Friday 17 July 2015

A tangle untangled......

I can get in a bit of tangle sometimes.
Most times I get it sorted out,
although it can take time to do so.
But this tangle was quickly sorted:
....a skein of wool which had got into a right mess,

mostly because I had spun it in too tight a twist in the first place,
making it ever so willing  for the strands to keep on curling up on themselves,
not helped my lack of attention in putting it in a place
where it would not keep getting knocked about.
.....the back of the chair is what I am talking about.
So I left that skein to get more and more tangled,
and then a plan for it hatched itself in my head.
Et voila!
Untangled and rolled into a neat round ball,
the wool is now 'decorating' the pole bean supports,
woven artistically by myself.  

Along the long line of poles which Lester strapped to the fence posts,
a good idea indeed,
no need to make a separate support for the beans,
just use the fence posts,
then string some wire between the posts,
and then let me string something in between these wires,
which I have now done
using the tangle of recently made wool,
and upwards then the beans will go,
probably with a lot more energy if we had a drop or two of rain,
as it is,
they are meandering up the supports rather than romping up them.
It has not been a good year for growing things.
Most of the fruit on the trees is now dropping off,
so one of the daily tasks is to pick up this fallen fruit and give it to the pigs.
At least it isn't wasted.
A drop of rain might still get us a fruit harvest,
but each day that it does not rain is one day with more fruit on the ground. 
What a dried up desert of a place the veg garden is looking this year.
...... and what is happening to these bush beans...
..........lots of flowers but no beans.
So we do have flowers on things, it is just that that is it,
there is not enough oomph this year  to help the plants to go beyond the flower stage,
despite being regularly watered,
and occasionally fertilized.
But the courgettes are doing well, so they must love this hot weather.
....... these are going into the dehydrator,
and there is another lot needing to be harvested.


 So to keep my spirits up in regards to growing our own food,
I have planted some lettuce seeds,
but put them indoors to get started,
because they would get fried to death before they even got started if I put them outside..

They are in the half barn, which has velux windows in,
so an idea came to me that perhaps I could use this spot as a bringer on of seeds,
until we get a polytunnel.
I know it is only the top of a piece of  furniture,
and not very big,
but at least it is a start.
You might ask why we didn't plant lettuce in the veg garden,
.....well we started off late this year with growing things,
and lettuce has a tendency to bolt when it gets hot,
but I am fed up with paying nearly one euro for a lettuce
and by the time these seeds get ready to go out,
the weather might have got cooler so they won't bolt and go to seed.
And this is how far we have got in the back kitchen....

..... the sink and worktops are now in.
And here is Lester, armed with his usual fly swot,
and Blue keeping an eye on things.....
and the sink is so big I could sit in one side, put my feet in the other,
and half a bath.
Ummmm.....perhaps not, but I could if I was a little child again,
which I am still in my head sometimes,
although I have a grown up body.
And....sssshhhhh! I think I hear the pitter patter of rain on the velux windows above my head...
so perhaps we might be having a watering from the heavens,
which would be good.


Sunday 12 July 2015

Stashes and kitchens

I have been doing a lot of spinning lately, partly inspired by the donation of new fleeces from our sheep after they were sheared in June, and partly because I am keen to move the Wool Project on to its next stage, which is the weaving of it into cloth.

I started off with a drop spindle after the first sheep shearing of 2009........

...producing the first of my stash of  spun wool.......

....... but after a few months of using the drop spindle I was ready to move on to spinning on a wheel, and the Kromski Mazurka  came into my life.....

....... which was the start of endless happy hours building up my stash. Now you might ask why I haven't done anything with the stash, but it has not been the right time to apply my head to such a task, so I have remained happily spinning away. But the time has come!  I have purchased some books on weaving, looked at vids on YouTube, and taken the first step to becoming a weaver by purchasing a wool winder to convert the hanks of  washed wool into more manageable balls while I continue the delicious research into what equipment I need to weave with.....

..... I have made a start! The white ball of wool is from our mixed race sheep, the brown and white is from our Jacobs, and the light brown is white wool dyed with onion skins. 

And these hanks of wool are waiting to be washed. Soon I shall have a double sink in the back kitchen which will make it easier to wash the wool, and possibly dye it. I am rolling forward with the Wool Project, but I am not rolling forward with much else, including the veg garden which I seem to have lost momentum with at the moment although we are still watering every evening. It is the heat I think, the hotter it gets the more my energies drizzle away, as if a plug has been pulled out of a sink full of water. Not to worry, we are on the other side of the heat now, and the days are slowly cooling down, now all I have to do is find the momentum to get back out into the veg garden. I am starting to get a twinkle of enthusiasm back already, and shall be 'on the roll' soon. 

And here is the builder hard at work getting the floor cemented in the now rat free back kitchen.....

..... and here is the much smaller middle kitchen area all junked up.....

Bye for now.....


Thursday 9 July 2015

The Ritter and I, and lengthening shadows

Yesterday evening, and I was sitting out under the oak tree. It was breezy and slightly chilly, a welcome relief from the hot and sweaty days we have been having recently, with high humidity and heat making it difficult to do anything except sit down and doze. Not to worry, we have managed, but work in general has slowed down, except Builder Jim, who has made considerable headway in the back kitchen. I now have three kitchens: front kitchen, middle kitchen, back kitchen. Now at least I can stay tidier. After the last seven years of working in a tremendous jumble, with nowhere to put anything except in boxes or left in piles of stuff here and there.....I have done my best to make a home, but really, really, it has been difficult. Not that I am complaining, because the renovation journey has been a good teacher of patience. But now we are nearly done with this phase. There is still the upstairs of the house and tall barn to do, but if we are meant to do them, then the Universe will have to provide the money for us to do them. 

But.....three kitchen areas! I feel very blessed. It will save a lot of time, and free me up to do other things. In other words, I shall become more efficient, a necessity when one is running a smallholding and providing most  of one's food. Of course I am me, so I am confident that there will be times when everything will get into a jumble, but at least most of the jumble will be in the back kitchen which will not be seen by anyone because it now has a door which can be shut!

....and so there I was, out under the oak tree, having an end of day spinning session, watching the lengthening shadows, noticing that the light had changed, that there was an air of autumn just round the corner, that the year is spinning around on its axis, that summer is done although still has to be finished off, which was  a strange feeling because we are not halfway through July yet, but it feels like we are coming to the end of August because of the recent spell of very hot weather.

All of us are struggling to feed our animals at the moment, the fields now being burnt off with the heat, and still a long way to go until the end of summer rains. Most of us in France are having to feed our animals winter hay, this I know through the 'Smallholders in France' forums on Facebook. We ourselves are using the last of the hay from the little far field, and soon will have to buy in hay, and start using it well in advance of when  we would normally do.

Meanwhile I sat under the oak tree, spinning away, watching the day go to its rest, enjoying the feeling of not being cooked by the heat, letting worries and concerns slip away as the spinning wheel turned. Precious moments.

Aha! Finally got round to buying myself a food cutter (a Ritter from Germany). Thought about getting one for a long time, and now I have. Already it has paid for itself by slicing up the bacon I recently made into thinner slices than those I have been able to achieve so far by using a knife. Door steps, that is what my bacon rashers looked like.

But this bacon, this bacon is a very good bacon, unlike my previous attempts which have been not quite right, although eatable, mostly by Lester, but not by me. Too salty, that has been the problem. But I blame myself for this......bacon needs to be kept in a salt based cure in the fridge for a few days, with attention of a only few minutes being given to it daily. This I forget to do. So in the past the bacon has languished in the fridge for at least the twice the time it should, if not longer. But this time I stayed alert to the needs of that curing bacon, and it only went one day over its time, and it is a good bacon this time, one which I have enjoyed eating as well as Lester.

And now the Ritter has arrived, and the thinner slices are done, the slab of bacon is now all sliced up and made a nice big heap of rashers on the plate, all of which are now in the freezer so that I can pace the speed at which we eat it ....if left in the fridge most of the bacon would, by now, have been eaten.

Apart from being efficient at slicing the bacon,  it sliced wonderfully well a couple of onions and a loaf of bread. I think me and the Ritter will be good friends............I can see that it is going to be a very useful friend when I have lots of vegetable produce to prep ready for dehydrating or canning.

Lester needs to be helped to rise from up from the slumberland he is currently visiting, in other to wake him up and get him out of bed....and I can hear twitterings in the hallway, which means that there is a gang of half grown chicks invading the house through the open front door.........

...... so I need to be on my way, but thanks for sharing time with me, ......


Wednesday 1 July 2015

The hen in the bucket, and we are melting...

It has been hot, hot, hot, down here in SW France, with temperatures of around 40C, which is sucking the sap out of all of us, including the veg plot. We did have veggies growing in there this morning because I weeded a couple of rows of leeks. Oh alright, was only one row, because I was late in getting into the veg plot because we took our two cows for an amble down the river path so they could fill their tummies with grass and other forage because the field they spend their day in is now a shade of golden brown, the 'green' grass now having been frizzled to brown by the heat of the sun.

It has been hot, hot, hot....oops....sorry, forgot I had already said that! Anyway, if we did have a swimming pool I wouldn't go in it because I would get wet, and then I would have to dry off, and....well.....we don't need a swimming pool because we have the river.

However, the river levels are dropping and the sun is now getting through to the bed rock making the water go horridly full of bits of stuff which smells. So, no doing things in the river for me.

Now it would appear that I am not quite my rational self at the moment, and you are quite right. This heat is difficult to work in, and one feels one's self slowing down and down almost to a stop. Indeed if one did sit down for a quick five minutes, then the sleep angel visits very quickly, and off into the land of nod one goes.

But....swimming pool? Nooooooo. The effort of getting into one and getting back out of it again would be too much in this heat. I have no fantasies about having a swimming pool. Honestly I don't.

It is hard seeing everything wilting. We have lots more days of heat ahead apparently. But staying upbeat and positive, and trying to push out of our minds the worry of not having any grazing for the sheep and cows, but we can always buy some hay in, which we might have to do soon.

We are going to keep the cows in tomorrow. There is no way that we can let them be roasted out on the field again, despite having a small woodland to shelter in during the worst of the heat. The sheep seem to be less affected, perhaps because they were sheared a week ago and so must be very happy to be rid of that thick blanket of wool. The pigs are having showers several times a day to help keep them cool.

..... the beans along the fence, and the beans in the rows have been doing quite well, but we planted late so everything is going to have to catch up.

The left hand side of the veg plot. As you can see, looking very juvenile at the moment, but we have tamed it, so at least it looks like something 'proper' is growing there. The lovely rich growth in the right hand corner of the photo shows the luscious growth of weeds, which are growing very strongly.

....... and here is the 'untamed' rest of the veg plot!

So a friend stopped by today. It was mid morning. As she walked towards me across the courtyard she said, "That chicken under the bucket.....should it be there?" What chicken! What bucket! It being hot making our brains work slower than they normally would, so Lester and me looked at each other, each trying to translate what she was saying as if she had been speaking a foreign language.
"The bucket by the tractor" she says, "it's moving about... there's a chicken underneath it......did you put it in there?" She is now looking worried, not wanting to seem to be questioning our actions......just in case this was some mysterious farm activity which was needing to be done here which involved a chicken and an upturned bucket.

Our friend leads the way. And there, in the middle of the entrance porch is indeed an upturned bucket. We lift it off, and there, squashed inside, is our second biggest hen, all squashed up, in a dreadful state of dedraglement, and an even worse state of heat exhaustion because the bucket had been in full sun for quite some time. In other words, the overturned bucket was acting like an oven, and she was being slowly cooked.

Oh dear. What to do...... cooled her down with a shower of water from the watering can, and left her to think about whether she was going to fight and stay alive or give up and pass over. She was in the shade, she had water beside her, it was now up to her.

Well,..... we expected to see the dogs romping round the courtyard with her carcass eventually, but no, she has soldiered on, and managed to waddle her way over to the rest of the chicken gang who have been spending their days beneath the very large and sprawly fig tree.

We have no explanation as to how she got underneath the bucket. It remains a mystery to us, and probably to her as well.

24 hours later: the hen is doing well, and is actually looking perkier than how she looked before her bucket experience. And for some reasons known only to herself, she seems to want to stay quite close to me when I am out in the courtyard. Earlier on today, when the sun was still obscured by heavy mist so it was cooler although the air was thick with moisture making it feel very humid,  I thought I really ought to get the sheep fleeces sorted out because the new juvenile chicks ( all fifteen of them) have now been let out of their runs and are busy investigating all that there is to be investigated, including toes (ouch!), and the pile of fleeces, which were quite clean a week or so ago but are now covered in straw, dust, and other general bits and pieces including, no doubt, the odd piece of chicken poo here and there because the juveniles view this pile of fleeces as mountains to be climbed.

Anyway, all the fleeces are in bags, ready to be brought indoors and put somewhere until it is their turn to be spun.

Been hesitating about buying the loom (last post), only because we are continuing to spend a lot of money as the renovation to the house rocks on. Not to worry, Lester and I do have moments of panic about the continual costs involved with getting this house into a workable state, and it is my turn to have one today, so I need to work on staying positive and pull out of the recesses of my mind the memory of the many times in the past when things looked a bit dodgy in my life but I stuck it through and everything worked out, in the end, very well. I am aware that we each have a life plan, pre-ordained by greater forces, it is just that I seem to have misplaced that plan somewhere so I need to find it again. Hoorah! Rooting around in the cupboards of my mind, that is what I am needing to do.

It is now nearly nine pm, and we are still cooking here. Lester has just come in from getting the animals in from the field, and said that there are humungous flies everywhere, that the well is not pumping very much water so we shall have to be frugal with watering the veg plot again, which is what we shall be doing in a minute, when I stop chatting with you, and he said to make sure that I drink a couple of glasses of water before I join him outside because I am likely to sweat that water out of me within a minute or two.

I need delay no longer........ and off I must go. saying bye for now,