Squelch, squelch!

I don’t seem to be able to get on this morning probably because I have a lot to do and don’t know where to begin!

The snow has gone and with the torrential rain that came after it is now disgustingly muddy around the farm. It occurred to me last week when I went into town to do some shopping that snow on the ground in town is not the same as snow on the ground in the countryside, in town the paths are cleared and the roads are useable, at the farm we were still trying to get around in 6 inches of snow 5 days after it first fell and the lane was like a rink for that long as well. We don’t clear it because it would take too long without a plough of some sort and we don’t use salt because of the danger to the animals and the fact that it breaks up the concrete, so we just have to struggle around in it until it goes. Once it begins to thaw the mess gets worse, not helped by more rain, I put on clean work clothes this morning and within half an hour had lovely great mud splashes all up my legs. For me the mud is just an inconvenience but for the animals it is a health risk, especially as it does not seemed to have dried up for months now. The chicken pens have, what I can only described as sludge in them this morning, and we are forecast more heavy bursts of rain over the next few days. Trying to decide what to do with them is a difficult decision as the whole place is squelching, we can only try and ride it out and hope that there is better weather around the corner.

I have never seen the paddocks so trashed over the winter, they will come back but the recovery will be longer than we would hope for, this will mean feeding the horses great amounts of hay for longer than usual, not to mention the fact that they constantly keep trying to get out because there is no grass left where they are. The electric fencing has been useless in the cold because the batteries freeze and so don’t have any power output resulting in escapes particularly my little Shetland! We have had so much surface water this winter that it keeps running into the stable block through the walls, the hay barn and feed room have been under water three times already, this is the first year while we have been here that this has happened. I long for the hazy days of a seventies summer, I was young but the summers seemed to be endless, the first year we came here we had a summer like that but it has been all downhill since then.

The egg numbers have picked up again now that the temperatures have risen and even the ducks are laying again. I took the bottom trays out of the small chicken houses so that the muck just falls straight on the floor, this saves me trying to clean them out in this weather, the house can just be moved to clean ground and the nest boxes cleared out. As the weather gets warmer I will have to start treating for red mite again, they can lay dormant for up to eight years no wonder its a problem that is hard to deal with. They reproduce every ten days and so that’s how often you have to treat the houses otherwise you are are on a hiding to nothing, little vampires is what they are, they don’t like the light and come out at night to suck blood from the chickens, yuk. If left untreated they make the chickens very ill and at worst can kill them, it is nearly impossible to totally eradicate them and I have no idea where they come from in the first place because we never had them for over 10 years and suddenly last summer an infestation!

The sheep are less noisy now that the grass has been uncovered from its blanket although they are still on hay every day and a small amount of feed now and again. It appears that it is better to have sheep that are on the lean side when lambing than ones that are fat, it make delivery easier apparently, only time will tell. My lambing kit arrived at the weekend, it consists of lubricating gel and arm length gloves, iodine, colostrum, a ewe drink in case she gets exhausted, umbilical clamps and an emergency syringe of meds for ailing lambs, I also have a lambing rope at the ready, it’s a bit scary but I am looking forward to it no matter what the outcome is.

The veg garden has been mostly neglected all winter, apart from the fact that it is very wet under foot, the cold weather gives me no inclination whatsoever to go out and do anything, I am in essence a fair weather gardener, nothing wrong with that as long as you are prepared to work harder once its warmer. I have ordered a tripod to go over my fire pit so that I can boil the kettle while I am outside working and don’t have to come indoors where the temptation would be to finish for the day. I will also order a Dutch oven which is a pot that hangs own the chain, I like the idea of cooking soup outside and it will be great for BBQ nights if we get any decent weather.

We still have plenty of plans to finalise, we never seem to get very far before the phone rings or something interrupts us, we want to reorganise the front paddocks and the orchard area, the chickens keep escaping because they can jump up into the trees then over the six foot fence. They are then free to roam which is fine in the winter but would be a disaster in the spring when the new veg plants go in. It will also mean that the land would be cross grazed which is much better for the health of the grass and keeps the worm count down for each species that uses it.

I had better go and get on, plenty to do today not enough time to do it as always!


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