Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Reminder of Spring

My mother sent us a lovely card with pressed Scottish Blue bells on it. She had collected them on the walk between her house and our old house so they were even more special. The boys were very excited as it reminded them that they too had pressed some Spring flowers in a BIG book so we got them out and they were pleased that they too could do what Oma does. We had thought about making a picture with them but they decided to save them and gather some more so that they would have a bigger collection.

Rain Around

There is a phrase that is continually being used on the weather forecast and that is 'rain around'. Now in the UK that would mean that as soon as you went out of your door there would be rain all around you, but here that's not the case. It's a taunt, a mean reminder of what we haven't had for ages and are in desperate need of. It means that big black clouds will gather, that we'll put everything under cover, that we'll put out all our rain collectors, only to see the clouds pass either side of us and not a drop of rain will fall on our farm - rain around us but not on us. This drought is going on and on.

Our 'lawn' was last cut in April - you can see in this photograph that it certainly doesn't need it!

Our maize has failed. Nine hundred holes were dug and planted with two seeds not just once but twice but due to the lack of rain we have but 5 plants! Not nearly enough or one meal for the pigs let alone a whole winter as planned.

I will have to look at ways of keeping the water where we need it as all of our land slopes away from the house and the only bit of green that's left is at the bottom of the hill. I have had to move the sheep to that green area and the geese now free-range to allow them to find all the scraps of weeds/grass that they can. All around us looks like brown, dry, arid wasteland. It is very sobering to go through such dry times and it makes me begin to appreciate how hard it must be for people who regularly go through droughts. It must be so hard to stand by and watch your livestock go hungry and thirsty.

It has made us look even more seriously at our household water consumption and we recycle all bowls of washing-up water, bathwater etc. I now feel angry when I see folk squandering water supplies. It makes you wonder, will it be Peak Oil or Peak Water that rocks the 'developed' world? We will try hard to get those who come to stay with us to appreciate just how valuable a commodity water is and how lucky we are to be able to just turn a tap and water is there.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Permaculture Festival

Last Thursday we headed up to Nethen in Belgium for a four day Permaculture Festival. Our thanks go to Alex, our WOOFER at the time, as he kindly looked after the farm whilst we were away (this is one of the difficult things about having animals - there aways needs to be someone at base to look after their daily needs).

It was wonderful and I learnt so many new skills, got so many new ideas, shared thoughts with so many like-minded folk, played barefoot with the children in lush green grass (as we have none at home!), and generally just chilled out. We made felt from raw Ouessant wool, ground wheat and made bread on an open fire, went on a foraging ramble and came back and cooked the goodies (R particularly loved this), made mud bricks, helped to build a clay oven, talked for a whole morning about scythes, visited folk who were running a permaculture small-holding in arid Israel, learnt to make more cheeses, and did a workshop on forest gardening.

The most surreal thing happened just as I was getting up early on the Friday morning. Dimly in the distance I could hear pipes sounding out the tune of, of all things, God Save the Queen. I thought that I was going mad. I mentioned it to Ben. He thought I was going mad. But then, the haunting pipes wafted in again and there it was. We both looked at each other. There in the middle of very rural Belgium, in the middle of a field, at 6.30am surrounded by sleepy permaculture enthusiasts, we listened to God Save the Queen!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Mrs Brown

Sadly we now only have four hens as Mrs Brown roosted up fine on Friday evening but the following morning when I went to let them out I found that she had 'dropped off the perch' and was dead on the floor of the hen house. I think she had a blocked crop and basically choked to death, poor wee soul. She had been the friendliest of our hens and visiting children will miss being able to cuddle a chicken - the others just run off at the prospect of a small child approaching with arms open wide. I'll miss her too as she was quite a character.