Saturday, 5 March 2011

Communication Breakdown

I'm sorry that I've been incommunicado for a few weeks. It's not because I've run out of rambling stories to share with you all (heaven forfend!) but rather a complete technological failure this end. Only days after the oven blew, my ancient laptop refused to run the Internet any longer, something about virtual memory being too low. Then Mike accidentally knocked the (equally aged) digital camera onto the floor and it stopped working. I retired them both, but had to find funds to acquire new equipment, and the skills to use them.

The funds were easy. My father felt, after his last visit spent slumming it in front of our 20" TV without a working remote, that we needed a new one. He kindly sent me the money to purchase one with the stipulation that we do so before his next visit. I'm not sure how to break the news to him that I've redistributed those funds. As a small concession, I bought a working remote control for the existing TV. And the new oven has a glass door, so he can always sit and watch the morning's loaf of bread rise.

The skills were harder to find. I stuck with the old machines even though they were limited because I knew the real limitation lay with their user. Aside from a few emails and a blog post now and then, I don't live much of my life online. I haven't got the requisite skills, evidenced by the fact it took me an entire day to set up my new laptop. And it came with the software on it and all my old files already transferred.

The camera was easier. I bought a newer version of the old model figuring I could intuit most of the buttons. What I didn't know is that memory cards are sold separately, like batteries in Christmas toys. Until a card comes via the good folks at Amazon, I can only take and store 3 pictures at a time. I have to download them to the blog post, delete them from the camera, and pop outside to take 3 more.

And it's damn cold here. Winter is holding fast. The wood burner is stoked up and there's soup on the stove. My toes haven't warmed up since we rode the horses from Milkweed to their summer paddock a few days ago. They're not even starting to shed their winter coats yet.

I just finished another cardigan, the first one spun from my own flock's wool -

The grey wool is my left over handspun Jacob from the estate's sheep, but the white wool is pure Dorset. I appreciate that, fashion-wise, pairing it with the rubber dungarees is more akin to Bj√∂rk dressing for the Oscars. But until spring comes, I'm all about the warmth. The dungarees are windproof and the cardigan is so insulating, I know why the sheep still have frost on their backs when I check them in the morning.

I'm running out of time to get the greenhouse and the garden ready for spring. I pulled down the old panels from around the greenhouse, and put in a rail fence -

It lets more light in, but prevents dogs from accidentally running through a pane of glass when they come bursting out of their kennels for a walk. And I still have somewhere to hang the horse rugs out to dry.

I've harvested the last of the overwintered vegetables, and begun to dig over the soil. I borrowed the RTV and filled the flatbed with horse manure. All the hay and feed bills are a little easier to accept when I consider that I get a crop out of the horses - black gold for the garden. The chickens help me by removing the weed seeds and worms, and spreading the dung -

Technically, that's another crop from the dung: chicken snacks. We just took on another half dozen laying hens, ex-battery chickens from a commercial egg farmer. They're already scavenging like free-range pros. 
I still have to find time to double the vegetable patch and to extend the net cover. I only just sent off my seed order yesterday. I need at least another two loads of manure. And half of the meat chickens need dispatching in the next day or two, before they run to fat.
I almost forgot the Hazel update. She's settled in with our friends Matt and Julie who are absolutely thrilled to have her. Hazel has the undivided attention of two young boys, loves being a house pet and gets on well with their old shepherd.  In summer, Matt plays cricket for his local team. Players' dogs act as fielders, retrieving the long balls. Hazel was born for that job. She's so well placed now that it's hard to miss her, though of course we do.
With so much to relay after a few weeks away, I'm in danger of my own communication breakdown. I'll save the pheasant update for another time. We're pigeon shooting tonight, taking them as they come in to roost. Armed with my new camera, I can promise you at least 3 photos of that activity for the next blog post.


Poppy Cottage said...

Hello. Good luck with the technology!

If you make the size of the photo's smaller you can increase the amount of photos you can store on the internal memory. And Dad can watch tv on the lap top sat on his lap, so kind of OK really. Plus lap top needed to update blog to keep sister, Dad, Family & Friends updated. Win Win situation really.

Love the new cardigan and glad Hazel has settled in.

Have interview on Monday!!!!!!

C xx

JennyD said...

It's lovely to read that you're back online. I'm probably not the only one to wonder if something had gone wrong but you sound upbeat, if cold!!

And I'm glad Hazel has settled in and is enjoying her new life.

Keep warm...

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Happy you are back! I always enjoy laughing out loud and regurgitating my mouthful of tea when I read your blog posts. We also have the ancient T.V. with no remote! Too funny... Keep warm, we have rain here which has made the driveway a skating rink. Carring buckets to the barn has become an olympic sport.

Paula said...

I'm glad you're back. Sometimes life conspires to force a decision. I really like your new cardigan! It has to be really gratifying to be able to say, "and this section came off my own sheep!"

Today is supposed to be a mix of showers and sun, and since it's been raining biblically for the last week, splint or no splint, and cold or no cold (I can't seem to kick this sore throat, either), I'm suiting up and planting the Italian plum and strawberries I bought last weekend. The olives can wait; they're in pots.

Anyway, I'm glad you're back. I was missing everybody.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

I always miss you, but I know you must be working hard when you're not posting! Nice cardigan. Must bring a special feeling to own that talent. Yeah for Hazel. She has her very own kids to play with now. Hope your sore throat gets better soon. Try a little brandy with honey and lemon. Even if it doesn't work, you'll sleep well! said...

Welcome back! I always miss you when life intervenes and we don't hear from you in a while.

About those chickens -- do the old chickens accept the new chickens without a fight? We're facing the re-flock vs. add-on decision this spring, and we're worried about introducing new birds to our 7, who have been together since day one.

About that sweater -- nice!

Jennifer Montero said...

PC - You're upsides of all this technology already! Connecting laptop to TV is next skill set to learn. Best of luck for the interview today.

JennyD - It's nice to be missed. Thankfully the things that keep me offline are just minor inconveniences at most.

HKS - Other people's blogs make me snarf my tea too. There's some funny stuff happening out there, like turkey saddles...I hope your skating rink is thawing by now. Lugging water is my most hated chore.

Paula - You're always so industrious, cold or no. Every year I'm behind on my gardening tasks. I did feel a sense of accomplishment turning that wool into a cardigan, and just in time for the last bit of winter too.

Jennifer Montero said...

Karen - We get regular Hazel updates. The first few days we were told that they couldn't find Hazel's 'Off' button, and we laughed at the story about Hazel's discovering the ducks on a lake in the park (she tried to retrieve them, much to the ducks' annoyance).

She's a great dog and now she's a happier dog, though it was a tough decision to make, as I'm sure you know from your own experiences.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - The worst part about no computer was missing out on everyone else's updates!

I penned the new chickens behind some netting while they get used to their new surroundings. At the same time the other chickens can see them and get used to them.

When they're all mixed together, there will no doubt be some pecking for a day or two at most. As long as there isn't an obviously weak chicken getting bullied (and it's really obvious) they'll quickly re-establish a balance.

I found that putting them together for the first time at night, when all are going to roost, works well. The chickens seem more relaxed and, when they wake up together, less confrontational. Some breeds are easier by nature too, like your Orps.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Glad to see you back - sounds like a breathlessly busy time! Good to hear Hazel's having fun, even if it's not under your feet, and hope you get all your getting-ready-for-spring chores done in plenty of time! Do ex-battery chickens still lay regularly, or are they now destined for meat?

Sweater looks good on you. Wear it in good health.

Hazel said...

We had a lovely day yesterday (Monday) in Oxfordshire, so hope you've warmed up a bit in Dorset!

I'm glad Hazel's settled in well, and love the fact she tried to retrieve the ducks on the lake!
For obvious reasons I've always felt a virtual bond with her!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Good call on the redistribution of funds. I'm on my third free telly, (I would offer you one but you live a fair way from me and transport would cancel out the saving), now that a Flat screen is considered a 'must have' loads of people are getting rid of really good 'old school' TV's which for the most part have nicer colour anyway. Freecycle is the way to go.