Monday 26 September 2011

Pigs have snouts....

Pigs have snouts, which they put to good use when digging up the ground. Their snouts are long, long enough to poke through fencing wire to nibble at morsels of tastiness the other side of the fence. Their snouts are also robustly strong. Should the need arise they will put their weight behind their snout and push hard for all they are worth, and their snouts let them do this, unlike our noses which wouldn't. This pushing on the fence  wire will make the wire itself billow, but not break providing it is strongly built. 

Their snouts are also long enough to prise things up. Like the roots of a delicious plant. Like the water bucket because it is fun to mess about with such objects when things are a little on the slow side. Like the bottom of the fence, the fence which they have previously ballooned. 

The wire itself is held in place by long strands of strengthening wire. So the snout goes under the lowest strand. This action would have been helped by previously excavating along the fencing line to expose this section of the fence. It is also a useful action to perform early morning, when the dew has fallen, when the earth is soft, soft enough to dig away at, when the owner of the snout is bored and hungry, or if there is a super duper big piggy the other side of the fence who needs to be romped with. 

Once the snout has leverage all that has to be done is patiently keep lifting up that long holding wire. This will not break it, but it will stretch it eventually. It is also useful to push the head at the other end of the snout into the fencing wire at the same time. This will eventually break the little ties holding the fencing wire onto the fencing lines, the result being a hole through which the snout can go, then the head, then the shoulders, and whoopppeeee the rest of the body. 

The two girl pigs where in a portion of the Sheep Paddock. It was a small portion, this being a temporary solution while they grew. 

April 2011

They grew faster than expected, and quickly became too big to be kept in the space all day. 

July 2011

So it was decided to let them out onto the Paddock grass for several hours of the day so they could stretch their legs. This they did with great enjoyment, romping up and down, squealing with delight. They got to eat  grass and sheep's poo, this poo being considered a delight by both pigs, dogs and chickens. 

They also got to dig holes. Many holes. Soon the green grass became populated with dark brown swathes of upturned earth which necessitated the task of raking over these damaged patches daily to try and reduce the damage. But at least the piggies got more space.

Well that was alright for a few weeks. The two of them would be quite happy being let out into the Paddock and then put back into their smaller space a few hours later. But then it wasn't. 

To act as a barrier, Hubs had built a temporary fence. It was a strong fence made up of thick planks of wood. (See photo above, fence on the left) The snouts had trouble lifting those planks despite the impressive holes made beneath the planks to promote leverage. But what those piggies could do was clamber over the top of the planks. This they did by hooking their front feet onto the top plank then sort of hauling themselves over the top. Another plank was added. The piggies grew some more. This enabled them to conquer the fence. Over they went. Frequently.

Most time this action was done when the sheep were absent. One morning those piggies clambered over the fence and did a mix-in with the sheep. The sheep are docile animals. They are not fussed with having pigs romping around in their midst. Time to move the piggies. 

This was done. In beside Max they had to go so we closed off the adjoining gate between the two paddocks.  It was easy shifting them. Just hold a bucket of food under those snouts and the snouts will follow that bucket wherever it cares to go. Max was delighted to have company, as could be heard by his long chortles of happiness. The girls were delighted. Something new for them. This could be heard by their long squeals of gleefulness as they romped around their new living quarters. To give them shelter, if they required it, we rigged up an old tarpaulin tied across a corner of the fencing, and put their original tin hut underneath it.

Then they started flirting, rubbing themselves suggestively along the poles of the fence dividing the two paddocks, vocally interacting with each other and with Max. But the poles were sturdy and withstood their attentions. Not so Max. Having been on his own for a few months after the death of Tess, the adult female pig, his delight at having company was manifested by a sort of smirk he had on his face and the benign look he had in his eyes. He was smitten. So he started leaning into the fence between him and the girls. But he did not use his snout. No. Those two girls used theirs such that within a few days of sneaky work, such that the damage to the fence went largely un-noticed mostly because the spot which was being worked on by themselves was the furthest point away from the point at which we stood to feed, water, and talk to them, well those two girls squiggled their way through the fence and proceeded to get familiar with Max. 

So....electric fencing? Did work once upon a time, but the voltage, we now think, had been reducing. Not a problem in regards to Max. He understood fencing which had white wire threaded along it. He new that that spelt out a problem should any part of him, particularly his snout, come into contact with it. Not so the girls. Small jolts were do-able for them. It was as if they became immune to anything the electric fence could give them. 

On observation, it was seen that the rear end of one of the girls looked as if it could receive attentions from a rampant male. This was confirmed by observation of Max's male accoutrements which were looking plump and full. Ah. Possibly the patter of tiny feet ahead then. Would be arriving in the middle of winter. Urgent preventative action needed to be taken, it not being possible, for a variety of reasons, to offer contraceptives. 

So the 'urgent action' was taken by the purchase of a super duper electric shocker. The fence was being continually mangled now as both the girls and Max went to and fro between the paddocks. Soon they would realise that they could go through the rest of the fencing. The girls are nice to be with close-in. They are not a problem. All they will do is strongly nuzzle the leg or have a mini chew at the shoes. They can be pushed away. They will also follow a bucket which makes them easy to move from place to place. Max, though, is a problem. To have him roaming out and about is not an option, mostly because of his tendency to want to chew, preferably at your foot, or your leg, or anything else he can get hold of. If he can't reach any of those parts he will use his snout to hook you over. Laying sprawled out on the ground whilst a big male pig stands over one is something one would not particularly welcome. 

The new electric box works a treat. All is quiet. All ardour seems to have wilted. No squeals, no snorts, just quietness while the girls think about this new turn of events. Max  looks fed-up. The girls look relaxed. He was, I think, getting on their nerves. It was his persistence which was stressing them, the need to procreate running strongly within him. It was not so evident with the girls at this time. It would therefore seem that the patter of tiny feet has been diverted for this year. 

Meanwhile, our builder has built the girls a new cabin to sleep in. We were going to build one ourselves but time gets chewed up by other activities and since the year was slipping by and the colder nights were on their way, the cabin needed to get built. 

They have a brand new cabin, built by our builder. Looks decidedly different to the one on the left, which is made of wood and built by Hubs. The new one is built in block brick. It does look a bit on the hefty side, but we will soften the look of it with plants. Also thought I would have at go at covering the bricks with lime mortar and stones. 

And here is the cabin from the front. And here are the two girls, quite near to the fence but only because they have just been fed and so still have food on the ground. This again will be their temporary paddock, its eventual use being a farrowing pen. The girls will be down in the woods or out in the field. Max can have this space when no piglets are here. 

Meanwhile, grumpy he remains.

Ah well, we do our best for him. He has a bigger space than at his previous owners, and he will be able to practice his procreating abilities in the new year. Hope he can hold on for the time being. Hope he doesn't become to irritable at not being able to get to those girls. 

Lessons learnt: 

- That pigs see fencing, which is minus a reasonably active electrical pulse going along side it, as not a problem. 
- that pigs are intelligent creatures and will think long and hard about things. 
- that they don't give up if they are on a particular task. 
- that they need a warm and dry bed to sleep in, otherwise they will squeal their dislike if having had to endure a wet and cold night. And they will squeal and squeal and squeal. 
- that they can be diverted away from naughtinesses by the throwing in of acorns, cut up apples, pieces of homemade bread, maize, anything really. This is best thrown in wide arcs so the morsels of food are widespread, and thrown in small handfuls, letting them eat what has been thrown before another handful is thrown in. The seeking of the morsels, then the eating of them, will divert the girls. It is also useful for exercising of the arms. A good arm swing to get the best flight for the food is really helpful for the batwings of the upper under arms. Good for the bust muscles as well. 
- that sometimes it is better to get someone else to do the farm jobs otherwise they won't get done. It might cost more in terms of money, but it will save on the stress involved with trying to do the job yourself. This also includes the work on the house. If we had tried to do it ourselves we would not have got as far as we have. 

Lessons to be learnt: 

- that it is wise to respond to certain situations immediately and not hope that they will go away. But not to give one's self a beating up if there was a delay in taking action. After all, one is only doing one's best. After all, one is only human. After all, one is not a robot. 

Friday 23 September 2011

Another letting go...

June 2008: This caravan had come my way before we left the UK for France. Conveniently parked not far from Labartere, I thought it ideal to use as our shelter while we sorted out the house. The problem of actually getting it on site was solved by friends of ours. Already resident in France, they zoomed down from Angouleme to see us. Like angels they were to us at that time. Being caravanners they knew the ins and outs of caravans, so not only did they tow the caravan here, but also set it up for us. (The campervan is on the right, and is the one which was swapped for a horsetrailer last week). 

The tent on the left of the caravan is the one we slept in for our first few nights. The Courtyard is looking quite pristine as well. Everything looks quite, quite, tidy!

August 2008: I always thought the caravan was not in its right place, and soon it was moved:

Gosh! How pristine everything still looks. The grass is green, the newly erected gazebo is clean and tidy, and the tent is still all together in one piece. The gazebo served as the kitchen area, a sitting area, and at the far end Lester had his table and chair and that was where he worked on his computer all the day long. The tent housed our clothes. They were kept in boxes to keep them dry. The tent also housed our porta potti. We resisted using the loo in the caravan for some time. Not sure why this was. Those night time loo trips were a bit of a scary experience sometimes. Spiders and creepy crawlies. 

Late August 2008:

After a huge summer storm swept over our heads we realised that the gazebo was a kite-in-waiting as it sought desperately to take off and run with the wind during the wildest bit of the storm. It was only by us hanging on to it that it remained in situ. We also realised the lack of effort the roof made at keeping us dry, it being ever so willing to  let the rainwater through, just like a sieve does. 

So, we began to cover the gazebo with tarpaulins and also started tying it down with large rocks in an effort to convince it that it was not a sieve and not a kite. It was to become so laden down with tarps that it could hardly stand. Meanwhile the tent stands firm despite having its door ripped during the winds of the storm, but its preference was to stay on firm ground. It did not seem to want to fly with the winds at all. Meanwhile the ground of the Courtyard gets its first proper churning up as the Big Cat machine is driven on site. This is the start of the work. 

First, though, everything that is loose, fallen down, or just rotten, has to come out. After a few weeks all that was left was the walls of the house and some main beams of the roof. It was a relief that the work had started. Hearing the thuds, crashes, and bangs as our house slowly continued its march toward ruination had become quite stressing for us especially in the middle of the night. Having all that loose stuff taken out did bring us a sort of peacefulness, except that the tarpaulins that were put up to protect the vulnerable walls used to flap with the lightest of breezes. Eventually that was to get on our nerves as well. 

Meanwhile caravan life was continuing on. The winter arrived, and with it our first taste of living the outdoor life in below zero temperatures. Of the mud which oozed underfoot, of having continual wet feet as our boots refused to dry out, of Lester sitting at his computer working away while icicles fell down on him from the tarped gazebo roof over his head.  And then....

January 2009: A tempest hit us. 4.30 in the morning it arrived. The gazebo said 'Wahoo, sail time', as it started to buck about in the winds. But I said 'Oh no you don't' and literally hung onto one end of the gazebo while Lester raced about outside trying to keep the tarps on until it got too dangerous and he came inside to hang on to the gazebo who was really mightily wanting to go away up into the sky but then at 07.30 in the morning we all lost the fight as the hugest of huge gusts lifted the gazebo up taking Lester with it three feet into the air then smacked it down again with an almighty thump, breaking the gazebo in two and plunging us all into a chaotic jumble of wet tarps and shreds of soggy gazebo. 

Untangling ourselves, we stood in the only dry space left here apart from the caravan, and that was underneath the lintel of the Half Barn doorway. We were wet. We were hungry. We were cold. So battled the wind again to get across to the caravan and spent the rest of the day huddled up in the damp bed, dog as well. Couldn't risk putting the gas on to make warm food. The electricity was off. As I say, huddled up we stayed until the tempest blew itself out, which was early evening. It was long day, that day was. 

A couple of days later and those dear friends of ours came down to rescue us, fetching another caravan down with them. This was parked up alongside the other one. That was a big boost to our spirits because it provided us with sleeping quarters (the original caravan), a kitchen and living area (the new caravan) and by then we had done a quick renovation job on the Pig / chicken hut and turned it into our office. 

Meanwhile, Danny, our French builder, had started work on the house. 

The Courtyard was looking far less pristine, and generally more untidy. The grass was being pushed back as vehicles went to and fro the Courtyard. I was still parked up over at the caravans, keeping out of the way. Lester was most times parked up in the Pig / chick hut working away to provide the necessary income for the renovation work to continue. We also had acquired Gussy, who is standing in the middle of the above photo. 

November 2009: And come the day when the roof was up, and into the house went my freezer and sundry other bits and pieces which had been piled up underneath those tarps which are now laying discarded on the ground. This was the start of our second winter here. 

And then another storm blew on in, and despite Lester doing his best..... keep the tarps on the kitchen caravan' roof and awning, this happened...

.....a huge gust of wind and the awning back-flipped itself over the caravan. 

January 2010: Enough! Abandoning the kitchen caravan, I took myself over to the house and made myself a temporary kitchen out of my therapy bed, a table, some planks of wood I 'borrowed' from the builders, some jam jars, a couple of logs, a camping table, and sundry other bits and pieces I managed to excavate from our belongings. 

The kitchen caravan became abandoned, but we were still sleeping in the bedroom caravan. The 'office', too, was still in use. 

To keep our feet dry I had made a 'runway' between the caravans and the office. This was valuable in keeping our feet away from mud. Tarps also covered the ground, which again kept our feet virtually mud-free.

Meanwhile, the sheep had arrived, as had the chickens.... had the chicken hut and the sundry other bits and pieces which seem always to be lying about the place despite my best efforts to keep it tidy. 

And then it became time to donate the kitchen caravan to people needing it to house one of their mums when she came to visit. Meanwhile, I had made a little sitting room in a corner of the temporary kitchen, and all of our belongings were now in the house. The Half Barn had been three quarters finished but still needed the walls and flooring to be finished. The Tall Barn roof was nearly finished. The pigs were with us. Two of the fields had been fenced. A third winter beckoned. With no windows in the house it looked like it was going to be another cold one. Then our friends turned up for a third time and put the windows in, and made a door to the room which was to become our sitting room / office thus putting into retirement the pig/chick hut. 

....but we were still commuting at night to our bed in the bedroom caravan. But with a fourth winter looming, an urgency came upon us to move into the Half Barn. Which we did. 

Then a man came along and made us a proposition in regards to the camper van, which had been parked up out on the drive. This I wrote about a couple of blogs ago. 

Then it came into our minds that perhaps our builder would like to have the bedroom caravan rather than seeing it rot away. 

It's gone! 

Looks a mess does the Courtyard! Ah, but at least we can start the process of turning it into a garden. Once the geese and chickens have their own house somewhere else. Once all the buildery stuff, most of which is Lester's, has found a home. 

Like when the camper van left, the caravan has left a hole. 

And my eternal thanks to Val and Ron, for being such wonderful people. Circumstances have put a distance between us, and contact is broken. But I send up my thanks to these two. We could have managed without their help, but they made our life easier by the help they brought our way. 

I know that they regarded the giving away of the caravans as a waste. But I did not want to see them rot before my eye. Better that they be passed on to other people who will make good use of them. The same for the camper van. 

Meanwhile, the geese are digging their own hole in the Courtyard, the builder has dug a huge hole which will be an eventual pond, and the chickens continue to rake the ground over, so it is likely that the Courtyard is going to stay looking a bit grim for a while yet. Not to worry, I shall start taking over little bits of it and plant a few shrubs for next year. The future beckons. 

The entourage increases

Once upon a time I only had one in my entourage: Bools, our Spinger Spaniel. But that was back in the old times, back in the UK. 

He was my shadow. I could go nowhere without him in attendance on me. Sometimes this was a blessing, often not. He would get under my feet when I was busy which irritated me, when hungry or wanting a walk he would psyche me out by staring at me in a fixed manner which also irritated me. Often I felt he was ruling me, nevertheless he was good company.

This changed when doggy Gus arrived. He of the tendency to want cuddles whenever I stop long enough for him to take the opportunity to get near me. He of the big brown seal-type eyes that open even wider when he is of a need. He seems to be able to make them moist as well. One has to be firm with oneself when he does that. Gussy doggy, well he could do with an Oscar for acting. 

These two, then, comprised my entourage. And then......

......which, a year later, had become... entourage has increased, such that wherever I go they will follow. And they have their own methods of psyching me out, mostly to do with cooing, clucking, and crowing. This they do, to great effect, on the front doorstep if I am indoors. If outside, then they will be close by, observing my activities. 

And then, two weeks ago....

...these three arrived, put in my veg patch while they settled down. I was unhappy about this. Oh I knew that they had to go in an enclosed space and this was the only one available but I envisaged all eaten down to nothingness. 

They didn't. Eat all. In fact, all they did was patrol along the fence line, keeping an eye on what was going on. They didn't seem to go anywhere else. Meanwhile it rained. Meanwhile the weeds grew. My veggie patch became a jungle. Not to worry, at least I am finding some veggies even though I have to delve into a thickness of weeds to do so. 

Anyway, time to let the geese out, with the expectation that they would probably go somewhere else, like the river, or the sky them having quite huge wings which they often flap mostly when one is walking away from them, or walk off down the lane the side path being unfenced at the moment because the builder needs to drive his van to and fro the property. 

They did none of this. All they did was park themselves up in the Courtyard. With the chickens. With the dogs. With us. 

And there they have stayed, glued to the team. And if I venture forth from the Courtyard so will they. So will the chickens. So will the dogs. If I am not available they will wander off with the chickens but not for long. 

And they do racing games whereby they, with speed, suddenly get the urge to have a run up and down. Not far, though, just enough to say that they could do 'lift off' up into the sky if they wanted to. 

And they are starting to learn about feeding times. They don't like to eat their grain straight from the ground. They like to have their grain given to them in dishes. They are dainty creatures, these geese of ours. Very graceful, always chatting to each other, always watching. 

So my entourage now comprises two dogs, ten chickens, one cockerel, eight chicks, three geese. 

Crikey! And when I walk out of the Courtyard they all stream behind me....Gussy chasing the chickens, Bools chasing the chicks, the geese keeping a dignified rear guard. It raises the spirits no end. Unless I am in a hurry. As happened yesterday when the piggy girls raised mayhem, but I shall update you on that in the next blog. 

And my thanks to John, over at Going Gently, for inspiring this blog because he too has an entourage and I know that it lifts his heart as well. 

Monday 19 September 2011

Hen love-ins, potty bedrooms.

She's at it again. The little brown hen, the one who took a passionate inclination towards another little hen, mounting her frequently and going through the mating activity. Not sure if there was a conclusion. Probably not. She is a hen after all even if she thinks she isn't. 

However......she has now turned her affections towards our best egg laying big brown hen. Upon her back she gets. But she is too small, so just bounces about. To get the grip necessary for that backwards under flip of the rear end so that seed can be transferred one to the other, the one on top has to hold, with the beak, the feathers on the head of the one being sat upon. This action is do-able if one is of the necessary size. The cockerel can manage quite successfully, but not with the smaller hens though, because his weight squashes them so flat that their rear end orifices are most times pushed into the soil. Not to worry, though, at least he tries. 

But then it is his job to try and this he has done successfully as can be seen by the nine chicks that have been hatched since his arrival. And a quick word about those chicks. One was hatched under a hen-mum. Five, and then three, were hatched in the incubator. I was worried about them not having a mum to look after them, to snuggle up to when cold, to show them how to feed, how to behave. I shouldn't have worried. 

In comparison to the chick and mum family, those eight are far happier, better socialized, roam wider and therefore have many more adventures than the single chick whose mum kept him glued to her side for several weeks and then shooed him away once she decided that she had done her job. He now remains a solitary chicken, and does not seem to fit in with the rest of the flock. Not to worry, he is booked to go to another flock of hens when is old enough. 

As for the eight. They should have been kept in the outside run for several weeks but they didn't want to be cooped up even though the space was suitably large enough for them. In their heads was the requirement to be out amongst the rest of the flock and would kick up one hell of a hullabaloo about being kept caged up such that Hubs relented and let them out. Didn't think any would survive, but they all have so far, possibly because it is the end of season for any of the birds or animals who would need to hunt them, the hunger to feed their own young not being upon them like it is in the Spring. 

And five run together, and the three make their only little group. They are so happy together in their little bands. Racing around the place. Getting into mischief. Enjoying life. Snuggling together in corners when they need to rest. A lot of the time being one of the flock. Life is good for them. This I shall remember should the time come to cull them, in particular the cockerels of which there are several. 

But...back to that romping little brown hen. So she tries to keep a hold on the feathers at the back of the head of the big brown hen, which would then give her the momentum to do the backward rear flip over the rear end of the big brown hen. Except that to do that backward flip necessitates her leaving go of the head of the big brown hen, which then unbalances her such that the backward flip can't happen. 

And oh what a carry on  she makes. She squawks. She jumps. She carries on like a demented being. Meanwhile the big brown hen seems to be in a faze as to what is happening. Meanwhile, the cockerel seems just as fazed by the sight of two of his hens apparently having it away with each other. 

He is losing his feathers. Has been doing so for a while. Might be as a result of the hot weather. Might be because he is in a natural time of moult. Might be because of stress. Might be having his head scrambled by the sight of one of his hens mounting the other. Can't fight the little brown hen. Could fight a cockerel. But little brown hen is not a cockerel. So he dithers about in front of the hens. Unsure. Not knowing what to do. 

So what he does do, after a while, is peck at the head......but not of the little brown hen, but the big brown hen. So she now has two beaks having a go at her head. And it looks like he is telling her off,  his attitude being, 'Oh you naughty, naughty girl....what do you think you are doing. Stop it. Stop it this minute!' 

Which I think is terribly unfair. That big brown hen is one of our best egg layers. To have her upset is not good. To have the big cockerel having a go at her, and the little brown hen trying to mate with her....well, if I were her I would go on strike. 

And the other little brown hen is just as troublesome. She is the one who sat for weeks incubating the onions being dried in the Tall Barn until the onions became all used up such that there was nothing left to sit on. She then changed her sit-in area to the Wood Shed / Used to be the Office. This was not do-able because I have managed to keep the hens sitting in that particular spot for some weeks, mostly due to the large plastic egg which is always in situ. Therefore, frequently, I hauled her off that spot and put in the 'naughty box'  which is an empty rabbit cage. Seems to have worked. She has finally gone off the boil in regards to sit-ins, a mode she must have sustained for at least two months.

Meanwhile, one of the big brown hens has gone half-broody in one of the three flower pots housing the young olive trees. I say 'half-broody' because unlike the little brown hen, she is half hearted with her sit-in activities. 

I put a couple of eggs underneath her in an endeavour to make her sit-it worth while for both of us, only to find that she sometimes sat on the eggs sometimes didn't which enabled Gussy doggy to steal one of the eggs himself being sat in the opposite flower pot.

And here he is doing cute-dog pose. Only he is not a cute dog. Like a sudden summer storm he can blow up into a fiend when he likes. He also has a coat which is a nightmare to look after. He should be long coated, being a cocker spaniel, but his body hairs seem to have the capacity to stick together with much ease into horrid clumps of smelliness so he has to be kept clipped which has made him look far less pretty. Not sure how we are going to manage the winter with him. Might knit him a woolly coat. He does feel the cold and shivers frequently even if allowed to grow a full, tangled coat. 

So, pots one and two have now trampled down flowers which were at the end of their growing season anyway. Pot number three is still free!

To the pot, I think, the little brown hens will have to go. Not the flower pots, but the pot on the stove via a short rest in the freezer. I am still dithering about this decision, but the little brown hen is putting herself in the freezer because of the upset she is causing and every time I hear the ruckus she is making she is reinforcing my thoughts about despatching her. 

These decisions about life and death are very relevant when running a small farm. Who to save. Who to let go. It is not done lightly, these decisions about who to cull. But when I start stepping back from this task of choosing I only have to walk past the meat counter of the local supermarket. At least we know the history of our meat. 

I think that the majority of the chicks are cockerels. Two are booked to go to new homes when they are big enough, but the rest will go into the freezer. Meanwhile they are rollicking around, having adventures, exploring life. This I shall remember when they are due to be recycled. 

As for incubators: As I have said, despite my previous misgivings about using them because of the lack of parenting the chicks would have, it would seem that the chicks have a better time without a hen-mum around, and enjoy far more freedom which seems to generally make them more socialized and happy all round. 

And although the chicks are devastatingly cute when hatched, and one wants to keep picking them up and cuddling them, this stage does evaporate once they get their proper feathers. 

So off to feed everyone now..... first of the wet, colder mornings today, a portent of the winter to come. Not to worry, soon be Spring again! Will keep saying that to myself as clump about in my welly boots during the coming weeks! 

Wednesday 14 September 2011

A friend leaves

Our first day here, just over three years ago. We had travelled down in convoy (three vehicles) from the UK and had finally arrived in the early hours of the morning. We were tired. It had been raining. Getting out of the camper van we were plunged into a sea of sopping wet grass. Nowhere to make a cup of tea, (camper van too full of stuff to be able to get to the cooking facilities it has on board), no proper bathroom to have a shower and a loo, although we had a porta potti on board and we had made sure of being able to use it albeit with a bit of a struggle swamped as it was by stuff. Anyway, all we could do was shift all the 'stuff' around so we could get to the bed, and down for a sleep we went. 

We had sold our house in the UK. Taken the plunge. Do it. Or not. 'Or not' was dreadfully relevant that first morning. In the dark nothing could be seen of Labartere. It was a blob of blackness. Wetness. But with the arrival of daylight we could see all. The overgrown Courtyard. The gates hanging off their hinges. The house. Half the roof down, the rest almost. We were tired. Wanted only to get onto a comfy sofa, switch telly on, munch on a humungous pile of food. Be cosy. Warm. Dry. That is what I wanted. 

Dismay, therefore, took hold of me as I stood beside the camper van and observed our new home. Behind me, footsteps. It was Gary, our removal man. He, who had remained optimistic and cheerful for all the long hours of packing us up in the UK, and delivering us here in SW France. He, who had sat-navved us all the way down, probably taking several hours longer than what we should have as the sat-nav directed us this way and that way through Paris often in the opposite direction to the actual signs for Bordeaux. 

But cheerful, he remained always cheerful, as did we. Only my cheerfulness seemed to be on holiday at that moment, and forlorn-ness was swamping me. 
"I'm not taking you back" he said. Just that. It was enough. We unpacked. We started life. 

But the camper van didn't. Start life, I mean. Oh for a while it was our only vehicle. It took us into the first visits to the local supermarket where we stood for hours in front of foreign food shelves which didn't make any sense to us, it took us into our first city to try and get the internet and phones sorted out which was absolutely necessary because it is connected to our work, it took me on my first solo drive on foreign roads teaching me how to drive on the opposite of the road. For a while it stood in the gateway, then it got parked out front, pushed to one side as we came by an old French Mercedes which became our first vehicle. 

And so it got left, driven less and less, eventually becoming mechanically sticky such that it went into a miff and refused to budge. Meanwhile life went on. One roof up, two roofs, three, and the fourth was finished yesterday. 

A man came by three days ago and made us an offer. Yesterday he fetched up here unexpectedly. 

I felt a deep lump in my chest as I watched the camper van being towed away behind a big black lorry. It gave us France. I had an urge to purchase it when we moved from Kent to Buckinghamshire. Then I eventually got another urge to travel to France with it. Although I argued with that urge for a year or so, the urge won and to France we went and our life unexpectedly changed around because it felt like we were coming home. Three years or so later, another trip to France, and Labartere was bought. Another year or so, and we started our life here. It was the camper van which helped open that door. 

It is ironic that the day the fourth roof is finished, the camper van goes. The remaining caravan goes next week. It is the end of a phase. Like all endings, there is a time to stop and reflect, to feel that wrench of parting, even if it is with a vehicle rather than a person. 

But enough! I wallowed in memories yesterday. I guess that memories, because they are known, give one a measure of safety. After all, the future is unknown, which makes it a scary place to think about stepping into. 

We couldn't register the camper van here, that is why it eventually became almost abandoned. I put up a thought to the Universe as to what to do with it. The Universe answered and sent a man our way. But the man did not come 'empty handed'. Here is what he delivered by way of a trade: Ifor horsebox! Takes two horses and a pony apparently. So what are we supposed to do with that! It's too big for our requirements really although we do need a trailer. Lester is not fussed with towing it anyway. I looked inside it and thought it would make a cosy 'get away from it all' space especially if parked down in the woodland. Or the chickens could have it. Or we could use it as a shed. Like our future, its future is unknown to us at this time.........

Thursday 1 September 2011

Me, the hosepipe, and new recruitees

Just me mucking about as per usual...

Hope you enjoyed sharing time with me, Max, and the new arrivals.