Perhaps “summary” isn’t quite the right word, as this is rather a long post, but I’ve included pictures to make it easier, so be brave…
Fellow blogger Dark Creek Farm has been posting daily for the past few weeks on topics based on the letter of the day, as part of a bloggers challenge. I don’t have that kind of blogging stamina at all, but as I was hacking away at yet more blackberries the other day, my mind started playing with the topics I’d choose if I was participating. I haven’t blogged in a few weeks, so maybe this list will serve to give a glimpse of what’s up here at Tyddyn-y-morwr.
Despite appearances, this was a lovely family time at the end of a busy day. Baked potatoes in the coals of what had been a huge pile of brambles, getting ready to chow down on sausage dogs. Eldest daughter told me she felt the picture needed livening up.
A…April. Apple blossoms. Eldest daughter’s 19th birthday soon, making her an official, legal Adult. She’s so grown up now, that it’s nice to know there is still some of the kid in her. Love this kid!
B…Blackberries – as in hacking, hauling and Burning. We’ve made some significant progress this year, thanks to W getting into some patches with his tractor. Burning blackberries of course means Bonfires – I have till the end of April to burn without a permit. Broody hen. I’ve got two. And Broken eggs – thanks egg eaters, go get caught by the eagle please.
Nothing in this picture for scale, but the pile is in fact about 2 metres long and 1 metre high. The only good day for burning it was a day I had to start work after lunch. But we got it done. Now the pigs can get to the roots and finish the job.
C…Clothespin holder! Made by my elderly neighbour, who accidentally knocked my former container off the rail a few weeks ago, and vowed to make me something better – which he most certainly did. It might possibly be sturdier than my barn. This is what you get from a guy who used to build lighthouses (real ones) I guess.
Old container on the left, new on the right (like you needed a hint!).
The internal view. The chain is to prevent the roof from overextending the hinges. It sits on the rail, but is attached to the post via a screw in the post and a keyhole in the container.
D…Driving lessons. With both kids, one almost ready for the test, the other still making me clutch the door handle frequently (I’m a nervous passenger). Daffodils – almost over now, but so beautiful the last month or so.
E…Edwardian Farm TV series, which I borrowed from the library, and which eldest daughter and I have been watching most nights, followed by some very cool discussion. We began with Wartime Farm last year, also from the library. Sadly Victorian Farm and Tales from the Green Valley (Elizabethan period) are not available on DVD in Canada, so we will have to watch these online. But we will. And by then the current series, Tudor Monastery Farm will be available in DVD perhaps….(I have in fact already seen all but the last one online but I’m enjoying the sharing with my daughter).
F…Fencing. W and crew from Warlin Farms were here for much of last week, whipping my future pig pasture into shape by putting in two permanent perimeter fences and clearing the aforementioned blackberries for me. What would have been weeks of labour on my own was handled by a couple guys and a tractor in three afternoons. Now I just have to get the electric set up inside this field to create pig paddocks, and we’re good to go.
Warlin Farms crew pounding in the last post. There will be a 10 ft gate near the roll of wire, and yes, there’s quite a dip in the field near the middle of the line.
G…Gates. W and crew are hopefully installing a few gates in the new fence lines tomorrow, and have done an awesome job repairing the gate down the bottom of the property, which for about the last 10 years had required one to untie the wire holding it to the posts and lift it to one side of the opening to come through with a tractor. Thanks to the guys, it now hangs from one reinforced post, is secured at the other reinforced post and swings without touching the ground. Amazing.
H…Hogweed. Giant Hogweed to be specific. I am dealing with two stands of it in one of the chicken runs, and it’s a wicked wicked plant. Look it up on the web before you touch it. Wear gloves and long sleeves. Have black plastic bags ready to hold all the bits you’re cutting off. And then…figure out how you’re going to get rid of your plastic bags of chopped up wicked plant. Because the official recommendation is herbicide or the landfill, but your landfill might prohibit noxious weeds (gosh, why?). And then do it all next year, this time before it sets seed. I’ll be dealing with this for several years apparently. Mowing will help.
I…Income tax? It’s due, but it’s boring. Instead, let’s consider Impossible. Six impossible things before breakfast, for example. I realize it’s a stretch, but here’s one impossible thing that happened before breakfast, up on the Atherton Tablelands near Mareeba, not far from Cairns in Australia:
We started in the dark, and sunrise happened all around us, as we rose into the air. It was spectacular.
J…Jumpstarting the John Deere. Lawnmower that is. I have not had it in for servicing this year, and the battery is on strike, as a result. I’m sure B is going to tell me to get a new battery when he does get his hands on my mower. In the meantime, I have to jumpstart the mower from my car every time I want to mow, which is about twice a week. This has been good for me, as I once set fire to a friend’s car in a parkade in a downtown apartment building by hooking up the cables wrong, and it has taken me decades to work up the courage to try this again. I will admit the operator’s manual for the car falls open to the instructions for jumpstarting.
K…Koalas, Kangaroos and Keas. We saw Kookaburras in Australia too, last month, but no good pictures, sorry. This Koala and the Kangaroos are in a wildlife park up near Cairns in Queensland, the northeastern part of Australia. Keas are in New Zealand, and are pests. Not pretty birds, but very smart. They are known to rip apart tires, window trim etc on vehicles and we watched a trio one night trying to figure out a way to take apart a chain that was keeping the public off a ski-lift platform on a mountain in Queenstown, a resort town in the mountainous area of the South Island in New Zealand.
L…Library. I think you all know I work for the Local Library system. I Love my job. Most recently I love that thanks to a former colleague retiring, I have been able to transfer from the branch I was in for the last 5 years, to the one in my local community. I really miss my colleagues at my old branch, and also the wonderful patrons there, but I’m loving the 5 minute commute (15 if I walk), and the fact that I know 90% of the people coming through the door.
M…Mud. There’s still a surprising amount around, even though here on southern Vancouver Island, we’re definitely in full Spring mode, with mild temperatures, light if any frosts, and much less rain. It’s only been a week though, and with a lot of heavy clay in the local soil, and farmers anxious to get the ground seeded, hay fertilized etc, there’s been a couple of tractors in up to their axles. It’s not quite safe to stop wearing gum boots around this farm, either – a soft spot just before the hen house often catches me, and the garden soil is still pretty wet.
Bubbling, steaming mud pools in Rotorua, New Zealand
N…New Zealand. And Australia (though it doesn’t start with N). We spent most of March Down Under, loving every minute of it. I’ve been slowly creating albums on FB from the 1ooo or so pictures I took, and if you live nearby, you can watch the slideshow that hubby put together on his laptop – you’ll need to be prepared to stay for about an hour, longer if you don’t know how to make us stop giving commentary (we’re talkers here). I keep planning to post about it, but we just covered so much ground and did so many things that I am…
O…Overwhelmed. As you will be if we ever inflict our NZ/Aus slide show on you. I am also overwhelmed with farm and family life just now. I am not good at prioritizing, though I’ve read books on the topic, and taken courses. It’s the doing that’s hard. There’s just so much. I write lists, and break them down. I try not to have too many projects on the go at one time. But I find myself always spinning my wheels, having to fix something before I can do something else, or make a trip to buy screws only to get home and discover that I was short a couple of pieces of wood as well. Or I’ll start the day well, but get bogged down in a morasse of small tasks that lead me down a red herring trail away from the priorities. It’s like looking at the long list of possible tax forms for the first time, as elder daughter just did recently for her first tax return. There’s just so many. How to even start? Yup, I can relate. Fortunately, there’s Simple Tax for her. For me it’s just a case of taking a deep breath, and following what I know I need to do to keep my priorities straight.
P. Piglets. Coming this Saturday, from Alberta, because I couldn’t find any here on the Island. There are people here breeding pigs, but most of them are doing so for their own farms. Those that are available are spoken for months in advance. I was slow to start looking and basically missed the boat, and being away for a month didn’t help. The people bringing in this load of piglets are very nice, and have a lovely little farm where they are establishing a CSA box programme and raising many of the pigs they’re bringing back themselves, so I’m sure all will be well, but with the PED virus spreading like wildfire, getting pigs from a big producer in Alberta is a bit of a risk.
Q. Quail. Who are not happy that we’ve removed so many blackberry stands, which they love to shelter under. I love hearing them piping away through the day, and usually see a parade of them bravely rushing across the back lawn when I’m heading out to the chickens in the morning.
R. Rats. Big problem right now. The cat seems more interested in rabbits and voles (probably easier to catch). The dog used to be a great rat catcher, but less so as she aged. Now she’s gone, I guess they clued in. I’ve bought a few traps and will have to start using them, but man, I don’t like this part of the job.
We had lunch at the Retired Servicemen’s League club house on Bondi Beach, just outside Sydney Australia. It’s nickname is the “Rat House”. Enlarge to see the explanation.
S. Strawberries. We’ve planted some for the first time in years, me in a part of a former flower garden, the elder daughter in a raised bed she built herself. Hers is deer and rabbit proofed, mine is not. It’s like an experiment, and I’ve got the control group.
Her strawberry bed. I’m not showing you mine.
T…Truck. I keep passing a truck for sale, a GMC Sierra 250 4×4, 1995, single cab, long box, bright red. I want it. Every time I pass it, I slow down. But it’s got more than 201,000 km on the odometer, and the model is known for fuel injection issues, and 1995 means it will need some maintaining, which is a skill I most definitely don’t have. I could really use a truck, hauling feed, straw, junk, garbage, kayaks, chickens, pigs, etc. But so far, I’ve been managing OK with the little Echo and the help of friends from time to time. A 3/4 ton might be more truck than I really need. I should stop yearning for this one. But I still keep slowing down to look at it. And it’s red.
U…Undone. There is an old prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer which resounds in my head frequently in this season of too much to do: “I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and done those things which I ought not to have done, and there is no help in me.”. Yup, pretty much describes me these days. I have a list of things to do a mile long, and yet my day seems to fill up with countless small things that crop up. The struggle to focus and get one project done at a time is huge. And not possible – to focus on one big project is to stall the others. If I focus on getting the pig paddocks ready and don’t do anything else, they might in fact be done in time. But the chickens desperately need to move to new ground, and I have some fence repair to do (it’s the fence I share with a gardening neighbour) before that can happen. Moving the chickens to fresh ground will make them happier, and should reduce the egg eating issues for a bit. If I don’t hack blackberries now, I lose the chance to burn the clippings, since I won’t be able to burn at all after the end of April. See the problem? I’m behind on seed planting because I keep leaving it for night time, and then being too tired to go downstairs and get started on it. Driving lessons are eating up my Sunday afternoons – but that’s better than when we tried just using errands to double as driving time – elder daughter ended up getting no driving practice as she was never around when I did errands. It’ll pass, it always does, but as I get older, I’m getting more aware of how quickly it passes…
V…Vancouver. Youngest daughter and hubby are headed over to Vancouver this weekend for the provincial level of the Concours d’Art Oratoire, a public speaking competition for Francophone and French Immersion students. It is held annually across Canada at the class, school, district and provincial level, starting in grade 6. This will be the fourth time younger daughter has made it to the provincial level, and her sister went once as well. Youngest daughter’s topic this year is “La depression chez les adolescents” (teenage depression), which came out of some research she did in Psych class last semester. I can’t join them this year because of work and the pigs arriving the day of the competition, but I’m crossing my fingers for her. It’s amazing listening to the proficiency and fluency of these kids, seeing how confident and articulate some of them are in front of dozens of strangers and expert judges. Yup, proud of this girl!
Younger daughter horseback riding near Queenstown, New Zealand.
W…Water pipes. I have an issue getting water to the future pig paddocks. The plan was to run the line from the chicken house which is plumbed for the automatic waterers, but over the winter, one of the pipes has split, and a new section has to be plumbed in. More than can be fixed with plumbers tape. It wasn’t an issue when I was just taking out water to the chickens – a five gallon bucket is good for the day, but the pigs are going to need the same, more as the summer wears on, and it’s a good many more steps from the hose on the back of the house to the pigs area than it is to the chickens. Water is something I definitely need to deal with.
X…Exercise. This time of year, I start using muscles that have been idle over the year, which can make me pretty sore at the end of the day. In addition, my issues with plantars fasciitis resurfaced a few weeks before our trip. The massive amount of walking I did that month was great exercise but didn’t help my heel, and on return I was back visiting my favourite physiotherapist, who has begun training me in several stretching exercises designed to keep my left foot more flexible (I tore a muscle decades ago, and some stiffness has set in, causing much of my problem). As the exercises increase, they are beginning to work my whole body, since, as my physio guy points out, everything is connected. This is turning out to be a very good thing – a session with the mattock last week when I attacked blackberry roots for 3 hours left me stiff, but not immobile, and I actually woke up the next day feeling more or less normal. Hauling dozens of wheelbarrow loads of brambles to the bonfire place? No problem. Tired, but not sore. This is excellent news, because as I move into this season, I will begin lugging more 20kg feed sacks around, hauling more buckets of water, and eventually will be moving the field shelters (200 lbs) daily. It’s a good weight loss and strength training programme actually, but I also strongly recommend some stretching exercises.
Y…Yawning. That’s about to get more common for me, as things start to speed up outside. I love it, but it does tire me out at the end of the day. Currently morning chores include chickens and breakfast. Come Saturday, tending piglets will be added in, requiring a slightly earlier start. Once I start brooding chicks (in about a month), an even earlier start. Laying pullets will still be out in the pasture pens, being moved every morning when the broiler chicks start in the brooder at the end of July. As they get ready to go onto the pasture, the layers will move to the (hopefully) repaired and refurbished hen house and it won’t be till the broilers and pigs get processed at the end of September that things will die down in the mornings again. Evening chores are kind of the same. Yup, I’ll be yawning quite a bit, but I’ll also be enjoying it all.
Z…And of course, I am sleeping very, very well these days. Nothing like a lot of fresh air and exercise to make me sleep like a log. In about a month, I won’t be awake much past 1o or so, and going deep under till the alarm goes off at 530. ZZZZ…