Saturday, 30 April 2011

Wall Street at The Larches....

I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open...

The weather's been great and we've almost finished the allotments (6 long planting beds 30' by 4', surrounded by grass walkways and an incarceration of rabbit proof fencing.) 4 beds are filled with potatoes the rest I plant tomorrow with beans, peas, pumpkins and tomatoes.

Thank god for the wedding yesteday as it gave me a chance to sit down and weep....partially due to the lovely spectacle and partly due to my aches and pains from planting, fencing, turf moving and most especially from lugging boulders...

The new allotments are a considerable distance from the house towards the back of Home Field but I could still see the sproglets in the swimming pool. (OK, OK it's a blow up from Argos, I just liked the sentence.)

Anyhoo a little time had passed after they ran off to dry and change while hubby and I continued our peasant toil in the heat of the sun....

I noticed her jaunty walk first. The I'm chuffed with myself saunter. The 8yo approached us and as I watched she punched the air in victory.

'Yeah!' she said when she reached us. 'Look.'

From her pocket she produced .50p.

'Where did you get that from?' I enquired, worried.

'We're selling things on the bridlepath, we've got a table and chairs and everything and a lady just bought one of my painted shells. She's on holiday.'

O.M.G. my children are stopping unsuspecting ramblers and holidaymakers on bikes....... AND MAYBE EVEN LOCALS (breathe, breathe.)

I thought of something to say to make this better....

'Awesome. Get some of my tomato plants from the greenhouse and sell those too,' I heard myself say...

'Oh we've already got those, and your herbs....'

Excellent. We're growing entrepreneurs.

Total sales today..... .50p. It's a rural pitch....

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

I'm a mattock girl..... and I've got a hickory shaft...

My hubby knows how to treat a girl. He knows I don't want bunches of fleurs that'll die in a week, (besides I'm growing my own!) He knows I'm rarely swayed by chocolates.... but a mattock? Well baby, that will do nicely...

Ranked best pressies since arriving to The Larches:
  1. New log burners
  2. The greenhouse
  3. My wheelbarrow
  4. The Mattock
  5. My gardening apron (toolbelt for ladies..... say ladies in that dooble entendre voice) 
  6. Extra long hosepipe.
The mattock will be in full operation today as I plant the next 80 potatoes, make a trench for peas and incisions for the beans.

It's funny but I was under the impression that potatoes should go in the ground by St Patricks, (17th March) but around here they're saying Good Friday.... Maybe it's because we're 500m above sea level. In any case last year I planted in March and got a wondrous crop, we'll have to wait and see what this year brings.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

We buried Moon.....

I suppose it was inevitable that there would be a weakling within the brood of ten chicks.

Moon died and the children really, really cried. We were staying at my parents when hubby called to tell us the news. We hurried back for the funeral.

The 6yo held the tiny white body in his hand, rigor had set in. Moon had been one of Boy's chicks apparently....

'Why is he twisty like that?' he asked

'It's just the way he lay when he died.' I replied.

A tear-streaked boy looked at me sternly.

'Are you sure you didn't twist his neck like the others.'

Considering I was with my children on the south coast, a hundred and fifty miles from the crime scene, I thought this was turning into a bit of a fit-up. Clearly I'm getting a reputation.

The 8yo constructed a simple wooden cross with two sticks, (an entire roll of Sellotape holding them together) and we said goodbye to little Moon.   

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Million Things.....

A million things have happened since last we chatted....

Easter holidays started almost three weeks ago and thanks to the warm weather, it has been a lovely break with the sproglets.

The Friday night they broke up, we celebrated with a cook out. We loaded up Dizzy Disco with meats and rolls and sauces, wine and cider and drove down the track, into Home Field, passed the growing bonfire pile, to the bottom of the field where our new fire pit resides: A deep pit into the earth, lined with discarded victorian firegrates. Over the top we've laid a robust iron mesh which we cook on.

Huge hunks of conifer, recently felled, are dotted about the pit as seats. They offer an excellent array of heights for the chair connoisseur, but your bottom does become glued to your seat thanks to the resin or gum which bleeds from the wound in the wood. (Maybe this is where the phrase comes from!)

Why does everything taste so good in the open air? We made popcorn in a saucepan that has a short life expectancy over the feisty fire. We used a tin foil plate as the lid and each violent rat-a-tat-tat made us laugh. The sproglets roared when I took the lid off completely and white explosions lit up the dusk. Funny really, I don't particularly like eating popcorn, I just like making it.

Since that day we've eaten at the pit plenty of times. If you sit on a log facing the house, your left hand side faces east, your right west: Last Sunday night, we watched a burned orange sun descend to our right, while a harvest moon rose on our left. It was spectacular.


The small holding is coming along nicely. Hubby is very patient with me. He hardly groaned at all when I mentioned that I'd run out of planting space in the walled garden. Last weekend he hired a gadget, a meaty diesel powered thingy that eats turf and voila, we have an allotment in Home Field!

Bearing in mind that the grass we are removing has been there for hundreds of years, it is currently very difficult to dig through the deep black soil below. I've yet to test the pH but I can already see flecks of clay and the worms are bountiful and fat, so I'm hoping for great fruit and vegetables in future years.

So far I've planted 80 chitted potato tubers, 40 Charlotte and 40 Lady Crystal. I'll let you know how we get on with these. 80 more potatoes to go, so I guesstimate we should get 8-12 sacks this year.


Last week I had to down my wellingtons and wash me 'ands and face so I did, in order to travel down to London. I was infiltrating the London Book Fair in search of a publisher for my children's book. Pleased to say I had several meetings and we shall wait to see the outcome... I also met a wonderful lady who has a book shop in London

She was a magical lady with sparkly eyes, totally knowledgeable about all books for children. She reminded me of a great book for 8 or 9+ readers called Dolphin Song. If you haven't read it I highly recommend it, I think it's an audio book too.

Although I haven't been to her shop, (Anthony Horowitz has!) I'm recommending you should go if you're in the area. Next time I'm in London, I'm taking the sproglets.

I also met up with my great friend who writes the blog 'Cross the Pond  She and I, along with my business partner, The Entrepreneur, had a very good gossip and fish supper (even though the restaurant claimed not to have our booking!) Technology, pah!

Anyhoo, back to editing my novel next week, aimed at adults not children this time. From next week the 8yo is at Saturday school... forever. It's a new challenge for her and for us, the taxi drivers. Hey-ho, change is as good as a rest I hear...... hmmmmmm...

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Poultry Auction...

We were late. My plans to get to the poultry auction early long since scuppered by sproglets with extreme cases of easterholidayitus, the symptoms of which cause children to cling to duvets and thrust out bottom lips.

It was almost ten o'clock by the time we parked and ran to the livestock market. I had a tight hold of the 6yo and 8yo's hands, dodging cattle trucks and trailers and noting that the sales of Land Rovers in the 1960's must have been awesome.

Peering into sheds we decided against purchasing a flock of sheep, besides they wouldn't fit into our cardboard boxes.

Eventually we found our shed.

A scene from Bedlam: The large metallic structure was filled to the brim with noise and bustle pre-auction. Hands-in-their-overalls types with weathered faces greeted other similar men, all looked out of place. I imagine they'd be happier on a hillside rather than in the centre of Hereford on such a hot day. The wall-to-wall cages were brimming with feisty cockerels that crewed their manhood, while below them, demur hens popped out eggs to prove their worth. In the centre of the room another structure housed eggs of every size and colour and cardboard boxes, (long since emptied of wine, crisps or pasta) housed tiny chicks, ducklings or unknown fowl.

We quickly registered and collected our bidding number. Excusing our way through the throng we peered in at cages that might contain our new hens; the silkies. By all accounts Silkies are great broody hens and we had decided to raise our own chicks at The Larches, more like Archie.

The temptation to buy all the chicks in the sale was enormous and the little yellow ducklings were desperately appealing. [But I was determined to resist the ducklings in order to save our wildlife pond from plundering.]

In the end I narrowed our lots down to just two Silkie girls and some boxes of black chicks called Black Rocks. The chicks came with a hand written note insisting that these babies be put under heat lamps as soon as possible. We have no such contraption.

I was still viewing when the sale began. It was quite a challenge to listen to the regional pace of the auctioneer while following his description of the livestock offered and concurrently watch two sproglets to make sure they weren't stuffing ducklings in their pockets.

In one box sat a brown broody hen, she pecked me, fed up with all the attention. Beside her in a box of chardonnay (I hate chardonnay) sat a petite white hen, her feathers silky to the touch. I read the description; Hen and Chicks, though there were no chicks visible. I gently lifted her and there, looking out at me was a tiny black face.

Bribing the children with sweets and bananas (the sweets won) I waited for the lots I'd chosen......... that is, until Hen and Chicks was called out...

My arm seemed to have a life of its own and suddenly we were the proud owners of Hen and 10 chicks; 2 black, 2 yellow, 4 white and 2 striped like wild boar. My only defence is that I figured mother hen could act in place of our lack of heat lamp..... weak defence I know. It's all I've got.

Husband was proper cross slightly confused when he arrived home from work to find us Silkie-less. We're still working on the logistics for rearing the new family members (bearing in mind that I've now doubled our flock.) We're wondering how we rear all 11 in the nursery coop that reasonably sleeps 6! The 8yo was completely unfazed by this issue,

'Daddy, you can just make them an extension to the coop and a longer run,' she said matter-of-factly.

Daddy was so pleased........ 'ish.......

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Easter chicks...

I should probably be banned from auctions.... good job I've never been to a pig or cattle sale...

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon