Saturday 15 October 2016

Lazy Bones

One of the luxuries of being (pretty much) retired on account of being made redundant is that the working days are your own. Nobody chases you to clock/swipe in or makes you book holidays out of your measly allowance if you fancy a day off.  I do work round here occasionally, obviously, but I find I am an expert at winding down when a big job is completed and that 'momentous' occasion of a 'finish' comes round.

A gorgeous brawn from the pigs' heads. There were 3 such 'tubs'.
One is gone already and one in the freezer. This one made
 a handsome contribution to breakfast. Not all of it, obviously.
The latest such completion was the pigs - reared, taken on their final journey, brought home and butchered and variously frozen as joints, salted down as whole legs, cooked into dog treats (ears) or some 'scratchings' and even brawn (heads). Finally all tidied away out of sight. That was Tuesday and I have to confess to sitting down at that point and not really achieving much till this afternoon (fencing). Like I said - too good at winding down. Lazy bones.

Horse Chestnut. Needs a good frost to do
proper colour but it is trying.
It is one of the reasons why the veg garden is such a disgrace at the moment; the other being that I am also expert in what I believe the behaviour experts call "displacement activity", doing something else to avoid doing the job you should be doing. Office workers, faced with a big pile of jobs will reach, instead, for the "to do" list pad and spend ages compiling one, even adding jobs they have already completed so that they can enjoy the buzz of ticking one or two off.

Three of the ewes waiting for the ram to arrive next month.
In my case, this spring, every time I looked at the scary forest of docks, creeping buttercup, grasses and plantain which was winning in the veg patch, I then looked to my left at the huge pile of tree 'rounds' from our felled spruces and the hydraulic splitter I had borrowed. Needless to say, the logs got beautifully split and stacked and the weeds were left to grow even taller. There was building too and archery, pulling thistles in the East Field, brush-cutting in the woods or through the docks, the poly tunnel, mowing and so on. No end of ways to avoid that veg patch. When I did feel like weeding, there was always the big raised flower bed. I think that won because it is so much smaller and you could see progress and sense the end of the tunnel.

Big field mushrooms in the East Field
And so it went on; all the nice weeding weather of summer (well, there was SOME at least) came and went and still the veg patch is an embarrassment where I dare not take visitors. We even toyed with the idea at one stage of fencing it round stock-proof and letting the pigs or sheep at it.  But no, I cling to the idea that I will get stuck in one day, in my "little and often" mode (like my digging of the pond - 20 barrows (1 hour) a day across 5 months).

Soldier out for a stroll.
Some of we smallholders use volunteer labour - lads and lasses who sign up for a working 'holiday' through one of the green/organic/ecological organisations and will come and do yay amount of hours per day for you for the price of bed and board. We have a smaller scale version of that happening in spring when a friend from Kent who loves digging, weeding and veg gardening is coming here for a week. Some people whizz round in front of their 'cleaning lady' so she never sees how bad it was. I will be getting stuck into the weeding well before this guy arrives so that I can show him that I "made a start" and didn't wait round till May for him.

Nugget earns a free ranging winter by doing such a good
summer job in the bee hive dept.
Meanwhile, one worker who has definitely completed her assigned task is our one remaining rabbit, Nugget. She has done such a good job keeping the grass short around the bee hives that she has barely a leaf left and so she has earned a free ranging winter. She is very sensible and hangs around the house and buildings and must be good at avoiding Mr Fox (touch wood) because she survived last winter when she escaped by mistake and took ages to recapture. This (free ranging) is good because apart from a chunk of carrot I give her at breakfast just to keep her tame and give me a chance to check on her health (and presence) each day, I do not need to worry about feeding her or keeping her drinker topped up. She also might help with the weeding in the veg patch though I doubt it - she's never down there!

Extreme hedging
Over the last few days we have been "enjoying" the sight of someone else working hard - a local farmer brutalising his hedges with an impressive weapon. No flail-mower for him smashing the small branches in that so familiar way, leaving them shredded and a pale eye-sore. No this machine is a big and very fast-spinning circular saw on an arm that can pivot into every possible position. It slices through big ash trunks up to 5-6 inches thick with a loud "Ker-ANGGGG" and a roar of hard working diesel engine.

A 365 pic of, I think, a chunk of bog-oak but I don't really
know what species of tree it is. 
They use these things on hedges which have got away and grown up into tall rows of ash and sycamore. They slice up the sides to remove width and then buzz through all the tops sending big trunks and branches sliding and toppling down - OK if they fall into the field but requiring some rapid work with a grab to clear them off the road. In fairness these are mainly ash which coppices very well, so the hedges only look brutalised (all be it neat and boxy) round to spring time when they quickly bounce back in a healthy display of small leaves and shoots.

Nice colours from lichen and heather in Cloonargid Bog. 
The hedges don't need doing yearly when you do them this way but I can't help thinking they'd be better done little and often. Perhaps the lads have their own 'to do' lists and a rake of possible displacement activities.

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