Easter Morning – Treasure, Lambs (Chocolate) And Seeds

I was up at the crack of dawn – well, OK, 7 o’clock but it felt like the crack of dawn – laying out the clues for the Ruadhri’s Easter Egg treasure hunt and Caiti’s Easter geocache trail. It’s our Easter tradition to make the kids work for their chocolate.

One of Ruadhri's clues

A cuckoo was calling and I caught a glimpse of it flying between trees.

A geocache for Caiti

There were some deer in Dog Leg Field which I saw and the cats saw, but Nessie the dog didn’t!

Unobservant dog in foreground, deer in background

Dog Leg is a huge field, currently with cereals in but we’re thinking of grassing it for next year.

Wendy and Voltaire tagged along too in case food was involved somewhere. They went on strike part of the way round.

Can has rest pliz? (I'm speaking Lolcat here btw)

Rors was soon up and completed his trail successfully, without any help at all. He demanded harder clues for next year! They weren’t that easy, but I learnt not to be too cryptic with our Benj. He’d get into such a sulk if he couldn’t work out a clue. So, Rors got his reward – possibly the only lamb we will see today. No. 27 is still holding out but her belly is practically dragging along the ground so surely it can’t be much longer now!

Easter chocolate lamb

I did Easter boxes for everyone this year, including Chris. He got a garden gnome for the polytunnel and coriander seeds in his.

Talking of seeds, we’ve found a good way to get seeds germinating. One lot of tomatoes and my anis (aniseed) and pepper seeds were staying soundly asleep, so we sprinkled some more onto damp tissue which we rolled up and put in a plastic bag in a warm spot – on top of the fridge just above the heat displacement thingy. Lo and behold, they’ve sprung into life.

Sprouting anis seeds

I’ve also been making some recycled seed pots out of toilet roll inners. Very easy. Cut five slits  a couple of cms long at roughly even intervals around one end and then tuck those in and you have a little pot. They tend to be a bit wobbly so you’ll need to put them in a container of some sort or tie them together with string for stability in the greenhouse. But once the seedling is growing well, dig a hole and shove them out as they are into the garden. The cardboard will soon rot away and you’re left with your healthy plant.

That's my homemade egg rack in the background, courtesy of Rors and Chris

And don’t forget to enter the Expat Blog Hop on 23 April. No catches, just fun! Sign up on this page.

All that remains is to say is Happy Easter!

Rors and his Easter box of surprises

 

 

 

 

Letter From The Président

I’ve been rather neglecting politics lately, having been preoccupied with anglers and sheep. (Still no lamb or lambs from No. 27. No. 28 is a little less splotchy now. We’re still giving her a dietary supplement on her granules twice a day – easy peasy – and that penicillin injection every night – not so easy, but once you’ve got a good grip on her wool she goes quiet. And I haven’t gone into anaphylactic shock through a misadministered jab yet either – so far.)

But back to the forthcoming elections. They’re starting to loom menacingly on the horizon. The Mairie at Nouzerines has erected extra wood panelling for a concerted postering campaign. This morning one of the commune’s employees was carefully measuring up and marking lines on the boards, making sure that each of the ten of the them was exactly the same size! I held the end of the tape measure for her while we were waiting for Ruadhri’s school bus to arrive. I’ve told you before how good I am at holding things when I’m helping Chris.

Both Sarkozy and Hollande have sent me long letters. Sarko’s first. This is a LONG letter. It opens with the first couple of sentences in handwriting. I think we’re meant to think that he handwrote the whole thing. It would have taken him about a week if he had. However, it’s a nice touch and encouraging to see that the Président has worse handwriting than I do. So what does he say? He’s glad to be contacting me directly without  going through an intermediary. Well, who wouldn’t be! He talks about the new world that’s being born – one with financial crises and strong non-Western powers emerging in the world, i.e. China. He goes onto security, mentioning the recent events in Montauban and Toulouse and emphasising that France must be well armed and strong. Ideologies of hatred and delinquence won’t be tolerated. Europe is a good thing and France will remain an open country where other people of other nationalities can come and live, but they must be prepared to embrace the French way of life and contribute to it. But he’s not prepared to go as far as giving us the vote, tant pis. Responsibility, professional training, young people, nurturing rural areas – he talks about it all. I lost interest by page 27 of the 39 of the document, I confess. But it’s impressive to get something like that. I never had anything similar in the UK or Ireland.

Hollande’s ‘letter’ is actually the talk he gave on 4 April at Rennes. There are an awful lot of exclamation marks. Should I take him less seriously than Sarkozy? It’s very rousing with paragraphs such as this: Mon message est simple ce soir, et je le répéterai autant de jours qu’il conviendra. Il faut changer : changer d’avenir, changer de politique, changer de président ! Je veux être le président du redressement, le président de la justice, le président du rassemblement, le président de la jeunesse de France ! (My message tonight is simple and I’ll repeat every day between now and the election. We need change: we must change the future, change politics, change the President! I want to be the president of putting things right, the president of justice, the president of gatherings, the president of the young people of France!)

And so on and so forth. It’s not as meaty as Sarko’s missive and again, my eyes glazed over before I got to the end. But that’s me and politics. However, I did try to read it all!

The current favourite is Sarko by a whisker. Since he’s the only pro-Auto-entrepreneur candidate out there as far as I can make out, I’ll be happy enough if he gets in, although I hope he will make more of an effort to curb the spending excesses and be more in touch with the majority of French people i.e. hard working, non-wealthy people. But we’ll see.

A Country Veterinary Surgery

Sheep drugs

A vet’s surgery in a very small rural town is an interesting place to be. I called into ours today to pay for Friday’s call-out and get some drugs in to treat No. 28 as I haven’t seen any sign of placenta yet.

Spring being the season of animal births, there were several farmers there, who, like me had come to stock up on treatments for their animals. One guy took away a whole boxful of the suppositories that I administered to my ewe. Smallholders and farmers treat their animals as much as they can themselves. You can’t be calling the vet out for every injection you need to give. Vets are only for emergencies and the skilled things that you can’t possibly do yourself. I need to inject No. 28 with 10 mls (that’s a lot!) of anti-biotic for the next 5 days and give her a small oral dose of a very herby concoction. Today we mixed it into her sheep pellets, but she wasn’t having it. We’ll have to get it into her mouth in a needleless syringe tomorrow. The injecting bit was fine. The only tricky bit is catching her to start with! But once Chris had a good hold, like the llamas, she simply gave up and waited to die and I got the needle into her shoulder muscle, no problem. I’m being very careful. We’re giving her penicillin which I’m extremely allergic to! One false move and Chris will need a new wife.

The veterinary nurse rummaged around in the pile of invoices on the desk to find mine. The surgery is very trusting, this being a small town, and know you’ll turn up at some point to pay. From the look of them, some of the other invoices had been there quite a while.

There weren’t just farmers there. There was a very typical older French lady with her Frou-Frou i.e. lap dog, waiting to see the small animal vet. Both owner and dog were very elegant.

I fell somewhere in the middle between the two sets of customers. We’re not proper farmers but we have large livestock. But we don’t have pampered pets either. Ours pretty much fend for themselves! Actually, that’s not quite true. We look after them properly and keep them fed, wormed and loved. Also I wasn’t in wellies like the farmers but I wasn’t quite elegant. I was in my

Pregnant No. 27 in the foreground

going-out clothes. Chris and I literally only have one set of these each We spend most of our life in outdoor scruffies, some of it in cycling gear and a very small percentage of it in outfits that, aptly enough, are fit to go out in. It’s quite a joke with the kids. If they see me appear in my hippie patchwork trousers, they know I’m heading off somewhere where I’ll encounter members of the public. Once when I turned up to a meeting at Ruadhri’s school, he remarked: “I knew you’d be wearing those clothes.” Possibly it would be nice to have another pair of best trousers but there are always other things that take priority, like food and sheep drugs.

And talking of sheep again, I was convinced No. 27 was going into labour last night since she was restless and panting a lot. I checked her every hour until about 3 am when I lost the will to live through sheer exhaustion and crashed out, but Chris took over from 5am. And she hasn’t given birth during the day, so it could be another tiring night. I’m determined not to lose any more lambs. Fingers crossed things will go well.

Sheep Shenaningans

Suffolk lambs. Pic from highfieldhousefarm.co.uk

Yesterday was a heavy, sheep centred day.

Our lamb breeding programme got off to a sad start. We went out yesterday morning to check the ewes, and found a lamb’s head protruding from No. 28. We rounded her up and took her to a stable. I felt the little head and it was icy cold. Poor mite had been dead a while. I tried some gentle manipulation but couldn’t move it so we called in the experts. It took the vet a good ten minutes to manouevre the baby out – a pretty little male. My heart bled for the ewe during the internal rummagings. Any mum who has had medical hands up her during labour can totally sympathise. It’s agony – more than enough to make you hate, loathe, despise and detest all doctors and midwives forever, and to plan prolonged and painful ways of separating the guy who knocked you up from his manhood! And don’t get me started on the indignity part of it all. However, Mother Nature is a cunning woman. The moment your bawling baby is placed in your arms, you explode with love and forgive the hospital staff and remember that the father of this little miracle is the most fantastic person alive. You forget all about the painful part – until the next time you’re in labour!

I digress. While we’d first been dealing with No. 28, , the ram, had been a complete nuisance. So we decided the time had come. To cut a long story short, by lunchtime he was ready for the freezer. This wasn’t a straightforward matter. Hoisting a sheep’s carcass up for processing is a big job. We started off manually, heaving him up over a beam in the barn but soon discovered that Rameses weighed a lot more than I did. Chris asked me to shove my weight on the rope at one point so he could free his hands for a moment. So I plonked my feet in the loop of the rope. I went up. Rameses went down. Back to the drawing board.

We decided to use the autoportée, the ride-on mower, to provide the pulling power, but the battery was flat. So we pushed that out of the barn, and Chris went to get Sea Blue the tractor. While he did, I was in charge of opening the second barn door so the tractor could drive into the barn. We don’t often open that door but had never had problems with it before. But today, of course, it wouldn’t open. It had swelled up in the warm weather and was catching on a bit of wood nailed to the top of the doorway. We’d never noticed that before.

We resorted to more manual pulling and grunting with stronger straps – the washing line we’d been using had snapped – but to no avail. We had to get the barn open so we could use the tractor. So off we went to get the big ladder. Our barn doors are huge. Chris went up with a hammer to deal with the offending bit of wood. He was nearly at the top of the ladder when the tractor suddenly began to roll backwards. All we could was watch. I was on the bottom rung of the ladder, keeping it steady so couldn’t move, and Chris was ten metres up. Luckily Sea Blue didn’t go far and didn’t hit anything en route.

Ladder down and door finally open, Chris went in with Sea Blue and we soon had Rameses’ remains where we wanted them. Chris got busy, ably assisted by his fetcher and carrier and holder-stiller i.e. me, soon we had a nice lot of lamb for the freezer.

Yesterday evening, I had to administer this suppository to No. 28. There’s a first time for everything, as they say. This was my first time inserting things into a sheep. She was as good as gold, bless her. Another dose today, and then we’ll put her back with her sister, No. 27. I don’t think she’s passed her placenta yet so we’ll be keeping a close eye on her and will have to deal with that problem fairly soon if there’s no change.

No. 27 wasn’t very happy finding herself alone for the first time. We thought that Maisie the goat might be welcome company so we put her into the sheep field. However, Maisie, usually the quietest and sweetest animal imaginable, took against No. 27 and started butting her, so she came straight back out. No. 27 decided to make less fuss if this is what was going to happen to her and has been fine ever since. We’re watching her like a hawk since her lamb or lambs are presumably due imminently. Hopefully all will go smoothly this time round.

A Busy Sort Of Day

The last couple of mornings I’ve been getting up early-ish to write an ebook for Chris. Here’s the provisional cover, which needs some smartening up with Gimp. It’ll be available from Chris’s carp fishing holiday directory at www.findthelake4.me in the next few days.

After writing, I went out to do the farm chores and feed the sheep. Yesterday I’d checked No. 27’s teats, since she’s definitely pregnant, and saw that they were getting nice and big. There were a few more promising signs today so our first lamb or lambs (ewes don’t always have twins the first time they give birth) might not be far away. That’s very exciting! Our ram, who’s now known as Rameses, has recently developed a love of having his chin tickled. He’d be happy for you to do it all day. So sheep duties take quite a while at the moment.

Then I decided to shovel poo, you know the way you do! Well, we do anyway. More correctly, it was compost. But it used to be poo. I’m working on the second raised bed at the moment while Chris solders pipes in the gîte. I also emptied out the big kitchen compost bin and found four teaspoons. Chris found four in it the other day. I wondered where all my spoons were going. I’m not quite sure how they all ended up in there, I have to confess.

The sun was shining and it was cosily warm in the polytunnel so I planted some beetroot and radishes in the raised beds, and started some rocket, tomatoes and lettuces in seed trays. Then Rors and I attempted to do a worm survey. We followed the instructions. We marked out our area and watered it with a dilute mustard mixture, but absolutely nothing happened. I’d expected worms to come popping out of the ground at high speed. Nothing. Now either Creuse worms are just plain tough, or the ground is so waterlogged already that the mustardy water didn’t penetrate. Or that the mustard suspension wasn’t strong enough. I upped the ante and tried again later with some pepper sauce mixed in water. Still no worms. I feel very disappointed since I know they’re there, but how are we going to get them to come out and be counted. I may have to resort to explosives.

I did some more shovelling after dinner and then got busy helping Caiti write job application letters and her résumé to send off. She’s probably left it a bit late to get a job with the Tour de France, but we’re trying. We’ve written to some agencies and also to a few of the teams directly. It’s rather nice that we were able to mention to each one that we’d been cheering them on yesterday at Aigurande. Which we had – we cheered for everyone! Caiti has offered to do anything from admin to washing socks. I hope she’ll find something. She’d love it since she’s a really keen cyclist and she’ll been a great little worker.

I’d just proofread Caiti’s letter and inserted a very necessary ‘with’ in the phrase ‘I hoped I might be able to work with your team during this year’s tour’, when Rors came in to tell me he’d seen a horse and cart go by (our neighbours a few kms away) and also that he’d found some frogspawn. I went to see that with him. I’d be worried about the frogs and toads this year. Their first batches of spawn got frozen solid during le grand froid. Luckily they’re having another go so they’ll soon be zillions of tiny frogs and toads appearing everywhere.

A sure sign of spring.

 

Benefitting From Our Bonus Day

We’ve been making the most of our bonus day, 29th February, as well as the wonderful weather. We were down to teeshirts today. It seems incredible that only a week ago Chris and I were bundled up against the vicious cold, dragging wood across the firmly frozen lakes. They’re all thawed now and full of life. The fish are stirring again and wild ducks are swooping in from every direction for a paddle. A few cormorants have made an unwelcome reappearance – we hope not for long.

We went on a family geocaching trip this morning to play our part in the world record breaking geocaching event I mentioned the other day. We found three out of four. We’ll be back to track down the one that eluded us in a quarry. The clue wasn’t the most helpful – sous les pierres (under the rocks). You get a lot of those in quarries! However, we weren’t defeated previously when faced with sous l’arbre (under a tree) as a hint in a wood. Occasionally caches are moved or taken away by muggles (i.e. non-geocachers) so maybe this is what happened today. We certainly had a very good hunt around. And even if we didn’t have a 100% record today, we enjoyed ourselves. Two of the caches were in the vicinity of old stone crosses. Here is the one at St Sauvier in Creuse, dating from 1817,

and here is the one near Archignat in Allier. This appears to be much older judging from the amount of erosion that it’s suffered.

While we have an extra pair of hands around the place in the form of Eldest Son, Benjamin, we moved on to phase two of the branch clearing programme around the lakes – piling up and burning. Actually, we mainly just piled since the wood is still rather wet and the fires we started didn’t last very long. Long enough to take a rather good action pic though!

The arrival of leap year lambs would have been the icing on the cake, but our girls are not going to be rushed, that’s for sure. And to finish, a gratuitous pig picture. These are some Gloucester Old Spots that belong to friends of ours. Aren’t they great?

 

 

DIY Around The Farm

The sudden arrival of winter, and Rors still being sick, has meant Chris and I can’t stray far at the moment so we decided today was the day to tackle some jobs around the farm. It was also the day Denis (the llama) decided to escape, but since he made straight for the girls’ field, as usual, he was very easy to catch. He’s now temporarily in the cooling off stable with Maisy the goat, who decided to go walkabout yesterday. Never a dull moment with livestock.

At least Bertie is well behaved!

Our main job today was to re-engineer the fencing so that the three sheep and Seamus, the alpaca who shares their field, could get into shelter. Up to now they’ve been fine hunkering down under the trees at the end of the field. But it’s getting colder by the day and so they needed to be able to get into one of the stables. To this we’ve had to create a corridor across the front of the llamas’ big field so that the sheep can get into one of the stables near the fron of the barn, and the llamas can get into the larger one at the back. This is only for the next few months, and we also need to be able to get through this fencing several times a day to check the camelids regularly. So we couldn’t do our usual post-bashing-in and nailing-on-wiring routine, which we’re really good at now.

The sheep exploring their new territory

It was time to go scavenging. We rifled through the woodshed and the stables and found some very useful huge bits of wood that we inherited with the farm. Whatever they actually were, they are perfect to keep sheep and llamas separated. (There’s no problem mixing the two species, it’s simply that we need to keep the sheep out of the main part of the llama field since it isn’t sheep-proof along the back fence.) We still have some of our large order of chestnut poteaux (posts) left, so we lugged a few of those into position. Chris dug out extra-long nails and after some enthusiastic hammering, we had a wooden Berlin Wall in place. There’s a wire section at the far end that I can easily unhook to get through, and it’s tractor-wide so we can bring either Rusty Deux or Sea Blue out from the hay barn when we need their services around the rest of the farm.

It won’t win prizes for looks, but it’s effective, and most importantly, has only cost a few euros for the posts and the nails since everything else is recycled. Sure I’d love swanky post and rail fencing and classy wooden gates for my fields, but we’d have to sell the house or the children to afford those so we make do and mend, and very successfully.

A final bit of DIY was needed. The llamas were now cut off from the stable with their bale of hay, which the sheep have delightedly requistioned, so we delivered another one into the top stable. Llamas are notoriously messy eaters. Let them loose on a hay bale and they’ll eat a few mouthfuls but spread the rest all over the ground. They’ll lay on that, then pee on it, and so it’s no longer edible. All very wasteful. Anyway, we’ve called their bluff. I’ve constructed another effective mangeoire out of pallets. The first model, top of the range, used bungees, but this one is using string. Works every bit as well!

The llamas approve!

Now our animals can stay well fed and warm in even the worst blizzard, which is probably more than could be said for us! Even with all Chris’s hard work on exterior plastering and constant upgrading of the insulation, there are draughts here and there in the house when the wind really gets going. And I must go and do a winter reserves shop to stock the cupboards up ready for the inevitable session, and usually several, of being snowed-in for days on end. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security with the mild November and relatively kind winter so far. Time to act.

Turkey proof gate - patent pending

 

Autumn on the Farm

Is there any such thing as a typical autumn day here at Les Fragnes? Definitely not. Everything depends on the weather and what has suddenly cropped up as being unputoffable. We have a ‘to do’ list to keep us vaguely on track but that rarely gets stuck to for long since life is unpredictable. Yesterday we had to postpone all plans and do some llama fencing repairs since Vicki had taken to jumping over a low section of it. It was only low because other llamas had squashed it down by leaning over to eat grass from the other side. And the polytunnel had annoyingly developed a hole by the door which we had to fix.

The hole is to the right of the end door

We weren’t impressed with the way you had to pleat the plastic around the doorways when we constructed the tunnel, something I  mentioned here, and it’s proving to be the tunnel’s Achilles’ Heel. Chris has rebattened everything so we hope it will hold this time.

I found time to a bit of indoor seed planting once the repairs were finished, and before the polytunnel got too warm to comfortably work in. It’s quite incredible how efficient it is. It’s hot inside in November.  I’ve put in a load of medlar stones and woad seeds, some honey locust seeds and some as yet unknown seeds I picked up in Limoges on Sunday. They came from a small yellow pod from a tree with ash-like leaves but thorns. Any ideas what it might be? I’ve also shoved a whole honey locust pod into a seed tray (ex-croissant box!) to see if that works better for germinating purposes, rather than depodded seeds. Time will tell.

I also planted some gingko fruit. Gingko take over as the trees lining the Avenue Albert Thomas in Limoges at its end closest to Benjy’s University residence. These are beautiful trees with fan-shaped leaves. However, the fruit stinks. It smells like vomit, due to a high butearic acid content. Benj was horrifed as I scooped some of the small golden plum-like fruit into a plastic bag to bring home and try and get to germinate.

Gingko

Back to today. We opened up the hangar to put Sea Blue, the little tractor away. The llamas staged a mass break-in which made us suspect they’re a bit peckish.

There’s still plenty of grass in their fields, but llamas don’t eat near where they poo – and they poo everywhere. Male llamas are generally fastidious and have one neat and tidy pile. But not the girls. They crap everywhere. This means there’s a good proportion of their field that they won’t graze in. So, we decided we’d better move a bale of straw out into the shelter for them. This takes time. We have to move stuff out of the way, keep driving the llamas and alpacas out (they always come straight in), encourage chickens to get from underfoot and undertyre.

Waiting to break back in!

We had to evict Roly Poly from what’s left of Rusty II’s tractor seat – he’s our big bale-moving tractor – and then do the actual physical moving of the straw.

I'm sure she's telling us to go away and mind our own business! Look at that expression.

Chris is one mean tractor driver now! Driving these antique machines isn’t easy. Each one has its own very distinct foibles and you never know what’s going to suddenly stop working or drop off! I’m talking tractor here, not Chris.

Picking up the bale of straw ...

 

... then delivering it through a very tight doorway

The llamas will soon spread the straw everywhere so the next job on the list is to tie pallets around it as a no-budget bale holder, or mangeoire. We looked into buying one but they’re a good few hundred euros each. That would keep Benj in pasta for several years, so we’re going the DIY route.

The rest of the day will be indoors since strong winds and rain are on the way. I have half a sack of windfall apples and pears to process and then I must get some work and admin done at the computer. But to finish a pic of our black male turkery who is permanently displaying and gobbling at the moment. Even the sheep is impressed!

 

Autumn Beauty – Guest Post by Ruadhri Dagg

Another day of fencing reconstruction and strengthening has kept me and Chris tied up all day, so I handed over the reigns for this blog to ten-year-old Ruadhri today. He disappeared off with my camera and has produced a rather lovely little post.

But one quick photo from me first. The sheep have now been moved into the other half of the big field in front of the house. They’re next door to the llamas now. Here’s the initial standoff!

Over to Ruadhri:

Autumn is beautiful. I borrowed Mum’s camera and took some photos.

First I decided to take the photo of this oak leaf because it was enormous. It was 12 cm long and 8.6 cm wide.

This is where they used to be crops but now it’s been taken over by thistles. There are lots in the photo as you can see, and a few weeks ago I found a huge caterpillar on a thistle. It had a curved horn at one end.

I photographed this elderberry tree because the colour of its leaves was a lot lighter than the other trees. I also think it looks nice against the bright blue sky.

Here is a view of the distance with a ploughed field and some beautiful trees.

And here are some poplars and oak trees behind our big field.

Thank you for reading my blog! Salut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Socks and Flocks

Wool is becoming something of a recurrent theme in my blog at the moment, but since I’m an avid knitter and I own an assortment of woolly animals – llamas, alpacas and sheep – then I suppose it’s only to be expected.

First up socks! I have triumphed over the intricacies of knitting in the round using 5 tiny needles and very thin 4-ply wool. By preference I’m a two-needle double-knit-or-upwards wool knitter. But I felt it was time to challenge myself to try something new and I’ve succumbed to the lure of sock knitting. I have finished my first ever pair. Be impressed!

Not as innocent as they look ...

Now the flocks. Well, flock, and it consists of 3 sheep. But 3 sheep are as much of a handful as 300, I’m sure. Our 3 Suffolk sheep have been proving tricky customers and persistently managed to escape from their field. We were sure we’d put up adequate fencing, but they thought otherwise. Seeing that one of the ewes was systematically working her way along the long side fence, nudging it up with her nose to see if she could out that way, we attached a line of barbed wire to the bottom of the grillage. Chris and Benj also whacked in extra poles between the existing ones to help tension the fencing.

No more escapes that way. We also did some pre-emptive work on the back fence, which is one we inherited. (All the rest we’ve erected ourselves.) It was in fairly good nick with a lot of rusty barbed wire attached to poles and trees. We fortified that with good solid chataigniers (chunks of chestnut tree) and more strands of much newer barbed wire.

 

Just add machine gun posts, and we should be OK

All was quiet for the best part of a fortnight, but then last week, the escapes began again. The two ewes started squeezing through the back fence. The barbed wire didn’t seem to bother them. It did bother the ram, though. Now, male sheep are remarkably well endowed in the ball department. Decidedly over-enthusiastically so. He clearly didn’t want to risk getting his substantial family jewels tangled in barbed wire so he stayed put in the field, but bleated anxiously whenever his women disappeared, which alerted us to what was going on. A couple of days ago this was happening every half hour or so, which was totally OTT.

So we have now added wire netting to the fence poles and barbed wire. We bought loads of grillage, wire netting, but still ran out. I dashed into Boussac yesterday to get some more, but had to make do with one metre high chicken wire since that’s all I could find. However, it seems to be fit for the job. Chris and I spent our Sunday morning tacking it into place and making holes in ourselves and our clothes with the barbed wire, sharp bits on the chicken wire, the grampillons (U-shaped tacks) and also the trees. There are a lot of hawthorns in that patch of woody hedging that our fence goes through. No pain, no lamb chops I guess.

Fencing in progress

We paid €340 for our three sheep, and I reckon they’ve cost us at least half as much again in extra poles and fencing. And between Chris, Benj and me, we must have spent at least 40 hours or so on the work. But I think it will still be worth it when we can become self-sufficient in mutton. And it had jolly well better taste good after all this aggro!