Thursday 3 April 2008

Summer Time

No real blog tonight, I’ve just run out of time.

Over the last year I had the luxury of not wearing a watch and for most of the time not setting an alarm for the morning. Since the hour change here, last Saturday, I’ve been totally lost, my internal clock thinks I have an hour to spare when I don’t.

Generally it wouldn’t matter, but tomorrow, the electrician and plumber are due back to finish plumbing in the water tank and immersion heater and I know they will be here before I would usually be dressed.

So tonight really needs to be early to bed and I will have to set the alarm, but my body is telling me it’s only 8 pm while the clock is saying 9 pm and I still have to clear the surfaces in the kitchen so the sink can be plumbed in too and I have bread to make.

I expect I’ll just about get my body clock sorted by the time we have to switch it all back again! But I do love the longer light evenings but then as I said in an earlier post, ‘I don’t do mornings’.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

A Walk Around the Farm

I took advantage of a break in the showers to don my wellies and coat and take a wander around a couple of my fields. As I set off to look at the trees I’ve planted, I first go past the pond. I’d already spooked the heron as soon as I left the house, they have amazing eyesight, but the coypu hadn’t really noticed me. As I approached he moved out from the overhang at one side of the pond and swam to the middle. He then started humming. Yes coypu hum, it’s a much lower and more reverberation hum than the alpacas. The first time I heard it, they were in their underwater tunnel and I thought it was snoring. Using the trunk of one of the poplars at the edge of toe pond as a screen I was able to approach right up to the waters edge and poke just the camera round the tree without frightening it.

I then set off up the field, which as you can see is still unmown from last autumn. It’s had one and a half years uncultivated and it’s interesting seeing what has started to re-colonise it.

First up are dense mats of yet more couch grass and myriads of thistles. Considering how all the fields here are well and truly sprayed with weedkiller each year, and my fields are at least half a kilometre from any roads, I’m not expecting to have a flower meadow overnight. But here are some of the things I found.

There are lots of teasels, all of them the unhooked variety as far as I could tell last year. These are mainly round the pond, I would think that’s because the area round the pond hasn’t been cultivated to the edge – there is a possibility of collapse with the coypu tunnels – giving time for the biennial to develop.

Here Cid is helping to point out what look like a member of the hypericum family.

There are also large patches of this pretty plant, I think it’s Crosswort.

Bordering the ditch between my field and my neighbours wood is this white Comfrey, either the tuberous or the bulbous, I’ve not dug any up to see which it is.

Further up the field still and there is a large patch of Burdock. I’m wondering how easy it is to make homemade Dandelion and Burdock as I have more than enough dandelions as well.

This view is of the top of the field where I have a wonderfully large nettle patch. Up here it is nicely out of the way so it will stay to provide not only nettle soup for me but also a food source for the tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral butterflies.

The mint here confirms the water retaining properties of the clay based soil round here. In fact, even though there is a reasonable slope on this field, there were places where I was in danger of sliding down the slope, even though it hadn’t rained for about a day.

From the wood field I cut across to the wheat field. As you can see, I was not alone. Cid is nearly always with me on these walks but this was the first time Hazel had come along. She has the most pitiful meow going and she would drop behind when something caught her attention only to start calling and then race up to be right behind me.

Right at the furthest point of the wheat field, I found this growing by the ditch. I’d seen it on a previous walk and had gone back to see if it had grown enough to let me identify it. The slugs have had a bit of a go at it but I no longer think it’s an orchid, which is what I thought a couple of weeks ago when it was just emerging. I now think it looks a bit like a lily but how a lily got to be here – this is about the furthest point you can get from mine and all the surrounding houses.

A walk back across the wheat field was quite instructive. The soil changes frequently across the field, some places loamy, some much more clayey and some very sandy. The change in soil is highlighted by marked differences in the height of the wheat. In places it is a good 6 inches tall while in others it is barely 2 inches, but throughout, the seeds of last years sunflowers are germination like mad.

We all then crossed to the paddock field where the grass is coming along nicely. In places there are concentrations of the less desirable weeds, thistles and rape but generally it is looking quite good. I would like the soil to dry out well so that I can take the topper through there to deal with the less desirable weeds and encourage the grass to branch a bit more.

On the way back up the drive I spotted more of the barbed wire I found partly buried in the grass and the ditch. It’s now out and I haven’t spotted any more. I really dislike the stuff but the rose pruning gloves I’ve got did a really good job on protecting my hand from the spikes.

Signs of Spring

The soil around here may not give many clues to its origin. I feel I could count the number of stones in my fields on two hands (sorry to those with stony soils) and find myself occasionally bemoaning the fact when I haven’t got any suitable stones to repair my barn wall. However there are clues to the underlying bedrock and one of them is the lovely cowslip. At the moment, along with the beautiful Lady’s Smock it can be found decorating the roadside verges around here. Cowslip has a preference for well-drained chalky soils and it is a chalk and limestone base to the land here.

In the background you can see the run off from the storm that passed by just before I stopped to photograph the cowslip on my way back from Bergerac.

Tiny Farm Wiki

I didn’t get much done yesterday – well not work anyway. I think I’m going to start plotting the down/non-productive days against the state of the moon! Heading towards the dark moon means low energy, while heading to the full moon is increased energy, or something like that. At the moment there seems no rhyme or reason to productive and non-productive days.

That said, there is usually a silver lining there somewhere, mine was I was able to chat to my two sons via the wonder of Instant Messaging. One is in the UK and one in Singapore and I’ve not seen them since last summer. With my lack of Internet last week and their workloads at university, being online at the same time has been difficult, but yesterday was the day and the closeness of meeting up this summer a major topic.

I also had time to check out all the blogs I read and spotted this over on Mike’s Tiny Farm Blog. Mike has set up a small farm wiki. For those of you who haven’t come across Wikipedia, it is an online reference/encyclopaedia site that is produced, edited and updated by its readers. This is on the same principle using the same software. You need to login/register with the site (username, password and e-mail address) and there is a ‘sandbox’ where you can practice and see what you want to submit will look like.

So it’s up to us now to build the encyclopaedia.

Monday 31 March 2008

Internet Fixed – I hope!

An early start today, well for me, the Orange engineer roused me from sleep at 8 am (7 am as far as my body thought as it still hasn’t cottoned on to the change in hour from yesterday). It turns out I had managed to ‘fix’ the Internet myself without realising it. I thought it was because the engineer who telephoned me on Thursday had done something. However, while I was wondering if the problem was at my house I had decided to run a check myself. I had got as far as plugging the telephone extension to the primary outlet and was about to run the cable all the way across the house again to the computer. I had then answered another telephone call and then noticed that the Internet was working.

Today, when the engineer was here I was trying to explain that it had been working since 10 minutes after the ‘phone call on Thursday. He wanted to see the telephone points and I took the extension lead out and lo and behold, the Internet failed. It turns out there was a capacitor in the socket that had failed, a quick change of that and a disconnect of the external bell that was also attached, and I am 93€ poorer, (fault was on my property) but and it is a very big but, with luck I should have a more stable Internet. I’m not going to hold my breath and am touching every piece of wood I can.

PS Why is it that Blogger always refuses to format the last paragraph when I cut and paste in.