The new year has brought plenty of rain with it, which on a brighter note, has given me more time to work on my website and get my paperwork finalised for my teaching business.
After a lot of reflection, I decided to take the auto entrepreneur route, which was the simplest option available to me. I’ve come up with a way of combining nature and sustainability with a range of different English workshops for all ages and levels. Besides the children’s workshops I do already and the private lessons in Rodez twice a week, I plan to do a beginner’s workshop and a conversation class for Intermediates in my own village, from March to June. I have also received some interest in private tuition, so fingers crossed, it will take off! There is definitely a niche in the market for good English teachers here in the Aveyron and I would be stupid not to take advantage of it. I really enjoy teaching English and one of the biggest benefits is being able to plan my lessons around family life, so I will still get to spend plenty of time with my family and be able to keep up with the garden chores.
It’s funny to use the word chores, it brings to mind a long list of boring jobs that nobody likes doing. The truth is, I don’t mind feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, emptying the compost toilet (it’s surprising how heavy the bucket gets!), cutting the grass, planting new seeds, mulching the beds…the list could go on for ever. But, when it’s your own place, it’s actually very rewarding and even therapeutic at times.
While the rain trickles down the windows, we’re sitting inside, enjoying the heat from the wood burner and starting to make plans for the spring. We hope to order the polytunnel in the next few days and hopefully we can have it in place by the end of February. We have decided to get a 4m x 10m polytunnel with possible side ventilation (which will be added at a later stage). The plan is to attach the polytunnel to the chicken house, for numerous reasons:
– Stability from the wind
– The East-West orientation will give it the maximum amount of sunlight
– It will serve as a barrier, keeping the chickens on one side of the garden and our vegetables on the other
– We should be able to knock an opening in the wall of the chicken house that adjoins the polytunnel so that we can let light and oxygen in for the chickens, and their warmth and carbon dioxide out for the plants in the colder months. There will be a removable grill across the opening so that the chickens can only enter the polytunnel when required. We might let them in to start with, so they can turn the soil and fertilise it, but once our seeds go in, it will be off limits to them.
We’re still getting plenty of eggs, despite the colder temperatures and we are hoping we might even get a clucky hen once the warmer weather comes, so we can get some chicks. Our rooster, Norman Slide, is doing a great job of looking after the hens, although there are a couple he has taken quite a liking to (evident through his excessive pecking of their feathers). I guess this is why the suggested ratio of hens to cockerel is a minimum of 8:1. In case you are wondering what the difference is between a cockerel and a rooster, Wikipedia has the answer:
“A rooster, also known as a cockerel or cock, is a male gallinaceous bird, usually a male chicken (Gallus gallus).
Mature male chickens less than one year old are called cockerels”.
While we’re on the subject of animals, today was a sad day back in Bradford, when my mum had to have my old pet cats put down. Brothers, Max and Jack, were almost seventeen years old and had never left each other’s side. All that time ago, I remember going to choose a kitten with my younger brother and sister and having to decide between us which one we wanted…only we had two favourites. Max was the adventurous one, the kitten everyone would have picked, for his playful nature and cuteness. But then there was Jack, the smaller, timid kitten, whom we feared might be lonely and introvert for ever, were we to take away his loving brother. So, Mum agreed we could take them both…much to Dad’s surprise, when he returned home from work! Jack soon came out of his shell and the two were inseparable. They had a long, happy life and grew old and weak together, so when illness came along to them both simultaneously, it only seemed right they should die together.
It was only today that Pete and I talked about getting a cat. Pete’s not exactly a cat person, but when you discover a family of rats has recently moved in to your chicken house, an outdoor cat seems the logical solution, doesn’t it? If we do get a cat, it will hopefully sleep in the workshop, next to the chicken coop. Even if it doesn’t catch any rodents, it should scare them off. We’ll see…we do have to take into account the other members of our family, Gypsy and Clive:
Now, to change the subject, how is our winter larder looking?
Our winter food stock is gradually going down, although we still have loads of pumpkins, quinces and chutneys. I tried and failed (twice!) at making quince jam, although the kids love the quince jelly which I mastered first time! My culinary skills still have a long way to go, but having my mum around should provide me with some invaluable tips and advice. I’m really looking forward to having my parents close by. I left home at eighteen to go to uni and I moved to France indefinitely, the day after I graduated, back in 2003, so I’ve not lived with them for a long time! It’s a busy year for them…Mum’s just turned sixty and retires in April, they have their 40th wedding anniversary to celebrate in September… and they’re moving into their own annex of the house they bought with us, later this year! Exciting times.
As for our vegetable growing, I’ve got nearly all the seeds I need for the year and I’ve already planted blueberry, cranberry and goji berry plants in pots, until they’re large enough to move to the garden. I’ve written out an initial planting list for the year, rotating the beds from last year and introducing new crops for this year, such as red cabbage, asparagus, garlic and cucumber. We still have another five or six vegetable beds to put in, but it will be easier once the polytunnel is up and we are more aware of space.
Another birthday has been and gone, but I don’t feel like I’m doing too badly for thirty-five. Pete and the kids got me a great surprise birthday present : two starter kits for making my own body butters and lotions. My first attempt will involve a combination of eucalyptus, clary sage and geranium essential oils (which should not only create a refreshing fragrance but should act as a mosquito repellent).
For some recommended reading (and thanks to my sister’s recent gifts), you might like to take a look at:
Neal’s Yard Remedies – Healing Foods by Susannah Steel and The Clean-Eating Kitchen by Sara Lewis.