Friday 31 January 2014

Just bits and pieces of updates......

The goats...... the two little boy goatlings have become jolly little beings. At two weeks old, they are full of an energy which is enviable. We are not sure of their future at this time though. We can't keep three male goats here, one is enough. Lester is thinking of castrating them both, keeping one as company for our big boy when we have built him his own pen, and the other possibly into the freezer. Meanwhile, they have an abundance of life energy, which encourages us to spend many a long moment watching them. They definitely can consume our time.

We had another little girl goat born yesterday, which makes three little girls in total. Not sure what we are going to do with them either. Meanwhile, they will have the most of this year to grow up, to enjoy their lives, and to have fun as well.

Everyone else...... they have been inside for the last week, and are chomping through the hay at a phenomenal rate. The main field remains flooded, although the water is going down after it came up again, but did not come as near to the house as did the flooding two days earlier, and the side field is wet and puddly, and the grass is almost zero. So with the lack of grazing and the continuing wet weather, all our team are under cover. Of the twenty large bales of hay and straw we bought last October, four straw only remain, so it was off to the farmer man to buy another twenty bales, one of which has already been half eaten by our gang in four days. Our refusal to let our animals suffer the cold and wet requires that they keep warm and have full tums. They are part of our family. We watch over them.

A shepherd girl takes me half an hour twice a day, to pull hay off the hay bale. It is quite an art to unwind the hay from its roll, and requires a ton of patience to do so. We would put a bale in the sheep barn to save time, but the girls would end up using the hay as a mattress on which to sleep and the hay would become spoilt. Anyway, I was putting two bags of hay into their hay manger. The sheep were clustered round me, heads into the straw, totally focussed on eating, quiet, calm, and not in ditsy mode which sheep often have. So I had a tickle of ears, and a stroke of brows, and it was good. There is a peacefulness with sheep, when they are peaceful in themselves. 'Ditsy mode' is when they get a collective madness, and run hither and thither in panic, often for no reason.

We had mega trouble with their feet last year because we were totally unprepared for the extended wet season we had during Jan, Feb, March, and April last year. This year we are prepped. Their feet are holding good, which is a relief for us, and a relief for them. I like being a shepherd girl. I like being in the barn sharing the quietness of them as they eat.

A moving moment.......I am very proud of the way in which Lester is learning to be a DIY guy and a full time farmer man. Seeing him balanced up a ladder, hammering away at chiselling the old lime plaster off the wall, in a thick fog of dust, it made my heart move. He looked like a real DIY person, better than the pristine suit and tie office type worker that he was back in the UK. And the walls of the front room are turning out to be a surprise, with one wall being made entirely of white stones, well they will be white once they are cleaned up. Most people would not be bothered with preserving the cob walls, but would have plaster boarded over the lot. But we are not 'most people' so will carry on....

Minus one goose and one duck....... So when the large flooding started, the geese gang and Ducky went out onto the main field, which had by then turned into a lake. Late afternoon, off they went, refusing to come in for the night at dusk, wanting to stay out and play. We had to leave them to it. They were right out in the middle of the field, and no way were we going to be able to get to them.

10 pm, and with much flapping, squawking, and carrying on, in to the courtyard they all charged. They were counted and put to bed. Their numbers had been reduced. Lester went out to have a search for the missing ones. Heard Ducky quack, once. Then silence. A fox had come calling. We think that Ducky had herded his goose girlfriend away from the rest to do procreation activities. He was forever trying to mount her, and often did, although was not successful because he kept sliding off her back as soon as he was on.

We were quite saddened by his demise, and for the loss of one of our geese. They are not laying eggs this year for some reason, and Lester does not have the heart to put them in the freezer, so they remain as pets, not needing much, just roaming freely here and there, apart from out front where they have a passion for eating the winter wheat growing in the field beside our side field.

And the weather...... warm, around 10C, and wet. But it looks like we are in a cycle of two or three days of rain, then a couple of days of dry. This is alright by us. The land drains quickly, but the river can cope.

And the bees...... we still have them.

Hope you have a good day, and that you find corners within the hours of the day to tuck away and be peaceful.


Sunday 26 January 2014



...the water has come again, big time this time, right up to the walls of the house with not an inch to spare, except that it had to go round the corner of the house to get to the first door, and that it was going to do, and indeed got to within a couple of metres, but it ran out of spunk, thank goodness. 

It is surprising how the watching of the levels of the water can push the mind into a soporific state of being, such that it becomes a blank sheet. I suppose it is the inability to control the situation which gives this blankness. Like when Bonny (our ten month old calf) was given her wormer, and she didn't like the man-handling that Lester had to do to get it down her, so in the end she collapsed in a heap, thoroughly giving up with life, which only lasted for a few minutes though. It is surprising how a tasty handful of lucerne waved under her nose made her forget her upset. 

So it is fair to say that we did a bit of collapsing yesterday, but that was after I helped Lester get some of the fencing poles away from the rushing river's need to gobble everything up in its path. We have already lost the new fencing poles out in the far field. Wading through water which was nearly two metres deep in places was not an option to save them. (We have just had 280 acacia poles delivered, and put into place, ready to be pounded into the ground next week. We are separating the back field into smaller paddocks so the pigs can start rotovating for us, and the poles in the far field were to protect the two metre cliff which developed along the river's edge after the big flood of last year).

But we did not try and save the baby wood pile, nor the chunks of wood we spend all day cutting up from a tree which fell onto a portion of fence in the side field, tearing down the fencing line for about twenty metres. There was something dispiriting in seeing these hard won additions to our wood pile floating away. This week we are having five stairs (5 cubic metres) of wood delivered for when the Rayburn wood cooker gets into action. They shall be put in the courtyard. We have more rain forecasted. We expect continual flooding therefore. But we hope to retrieve the other wood which floated away. Normally things which have been floated off end up being nestled in amongst the trees of the woodland. Lester would like that wood retrieved. He bought a fangly dangly super duper man machine of a chainsaw recently. Crikey but it slices through wood like butter. 

He is building some super duper man muscles to manage the chainsaw and other jobs which he has undertaken now that he is the DIY head honcho. He has already repaired the damaged wall in the Middle Barn, (one river stone at a time, like assembling a jigsaw puzzle), and is getting the old lime plaster off the walls in the sitting room. He has managed to overcome his panic about the rather wide floor to ceiling crack in the wall and has been stalwart in his refusal to give up as he continues to change over from being an office worker type of man, to becoming a farmer and mender of an ancient house. 

However, he is not a happy man this morning. The river has torn down metres and metres of fencing in the main field, so that is another job to add to the long 'to do' list he has already. 

Last year's flood was a 'never in living memory' event according to the local people. I am not sure what this flood is going to be remembered as. Warm winters, that is the problem. Makes avalanches in the mountains. Rain comes. Lubricates the sliding snow. Returns the snow to water, some of which ends up passing by us. 

But the water did not come into the house. Porridge for breakfast today. Get the inner fires going. But lighting a candle first, and asking the Universe to give us a break, although perhaps that is a little bit selfish of me because there will be many who are worse off than us. Meanwhile, all the animals are under cover, the rottweiller girls are messing about in the water, and we are back on our feet, as is Bonny, who has already forgiven us for the worming incident. 

Sunday 5 January 2014

One Lost Camera

Camera last seen out in the sheep paddock.

I was filling in time while Himself was nailing some weather protection boards along the roof line of the little sheep barn. It was a sunny day in early December. I though it would be a good idea to record the work that Lester is doing on the smallholding now that he is no longer tied to his computer working for an employer in the UK. We are now our own employers, and in control of what we do without anyone else being our boss. It is a scary time, because it means that we have no income other than what we already have in the bank. Any income has to be generated by our own efforts. 

But the upside is that we now have time to do the things that we didn't have time to do when Himself was working on his computer for such long hours. Like talk, like have fun together, like watching the animals, like being able to sit in the sun for half an hour to watch the chickens mess about with each other. It is good to have time to enjoy being here, to stand and watch the clouds, to stand and feel the wind, to have the time to make plans. 

The Rayburn wood burning stove is still in the hallway, though, and nothing has been done to get it into the kitchen as yet. But this is not a problem, because the anticipation of having a real live wood burning stove to cook on is a delicious thing to look forward to. Plans are being made though to get installed, but we have been diverted away from the kitchen project at the moment by the need to do other things, like the repair of the walls in the Middle Barn, which requires stones being laid back into the river stone wall one by one. It is fiddly work, and slow. 

And then there was the guttering to be done on the sheep barn, and the facia boards to be put up. And this brings me back to where I started.

Message to self: It is unwise to take the camera out on a photo shoot of Himself balancing up a ladder, the reason being that Himself might have a totter up that ladder, requiring of myself to, with some haste, stop the photo shoot and go steady the ladder for him.

- That if this were to happen again in the future, that it is unwise, in fact very unwise, to leave the camera on a handy pile of sand lying on the ground by the fence. I would have used the plastic garden chair to put it on, but that was now covered in muddy footprints from Himself, when he thought he would use the chair to stand on because he couldn't be bothered to get the ladder from the Middle Barn. Since the plastic garden chair is old, and the back is broken, it makes for a very wobbly and unsteady platform for hoisting up heavy wooden facia boards, this he found out when he almost topped from it. And this I found out for myself when I was required by Himself to stand on this very chair to hold one end of the facia board up while he went up the ladder, now fetched from the Middle Barn, to hoist the other end of the facia board up
- That should the weather suddenly become inclement and we all have to go indoors toute suite, the first thing which should be picked up is the camera.

- That the mystery of where the camera now is may be solved at some point in the future when the lawnmower runs over it. (I think the rottweiller girls picked it up, did a romp with it, then found that a little pink camera was not a particularly fun thing to play with, and dropped it out in the sheep paddock somewhere), but it has forced me to purchase a new camera which is more suitable for the work I need it to do, so not to feel too guilty about losing the other one, but defo be more careful with this new one.


Still busy with the redevelopment of the Aspects of Self web site. Have spent the last three months redeveloping the site. Spent all day repairing broken links on it. Lester uploaded it so it was live on the web. Had a look around it. Yuk. Didn't like the look of it at all. Back to the drawing board. But an inspired Lester made some suggestions which I took up. Crikey but the web work takes up time. Good job the weather has taken a down turn, (although warm (19C) it is wet), so I am not seduced into spending too much time outside in the sun.  Heard the river running this morning. Means that we are likely to get some water on the land. Not to worry. We are prepared for this. It is part of the life of living near to a river. 


Still have not got anywhere near my new sewing machine. Have two gallons of milk sitting on the stove waiting for cheese to be made. Have another gallon waiting to be made into yoghurt. Lissie continues to give us up to three litres of milk a day, bless her. She is defo in calf, so does not have the 'time of the month' behaviour any more, which is a relief for us all. Mum pig is still having her seasons though, because we saw Max trying to stay on board her yesterday, but he kept slipping backwards off her. She could have been more helpful towards his efforts if she had chosen a drier spot to stand in, but she didn't, preferring to let him try to have his way in the muddiest and sinkiest part of their paddock. I don't think he managed, so no piglets any time soon. Hopefully by the time she does have piglets I might have been able to have a go on that new sewing machine, if not, then perhaps by the time Lissie's calf arrives in August.


Out in the Back Field today, whatever the weather does. Have loads of poles arriving tomorrow, and string has to be laid out as to where they are to go. We are dividing the field into sections so the pigs can get out and about but within boundaries. We don't think it fair on them to be kept in the same pen all the time. We think that they need to have as good a life as we can give them. They give us food, and we in return, give them as good a life as we can. But what they don't need to be doing is foraging in the veg plot. And what the geese don't need to be doing is plodding over the veggies in the veg plot with their big feet which flatten everything. And what the chickens don't need to be doing is foraging in the veg plot either, particularly on the newly planted rows of seeds, and the young green tomatoes which they absolutely adore. And what the rotweiller girls don't need to be doing in the veg plot is either messing about playing chase which each other, or digging holes, which is their favourite past time at the moment. Either of these two activities does not bode well for the growing of veggies. Sometimes we feel quite embattled in regards to our veggies, so poles up, everyone out, except me and Lester. 

But I am lingering, chatting away with you, and not getting on with the day. So I hope you have a restful Sunday, and bye for now.....

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Crikey, it's 2014 already!

How did that happen! How did 2014 creep up on me like this! I was working my way through the ups and downs of 2013 quite nicely, and found that today is the first day of 2014.

So may I send belated hopes and wishes for a good and productive New Year to you, and thank you so much for sharing our continuing journey towards getting our house and smallholding sorted out. Soon we shall have babies, according to the tummies of our goats who are swelling up by the day now, as are their little udders. Although we milk our goats, their udders are quite small in comparison to those of you who have 'proper' milking goats, but ours give us what we need and we thank them for that.

Max and Mum Pig are now together all the time, so hopefully there will be littl'uns from them this year. The troop of geese should have been laying eggs by now, but don't seem to be unless they are laying eggs in nests which are hidden from us. The hens are giving us loads of eggs per day at the moment, and laying them in a convenient spot, which is unusual for hens as they do like to change their nest sites as soon as find the one they have been using.

But the sheep will not have lambs because we are resting them this year. We have enough meat in the three freezers to keep us going for a year or so. It is comforting to know that if we suffer a financial difficulty we can feed ourselves.

We no longer work for  anyone else, but work for ourselves, which means that Lester is now a full time smallholder, which means that work on the farm and in the house is slowly being done by us, but no income is being provided at the moment. We are living on savings. Not to worry. Actually, we do! It is hard to stay positive all the time, but we have the opportunity to change track with what we do so we are 'going for it'.

It is with some surprise that I realise that I am 67 this year. Gosh! I suppose I should be winding down, retiring, taking things easy. No chance! This year we hope to open as a place of rest and recovery for those who are life tired. Lester is busy setting up the necessary environment to host the bookings on our two websites, and I have spent the last three months updating one of the websites, with the other one half way done. We are also taking control of the several books I have written, bringing them here for sales rather than going through other sales platforms. And then there are the videos to make, and the MP3 downloads. Phew!!!

Lester is just uploading the Zen cart ( ? Dunno either that that is either, but something to do with the website  shop environment), and then he says that he is coming onto my computer to go through the website files to make sure that they are all in order. He says he knows what I am like, and that he suspects that they will be in a muddle. Working with him on the smallholding is a pleasure. Having him work on my website will not be, and we shall definitely argue. I think I might leave him sort out the website files himself, and go sort out my new sewing machine. I have had it for two months, and I have only just unpacked it. It looks quite a complicated bit of kit, so I shall need an hour or so to understand it. I normally use my industrial straight stitch flatbed sewing machine, but this table top machine will give me buttonholes and fancy stitches. I am looking forward to playing with it. And anyway, I have taken care to keep my website files in good order, but men are men, and so I must be patient with Lester as he looks into the work I have done.

So that is why 2014 has crept up on us. Christmas came and went with hardly any attention paid to it by us, as has the end of 2013 and the start of 2014.

Lots of things happening. Lots of changes. Lots of worries. Lots of excitements. But hopefully not to many skirmishes between Lester and me as we get the Internet platform going for Labartere.

Thank you so much for visiting with us, and hoping that 2014 is going to be a 'break through' year for you as well.