The Winds of Change.

It’s been a long time since I chanced this way and much has happened on the journey.

 I got “the Girls” in to help with the garden. They came in the form of two Gloucester Old Spot weaners. They moved onto the veg patch and dug and weeded out all the nettle roots, whilst they ate all the old veg and kitchen peelings and no small amount of pig food. Their cosy house was of small straw bales all put together with a tin roof , they snuggled down every night after their supper and slept late every morning. They sunbathed and wallowed and chomped and scratched and greeted anyone walking down the path with a grunt and a big pink nose snuffling over the fence. They were a joy to watch and talk with. Then when the work was finished and they found relief from their growing discontent by digging up the fence and pulling down their house and digging their strawy wall into the soil, they were big enough to make the 4 mile journey to the local butcher. A freezer of wonderfully tasty pork was their parting gift.

Chloe has grown to be a strapping girl however it seems her unborn twin was not as thought, a sister but a brother whose foetal blood infused enough male hormones into Chloe that her reproductive organs did not join up fully, so they are all there but incomplete. The result is that there will be no calves to stimulate a milk supply or to encourage her to become protective. She is the largest of the bovines yet she gets bullied by both the dexters, one of whom is not yet fully grown.

Another lambing season has come and gone and the next has begun just a few short weeks ago, along with the first flush of goat kids.

 The goatherd moved away from the family home to a village a couple of miles away. She comes back daily as work allows to do her goats, with me filling in the empty job slots. The shepherd moved from the local town to the next village and now walks over daily, appearing unannounced often with arms full of firewood and checking on sheep as she comes to start her daily tasks.

 Last summer was dominated by illness and hospital visits to a loved one who, despite our best endevours, died, leaving us shocked and numb. We held a celebration of his life, in the garden with family and friends. We blew bubbles at his eulogy which was read by one of his best friends.  We took him in his woollen coffin in a borrowed astra van, to be buried  in a corner of a small local graveyard surrounded by trees. There were nearly 50 of us in all, some staying all day and others calling in or leaving, as busy times allowed. Everyone bought food and drink to share and we ended the day, after sunset, with fireworks and chinese lanterns at a place where he loved to sit and watch the view. We toasted him with sparkling wine and champagne and made it a day he would have loved.

I hope he did.

I have spent the autumn and winter, such as it has been so far, drying apple rings, brewing wine, making jams, baking bread and collecting brushwood to feed the stoves in mine and the shepherds homes. My fleeces all got left out to perish in the sun and rain so no spinning or felting. We have had a bit of snow but winter has been really mild and so far, spring has begun early.

 Before our lives were turned upside down, I went to visit my Mother. Whilst I was there, I spent time with my Sister who I have been in scant contact with for many years. We enjoyed walks on the beach, drives on the moor and evenings by the fireside. When I left to come home, she sent me with a top bar beehive. I was so pleased as I have wanted one for ages and believe them to be more bee friendly and the intended husbandry to complete the concept has to be better for the bees. Little did I know that far from seeking a swarm or nucleus from a local beekeeper, a swarm of bees would come to us. I love having them here and hope they will expand to more hives as time passes. They come out in force on warm days, of which there are increasing numbers and carry pollen of various colours back home.

Published in: on Thursday March 15th, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just the way that it should be?

Or should that be, is my life just SLIGHTLY ODD?

A near neighbour has raised a hatch of chicks and now,  at the end of summer they bought the males round for me to turn into dinner. They arrived in a plastic feed sack in the boot of a car so they quickly needed to be dealt with. The quickest thing to do was to put them in an empty rabbit hutch with some food and water, then decide when I have enough time to kill and pluck them, a job which always takes me ages.

 A couple of days later they were still waiting and eating and one morning, I asked one of the resident “outlaws” to let them out. Having a senior moment, or should I say, rather a lot of them, is rather common for me and what I meant to say was to give them food and water. So out they came, now what? Well “what”, came at bedtime when they were nowhere to be seen. Damn, I bet they have got out or been caught by a fox. The next morning they were wandering around, eating veg from the garden and generably being where they shouldn’t. Bedtime again, none present or correct, but the next day there they were as bold as brass, this time one was baiting one of the breeding cockralls who was defending his pen of hens.

 This went on for a few days until one evening I thought to ask if anyone knew where they went to bed. The answer was a delight to my ears, they roost in the hawthorn tree. I have always loved the idea of hens which roost in trees. It seems so natural and easy, but I always clip wings to keep tabs on all poultry, then I decide where they will sleep, what time they get let out and all the other controlling things we do to “look after” our pets. Now the boys have introduced a small flock of home bred pullets to their version of night life. Lively it is too, they often crow at intervals from about 11.38pm until around 4am when there is a distinctive wing clap and soon after the crowing moves around. With no housing there is no build up of lice or mites, they seem safe from foxes, whilst roosting anyway and they must get a primeval satisfaction from being on branches which are constantly on the move. The downsides are that they can get over the wall into next doors garden, they are vulnerable when they are at ground level from before dawn and I do need to eat them before they spend the winter getting tough and eating their way through precious feed.

 The hawthorn tree is a great love of mine, I can see it in the mirror from my bed. I watch the blackbird eating the berries whilst I sit in bed in the morning and the outside world is monochrome. I love the shape of it and I love the way it looks like a picture which changes according to the light, the weather and the activity of the time. A stratigically placed mirror can open up a whole new world.

I took one of the animals to my vet in a local market town. I take anything which will fit in my car rather than pay the call out fees and in the past have had animals at all stages of life from birth to death, carried in the back of my car or van, but the things which don’t fit are cows, ponies and donkeys. So after my consultation I returned to the waiting room for some injections to be dispensed. The Vets surgery is an old shop and the reception and waiting room is the shop itself, the window opaqued to provide some privacy but one can see out quite clearly and waiting outside with a middle aged lady was a  small horse. As the Vet finished writing the directions on my syringes the receptionist told him that George had come for his booster for Tetnus and Equine flu. I asked the receptionist if this is an unusual occurance and fortunately it is rather commonplace. Why does this soothe my equalibrium so?

Now there is no reason why this should be an odd phenomenon but how often do you see a horse waiting in the high street for his appointment at the vet?

Published in: on Wednesday November 11th, 2009 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Interesting thymes


I won two Oxford Allen Scythes on Ebay, and went to the coast to collect them on Tuesday. The Shepherd and I borrowed a van and planned a day out to include collecting my prize.

 We set off at 8.30am and picked up the van whilst dropping the oldest Child at work, then on down the High Road heading south. The weather was foul and we were driving among a haze of spray thrown up from the wheels of lorries and the going was grim. We eventually got off the main drag and onto some smaller roads, passing a large town then back out to sea roads and purple moorland which swept down to small coves and beaches the upper beaches and sand dunes forested with salt grasses and plants. It was very wild and steep. Eventually The shepherd asked what the directions meant, proceed forward to Ferry.

Wow! How exciting, and so unexpected. We went down a steep hill and passed a hand propelled bicycle on which the rider sat in a very precarious looking position and we both agreed that we would not like to be riding this on such a road. Far too vulnerable. Then soon after we passed the apparition, we came to a line of stationary vehicles and had to stop and wait for what appeared to be a railway barrier. Eventually we all began to move forward onto the Ferry. we were near the front and had a great view so out came the camera to record our adventure. All too soon we alighted to the other side and had to return to the road. More beaches, shingle this time with what appeared to be a causeway but on the right was in fact a freshwater lake, the road and a beach separating the two waterways. Very bleak but a charming village at the end, with pretty cottages and a small park where The Shepherd spied a pair of swans with their signets, so out came the camera again. They were very tame as were the geese all waiting for free tidbits. We paused for a comfort break then on to collect the Scythes. I thought the van I had borrowed was far too big but the Scythes only just fit, with room to spare at the back but not enough to fit them tandem style.

 We then went to visit my Mother for lunch. She was very pleased to see us, we don’t get out much and so contact is usually by telephone, lots of times a week, but she likes to send me packing with as many treats as I can carry when we visit. So we loaded all the spare space with plants and cuttings, hydrangas, two fushias, a potted apple tree and strawberry plants, “thinned” out of her patch.

 Some sedums and bulbs and saved seeds of calendulas, poppies and hollyhocks, then I asked for a couple of sprigs of sage and rosemary for drying. Well, one bin sack later and I have enough to last all year as dried herbs, smudgesticks and some to strike as cuttings, and a marjoram plant thrown in too. From the house I aquired candles, teaspoons, a couple of hessian shopping bags some home made jam, marmalade and elderflower champagne, all from her garden. Then home again, before falling into bed ready to be up early to unload and clean the van in time for work tomorrow.

 My Oxford Allen Scythes will be a useful addition to our workforce for cutting hay and greens, and maybe we will start to use bracken as bedding for the poultry.

Published in: on Thursday August 6th, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment