I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.
John Burroughs (American naturalist and essayist 1837 –1921)
I write to relax; it’s a welcome change from the physicality of smallholding. But it’s been two weeks since the last blog, which says more about how busy we are than any lack of intent. Oh, to have a few more hours in the day or an extra day each week! So what have we been up to?
Shearing sheep: I might know my way about a sheep according to the Bowen method but shearing less than ten sheep a year means that I still have to remind myself what I’m doing and we start off with Gabrielle reading feet positions to me like a dance instructor, “move left foot closer to sheep’s shoulder, turn toes of left foot away from sheep, turn heel of right foot away from sheep," and so on. I also have a habit—of which I’m aware—of putting off things that I’m apprehensive about and there has been much procrastination before I finally took the plunge once more into the woolly depths.
It was also time to refill the freezer with mutton and we slaughtered a Ouessant hogget born February last year and one of the Suffolk cross ewes we recently bought. The meat on the Ouessant is outstanding but butchering the two, it’s clear that there’s a whole lot more meat on the bigger sheep. We’re going to let our Ouessant ram run with the remaining Suffolk ewe this year to see what we get IF our diminutive ram can rise to the challenge, so to speak. Come to think of it, President Sarkozy is shorter than his wife Carla Bruni, who is now pregnant, so maybe he won’t have a problem. Note: joking aside, it wouldn’t be a good idea to mate a larger breed male with a smaller breed ewe, for fear of her bearing a large lamb she’d have difficulty giving birth to.
Barn renovating: Work continues to create another gite for rent. Attaching a pair of pulleys, I chainsawed through the old oak beams (excepting the three tied into the A-frames) and lowered them to the ground. I’ve then been up on a scaffold tower with a medium breaker to release the stubs from the walls. I’m off tomorrow morning to order some timber I-beams so that I can install a new flat, rigid floor of tongue and groove poplar.
Supervising new ducklings: The day our ducklings hatched out, there was one egg that stayed resolutely closed, even though cheeping could be heard from within. There was a little cracked patch on the shell and I decided to help things along by opening up a hole. I then thought better of interfering and decided to leave well alone. Although it's usual for all the eggs to hatch out the same day, we’ve had previous experience of four eggs hatching out on four successive days and, less happily, of a mother hen eventually leaving the nest to escort her babies outside, leaving an egg, with an almost complete bird inside, to go cold.
Trapped like a Chilean miner our last duckling emerged two days later, none the worse for its ordeal. And, in true Ugly Duckling tradition, it’s not yellow like the others, so we’re not sure what it’ll turn into, not a swan, that’s for sure.
Writing articles: Despite all the action, I do occasionally get time to write and have two more articles recently published: “How to turn waste wood into business” in the summer edition of Permaculture Magazine and “A quick class” in the June edition of Country Smallholding Magazine. Both are under the rubric “Magazine Articles” on the right and, if you click on them, will open/download as PDF files. Bonne lecture !