Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not waving but drowning

Gabrielle normally announces my blog posts on our Facebook page for extra cross-media publicity mojo but declined with my last but one. Having just posted pictures of cherry plum (myrobalan) blossom against a blue sky and pictures of a local lake on a sunny day; she didn’t want to draw potential holidaymakers attention to my cold, soggy tale, “Mud, glorious mud”. 

To redress the balance, I bring you a cockle-warming cliché of spring: newborn lambs out on green grass under a blue sky.But wait, what have we here? 

Heavy grey skies bringing us 47mm of rain in 24 hours, then a dip in temperature and strong winds blowing in flocons of neige. The single large white ewe installed herself and her charges in the only field shelter and stood guard. Our seven pint-sized Ouessant ewes, all heavily pregnant, stood forlornly outside. Our sheep seem to cope with the cold and the snow but don’t like the rain.

We ran them over into another field where, unsurprisingly, they made a beeline for the shelter. I’m undecided whether to leave them there, when the weather cheers up, or regroup them. I’m minded to just bring mum and newborn across as each one gives birth, separating the maternity unit from the kindergarten. 

I keep braving the cold to check to see if any of the other ewes are showing signs and notice that the big ewe is often out in the field with her youngsters. They seem quite happy to run around in the snow and even to sit down while mum grazes. These four-day-old creatures are obviously enjoying the superior R-value  of sheep’s wool insulation. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lucky us !

We’ve had a throw of the dice! In a winter noted for its wetness (see my previous damp posting) we discovered that we needed to re-roof our holiday rental cottage. Ideally, we needed to do this during the quiet season, i.e., the winter, which has been notably wet. Roofing is a task that strongly benefits from dry days.

We started a fortnight ago today, stripping the front of the roof in a day, then wrapping it up with tarpaulins, “au cas où” (just in case). Work progressed well with any rain barely a splash and always overnight. I was busy on two fronts, with Andrew back for another volunteering session in our barn renovation. When Jacques the roofer didn’t need me, I joined Andrew in the barn. Jacques has an annoying habit of wanting to work until 7pm and, as part of the deal to keep the costs down was that I helped, my days were very long.

Working with the willing Andrew on Saturday, the weekend seemed too short before Jacques returned on Monday (as Andrew headed home) and we attacked the simpler rear roof. We had three dry days and were sweeping up and loading Jacques lorry on Wednesday evening when a few spots of rain fell. It could do with a wash, he said, smiling.

Going, going ...
Well, it’s had one today, with 47mm of rain falling before it turned to snow. We can be quick to moan when things don’t always go as wanted, so it’s right to appreciate when one benefits from a stroke of luck. The holidaymakers that arrived yesterday confirmed that the inside of the gite is not only cosy but absolutely dry.

I took these last two photos locally, which show how valuable, fertile topsoil is eroded from ploughed fields with little ground cover. 

Gone !