What are we all about?

The focus of this blog is simple - and that's the goal too. A more simple way of life. A life in tune with the rhythms of nature and of human nature. Where everything has its time and place and purpose, including us.

We have left the rat race behind and taken on new challenges. We aim to tread as lightly as we can upon the planet, to reconnect with nature, to eat good food, drink excellent wine, enjoy the best of company.... even if that is sometimes just our own! Please feel free to eavesdrop from time to time on our lives and see how we are doing and if you are ever in Extremadura... drop us an email and we'll give you directions.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Garden-ing!

I have put a hyphen between Garden and Ing because to spell it as one word, gardening, would seem to imply that I know what I'm doing. Which, quite frankly, I don't. If I push a rake around the soil for a while, pull the odd weed while totally missing others until they sprout huge blousy blooms, pile earth into mini mountains around the base of plants for no other reason than I think they need the support, or simply just the act of being in the garden waving around some random garden implement, all this falls under the term garden-ing.





In spite of my incompetence with the veggie plot we are getting produce. I seem to be one of those people who learn by experience more than by reading of others experiences. I find books and the web excellent resources for putting you in the right direction but nothing beats hands on learning on the job!



For example I have recently come to realise that I have a very contrary approach to the garden in general. For example, when growing from seed all the advice is to pot on or plant out the strongest seedlings, discarding the weak. I have done this but rather than discard the weaklings I think, ah, what a shame, you deserve a chance and I find a place for the 'runts' of the vegetable world in the garden. And yes, you guessed they never come good.  I have been doing this without even realising it for years. I think it's the natural rooting for the underdog taken to extremes!  Well now I am aware I am going to guard against it.


Meanwhile the tomatoes are really quite advanced - just not turning red yet. The lettuce delicious. The potatoes.. mmmmmmmm.. just a tad too close to each other, we might not get much this year.



The onions have been pulled and are drying by the pool. I found three shallots in amongst them, I didn't plant shallots but they are welcome just the same.


The strawberries are still providing on almost a daily basis and as the season has progressed they are tasting better and better.



The kale went to seed very quickly, too much sunshine, and the spinach did likewise. We got one lunch out of the spinach and I picked the best of the kale, washed and blanched it and froze it in a bag.


Come January when it's cold and dark this will be great added to Scotch broth! And it will remind me of the sunshine in May. The courgettes are once again proving to be a magnet for the ants. I don't know the attraction but they end up swarming all over the plant and the fruits turn yellow and die. So I took drastic action and bought ant powder at the cooperative. To date we have not used any pesticides or non natural fertilisers but the ants have driven me to distraction and I gave in. We shall see how it turns out.


The flower garden is looking good this year too. It all takes time but we are getting there! And all with very little expertise or knowledge. Just bimbling about Garden -ing!











I have grand schemes in mind for the garden but will definitely need the assistance of some fit volunteers and for an update on the volunteer situation.. where I will reveal what Steve has been doing for weeks  and weeks and weeks... tune in next time!  Until then I hope your gardens are fulfilling their purpose, whether that be produce or simply joy!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Chicken Matters

I bet most of you think that we have an easy life here in rural Spain. With very little to worry about, no stress etc. Whatever the truth of that, it seems that no matter where you are you bring your worries with you and if you are of a worrying nature, where you live is not going to make very much difference at all.



We have a Broody hen she has been broody for quite some time, about two months now. During this time we really didn't feel able to let her sit and incubate the eggs, it was just too much extra hassle and we don't need any more chickens. However she will not give up. She hoggs the nest and the other hens can't get in which means they've started laying in other places. Usually unsuitable places - as in they are difficult to get at. They queue up for the nest, sometimes one after the other all the way up the ladder complaining loudly.



We can't let them out of their run so that they can be free range on the finca until after we know they have laid their eggs or we may never find them. But of course because the broody hen won't budge fights are breaking out.

So we have decided that we will let her incubate some eggs in the hope that if she has chicks she will then get over this ridiculous behaviour. The problem with this decision is that we don't really have any way to separate her so that she can incubate safely away from the other hens. The Eglu is most unsuitable for chick rearing. We do have a second hen house but we are using that run to grow courgettes and squash this year. All the same we shut her in the house with food, water and eggs but she refused to sit on them and was so lonely looking we gave up and put her back with the rest of the flock, at which point she sat back down in the Eglu nest box and refused to move.


We have a small broody coop, gifted by dear friends, which we have never yet managed to entice a hen into. But we thought we would give it a go. We put a clutch of 8 eggs into it and turfed the silly girl off the nest and closed the Eglu so she couldn't get back in. Well, she looked at the eggs. But she wouldn't sit on them. She complained loudly for hours until we opened the Eglu at bedtime and she settled down onto the empty nest again.

The next day two of the hens laid in the broody coop and Miss Broody had to be chased out of the Eglu in order to retrieve the remaining eggs. She is starting to fight back when we shoo her off now and I go to collect eggs armed with a spray bottle of cold water and a ladle!


It can't be good for her health to be broody so long, but I doubt her ability to incubate the eggs or raise chicks, she is herself, a product of inbreeding and isn't really approaching this in the right way with her fixation on the nest rather than the eggs. We are hoping that time will sort her out.. meanwhile if the other hens lay in the broody coop (fingers crossed) then we won't have to wrestle the eggs away from her and she might get fed up of sitting on an empty nest.

Of course these are not the only things we have to worry about, worries come and demand your attention no matter where you live or what your lifestyle. And the fact that the cause of my worries is less significant than some others might be is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. If I worry, I worry. So our not very bright hen has served a very important purpose in reminding me that we make our own paradise. If we cannot let go of the inconsequential then we will never have the stress-free lifestyle that is so sought after. Perhaps it's me that has to change my attitude and not the 🐔. OK. Look here Miss Broody hen if you don't stop this disruptive behaviour then I am going to eat you! And you better start laying again because that's your purpose in life and we don't have space for free loaders!


Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Suint Bath Update

My fleece cleaning experiment has come to fruition. I checked on the bucket every couple of days and apart from the water turning brown nothing much seemed to be happening. On day six there was a white-ish film on top of the water but still no bubbles that I had been told to expect. I decided to leave it an extra day, after all, we had some rain and dull days with temperatures below 20C and arguably, just like with sour dough, the fermentation is temperature driven.



On day 8 the bath was smelly, not overpowering but enough to attract the flies when the lid was off, what my father used to call 'a good fresh farmyard smell' all the while smiling and holding his nose. It still had the white scum on the top and no bubbles. I thought I would extract a small amount of fleece and rinse it to test if it's ready or not.



Oh my, what a surprise. I know the science behind it but it feels like magic all the same. Here I have placed the little scrap of clean fleece on top of the bag of dirty unwashed fleece. The difference is amazing as you can see.  So I decided it was ready and I lifted the whole lot up onto a rack which I rested on top of the bucket. Almost instantly the flies descended, not good.



So I had to try and squish the excess Suint-water out of the fleece quickly and get the lid back onto the bath as fast as I could.  The fleece was then spun in the washing machine - that was not good either, firstly the net curtain did not contain all the fleece and secondly I had not been as careful as I thought about removing ALL of the sheep poo.  Sheep poo is really just grass since sheep don't eat much else, but all the same, when wet its green and slimey and the tiny amount I had overlooked was now spread around the fleece. Sigh.


Since no detergent has been used the fleece still retains the natural lanolin. This makes the fleece slightly sticky to handle and there is a hint, barely, of sheep smell remaining. I am not sure if I will get on with 'spinning in the grease' as it is called in spinners parlance. It's certainly a different experience from what I am used to. However I do like how soft my hands feel after a spinning session so I think I will persevere for a while anyway. The update on this is that I won't. The combs, the hackle, the wheel as well as my hands become coated in lanolin which later hardens up and makes combing very difficult - only my hands benefitted from this experience.



I have a second Suint Bath on the go which will be ready to rinse today, however it is raining and I don't see the need to stand in the wet rinsing fleece, so I shall leave it another day. I have added a subsequent fleece to the brown smelly water in the first bucket. According to other bloggers experiences this and all further fleeces should only take two or three days, certainly as temperatures rise here as summer approaches the process could get very fast indeed. I would aim to have all the fleece cleaned before the height of summer and although the Suint water can be kept indefinitely, apparently, I will use it on the garden and start afresh every spring with the arrival of new fleece.


Here is my first hastily prepared (hence the uneven-ness of the yarn) sample of yarn, spun in the grease and subsequently washed in detergent. It's a shame I don't like spinning in the grease because yarn is easier to wash than fleece but it seems that although the Suint Bath appeared to be a dream come true - it isn't, quite. But it certainly is a better experience than the last time I tried washing this much raw fleece!