Archive for the ‘smallholder’ Category

Dolly , a very happy Warren henToday whilst aimlessly browsing the internet I came across a snippet of information that shocked me.

Looking up Warren hens initially I inevitably ended up looking up rescue hens and felt guilty that when in France our language skills were not up to acquiring Factory birds.

It’s a lot easier in the market to buy, as they are there to sell, and its obvious you are there to buy, yes; the international language of money.

Now the fact that shocked on this website was a warning not to give a perch to rescue birds as the jump down from a perch of just a foot high can sometimes break legs as one poor owner discovered. Turns out poor diet in these factory farms gives some of the old bird’s osteoporosis.

It makes me so angry, that we allow creatures to be treated that way, but it also made me angry with my self.

You see a few years back some animal activist’s stole a woman’s dead body, there was a great deal made of it in the press, and I thought something at the time that I never said

In a nut shell it was this, cruelty to animals is offensive to me, it sickens me, angers me,

And I put more value in a living animal than a dead human being. I would like to think most people would agree with me.

What these activists attempted however, was to make peoples beliefs clash almost in a display of performance art.

How naive!

They said by this act ‘if you ignore my most profound beliefs, we will ignore yours’

But what a strange set of beliefs people seem to have, these days.

The papers are up in arms if little dead Johnny comes home from hospital with an organ missing, but does society believe we must go to the grave whole to be ready for resurrection.

Some do have this belief I am sure but not the majority, so who is the media being indignant for.

I think the answer lies in the fact that papers are just advertising space for hire at the end of the day, and the company they keep are all about telling you how special you are.

Yes YOU go on treat yourself, after all your special and it doesn’t stop when you’re dead.

So stop sucking up newspapers and remind us what we believe in just once and a while.

Just to be clear, I am quite prepared to put my dead carcase to good use.

I sometimes joke with my wife that a shallow grave will do in the back garden, but leave my bum sticking out the top so visitors have got somewhere to park their bikes.

Perhaps a little plaque that simply states

Arnold the end.


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I am starting to wonder if one or more of my ancestors were hanged from tree’s as cattle rustlers, as the combination of tree and rope seems to be very dangerous for me.


Last year Martin and I set about chopping down a rotten fruit tree in the garden. All was well till I tied a rope round a branch that needed to fall in a particular direction.

As soon as I turned my back to pull the rope the branch, which was only a third sawn through, fell. The impact on my head was so hard it knocked me to my knees.


The curse is not finished with me yet however.

Yesterday was a good day in the Limousin for cutting wood. Sunshine no wind to speak of and fairly dry under foot. An excellent day to tackle the cutting of dead coppice for the fire. It was just for experimental purposes; to see if the standing dead wood can be burnt on the stove straight away, without storing it for the usual length of time.

The plot is only about a quarter of an acre but it is good coppice and densely planted; producing long straight tree trunks. The dead wood left standing is probably because deer have chewed on the bark of the young shoots and killed the odd trunk here and there.


So there I am in the woods with my chainsaw.

I am already scared because I read a book called The Ax last year and am aware how many things can go wrong when cutting tree’s.


Unfortunately I have to cut the wood to fall into the other tree’s as I have no clearing before my neighbours  land. I know this is going to make the fall of the tree slightly unpredictable. When you have cut through the trunk and the tree start’s to fall you put down the chainsaw and walk away; which in itself is tricky;  because of the dense growth.


What I saw after my first cut was spectacular. The tree trunk released from its base by my cut started to spin, lifted in the air, and sat back down 6 feet away. It stood perfectly upright, held in place by the slender top branches of the other trees.


Five minutes later I am back from my car with a rope, which I tied on to the base.

I heaved on the rope for a good while, not realising that my rope had a knot in it that suddenly released. This was at the point where my tugging was at its most reckless.

I flew backwards and landed flat on my back with a fallen tree trunk just at the base of my spine.

I am laid up now on the settee and furious; nowhere in that book did it say Warning you may be an unobservant silly old git, or check for family curses.

In these days of rampant Health and Safety warnings, where chainsaw’s come with scary labels such as;  




 Where was the label on the rope?

I think I shall buy one of those label gun thingy’s and start producing my own warning stickers.


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It is a strange feeling indeed to see your familiar food stuffs in the ethnic aisle of the supermarket, but it’s the sort of thing you have to expect when you move to a foreign land. We don’t eat most of it and if the truth be told we pick more produce from the Mexican section than any other. Food in France however is generally good quality and even with tin stuff they tend to have good flavours and ingredients. The strange thing though is that you find the main differences in tastes in the ethnic food stuff we eat back in blighty; i.e. pizza curries. If you think that you have a love of pizza in common with the French ‘O’ boy! Are you in for a shock? They make one here with a topping called Chorrito it looks like pepperoni, its taste can only be described as the smell you get from your dustbin on a hot summers day transmogrified into food.


 I have not pushed food out of my mouth with my tongue and let it dribble down my front since junior school, when I got roasted parsnips thinking they were roast potatoes. But I did it only the other week making; yes you guessed it the child like gagging noises. I’m still in shock from the French who have treated me so well with good cuisine, how could they set me up like that; to thinking I was one of the lads?


I should pen a letter to that Sarkozy chap about food labelling and recommend it be labelled with some kind of warning.


WARNING you may not be French, this pizza is!

Try licking a dustbin first, if you like it proceed to the checkout.

Where your CAMRA membership card will be cut up and Delia will give you a slap


Just to show that I am hopelessly biased on the subject of food and nationalities, I have to say that no one makes pizza as well as the Americans and only Asians living in Leeds or Yorkshire can make curry. So there!

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It’s too wet here in Limousin France and it’s a real downer as I hoped for a flaming June to start providing sweet fruits etc from the garden. Slugs are mustering. I think they have detected the aroma of naive gardeners coming from our plot and every time we throw them over the hedge into the woods they come back days later bigger and stronger looking; like there’s a Worlds Gym down there selling body bulk drinks for slugs. I started out believing that the red slugs eat other slugs so I didn’t see the need to murder them in some way. Then one day I caught one of the blighter’s scoffing my seedlings. Of course it’s too late by then he’s on the mobile ringing his mates. My neighbour has a veg plot next door with no grass areas or planks between beds at all and when we moved in we thought it looked barren and in-hospitable. Now we know however that there is nowhere for the slugs to hide in their garden, and we have created an all you can eat slug buffet. In conclusion I have decided to turn Catholic in my garden; if it’s good enough for Tony Blair its good enough for me. I shall henceforth follow the advice from a Catholic Bishop during the Albigensian Crusades. When he was told by his commanders that they could not distinguish between Catholic’s and heretics He is reported to have said “Kill them all God will Know his own”. So there will be no wishy washy treatment of slugs, no Camp Deltas or interrogations to discover whether they eat other slugs or plants they are enemy combatants with no legal status whatsoever and without trail or fair hearing will be sentenced to drown in beer. Thats that sorted then, now I’m on a downer about America ,and how I love the fruit and hate the tree, aaaaah well such is the melancholy of rainy day’s.

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The good thing about the Internet is; if you don’t like the weather forecast you can find another forecast that appeals.
Failing that look up the weather in Jamaica it’s usually nice there. Now all this is fine if you are desk-bound but when you’re waiting for vegetables to grow in the garden, optimism is a poor stimulator of growth.

But boy! what a collection of bugs that like warm damp weather and my trousers. On the outside I wouldn’t mind so much, on the inside is quite the nuisance. Why the anteaters and bugs that eat other bugs don’t wear trousers,I don’t know They would be in bug munching heaven.

Or maybe it’s that old sock business raising its head again, something about changing them, I don’t quite recall.You see I have never been quite worthy of all the western trappings like bathing water or luxury goods like loads a socks.

While I mention it my larger dog called Sissy likes to greet people at the door carrying one of my socks. They think its a gift but I have to explain that the dog will not let go of the sock, as it is not a gift. The dog actually believes it looks better carrying the sock.Tycoon Sissy Sissy although a dog is more capatilist and consumerist than I am. She is greeting people at the door not as a dog but a dog with portfoilio , inc ; shares in clothing textiles etc a budding dog tycoon. ‘Yes its me” she is saying “‘and we have got stuff'”.

Now my other dog  Tasha is worse, every time someone knocks at the door she rushes outside hoping it’s the van from House of Fraser loaded with soft furnishings.Cushion tester Tasha I am exaggerating? No! This is a dog who walks around mud and puddles, who goes back to bed for a lie in UNDER the duvet and who presented with cushions has to lie on the top OF THEM ALL.

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Well we finally moved the chicken coop today to free up that part of the garden for more planting. Our self sufficiency drive means we need more space, and especially the rich well fertilised patch where the chickens have been. A curious consequence however is that every-time I go to the toilet the chickens can see me at the upstairs window and start calling to me.You expect some kind of recognition as Head chicken but waving at my Dinnerladies whilst peeing is far too French for me. My instinct is put some kind of net curtain up  but I will have to keep an eye out for the chicken predators, which have increased by one. Yes it turns out my wife is quite the carnivore, and has been staring at my Dinnerladies from the comfort of a garden chair. She was commenting on what fine legs they had to me today and being the gullible fool I thought her observations merely aesthetic compliments, till I noticed the drool on her chin. So Head chicken will continue waving to his flock from the privy window for now, and counting chicken legs with one eye, and watching Head gardener with the other; forget the curtains I’d better get a mop instead.

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When we started out on our adventure to France to live a self sufficient lifestyle in the Limousin I was envisioning many sacrifices along the way. Having my wife eaten by a bug was not one of them. Women that will stay married to me don’t grow on trees, so it wont do…… it wont do at all.

I came home a few days ago to find her with  arms in the air; fingers pointing at her bust wailing and going eeeergh, eeergh gesturing for me to do something.Now this is something different say’s I to myself, this is a standard chest offering every male likes to see when he comes home,but the body language and sounds are all wrong, unless she’s added a Clingon to the repertoire, and I’m sure she knows I have never taken star trek that seriously. Then I saw the black spot in the middle of her chest, yes it was a TICK. I rushed down to our kind neighbours who having lived here for years already owned a tick removing device. Its a kind of weird fork that you trap its neck in and twist then pull.But get this! the poor blighter was already dead. He’d bit the wrong woman you see. Now could it be that we both smoke forty cig’s a day, had the nicotine killed the little blighter or is it our diet. It remains a bit of a mystery but our first job the next day was to go purchase our very own tick remover. Thats how shocked she was by the whole incident, she paid out 4 euros for a piece of plastic. To put that into perspective for you, they designed fifty pence pieces with corners on; so they could get one out of her hand with a spanner .We have learned since that the ticks are in the grass round here and it is quite common when out in the garden to get these ticks on you and my wife had been in the garden for hours . I think she will have to change her weeding method.

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