Monday, 14 October 2013


This is the BIG MAN in caterpillars.

Come any closer and I´ll bite your head off

We found him, or her, yesterday, chewing his way through the aubergines. I think it's the Death's-Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos

Bigger than the Swiss Army


Friday, 11 October 2013

Cabbage White-Out

We've been cultivating butterflies.

Normally this would be a lovely thing to do. But it has been accidental, and worse, it has meant the total destruction of our cabbage patch:

Holy Cabbage!
This is Pieris brassicae, the Cabbage White; the caterpillars are at the fifth instar or stage of development. We'd spotted the tiny yellow eggs...but by then the damage was largely done.

5-a-day caterpillar

No sauerkraut this winter, at the Croft. Too bad...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Walking Women

We have been talking about trementinaires.

Trementina is an extract of Abies alba, the silver fir (or, says one source from Pinus sylvestris, Scots Pine). The sap was collected and filtered, and used to make a strong-smelling balsam.

Trementina was produced by women working in the Pyrenees. These women then set off on foot, on long routes through Catalunya. Our neighbour Isidre told me yesterday that he can remember a pair of trementinaires – mother and daughter – who came past the house two or three times a year. They carried trementina, but also other herbal remedies, oils and salves, and had cures for animals as well as humans. The family always purchased something, and normally invited the trementinaires to eat.

Trementinaires. Picture from

Isidre said that the trementinaires, who followed the same itinerary each year, would sleep in the house or barn at Can Marc

These were independent, travelling women from the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th;  very different from the stereotype we might have of Catalan women of that era.

There is a wee museum about the trementinaries, in the Alt Urgell:

More about the trementinaires in this video:

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Another lamb, just

It is only thanks to very careful attention by Crofter's mate, and good advice from the saintly Pep-the-Vet, that we still have little Nosey around.

He was born on the 30th September to Ballachulish, her second lamb. Last time we'd noticed a wee bit of blood on a teat, and this time Ballachulish had full-blown mastitis. One half of her udder hot and lumpy, the other secreting puss. Not a good scenario for the new lamb.

I was away, so Crofter's mate spent hours with the wee one, making up a mixture of milk, egg and honey to get him started, and then feeding him some cow colustrum from our neighbour's farm.

Boy on the bottle

Finally we found that the wonderful Dolors down the road had a nanny goat that was milking, so we put him onto a diet of goat milk. Mum's been on a programme of antibiotics (she had a raised temperature and was really under the weather.)

Now, six days later, Mum is recovering and he is beginning to get a little milk from her. He looks skinny, but is growing.

Mastitis is not nice at all. We try to be as clean as possible, clearing the stable and disinfecting with lime, but this is the countryside, and that's bacteria soup.

Limey stable

Wasp this spider?

We had two female spiders - in the yellow and black stripes of Alloa Athletic FC - on our lavender this week. The colours are dramatic, on such a large spider.

Argiope bruennichi. Not great at football.

Nae flies on me

The flies are everywhere this Autumn - demonstrating how they evolved before us and will survive our Armageddon.

They are everywhere on the poor donkeys too, however, so I've had to mix up a fly repellent that works. This is an adaptation of a recipe from The Barn Equine Surgery,, with the addition of a little piperine, extracted from black pepper.

Put 20g of whole black peppercorns into a tall sided pot. Add 150ml alcohol (from the pharmacist). Using a  hand-held liquidiser, liquidise the pepper in the alcohol. Leave to stand, covered, for an hour. This will extract a little piperine, which will help to drive the flies away.

Home chemistry. No naked flames, please

Mix up the other ingredients:

200ml Citronella Oil BP
120ml vinegar
30ml washing up liquid
450ml strong black tea

Pour the pepper and alcohol mixture into the other ingredients using a filter (I use a cloth filter) so that the pepper itself does not enter the mix. This is to help prevent the sprayer from getting clogged with pepper grounds.

Dilute up to three litres, with water.

Shake before use. Spray on the animal, avoiding the eyes and mouth. (And avoiding your eyes and mouth - this is, after all, pepper spray as used in self defence...)