Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pete won a class at the Blackdown Hills Hedge Event.........and a large shield is now on the shelf for the year!! Here are the before and after pics.
I have finished the hedge shown in a previous post and it is shown here along with a picture of Pete making pea sticks and hedging stakes.
The material taken out of a hedge when it is laid is a lot, probably half of the stems in a thick hedge are coppiced out and as this hedge is hazel we made a lot of useful items such as bean poles for this years beans, pea sticks for both growing the peas on and protecting seedlings from the pigeons, a lot of stakes for temporary fencing and for staking a north somerset style hedge at the national championships which Pete will be entering in the autumn and lastly stems to put by for making walking sticks. A little of the waste was tidied up and burnt but in true permaculture style the harvest from this hedge was huge.....coppicing is an example in true low input high output!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I have recently explored my family tree via some interesting websites and got right back into the 17somethings with some of the names which are unusual! Most of my family come from Devon, Dorset and the Somerset/Gloucester border where they were variously agricultural labourers, sailors and horse dealers!. However my paternal grandfather was from Freston in Suffolk, just down the road from 'Constable country' and came to Devon when sent as a policeman to Devonport dockyard near Plymouth, why I don't know, but he met my grandmother whilst there! He was a great grower of veg and though blind in his later years would grow veg along lines of wires so he knew where the parsnips etc were located by touch....fascinated me as a child!My father was also a hobbyist woodworker who actually built 2 houses in his spare time and who grew veg!

His father, my greatgrandfather was the local postmaster and a smallholder who grew industrial quantities of veg.........he, my gt grandmother and their garden, including conservatory that apparently contained vines, are pictured above, he died at the age of 45 in 1908 of scepticaemia (probably from his farming activities!) leaving behind a large family. His father and fathers father were all woodsmen.........so what I get up to is probably in the genes!! My son George works for the National Trust at the moment and lays hedges and works in the countryside, so allowing for my father who was not that serious about 'growing your own' I reckon thats a line ofat least 7 generations of smalllholders, veg growers, woodcutters etc!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Well it was not the cruciate ligament but the cartiledge! Apparently after manipulating my leg and looking quizical, then asking me when I last injured my leg.....which to be honest I couldn't remember as being recent, the consultant informed me I have already ruptured the anterior cruciate in that leg and it was my cartiledge I had damaged this time! It would account for a lot, having ruptured the ACL in my right knee stupidly jumping some electric fencing 5 years ago I had completed the set not done the first one. Thinking about it I have had so many little accidents over the years such as falling off horses, whacking my knee on gate posts whilst riding horses, being kicked across the parlour by fractious cows etc that its not surprising to find out why my knees are so wobbly! The latest injury just added to the list! Am now on the fast track for key hole surgery to repair it, they say about 3 weeks wait! In the meantime I have become the proud posessor of a knee brace.......a damned uncomfortable device that has metal plates on eitherside of the knee with a hinge in the middle.....means I can hobble!
I have been getting cabin fever stuck indoors so today I made lemon curd and a large loaf of bread, and plotted my escape to the top of the field! Pete had taken all my hedgelaying gear to the hazel hedge that needed urgent attention as it was beginning to tangle in nextdoor smallholdings telephone lines and with the aid of 2 electric fence posts as walking sticks I made it down there. Spent an enjoyable afternoon laying the hedge, completing two thirds of the length, will finish the rest tomorrow if the weather permits. I was getting desperate to do this as the end of the hedgelaying season is nigh!
Took a photo with my phone to illustrate what I was doing....not good quality but I didn't have the energy to get up to the house to get the camera. Still got to tidy it up and put in a few pegs made of hazel to neaten it up and hold it in place.
Talking of hedges I posted several pics last year of the Blackdown Hills Hedgelaying competition which Pete competed in. Well this year he took part again....and won!! He now has a nice shield to polish for a year!........and I was not there to take a picture of the moment of triumph!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pigs.....who would have em!!.......well we now have 3 and I am confined to the house on crutches.....connection? You bet!
I have had many pigs over the years starting with a Tamworth piglet called Mabel who was given to me by a farmer for whom I used to milk record his lovely Guernsey cows. She was a pedigree pig from the Roseleaf line and grew to be huge..........but very gentle and never tried to escape AND being 21 years ago we didn't have a battery electric fencer unit as they were only just becoming affordable (and reliable!) She could have destroyed the fencing but never bothered! She was mated to a local tamworth boar and had 10 piglets and was a realy good mum bless her. After being a pet for a while as she wouldn't breed again, she went to join a farm producing iron age pigs as we felt she was a bit lonely.

After that I had various pigs including lops, large white cross, large blacks, berkshires and many heinz 57s!! all for pork or bacon........none were a lot of trouble except a pot bellied pig I was given who was quickly passed on!

So when last year I was persuaded that on our wet ground KuneKunes would be ideal I bought 2.........who are very good on the whole although the gilt can jump and both are very noisy!
So I decided that I would get another and on Tuesday Treacle a 2 year old in pig sow arrived with a reputation for good behaviour.
It had beed terrible weather on Monday so I had been unable to get to sort the electric fencing so I riged up a suitable pen in the shed next to the sheeps current overnight quarters. This pen had contained 2 Berkshire gilts 2 winters ago with no trouble.
So when I found her walking around the sheep field the following morning I was astounded....she had jumped over a breeze block wall 5 blocks high topped with corrugated !! (the corrugated was a bit worse for wear!!)
Contained once more, this time in the sheep shed I set about the electric fencing job, moving Kermit and Miss Piggy, our current Kunes into the far pig paddock. Treacle was wailing her annoyance so to relieve my ears I let her out while I was completing the fence.....I thought she would go and talk to the other pigs through the fence or just snuffle around bearing in mind each pig paddock is quarter of an acre..........not a bit of it she put her snout under the stock wire and heaved it up as if it were made of string!!..........and shot off towards the woods. I grabbed a bucket of nuts and persuaded her back to the sheep shed where she was locked in again whilst I went back into the ankle deep mud, repaired the damage and finished the electrics! Pig was then let back out and immediatly knew the fence was 'on' but had to test it a few times!!
Well I then made the daft decision to stand on the low wall at the end of the yard to observe said pig....as I hauled myself up I felt a twang...in fact it was almost audible and I knew I had done some serious damage. I had left my mobile phone in the kitchen and at that moment the kitchen seemed a long way away. Somehow I managed to hobble, hop and crawl back to the house and after a visit to casualty am the proud posessor of a pair of crutches and an appointment in the post for the knee clinic!
This morning Pete had to feed and check the stock and the little darling had removed the metal field gate! This is currently being repaired as I type!
The pics are of a typical Tamworth sow and a Kune Kune sow which will show that contrary to popular belief that Kunes are large not small.........a Tamworth is about 25 inches high!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My willow 'fedge' (cross between a fence and a hedge) is finished!! With advice from Stuart Anderson willow guru extrodinaire who has more varieties of willow in his garden than you can shake a stick at, I set to and did it!! I used a green willow 'viminalis' and a red willow called just 'hybrid red' all from the Somerset levels local to us. The spare rods have been planted in the willow bed at the soakaway end of our septic tank sewage system where they will help with purifying the water, and drinking lots of it as willow is very thirsty!
Now I just have to hope all the rods 'take' and survive!! The pics are of my fedge in the garden and of the path looking down the garden past the fedge and my newly laid bit of ash hedge towards the ducks with fields and woods beyond.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sheep.........bad week this week, but thats what keeping sheep can be like. Last Monday one of our French Ouessants lambed in the field a full term dead ram lamb.........at least it was dead when I eventually found it and I suspect it had been born dead. Mum had wandered off and was not at all bothered........mental note to watch her like a hawk next time as has not got a lot of mothering instinct about her. Then on Thursday the nicest of the French Ouessants lambed....a nice live ewe lamb. The next day all was apparently ok but not the next..........lamb was balling its head off and was very hungry, mum had mastitis which is hopeless in sheep....no milk, hard udder teats not working......So lamb was bundled off to the house to be bottle fed and ewe started on 5 day course of antibiotics.........lamb took to the bottle quite well but I felt there was something not quite right.
Gradually as time went on the lamb suffered a creeping paralysis and died. On investigation its mouth which I thought was noisy when feeding proved to have no soft palate and the roof of the mouth was all wrong, hence not being able to suckle the ewe properly......a congenital abnormality which I suspect also affected the central nervous system. Heho.........we lambed 50 ewes last year.......nearly 100 lambs! and lost one stillborn lamb that was one of triplets. Otherwise apart from those we lost to sheep worrying all survived........everyone said we were lucky and I knew we were .........seemingly not so lucky this year but thats farming!