Sunday, May 21, 2017

Will it ever be summer?

Spring sure has been taking its time this year. The coldest spring in over 150 years I heard some say! And I can believe it. The first half of may has past and I do not think we could fill one week with daytime temperatures reaching double digits in celsius.
But then, as I browsed a bit through earlier posts, I came across a post from exactly 2 years ago. And there too was the mention of a cold, grey and windy spring. So maybe it is not all that abnormal at all, but still.... the coldest in 150 years....
But improvement is on its way! Temperatures are on the rise and before we know it we will be complaining about grass growing at astonishing speed! And it is about time too. In 4 weeks time the kids will be having their summer holiday and it still felt like early spring.
All we need now is a good amount of rain, even though plenty would complain about that too in no time. Local water levels in lakes and flows have dropped severely already and in many parts of Sweden warnings about water shortages are being issued. Some places already put a ban on using water for watering the garden and such! In order to prevent problems with that in the future we have started to take precautions; we got ourselves a large watertank, which will be filled with lake- and/or rainwater. I was even thinking greywater, but that would involve some serious rearranging of plumbing, so I'll put that off for the time being. But it might materialise in the future....

And then.... it happened!
We got hit by a sudden wave of warmth!
The wind shifted and the temperatures rose to well over 20C overnight with a very high humidity. And all the green stuff just went *BOOM* An explosion of green all around us. I swear I could see the grass grow! As if all the greens had been bottling up the growing energy, waiting for these circumstances to happen and now unleashing that energy. What a transformation.
And not just the greens, bugs and beasties too. There are insects, flying, crawling, creeping all over the place. I am not glad to report the ants are back too...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What is done is done

Things are set in motion at our place.

One of the major jobs to be done around here, probably the biggest, has been completed; the sewage system. And in the process my favorite place in our garden has been absolutely destroyed. But....
This new system is a lot better for our immediate livingarea and surfacewater. No more waste gets released into either of them, which is a massive win in itself.
A good deal of trees had to be taken down. More than the anticipated 3-5. We ended up with 11 downed trees. 2 of those were at my request, one being a fullygrown rowan which dominated the entrance toward the house and which had started to die. Bark had started to fall off and a large crack all along the length of the trunk became visible. The other being the large pine dominating pretty much everything, both view to and from the house. But..... all that wood will be warming us on many a cold winter's day. However before that will come to pass I will need to acquire new skills; how to handle a chainsaw.
Another plus is that now our house is much more exposed to sunlight, which most likely will be most noticeable on sunny, and thus cold, winterdays as well. Now the sun can warm the stone lower half of the house and blaze right into our current livingroom without the shadow of that large pine ruining things. That will cut down on heating. Besides we hope to have the greenhouse ready before coming autumn, so the effect will be greatly enhanced.
Another benefit is the addition of at least 40m² more or less useable planting area onto which we have sown a variation of cover crop plants and bee friendly plants. The soil has been greatly disturbed and needs to resettle. We need to recreate soil life and feed it with biomass.

But right now we are "mourning" the loss of that special, little place.....

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A word from one of my idols.....

an icon in the world of nature, preservation, knowledge and passion of and for all of Mother earth's beings...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Foodgrowing season has started!!

And so it has begun.....
Greenhouses are up and ready. Or at least were until we had some pretty strong winds. The greenhouse we bought last year from Denmark got blown over and the frame mangled. The 2 bottom bars, connected with a simple, longer bolt were ripped out. The receiving end proved to be very weak, but that we already learned last season. The tubes were badly bent on one side. Also did the foil get torn up in one corner. All in all this greenhouse has turned out to be one disappointment. Low quality from one end to the other.
But as the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys....

We had a couple of very fine days these last few days; sunny and nice temperatures. It really makes one come to life again. Energy levels go up and flabby muscles get worked again... However this fine weather has a downside. We are already facing the very real possibility of a drought. Lake waterlevels are at a low and there is no sign of any rain. This is something we need to look into; a proper watersupply for gardening purposes.

But we have finished the first step of the season; sowing!!
2 days of filling pots and planning what to sow where and how much... And going through all these little bags is so much fun; dreaming about what it will turn out like... All sort of cabbages and beans, flowers and herbs. The herb-section is pretty extended, since I am going to try and grow them for tea!

And now the work is done. All I need to do now is water them and wait. Although I still have some empty pots....

And in a week or 2 we'll be sowing directly into the soil as well. By that time it should have warmed up enough. The cats are already checking the location. Probably laying in the sun on a bed of hay is wonderful. Or is it the hint of chicken manure that clings to it??

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May and spring jumped on us!

Finally may came and with it spring!!
However during the final period of april we did have some occasional bouts of fine weather and we tried to make the most of that, despite the icy wind that never seemed to stop, only to change direction.

An intricate pattern of pieces of reed, blown into the shore of one of the lakes and a miniature daffodil, a remnant of my time as churchyard gardener. They were a lot bigger, when I took them home, but here in the garden they grow no taller than 4-5cm.

During april's last week we had "some¨ unexpected guests. Some really is not the right word however. We saw a huge gathering of migrating birds. Apparently they had gathered in this area to wait for warmer weather to come in, so they could journey further north. We had large groups of thrushes of several species, and finches too. Lots and lots of finches! The noise they made was earsplitting at times and when they started calling each other in the morning..... Now that was one heck of a wake up call. Just not at 04:00am.
But now they all have gone. All but the robin that lives in our garden and the loons that inhabit the lakes, their calls echoing across the surface, answering one another. And new summer residents have come in too! I saw the first few swallows dash through the air the other day.....

But spring did come at last.....
But before that we had the traditional walpurgis night or valborgsmässa. We decided to visit the place where we went the first time and where we used to live in our early Sweden days in order to catch up with old friends.

Between that and slaughtering roosters, this sudden arrival of sun and warmth initiated a sudden burst of energy and activity! Besides getting our greenhouses ready to finally start sowing, inspecting our garden for hidden and growing surprises. For one thing we, quite spontaneously, decided to visit one of the local farms, where they sell their own produce and have loads of livestock. The one thing I was interested in, besides being plain curious, were their African dwarf goats. I just had to see them for real.
And guess what..... We think a few of those just would fit in with us! Looking at their size and the size of the area we had intended for them and the size of the area they had, we figure there'd be more than enough room for 3 of them. We would have to buy additional food anyway. So another project will be undertaken over the course of the next few weeks/months!

But the fun did not stop there. Oh no!
The visit to said farm inspired us to come up with more ideas. As we sat there, having coffee and waffles with marmalade and whipped cream, I noticed they had vines growing along a south facing wooden facade.... without any protection! So I asked what kind it was. A baltisk staketdruva (or Vitis labrusca) was the answer. A blue grape, suitable for consumption as fruit, not wine. Exactly what I wanted! Now I found a grape species I can have outside the glass greenhouse! We have a nice, south facing stonewall, sheltered from blistering winter gales, so the vine should thrive. So we are getting one of those as well. Oh by the way..... 2 hazel shrubs are on order too....

Another thing that inspired us, was their so-called farstu; a semi-enclosed area in front of the frontdoor. We had already been thinking about having one, since they make ideal places to take off dirty shoes, boots or working clothes, before you come into the house. and theirs was just the style we had in mind.

All in all a very good 1st of may!
Hope everyone will have a good season and summer!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

The tale of 2+2 cocks

It finally happened again.... We really needed to remove 2 cocks from our flock.
It had become obvious that Dr. Watson was a very weak cock. An outcast, constantly being bullied and harassed by Weasly. He was no longer part of the flock, sat by himself in a corner of the coup or roamed the garden all alone. He also was weak physically, not making a healthy, lively impression no more.
Weasley on the other hand was a splendid cock, full of vigour and colour. Unfortunately he had a meanstreak. Not only did he bully and harass Dr. Watson, but also Sirius and the other chickens. He would not tolerate anyone near him, when feeding and we often caught him attacking the others apparently out of the blue, causing a lot of stress within the flock. When they were out however, it was Sirius who kept an eye of everyone and stood on watch. Weasley did not show much signs of vigilance. A cock that was no contribution, except aesthetically. And I do not do aesthetics..... Well, not much, when the prime requirements are not fulfilled.
Life in the country isn't always fun, so the last day of april had a bit of a sad note.....

The procedure we followed this time was quite different from the first time. Now a quick and decisive blow to the back of head, while we held the animals up. Then we waited for the eyes to close and the animal to go limp. With the hatched the head was then severed, but still the body responded. Holding on firmly is still required, but it ended soon.
Then we plucked them. This is made much easier, when first dunked in a bucket with hot water (60C) and by removing small tufts of feathers at a time. Cleaning out the inserts was practically the same...
I have to say that this time I was not as shaken as the first time, but I still am reluctant to do this.
But this slaughtering session also had a lot of upsides. Dr. Watson was put out of his misery and he really was miserable as we found out when slaughtering him. His weakness showed in that he not only had footscab, but also lice. Around his neck feathers had felted together too. It would only have been a matter of time until he would have gotten sick. With Weasley gone, we really hope peace and quiet will be restored and levels of stress will be reduced.
On a practical note my wife has now a decent collection of feathers to use for her angel making. She will be using those feathers as wings. Our oldest daughter had decided to join us and watch how we killed and plucked Weasley. She then helped plucking him, so a first hands on experience for her! And she did not chicken out. She plucked some beautiful feathers for herself as well. We sat there and looked at the feathers; their colours, their structure and we were amazed. We also learned how new feathers grow as we found some. They start out as paintbrushes... sort of, a tiny brush of filaments in a shaft. Very hard to pluck, so next time I wait until they are done moulting.

But May came with happy tidings!
The weather improved considerably! A not unsubstantial rise in temperature and sunshine!!!
And I made arrangements to get two new cocks. Same race as we have now; hedemora and 8 weeks old. May I present......

Malfoy and Lupin
(can you tell we've got a Potter-thing here??)