Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

I thought it was rather quiet when I woke up this morning. This was the view that greeted me on opening the shutters.

The temperature hovered between 0 and +4 during the day so most of the snow has gone wherever the sun was able to get although I still have a bit around the back of the house which is in permanent shade during the winter.

What I love about a fresh covering of snow is it lets you ‘see’ things that have happened. For instance, during the night a rodent visited the area where I feed the chickens their grain, probably looking for anything the chickens missed. How do I know? I found this lovely trail; you can even see the line where the tail went.

I’m not sure what type of rodent but looking at the trail the prints are in pairs as though the movement is a series of jumps, each set being about 5cm (about 2”) apart.

The weather people have said tonight that we are unlikely to get more snow but the temperature is due to drop to between –7 or –10°C tonight and is unlikely to go above 0°C tomorrow, so depending on how the roads look tomorrow I may go in to town tomorrow and have a look at what’s in the sales which start tomorrow.

Monday, 5 January 2009

More of the Same Monday

Somehow Monday came and went almost without me noticing. I spent a bit of time clearing some of the tree however I couldn’t keep the fire going and my back hadn’t recovered overnight so I didn’t accomplish as much as I hoped.

After the animal chores I delved into the back of the barn and found the thing to take the kernels of the maize cobs.

The kernels are still a bit moist but it was surprisingly easy and quick to use although I wouldn’t want to be doing 5 hectares worth of maize! What I hadn’t realised was that the machine passes the cobs all the way round so that if it doesn’t completely strip the cobs then you can do it again and you don’t have to retrieve the stripped cobs from the collecting bin below.

I’ve quite a bit of renovating work to do on the set-up. The seat is more than a little rickety, the unit is a bit wobbly and I’m not sure how long it will stay attached to the seat before the wood it’s mounted on breaks and the handle is lose and the wooden bit of the handle very split but it will last a bit longer and then I will have to add it to the repair list.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


What a difference a day makes. From yesterdays sun and warmth to today’s gloom and cold and the temperature hovering around 1 or 2 °C. The plan had been to continue with the trees but yesterday evening I got a telephone call from Regis saying that if I wanted to go and collect some maize (corn), then today was the day.

So 10 am saw me outside Regis’s along with harvest baskets and my trailer and Regis piloted me to his friend’s field. The combine had left a single row of plants standing along one edge of the field plus it quite often pushes the plant down rather than cutting it and harvesting the cob.

Two hours later, I’m cold but I’d got about halfway down the field and had a really good haul of cobs, the bag is about a metre square and the cobs are about 4 or 5 deep I think.

Had it not been so cold I think my back would have lasted longer and I might have picked a few more but I’m really happy with what I’ve got. Tomorrow (probably), I’ll extract the cob-stripping machine that’s at the back of the barn and see if it works. The mechanical parts probably will but the wooden seat has a high chance of being totally rotten.

The actual picking of the cobs was quite easy once I got into the swing of it but it was the half stoop that strained my back. It has made me realise though that I could grow a small area of maize and be able to harvest it by hand. I’m not going to grow maize commercially as it requires irrigation and I don’t have either the water supply or the irrigation equipment but a small area left to it’s own devices is I think practical especially if I plant it at the bottom of one of the slopes to where water drains.

Continuing in the gleaning vein, Regis also gave me some empty egg boxes as the chickens are beginning to lay again plus all the oyster shells from over the holiday period - oysters are a tradition dish for Christmas and New Year here. I'm going to soak the oyster shells in a few changes of water to leach out the salt and then I'll smash them up for the chickens too - I'm nearly out of the commercially prepared oyster grit I'd bought so this is rather good timing.