Tuesday, 28 March 2017

What we did with the camel poo and the supermarket table

The onward movement of the camel poo:
First the camel poo had to be made, and this was done with enthusiasm by the camels down the lane at Sarah's place.
Then the camel poo laid on the floor of the camel barn for months on end, becoming compacted into an earthen floor by the camels, the feet of which are very big and do a grand job of bringing the poo into a hardened mass.
So it came to be a day in late November when the barn needed to be emptied of the poo because otherwise the camels would lose head height room what with the poo flattened floor now being quite deep.
So we were asked if Lester would help clear the barn out, his 'reward' being the keeping of the poo.
"Yes", we said, although in truth I did little to help ... it was Lester and Paul (Sarah's husband) who dug out the poo,  wheelbarrowed it into the trailer, drove the car and trailor up the lane to our place, then deposited the poo in a heap in our courtyard.
The work took several days.
But a heap got made.
Then it got covered over.
 
Then Lester made the raised beds.
Time for the poo to be moved again, this time to its final resting place, which was in the raised beds.
This work again took several days, bless him.
 
 
Meanwhile, he had made a hat for one of the raised beds....
 
 
 
...here is the frame made out of old metal poles
 

.... and then made removable panels to put on it.
This is our first greenhouse. It might be tiny, but it is a start!
Now all that needs to be done is for weed control membrane to be put on the ground in between the raised beds, and then we are going to put stones down, which are to be 'harvested' from our river beach. This might take a while.  
It remains to be seen whether or not the camel poo will be adequate enough to support the growth of plants, but Sarah grows all her vegetables in the poo, and does well. The crown of rhubarb we planted in camel poo is also romping away, so hopefully we shall get a good harvest out of those beds.
 
Now you might have noticed the table with a green umbrella over the top of it, and here is how it came to be here....
Since we came here I have wanted an outside table and chairs, but the courtyard was always full of building stuff, and then the chickens came to live here, taking over any flat surface to roost on, which would have included a table and chairs.
But nevertheless I kept looking for a table and chairs when out shopping, with frequent discussions (often quite heated) about what sort of table it would be, with Lester preferring wood, but myself preferring plastic, mainly because they were at least half the price of the wooden ones.
 
Anyway, time rolled on, the building work became finished, then the chickens were rehomed, and the courtyard space became ours to do with as we pleased.
Originally I had thought of a Victorian type garden, maybe with a fountain  birdbath, a gazebo with trailing vines over the top, maybe a 'proper' BBQ (Lester's idea), a small lawn, some curving paths, an ornamental patio in front of the door. What a lovely vision!
 
So out shopping in our local supermarket last summer (2016) and on display were outdoor tables and chairs.  Idling along the display...... and ten minutes later we had bought a set, plus an umbrella. And it was a plastic set, but we were in joint agreement. Back home the boxed table and chairs were put upstairs. We still had the chickens. We did not want them to claim the table and chairs as their new roosting spot, which they most surely would.
Our plan was to put the table and chairs in front of the house, and that we would entertain people around it. That the courtyard would be a pretty garden, as in the 'vision' I had mentioned. I planned to make some pretty tablecloths, the umbrella would shelter us from the sun, and oohh la la, how swanky we would be.
 
Then all change. The Market Garden Project had arrived, and poof! out of the window went the 'vision'. But I am not disappointed about losing it, because it has been replaced by something better, something prettier, and something which better suits Labartere.
 
It came to be late morning of yesterday, there was a light drizzle in the air, the day was dull as a result, but it became time to get the table and chairs unboxed.
It took a while. Pictorial representation of the instructions to assemble the table still seemed complicated, but it got done in the end.
And wow, what a surprise....the table was huge, too huge to go in front of the house, so here it went, by the raised beds, and it will be shaded by the fig tree to the left, and the elder to the right.
 
As for that green umbrella.....well, we thought we ought to see if went up alright. It did. But then it was boxed up again. I doubt we shall be using it much. It looks a bit too 'bling' for Labartere. But a thought...... it might be useful to shade plants  under during the summer, so perhaps it will have a use.
 
 
As for our new 'dining out' set, it is unlikely that we shall be fulfilling that vision I had of using it as a social gathering hub, because the table is to be used as a potting table, and will probably always have plants on it, with a small area down one end at which we can sit and have a sandwich.
And you know what?! This is a better use of the table!
And it already feels like a quiet, meditative corner.
 
Just to mention, that I have also, finally, bought myself a sunbed. Just a cheepo one, plastic, nothing special, ....it is not intended for roasting myself to a brown frizzle, but I do love lying under a tree and watching the sunlight playing with the leaves of the canopy overhead. It is an occupation I could indulge myself in for hours on end, and is very soothing to the mind.
 
It is a sunny day today.
The sunbed is still boxed, which is probably a good thing because I have tons of things to do,
but I shall be definitely be sitting at the table,
probably potting some seeds, maybe drinking coffee, possibly doing some knitting / crochet / patchwork, but definitely enjoying this new outside space even though it is still in its infancy.
 
And here is another photo of our new mini greenhouse, but without the frames on it.
There is still a lot of the courtyard which has to be left empty of plants and garden things, because the tractor and car has to have their turning round room, but the ground is greening up now that the chickens are no longer scratching at the soil and making the place look like desert.
 
 
Ho hum.... need to go and make friends with that table and chairs.
Cup of tea / coffee anyone?
 
Vx

Monday, 20 March 2017

Potting time!

Le Jardin de Salade Project

 
 
This arrived last Friday, with three hundred of these inside:
 
 
Bought from the UK because I could not find a source to buy from here in France,
this package took six days (including a weekend) to get here.
I was impressed.
The pots are 9cms square, and quite sturdy, not thin and crumbly but not thick and heavy duty,
but they are substantial enough to last for quite some time, and at 9p a pot are well worth it despite the cost of postage. If that was included in the cost per pot, this would come out at  14p per pot, which I think is still worth it. We shall be buying more of the same. We have a lot of seeds to get planted.  
 
We have been rethinking the purchase of a poly tunnel, and are thinking about building one with poly carbonate sheets, whatever that is, which means that we can have a greenhouse which will fit the space rather than having to have major clearance work done.
We have also had a re-think about the 'shop' environment and think that instead of buying a chalet type hut, which is going to cost upwards of 2000 euros, which would look attractive in itself but would not blend in with Labartere's rustic farm look. So thoughts are travelling towards building a  sort of rigid market stall, with rough cut planks of wood at the back and on one side which will give shelter to rain and sun, and will be in keeping with the farm. It will be quite a size, not small as in the stalls found in local markets, and will give a good display area.
The downside is that the area would have to be emptied out after each day because there is no way of locking things up, but if we do alright with this market garden project, then Lester is going to build a lockable shed behind it so we can put things in there at night instead of bringing them back into the courtyard. 
We like this new plan, because passing cars will be able to see what produce we have for sale, rather than everything being inside out of sight.
Most of all, it will fit the look of the property, and be more people friendly.
 
I have also started looking into getting some signs printed for our little van,
and we shall also need signs for the fences, plus flyers, leaflets, etc
Plenty of time to do this, as we haven't got anything to sell yet!
 
Lester is also on the move with getting the chicken house built, and I have sourced some young chickens which we can buy in when the chicken house is ready. We have been frequently asked if we sell fresh eggs, so feel encouraged to get our egg production started. One thing, though, and that is that we do not want to look like a commercial operation, which would not suit us or our thoughts about how we want to live at all.
 
I have been slow in ordering the seeds for this year, mostly because I kept dithering about what to order, but I have finally got the order done and sent off. Ordering for ourselves is easy, but ordering with a view to sell to the public is entirely different.
 
We think that we shall focus on herbs and baby salad vegetables, if possible on a year round basis, with some standard type vegetables when available, but we do not have enough land to do large crops of potatoes, cabbages, etc..... and neither do we want to grow main crops because there are plenty of people doing that already here. We don't have an interest in that type of produce anyway, apart from growing for ourselves. But what we do have an interest in is the baby veg, salads, herbs, and eatable flower, so this is what we are going to grow. Time will tell if we are on the right track in regards to selling to the public.
 
Anyway, enough of my rambles,
there is a huge hunk of cooked pork waiting to be cut  up and put into the freezer,
there is milk waiting to be canned / made into butter,
the cheese fridge needs attending to,
etc....etc....etc....
and Lester is trying to mow the grass in the courtyard with my hand mower so I need to go and rescue him. Bless him, he has such a lot of infrastructure work still to do, while all I do is stand by and wait to get planting!
 
Bye for now,
just going to give my husband a hug and take over the lawn mowing task,
 
Vx
 
PS. the sheep are continuing to do a most efficient job of keeping the grass mown, but the cows are moaning because they want to go out into the field but must stay in because the grass on the fields is still too slow growing.
 
x
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

View from my kitchen window

 

The sheep are enjoying the new spaces they can roam in, and I am enjoying seeing them so close up. I can now share their family life, which is something I couldn't do when they were out on the fields all day. In the top photo you can see the two pig paddocks, and we have left the gates open so the sheep can graze the grass which is now growing there in the absence of the pigs.
The lambs are running around in a gang now, which they do when they have eaten enough grass and drunk enough milk. It is a fun thing to see them playing. They don't skip about much now, not like they did when they were newborn, they just play fight, and get up to general nonsense. So a couple of days ago the gang discovered the pig houses. And what a delight it was for them, such a secretive place, but only for the bigger lambs of the gang, the younger lambs being excluded from the club. And I don't know what was going on in the secret den but whatever it was it they were enjoying it.
 
Yesterday, though, all are not happy. Lester let the flock out as usual, but they just stood by the gate complaining at full voice about something or other, we knew not what. Normally they go off to graze, happy to enjoy the thick grass which is growing along the paths and down on the far field, but not yesterday.
Now when the sheep go into complaining mode, it can test one's nerves, so I got hold of the broom and shooed them away from the gate, and told them not to be so irritating, that there was plenty to eat and that they were to go and fill their tums.
It worked for a while, they did quieten down and wander off, but half an hour later they were back.
And they were complaining again.
And I felt myself getting irritated again.
And they were climbing over the big heap of rubble that was down by the oak tree,
so now 'why were they doing that', I though to myself.
And then like a blast of sunlight in my head it came to me that they were bored, just bored.
That after having spend the last three days eating themselves silly,
that they were still full up and not hungry enough to graze.
That after having spend the last few days walking here and there and everywhere, even going down on to the river beach, that they had become mentally and physically saturated with all the adventures they had had.
That you could see their tiredness at the end of the day because they could hardly walk up the short incline of the side path to get to their paddock to go to bed.
 
So Lester called them all back to the paddock, and there they were to stay for the rest of the day, with only hay to eat. I thought they would do more complaining, but they didn't. I think, in truth, that they were glad to stay in one place and to have a rest.
 
The plan is to keep them off the main field, so that the grass can grow to a longer length which will be better for the cows to graze. The sheep are to graze on the paths, far field, and river path, which should give them plenty of grazing. But it also means that we shall not have the abundance of wild flowers that we normally have because the sheep will eat them, but it also means that Lester will not have to spend time mowing the paths, and I shall not have to spend time scything down what can't he can't be cut by the tractor. It also means that the cut grass will not be wasted, that it will end up in the tummies of the sheep rather than being left to rot on the ground.
 
The upside: the place will stay tidy because the sheep are fantastic lawn mowers, and save us time, plus the fields get a rest from their grazing, plus it is nice to see the sheep wandering around the place.
The downside: we lose the prettiness of the wild flowers, and some of the young fruit trees are going to get eaten. Not to worry, we shall be planting flowers in the courtyard this year, so we can offset the loss of the wild flowers.
 
The sheep are out again today, and all is quiet. No moans, no complaints, so all is well with them!
 
  Off to see what they are up to,
so bye for now,
 
Vx