28 maggio 2009

Few things are as much fun

Few things are as much fun as watching a cat stuck up a tree. This is Orsetta in the higher reaches of the big walnut, which caused much merriment.

I can't make the layout work how I want it to, but never mind. Other than cat diversions, it's been haymaking time. Very, very hot and for once none of the looking anxiously at the sky and calculating the odds of it raining before the bales are in. Mario spent a morning making around 50 small bales for me (well, for Cass) and then got bored with the time it was taking and lugged out his other baler that makes huge round bales and finished off the job in less than an hour. Meaning we have these huge rotoli this year, which is ok as they're cheaper but not so ok as they're less easy to store (won't fit in our barn because of access difficulties) and for the fact that they're impossible to shift without a tractor. Mario has deposited five of them along the edge of her paddock and says he'll bring more as and when I need them.

Cass was not at all happy at the rotoli suddenly appearing, and when she came up to look at them she got too close to the electric fence and got a hefty electric shock, which sent her squealing away across the field. Then she came back and stared at the rotoli in horror, snorting and tossing her head, and you could practically see her thinking: That fence was fine till they came, they must be really, really bad. It was very funny, actually, except that when I took her out the following day she was very, very wound up and jumped about all over the place as if things were about to leap out at her from behind every tree. Even letting her tiptoe up to one of the bales and take a bite out of it hasn't helped much. Sigh.

20 maggio 2009

The mornings are cool

The mornings are cool and fresh now with a hint of the hot day that’s to come. Mist in the valley when I go down to feed the horse, quickly burning off. I love this time of year. We have our own strawberries! (OK, just a few, but fab all the same.) The land went from being a mud patch to a lush jungle in about a week, and the long grasses are all going to seed already. The farmers have started to cut the hay and everyone’s planting up their veg patches like mad – late start after the rainy spring, but the ground is now so warm that whatever you put in grows very fast. We’ve rotovated and dug in a lot of manure, and the earth is finer this year though still very heavy. We’ve put in 40 tomatoes and a load of cucumbers, courgettes (green ones and yellow ones), patty pans and various winter squash. Still need to plant peppers, aubergines and salad. Currently eating lollo rosso and swiss chard which have made it through the winter, and waiting for the broad beans to be ready – couple more days should do it. John has created an asparagus bed but you have to wait at least two years before you can eat the crop!

It’s been too hot to do much during the day but I’ve been taking Cassie out to the riding ring, partly to let her munch down the grass in it (otherwise she just eats while she's meant to be working) and partly to actually work her. I’ve been trying some loose schooling with her, making her go round the ring without being attached to a rope, and it’s a lot of fun. I've got her doing walk, trot and canter on command. She seems to like it and it’s making her more responsive. I’ve been looking at a lot of riding chat forums on the web and people talk about playing with exercise balls with their horses – now that would really freak Cass out, but if I can get hold of one I fancy trying it!

6 maggio 2009

Time has whizzed

Time has whizzed by as usual, I seem to have been busy doing who knows what, and I haven't written for ages. Easter was good, with fine weather and our first apartment guests of the year. Alessio got a week off school and we had various English friends around to have some fun with. In fact we had two or three weeks of sunshine and got quite used to it, and then it suddenly turned cold again and rained solidly for a week – last week, which was unfortunately the very week that my parents were staying.

Because of the grim weather we've been unable to progress with the veg patch and it's still bare earth. John has rotovated it once but needs to go over it another time before we can plant. We dumped quantities of horse manure on it to try to improve the soil quality – it's heavy clay, which forms impossible-to-work clods when wet and dries very fast to a concrete-like consistency. Hopefully a few seasons of manure will make it less clay-ey and more amenable to growing tender veggies. We've sown our courgettes and squash seeds in pots but will buy all the rest as seedlings.

We're thinking about getting some chickens to mix in with the remaining ducks, as it seems to be impossible to buy point-of-lay ducks to replace those that were lost over the winter. You can keep chickens and ducks together and it would be nice to have a mix of ducks' and hens' eggs. Ducks are a lot more amusing to watch so we wouldn't want to just have chickens though. Maybe we'll get a couple of ducklings now as well, and hope we can actually get them through next winter alive and in one piece . . .