Tuesday 29 May 2018

The weeds, the scythe, the machine......

Our home grown jungle. Supposed to be our front garden, but has now become overwhelmed with Spring growth, and so needs to be cut, but not with the lawnmower because that would faint with shock if presented with such verdancy, so therefore scything has to be done first. As you can see in the photo above, I have made a start. 

But then there are the thistles growing everywhere, looking like a marching army especially out on the main field, but Lester to the rescue.

He has been digging up one wheelbarrow load of thistles per day, sometimes two if it is not a working day when he needs to be online at 9am. He has also rendered the side field devoid of thistles as well. Now there is the back field thistle army to conquer.

We have a new neighbour, and he has turned the small field beside his house into a garden.This was where a lot of thistle seeds blew in from.Hopefully our efforts and his efforts might keep the thistle population down.

It has been a manic year for big weeds, the type which are aggressive and invasive, and are coming into flower ahead of when they ought to be. Because of the ongoing wet and dull weather we are having, they have time to have two spurts of growth this year. Therefore we are mounting a defense against them, but staying organic so not using chemicals. This, then, is the less glamorous side of smallholding, but it does keep us fit.

Meanwhile, I noticed that Veg Plots One and Two will need scything again soon, as do the ex-pig pens which are going to be turned into chicken runs eventually when time allows.  

And then there is the using up of last year's butternut harvest, which have been lying happily on the floor of the Half Barn but are now starting to show signs of rot, so I have been sharing the rotting ones with our chickens, and the still good ones I have been cooking. but not sure whether to make 
a batch of soup to freeze or to dehydrate them. I have got as far as whizzing up the mixture in my blender, but have run out of effort with that task for the moment as the sun is shining and I feel the urgent need to get outside to replenish my Vit D and Vit C stores. 

I am not going to complain about the weather we have been having this year. It is as it is. We do have a lot of sunny and dry weather normally, just not this year. So..... boots on, scythe sharpened.......and thank you to Christian, our neighbour, who helped me get my blade sharpened better by showing me the correct way to use a wet stone, bless him, and for the fun we had trying to outdo each other as we attacked his own weedy jungle with our newly sharpened scythes...... .

And a quick note about the ongoing 'do we or do we not keep our house cows' saga: We are keeping them, and have confirmed the finality of this decision after weeks and weeks of 'do we or do we not', by investing in this machine, which is a portable milking machine:
The whole 'lets keep the cows' project is going to cost us a couple of thousand pounds, but not to have the milk and the products I make from it would make our kitchen pantry sparser than what we want it do be, so hey ho, the money is to be spent. Lester is hand milking the cows in the sheep barn at the moment after an all night romping session was had between Lissie and Bonny which turned their pen into a quagmire of muckiness. Bonny was in season, so Lester is waiting until Lissie has her season before he cleans the pen out.  Lots of hefting of the wheelbarrow to be done in the next few weeks then, but lots of lovely manure to go out onto the veg plots. 

Oh but now I have lingered too long with you, and it is time for our mid morning cup of milky coffee, so I must close now,
so,....bye for now,

Monday 21 May 2018

Emma's 'do'

This is the house of Emma and Charles,
who live near us here in SW France,
and this is where we are today.....

..... and here are Emma and Charles.....

...... and this is part of their garden....

...... which is where you find me and Lester, and lots of other people too...
(I am wearing a red frock and Lester is sitting beside me...)

..... and here we are again, me playing the accordion and Lester playing his guitar...
....and we are playing background music while the guests mix and mingle...

... then it is a merry sing song from a local French / English choir 
to whom Emma used to belong,
which was in another time, 
when she was well....

and then 'Happy Birthday' is joyously sung, 
and a chocolate cake is presented to her,
with candles on top, of course, 
for her to blow out,
which she does... 
and now it is time for the 'eats', which is a 'bring and share' meal.
Everyone has excelled themselves.
It is a very special occasion.
Emma is sixty today,
and we are helping her share the years she has lived.

Full of food and wine, and after more music from Emma's cousins,
Lester and I finish off the afternoon with a few songs.

It was a lovely birthday party,
full of shared laughter.
Emma has MND.


Friday 11 May 2018

Growing mushrooms, and the triffids....

I have made a start with growing things.
Beetroot in one seed tray, lettuce, and kohl rabi in the others.
What I ended up growing, though, were mushrooms!
Leggy, spindly things they were, definitely not harvestable.

...... they also grew in pots of cuttings I was experimenting with...

I don't know what the red cuttings are from as they were 'borrowed' from a neighbour's hedge, but the green ones are lavender, taken from a plant which became neglected to the point when only one small branch was still alive, so I thought I would say sorry for my miserable treatment of it by growing on some new plants taken from it,  and try and make a better effort to look after them. 

As for the mushrooms, I think the compost must be s**t. 
It is to be rehomed and definitely not used for growing seedlings again. 
Maybe not to grow from seed this year, then, but to buy already established plants.

As for the raised beds, after a slow start with them last year they did finish up the year doing well. 
 But everything that was growing was left to grow on, because I went 'off ' gardening because it was winter and it was wet and it was cold, and I was getting over my hospital experience, 
and excuses, excuses, excuses.....!!!
Anyway, in a brief spell of dry weather mid April 2018 I did an inspection of things. 

.... and all had carried on growing, so I decided to let them carry on then harvest the seed heads when they arrived. I had it on my mind to try seed saving thinking that any plants which had done well here would make for strong and sturdy plants in the future. 
It was a good idea. 
However......four weeks on and things have gone manic here. No flowers have arrived, therefore no seeds are available to be saved. The plants are growing bigger and bigger though.....

...... and the plants are now so big that they are sucking the life out of the raised beds they are in, 
so...... they will have to come out and the seed saving activity will have to wait until another time.
Sometimes one has to take control. 
I shall harden my heart.
I need the space. 
But why do I need the space! I have nothing to put in it. I did buy ten lettuce plants from the market but they were set upon by a bunch of now dead snails.....

...so I am having a go with egg shells as a deterrent rather than slug pellets. 
I would like to save the five lettuce that are left. 
I would like to do it sympathetically to the soil.

And while I am on the subject of things eating our food,
we have 'lost' three of our laying hens. Not sure where they have gone, but possibly down the throat of feral cats, of which there are quite a few round here. We know this because Maz, our rottweiller girl, has developed a new passion for chasing them up trees when she sees them. 

The chickens are not fussed with their new regime. They are not allowed out of their pen until we get the grass cut on the farm so that the stalking activities of the cats are reduced. It might take a while. Lester is very busy, and my only lawn mowing appliance is my little push along which can hardly cope with the lawn in the courtyard, let alone the rough pasture grass on the rest of the farm. 
I do have my scythe, though, and that will probably be what I end up using. 
...... so I suppose I had better go sharpen it!

So, bye for now,