Monday, 22 August 2016

At last!

Taking hay to put in the chicken arks for bedding
At last we had a few days sunshine in a row without rain. This has meant a lot of feverish activity as farmers were out in the fields cutting hay while they could. We have hung back to let the ground dry as we are not in a backlog of folks relying on others to cut and bale, we have our own equipment. It is forecast to rain tomorrow and then after that it should be dry again for a longer period of time. Instead we have got other jobs done that are on the list of to-do when it is dry enough.

The finished new herb bed. So far it has garden mint, hyssop
winter savory, thyme, golden thyme, chocolate mint, garlic
chives, sage, tarragon, variegated sage and some
lavender cuttings. 
Ian wanted to get the old wood chippings up off the road, as they have been down a few years now and starting to rot, which means it gets wet rather than giving us a good road to drive on. The aim is to add a new deep layer of chippings since it has worked so well up until recently, but before we did that the old chippings had to go somewhere. Since they are well rotted now, it was decided to use them for a herb bed and cranberry bed that I intended to make, which in turn meant I needed old logs to construct them with. The logs had got covered with bracken and other vegetation and so Ian had to strim the areas, find the logs and then move them with the tractor - now that the ground was dry enough. Some smaller rotten logs were also cut with a chainsaw to provide the main base of the herb bed and give the herb bed some water retaining content that should rot down over time. I was rather pleased with the result and it now means the herbs which are not so vigorous don't get swamped by the marjoram or the autumn raspberries that are now taking over the old herb plot.

The cranberry bed is on the other side of the pond, by the
forest. It is in a raised bed just to keep the weeds at bay, so
we hope it won't dry out too much for them. At least the
wood should hold quite a bit of moisture.
The rain has caused us a lot of problems, as I mentioned before. Our friends from America have not been able to help around the place, as much as they would like. They have cooked us meals and frozen lots of berries, which is really helpful and time consuming but many of the jobs we had anticipated doing, have just not got done. They did manage to get some posts in for our fencing this last week, so all we need to do is put the wire on when we get the chance, but that was all they managed to get done one day before the rain set in again.

I think this is a damselfly rather than a dragonfly. A pretty
colour anyway
We have still been busy of course, picking mushrooms (I really must take the camera with me sometime, as there are so many different sorts this year and unusual ones I haven't seen before), weeding the garden, mowing grass and running for cover from the rain. Yesterday was a lovely day and so we uncovered some sawdust in bags that were a bit damp and needed to dry out for our composting toilet. There was no forecast of rain and so we left them uncovered overnight. During the night though I heard the rain starting and so I quickly got up and ran outside, barefoot over the grass. It was a good job the rain was warm and we live in the heart of the countryside.

This is my favourite part of the bed. I managed to divide the
golden thyme into three and planted it with the chocolate
mint. I think they look great together or will do when they
grow a little more
Ian made table for helping with the cleaning of the wool. It is a wire mesh on a wooden frame, so it can be used for laying out the fleece and getting rid of particularly dirty bits - that is for the sheep fleece mainly though as they have much dirtier fleeces and is called a skirting table. Sounds a silly name really but refers to the outer bits of the fleece, which is where the dirtiest bits are and comes from the same word we get outskirts from. Being a mesh means we can also lay out wet fleeces that have been through a cleaning process to dry. Now we can start to process some of the fleeces for dyeing more easily. Little by little we are making progress.

The amaranth in the greenhouse is growing really well. We
were worried at first that they would shade out the chillis,
peppers and tomatoes, but the tomatoes don't seem to
mind and the chillis and peppers seem to be even thriving in
the shade, which surprised us.
Our chicks this week have been proving adept at becoming escape artists. Chicken wire is expensive and so we only use it to make a small enclosure for the chickens rather than use it to fence the whole garden. I tried to extend the area for them since there are now seven of them in a small area but didn't have any more chicken wire and so I attached net bags to the outer fence. They can just walk through the outer fence as the holes are too big to keep chickens in and only to keep sheep in and wild boar out. At first I found out they were getting out by walking up the corner support post and then just jumping out, so I put net bags over that to stop them walking out. They had had their wings clipped or rather half of one wing, to stop them flying over the fence, but they have been flapping and clawing their way up the net bags so I re-clipped their wings to see if that would help and found it isn't. I feel like the farmer in Chicken Run, those chickens are up to something.

A close up of the cranberry bed
Ian has been able to get on with flail mowing in between the showers. Normally it is just to keep the grass down in areas where we live at the moment, so around the caravan and greenhouse and part of the field. This keeps the insects down to a more manageable level. Ian also occasionally flail mows areas where the animals will be moved do, as they don't eat long grass. If we had cattle, they would be put on first and then followed by the sheep or alpacas to eat the grass down before resting the area. He also mows after the animals have been on it to cut down the type of weeds they don't eat, such as ground elder and docks, so they don't dominate the grass afterwards. We aim for animals to eat in the same area around twice in one year, to give the grass plenty of time to recover.

Having a bad hair day
This week though Ian managed to clip the boys paddock fence with the mower and broke some fence posts. They were already on the list of jobs to do because they were ready for replacing fortunately. He also flail mowed the oats and clover. The clover was planned as it is being used as a cover crop at the moment, but the oats were because they had been flattened in the rain and there was no point in collecting them. So we have plenty of mulch, just nothing much in the way of grain crops and something we need to re-evaluate in the years ahead.

A nearly full moon
Normally at weekends we make sure we are on site to welcome visitors but this week we went to our friend's celebration on her farm. It is such a privilege to see how far she has come, as we knew her before she had even bought the farm and watched the first few painful years as she adjusted to the life there. She had helped run a sheep farm and camp before, but her farm is now more isolated in winter and the first few winters had a lot of snow which proved a headache. Slowly though she built up a flock of goats from a few - I think - donated ones to the point she now has about 70 including kids. She has also built up a reputation for her cheese and people come from all over to buy some and visit the farm. It made a nice change to be part of the party wishing her success in the future.

Lady V getting comfortable in the shade
We had a test drill for a well just before the rains started but not seen anything of the guy recently, so we asked a friend to make some enquiries to see what was happening and finally he turned up this weekend with another guy who speaks English and helped us with our electric supply a few years ago. They did another test drill to check out the exact layering of the area where they think there's a good water supply and it was looking good. Apparently we have soil first, then a layer of clay, then a layer of water bearing sand, followed by clay again. They are going to start to dig the well on Saturday so hopefully that is another step forward for us.

You have to look hard but the specks in the distance are the
storks flying way up high, just before they went
It was a bit sad today as we said good bye to our American friends as they set off home after their two month stay. They have been in our apartment most of the time and we have only been back to do the washing and have showers, so it will seem a bit odd now for them not to be there, when we go. We don't intend to move back yet though, we will stay out on the land until it is too cold for us in the caravan. The signs that winter is approaching are all around though, from the occasional tree turning autumnal to the storks gathering and leaving. It is an odd feeling when the storks do that. They start gathering a few weeks or days before and then one day you may see a whole flock of them circling higher and higher, then the next thing you see is they suddenly veer off and they are gone. The swallows are still around, but one day they will just disappear off too and we won't see them until they return in the spring.
Four hung around just a few minutes more

Our boys
As we were in our village to say goodbye to our friends we decided to eat at the bakery for lunch, as we haven't done that in ages. We used to go for a walk every Sunday and have a pastry at the bakery, but now we are out on our land doing tasks or welcoming visitors. Things have changed such a lot for our friend, but also for us over the last few years. None of us really envisaged doing what we are doing now about ten years ago. Maybe we dreamt of doing something similar but not exactly and certainly for us, we never imagined it would be possible to be farming alpacas, in fact we wouldn't have even been sure what an alpaca looked like exactly and we would have been like most of our visitors who get mixed up between alpacas and llamas.


  1. It's always fascinating to read about the variety of work you do on a daily basis.


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi