Friday 30 August 2013

Fresh air?

Someone, a friend, said that I was like a breath of fresh air.
'What a compliment', I thought. 
But then my thoughts took me further -
and they landed up with:
'Strooth, but that is a responsibility',
because what happens when I run out of puff,
when the wind is out of my sales,
like it often does,
what then.

I don't know why my friend thought this of me,
all I was doing was gabbling on in my normal manner,
reciting tales of smallholding doings,
the ups and downs,
the achievements, the non-achievements,
being honest,
as I always am, 
not putting a spiel on smallholding life,
not dressing it up to appear other than what it is, 
which is flipping hard work
interspersed with magic moments,
like the moments of gratefulness shown by animals towards their carers,
like the harvest coming in,
like seeing the little piggies romping,
the sheep charging over to where the acorns are starting drop,
of a goat who was ornery when she arrived here, but now isn't,
of a male goat who wants to do his thing,
of big puppy dogs romping in the river,
of Bools, now getting older,
of his longer sleeping hours,
of his deafness,
seeing him bowing out,
from life.


Wednesday 28 August 2013

Back to 'normal'

Back to normal, well as normal as I am ever going to be, living on a farm, in South West France, bless me.

Already this day I have chased the young white cockerel out of the veg plot, wherein he loves to spend the hours of his day, eating the ripening tomatoes, or half eating them, or just taking a peck or two out of the orange ones to see if they are ready for his pleasure yet. This does not please us. We have few enough tomatoes as it is, and we feel our angst rising up when we see the half pecked tomatoes, the half eaten ones, the nearly eaten ones, and the ones he has knocked to the ground. Not to worry. He is for the pot later on. If he lasts that long. Now  you might ask, 'why do you not fence the veg plot', and our answer to this is that some of it is fenced, but he squeezes through the wire because he is still but half grown. He may not get much bigger. 

And then there is Lissy and the milking saga. Every milking starts off alright, but then there is a battle when she calls a halt halfway through the process. This requires me to stand at her head to stop her from wandering away from Lester, who is down below with the bucket. It is difficult to stay at an udder when the owner of said udder has decided to go somewhere else. But I do not stand in her pen, I stand in Bonny's pen, which is the other side of the gate. 

I think Bonny has adopted me as a sort of surrogate mother. I am nuzzled, prodded, pushed, licked, and nibbled. It is delightful. Apart from her tongue, which is so rough that it nearly strips the skin from my arm. And apart from her teeth, which she likes to use to nibble on my elbows and knees. And also apart from the budding horns on her head, which indent my body when she is in nuzzling mode. The wet nose is alright though, most times. 

I am, however, free from such joys in regards to the goats. During milking it is Lester who is cozied up to, has his ears and the hairs on his arm nibbled, and sometimes his clothes, but not by me, I don't do this, well not during milking anyway, and only when I am not tired, which is not often these days, unless it is a quick little five minutes of cozying, which we actually do quite often, in a friendly way, almost as friendly as the goats are when they are being milked. 

We do not have any such shennanigans with the piglets although they do talk to us, but not when they are being taken away from their mum to go into their own paddock, because the two boys are getting bigger, and we don't want them doing things with their sister or their mum, although they are still too small to try anything naughty with either of them, but you never can tell. 

As for the wheelbarrow mentioned in the previous post: the main project at the moment is getting the sheep barn cleared of manure, the manure then being donated to the veg plot which is quite a considerable distance away. It is a ploddy job. It is a dusty job. It is an aromatic job. It is mucky. Still, after several marches to and fro the veg plot with the wheel barrow one sort of goes onto automatic pilot, after which the nose does not seem to mind so much the wafting odours. 

Signing off for now, 


Saturday 24 August 2013

Merrily, tootilling........

Merrily I wheeled my barrow,
Wheeled my barrow,
Wheeled my barrow,
Merrily I wheeled by barrow,
All the day long.

Tootilly, tootilly, tootilootoot,

Normal service will be resumed in the morning,
I hope.

Thursday 22 August 2013

For today, all is well

Could only manage four jars of meat into the canner today. Was supposed to do more, but ran out of spunk big time, so we diverted away from farm work by spending the afternoon with some good friends, me to do female chat, Lester to do man talk. We both needed the break, just for a while.  To drive through the wonderful French countryside, to remind ourselves of what a privilege it is to be living here, to enjoy returning to the farm, seeing our animals in the field, this was sufficient to give us the boost of energy we needed. 

We are in the middle of a cross-roads time. Lester's work with the UK looks like finishing, so our income is going to be not a lot. Keeping faith and trust in the Universe, that is what we are doing. Keeping fingers crossed as well. And toes. And anything else which can be crossed. 

Last night we sat outside for the first time in weeks. Watched the day go to sleep. Watched the stars starting to wake up. Watched the bats hither and thither. Watched the chickens go to roost in the tree. Watched the geese take themselves off to their hut. Heard the sheep having a chat. Heard the pigs have a bit of a bargy. Heard Lissie snuffle. Heard Bonny have a drink. Heard the male goat complaining that he did not like being on his own in the Middle Barn. The goat girls we did not hear. Was able to sit outside because the midges and gnats were doing something  somewhere else, which had nothing to do with us. And there, last in, one of the bees. 

I have an inheritance. We have enough for the moment. For today, all is well. 


Monday 19 August 2013

DIY sausage arrives!

I must admit to feeling a bit sorry for myself yesterday, it being Sunday, and therefore, in my 'old' life, a day of slothful inactivity and probably over eating, which was not good for my health or the tonnage of my body. Living the life of a small farmer, however, has put paid to that type of lifestyle, and very occasionally I get ever so slightly regretful for those lazy, do nothing, type of days, not often, just when things are getting overwhelming. Not to worry. Would still never want to live that old life, not even for one second. It is just happens when there is a list a mile long of things to do, and the energy to do them has gone down the drain. 

But when one has soldiered through, maybe ticked a couple of things off that list, then taken a pause to observe what has been achieved through the hours of that day, crikey but one does feel proud of one's self, which is far better than feeling guilty because of having wasted precious hours of one's life by being lazy. Oh I know that one needs rest, but that can do that during long winter evenings, unless one has a house to get renovated, and then the engine has to keep chugging.

And then there are the magic moments. We had one yesterday. Upon observing our first efforts at DIY sausage making, that's when we had the moment. Couldn't take a photo though because the camera batteries had run out of spunk, but take my word for it, we made a pile: 4 kgs, plus at least 36 patties of lamb sausage. And they didn't taste anything like the shop bought ones, but were firm and tasty and full of life. We can now put together a breakfast, or supper, of DIY sausage, DIY bacon, farm produced eggs, home grown tomatoes (when the few we have finally ripen), DIY bread, DIY butter, DIY jam and a glass of farm produced milk, followed by a slice or two of DIY cheese. Sunday turned out to be a very OK day. 

Hope you had a magic moment or two during your Sunday,

Sending blessings to you,


Sunday 18 August 2013

BG learns how to do it, we think.

As I have previously mentioned, Billy Goat is wanting to get more 'hands on', or rather, 'rear end' on. He practices with anything on four legs, which up to now has been limited to the two other young goatlings, and Bonny, the calf. But he has not yet managed to go 'all the way'.

But then prancy dancy Ice Cream got herself out of the other field because she had the urge upon her, and it was a grand urge as could be seen by her continual fretful behaviour. Since no one else was sorting the problem out she decided to sort itself out for herself. If a male goat was not going to come to her, she was going to go find him. So she did. She squeezed herself out of the field, (we know not how she did it), and took herself over to Billy Goat's field. 

So we decided to let nature take its course. Ice Cream is on the left, BG on the right.

However, as in the manner of all novices, especially virgin novices, he had to be shown the way. We left them to it. Our day was busy. The hours passed. Time to get them in for the night. And there they were, waiting by the gate. BG could hardly stand, Ice Cream looked like she had had her fill. 

So we separated them. Ice Cream seems to longer to have the urge, but BG, oh dear, now he knows what everything is for he wants to keep going. Jumped out of the field yesterday to go find Ice Cream. And he has started wee-ing on his head and front legs, in the manner of all fully fledged male goats. Chucks up a stink already. Not sure we can keep him in the Middle Barn at night any more. Handling him, as we do, is going to pass on BG's aroma on to us. We do not particularly want to smell of male goat. No sir. It must be one of the heaviest animal smells, and likely to permeate everything within its range. So need to sort out his living accommodation asap.


Today is Sunday, and everyone is going to stay indoors today, apart from the sheep who are behaving themselves very well. But the goats and Lissie are driving us crackers at the moment. They are naughty, difficult, and wearing us out. No longer will they come in from the field and go straight to their night time pens. They deviate. Go here. Go there. And have to be gone and got. Takes ages. Last night we left Lissie out in the field. Could not be bothered with chasing her round and round. Have tried all the helpful hints which have been kindly sent in to us, but none are working. I think she needs to be with calf again to calm her down. I think she is probably wanting to be with calf as well. She can't see the point of having milk on board if there is no reasonable use for it, as in feeding the next generation. We don't count. To her, it is a waste to let us have it. It is a battle. Those jars of milk in the fridge have been hard won.


I thought I might have a day off today, it being Sunday. Feel the need to be lazy, drifty, slothful, sleepy, etc. Lester feels the same. So after we have done our farm work, we decided that we will stop, which I will do after I have canned four legs of lamb (now cooked and sliced), emptied the fridge of this week's milk to make cheese but not yoghurt because we have drunk all the goats milk which was designated for yoghurt, and learnt how to fill sausage casings the filling for the casings now sitting in the fridge ready for go. Oh and then there is the veg plot which has not been visited for the last two days because I have been in the kitchen doing things with meat. 

Methinks that to have lazy Sundays is an expectation which must be put to one side when one is running a small farm, particularly at this time of the year. 

So have a lazy Sunday for me, while I think of all those other smallholders, homesteaders, and small farmers, who are sailing in similar boats to ours, and filling their store cupboards with produce sufficient to carry them through the winter months ahead. 

Sending blessings to you


Thursday 15 August 2013


And it now comes to be the time of the urge, when lowering temperatures switches on the need to make babies, but not with me, oh no, I have done with contributing towards future generations of human beings, no, it is with the Labartere animal crew, that is where the urges are being felt, especially with the goats, but not the girl sheep because tomorrow they will not have any males left to help sort out their urges so their urges will not become switched on, unless the two males who are to be given the end of their lives this evening have already had a go at procreating, in which case we shall have lambs next spring although would prefer not to, next year having been planned as a 'year off' in regards to having lambs, which should give us time to sort the flock numbers out, and also to get another ram after our other ram decided that it was all a bit too much having to keep getting on board so many demanding girls, and died. 

But the goats, crikey they are getting frisky. But we have a young male goat, Billy, who seems willing to have a go at fertilizing future generations. He even had a go at Lissie, our cow. And she stood for him, but he couldn't reach the appropriate body parts, and we hauled him out of the field before he did himself, and Lissie, a damage. Lissie did not appreciate this taking away of a male, even if he was of a different animal type, and kicked up a hell of a fuss for a chunk of the day, just to let everyone know that she had a hell of a lust upon her and could something be done about it. No, actually, we can't, because there is no way that we are going to get another male animal here, in particular, a bull. So, artificial insemination it is for her, and for Bonny when she is old enough. 

Trouble is, that we don't have a clue as to what to look for in regards to the 'right time of the month' in cows. Pigs are easy, they get a full and spongy fanny. Goats, well we don't have a clue about them either, but it is easier to keep an eye on their rear ends because they always have their tails held up in the air. Cow don't. They have long tails which cover all their private parts, which makes the observations of their seasons difficult. 

However, Elise does have attitude when it comes up to 'that time of the month', and this is what we shall to watch out for in the future. Two days ago she was like a demon from hell, refusing to come in to her stall and instead  cavorting around the farm like a lunatic, barging here and there, bucking and prancing like a flippin' stallion albeit an ungainly one, and being as absolutely difficult as she possibly could. There are times when we get an almighty surge of thought about perhaps sticking to goats rather than cows, goats being far more manageable, and smaller. But then Lissie does a soft chortle at us, and we melt. She has also taken to licking me, sometimes even giving me a soft nibble. She does not do this with Lester, so it feels like some sort of female bonding going on, one animal species with another.

But she is giving us more milk now that Bonny is off her completely, and since the Universe brought her to us, then we shall smile graciously at the Universe in thanks for this gift, meanwhile also asking the Universe for patience in learning how to understand her prankish moods. 

Re: the sheep: It is now nearly noon, and we have just come in from catching and penning the two male sheep who have to go into the freezer tonight. OOoooooh dear! Found two more males who we didn't realise that we had. Thought we had two, found that we had four. So four to 'do' tonight, and methinks that we shall indeed have lambs next spring because one of those four are bound to have got their tackle into gear by now. 

So why did we not realise that we still had four males in the flock? They are dark brown in colour, and unless one is grabbed and turned over on its back, then the male tackle is not easily observable. But these four have also started growing horns, which helped to single them out from the ewes. 

I think we shall have to de-ball the male lambs as soon as they are born next year. Don't like doing it, but it will have to be done.

Winter 2011, a couple of home made hay bales, and a trailer full of hay and straw, this is what got us through the winter of 2011 / 2012:

Winter 2012 / 2013: I made loads of DIY hay (part of which is in the photo below, the rest filled up the Middle Barn), which was supplemented by bought in straw.

Winter of 2013 / 2014. Didn't make hay this year year, but look at what arrived from a local farmer yesterday.....

.....twenty bales of hay and straw, and at a good price. Does this mean that we are almost a 'grown up' little farm?

And here are Blue and Maz to say hi!

Meanwhile, Billy is out in the pasture with the two young goats and Bonny, the sheep minus their males are in the other pasture, and Lissie is inside in her stall today because we are trying to train her to behave on the halter, and keeping her company in the other stall are the four male sheep who are having their last day. Oh, and the pigs are still as is, apart from two piglets who have been donated to a friend of ours. And the geese and chickens are doing their thing here and there. Life on the farm is always full of happiness, temperamental behaviours, strong words, smiles, and interest. And for us it the same!

Saying bye for now,


And a special thanks to Horst who has chivvied me up to get a blog posted, just to let you all know that we are still up and doing.