Monday, 11 May 2015

Mud, mud, glorious mud

We are becoming obsessed with the weather. Where once I used to check the oil price and the latest business headlines before I got out of bed, I now check about five different weather websites, all of which typically tell me quite different stories. Our favourite site at the moment is some random Norwegian number which has proven to be closest to what actually we end up with, which for the month of May so far has proven to be rain, rain and more rain. Now I know that this is kind of what you sign up for when you move to Wales but c'mon, this is MAY not bloody January.
And so, rather than roaming around in our shorts and t-shirts we find ourselves still togged up in coats and wellies and having to deal with rain related problems, I mean 'challenges', such as leaky gutters and overflowing streams. We've been out there in near gale force winds balancing precariously on ladders and weilding pickaxes in a vain attempt to stem the rivers of water that continue to plague us. I have wondered whether we should in fact be channelling our energies and all of our wood supplies into building a ruddy great ark rather than restoring these barns!
The rain has also taken its toll on the veg patch but we will not be beaten. After the back-breaking work to remove the grass, thistles and docks from the potato bed we used the tractor to move a load of compost and top soil to fill the bed. However, using the mattock to dig the trenches still left us with what can only be described as a shit soup. Somebody or something at some point has invested a good deal of their waste on this patch. So we'll either end up with the best crop of spuds known to man or they'll just rot to nothing. Time will tell. This week we're also playing catch up with the other crops: we've sown peas, radish, lettuce and kohl rabi outside and cucumbers in the greenhouse. And joy of joys, the tomato seeds I thought I had destroyed through a neglectful combination of sub-zero nights and scorching days in an unopened glasshouse seem to have germinated. Hoo-rah!

Preparing the raised beds 
The solar panels are nothing short of awesome. At the first glimpse of sun (and I really do mean a few minutes here and there given the weather we've had) it all kicks into action powering the house and using any additional kilowatts (?? physics not my strong point) to heat the water in our immersion heater. This means that for the first time since we moved in over four months ago that we have piping hot water in the middle of the day and more than one person can take a  shower or bath without sparking a torrent of expletives from upstairs as icicles rain down on their back. We have been indulgently taking mid-morning and mid-afternoon showers, which is no bad thing given the quagmire that is our veg plot (see also aforementioned shit soup). The other marvellous thing about generating your own electricity during the day is the ability to use the tumble dryer guilt-free. Let me tell you this is a god send when you have a 10 week old baby who easily gets through six outfits a day and a mud-addicted toddler who isnt' much better.
A break in the weather and a nice job planting out the sapling trees that the previous owners had left in pots. We spent a somewhat reflective afternoon planting a few horse chestnuts, an oak, a hazel and a holly on the drive. There is something inherently humbling about planting something that, all things being equal, will far outlive you as a mere human. There was an added, if unspoken, question for us wondering whether we would in fact still be in this house into our old age to watch these lovely little trees mature. Who knows what the future will hold for us here.

Planting a horse chestnut on the drive 

It has been a good week for the laying hens. We are now consistently getting three eggs a day and they completely surpassed themselves today with our first double yolker. Oh yeah.  We poached it for lunch to appreciate its full mutant glory. Our wee chicks are doing well and becoming less cute by the day. Probably no bad thing given the space we've now cleared for them in our freezer.
Yet more rhubarb has been consumed this week cooked up with wine, vinegar, sugar and black pepper as an accompaniment to pan-fried salmon. Pretty lush. We've also been tackling the weeds head on by making vats of nettle and hedge garlic soup. However, we'd need to make enough to feed most of the population of North Wales before making any kind of impact on the amount of weeds that have emerged after all this rain! Bring on the webbed feet.

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