A couple of weeks ago I ran a one-way taxi service for my friends’ handsome black pigs. It was interesting to go back to the little abattoir again, I’ve not been since we took our last lot of pigs in some 4 years ago. It’s a small-scale family run abattoir and much smaller than the nearer, larger abattoir that most people around here use. Having said that, because it is so much smaller, it’s very tricky reversing the trailer into the right place with the ridiculously wide turning circle our Landy has. It’s also pretty hard to see what you’re doing. I provided some entertainment with my valiant efforts, then a nice ex-clay lorry driver came and talked me back into the right place. He was my eyes. Left down a bit, a bit more, straighten, right down a bit, there you go. Sometimes there is just not enough room to get straight before you start to manoeuvre.
Whilst there, I bumped into another friend who had taken in a few sheep. After slaughter, she’ll be collecting their skins for organic processing into sheepskins. Over the years she has bred a flock primarily for fleece and has some lovely cross-breeds, all chosen with spinning in mind. Last year, when she wanted to breed some slightly bigger lambs to provide a more substantial meal for a large table of people, she borrowed Bert. Some of the offspring from that liaison are beautiful, can you imagine running your fingers through Romney crossed with Wensleydale… mmmmm!
My four ewe lambs are tame as ever. They are out roaming the unfenced field during the day, nicely hefted I think. I shut them in to the less grassy but well fenced area at night. I call them and they come running. One is still much smaller than the others, she is the lamb who stayed with her mum, Trouble, in the spring. I wonder if she will ever catch up in size with the others.
Last week my new ram lamb, Ernie, was found on his back in the field. There was no obvious sign of illness. Fine one day, dead the next. That old mantra of ‘the only happy sheep is a dead one’ comes to mind. One would think he must have been content with five lovely Romney ladies to woo. I am crossing my fingers that he did his ‘work’ before keeling over – we’ll find out at scanning time, but it will be too late to do anything about it then if not.
The house is progressing gently and beautifully. The acoustics in the building have changed dramatically and it’s hard to place the builders’ voices within now. All the underfloor heating is in place, surrounded with screed, a layer of chipboard on top making a solid floor. Internal walls are taking shape, filled with insulation and covered over with plasterboard. Rupert has begun plastering in places where the first fix wiring is complete, and its looking really good.
The cedar cladding is up on the outside of the new part and looks beautiful against the old stone. A ‘ring’ of cedar around the old bit of house just below the roof indicates the increase in roof height, for those random passers-by who might be interested in the chronology of the building! It was a planning requirement under the local barn conversation policy. And the replacement windows finally arrived and have been fitted. There is still so much to do but it really is starting to feel like a house now. As with all ‘grand designs’, the budget is tight and yet somehow we need to get it finished. I will be talking to the very chatty mortgage man this week as I don’t want anyone to have to stop working, the money pot is nearly empty.
Everyone asks us “will you be in for Christmas?” No, we won’t be moving back in for a while yet. It’s a way from being finished still, and we can’t move in until everything is sorted, otherwise it will be ‘nearly finished’ forever. And to be honest, by the time we get to March or April, we might stay in the yurt anyway, spring and summer is a nice time to be yurt living (unless the beast from the east revisits!)
There was a weightiness that descended, for me anyway, as the days reached that point of being noticeably shorter and darker each day. The basic daily jobs of laundry, wood chopping, cooking and washing up are made a little more tricky by being scattered between yurt, caravan and barn, and many of them being carried out in the dark. There is a lot of carrying of things, to and fro. I am grateful for the floodlights in the barn making chainsawing possible in all kinds of light. Generally, I find this time of year quite hard and crave sunlight, but I think that living outside is perhaps a good way to really feel the shift in seasons, and I am acutely aware of every little bit of light. Each morning I get up in pitch dark, opening the yurt door to see Arcturus shining so brightly in the sky and slowly, as I go back and forth between barn and yurt, the sky starts to lighten. We are lucky (on clear days) to catch beautiful sunrises, stunning starry night skies and have had many exciting space station sightings. I can safely say that I catch all the available daylight, which is perhaps more than I would manage in a house.
And now I must go back to trying to find some space in the yurt for a Christmas tree. Not quite Mission Impossible, but definitely Mission Very-Tricky. When we get it sorted I’ll show you!