Monday, 23 October 2017

Winter preparations underway

A glorious day to be out. As you can see the alpacas are still
doing nothing but eat, eat, eat. Stocking up for winter I think
Well the weather improved this week and it finally stopped raining. It is cold though, but I'm not complaining, I would rather see the sun and dress warmly than have continuous precipitation that stops everything and means we have to leave the car near the road. We have even managed to drive onto the land properly these last couple of days as the ground has firmed up enough. Visitors have also been turning up, encouraged by the sunshine. We haven't had visitors to see the alpacas since late August due to the bad weather I suspect and yet over this past week we've had 5 lots of visitors and one lot came twice.

Here you can see the two beds on which the chicken arks
will rest over winter. The one at the front has had the soil dug
out about 20cm below the logs. Over winter we will add
hay like the one at the back and it will gradually rise up until
we have a mound to plant next year's greenhouse crops in.
We have been busy preparing for winter and that has meant sorting out the greenhouse to get the chickens inside. We got tired of shifting the chicken arks about and they were that heavy from the rain and getting so old that Ian has had to repair broken handles on two of them this week. I think the chickens were much happier too as they are now in the dry with fresh bedding and plenty of dry soil and straw to scratch about in. All that straw to scratch about in last year yielded several bags of compost and mounds of soil in other areas of the greenhouse in preparation for next year's crops.
All three arks inside and all plants removed to make way for
the caravan
Happy hens scratching in the hay and leaves
Even if the chickens are not laying many eggs (it seems we have one that is faithfully laying every other day, the rest think it is time for a rest) we are at least getting compost and any veg that is not worth preparing for us to eat, they are gladly dealing with. It means that we have the problem of too much soil in the greenhouse and will probably have to take some out next year, rather than the opposite where the greenhouse soil is depleted after growing in it too much or having to bring in compost from outside. At least that is a good problem to have.
At the moment the cross pieces are above the
level of the hay by a good way. By the end of
winter we will have to dig them out.

They are so happy they were not standing still
enough for me to photograph them

I kept trying!

Veronica looks a bit old in this photo with her wobbly legs
The day after the chickens went in the greenhouse we got the caravan in. In some ways it is sad as it is one of those marker points of the year that heralds the onset of winter, but in another way we are pleased as it is a bit warmer in there than outside. We are still living in the caravan but the nights are getting long and so it won't be for much longer - probably after I get back from Estonia if not before for Ian. This will be the last year we do this though as we plan to move the caravan once more and then build a protective and insulated structure around it. The caravan is also getting old and so it needs a permanent place to be able to out of the summer sun as well as winter rains and snow.
She can still do alpaca yoga and scratch that itch though

I think Chanel looks like she is glad to see blue sky too
We have also been getting on with a lot of end of season gardening jobs. Ian dug up the rest of our potatoes that were under the sprawling squash plants just before the heavy frosts set in. We've had a few nights where the temperatures have been around -5C overnight. I dug up the beets and a third of the carrots. Yesterday I just layered hay on top of any other roots that weren't dug up as I haven't got the time to carry on digging them just yet, as well spreading hay on top of the beets that were just piled up waiting to be processed as the pile only had a couple of layers of fleece on the top. We have too many other urgent jobs to get done before winter too.

George is getting more inquisitive as time goes on but he
wasn't so happy for me to hold on to him while Ian
checked his toe nails. He was nice and cuddly though. Holding
onto cria is one of my favourite jobs
I also managed to get in about two bucketfuls of bean pods from the short bush plants. They have been frosted but they will be fine to eat, unfortunately that was only about a third of them too. There was no point in pulling up more as they would probably just rot before we could process them. At least the tall bean plants I could cut and then I just carried them on the pole that they were tied to  after removing all the leaves and hung them in the greenhouse to carry on drying out, even if that is freeze dried.

Frederiks is a little shyer than George but he still comes up
to see what we have to offer. I thought he was going to eat
some beet leaves from my hand, but he just sniffed to see
what they were. We also checked his toe nails and they needed
cutting as they were already curling round. He has a lot of
fleece on him and it is light on the outside and gets much
darker underneath. We wonder if he will be the same next year
This will be the first winter for both boys, but at least they
have plenty of fleece on them
This summer has just been such a slow a growing season that things weren't ready in time or were ready when it was raining too much to do anything about them. The short beans weren't ready the last time I looked and so have only just finished growing before the frosts came. We won't starve though, as we usually have a backlog of food from the year before, just in case. I also got three bucket loads of apples from our neighbour's tree that he said we could have. I shall just throw all those in a large pot to cook down and bottle or freeze for apple sauce or apple pies.

Just how does Aggie manage to do this contortion? We cut
Aggie's toe nails this week but also started putting cream on
her foot as she seems to be having mite problems again.
She complains when she sees me but she actually seems
to feel relieved when I put the cream on.
Ian has also been shifting hay around so it is stacked in more convenient places and sorting out the batteries on the car. All winter preparation type jobs. The car seemed a bit sluggish to start but the terminals were not connected to the second battery, which is needed in the colder months. I think it just got forgotten about when the starter was replaced, not many cars have two batteries.

Eyre doing her grumpy cat impressions, despite the lovely
weather
As I mentioned one lot of visitors made a return visit and the little girl had a large carrot in her hand for the alpacas. I chopped it up for her and put it in a bowl and she carried it all the way up to the girls with the biggest grin on her face. She is nearly three years old but she made sure as far as possible that each of the girls got a fair share of carrots, it was so sweet. Her mum had come back to buy fleece from us and she is going to try knitting in some of the loose fibre from Mr. P. to give a tufted look to her knitting. I'm looking forward to seeing what that looks like. It sounds interesting anyway. She also took some of Veronica's fleece to learn how to spin it with some sheep's wool.

2 comments:

Gina said...

There is always so much for you to be doing. Fascinating reading about it all.

Joanna said...

There certainly is at the moment Gina. Still once the really cold weather comes there is not much to do, so may as well get on with it while I can.