Tis the seasons
Rain, rain, rain…. 25mm in one day in fact! It’s been like that for a few days, so not much farmy stuff going on I’m afraid. So what have I been doing to keep myself busy? Well tax returns, VAT claims, sending e-mails, etc. All the exciting stuff I’m sure you guys want to read about.. Let’s get started with tax returns shall we? No? ok, let’s start talking about the seasons instead.
I love working outside; However cold and rainy it gets. Being outside really gets you to appreciate the change in seasons again. Especially in la Creuse, that has beautiful crisp autumns, bitterly cold winters, showery springs and long hot summers. From outside you can see nature change around you, making you always look forward to what the next season has to bring. Even in the depth of a cold dark winter, you know that a sunny hot barbecue summer is just on the other side.
So in between e-mails and tax forms, I have been going outside in the rain as much as possible. The cool thing about the region is the streams and little rivers that form in heavy rain. I spent most of my days as a child either creating channels or buildings dams, and well, this week I was 8 again. I went out and created channels and dams to keep the water from getting into my fields. There was a serious reason behind it; to keep the fields as dry as possible over winter when we get the animals on, but really, it is just awesome fun.
The farm is situated just about ½ mile away from the top of a small valley, and it is fascinating thinking about the journey the water is about to embark on when it falls from the sky here. Rain falls on the top of our valley, and trickles down through my fields into a small stream that runs through the first half of our farm. This stream then runs into a small river called Le Verreau that runs through the second half of the farm. This then empties into a slightly bigger river called La Petite Creuse that itself empties into La Creuse (the river the region is named after). La Creuse empties in a big river called La Loire that ends into the Atlantic ocean in the city of Nantes, 400 miles away from the rainfall in our little valley.
On rainy days, other then building dams and thinking about where water goes, a good outdoor activity is to go and have a chat with all the other farmers of the village, who also don’t have much to do until the rain stops. There is a rule about chatting to farmers for both those in the UK and France. Whatever the weather is, it is unusual for the time of year and the worst for as long as they can remember. If it’s raining it’s a complete inundation, if it’s cold it’s too early or too late in the year and if it’s sunny it’s a drought. For farmers, every year is the worst year. I’m pretty certain farmers were aware of climate change before it was even a thing. Still, my advice if you are going to start a smallholding, chat to as many farmers as you can. The knowledge and advice you get in every conversation is always worth it. Every chat you have, their will be that golden nugget that makes you think: “woo, I’m going to try that next year”! This week, speaking to the local organic vegetable farmers, I have learned to spread crushed chalk instead of lime on my fields, that it is best to spread in autumn in this region, and from that chat, I now also know somewhere cheap to get it from.
I have agreed with them that any vegetables waste from their farm (and there is a lot) I can have to feed to my pigs. I have also gained an extra field from them! Most excitingly, You will be able to get some of their fresh fruits, including strawberries and melons, and seasonal vegetables when you come and stay, either camping, or as part of our smallholding courses and farm working holidays. This exchange of knowledge and help goes both way. It turns out they had been looking for some English fencing equipment for some time, so I have agreed to bring it back for them next time I am in the UK.
Ow, and they have told me the name of the other farmer in the village that I chat too everyday but had forgotten his name, and it was now to awkward to ask.. Is name is Jean-Pierre.
Interestingly, talking to Jean-Pierre later in the week, He gave me some information about the ruins found deep in the woods of our land. The ruins consist of a big house with barn, cellar and another little house opposite. Turns out this house has been empty for 70 years now! His parents used to know the last habitants, who at the time were elderly themselves. He also informed me that their was a well to be found near the house that had been covered. So that is going to be an exciting find. I wonder if it is still full and usable to pump water for my animals?
The ruins are awesome by the way. Untouched for 70 years, it has the remains of the shutters, the doors and window frames. There is still a cooker under the collapsed roof, and in between the walls of the barn are the two metal wheels of an old cart that has rotten away in place. The ruins are going to be cleaned up and become one of our camping spot with a great fire pit in the middle. Would you not love to spend an evening having a bonfire within the ruins telling ghost stories and would you dare spend a night there?
Further down, by the river are the ruins of an small water mill, grinding stone still in place. Jean-Pierre believes this was an old grain oil producing mill, but it was already abandoned when his grand-parents where in the region! So the mill must go back 100s of years! This is going to be another great camping spot… Maybe less spooky too.
So that’s pretty much it for this week's blog. As I write this, Katie is back in the UK with Howard attending their French class, so make sure you send some support their way. French is hard!
One last thing, just to say we will soon be partnering up with MiiMOSA and Bienvenue a La Ferme, to raise some funding for the environmental and educational side of the farm. Their will be a chance for all of you to get involved if you wish and there will be some great treats and rewards for those who do. I haven’t worked out what these will be yet, but they will be great! More about it in the coming weeks though.
Anyways, have a great week, Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel and don’t forget to be awesome.