Waiting for the rain.

We waited all summer for the rain to come, but it never did. Now we are officially in Autumn. Last night there was a brief heavy downpour and there have been brief showers today. Our tank is about full, but our dam is almost dry.

Before I watered my plants yesterday afternoon I walked down to check the water level. As Maggie ran ahead of me as usual a wallaby bounded away up the hill into the next property. I tell her she mustn’t chase the wallabies; goannas are fine, but not wallabies. The float, which is attached to the hose from the pump to keep it from sinking to the bottom and sucking up mud, is not floating. It is resting on the bottom of the dam. I don’t turn on the pump in case it does suck up mud and breaks. I finally have to water the plants with a watering can using the house tank. This can’t go on.

I constructed a vegetable garden up on the hill a few months ago. My existing garden beds have become too shaded as the trees have grown up over them. To lop them would be very expensive as they are on a slope and not very accessible. I haphazardly planted beans and lettuce and silverbeet seedlings in the new garden. I put a net over them, but as they grew, had to pull it back to give them room. Inevitably, the chooks or scrub turkeys or both destroyed them. It serves me right; I need to fence and net them properly. A pumpkin vine survives, but I hold slim hope of getting any pumpkins. You can’t garden half-heartedly. At least I still have lots of herbs.

But this lack of rain is worrying. Bushfire is a constant threat in the back of my mind, even though Queensland doesn’t usually have big fires, unlike the southern states. It’s humid here in the summer, whereas it’s very dry in the summer down south. Our bushfire season is late winter and spring–August to November when the rain usually returns. The Rural Fire Brigade have been warning of a bad season every year for the past few years, but not much happens. When we have a lot of rain over the summer they say it means there’ll be lots of fuel to burn. If we have little rain over summer, does this mean there will be less fuel? I think it means everything will be that much drier and more likely to burn. It’s been more than 40 years since there were big fires in this area. Perhaps that means we’re overdue.

The Leaving of Esme

20140228-144457.jpg

It’s been a while since my last post and I don’t really know why, except to say that I guess life has intruded.
Since I last wrote, my oldest and dearest chicken Esme, had to be dispatched. She had been failing for some time. Meghan, the ever compassionate and diligent vet, tried but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Some antibiotics later, some worming solution, isolation in the guinea pig hutch for a few days; none of it worked. I watched when I threw the food scraps to the chooks as Esme pretended to eat, picking up bits but dropping them again. Such was the unusual nature of this avian creature, that even at her sickest, the other chickens never ostracised her.
Usually, at the first sign of illness, before any human could notice, the other chickens will start to pick on the affected chicken, chasing them away from water and food and even violently setting upon them as they did with Sylvia when she was ill. (Although given Sylvia’s bullying tactics I can’t help thinking that was karma).
But no one ever gave Esme any grief. No predator ever took her, even though she free-ranged whenever she wanted, where ever she wanted. What can it be about a chicken that would make other chickens intrinsically respect them?
Esme would escape the confines of the coop and come up to the house and start clucking if I was late taking the scraps down. One afternoon I was so late that she actually came to the back screen door and began banging on it. When I called “Essie!” to her in a sing-song voice, she would shake her head vigorously as though the sound tickled her brain. She was unlike any other chicken.
When Esme disappeared one night when she was very sick, I feared something had finally taken her in her weakened state, and I was sad. But at eleven o’clock the next morning I looked up from my desk to see her pecking about on the lawn as usual. I was astonished, but shouldn’t have been surprised. She had disappeared on many occasions overnight and always turned up. I entertained the vain hope that perhaps she’d made a miraculous recovery, but when I looked again she was sitting in the garden and flies were hovering around her. I knew then that her time had come.
You may think, like my husband, that a chicken should be dispatched with an axe. I could no more end Esme’s life with an axe than I could my dog, Maggie’s and so we set off on Essie’s last journey to the vet.
Meghan looked crestfallen that she had failed to diagnose the problem and could do nothing more to help. I promised her I wasn’t going to fall apart; she said she couldn’t guarantee she wouldn’t. She took me through to the treatment area where she had everything ready to go. I placed Esme on the table. She was so weak now that she couldn’t even sit upright, so I lay her on her side. Meghan slipped a small plastic cone-shaped mask over her little head and let the anaesthetic gas put her to sleep. Esme’s eyes closed and she lay breathing evenly. Meghan then lifted a wing and sought a vein in which to inject the drug that would stop her breathing, unceremoniously called “Lethabarb”. The veins were tiny. Using an insulin syringe and needle, Meghan drew up the green liquid and injected it into the vein. It took a few doses because Esme’s circulation had all but shut down. And then I realised she was no longer breathing.
I left her for Meghan to perform an autopsy for her own and the veterinary students interest, to see what had caused her illness. They would then safely dispose of her. If we tried to bury her on the property she might be dug up by a goanna. Rather gruesome for us, but potentially fatal for the goanna, which would also get a dose of the Lethabarb.
And so Esme, who was in the first ever batch of chickens I bought, before I knew the ways of chickens, and who strangely commanded the respect of her fellow chickens to the end, at the age of 8 years, departed. When I got out of the car on arriving home, I swear I heard her once more. I like to think she was saying goodbye.

PS: She had a diseased liver. We still don’t know why.

No oranges this year

I am in a lather of sweat, the cicadas in the gum trees are building to an industrial level of noise and many plants that have been valiantly hanging on to life are finally succumbing, their leaves draining of colour, turning crisp and shrivelled. It’s hot. An orange tree that has been growing itself by the main road, providing oranges to whomever can get there with a ladder first is, for the first time, showing signs of stress. It hasn’t rained here properly since a weekend of three violent storms dumped heavy rain in early December. Our tank is barely a quarter full and our dam is but a muddy puddle.

image

Last weekend we holed up inside in the airconditioning–something we only use in extreme heat–while the temperature outside climbed into the high 30s. I had to let the chooks out of their pen so they could find cooler places. They quickly made their way up the hill, wings held out from their bodies, beaks open and panting, and made for the cool of the dirt under the house. I filled a dish of water and set it down for them. They just stood and stared at me. I had never seen them so stressed.

The television showed footage of bushfires in Tasmania and New South Wales. Another fire wiped out a resort near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, where the temperature hasn’t fallen under 40 yet this year. Last week a heavy pall of smoke from fires on nearby Bribie Island drifted over us, obscuring the mountains; we could barely see out the front gate from the house.

Afternoon smoke haze

Normally at this time of year our tank is overflowing; we watch the overflow tank overflow and wish we could catch all that excess water. I hang wet clothes under the house and when I check them the next day they’re still damp and starting to smell. I refuse to buy a clothes dryer because they use so much power and the clothes dry eventually. And I don’t want to contribute any more to this overtaxed planet, suffocating under an excess of carbon dioxide and starting to sweat under it’s ever thickening blanket of gases.

When I was in high school, back in the 80s, our science teacher, Mr. Hawkin, used to talk passionately and urgently about “the greenhouse effect”. He told us that the buildup of emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would cause the planet to heat up, that we would see extreme weather events, that it would become increasingly hard to grow our food as periods of drought increased in length and frequency. Occasionally, in the media, you would see the greenhouse effect referred to, but it was treated like something mad, radical scientists were scaremongering about and anyway, it was way off in the future like flying cars. Hawkin used to make me feel shit-scared, but then the bell would go and I’d forget about it.

Mr. Hawkin is probably retired now. He’d be in his 60s. I imagine he kept telling his students about this mythical “greenhouse effect”. I wonder if anyone ever acted on anything he said. I think, certainly in recent years, I have always striven to conserve electricity and not waste things, but then my mother was of the depression and war years, so it was probably her careful ways that instilled this. But I wonder if anyone has actually taken action based on what he told us, studying science at university, buying a hybrid car, not using plastic bags at the checkout, striving for self-sufficiency. Not enough people listened to him or any of the other scientists who tried and are still trying to warn us. I think the time for warnings is well and truly over. Now we have to work out how we’re going to survive. There may be no oranges from that tree by the road this year, and that will just be the beginning.

Dog and Chicken go to the Vet.

On Monday morning, as my dog, Maggie, jumped up to put her front paws on the side of the bed to greet me as she does every morning, she let out a sharp, high-pitched yelp. She then slunk away and wouldn’t come when I called her back. I got up and sat on the floor with her to check her out, but couldn’t find anything: no ticks, no obvious injury. She was very quiet and didn’t even hassle me for her breakfast. I decided not to feed her in case it was serious. She tried to put her front paws up on my knees but recoiled, and when she went downstairs, did so very slowly and carefully.

As soon as the vet opened I called them, explained the problem and they told me to come in at 10. In the mean time, Maggie retreated to her bed and sat there shivering in obvious pain. I started to get really worried. What if she had some internal damage and was bleeding? What if some poisonous thing had bitten her and the venom was taking effect? Should I take her up to the vet early instead of waiting? But I didn’t want to look like one of those neurotic pet owners.

So in order to feel like I was doing something I gave her some rescue remedy. Now I have never experienced any miraculous effects from rescue remedy but always keep it in my bag. If you can give a few drops to yourself or someone else in times of extremis you at least feel useful. So I managed to get a few drops onto the outside of Maggie’s lips and she licked them off. She sat there looking as mournful as ever, but I decided there was nothing more I could do, so I left her to rest on her bed and got on with my chores.

I walked out to the kitchen and picked up the scrap bucket for the chickens and was about to head out the door when Maggie appeared. Taking the scraps to the chooks is the highlight of her day and she wasn’t going to miss it. Lo and behold, she rushed ahead of me as usual, took off down the stairs with no trouble and was soon up on her hind legs against the side of the pen barking at the doves that always get trapped in there. Could it be that rescue remedy actually works?

Now I had an appointment at the vet, but what seemed to be a perfectly healthy dog! I equivocated, but decided to tale her anyway, just in case.

But just in case she was fine, I decided to maximise my visit. While down at the chooks, I got hold of Esme, the misbehaving chook, and had a good look at her. She had chicken shit caked all around her nether regions and I wondered whether there might be some infection as a result and this was causing her strange behaviour. So I tucked her under my arm, brought her up to the house, cleared the dirty newspaper from the carry cage and put some fresh stuff in and locked her in there. She was not impressed. Not only was she now closely confined, I had taken her straight after I threw the scraps into the pen and she was missing out. She kept shifting around and giving me menacing looks.

So at 10, I walked into the vet with one apparently healthy dog and one outraged chicken. Dogs being superior to chickens in the minds of humans,   Maggie was examined first. After prodding and poking and twisting her this way and that, the vet could find no obvious defect and decided it must have been a muscle spasm that had resolved itself. I didn’t mention the rescue remedy. She told me to keep Maggie confined and quiet, just to be on the safe side. I nodded obediently.

Next, Esme was extracted from her cage and placed on the table. The vet felt her all over, lifted her wings and listened to her chicken heart and lungs. Esme’s response to this was to make pull herself up to full height and crow as loudly as possible. But if she felt indignant at that, the best was yet to come. The vet pulled her gloves on and committed the ultimate humiliation. Even Brian, the rooster, had never violated Esme to such an extent. She gave another outraged crow. The vet declared her nether regions healthy but took away a little sample to examine more closely.

While we waited, Maggie paced around a few times, told me she was bored and wanted to go now and sat down and curled up on the floor in resignation. Meanwhile, Esme was enjoying the unusual experience of being stroked by a human. As I ran my hand along her silky, black feathers she first sat down and then her eyelids began to flutter and her head slowly droop. She was asleep! As I continued to stroke her I pondered on the absurdity of my life that I had been brought to a point where I was standing in a room with a sulking dog and a somnolent chicken who hadn’t been feeling quite herself.

The vet eventually returned to say she’d found nothing unusual in the sample but it might be best to worm Esme and all the other chickens. I felt nervous. How big were the other chickens, she asked. Bigger than Esme, I replied. And we have a rooster who’s quite big. Hmmm. Could we weigh him? I put my head in my hands and groaned. No, don’t worry, it’s ok, she replied. I said, no I didn’t mind doing it, but could just visualise capturing the rooster under cover of darkness, while he was sleepy, and trying to make him stand on a set of bathroom scales and keep him still long enough. We’d already had Brian to the vet after he ate a giant rubber band, most of which was tangled around his legs. He was found stumbling around the carport making a loud, strangled noise. The vet had knocked him out, then tried to pull the rubber band out, but it was firmly fixed somewhere deep inside. She pulled it out as far as possible, snipped it off and we took him home. He’s never crowed properly since. Yeah, maybe we could weigh him…

So I left the vet with two apparently healthy animals, slightly poorer and with two bottles of liquid that I’m supposed to administer to the flock. I was also instructed to cut away the shit encrusted feathers from Esme’s bum and wash it lest she become flyblown and they eat away her flesh. God I love that chook.

Come on Esme. It won't hurt a bit.

Blind Faith

On the weekend we bought ore of these new-fangled things:

But since our grass looks like this:

…we won’t need to use it for a while.

Bushfires threaten today. It’s going to be very hot and the wind is predicted to get up. The place is tinder dry and we only need one dickhead to chuck a cigarette butt out their car window, or one of the local, bored kids to take it into their head to deliberately light a fire and we’ll have to get busy and decide whether to go or stay. I’d rather pretend it’ll never happen here and concentrate on growing more things.

So far this:

…has become this…

…and this…

…has become this…

…and other things are just growing themselves…

The chickens continue to supply us with eggs, all except Esme. Esme is now  beyond the age of laying, being a grand 7 years of age and grows more and more recalcitrant. She has always free-ranged whether locked up or not; she always finds a way out and wanders around the property dust-bathing herself on the driveway and hunkering down under the bushes in the garden in the heat of the day. But, like a rebellious teenager, she has started staying out all night! She did this once when my husband was away adventuring in the Himalayas. She must have felt particularly determined to challenge the boundaries with one parent away. On finding her missing from the line up on the roost that night, I despaired that she had finally been taken by an evil goanna. But she turned up in the coop next morning as thought nothing had happened. Phew!

But last night my husband went to lock them up and came up reporting that Esme was once again missing. After dinner I took my torch and Maggie and I went searching for her in the dark bush. There was no sign of her except for a few dark feathers at the entrance to the coop. Again, I thought her luck must have finally run out. She had been behaving strangely all day, hanging around and making weird noises at me. Maybe she was trying to tell me something?

But I went down this morning and there she was standing outside the coop preening herself! She looked at us as though, “What?” and kept on preening her feathers like a conceited teenager. She then walked to the gate as though insolently demanding I open it for her–which I did–and hurried in and into the shed for some breakfast. When I went down later with the scraps she was nowhere to be found again. I called her but she didn’t come. I went for a walk around the property but can’t find her anywhere. The weather is warming up and the reptiles will be on the move, but I just have to assume that Esme will continue to elude them. And if a bushfire comes, no doubt she’ll find somewhere safe.

Drastic Measures

On the weekend I went to a meeting about food security. The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance are holding kitchen table meetings around the country to gather peoples opinions and concerns about how we want our food to be produced and supplied. Basicly, if we rely on imports and agribusiness to feed us, how can we guarantee quality and security of our food supply?

Boring! But unfortunately, an issue we need to think about and act on if we want to keep eating. For example, the guru from the ASFA told us that in the event of some catastrophic event we would only have 50 days of grain supply left. I’m not sure this means for the world or just Australia; I was too focused on whether I should eat one of our hosts scones with strawberry jam or a raw bean, and on how sweet that bird is that keeps bathing in the small bird bath.

This puts me under considerable pressure to get growing if I’m to take up the slack if and when said catastrophe occurs. The fact that it now hasn’t rained forever is making things a little difficult. Our dam is but a muddy puddle and we’ve already bought one load of water for our tank at a cost of $125 for 10,000 litres (a quarter of a tank).

We did discuss people growing more of their own food and bartering their excess. I’ve been coveting my friend’s vege garden for some time now. She grows everything! Even her own lentils. She even bought a cow recently, and has been endeavouring to squeeze milk out of the beast with mixed success. Since cows can’t eat gum trees, I can’t have a cow, goat, whale or any other lactating beast. If I hadn’t speyed the dog to stop my vet surgeon Dad nagging me, I could have got her pregnant and milked her. Then she would at least be of some use.

Would you drink milk from this dog?

Once I’ve got a useful amount of anything coming out of my garden I plan to  enter into a bartering system with my neighbour and any others that might be interested.

I asked the guru at our meeting whether it would be feasible to grow your own wheat or other grain. It’s all very well to grow beans and carrots, but most of what we eat is grain (unless you’re one of these city-dwelling, no-carbs freaks). He said an acre of land would yield about 5 tons of wheat. I’m pretty sure we don’t need that much. Our budget doesn’t run to a combine harvester and storage could become a problem. Extrapolating (unnecessarily long word) from this, I reckon I can grow our own wheat supply in the back yard. Apparently, it’s even possible to grow what is called dry land rice. I can feel my back aching already. And I’ll have to buy one of those pointy, Vietnamese hats.

Bloody Reptiles

Image

20140516-115851.jpg

Well none of Sylvia’s eggs hatched. She’d been sitting on them for four weeks and since nothing had happened I shooed her off the nest and chucked the whole stinking lot. The dog enjoyed some of them. Rotten eggs. She’ll eat anything.

This didn’t deter Sylvia from returning to an empty nest so I stuck a few more eggs under her for another go, but of course, now that the weather is warming up our old nemesis, the goanna, has returned. There is more than one of course, but the same one has been visiting every day when it’s warm. It quickly scared Sylvia off the nest, ate the eggs and took off up a tree with the dog very close on its long tapering tail. The next time it visited my husband was home sick, but not too sick to peg several hundred rocks at the evil thing. He missed every time. He had another go when it returned on the weekend and managed to knock it out of the tree. It just ran straight back up again. And since it was back again yesterday thrashing around the chook pen with the dog barking furiously on the outside, it doesn’t seem to have taken the hint that we fucking hate it.

There was a baby one in the garden this morning, just over a foot long. It was quite pretty really, but I knew it would grow up evil like the others so I gave it a stern talking to about not eating either my eggs or my chooks (when it gets really big. I’ve lost several chooks to giant goannas).Maggie obediently chased it and startled a green tree snake in the process. These are harmless to both man and chook so I was perfectly happy to see it. Unfortunately its cousin, the carpet python is very partial to chooks. By day the goannas are after them; by night the pythons emerge to strangle the life out of them, slink off under the house to digest them and then disappear leaving a huge stinking shit just so you were in no doubt.

We saved one chook, Pippi (the only hen that has hatched here and survived) from the clutches of a python. She was in a separate pen with her new baby outside our bedroom when she woke me at 3 am literally screaming. The baby was running around like a windup toy while its mother was being squeezed to death by a python that was wrapped around her several times. We quickly got the baby out of the way, then I started belting the snake with a broom handle. He wasn’t fazed by this so I just grabbed hold of his head, which made him let go and unravel. My husband ran to get a pillow case and we dropped him in there and took him for a lovely night-time drive to someone else’s property. We know they’d do the same for us; I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with the massive 7 foot snake that arrived just before Christmas and ate my new chook.

So I saved Pippi from certain death but she had a big flap ripped open on her head. We took her to the vet the next morning and they knocked her out, stitched her up and returned her good as new. It was after this that she took up crowing. Maybe her near death experience gave her the courage to reveal herself as being transgender. As long as she still lays eggs, I don’t care.

Small steps

I’ve vowed to do at least one thing each day in my journey towards (relative) self-sufficiency. Yesterday I stuck three onions in the ground. Better than nothing.

But I did make this on the weekend:

Lemon/Lime Cordial and a knitted dish cloth.

And this:

Strawberry syrup

Public Noises

Well Sylvia has one week to go before her eggs hatch and I have a choral performance tonight. Our conductor is a big fleshy man who will one day have a heart attack at the podium out of frustration with the orchestra, or in raptures over the music. At one point in our Bottesini Requiem he looks like he will simply rise up to heaven and disappear. He loves his work.

But before participating in this sublime musical experience, I have to do the grocery shopping. What a curse of modern living this is. I much prefer the image of myself arrayed in a long skirt and head scarf, bent double in the vege patch pulling up carrots or digging up potatoes, singing as I swing a basket full of eggs and veg and bringing it in to place on the kitchen table next to my rising dough. Instead, I push a steel trolley up and down aisles under harsh strip lighting, listening to Muzak instead of birdsong.

I have recently begun shopping at Aldi, mainly because it’s quiet. No Muzak, just the occasional mother-toddler negotiation, or elderly couples discussing whether they already have toilet paper, and do you think the grandkids will like these biscuits. But last time I found it so quiet that I began whistling the Bottesini Requiem–alto part–and then tap-dancing (I can’t) before realising I had unwittingly drawn attention to myself and so resumed the look of quiet desperation that most people wear in supermarkets. A toddler sitting up in his trolley seat was growling and bearing his teeth at no one in particular. I beared my teeth at him in response, which he appreciated, but I stopped short of actually growling. He can growl like a lion and that’s fine, but if I do it, I’m suspected of being insane. At what point in our development does this happen? I often feel like growling and bearing my teeth in public. *sigh* Modern life is so constraining.

If I were, as I plan to in the future, pulling up carrots in my vege patch, I would be free to growl as much as I wanted. And I could do it naked, although I probably wouldn’t. I was growing a lettuce and would by now be picking it’s fresh leaves and growling as I placed them in my basket, but Esme, my oldest chicken at 7 and 1/4 years, keeps eating it. As soon as it went in the ground she was pacing up and down the fence eyeing it off. I told her not to eat it, but as soon as I turned my back she was over the fence and in there. I put wire and netting over the garden, but she just went through the gaps. I spotted her as she flew up onto the fence ready to drop down the other side and growled at her. She quickly jumped back down again looking sulky, but next time I looked, the lettuce was eaten to the ground. Over the next couple of days new leaves began to grow, but before they could rise more than a couple of centremetres they were gone again.

And that’s enough to make you scream.

Leaps of Faith

It’s school holidays and I’m home alone! One son is on a ski trip, the other two are with their grandparents at the beach. This is the perfect chance to do some of those things that I’ve been putting off. So far I’ve cleaned out the chook shed, which had droppings and the grain the chooks choose not to eat, piling up and starting to stink. I put fresh sugarcane mulch in the nesting box and also lifted Sylvia, who is broody, off her nest to add more mulch under her six eggs. They’ll hatch in about a week. Sylvia is the worst mother in the world, but the one who goes broody the most often. She’s hatched more chicks than any of the others, even letting another chook sit on a nest for two weeks, only to squeeze herself onto the same nest for the last week, either ousting the other chook, or co-parenting the hatchlings. But she tires of parenthood quickly, leaving them to run after her when she takes off free-ranging. She even left one batch altogether when the rooster came enticing her back into the flock. None of her chicks has ever survived. One was taken at night by a snake and she spent all of the next morning wandering around calling for it, while the snake sat smugly on the rafters under the house digesting her baby. It’s the only time I’ve seen her show any motherly feeling. But she soon forgot, and after a couple of days, the snake did an enormous, stinking shit down the wall and disappeared.

We’ve hatched many chicks over the years but only one hen has survived to adulthood and a few roosters who were given away to be eaten–one of them by a fox. Most are taken by snakes, goannas or hawks. This time I’ve separated Sylvia from the others and mean to do my best to keep the predators out. Hopefully they won’t all be roosters and hopefully she’ll parent responsibly for a change. I’m prepared to give her another chance.Image

I find it very satisfying doing this work. We have our own fresh eggs–much fresher than anything bought in a shop. I’m not sure it works out cheaper, given that we still have to buy grain for them over the winter months when we get no eggs. But it drastically reduces the amount of rubbish that goes in our bin. All of our food scraps, bar any meat, goes to the chooks and is turned into eggs and manure for the garden.They also work at keeping pests down. Last time we had lawn grubs in our tiny patch of lawn I let the chooks loose on it and we’ve never had lawn grubs since. No pesticides needed.

I also potted two chilli plants I bought at the markets last week. I now have rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil, sage, chives, oregano, mint, bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, two tomato plants, lavender, garlic, two pumpkin plants and some tiny kale seedlings. I also have a passionfruit plant waiting to be planted somewhere it can climb. The lemon tree finally gave us several lemons this year after seven years of care and we had one orange off the orange tree. The grapefruit tree had a sulk this year and we got no fruit, likewise the lychee. But I have plans to apply biodynamic tree paste which is supposed to work miracles–kind of like a mud pack for fruit trees.

A week ago I didn’t have to pick anyone up one afternoon and didn’t have to cook dinner, so I took the chance to apply the biodynamic 500 preparation to the garden. This requires a certain leap of faith and would make any scientifically-minded person think I was completely stupid for bothering. They might be right.

Biodynamic 500 is made by burying cow horns packed with manure and leaving them for several months before digging them up again. All this is done with manure from specific cows, at a specific time of year and at a particular point in the lunar cycle. It’s all pretty ‘eye-of-newt’, but people who use this stuff regularly swear by it’s magical properties. And one does not just stick it on the vege patch and dig. One must put it, a mere handful, into a metal (not plastic) bucket, fill with water and begin to stir vigorously one way, creating a vortex, and then the other, creating chaos and then another vortex. One must stir in this way for exactly one hour, late in the afternoon, outside, and then sprinkle it about.

So that’s what I did, while listening to a podcast on my computer to while away the time. The blurb on the packet says not to expect miracles straight away, but that it requires regular seasonal applications before one notices any benefit. I feel like I’m doing something good. I may just get RSI, or I may see a miracle.