My attempts to keep the wood-shed filled are not amounting to much at the moment. We seem to be using wood faster than it’s being replenished. Not that surprising really, with two wood-stoves on the go. At least we’re warm. I’ve now moved on to trimming low-hanging branches from the oak trees along the drainage ditches on the property, and thinning the growth where there are too many trees in one spot.

Processing all this wood wreaks havoc on gloves though. I have yet to find a brand of gloves which lasts longer than a couple of months. I have now taken to buying motorcycle gauntlets cheaply on Ebay. But then I had an idea. I had a pair of worn-out leather shoes which I dismantled. Pieces of leather were then cut out. These have now been glued and sewn onto the palm and finger areas of the motorcycle gloves. So far so good; they’re not wearing out quite as quickly!

Speaking of motorcycle gloves, the motorcycle is finally up and running. A new ignition switch has been installed, and although it looks a bit odd, it works – which is the important thing.

A chestnut beer has now been brewed and tasted. Quite nice, but not my favourite. It’s a bit sweet. You can definitely taste the chestnut though.

I have also fabricated a tow-hitch which can be attached to the three-point system on the tractor. I can now use the trailer instead of the open-backed transport box, so more wood can be brought back in one go.

Tractor trailer
Tractor trailer

The freezing weather has caused some issues with the reedbed sump system. The problem was that the hosepipe leading from the pump to the reedbed had frozen solid, which caused the little 12-volt bilge pump to burn out. I replaced it with one of the two 240-volt stainless steel sump pumps which I discovered in a corner of the Aged FIL’s workshop. All the wiring was connected up, pipes connected, and I stood back to see how it worked.

It didn’t. I discovered that the pump itself was burnt out, but the Aged FIL had kept it for reasons only known to himself. So everything was dismantled again, and the other pump installed. This one worked. However, it’s 1200 Watts, which is too powerful to be run off the solar system. A new 400 Watt sump pump was therefore procured. I also replaced the hosepipe with a larger diameter pipe (actually an old vacuum cleaner hose). So far so good. We’ll see how well the re-design works. Oh, and the burnt-out pump? I did what the Aged FIL should have done, and put it on the scrap-metal pile.

Another little job which was done just before the temperature dropped was to put together the frame for the sliding doors which will be installed in the barn. Putting the frame in position enabled me to see exactly what work needed to be done for the installation. The frame is narrower than the opening, so I will need to fill in one side with some brickwork. This means dismantling part of the wall so that the existing brickwork can be properly “toothed”. The dismantling is actually A Good Thing, because at one stage in its lifetime SOMEBODY hit the wall in this spot with a tractor, causing it to bow outwards in the middle by about 10cm. So when the weather warms up I’ll be able to straighten this bit at the same time as installing the door frame.

Now you may recall I mentioned a while ago that we received regular buckets of kitchen scraps for our hens from one particular person, whom I shall simply call Mrs L. The kitchen scraps have consisted of inter alia an entire roast chicken, a left-over beef steak, two duck breasts, half-eaten birthday cakes, packets of biscuits, entire cheeses, and crisps. Anyway, Mrs. L telephoned LSS two weeks ago and said that someone had given her ten pheasants, and were we interested. Yes, LSS said. She’d take one or two.
“Oh good,” said Mrs L. “I’ll just put the rest of them in the bin.”
“In that case I’ll take all ten!” said LSS.

So she went around later that day. There weren’t ten pheasants. There were fifteen. So two each went to Friend E, Neighbour J, Mr. T, and a retired farmer nearby who used to give us old potatoes for the hens (until he stopped farming potatoes last year). The rest went in our freezer.

A week later Mrs. L rang again. “I was given a piece of boar and a couple of pheasant. I don’t want them; so if you don’t want them I’ll throw them away.” There were two front quarters of wild boar, and five pheasant. I don’t think Mrs. L can count.

So this time Friend E got a piece of boar and another couple of pheasant. And as luck would have it whilst LSS was outside plucking pheasants with Friend E, the head hunter M&O turned up with our share of the spoils from the previous weekend’s hunt: a partridge and yet another two pheasants. So our freezer is now somewhat full; and I’ve had to go back to defrosting and processing bunny skins in order to make room.

Wildlife Diary: We were rather surprised to have a new visitor to the bird feeding station. A great spotted woodpecker. LSS managed to film it through the kitchen window.

Great spotted woodpecker
Dendrocopos major

And finally I’ve been having some fun with the borehole. No, not really. You see the temperature hit minus 10°C on Friday night. On Saturday morning I discovered that no water was coming out of the kitchen tap.

So I shot upstairs to have a look. The water pressure vessel was showing 1 bar instead of the usual 6. The electricity supply was working. Therefore I deduced that the borehole pump was not working. I went outside and opened up the borehole cover.


You see, I had carefully insulated all the pipework with bubble wrap. (We had tried glass fibre insulation a couple of years ago, but discovered that ants LOVE glass fibre. They had happily constructed an entire ant city in it. So we replaced it with bubble wrap.) Well, Mister Moley had decided he didn’t like this, and covered everything with earth. Which had been damp. And because of the low temperatures, this damp earth froze solid. As did the water in the pipes.

So, how do I resolve this? Thaw the pipes out, obviously. An electric heater! Except that we don’t have one. Build a fire? Not a good idea. Eureka! I have a butane gas cylinder in the workshop which I use for brazing. I can use that to thaw the pipes.

Er… no. Butane doesn’t work well at low temperatures; I could not get the nozzle to light.

Further headscratching resulted in an idea. We have a 150-watt infrared light bulb which was originally intended for use as a heat source in the toilet. But even though this is a fairly small room, it didn’t really give out much heat. So I constructed an extension lead with a light socket on one end, plugged it in, and directed the lamp at the pipework. I closed the borehole cover, and left things alone for half an hour. When I returned, I switched on the borehole pump. Success!

When the weather warms up I’ll have to pour a limecrete base around the borehole pipe so that Mister Moley will bang his head on it and be unable to cover everything with earth. I’ll also investigate getting some electrical thermostatic pipe lagging.