Saturday, 28 April 2012

Weather postcast - April 2012

Weather-wise, I can never again say that April is one of the best months to come here. Other Aprils have been, but 2012's has not.

It has rained, I think, every day. Sometimes very hard, sometimes quite gently, occasionally what they call "mizzle" in Cumbria - a cross between mist and drizzle. We've seen the sun only occasionally and briefly - just enough to be reminded of the warmth to come - and temperatures have seldom touched the high teens. With almost constantly cloudy skies it's all been a bit English, to be honest - a huge contrast to last year's mid 20s to mid 30s and blistering sunshine.

On the plus side, our water butts are in great shape, the ground is saturated and with the addition of mulch will need very little watering for a while, the hay will be awesome this year and the woods are a startlingly bright green. Our wild flowers arrived on time, and Early Purples and Burnt orchids litter the meadow. The birds have also returned, and Golden Orioles have been exotically touting for their mates outside our yurts for a couple of weeks.

Although all of these things are exciting and wonderful, perhaps the hay is most reassuring. This time last year I was looking at the sky and wondering if it was ever going to rain. It didn't, and the hay was terrible. People were getting half their normal yield and this precious food was scarce from October. Trucks were bringing in hay from all over Europe which, from a sustainability point of view, was insanity.

When you have a big animal, like Pepito, you become painfully aware of how much everything depends on the rain. It's a simple equation: No rain = No big animals. To give you a clearer idea, he eats one small bale of hay every day for about six months, with some rolled oats and re-hydrated beet for good measure. I don't know anything about cows, but they probably consume even more. Two or more years in a row like that and these animals would no longer populate the landscape in such numbers.

Which is why, even after a month of rain, I'm a happy bunny. I just wish I had one pair of boots without holes in them.


Arch said...

The weather back on form up here !
Unreal after Sunday.
Do you make all your own hay ? We haven't the land so buy in for winter and prices have doubled the last two years, weather and fuel stated as reason and a big pinch of salt there is a touch of profiteering as always in the mix am sure it's the same France.
From what I gather water storage is the big thing in France as its very expensive to buy it ? Any plans to dig a well ?
Pure unbridled madness maybe !
Kind regards Arch

the devolutionary said...

That's a lot of questions in one go! We don't make all our own hay - in previous year's we've been cutting and baling by hand, using a strimmer. But this year, we're going to sharpen a scythe I bought a while back and Do Things Properly. (Got to learn this sometime, with fuel prices set to double in the next few years.) I've seen a couple of videos online and think I might have a better shot at it this year.

Also in previous year's I've played piano in exchange for hay, and Her Outdoors has bartered stitching. But there was so little this winter, we had to buy it in. Bales were €5 a throw and, instead of increasing the price, they decreased the size. It was loosely packed, too. Not great.

We're also going to experiment with stacking hay this year. Bales are a bit of a pain and the old ways are obviously more durable.

Water wise, it's not too pricey for us - about €1 per cubic metre. Plenty of it still coming out of the sky at the moment, and we've got running water in Pepito's field for the first time in a couple of years. So plans for digging ponds are back on the agenda. The well thing comes up occasionally, but would be expensive to dig. I'll get a dowser in as soon as I can and hope to find a spring near the surface...

Arch said...

Oh I thought you'd had your wheatabix this morning Alex and could handle the odd question, tempted to ask more but will restrain myself !
Wheatabix now there's a thought ?