Friday, March 30, 2012

Sheds. Stuff. Sigh

The Glam. Ass. is building a shed. No, make that another shed.  We have a number if you add up all the various structures in garden and field - and I'm not factoring in the deluxe model he had built for our absent neighbour in this equation either. They're all too robust and well constructed to even hint  at 'shanty-town'  but I am thinking 'hmm - shed world'. Just how many sheds does one man need I wonder?

Now, while I'm undeniably proud of my man's shed building prowess I'm sighing just the smallest of sighs. A shed is like a shelf - until you have one there's nothing to put on it. But once in existence it becomes the home of Stuff which then takes root and multiplies and, like a pernicious weed, is damned hard to get rid of.

This latest shed will become 'The Tractor Shed' and the little yellow tractor will move with all its kit and caboodle from the Field Shelter where it currently lives. The Field Shelter will become the Timber Store, housing all the er, timber which has been accumulated over the years for various as-yet unfulfilled wood working projects. This is a Good Thing - as it means that the plastic sheeted stack of wood that sits just inside the front gate will move out of my line of vision. However there is always the danger that having the space to store yet more timber, and indeed tractor kit, even more will be acquired.

All I ask is a couple of square metres to keep my hen food bins and a bale of shavings in. That should be possible.

......actually what I really would like is one of these. But not for anything utilitarian. Just for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amongst other things...

There's a gap on the perch of the Henhouse-on-Wheels tonight. Mrs Scraggy-Neck has clucked her last. She is no more. The matriarch of my small flock has gone to her final roost.

At 7 years old she was the last of my original hens. A good layer in her day but latterly an indulged older bird. She'd earned the right to first dibs at pellets and corn and the right to peck viciously at any lesser bird bold enough to stick its beak in before she did. I was quite surprised at just how heavy her lifeless corpse was - not many dinners missed there methinks.

For the curious she earned her name via a run-in with Chester, the 'brave' hunting dog. He grabbed her head, she dodged, skin tore and ouch! That must have hurt. I suppose on the basis of 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger' she survived, recovered and thrived - but bald of neck and one ear less.

Hasn't this weather been wonderful? The farmer's tan is coming on nicely thank you...but I can't bring myself to shed sufficient clothes  to make myself less piebald. It is only March for heaven's sake!

The garden has called. Beds have been tidied - jobs which should have been done in the back end' really. I never feel too guilty when I see Monty Don on Gardeners' World as behind as I consider myself to be. If it's alright for Monty, it's alright for me.

I've had a go at digging out some of the bindweed which has plagued us for the last few years. Our garden was a virgin plot in 2005 so I can only assume it came in as miniscule pieces in the topsoil. Click on the link to find out more about what is in reality a very attractive plant - particularly when growing somewhere else. I'm rather depressed to discover its roots can penetrate up to 5 metres deep - and know all about spreading rapidly. However I'm quite pleased with the amount I dug out yesterday - there's something rather satisfying about unearthing and carefully extracting the fleshy white roots. I've decided it is actually quite a clever plant and knows where it will be safe - lodged in the roots of something precious perhaps or down where the top soil becomes impenetrable shale.

Seeds have been sown in the greenhouse and outside a bed of Broad Bean 'Express' and another of Peas - 'Hurst Greenshaft', have been put in. I have grown both before and they have proved good do-ers. Also at the last count we have 12 spears asparagus looking promising - this is a tad earlier than last year.

Above, in another fuzzy iPhone photo, is fat white Wilson sunbathing on the newly sown peas. Nice warm earth I suppose. Persuading him to get off without disturbing the soil too much was a trial....and then I turned around and he'd got back up again. It doesn't really matter if a few peas are askew does it?
Lambing is well under way over at Fir House - what wonderful weather for it too. As the ewes lamb they spend 24 hours or so penned and bonding with their lambs and then they can come out onto the hill. At first they are put in smaller fields so the bonding process can continue - a post-partum sheep is easily confused I understand and in smaller groups there is less likelihood of lambs getting lost or muddled up.

We now have ewes and lambs on our little fields - slightly nervy mothers and their tiny offspring, scraps of things - almost too small for the big red numbers painted on their sides. They arrive in the stock trailer from Fir House and are decanted onto the grass - their first taste of the great outdoors.

Now here is something of an interesting observation. I've leaped to my feet I don't know how many times today at what I've assumed to be the imminent arrival of lambs in the stock trailer. But no - some bird out there can imitate the squeaks, rattle and jolt noise of said trailer as it bounces down the lane. Just as back in the day starlings latched on to the warble of that 70s style icon the 'Trim phone'  and had homeowners running to answer that non-existent call. Clever eh?
PS I have another Herman friendship cake on the go. Anybody want a portion? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On the second day of Spring

The calendar may tell me we've (just) passed the vernal equinox, but is it Spring? Is it really? Is it safe to come out of hibernation yet?

If I squint in a particularly determined manner then I can almost convince myself that there are big buds on the sycamores down the dingle. Surely there are? This Cornus kesselringii above, planted for its striking dark stems but otherwise something of a dull shrub, has redeemed itself this week - the brightness of the emergent leaves like little fresh flames in a thatch of black stems. It has earned its keep this season. It can stay.

There are certainly primroses and pretty native daffodils. Oh why didn't we put more in last autumn? Such simple little things unlike their brasher, cultivated cousins. Such bringers of joy at this time of year too.

The Glam. Ass has early blossom in his orchard - this is a Japanese Plum. I wish I could say the fruit was tasty - it was certainly prolific last year but the dogs ate it up before we humans got a look in. (Chester grazes from the branches and Wilson hoovers up whatever's on the ground.)
Fortunately the hens have been busy at last.  I never fail to get a thrill when I open the nest box to reveal a clutch of eggs, some still warm. (Sorry about the fuzzy picture.)
It's nearly time to think about finding some hatching eggs to put in the incubator - I fancy having a few more Marans to bring on for next year. They're the ones which lay those deep brown eggs - though why shell colour is so important when it's the egg inside that counts does baffle me.

We've got a resident rabbit's the cutest, tiniest thing and has chosen to live under the wood pile. Like the evil grey squirrel it's got it PR sorted. It sits in the sun and washes its ickle nose with its itsy paws and I go 'ahhhh' and melt.

There's only 1 rabbit so far - unless there are more and they come out to graze at different times. That would be worrying, taking into account the multiplication rate of rabbits and the fact that I am hoping, once again, to grow vegetables in abundance. I'm usually with Mr Mc Gregor re rabbits....but having just found the link (I can have a Peter Rabbit App for the iPhone!!) am having a moment of weakness. But one step towards my lettuces Master Rabbit and you are pie.

It's definitely not a hare. One morning last week up on the field sat a big March hare, who, as I approached, loped off into the mist. They're about but we don't see them often - and sighting this shy and elusive creature seemed like a good omen.

Now the fields are full of new lambs. Soon I will spy birds nesting - the garden is loud with bird song as I write this. Already we have asparagus showing its pale snouts above the soil - soon there will asparagus for supper.

I feel the urge to plant and to sow - to get out there and be part of this great awakening but that soil is still too cold, it's still too early. I'll bide my time - 'feste lente' - make haste slowly - making do with a bit of tidying here and some greenhouse work there.

And because it is still too early to do without the boiler and we need it running for water and warmth I'll wait in for someone to come and diagnose its latest 'hiccup'. That's run 10 minutes, blow all the fuses ad infinitum. Pah! give me the sun's warmth on my back any day.