Much to my delight Mr J commented that it is like walking through on forest floor and that is exactly what I was aiming for. Over time I will remove the weed suppressing membrane and replace it with cardboard, but for the next year at least the membrane will stay in place.
As Tom the tree surgeon had contacted me to say that some more chippings would be arriving on Saturday, I wanted to clear the first pile before the next load arrived. It is probably the only time that I will race to clear one before next arrives, but when the first load arrived I asked them to dump it on the grass near the driveway and now more was arriving I really wanted it dumped nearer the back of the same grassy area, so I needed to make access for the trailer to put it at the back.
I can't overstate how grateful I am for this gift of wood chippings, there is no way we could afford to go out and buy enough bark or wood chippings to cover the pathways and now they are covered with just the cost of our energy and effort. I know that I've done too much and pushed myself too hard to get the chippings onto the pathways and that in the next couple of days I will need to take some seriously long breaks and rest more than I'd really like to. But it is worth it as they look fabulous.
The second load to arrive was very exciting, it has some more recently chipped wood in places but most of the load is very well composted wood chippings. So now we have a pile of rich black fine crumbly compost to add to the topsoil and to mulch the vegetable beds with. As time goes on and we get more loads of chippings I will create the rest of the raised beds and cover the pathways with the most recently chipped material.
I've already used some shredded leaves and chippings in the latest compost heap to combine with the spent brewery grain, straw and chicken house waste. The relentless compost making continues and sometimes I get bored of thinking about it, but as soon as I start the next heap I get a burst of renewed vigour and interest. It is after all, the stuff that will help to feed us in coming years, so for that alone I know it is worth continuing to create as much as I can.
Over the next few days I will move some of the semi-composted wood chippings to the chickens' field and give each group of chickens several wheelbarrow loads to scratch through and work on. I will put it in the 'circle of love' that is now on each side of the field. Next year, each circle will be fenced off from the chickens and a new circle made for them to turn over. In the fenced off area I will grow crops that the chickens like to eat and it will form a part of their diet in the winter months when the pickings of green matter in the field isn't as rich as it is now.
Today has been a rainy day, but first thing this morning I spent a couple of hours in the garden before breakfast and before the rain started. I transplanted the last of the leeks into the newest raised bed and popped others into spaces in several of the other beds. I lifted a few weeds, the annuals went into the compost bins and the perennials into a garden sack.
Then I picked some runner beans and headed indoors for most of the day.
Using my trusty 1960s Spong's bean slicer I prepared the beans for the freezer. Whilst we would prefer to eat them fresh rather than frozen, I want to make sure that we have some beans for the dinner table in the autumn and winter months.
Much of each day seems to have been taking up with watching the birds. I lose great chunks of the day just watching them busying themselves. The little chicks are now five, six and seven days old and have started growing wing feathers and a few now have tiny little tail feathers. They are light on their feet although not entirely accurate as yet, there is quite a lot falling over, but they pick themselves up again immediately and try again.
Neither Mr J nor I had been prepared for how endearing ducklings are. They have had their first dabble (and dibble) in water. We set a paint roller tray in their pen and part filled it with water and it didn't take very long for them to find their way into it. As they dibble in the water with their tiny bills, they make bubbles and then chase the bubbles. It's delightful to watch them playing for a few minutes at a time before we take the water out again. We didn't spend too much time with them for the first few days so that they didn't imprint on us as that can cause problems later on. It's been hard not to spend hours watching them, but we have stayed away so hopefully they don't think of us as parents and have identified with each other as fellow beings.
Mr J now has a part time job, so for a part of each week it will just be me working on our smallholding, but he will also have plenty of time for being at home, pottering outside with me on a variety of projects and creating his radio shows (you can find out more about these on his blog page here).
I am sure that over the next few days I will get back into the rhythm of blog writing on a more regular basis again. The arrival of the baby birds spread out over four days consumed my attention last week, but I am now getting into a steady routine with cleaning their living space, topping up their food and water. I think that for this year we have (probably) hatched our last batch of chicks, but we are going to incubate one more batch of duck eggs in the hope that we have a few more ducks. Several people have asked whether we have ducks available and it seems to make sense to have some to offer.
As I type, Mr J is closing the hen houses making the birds secure for the night and encouraging the ducks to go to bed. It is time to put my feet up, watch a bit of telly and, as always, have a cuppa!