Sunday, May 11, 2014

A month of birth and death and more births.

Our French helpers have been and gone, if the rest of our visitors this year are as good as Remi & Julie we'll be very lucky.

Paul and Remi spent a few days replacing the fence down the edge of our fodder field.    I think the concreting the posts in, to stop them sliding down the hill, took them longer than connecting the actual fencing wire.  

During those days Julie and I got on with planting, weeding and playing in the kitchen, we tried some traditional Bulgarian recipes with English/French twists to them.  Walnut milk was an interesting experiment - nice for cooking with but has a Milk of Magnesia taste as a drink.

Timmy  (ewe) had been diagnosed with hypocalcaemia  by the vet and, despite her (slow) recovery we weren't overly confident about her having a live birth so it was a nice surprise for her to deliver 2 live lambs.   Unfortunately she rejected the lambs and our vet was most unhelpful, refusing to visit and telling us if we could get to the surgery before he went home he had some colostrum and powdered milk in stock.  He had no colostrum, so we made a substitute, sadly it wasn't good enough and the lambs died - one after 34 hours the other 11 hours later. 

Because of the time taken looking after the lambs, and Timmy,  I neglected to keep a check on the incubator so failed to notice the cats had managed to adjust the temperature so we lost the unhatched quail chicks.     My brooder design was also not good enough so the 4 hatched quail also died.    We've learnt where we went wrong with the brooder so will give the hatching process another go, once we have everything modified and in place.  Three weeks after giving birth Timmy also died, the hypocalcaemia and birth took too much out of her.     Shaun (10 month old ram) is the last of our current big animals and is due to be culled next week - yummy, more lamb prosciutto to be made.     We will then be taking a break, of a few months, from large animals before deciding if we get more sheep (my choice) or goats (Pauls choice).  We did consider just continuing with the poultry and rabbits but lamb and goat meat is difficult to obtain here and with our own animals we know they haven't been pumped full of chemicals. 

Talking of rabbits we had 2 does give birth at Easter and another doe give birth 3 days ago.    Next week we'll breed another 2 of the does, followed by another 2 the week after,    Bunny burgers will be on the menu a lot this year IF all goes to plan.  We also acquired 6  (month old) chicks and 2 geese with 5 goslings so it looks like we may need to expand Poultry Palace into another outbuilding.

The little bedroom, which was my project, was at the install electrics and then remud-plaster  stage.   While Paul and Remi were installing the electrics Remi and Julie showed interest in learning the techniques involved with the plastering, and getting dirty, so that room is now much more advanced than expected.

It wasn't all work as a friend was having a birthday celebration a few villages away and the 4 of us had a very pleasant night out.   Two days later was Pauls birthday and Julie was leaving for France, followed by Morocco for a wedding, so she cooked a brilliant birthday/leaving lunch.

We were sad to see Julie leave but she did loan us Remi for a further 2 weeks.  Those 2 weeks seemed to include an extreme number of conversations between Remi & Paul regarding how 'to be reused' items could be repurposed into things that involved explosives and missiles.   Boys will be boys - whatever their age.

Ok so apart from great laughs and some great food, including both of the chocolate fondants (should have been mousses) that Remi made, what did we achieve during April - other than losing an upsetting amount of livestock?   We have a field fence, again.   We have solar powered outdoor lighting, that works finally.    We have guttering that feeds into our IBCs.    We have a junk room well on the way to being ready for decorating and turning into a bedroom.  We have the base for the pool nearly finished - we ran out of sand/gravel/cement due to underestimating amount need. 

All our crops were planted out although a hailstorm last week did wash away/kill a large number of the seedlings.   Luckily the fodder crops were unaffected and we managed to get replacement seedlings from the pazaar and they are now in the ground with no more storms forecast.   There is a great satisfaction in seeing crops break the surface and start to grow, although the weeds seem to grow much faster I'm slowly getting areas under control.  

I have a better idea this year of when crops will be ready so have started devising recipes to preserve as much as possible, without using alcohol.   So rather than fruit vodkas we will have lots of bottles of cordial this coming year, at least that's the plan.

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