In the last post I mentioned that the freezing temperatures had caused problems at the borehole. I’m pleased to report that this particular issue seems to have been resolved. This was not the case at the other end of the plumbing system, though. In mid-January the outlet from the reedbed to the pond froze solid as well. Fortunately this was fairly easy to fix. I gently heated the pipe by using the hand-held gas torch until I was able to withdraw the piece of ice which was stopping the flow. The sump itself has been fine. Unless, of course, you include the moles. They seem to have taken exception to the sump location, and are trying to cover it with excavated earth. Trapping them is having limited effect. Approximately one day after getting rid of one mole, another one moves in.

And speaking of pests, the outbuilding where we store the hen food seems to be the favoured abode for mice. All the hen food is stored in plastic barrels with close-fitting lids, so the rodents can’t get to it. Nevertheless, they like this room. Yesterday saw the mousetrap with occupant number 31 (and I’ve only been keeping score since the first of January).

Europasat have finally started taking payment for the satellite broadband. It only took their accounts department six months to wake up.

On the husbandry front, two of our oldest hens died, so we’re down to 13 again. It was probably just old age. I buried them at the edge of the woods. This turned out to be a waste of time; several weeks later they were dug up and eaten by the wild boar.

I’ve had to make a new door for the polytunnel. Some strong winds broke the frame of the previous door. At least it’s now much more strongly built than the first one.

The reedbed has been cleaned up a bit, by cutting back all the dead material:

Pruned reedbed
Pruned reedbed

All the biomass it had produced went through the wood chipper the following day, and has now been dug into the garden. I’ve also been reinforcing the hen park, by sinking galvanised steel posts at each corner and stringing fencing wire between them to help keep the fence panels upright.

This month we had a truckload of pallets delivered, courtesy of our part-time neighbour CC. So in my spare time I’ve been gradually dismantling these ready for future use as lumber:


In the background of the above photo you can see the hen fencing I mentioned previously. These panels are gradually replacing the green plastic netting, which has started to deteriorate. You will also notice the next pile of logs which are to be cut and split for firewood. Yes, I’m still bringing back logs for the wood shed. These are either dead trees, unwanted branches, or dangerous “leaners”. Speaking of firewood, I have improved the processing system slightly. Using the timber from a dismantled pallet, I constructed a bucking frame. This is loaded with smaller logs and branches. Once it’s full, I can slice the entire lot into the correct lengths for firewood with a few cuts from the chainsaw.

Bucking frame
Bucking frame

Home brewing report: Last year’s elderberry wine has now been bottled, the raspberry wine is maturing, and I’ve also brewed a Belgian Triple beer. As soon as spring arrives, I will be trying something new. But as LSS also reads this blog, I won’t mention what it is because I want it to be a surprise. But I will report back later!

And finally, we now have a new Mrs. Bunny, courtesy of Neighbour J. However, the start of her life here was not as peaceful as it should have been! She was collected on a Monday. On Tuesday night we retired to bed at the customary 10 p.m.
Shortly afterwards, we heard dogs barking. Which was rather odd, as none of our neighbours have dogs. LSS went outside with the torch, and the barking and yapping appeared to be coming from the woodshed area at the back of the house. Then a new noise became apparent; that of crashing metal. She shot back inside to fetch me, by which time I had donned my LED head-torch and was heading outside as well. We made our way to the woodshed area, where the cause of the noise became apparent.
Two fox-terrier type dogs were trying to get at Mrs. Bunny. The crashing metal noise was caused by the dogs taking turns at bouncing off the wire cage door. I managed to collar one of them (literally; it was wearing a reflective collar), and then gave that one to LSS to hold whilst I grabbed the other dog.

So there we are, in our pyjamas and slippers, each holding a dog, and wondering what to do next. We didn’t have anywhere suitable to put the animals, but what we did have was two empty rabbit cages. So one went into each cage, with a small dish of water and an old sheet as a bed. LSS then telephoned M&O (the head of the local hunt) to enquire whether any of their hunters had lost any dogs. No, they hadn’t. We then found a telephone number on the dog’s collar, but one of the digits was illegible. So the only thing to do was to follow the procedure advised by M&O, and call the garde champêtre (the local forest ranger/game-warden/village policeman). Unfortunately, by now it was 10.30 p.m., so this would have to be done the next morning.

Neither of us slept much that night; the dogs barked constantly.
On Wednesday morning the dogs were collected by the garde champêtre, who took them to the local pound. If their owners can be traced, they’ll need to pay a release fee.

Serves them right. Poor Mrs. Bunny!

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