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 I bought a newer version of the old model figuring I could intuit most of the buttons.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 Björk 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.