Monday 23 July 2012

Snakes in the field

Been chuntering like a train over the Front Field. Scything, that's what I have been doing. Done quite a swatch. Even bigger swatch still to do. Nine DIY mini hay bales we got off the field yesterday. That makes eighty three in the hay stack in the barn. If I keep going and do manage to get the fields cut, then we are going to run out of room for the little hay bales.

To test to see if the sheep will eat the hay I sometimes give them a spare bale to have a munch on. So far, they have partaken of what I have offered them. Not sure if they will like the new hay bales though. They are more strawy in texture. Need bedding though. They will do for that.

Am up early this morning. Up at the crack of dawn, only dawn has not arrived yet. Thought I would get a quick blog posted, just to let you know that we are still here. Spend most of the day out on the field or browsing through borrowed music books, or music sites, on the Internet. Seems like music is starting to play quite a part in our lives. Hubs wants to get his violin mended, and wants to get a guitar, banjo and mandolin. I have an electric keyboard and a bodhrum (small drum) but would like to learn to play a squeeze box. I always used to play only classical pieces back in the UK, on my piano, which was left there. Had a keyboard, which I used to play in an old church out on Sheppey Marshes (in Kent) which didn't have any electricity. For a while I played on an old pump action organ, but the peddling action to get the air into that organ used to puff me and the organ out so we would both be wheezing at the end of the hymn, hence the purchase of that keyboard. Didn't play it much in the UK though, but it has come into its own here, now I am without a piano. I was sad to leave the piano behind, but it would not have survived out here, but having been forced towards the keyboard has also made me leave behind the classical music. It would seem that I am moving towards daft songs, like 'I'm forever blowing bubbles', and folky type songs plus Irish and Celtic. Life continues to surprise me. I never thought I would be singing either. Did a solo verse of The Old Oak Tree the other day in an old church which had the most fascinating tromp d'oill ( don't how to spell it, but it is when something is painted in a 3D effect, in this case it was the huge ceiling and by crikey it was a marvel to look at). Anyway I sang a verse, and surprised myself that I could actually do it. I keep surprising myself. At 65 I find that a fascination too, that I am constantly doing things which I have never done before. Coming to France has given me that. Thank goodness we came. Thank goodness we took the plunge. And God bless Hubs who still has to spend many hours at his PC so does not have the time to discover his hidden selves but hopefully in time he will be able to do so.

Anyway, I have rambled on. Snakes. In the field. There aren't any. But there might be. When it is bright and sunny I am not so aware of the awareness that there might be snakes. But last night I was out as the day started putting itself to bed, determined to try to get the far corner of the field cut before I put the scythe and myself to bed. It was tough going. I am still working with a 40cm bush scythe which is not recommended to cut grass with because it is made of too thick a metal, but it is the only one we could buy locally so it has to do until my new blade arrives. The grass slides beneath the blade if it is not in the correct position, that is the problem, so I am cutting about 95% of the grass, making the recently cut field look like it is sprouting a sparse beard. Oh well, I'm doing my best. 

Anyway, snakes. So, like I was saying, I was out in the far corner. The sheep seem to have given up with going over as far as that. The grass is lush. Whoopppeee! Should manage to get some decent hay off it. However, snake-thoughts started easing themselves into my mind as I scythed my way into the thickness. But I so wanted to get the corner finished. But I didn't. My feet seemed to steer me and my scything action in a different direction, which was out towards much thinner grass stems. So I gave up for the day, taking pleasure in thwacking some tall 'ready to flower and then to seed' thistles along the way. Thistles are 'pricklies'. Anything can grow here, but not pricklies. They are thwacked.

Anyway, must close now. Dawn has come and I must go.

Monday 16 July 2012

Changing times & Jacob goes juvenile

Flipping Jacob has been head butting again. The back of Lester's legs and the planks of the Sheep Arbre, both have been subjected to being rammed. So why is this? Why would our sweet little Jacob ram, who all the local farmers thought was too small to manage to get up on to the backs of our ewes to procreate, managed this task efficiently enough to father twenty lambs last spring, doing this task with docility, dignity, and quietness. So what has happened in that head of his, because he has started to be quite obnoxious lately. Prancing about on his tiptoes, showing off, pushing the ewes around, picking fights with the fencing poles which yesterday morning graduated up to fighting the sheep arbre itself and the backs of Lester's legs. Fortunately only two planks were partly dislodged, and Lester's legs can still be walked on although are bruised. So what has happened to our sweet little ram. 

He has become a monster, that's what. And it occurred to me that perhaps he was going through a juvenile delinquent stage, the same as Max, our Tamworth boar, did last year, when Hubs was nearly going to chuck him into the freezer such was his exasperation with Max's behaviour. An Internet search threw up the info that boars can go through this time of exaggerated bad behaviour, that it is something to do with a stage in their development, the juvenile stage. So, hopefully Jacob will grow out of this naughty stage. Max calmed down once Hubs showed him who was boss. Hubs said he would have to do the same with Jacob.

Could do with some rain here. None for ages, apart from tinsy showers whose rain drops have dried even before they have hit the ground. Very hot here today, so up early to get as much done outside as poss. Then indoors until it cools down. Not complaining though. Love the sunshine, and always feel more energetic when the sun shines even if it is baking hot. But the light has changed. It happened yesterday. Suddenly the light had a colder look to it. You notice these things when you are outside for a lot of the day. Winter is on its way. The changed light says that it is so. But then early winter will throw up a day when the light changes, and that will be springtime on its way. It is a most definite change. It is the changing of the seasons ahead of the time for those seasons to change. For the change of light in early winter, it gives us energy to prepare for the coming spring.  For the change of light now, well it tells us to get ready for the coming winter. It even inspired Lester to think about getting the winter wood sorted out. He didn't make a start though, but at least the task was in his head.

Off to the kitchen now. Beans to freeze, apricot jam to make (probably one pot only as the crop is very small this year due to the rough weather which was raging over the heads of the apricot trees when they were in flower earlier on this year), DIY orange squash to make, break to make, cake to make, lunch to make, mint to tie up and dry, etc. Could do with two of me, but I don't think anyone could cope with having a Vera One and a Vera Two around! Actually could do with a Vera Three as well, and that one could go out and scythe the fields, while Vera Two did general domestic duties, and Vera One could do the farm work. Ah well, the joys of running a smallholding!!! But I am definitely not doing a moan. I would rather be busy than bored.

.....and have just ordered a new scythe, one that should cut grass and hay. Will let you know how I get on. It is an Austrian scythe. At the moment we are cutting everything with a bush scythe, and truth to tell, it does do a good job. From brambles to 'heavy' grass it works well, but fine grass and hay grass it does not. I wanted an 85cm blade  but the man said no, that he would only sell me a 70cm blade. Wielding the 40cm bush blade out on the fields this morning, I think that perhaps he intuitively knew that I would be safer with the shorter length of blade! It's when one gets tired and the rhythm slips out that one must be careful of where that blade is going. Oh not when one is scything mode but when one is carrying, or sharpening, the scythe. Should be here the beginning of August. Will look forward to its arrival. Meanwhile I shall continue to practice with the scythe we have already.

Off I must go now, so bye for now. x

Thursday 12 July 2012

Max's prob solved!

Following on from the previous post, the sedatives did work, but not so much that Max keeled over in a heap. No, all he did was tottered a bit on wobbly legs, then went and laid in his wallow, the same wallow that Lester had filled with water several hours previously, and snored, but woke up when spoken to, but only with a grunt. There was no gnashing of teeth as what normally happens when Lester and Max get into conversation with each other.

Taking a deep breath, and armed with a bit of cardboard and his small saw, Lester climbed over the fence into Max's paddock, the cardboard to be used as a barrier between the saw and Max's face, the errant tusk lying jammed up against the skin of his cheeks.

Not a grunt did Max do. Nothing. Just laid quite still while Lester removed a chunk of tusk. It was as if he consented to being helped, knew that what Lester was doing needed to be done.

The sun suddenly came out. Worried in case Max overheated in his drugged up state of being Lester put the hose pipe over him. With a sudden leap, Max jumped out of his wallow. Lester and I looked at each other. Obviously he had not been as drugged as we thought. He could, if he had wanted to, done quite a mischief to Lester when Lester was close beside him. But he didn't. He knew he needed help, and he accepted the help which was given, that is the conclusion we have come to.

Bit of sunshine today, which was a relief from the overcast days we have been having of late. No rain though. Could do with  a drop. Could you folk in the UK send a couple of rain clouds our way please........

Am seducing the new hens into thinking that Labartere is a good place to be by introducing pasta and home made bread into their diet. They have a narrow food palate having probably been fed on just grain, but here our hens are free range so eat what they like. This morning Orpy was standing on top of a mound of soil so he could reach more easily the ripening elder fruit, then it was off round to the rabbit hutches to see what morsels were to be had there, before trundling the flock round to the sheep arbre to rake over the sheep's bedding and eat the sheep poo before chilling out in a corner of the arbre for an hour or so of preening and sleeping. At some point during the day they will hang out underneath the trailor, try to rake some manure out from underneath its protective 'chicken proof' tarpaulin, maybe lay an egg or two which may or may not be stolen by the magpies, keep an eye on what we are up to just in case we do anything associated with food. Ah the life of a chicken!
Anyway, this is the life which we need to encourage our new hens to partake of. So, to start off with, I have introduced them to some scatterings of pasta and DIY bread. Gets them used to feeding with the others. Helps them to get to trust us. Helps them come in close to us. And it is working. Today the grey orpington hen had a chat with me, and the others run towards me whenever they see me. Their eyes are starting to look gentle, and they are talking. I think they will settle down here.

It is nice to see the characters which develop in our animals once they have been here for a while. It is worth the work.

Monday 9 July 2012

Max has a prob

Peanut butter and home made fig jam pancakes, that is what we are having this morning for breakfast. There's no bread in the larder. I haven't made any for a few days. Too busy with lots of things to do, so no toast today, just sticky, drippy, scrumptious pancakes.

Max, (our Tamworth boar) he had an apple and baguette as an add on to his breakfast of grain. He has a problem. Max has tusks. Two. They go backwards out of the side of his mouth. I am not sure why they would be going in that direction. I thought it would have been more feasable for the tucks to be going in the forward direction. Make more impact on whatever, or whoever, it is who is needing to be damaged. Better for us, though, that they are going backwards. They are more out of the way when we are giving him a pat or an ear scratch.
   The tusks lie along the side of his face, one standing slightly away from his skin, the other now starting to grow into his skin at its tip.
   Max had an add on to his breakfast this morning. Inside the apple and baguette was a jam and milk concoction in which was hidden sedative. Six teaspoons plus some more just to be on the safe side. The plan: Max gets sleepy, ends up deeply asleep, Hubs to then saw off the offending tusk. That's the plan.

Notice to self: It is not a good idea to be involved with eating pancakes of the type already mentioned, at the same time as trying to write a blog. Attention is not given to either task, the result being a muddled slurry of words on the page, a sticky keyboard, arms that are also sticky although I know not why this should be so, and a feeling of surprise because the pancakes seem to have done a vanishing act. They are in my tum of course, but I have been too pre-occupied with trying to write a blog.
Four new hens have joined us. First day out today. Three seem to be quickly becoming part of the gang, but the fourth seems to be a law onto herself, preferring to do things her way. She 'spoke' to me as we were buying the others. I am not sure if she will stay here. The other three have already made up their minds to belong to the others, but this one is still thinking about it. I can see it on her face. 'Will I or will I not leave'. She has spirit, this one. Perhaps that is why I was attracted to buying her.

Was out with the new lawnmower yesterday. No rain, some sun, some cloud, brisk breeze, just right for plodding up and down a chunk of the big Front Field. Have been scything it, but parts are bald. Still needs cutting though, to get the tall seed heads off. Lawnmower called into action. We don't have a lawn to mow. We have fields. It is going to take an age. Not to worry. Have a couple of months to get the job done.
  Got bored with the mowing though. How can farmers spend all day going up and down with their tractors. It would do my head in. Could only mow for a couple of hours, after which my head was tired with the sameness of the job.
   Now scything, that is a different matter. I get into quite a quirky rhythm when doing that job. Lots of little steps and swings. In fact when I am under the influence of the scything action it is quite difficult for me to call a halt because I am so mesmerized by my physical movements. This is most unusual as this is the only job I do which I can't seem to stop doing when I am doing it. For all the other necessary activities of the day I have a job to start and then keep going.
   But our scythe blade is not long enough. At 45 cms it does not manage the job of cutting young grass. We are going to get a 85 cms blade, and all the kit which comes with it: anvil to beat the blade upon when it gets blunt, (called peening), three types of wet stone, and a nifty water carrier which is put on one's belt and in which one carries the wet stone of choice so the blade can be sharpened (honed) when one is out on the field scything. I am still a novice at scything, but it is a fantastic way of getting fit.

Ah well, better go check up on Maxy and see how many of those four new hens are still here. Hope you are well. Bye for now.