Thursday 29 June 2017

Flash! Bang!

Was woken up early this morning.
Didn't want to be as had a hectic day yesterday. 
Doing what?
Shopping, that is what we were doing.
Now this is something that we are not fussed with doing,
 but sometimes it has to be done, especially after what happened the day before.
So there I was, in bed, afternoon nap time.
Heard the rain on the velux windows overhead.
Heard Lester come in through the double doors, saying he was soaked.
Flash! Bang!
A lightning strike to the house.
And did you know that when a thunder cloud is immediately overhead, that its voice does not rumble and roll like it does when far away in the distance, but that it explodes with one huge crash of sound almost sufficient to knock your eardrums out. And that it joins up with the lightning it has just sent down to you to make quite an attack on the senses.
Not to worry, at least Lester was indoors this time. Last time a lightning strike arrived here he was standing outside in the Courtyard having a man wee. It was near to midnight. All was black. The lightning connected with the ground just the other side of the Courtyard wall, so quite close.
He said it woke him up very quickly.
As for the lightning strike a couple of days ago..... the only damage was to the Internet connection box and the circuit connections.
Oh, so no You Tubing, emailing, FaceBooking, etc, then.
So I went and washed the produce kitchen's floor, caught up with the washing up, and did other things which had become neglected. It was amazing how much I did without the teasing insistence from my computer to 'come and keep me company'.
Early evening, still light, storms still about as could be seen by the rolling black clouds jostling each other in the sky overhead. Lester worried about the possible damage to the computers. The sheep shearer man arrived. Did he come to shear the sheep? No. An argument followed, the cause of which I am not going into here, then there was an almighty cracking sound, not a 'fist on jaws' sound, but the sound of  the very ancient pear tree giving up its life.

So one broken fence to mend, and one broken tree to get off the fence first.
The day was not going well.
And so indoors we went, the rain coming again, the thunder too.
Time to finish the day and start again on the morrow, which is the best thing to do when the day is not going so well.
Yesterday went better, and everything became fixed.
Tree sawn up ( making good firewood), fence line fixed, trip to Tarbes to buy new Internet equipment, lunch at a pavement cafĂ©, a quick rummage through two brocantes (antique shops), and a gathering of the necessary products from a supermarket so I can start jamming, canning, and pickling the produce which is starting to come in from our vegetable garden. The computers became fixed via the magic of Lester's hands and mind, and online we went again.
And so we are now on to today, and the reason why I was woken up early.
It was by the cheepings of the ten little hatchlings who came out of the eggs in the incubator a couple of days ago, and who are sharing the side barn with us overnight. They are outside during the day.
They are the cutest little bundles going. It is hard not to keep connecting with them. But it is not a good idea to let them bond too closely with us because we have learnt from past experience that tiny little  balls of fluff soon grow in to juvenile bundles of naughtiness who will hassle us every time they get near us, which is not good for them and not good for us. 
So the chicks are outside in the Courtyard, and instead of talking to us, they are talking to the birds.
Need to start work on processing the potatoes, courgettes, beans, and beetroot, but instead I am going to make some music with Lester.  Accordion for me, guitar for him.
Can't do much outside as ground is too wet.
The shearer man might appear again soon.
Bye for now,


Monday 19 June 2017

Comfort food......

We went shopping this morning. Normally we would buy 'sensible' products like flour, sugar, eggs (until we get our own again), and other equally useful items. Back in the UK we would have also bought items such as biscuits, chocolate, cake, crisps, ice cream, etc, but that was before we became  aware of how unhealthy that food was. Once we started growing and preserving our own produce (meat, veg, and fruit), we realised the error of our ways, and changed our eating habits.
...... but sometimes, just sometimes, we lapse back into our old ways, not often, just sometimes,
and today was one of those days.
It is still hot, hotter than it was yesterday. We knew this because we felt the heat as soon as we got outside this morning, the early morning coolness being absent, a hot wind having pushed it away.
So we were unable to physically do too much outside, other than sort the animals out, give the Courtyard a quick water, then put the shade covers over everything, which we don't normally do until mid day. Then out shopping we went...... hosepipes, bins, compost, bought in one shop, Guinness, ice cream (one tub of coffee, one tub of chocolate), crisps, ham, commercially produced potato salad, and commercially produced pasta salad, commercially produced baguettes, mass produced tomatoes (because ours are still green and teensy), and a commercially produced jar of gherkins (because ours are still at the flowering stage).
  I was not going to cook today. Yesterday we had home produced spiced dry fried lamb, a salad from the garden, an egg salad (made from eggs donated to us from a neighbour), and DIY bread. This was all laced together with mayonnaise (shop bought) because I can't for the life of me make mayonnaise. We did have ice cream for dessert, but that was allowable because Lissie has finished giving us milk now so DIY yoghurts have finished until next milking season.
Over the last ten years we have been able to produce most of the main ingredients for our meals, it is just the smaller items which we buy in and they are normally used within the structure of the meal and do not contribute towards being all of the meal.
But today they did.
No way was I going to be able to produce anything from the kitchen today.
Back to normal tomorrow!
Lester has fitted a hosepipe to the tap in the Courtyard so that I don't have to carry watering cans to and fro the nursery, but the well only gave us a third of its normal amount of water so the Veg Plots will have a minor watering tonight, and that will be by watering cans to preserve what water we have available. We also have an aversion to using the hosepipe over everything because it means the weeds also benefit.
Meanwhile the chickens are now out and about in their paddock, and the cockerel is starting to talk to Lester. Chickens do have quite a vocal range, and will make an effort to communicate with you if you take the time to start up a chat with them. There is, of course, a problem of communication because neither you or the chickens understand each others language, but then that is a universal problem with all animals including different races of man kind.
The sheep are not to be seen at all during the day now, as they are staying in the woodland to keep out of the way of the sun. We are waiting for the sheep shearer to phone us back. We hope he will do this soon.
Well, that's all for now. I have not done a thing indoors or outside today (apart from watering) as the heat is stopping me in my tracks, robbing me of the effort to do anything.
Not to worry, it won't last forever, so best to have a rest while we can!
Bye for now,

Sunday 18 June 2017

The cock doth crow!

I am not complaining, truly I am not...... but it is still hot, hot, hot, here, and we are all cooking nicely, including the sheep who are still wearing their winter fleeces because the shearer man has not turned up to shear them yet, the cows who are besieged by loads of flies as they graze out on the field, and the chickens.
What chickens!
These two chickens....

And once again the crow of a cockerel can be heard at Labartere as he lets all the cockerels in the neighbourhood know that there is a new cock on the block. But I must say that his voice was rather crackly and weak at first, nevertheless we could still hear him indoors. His voice is getting stronger though, and this morning he did manage a full voice crow, which was nice to hear.
   They are Buff Orpingtons, a male and a female. She hasn't laid an egg here yet, but it is hot, and they are both needing to get used to their new home, and they are in temporary housing at the moment which is a bit on the small side, but not to worry, Lester is going to get the last bit of fencing wire up on the Chicken Pen later on today, and then they can be let out so they can stretch their legs.
The only thing is that Burdock City has not been cut down yet ....

...... but I scythed down the tall mass of weeds behind it this morning.
This is where horrids, like snakes, rats, and mice will be living, so I am loath to tackle it by myself,
so Lester will have to help me with this job.
Meanwhile our mini nursery is coming along....

... with lots of little plants having already gone out into the Veg Plots.
It remains to be seen how much will survive in this heat though, but I stoically carry on, as do they. 
There is no end in sight for this heat wave at the moment, and this is still early summer.
But I am not moaning, just saying, that's all!
Hope your gardens are flourishing, and that you are too..
Bye for now,


Wednesday 14 June 2017

Just chatting.......

It's 10am and I have just come in from doing some scything. The heat is just building up again, so it is going to be another punishingly hot day. Everything is holding up alright though, which is testimony to how living things will fight for life, and that includes things you want to survive and things you are not fussed with having life, such as the beetles who seem to rally their numbers just when we think we are winning.
Lester was doing his morning search amongst the potatoes, leaf by leaf, that is what he has to do. Skip a few leaves and you can be sure that  that is where the hatchlings will be. I was having a sit down on the garden chair kept specifically for that purpose, and talking about things.
My eyes were idly roaming.
And they saw that the earth itself was teeming with life. It was like London rush hour. OK, so perhaps that is an exaggeration, but there was a lot of life, the soil was not dead, and was healthy enough to sustain living things. That is why we do not use pesticides or any other types of  '....cides'. A healthy soil means healthy plants which means healthy us.
The scythe went through the vegetation like a sharp knife through soft butter, so I did more scything that what I had originally intended to do. There is something immensely pleasing to the soul when the you and the scythe are working in unison, the swish of the blade, the rhythm of the swinging arc of the blade, all this seems to add up to a very nice activity to do.
I was cutting the rampant vegetation behind the back of the house....ground elder, baby and juvenile brambles, large swathes of wild mint, large clumps of grass,  all jumbled together and growing merrily upwards. I shall not conquer all of this patch of wildness this year, but I shall win some ground this year. By keeping the area free of rampant weeds the grass should take over the space, which the sheep will be able to graze during the cooler months.
Off to Gazax et Bacarrisse this afternoon, to find a house called Guillane, to meet a lady who breeds chickens, and who has a pair of Buff Orpingtons to sell us.
The Chicken Hut is not finished, so they will have to stay in temporary accommodation for the time being. Unfortunately we have not had time to clear the Chicken Run of vegetation, mostly burdock, which has set up a very impressive group of plants which have all combined to capture a good portion of the run. They are huge, with thick stems difficult to cut. And if those stems are cut, the parent plant will then repay the damage done unto it by throwing up a whole lot of new heads from the original stem.
Lester said that the Chicken Run was secure enough to let the new chickens run loose in it, then put them away in their temporary shelter for the night. I said that that this was a good idea but might need rethinking as I know chickens well enough to know that once they see the glorious tunnels running underneath Burdock City, that they will very happily take up residence in them, and that would including nest building and laying eggs.
I would have a go at clearing those burdocks would it not be for the rather large snake / snakes which also live there. But..... I have chatted to you for long enough. I need to water the seed trays, seedlings, and juvenile plantlings in the nursery, and then off out into Veg Plot 3 to do battle with the flea beetles. Upon a quick inspection this morning my eyes were also drawn to a very pretty row of orange coloured eggs, one row on top of the leaf, one row on the underneath of the leaf. Oh so now the cabbage white butterfly hatchlings, (caterpillars) will soon be partaking of our brassicas as well!
Not to worry, this life is better than sitting in an office or spending valuable hours of the day commuting to and fro work, this I shall keep telling myself as I brace myself to go face those that would eat our food before we do.
Bye for now,

Monday 12 June 2017

Sooooo Sorry!!!!!!!


The thing is, that I had not properly read your comments, and since they were mostly about the subject of the colorado beetle, which is very dear to our hearts at the moment, especially since Lester is spending at least two hours a day going leaf by leaf through our potato crop to squash the eggs, juveniles, near adults, and proper adults. He is steadily winning the fight. His efforts are heroic.
As for myself, I am squirting flea beetles who are busy chomping away at the brassicas. Putting straw round the plants did seem to make me the overall winner of that particular battle, but yesterday the beetles seemed to have regrouped and come out in force again. Sometimes, ....... just sometimes........

As for the rest of the farm....... the sheep are sweating their socks off in the mega heat we are continuing to have...... 34C forecast in the next few days. Still wearing their winter fleece, they are struggling. The shearer man should be coming soon.  Meanwhile, they sweat away. The flies are also out in full force, which is another discomfort they are struggling with.

As for the cows, two are out in the field and are well, but Lissie got a wound in her flank which has turned nasty, so vet called out yesterday, it is serious, she is now indoors for a few days as flies need to be kept away from the wound because of the potential of fly strike (eggs.... maggots....etc). This she does not like. Neither does her daughter, Milly, who is old enough now to be thoroughly weaned but still manages to grab a drink of milk now and again throughout the day. So Milly is out in the field moaning about her lack of milk supply, and Lissie is in the barn moaning about not being outside with the others. Lester is going over to the neighbours this morning to apologise for the endless moans. He thinks a second day might be just a bit too much for the neighbours to cope with.

Things are coming along alright with the Market Garden Project, and I am getting experience with keeping the seed / seedling production line rolling along. I love it. However, I am getting into a tangle between what the house needs me to do, and what the Market Garden Project needs me to do. But I did finally manage to clean the back and front kitchen floors yesterday, and for that they blessed me I am sure. Those floors were mucky, especially the one in the back kitchen, and I am not exaggerating.

I have also learnt that seedlings in pots need feeding. I was wondering why the little plantlings seem to gallop along to second leaf stage and then seem to come to a halt. So this morning I gave them a feed, and by lunchtime they had risen up quite a bit as if to say thank you. I was, however, not impressed to see Blue, one of the rottweiller girls,  up in the raised bed amongst those newly fertilized pots of seedlings. We have lots of small lizard type creatures here, which the girls love to do 'search and capture' activities with. Previously the lizard creatures lived on the walls of the house and courtyard, but now it would seem that they have moved in to the raised bed area. They do no harm. But having two big dogs romping over the growing produce does not bode well for a harvest of any worth.

The Chicken Hut Project is coming along, but the fierce temperatures and the demands of other farm activities are slowing the project up. Not to worry, the project is coming along and will get done in its own good time. Meanwhile  we wait in anticipation of eventually getting some chickens to put in the eventually finished Chicken Hut so that we can eventually have our own eggs once more plus have the enjoyment of having chickens getting into mischief about the place.

Hope you all had a good weekend, ..... it is now Monday morning (and oh how the weeks seem to be cracking along at a tremendous pace), Lester is on beetle attack, I have done my daily hoeing, watered the newly planted juvenile seedlings, and scythed down some naughty weeds that are soon to flower so that they can make more of themselves. I have come in to have a breather, and thought I would finish off this blog. I am hoping to have some puff left to scythe some rampant burdock plants growing in the Chicken Paddock, but to be quite honest I think I am all drizzled out.

Anyway, bye for now,
and once again sorry for deleting those comments.


Friday 2 June 2017

Researching beetles, and cherries galore!

So over the road to a neighbours place for a light evening meal last night.
Good company, mixed, ..... English, French, and German. All three languages spoken, mostly French, which was good exercise for me. The German husband is becoming a French citizen next month, and we think we shall eventually as well. Brexit has pushed many English to naturalize, but there are also many returning to the UK, scared of what the future might hold. But for some of the long stayers becoming a French citizen seems the more secure way to go, and for us older folk it is quite easy once all the documents are in order. All I would have to do would be to have an interview to see how well my French was doing, but Lester would have to sit an exam written in French as well as speak it. But he could do that, because he is better at speaking French than I am, mostly because he is the one who has to buy all the bits and pieces we are needing for the house, plus he does all the family paperwork, including tax.
It was a lovely shared evening. I like the feeling of being with Europeans, of different cultures meeting together, ...... it makes me feel globally expanded.
And so the conversation turned towards growing food, of the way in which commercial food production is slowing poisoning our bodies, and which is why us, and others present, were growing our own food. And mention was made of how good our potato crop was this year, which can be clearly seen when people drive over the bridge beside us. (this is one of the reasons why we are keeping everything weed free in that plot, .... because it is so visible!).
 And then further mention was made about a certain insect, a beetle.......the hostess got her Ipad out to show us. Oh..... that beetle! The pretty one with stripes! Oh dear!
My haul from a raid on the potato patch just now....

Because Lester understood the descriptions of the beetle as given to him by our French neighbour, he knew what to look out for when he did an earlier investigation of the potatoes. I did not because they were speaking French too fast and I could only pick up a word here and there, so I had to do some Googling. 
Apparently, In the jar I have two adult beetles, three pupa which are ready to dive down into the roots of the potatoes, lots of baby beetles which huddle in the leaf nodes, and some patches of yellow eggs on the understand of the leaves.
And the long bits..... a spider I inadvertently picked up and put into the jar as well.
Meanwhile, the flea beetles continue to flourish on the brassicas.
I think I might have to plant some more to replace them.
It is a good job I have a tray full of seedlings ready to go out, but only when the flea beetle season ends, or we find a super duper method of defeating them before that.
Google has been very useful in helping me get to know about beetles.
I would have preferred, though, to have been researching other subjects.
Beetles mean work.... the hunting down of them is so time consuming. But....not to worry...they have their seasons and will come and go, although always will be replaced by something else willing to eat our food before we ever get to bring it to harvest!

Well done our cherry trees, because they seemed to have rallied after the string of late frosts which we thought had damaged the cherries this year. But no, the harvest has been the best ever, and I canned seventeen jars of cherries in syrup so far, and dehydrated lots more, and the harvest is still coming in.
It is hard work on a mini farm, there is always something to do, and often we get overwhelmed by the endless work. But then the harvests start rolling in, which need to be processed for storage of course, but when the shelves start filling up with stored food, ...... well.... I cannot tell you how satisfying that is. And then all the tiredness drops away, and our enthusiasm returns.
Off to do something with a rabbit.
Yesterday we had it pan fried with vegetables and spiced potato slices.
Today, I think I shall lay some spices over it, use up some celery which is slowly going 'off' in the fridge,  maybe open one of the last remaining jars of canned green beans from last years' harvest, and do a sort of spicey mix up. Add rice. Done.
And for dessert....
DIY yoghurt made with milk from Lissie,
and home grown cherries cooked in sugar syrup.
(Just in case you wondered who Lissie is.....she is one of our house cows)
Oops... time is racing by and I have kept you long enough,
so thanks for sharing my world,
and bye for now.