Saturday 29 December 2012

My new sunbed

...... and here I am having a lazy dozy five minutes out in the sunshine, enjoying a roasty toasty sun bathe on my new sun bed. But perhaps, as you observe my booted feet you might be wondering as to what manner of sun bed this is, and here is another look sans moi:

..... and think you that perhaps this does not resemble a 'normal' sun bed, maybe even quite similar to the base of a settee? Ahha! You are right! For 'tis indeed that, and we have just removed it from the Half Barn in an attempt to halt the frightful smell that was getting stronger and stronger by the minute, thinking that interred within its shell was a rotting creature. 

Two hours later, we deduced that the rotting creature was still somewhere inside the barn because the smell did not leave when the settee did, thus leaving me with an opportunity to have a quick laze in the sun, which is something I do not do because I have not got a proper sun bed to lie, only the ground which is a tad on the damp side at this time of the year, plus Bools and Gus think that it is jolly good fun to have me at their level and won't leave me alone, so normally I just sit in a plastic chair to enjoy the sun. Each year I promise myself that I shall purchase a recliner for the garden, (what garden, we only have fields, but a girl can dream!) but can never justify the expense because renovating a ruin is a hellishly expensive occupation, so money is always being saved for important things, and this does not include a sun lounger. 

Lester went to get his hammer. He had decided to make a hole in the plasterboard to get to the dead thing, probably a mouse. He had decided that the mouse had got through the mousehole we had found by my side of the bed just before we blocked the hole up, therein becoming interred forever and after, or until someone decided to remove the plasterboard, but not Lester, definitely not Lester, because I put my foot down with an almight thump and denied him the use of his hammer, at least in the Half Barn. He wailed and carried on, but the hammer was denied him. Instead I got out some filler and went along the gaps where the beams and the plaster board met. Job done. The entombment is complete, and no smell doth drift through those now filled in gaps. But there is still a faint aroma, probably wafting through the gaps higher up in the roof beams. Am not doing those. They are too high to get to. 

So my sun bed / settee is now back indoors, and out in the Sheep Barn....

......mum and little ones doing well, although we did have a bit of a scare with her a couple of days ago because she hurt her leg, but not being able to move about very much has enabled the second born lamb to become part of her team and not be rejected. And the post? It is part of a proper pen so we can separate the sheep from each other if need be. 

And out in the field.....

..... the bramble hedge is shrinking, 

..... Lissie, our heifer, is still growing, 

....the chickens wait patiently for Lester to give them their supper, and the scythe waits patiently for me to sharpen it,

..... the chicks are growing, and their voices are now 'breaking'....

...... Orpy's son is strutting, preening, and generally showing off in the manner of cockerels everywhere....

..... and the grey 'hen' is most definitely a cockerel as well, so waiting for the two of them to start fighting. Not sure who we shall keep if they do. 

.... and today I had a joyous doze in the sun on my temporary sun bed. Wahoooo! Now off to sort out a ewe who has refused to come out of the field when the other do, this being the third day she has done this. I am going to have a chat with her, to see what's up. 

Bye for now.....

Friday 28 December 2012

Well we were tidy!

Thought I would give you an idea of the living space we are so pleased to have, which is away from the chaos of the rest of the house, which is going to be ongoing for several months yet due to the fact that Jean Pierre, our wonderful French builder, can only work here at the weekends. 

This video was taken in the 'before' time though. Because now we are in upsy downsy mode here in the Half Barn as well, because......

....well two evenings ago I was sitting at my PC, and a big black fly landed on my lamp. Swat. Was sorted. Then another one flew onto my PC. Swat again. Then another on the lamp again. Swat. Then swat, swat, swat, swat, as several more, at intervals of a minute or so  kept on appearing. Didn't think too much about it, although thought it odd, as did Lester, who is Chief Fly Swatter here, having lived his early life in the heat of South Africa where flies do what flies do, and that is breed with speed, including of course the maggot to pupa to adult fly stages. This has rendered Lester with 'Fly Phobia', so that whenever a fly enters the house he will, with speed, hunt it down. It also means that doors and windows must be kept shut, which I have found irritating, because I like windows and doors open. 

Anyway, during the day more big black flies kept appearing, lazily flying around as if still half asleep, heading towards the French doors, or the velux windows. 
"There's a funny smell in here" commented Lester a couple of days ago. 'Must change the sheets' was my immediate reaction, thinking that he meant the beddy smell that can happen when sheets are needing to be put in the wash, not that I do not change the sheets regularly but I had gone past my normal sheet change day a few days ago. 
"That smell is worse" grumbled Lester yesterday. Ah, so not the sheets because I had changed them earlier. 
Swat, swat, swat, Lester with fly swat, me with the broom. 
"That's it", he yelled, "I've had it..... there must be something dead in here"....
Oh strooth, so then he went on a hunt for the dead thing. Sniffing the air, he tracked down the point at which he thought the smell was stronger. It was the long leather settee, covered over with a duvet because leather is flipping cold to sit on in the winter and flipping uncomfortable in the summer when one's sweatiness makes one's skin stick to the leather like glue. 

Off came the duvet, flung on to the floor. Away from the wall he dragged the settee. 
"There, see?" he said, with an 'I told you so' look on his face. I, meanwhile, helped where I could, but was useless with the 'tracking of the smell' exercise as I don't have a sense of smell anywhere near as strong as Lester has, and was not particularly enthused with the hunting down of the dead corpse, which I knew had to be done but I didn't want to really have to be involved. But he did involve me with the examination of what he had seen, which was a scattering of black little pods, which could of been rat droppings, which we are familiar with, but which he decided was hatching eggs because "They have rings on them" he said. 

Oh crikey, so it was a dead body of something or other and not the sheets which had caused the 'aroma'. Oh strooth. 

"Got to find it" Lester said as he started forcefully dismantling the settee. We didn't. So we left the settee and all its bits strewn hither and thither and went out to the local supermarket for wine and choccie, because that is what one does when one is ticked off with the endless fight with the local population of four footed things which really think it is their right to live in our house as well. I also bought some scented candles and a packet of joss sticks as I also could now smell the smell. 

Swat, swat, swat, back to the swatting task we went when we returned home. Swat, swat swat, well into the evening. Then all stopped, no more swatting was needed. Was this the end? Had we finished with terminating the lives of these young flies? Had they finished hatching? Was the still unfound carcase finished with? We do not know yet. 

The candles worked a treat as did the joss sticks. We had a good nights sleep, surprisingly neither of us having dreams about flies and dead things, although I suspect that will happen sometime in the future. So now the task today is hunt down the carcase, which means moving everything all about as we do so. I wanted to do other things today. I did not want to shift furniture about, armed with a vacuum cleaner in case more eggs were spotted. I have done enough furniture shifting over the last few weeks. 

Not to worry, Vera. This is a task which needs to be done, and not to worry that it would seem that fly-phobia is arriving in your head as well. At least that will stop the ongoing argument between you and Hubs as to whether the doors and windows should be open or not, at least there will be peace on that question, because all the doors and windows will be closed during peak fly-flying times for ever more in the future. There! Something positive to take with you as you start the hunt! 

Now off to get our menagerie fed. 

Hope your Christmas season is progressing wonderfully well. Hope your tummies are not too full such that windyness is occurring, but not to worry if it is, because a good dose of bicarbonate of soda should do the trick. It might taste absolutely horrid but it does the trick, and fast!

Monday 24 December 2012


So today I got up, and in a mood. Wanted to go outside to enjoy the lovely sunny weather we are having. Missed yesterday's dollop of sunshine because I was in the kitchen for most of the time, tidying it up, baking a couple of cakes, pot roasting our home grown pork, and doing sundry other tasks which seems absolutely necessary to do because on Christmas Eve, that is what you do, tidy, cook, be busy. Sang at a carol concert in the evening. Came home ready for Christmas, not that we were going to do anything special, but at least I had promised Lester a roast dinner, even if I was iffy about cooking it because I just wanted to have a day out in the sunshine, because I missed the sunshine yesterday, and I know I have said this already, but I did feel robbed of that sunshine yesterday because I was doing things in the kitchen. 

So today I got up, and in a mood. Reluctantly I observed the clean kitchen table, knowing that soon it would be covered with cooking stuff. Lester was cheerful, though. He has just spent the last few days getting an enclosure made in the Tall Barn for the goats, so he is glowing with pride, and quite rightly so. Last night he got them in to their new sleeping quarters, and now he was getting them out into the field to join cow and sheep for the day. He was joyful in this task, but I was decidedly lacking in joyfulness as I fished around in the stock pot for the joint of pork which was then to be finished off in the oven, together with sundry other veggies. 

Anyway, I moped my way through the next couple of hours, being selfish really, or maybe not. It has been a busy year. Maybe I just need to rest for a couple of days. But I did help Lester out as he made a hole for a pole in the Sheep Barn, which is to be part of two small enclosures for pregnant sheep, or new mums with young, or orphans, and I did feel lighter in self when he had finished the job and cemented the pole in, ready for the planks of wood to be attached to it tomorrow. 

Back indoors for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Put the dinner on, now in a better frame of mind but would still have preferred to stay outside. Not to worry, Christmas Day only happens once a year so I had better get on with it and be more cheerful.

Then Hubs thought it a good idea to have a look at our stash of veggie seeds so we can sort out what we need to buy for 2013 veggies, which further cheered me up wonderfully well, then dinner became cooked, and we had it, and it was simple but tasty, and we bloated out quite well but not too much, and we felt in good cheer, and soon it would be time to get the animals in for the night, but first we thought to switch our computers on and see what the world was up to this Christmas Day.

Only it wasn't. Christmas Day had not been done by anyone else but us, this we realised when Lester said "What's today's date?"
"The 24th" I said. 
"Isn't Christmas supposed to be the 25th?" he said.

Then people stopped by and became enthused when looking at the goats out in the field, so we invited them in to have a look at the animals properly, so that their little two year old could see the animals, and even feed them, this being the time of day when the animals have their supper. 

Then the people went, and it became Christmas Eve but not for us because we did Christmas Eve yesterday, and have now done Christmas Day today, so tomorrow is Boxing Day for us, and I shall think of you all dashing about cooking, etc, because I did all that today, which means that tomorrow I can have my day outside in the sun while all of you make merriment!

So wishing you all a wonderful, cheerful, and joyous Christmas Day! 

Meanwhile, we are in soporific mode, and now into the choccies, vino, (Baileys for me), and the slothfulness of Christmas Day indulgence!

Thursday 20 December 2012

New arrivals, and the rugby tackle

It was the morning of the day.....

.....and the start of this season's lambs, and the start of little ones calling to their mum and their mum talking back, and the start of one's heart doing funny things as one watches the little ones, and the start of the worry about what to do for the best....for this ewe seems clueless as to what she is supposed to do. Last year she had her first lamb but it was still-born. This year she was alright with the first, licked and slurped it clean, talked and fussed about him, (it's a boy), did 'good mum' stuff. But later on, much later on, out came another one, which, I think, has fazed her. She started cleaning it off (not sure what sex it is at the moment as I have forgotten to look), then seemed to switch off from the task half way through, so it is not anywhere near as clean or pristine as the first born. Perhaps she ran out of effort. Perhaps she thought "Crikey, two! How the hell am I going to cope with two!"

And how the hell was I supposed to react when I saw her do a sharp head butt to that second born. Again and again she did that. But the little one kept going up to her for a nuzzle, only to be thwacked away again. 

I didn't do anything. Just stood and watched. If I had involved myself she would have utterly abandoned that little one. So what we did was penned her in a small enclosure, and let her get on with it for the night, 'Let nature take its course' being our thinking. 

The trouble is with youngsters who don't have a mum is that they are forever seeking someone to nurture them, this is the experience we have had with lambs who are bottle fed and chicks who are hand reared. With the mum-less lambs, out in the field they are without an anchor, drifting about, asking other mum's if they can have a sip of milk, and always being head butted away, often very roughly. Nature can be cruel when it wants to be. Oh it is sssssooooo cute when they see me with a bottle of milk and they come racing towards me for their drink, but it is not so cute when I have to push them away again, telling them they have to go back out into the field to learn to somehow be with the other sheep but without the anchoring, sheltering, support of a mum to watch over them as they do their learning. Their little faces at the gate is, well, quite heart wrenching. 

But it is even worse if we were to coddle the little ones, keeping them inside, protecting them, but in the long run doing them no good whatsoever. I have seen a lamb who has had this done to her. Now fully grown, she does not know what type of animal she is, has tried mating with a lama, and is as confused as anything about how she should act. She is always alone, tries to run with the other animals but is awkward with them, and my heart aches for her. She was raised as a pet, was fussed over by everyone because she was so cute,  and was even allowed indoors. Then she grew up, becoming bigger, not so cute, and a nuisance, as she continually sort out from the family the attention and affection she had when she was a delightfully pretty little lamb. Better really, for her, if she had been put into the freezer. 

So we have decided to let nature take its course with these two lambs. We hope that the sheep gets her act together, but at the moment she looks as if she is brain dead. I hope she sorts herself out. I picked up both lambs this evening to move them back into their enclosure for the night. One had a full-ish tum, the other not so much so. But they must be getting some nourishment from their mum because they are not dehydrated as yet. She seems to be still rejecting the second, but sometimes seems let it have a drink of milk, judging by the wiggling of its tale when it is under her udders. Our other ewes have been bright and on the ball when their youngsters have arrived. I am wondering if this ewe has been bottle fed. I am wondering if she lacks the ability to fully bond because she did not have a mum to teach her how to do things. 

But we shall probably help these lambs along by bottle feeding them if necessary. But if we do, then we shall not let this ewe have any other lambs. She will have to go into the freezer. Tough love, that is what it is. Maybe she will get her act together. I hope so. She is a nice girl.

Meanwhile, as the lambs were being born, this arrived....

......together with these piles.....

......whoopeeee....the chestnut wood for the ceilings! Jean Pierre, that most stirling trooper of a builder, has already got the supporting wood up in the cave ( said as 'carve') area. This is going to be the storage area for freezers, hams, cheeses, mincers, mixers, and anything else related to the storage and preparation of food. Where you see the blacked out window, well that is going to be a door into the Middle Barn, which in turn will open out onto the veg plot. 

....and I didn't laugh, not at all did I laugh, when Hubs / Head Shepherd did a full rugby tackle on one of the sheep who was tangled up in a long, nasty looking, blackberry twig / branch. Milling amongst the others, this being the end of the day when supper was being given to all, even to Elise (our young heifer) who had taken herself off into the Tall Barn completely by herself bless her, we noticed this sheep stressing about having this blackberry twig entwined around her. Lester grabbed her. She bucked. He clung on. She bucked again, not appreciating the efforts to help her out. He swore. Not much. But he did. (It had been a long day). He reversed his position towards her rear. She slipped away from under him but before she could get away, with an elegance I never knew he had, he did this dive on her, straight into the mud, but capture her he did. Upon asking him if he liked being a farmer man, Hubs said sternly, "no", but his eyes had a crinkle to them. 

Off to a party tonight. Now got to find something to wear other than my farm clothes. And no boots, no thick homemade socks, no long-johns, and definitely no thick handknitted floppy cardi!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Is 'she' a 'he' ?

We have a little hen. Actually she is not that little. In fact she is the biggest of the lot. And she has just started crowing. We think, therefore, that she is not a she but that she is a he. So what to do. We already have a young cockerel, and he is the son of Orpy, our 'recently departed into the skies above' cockerel.  We kept his son instead of either slaying or rehoming him, because of our loyalty to the memory of Orpy. But now we have this giant of a hen who is more likely to be a cockerel, so do we keep her / him or do we slay / rehome the son of Orpy. 

Here 'she' is, the grey one........

..... and here 'she' is again, with the son of Orpy beside 'her'.....

...... and here is the son of Orpy in person...

....still looking gangly, but coming along nevertheless. The grey is behind him. 

So we are going to do nothing for the time being. They are not fighting yet. Hopefully they will remain respectful towards each other so they can both stay here. If not, the Son of Orpy will have to go. His blood lines are already in the flock. To keep the flock healthy there needs to be new blood, and the grey will be the provider of this new blood. Of course, she / he might still be a she, and the problem will solve itself. 

But just in case......Anyone want a cockerel? Don't have a mind to put Son of Orpy in the freezer!

Friday 14 December 2012

Sniffling and freezing

Actually we are not really freezing, it is just that I was lazy about fluffing up the duvet yesterday and the electric blanket switched itself off mid way through the night, so while one side of me was being warmed up by Hubs, the rest of me was a tad on the cold side. But the bathroom was warm when I went for a visit at four this morning. We have left a heater on all the time in that room. Got fed up with exposing our bare skin and sitting on an ice cold toilet seat when bodily needs needed seeing to. 

So I lingered in the bathroom longer than I needed to, warming up. Switched on the blanket when I got back into bed, roasted the underneath of me, still felt cold seeping in through the top of me. 

Message to self: Do not be lazy. Fluff that duvet up. Never mind that it is a heavy thing, and that it tugs at the arm muscles. Do it. You will be a happier bunny if you do, and so will Hubs. After all, it is not nice to be woken up in the middle of the night by a cold body clambering all over you. Not that I exactly clambered as if for naughties. No, it was more a clambering designed to get the maximum body contact for heat from him. He didn't moan though. He's good like that. Just said would I shove over as he was nearly falling out of the bed. 

I have a cold. I felt miserable when it started happening. Then I thought to myself that I have a lot to be thankful for and that being miserable was a waste of effort. So instead of thinking 'I'm not well, I feel awful, oh poor me', I substituted that with 'I have a virus that my immune system is fighting, come on immune system, shoot the b*******r down'. I still have the cold, but I don't feel miserable. 

Old French houses are not designed for winter. They are designed for long, long, hot, summers, which is why most of the English here migrate back to the UK and the close confines of centrally heated smaller houses. But the stalwarts remain, wrapping up in lots of layers of clothing, getting the logs fires going and waiting for the sun to come out. A couple of days ago I sat outside in the Courtyard and fell asleep at my spinning wheel because the heat of the sun made me dozy. Chin on chest, I snored away for ages. Today though, oh but it is cold but probably warmer outside. So off to cut some grass for the pigs, collect some acorns for them and the sheep and goats, pick up the poo from the Sheep Paddock, put some hay in the barns, see if any of them have had babies. Crikey but the sheep are looking beamy. The goats too. All are getting udders. I said to Hubs that would be it a good idea to consider milking the sheep as practice for when we start milking the goats next year. He  looked at me. I said that we do like cheese made from sheep's milk, that perhaps I could practice for when I start having a go at goat's cheese. He looked at me again. One word did he then say to me, and that was 'NO'. Upon asking why, he then went into a spiel that he had enough to do and that if I thought he was going to wrestle with the sheep who are mighty flighty creatures and would not stand still long enough to even let him get to their teats let alone let him milk the milk from them and anyway even to catch the blighters was hell on earth to try to do and he was fed up with them standing on his feet when he is trying to give them grain and alfalfa and that anyway he prefers goats and the cow and why do we have to have sheep in the first place because they are nightmares on four feet..........

So, no, then. 

Have warmed up a bit while chatting to you, so off to do the day. Hope your day goes well. Hope you stay warm and toasty.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Oh just tidying up

In the Tall Barn, having a bed time chat with Elise (our young heiffer) as she munched on her nibbles, and I espied a frond of greenness poking up from amongst one of the piles of things. We have lots of piles of things, but they are smaller piles than we have had. When we first arrived here the piles were humungously big, but gradually they have become smaller. Anyway, saw this frond of plastic greenness. Ah, the Christmas tree. 

Then it came to me that perhaps Christmas was closer than what I thought, that I really ought to think about putting some sort of effort into 'doing' Christmas. So if the tree was there, where was the box of Christmas decorations. Ah, out there. By the Chicken Hut. Oops. Should not be there. Should be inside keeping dry, there being baubles aplenty and several ropes of Christmas lights therein. Forgot to move it into the house when we had to make room in the Tall Barn for the wood for the ceilings. That was weeks ago. 

Had a walk over to the box. It has a plastic lid. The lid has a hole in it. The box has got lots of water in it. So, no, we shall not be using anything in that box this year, if ever. Left it there. Did not have the heart to sort it out. Left Christmas tree where it was as well. 

It is not that I am anti-Christmas, it is just that the busyness of getting a new life sorted out here fills up the time so that Christmas gets pushed to one side. It was not always like that. For years and years and years I have 'done' Christmas, and enthusiastically so. But sometimes I think it is nice to take a holiday from the madness of the Christmas season. And I am thinking that perhaps I shall not ever put those old Christmas decorations up, that perhaps I shall start afresh next year. 

Anyways, I have been sorting things out yet again. This is what I have come up with as a solution for storage in my temporary kitchen, which is going to be my proper kitchen eventually. Cheapo storage shelves.........

..... and I know I often mention the dishwasher, but the table and surfaces would not, I repeat 'not', be anywhere near as tidy if I didn't have it. 

I like this space. I thought I would keep bumping into the kitchen table, this being the first time of having such an item in the middle of a kitchen, but I don't. 

 In fact, the table has proved its worth already. We were just about to cut up this piglet when I took this photo. She yielded about 50 - 60 kgs of meat, bless her. It made a change to do this task on a table which didn't wobble about.  We have had to make do on a camping table for the other times when we have done such a task. Handling a very sharp knife when there is a wobble hanging about is not exactly sensible. Lester only cut himself once this time, but that was on the previous day when we were removing the hair from the skin. I didn't get cut. I just got a scalded a little bit as I poured the boiling water onto the skin so the hair would soften sufficiently for the hair to be scraped off. Two hours it took to do that job. Two hours it took to cut her up. It total, it took about five to six hours over two days from being alive in the field to being not being alive in the freezer. There were certain elements along the way which jolted us a bit, but her end time was fast, dignified, and happened midway through the munching of her breakfast. 

Meanwhile, I have been arranging things artfully in the Half Barn......

....and making things as well. Those little lacy curtains in the above picture are my first attempts at using the wool I have been spinning. The orange fabric in the middle is something I made a few years ago when I was having a go a tie-dying. All this arty stuff does make me feel usefully creative. It's nice to look at something and know that it is home made. It's good for the soul. 

And here is Hubs ignoring me as I faff around with the camera. This is our new 'office' environment. It is clean. There is nothing falling from the walls onto our computer tables, and there are no tarpaulins on the floor. It is a relief to be away from the dust and muckiness of the rest of the house. It is a relief to be in the Half Barn......

.....ceiling still unpainted, but everything else is done. It is a restful and joyful space. We think we shall be quite happy to stay put in this part of the house for however long it takes to do the rest. 

Thursday 6 December 2012

Un petit accident

Had a bit of a 'start' to the day this morning. Am off drinking tea at the moment because it is upsetting my tummy, so I have hot Cranberry juice instead. The bottle is kept in the fridge. It sits beside the Baileys bottle. Somehow, and I know not how, my hand inadvertently engaged with the Baileys instead of the Cranberry Juice. Into my cup went a lovely dribble of Baileys. "Oops, that's a funny colour for Cranberry Juice", I thought. Upon further examination of the bottle I realised my error. Poured the Baileys back into the bottle reluctantly, deliberating whether or not to have a sinful moment and swig it down instead. Honestly and truthfully, all went back into the bottle. It is not my fault if some got stuck to the sides of the cup. And it is not my fault if I did not realise this as I poured some Cranberry juice into the cup, followed by some hot water. And it is not my fault that I did nothing to remedy the fact that the remainder of the Baileys had laced the Cranberry juice delightfully. I was, after all, still tired from a late night out at the choir rehearsal therefore could not be expected to empty the undrunk drink down the sink and start again with a cup of hot Cranberry juice unlaced by anything exciting at all. 

The new choir. Man oh man, but phew! All very friendly. All very French. Felt myself dunked in a sea of French words. It will be good for me, this new choir, because I shall not be cacooned from the world of the French by being sat alongside my English friends with whom I have English spoken conversations, as happens in the Mabourguet choir. In the new choir at Riscle, I shall not have this cacoon. Crikey, but I shall struggle. Ah well. Not to worry. I start in January.

Drop of sunshine popped through the mists this afternoon. Made everyone go loopy, especially Elise. Did a romp up and down the road and over and about the nearby field of oil seed rape and then bouncy bouncy over the front garden then back on the road with a kick of her heels and a flip of her back. She was very naughty. She was reminding us that she does not have to be a docile little cow all the time. She was saying "Do not expect me come in from the field and then go to bed in the Tall Barn without having a romp around first", that is what she was saying.  So no supper for her tonight or tomorrow night, this is what Hubs said. This edict lasted for all of half a minute. She turned full face to him, and he wilted. It's those eyes of hers. Wilts everybody who sees her. Hubs gave her a handful of Lucerne. I said not to. She laid her ears back when she heard my voice. Knows not to mess with me. Remembers the time she caused a ruckus with me and she got left out in the field for the night. This was when Hubs was away in Paris and I was the one in charge.   She has respect for me. But her and Hubs, well she knows which buttons to push with him, and he does do a drool over her. I do too, but secretly. 

No babies here yet, just one of the Sussex hens sitting on an empty nest. Not sure if she is broody or not, neither does she. 

No rain today. Temperatures going down to zero, so electric blanket switched on to 2 for the night. 

No washing up anywhere. I publicly do a drool over the dishwasher.

No soup in the freezer. It is stored in a huge pot in the kitchen, all cooked and ready to be bagged up. Off to do that now. 

Wednesday 5 December 2012

I'm just saying.....

I'm just saying that doing this smallholding lark in the rain is not the bestest enjoyment I can have. I am not moaning. I am not whinging. I am just saying.....

Just one day of torrential rain, that's all, and more bucketfuls this morning. The goats wouldn't come out from the sheep barn at all. Elise (our heifer) did go out but was found almost climbing back over the fence to come back in again just before lunch. The pigs sloshed around then went back to bed for the day. The chickens flitted in and out of shelter as necessary. The sheep kept on munching their way from side to side of the Big Field, oblivious to all except the need to fill their tums.The geese. Ah. Puddles! So they have been dredging out the puddles so that they can make bigger holes in the ground which we can trip over when the wetness goes away. 

We just got soaked. 

Two double rainbows late this afternoon. Does this mean good luck? If it does, then sending the good luck on to you all. 

And I would recommend home made knitted socks. (Photo in last post). In wellingtons that are too big the socks will turn over on themselves and come out an interesting shape, but wiggle them back into the correct position on the feet, and they soon go back into sock shape. But they are warm and have a cosy feeling. They feel friendly. 

Off to a new choir this evening. Got fed up with the other choir. Too much chit chat. Couldn't hear myself think. Got stuck behind three divas, big ladies, tall ladies, chatty ladies. Voice kept rebounding off their backs when I was singing, so sat down and listened instead. No one saw me sit down apart from those sitting beside me. I was hidden from most by the largeness of those three round ladies who were chit chatting even when supposed to be singing.

Jean Pierre has been carrying on with the ceiling in the back room. Says that there will be a 5cm slope to the ceiling over the front room. Means that anyone walking across the floor upstairs in that room could feel like they were on board a slightly sloping deck of a boat. Not to worry. Lester has issued instructions to Jean Pierre to make sure the ceiling / floor is flat, and to put a ramp where it meets anything else which is not of the same height. I am sure it will turn out alright in the end. It is, after all, an old house, and therefore is entitled to have oddnesses. 

Off to dry my DIY socks off so I can wear them to choir tonight. They got wet when I was splashing about making little streams in the mud of the Sheep Paddock so the water could drain away. Lester says that I should also have a shower. I said "Why, do I smell?" And he said, "No, you've got mud all over your face and in your hair". Not to worry. A quick wipe round with a flannel will sort that out. I do not uncover myself to the air unless it is to make a quick dive into the deliciously heated environment of the electric blanketed bed, or to get out of the warmness of that bed in the morning to make a quick dash into the shower, this being done when I am still half asleep. In between such events, my skin stays snugly warm inside at least five layers of clothes. It is the way. It is winter. 

Am off to find the flannel. x

Tuesday 4 December 2012

The reasons.....

The reason why we have not got a compost heap:
(We try to make one but the chickens keep scratching, eating, and demolishing it)

The reason why my kitchen is now looking a hell of a lot tidier:
(Dishwasher now plumbed in and in full operational order)

The reason why we have enough meat, and some veg, for most of next year:

The reason why I so love being here:
(well, one of them)

The reason why my feet were warm today:
(I made myself some knitted socks!)

The reason why I shall never be stick thin:
(Love messing about with food, love eating the end products )

The reason why we are going to be warmer next winter:
(The doors are to go up half way along the hallway, beside the stairs when they are built soon)

The reason why we are warmer this winter:
(The boiler to the left, and the bathroom that it feeds hot water to, resulting in hot showers which are so much better than standing in a large room with a bowl of water and a flannel)

The reason why we have a full freezer:
(With joy Max now has his two girls back in with him and I have the learning curve of making hams, bacon, etc, from the youngsters that Max and one of the girls produced last January)

The reason why we don't have a hedge:
(It used to come over the top of the poles)

(.....and you can see Elise, our young heifer, looking to see what is going on)

These are just a few of the reasons why I smile a lot.
I hope you have lots of reasons as to why you smile too.

Sunday 25 November 2012

The black goat, the man, the brambles

So it came to be the time for sleep. The Tamworth crew (our pigs) were pacing up and down, waiting for their supper. The hens were parked up outside the front door and on the garden seats alongside the door, winding down for the day, and waiting for their supper. The geese were floating about, causing mischief, but keeping an eye out for a bite to eat as well. Out by the field gate there was a queue. Elise (the young heifer), the goats, the sheep, all clustered together in a wadge of animals, everyone plump with fertility, except Jacob the ram, Elise, and the young female goatling.  Lester, well he was indoors working away on his computer, just finishing a conference call with the UK after having had an arduous few days sorting out someone else's problem. He was tired, stressed, and just wanted to get the day done, and the week. It was Friday afternoon. It had been a long week. Me? I was out at choir practice. 

The geese stopped outside the glass doors of the Half Barn, near where Hubs was working. Called at him through the glass, telling him that it was time to sort out supper for everyone. Nothing for it, finish the call, have a chat with the geese. Chickens and geese fed. Out to the field. Gate opened. All rush headlong up the side path and on into the sheep paddock, with Elise doing a turn to the right to trot merrily along to the back door of the Tall Barn, and from then on into her sleeping quarters. All going well. Elise fed. Sorted. Sheep already at their trough eating their supper. Sorted. Now for goats. But .... where was the black goat....

Back down the side path Hubs went. Called out 'Bisket' (or something like that). Heard one single little bleat, one, that was all, and very delicately made as well. Ah, sounded like it was coming from the brambles, the very same brambles that the goats had made their new clearance project.

Let me pause for a moment and explain the layout of this bramble hedge....... 

..... this photo was taken in April 2011, and the little piglet with Hubs is now all grown up and has been a mum. Anyway, just behind Hubs, to the right, is the bramble thicket. It is very wide, and during the growing season last year romped away to become as high as the fence posts, and was going to be a whacking great task to get cleared at some point in the future. 

But now the goats are on the case. They have cleared a line of brambles alongside the side path. The green posts are temporary. The brambles were as high as these posts, now they are trampled down. The photos do not do justice to the size of this hedge. As I said before, it is very wide. Nor do they show how deep the hedge goes, because beneath the hedge there is a deep, deep, ditch. 

So, a little bleating sound did Hubs hear. With sinking heart he realised that it was coming from the bramble hedge. But not a goat could he see. Nowhere in sight was she. With his heart now in his boots, he went into the field and round the other side of the brambles. Scrambling along the temporary fence line, he searched for her. Ah, there she was. He could just make out her shape. It looked like she was stuck. Where was she stuck? In the very middle of the bramble thicket, down in the ditch. 

Now although the goats have eaten this year's growth on  some of the brambles, underfoot on the patch they have been working on is the older bramble branches. The goats have delicate feet and so can manage to step with careful grace through these  sharply thorned stems, which lay thickly underfoot. Hubs does not have such delicate grace. The ground also dips sharply as it goes into the ditch. 

The feet of Hubs do not manage the twin hazards of the thick carpet of thorned branches of bramble plus the steeply sloping ground. Up in the air they go, thus rendering Hubs flat on his back, the momentum of his fall tumbling him down into the thicket, and into the heart of the  ditch.

All was not well. There was no sky above him, only a ceiling, at almost face level, of hostile brambles. To his left and right the same. But the good news was that Blacky, our black and white pregnant goat, and himself were now face to face with each other. And both were stuck fast. 

He said that he felt panicky. He said that he could have done with a rope thrown to him by someone (me, who at that moment was having a slice of lemon cake and a cup of coffee, choir rehearsals now over) so he could haul himself out. He said that it was the stuff that nightmares were made of.

But somehow, and he knows not how, he managed to turn over and crawl back through the slight furrow he had made in the damp ground as he slithered through into the ditch. With the brambles desperately trying to get him to stay by clinging on to him, he dragged himself out. Turning round, he grabbed Blacky by the horns, dragging her out, mindful that she was expecting but having to be forceful nevertheless. 

Success! Saved! 

It was at this point that I returned home. I tried, I really did try, not to laugh. Not when he showed me his scratches, of which there were many. Bless him. He was already onto his second glass of wine by then. No, what got me most was his scratched botty. And the thorn which he carefully handed me from that region of his body, right in the middle of me cooking dinner. It was a long thorn. I think I managed to handle the situation. I did offer to rub some antiseptic into the wound from which the thorn had come. He refused, with dignity. I did not laugh much, just smiled sympathetically and carried on cooking dinner. Ah, the life of living on a smallholding. Never a dull moment. 

Friday 23 November 2012

Operation Tusks of Max, removal of....

And so it came to the morning of the day. Time for Operation Max to swing into gear. First, let the sheep out. Done. Chickens out. Done. Geese out. Done. Elise (the heiffer) out. Done. Goats out. Done. Pigs done. No. Get the sedative into Max before he gets fed, that is what the plan was as laid down by Hubs / Head Pig Keeper. 

Got an apple. Cored it. Plan was to mix the sedative and put it into the core of the apple. Give Max the apple. Down his throat all would go. Max would then go to sleep. Cut tusks. Job done. 

No, that did not work. Max is getting a fussy eater. No competition you see. Can leave his food all day if he wants to. No one else, no other pigs, are going to eat it because no one else is living with him at the moment. Food disappears though. Chickens, crows, magpies, rats, mice, these will all partake of the food. He did not eat the apple. Took it. Dropped it on the ground. Not interested. 

Back to the kitchen. A sandwich then, that was the next plan. Sandwich made. Sandwich eaten. Rest of food given. Back to the house for breakfast. 

Later on, Max asleep? No. Dopey, yes. Zonked out? No. Lester deliberates: To do or not to do, that is the question. 

Look at those two girls standing dead still, carefully observing proceedings while Lester continues to fuss Max. 

He deliberated for quite some minutes about whether it was safe to go into the pen or not. He did. Max gave a sleepy, half hearted grunt, and retreated into his hut...... 

oh dozo boy...... 

..... "Are you coming out Maxy" says Lester, not wanting to go into the rather small hut, just in case Maxy decided to wake up and do something 'orrid to him. 

Nope, Maxy-boy was not coming out. In fact he was sinking, gradually. Hubs got a piece of cardboard between tusk and cheek...... 

......had his hacksaw ready to do the deed. Operation Tusks of Max underway.

....actually no, it wasn't. Upon feeling the pressure of the toing and froing hacksaw Max sat upright. Slowly though. Lester backed out of the hut. Maxy followed him. Stood by the door, staggering a little, but upright. Another chance to get that tusk cut perhaps.....

Hubs aimed the hacksaw at the tusk. Maxy stepped sideways thus disengaging with the hacksaw. Operation T of M dead in the water. 

A thought: perhaps a sort of secateur might be better. But not the one we use for cutting plants. No, a gigantic thingy. That's a plan. Hubs off to the local Brico as soon as it was open after its two hour shut for lunch. Got a gigantic thingy. Two hours had passed though. Max was on the wake. But Lester bravely went into the hut again, wherein Maxy-boy was now upright but still floppy...... 

........Lester aimed the jaws of the thingy at a tusk. And got it. Maxy, oh Maxy..... 

..... into the corner he thrust his face. 'Enough', his body stance was saying. 


.....Max's girls waited patiently for him to come out to play. He did. This morning. Lester opened the gate between the two pens and through to his girls he sauntered, swinging his rear end cockily, past them he went, straight for their food. The girls, meanwhile, went straight past Max and into his pen so they could investigate his living quarters. Ah well, there was a sniff of the tails as they passed each other, and hopefully they will soon be making piglets for next year. I am sure that they will enjoy trying. 

As for Operation Tusks of Max, well, it was half a success, one ingrowing tusk now safely trimmed. The other tusk will have to wait for another day.