Wednesday 26 September 2018

Ready for the Membrane

Sure sign of Autumn - the porridge!
As I type this it is still quite early (7 a.m.) and I am the only one awake. Don't worry - it is not another of those 'woken-up-by-coughing' nights - I slept like a baby and I am 'sleeped' out and well rested. As the Autumn starts to bite, these mornings are increasingly dark and gloomy, so I need to crank the livestock release/feed round back from 8 o'clock, or the fox will still be about when the birds come bursting from their houses all full of the joys.

Asbjörn and Sonja supervise the incinerator watched by the
ever present turkey, 'Tom' 
Sheer hard work by many people over the last few months has finally brought our big raised flower bed to a state of well dug over-ness and levelled out-ness where Elizabeth has declared it fit to have its weed proof membrane cover fitted. This is her baby, her decision and she very much wants to be there for this job, but today is Day 5 (of 5) of her hard land-scaping course which will go on to at least lunchtime. We therefore decided to give everyone a late start and lie in and we will do the Help-X hours in the afternoon, so that everyone can play.

Pruning and re-weaving the arbour over the 'Darby and Joan'
It has been a marathon job to get this far. The bed is about 16 m long by 10 m at its widest  and is quite clay-ey, being the spoil from the big pond with subsequent compost mulch layers added over the years. It can be heavy work to dig if it gets wet. We were going to do all this digging in Summer when the soil is more manageable. We used Help-X-ers Emma and Flora to clear it but then I got sick and our August Help-X blew us out, so the dig over was down to Elizabeth helped by 'Sparks'.

More Help-X product. 6 huge bags of
As the wet season started we looked on in increasing despair thinking we'd missed the boat and would have to wait till Spring. But then, as Asbjörn and Sonja rocked up and proved very capable, it also stopped raining and the ground started to dry out. I asked them to give it a go at just an hour a day. On this basis, skimming lumps off with a shovel, moving soil with wheel barrows from peaks to troughs, and with much cloddy raking, they have prevailed and we are delighted to be able to get the membrane down THIS year. Even if we do not plant anything through it, that is a huge landmark and consolidation.Well done A and S.

A lovely full moon and a bit of mackerel-sky for the equinox.
The week, though, has not been all about the raised bed (Thank Heavens!). Asbjörn and Sonja have been everywhere and doing every kind of job all with the same keenness, enthusiasm and application. In the last post, they were just off to their weekend trip to Sligo to find their friends and the Celtic arts festival. I collected them back on the Saturday afternoon, we fed them pork chops, and that was the only time they wanted off.

From the UK arrives a new pig-sign, OSB for 'Oxford Sandy
and Black', of course.
A popular job was burning all the prunings from the raised bed shrubs, plus the brambles from the East Field plus some more recent rose bits (The Rambling Rector had been getting a bit up close and personal with the poly tunnel canopy!), in our dustbin style incinerator. I like this job and can get quite 'Zen' tipping away, cutting the prunings into short lengths and dropping them in, trying to keep a good fire going, and Asbjörn is obviously the same. Sonja had done her 4 hours or so of helping, but A went out again after lunch and stuck at it, even through light rain, till 6 pm - 8 hours of lonely Zenning (well, lonely except for the ever-present Turkey-Tom). Between them they cleared the whole pile - very useful.

Cheese and Dillisk Biscuits.
While Asbjörn worked away, the catering department had gone into full swing and the night's feast was to be a Madhur Jaffrey inspired feast of creamy turkey 'curry' with side dishes of potato and cauliflower and of "dry okra" plus a good range of yogurt-with-cucumber and tomato salsa style coolants for those who found the spuds a bit fiery.

Black Spring's Nan's pork hock under construction.
Dessert was a trad sticky toffee pudding (with extra sauce in a jug!), to the delight of Sonja. The following days saw some cheese and dillisk biscuits (dillisk (dulce) is an edible seaweed) and the family favourite recipe "Black Spring's Nan's pork hock", a gorgeous Chinese slow-simmer. The meat from the hock gets served with steamed shredded cabbage (or pak choi if you can get it) and noodles. The left over sauce sets like a jelly and can be eaten that way as a "cold soup".

New neighbours - this suckler herd. Sometimes the calves even
stay on THEIR side of the fence!
Other jobs done by the Help-X-ers have included pruning and re-weaving the living willow 'arbour' over our 'Darby and Joan' chairs on the far side of he pond plus moving some of our kitchen extension rubble down to fill gaps under the fence at the north end of the East Field.

Daily job. Re-salting the 'Parma' ham legs
Here the sheep wire is nice and tight between the posts and stapled to the very bottom of each post, but in places the ground dips between the posts and foxes (and little white dogs) can slip under. We have a pile of rubble that needs a 'home', so 2 fit wheel-barrowers are just the ticket. They have also gathered up the dog-end of a stack of split firewood from the far corner of the yard, and barrowed it all up to the wood store just outside the kitchen door.

In other news, I am taking another turn as curator of the UK version of the small holders' Twitter account (@smallholdersUK). I am the voice of Brit smallholding from last Sunday evening round till this one coming. These accounts work on the basis of the followers hearing from a different smallholder each week, which keeps it nice and varied. Our Irish one is currently parked up for lack of volunteers - it ran out of steam after a couple of years, but the UK has a bigger catchment and is still going strong. It is not restricted to people who do their small holding in the UK.

Towser rolled in goose-poo and attracted some unwelcome
attention from Sonja.
That is about it, I guess. I will post again on Friday which will be the last working day for these Help-X volunteers. They are back off to Dublin on Saturday, ready for their flights home on Tuesday. We will miss them. They have been great.
Luck ran out for the 'lucky' rooster. Ah well.

1 comment:

Mum in the Woods said...

Hi Matt, thought I’d pop over to your blog (and see how easy it is to leave a comment). Glad I found it, looks right up my street - not that there are any my way 😆