Monday, 28 January 2013

Big thaw sparks optimism

Optimism is in the air!
With the house refurbishment reaching a turning point, last night's driving rain turned the landscape from white to green. OK...  green with a good few puddles.

An inevitable ending.
But can you spot the nose?
Happy ducks

I certainly wouldn't bet against another cold snap, but the sight of green grass again and odd patches of blue in the sky has got me raring to go for the new growing season.
I just can't wait to get out there and turn those veg beds. But until it dries out a little more I'll satisfy myself with sowing a few salad greens in the polytunnel.

Green grass for the geese

More good news too, this time on the pig front, as I have now shifted seven of the eleven piglets, including all the boys. A sudden bout of interest has left me with four girls to rear for myself. A perfect result.

The piglets enjoy a fresh bale of straw
before some of them go off to their new homes.

A different view.

The recent cold weather hit us at just the wrong time, just as the new windows were due to go in and just after the radiators had come off the walls. A week of temperatures on the wrong side of zero (daytime) and as low as -9 put a halt to the window replacements. This put a halt to the insulation slabs being fitted onto the inside of the walls. This put a halt to the walls being plastered. And this put a halt to the radiators going back on.
A chain reaction which led to a rather uncomfortable week for us.

Just to add to our misery, the phone line has been down for over a week and my broadband is snail-pace.

But this week has seen us, hopefully, turning the corner. The windows have gone in upstairs, which means that wardrobes, drawers and beds can start to creep back towards where they belong. This means we can finally get to our clothes again!

Then the downstairs windows came out - on the day of the second wave of snow. Our only habitable room turned into this...

Room with a view!

View from the lounge.

As a second wave of snow swept across the country...

Our hard-working builders
(shortly after beheading the snowman!)
Fortunately those rather large holes in the wall were filled before the snow came. With any luck, we'll have our heating back just in time for the weather to warm up.

But it feels like we've reached a turning point now. There'll be plenty more dust, interruptions to normal services and upheavals, but it feels like we have reached the top of the hill.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Foggy Fenland

Another post from a few days ago...

With the ground covered in snow, overnight another fenland monster stirred. Words cannot describe the atmosphere this morning - perfect snow, the sun trying its best to break through the hazy fog. Yes. This is fenland at its best. Or maybe I should say one of fenland's many bests, for there will be clear skies in summer, autumn storms and glorious sunrises and sunsets to rival it.

Who goes there? Tracks in the Snow.

It's been a while since I took these pictures, when the snow lay heavy. One afternoon, when there was not a room in the house where I could gain respite from the building works, I decided to take a stroll down the land and see who had been visiting over the last few days.

Now I don't claim to be any sort of expert tracker and the deep snow meant that paws, toes and claws were not clear. But thre have certainly been a few rabbits or hares hopping about in search of food. Rat tracks were thankfully confined to just one isolated group, near the empty chicken house. The mole(s) had managed to dot the white landscape with fresh mounds of soil, though none of them seemed to have gone wandering over the surface, which was a shame. Other tracks I found were pheasants, blackbirds and woodpigeons. Occasionally there would be an amazing snow fairy pattern where a bird had landed. Rodent (probably field voles) tracks occasionally led from one hole in the snow to another and in one place it looked as if an owl may have pounced on one. Confirming what we thought, a fox had left its traacks near the house - they only seem to come near the farm in extreme weather. Other tracks were probably stoat or weasel and a good many left me stumped.

Take a look and see if you can guess who's been visiting.


Blackbird snow fairy

Rabbit or hare

A rat has been investigating

Any ideas?

A change of direction

Vole tracks(?)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Smallholding in the snow

The animals have been coping with the snow in different ways. While the pigs enjoy the luxury of a straw-filled stable, the various fowl endure harsher conditions.

The geese are unable to graze easily but have been on a ration of extra potatoes, which they greatly appreciate. Unfortunately one of the females is not faring too well at the moment, being picked on when shut away at night. She has a rather nasty wound on her side.
So today we let her in the chicken pen, but this just encouraged the males to search out the weak spots in the fence. Mind you, they pretty much left her alone during the day. There are absolutely no spare rooms left in the stables at the moment, so tonight we segregated an area off with sheep hurdles. Hopefully this will afford her enough protection, but yet again we are forced to think about what to do with the over-aggressive ganders. At this time of year their hormones take over as the urge to breed takes over. Unfortunatley, they are not too gentle about wooing the females.
It may be that we need to go down to just the one gander.
Snow geese?

The chickens don't seem to mind the snow at all. They seem to prefer it to the mud at any rate. Egg production takes a small dip when temperatures dip below zero, but at least the eggs are cleaner. One of the cockerels has even developed a special walk, lifting its feet well clear of the snowy ground. 

A special walk for snowy conditions

A pair of Indian Games

The cockerels seem to know that their feathers look particularly fine against the snow. But a gang of them are still coming inside the stables every day, only sauntering back toward the chicken pen at afternoon feed time.

Meanwhile, this character (the four-legged one) decided that a whole field was not big enough. Presumably it required hay as the grass was hidden. This is not the first time that the bullocks who live in the Settlement Field have decided to go wandering. They often end up on the road, causing mayhem. The Settlement Field, by the way, covers the ancient remains of Iron Age and Roman salt workings, so is one of the few pieces of fenland not put to the plough.

Back on the farm and the guinea fowl prove the most obstinate of birds. They are still roosting right out in the open on top of the fence, despite the ice on their backs in the morning! They occasionally prospect one of the chicken houses, to the great consternation of the inhabitants, but always end up back on the fence.

Guinea fowl ski jump

Monday, 21 January 2013

Thank goodness for the woodburner

Last Monday I posted a few snowy pictures to celebrate the first significant fall of the year.
Well, since then it has remained cold by day and night but we've had no more snow...
until this...
View across the fields.

I am fond of this sort of weather, but it has been rather challenging.

Firstly, there's the slight inconvenience that our phone line has been down for a few days and we have tortoise-like internet to boot.

Then there's the fact that just before the snow we had most of the radiators removed from the house. This was so that the new windows could be installed, the walls thermal-lined and the new rads installed. Trouble is, the new windows cannot be fitted with the weather as it is.

The one inhabitable room in the house.
So we have been living, eating and sleeping in our very cosy lounge, kept alive by the woodburning stove.

More logs required

All around us, rooms stand in a state of semi-repair. But gradually we are heading back towards normality. As soon as the builder is back from his enforced break, we should get another two rooms operational. This should mean just about enough room to store all our belongings, without the necessity of lugging drawers, sofas and wardrobes from room to room every evening as the builder needs access to each different room.

Back to the snow though. For the blanket left draped over the ground last night was a covering of perfect snow - not too wet, not too powdery. In fact, perfect for this...

Meanwhile I have just seen the forecast for this next week. By Friday the max temp is going to be minus 4 and minus 8 at night. And that's probably in the towns.
Maybe those windows won't be going in just yet after all.

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