Saturday, 14 July 2012

Puddings, ponies, packages and potatoes

At the end of last week, I spotted a link on the BBC News website, inviting me to find out “Where are you on the global fat scale?” I should have known it would be a mistake to follow this alluring link into the virtual ether – it could only lead ultimately to deep depression. And it did. It also led to the discovery that my BMI is at the absolute highest it should safely be (25) by UK standards - the same as an indigenous Malaysian apparently.  Other members of the Twitterati only compounded my misery by then announcing gleefully that they were equivalent to natives of countries such as Liberia and East Timor (i.e. both considerably lower BMIs). Thanks @gallopen484 and @ALifeInWellies ... You sure know how to kick a girl when she’s down ;-) My pursuit of svelteness was not helped by a rare foray to M&S this week, where a vision of loveliness met my eyes : a Jubilee-inspired Eton Mess cheesecake, which miraculously floated down off the shelf and dropped itself delicately and suggestively into my basket. It would have seemed churlish to refuse...
Anyone for pudding?
Fortunately for me, elephantine as I may be in global terms, I’m still not the heaviest female occupant here at the Sparrowholding – our Shetland and Highland mares, Little and Large, both tip the scales at greater weights than I.  (Or at least I haven't checked, but they'd better!) 
Little is still on a starvation diet because being a native pony, she doesn’t cope well with the richness of the summer grass and ends up with a nasty equine lurgy called laminitis. 
Little: the expert pill repeller                       
The vet has prescribed her medication for a metabolic problem, but is she's incredibly adept at sifting the pills out of her feed and leaving them triumphantly in the empty trough.  – very galling for the stablehand (aka Yours Truly).  In desperation, we have hit on a cunning plan involving a pestle and mortar, in the fond belief that she’ll struggle to spit out every last tiny grain of the problematic pills in powder form. Mark you, according to the vet, they’ve never come across a pony who refused to eat these tablets, so no doubt contrary Little is busy sieving the powder through her teeth as I type...
4 of the 6 tablets left - rest of feed was cleared, of course!
Large is, as her name suggests, is rather ... er .... large. Like Little, she is following a restricted grazing regime on bare pasture at present, and is being topped up with a daily Halley’s Ad Lib Blox, containing alfalfa and straw fibre, but, critically, no sugar.  Hmmm, maybe I need to be nibbling on Blox rather than Twix as part of my calorie controlled diet. (Don’t try this at home...)

Large: an expert electric fence jumper
Moving swiftly on from paddock to garden, I can report that one row of our potato plants (the red multipurpose variety known as Rooster) is flourishing in the raised outside bed (see below). Sadly, the plants in the row of Charlotte (salad variety, in front of photo) seem to be either non-existent or seriously stunted at the moment.  And of course, we’re keeping our eyes peeled (note cunning potato pun!) for any signs of blight.  The combination of warmth and relentless rain has been taking its toll in other parts of the country and this insidious disease is threatening to reduce many commercial crops to slime. All the more reason to try to protect our precious little crop! You never know, by the end of the season, we may need roof-top missile launchers (is this what's meant by "spud" missiles?!) on the Sparrow residence if there’s a national shortage.

Peas and beans and potatoes popping through the ground

Meanwhile, the strawberries in our small outside bed are still resolutely green, but at least they’re reasonably prolific. Our only problem is finding any of the eponymous straw to bed them with.  The stuff seems to be like gold dust hereabouts, so we’ll maybe have to let the berries take their chances. The plants in the polytunnel have produced a few decent berries, but sadly most of them have been almost too small to be of any real use. Took a photo recently of one that was a rather endearing shape and texted it to the three Sparrow chicks as a fruity token of maternal affection (see below). 
With love from mum
And in other news from the smallholding ... last week I eventually managed – after much prodding and pushing! – to persuade two chocolate fleeces into an former feed bag, which I then encased in two green garden refuse bags and despatched from the local PO to yarn and spinning devotee @EdenCottage. Not sure what her local postman thought about the smell of eau de mouton emanating from the package but, judging by the photos she's sent, @EdenCottage is already busy doing wonderful things with the wool.  As an avid fan of all things ovine, I’m curiously excited about seeing our Shetlands’ ex-jackets transformed into something new, so I’ll be following her progress with interest.
All packaged up and ready to go: 2 chocolate fleeces
Weebruv (he may be 46, but he’s still my little brother!) obviously reckons he doesn’t have enough on his plate looking after the farm, horse feed and sawdust briquette business, plus multifarious guinea pigs, dogs, ponies, cats, wife and kids (not necessarily in that order!). So today he and his trio of offspring headed off to St Andrews to uplift some hens. We received an excited text this evening, complete with photo of their first egg, “hot” off the hen-press. Fortunately, as our neighbours up the road from the Sparrowholding have free range hens, we are in the perfect situation of being able to enjoy local free range eggs every week, but without having the distinct tie of tending any endearing feathered friends ourselves. What some might call an 'eggsellent' plan!

Hot off the hen press

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