Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mid-May 2013 when will spring arrive??

Well, yesterday it was almost spring-like!  
We put a temporary roof of plastic over the strawberry bed, as we lost our entire crop last year when it rained incessantly (seriously! we had exactly two that ripened, the rest rotted before ripeneing). We were just in time, as it has rained all day today. Hope it works this time. The raspberries in the fruit cage behind are going mad, as is the rhubarb. Time to make rhubarb and ginger jam!!
Pete got Bessie the tractor to start on only the second try (bless her, she's nearly as old as me!). 
He got the strip of grass above the main field cut, and then he cut the top field where our neighbour Yvon had harrowed and re-seeded it after the chaos of leylandii cutting last year. The new beech hedge (in front of where the leylandii grew) is leafing-up nicely...
The apple trees are blossoming their hearts out! The pear trees have also blossomed well this year, as have the cherries.

 I just adore apple blossom!  This is Lord Derby - such a tasty cooking apple.
The hawthorn is starting to blossom... is the rowan
 and here are the first flowers on our new quince tree - for all the world like small pink roses!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New lambs and a late Christmas present

Patsy had her twin lambs late on monday night - two nice big lambs, one male and one female.  

It took her a while to count up to two, so we had to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn't wander off, up the field, with only one.  They are thriving nicely.

Eddie had her two this morning, although they are more like one-and-a-half! They are both male, but one is almost twice the size of the other. I am contemplating calling them Majuscule et Minuscule.

Inevitably she chose a morning when Pete had to leave at sparrow-fart to teach in Guingamp, so I passed a fraught 30 minutes trying to get Minuscule to feed. He was just sprawled out and unable to stand on his own, while Majuscule was getting on with his breakfast, no problem.  I had to resort to holding Eddie between my knees and then aiming a pathetic little lamb towards her udder. As I was wearing my work clothes I then arrived at work, late, reeking of sheep! Eau de Ewe...

Its hard to see the difference in their sizes from these pictures. However, the little one makes enough noise for two and seems to be trying to feed on a semi-permanent basis. Eddie also cannot count to two, so we are keeping them together, under cover, for a while till she gets the measure of them.

Below is the quaich I made as a Christmas present for our youngest son Greg and his partner Alice. This is made of holly, but it had to be dyed, as it went such a nasty greeny-grey after I had carved it, so it has become a very late present.  No prizes for guessing where I copied the shape from (but heres a link for those who don't immediately know:  robin wood quaich)

I dyed it using walnut husks and am eventually quite pleased with it. One day I hope to be able to turn these on a pole-lathe, but for now, this one was just carved.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

feels like spring - waiting for lambs

At last the sun has emerged from behind the thick grey wet clouds that have poured water on us all winter and most of last summer and autumn. The ground is still wet, but no longer feels like it will engulf the unwary foot or even leg...
In fact, yesterday morning I saw the sun rising on my way to work for the first time this year. That means only two more dark winters-worth of driving to work to go before I can retire!!
Me? Counting the days? not half!

Of course, this means the grass is growing quite quickly, so the garden looks very unkempt. However, the sheep are enjoying a mouthful of fresh grass, rather than the hay they have been munching all winter.
Said sheep are beginning to look like tankers on stilts. I was convinced that they were going to lamb during last weekend - they had that 'far-away' look in their eyes, and really, how much bigger can they get? The two older girls are really huge, and stomp around looking fed-up with all the weight they are lugging around.  Perhaps they will have twins this year - the ram we used this time was a twin himself and both these ewes have siblings that have had twins. In fact, none of our sheep have ever had twins yet, so who knows? I just don't ever remember them looking quite so big before, but we never quite know when the lambs will be due - raddle doesn't work brilliantly on black sheep!

Sunshine gets us out into the garden and results in a feeling of being rather overwhelmed. There is so much to do and not really that much time to get it all done this time of year.
We will be planting 100m of beech hedge this spring. This will be where the neighbour's giant leylandii hedge got cut down just 11 months ago. BUT we have to wait for the ground to dry out a bit more, so that Yvon can get his tractor onto our field to harrow and re-seed it first. I'm damned if we will plant 100-odd tree whips for him to miscalculate and plough them up again. Anyway, I'm hoping it will make the planting itself a bit easier.

We have managed to coppice some of the big hazels on the boundary (till the chainsaw cord snapped). We have used the poles to make a fence to shield a row of raspberries that I planted a bit close to the sheep fence. The sheep feasted on them last year, despite all our attempts to fence them off. HOPEFULLY this hazel fedge - more useful than beautiful - will keep them safe from the worst depredations of the sheep.

We have also weeded the ground under these raspberries and mulched it with old hay, so it looks much tidier now as well. With any luck we will have loads of raspberries this year again (this is only a small fraction of my soft fruit plants)

In the meantime, there is the hedge round the orchard to lay - Pete already has a tendinitis from using secateurs to cut some of the smaller branches - needs a physio. Bought a nice big pair of loppers and a new billhook today - must get it properly sharpened-up.

So, on the whole my initial panic was unfounded - the garden scrubs-up quite quickly with a few days toil, and starts to look less like a wilderness and more like a garden, albeit not quite up to Wisley standards!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

a run in the woods

We took advantage today of  glorious sunshine to have a run round a local woodland area called Les Bois de Kerbescont. This area is owned by the municipality of Rostrenen, our local town, and we still have copies of an orienteering map made of the area, some years ago. This makes going off the paths a bit more interesting, although the map is really not as accurate as an orienteering map should be. (for those who don't orienteer, the wooded areas are mapped white, and open/field areas are yellow)
Being council land, hunting is forbidden (in principle), but when we arrived la chasse were there in force. This is France. The idea is that if you hear their hunting horns don't even think about going into the woods...
However it was nearly lunchtime so they were just going, having bagged three deer. No sensible Frenchman would spend good trencher-time out in the woods.
There is a glorious green lane running up one side, from the car parking area. It is flanked by beech and sweet chestnut trees, many of whom still have leaves on that havent really turned colour yet.
Lots of marrons lying about - will probably take another trip to collect some later this week, weather permitting.  The prickly outer shell is called un bogue
We walked and jogged right round the area, and my pictures really don't do it justice. It was a real joy to be out in the woods on such a lovely day, and of course, we had it all to ourselves!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Workshop - taking down the rotten beam

It has become obvious that the remaining tie beam in the workshop isn't really worth leaving in situ 
It is extremely rotten/insect-gnawed, and threatening to collapse under its own weight. Its also just a shade too low for Pete to get beneath it comfortably.
having inserted a couple of extra A-frame ties onto the rafters a bit higher up to stop the place collapsing we strung-up the beam and cut it off. 
 Below you can see the beam mid-way to being gradually lowered
 And the extremely dusty and eaten conditio that much of it was in.
So now we have a workshop that feels much bigger, but unbelievably dusty.
Having swept up the worst of the muck, and left the doors open to let out the fumes from the chainsaw, we retreated to put all our clothes and ourselves in the wash!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Workshop - work continuing...

All the rendering and lime-washing is finished inside the workshop. 
Compare this corner with the first pic in my earlier blog: "Its been an interesting weekend - part 3" 
Definitely an improvement, and now the lovely stones that were used around the doorway can be seen clearly.
All the doors are now glazed, and this picture shows how the middle door is hinged onto one of the side doors, 
 to allow them to be fully opened and closed
 while still letting in as much light as possible.
 Looking good eh?
The steel straight edge on the floor is a hint of the next job to do: 
Pete is measuring out a 3:4:5 triangle to get a line down the centre of the floor perpendicular to the entrance...
as we have decided to tile the floor, because the concrete is producing so much dust. 
Better to do this now,  rather than after we start using the place and choke on the dust. So we did a quick dash up to BricoDepĂ´t to buy 45 square meters of their cheapest floor tiles. 

However, the sunny, windless afternoon on Sunday demanded that we burn the last of the leylandii!
This is one of the very last lots of dry leylandii brashings that were still piled up after most of it was burnt earlier on this year.
And it went up with a satisfying crackle!
Now our neighbour, Yvon, can come and plough-up the field and re-seed it for us (in recompense for wrecking it to cut down his trees).
Should be lots of good grazing for the sheep next spring.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

third door for the workshop

Fran kindly forwarded the parliament hinges we needed to enable to third door to swing back 180°. so here's Pete checking the diagonals having made up the door.
 Once the glue had hardened I got it hung...
and painted green.
It has yet to be glazed, but its possible to see what it will look like.