Tuesday 17 March 2015

We had a bit of a run around yesterday......

Everything was ready......wheelbarrow with the pots of pig food in it, knife, bolt gun ready and loaded, with one spare bullet just in case which was just as well because it was needed.......

Lester into the pig pen with one of the buckets of food, everyone clustering round him, food put into the four trays, I stand the other side of the fence with the gun and the knife, they are swapped for the now empty bucket. All is as normal. The biggest pig is chosen. Her head is in the food. This is the time.....

Only she suddenly moved .........it was not good...... much movement followed although all was calm, lots of squelching to and fro in mud, me included because I went in to help. At one point I was holding one of the gates open but had one of my legs stretched backwards to stop Mum pig from having a wander out into the veg plot. All in all that was a bit of a moment. She was chatting and snortling away, meanwhile I was trying to hold the gate open at the same time as acting as a barrier to her. Not to worry, fortunately she decided to go back to the food trays and not barge her way through. 

Eventually the job was done, and it needed to be done because the pressure on the rest of the pigs has now been alleviated, and they are much calmer today, although all was calm yesterday when we were doing the job, it just took a while longer than normal that's all.

It has been a lovely day here today, which has resurrected my sleeping energies. Off out the front I went, to then trundle several wheelbarrow loads of spoilt hay round to the back for burning when we get round to it. Got lots more hay to shift, but at least I have made a start. Then I got my push -pull lawnmower out and did a bit of mowing. Crikey but that gave me a good work out. I kept telling myself the exercise was doing me good, plus I got hot which is the first time I have been made to feel hot by outside exercise this year. 

The dogs are going to have a good  breakfast tomorrow, only I forgot about the piece of pork I was supposed to make into bacon and which has been sitting in the fridge for over a week now. I forgot it because Lester put some jars of milk in front of it. (You've always got someone to blame when you have a partner!!!) There is also a bowl of pork fat which came out of the freezer at the same time. I did manage to get it cut up into small pieces so it would melt quicker and I did put some in a saucepan to make a start. Not to worry, pork fat is more patient about waiting around for me to get to it.  

The lambs have stopped bouncing about like playful imps now they are eating grass, because for much of the day they are focussed on filling their tummies. . The air is also quieter and there are fewer calls of 'where are you' between mums and littl'uns. I miss the rompings of the very young lambs, it is a time which doesn't last long. We have eighteen lambs, and only had one did not survive, and that was the first one born, after that all the lambs popped out with no probs.  But they are still looking fluffy and cute, and will do for some time yet. 

The blossom has just started showing on the fruit trees. Spring comes fast here, and is over fast as well. I want to cling on to this time of year, but it always seems to slip through my fingers before I can thoroughly enjoy it. But I did have some time outside today, and that was good.

Off to bed now, so bye for now,  


Saturday 14 March 2015

The Other Day.......

The other day......................tunnelled out, that is what the juvenile pigs did. Well, it was a surprise that they hadn't escaped before, but the other day they did. Nothing for it but to put them out into the veg paddocks for a couple of days while the problem was sorted out. We were going to get one of the youngsters into the freezer this weekend, but we have gone into a bout of wet weather again, so we can't.
Lessons to be learnt: not to over winter youngsters but to organize our two adult pigs so that we have a litter in early spring, grow the piglets on over the summer and autumn, and then into the freezer in November / December. One of these years we shall get organised!

The other day........ little Ditsy got stuck under the chair in the kitchen. She has a twisted foot so can't move about very easily. There were a couple of piles of chicken poo about her person which suggested she had been there a while. Not to worry, Boolie moved in quickly to clean up the poo, but she didn't seem worried about him barging in on her, just chatted to me about this and that as I carried her outside. Unfortunately she was not entirely poo-ed out, and this one Boolie could not clean up because it was all down my skirt.

The other day........... off up into the Pyrenees I was taken, to learn how to make sushi. It was a fund raising day, and that is why I went. I also thought it would be good for me to have a few hours away from the farm. 

The day was lovely, the surroundings superb, the company fantastic. Shame that I found out that sushi is not something that I shall be partaking of in the future, although I did like some aspects of it, in particular the  Japanese seasonings. 

It was the toilet seat though, that is what intrigued me the most. It was heated. Having sat on an ice cold toilet seat during the last few months, it was a treat for my rear end to be embraced by such warmth. 

There was a row of buttons attached to the side of the loo, six in all. I didn't have my glasses with me so could not see what they were for. Fortunately I erred on the side of caution and searched for the flush button, which looked the same as the one at home, and that was on top of the cistern. This I used. Good job that I had not dabbed at the other buttons. Apparently they were for having a wash underneath. 
"You can even get bidet loos which have warm air to dry you off with " said the owner of the house.
Oooohhhhh! Now that would be a treat on a cold winter's day. 

The other day.........Lester got stuck. Out in the woods, unloading some old hay, ground very soft, and.... squelch, down into the ground the tractor sank. Couldn't go back, couldn't go forwards.
"Go sideways" I said. It worked. 

Meanwhile, the dogs romped out on the river beach, which has started appearing again as the  water level has dropped. Not sure how long they will stay dropped for because we have another bout of wet weather ahead. Not to worry, it is the mixture of sun and heavy showers which pull the grass up and gets everything growing. 

The other day........ band practice started again, because we have been booked to play at a village fete in early June, but this time we are going to have a go at singing traditional French songs, which is going to be quite a learning curve for us all. And thank goodness I can use YouTube to search for the songs, then learn how to sing them. 

And today... have just put the electric box for the pig fencing in the dehydrator. It needs to dry off because its protective covering blew off during the night and it got soaked. 

Have also put the sheep and cows out because it is getting on everyone's nerves having to stay indoors.......the sheep and cows because they get bored, and us because of the continual complaints from the sheep, and the occasional heavy moaning from the cows. There is not much to eat out on the field, but everyone seems happier with the arrangement and we are hearing no  more complaints. All is quiet.

Things to catch up with.........
- there is a bowl of pig fat in the fridge needing to be made into lard
- there is a bowl of uncooked pork in the fridge waiting to be put through the mincer and then frozen
- there is a chunk of belly pork  in the fridge to be made into bacon
- the fridge is full of jars of milk which needs de-creaming and then put to butter.
- also need to make some yoghurt, but not cheese because I keep forgetting to order a new pot from Amazon specifically for the making of cheese.
- there are huge heaps of hay out front which need getting round to the compost heap out back. 
- .......and so on........

Life on a farm / smallholding requires endless lists of work to get through. However, one thing I did learn from my day in the Pyrenees is that sitting watching the view is alright for an hour or so, and then I get fidgety and homesick. That not having animals around makes for a very clean and sterile environment which I don't seem to be able to relax in. But that loo, the one with the warm seat, now I could go for that!

Off to rescue the electric box from the dehydrator.........so bye for now, and hope you have a good weekend.


Sunday 8 March 2015

Everyone out.....

one joyful cow, outside for the first time in a couple of weeks,
prancing and kicking up her heels,
bless her.

And here comes Bonny to join her mum.
Both are in calf now.

....... and the sheep looking at Lissie and Bonny having fun in the field,
and having a thorough complain about still being stuck in the paddock.

OK, no side field today, but out into the veg plot field,
with me doing the shepherding to make sure they stayed where they are supposed to stay.

So out they go,......
all is looking good, and everyone is peacefully grazing,
they turn towards the left, which is where they are supposed to go....
with me gently pushing them along.

All is looking good, 
although the hens are not happy at being disturbed.
They have several little camps which they use during the day,

...... but this was too much for them so off they went to find a quieter spot.

And on the sheep moved, passing the pigs, but disturbing the goose on her nest, 
she is on the left, by the blue tarpaulin. 

But I thought that everyone looked calm, 
so I sat under the oak tree,
and knitted.

I was guarding two paths, 
one which goes up to the sheep paddock, and the lane, 
and the other going down beside the wood and out onto the far field and from there onto our neighbour's field.

Now I don't know what gets into the heads of those sheep sometimes,
normally they graze away,
intent on eating and not doing anything other than staying concentrated on the task in hand.
And then they do a stampede,
for no reason, or so it seems,
they just do.

So front right of me came a gang of sheep,
from front left of me came the other gang,
at the same time did they do this.
and at full speed.
What to do,
which path to guard, 
not to worry, the sheep chose,
and off they galloped onto the woodland path.

Can't go after them and try to turn them round because the path is narrow and all that they will do is run ahead of me.
Need to get round to the front of them.
Means that I have to go down the lane and across my neighbour's field to head them off and turn them round. 
Suddenly shepherding does not seem quite  such a fun thing to do. 
I look at my knitting now tangled up in a heap at my feed,
obviously I was not going to do much of that now.

So hurry back to the house to get my boots on,
my pink crocs not being suitable to chasing sheep hither and thither
I call to Lester that the sheep are off and away,
he looks at me, just looks. 
I go inside to put my boots on,
can't find my socks so it does take a minute or two...
go back outside, look to see where the sheep are.
Nowhere, that's where.
Crikey, don't say they all fallen into the river,
going off the high bank like a bunch of lemmings.
I start having a worry,
see Lester now running across the neighbour's field,
but no  still no sheep anywhere.
I hear the bleat of a sheep to the left of me,
hope it is not being made by a sheep as it floats on down the river,
'what will I say to people about why we have no sheep anymore',
that is what my head is thinking as I watch Lester move across the field.

They are found! 
I am relieved. 
See Lester usher them along,
and then on to the woodland path.
They have finished messing about with having a stampede,
and now are happy to carry on eating.
They come along the path to me.
And allow themselves to be herded wherever we want them to go.

Sheep are themselves, 
just different to us,
that is what I keep reminding myself as I settle myself down to not doing any knitting,
but keeping an eye on the flock,
just in case they take it into their heads to do a runner again.


Thursday 5 March 2015

Oh, just a nice day......

Been out shopping for furniture today, mountains were glorious, sun was shining, and spring is here, plus the charger for my camera has arrived, so all in all, it has been a grand day. 

Sheep are happy, because they have been out on the side field for the day, and the pigs have been cheered up by loads of clumps of grass that Lester gave to them when he was digging holes for the new fruit trees. We have loads of fruit trees already planted, (and I really must get round to pruning them but worry about damaging them beyond repair), and I know it is a bit late to be planting trees but things have been getting in the way of us doing so, and with the weather being so unfriendly, well, we just sort of ran out of steam with sorting out the gardens and veg plots. Not to worry, a drop of sunshine...... and our enthusiasm has come back for tilling the soil and growing things. 

We did not buy any furniture today because we are still 'feeling our way' with what the music / sitting room wants. But we do know that it is to be nothing new, but old, so it has to be second hand or 'antique'. We want the room to look as if has been lived in for years and years, and not pristine, modern, and newly done. I think that the room needs a piano, upright or baby grand, I am not sure which. My electronic keyboard is fine for when I play with the band or for church services, but it is not a sensitive enough instrument to lift my soul. So, either an old piano with candle holders on, (which you can still buy here in France) or a small baby grand....... shall leave the decision up to the Universe to see which instrument comes my way!

Been out gardening, and have soil stained hands to prove it, although I did not garden for long because the ground is still too wet, but at least I have presented my hands to the soil, and let my back and legs know that they will have to get used to bending over, and staying bent over, while the necessary weeding is done. 

Have made some tea towels. Got fed up with the ponsy little things you buy at the local supermarket, which get sopping wet very quickly and get holes in them after a few months of use. So I bought a couple of metres of towelling online from the Remnant House, cut it up into what I regard as decent sized tea towels, hemmed them round with a couple of rows of zig zag stitches on my sewing machine, put an 'artistic' band of other fabric (from an old curtain actually) across each side which was also double stitched with zig zag stitches, and done! They cost the same as would the supermarket tea towels, but are  of a better quality, and should last a long time without showing any stains because the colour I chose was dark green.

And if they do eventually get holes in, then I have some left over curtain fabric I can repair them with. 

The jar of Nutella is nearly finished, and what a delight it has been to eat, especially off a fully loaded spoon. I was not going to buy another jar though, thinking that it was not really worthy of 'self sufficiency smallholder types'  which we aspire to be (ho ho!!!) However......another jar has 'magicked' itself into the kitchen after Lester went shopping for me. It will be shame to leave it unopened.....it would be  a waste don't you think? 

Saying bye for now, 


Sunday 1 March 2015

A bit of shepherding....

Been shepherding the flock today, no photos though because I have lost the battery charger for my camera having put it somewhere safe last time I used it so this wouldn't happen. Anyway, the sheep can't get on to the main field because of the lake of water which is sitting  across the field entrances,  (geese still loving the water though, ....this is the best time of the year for them) and the side field across the lane is eaten down to almost nothingness,  and because they moan about having to stay in their barn and paddock and eat hay we thought it a good idea to see if they would behave themselves on the back field where the veg plots and pig pens are. They did. Lots of grass on the paths, lots of nibbles along the fence line. They were happy sheep, 'proper grass', wow! you could see the pleasure on their faces.

But we don't have the drive fenced at the moment, so they could, if they have a mind, wander out onto the lane and from there across to the farmer's field opposite which has three inch high oil seed rape growing. So we had to shepherd the flock away from the driveway. It was quite a pleasant occupation. Two chairs, a bit of sunshine, a cup of tea and a slice of cake, me and Lester, chatting away about this and that while watching our sheep wander round. We were reminded of why we love doing what we do, which can be forgotten sometimes, especially during the wetness of this time of year.

So we were thinking about where to put the poly tunnel when we get one, hopefully soon but not this year because we need to focus on the house and getting the chickens and geese out of the courtyard, which means building a proper house for them. Plus we need to finish the fencing off out in the fields, and Lester has loads of gates to make so that we can move the sheep and cows from field section to field section rather than letting them roam over the entire field areas, which is encouraging the animals to be selective about what patches of grass they eat, leaving some patches of grass to grow rough. We think that this will be the last year of putting the smallholding infrastructure in, although the hay bales will be needing a special covered area eventually, but that will be later on, it is not a priority at the moment. Lester also wants to build a low flood barrier to keep the water further away from the house when the river floods. (It is a strange thing but the river never used to flood anywhere near as much before we came here, and certainly not several times every year!)  Anyway, the poly will be a sort of gift to ourselves and will signal the end of the infrastructure work, and we look forward to pottering in it, especially in the not so nice weather.

It was nice being shepherds, watching our flock, feeling the tensions melt away, getting back in touch with being smallholders. We only kept the sheep out for a couple of hours though as we had other things to be getting on with, but they went back into their paddock very easily, and were quite affable about eating hay for the rest of the day, with not a moan coming from them unless it was the ewes calling their lambs to them.

It was a nice day, even though rain set in at lunchtime. The river remains heavily in flood but is stable in its height. The sheep are happy because they got to eat some decent grass. The cows need to get outside to stretch their legs because they are getting bored, so we think we might take them out for a walk tomorrow.

Off to have a search for that battery charger, ....so bye for now.