Saturday, 30 January 2016

Dreaming of spring to come

The seed catalogs are arriving; thick, glossy magazines, full of lots of new plants for the year ahead. It's snowy outside and although the wind is howling a seed catalog can warm you up as well as a log fire, in the middle of winter.

At Stoneback farm the growing season starts with fencing off the kitchen garden. It will be a wooden structure that can hold a tank, read Molly sitting on it... First I thought a tall net could do the job but our hens are very good at flying so we would end up with visitors amongst the lettuce, anyway. So why not make a pretty fence, instead? We will never keep the happy gardening hens out, but at least they turn the soil for us. Our dear sheep tend to walk all over things, not really on purpose, it just sort of happens. They remind me a lot of Shetland ponies, our sheep. I know it will end up with me fenced in, and four interested woolly friends leaning on the fence, asking how I am getting on. At least the crops will stand a chance, that way.

Every year I have big plans, new varieties of plants to try out and every year I end up with the favourites; beans, lettuce, carrots, herbs and peas for Mr. Chip. If we don't have peas, the summer is not complete and our dear dog can't sit and watch them grow. We did not have a vegetable patch last summer as there was no time. I ended up buying peas from the market for him. " Not the same thing!", was the verdict, but better than nothing. So this year will be a bumper crop of peas! Two different kinds as well, apparently. There will also be tomatoes and cucumber of course. Cucumbers are Mr. Chips second favourite treat.

Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My will eat the carrots, the hens will keep the lettuce in place so it will never fully grow and I will be watering. The trick is to sow Marigold and Pot marigold in between the peas and the carrots. It looks pretty, keeps the weed from taking over and the smell makes the hens think twice about coming near them. Oregano is also good for that purpose; it just spreads so wildly, read everywhere.

Credit: Dasha Dimitrova

The cold has let up a bit and our dear sheep can enjoy some time outside, again. Darya will have a wonder about, checking that all is well with her beloved snow. Monty and Eric will look at me like I have gone around the last bend, when suggesting that they could pop out for a while to and life will get back to being a bit normal.

The lock on the stable door fell off in the middle of the worst cold spell, so it's been a bit fiddly with nothing keeping the door closed. Strings and forks and some interesting technical details are involved at the moment but the lock is being fixed in town. Small things that feel like huge problems when everything is frozen are now just part of everyday life with animals.

We found out that by eating warm soup every morning, life is easier for hens. Lots of corn is nice, to. It took a few days to get used to the smell of warm meat soup at 8am but whatever works, has been the motto around our place for some time now. Hens like their lettuce finely chopped and our sheep get a breakfast of hay, diced swede, carrots, apple and cabbage and a few bits of dry bread. The sheep have their own mineral food and they have their salt and mineral licking stones as well. The hens have their dry food to help with the egg laying and general health, although our cockerels love that stuff the most. I seem to run well on coffee and cake.

Today I learned that the blackbird cocks its head to see what it is eating, as the eyes are on the side and a birds eye can not move in its socket. I always thought they could hear the worms in the ground, that way. I think the Year of the Monkey came in the nick of time, as far as I'm concerned. Now I have to go and tell my dear husband about his upcoming fence-building project before he reads about it here. Then it's time for a short walk with Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My. We are going to collect some willow for them to peal. They love that stuff.

Text by Nina

Next blog post on the 7th February.

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