Scytheing and Haymaking

I thought it would be a good idea to explain some of the activities that we get up to over here in Slovakia and this the first of many I hope.
In preparation for the winter we have to cut and dry hay to feed our sheep as they will be inside our barn from mid November to late April during which time they will also have their lambs, we hope!
In my last blog I put a couple of photos of the flower meadows that surround us and on the 16th June we started to cut them for hay.
At 0500 in the morning we go out to cut because the grass is heavy with a dew which makes cutting much easier and it is still cool till the sun gets higher.
20160616 004We cut the first two fields with scythes and the first day out there each year reminds us that it is hard work, but you soon get into the swing of it, I will not bore you with the intricacies of how to scythe as there are more experts out there than you can imagine and they would be telling me how it is done properly, that much I am sure of.
We have been using old scythes for a few years given to us by Marias father and they were fine but this year we decided to splash out on new ones, they came from Austria who seem to make some of the best scythes available, made by a company called Fux Scythes and you can look at the website here .
I use a 80cm blade and Maria uses a 65cm, we both have different snaths (handles), Maria is trying out one from Fux and I am still using the old Slovak one although I have ordered the Fux model as Maria assures me it is comfortable to use and makes you keep your back straight which is a bonus I can assure you, the photos will show what I mean.
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Once we have cut the field we will leave the grass in the lines for most of that day to start the drying procedure, over the next 3 or 4 days we will spread the grass about until it is reasonably dry, this season our first two fields dried quickly because of high temperatures and strong winds so we were able to put it straight into our shed.
Most times it will not dry so well and we will put it into a haystack using a piece of pine taken from the top of a tree which is known as an ostrva, it is a traditional way to dry hay, any rain will just run off the outer layer and the inner will gradually dry, the tools we use are also traditional, wooden rakes and forks, they are so easy to use.
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This year we also purchased a mower unit by Vari that fits on out existing rotavator chassis which is a Robix, it makes it easier for us to cut some of the fields that are very uneven and have not been cut by hand for a few years, it does a very neat job and leaves the grass in tidy lines, you will see that all the grass is then put on ostrva’s, I may add that it takes several years and lots of hay to perfect the construction of these stacks, too tight and it will not dry, too loose and it will blow away in the wind, we seem to be getting the knack at last and do not get too many adverse comments from the old boys who watch us with interest.
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Once we have enough hay in our store we will give the rest away to our friends who do us favours at other times, we wait for a nice warm sunny day and then strip the stacks and spread the hay out to give it a final drying. The pictures show our friend Jaro with his horse and cart which we load up and then off it goes to his barn and that is another seasonal chore over for this year.
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It is very satisfying to scythe a field and as a bonus you get fairly fit over a couple of weeks…..

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Is it really June already…

Here I am at last, I keep meaning to keep this blog up to date but god knows where the time goes, anyway, here we go.
At the end of April we went to the UK to see all our friends and relatives, or at least as many as we could fit in to one week, it was great to see everyone and every day for us was like a whirlwind visit. We stayed with my brother and his wife in Framfield which was excellent, they looked after us and kept us amused, Maria and Ian became cook buddies and spent a lot of time discussing the pros and cons of bread making etc. We did go out walking and the bluebells in the woods around the area were amazing plus we also managed to go out with our old friend Nic and the Coakham Bloodhounds on their daily exercise, it is an education riding a bike with 40 hounds running around you, not to be missed.
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The days passed too quickly and then we were on our way home, normally we drive over but this time we flew and hired a car, it all went very well and made our life much easier, Maria managed to snap a few pictures from the plane on the way back, and although it was a brilliant trip getting back home was lovely, own bed and all that but our depest thanks go to Ian and Chris for really making us feel at home.

Since we have returned we have had plenty to do, veg garden is all planted, new greenhouse is great, we have sawn and chopped wood for us and Maria’s parents woodstores, two weeks doing that is more than enough for anyone but its done now for another year.  Maria has sheared the sheep with her new Burgon & Ball and Jakoti shears, both of which she says are brilliant and seemed to take her no time at all. We have also relaid our pathways which were originally pieces of stone with new anti slip slabs because the stone has always been slippery and muddy in the winter, we helped our nieghbour repaint the outside of his chalet plus last but not least we have cleaned and sorted our sheep shed ready for the hay which we will start to scythe tomorrow morning at 5am and please let us have a few dry days this week……….
The garden looks spectacular as usual, especially the rockery but the flowers in the meadows just make you wonder how nature manages to do it so magnificently without any effort at all, we are mere amateurs in comparison.
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The other day we went to look at the new observation tower that was contructed above the village, it was good for me to take a few pictures from but I wonder how many people will go up there, it looks quite impressive but a bit out of place for this area I think.
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Thats about it for today, we have just been out to move the bee hives around to make space for another one so we have six hives now and we hope for loads of honey this season, as you can see they are very busy so fingers crossed for the harvest.

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Looks as though its over…..

Winter that is, I don’t think anyone has seen a winter like this one for a long time, we have been able to look out of our chalet and watch the area go from white to green and back to white again so many times in the last three months it really has tested us all and the best conditions in the mountains has been over the last two weeks. Now it has gone from the sublime to the daft with the temperature yesterday reaching 27c and we are in dire need of some rain as everything is waiting to grow but can’t because its so dry.

We did have some great days though, the annual childrens competition “Janosikova Valasticka” had really nice sunny weather and everyone had a good time, here is one of Maria’s pupils waiting at the start gate.
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Maria and I had several days freeriding on Krivan and Chleb, it was not just the riding but we really love the walks up to where we ride although it takes up to an hour to get there and only 5 mins to ride down the whole trip is such a good feeling and gets your mind nice and clear, its the quiet of the mountains that is the secret. Here are some pictures of us and the beautiful scenery that surrounds us.
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Now we are busy in the garden, our potatoes are in, we have three new lambs and they are out in the fields, the bees are looking good and everything is waiting to bloom, we have purchased a greenhouse which is going to be good fun erecting especially as it was made in Russia and the instructions were in Russian, we have now got some in English from the web so we are ready to go. All our ski and boarding gear has been cleaned and put away and the mountain bikes are itching to go out, so lets hope it is a good summer for us all………..Last picture is of our happy sheep20160403 016

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Up and down.

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all, up and down is exactly what has been happening with the weather, since I last wrote we have had snow, rain, sunshine and winds, the temperature has fluctuated between -21c and +10c, we have never had brilliant snow conditions but managed to get to free riding once in the mountains and now it is coming down like you would not believe, the bad news is today I am housebound due to the car blowing a coolant pipe, fingers crossed the part comes soon.

Yesterday I was in Kubinska Hola being a gate judge for the annual school slalom competition and last week I did the same for an international giant slalom two day competition, it is pretty easy but involves standing on the slopes for most of the day, I actually enjoy it and providing it is not too cold its a doddle.
On the home front we now have a new baby ram, one of ewes is still to give birth but it wont be for another month, Maria is very busy as usual this time of the year with the ski instructing and seems to be enjoying it, she actually managed to take the sheep out around Christmas time which is very unusual.


Walking in the mountains was quite good at the end of last year and gave us some beautiful views because it was so cold and the air was very clear, plus looking out of the chalet some mornings was amazing.


Thats about all for today, the snow is definitely doing its bit right now so maybe a trip to the mountains is on the cards fairly soon.


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We are walking and computing

Yep, we are now in the time of the year when we wait for the winter sports to begin and we have not had enough snow for that so we walk and we catch up on other stuff that seems to get shelved till we have time to do it.  We decided to go a little further afield on the mountain bikes in November and it was very interesting, firstly because the scenery was amazing in the hills and around the reservoir near Nove Bystrica and secondly when I took a corner a bit quickly and it was covered with ice, whoops!! my fleece took most of the impact but it was still painful, the good comes with the bad eh!  Here are a couple of pictures including one of some bee hives that were in the hills and up on stilts to keep them away from the bears…..



The last picture was taken in the woods near here, such wicked colours, we see this every autumn but never get used to or tired of it and talking of colour, Maria successfully grew peppers this year and although we had to bring them in to ripen due to early frosts they were very impressive.

What is even better is the fact that Maria managed to make my favourite cold dish Pork Ham and Egg Pie, you cannot buy anything remotely like it over here but now we make our own, we have also made sausages and for anyone thinking about doing it, buy a sausage filler, it is so easy with one of these, we bought a hand machine, it makes life very easy and the sausages are the business.   On the subject of food we are now down to two ewes again as the rams are in the freezer, the meat will feed us for quite a while and we know where it comes from and what it was fed on, purely organic. Here is a picture of the shepherdess one of her cats and her flock getting the last of the grass, the cats follow Maria everywhere these days.

For those interested in photgraphy and computers I have just moved from Adobe Lightroom which I have used since the first beta version to a new piece of software because since version 6 of LR I and many others have had loads of agro and Adobe seem bent on making us all go to a cloud system, no thanks you Adobe for me its time for change.   The new software I am using is Capture One Pro 9 by Phase One and although I am having to learn afresh it is pretty amazing especially if you work with RAW files which is its speciality, I will let you know how I am getting on in a few months time. Last but not least we had a beautiful walk in the snow on the mountains last week and although not sunny it was really something being above the lower clouds.

Well that is it, I probably will not write anymore this year so to all my readers have a glorious Christmas and a Healthy Happy New Year.



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