Good Fences make Good Neighbours

January 16, 2017

Since the cows went in for the winter, we haven’t had any next door neighbours for a while, but about a week ago, some sheep appeared in the field next to the garden.

sheep running away

They’re pretty flighty, so I haven’t been able to take any decent photos of them, but today as I headed out to get the washing in, I noticed that the bleating was a little louder than usual, and looking again, realised that two of them had decided to pay us a call.

sheep in the garden

This is in fact two sheep, not some weird two-headed sheep creature as it appears here

It is a universal sheep truth that, while they can get through some amazingly small holes in fences when you don’t want them too, they cannot get through a wide open gate when you do. Our garden has four corners, and in one of them is an open gate onto the lane. Our visitors and I proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes extensively testing this truth as the sheep ran inot every corner of the garden except the one with the open gate. They were even willing to bolt directly past me (at an impressive speed) in order not to go anywhere near the opening.

speeding sheep

Apologies for the blurry photo but it was moving at some speed and the light was poor

Tiring of the game, and a bit worried about panicking possibly pregnant sheep, I left them lurking behind the shed like a pair of naughty schoolchildren, and went and rang the farm.

sheep behind the shed

‘I’m pretty sure she can’t see us here’

Two farming chaps came pretty promptly and in the fading light gave a masterclass in garden de-sheeping (farming chap one hides behind the shed, just by the fence. Farming chap two starts chasing the sheep towards the shed. Sheep gets up to warp speed. Farming chap one catches it and effectively bounces it over the fence. Repeat with second sheep).

The problem, apparently, is that our predecessors cut a hole in the fence so their dog could get in and out, and although the farmer keeps closing up the gap, it keeps opening up again. I left them allegedly sheep-proofing the fence again with string (it was too dark by then to see anything), pleased that we discovered this gap in the defences before we had planted the veg plot and not after. I’m already working on a design for a hare-proof fence around the new plot; I might have to upgrade that to a sheep proof one now…

The Augean Chicken Shed

January 14, 2017

I think I may have mentioned that when the previous owners of the house moved out, there were a few things they left behind, including the rather unsalubrious interior of their chicken shed*

shed interior

We’ve been gradually clearing out that corner of the garden, as the likely site of our fruit cage and ultimately a greenhouse. Either way, the shed is for the chop. The other half’s suggestion was that we just douse it in petrol and throw in a match, but I was determined to make use of all that organic matter. So today, being just barely above freezing, but otherwise a lovely day, it seemed like a good opportunity to clean it out without being too overwhelmed by the smell.

There’s not much to say, really, about shovelling chicken shit. It wasn’t as unpleasant a task as it would have been in the height of summer; in fact most of it was well on its way to being compost already. I lost count of how many barrowloads it was, but our (350 litre) compost dalek, which I’d emptied to add to the planned veg plot, is now full again. And I did retrieve (and clean up) that spade …

piled up chicken manure

I’m still sad for the chickens who had to live in it, although at least the nest boxes had fresh shavings in them, which have also gone into the compost. I think I may need to take it all out of the dalek and mix it up more thoroughly, but that can wait. I feel like I’ve dealt with enough crap for one day.

So now it’s just a matter of getting rid of the shed. Nearest Village’s hyperlocal freecycle group has had someone looking for a shed of ‘any size and any condition’ for almost a year now, and I have passed on a message that we have one that’s very much of ‘any condition’ if they want to come and get it. Whether it can be actually disassembled and usefully reassembled into anything resembling a shed remains to be seen. It may be the petrol and the match after all.

* sans chickens, but not, as I discovered this afternoon, entirely sans eggs. Given the amount of time since it had likely been laid, I transferred it with extreme gingerliness to the compost bin …

Room with Rather Too Much of a View

January 12, 2017

Apologies to my twitter followers today who were subjected to a stream of tweets of the view out of my study window

The view is distracting at the best of times; add in snow and it becomes very difficult to concentrate on anything else.

sunny interlude

In the end, after lunch, when there was a lull in the weather and everything began to go a bit sparkly, I cracked and decided to go out and enjoy it properly.

sheep in the sun

You said there could never be too many pictures of sheep, right?

snowy lane looking uphill

avenue of trees

snowy lane looking downhill

And then it was back to the grindstone again

Well, sort of.

It is One Thing …

January 11, 2017

… to slog up the hill cycling home on a dark wet freezing afternoon from Bigtown, head down into the teeth of an icy headwind with the Met Office’s latest weather warning for wind and snow ringing in your head.

It is quite another to do so knowing that no sooner have you got in than you will have to turn around and head out again on the bike to Old Nearest Village, which has now become Really Too Far Away for Comfort on a Night Like This Village.

And it is an entirely third thing to head out into the cold and rain when the reason you’re heading out again is to act as secretary of the community council for a community you no longer live in because they haven’t found a replacement yet. Apparently the next stage, our Facebook call for volunteers having failed, is an appeal from the pulpit (to the congregation, I assume, I don’t think God interferes in community council appointments which are surely an ecumenical matter).

On the bright side, getting home and collapsing on the sofa in front of the fire with a whole pizza has never felt quite so justified. Or so sweet.


January 10, 2017

lumpy grass

In a lumpy-looking corner of the garden, I unearth a bit of buried treasure…

old railway sleeper

… oh, okay, only a few lengths of what look like railway sleepers, but they’re always handy to have in the garden, especially if your aesthetic tends towards ‘allotment chic’.

piles of stuff

After a bit more investigating, I discover that the other lumps aren’t quite so useful – a bunch of old stumps and some landscaping fabric which now has rather a lot of the actual landscape attached to it (anyone who believes in the long-term weed suppressing properties of landscaping fabric – or, indeed, anything up to and including concrete – hasn’t met a proper weed, in my opinion).

pile of landscaping fabric

So I did what presumably the previous owners had done, and made a pile until I could deal with things properly. Unlike them, I will hopefully manage to deal with it before it merges back into the landscape again. Although having gone through my emails and looked at my rapidly filling calendar, I am not counting on it.

In other news, I’m off on my travels again – anyone here of the female cycling persuasion who fancies meeting up in Perth?

Out with the Old

January 8, 2017

We had one last task left over from 2016 this afternoon – finishing up at the old plot and clearing out the greenhouse.

We weren’t the only ones doing a bit of clearing up – as we approached the gate, a buzzard flew out of the walled garden and when we got in there we found out why. Just be thankful that I decided there was no tasteful way to photograph what was effectively the top third of a rabbit. Too late for most of my veg, unfortunately.

clearing out kale plants

We came away with the last leeks, a few token kale leaves and broccoli sprouts, and a bag full of chilies.

And that’s all, folks.

empty greenhouse

2017 will be all about the new veg plot, a fruit cage, and hopefully finding a replacement greenhouse. I cycle past an empty one every time I go into Bigtown which is slowly falling into decrepitude. One day I may have to stop and make them an offer…

road ahead

No reason for this photograph, except I liked it

Papershop Run, Revisited

January 5, 2017

So when I blogged yesterday about a monthly adventure, I was thinking that the end of January is quite some time away and I didn’t need to worry too much about planning anything adventurous quite yet. This morning, the only cycling I had planned was a quick run up to new Nearest Village to pick up a prescription. But then I realised that I’d forgotten to ask the other half to pick up the paper and that left me with three options

1) Cycle to Nearest Village (3.5 miles in one direction) and then to Bigtown (10 miles in the other direction) and back home, which would mean retracing my steps, and that always feels like a bit of a waste of time

2) Text the other half to pick up the paper on his way home, but that would mean foregoing using our little voucher, which we’d already paid for, and shelling out an additional £2 for the paper, which was clearly a non starter

3) Get out the ordnance survey map and plot a route on from Nearest Village along rolling back roads to somewhere that might possibly sell me a paper.

Obviously, I chose number 3

As it happens, there is another village which is only 8.5 miles from Nearest Village and which has a shop and tea room, and is crucially only a couple of miles from a bigger village, giving me a fairly good chance of actually finding a Guardian. I calculated that, even then, with the inclusion of a cunning shortcut on the way home suggested by Google Maps, that it wouldn’t really be all that much longer than just boringly cycling to Bigtown and back. That was all the excuse I needed…

Gorgeous day

It helped that it was a gorgeous day.

frosty hills

If a little nippy.

I don’t know how many photos of tiny back roads, tumbledown walls and baffled sheep (‘what is she *doing*?’) you need, but the ride out had it in spades.



sheep and fields

And also a portal into what might be another dimension.

portal into another dimension

Obviously, when I got to my target village, the shop was closed for the festive season until tomorrow, but I did snaffle the last Guardian in my fallback village (there was a woman who nipped into the shop before me and then stood staring at it for a long time, while I wrestled with my conscience over the ethics of just grabbing it before she did, but fortunately she moved on before I had to do something I would be be ashamed of) and set off home with a song in my heart and an emergency Snickers bar in my pocket.

By this time, of course, the sun was gone, the temperature was dropping, and although my route home was lovely and straight, it was also, mysteriously, slightly downhill. As I knew that my route out had also been a net downhill, this was merely storing up trouble for myself. With barely a mile or two to go, I realised that trusting in Google’s cunning shortcut without properly consulting the OS map and, crucially, its contour lines might have been a mistake.

I’ve only had to get off the bike and push a couple of times since we’ve moved here; I can make that three now. And when we finally crested the hill, only got worse as the tarmac ran out.

muddy, icy, track

But we made it, the walk warmed my feet up, and the sky was nicely pink as I finally made it back onto the road and headed for home, the fire, and all the cake in the house…

setting sun

Fun as it was, however, I think on balance I will continue to get the paper in Bigtown for now.