Thursday, 17 June 2010

Life continues to rush past at 100 mph. I cannot believe it is over a month since I last wrote. So much seems to have happened, flowers have come and go, Spring has turned into Summer, pigs and goslings alike are growing and Summer 2010 is turning out to be a very pleasant and progressive one.

At the tail end of May, when the sun was blazing, as you drove through the hills around Wotton underneath the dense canopy of trees there was a prolific smell of wild garlic. I’ve never seen so much of it as I have this year and it’s musty, pungent aroma will forever link me back to this time. The buttercups, on the otherhand, have not been as strong as they were last year. Buttercup field, although yellow, was not the thigh high sea of brightly coloured flowers as it was last year and the wild grasses didn’t seem as colourful. Michael has come and mown all the fields now for silage and for a short window, I’m sure, the fields seem like nicely mown lawns.

I’ve also noticed over the last couple of weeks that crows and magpies do not get on. My husband tells me that they come from the same family, the Cordettes, or something, which sounds to me a little like a 50’s pop trio, however, this seems like a family fued that has no signs of abatting. So much so, that when walking in the front orchard last week I became aware of a right racket going on under one of the apple trees. There, there were two crows pecking to death, what looked to be a young magpie, with two other magpies trying to fend the crows off. I clapped and yelled to scare them away and went over to where the young magpie lay. It was lying face down with it’s wings splayed out either side but was still breathing. I rushed to go and get a box so that at least if it was going to die it could die in peace or if it recovered it could fly away when ready. When I got back to it, I could see blood bubbling from the side of it’s mouth. All of a sudden, it lifted it’s head, looked at me and through pure fight or flight, flew away into the trees on the other side of the brook. God knows whether it survived or not, I would think it highly unlikely, but at least it wasn’t being beaten up anymore.

I’m not sure whether I mentioned Gloria last time I wrote. Gloria is the one and only chicken that was hatched from the grey chicken when she was being a disasterous mother and half sitting on some eggs. She threw Gloria out of the nest when she was only partially out of the shell and as a result I put her in the incubator and have raised her by hand. This was the chicken that my friend Dee was going to have and look after, and Dee named her Gloria after Gloria Gaynor and ‘I Will Survive!’ Gloria is coming along well and has turned out to be a chick with attitute. She is still too small to mix with the big birds unless I’m with her, partly because she can walk through the slats in the gate of the Chicken Pen and get out onto the farm in general, and partly because she follows all the big birds around and pecks at their feet. When they go to shoo her away she flaps her way up to their faces and pecks at their eyes!! Needless to say, it is only a matter of time before someone really takes offence and explains in no uncertain terms the heirarchy that exsists in that pen. As a result, Gloria spends her days either in a rabbit hutch type enclosure within the chicken pen or with me, wherever I may be. She is happy to follow me about and is really quick considering the length of her legs against mine. She can really get under your feet and so sometimes I walk really quickly in order to get ahead of her to ensure I don’t tred on her, only to find she is still at my side, or under my feet, as the case maybe! In the evenings, Gloria comes into the house, much to the annoyance of Olly, Morgan and Millie. She’s quite happy to sit on my shoulder if I’m at my computer – I think she just craves company more than anything else. Anyway, poor Gloria, in her short life so far, is hated by all the other poultry and has been abandonded by two mothers. Dee has got herself a hen house in her garden and is going to get three chickens this weekend! Poor Gloria. I haven’t broken it to her yet. 


Me and Gloria!!

The Goslings are chuffing huge – all they seem to do is eat! They have turned into prehistoric looking animals and are starting to loose all their downing feathers. The still have their baby ‘tweet tweets’ but every now and again they let out a deep croak, like an adolescent boy going from choir siprano to barratone! The ducklings are also growing. Unfortunately, we’ve gone from eight down to six, we think due to the bird of prey (not sure what kind) that patrols our skies. To try and stop it happening again we’ve hung some bunting across the chicken pen which I really quite like. When all the ducks, geese and chickens are together it looks like their having their own little village fete!

The Ducklings

I am starting to really love the mornings at the farm. There is a great routine to getting the animals sorted that simplifies life and emphasises just the very reason why we wanted this place. After getting up and dressed, the first thing I do is get Gloria out of her box and me, her and the dogs head out to let out the ducks, geese and chickens. Once at the pen, the dogs head off for Sunset field and the front orchard where they sniff out the fox tracks laid during the night and Gloria and I go into the pen, let everyone out and make sure there is loads of fresh water and food for everyone. I then put Gloria in her hutch and head out to find the dogs. We then head back to the kitchen, make a cup of tea where I leave the dogs and go in search of the pigs with my cuppa. The dogs refuse to go anywhere near the pigs due to the electric fence around their enclosure. Both Milly and Morgan have been caught by it before and now they hate to go anywhere near. We’ve extended the pig pen to now run the whole length of the back orchard finishing near the end of the garden. As I get close the pig pen I start calling for the pigs. They are usual up before me and you can hear them before you see them. After calling their name (collective name not indivudual names!) you hear the deep grunts coming from the trees and bushes which always reminds me of some kind of big Gruffalo deep in a dark forest somewhere! Then they come running out of the trees full tilt towards me. Their big ears flapping wildly with excitement as they know breakfast is near. I feed them a scattering of pig nuts strategically placed in some undergrowth that we need clearing and then sit back and watch them as I finish my tea. Lastly, it’s back to the house to feed the dogs who have been waiting patiently in the kitchen.. it’s an hour of my day that I love and that I sorely miss on the rare occasions I’m away from home.

So what’s been happening on the farm, I hear you ask. Well, The Stables have come on leaps and bounds. We now have four walls with appropriate window and door openings and a roof in place. The ground floor floor has been completed and the stairs have arrived but are not in place just yet. Olly is now working on the first floor floor and will then put the stairs in. Windows and doors are just about to be ordered. There is a great guy in Wotton who seems to be a real craftsman who is going to do them for us. I don’t think Olly is best pleased as for the three quotes we got he was by far the most expensive, however, I have persuaded him that this guy is the best person to go with. A friend once told me that the windows where the eyes of the house and I have to agree. Eyes can be cold and souless or warm and welcoming and I think it’s one area where spending a little more will pay dividends in the future. I am also starting to source the interior of the building. I found a great cast iron bath on ebay that is local to here and managed to get it for a song which is great – oh this winter is going to be soooo good with heating and a bath!! This is the fun bit for me and where I can really come into my own. I’m not great with the building stuff but interiors are definitely more my thing.

Also, since I last wrote we’ve had our joint 40th birthday party at the farm. We called it ‘Parkstock 2010’ and hope to make it a yearly event, getting bigger and better each time. My lovely friend Megan came down early on the Saturday to help and we busily chopped and prepared enough food to feed an army. We thought we’d start off small and invited 100 or so people to come and camp for the night in the mill pond. We were supposed to have tea and cupcakes in the orchard on the Saturday afternoon, but typically it was a little grey with intermittent heavy rain showers so we had it in a marquee in the mill pond instead. I hired some vintage crockery from a fab company in Bristol (see Links page) and got another great little company to make me some beautiful cupcakes (Links page). We hung bunting in the marquee, along with an old vintage Union Jack flag. Dad lent me his best classic Jazz CD’s giving the whole thing a feel of a post war tea party. In fact, as the rain chucked it down one guest commented on the fact that the only thing missing was the sound of bombs exploding all around us! As the afternoon turned into evening, the skies cleared, we lit a huge bonfire and danced around it to some more modern sounds.. Brilliant night. For Parkstock 2011, I probably will do a little less food.. 

The next morning we set up a barbeque and cooked everyone sausage, bacon and egg rolls from one of our friends pigs up the road. It was a really sunny, warm day and once breakfast was done with the Pimms came out and we carried on! 

I think that’s about all that’s been happening for the moment. The veg continue to grow and we are now starting to harvest lettuces, baby carrots, radishes and that kind of thing. I promise to be more diligent with my entries going forward…