Weather and animal feeding aside, one of the most constant features of crofting is the never ending round of maintenance tasks.
At present, I’m refurbishing the farrowing pen in the byre.
The sows dig out the lime mortar and eat it. The sows and piglets pound the creep and trough until their bolts pull out or snap. The sows and piglets enthusiastically rub themselves silly against every surface. The sows gnaw every scrap of wood. And everything gets covered in a fine mixture of powdered dung, straw, skin, barley, dirt and more.
The result of all that is a dark, dingy hole that’s a pain to keep clean and disinfected. It’s difficult to work on sick or injured animals as the darkened walls absorb the light. And pigs get unhappy without decent light in the dark days of winter.
So every two years I strip out all the fittings, hose and brush the walls down, repoint any damaged mortar, replace any broken bolts or woodwork, and paint everything: metalwork, woodwork, stonework and blockwork.
Of course, it only looks good until the first sow moves in to deliver her litter and then the countdown to the next refurbishment takes place.
And while I’m counting down to that job, I’m working my way through the endless list of maintenance and repairs.
The pen opposite the farrowing pen needs to be completely rebuilt after Graham, our previous boar, demolished a large section of stone wall while he was inside. Fortunately, he was inside because he was ill and so didn’t do as much damage as he could have done.
Half the pig housing in the fields has been creosoted. The other half needs to be done, but there’s not much point until I have the time and timber to replace several damaged sections.
One of the pig huts needs a new lining and insulation after Daisy, our mad sow, pull the three-ply off and ate it—before eating the insulation, too.
Half the chicken housing has been creosoted. The other half will be done next year.
The largest chicken house needs its interior walls scrubbed and then repainted with limewash. A white interior increases the amount of light and prolongs the laying season by a few weeks while the antibacterial properties of limewash help keep things clean.
All the guttering on the steading needs to be replaced before winter, but various emergencies have eaten into our cash reserves so it looks like the bodged repairs will have to stay in place for now.
But, before the guttering is replaced, I really should repoint the entire steading but that’s a monumental job and definitely beyond our means for now.
I’ve just rebuilt, repainted and rehung the feed shed door.
I’m in the middle of making a new door for the byre. It has to be done before winter sets in so it will have to climb the priority list.
The various bits and pieces of machinery will all need their pre-winter services over the next few weeks, before being stored.
All the hand tools, especially the garden implements, need wire-brushing, sharpening and oiling before being put into store. (They get done several times through the growing season but need a final spruce up in autumn.)
Every week I walk the fence lines looking for damage. Every week I find something: a broken post here, a loose wire there, a damaged insulator here, a shifted strainer there, a drifting gate here.
Back at the house, the window frames need to be sanded and repainted. I’ve started the job several times this year only to be stopped by gales, rain or both.
I need to climb the roof and fit a new cowling to the boiler flue but I need a day with no wind and no rain to do it. And I need the Other Half present as a safety precaution.
I also need to climb the roof and repoint both chimneys. And the chimney pot above the open fire has come loose.
The door frame opening into the workshop has rotted and needs to be replaced. I’ve run out of suitable salvaged wood so that will have to wait until I find something suitable or find some cash in a long forgotten wallet in a long forgotten jacket.
Half the vegetable beds need repairs to their wooden boarding. I’ve replaced some of the stakes holding the boards in place but the boards really should be replaced to as they have large sections of rot.
In the front garden, the boards supporting the soft fruit beds have fallen over as their stakes have rotted. I’d better add them to the list.
The Land Rover needs its pre-winter service and check, although I already know the tyres need to be replaced. And they are, very definitely, not cheap.
This evening, I noticed one leg of the kitchen table has a failed joint and is developing a marked lean. Jot that down on the to-do list, too.
Oh, and then there’s the lead-out cable for the electric fence. The chickens have managed to unearth a section so it needs to be dug back in, and much deeper this time.
As I sit here, I can see that my good boots need to be resoled, there are holes in both elbows of the shirt I’m wearing, one of my socks has a hole in the heel, and the legs of the desk are spreading under its own weight. More things to be repaired.
Still, my coffee mug still has its handle attached and I haven’t spilled coffee on the keyboard for weeks. That’s two things I don’t have to worry abouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu