March 2012

Pigs
We needed new pigs I was missing them, the land is not the same without some pigs on it. They give a routine to the day.
We completed the last run of collecting things that required a day away from the homestead then said its time to get piggies.
First of I contacted Mary who provided my fine boys from last year but she had nothing until July, this would not do so I looked in Preloved and there I found the perfect piggies.
Gloucester Old Spot and Tamworth cross this should be a perfect combination; the flavour of Tamworth meat and the behaviour of the Gloucester Old Spot.
Pigs with ears that flop down have a gentle rambling character the sumo wrestlers of the porcine crew, my saddlebacks last year were ear down boys and so the GOS should be the same.
Prick eared pigs are fast and troublesome and not what you want. I have looked very hard at out new pigs to try and find the GOS line of hereditary but it is not there; they are Tamworths their ears stick up so much they actually curl backwards.
We collected three little piggies all girls this time so we can keep them for longer, one of the girls appears to have a willy but we try to ignore that. These pigs run very very fast also with three of the little dears they can turn and separate before charging at your ankles. They have managed to get out twice so far. What happens is they jump, up and down and run round and round causing so much excitement the gate spontaneously opens upon which they run into the strawberries, to get them back in I have to go into the middle of their field and jump up and down and run round and round and become so excited they charge in to see what I am doing. We have now rendered the gate completely closed and we are using the stile.
They do seem smaller than the saddlebacks but after just a few weeks they have already put on a lot of weight and are friendly little things. They do like to dig.
Prior to their arrival I filled the sty with straw, immediately the chickens decided to lay the eggs in the sty I wondered how long that would last. After two days of chicken chasing the pigs won and the chickens never enter the field its as if it had never existed. Why can I not have the same effect on the chickens when I chase them out of all the places they should not be?
Oats
We placed heavy mulch mat on the oat beds to kill of the grass when we lifted this we found there was still some greenery but mainly dock and yarrow, which are both beneficial soil improvers. After a little experimentation we decided to broadcast the seed then stomp over it. The black mulch mat has been replaced, as there appears to be a rather healthy field mouse population around. I am hoping that by covering the seeds for about two weeks they will germinate and become bedded in a little so when we lift the sheets the sunlight will promote vigorous growth thus leaving less exposed tasty mice morsels everywhere.
The large field under the tress remains unmulched apart from each individual tree. We did have various attempts at cutting this but it was mainly left and it has become very brown and dead looking. When you lift is it is bare earth beneath. I now have a little theory that as this grass is very thin rooted it needs the constant trimming of sheep or mowers to keep its strength. By allowing it to grow long it is exhausting itself. So I am going to leave a considerable patch alone and my hypotheses is that the grass will die back itself and other plants will come through. Already there is a big increase in foxgloves and yarrow. Also the neighbours bullace is suckering, these young trees have been moved and planted around the oat paddock perimeter as a further productive wind break
Mulch material is a continuous need but we are getting better at putting out the word and collecting good things. A friend chopped down a tree and we got first refusal on the chippings which were rather marvellous we were also able to hold the chipped bark down with large hulks of the timber, one lump of which has become a favourite chopping block outside.
Nowadays we are looking at materials more and more with an eye on how we can use them again and again. I know we were already professional scroungers for many years but the self-sufficiency drive gives an extra edge, it hones your skills. Although I did miss an opportunity when the paper shop was giving away free copies of the Daily Mail it would have made perfectly good paper plant pots and compost and I walked away empty handed which was just foolish.
Building
At last the foundations begin to raise from the ground. For a while there it was looking like we had uncovered a roman road with just the large rock laid at the base of the trench we had dug. Now we have developed techniques and skills to put one stone on top of another and very fine it is too.
We have worked with lime before but this is the first time we have really concentrated on getting a good Romanesque quality of lime mortar.
Basically a Portland cement concrete mix used a rubbing in method whereas a lime mix is a creamed method. Most instructions want you to use an upright mixer, but we have a conventional machine so I found that the mix tends to ball or curdle as I think of it. I have adjusted the recipe and now I have a mix, which does not have quite the light, and fluffy airy mix of an upright system but gives a nice consistent crumb.
The main difference between cooking and cement mixing days is the warm up press-ups on cement mornings.
We did struggle for a while finding a good sand in France we had this perfect rough grainy river sand. Here a lot of it is fine sand with lumps in it that has mainly been used as a path base around the coffins.
All the plans have been finalised so there should be no reason to stop the final measurements taking place during April

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