January SITREP 2021

Where has the month gone ? It doesn’t feel like 5 minutes since we were celebrating the New Year and tomorrow is the 1st of February, at this rate it will soon be Christmas !!

The weather has been pretty crappy really, generally damp and dank but not bad enough to keep me indoors so I have persisted with the outdoor jobs. Not nice for fishing though !

The area around the lake is just about ready for the start of the season, that is if we ever get to start it, as a consequence I have been concentrating my effort closer to home. The apple trees remain a priority as I still have a few year’s of pruning to do to get them back to a healthy state.

This is the second year of major surgery on the trees with plenty more thinning and shaping cuts. The intent is to reduce them to a much more manageable size and shape, it all looks a bit drastic but it is absolutely necessary if I want them to outlive me.

Once the annual pruning was complete I then improvised a fence around the whole area and put the Mark-1 grass cutters to work :

Perfect solution all round really. Helen is happy because the horses have a couple of weeks on fresh(ish) grass and when she poo-picks all she has to do is drop it all around the base of the apple trees, shame we can’t train the horses to deliver it directly !! The horses are obviously happy to be on relatively good pasture. I am happy because I will not have to cut that patch of grass until the Summer. And my apple trees are happy because they are all getting a good dose of manure.

Everyone’s a winner.

The main reason I look after the apple trees so well is because I now have another new job title: Chief Cider Brewer. I can assure you all that it tastes as good as it looks :

On the occasional days that Helen and I had to spend indoors due to the weather we put the time to good use and went through the process of submitting our applications to remain in France post BREXIT, I say “we” but if the truth be told Helen did all of the hard work and I just nodded and grunted when appropriate.

The process was actually quite simple as it was all on-line and we never doubted for a minute that we would not qualify as we have been resident for 9 years now.

The only complicated bit was finding all of the supporting documentation and scanning it in to the computer and creating a file, etc. Definitely a Helen job, I will stick to cutting up trees, much easier.

Anyway, job done. We now have a certificate to put in our passports to say that the application has gone through and we are now just a case-number. At some point we will be called forward to The Prefecture to have our photos and fingerprints taken but when that will be we do not know.

The next big job was preparing the Summer pasture for the horses. It is much too wet to use in the Winter but because it has never been on the priority list there has been a tendency to ignore the fact that the hedgerow was encroaching on to the field and each year the grassed area was getting smaller and smaller.

Time to bite-the-bullet and sort it out.

It is about 600 metres around the perimeter of this field so it was quite a daunting task to say the least :

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0002.JPG

I knew that behind the undergrowth there was a stream and a wire fence, all I had to do was find it and return the field to its original dimensions. There could only be one plan; start at one end and just keep going.

This was after the first 100 metres, I had to cut back 6-7 metres of trees and bramble, most of it was just hacked down and left on the ground to be hacked up finer by one of the ride-ons, but all of the tree growth had to be piled up and processed :

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0001.JPG

The bigger stuff just needed to be taken away and piled up somewhere dry and at some point through the Summer I will cut it up ready to use on the log-burner in the house.

The thinner stuff is simply recycled through the chipper :

Then we use most of it as bedding for the horses

And any left over goes as a top dressing for Helen’s outdoor riding school. That’s recycling in its simplest form !

I am already planning ahead for next Winter when hopefully I will get the original wire fence reinstated and can leave the horses to graze right up to the stream’s edge. They will enjoy that.

Other than that we continue to do battle with COVID. It is impacting massively on my extended family at the moment with 2 very recent fatalities and many of them isolating.

From a business perspective it is also not good, restrictions seem to be changing almost on a daily basis and no one knows what the situation will be in the next week let alone the next couple of months.

The majority of our guests booked on this season have decided to ride things out and hope for the best but unfortunately a few at the start of the season have resigned themselves to being unable to travel and as a consequence March is all but cancelled.

We do have one cancellation which may well be possible to refill and that is the week commencing the 19th of June, if that takes your fancy then please get in touch.

Next month I expect will be much the same routine although we are due to light a couple of big fires and I must start servicing some of the machinery, my tractor groans at me now every time I start it up.

If anything of great interest happens I will let you all know in my next SITREP at the end of February.

Till then take care and stay safe.

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