One day there will be a day without fruit to prepare or pick, but today is not that day. May started off quietly enough with a bit of tree maintenance, mulching and adding compost to the trees, and building our reed bed with our helpers Christie and Jessie, but now it’s just descended into fruit madness.
We have managed to fit in some work in the kitchen, cleaning and pointing up the stonework, and repairing some of the loose and damaged cob. Previously, we’ve found that the cob cracks a lot when it dries, so, following some advice we found on the internet, we made up some test mixes with various amounts of sand in and recorded how much each batch cracked. Basically, the more sand, the less cracking, and we’ve ended up with a 3:1 mix of sand to cob being a good compromise between not cracking, and also not being too gritty.
We’ve been spending time getting our pigs used to us. They can now be hand-fed, and will let you scratch their back which they love! We’ve had to put sun-screen, SPF30 on them, to stop them burning in the sun. We’ve put up a shade-screen for them, so they have somewhere to lie outside but out of the sun, and they have both learned to use the wallow we made for them. They look quite comical when they’ve been sitting in it, with their muddy bums and legs 🙂 We’ve also got them a football to play with, and they both enjoy a bit of a knock-around. All in all, getting two pigs together has been a great success, and they seem very happy.
Then fruit happened. It started with the strawberries, which are still producing now, and then the cherries began to ripen and now our mulberry bush in the lane outside the house has born fruit. So far we’ve harvested 36lbs cherries, 62lbs strawberries, 3lbs mulberries and some walnuts, which we’ve pickled. The fruit has been turned into a variety of jams, pickled whole or preserved in syrup. We’ve experimented with drying some, but they’re not ready yet. We’ve also started off some strawberry and cherry liqueurs by adding the fruit to rakia, and made lots of frozen yoghurt ice-cream. The rest has just been frozen in batches for when we’ve got more time to deal with them all! We’ve still got loads more cherries and strawberries to harvest, and soon enough the raspberries will be ready, probably by next week. Just ridiculous quantities of fruit.
So in between picking fruit, stoning cherries (Julie is the cherry hero!) and making jams, we set our new helpers, Drew and Erika, the task of building a barbecue ready for summer. We designed it together, built a concrete base with some help from our friend Vic, who put us right on how to properly lay cement, and they’ve put up all the brickwork. A friend in the village welded me up an ash pan, and made an adjustable grid for cooking on and we’ll give it a test firing on Monday to see how it all works.
May has also been a month of new arrivals. The swallows have come back in force and are busy building nests, one in the porch entrance to the house, and one in the bathroom. We’re not sure about that one, as they don’t seem to have got used to the sight of humans sitting on the loo yet, and us having a shower this morning seemed to upset them, but they’re definitely sitting on eggs so it can’t be too disturbing for them. We’re also delighted that they are using the mud from the pig wallow to build their nests. Permaculture in action!
We’ve also acquired two dogs who we have named Sol and Sheba. Our friend Eveliene helped us to sort of rescue two dogs from a Bulgarian owner who wasn’t able to feed them. He agreed to us taking the dogs, so they came here. They have both settled in very well. They have been quick to learn some basic commands, and seem very trusting of us which is great. Fog, our cat, is now getting along really well with them both, and Sol seems to have taken on the job of keeping the cat clean, which he tolerates, but only just.
We’ve been on a weekend course learning about herbal medicine. The weekend was organised by our friends Chris and Claire at Wild Thyme guest-house in the village, and was led by Frances Wright, a herbal practitioner from the UK. We had great fun and learned loads about a few of the more common and useful herbs that we have around. We also got to make some ointments and tinctures, so now feel more confident at having a go making some basic stuff for our medicine cabinet. Frances also kindly came round and gave us a herbal tour of our garden, pointing out useful herbs that we already have. More on these later!
The vegetable garden has also been coming into production. It’s now got too hot for spinach and lettuce, which have all bolted after the recent hot weather. Peas and beans are about ready to start harvesting, and everything else seems to be doing really well. The mulches we applied earlier in the year seem to be helping to keep the soil moist in the heat which is great. The first pests of the year have put in an appearance; we’ve had to spend a lot of time picking Colorado Beetles and their larvae off our potato plants; Erika and drew have been invaluable, doing this before coming over to work in the morning. They’ve been ably helped by flocks of sparrows, who seem to find them delicious!