As one group of babies is born, I hope another is gestating. All the ewes have been covered by our borrowed ram Roz. After hatching, I caught him up - twice, as he managed to jump the hurdles penning him in away from his ewes - and returned him to Mr. Baker. I've hung up the raddle harness in the shed for another year.
Of course, it would be wasteful to drive home with an empty trailer, so I bought 3 more ewe lambs. I only intended to buy a nice matched pair, but there was a friendly ewe lamb with a sweet face and I'm a pushover. I blame Disney cartoons - show me a big, kind eye and I'm hooked. These young ladies will be ready to see the ram next year. Until then, they will be mowing grass alongside my ewe lambs from last autumn.
So I've spent my first paycheck on livestock. I forget to mention I've got a new job. I'm gardening on a private estate again, just a few days a week. If you've ever seen the River Cottage series on TV, it's the estate and gardens that Hugh used for the original series (My bosses are in an episode featuring a carp feast). So I'm busy trimming topiary, tending the vegetables, and keeping beds and borders in order, as well as propagating for next year in the greenhouse. The job comes with a companion - the owners' old Labrador, who quickly sussed what time I stop for elevenses, and joins me in the shed to share my sandwich. She also enjoys laying under the bench in the greenhouse while I sow seeds, which is about all we can do in this weather.
Gardening this year is abominable. The news is awash - pun intended - with 'the wettest summer on record' statistics. Put another way, it's the 4th of July today and I've got the wood stove lit to dry out the house, and two jumpers on. The soil has been so slow to warm up that germination of seeds is poor, and the slug population is at its highest, so anything that does germinate is being eaten before it breaks the surface.
My own vegetable patch is sulking. I sowed my carrot crop for a 3rd time. Beans and peas are late, and salad crops are only baby leaf size. The tomatoes are setting fruit in the greenhouse but without heat and sun to ripen them, I envision many jars of green tomato chutney in our future. I have managed to harvest a few handfuls of raspberries, and the cherries on the tree are nearly ready. I've netted half for us, and left the other half for the birds, who are struggling in this weather too.
A sodden, unhappy plot and netted cherry tree
Mike already has young pheasant poults going into pens in the woods. Normally we would expect summer weather this time of year - you know, a few hours of sunshine, temperatures above freezing. We are losing birds to weather, and the vermin hasn't even had a shot at them yet! The game farmer is keeping them warm in his sheds until this weather turns a bit more sensible. We try and release birds in conditions that will give them the best chance of survival.
This year's crop of chicken chicks are doing well with mother hens caring for them. Eleven chicks are well grown now -
Mrs. Cadbury and her 4 French Copper Maran chicks
Buff Hen with Orpington and Welsummer chicks
The pullets will be kept for eggs and the cockerels are destined for The Cone and Ice Camp. There are a few broodys still sitting on eggs in dark corners, so perhaps we can expect more babies before the end of summer. Or should I say "summer".
The unseasonable cold means I have continued to knit, finishing a hat -
It's a knitted hat Charlie Brown!
And some wrist warmers from locally-produced organic wool -
The pattern and yarn were a gift from my tea drinking buddy and knitting sage, Colette at Poppy Cottage. Last time we got together to knit, we were disturbed by a procession of journalists knocking at her front door. Her neighbour is the son of a children's author, and the author (think War Horse) had just had a biography published in which he admitted to rather lacklustre parenting skills. The journalists wanted information or comments from poor Colette, who just wanted to work on her blanket. It was an odd interruption to an otherwise pleasant afternoon. It reminded me to be thankful I'm not connected to anyone famous (or infamous).
Although garden production is behind, I'm ahead in other departments: I've put away over half our required logs for this winter, thanks to an unexpected gift from Ted the woodsman. Very unexpected, as it arrived around 6am in the morning with an announcement from Ted shouted up at our bedroom window to Get Up! we'd already wasted half the day laying around. This was followed by the sound of the hydraulic tipper dumping un-split rounds in the middle of the lawn. Good old Ted.
Between jobs, I got it all split and stacked in a few days. Aside from one minor hiccup: the overhead cable running to the kennels. I misjudged an axe swing and pulled it out of the wall. I had to endure a lot of teasing from both the husband and electrician, but no one was hurt. Just my pride. Again.
I apologise for this meandering post, intended to bring you up to date with a few happenings and paint a woeful picture of our climate hardships. Think of this post like that dinner you make from leftover bits in your fridge. I promise to do a mental shop for next time and, with lots of game keeping ingredients including deer stalking and caring for young pheasants, put together a hearty meal.