Friday 30 June 2017

A Nice Kind of Boss

Kitchen finished but for aluminium detail
strip along step (bottom of pic) and light
fitting (top left)
With the kitchen now all but finished we "builders" can move on to the next job. The little bit of de-snagging (as they say) involves just a fancy metal angle strip on the step and the light fitting in the new bit of kitchen, both of which we have yet to buy. The next job is all about creating, in K-Dub's yard, a series of concrete pads. One will take the planned big new shed/building/workshop/winter-quarters for the mini horses. Others will support dog-pen, dog house, green house and path(s).

That lovely old digger - a Massey Ferguson version of the JCB
mainly used by Councils back in the day.
When the helpful professional digger driver originally did the ground works for the house/extension he carefully sorted the 'waste' into piles of mainly one substance - topsoil for example, or rocks, or subsoil or turf-waste or 'rubbish-soil-with-boulders'. This is unusual, I gather - you normally inherit a great big mountain of general "spoil" and it's up to you to sort it out. In K-Dub's case there are mini-mountains dotted around the restricted space.

The trees out front getting rocked about
by the recent stiff NNW breeze
All this concrete work involves bringing lots of '804' gravel (sub-base) and several 8-wheeler concrete lorries onto the site and needing somewhere for the 804 to 'land'. K-Dub's solution is to move the mountain of top soil and, rather than double-handle it, to create several big, deep raised beds for the future veg garden. We do this by barrowing the stuff over into the beds but to fill the barrows out comes my favourite toy, the "JCB". It is not actually a JCB, but the Massey Ferguson version made in the 70s and very popular with council fleet buyers back in the day.

Plenty red currants up out of rooster-reach
K-Dub, being younger and fitter than me and a nice kind of boss believes that if he is not actually paying the 'help' then they ought to get the easier job (digger-ing) while he does the barrows. Suits me - I get to sit there for the hours twiddling my 6 levers with only the uncomfortable, tired seat and the chilly breeze blowing through the open-backed cab to complain about.

Mullein. Another 'wild' species we are
 trying to self-seed up a sustained population
I am reasonably good at it - I am tidy and I have not killed anyone yet but I have to confess I was delighted when the aforementioned professional digger driver (Jimmy, who lives next door to K-Dub) crept up behind me while I was working, stopped us working for a quick chat and fancied a 'go' on our old rust-bucket. He has long since moved on to the huge multi-ton turf machines but would have learned the ropes on these old MF work-horses back in his (relative) youth. He was a pleasure to watch - such control and deliberate movement. Poetry in motion. I must have been paying attention to this involuntary "master-class" too. K-Dub was amazed at the "improvement" after I'd watched Jimmy - "You are much neater and you're filling the barrows perfectly!" he said.

"Big Red" with her 4 now out and about.
Meanwhile, back at home, after all the excitement of that job I am refraining from talking about in this post (pssst... haircuts for ovines) we are enjoying a bit of a relaxed week bedding in the new chicks. Big Red has now started bringing her 4 chicks out to join white hen 'Connie' and her 3. They have little run-ins with other hens now and again and the ginger cats seem fascinated by them but too scared of the bossy hens to actually have a go.

Hubbards at 25 days get moved to the release-pen. 
They are thriving. I get good chick crumb and my finely-chopped hard boiled egg mix into them by periodically going to find the groups and, if there is no competition about, dropping little piles near them which the mother hen dives on clucking her bass-y "Food here children!" cluck. We thought we'd lost one of her black chicks - he was suddenly all slow, wobbly and woozy but he has recovered.

Release pen. They get a few days and nights to get used to
going to roost in the house, then let out into the 10 m by 10 m
pen itself. 
Maybe it was a chilly, wet day and he'd taken a 'puck' from an adult hen's feet (or beak) and got a bit cold and shocked. He got left behind a couple of times but we rescued him back to Mum and he seemed to improve after a few of their 'nap-time' hunker-downs. Mum-hens do that. They go exploring for a while but then decide it is nap time, gather the babies back under their skirts and settle down for a rest where ever they happen to be.

That first sour-dough loaf.
The Hubbard "babies" who are now as big as a pigeon in body-size despite only being 25 days old have been moved from their 2 square metres rabbit run, to their 'grown-up' 10 m by 10 m pen via a release pen I have built. Previous years I have had difficulty getting them to go to bed safe in the house - they started camping out UNDER the house and I had to rake them out and carry them to bed. So I built them a small training run which excluded them from 'under'. When they've done a few days and nights of going to bed properly, they can come out into the wider pen.

Welsh Cakes
In the new kitchen we are enjoying the sour dough bread making. I have had 2 reasonably good loaves (both been eaten) and I am creeping up on 'perfection' with a 3rd attempt tomorrow. The "sponge" is bubbling away now. Liz got inspired by some Welsh-Cakes brought by one of the guests to their recent AGM in Cardiff. She has had a go at them here. Again, they were OK but she was disappointed by the slightly scorched colour and that they were too thick and a bit sticky to handle. I expect there will be a 2nd prototype along soon.

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