If I was ever qualified to write a book on a subject, it would be doing a job with only half the knowledge and a limited box of tools. That or finding novel ways of almost killing yourself.
Because of our way of life, I know that I'm going to have to do things I'm not completely prepared for, which are inherently dangerous. Farming has just come top of the league table as the most dangerous profession in England (we don't have Alaskan crab fishing industry to compete with).
Some things are always best left to a professional - electrical wiring for example - when tools and knowhow will save your life. With some jobs you can gain a modicum of proficiency if you know your limits. Like chainsawing.
I have passed my basic chainsaw qualifications and I feel comfortable using my chainsaw for straightforward jobs like logging and felling small trees that aren't under power lines. Contractors are coming to finish the fence on Milkweed so I needed to clear 300 metres of overhanging trees to speed up the fencing process and save some of the cost. We decided to let the contractors put in the rest of the fence because they have the hydraulic post-rammer. The posts will stay up longer than if I pounded them in by hand (see? - better tools.)
We had to improvise a mobile platform to reach the branches and the truck was our best option. It has the tailgate for lower stuff, and the top of the tilt for the 'up high' branches -
I admit this picture isn't the best representation of safe working, but we assessed the risks and did our best. That doesn't mean accidents don't happen. I stood on the tailgate and leaned to reach a branch, just as Mike let the truck roll forward slightly. The truck and I parted company and I chucked the saw away from me, as I was taught to do in case of a fall. I only sustained a bruise, but I managed to hit the truck with the saw -
Completely minor. But in hindsight, I know better than to reach too far and I know I should stop when my muscles are getting tired. But the fence line is clear now and the fence guys are coming mid-August.
While my muscles and my pride recover, I thought I would get on with some more sedate work: processing fleece. My crafty friend Colette managed to borrow a couple of drum carders for us to try. Neither of us knew how to use them, but we were unlikely to cause ourselves major injury by trial and error. A few scraped knuckles at worst.
Until now I have hand carded all my fleece. A laborious task. It can take up to a year of picking and carding to get enough fleece to spin enough wool to make a jumper.
Colette had the foresight to look up a couple of YouTube videos, so she talked me through the basics. It goes something like this:
Take pile of clean(ish) fleece -
Pick out a handful and tease it into a loose bunch -
Feed bunch into drum carder by cranking handle -
Pull carded fleece from drum -
Now you have a batt of fibre. You can leave it as is, or roll it into a little cupcake-shaped ball for easy storage -
They're ready to spin. Colette lent me one of the carders to take home. I reckon I can now process both of my Polled Dorset fleeces in a couple of months. God bless the industrial revolution.
Something else I get a lot of practice with?-
Washing fox shit off of the dogs. It's not dangerous - it just smells that way.
We have had another chick appear from a sneaky clutch of eggs -
It's a Phoenix chick. The mother is flighty and distracted, so the chick is constantly peeping for attention. I tried fostering the chick on Susan but the chick rejected her new mother, fell out of the nest box and peeped furiously until I returned it to the original haphazard hen. The chick is just going to have to take its chances now.
This breed is pretty but not one I would recommend. Although the cockerel is lovely natured, the hens are highly-strung during breeding season. I'm tempted to take the whole family to the specialist poultry auction once the chick is big enough. Someone with more fancy chicken know-how than I have would love to own them. I'll stick to breeds that thrive under my improvised trial-and-error efforts.