Our life since lockdown

Life here for us has pretty much gone on as normal. Apart from having to wear a mask in any public indoor places and keeping your distance in shops things are getting back to normal. The government has opened up the cities again and we are free to travel, also bars and restaurants that have outside eating areas have opened up. It is a maximum of 4 people per table unless you are a family so we took the opportunity to have a meal out with friends. We reckon the risk of meeting up with friends for a drink is small here considering we have only had one case in our municipality (county).

We managed to get all the vegetable beds built before the planting season started, so we now have 24 permanent vegetable beds. These are working brilliantly After the spinach and peas didn’t grow from our winter planting we resowed them and they did well. Our fig tree has fruit on it already so it looks like for the first time we will get 2 crops off it this year, this is probably down to us having such a mild winter. We have done our first bulk harvesting, the first was the spinach which we freeze just because I can’t think of any other way of keeping it. The second was our first batch of cherries, some of these are to be made into glacé cherries, some have been jarred, some set aside for wine and some were made into a batch of cherry strudels, we still have cherry jam so no need to make more. At the moment we have radish, lettuce, spring onions, broad beans and we’ve just harvested our first courgettes to eat.  I think this is the first time our IBCs have been empty in spring and we are having to water the garden. After having weeks with no rain we were finally forecast some so decided to restock our ready meals. The rain didn’t come but we did makes batches of pork pies, pork and apple burgers (used the last of last years apples), Italian meat balls, sausage rolls and sausages. So we are now sorted for the next few months.

We have now started on our final major building project. the summer kitchen. The first step was to get rid of the old porch and stairs. We didn’t fancy tackling this job ourselves so we got a father and son team in from a nearby village to demolish it. We managed to get as far as digging the foundations and levelling the land for the summer kitchen when Joe did his back in. Keen for progress to be made we got a friend round to finish the levelling off and I helped him with laying the cement. The area is fairly large so rather than hand mixing it all we got it ready made in a cement mixer. When Joe’s back had improved he and a friend started building the bases for the 2 walls that will support the roof while I continued digging up the limestone flags from the old court yard. These were to be used to level off the top of the wall. We cheated when it came to build the main part of the wall, in the past we have used cob bricks but this time we used ytong blocks mainly to help take the pressure off Joe’s back and my wrists and they are so light even I can lift them. I’ve managed to make good the kitchen wall; all that needs now is a coat of paint when the lime and sand plaster has set and all the limestone part of the 1st wall has been pointed. Work keeps getting put back due to forecasts of rain and all though we’ve had a couple of showers it’s been nowhere near enough to fill our water containers up.

Even though we are doing well with the vegetable and flower garden we still want to improve our orchard. We planted some grass last year which looks like it is coming back put we want the orchard to not only be trees and grass but to have wild flowers and other shrubs. Joe has started a permaculture course so we are hoping to use what he learns on that to improve the orchard and our woodland area.

The swallows have returned, we were hoping to have made them a place for them to rebuild their nest since we knocked the porch roof down where they normally nested but they came back too soon so yet again they are in their second nesting site which is our bathroom. To get to the bathroom they have to pass through our preserving room where our hams are now kept and one of their favourite roosting places is on the poles we support the hams off, so I knocked up a quick shelf to stop them pooping on our preserved meat. Our female swallow lost her mate, no idea what happened he just didn’t turn up for a couple of days, so we stopped strimming the grass to hopefully attract more insects for her. She has now found herself a helper but we have decided to keep the grass long. In the past if we didn’t strim it it would turn into a field of thistles but after 5 years of strimming it is now a nice grass land. This decision has all ready paid off as we are now attracting goldfinches into the garden for the first time. In the 6 years we have been here we have never managed to see a black stork, but this year we had 2 fly over our house followed by another 7 a couple of days later. Hopefully they are nesting nearby and they will become a regular sight.

Our thoughts are with you all where ever you are, we realise that we are extremely fortunate that the corona virus hasn’t had much of an impact on our life here but that for other people it must be an extremely trying time and hope the situation improves soon for you all.

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