Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Plant More Peas, You Fool!

Pear blossom
Dog owners will know that every now and again dogs get sick. #1 Daughter here, my 12 year old bitch (Westie) is, fortunately, one of those who will tell you in advance that she is feeling sick and needs to be let out to eat some grass and sort herself. Even at 05:00, that's better than her leaving it till she actually 'produces'. Deefer 'tells' me by whimpering miserably every couple of seconds which wakes me up and I can then hear that her belly is squelching and gurgling dangerously. I cannot sleep through that and it wouldn't be fair to.

Apple Blossom
So, at 05:00 on Monday morning, I am out on the front lawn with all three dogs (you can't leave two indoors - they would bark and wake the Woman of the House). You know what? It was beautiful. It was barely light with dawn just starting in the East. It was warm and windless, dry and calm.

For the first time this year, our young greengage tree has blossom
The Dawn Chorus was going at it hammer and tongs and (I think) four cuckoos were calling from the four points of the compass. A cock pheasant was throwing in the odd 'ker-chang!' and a wood pigeon was cooing energetically. In Sussex, they say that the wood pigeon shouts "Plant more peas, you fool!", or so an ancient, weathered, son-of-the-soil farmer (Les) I used to work for told me back in the 70s, anyway. It sounds about right. At one point a large-ish bat flew through in a straight line... possible Liesler's Bat then but I'm no expert.

The beech leaves are coming out. I love that 'acid green' colour
and , yes, that is an out of focus pig in the background. 
We did our quarter of an hour of allowing Deefer to eat the long grass and try to be sick, then we all trooped back indoors. We did it all again at 06:00 and then gave up and woke up and got up properly at about quarter past 7. Deefer declined her breakfast but you'll be relieved to know, she was OK and sorted by lunchtime.

Polly the ewe enjoys the longer grass round the
willow archway.
Meanwhile we have got ourselves firmly into the routine of letting the sheep out twice a day to get at the longer grass outside the field. So far this has held no fears and caused no escapes. We supervise them out for between half and a whole hour. Either the two of us do it or either of us are happy to do this single handed. I say 'supervise' - what we actually do is stand around leaning on fences, chatting, or take a coffee and sit in our 'Darby and Joan' chairs out by the pond in the warm sunshine. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and pleasant "job".

Ewes and lambs round the pond.
The sheep, including all the now weaned or nearly-weaned lambs do a brilliant job mowing the open spaces but even better, nibble in close all around the edges, trees and fence-bases where you'd not get with a mower. They take grass, ground elder, creeping buttercup, selfheal, cow-parsley (Queen Anne's Lace here) and any other herbs they can get.

Tightly curled tail is the sign of a happy pig.
They fill up that rumen in about 45 minutes, at which point you can see they are losing focus and would, given the chance, go for a lie down. You would have to supervise that, too, which might get a bit boring. Luckily, at that stage they are very biddable and more than willing to follow any human carrying a bucket of grub back to the gated field to take their rest. They have a small helping of their 'crunch' as a dessert and we leave them be for a few hours (or over night) to ruminate that lot (cudding) before we do it all again. As a result, they are puttying on some good condition and I have not yet had to fire up the mower.

Plant more peas, you fool!
In other news. and as a nice segue from those Wood Pigeon calls, we have been thoroughly enjoying this proper improvement in the weather and have made a good start on the vegetable gardening. Elizabeth went off today in the car with a wad of cash and returned with trays and trays of seedling plants - caulis, cabbages, carrots, parsnips etc, plus pot-grown herbs and packets of seed - peas of course!

Elizabeth trying to garden 'helped' by chickens. This involved
a lot of shouting at birds and shoo-ing them off with a stick. 
Friends of the Blog will know that with Help-X Carsten's assistance, the three 'empty' railway sleeper beds in the Kitchen Garden got a  thorough weeding and a good mulch of compost. The two strawberry beds have also now been weeded. The empty ones are now well planted with the new plants but with space allowed for succession planting. Inevitably this involved the chickens all trying to get involved so there was plenty of repelling 'boarders' and the new rows are now securely protected by our chicken-wire cages and frames.

Kato trying to work out how to get up to the
starling's nest above that overflow pipe.
I have also been down a couple of times to help archery friends Con and Niamh with various 'many hands' tasks down at their place including today putting the conical canvas 'hats' on the two round-houses they have in their repro fort. It's a bit like putting up a small marquee and involves plenty of wrangling canvas while balanced at the top of a ladder clinging to the central upright pole of the house. All good clean fun.

That is probably enough for this one. Talk again soon.

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