Monday, June 30, 2008

URGENT PLEASE READ............this link.
There is a problem all over Britain with this particular chemical which has got into manure, compost etc!............I have lost 2 tomato plants in my poly tunnel and I have, as far as I know not used any contaminated compost! I bought some tomato plants from our local country market and it must have been in the compost of the person who grew them..........this is quite awful!

And what is more, and whats worse, as a person who rarely if ever uses chemicals on plants we had one of the fields we use in the village sprayed by our local environmentally conscious contractor to finally defeat the huge quantity of docks (almost more docks than grass!) that were in it that had defied our efforts at puling and topping...................and he assured us he had used a reliable, selective (thistles, stingers AND docks) dafe herbicide, judiciously so as to leave some banks of nettles for the butterflies, but dispose of the docks.........and what did he use....Forefront!!!!!!

Therefore we cannot take hay, we cannot safely graze the sheep and then use any manure they may produce on our garden!..........and though we are assured that the meat from them is safe, we will not be grazing that field due to the contamination.............Oh I am sooooo cross!
The label on the bottle aparently says 'not for use on food crops', our poor contractor didn't have a chance....and we also wouldn't have guessed...........because it was used on permenant grassland.
This is my last brush with a chemical company...............back to topping and pulling and I swear never again will I spray anything even if we think its 'safe'
I'm off to Brittany tomorrow................after this I need a break! I will not be totally relaxing however as I am looking at 2 flocks of sheep and giving management advice, updating my accounts and attending the British Pigs in France gala where I'm demonstrating peglooming! See you all on my return!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Its often said that there is no culture left in Britain....and our traditions are dying! All of you who read this blog from France will know how local traditions are still observedand enjoyed by old and young, for example the Fez Noz (or night festival) in Brittany. Well yesterday we had a scarecrow safari around the locality folowed by a barn dance in Churchinford village Hall. Churchinford is the next village up from fact we are almost between the two! Nick and Ruth Strange of Blackdown banger (sausage) fame were hard at work on the bbq and inside the dancing progressed with great hilarity from old and young. Our youngest son....the small boy in the blue t-shirt aged 5 loved every moment!

I think it is true that this sort of thing does not happen generally....but in quiet backwaters like this special things happen!
More often unfortunately we let our traditions die........listen to the somg 'Roots' that is in my playlist. It is by 'Show of Hands' a local band well worth listening to.

And here are some of the 56 amazing creations that were dotted around the village and surroundong countryside

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meat chickens! We have 33 of them and it has been interesting this time around. Last time we had 12 SASSO chickens (SASSO is a french acronym) and after spending 4 weeks indoors under a heat lamp that was gradually reduced they went outdoors to free range. Well to my 3 black rock hens who are egg laying hybrids free range means going from the ark to the fields, up the lane, in the orchard and sitting annoyingly outside the patio doors waiting for a human to emerge who just might have an edible treat handy! In the course of a day they walk miles, eat lots and lay lots. The Sassos however walked about a maximum of 50ft if persuaded away from their hen house, sat around a lot and ate a huge quantity of food. They were killed at 12 weeks and weighed on average fact we only got 8 as far as the freezer due to a fox raid!
This time I bought some Hubbard chicks......another French breed and have 3 types, white, brown and grey. I ordered 20 and ended up with 33 (with an hours notice)......which caused a bit of a headache as the meat hen house will not accommodate that number!
However as they grew and GREW they went quickly from brooder to stable (10 x 9) with their heat lamp. Now they are 6 weeks and still indoors as the picture shows AND weigh.......between 2 and 2.8kg!!!!
They eat, drink and then sit down in little social groups..........they have natural light, sunshine streams in and I give them a rack of grass and cabbage leaves which they show interest in BUT they show no inclination to want to venture they are staying where they are! I have had a lot of worry about them not being totally free range but if they are happy so am I!They will be killed quietly at a tiny poultry abattoir down the road (so small its almost unknown, its behind a garden centre and is literally one man in one room) for the freezer in a couple of weeks time. I think they have had the best life possible, they are all bright, happy birds who enjoy human company.........I am going to keep 2 or 3 to join the laying hens as Hubbards do lay well apparently! interesting to see if they are prepared to walk as far!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I read a blog called 'A mouse in France' and though I have no idea who she is who writes it I can only say read will find it makes you think! This quote came from her blog.....a famous little ditty, but so so true
" Dont hurry and dont worry Enjoy the sun and the showers We are only here for such a little while Take time to smell the flowers"

I spend ages sheep, my chickens, my ducks, the veg.....the view, the flowers....its true we need to slow down and look because if we don't we may miss the important things!
And that got me thinking on my way through town today!
I had an early appointment at the hospital for the consultant to check up on my knee.....well having waited nearly an hour a locum pronounced from reading my notes that my knee should be ok given that I WAS over 40 and not heavily engaged in sport to which i replied "no not exactly but do not have a sedentary life either".....he looked at me he didn't have a clue....and I left it at that! Parking 10 minutes later in Taunton I got caught up in the road closure that meant walking further than i had intended.....not too sure why the road had closed, I soon saw the reason.........lots of children flanked by an army of yellow vested 'helpers' were marching down the road with drums, percussion, whistles and several chineese dragons! On enquiring exactly what it was for i was told it was ' An african carnival celebration in the spirit of the Notting Hill carnival in London'. Mmmmmm I thought and asked why? Wrong question as the bemused parent of a child taking part informed me that it was all the local primary schools learning about and celebrating our diverse culture??? I may well get shot for saying this but we are so concentrating on celebrating other parts of our diverse culture that our local West Country traditions, pastimes and occupations are slowly and sadly being allowed to die out without a care or would never happen in Brittany where I have a little house and lots of friends because local traditions mean so much to them.....still I enjoyed watching and took some photos!
I also watched the seller of 'The big issue' dressed up in full evening dress and sporting a topper....took a photo when he wasn't watching!
I have to share a lovely picture of my new ducklings! They were hatched from my duck eggs in a friends incubator! There are 4 altogether.....indian runners

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I got sunburn today............sitting in the very pretty garden of a lovely lady in Kingsbridge in Devon where I was teaching peg loom rug making to a wonderful group of enthusiastic ladies and gentlemen! The sun shone, tea flowed ( and the home made flapjacks) and everything was good in the world for that little micro moment!
On the way home I went to Totnes to have a walk up the high street, and to check out the shops! I returned with a delicious piece of cheese and some mixed salad leaves.....all grown and made locally! Even though I was working it felt like being on holiday today........would I work in an office.....NEVER!
And for all those who wanted to see our shearer at work on Saturday.....we have a picture of Jock in action!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some nice pictures of Ouessants and Kune Kunes in the sunshine!

I have had a really interesting and busy weekend! We have a new wwoofer/helpexer! Ross has departed to France to help a friend of mine and another person has arrived! L is a local who is radically changing her lifestyle and striving to learn sustainability and how to tread lightly on this planet!........she is revamping the caravan and giving it a makeover and also helping with the growing veg garden.
So Saturday began with L arriving and settling in and then the village fete in the afternoon with my middle son aged 15 working hard on the bbq of locally produced burgers and sausages. Youngest son was 2nd in the boys aged 5-7 running race and Pete got a long handled stapler on the bric a brac stall. I chatted with lots of people and secured an order for some good hay over a Pimms!.....back to reality at 5pm with the organisation of the shearing of all the big sheep, plus the Ouessant rams and my neighbours sheep! Several trailer loads and we were ready for Jock the mega fantastic shearer who does all my big sheep! I had already vaccinated the Ouessant ewes and lambs earlier that afternoon and so did all the others as they were shorn.........once cleared up and sorted out all the wool bags were taken home and I sped off down the road to vaccinate several pet sheep belonging to a friend.........we ate dinner as the sun was sinking....about 10pm!
Today Lesley and I made lots of Lemon Curd before heading off to the Green fair and Scything festival where I was supposed to be selling woolly stuff, but had decided against going early in the morning due to a poor weather forcast..........sensible decision as they had a monsoon for about 10 minutes! Pete was there selling bags of home produced charcoal.........he had sold out by the time we arrived and the weather had improved. I had a good time browsing the stalls and came away with a knitting pattern for a baggy jumper and 2 CDs of my band of the moment 'Damh The Bard' I chatted to many friends and contacts and thouroughly enjoyed myself!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Permaculture is one of those mysterious words that many have heard of but not many are sure exactly what it means! It is a word made up from a combination of 2 others PERMAnent agriCULTURE or just CULTURE! It is a system of sustainable production that takes its cues from what is happening naturally and relies on a period of observation before rushing in and changing things irreversibly! For example there are reasons why bog plants grow in boggy rather than draining the boggy area and putting in great effort to grow something that needs dry ground it would be easier and better environmentally to grow what likes damp ground! And whats more rather than use gallons of water to irrigate bone dry ground it would be better to grow drought resistant plants!
This may seem simplistic but basically its true! Problem is everyone wants to grow the catch crop of the moment.........sustainable agriculture based on permaculture principles of which i have only just touched upon is probably the most environmentally and climate friendly option.
Industrial agriculture is not the fault of the farmer........although he or she often takes the blame in the eyes of the is the fault of the consumer demanding cheaper and cheaper food....we now pay about 10% of our income or less for our food and we expect better quality and rather than eat what is in season we demand strawberries in January. Therefore farmers have to produce more for less........a very unsustainable position!
I read the other day that in Britain we throw away four and a half million apples per day.......this is waste on a staggering scale! We also throw away 5,000 unopened whole chickens every day......that is approx 5 broiler houses full per day..........and the farmer gets paid 10p per chicken produced for Tesco and the other supermarkets to sell at £2.50/$5......makes you want to weep! I want to give you an idea of what industrial farming is like and how soul destroying it can be. Paul, a friend of Stuart who writes the Permaculture in Brittany blog keeps pigs.......indoors. Pig prices across Europe are at an all time low at the moment with many people going bust . Take a look at the short videos of Stuart driving Pauls tractor to get an idea of what it can be like! If you want cheap food the environment will pay.....and people like Paul will work for decreasing returns.
The chicken situation is an interesting costs me around £7 - 8 per bird, not including my labour, to raise the 33 meat birds I have here who are now 4 weeks old and about to go outside onto the grass.
to cheer you up after such a heavy post here is a picture of one of my wensleydale cross rasta sheep with her lamb by a suffolk ram

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pics of my veg garden showing how its growing on....and showing the brassicas....cabbages, kale and white sprouting broccoli mulched with waste hay which they really like! I have mulched the potatoes with it too and they seem better than ever....remains to be seen if there is a good crop! I have problems with creeping mint and horsetail in one raised bed so its war! I have a watering system set up with a hose coming off this huge tank, which due to the amount of rain last week easily reached its 1000litre capacity from Petes shed roof!
Also here is a nice picture of my garden before the rain of last week finished off the clematis blossom which smelled the jasmine and honeysuckle have taken over. The willow fedge is looking amazing and much leafier than in the picture!
Ross our current wwoofer from Australia is a gem and has done just about everything in his life (he is 68!) It turns out not only did he belong to a sheep shearing gang in his youth, but taught sheep shearing! So....I have sheared 3 Ouessants and half another and Ross sheared the rest....a master at work too!
He has also dug out every dock plant on the!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

We went to the Sunrise festival.....pictured above in someone elses slide show! It was to us a well orgainised little break, we got in Pippa a smallholding sitter to keep an eye on everything, Ross our Aussie wwoofer was keeping a gentle eye on Pippa, and the packing to get away took ages. This was to be a treat for Petes 50th birthday which was celebrated on Wednesday........however we should have known what would happen........after all it had been pouring with rain all week....!

We left in beautiful sunshine........but as we parked our car and tried to put up our tent the heavens opened and it came down in stair rods! The fields flooded, the river burst its banks, the festival was abandoned as the camping fields became waist deep in water!The flash floods caused made the national news!
We got out, aided by a fery nice tractor driver, but as the clip shows some had to wait 24 hours for rescue and partied the night away....