Sunday, 25 May 2014

Birds & the Bees

2013 finished with a fleeting but much needed trip back to Europe. We went to see Phennie graduate from Chester, the ceremony was held at the Cathedral; a wonderful medieval occasion both in architecture and ceremonial format. It rained in true English style and the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The cobblestones were near damned impossible to walk on and hellish uncomfortable although very beautiful (how do women do it)? Poor Olly wore new Brogues with leather soles which were slipping all over the place, so he was in trouble too – alas the woes of rarely worn shoes for these special occasions. We dined and thanked with those that had helped Phennie in our absence from the U.K. and then all made our way south to France for some much needed ‘down-time’ in a gite in Manché, where we would find my Mum and her husband William - which was equally wonderful and much needed as we have not spent enough time with my Mum since arriving in America, four years ago. Although loving my new home very much indeed, I do so miss being able to just drive over for a coffee or tea with her…

Common consensus was that this past winter was particularly long and hard, so when spring arrived and we finally de-thawed for good (sometime in mid-May), we hit the ground running and have not stopped, yet.  Felled ten smallish dead trees for fire wood for this coming winter and will need to do a few more to see us through a full season, this should yield about three plus cords (Tom will be cutting down to log size and splitting for his ‘summer job’). He still delights in bringing me every single snake he finds, the last one being a corn snake measuring in at just over three feet (Tom is now around six feet and the snake from the ground was just up to his waist, when dangled by the back of the head). I have decided they do not get much bigger than that, so that is good. Now today, whilst strimming, I found one that was twice as thick, and assumed it was going to be a whopper but the poor thing was only a about foot long, it had a huge scar around its midriff and then a stubbly little tail, it looked like it had met a mower at some point in its short life, or Frankenstein…. I do hope it was not my mower.

With the help of a wonderful local craftsman, Mr Hempel, we completed two big projects this month. I gave him a drawing and asked if he would consider making it. We really wanted something in keeping with the house and desperately wanted to use our own materials from the farm, keeping costs down and being resourceful with what we had here, which he thought was a great idea, so off we went to find some trees which needed thinning. He felled then split, planed, prepared and then made our fence and beams (actually, he made everything by hand for the porch and fence (other than the shingles and the nails used for attaching them to the roof) the Locust trees used for the roof porch/cover/ to the rear of the house steps to help with sun shade and snow/ice in the winter. The three of us somehow managed to load four huge tree trunks into the back of his 260,000+ mile pick up truck, with no machinery, which we took to MBF to use their saw mill to cut the beams.  I have now learnt how to put up siding and how to put up shingles, I replaced all the siding on each side and up to the gable, then painted, yup, someone purchased the wrong outside colour paint…. Mr Becker. It looks great and does the job; at least it gives shade at present and keeps the rain off, hope it will keep the snow off also, which I am sure it will do, it managed to keep several humans up on it safely, so I am sure it can handle a few feet of snow and ice, we shall see soon enough. Humming birds have been arriving within moments of the feeder going up, so they approve of the addition to the house.

Finally got to burn my three year burn piles (May 16th this year’s  burn ban was over), these ones had been previously ignored due to their size but now had to be dealt with. Some nervous moments but took all my usual precautions and all went well, did not cause any explosions this time (a previous one had blown Thomas off his feet, quite literally) he avoided joining me, which was an added plus in more ways than one. Blow your son off his feet just once and you will likely not use petrol again. No, not explaining that one. Only used a match this time, some dry honeysuckle and dry vines – nobodies’ feet even left the ground this time, improvements made, I am learning.

Only two incidents with Will to report; In the autumn Will-de-beast managed to get stuck between the Stone wall and cow fence between the north neighbors and us – he can bank really well from a stand, thankfully – he is totally calm with a chainsaw cutting down trees around him (Steven had to cut an exit for him as there were downed trees that were too big for us to move between the three of us that were blocking his route). Wish I had pictures of that, in hindsight, it was not so funny at the time but hysterically funny after the fact, being freed from his own trap making. He is now enjoying his summer pasture below Murdock with the ducks to keep him company and better views of all that is going on while we work on the barns and veggies gardens. During hunting season, there was one morning when all the fencing was intact and Will was no-where to be found, which was of course, not right at all. We searched high and low and found no sign of him. I walked the outer fence line to see if he had pulled another escape route tactic to the neighbors’ cows and finally found a trail of muddy hoof prints through the bogs into their property, outside our fence. For what-ever reason I ran out to the barns and the road in front of the house, it was by now 6.30am, I had his feed in a bucket still with me and I stood there thinking where on earth should I start next, we are surrounded by open fields and woods he could be anywhere? Then the sound of cantering hooves greeted me as Will appeared at the top of Bain road coming south down the hill at full speed towards the house and barns, it was a good sight and such a relief, he slowed and quietly came in between the barns back into the paddock, straight into his house for breakfast, covered in mud from head to tail, looking very pleased with himself after his mornings exploits, thankfully and amazingly he was not injured/did not hit a car/get hit by a car or cause any other type of accident.
Duck additions are now at twelve, no idea of sexes but they appear to be all female, we shall see, Pekins and Khaki Campbells, we hope to have eggs by August? Unfortunately neither of us researched ducks before their purchase and we now appear to have six huge eating ducks who are the size of geese and getting larger every day (apparently Pekins are the Meat Duck of choice and not good layers), the Campbells however should be good egg producers and we hope to be releasing them into the pen today to join the big fellows and keep them a little more active.

Bee colony arrived from Florida on May 15th, we were expecting Russian bees from Georgia but they never arrived so we luckily received better bees in a Nucleus colony form, from Italian stock, about three and a half thousand and counting. Their Aviary is looking really healthy and very busy, their slides are well covered and combs are being built up on most. We don’t expect to collect honey this year as the winter was so harsh, they will need to keep their stock for themselves, maybe next year in the spring harvest. Bees are fascinating and the hardest working subjects on this planet – some humans could learn a great deal from their life philosophy.
Phennie came to visit in April and finally got to ski and see snow, which to date had somehow always evaded her. She came with a lovely friend Rose who was pleasant company and a great sport. They ice skated at home, tubed at West Mountain, skied at Stratton in VT and best of all, we had a fantastic walk up to Murdock and used our coats to slide back down (it was soooo cold and sooo icy) and we laughed and laughed all the way down. A family trip to see Hotel Budapest, which was just the most hysterical film and full of the most wonderful characters ~ a must see. Sounds silly, but having the whole bunch of us together is a rare thing nowadays, so very special and a huge treat, for which I was very happy. We had gone to Max London’s for supper and we all had left overs, which we managed to sneak into our bags/coats for ‘snacks’ for the show, an added bonus as the theatre charges an arm and a leg for their revolting foods.

Phennie is off to Japan in August for a year of teaching English with the JET program, exact location is still to be determined, I am sure she will be thrilled with where ever they end up sending her.

Spring is magnificent and makes me feel so too, may it continue a little longer.