Monday 30 January 2012

Do the joys outweigh the sorrows?

These first weeks of 2012 have been full of ups and downs. Everyone has them.  Ups and downs. It is the way of life, and to expect not to have them is unwise.  It is just that one can get tired when the ups and downs come one after the other, sandwiched into the hours of the day so that one feels like one has been rolled over by a steamroller when that particular day ends. But then, most of my adult life has been thus. At least it makes for an interesting life.

I had a quiet year in 2006. Nothing much happened. I had my first summer off from work, employed  or self employed, and the demands of raising a family single handed. I coasted all that summer long. And I felt dreadful. Absolutely bored out of my skull, conditioned as I am to having drama in my life. Ah well. Drama stops me from being bored. Makes me take notice of those pockets of 'ups', makes me count my blessings, makes me more resilient to those 'down' times, stops me from flatlining and getting depressed.

First lamb of the year came but its life was already extinguished as it arrived. Black it was, with a white star on its forehead. We didn't expect any lambs this year. Thought Jacob was still too small to do the job. Apparently not. We are seeing signs of several of the older sheep who have already been mums, but this first lamb arrived from a young ewe, and was totally unexpected.

What drew our attention to something happening with her was a bag the size of my open hand, and full of pinkish fluid, which was hanging out of her bottom by a thread of skin. She was perky though, and not looking in any pain, so 'wait and see' was the mode of thinking we adopted. We kept her in the Sheep Paddock. I, meanwhile, went for a search on the Internet to try and find out what was happening. She did not seem to have put on any weight and was not showing any udders, so the bag of fluid was a mystery. Did not think that she was in lamb. Too young, we thought, although had been donated to us by a friend who we were no longer in contact with, so we did not really know her true age. But could not find any info anywhere, but she was still looking alright, still perky, still moaning about not being with her mates out in the field, so I got on with my day.

The lamb arrived four hours later. We realised that she was going to have a lamb when she laid down on her side and started making heaving movements on her flanks. The lamb was born dead. I think that the sac of fluid was the amniotic fluid, that it should not have fallen out in its sac, that is what I think.

But the sheep is well, makes a couple of moans from time to time, but then she would. Her hormones are all geared up to look after a young one and her udders are full of milk. I have had youngsters myself. I know who she feels. Hopefully she will be able to raise a lamb next time.

'Why keep animals' was a question put to us by one of the guests at a recent Burns Night Supper in a friend's barn, 'They are such a tie,' she said. Yes they are. They also produce sadnesses. But then, the next morning, .... out in the field.... standing in the most heavenly dawn .... mist softening all... giving hay to the sheep who stood around me waiting expectantly.....and some of the nuzzled up so I could scratch behind their ears ...they like that, a little soft tickle at the base of their ears ....... and all was blessed with a quietness and a oneness ..... it was as if they were saying 'You do your best and thankyou'..... giving back, that is what they were doing.....deep was the look in their eyes...... it was magic ..... priceless. Yes, animals are a tie but they give you so much in return.

I read somewhere, I think someone's blog but I can't remember whose and I am sorry for not being able to make a link to that post, but when one's ship is being tossed about on stormy seas, if the joys of one's life outweigh the sorrows, then those storms are worthwhile. Do your joys outweigh your sorrows? Think on. Do the 'ups' outweigh the 'downs'? Think on.

We have the builders this week: loo, shower, ceilings. Not to worry that also the temperatures are running at minus 5 with a wind chill of minus 9 so the house is going to be tad on the cold side as the builders to and fro. It also looks like at least one of the sheep is going to lamb. She did this last year during a severely cold spell. The Tamworth pigs are rolling around in mud up to the knees after the recent long spell of rain, and Max, the boar, makes me as mad as hell because he insists on transferring the newly laid straw bedding onto an outside terrace he is making so he can lie in the sun, when the sun does appear. Unfortunately it has been raining a lot so that new straw is now soggy. I have gone on strike with putting any more straw in his hut, but instead concentrate on the brick hut. The chickens are still roosting up in the tree, although Orpy the cockerel does sometimes bed down in the chicken run beneath the tree. The little chick born six weeks ago is also up the tree now, although has got too big for his very tiny mum to shelter him. The other night he cadged a 'room for the night' underneath half a wing of one of the other hens. He seems to be surviving. The geese continue to rollock around in the rain and mud, enjoying the wetness and softness of the earth. Hubs continues to work on his PC for endless hours with people in the UK. I bounce between them all. The seeds are being ordered for the coming spring. Work on the veg plots has halted because of the weather, so I catch up with indoor jobs. Do my joys outweigh my sorrows, which in this case would be my work load. Absolutely! Do my 'ups' outweigh my 'downs', mostly!

Hope your week is a good one.

Monday 23 January 2012

Grand Plans Day

Full of energy, well more or less depending on what time of the day it is, Sunday hits me with a thump. Despite my intentions to use the day as a catch-up from the previous week or to get ahead for the new week ahead, by the time  mid morning arrives my energies have dwindled away to nothingness. For me Sunday is really a day of rest despite my intentions of it being as busy as all the other days of the week.

So, feeling myself sinking into slothfulness I was not best pleased when Hubs decided to do a walk about round the 'estate', (the kitchen field in this case) and it was raining although not much just a drizzle which was enough to do a light soaking, and he was in Grand Plan mode, bless him. And I must admit to being a bit of a grouch which was naughty of me. When in Grand Plan mode, Hubs is unstoppable and he tires me out. But then when I am in unstoppable mode and doing my buzzing about like a busy bee round a bunch of flowers no doubt I tire him out as well. But today, he was in his unstoppable mode so I just tagged on behind.

Subject: ongoing......where to site the Chicken Hut. The flock needs to be evacuated from the Courtyard. They are not particularly messy because Bools and Gus hoover up any poos left behind, but not on the garden chairs. We have to mop the poo off them ourselves. The flock also needs to come down from the fig tree and have somewhere proper to lay their eggs instead of spending their time trying to find hiding places for their egg stashes. was decided to put the Hut beside the Half Barn. We tried moving the donated horse box into position so it could be used as a temporary residence. After much effort, Hubs did finally manage to back the horse box into position, but it looked dreadful parked up so close to the house and so it was moved back again to its position under the oak tree. was then decided to put the Hut somewhere else, perhaps out in the field, by the Middle Barn.
......more discussions....the Hut to go by the Half Barn, as was originally intended, but that we would build one. Ummmm. I am sure we can build things. After all, I do dressmaking so surely if I can make curtains and duvets, do patchwork, make most of my own clothes..... I can follow a pattern.... I can look on the internet for help....we can do, I am sure.....

Subject: new....goats: Of all the animals we have gathered so far, it looks like we shall be properly prepared before we acquire our little herd of goats. Their home is to be the Middle Barn, which is also going to have a temporary bedroom for guests. Cosy, don't you think! However, most of the Grand Plans talk was to do with how we were going to get the goats out to their grazing for the day. It was decided to fence some of the Kitchen Field and make a narrow corridor to trot them through, like their own little M25.

Subject..ongoing....pigs: Hubs has decided that the Small Veg Plot can double up as rooting around space for Max, our Tamworth boar. His girls will be moved around, but he won't go far from his spot, the reason being that he can be a miserable old git. It will have to be organised properly. It is likely that Hubs will take it into his head to let Max into that veg plot when I have veg growing there. to site the Polly Tunnel: not got one yet as can't afford one, but in time......Typically for us, it will not be a titchy thing, but will be quite a size. We can be subjected to howling winds sometimes, not often, but sometimes. The winds funnel alongside the nearby escarpment. 'Cement the hoops of the Polly in' was decided. With luck that should stop it blowing away when the winds come. Position of Polly was also decided as was another row of fencing to make an enclosure for any animals needs to be kept separate, like our Jacob ram who has surprised us by making a couple of our ewes pregnant (we think - their udders are looking plump) and might need to be housed away from the girls so we can do proper flock management. That enclosure will also house a small orchard of up to thirty trees. Hubs will also need some sedatives. Young trees, goats, and / or sheep all together in one space is a recipe for disaster.

Subject....newish....Geese Pond: geese also need to be evacuated from the Courtyard. And they need a pond. Hubs is hoping that this will keep them away from the nearby river. But the pond will be small, and it will have a weeping willow beside it so that they, and the chickens, can camp out beneath its draping fronds. Well, that's the plan.

At this point it rained harder, thank goodness, so it was  all indoors for a cup of tea, some Yoghurt Cake (very yummy), and some dog biscuits. I then switched on the electric blanket in our bed and went for a roasty sleep to dry out and warm up.

It was a grand Sunday. Hope yours was too. And hope that you have some Grand Plans cooking up as well!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

On ploughing a furrow

Been a bit short on words since Christmas. Not sure why. Just seemed to have a block in my head, that's all. Anyway Jean sent me an award, which I would not normally post up on the blog, but I did this time because she seemed to click a switch on in regards to getting back in the blogging saddle again. So thanks Jean.

Today I did two hundred thwacks with my trusty thwacking instrument. It is a three pronged thingy which, when raised up behind me, similar in action to swinging a pickaxe, and then plunged down into the ground in the same way as you would a pickaxe, will hopefully break up clods of earth, or clumps of grass, or dislodge unwanted greenery from the soil. It is a magnificent bit of kit. I could use a fork but you have to do a lot of stooping and lifting which makes my back moan no end. With the three pronged implement, no bad back ever arrives. Other things might ache in my bod but my back remains quietly happy.

Mid December and Hubs took it upon himself to get the tractor revved up. Together we managed to get the plough attached. Off he went into the Kitchen Field. Down to the end of the field he drove. Into the soil went the plough. A furrow was made.  Our first.

Then some more were made......

....well quite a few actually. And what Hubs made were three long section of furrows with a wide grassy path in between.

And then the plough broke. Expletives punctured the air. Not to worry, though I thought, because enough furrows had been made. If the plough had remained unbroken heaven only knows how many more furrows Hubs would have made. He was, to put it mildly, really really keen to keep going up and down on his tractor.

So he finished off his afternoon of tractoring by lifting the last remaining hay bale from the front drive and donating it to the pigs, who received this provender with great pleasure.......

Max first because he is king in his little kingdom, so he expects to get first choice over everything. So what he is doing is rummaging about in the hay bale to break it down. Then he did a bit of a wee over it all, I suppose the equivalent of spraying some air freshener into one's house to make it smell warm and homely, then he grabbed a mouthful of hay and ran around the paddocks as if on important business.

Then the two girls joined in and a good time was had by all, including arguments, chattings, rompings and general family type behaviour. The hay was a great success, the pile lasting a week or two before the rains came.

So now we have the Kitchen Field with three long swathes of ploughed earth. Ploughed earth is not easy earth. It is cloddy earth. Big clods actually. Big enough to make it difficult to walk over without tripping over. Good thing, then, that we can walk in between the rows of clods.

Now this clodded earth is supposed to be the growing medium for this year's veg. You can't put anything into these clods, so they are unusable at the moment and need to be broken down into fine tilth if they are to be used.

Two hundred thwacks a day I devote to those clods. But I cannot break down the clods because a clod is made up of big chunks of grass and weeds and their accompanying roots, resting sideways on. What I have to do is thwack the clod hoping to break it down into a smaller piece. The three pronged thwacker then fixes itself into the clod so that I can turn it upside down so that its bottom is in the air. Any frostiness will then sit on this clod bottom and break down the lumpy bits of earth, while the green bit which was up top but which is now underneath will become rotted down and act as manure.

Two hundred thwacks does not take me very far along those furrows, but I have a lot to do during the day so two hundred is the quota I give to that particular task. One hundred mini-thwacks are given to the small veg plot. I try to do five hundred clips with the shears on the brambles and two hundred thwacks at demolishing a pile of plants and rocks out front. I do one hundred spins on my spinning wheel before I put the wool on to the next hook. I count to ten when I feel my patience evaporating. Sometimes, though, I have to count to fifty, or even a hundred, when my patience is at zilch. Counting is a good way to get one through a repetitive task and helps one apportion one's energies.

However, I might have to increase the two hundred thwacks tomorrow because the earth is drying out fast. At first the ground was heavy with water and turning the clods was a long and heavy task. Then the conditions were right, and I zinged along with clodding. Now the ground is drying, and the clods seem to have glued themselves into hard lumps. Perhaps we shall have rain soon. That will soften the clods. It will also give me a day off!

I dedicate these words to Jean, who may, or may not be, flattered!

Please note: I can receive your most welcome comments, but I can't get into the comments box to make my response back to you. I have noticed other problems of late with other blogs. Methinks Google needs to sort its links out.

Meanwhile, Horst: thanks for your advice about the tractor. Hubs has decided that we need a smaller tractor more suited to the size of our paddocks so will eventually purchase a mini tractor and the necessary implements to go with it.

Diane: That implement is a marvelous tool and sure does keep me fit, especially the bat wings on the underneath side of my upper arms!

Friday 6 January 2012

Strewth.....all I did was press a button to see what would happen and the graphics of the blog went all askew, so please be patient with me as I sort out the mess. Message to self: Do not meddle about with things that are alright in the first place.