Wednesday, 28 November 2012

moving on with our lives

not published anything since June and the slugs but we've gone on adding ducks and sheep to our livestock and moved from the caravan into the house (though the floors, doors and windows are temporary).  However the Esse woodburning range isn't temporary and has made life warm and cosy.  The sheep are hopefully in lamb and so we'll learn from them about the delights of lambing in the spring.  The garden produced only garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and a bit of spinach despite lots of replanting but I'm hopeful that next year might be better especially as we've gone on making as much compost as possible.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

slugs and other pests

seem to have the slug problem a bit more under control at last.  The secret is threefold - relentless slugging for a week at dusk (often in the rain) netting about 1000 of the little buggers, wood ash round the newly planted out seedlings and then organic slug pellets.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

back to the old day-job

I'm filling in for the vicar who's on holiday - 4 churches as a half time job! I've done 2 servuices last Sunday and 2 this Sunday and another priest and a reader are doing their bit.  All services require a little Welsh to be included as I'm able and that's fine, though I'm a bit crap at it but I try, but there's a strange lack of numinous to the whole affair, not just because I'm taking the services but that's been my experience 'from the pew' too.  I've yet to discover what 'the gospel' is for the deep Welsh countryside and I'm looking to local people to help me learn what it might be.  There's no criticism there at all from me, but I find it all banal so far. 

Maybe I've simply 'lost it'?  The world around me is simply so extraordinary in its variety of nature that I'm overwhelmed by it and find church simply underwhelming perhaps.  On the way to the second church today (Evensong straight after lunch for 4 people) I saw a small black and white woodpecker, a buzzard immediately outside the church door as we finished the service and clouds of goldfinches both on the way there and on the way home.  The immensity of the natural world and its variety is present all the time - the roadside banks overflow with foxgloves and all sorts of flowering plants some of which I can name and eat and others I've still to learn about.  But the services are harder to 'read'.  Small numbers don't worry me - the 4 plus me today in the afternoon was fine; the 16 this morning, including 6 from a home for adults with severe learning difficulties, were delightful too and I found the human interaction wonderful.  I suppose I'm wondering if 'there's anyone out there' anymore?

Friday, 8 June 2012

small triumph big challenge

small triumph:
the heavy rain is showing how good the ditch is that I dug some weeks back - the water is racing along it instead of making the field above the hens into a swimming pool.  Did more deepening of it today in the rain - just like a kid on the beach :))
big challenge:
I've never seen so many slugs in one small area.  Picked about 300 a couple of nights ago in only 10 minutes!  Losing seedlings fast - all spinach, courgettes, runner beans, welsh onions, parsnips :( despite organic anti-slug stuff and now relentless night-time slugging.  There must be zillions more to collect and put in brine, so I just hope collecting some will leave me a few veggies.  Replanted seeds in the tiny greenhouse to bring on and plant out later so we've something to eat.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

new additions to the flock

just brought home 2 new additions - a fabulous-looking Millefleur bantam cockerel (infertile) who was free and a silkie-cross bantam who will be a superb broody in time.  I'm hoping the presence of the cockerel will enable the warrens to emerge from their self-imposed shed life into the grass and loveliness of outside a little more.  I'm not looking to breed from the warrens but simply to enjoy the eggs and their tatty company so the cockerel's condition doesn't matter at all.  When the silkie is broody I'm going to put eggs under her from @slatehousefarm and have a whole extra flock of something else.  Struggling to post photos - blast!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

new girls

we got 8 hens yesterday from a free range egg farm who were moving their flock of 3000 on to the chicken pie factory before getting new ones, so they offered any number for sale at £1.50 each!  The hens are warrens - brown feathers with white fluff underneath - those that have feathers.  All of them are pretty thin and baldish but no doubt will pick up quickly.
This morning when I opened the coop they didn't want to come out - in a flock of 3000 I guess some of them never made it to 'outside' so it was veruy new.  By the end of the day I think 7 out of 8 had been outside at least for a while.  They're very friendly - when I sat on the grass in their run they came over to inspect and taste.
planted peas and beetroot today and nasturtiums for eating too.  Foraged for lunch salad in the hedge.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

mixed weather - mixed jobs

with so much rain I've needed an indoor job to do as well as sulking because I can't get on the garden to dig and plant, so I've put the first coat of whitewash on the parlour (but can't upload any pictures at the moment :(
in the sun I've planted lots of seeds - rocket, runner and broad beans, 2 kinds of spinach, parsnips and have plans for lots of others in the next month or so.  Yesterday I helped neighbours put up Jack Lan's polytunnel - a huge laugh, hard work and followed by a beer in the sun.  Now that's what life should be like.
Rob's nearly finished moving the stuff out of the Rectory and then we can start properly getting hens and ducks then doing the fencing for pigs and sheep  - can't wait!

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Moving house has meant moving compost, worms and all.  We brought 4 bags yesterday along with a load of stuff from the house in Gloucester and today was dry enough to work on the new veg bed getting out the weeds and then spreading the compost on top so the new worms will take it in to the soil.  The smallholding topsoil is only about 6 inches deep and below is the clay from which the house has been built so improving the soil is essential and with no chemicals it's down to compost and the worms.

It was a good job to do today since it was dry but very windy and cold with the wind racing in from the North-East.  We need warm drying days for the soil as much as for the washing!  I'm now looking forward to getting the hens set up to contribute to the compost bins here.  Today I could see that the leftover grain and hops from my brewing contributes massively to the quality of the compost, so I best get on with the brewing too.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

gifts from friends

two friends have each given gifts of poems recently. 
i am a little church by e. e. cummings
i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)


Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
  equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old?  Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me
  keep my mind on what matters
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing since all the ingradients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
  and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
  to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
  that we live forever.

thanks be for friends

Sunday, 22 April 2012

what drought?

Heavy rain, huge hail, brief sunshine for a few hours and my 59th birthday.  Been a week of getting to know people locally and our shared space.  Watched slaughter of 3 local sheep by man of skill and compassion and then ate some; had a birthday bash of beer, bread, cheese and cake in the parlour (no floor yet and candlelit) with near neighbours; foraged in hedges and shared it; been to local Welsh speaking chapel service and loved it for its 'cradling' of a non-welsh speaker; sat on a fallen branch in the stream and marvelled at the place on 'Earth Day'.  So I'll go to the local choir and see how I get on - it is a requirement to 'bring a bottle' so could be good :) and even if the singing doesn't work out I'll meet new folk.  And still it rains every day for part of the day but that seems mostly ok (now I've planted my spuds!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

free food

Road kill pheasant found yesterday needs skinning and gutting ready to casserole - no oven so no roasting at present :-( - and today as we walked our fields we snacked on poor man's bread and cheese (hawthorn), dandelion flowers, pennywort, garlic mustard and sorrel leaves. 5 fruit and veg in a morning almost! The gorse in the hedge smells of coconut - there must be something to do with it eating-wise...

garlic mustard

On Friday last week I cut off my plait with kitchen scissors - bit of a hack really but now I'm a new woman with shortish hair! Can't find bluetooth kit or I'd upload a photo of plait which Rob wants to keep (creepy or what!).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

more foraging

found garlic mustard on the way to church today - mild garlic flavour, very nice.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

new start

after finishing the day job on Easter Day I've been able to live fulltime from 12th April at the smallholding and begin the new life we've begun to fashion. Rob is still moving stuff from Gloucester but I'm here fulltime. Yesterday was easy because I've got to get the potatoes planted and so began the final prep of the bed for them, though falling down the caravan stairs into the pit below slowed me down and I didn't do more than finish the prep. Today it has rained and been cold and windy so no gardening and I've struggled to know what to do with the time. With nowhere yet ready to spread out at all it's hard to do more than look out of the window, try to keep warm and eventually go on a foraging walk for wild garlic - success! Garlic pasta tonight.