A game of cat and rabbits

Monday 5th Feb: Crikey when I looked at the date I wondered where the last 5 days have gone! Been busy this morning, finally got my welly on, I had to really as John is busy with his Mum so morning routine was down to me. I got the birds and rabbits fed and watered, cleaned out the front house floor, John did the boxes yesterday, then sorted the recycling and burnt the paper rubbish along with feed sacks etc. Then a few minutes in the greenhouse checking the seed I have already down and I used some clear boxes with lids, the type apple turnovers come in, to sow some lettuce seeds, I’m hoping they will work like mini greenhouses, inside the greenhouse. Then on to light the fire and get some washing on a bit of tidying up and putting away and then coffee time so I can write this up. I took a photo this morning, have a look at it and see what you can see, not much? Well there is a lot more going on here than you realise, the rabbit on the grass and the cat on the fence but the cat is not interested in that particular rabbit what she is interested in is the baby rabbits that at a guess are under the shed! The babies in the run are now moving about a lot exploring their surroundings, I’m guessing the others are of a similar age and doing the same, Molly certainly thinks there is something interesting to watch here and knowing Molly, she is thinking 💭 breakfast 😀 Unless I can catch them it will be natural selection situation I’m afraid.

Tuesday: Is it just me or is everyone’s life chaos at times? This morning was one of those mental half hours, Mia arrived early, that’s fine I have done everything outside and lit the fire, she sits to the table and eats her ready brek (which I’d had forgotten gets bloody everywhere and is a pain to clean up because when you think you have finished you find bits stuck to your hand) Ok get her down now she is cleaned up and I am having an omelette for breakfast so I start that, then the septic tank lorry turns up, gotta now get the dogs inside so I am shouting them before the lorry starts to reverse into the driveway, dogs locked away, Mia is crying as she wants something I can’t quite understand what, I think at this moment Peppa Pig will sort the situation out, the fire stick decides it’s not playing ball today, frantically clicking on it and it finally kicks into life, the phone rings (a customer of Johns) I talk quickly to the tank driver, the phone rings again (John, this time) meanwhile my omelette is still cooking, I make tea for the driver, put wood on the fire before it burns down too far, eat my omelette while I can smell the product of the tank emptying 😝 meanwhile Shelley is messaging as she is coming over to collect Mia and take her back to play so i am arranging that and then almost as quickly as it started, the lorry goes, Mia is still watching Peppa Pig and sanity resumes 🤪🤪

Mia went off with Shelley, John came home after collecting the feed and I decided to make a cake, I really like this Mary Berry recipe, it’s easy, doesn’t take very long to make, I put everything in the bowl then mix it up and it tastes great even when you alter the ingredients slightly.

Wednesday: I was hoping to have a bit of time in the garden today after doing the morning feeding etc but it’s too frozen 🙄 I couldn’t even pot on the blueberries as the ericaceous compost was frozen solid, my fault I asked John to put it out by the greenhouse, I should have had it put inside really. The aubergine seedlings have come up on the windowsill in the kitchen the problem now is making sure they get enough light so they don’t get ‘leggy’ so I have taken the cover off and the tray will get turned a couple of times a day especially when the sun is shinning. I have some mini daffodils (paper whites, which always remind me of a friend that I know loves them) in a pot that I was given for Christmas, they are also on the windowsill and the green tips are just peeking through. I find it an exciting time when everything starts to grow again but I need to beware as the temperature can plummet drastically as we have seen overnight.

I always think I would quite like a heated greenhouse for this time of year but it goes against my ethos, I can’t really justify it and keep looking for ways to heat it up for free. There are some good ideas online in various places it’s just getting round to doing them lol, one if making use of the muckheap and having a pipe run from the bottom of the greenhouse, through the heap and back into the top of the greenhouse though I’m not sure this would work entirely as warm air rises anyway so it would probably all escape through the roof!

So after getting the fire lit and looking at a few you tube vids I decided that the hot bed probably would work fine though it hasn’t really up till now, but that’s because the manure in it was fairly old and so cooked itself through. The solution was to put more, fresh stuff in there so I ripped up a newspaper and spread that, then some kitchen compost waste, tea bags, banana skin etc and finally some cleanings out from the rabbit and quail runs which should bring it back to life and raise the temperature. I also added a bucket of multipurpose compost and stood a black bucket filled with water on top. Looking at the dirt floor, which is always colder than anything else, it needs a layer of something on, either cardboard or even straw though I think I would find the straw annoying so I will opt for the cardboard as we have plenty of it about.

John came home late afternoon asking what jobs need doing 🤪 look around, bloody hundreds lol, you can start by collecting up all the buckets and cleaning them, I’ll use the power washer he says (any opportunity to play with a toy) I don’t think that is necessary I say just clean them with a brush or sponge, he sulks, ten minutes later he comes back in, I’m going to use the pressure washer as there are TEN buckets, TEN buckets oh well you better had then otherwise you will be there all week long, I roll my eyes and retreat, pretty sure that is overkill but if it makes him happy 🙄

Thursday: Phew what a day, busy, busy, busy, we did the usual morning stuff then started on tidying and clearing the back. John and I spent pretty much the whole of the day tidying stuff up, putting stuff away, throwing stuff away, putting stuff up for sale or giving it away and building a new worktop area and storage under. How long it will stay like that is anyone’s guess 🤪 but for now it looks like a clean, tidy, usable space. Oh and John and one of the liveries managed to catch the loose rabbit now that her offspring are able to fend for themselves, if we can catch them up we will, if not they will be on their own!

Friday: After winds last night then downpours during the night it’s sunny though a cold wind with it. Did the morning rounds and the bubble wrap for the greenhouse arrived yesterday so I am going to put that up this morning, I’m determined to get this greenhouse warm enough for an early start.

So I ordered 50m of 2ft wide (large bubble, they let in more light than small) bubble wrap and used nearly all of it insulating the greenhouse, it took about an hour, I haven’t done the bottom half just the sides and top to stop the warm air escaping. I really hope it makes a difference lol, it cost £25 but I should be able to reuse it again next year. Of course what I would really like is a new greenhouse lol, but replacing like for like would cost a few thousand so I am happy to limp along with this one until the wind blows it down 💨 it’s been repaired so many times and is not the best but it still works in a fashion, I will put one on my ‘dream’ list.

I got really cold and couldn’t warm up for the life of me, then ended up with joint pains oh the joys of Lupus 😜

Saturday: It’s cold and raining 😐 John did the birds in the front and I did the birds at the back, we relocated the ducks back to their original pen and will feed them inside their hut as it’s not really fair to keep them in the stable unless absolutely necessary. John then went off to sort his Mum out and I decided to make some pickled eggs as we have got plenty of them! I looked for a pickling recipe but couldn’t quite find one I liked so as usual adapted one, white vinegar, salt, sugar, juniper berries, coriander seeds and a pinch of mustard powder all went in, we will see how they taste in a few days 😀 a packet of crisps, pickled egg and a beer is supposed to be beautiful lol.

Got the Rayburn going early, she has been a bit of a pig to light over the last few days taking me nearly an hour to get her up to speed, it’s one of the things that I have a love/hate relationship with 🤪

We are finally getting round to clearing up some of the things that have been lying around for ages, yesterday someone came to collect some big sheets of insulated metal we were given (don’t like to say no lol) we didn’t really have a use for them so we passed them on to someone who does. Now just got to get rid of our old sofa and Charlie’s mattress and I can start making the front look attractive, I never could put flowers etc out there before because Kai would always dig them up, now he has gone I can 😀 I always wanted a lavender hedge out the front so time to put some plans into action.

It’s such a cold wet depressing day I decided I’m not doing anything except sit in the warm lol. I looked through all the old photos and can’t wait for the place to look spring like and warm again, I found old videos of little lambs, photos of the garden when it looks at its best, roll on better weather, it’s at this stage of the year it feels like it’s been winter forever.

Sunday: Cold again 😟 we’ve had wind, rain, sleet, hail and even a touch of sun all a 24hr period! I haven’t been outside at all today, John was up early and has done all the outside jobs while I warm the house, cook the dinner, do the chores lol. He is really earning his keep at the moment, 7 mornings and 5 evenings a week he is seeing to his Mum, in between he is fitting in the plumbing work and keeping up with his farm chores and doing a sterling job to boot.

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Man down and ‘the hobble’

Monday 29th January: It’s 10.45 and mission accomplished this morning, after doing the feeding the job was to fully secure the rabbit run and make sure that when the babies start moving about they can’t get out! We have 2inch square welded mesh around the run so the adults can’t get through it BUT baby rabbits can and do or did last time but not this time mwaahaha I have boarded and wired every escape route (hopefully)

I really need to have outside shoes to hand as I had just come in taken off my coat and wellies made a coffee and the bell rang at the gate 😜 even if I nip out in my indoor shoes they get covered in mud and that is the second time in 24hrs I have de robed only to have to go back out.

I had a wonderful view of a buzzard ‘big bird’ as we call him or her, sat on the fence outside the bedroom window this morning, the photo is not great taken with my I pad but I went to get my proper camera and the battery was flat. This bird is the one that is around all the time especially in the early mornings, either in the paddocks or sat on the fence, I will try and get a better picture, I should carry my camera round with me, there were deer in the field to the side of us the other morning it would be great to get some photos of the wildlife around us.

Tuesday: Hard frost this morning and brrr very chilly but the sun broke through so that was nice to see.

Did the usual morning feeding and egg collecting, nothing amiss thank goodness, then did a bit of tidying up outside before coming in to light the fire and make some soup. The long tailed tits have made an appearance this morning, nice to see them back again though I always say they indicate bad weather 😝

Had lots of visitors today, Sam dropped off Mia before going to work, Charlie was here on her last day off before returning to work, Mum, Gill and Zeri came for tea and cake, Shelley, Martin and Josh came round later to pick up some things for Charlie and Luke arrived later to pick up Mia so ‘full house’ today. Lucky I made cake in the morning, I used the orange and sultana recipe except that Charlie had a dried toffee apple/nut concoction that was out of date and she was throwing away so I used it up in the cake instead, smelt amazing and tasted pretty good too 😀 I made some chicken/veg soup in the morning which was also pretty good. John came home early and got some more wood in from outside and did the birds.

Wednesday: Well I am so over Winter ❄️I was trying to get everything done in the house so was a bit later out this morning than usual, I spotted the biggest black cloud and thought I might just be able to outrun it and get the front birds done, nope, bloody hailstones smacking me in the face like someone firing peppercorns through a tube at me. I slipped in the paddock spilling the chicken feed all over the ground, not the best start to a day, please hurry up Spring I am trying to be patient but it’s wearing thin 😝 We have plenty of eggs as the hens have now ramped up their laying, chicken, duck, goose, quail just waiting for the bantams to start as well. Some Salvia seeds I ordered arrived today, White Sage, I am hoping to grow them for smudging bundles, we will see how it goes, the blueberry bushes I ordered also arrived these are early fruiting to prolong the picking season, just need to get some ericaceous compost to pot them into unless I can find the right ingredients to make my own, pine clippings usually does it but not sure how much I would need and how long it would take to bring the ph levels down, apparently, oak leaves and coffee grounds will also work but with the time constraints it might be easier to go and buy some for now 😀

Sometimes when I write these blogs what you read is all about the swan gliding steadily along the river 😜 what you don’t read, because on the whole I don’t write all of it, is the feet furiously paddle away underneath the water trying to get somewhere! Today is one of those days, I have numerous tasks to do including keeping the Rayburn going, looking after Mia, meanwhile the phone is ringing multiple times, the doorbell is ringing, I need to make an urgent phonecall and then wait for a return call, the dog (not mine) keeps jumping the gate every time an egg customer arrives, a family situation that is very stressful, to deal with over the phone and internet…………I have a headache 🤕

Thursday: It’s dry but the wind is cold brrrr. After feeding etc I cleaned out the single rabbit run and the baby boy rabbits, still no idea what we will do with these 😜 and now more of them! After doing that and sorting the egg shed with today’s eggs I did a bit in the greenhouse. Its still very cold in there so can’t do much but I did sow the white sage seeds and the pomelo seeds, they are now indoors on the windowsill as they won’t germinate out there. I made a bit of a boo boo though because there was I gaily putting seeds on the warm south facing windowsills completely forgetting that the glass in them stops the UV rays doh, still they will get light and the indoor warmth so that’s better than outside. I ordered some more blueberry bushes which have now arrived so I unpacked them and they are in the greenhouse until I get them planted up. My old plants struggled last year and I have no idea why, I tested the soil it wasn’t that, I will have to wait and see if they come back this year, they have been fine for about three years so I’m at a loss as to why they failed.

I put new batteries in my small camera and took it out with me this morning, I took photos of the rabbits and the runs and a cheeky hen who is always right under my feet no matter what I’m doing. I also took photos of the greenhouse, garden and large poly tunnel, my thought is to take them on the first of each month and have a round up later in the year to see the progress over time.

Then I came in for a coffee and to warm up my toes, I’ll wait for the sun to warm things up a bit before going out again.

Did a bit of tidying up and lit the fire and then things went tits up about 2.30! I was just going out the boot room door to get some more wood for the fire, put my foot down straight onto a 5”long, 2” round stick that the dog had left there and went over on my ankle with horrible pain, then crash down onto my kneecap with horrible pain and ended up in the dog bed and dog hair in my mouth not that it mattered as I first shouted f***ing dogs, at that point they scarpered, then the pain fully kicked in and all I could do was let out loud primal moans. At this point I could not stand up and proceeded, after moaning for a good minute or so, to drag myself back inside the kitchen and half up to the table to grab my phone and call John who luckily was on his way home anyway. 3 hours later, I have iced, rested, elevated and compressed the ankle, taken painkillers and arnica and assessed that I have not broken anything as far as I can tell, but badly sprained the ankle and bruised the kneecap.

Friday: Not the day I planned to have, the weather is going to be better than yesterday and I had planned on getting the veg garden tidied up 😩instead I am doing what can only be described as ‘the hobble’. Everything takes three times as long so simple tasks like going backwards and forwards to the recycling bin, getting wood for the fire, anything really is slow. First thing is to do the morning routine, John can’t because at the moment he is going round to his Mums to get her up and I can’t load any more stress onto him this week! It is painfully clear my welly won’t go on, nor will Johns which are 3 sizes bigger nor Maccas which are bigger still, so the only option is to wear slip on garden shoes, good job it’s not freezing out there today. The ground is fairly dry and hard though that has its problems because it’s lumpy so having to be very careful where I tread, I did the bare minimum needed and the only thing I couldn’t do was clean the front hens floor because the mud in front of the door is still wet and deep enough to cover my shoes, never mind the slip hazard!

Then it was time to put egg in the shed, well this would be interesting as I needed to carry trays of eggs lol, luckily the eggs and I survived the hazard trip negotiating 3 gates and a shingle driveway. It becomes evident how much you actually do when suddenly you are encumbered and are only doing half a job.

I sat down with a coffee after that and will rest it now for an hour or so before I start again, plenty of resting bits in between and anti inflammatory/arnica and I will be swinging from the trees before you know it. I have ordered an ankle strap and put out a plea to the family for a pair of boots that might be suitable oh my days life is complicated sometimes.

All the birds have ramped up their laying but we seemed to be short on customers, last week the sales were down and so far this week it’s the same, I hope they come back soon lol, it’s typical when you have limited eggs the customers come thick and fast and when you have loads of eggs you are eagerly waiting for them to buy 🤪

Sam and Shelley came over in the afternoon and did some of the jobs for me while I pretty much rested my ankle, then John came home and did the afternoon feeding and egg collecting and got me some dinner 😀

Saturday: The resting did me a whole lot of good as I can walk around fairly normally now, however I still can’t get my wellies on so John did the morning routine and then went to his Mums and I got on with de cluttering and cleaning our bedroom. I had decided January was going to be the month to get sorted and get rid of stuff but never got round to it, so today seems like a good day, a bag full of clothes that i never wear for the charity shop, some for the rag and shoe bin, some stuff for the dustbin and voila it’s done. Meanwhile John is getting barrowfulls of wood into the back area and Macca is cleaning the bathroom, happy days 😀

Sunday: Still no chance of me getting anything other than a slip on shoe on this foot, bearing in mind the mud out there it means John has to do the morning routine again today. Poor John is working flat out at the minute, looking after his Mum having to do what I can’t do and he is not even complaining 😐

I have been doing what I can inside including up dating the chalk board we have out by the egg shed, well I would if I could get the last lot of writing off! I scoured the internet for tips, tried everything from nail varnish remover, hob cleaner, white vinegar, a rubber and plain old water but there is still ‘ghost’ writing. I have ordered a ‘magic eraser’ to see if that helps but what is the point of a board that you can’t re use? I can’t use water based chalk pens because that will just wash off in the rain, ah well there are bigger problems to have I suppose. I made fresh bread, did the washing etc etc, if the ground would only dry up enough I could be outside 😀 I bought some ericaceous compost yesterday for the blueberries but I will have a go at making a batch to see if it’s worth doing, the biggest problem will be getting the ph right and seeing how long the ph levels stay like that because from what I have read without peat it reverts back to neutral after 4/6 months or so which is not a lot of good.

This is fanny, she is a pain in the butt, she is constantly under my feet when I am in the orchard pen, she follows me round (very closely) pecking at my feet, coat, hands wherever she thinks she might get a morsel or two 😝

The little birds that have taken to roosting in our boxes all winter, there are loads of them, they even roost in the vent from the hob extractor hood and behind loose house boards!

Goose eggs,

Monday 22nd January: Well once again after thoroughly disgusting weather yesterday, today is not a bad day, warmer, dry for the time being, bit wet under foot but hey it’s winter can’t expect much else. The impending floods that threatened to come in the back, didn’t, so John did a good job there (just stopped typing in my tracks as I could hear a chewing noise, this is in the wall right in the middle of the house, we are used to things living in the outside walls but really, this takes the bloody biscuit ffs)

I did the feeding and collected the eggs, we got the first goose egg of the season today 😀 the ducks have laid 10 eggs so they are either happy to be in or they were laying outside and the birds were eating them as we were only getting 5/6. Then lit the Rayburn, then outside to the greenhouse to make a hot bed, I’m hoping it will work and raise the temp of the greenhouse a little, if it doesn’t work I will have dry manure to add to my compost so either way is a winner. I moved the citrus trees to the smaller poly tunnel, I have nurtured and cosseted them each winter and at the moment if all goes well I should have lemons this year coming 🍋

Caught the remaining five hens from the pol pen and gave the pen an initial clean out and dug over the earth in the middle, John likes to power wash it clean so that is now ready for him to do when he gets time. Somebody is selling a Gauloise trio so I messaged them and hopefully we can go collect them at the weekend as it’s not too far away, they will be bred for the table.

Tuesday: Temps set to be up to 12 today (oo summer I joked) you can feel the difference though I started sweating with my big coat on. No goose egg today so that means only one is laying as they lay every other day but I’m sure the others won’t be far behind. 6 eggs from the ducks today so yesterday was either a fluke or John didn’t pick up the day before? My seed order arrived yesterday, hopefully I will get some time to look through them and possibly start off the earlier ones such as aubergine.

Spent a pleasant couple of hours doing various things in and around the greenhouse. Got a barrowful of compost in to dry out and sowed the aubergine in a half size tray, that will fit on the kitchen windowsill nicely and as it is constantly the warmest place they should germinate. Sorted out the pots of tête-à-tête mini daffs that I divided last year and put them out for sale at 50p a pot. Sorted the plants that have been overwintering next to the greenhouse, some are in standing water, most are covered in dead leaves so cleared all that and then fenced them off as the escaped bunny has taken to having a munch on everything 🐇 Although it’s fairly mild outside it is so wet that just walking is causing damage let alone wheeling a heavy barrow over it so I will just do little bits here and there till it dries up, whenever that will be lol

Image is from google just for reference as they are not in flower yet but they always brighten up the winter no end when they start.

Wednesday: This Winters weather certainly hasn’t been dull, everyday is a different day and once more overnight I wondered if we were going to end up in Oz, the winds are coming from a different direction to the last lot so at least they are warmer from the south west.

Made an orange and raisin cake as I was a bit peckish and a loaf of bread, had Mia in the afternoon.

Thursday: A pleasant day weather wise, sunshine, mild, a good day to get something done😀 After doing the usual morning stuff it was on to dismantling the rest of the fruit cage, John is at home today so I have some muscle power to fall back on 😀 We finished that job then I sent John on a trail of little jobs that needed sorting while I dug up a row of Autumn raspberries, I have far too many to be able to pick in a morning when they are ripe so I decided to lessen the burden and dig a row up, in fact that’s two rows I have taken out as I took one out at the end of last season. We intend to make the fruit cage 8ft bigger than it was before so it will be a whopping great area to grow soft fruit in. Then I cleaned the outside of the small polytunnel, I was thinking it’s probably better to do it in the rain but a quick wash will do for now.

John finished his instructed jobs 😜 and started dismantling the chicken hut in the pol pen, he power washed it all down yesterday but we decided that the hut in there is too big and clumsy and they really don’t need it as generally speaking it is a transient pen.

Sowed some broad beans in pots, they will stay in the greenhouse until they sprout, by the time they are big enough it should be warmer outside and I can transplant them.

Came in for a cuppa and a sit down then on to give the boot room a bit of a clean and wash the dogs, I didn’t move fast enough after bathing dog 1, result, I got covered in wet dog shake uurgh 😜

Friday: Uber busy day, did the usual to start with then finally on to sorting out the rabbit run, that took us most of the day to get the bunnies shut in, get all the existing mesh on the floor out, dig off the soil that had built up, level it and finally put some boarding back down so there is nowhere for them to dig 😜 hopefully! John altered the lid of their house as it was just one big piece of ply and heavy, so he cut it in half and hinged it, put a door that you can close and shut on the house as before it just had two tunnel entrances one each side, now one is closed off and the other shuts so that I can round them up, shut them in and clean without them under my feet or trying to get out of the main doorway. He has also blocked up any holes that babies will be able to get into and get stuck, I just need to wire up the sides so the babies can’t escape and we are done. The job took longer than expected but worth doing it all in one go.

Later on in the day while John did the egg collecting and feeding I started clearing the spare room so that Charlie and Macca can move back in next week, books are the main problem, I have far too many and not enough bookshelving lol so I am getting John to put some more shelves up tomorrow in the office. As I was looking through the books I realised how many I would actually like to have time to read, books from memoirs of local folk, books on herbs, books on most smallholding subjects, gardening, maintaining fields, wildflowers, native trees as well as a few novels I haven’t had time to look at yet, and children’s books, some that my girls had when they were younger and some that I have got for the grandchildren, books everywhere 📚

Saturday: Another Uber Uber busy day today, first get animals done, then get John to put up new shelves in the office so I can move stuff out of the spare room and have a place to put it all. Then dismantle the big sofa in the living room, we have had the sofas nearly 20 years and they are past their best, well one is, it is making way for Charlie and Maccas sofa and chair so they don’t have to store it. While I am busy moving everything around and cleaning and trying to find homes for way too much stuff, John went with Luke to collect the other sofa and chair, meanwhile Richard and Debbie turned up to put a new battery on the car so that is now usable again 😀 In-between that I am fielding phone calls about MIL and messages about raspberry canes I offered for free on various sites, despite numerous messages of ‘I will be there’ as yet not one person has turned up! Doesn’t sound a lot of work when I type it but as well as the domestic chores like washing and cleaning I have run around like a headless chicken today 😜

John cleaned out the hens in the front in the afternoon, removed the cardboard traps for the red mite and put some new ones in, I’m hoping this method will keep on top of them this year. No idea where our egg customers have disappeared to this week as we have not had many, I have a theory that they go away before any school holidays as they are mostly the older generation, I’m sticking to that one 😀

Finally sat down at 3.30, after getting the dinner underway, to write this, still got the dogs to wash as they are bloody filthy and wait for anyone who bothers to show up for these raspberry canes 🤪😁

The geese have laid two more eggs, it’s early, I’m hoping it’s an indicator for an early spring 🙏

The weather was crap today, drizzle all day long, not much change for tomorrow by the looks of things, in fact the weather for the week ahead looks pretty grey and dull.

Sunday: Not bad weather wise but still muddy underfoot, did the morning routine then another busy day ahead but first nip and get a bit of shopping in as we are out of everything. When we got back, John cleared away all the debris we have made over the last few days doing the rabbit run and the fruit cage while I got the fire lit. Then I went outside and got a bit done in the garden, well mostly the poly tunnel, I have been inspired by someone on a smallholding group and thought it was about time I got my arse into gear. I moved a large pot of strawberries into the tunnel and then planted up some hanging baskets with strawberry plants from last year, apparently if you put them in the tunnel after the first frosts of the year they will do well and produce early so here’s hoping. I also moved my fig tree into the tunnel, it has limped along outside so nothing ventured nothing gained, I cleared a few more raspberry bushes and potted up some Japanese wine berry canes to sell on at a later date. I have put one of the raspberry canes in a pot that I intend to put out by the eggs shed for people to try before they buy 😀 I got some mange-tout seeds sown and put them inside the propagator although it’s not turned on it’s just to stop the mice eating them before they have even sprouted.

The broad beans that over wintered are growing well in the greenhouse, not sure weather to move them or leave them be for now.

My head is buzzing with ideas for the new growing season and I’m eager to get started with what I can, I have ordered some new blueberry bushes to lengthen the harvesting season and some white sage to grow for smudging which is something I would like to have a go at doing. I would also like to have a weekend during the height of the season to open the garden for customers to come and have a look around and see the veg they buy in situ just an idea and I would want the garden to be in tip top form for that lol so we will play that one by ear!

I ate a pomelo this week for the very first time ever 😀 it is a cross between a grapefruit and orange, I have saved the seeds and will have a go at growing them to see what happens.

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Bird flu, gale force winds, snow, rain and a whole load of other stuff!

Monday: 15th Jan 2018 What a different Monday this week, last week it was dry and stayed dry all week which meant the ground got easier and easier to walk on, today a weather front has arrived like an unwelcome house guest and peed us all off, back to trudging, that’s the only word for it. Still, you gotta do what you gotta do and that the feeding and watering, at the moment I’m not letting the ducks out just in case we have a daytime fox, they are not nimble like the chickens and they wander quite far from any safety. The hens took one look outside, and if they could speak, no doubt heaved a collective sigh of ffs!

I wish I had my phone with me this morning, it’s never with me unless I leave the premises or take it out specifically to take photos but I need to rectify that as I missed a brilliant opportunity this morning to capture the buzzard sat in the front paddock. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised to see the other, but he continued to sit there for quite a few minutes while I spoke to him lol then decided I was too close for comfort and flew to the fence, sat there watching me for a bit before flying off. On a brighter note my new coat is indeed waterproof 😀 and I didn’t have to change layers when I got back indoors.

The subject I want to learn about today is tree tapping, I am going to have a go at this in the next few weeks so firstly I researched equipment both off the shelf and homemade, the off the shelf stuff is expensive for what really is simple equipment. Next make sure I identify correctly the trees I want to tap, birch is easy and I also have a sycamore that apparently tastes like butterscotch, but you can also do walnut so I may give that a go. The most important thing I needed to find out was what to do with the ‘wound’ after I had gathered any sap, it seems if you leave it the tree will heal itself eventually which is good news. Plugging the hole with objects appears to cause more damage and can even kill the tree in time.

Tuesday: I feel exhausted today after doing the morning rounds, I cleaned off the pol house floor, scrapping and lugging buckets of chicken poop is hard work, good job I have Mia today I can sit and play 😀 I feel like an irresponsible rabbit owner today as the rabbit that got out and we managed to recapture is nesting, that means babies again 😟 bad ownership, honestly they never got out for over a year then twice in the last few months, we still haven’t captured the other one yet so she will be raising a litter too probably, once is forgivable, twice downright stupidity.

I think, judging by the chicken feathers in the hay barn, we have had a daytime visit from the fox, the dogs were in yesterday during the heavy rainfall so the hens were vulnerable, I would keep them shut in but the area isn’t really big enough for all of them and they are used to coming out so when you open the gate to go in it’s like ‘schools out’ and they just spill out everywhere. They will probably be put back in the back paddock with mains electric on then we can clean and disinfect the pol run for the spring batch of youngsters due in Feb/March.

Got the dinner prepped for tonight, John is having shepherds pie and I am having bolognese with a sauce I made and froze from our tomatoes, garlic, onions and basil back in the summer, it’s delish and a good reminder to myself of the effort that I put in is worth it 😀 we are also having some of our plum harvest , Johns in a crumble but I have stewed mine with honey and ginger, they will be superb with some custard.

Wednesday: Today I have an appointment at the hospital so John did the morning feeding in order for me to get away early as the roadworks are holding the traffic up, what’s new. It was a slow process both on the road and in the hospital and eventually got back at 1.30. Fed the birds in the afternoon and had a quick look in on the rabbit hut and yep baby rabbits have arrived 😩 about 6 I would say, here we go again.

Thursday: Been awake since 4.30 finally decided to get up at 5.15 it is blowing an absolute hoolie out there and the roof sounds like it’s gonna come off any minute! Got up, turned the radio on, put the electric fire on and made a cuppa, at least with household noises masking the rattling it’s not so bad. To get up that early is not something I would do by choice lol but if I can’t sleep anyway there is no point laying there worrying.

The weather was totally wonderful after the winds died down, the sun came out, it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t raining just a lovely day. I decided after doing the feeding that I would get on in the garden, the 50m of windbreak arrived yesterday so what better day than today to do it. I had nearly finished and had a small section to do on the other side of the gate when I realised there was only one dog sat watching me, not again 😡 I then spent an hour looking and calling for her, a couple stopped and told me she was on the farm over the back from me, I went and retrieved her, the neighbouring farmer took my telephone number in case she does it again, the only consolation I could find was that I had my exercise for the week marching round looking for her. After I had secured them both in the boot room I got on and finished the job in hand, then went onto weeding the onions, covering the carrots with wire because the rabbit keeps eating them, in fact I spent a very pleasant couple of hours gardening including weeding the poly tunnel and transplanting self set beetroot. John came home at lunchtime, he had to cut up some more big branches that had come down in the wind last night and I needed to get on and light the fire, and prep dinner, so that was the end of my time outside. The muck I put in the tunnel at the end of last season seems to have done a good job on the soil, just needs a bit of breaking up and the cauliflowers I left in the ground have started to produce ‘mini’ heads 😀however the basil that was supposed to be for our climate has died off, never mind I will sow some more seed this year.

Decided, as I was inside, to strip the sofas and wash the covers, might as well hoover and polish and clean the bathroom while I’m at it 😜

Bio security measures are now in force across the whole of the country for bird flu, it is a legal requirement no matter how many chickens you have, they are not on lockdown but the area they are in has to be unattractive to wild birds 🙄 so no feed or water outside, minimum traffic in and out of the area, disinfectant foot baths, and keep the birds away from muddy areas ??? Now, I shall be following orders but some of these are futile, it’s mid winter, it’s muddy and what is the point of disinfecting my feet when I will be walking over muddy paddocks! Still the powers that be have spoken and so they who must be obeyed will be because I for one don’t want to be the chicken keeper that didn’t listen. To be honest they would be better off putting us on lockdown at least we know where we are with that measure.

Friday: Conflicting views online as to exactly what DEFRA want us to do, someone said they phoned them and they are expecting birds to be shut away but the statement they put out does not appear to say exactly that, typical gov dept! After discussing with John we have decided to house the ducks for a while, their run is pure mud and I can’t let them out now, the pol pen needs a clean so we will house those hens while we clean it and by then we should know for sure what is expected.

Meanwhile I started dismantling the fruit cage which as you can see from the video, if it loads ( it didn’t so will upload separately) is a mammoth task. The problem is because it has caved in it is at a difficult angle to get the wire off, everything is leaning on everything else causing obstruction and there is tension on all the wire. I finally started to get somewhere then realised I needed to get inside to cut the final bit of wire, the roof netting is still on even though it has collapsed so I had to walk across that then rip a hole in it clamber in and over raspberry wires to reach the bit I needed to cut, the netting was getting caught up in my welly buckles and my hair lol it was bit like getting caught in a giant spiders web 🕷

I was expecting a delivery of multipurpose compost and as usual everything happened at once, I called the driver to tell him to reverse into the driveway as he would struggle if he tried to reverse out onto the lane, he was lost, not far away so I gave him directions from up the road and just as he arrived and began to unload Micheal arrived with four bales of hay on his trailer, then an egg customer, then Sam and now we had a traffic jam in the driveway 😝

Spent a mad couple of hours with Shelley, Josh, Sam and Mia, well mostly it was Josh and Mia that were manic, we just drank tea ☕️

Quick update on the eco egg: I noticed that garments were not quite as fresh as they were when I started with it, they were clean but dull so I checked the egg and thought it might need some more pellets in but it’s still full. I decided that now and again I would wash some of the more soiled garments in conventional washing liquid, it’s still saving me money as I don’t use many, I also miss the fragrance of fabric softener but I am still going to give that a miss 😀

Saturday: Raining ☔️ John did the morning feeding while I took ibrufen for my arms and hands which clearly did not like me using the lump hammer and the fencing thingy to get the staples out. Such a pain paying for doing a bit of hard work, I used to be easily able to manage these jobs a few years back now I’m hindered constantly. We rounded up the ducks and got them into a stable, I sorted out a foot bath and we have to secure the stable from the fox, that will have to wait as John has to go round and see his mother. The battery on the car is flat, we got in it to go shopping last night and had to go in the van instead so that needs charging, we are going out for a family meal later but luckily Shelley has offered to pick us up for that.

I feel stressed as there are important jobs that either John needs to help with or do and we are not getting enough time to do them 🙄

A family medical emergency meant that I ended up eating salad rather than the roast I was looking forward to and as I type John is still at the hospital with his Mum. I have had to barricade the ducks into the stable, I thought about moving them back to their hut where they would be secure but I don’t want to keep messing them about so fingers crossed I have done enough to stop foxy getting in!

Sunday: Woke up to snow, it’s been a filthy day weather wise, snow, continuous rain, fog and all in freezing temperatures. Still jobs need to be done so we finally got the stable that the ducks are in fox proofed, and got the other stable (which is already proofed) ready to put the chickens from the pol pen in, then the pen will be ready for John to power wash when he has time. They are the only two lots of birds that I can’t feed inside which means the wild birds are having contact with feed and water which is what we need to prohibit.

As for the rest of the day, we still can’t get the car started so having to get someone to look at that, spent a pleasant couple of hours at Charlie and Maccas eating soup and cake and celebrating his birthday and then back home to feed the chickens and collect the eggs, stoke the fire before heading off up to the hospital to see Johns Mum, oh yes there is a blockage in the run off drain out the back that John is at this minute trying to clear before the back floods and we have water running down the inside wall of the kitchen due to the snow that was sat on the roof presumably, just another regular, manic, busy day at the farm 😜

Seed order, missing dog and red mite remedies.

Monday 8th Jan: It’s cold but dry this morning, did the morning rounds, one of the hens from the front paddock seems to have a bad leg so I got her in and put her in a stable with some water and food. She wasn’t walking very far so wouldn’t be able to get to the feed and water buckets, not sure what is wrong but if I give her rest and food hopefully it will sort itself out.

Had to have two goes at lighting the Rayburn this morning as the first attempt failed, most unusual but second time around it went well.

I contemplated doing a bit outside this morning but it really it too chilly to wander round looking for jobs, it’s ok if you have something you can get stuck into and warm up a bit, I decided the seed catalogue might be a better and warmer option, I do need to order sooner rather than later or the favourites will be sold out.

I noticed over the weekend that the geese are getting into the water bucket, a sure sign that mating season is starting for them, although I couldn’t top it up this morning as the hose was frozen, I will do it later on when it’s hopefully thawed a bit.

A package arrived his morning with some goodies in as a thank you from our Christmas guests, that was a lovely surprise.

I forgot to put the grey bin out even though I had marked it on the calendar, the bin men stopped at the end of the drive and then came looking for the bin, what a fab crew 😀 very grateful for that and messaged the local authorities to let them know how thank full we were, I’m sure they are always getting grief for things that go wrong so a bit of positivity will even it up a little.

It seems to have warmed up a little this evening so I took the opportunity to fill up and clean the water buckets, the hen I put in the stable is no longer there but I found a dead one in the back hut, not sure if it’s her or if she has just wandered off, I will keep an eye out for a limping hen tomorrow!

Trying to organise a delivery of straw bales as we will run out soon and our normal farmer does not have any left 😜 For some reason I didn’t keep the telephone number of the chap we used before, I looked all through my messages/contacts but can’t find any reference so having to track him down by other means, must be more organised 😝

Tuesday: Definitely milder today, I couldn’t see any sign of limping hen this morning so I’m guessing it was her that died. I put fresh bedding in for the ducks while I was on my rounds, made a quick coffee and took it outside with me to do a few bits in the garden. I read an article yesterday that said don’t do any gardening while to mud sticks to your boots lol so I will heed that and just Potter when necessary. I still have carrots growing and wanted some for tea so pulled those and weeded the bed a little, they work well in a raised bed, it doesn’t get waterlogged so they haven’t rotted and it’s high enough for the carrot fly not to be able to reach them and lay eggs, I also dug up some celeriac although something has been eating the tops off of them, my escaped rabbit I expect, she is still loose. I gave the carrot tops to the rabbits and went back in to make apple and celeriac soup and a chicken casserole. To be honest the soup was a little bit too sweet for my liking and I would probably leave out the apples next time but as it was packed with goodness I still ate it for lunch along with some Parmesan croutons I made from the last bit of the loaf I made the other day, they were delish 😀 I made a new loaf and got some apple and blackberries out of the freezer for a crumble for John later. I have a lot of fruit to use up, I’m am going to have mine with a blob of creme fresh I think. I had Mia and while she was asleep I looked through the rest of the seed catalogue and put markers on the ones I want to purchase so just need to sit down and put the order through now.

Did the afternoon feed and collected the eggs, the numbers have now gone up as we relented and put a light in with the front lot, it made a difference within a couple of days so we will carry on doing it, the light is rechargeable and dies sometime during the night so they are not on 24hr egg laying duties 😝 I need to put oyster shell and grit on the feed shopping as a fair few of the eggs from the ladies at the back are breaking readily when they are washed, the oyster shell helps to harden up the egg shells and they are obviously not getting enough even though they free range.

Wednesday: Today felt like Groundhog Day, I asked Alexa if it was, she said ‘no’ which made me laugh and be grateful that I woke up even if it was to the same old routine or so I thought. I did the morning feeding and then went into the greenhouse to contemplate what needs doing, I went through the seeds to bring indoors so that I don’t over order something I already have, I also bought in the clear covers for the seed trays to give them a good wash along with two propagators, and a big load of seed markers, though where the rest are is a mystery, I had hundreds of them. I went to the postbox and on the way back wondered why there was only one dog waiting at the gate, I called the other one, nothing, 45 mins later after me searching everywhere including up and down the lane she finally turned up, it is not something she has ever done before and she is definitely in the dog house 😡 I ordered some shelving to make the most of the space in the greenhouse, there is plenty of higher up space that doesn’t get used to it’s full potential so I am rectifying that.

The sun was lovely this afternoon, I was almost fooled into thinking that spring was in the air, it would be nice to have a few more afternoons like that.

Thursday: I am off out for lunch with Shelley and Josh today so got the morning feeding done, lit the fire, got tonight’s dinner sorted and cleaned the two propagators for the greenhouse before I went.

After doing the afternoon egg collection and shutting the birds away John phoned to say he would be late so I took the opportunity to sit quietly and order my seeds, a bulk tonne bag of multipurpose compost and some miscellaneous bits for the greenhouse including capillary matting. I can’t wait to get started on the growing season, though I can’t believe the prices of some things these days, I thought the garden centre would be cheaper but nope it turns out ordering online is.

When I use the multipurpose compost for seedlings I will add vermiculite, sand or well composted bark, you could use leaf mould if you have it too, it doesn’t need any extra nutrients for seeds just good drainage. When I use it for potting on I will add either some well rotted manure that has dried out or something like blood fish and bone for slow release nutrients. I do have large quantities of compost I made last year and then grew the potatoes in but I will be needing that to fill up some new raised beds I have planned.

Friday: I had a busy day planned so got the rounds done as quickly as possible then onto sorting out the greenhouse, I wanted to move it around, clean it inside and out and tidy up any rubbish, all was going well, I had planned to come in at around 10.30 to light the Rayburn as it’s not too cold today and Mum was coming for a coffee. Then at about 10.20 life went a little haywire for a moment or two! Apart from the fact that my cordless screwdriver decided not to work, an egg customer came and left empty handed, I had forgotten to put the eggs out 😝 cue a mad dash to get them out there, a fox shot across the back, the dogs were in because Mia slunk off again, and at this point I’m guessing she has been doing her job and chasing off foxes, the skip lorry arrived and as I looked for fox footage on the cctv I found it hadn’t been working! A little bit later and a riderless horse went galloping down the road but thank goodness it wasn’t one of ours. Everything settled back down for the rest of the day, the greenhouse is now looking tidy, clean and I have maximised the useable space for growing, with the hazels down there is much more light getting in so I should have a good seed germination, that’s the hope anyway. John is looking at a job tonight so it’s down to me to do the feeding and then the shutting away when it gets dark.

There are so many jobs that need doing I need octopus arms lol, the veg garden needs a good tidy up but then I’m inclined to think I will wait in case we get any more windy weather which just blows everything all over the place again, the poly tunnels need the algae cleaning off to let maximum light in, of course the fruit cage is still in a heap and that needs looking at before stuff starts to grow, there is still a lot of stuff to cut back, weed membrane to put down to suppress weeds and warm the soil, rigging up fencing to keep the ducks and the escaped rabbit off the garden, clean the rabbit runs out, clean the ducks out, fresh bedding for the geese, look at the cctv, tidy the hay barn, do some paperwork, cleaning, cooking, washing, light the fire and keep it going, I’m exhausted just thinking about it all 😂 where is my list?

As John wasn’t back yet I thought it would be a good opportunity to sort out some paperwork and get the desk cleared, made some bread as well.

Before and after photos of the tidy up and reshuffle. The things under the green covers are my orange and lemon trees, I have two lovely lemons growing which should be ready to harvest later this year.

Saturday: Normally John is here at the weekends but today he is working to finish a job, first though he went to collect feed. I did the morning feeding and put some fresh bedding in for the ducks on the way round, then as John arrived back the postman also arrived with some of the bits I had ordered for the greenhouse, happy me 😀 It was the greenhouse shelving and some yellow fly strips so I got on with putting together the shelving and hanging up sticky paper to catch anything lurking in there. The shelving is going to give me some much needed extra space for seedlings, an extra layer up high, they come as a four shelf unit but I have used it in half and it can easily be put back together as I need space for growing on outside so a win win buy I think. I also potted up the Autumn Gold raspberry canes I bought at the end of last year, I am intending to pot most of the raspberries I grow to stop the runners taking over the whole patch. The fruit cage is the next job on Johns list so he tells me whoo hoo I need to get that up and running again before things start to grow, this time the posts will be concreted in, the last ones were just rammed into the earth but they have rotted away although they did last about 5 years so that’s not too bad. The new one though should be altogether more stable and not move and rock in the windy weather which is a bonus as the door will also stay firm, the old door moved a lot and sometimes I couldn’t even shut it properly. I put some net up for the peas in the small poly tunnel to climb up, I have grown them in there because if I did it outside they would have been eaten by now, I will hopefully get a good crop of early peas 😀 Daffodil bulbs have pushed through as have the garlic and onions, I feel positive for the year ahead, for now at least 😝

I sat down with a cuppa and through various trails of reading I ended up reading a report of trials to control red mite in the poultry industry (a little light reading 🤣🤣) it was very interesting though and here is the link http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/4506/1/S0043933909000403a.pdf for any other poultry keepers in case you want to have a look. Apart from chemical controls there are other methods used such as high heat 45c, fungus (entomopathogenic fungi) which if I could find any for sale would be very useful, good old diatomaceous earth (silica, which basically cuts the exoskeleton on the mites) and also simple things like cardboard traps which I am definitely going to try out when we next clean the boxes.

Try and learn something new as often as you can is something I have always done, not necessarily have a go at it just reading and digesting the information is good enough to keep the grey cells from slipping into a coma.

Sunday: A busy morning doing the usual stuff, then putting a windbreak up around the veg garden mostly to stop the ducks coming in now that we are gearing up to grow stuff and it will also help to create a micro climate for the veg so a double bonus although I needed to order more as there is not quite enough. It doesn’t look pretty but needs must, no point putting stuff out for the ducks to walk all over it or worse, eat it! I cleaned out the three rabbit pens, and the bantams house, we spent a mad 15 minutes trying, in vain, to catch the rabbit that is still loose, she is now eating any available crops in the garden including the celeriac and carrot tops. A delivery of 50 straw bales turned up so those had to be stacked, the cat presented its arse with a worm hanging out so that had to be sorted luckily I had stocked up on wormer so they have both been done 😝 John cleaned out the hens at the front and cut up cardboard to try this new technique of trapping red mite, it’s not full season yet but might as well start as we mean to go on. Bird flu is in the country albeit a different strain from last year so we need to be mindful of that and keep up to date with any bulletins, they do send a text by landline but Facebook is much quicker at letting us know.

And then out for lunch 😀

Well that turned into a long lunch and we were late back, the fire had gone out and the chickens were waiting for their tea, the eggs had sold out so it was action stations for a mad half hour and then relax 😀

That’s it, the end of another week, have a good one, make each day count, learn something you never knew TTFN 😀

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 and the bits in-between 😀

I thought I may as well make a few notes over the festive period, so Christmas went really well, our visitors enjoyed themselves immensely, objective achieved 😀. Most of what went wrong was technology, Alexa crashed on Christmas Day due to the overload of her system with all the new ones I’m guessing, and the day after Boxing Day we lost our landline and internet connection so couldn’t catch up with programmes we had hoped to watch. As you know I am a great advocate of modern technological developments but when they go wrong it’s a big fat fail. To begin with trying to get hold of a human being to report a phone line down is hard work, it keeps directing you to the website, all very well but we don’t have any internet either, the fact that we don’t get much mobile signal compounded the issue further, still I eventually made contact with the outside world, probably India 😜 and reported that we and our neighbours had a problem, an engineer (grumpy by all accounts) is fixing it as I type, thank you 😊

John held the fort outside doing ALL the feeding, egg collecting and putting to bed, while I held the fort inside doing all the cooking and hosting. One of our house guests insisted on doing all the washing up every time there was any to do and I was very grateful for that. We have had 4 family birthdays over the Christmas week as well so have been extremely well fed and no doubt we are all looking forward to the new year clear out of bad habits etc to have a fresh start. I got the ball rolling by clearing out my baking cupboard, specifically the ‘cake making box’ full of out of date food colouring (2011) sprinkles of various descriptions, gelatine sachets and two full tubes of liquid glucose? A bottle of vegan rennet? About 20 half burnt cake candles 😝 I even found a dead spider though how it got in there in the first place is a total mystery. It’s all cleaned out now and at least I know if I need supplies for birthday cakes I shall have to go and buy some and as we are on a septic tank the pretty colours going down the sink might show up in the excess run off and give us a laugh 😂

The weather has been up and down, nothing new there, 11 degrees on Christmas Day, snowing and bloody freezing two days later, lashings of rain and some cold winds thrown in for good measure. Our guests left yesterday and this morning I ventured out to give John a hand for the first time in almost a week, the first thing I did was put my foot down on what I thought was a puddle, it was in fact ice, the foot slipped forward causing me to crash down on the opposite knee looking like I was waiting to take a well deserved knighthood, **#@£&!!? bloody good start that was, heat and pain shot up my leg to my hip and after a few minutes it eased off and thankfully after quickly taking some ibrufen no lasting damage has been done.

Marvellous job, the phone line/broadband has been restored, message on the answerphone from BT thanking me for reporting the fault and that they will be out to fix it and ring me to keep me updated!!! Some serious joining up of thought needs to be done in that company me thinks 😜

It seems like a continuous round of sorting leftovers, some to the dogs, some sliced for the freezer, some to use up as soon as possible and reluctantly some for the food waste bin, I only use that when we have had a ‘gathering’ as most things are processed as above in various ways but once things like pate/dips have been opened and left on the table for a few hours I prefer not to keep them especially when multiple knives with other stuff has been in and out of it!

The next preparation is for NYE, we are gathering with some of the village and eating, drinking, making merry, I shall be making a large beef stew, I hate cooking for other people, just in case it doesn’t come up to expectations, and have never been a natural hostess (or even sociable some may say) type but I am making an effort, it’s the least I can do once a year 😜

I will not be making any resolutions, I’ve NEVER kept one I have made in he past so gave that up as a bad job years ago, what I will do is probably make a list of objectives and see how many I can achieve, I’ll make them reasonable, no point failing before I begin. I have been looking at the seed catalogues, not rushing into buying them this year, I will look carefully at each variety, see what their strengths are and see how well they can be used in specific areas of the garden. After all there is no point having sugar sweet peas that take forever to grow to a reasonable size when we have such exposed conditions here, what I need is something of acceptable taste that can withstand a wind chill, that’s the kind of thing anyhow. On the garden subject the fruit cage or rather replacement of it will need to go on the list and a possible relocating of it if I feel there is a better place for it to go.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND WELCOME 2018

The second day of the New Year, I was busy cooking dinner for the family yesterday and watching films 😜

This morning it’s raining but we still had work to do so off we went outside, I did the rabbits etc while John did the others, then I decided to rake up the leaves from the drive next to the house it been bugging me for ages. I blocked off a particularly muddy bit, that the dogs keep running in, with some sheep hurdles and swept the area clean, very satisfying but I was actually soaked through to the skin by the time I finished.

John went off to the dentist to have a tooth out so that’s him done for the day today and he will probably spend the rest of it in bed, I set about looking for a new waterproof coat! I decided on a wax coat as they are obviously made for lots of outdoor use, I didn’t go for a brand name however, they are extortionate in price but for one about a third of the price. John has had one for years so I know they do the job, I also ordered some waterproof gloves that are intended for cycling but should be just as good for farm work though I may need to replace them regularly as the finger tips tend to wear away quite quickly.

I had Mia for a few hours so got the house warm and we watched The Gruffalo for the umpteenth time 😝 could be worse, could have been Peppa Pig 😩

John got up eventually and probably should have stayed in bed, it’s not easy having to look after someone who has had a major operation like an amputated leg, oh, wait it wasn’t, it was a tooth out, honestly, I had a caesarian section then looked after a new baby and two other children while he was at work, I can see a kick up the arse coming, obvs I will wait till he has healed a little bit 😜

Wednesday 3rd Jan: Storm Elenor is currently roaring away outside, she could be heard all the way through the night here but as yet no damage luckily. John is into his last week of three weeks off, to be honest we are getting to the end of each other’s tether 😝 coupled with the fact he had a tooth out yesterday and hasn’t had a smoke for nearly 24hrs he is getting on my nerves, I am getting on his nerves lol roll on Monday when we will be out of each other’s hair for a good 8 hours a day 😝 It makes me wonder how retired couples get on, badly, I’m guessing, at least to begin with.

My hands were a bit swollen from raking and brushing yesterday, that’s typical of the Lupus and very annoying, I get the bit between my teeth, do a job and then wham there is a price to pay.

Thursday: The winds dropped last night but are back with some force again today 💨 John is off to do some work later but stayed to do the animals this morning first, he did the usual stuff while I cleaned out the goose hut and the ducks. The goose hut has a separator in there for spring use when they start to lay eggs so that they are not all laying in one nest, that becomes a problem when one starts to sit as the other eggs can’t be collected, this way we stand a chance until they all decide to sit. The duck pen is basically a giant muddy puddle and hopefully that’s one good use for the wind it will help dry it up a bit in between rainfalls😝 I tided it up as best I could given the circumstances, it’s a waiting game for a dry or cold period to give us some respite now.

My new coat arrived this morning and I can’t wait to put it on and go out to play lol. The old one has seen much better days, been repaired goodness knows how many times and the zip is at best barely functional and at its worse downright stubborn. I’m not one for throwing things away too quickly mind you so I shall attempt another repair job and use it when the weather dries up a bit, but for now I am happy with my new waterproof, windproof coat, I hope it doesn’t get too dirty too quickly 😩.

I am waiting for a calm, dry day so that I can get in the greenhouse, empty it out and give it a clean ready for spring. I know a lot of people do it at the end of the season but I’ve done that before and had to do it again as the wet/damp weather just creates more green algae so no point wasting energy better to pick the right time.

It is at this time of year gardeners are chomping at the bit to get going and I’m no exception, I have already clocked the emergence of the snowdrops and noted dead stuff that needs cutting back or clearing when the time is right. The seed catalogue takes the main place on the coffee table pile though I haven’t finalised my decisions yet it won’t be long 😀 The broad beans and peas I planted in Autumn appear to have survived and are doing fairly well as are the garlic and onions, I haven’t ventured into the poly tunnels yet but as they are a dry space I really ought to get started on them, I can feel a list coming on 😜 John has a couple of jobs on his list that need doing, the post that holds the big gate open by the back door got ripped out of the ground by the last winds and I am having to hold it open when anything drives through so that’s a priority and the stable bolts all need adjusting again as the water table has gone up and pushed the posts up slightly, we are always adjusting them depending on the water table lol.

Got some homemade veg soup out of the freezer and made some bread, definitely a day to appreciate it, I think more scanning of the seed catalog is in order this afternoon apparently the winds will not die down until tonight and I can’t take a day of buffeting so indoor stuff until it’s necessary to go out again.

Well we must have had a very strong gust of wind, when I was doing the afternoon feed rounds I could hear something banging away and looked over towards the rabbit run, one of the roof panels had come off together with the wood that it was screwed to, phoned John to let him know he had a job waiting for him before dark 😝 We managed to patch it up enough that it should hold overnight and not let the rain in, the garden chairs had all gone flying as well but I have left them where they are until the wind dies down.

Spent most of the evening looking for chickens of certain varieties, they are proving elusive or a days journey away! I am after a utility breed, Large Light Sussex, Ixworths or what would be best of all Le Bresse, these would be to rear the cockerels as table birds, I may have to purchase hatching eggs which is not a problem just takes much longer to get what you want.

Friday: John has gone to work today so it’s down to me to do the morning routine for the first time since before Christmas. My nice new coat didn’t stay clean very long, I let the ducks out, one flapped it’s wings sending mud splattering all over me including my face 😜 After that job I cleaned out the quail hut completely and put in fresh bedding and floor covering plus a nice dust bath bowl for them to play in. They have laid all through winter not as many as in the summer months but that’s to be expected. The egg numbers in general are going back up thankfully just waiting for the geese to start laying and we will have a full range for sale again.

One thing about having someone else around is that I can never find my equipment, the time I have spent looking for something that hasn’t been put back where I left it is nobody’s business, drives me insane, this morning it’s the shovel, the light weight one I bought for myself because the heavy one is, well, too heavy!

I took photos of the silkies this morning, I have asked online for an opinion on which sex they are, I can normally sex chickens easily however these have a full head of fluff and not many obvious features that are different. I looked online for the answers but it’s a bit vague so needs must, or I can just wait to see how many eggs I get or if any start crowing.

Saturday: What a day, 2.30pm and I have only just come inside or indeed sat down since 8.30 this morning! After doing the morning feeding we decided to ‘cut back’ the two big bushes in the front, why stop there we thought, might as well do the hazels while we are here with all the equipment out 😝 we have cut back hard this year, previously we have just trimmed so they are not in the way so in for a penny in for a pound we set ourselves loose. As the hazels were quite tall it was an ideal opportunity to make some bean and pea poles with the debris, so with the billhook and loppers in hand I spent many hours making them. My back, legs and hands are aching but it’s an excellent job done and I will be thankful when I need some supports in the garden I’m sure. I don’t think I will be able to move again for a while now I have sat down lol.

Sunday: Got the usual stuff done then it was on to burning all the debris from cutting the bushes back and sorting out my bean poles into sizes. The wind was bitter, but we kept going, well I did until lunchtime when I came and put some sausage rolls in the Rayburn, once they were done I took them out to John with a cuppa and he suggested I go inside as I was pretty cold. I did a bit of cleaning and some washing and was grateful to be in the warm. The sun has been shinning nicely and with the tops out of the hazels lots more light is streaming into the house, unfortunately that shows the dust 😝 but dust is always there no matter how much I polish and I have better things to do than worry about it too much.

In-between all the other jobs John concreted in a new post to hold the gate open it is much better than the last one so I’m very pleased.

Hazels cut right back this year

Hazel poles for beans and peas

Poles sorted into sizes

John still outside burning the cuttings 😜

A power cut, pies and CHRISTMAS 🎄

Monday: Animals all done I decided to get started on trying a pork pie except that I’d forgotten to get the trotters out of the freezer to make the jelly, never mind the pork needs cutting and mixing with herbs etc and leaving overnight to soak up the flavours apparently so I will do it in stages. Lit the Rayburn earlier this morning and got on with jobs, sat down with a coffee and thought that smells a bit hot, go in the kitchen and I haven’t moved the lever over to heating so flames are now going up the chimney and that’s not good, shut down the spin wheel, shut down the thermostat, shut down the flue damper and hope for the best 😝 Normally I have a perfectly executed routine, got it wrong this morning and after a slight panic the flue temp begins to go back down thank goodness 😅

Made some leek and potato soup and put a lamb shoulder in the slow cooker

Went out in the afternoon to do the feeding and collect eggs came in made a cuppa and the electric went off! Bloody brilliant, phone the electric board yep it won’t be back on until 8pm, not such a problem except that the fire is well stoked and the heat building up in it has nowhere to go, panic, shut everything down click it over to cook open the oven door and the top plates and hope that is dies down quick enough to lose the heat that is building. I have 6% on my phone battery, next to nothing on my vape, I can’t start the generator, next door phoned to say she needs to use the paddock that the boughs have come down in tomorrow morning so they need clearing and John has gone off to fix the pump of a little old lady who has no heating bearing in mind the temps are due to plummet dramatically tonight ( at this point I should insert a round of expletives but I’m trying not to stress 😝😜😛) Thank f**k for good old fashioned candles and a lighter, at least I can see where I’m going. It’s still warm enough in the house obviously as all the heat is coming out of the oven 🤣🤣 but I really hope they get it fixed by 8 or it will be twenty layers of clothing to wear to bed. And today is one of the very reasons I began writing a blog, so I can look back and laugh (oh how I will laugh, probably, one day, maybe) One consolation, it’s pretty sitting in the dark with candles although most of them are scented and the mix of perfume is a little heady 😏

While I still have battery on my iPad I may as well keep typing after all there is nothing else to do, how the hell the women did cross stitch in medieval times by candle and firelight I will never know and I have a new found respect for anyone that lived pre electricity, that would be not only a long night (it is pitch black outside and only 5pm) but a very long winter to boot. Although I am imagining now that when the lights etc all come back on it will be an attack of the senses to begin with, a blip, then glare and beeping noises all around, not sure which one I prefer, get away, obviously I prefer the convenience of modern life but it’s nice to take time out even if it’s forced upon you. It’s very quiet also, not a sound, except the ringing in my ears that is tinnitus of course which is also why I like a bit of noise going on usually. I’m rambling now, it’s the loneliness 😂 it’s dark (very) it’s quiet (very) and there is no one else here except me, now my mind is working overtime because that could be the very opening scene of a horror movie, doesn’t help that I caught up with an episode of The Walking Dead today 😩 hurry home John, if you can’t find me I will be huddled in the back of the wardrobe, hiding from I don’t know what 😝

Note to self: try starting the generator in the daylight on a day when you don’t need it that way you will be prepared for when you do!

The evening hardly went much better, it was Johns Mums Birthday so we needed to get over to see her, temperatures had plummeted and the roads were treacherous to say the least, we stopped at Shelley’s on the way and charged my phone, the vape stick was charging in the van on the way there. We were going to go in the car which I couldn’t really understand as John had used the van all day it was defrosted and he was able to get it out, the car on the other hand was still covered in a layer of snow including the roof which I made him get off before I would get in it, however the car was not going anywhere it refused to move over the lumpy snow so we got in the van, picked Shelley up and went to Johns Mums. Stopped for a cuppa when we dropped her back off and then set off on the icy roads home, it was a slow but successful journey. Up to this point we had no dinner as the lamb was in the slow cooker and the electric was off when we left, luckily by the time we got home it was back on but the lamb was cold, so there was one sausage and two rashers of bacon in the fridge we dined on those lol, but the bread I had made the other day was now mouldy 😜, oh what a day. I made sure that we charged the torch and the phones, vape, and the back up charger pack just in case the electric goes off again anytime soon, I will make bread in the morning and hopefully tomorrow will run more smoothly 😀

Tuesday: A brand new day 😀 still snow covered and in fact more treacherous than yesterday as the temperatures plummeted down to around -7 the back roads are lethal it’s like an ice rink in the lane. I wrapped up warm, wool socks, iso therm wellies, 2pairs of gloves, a woolly hat and a long feather filled coat I was given, even after a couple of hours outside I was still toasty and warm even my toes 😀 Managed to get water done last night so only had to break the ice this morning, I also fed the wild birds again although I still need to put water out for them. Someone got stuck in the driveway entrance so went to help push them out, they were abandoning their mission and going back home, sensible plan.

Then I did a mammoth session in the kitchen, 4 dozen mince pies, give or take one or two for quality control purposes 😝 most will be frozen otherwise they won’t last long with John around! Two pork pies, I followed the recipe and it was not too hard but I didn’t seem to have enough pastry for all the meat mix I had so I quickly made more pastry, they are still cooking at the moment and the trotters are on the Rayburn hopefully making the gelatine that will go inside when they are cooled. I have no idea how they are going to taste or turn out but I wanted to try. I also made bread while I was at it and both ovens were going flat out in a round robin of things in and things out. The lamb from yesterday is back on in the slow cooker and smells amazing today.

Wednesday: Seems like a long week lol, before I went to bed last night I tested the jelly that will go into the pork pies, not setting so I heated it up with some gelatine and put it in the fridge to see if it will set this time. Success, so I reheat it to thin it and wait for it to cool and fill the pork pies and put them back in the fridge to set, I sure hope they taste good for all the faffing, I probably won’t try again but wanted to give it a go at least once. The trotters that were supposed to make the jelly went to the dogs, I did read up about using them but most agree that you need to heavily flavour with herbs etc for them to be palatable, the dogs were happy 😀 After doing the rounds which was a precarious affair because it’s part ice, part snow and part mush, I took the unprecedented decision to close the driveway to customers until it’s safe to walk on. I almost went arse over tit more times than I can count on both hands and can’t risk egg customers falling over. I would have got the shovel out but as I said a lot of it is still solid ice and I would be chipping away for hours so easier to stop people coming in until later when hopefully it will clear.

So the first thing that happens is a customer decided to ignore the notice and come in anyway! It’s entirely at you own risk I say rather rattled that they have chosen to ignore my notice 😤

Thursday: Did the morning rounds, a bit of floor cleaning while I was at it, although it’s difficult to clean the floors when the hens won’t venture out very far I did manage to get most of it done. Then it was time to get lots of little things done that have been nagging me, clear out and tidy the food cupboard, the ironing pile, put the rest of the nuts out for sale which frees up the side in the back room ready for Christmas goodies, generally putting stuff away and checking what presents I still need to get 😝 turns out quite a few! I am way behind this year not helped by the snow and the ice interruption, the ice is still making the driveway tricky but we have had a few customers today so hopefully the cars going over it will break it up a bit. Did the afternoon feed and collected the eggs (still poor in numbers even though I have wormed them) got some dry wood in for the fire, put some more rat poison down, darn things are still around.

I did think I wouldn’t achieve much today as my hands and elbow were giving me problems last night and this morning but after popping a few ibrufen they were fine thank goodness as I don’t have time for bits of me not to work 😜

I bought a second hand fridge yesterday as other little built in one is not big enough for ‘occasions’ like Christmas and Charlie and Macca will be moving back in at the end of January to save a bit more for a deposit on a house so we need extra fridge space. John kindly picked it up but deposited it in the driveway this morning from the van declaring it was to slippery to carry it across, I waited all day and by 5pm I had waited long enough so I dug out the old heavy sack truck, which was heavier than the actual fridge, and proceeded to huff and puff across the ice and get the fridge in the back where it is going to go. My point is twofold, first a moan that I am always last on his list while he is out rescuing people from their plumbing woes and secondly I’m not the type of woman who ‘can’t do it’ I have to reassure myself of that from time to time 😜 although I will leave it to him to level up the feet, after all he is used to lying on the floor to ‘fix’ stuff!

Friday: A cold wind this morning to go with the half frozen half slush ground 😜 I did the rounds and cleaned out the ducks in the process, then cleaned out the geese after everything else was done.

After the afternoon feeding which I did a bit earlier today it was time to go round and meet the others to surprise Mum with mince pies, mulled wine and a rendition of We wish you a merry Christmas on her return from Australia 🎄🎄

Saturday: Got the rounds done quickly and early in order to go and do the dreaded Christmas shopping 🛒 not many folks about at 9am so that’s good we rattled round and picked up a tree then back home by 12.30 😀

John went off to pick up some corn as we had run out and then set about the tree boughs when he returned home. I did the afternoon feeding and discovered the damn rabbits have dug out again, honestly they find the tiniest bit of earth and excavate the escape routes. Down tools John we have to get these back in, except by dark we couldn’t find one of them so she is going to have to take her chances in the ‘wild’ 😜 I really need to get their floor sorted but it’s a big run and consequently a big task not made any easier by the fact I can’t shut them in anywhere, but its getting ridiculous and needs to be a priority, but so are the tree boughs and Christmas preparations 😝

Sunday: Apart from quickly helping John this morning with the rounds I have mostly been ‘doing christmas’ the tree is up, half the presents wrapped and a bit of cleaning done, just got a few more presents to buy and some more to wrap and I will be ready, well that side of it anyhow. We have guests over the holiday period so got to have everything in hand or I shall be preoccupied.

John was busy all day outside, cleaning both the front and the back chickens, a bit more on the chainsaw with the trees, helping me get the Christmas tree in and standing upright etc.

I think I will end the blog here for this year, all that remains for me so say is thank you for reading and have a VERRY MERRY FESTIVE SEASON and I will see you on the other side 😜