Friday 24 February 2012

Passing the time

The patchwork curtains I have just made for the Half Barn, made out of bits of fabric I had in my stash. They are a bit on the thin side, and I might line them for next winter, but I do love the way in which the light shines through them giving them a stained glass effect. I pass my time quite happily watching the way in which the light shines through. Even on 'not so nice weather' days they still look bright and cheerful and lift the soul.

Today I have done quite a lot of stopping, my snuffles now having turned into full sneezes and a waterfall of a runny nose. It is, I think, down to the amount of dust we have in the house, as Jean Pierre now moves on to working on the ceiling of what will be the dining room. Robbed of any energy but not ill enough to go to bed, I have passed my time doing little bits of tidying up. Didn't make much difference to the overall state of chaos, but at least I feel that I made some sort of contribution to getting straight.

In between I passed the time at having a go at getting the donated knitting machine going:

It is a fearsome beast and much more complicated that the knitting machine I had years ago, but I did manage to produce some rows of knitting. Tough to push to and fro though. Too much use of it will make my arms go very muscly.

Hubs, meanwhile, was passing the time talking to Jean Pierre:

....who is the other side of the wall. They were up there for ages doing man-talk.

Meanwhile, the bread was  passing the time by basking in the sunshine.

I had put it there because it was being lazy about getting risen up. I thought a nice warm up in the sun would get it going. It did. The bread is now cooked.  I do not know where the sunshine has gone in this photo, but, honestly, the sun was shining....

Meanwhile,  passing their time out at the Small Veg Plot:

...the chickens have done a great job about keeping the weeds down. Well done all you lot. Saved me a job.

Meanwhile, out at the Pig Pens:

Max and our other Tamworth girl were passing the time by having a a bit of a romp in their mud wallow, Max just as hour or so before having had his way with her, but in the privacy of their hut.


....our other Tamworth girl was passing the time having a snooze in her hut. Actually, what she was doing was going into labour, because a couple of hours later we could see one little piglet. I would have gone in to her hut to help her, but Hubs said not to, that she was perfectly able to do the job herself. And she didn't look stressed. Sort of had a smile on her face.......

This chicken is not too good at the moment, and we think she is on her way out.

...she passes the time by shuffling about the place, looking all bent over. We would put her into a cage, but think that she is better out and about. The other hens are quite caring of her. One was talking gently to her as they shared a puddle of water, and seemed to be encouraging her to drink. Orpy, the cockerel, even took his pleasure of her, which flattened her to the ground, but then he stood around her seeing if she was alright, perhaps because she didn't make the normal signals to him that it was a job well done.

The loo! Now in its proper position, and passing the time until it can have running water and be a proper loo. The space beside is the Italian Shower. Posh name for what is a tiled shower space, but Jean Pierre and Danny like to refer to the space as the 'douche italien'.

And here are is Twoey, waiting for her milk. She is the little black lamb at the bottom of the photo.

.....and having a moment with Gussy. Bools and Gus are good with her and give her a lick round to make sure she is clean. Bools and Gus, though, may not be quite so bold with the sheep. One of them wouldn't come out of the field last night. She had twins the day before and is taking her job very seriously. Normally a ewe will keep her lamb / lambs close by for a day or so, not wanting too much interaction with the rest of the flock. After that, she starts putting more distance between herself and her youngsters which make the youngsters start interacting more with the flock as a whole. This ewe is not doing that. She is the most ferocious guardian of her twins. Both Bools and Gus have been rammed at full force by her, knocking the wind out of both of them. All they wanted to do was have a lick round the botties of the lambs. Hubs is not enarmoured of her either. He had to chase her round and round and round and round again, trying to get her out of the field and into the Sheep Paddock.  He fetched up red faced and out of puff. I did not say a word. Nor did I show my mirth, which was jiggling about inside me waiting to erupt at any moment. 

Off to bed I went at seven last night. Fed up with the sneezing, coughing, and runny nose. Now it is five in the morning. What a delightful time it is. All are asleep. But....sneezing, etc...has just started again, so I think that I shall tiptoe back to bed for an hour or so.

Bye for now......

Tuesday 21 February 2012

It has been a quietish day...

Can't wash up in the old sink in the used-to-be kitchen because it is full of brick dust and rubble, Jean Pierre having been working today on the ceiling which required drilling big holes in the wall one of which was just over the sink.

Now it used to be a working sink until Hubs accidentally dropped an apricot kernel down the plug hole which has sealed it up so it does not drain at all. Not to worry, the water in the sink is scooped out into a bucket and either used to flush the loo or, if 'dirty' water, then it is thrown with gay abandon out of the front door. Sometimes the whoosh of water lands on a chicken or two, but they don't seem to mind, and a couple of times I have nearly delivered a soaking to Jean Pierre as he goes about his builderly business. Often my feet catch a few splashes so I can end up with soggy shoes if not careful. I have also perfected a one handed toss of the water, and here's what I do just in case you have to throw a bowl of water out of your front door.

So you have a full bowl of water, which has hopefully not dribbled down you as you carry it ever so carefully through the hall and out of the door. If sensible, you would have opened the door first so that you do not have to jiggle about with the door catch. Trying to hold a bowl of water plus opening the reluctant door will truly ensure wetness from the jiggled about water somewhere down the front of you. Now you are hold the bowl bosom high and sort of do a sideways twist of your upper body. Then with a grand flourish you fling the bowl away from yourself, trying to keep hold of the bowl with one hand, whilst the other hand lets go its hold. You should be able to make a lovely big arc of water, which is quite satisfying. The bigger your flinging movement, the bigger the arc you will achieve, plus.....if you also add 'et voila' at the top of your voice your feeling of achievement will be even greater.

You might be asking 'Why is the pipe not been unblocked', and the answer, if indeed you hold an interest in the subject of our non functioning sink, is that it does not have a pipe that we can see. The sink sits in the wall itself, so somehow the water must have flowed through the stones of the wall. We found the outlet  hole a while ago, and that was quite some distance from the actual sink, so perhaps it is better that the hole got blocked since it must have made the house damp having that water flow through it...But we have got hot water, and that comes from a boiler put over the sink by a friend of ours.

But I am going on a bit as per usual! So the sink is full of muck. Couldn't face cleaning it out tonight so thought I would leave that until tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next!

Meanwhile, with the sun shining brightly today, I spent most of my day outside, even being so bold as to divest myself of my cardi. Lots to do..... feed Twoey, watch Twoey to see if she is not too lonely, go watch the other lambs and mums to see if they are alright, back to Twoey for a quick check, pop over to the pig pens to see if pregnant mum is still alright, have a stroke and a chat.

Hubs has gone off sheep. This morning they were in a terrifically scatty mood. Went down the path to the big field, then turned around again and headed en masse back up to the Paddock, but instead of going back into the Paddock they kept going down the driveway, finally fetching up hovering in the lane, with the general inclination being that since the fields were all eaten down, that perhaps the lovely field of six inch high spring wheat which is growing in a field next door to the Side Field might be a better option. Hubs was fuming. I throttled back my laughter. 'Twas not a good time to see the funny side. Anyway, so sheep finally got into the Side Field, leaving two mums with the five offspring in the Paddock, and the spring wheat lives to see another day.

Went on an egg hunt tonight...knew where a stash of eggs was, but had kept forgetting to collect them. Ah. One hen sitting on the stash. With lightning speed (one does not linger in this task as hens can give quite nasty pecks if disturbed) I whipped her off the eggs. Off she went, yelling sufficiently loud enough to get Orpy, the Buff cockerel, back off his roost for the night, which I was quite impressed with actually. He is a laid back boy and does not do effort even when one of the girls is jiggling herself in front of him to encourage him to climb on board. Sometimes he ignores her, sometimes he gets on but is half hearted about the task so often falls off the hen's back, but sometimes he does manage to do the job. We have, after all, got his offspring in the freezer.

So what to do about the stash. Picked all the eggs up at first, but then decided to put half a dozen back so that the hen, if she felt so inclined, could do a brood. An idea has flashed into my head that we could put one or two goose eggs underneath her as well. Hubs said I should do an Internet search to see if it was do-able.......

Twoey is coming along. Had a glorious few minutes seeing if she could find a teat underneath my skirt. Even had a go at nuzzling my leg. She still, however, tends to look a bit lost and lonely. Aw....everyone needs a mum. I still managed, though, to get through the day without letting her out of the Paddock so she could follow me and Bools around. And that, my friend, was quite a task on my part!

Our pregnant Tamworth pig has teats which are looking even more plump, and her belly is starting to hang heavily downwards. I gave her some more bedding and would have got in with her to have a 'moment' together but Hubs has upted the electrical power surge to the electric fencing so didn't.

Other than that, it has been a quietish day........

Monday 20 February 2012

Snuffling and counting

Now up to seventeen lambs. I smell of lamb milk and lamb poo as have been feeding one of the triplets. The mum has just about stayed connected with her lamb, but only just. She has this long suffering look on her face whenever the lamb approaches her, as if to say 'Oh if I must'. I know the feeling. I do not think she wants to be bothered with being a mum. She does not have the same enthusiasm for looking after youngsters in comparison to the other mums. Often she is away over the other side of the field, leaving them in a heap asleep. I know that the other mums do the same, but they do not go so far away. She did not even want to come into the Paddock this evening, avoidance being stamped all over her.

I would love to be a mum to the little lamb. She is a delight. Two round circles of white on her forehead, and a tuft of white between her ears with the rest of her being jet black. I call her Twoey. I want to keep her. Being bottle fed she will be a good adult to have around. And she is fluffy, which means that she should eventually grow a long Jacob coat which will be great for spinning. Her two siblings have pretty head markings as well. Actually most of the new lambs have individual white markings on their black coats. No white lambs at all, so the new lambs do look rather startling because there is no black colouring amongst the adults of the flock at all.

I have got another cold. Actually I think that it is the old cold resurecting itself. Was sent to bed this afternoon by Hubs because I was spluttering about so much. Me and that electric blanket have become really bonded.

Jean Pierre in today to carry on with the bathroom and ceiling. Danny off sick. Flu apparently. Bathroom had to have heating in it all over the weekend so has become the warmest place in the house. Had my first wash in it. No shower, no sink, so carried a bowl of water into it and used a plastic garden chair to sit it on. Also, and I forgot to mention this in my last post which was a huge oversight on my part, the porta pottie days are done with, because Jean Pierre managed to fix the toilet in place so it could be used, but carefully .... no romping about on the loo.....just a very gentle reverse back onto the seat. It is a joy. Now I did not mind using the porta potties for over three years, but when we got the loo in, albeit that it was temporarily fixed, it felt like a huge step forward. To have to take that step back to porta potties again....well I must admit that it was a tad on the difficult side. And may I own up and say that I tended to visit the woods rather than wrestle with those porta potties....

And the joyful experience of Tess Two, the soon to be Tamworth pig mum. Now in her own pen she is obviously enjoying having her own space, after having had to share her space with her sister who is bigger and, I think, bullied her. But yesterday...sun was shining so thought I would have a look to see if we have any new arrivals. No, not yet. But she was standing by the fence so I patted her head. She stood still, almost welcoming the touch. I carried along her back, rubbing gently, being sympathetic to her pregnancy, feeling empathic to her. She did not move a muscle. Instead she sort of did a slow collapse on to the ground, and I am sure that if I had got into her pen with her, that she would have welcomed the contact.

Many people I talk to think that we are mad having these animals when we are busy trying to make a home for ourselves and working at the same time. Well, yesterday we drove down to Tarbes to look for tiles for our new bathroom and found ourselves in amongst the busyness of a large shopping complex. Yuk. All I could think of was 'Get me home to my animals', which was a surprise. Back in the UK one of my hobbies was shopping. I seem to have left that hobby behind. Now I prefer to buy things from the Internet. I seem to have taken a massive step away from consumerism, that is what living on a small farm has done for me.

Anyway, Tess Two is still expecting, her udders are continuing to droop and her nipples are starting to look plump and juicy. Max is ticked off about not being able to get into her pen, and has taken to grinding his teeth to show his displeasure. Tess Three is still with him, but probably not for long....if  her sister is pregant then she should be sometime soon.

And I am resisting the urge to respond to Twoeys wails of upset because she has not got a mum to cuddle up to. After I have fed her I make myself walk away, leaving her with the rest of the flock. It is hard. Most times she finds her way back to her siblings, and I am hoping that within a couple of days she will become more confident and stop wailing so much. Those wails have a devasting effect on my heart strings. But it will do her no good to become a 'house' sheep. I have seen the long term effect of doing that, and in the end the sheep does not know to what species of animal life they belong to. Twoey likes Bools, and follows him. He cleans the milk spills from her and has a clean up round her botty. It would be very easy to give in to the charm of having the two of them bond, but it would be no good. She needs to be with her own kind. I must stay strong. Ear phones, I think, are going to needed to help me not give in and go give her a cuddle.

Snuffling my way back to bed now, .....and saying 'Bye for now'. Oohhh, but Twoey does smell lovely, and she is warm and sweet, ........

Saturday 18 February 2012

Just another day.....

Cup of tea to Hubs. His morning tea. Wakes him up. Half a spoon of sugar added to give him some vim. Busy week. Jean Pierre and Danny in. Chaos everywhere. Have had no time to try to get tidier.

Up and out. Pigs first. Hubs called said to come have a look at one of the rear ends of the girls. Gosh it was plump. Bigger than when she is in season. Her undercarriage looked bigger too. Still, she is coming into maturity so would be expected to put on weight.....

Off to get the sheep flock into the big field. Some go down the side path OK. Some don't. Do a wander about. Can't blame them. The end of winter, and the grazing is poor on the fields, and they  must be getting fed up with hay, maize and lucerne supplements. Hubs sorts that lot out on the path. I go into the Sheep Paddock to see if any lambs are left behind. They often are. They get involved in doing lamby stuff and don't pay attention to what the flock as a whole are doing. Oh. One of the ewes is still in the barn. Has six lambs with her. She had triplets yesterday so could do with staying behind today with her littl'uns. Trouble is that I can't tell the difference between whose lambs are hers and whose aren't. All have to go out into the field then. She walks out sedately with me while I carry one of the lambs. Then back to the barn to catch the others. What a jolly time was had by all, especially the two who Hubs tried to catch. All done. All out in the field, the mum's eating lucerne while the lambs tumble about the place, yelling about being ignored by mum, playing with the fencing poles, etc.

Jean Pierre arrives. No Danny. Cup of tea for all. No toast, the toaster being in a cupboard which is now barricaded by scaffolding. Also in cupboard my teeth cleaning stuff, so no clean teeth either. Porridge then. Hubs complains. Quaker Oats is not the product it used to be. Now it is more like oat powder rather than being entire oats. The bowl gets eaten anyway.

Hear a lamb yelling. Go to investigate. One lamb left by the now eaten lucerne, all the rest over the far side of the field. Pick him up. Take him into the middle of the field so can be nearer to his mum, whoever she is. Walk back to the gate. Turn round to see lamb following a couple of metres behind me. Pick him up. Put him back nearer the others.  Walk as fast as I can back to gate.

Internet search. oooooooohhhhhhh! Pink rear end, plump undercarriage......we have a pregnant piggy. Crikey! What to do. The signs seem to suggest that the arrival of possible youngsters is fairly imminent. Tell Hubs. Need to get the pigs separated as soon as poss, today....

Hear the geese kicking up a fuss. Go out to investigate. Lamb chasing geese. The same lamb. The geese are freaked out about having a black thing wanting to join them. Round and round they go, flapping and squawking and terrified. Round and round the lamb goes, desperate for one of them to be his mum. I go round and round after them all, trying to catch the lamb which I do eventually. Back into the field with him. Take him over to one of the ewes. She head butts him. So not his mum. Try another one. Seems to be more accepting.  Feel warm stickiness on hands. Yellow gunge. Ah, the lamb's evacuation. All down the front of me as well. Thank goodness for pinnies, and just a tiny splodge on my skirt. The geese are still upset, still honking, and now the chickens are having a panic as well......

Off to Plaisance for shopping. All is calm and quite during expedition.

Back home. Quick lunch. Lamb lying down in field. Will look again in an hour or so. And yes, he had moved, so he is alright.

Hubs on line to London, me on line to a client in New York, Jean Pierre banging away in the house. Hear a lamb in the distance having a moan. Eventually go out to have a look. Oh dear. One lamb stuck behind the fence of the small woodland copse. Hope that it manages to find its way out and start cleaning the Paddock of poo. It keeps on wailing. Maaaa, mmmmm, mmmmaaaaa, m, ma, maaaaaaaaaa.....little 'm' sounds interspersed with long wailing sounds. My heart does a lurch. It is those little 'm' sounds which are heart breaking. Like little sobs. Please they say, please come......

Leave the wheel barrow parked up in the middle of the Paddock. It is no use. Need to go do a rescue. Push my way into the thicket. Fortunately not too brambly, but still am scratched. Bools and Gus try to help. Make matters worse. Get under my feet as I try to clamber back up the bank which is in the middle of the copse. I have already clambered up it once, then slid down it to retrieve the lamb, now back up I go, then back down I go. Leave lamb in field. I think it is one of the triplets. Back to Paddock to continue with poo clean.

Time to bring sheep in from field. Some charge back into the Paddock as usual. A couple of lambs overshoot the gateway but make an about turn when they see Gus and Bools. So half the flock now in Paddock, the rest are lingering along the pathway. Gate has to be open so they can get into the Paddock. Flock inside Paddock see open gate and decide it best they join the others on the pathway. General milling around as loads of sheep and lambs scatter hither and thither. Hubs getting cross. Been a long day for him. Dogs are now  finding it all rather jolly. Start barking. Sheep now in turmoil. I am yelling at the dogs to shut up as they are being of no use whatsoever. End up by trying to get the two of them into the house. Gus inside now. Bools still outside. I carry on past the house and get behind the sheep. Bools now doing sheep dog role. Still barking but to good effect now as sheep charge away from him straight into the Paddock. A couple  of pushes and shoves on a couple of rear ends from Hubs and gate is closed. Phew!

Over to pig pens. Need to separate the possibly pregnant Tamworth sow from Max and her sister. Means that Hubs has to get into the pens. Max and Hubs are not friends at all. Max see Hubs as a threat. Hubs does not want to get chomped on. Need to devise a plan. Food. Tease some food in front of Max to divert him. That is my job. Hubs to jump in and try to tease some food in front of the pregnant girl so she goes into the other pen. After a few tries the plan works. Hubs only had to leap out of the pen once after Max saw him and started to charge. So, one possibly pregnant sow in one pen together with half a bale of straw in her hut, and Max and the other girl in the other pen. Max was to show his displeasure at such an arrangement by severely damaging the electric fencing during the night. Anyway, job done.

Time for last look at the lambs. Saw that one of the triplets, the one who was wanting to join the goose flock, was looking very thin and was wandering about trying to find a teat. He tried this one and that one to no avail, the owners of the teats pushing him quite roughly away. He needs some food. Aha! Already bought some lamb milk powder just in case. Now all I need to do is fill the bottle. But where is the bottle. Was in the kitchen. Kitchen now moved to the back of the house. And the spare teats. They were in the washing up corner. No longer. Can't see them. Been moved by Jean Pierre. Feel patience slip slip slipping away. Hunt through the chaos of the kitchen area. Nope. No bottle. No teats. Darkness falling. Urgent that bottle be found. One is. Right in the bottom of one of the storage boxes. Feel cross because I had been organised about lamb assistance equipment but kitchen move now disorganised everything. Find myself starting to fling things about in my hunt for those elusive bottles. Kettle on. Open bag of lamb milk powder. Instructions? Nowhere to be found. Don't know dosage, so use instinct. Grab a garden chair and rush out to Sheep Paddock. Whooppee, all the sheep think, food for us. They crowd around me expectantly. I yell at them, in a very unshepherdess way, to get out of my way. Manage to find the little one. Up on my lap. Milk coaxed down. Teat not working properly. Oh f***. Back to kitchen, find a sewing needle, put gas burner on, heat needle, make hole in teat bigger. Back to Paddock. Grab lamb again. Get some milk into him. Put him back with his mum and the other two.

Back to kitchen. Find some rabbit (deceased and cooked), into pan + coconut milk + sundry veggies + rice ......cooked, plated, and dumped unceremoniously in front of Hubs who was by now playing chess on his PC. In true martyr style this was done.

An hour later and I am in bed. It is 8.30. Electric blanket is delightfully cooking me. I am done with the day. What did I do with myself when I didn't have a smallholding to run, back in the old UK days, when we did not have seventeen sheep, fifteen lambs, numerous chickens, three geese, three pigs with more possibly on the way and a house which is still a building site. And counting my blessings........

Wednesday 15 February 2012

I've moved out.......

....yes I have. Not too far though, just from front to back.

So here is the new cooking area. It is the other side of the pot rack. It is what will be the food storage area eventually, where the freezers will be kept and other sundry equipment necessary for running a smallholder's kitchen. It is chaos.

In front of the pot rack is stuff. Another rollicking pile of chaos.

All this stuff came from out of here:

...... which is the once upon a time temporary kitchen. That is not chaotic because I am not in it anymore. I've moved out. Jean Pierre and Danny have moved in. They are going to do the ceiling. They keep their stuff in the hallway

It is tidy, and not chaotic. That is because it is the builder's stuff and nothing to do with me.

But this is to do with me. And here is where another load of stuff went, mainly my sewing machine plus boxes of fabric and my knitting machine plus my boxes of wool:

....the lounge! Which is now another area of chaos.

So loads of areas to be un-chaosed! And all to do with me! Would that suggest that I am a chaotic person? Probably!

Hubs, meanwhile, sits quietly in the middle of it all, working away on his PC:

Anyway, Fuzzy Sideburns and her adopted chick are still doing well:

But, I digress........A problem has arisen. It's this......

Now this elegant loo was put in place over the loo-outlet hole by Ron, a friend of ours. It sat on a nice plinth, thus raising the position of the loo to a really comfy height. The only downside was that we had to 'water' the loo after using its facilities, and we did this by means of the watering can.

At first the loo sat by itself, but then Jean Pierre and Danny came and built a nice walled space to enclose it. They they left. After several months they came back to continue work. They moved the loo off its perch. It is now in temporary retirement. Needs must, though, and this is what we have to use when those needs surge: the Woodshed we go! The very Woodshed which once was our office and housed our computers:

Then over to the house we went, and the Office became the Woodshed. And here is where we go to the loo. Beside the loo is one of boxes the hens use for laying eggs in. It is all very chummy here! So far the chickens and us have not had to keep company with each other during rear-end business.

And so life continues on at Labartere. I am sitting  amongst a pile of chaos which needs sorting out. It is thus in all the habitable areas of the house. I think that I need go do a raid on my fridge. What is in my fridge? Why its the Baileys of course! And while I am on a Baileys forage I just might come across that bar of chocolate which was put away for emergences. And then, I think, it is off to bed and start again tomorrow!

Thursday 9 February 2012

Hubs joyfully ascends

Oops!  Sorry, wrong photo!

This the right ladder. But where is Hubs?

Here he is! Upwards he goes!

First footing of Team Coe.....

......on the first finished bit of our kitchen ceiling,
which is the first finished bit of our upstairs flooring.

And very joyful he was too and quite rightly so. It has been his push and drive which has got us this far. If I had been in charge of getting this house habitable it would still be at the 'first roof being put on' stage.

So another step is done. Indoor tap nearly frozen this morning. Computer keyboard feels 'sticky' with the cold. I am 'sticky' with the cold. Layers on, plus dressing gown over the top of all. Dark clover pink it is. Even wore it outside as I did the animals today. Big woolly hat, fingerless gloves, scarf, cardi, and boots, completed the ensemble. Good news, though, clean underthings on - washing machine hose unthawed enough for me to do some washing. Can't do anything outside, apart from animal care, can't do anything in the housecan't write because too tired with the cold, so have decided to have a go at the knitting machine which was donated me a year or so ago.

Baileys. Hubs has just popped out and bought us some tipple. Him - Whiskey. Me - Baileys. Celebrating the ceiling? Well I could say 'Yes', but in truth it is to warm us up as we remain quite frozzled with the cold. Ah well, not to worry. Raising my now empty glass to you and saying 'Cheers', and hope your fire is burning bright.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

By golly gosh it was flippin chilly here yesterday, which was mostly due to a howling freezing wind which cut us to the bone when we went out to look after the animals, and did the same indoors as it drove its way through every crack and hole it could find to get at us. I had a hissy fit in the kitchen with the frustration of trying to do domestic stuff in a kitchen which was colder than my freezer (probably wasn't!) and huffed my way off to the electric blanket in the bed to feel thoroughly sorry for myself. Which didn't last long. Just a couple of hours. Enough for me to have a nap. Enough to get warmed up again. Still gave up with being in the kitchen though.

Hubs, meanwhile, had dozed in front of the log burner which was really ineffective at producing heat. It was going its best, I think, but the wind chill factor, via the drafts, was too great. It was with relief when night came and the wind fled somewhere else. We warmed up then, just a little.

This little lot, though, did not seem to mind the cold. They were out in the Side Field all day, our thinking being that it would be easier to get them back to the Paddock should the weather worsen. All are well.

Spotty, (second lamb from the right) and White Socks (far left) are the most distinctive lambs. Both are boys. (Above photo)

Spotty is yelling for his mum here. Needs a tipple no doubt.

And here is the dad, Jacob, of the breed Jacob:

We woke up to snow this morning. No good for letting the sheep out on to the fields. Try telling them that, though. Gave them lucerne, maize and hay. Kept them quiet for a while. Now they are moaning. Another translation issue here. French to English or vice versa is do-able via using Google Translator. Google, as yet, do not have a language converter for Sheep speak to Engligh. Would be very handy today. Had quite a raised voice at them when I went to give them some hay, believing them to have eaten the lucerne, only to find that they had nibbled the best bits and left the rest. I walked away, yelling over my shoulder, "You eat what you are given here". I think my grown up children would remember my insistence, when they were young, that 'they eat what they are given'. I can be a hard task master sometimes!

The snow is quickly melting now, but the wind has returned. It sounds fiercer than yesterday. Hubs is in hibernation mode and asleep on the settee, and the dogs are in their normal position roasting in front of the fire. All are gently zizzing. All are waiting for their lunch. All are hoping, probably, that I do not have another hissy fit which results in them getting dog biscuits and a sandwich.

The chickens have just got up. Two elderly bantams stayed up in the tree until mid day, Orpy and some of his hens stayed in the half height hut beneath the tree, peaking out occasionally to see if the snow had gone, the other soon-to-go-to-the-pot cockerel was with the rest of the hens hanging out in the Tall Barn. None seemed to want to risk walking over the white stuff.

The trio of pigs slept in the brick cabin last night, presumably because it had a reasonable layer of bedding, the wooden cabin's bedding quota having been used by them to make a sun terrace. I explained to them that this was not a good idea, but, again, translation difficulties made the language conversion not do-able. I refused to give them extra bedding, as I considered it a waste of effort if they were going to move it all outside.

Off to the kitchen now.

Monday (today): Well we survived the freezing weekend. Now we have skating rink conditions. It makes for interesting excursions outside....will I, or will I not, fall over on my butt so I walk with doddering caution  when outside, which is easy at the moment as the cold weather seems to pulling the plug on my energies. All I want to do is sit down and sink into slumberland. I hate it. Reminds me of the time I had my strokes. When all energy expired. When I nearly was an angel strumming my harp up in the heavens. To combat that tiredness I joined a local gym. Figured that if I was to pass over then I would be fit enough to play a stonkingly big harp. Well obviously that didn't happen, because here I am writing to you. But when I feel a heavy tiredness I do experience a mild rush of panic because it reminds me of that time of ill health, 'Is my body giving up on me' being my main stream of thinking at these times.

The sheep are out in the Main Field today. Not sure if they ought to be out there, but they go stir-crazy in their Paddock and barn and keep on moaning about how mistreated they are, with a 'What the hell do you think you are doing keeping us locked up' attitude.

The chickens are in the Sheep Barn, raking up the straw bedding and cleaning out the poo. Bless them. They do save me a job.

I have cleaned out the sheep's long trough, which was full of hay but which had been used as a dormitory and toilet by Jacob. Disliking waste, I donated the pile of soiled hay to the pigs who plunged their snouts into it with gusto. Chickens last seen in the nearly empty trough cleaning out the remainder of poo and maize. Teamwork, that's what we have here.

Retreated back to the house to unthaw hands and toes. Weather forecast says minus 4 tonight. That's not too bad. Didn't look at the rest of the week. Take each day as it comes, that is my thinking after depressing myself with reading the long range forecasts.

Oops, must sign off. My head has just tilted forward and laid itself down on the desk. Sorry to have chatted on for so long. Promised myself that I would write a shorter blog, which, for some reason, I do not seem to be able to, Vera, you will not drop of to sleep. You are a student smallholder. Your smallholding needs you. Get up on your feet.....Go Do!!!!!

Some of the gang out front, by the Sheep Paddock, having a jolly rake amongst the hay bale that died.

Friday 3 February 2012

Do chickens dream?

Twice during the night of late a chicken up in the branches of the fig tree wherein the flock have chosen to roost instead of being in the temporary tin hut which they seem to think is beneath them to sleep in unless it is so windy that they keep getting blown off the branches or is too cold (as it was last night) such that their feathers risk being frozen, well one of the chickens has emitted a series of clucking sounds which in daytime would signify that she has laid an egg.

To hear such a sound in the middle of the night is quite a freaky experience. To know that that chicken is in egg laying mode sitting in the dark up a fig tree is equally as freaky. Not sure why I feel freaked out, but it just seems that something in the world is not quite right, that certain things should happen during the day, and other things should happen at night, that's all.

I mean, what is that chicken doing? Practising her clucking sounds ready for the time when she can get down to egg laying because she can't get to sleep? Or is she dreaming about laying an egg? Or is her body system prepping her to lay an egg even though chickens can't see in the dark and should be on a flatter surface rather than balancing on the rather thin branches of the fig tree to lay an egg? Such thoughts, then, have been going through my head this day.

It is very cold now. Minus 2 during the day, even though the sun is shining. Out in the Courtyard it is warm enough to sit, albeit still having to maintain the winter layers of clothing, but the wind chill is high.

I have just given the sheep, who are out in the Front Field today, some hay, and also broken the ice in their water trough. They are thirsty girls now they have more hay and alfalfa in their diet. In an hour's time I will have to go out into the Sheep Barn and Paddock, and fill the hay and water containers. I am not going to pick up the sheep poo on the ground and transfer it to the veg plot today. For one, the poo will probably be frozen to the ground and so will prove to be unmoveable anyway. And two: it is too cold!
I have also picked some mangel (sugar beets) for the pigs supper, and donated a stalk of brussel sprouts and some handfuls of last autumn's harvest of acorns to keep them going meanwhile. I can't do anything much indoors because the place is full of sawdust and brick dust from the building work. Can't do any laundry because the water hose to the washing machine is frozen up. Might not even be able to wash up (hooray) because Hubs has just said the tap in the kitchen looks like it is starting to freeze as well. Can't do any veg plot work as ground is frozen. Could do bramble cutting but am not.

So what am I doing? Sitting at my PC obviously because I am writing a blog, .....

......but previous to that I had been plugged into the BBC Radion 4 via the Internet. And I was listening to a play......

.....and this is my desk. To the left is a pile of notebooks which hold my writing work plans and reminders. All remain closed today, and have been since January really. Should get back in the saddle with writing, but I hit a wall with it all and am at the moment of the opinion that writing it a waste of time. No doubt that mode will pass soon. It always has done in the past. Sooner or later I will receive a flash of inspiration, words will tumble into my head, and off I will go on another book.

To the right of the PC is my bottle of water which has cider vinegar added. Am quite hooked on cider vinegar and could be a cider-vinegarholic if ever there was such a thing. I blame it on my mum. She used to swig vinegar, and I have carried on in the same manner.

In front of that, to the right, is a nearly empty bottle of Diatomic Earth, which is excellent for worms and things in dogs and chickens, amongst many other things. It is there to remind me to order some more from over the Internet. it has been there for three months. Must get a move on with ordering it. Bools has an itchy botty which DE seems to cure.

The cup of tea and piece of cake is lunch. Have got some homegrown lamb (from the freezer) in a pot on the stove. Was going to make a roast dinner, but effort for doing so has whittled away, so a lamb stir fry it is going to be.

And the rest of the paraphalia is my patchwork sewing. A recent visit to a new friend inspired me to start off again with my patchwork, but hand sewing. Before I came here to France I used to do machine patchwork, whereby I cut up some of my large stash of material into strips and just went round and round until I had made a big chunk of fabric most of which went into making duvet covers: is on the settee at the moment. Hubs has been having a sleep hence the white cover left at random. This is the room behind me. A tarpaulin is on the ceiling and more are on the floor, but it is cosy.

Bools and Gus are roasting by the fire, although Bools is looking fed up, him being bored with having to stay inside. Hubs is now up and working at his PC. You can just see him to the left of the wall unit.

I have on my feet my less muddy boots, the really muddy ones being left in the hallway. I get fed up with having to take my boots on and off so often will wear a pair indoors until dark, when my indoor shoes go on. I am wearing lacy thermal longjohns. Sexy they are not. Neither is my head gear:

....or my scarf, or my homemade cardi, or my six layers of clothing beneath them. I am still not overly warm.

Hope these littl'uns are warm......

Twins! One black one, one black and white. We now have three sets of twins, and one single lamb making seven new arrivals. The lambs have already made a little gang and often go and visit other mums in the hope that they can cadge a drop or two of milk. They also visit their dad, Jacob, but he either ignores them or gently head butts them away.

Meanwhile, back to doinf a bit of patchwork and maybe a short play on Radio 4....but oops! I have been chatting away for far too long, it is now nearly five o'clock and I must go out and do the Sheep Barn.

Hope you are keeping warm if you are under cold weather conditions, hope you are keeping cool if you are hotter climates!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Lost in translation

We thought we had asked for six bales of straw from the farmer at the straw-buying place. We had watched him walk away and get into his big fork lift tractor. We had observed him as he trundled off in it down to the hangar which housed huge bales of straw stacked high on top of one another. We had thought that he was turning his tractor round. Indeed he did just that. We saw him do it. We also saw that he had somehow gathered onto the fork lift bit at the front of his tractor a good quantity of smaller hay bales, fourteen in total, all tied together in a big lump. We thought that he was going to drop them down on the ground near our car and trailor, break open the batch of straw bales, and sell us six.

He did not. What he did was kept on going to the back of our trailor then dropped the whole lot onto it.

What a surprise that was.

(Thought I would just break in here for a moment to say that the doors are wide open because the builder is in to carry on with making a ceiling for the kitchen, I can hear a lamb yelling its head off and its mum yelling back which means they have lost touch with each other so I will have to go and give a hand - they are in the mud bath of a sheep paddock at the moment so that means slopping about in mud, it is freezing cold in the house and more freezing still outside, and the cold is starting to seep into me as well. I'm not moaning though, just doing a tiny bit of a whinge!)

(Back to the hay bale story) 

At first the bundle did not fit, but stood tilted slightly up, resting on the front part of the trailor. He said that it would be OK. He pocketed the money and waved us cheerily off. We managed to make it round the corner before there was a sharp crack, which upon investigation was shown to be the sound of the wooden front wall of the trailor caving in under the weight of the straw.

We drove on, Hubs and me both tense, wondering if we would make it home. We did. Trailer intactus, car intactus, me and Hubs frazzled. He was in the middle of a twelve hour day on his PC. It was not very helpful to his state of mind that mid way he had had to go and get some bales of straw for this lot.......

Jacob, the ram is not in this photo. He was off to the right having gone through a few mad moments of skipping about as if he was a young lamb. Showing off, I think. After all this lot are mostly with lamb, and here's the proof we woke up to this morning:

...another black lamb, a female because she goes to the loo squatting down. And another surprise because this ewe did not look pregnant, had no udders, and was just about a year old. We honestly did not think we would have lambs this year because we had seen no signs of sexual interest on the part of Jakey last autumn, none at all. He must have been going about his business in the dark of the night, by stealth, and he has caught us out.  We were supposed to be reducing the flock numbers, but Jakey's activities looks like almost doubling them. We are going to be hard pressed in regards to the grazing now. Not to worry, but actually, yes I am! Even one of the elderly sheep, who we were going to cull, has developed udders so could be expectant. Jacob sure has been a busy boy! He is smaller than the ewes. He must have borrowed a ladder so he could get the job done, or else they squatted down for him. Oh what obliging girls if they did!

Message to self: Do not sit in the car and leave Hubs to sort out things like buying bales of straw. Although his French is getting on better than mine is, sometimes it is better to have two pairs of ears listening to a someone speaking French so that any errors of translation can be avoided.

So with a head full of concerns about those lambs on the way, and with clothes full of bits of straw so that I look like I have had a wonderful afternoon romping in the hay but have not done so but have been shifting the straw about the place which not so thrilling a task as is romping, I leave this day behind and trundle my way to bed. I might be brave tonight and undress in front of the fire in the front room before getting into bed. Last night, may I say, I got into bed almost fully clothed because it was just too much effort to get undressed and brave the cold betwixt even for a second .

Taking notice of my last blog, repeating endlessly to myself that the joys outweigh the difficulties........

(So off to bed I went into the bliss of a toasty warm electric blanketed bed. I did not quite finish the blog so went over it again the next day)

The next day: Hubs: "There's two more...." Oh. And there they were, with their mum. One black little girl (she was squatting) and one gorgeous black and white boy (he has little fluffy dangly bits) That makes three lambs so far this year. Can't post up photos as battery charger seems not to want to work properly, but they are deadly cute. Sat for ages on a hay bale in the barn with them, watching them take up their lives.

Off to choir that evening, rehearsal being in a big church in Mabourguet. Everyone moaned that they were cold. I actually thought it was quite warm. At least the doors were shut and the windows closed so no drafts.....

The day after the 'next day': So another two lambs were born overnight. Two black ones. We are wondering what the response of people around here are going to be. Without effort we seem to always be fetching up with something either happening to us, or around us, which draws attention to us. Having a flock of lambs which are mostly black is certainly going to do that. One of the overnight lambs had two white socks. How on earth are we ever going to cull that one. Strewth. I thought the  male black and white lamb born yesterday was going to be difficult enough, but this one today...oh wow, but it is a delight.

So off in the field they went this morning.  I thought the mums with lambs would be staying in the Sheep Paddock for another day, but apparently when the gate got opened to take them to the Front Field for the day, the mum's charged out with the rest of the flock leaving the lambs to follow on as best they could.

And here's a funny thing......the sheep without lambs are totally spooked by those little black lambs. When a lamb bounces over to the rest of the flock to say 'hi' they run away, as spooked as anything.  I wonder what the mum's thought when they started licking off their black youngsters which had just arrived from out their tums. Perhaps they were too busy to notice, and by the time they did, the bonding process had taken place .......sorry got to go, that lamb is still yelling so I had better go sort it out.

Been a bit of a long blog, and if  you have to the end of it then well done you.