Monday, 20 March 2017

Potting time!

Le Jardin de Salade Project

This arrived last Friday, with three hundred of these inside:
Bought from the UK because I could not find a source to buy from here in France,
this package took six days (including a weekend) to get here.
I was impressed.
The pots are 9cms square, and quite sturdy, not thin and crumbly but not thick and heavy duty,
but they are substantial enough to last for quite some time, and at 9p a pot are well worth it despite the cost of postage. If that was included in the cost per pot, this would come out at  14p per pot, which I think is still worth it. We shall be buying more of the same. We have a lot of seeds to get planted.  
We have been rethinking the purchase of a poly tunnel, and are thinking about building one with poly carbonate sheets, whatever that is, which means that we can have a greenhouse which will fit the space rather than having to have major clearance work done.
We have also had a re-think about the 'shop' environment and think that instead of buying a chalet type hut, which is going to cost upwards of 2000 euros, which would look attractive in itself but would not blend in with Labartere's rustic farm look. So thoughts are travelling towards building a  sort of rigid market stall, with rough cut planks of wood at the back and on one side which will give shelter to rain and sun, and will be in keeping with the farm. It will be quite a size, not small as in the stalls found in local markets, and will give a good display area.
The downside is that the area would have to be emptied out after each day because there is no way of locking things up, but if we do alright with this market garden project, then Lester is going to build a lockable shed behind it so we can put things in there at night instead of bringing them back into the courtyard. 
We like this new plan, because passing cars will be able to see what produce we have for sale, rather than everything being inside out of sight.
Most of all, it will fit the look of the property, and be more people friendly.
I have also started looking into getting some signs printed for our little van,
and we shall also need signs for the fences, plus flyers, leaflets, etc
Plenty of time to do this, as we haven't got anything to sell yet!
Lester is also on the move with getting the chicken house built, and I have sourced some young chickens which we can buy in when the chicken house is ready. We have been frequently asked if we sell fresh eggs, so feel encouraged to get our egg production started. One thing, though, and that is that we do not want to look like a commercial operation, which would not suit us or our thoughts about how we want to live at all.
I have been slow in ordering the seeds for this year, mostly because I kept dithering about what to order, but I have finally got the order done and sent off. Ordering for ourselves is easy, but ordering with a view to sell to the public is entirely different.
We think that we shall focus on herbs and baby salad vegetables, if possible on a year round basis, with some standard type vegetables when available, but we do not have enough land to do large crops of potatoes, cabbages, etc..... and neither do we want to grow main crops because there are plenty of people doing that already here. We don't have an interest in that type of produce anyway, apart from growing for ourselves. But what we do have an interest in is the baby veg, salads, herbs, and eatable flower, so this is what we are going to grow. Time will tell if we are on the right track in regards to selling to the public.
Anyway, enough of my rambles,
there is a huge hunk of cooked pork waiting to be cut  up and put into the freezer,
there is milk waiting to be canned / made into butter,
the cheese fridge needs attending to,
and Lester is trying to mow the grass in the courtyard with my hand mower so I need to go and rescue him. Bless him, he has such a lot of infrastructure work still to do, while all I do is stand by and wait to get planting!
Bye for now,
just going to give my husband a hug and take over the lawn mowing task,
PS. the sheep are continuing to do a most efficient job of keeping the grass mown, but the cows are moaning because they want to go out into the field but must stay in because the grass on the fields is still too slow growing.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

View from my kitchen window


The sheep are enjoying the new spaces they can roam in, and I am enjoying seeing them so close up. I can now share their family life, which is something I couldn't do when they were out on the fields all day. In the top photo you can see the two pig paddocks, and we have left the gates open so the sheep can graze the grass which is now growing there in the absence of the pigs.
The lambs are running around in a gang now, which they do when they have eaten enough grass and drunk enough milk. It is a fun thing to see them playing. They don't skip about much now, not like they did when they were newborn, they just play fight, and get up to general nonsense. So a couple of days ago the gang discovered the pig houses. And what a delight it was for them, such a secretive place, but only for the bigger lambs of the gang, the younger lambs being excluded from the club. And I don't know what was going on in the secret den but whatever it was it they were enjoying it.
Yesterday, though, all are not happy. Lester let the flock out as usual, but they just stood by the gate complaining at full voice about something or other, we knew not what. Normally they go off to graze, happy to enjoy the thick grass which is growing along the paths and down on the far field, but not yesterday.
Now when the sheep go into complaining mode, it can test one's nerves, so I got hold of the broom and shooed them away from the gate, and told them not to be so irritating, that there was plenty to eat and that they were to go and fill their tums.
It worked for a while, they did quieten down and wander off, but half an hour later they were back.
And they were complaining again.
And I felt myself getting irritated again.
And they were climbing over the big heap of rubble that was down by the oak tree,
so now 'why were they doing that', I though to myself.
And then like a blast of sunlight in my head it came to me that they were bored, just bored.
That after having spend the last three days eating themselves silly,
that they were still full up and not hungry enough to graze.
That after having spend the last few days walking here and there and everywhere, even going down on to the river beach, that they had become mentally and physically saturated with all the adventures they had had.
That you could see their tiredness at the end of the day because they could hardly walk up the short incline of the side path to get to their paddock to go to bed.
So Lester called them all back to the paddock, and there they were to stay for the rest of the day, with only hay to eat. I thought they would do more complaining, but they didn't. I think, in truth, that they were glad to stay in one place and to have a rest.
The plan is to keep them off the main field, so that the grass can grow to a longer length which will be better for the cows to graze. The sheep are to graze on the paths, far field, and river path, which should give them plenty of grazing. But it also means that we shall not have the abundance of wild flowers that we normally have because the sheep will eat them, but it also means that Lester will not have to spend time mowing the paths, and I shall not have to spend time scything down what can't he can't be cut by the tractor. It also means that the cut grass will not be wasted, that it will end up in the tummies of the sheep rather than being left to rot on the ground.
The upside: the place will stay tidy because the sheep are fantastic lawn mowers, and save us time, plus the fields get a rest from their grazing, plus it is nice to see the sheep wandering around the place.
The downside: we lose the prettiness of the wild flowers, and some of the young fruit trees are going to get eaten. Not to worry, we shall be planting flowers in the courtyard this year, so we can offset the loss of the wild flowers.
The sheep are out again today, and all is quiet. No moans, no complaints, so all is well with them!
  Off to see what they are up to,
so bye for now,

Sunday, 12 March 2017

In the zone........

And here we are,
himself and myself,
zoned out, playing a set of jigs and reels at a friend's open mike evening.
We were in a French bar somewhere south of us, about 40 minutes drive away.
It was a fun evening.
The sheep have had fun today as well.....
they have been in the chicken run, (no chickens yet though)
... in the veg plots....

.. in the pig paddocks, (no pigs at the moment but hopefully sometime this year)

.... with an occasional stop for a drink of milk...

So what we have done is put a temporary fence across the side drive so that the sheep can graze the paths and everywhere else they can get to. Seemed a better idea to make use of the grass rather than mowing it and leaving the cuttings on the ground to rot. However, we thought that they would take at least two or three weeks to get the grass mown, but it looks not to be so because today they just did not stop eating. At this rate they will have the grass cut by the end of the week. They will also make themselves sick by overeating, so tomorrow they will have to stay in their paddock and have hay.
They will complain all day about this injustice.
But then the cows were complaining today about the injustice of having stay indoors after a day out in the front garden yesterday.
They had to be supervised though as they had several naughty moments.
So everyone has had a taste of the new spring grass which is starting to grow, which means that there will be grumbles galore when they have to stay in. We try to tell them to be patient, that the grass has to grow before they can eat it, but they don't listen.
And now I have a grumble.
Stink bugs.
I have nothing against the creatures, in fact they are quite funny to watch.
What I don't like is that they to like to land on me when I am working on my computer, and sometimes even on me. And they do not land elegantly like a fly would, but sort of crash down in a 'here I am' manner, which is startling enough, but even more startling when they land on me.
I must admit to not liking that, especially after one dropped down into my roll necked jumper, decided that it did not like being there, and then decided to squirt.
Now the smell is not that bad...whether that is because they are still in partial hibernation mode so are not at full aromatic force, or whether that is their natural squirting smell,.....however, I find it offensive because I don't want things landing on me, and then getting cross because they have got themselves into a predicament which is not my fault.
Plus I get edgy waiting for the evening visits...... at least one a night, if not two.
Lester would swot them with the fly swot, but I don't want squashed bodies everywhere, after all they are not small things and they would leave a mess, plus they might have a squirt just before they became deceased, which would then start making me sneeze.
So, I collect the evening's visitors in a jar, screw the lid down, and then down the loo they go.
They do not bite, and do not breed indoors.
All they are doing is waiting for the spring to arrive so they can go outside to eat the plants and breed.
I just wish they would not keep coming in my direction!
On the subject of veg growing..... I have just finished my seed list, and have placed an order of 300 plant pots. Nothing planted yet. Raised beds still not finished. Not to worry, we shall soon be in the full force of the growing season, so are just enjoying the feeling of still being in the slow time.
Going to go away from my computer now as do not feel up to being bombed by another stink bug,
so, bye for now,