Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Unseasonable Weather

It has been dry for a few weeks now and the days are wonderfully warm and as you can see the sunrise was stunning.
As the taxi driver said to me yesterday "this is not normal". I am watering my pot plants with a hose, there are still butterflies and bumble bees working the flowers which continue to bloom and farmers are worried as a dry summer has led on to a dry winter so far. Apart from a few days of rain in November there has been nothing to recharge the aquifers. Yet again it is going to be the warmest year on record globally and sitting in the sun on my patio I can believe it. Lovely to work in but just "not normal".

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

More Hens

You can never have too many hens. We went to a local market on Sunday and brought a pair of young Silkie bantams to improve our home hatching rates. Since we lost Ginger, the Buff Orpington, one of our first hens, her daughters have been trying and mostly failing to hatch chicks. They seem to be absent minded (or Dim as Tim calls them) and they get confused over which nest box is theirs and climb on top of a single new laid egg instead of their half brooded batch. The boxes are clean and vermin free and copiously dusted with diatomaceous earth so I think it truly is a mistake on their part. Also hens lay new eggs in the nest of existing half brooded batches meaning that I have to mark eggs so I can tell new from old and check them every day.
The new girls are currently in a large dog crate for a few days before being let out with the existing flock. I want to be sure that they are happy and eating and drinking well before they mix.

Yesterday we also killed and prepared our two young cockerels from the last batch of chicks. They had started crowing and shagging so they had to go before the existing cockerel killed or maimed them. The kittens are doing well mixing with the existing dogs but the Senior Cat is not very happy, he is not keen on the upstarts with no manners and is definitely not offering them his Werthers Originals. The weather is still good, getting colder but bright and the fire in the woodburner is now lit most evenings. There is nothing like a real fire.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


We rather unexpectedly adopted two kittens yesterday. Our good friends had offered a home to an unwanted cat which produced kittens. They are both girls, the black one is Bramble and the tabby one is Dinah. We could do with some new blood as our 10 year old tabby Nosher is healthy but semi retired. The girls will hopefully keep us rodent free once they grow a bit and settle in.
Sam the terrier is frightened of them which is great and we will leave it a few days before they meet the big dog.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Autumn Creeps Up On Us

The weather is cooler which is wonderful. Work has picked up on the land as I sort out the rampant tomatoes and get some brassica seedlings planted in the polytunnel. Last night we ate the first parasol mushrooms of the year and we have been eating blackberries for some time now.
Some of the trees are turning colour already and my rather fabulous kahili ginger is flowering for the first time, several sweetly scented plumes of flowers. I was rather surprised that it settled here as it is native to India.
I have dried the nectarine crop as they weren't very sweet and had split, they taste much better dried. We have also had our first decent hazelnut crop. Not tons but more than the two nuts we got last year. It is very exciting now that the forest garden is starting to crop. We also tasted autumn olives for the first time, they are not olives but species of Elaeagnus umbellata and they are sharp but tangy and we both like them.
As ever we are overwhelmed by pears and apples. We are picking some to store in boxes and I intend to dry some and make compote from others for breakfast with yogurt. This all takes time and has to compete with all of the other tasks for attention. If the pigs had not escaped they could have helped us manage the fruit better. Finally we now have two sweet white turkeys stalking the orchard. I will get a better picture of them when they are grown a bit.
Happy harvest to you all. Mother nature is indeed very bountiful.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A Porcine Disaster

It was all going too well. The pigs were sweeties, eating cheese from our hands, loving a good scratch, being taken on walks down the land and coming when called. We moved them to the orchard and unfortunately they escaped when we were not around to see, burrowing under the fence and disappearing. We suspect that neighbours dogs may have chased them away as they usually chomped in the vicinity contentedly when loose. The local village has been alerted but no sightings  since they went and it has been over a fortnight now so I don't think we will get them back. We hope that they will get a glorious autumn in the woods around us, but hunters will probably get them this winter if they survive the dogs. It is a horrible feeling to loose them like this and we feel as though we failed them somehow. We should have put electric fencing up and we didn't because they had not been any trouble up til that point. If there is a next time we will definitely do things differently.

I haven't blogged because as usual we have been busy and had family staying. It is brilliant having Tim back, he is currently in the UK for a couple of weeks but should be back in Galicia soon. The bees didn't happen this year for a variety of reasons but we will try again next year to get a swarm. The geese are in the freezer and it seems very quiet with just the chickens. I have had mixed vegetable success, we have had a very hot dry summer with temperatures often into the 30's, up to 36 degrees and many veggies went straight to seed despite my watering. We have lost some of the new forest garden seedlings planted last winter as I couldn't keep up with the watering and some have disappeared into the brambles. I hope to get the brambles down again with Tim's help and see how many seedlings are still alive. The fruit is doing well, strawberries and raspberries with tons of pears on the trees and many apples to come. The figs should be ripe any time now as well.
The chard has self seeded its self around which is great as both of us love it. Here is some in the lilies which are about to bloom for the first time. The mushroom logs are in the purple bucket on the left and we hope that they may crop this Autumn if the heat hasn't killed the fungi.
I put the tiny oca tubers in a pot and they have grown well. I might get to eat some this winter I hope.
All together a mixed year growing wise but the year is not finished yet and there is always next year. As weather extremes become the new norm due to climate change perseverance, diversity and mulching is the only answer I can think of.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Pig Happiness

Today is a beautiful day and the piglets have found their way into their enclosure for the first time as access involves jumping down two large steps relative to the size of the pigs. They have bathed in the pig sized pool, eaten grass and accepted treats of cheese.
Life is good.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

New Pigs

Tim is back again and the house has never been so joyful. We have two, two month old male Vietnamese pigs. They are very tiny and sweet at the moment but a little nervous and speedy. My daughter Catherine is spending the summer with us and we agreed to her looking after them to see if pig keeping was for her. They are smaller than the usual pigs and we hope easier to handle when they get bigger. They are for meat and will be humanely slaughtered in winter and hopefully will give us some decent pork. I understand that the most difficult part is keeping them slim as they have a tendency towards fattiness but like so many farming activities it is all a bit trial and error and we will learn what feeding regime suits them best. She will also have to deal with their inevitable demise and so again this will be a learning curve. She is fine with the slaughtering of poultry but pigs are a different proposition. They have a large warm stable and a decent outside run and will have the best of food and attention.

They will also help us out with the egg glut which continues unabated. We have been getting some whoppers. The large one pictured weighed 102g next to a more normal sized egg.
The rainy stormy weather continues. All of the planting is held back and slugs and snails are rampant this year. The fruit trees are in blossom but I hope there are enough bees to pollinate it. We are hoping to get some bees of our own soon, fingers crossed. At this time of the year there never seems to be enough time in a day to get all of the work done, thank goodness for the light evenings, when it is not raining that is.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Glorious Morning

In Galicia, in winter it rains a lot and this winter has been no exception. We have had a lot of rain and although Spring has sprung it has been difficult to enjoy it because of the aforementioned rain. This morning however it is glorious and made all the more precious because of the dull rainy days preceding it.
The geese are enjoying it as well. Later I shall let them wander in the forest garden, under careful supervision. Last time they were left in there they got through the fence into the neighbours turnip field and cause devastation until they were discovered.
The ladies are above with Gandalf below. He likes me at the moment but he attacks anyone else on sight but it is part of his job description to be a homicidal maniac.
The vegetables are still providing plenty of food and there are flowers hidden everywhere if you know where to look for them. I keep adding to the bulbs a few more every year. A garden should satisfy all of the senses and on a morning like this it certainly does.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Coming Home

Tim is coming home for more than holidays and it has made our year. He has been working in the UK for four years out of necessity and after many tries he has been offered a job which will allow him to split his time between the UK and here. It has been hard on both of us but now he can take part in the many activities that Galicia has to offer such as Fiestas, animal care, barrowing muck, banging in fence posts, and many others. Talking of banging in fence posts Catherine and I are making tree guards for the many trees and shrubs in the forest garden so that we can get a couple of sheep in to graze it and keep the grass down and we will have meat for the freezer at the end of the year.
Making them ourselves means that we can vary their size according to the type and size of tree or shrub. We hope to get the worst of the brambles cut down and then the sheep should eat any soft new growth that they make. It will also protect the tender trees from the beaks of the geese.
The sheep will be from the flock shown here, they are native Galician sheep, a small breed which are known to be hardy and able to cope with rough grazing. The weather here continues to be very variable but Spring is marching on with bulbs in flower, the usual egg glut and a frisky Errol the cockerel.

Saturday, 27 February 2016


Just when you think that Spring is on it's way, nature can still surprise. I woke up to snow this morning and Toby the big dog loved it whilst the smaller dog Sam dashed out, took a look and returned to the warmth and comfort of the fire.

It is still snowing heavily but I have firewood so I am happy

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Webbed Feet

It has been ages since I last blogged and since then we have had Yule and I have been back to the UK twice, once for a 90th Birthday party and once for a funeral. As my family and I age, I become more aware of the cycle of life and how transient our time on this wonderful planet is. Therefore I try to make the most of every day. Yesterday my daughter and I went to the coast with the dogs despite the awful weather. We took a picnic and sat in a cave eating it and looking out at the view. We also collected driftwood and seaweed for the vegetable patch.

As we drove to the coast we passed through the small town of Parga, on the River Parga and it was the worst floods there that I have seen.

We have had heavy rain for weeks now, the house is leaking like a sieve and the stable walls run with water. We have moved the geese into the stables as the part of their orchard by their house and where we feed them is awash, which doesn't bother them but Catherine and I were sick of wading through liquid mud every time we tended them. They have the run of the chickens outdoor enclosure and will trim the tussocks we hope whilst the chickens spend some time in the barns and courtyard.

The local newspapers are full of stories of flooding and hardship so we count ourselves lucky to just have wet floors.