Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Leftovers Post

Yesterday was officially our last pheasant hatch of the season. Once the chicks were collected and on the road bound for their new homes,we washed down the incubators and hatchers and turned off all the machines. It's silent in the hatching barn now, except for the nests of swallow chicks. Those are their parents' responsibility.

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.

Wood piled

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.


Janice Bendixen said...

Jen, sometimes it's good to just sit down and write. We all enjoy it when you do so no worries - keep it up. Our summer here in The Butte has been similarly dreary and since we're conserving fuel, I've taken to wearing my down vest in the house. Wx has been so bad we've made only one trip to fish camp and July is speeding away. I'm getting nervous about our winter salmon supply. But on the up side, the lawn looks fabulous. Keep knitting!

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

How on EARTH do you have time for a job away? Or, perhaps the question should be, how did you have time to split all the wood and stack it when you are working away? I don't know how you do it all. The handwarmers are gorgeous. I'm going to have to look for a pair for fall/winter - too hard to feed animals with gloves on, too cold to be without something. I'd LOVE to send you some -of our weather - perhaps we could organize a weather swap, they could meet in the middle, and we'd both end up with summer weather we could live with. It's been so danged hot and dry here, the dogs and I are mierable. I'm going to have to put the air conditioner in the bedroom window for THEIR sake. Yuck.

Maria said...

Don't apologise, I always love to read your posts. It's more organised than anything I could write anyhow...
Also: Congratulations!!! on your new job. I really hope you enjoy t. It sounds as though you have good company in the labrador..
And: the 'summer'. Don't talk to me about it. I'm an indoor office-job-type person, but jeez. So dull, so wet, so unrelentingly dreary! I feel like I need to go visit my mother (on the Spanish coast) for a few days just to dry out!

Poppy Cottage said...

That was an interesting day. They were actually away for a few days. Saw them on their return, he was really worried I might have said something!!!! Give me some credit, I like the nice quiet life. Mitts look good. For something so simple they are really warm. Here is the link to the lady who wrote the pattern, in her free pattern bit she has some other good stuff.

Maybe when we get some sun we could have an afternoon spinning in your garden? I have just been given a lovely grey poll dorset fleece but I am a bit rusty on the wheel. I plan to make fleece soup in the bath this weekend though, just think, lovely soft hands!!!

Tale care and I like the hat!!

BilboWaggins said...

Congrats on the new job. A (nearly) full log store is a beautiful sight, just not one I normally make use of in mid-summer. Our wood-burner has been on too.

Adam Stevens said...

Loved the wandering... Like catching up over coffee, er tea I suppose.

Hazel said...

Our Rayburn has been on too- I don't think I'd have got any of the washing dry without it, and the scouts have still been to camp in the rain, so there was a rucksack full of muddy clothes on top of the usual piles!

And all the US blogs are full of how hot it is, and how to keep cool in the summer. Hmmph. I am sympathetic (really!) and I know many areas are desperate for rain, but when you're sitting watching your garden turn into a pond yet again...

Congratulations on the new job. I think you should write a book on time management...

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I think "I pulled the wire out of the wall with an axe" is a perfectly respectable confession. It's way better than "I tripped on the furniture" or "I cut myself slicing onions," which are the stupidities I'm always confessing.

I'm sorry about your weather, your carrots, and your slugs. But I have to believe that any day you can trim topiary and get paid for it can't be *that* bad. We have a boxwood that had a vaguely chicken-like shape, and I always wanted to turn it into a chicken. But then Kevin ran over it with the truck and now it has to be a praying mantis.

Nice hat!

Jennifer Montero said...

For us, a winter salmon supply would be such a luxury. We have to make do with the odd trout. And at least you have managed to find the positive in your weather woes - a green lawn!

megan said...

hey, I know that episode! After watching victorian farm and edwardian farm, twice through each, over the winter, I started in on RC. I just now started the first two in the series, having started at the end. Anway. A modern cultural reference I actually get - swell.

And I love that when I first saw the photo of the yard, I thought the bird netting was a carcass of some kind, as in "oh looks like rabbits she's hanging." My quick glance register seems to be set at Meat.

Jennifer Montero said...

Our dogs are miserable too, as they're not getting the extra long walks they would do on a warm summer evening. You're such a good dog mum that you give up your air conditioner for them!

The job is only half day a few times a week, so I can squeeze in chores before and after. And working in a beautiful established garden has done wonders for my outlook on life.

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - for god's sake, bring the sun back with you if you go to Spain!

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - Had interesting guest at new job escaping media attention this week. Is Dorset where they all come and hide??

Hope your wool soup came out OK, and yes to spinning just as soon as the lawn dries out and the chickens stop quacking.

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm a log pile aficionado / admirer. Mine's only in a heap, but boy can some people stack so it's like a public sculpture!

Glad to hear I'm not the only one to crumble and light the wood stove again. Some of our doors are swollen shut; without a fire to dry it I couldn't get into the pantry.

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm glad it appeals. And we drink coffee and tea, so you're welcome to either.

Jennifer Montero said...

I would sell my grandmother for a rayburn or aga. I fantasise about heating the kitchen, drying clothes and cooking all at the same time, with one appliance. Now *that's* time management. I'm only qualified to write a book on crisis management. I shall call it "Get Up Early and Hope for the Best: A Guide to Muddling Through".

And just to prove I'm not right in the head, I'm going to look at a milk goat for sale this weekend, so I can add milking twice a day to my chores list.

Jennifer Montero said...

I laughed out loud visualizing a praying mantis topiary shaped by truck. You're a trendsetter.

I bet when you trip over the furniture it doesn't cost you £31 to put right. Sigh. I could give up my new job if I wasn't so clumsy.

Jennifer Montero said...

Megan - I never envisaged the phrase "My quick glance register seems to be set at Meat". It's so perfect I think it qualifies as a Haiku.

Actually, I hang rabbits in the apple tree. Closer to the freezer.

CZLion said...

I'll see if that's on appletv. We love Downton Abby and can't wait for season 3.

I'll send a pic of my meager wood pile. I got it stacked in March before my knee replacement. It's been 3 months and last week went to Vancouver Island and fished with my Scottish friend Sandy. I caught enough Chinook, coho, ling cod and halibut to fill my cooler with frozen fillets but paid for it with a very sore knee and swollen foot. I'm hoping to be fit enough for South Dakota pheasants in November. We'll see.

Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your blog.