer in four or five months time, when they start feeling the need to mate with others which will upset the energy of the flock. Meanwhile I enjoy them. I am the chicken-shepherd for them, making sure that they get enough to eat at feeding time when  all the rest will try and steal away their food. It is not to fatten them up that I do this, it is because I want them to get past this vulnerable stage when they can be up taken by the bigger birds of the sky. Yesterday there were five buzzards circling, but think that they were keeping an eye on what was happening in the sunflower fields nearby which are now being harvested.

Back indoors, and there are another three little chicks coming along. These came from four eggs that were going to be boiled up for the pigs after I found six underneath the hen in the Tall Barn who is now sitting on onions. She is a bantam and will not manage a large family, so we thought to leave her two eggs, the rest were, as I say, going to go to the pigs but since the incubator was now vacated I thought it a good idea to put the eggs in there. Give them a chance was my thinking. And so we have three hatchlings. As for the hen in the Tall Barn...... I wrote about her in a previous blog, and there is still no change since then. Will have to remove the onions I think.

A few hours later: A sad thing. It is raining. Fed the chickens late. Noticed that I had not shut the chicken run to protect the chicks as they slept. Too late to worry about that. Umbrella up, sat on the step of the Tall Barn to feed all. All came flying over to me. Hungry. Damp. Did my usual count of heads. All were present. One, two, three, four. But where was the fifth little chick. No where. Four only. Stupid, stupid me for forgetting to shut the pen down. Must have been got by a feral cat, or stoat, or owl, or something or other. With heart in my boots I carried on with the day.

A few hours later: Still raining, which is good. We are rather parched here and could do with a damping of rain. Had been keeping an eye on the four chicks throughout the morning. They were OK. But I put them back in the run and shut them in. Didn't want them running around in case I lost another. It was wet anyway. They didn't look like they thought much of the water being tossed down on them. Their faces looked glum, and they kept wanting to get into a huddle with each other. So best to put them back in the run.

Hubs went on an egg hunt. "It's here", he yelled, gesturing towards the floor of the going-to-be-pond.
"What's here, another egg? What down in the pond? That's odd" I said, although wasn't really surprised, the hen's, after all, being crafty b**********s when it comes to hiding their eggs away from us.
"Noooooooo! The chick!!"
And there it was. Almost swimming in the couple of inches of rainfall water on the floor of the pond.

Nothing to do but put it on a warm bosom, towel dry it off, feed it some mashed boiled egg, during which it tweeted its dislike of such manhandling, then off into the hen run again to be with its mates. Five! We still have the five!

Ah the joys, the ups and downs. And now I am off to have a  lie down. What I am supposed to be doing is washing the floor tiles in the Half Barn, but it is a huge space and all I seem to be managing is to wash, with my newly bought floor mop, a couple of rows of tiles, dry them off with a towel wrapped around a broom head, then I seem to feel the need to go lie down and read my book for an hour or so on my newly assembled bed before washing a couple of more rows of tiles and repeating the process over and over again. It is taking a while to wash that floor! The book is a good read. I haven't read a novel-type book in years, mostly focussing on writing my own books, blogs, website, etc, and reading non-fiction but avoiding, always avoiding, the French books which I am supposed to be studying. 

And hooray! I have a new floor mop which I shall eventually manage to introduce to all of the floor, and the little chick who went for an unintentional swim is not floating upside down in the water, done unto death by its desire to have an adventure.

I might let the gang of five out for a romp now the rain has ceased. Hope the word has got out amongst them that the pond is a place that little chicks do not need to investigate.

Monday 22 August 2011

I'm cooking!

Orange Alert we are under, Orange Alert for a heatwave! Up near the 40's the heat has been (nearly 100F) with the air saturated with moisture so the humidity is very high.

And then into the kitchen, with a broad grin on his face and carrying a big bowl of figs, walked Hubs. Into the bottom of the fridge the figs went. But only for one night. Figs go off fast. So they need jamming. Which I did. Yesterday. It was hot. Orange Alert for heatwave. Shut the sun out by closing the shutters.....

.....made my usual jamming mess......

........made the first batch..........

.....went on to sweat and slide myself through another batch. Nineteen pots in total. Would have better to have done this task another day, but figs won't wait. I cooked. The figs cooked. The kitchen cooked. I became extremely soggy, as can be seen in the  first photo. But my halo is brightly shining over the crown of my head. Yes, I did get into a crump whilst jamming. Yes, I was experiencing a sprinkling of annoyance that Hubs was snoring away on the settee. Yes, I was sticky, as is normal when making jam, but it was also soooooo hot. Better, however, to be able to cook inside the house. Worse, by far, was making fig jam in the caravan in previous years.

And then there is the little brown hen in the Tall Barn, who has taken in upon herself to go broody, only it is not eggs she is sitting on......'s our onions, presumably because they resemble an egg in shape. So to give her dignity I put a couple of eggs from the incubator under her, which she graciously accepted. Next day, though, she was off the 'nest', bored with sitting in that spot, one egg being broken open and the other egg abandoned. That night she took it upon herself to sit in the Wood Hut, brooding over the four eggs left there by the other hen and which I had forgotten to collect. The following day I found her on those eggs and hoicked her off. Those eggs are now donated to the pigs, after being cooked. I am a bit fragile about eating eggs upon which a hen has sat, even if it is just overnight that she has done so.

Anyways, back to the Tall Barn she has gone. I found her there last night, lifted her up to have a look.....onions and one egg she was sitting on, which must have been donated by one of the other hens who couldn't be bothered to set up a nest herself. That I have taken indoors. The onions remain.

As for the five little chicks.....they have grown into five hooligans and are now out in the chicken run, although would prefer to be out and about with the flock. One has already found a way to break out and it is only a matter of time before the rest follow. I keep telling them that it is for there own safety that they have to stay cooped up, but they just tell me that they want out. I think that they will possibly have their way soon. They are bright little things, full of spirit, and I wouldn't like to reduce their capacity for mischief or adventure by keeping them enclosed for longer than is absolutely necessary.

Apparently, so a friend of ours said, our animals are full of mischief because they aren't afraid of us.

Crikey but it has been an itchy summer. With no prolonged dry spell to kill them off, the insects have been able keep up their breeding programme. Midges, mozzies, flies, we continue to suffer from their biting off us. Ah well, Orange Alert on again for today so must be off to do a zillion things before the temperature zooms up, so saying bye for now....

Saturday 13 August 2011

We're in!

And so it came to be time. Floor was finished, apart from washing and polishing. Cob walls finished, apart from cleaning and polishing the stones. Plasterboard ceiling and side wall finished, apart from painting. So: it became time.

And this sudden urgency to get into the Half Barn was inspired by me stumbling, slipping, and sliding my way across to the caravan. It was late. It was dark. My torch was put in a safe place but I couldn't remember where that was. So in the dark, at nearly midnight, I was wending my way across the Courtyard over newly dug uneven soil which Danny, our builder, had rucked up whilst digging the drainage trenches.

"Danny, while you have the digger here can you make a hole so we can make a pond?" I asked, but through Hubs' translation services which I had to pay for by making him a cup of tea.

So he did. Make a pond. But a big pond-hole. Will tell you about that another time.

And the end of this quite deep pond-hole came very close to the steps of the caravan. This I was aware of as I stumbled in the dark at nearly midnight on this particular night, a week ago.

Into the caravan. Into bed. Two hours later wanted to go the loo. Big loos. Meant using the toilet in the house. Rummaged around in the dark for Hubs' torch, the electrics of the van were now not working because the lead had been pulled out so Danny wouldn't inadvertently elecrocute himself while digging the hole. Couldn't find it. Desperation upon me. Must get to the loo. Out the door. It was drizzling with rain. Made my skin, all of which was exposed, damp. Ground was damp too. Sticky with wetness sufficient to glue a goodly quantity to the bottom of my shoes.

Managed to avoid the pond-hole. Managed to avoid the washing line to the right. Managed to avoid the table of seedlings to the left. Managed not to trip over Gus and Bools who were waiting to get into the house. Managed not to trip over the chickens because they were still asleep up in their tree. Loo got to. Was a relief.

But I had had enough. 'I can't do this any more' was squealing through my mind as I lay myself down upon the settee to finish my sleep.

'I can't do this anymore' said Hubs when he came through the door later on. 'After you left I killed four mozzies. That caravan is murderous to sleep in. We're out of there'......

So we had a hunt around and found the bits and pieces of our four poster bed. It was a miracle that all were accounted for. Not only that, but none were broken.

Off we went to a BBQ. Back later to lug the mattress across from the caravan. First night, slept with bare mattress and throws to cover us up. Second night the same. Third night got the bedding sorted out. Slid into the wonderful comfort of a real bed for the first time in just over three years.

I didn't think the bed would survive. It was broken up into its constituent parts by our removal men. It is a 'flat pack' bed. Good thing really. If it had been an 'all glued together' bed it definitely would have suffered damage. But it didn't. Now I have not been fixated about that bed during the last three years. If it survived, then great. If it did not, then that was alright as well. Friends of ours had offered us a divan base, which was probably going to be the needed. It wasn't.

......because here I am. On my bed. Looking down the Half Barn. And I have missed that bed. It was like coming home. So many memories. Of the hours spent making plans for the future when back in the UK, most of which we have managed to achieve, or are on our way to achieving. Of the hours spent reading the smallholding books. And it was on this bed that I fretted and fussed whilst waiting to hear if Labartere was actually going to be ours. The same for when the sale was being finalised, my stress being so great that I couldn't do anything except lie on that bed and fret.

And back in the UK this bed dominated the bedroom. Was far to big really for the space. Here, though, it is a small bed in a big space......

As I said before, the walls need painting, the floor is still smeary from the tile filler, but we are home.

And from the window beside the bed, here is the view.....

It's nice to see Maxy. A magpie is perched on his back. He doesn't care. He is busy eating his breakfast. The house you can see is our nearest neighbour. It is lovely to have a good yelling match with Hubs without being aware of neighbours on the other side of the wall. It is lovely to be here. It is lovely to have a bed to lollop on. A proper bed. One which carries our history too.

It is lovely to go to the loo in the middle of the night.....and that is being sorted as well!



Feb 2009

April 2009

December 2010 

August 2011

Friday 12 August 2011

Anyone want a flock of sheep? Anyone?

So we have a problem. For some reason the sheep, in particular TM (the twin's mum), have decided that the field in which they are supposed to reside until we can get the last of the perimeter fencing done, is not where they want to go.

So what should happen is this.....Hubs opens the lower gate of the Sheep Paddock. Since they have been banned from munching on the grass of the paddock over night they are hungry. (The grass has to recover for the winter which will not happen if the sheep eat it right down to its roots) Now what they are supposed to do is move right down the Side Path, then veer right, leaping over a small ditch and going through the entrance to their field. It is a big field. Has an attached copse which used to be thick with vegetation but no longer is because they have done an efficient clearance of all greenery to just above their head heights. But they do have shade during the heat of the day. This is all imminently preferable to the Side Field, which is low in grass, has no shade and no copse.

This was alright for TM. Most times she is the first one to barge out of the gate, and leads the charge at a good gallop. Down the Side Path. Veer right. Jump. Through gate. Onto field. Done.

However.....what we didn't know was that TM had found a weakness in the fence. Well it wasn't a weakness really, just the place at which we had stopped fencing temporarily while we did other things. So what she was doing was nipping through the fencing wire, which is four strands of parallel wire to which the fencing wire itself is clipped, doing a sharp left, with a bit of a struggle, through Blackthorn bushes, then filling herself up with the long grass of the verges of the lane. We had wondered why we had been hearing horns beeping from passing cars. But she was crafty, was TM. Once her tum was full, back she would go to the field.

However, she got caught out. A neighbour stopped and told us. Urgently we finished off that part of the fencing. TM was curtailed. Was OK about it for a couple of days. But the gate.... down the Side Path, jump th.....but no. TM at the front leading the charge as usual. Left. They went left. Out into the Kitchen Field. Hubs did a yell for help. Bools, Gus and me all charged out. Just in time to see  TM leading the flock, still at an unstoppable pace, back up the Side Path, onto the Drive, onto the lane, then left, sharp right, did a bit of a milling about, then onto the field of stubble beside the Side Field, came off that, stood at the gate of the Side Field waiting expectantly for it to be opened.

There are times, however, when it is necessary to show authority. I said that no, they should not be allowed to go where they wanted to do, but should be got back to the Copse Field which is where WE said they should go. It was going to be a baker of a day, and they would need the shade anyway. This was done. Except that TM stood at the gate of that field and told me to expect more probs from her as she was not best pleased at not being able to go where she wanted to go.

So the next day:.......gate open....down Side Path.....jump ditch....but no. TM stopped in the middle of the ditch, swung round, did sharp right, then another sharp right into the other half of the Home Field, the one which has lovely long grass all brightly sparkling with heavy dew. Knew that this was a disaster. Poles up. No fencing wire as yet. No boundaries. They kept going. Through the poles they went. Down to the Lower Wood. Sharp right. Through another line of poles. On into our neighbour's field they went. There they stopped. Spread out. Munched. Hubs nowhere to be seen. Me, Bools and Gus only. We three crossed over into the field. Did a circle round the sheep to head them off, turn them round. This we did. Back to the poles. Through them.....but no. Did a sharp right. Did a long gallop on out into the neighbour's field. Now spread even further out. Opened my lungs. Yelled at full voice for Hubs to come. He did. At his full gallop which was about a quarter of the speed at which the sheep went. My speed is about a sixteenth.

Hubs got behind the sheep. Instructions obeyed. Flock turned round. Still reluctant to get a move on now. Brakes on. Flowers to be eaten. Gus, the would-be sheep dog, to the rescue. Bounding onwards towards the sheep, they started picking up speed again. Headed towards the poles. Got Bools beside me. Jumped up and down and made a fuss. TM looked at me. Knew I was not to be messed with. Kept on going through the poles, the rest shoulder to shoulder with each other in a tight bunch following her lead. Took a swing left. Through the other poles. Now into the Home Field, but the wrong side of the central fence. Hubs took a trot down to the end of the field to open the Side Field gate and also the Paddock gate which had been closed in case the piglets got out into the Paddock which is where they expect to go for the morning so they can stretch their legs. It was OK. They were still in their little paddock, albeit screaming at full voice with indignation about being ignored.

Sheep now down bottom of Home Field. Could see them stop. Bang infront of the Veg Plot, in particular the courgette patch. Heads went down. Munch time! But no! Not today! Sent Gussy off after them to get them moving. They did. Sharp left, sharp right, out onto the Kitchen Field. Gave up. I gave up. Stood and waited for Hubs. Instructions given..... go out onto the lane in case they go that way... hope they will go into the Home Field though. They didn't. They repeated the same route as the previous day, milling about in the lane, then onto the other field, then parking themselves up infront of the Side Field gate. Which Hubs opened. Wet of foot, puffed out, p*****ed off, we gave up the fight.

"Cup of tea and a piece of toast?" I said.
"Good idea" said Hubs.

And so.....anyone want a flock of sheep?

Ah but no! We don't mean that! But nineteen is too many to manage. So which ones are going to fetch up in the freezer? Does this mean that TM's days are numbered? Only time will tell! She did, after all, give us two superb lambs both of which show the same desire to get into mischief!

By the way, we're in. The House. To Sleep......

Thursday 4 August 2011

Hay bales, big eggs, another Project...

Noooooo! These have not arrived from the rear end of our hens! These whoppers are plastic and therefore non-eatable!

So why have I got them? Well, in an effort to organize our flock of hens into laying in more accessible places, I purchased these yesterday. What you are supposed to do is put them into a place where you hope the hens will lay their eggs, and they will oblige in due course.


...on the left is a real egg. On the right is the artificial one. And so why do they make those pretend eggs sooooo huge! What is a hen supposed to think when she sees such a monster.....will she become intimidated, thinking that she could never match up to such a big one, and go off somewhere else to lay........or will she sit anyway, but pretend to her fellow hens that she laid that egg and  get a 'Aren't I the best hen ever because I have laid the biggest egg ever'........but then will all of the hens who lay their eggs in that spot do the same....will all of them brag that they have laid the biggest egg of all time....will there then be a minor war as they argue with each other...... oh but it might cheer up the two hens who no longer lay eggs but still sit in case one might pop out. Hubs said did we ought to put them in the freezer, but we have decided not to. They have done good service, so they will be left to live their lives out.
Oh well so anyway, I put the plastic egg into the nest, and will await developments. At the moment they have made a super duper little nest in the  wood shed which was once our office, which was once a pig and chicken hut so the space has now returned to what it used to be. They have also taken over the little shelter I made for the hen and her chick. Seven eggs I got yesterday. Normally I can only find one if I am lucky.

And the chicks are doing well........

But I am very aware that they are orphans. This might be because we have that hen and her chick out in the Courtyard, and also a hen sitting on eggs in the Tall Barn. Those little ones have a mum to cuddle up to and teach them the chickeny way of life. These little chicks don't. But I feel reassured that such is the way of a chicken, that when they are old enough to roost, then they will know companionship. Chickens are not solitary creatures, but love to snuggle up alongside each other both at night and during the day. This is despite their bickerings and general bitchiness. Underneath all of that, they are quite warm towards each other.

And the chicks are very quiet. Not many chirrupings in comparison to the chick out in the Courtyard. So in a few days time I am going to take them outside during the day so they can talk to their fellows, so that they can get to know their world.

And in the incubator are now four more eggs, unplanned though because they have been 'rescued' from underneath the hen in the Tall Barn who had managed to acquire eight, the other hens having decided that it was a good idea to take advantage of a hen already sitting on eggs to deposit some more with her. So have marked four which she is continuing to brood over, and put the other four in the incubator. It feels like a bit of a production line at the moment!

Back outside, and the Front Wall Project has begun......

.....and a thought! It has just occurred to me that the photos do not have any colour in them! Must have switched the camera onto another setting......

Anyways, re the Front Wall Project: Danny, our builder, has filled in the drainage trench beside the Tall Barn, leaving a patch of uneven rough ground devoid of weeds. So before nature takes over and grows a heap of whatever it wants to, I have decided to take control of the patch. At first I was going to just rake the ground over, get the stones out, plant next winter. Then it came into my head that perhaps the wall needed sorting out. That why couldn't I do it. It is made of river stones some of which have loosened, so take them off, leave the ones still stuck fast, patch in new ones, hey presto... a tidy wall.

It will, I know, take quite some time! But I have to start somewhere. And a small wall is a good place to do so. And it can always be knocked down if it looks a mess. Hubs was going to do that anyway. So I am going to have a go.

......'nothing ventured nothing gained'! This has been my motto throughout life. Have a go. If it doesn't pan out, not to worry, at least one has tried. 'Better to have tried and failed rather than not to have tried at all'. That's been another motto. Both have served me well.

The farmer who cut the hay and made loads of bales which were left scattered over the field.......well he had to come and rescue his bales because the sheep had been looking upon them as something they needed to be involved with. Useful for rubbing up against. Useful for snuggling into for shade. Useful to have a munch on. So Hubs had to go and tell him that he ought to shift them. They are now in the Kitchen Field behind the house. Apparently, so Hubs says, they are there until Winter. Not sure that they will survive that long. The sheep have really done them some damage, and the baling machine of the farmer only seemed to do a half-job anyway. They were dripping hay at a fast rate as he tractored them to their new position. Methinks that they will probably just gently disintegrate.

Not to worry. We have two spanking new bales parked up in the Front Porch, properly baled, and delivered by another farmer from out of his wheat fields. They are straw bales, and for animal bedding this Winter. (You can just see them in the above photo) The chickens seem to be leaving them alone for the moment. They are busy working their way through the old hay bales by the Sheep Paddock. This is of great help to me. Getting hay or straw from off those big bales is a horror of a job. Takes an age. Have to use gloves because my hands get sore from the having to pull the hay / straw from out of the compressed bale. Good for exercising the arms though! But those chickens - they attack the bales from ground level, and they do a mighty fine job, leaving a good amount of hay scattered all about, which I pick up and deposit in the Sheep Barn. This same service they will offer in regards to the new bales. Not yet!

And the Half Barn. Did we have enough tiles for Danny to finish the floor? Yes! Exactly. None were left over. It is now count down time for caravan life. Good job too. With all the rain we have had, it is mozzie time big time very big time and strewth we are getting bitten to pieces and Hubs does not do well when mozzies are buzzing him during the night and I don't mind so much but I am all of a scratch with the number of drinks the mozzies have been taking from me and so it would be nice to go to sleep at night and not wake up in the morning counting the pimples of scratchiness which have been done unto me during the night. We can't make the caravan mozzie free, you see.

So must go feed the chicks, feed the flock, get dressed, scratch! Hope your desire to scratch is less than mine, hope the mozzies are not giving you any probs, and saying bye for now!........