Stocking the larder/ self-sufficiency

My sheep are hanging over me again – metaphorically speaking. Firstly they are getting pretty short of grass, though I’m glad to say that most of them seem to be prepared to eat the hay I made with the sweat of my brow last summer, as well as the sheep nuts which I am giving at a reduced rate because of the hay. Secondly, they have all got to be injected – at least the seven ewes have – but I’m putting that off, today, as it was a stormy night and they will all be wet today and unpleasant to hold still while X jabs them. The chicken are also hanging over me at the moment as they have practically given up laying, and I need a lesson in what to do next.

 

We are so cosy and warm in our log cabin, second winter. We built a larder/storage room this autumn, so now we have four rooms – very grand! I did a lot of canning again this year, stocking the shelves up with plums, pears, apples, apple sauce and jams and jellies for the winter. I have to say, I am getting quite a professional when it comes to canning!

Because of a lot of delays this summer, we never did get our house started. Next year for sure. I am quite content with our log cabin, at least for one year more.

 

After their initial flightiness and standoffishness my new chicks seem to be settling down. We are up to about four eggs a day from 6 so that’s not bad, and I have started selling them again.

Our neighbour’s wife and the two younger kids were away. His dogs took off after a pig and he came back to leave the older boy with us and get a dagger before chasing after them. By the time he got back supper was ready so we invited him in too.

 

The kitchen is my favourite, all logs and wooden shelves and workbench, and filled jars and rose hips strung out to dry for tea. Our garden came out well, and in fact we’re still eating carrots and cabbage and beetroot from it, and I planted some pretty flowers in front of the cabin. This summer we also acquired one cat  (to keep the mice away), two white ducks called George and Martha and five chickens, which actually are too young to lay eggs until the early spring.

 

Last week I heard a couple of shots and thought next door was killing off a sheep, but he phoned to warn us the butcher had come to butcher his cow, and the first shot sent it straight off and over a 4 ft fence to land dead at the top of our drive. As their Landrover was in the garage for a couple of days the remains of the poor beast had to remain outside our gate, loose head and all the innards until he could take them away. The rural postie hesitates as to whether to get out of the car to put our letters in the box, pools of blood etc. everywhere.

 

I got on reasonably well, in a slightly ill-disciplined way while they were up north. I never managed to make my bed until the day they were coming home, and most days forgot even to pull it together after breakfast – but I did several washes, and managed to cook a lamb casserole which lasted two days, and sausages which X left for another two. One day I bought a ‘boil in a bag’ meal from Woolworth’s, which wasn’t bad though I imagine one would quickly get tired of them, apart from the expense, and another day I fried some lamb cutlets. On Friday, expecting the others back in the evening, I was extremely domesticated, and very busy! Made my bed! Hoovered the house from one end to the other, and dusted everywhere, even the tops of the pictures and the mantelpiece which involved taking down all the Christmas cards and putting them back again. Cleaned the windows, put a coat of paint which has waited a long time on bits of the outside room, and cooked another large casserole and a fruit salad in preparation for them: I was exhausted. My performance amazed me!

The couple down the road came over Sunday week ago and collected the three black wether lambs which I had promised to let them have, and on Saturday when I had the car back for the trailer I went and collected three, a year older but white, from X to keep the summer grass down and prepare themselves for the freezer a bit later on. As the first couple were prepared to pay what I had to pay for the replacements that means we get about half our meat supplies for about 6 or 8 months more or less for nothing (well, not quite if you allow for feeding the mother ewes in the winter, and inoculating them etc., plus interest on the capital tied up in the fields).

Each day X has been away there’s been no water after breakfast. The first day the jolly new filter thing had come adrift; that was easy, I took out the filter and put the two bits together, deciding I’d rather have brown water than no water. The next day they were adrift again but ominously no water was coming out of the pipe, which means the holding tank is empty. I struggled up to the jolly tank – it was very frosty and very wet, but the tank and pipes were all in place. Only the thought of no hot bath kept me going after that. The neighbour had told me his rams were well behaved but I kept a wary eye out for them and took a big stick, so on to the bucket. I found a piece of rope tied across the creek and I presumed it was for holding whilst investigating the bucket, so I hoped for the best and did that, and found under the chicken wire and many leaves a branch had got in and blocked up the opening out, so I felt very triumphant about that but realise that I’m not so sure I like Heath Robinson contraptions as I thought I did! This morning the filter was disconnected again so I joined it up once more, but tonight something very odd is happening, it was full but didn’t appear to be moving so I rashly unscrewed one end and the full blast of water shot over me. X is due home tomorrow so I think I’ll leave any further efforts to him; I just hope I get a hot bath tonight.

 

X thinks her dahlias are smaller this year than last and that the answer is sheep manure. There were two possibilities – to try and rake it up from the fields, or to dig it out from underneath the neighbour’s woolshed. We chose the latter, but it was a pretty unsavoury job. Little headroom, long whiskers of cobwebs plus, hanging from the slatted floor above, and a good deal of it well trodden down where the sheep had been put in to keep them dry if it threatened rain before shearing. We contracted with the manager to pay him $10 for a trailer full – but called it a day a $5 worth! It looks a most miserable little heap now we have it sitting in the field waiting to be distributed. Never mind, next year I hope to have a nice pile of chick manure mixed with sawdust

 

We have built a new chicken coop and run. Our hens are laying six eggs a day, and very soon we’re getting a whole bunch of baby chicks, which may start laying in the autumn, or next spring for sure. This is the first year we have made it with our chickens, the ones we had the last two years never did anything much. Nothing is nicer than getting eggs out of the nesting box – especially when you see how incredibly expensive they are in the stores!

Crime/sympathy

I am sorry to hear about the very distressing events so close to you. Somehow things like that only ever seem to happen ‘somewhere else’, and if it does happen near you, it comes as a great shock. It makes one feel very vulnerable.

Things here are getting a bit rough – a murder a minute including 2 R.C. priests, one of whom was just quietly saying his prayers, by himself, in his church one evening. It’s very hard to understand.

cheeky thief

The guy next door to me woke up with someone in his flat on the 2nd floor; he put the light on and after the initial mutual ‘surprise’, the thief took off OUT THE WINDOW and down the drain pipe with my neighbour yelling abuse at him and the thief replying something like ‘and the same to you’. He had pocketed the guy’s cell phone and wallet, had removed a blanket from him as he slept!! in which to carry off further loot.

[About getting some specialist cutting done for an artwork] He looked at my lovely granite and asked where I’d got it from. Feeling a bit apprehensive I said a man in X had given it to me, but I knew it wasn’t from this enormous firm I’d gone to. He replied, ‘In fact it is a piece of ours’. It’s fortunate I’m beyond blushing! But seeing the name of the hotel it had been used on he knew who had given it to me as they had both worked on it. Evidently a big trolley with a pile of this stone had been stolen only a few weeks earlier: not surprising he was suspicious.

The saga of the carpet is coming to a head soon – that is the carpet which our ex-president at the club found in a cupboard and cut up and laid in the kitchen. The hairdresser downstairs who was storing it up to lay in her new spa-pool annexe has finally taken the course I suggested to her about six weeks ago and laid a claim against us in the Small Claims Tribunal – though I wanted it laid against the owners of the building as well, seeing as how one of their directors told her to put it in the cupboard, and another told us we might use it supposing it was somebody’s leftover, and it’s their kitchen anyway!

He said the other day that he was $1500 down on the theft of the skins which were stolen from his shed two or three months ago, because they were not covered by his insurance policy; and last week he was going off to X one day to try and sort out the money due to him for the trees that were felled. Apparently the woodmen had gone bust, and the mill to which they had taken the trees for sawing said they had no record of which came from his land, and which from the land across the river which they were felling and carting the same time.

Change

I note you are going to X for a lunch – did you know I spent most of my childhood there? It was a lovely, sleepy little place in those days, but when I last went back, it had become all touristy and horrible – and, apart from the fact that both my parents are buried there, and I still have friends there, I wouldn’t mind if I never saw the place again – it has changed beyond all recognition! I’ve always said that one can’t go back in life, only forwards, but I sometimes wonder if I’m even doing that!

It is a big gap and suddenly one realises – at least my sister and I did – that with both our parents gone horror of horrors we are now the ‘older generation’!!

One person from our section resigned recently, and that is allowed to be filled, but it has to be by someone redeployed from another area. This is a bit of a worry, as I expect we’ll get someone who someone else is pleased to see go.

getting rid

Am I nuts? I’ve really stopped being able to see any more whether this really is what I’ve wanted for years or I’m off my rocker. Maybe I’ll be able to think more clearly at my own place.

I asked after the ‘little boy’ born whilst we were there only to find he’d topped 6 foot and had finished a philosophy degree but sadly like so many of them had got a dead end job.

To begin with, I called it ‘Aphorisms and Illustrations’ but on the whole that seems bit pretentious, so it is now called ‘Pointers and Pictures’!

I could have wept over your would-be purchaser opting out – I hope it means there’s a better offer coming your way – any offer coming our way would be something, but so far we’re just 1,200 down the drain in advertising. What is particularly maddening is the first estate agent has a man WITH MONEY looking for something like this, but we’re tied for a month to the auctioneers. He poohpoohed the idea of sharing the commission in spite of my suggestion that ‘half a loaf was better than no bread’ – stiff necked, I call it.

Early in the morning and after 5 p.m. it’s getting nippy. Tho’ many plants have got really muddled up and are flowering for the second time, it’s been a mad season, no really settled weather. I’ve worn a summer dress about 4 times, and my new white sandals the same, and now out must come the old drearies.

Nuisances of life 3

I think I told you about the huge rat that walked across our skylight when I had an elevenses party. Well, we didn’t catch that but a while ago I saw another smaller one and managed to get X to see it before it scurried off. We set a trap in the skylight and caught two the same size but now they seem to have taken the hint.

exploring rat

The second week of the holiday was somewhat marred by having a wisdom tooth out. It wasn’t too bad but my face swelled more than expected so I looked like an advanced stage of mumps on one side for a while. It’s almost down again now – I can still feel where he pulled my jaw about though.

Whilst I remember, did you ever – Maddening – I can’t remember – something caught my attention and can’t finish that fascinating question!!!

Only four lambs – 50% lambing rate is most shaming! Next year if I still have them I’ll have to find another ram I think. [But later] We now have adorable twin black lambs from a ewe we didn’t think was going to lamb, plus a white one, and one twin that survived, and another is imminent. They make their bed in the oddest way by pawing the ground and when nice and muddy or clear of grass sit in it.

I found my dahlias were at last showing few shoots, so spent a whole afternoon sorting them out into 3 boxes, one that looked too shrivelled to come to life again, another that might, given time, and the third that all had shoots and were ready to plant. I’d promised X some of them and intended sharing the third box, but left the job in the middle and didn’t come back to it for 2 days when I was taking the typewriter to her as she had asked to borrow it, so picked up the box outside the back door and went – yes, you’ve guessed, it was the one with all the good ones in it. I was ridiculously miserable for two days – I’ve enjoyed them so much the last two seasons, I hope she does this season!

I fear I haven’t done very much of the jigsaw, there seem so many things mounting up in the garden and bridge and just living takes a long time!

I’ve been feeling very sorry for myself as the 2nd double tooth broke in half last week, the first one was on the bottom jaw so didn’t show but this one was on the top beside a previous gap. The dentist was away but saw me promptly the day he came back, and said he couldn’t do anything about it as it was too soft, so I’d have to have it out soon. I asked, ‘Like now?’ and he said if he gave me a local whilst he saw the next person just slowly coming up the drive, he’d do it when she left.

My bank statement came and I took ages trying to balance it – finished $100 up on the bank – must be wrong! I think it was last time X did them for me and after 2 days still couldn’t balance it that he said he thought I should die before him. I said I didn’t want to be hurried up I had lots of things I wanted to do!

Significant other (2)

Finally: good luck to X’s new hubby – I think if I saw her again I’d probably bite her!

She sure has woken him up and made him more amusing and human. I hope X reckoned that perhaps she [2nd wife] was a good substitute for young Y – although of course still sticking to her opinion that Y was badly done by!

X and I, at last, managed to agree on how we’ll split the remainder of the matrimonial property which will take place at the end of January when the lawyers get back from holidays at our expense!

Our neighbour who has the stroke victim husband is off to Canada for 2 or 3 weeks and putting him in the home at the end of our road – she does this every few months – which is very wise of her – can’t think how everyone seems to afford these things except us – which is silly as we could really – but feel guilty about it!

Did I tell you I heard from X: her sister who tried to kill herself – down a flight of stairs when her fiance decided he’d go into a monastery instead – died in the ‘home’ X put her in – what an awful 8 years of wasted life – I hope the man knows the consequence of his action.

V. sad: one of her daughters-in-law suddenly committed suicide just before Xmas – teenage children – husband left her.

One of the nicest of the group said she’d decided she didn’t like men – she’d just had a brief letter from someone she dotes on – middle 50s – saying he’d left his wife as he’d met another woman he wanted to live with.

We have not opened the tea garden yet as we were in such a bad marriage state – very close to separation. Then we were persuaded to attend a course ‘Curse to Blessings’. [That’s what it looks like which seems surprising!] Well – we are just amazed at the change that has come over us. We are on honeymoon. We are enjoying this state till 4th March I think when we shall open. … We have found that we can actually work together now without even arguing and are due to go to the Anointed Marriage course at the end of the month. And I take X to the Curse to Blessings in about 3 weeks. We are relieved her boyfriend did not get a job here …

I was talking to a friend who said her husband’s ex-wife regarded her as the woman who stole her husband and they didn’t even meet until 7 years after the first wife left him. The human mind is an extraordinary thing.

We found a fish and chip shop directly across the road which provided an admirable lunch which we could eat in the firm’s lunch room while he relayed to me the story of his war, in various engineering jobs, and some of his subsequent career and marital troubles (which had been somewhat mixed up).

Evidently her mother told all 3 girls they should know getting married wasn’t the only way to go, and only X got married very young against their advice and was deserted after 3 children. I can’t altogether blame their mother for her view as her father left her mother and lived with someone else before they got together again.

She and her husband separated for quite a while; he spent every penny he had (and every penny she had) on cars, and was not the perfect husband.

Every time he opened his mouth, she told him he was being boring and ‘nobody was interested in that’ and he was snapping back, and being generally disgruntled.

I do wonder who X has married – Y said she replied to the speech as her new husband is very shy – and mad to marry her!!!

He’s so foul in the morning he goes to work without breakfast and phones her up about 9.30 and they talk for ages. But how this would fit into a caravan I can’t think.

Evidently he’s a new man since the break-up of their marriage – lost weight, given up smoking, and is very cheerful.

the new man

I’m pretty amazed they made their 25th too – a few years ago I think it was touch and go.

We had a huge montage of them climbing sheer cliffs and one of him kayaking down a narrow bluff which had seething water … I trust she won’t be a widow too young.

X has really done wonders with her minute flat – it looks hovelish outside but perfectly okay for one person – she keeps bringing things from the house [ex home] some of which he has different views on whether they are ‘hers, his or theirs’. It’s not going to be easy.

Nature

The whole place was looking quite magical yesterday and I took the car up to the forest and walked to find some berries and grasses for my big jug and it looks rather nice. Also saw an extraordinary fungi – bright orange just like some orange-peel stuck to a bit of wood.

I still feel pangs of envy when I get letters from friends who have decided to stay in England, as it is coming on autumn. Autumn and spring were my favourite seasons, partly because they were so colourful and partly because things happen so quickly in them. There is little sudden change in seasons here – things happen gradually so that one season merges into another almost imperceptibly.

I can swim out to the reef to snorkel (or ‘goggle’ as they very aptly call it here.) We are right on the beach and recently I have been watching for hatching turtles. Came across some early this morning who were being attacked by ants. (That’s a problem in our butterfly rearing too.)

I am sorry I am so bad about hygiene. Fleas and ticks are, alas, part of our way of life, but they vary with the time of year, and I’m afraid you hit a bad patch. The only ones that really upset me are cockroaches and spiders.

I saw a green thing walk past as if it owned the place. It was quite large (about 30 cm) lizard, with a pointy nose and tail. … If it’s a feral lizard, I might have to try to trap it and have it removed. It’s sleek and healthy looking – a fine specimen of lizardhood. I would prefer it to be native, as then it could continue to keep the slug and snail population down for me.

the green visitor

Children (2)

X as awkward as ever. I fear he dreads coming into our house, and there’s a free fight even getting him out of the car – really most shaming for us. I don’t know what started it all off – no, I haven’t spanked him or even shouted at him once!!!

unwilling visitor

 I’d love to know about all the other misdoings at her school her daughter got up to, do tell me more.

X is a real delight – gets handed round like a parcel and beams on everyone. She could only go backwards then – and was trying to pull her leg up by holding her clothes – but a few days after she was off – so now the gate has to be locked by the stairs.

X has been elected form captain which was v. good for her morale – I have a suspicion that she’ll be unbearable – in the nicest possible way!!

She’s having a rough ride at work. I don’t think she’d realised how completely unstructured the school is. If her little dears (8 year olds) get bored or cross they go walk-about and come back when they feel like it. Also several of them can’t read…

I asked X (re that couple) about babies a while ago and she made it sound not to be mentioned.

The children fell upon her as though they had suffered tortures during the fortnight (when grandmother and great-aunt were in charge), but needless to say they had been well and truly spoilt really and got away with a lot of minor sins without reprimand – and with a great deal of demanding favourite food and more ice-cream etc. that no doubt mum would have dealt with much more severely than grandmother did – although even she rebelled when the youngest tried to get away with putting golden syrup on a chocolate wheaten biscuit! Ladling it on to a scone was one thing and licking the spoon with a ladleful of treacle in it just passable, but the idea of it on expensive choc bics was too much!!