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New Year’s thoughts from the goat shed

  • 2014-01-08
  • By Mike Parr

ALUKSNE - Sitting in the kitchen, enjoying freshly made onion soup with homemade crusty bread, yeah, this is what winter is about. Of course winter doesn’t mean the work stops out here; I have hedges to lay, the stalls in the goat shed to sort out (the first kids are expected in February, not long to go). I need to plan my planting for this year and sort out the accommodation for when the pigs arrive.

The small-holders’ bible says winter is a time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of the year’s labor. Well, if the snow had stayed for longer than three days, then I guess I could have had an excuse to stay indoors and pretend I didn’t have any other jobs to do. But of course nature does what nature wants to do. The plus side is that I can get out and do jobs that were planned for later in the year.

This is my first attempt at laying a hedge; I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the videos on YouTube and I feel confident that I will be able to do a half reasonable job. I just need to remember to count my fingers when I get back.
One side of what I call ‘the field’ is bordered by huckleberry bushes... I say bushes. They are around fifteen feet tall, there are a few gaps in the hedge which deer have incorporated into their daily routes and, as I plan to add sheep to my menagerie I need to block these gaps. Of course the easy answer is to string up some barbed wire, but I like the idea of a living hedge, so off I will go, tools in hand, and I will attempt to ‘encourage’ the saplings to change direction and grow a new section of hedge to fill the gaps. A proverb keeps ringing in my head: ‘The best time to plant a tree is yesterday, the second best time is now.’ So I shouldn’t put things off; I should see the results in spring.

Then it’s back to the outbuildings; I already have a section of the sheds earmarked for the pigs; I am getting two, they don’t like being alone, apparently. It’s just a case of pulling out the lumber from the area I am setting aside and building a draught-proof shelter for them. In an ideal world I would guess it will take a coupe of days to get things prepared, the truth of the matter is probably it will be the best part of a week. But that’s the beauty of living in the countryside - you learn to take things slowly, as nature and the weather dictate the timetable.

My final big job is building the dam, or should I say rebuilding. The old infrastructure still stands, although it is overgrown with saplings and it looks like the household waste was dumped in the area before the previous tenants left. I’ll be doing this work by hand, and I can drag out the larger stumps of wood with the motoblok I have. Well, I’m hoping I can! Initially I had planned on building the dam six feet high, then I realized that the weight of the water it would be holding back would mean a major project would need to be undertaken to build it, so I am going for a three foot dam, much more manageable as a one man project, and I can always add to it at a later date, if need be.

One thing I do hope to gain from the dam is power. I am looking at placing a water turbine to generate power for running the lights (at least), maybe a few other items... we’ll see what the calculations say.
Another year of living in the countryside. I’ve made mistakes but importantly I have learned from them, the milder weather will allow me to start planting at a more reasonable time, so I need to start preparing the seeds I saved from last year. I’m also hoping to plant some more ‘exotic’ crops as an experiment.

So as the New Year starts, already my days are full; of course, they will also be fun and most definitely challenging. My best wishes go out to all of you for a healthy and prosperous year ahead!

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