Thursday 29 March 2012

Well, he came.....

That man, the one I wrote a blog about a few days ago, the one who wanted one of our lambs, the one who made me feel rather nervous because of his dark looks, well, he came. Plus his wife. They both came. In a posh 4 x 4 truck they came, towing a small, smart, animal trailer.

We thought he had changed his mind. Hoped he had. But then he came. I saw him reverse into our drive. I scurried indoors to let Hubs know. I wasn't being a coward, really I wasn't, I just wanted Hubs to be the meeter and greeter.

It went well. Surprisingly. The sheep didn't think so. They charged and barged and complained and generally carried on hysterically, as they do when they are in a mind to be difficult. Sometimes they can be quite calm and placid creatures. Other times, monsters of nervousness. Anyways, they were not fussed with being disturbed at their bedtime, but then neither would I be as I headed towards my bed.

Two. They wanted two lambs. Females they wanted. I would not let them take Tooey. I said she is still being bottle fed. She is becoming special. Her and her brother Benjie, they have moved themselves in to my heart. They have done this by coming to find me when they are hungry. If they are out in the field, I call them by name, and if they are not too concentrated with eating grass, they will come running over to me. And lately they have found a way of getting under the wire field gate, after first hanging around the gate to see if I am on my way. If not, then they come and find me. They will even come in to the house. Hubs says that they should not do that. That a behaviour is being laid down which might cause difficulties in the future. I can't help it though. I find them dreadfully adorable. Tooey even let me give her a hug today, but Benjie, being a male, prefers not to have such a contact. He just comes to have his milk, and then wanders quickly away again.

The geese have not been very nice today. They would not let me and the dogs come through the gate into the Courtyard. One even attacked Gus, although Gus did not realise it. He just thought he was wearing a scarf because what the goose had done was wrapped herself round him somehow. 

But the piglets managed to stay inside their electric fencing today. I think that, as they are getting bigger, that they are now unable to slide sneakily beneath the lowest wire without getting a smacker of an electric shock. We know that it is a smacker of a shock because Hubs has managed to get shocked himself three times during the last week.

Everything is bursting with life here. We found the Bareneck hen sitting on a pile of eggs behind some concrete slabs. We have left her to get on with it. But the blackbirds are managing a heavy presence now, as are the magpies. One of those horrid birds, and I say 'horrid' because they are noisy, always arguing, never calm, nor chirrupy, ....well one of those damn birds has had the three week old chick away, the one whose mum sat on the egg on the cold concrete floor of the Tall Barn without us knowing.  Any day now the trees will come in to leaf and provide hiding places for these birds. And what they will do is spy on us and our animals. If Bareneck does hatch chicks then she is going to have to stay inside the chicken run for a month or so. Neither her, her chicks, or me, or Hubs, is going to like penning her up like that. The only good think about those 'horrid birds' is that they pick up the sheep poo in the Sheep Paddock, which saves me a job. The hens, bless them, usually sort out the Sheep Arbre. Yesterday the geese were also in the Arbre. Not sure what they were doing in there. Probably aggravating the chickens. Plus they can drink from the sheep's water trough. I would think that they also grab a quick bath in the water as well.

I have been digging in the veg plot, but had a bit of a disaster today. My three pronged fork broke. I was most upset. It is my trusted friend. The normal fork hurts my back, but the three pronged does not. In fact, it is doing wonders for my pecs. My bosoms have become less inclined towards the downward since I have taken over  as Chief Rotovator, which used to be Hubs' title until his mechanical rotovator died. He is not into digging. Oh he tries, he really does, but his attention seems to whittle away after half an hour or so.

So two of our lambs have found a new home. We received payment for them, which will help towards the yearly vet visit and the shearing of the sheep. The man and woman, well, I still felt intimidated by them, but ultimately we decided which of the lambs they were to have. They are supposed to be breeding them. Will they? Well ownership, and therefore responsibility, has now passed in to their hands.

......and we have light!!!!!! The electrician has been. And now, in the kitchen, which is between the Side Barn in which we sleep, and the loo, and the temporary kitchen, hanging from the ceiling is a light. And it has switches to switch it on and off. Three. One at each doorway. Which means........ no more tripping, fumbling, or groping about in the dark waiting for the temporary sensor light to switch on so we can see where we are going. Although I have become a skilled walker-about-in-the-dark, it was an absolute pleasure to have a night time trip to the loo without an adventure being associated with it, the adventure being will I or will I not bump in to the wall, will I tread in Gus's nighttime evacuation ( he does not do that often, but one has to be aware that he might have done a poopsy), will I manage to avoid the paintpots or other stuff lying around, will Bools get up to say hello and trip me up, will four footed little things scurry over my feet (actually we have not had any probs this winter with rats or mice, but memories still linger of the previous winter when we were virtually inundated). I did have a torch at one time so I could see my way, but Hubs 'borrowed' it when his broke last year. But...I can now switch a light on. A proper light. Hanging from the ceiling on proper fixings rather than hanging off a beam haphazardly and only switching on if I can manage to walk in the path of its sensors. This kitchen light, plus the lights in the bathroom, plus the lights in the Side Barn: wow!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

It wasn't so bad.....

And now it came to be the time of the passing of one of the sheep. A passing which was engineered by us. It wasn't too bad. Not as bad as I thought it might be. For months we had dithered about doing the task, setting the day then being thwarted by other, more urgent, matters.

And the sheep which was to be no more was one of the bottle fed lambs that was one of the first lambs born here, a male but no longer intact, eighteen months old so he was a hoggart, which is a  young adult sheep under the age of two.

We have too many sheep. Our grazing is going to be hard pressed to support the flock this summer, plus we want to bring in milking goats. We have to start reducing the numbers. It is a priority.

Hubs is familiar with this sort of thing, having spent most of his younger years in South Africa on his father's farm. I am not. But I would not for a minute walk away from the experience. Shoulder to shoulder, that it what it has to be for us to live here.

We had bought a bolt gun some time ago, which is a humane killer. It is my first handling of a tool of death, for Hubs, no. He was in the South African army and police, mostly out in the svelte. He knows about guns and things. Still, neither of us was really comfortable with this bolt gun.

Anyway, time to do the job...... got the equipment ready: some plastic dustbins, some bowls, a rope, a knife, a knife sharpener, a bowl of warm water, a towel, John Seymour's The New And Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency' , a plastic chair, and some Werther's Original sweets.  These last two items were for me in case I took a fainting spell, and to keep my sugar levels up because Hubs had said that it would be a long job.

We had thought that the morning time would be the best time. Get the job done so it would not hang on our minds all the day long. Didn't work. Sheep too actively engaged with wanting to be let out into the field. Too jumpy. Too unsettled. So, no go. Come the end of the day, though, then it was a different matter all together. All day the sun shone. It was a lovely day. I even saw this sheep do a fencing match with Jacob, the ram responsible for the quantity of lambs which have arrived.

All back in the Sheep Paddock. All had their heads in the feeding trough partaking of their evening meal of maize. Singled out the correct sheep. He bounced away into the barn. We caught him. ........ within a second it was done. Quickly. Cleanly. With the memories of his day out in the field laying over him.

With some effort we managed to get him into the Tall Barn. With huge effort we got him into the air. An hour and a half later he was wrapped up in a yellow checked table cloth, divested of his outside wool and inside plumbing. It wasn't too bad. In fact it was not bad at all. Most of the time I was reading out John Seymour's instructions to Hubs, although as he started his work memories of his previous experiences surfaced in his mind to help him along. No fainting did I do. Did not even feel squeamish.

The head was donated to a French neighbour. The French regard the heads as a delicacy. Him and his wife were thrilled to pieces when I appeared at their front door and handed the head over. They beamed ear to ear. No waste, nothing is wasted. Apart from some of the plumming. One would not want to engage with a tummy full of half digested grass, so those parts were burnt. Hubs was sprayed by some wee though when that part was coming out. There was also a little 'poooooffff' of gaseous air which went up his nose when first incision was made in the abdomen. Otherwise, the work was relatively cleanly done.

And all the while I was still engaged with the actuality of the sheep, of his life here, of the memories I had of him. But I was not upset at all. Indeed, I felt very respectful of that life.

The next day, and the time came to separate out the various parts of the body. This we did in my temporary kitchen. And with reverance I laid out those parts in the freezer, never forgetting the life that had been. Respectful, that is what we were.

And so we have come through another learning curve. The good life that the sheep had is now in our own smallholding food chain. It feels right. 

Thursday 22 March 2012

A man, he came a-calling....

He was tall. Swarthy. Thick set. With dark, not-very-clean-looking, slicked back hair. Looked like he could have something nasty stashed away in his pockets. Like a pistol, .... or something.

The plumbers were here today. Hooray!!! And Hooray again!!! They have been fitting the water system in: boiler thingy, pipes into shower (Hooray number 3!!!), loo flushing water (Hooray number 4!!!!), water into the sink (Hooray number 5!!!). They have also fitted a temporary washing up sink in to the eventual kitchen. (mini Hooray 5 1/2) Busy they have been.

Danny, our builder, and Margolete (or somesuch name) were here as well. Megga Hoorays!!!! Margolete is a young lady. Pretty and perky. She helps with laying tiles. Not sure if she is helping out in other things as well. She is not his wife. His wife has also helped him with laying tiles. There is not so much laughter when she has been here. There were light twitterings when Margolete is here though. Unfortunately my lack of French does not allow me to investigate further what is the actuality of the situation. I have a natural investigative nature when it comes to such things. Call it nosy-ness if you like. I would prefer say that I am naturally inquisitive.

It has been raining hard all the day long today. No veg plot digging then. Supposed to catch up with indoor work, but five people here today working on the house. When we have such people here I find my space invaded and I can't get on with my work in the house. I like to keep out of the way. Let them get on with what they have to do without tripping over me. In the end I spend the day on my computer, doing some tasks related to my work, then finding a film to watch on YouTube. We do not have a TV, but sometimes the old habits relating to our life in the UK drift back to the surface. Hubs finds films to watch elsewhere on the Internet, me, well YouTube is good enough for me, and I have watched loads of films over the winter. I watched, amongst others, : The Missionary (Michael Palin), Sunshine (Ralph Fiennes. I saw his male appendage in this. Several times actually. Not sure if I will ever see Ralph in the same light again.), The Long Good Friday (Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Michael Caine), and last night's viewing was Scandal (John Hurt) and was about the Christene Keeler affair with Profumo. All riveting vintage stuff.

Ah, but I digress. It was this afternoon. A car hooted out on the Front Drive, insistantly demanding attention. Hubs was busy so I went to investigate. Three plumbers and Margolete were outside. The dogs were charging out to the car out on the drive, barking furiously in the manner of dogs liking to think they are guard duty. This worries me. Bools is well mannered, but Gus has a devil lurking deep inside him, and while he looks a teddy bear of a dog and therefore encourages cuddles and fusses to be made of him, if that devil decides to wake up then that teddy bear can turn in a snapping horror of a dog.

Anyways......with me yelling at the dogs, and the dogs barking and peeing up the wheels of the car (they like to do this....all cars get their wheels pee-ed on.) ...well, out got this big, dark, man. No handshake. No smile. Just a string of words which I could not recognise although 'vendre' I did. So....he was either selling something, or wanting to buy something. Nothing for it...Hubs was needed, even if he was in the middle of another conference call to the UK.

Lambs. It was the lambs he wanted to buy. One. To go with his ram. So one black ewe lamb was what he wanted.

We have to reduce the numbers of lambs and adult ewes if we are going to have goats here eventually. I know this. And here I am hitting a wall. I am perfectly OK with having animals here for our own consumption, but the thought of selling them on to whoever comes a-calling for them, not knowing what their welfare will be, how their end will be, well that is putting a big wall up in me. Maybe it is because I am a mother myself, and have had years of being concerned for my offspring now they are off into their own lives. Perhaps that is making me more sensitive, more concerned.

So....what to do. This man, this man was a dark man. Inside he was dark. There was no light in his eyes. He wants one of our lambs. Some of them are being weaned from their mums now. They are healthy, strong, plump lambs. I would prefer that they stay here and that they eventually go into our freezer, then they will have had a happy life. But to send one out into the world, into this dark man's world, ..........

Hubs did not have the time to spend with him, the conference call having a more urgent priority. As it was left then, ...that man is coming back one evening next week. I said that he ought to see the lambs when they are brought into the Paddock for the night, so he can choose one. He took it that he is actually going to collect a lamb.

What to do...... grit my teeth I suppose. But one thing is for sure...... I do not have the mindset for being a producer of animals to sell. I can 'do' animals here for us to eat, but not to raise them and then sell them on. I could even 'do' selling on the meat rather than the animal.

So yet another learning curve. Learning to be a smallholder is most certainly pulling out of us all sorts of learnings.

And the dark man will be back next week, oozing menace although probably is quite nice once you get to know him. One can only hope that that is so!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Some rotovate, some don't

And here is MumTess with some of her little helpers. Working away they are, feeding themselves but also rotovating part of the Long Veg Patch. And here is what MumTess has managed so far:

....and here is what I have  managed to do:

...yes, well, I have been otherwise occupied: the Small Veg Patch I have been, ably helped by the Chicken Flock. A lot of team effort going into this year's veggie planting. However, the chickens have now been banned from this veg plot. The reason? Their feet. Stomping over the newly dug earth flattened and compressed the newly dug surface. Felt terribly guilty about setting a ban. When I had my next digging session they all stood in a line outside the fence watching me reproachfully.

The thing is, that no doubt they are doing a good job of cleaning up the soil from 'baddies', plus some 'goodies' as I well I should think, but the compressing of the earth again made me feel like giving up. The geese are banned as well. Their feet are even bigger.

When I had finished in this veg plot for the day and shut the 'gate', which is only some wire tied across the entrance but serves a useful purpose of keeping all out, all the chickens were sitting in front of the gate in a huddle hoping that a magic solution would appear to allow them into the plot.

But the flock have done a wonderful job of keeping most of the soil in that plot free of weeds, bless them, and as I say, I do feel guilty about not allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the newly dug soil.

And then there are these hooligans:

They are not supposed to be out and about. They are supposed to be in the Long Veg Plot with their mum. But despite Hubs rearranging the wire on the electric fence, within seconds they slid underneath it, not minding that some of them got shocked by the electrical current. Once out, it was 'Hooray, we have escaped', and off they sped, racing here: there....

..then did a circle around their mum's paddock but did not pay her a visit. It would seem that, like any young ones, that they prefer to keep out of her sight but within visiting distance if anything untoward happens which frightens them. With speed, should this happen, they will charge back to her. Otherwise, off they go, having a jolly, exploring, messing about, fighting, playing with Bools and Gus most times running along with them.

......and off into the Courtyard before I could get in front of them to turn them around and herd them back to mum.
And a quick investigation before I got them shooed out...

Then off down to the leek bed to have a stomp around.....

...then on to the mangel bed to finish off the last of the mangels.

....and that was enough! Charming though they are, I had work to do, so with Hubs' assistance we got them back with MumTess, then all were encouraged back into their home pen.

They are fun, those piglets. But my goodness me they are naughty. And they scream. Dreadfully. Two had got stuck in the Small Veg Plot. In they had gone for an investigation, but then Bools and Gus decided to accompany them. This freaked those two out, but instead of making a return through the gateway, they kept going and ended up jamming themselves in the wire. Man of man, but did they scream. The most loudest cacophony of noise did they make, which was amazing for creatures so small.

It is good that the piglets are having a good life. That they have fun. That they have adventures. And they give us much benefit back as we watch them.

.....but how are we going to catch those hooligans, what are we going to do with are we going to sell many are we keeping back for ourselves, does on make sausages, ......these, and many more questions, remain unanswered at this time!

Friday 16 March 2012

The rotovating team

Wahooo! Temperatures suddenly gone loopy and up around 24C they have gone. Seems strange that only three weeks ago we were down to the minus 10's. Also, about three weeks ago I decided that enough was enough, that I my list of things to do each day was just plain silly, and that something had to go. And that something was the veg plots. No veggies this year, that is what I decided. It was a relief. Veggies are hard work. Mind you, the end result is worthwhile, the same as everything else when it comes to smallholding life. So, no veggie growing activities for me this year. sun arrived, and I suddenly found within myself a fierce yearning to connect with the veggie plots. Realisation also came to me that I am a lost soul. I am addicted. So on to the Internet I went and ordered the veggie seeds for this year. Why order over the Internet? Because I can take time to make my list and then trim it down to fit my budget. It is less complicated as well. Standing in front of hundreds of seed packets in a shop does my head and I either spend too much or can't make a choice so end up with buying none.

Now all that has to be done is get the ground dug. With the mechanical rotovator now dead forever it is now left up to the living rotovators to do the work: me and MumTessy.

This photo was taken by Claudine at the Chambre d'hote opposite to us. It is me doing rotovating on the three long strips of furrows ploughed up by Hubs in December. It is hard work. It will take me a long time. But, MumTessy to the rescue:

First of all we electric fenced a nice portion of field plus half the long veggie strips. Exactly half the length actually because I walked the entire length of the strips and divided it in half so MumTessy and me had fair shares of the work.

We opened up the gate into MumTessy's paddock so she could access her rotovating task only she preferred to linger in the runway to the paddock. This she was not supposed to do. Rotavate the path, that is what she decided to do.

Ah well, hopefully she will get over to the proper rotovating area soon.

And this little one appeared to day, by surprise.....

This hen had cosied herself up behind the grain bins. We didn't know she had done so. On cold concrete she must sat because no nest could we see. First we knew was when Hubs heard cheeping sounds accompanied by Mum Hen clucking at him to keep away. She must have been sitting during the really cold weather. Well done this hen. Forever we shall regard her as a stirling trooper.

Oooppss....Hubs has just yelled that the piglets have bye for now...

Thursday 8 March 2012

9, 17, 2, and nearly a splash

How many piggies arrived?

Nine! They are now nearly two weeks old, and running around their pen like hooligans.

Their noses are mucky because they are investigating the delights of digging. They have battles which involved hanging on to each other's ears and tails. The males (3) are already barging into the flanks of the females, just like their dad does. They are starting to find their voices, but not much. They are a total delight!

Meanwhile, seventeen lambs were the final number born. All black, or black or white.

You have met Twoey already,  and here is her brother Benjie...

Twoey has two white blobs on her forehead, Benjie has a white triangle. Both have little mops of white fur between their ears. Both have to be bottle fed because their mum, who had three lambs, gave up with these two. They are pals. But they do not have such joyfulness of spirit as do the lambs still being fed by their mums. I have not seen them prance about, nor race with the wind, nor even have play-battles. Yesterday the last lamb was born. It was very tiny. I think the mum must have taken one look at it and decided it was not bothering about because it was left to fend for itself. All the day long I watched it out in the field with the others, hoping that the mum would feel some sort of pull of her heartstrings. She didn't.  Did not even know who it's mum was. No one showed an interest. So in it came with the rest of the flock in the evening. Needed to be fed. Died during the night. In a way I am glad it died. Having seen how not having a mum has affected Twoey and Benjie, it would have not been a good life for that little one. At least the brother and sister have each other, but that little one would have been truly an orphan. So I glad that nature intervened, even if it was sad to see the little lifeless body in the morning.

But.....we have two ceilings now finished:

What will be the Dining Room eventually

And by golly gosh what a humungous state the house has got into, and what a humungous state me and Hubs have also got into. During the previous renovation work we had caravans to return to so we were out of the way of the messiness of the building work. But now we are in the house all the time, we could not escape the building zones, nor could we escape the desert storm of dust which frequently flew around the house. But.....two ceilings now up, and rooms reasonably cleaned up. I spent all weekend vacuuming through the house. Foolish me. Should have waited, as now I will have to go over it all again.  It's no good using a duster. I have to use the vacuum cleaner. This is not house dust as such. It is wood and brick dust, which is a completely different type of dust. And we are exhausted. I do not remember being so tired during other phases of the renovation, but this time we are wobbling with tiredness. Might be because of the recent extremely cold weather, or it being the explosion of young animals all of which were not expected, or it could be because it is the changing seasons...not to worry, though, two ceiling done! Whooppeeee!!!

....aaaaannnnddddd......the bathroom is only waiting for the tiles to be put on the walls, the plumber to come in and finish the plumbing, and for the electrician to complete his part as well. And then we can  have a splash about in the shower. And go to a proper loo with running water instead of using a watering can. Whooppeeee again!

It is also a strangeness that now the electrician wants to know where I want the kitchen plugs to go. And that we are now talking about getting the walls of the dining room started now it has its ceiling on. Never thought we would get this far in just under four years.

And the proper mains electric in to the house is being sorted out....

....the trolley at bottom right is the electrical unit we have been running on, and what a delicate piece of equipment it is too. Put too many electrical appliances on at the same time and it switches off. Was a bit of a fright for Hubs as the hole in the wall was made for the electrical box to sit in. He thought the house would fall down. He is very sensitive about stones being taken out of the wall, after having spent a large amount of money having the walls repaired.

Not to worry though, the cracks still left in the walls do not seem to have got any bigger.

And off I now go to feed those two lambs, and then have a check on the piglets, so saying bye for now......