Saturday, 16 February 2008

A New Toy

My new toy arrived today, a ride-on mower. I’m increasing the size of the lawn area this year and it will be just too much to do with the walk behind mowers. I will also be able to do the paths round the farm more frequently as well. I had been doing as much of them as I could with the tractor and topper but that combination was really over kill.

I got my practice on the mower this afternoon by going over the field that I hope to plough tomorrow ready to become my vegetable area (where the mower is). In the background is the new paddock area that looks lovely and green but in reality it is quite sparse and we could do with some rain – after I’ve finished ploughing of course.

While waiting for the slight frost and mist to lift this morning and awaiting the mower, I made a start on the kitchen units. This is the first carcass done and I think I now understand the instructions as well. So it's one package close on done, and a garage full still to go.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I have now come to the conclusion that I am one of those people for whom life will never be straightforward or simple.

Instance 1. I’ve just got a document through from MSA, the agricultural assurance people whom I trying to get my health insurance through. As I said in a previous post, I can be a member but until I start cultivating my vegetables I don’t have enough land to qualify for health insurance. As it’s a new year, the new subs are due but when I looked at the document, they got my name wrong. I have a given name, two middle names and a double-barrelled surname. Somewhere along the line they have added a middle name to my surname giving me a triple-barrelled surname. I’m going to try just crossing the extra bit out and hope they change it to match my bank details, which I have to send them. If not it will be another trip to Villeneuve.

Instance 2. I’m still looking for tile for my kitchen, both for the worktop and the walls. I’m not doing to well on finding those I like at a price I’m willing to pay. I’m considering ivory for the worktops with ivory and some blue accent tiles on the wall. At present the ivory ones I like are in a shop 25 miles to the south of me, while the blue ones are in a shop 25 miles to the north of me. I now need to do a trip to both with one of the draw fronts (that I now have) to see if they go with the finish on the kitchen units. Then it’s order them, see if the both of the places can get them and find out how long I’ll have to wait for delivery from each shop. I was thinking of incorporating a border tile but I don’t like any of the border tiles in either of the two shops and I really can’t be bothered to deal with a third shop.

On a far more positive front, Regis called round tonight and had a look at the plough. As far as he can see there is nothing wrong with it. I think the problem I was having was twofold, threefold if you count the fact that I have no idea at all what I’m doing, I need to pull the release lever a bit harder to ensure it fully withdraws the locking pin and I must also raise the plough to the highest point I can to get it to flip. So I will be out sometime this weekend to try. I don’t think I’ll actually need to rotate the plough as Regis also advised me to plough down the slope only as it is much easier to do that. Once I’ve got the hang of ploughing then I can start being clever. I think the plough is already turning the furrow in the direction I need so it should be all systems go.

The alpacas were happy again today, I managed another shape with the hurdles and they were able to spend another 4 hours munching grass. I think I’ll skip tomorrow so they don’t get used to it and it will also help the grass recover.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Decimating Trees

I spent the morning at the prunery with both Ann and Regis and between us we got four or five more rows cleared ready for the tractor to push all the brash into a big heap for burning. When I went back to see them at about 4 pm they had just finished the remaining rows in that orchard. There is one more orchard to go but I’m not sure if we are collecting wood there or just clearing out under the trees. Even if that is finished, more work is awaiting and I will have to brandish my petrol chainsaw for that.

Regis has had some of his mature oaks felled. The contractor only wants the trunks so all the branches remain. The deal is we clear it up and then 2/3 of the wood we prepare is for us, one third to Regis. An excellent deal I think and I get fit into the bargain.

When I got back from the prunery I decided to give the alpacas a treat. They have been living on hay for the last 3 months having eaten all the grass in their small paddock. Using some of the metal hurdles I have I made a tiny enclosure onto the grass outside their paddock. When I opened the gates they were there, in a line, heads down and munching. When I closed them back in the paddock three hours later the area was nearly bare. I think I can move the hurdles a little and include some more grass for tomorrow but after that they will be back on hay for a week to let this grass recover. I will be so glad when the new paddocks are well grown and the fencing done so they can have a large enough fields that they can’t graze them bare.

The weather was sunny and warm again and the wind of the last two days dropped so the tree planting and the kitchen were put aside as I tried to get on with reshaping the trees on the front lawn. It’s top priority as the buds are beginning to form and it will soon be to late to prune. I use prune very loosely there, decimate is probably closer as there is close to only ten percent of the trees remaining.

First tree picture is tree one before chain sawing. I’d removed most of last year’s new growth at the end of last year.

Picture 2 has tree two (in the foreground) in its before state, although I had removed some branches last month, and tree one in its after state in the background.

Picture 3 is tree two in its after state.

The weather is due to hold tomorrow, and for the next 4 days, so I will be continuing with the Rene Claude tree tomorrow.

The electric chainsaw is working well and I’m getting more proficient using it. I did have one problem though. I managed to cut the remaining piece of washing line. Not a problem in itself but in doing so I managed to knock the chain off its guide. Well I’ve never changed a chain before, not even on a bicycle so that’s why I was back with Ann and Regis. Regis has used chainsaws for most of his life so was able to show me how to do it and what the tension should be as well. I could have done it by guesswork but a chainsaw is not something I want to maintain by guesswork. I do have an instruction booklet but the one language that isn’t in there is English

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A Kitchen, Maybe.

My trip to pick up the kitchen today was reasonably successful. I say reasonably because as I unpacked the car and ticked off the units I noticed that the larder cupboard I’d ordered was down as a refrigerator cupboard. So that will require a telephone call tomorrow to see if it is right or if the wrong thing was selected in the drop down box by the kitchen designer. The person doing the design/order for me knew it wasn’t for a refrigerator as it was being placed next to the refrigerator. Ho hum, nothing is ever straightforward. What’s even more annoying is that the larder unit is the first one I want to build – Sod’s Law isn’t it?

To get the kitchen I set off for the shop with my trusty but tiny trailer. I will add now I have an Espace with all the seats taken out too. Did the warehouse people load the trailer first, did they h**k. I don’t know how but they got all but 4 pieces in the car including the 3 metre lengths (this is where having a passenger seat that can be turned 90 degrees helps). I suggested I came back and do it in two trips. “Non, non, pas de problem” was the reply. They did kindly point out before I departed that the rear wheel arch was only about a centimetre and a half above the wheel and that I should drive back slowly! (No pictures for obvious reasons). I set off for the half hour drive home, taking it steadily. I was worried that the front would be very light and I’d not have much steering but I think the Espace is built on the lines of the infamous 2CV. It’s road holding was fine but I did stick to 70 kph, about 45 mph, so corners and braking were well within the capacity of the car.

The store is just off the Villeneuve bypass and I was about half way round the bypass when I spotted one of the Municipal Police cars on the roundabout ahead. No problem, foot off the accelerator, gently up to the roundabout and it should have had plenty of time to go on its way. I took my exit but couldn’t see the police car in front of me, you guessed; there it was, in my rear view mirror. Trying to concentrate on looking forwards was quite difficult, I was expecting blue flashing lights behind me but at the next junction back to Villeneuve, the police car turned off and I breathed a rather large sigh of relief. The journey after that was uneventful if a trifle slow. Ann came over in the afternoon and helped me unload the car into the garage and I will start work on the first unit tomorrow after working in the prunery.

As I’ve said before all the cats are enjoying their new life here too, especially the unlimited supply of mice in all the fields around here. The mouse diet along with the warm winter has meant they are carrying a few too many fleas and worms for my liking – they should have none. The liquid on the back of the neck flea stuff is relatively easy to put on although it does freak out both Patches and Hazel but the debacle last time when I tried to get worming tablets down the 4 cats was just too much. I’m pretty sure that only one got the full tablet so this time I’ve gone for a combined topical anti-flea and wormer. All 5 cats have been done with practically no problem. Only Patches panicked, I think it’s because the stuff feels cold on her skin. Mr Tibbs barely noticed, he was far to busy eating and having the top of his head scratched. He seems a very happy cat but he still won’t come out of the attic into the house.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

No Trees and a Change of Plan

I must give up planning what I’m going to do each day, it’ seems like an invitation for everything to change. Yesterday, as today, was a ‘no tree’ day. On Saturday I’d received a bill from the place supplying my kitchen. As I wasn’t expecting the kitchen until this week and the bill was for only one unit, I was a bit confused so went to Villeneuve to find out what it was about.

On the way I called in to pick up my defunct pump. Needless to say, it wasn’t there so I will be going back next week. On then to the kitchen store and yes that unit was there and it turned out so was all but one worktop. Turns out that there was a worktop in the warehouse but that had been assigned to someone who ordered his kitchen after me so it was switched back to my order. No, I couldn’t pick the kitchen up there and then as the warehouse needed time to collect together the order so I made the appointment to pick it up at 11 tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if the worktop, and any of the other units for that matter, has been switched back to the other person’s order.

That little fruitless trip took up the whole morning. After lunch I then went over to a local village where someone was selling a ride-on mower. While I don’t need one right this minute, I will require one before the grass gets into full swing. This was too good an offer to pass up so I am now the proud owner of 3 lawnmowers of various sizes and the tractor with its topper! No picture at the moment as it’s being delivered here at the weekend. This is going to be an expensive week.

This morning was back at the prunery and this afternoon I’ve been resting my back. Four hours bent over picking up wood has left it a bit strained but nowhere as bad as before so a great improvement there. This evening I’ve spent clearing out the kitchen in anticipation of getting some units made over the next few days. I’m really pleased I got all the bare rooted trees in, the others can go in as and when I need a change as they are all in pots. That said, I’d like to get them in quite quickly.

Over the last weekend, I’ve started watching my Christmas present to me. I’ve now watched the first 2 series of ‘Allo ‘Allo.* It very definitely would not get past the PC brigade today but some of it was so funny I was laughing until tears were running down my face. I am Officer Crabtree and I do so hope my accent improves soon.

* There is no way I could give a brief summary of the characters or plot so here’s the link to Wikipedia.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Sunday Downtime

I was just about to start racing around doing the work I was going to do today when I remembered promising myself that I would take it easy one day a week. That day I decided would be Sunday and I eventually remembered that today was Sunday.

So today I only planted 8 trees, the eight remaining bare rooted ones and pottered for the rest of the day. Due to my back being bad, I’d skipped two day cleaning out the alpaca paddock. I got most of it cleared yesterday and it only took an extra 5 to 10 mins today to get it fully clear. It was no effort as again the sun was shining and it was warm. I then cleaned the water container. The water from the well here is very hard and leaves a calcium deposit on everything. The water also has a very fine silt in it that stains the deposit red brown. I’ve found that cleaning with a vinegar solution quickly cuts through the film on the side and also disinfects the container. I then refilled it with water and a tablespoon of cider vinegar.

Getting the alpacas water sorted inspired me to do the chickens water containers too. Both had a good scrub with the vinegar solution and then were rinsed and refilled. The smaller inside one got a dose of Poultry Drink in it while the large outside drinker got some cider vinegar. It’s so much nicer playing with water in the sunshine than in the frost :-D

I took my afternoon cuppa outside to sit in the sun but I find it far to difficult to sit and do nothing so I made a start on this year’s bamboo canes. I’d cut them back in October/November from the ditch where they grow on the other side of the cereal field.

Last year it was the first thing I did at the house here. It took me ages to clean the canes as I only had a small pocketknife. This year I have the serpe. In the time it took me to prepare one last year, I did three or four this year. The blade of the serpe just slices off the dried leaf covering of the canes with ease.

I did have to take care doing this not only to protect my fingers but also Snowy who decided it was a really good idea to sit underneath the blade. She didn’t seem to mind being covered in the leaf shavings either.

As you can see there is quite a lot of debris doing this but it did produce a nice nest for Snowy.

So here are the first of this year’s canes, they are still green and I will leave them in the sun for a month or so to dry out.