Monday, 28 November 2016

A weekend away

So it's Monday!
Steven and I spent Saturday lunch time until Sunday lunch time away from the smallholding.  This is the first time in ages that we've been away without the kids and from home.  We went to a murder mystery event with a group of friends and stopped over at the hotel.  We had a lovely time (though the murder mystery theme was rubbish) and came home feeling very relaxed, so it was worth it.


A friend who has her horse with us looked after all of the horses and my parents kindly stayed at mine to look after the kids and the smallholding animals.  Everything was all fine when we got home and we even managed to get some Christmas tree lights up on the big outside tree on Sunday.



We settled down late on Sunday night to find we were being watched with a face at the window.  Ste said it made him jump out of his skin!  As you will notice, there is a tree in this photo too, also decorated for Christmas.


We love celebrating through December, especially as it is our first one in the farmhouse.  So from December 1st, there will be a flurry of posts showing you what's happening that day for us.  Not everyone celebrates Christmas, especially not as early as this, but we do :).  I'm not getting in to politics or frugal arguments.  It is what it is and I hope it makes you smile. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Free firewood thanks to storm Angus

In the storm on Monday night a tree outside our field blew down.  It was only last night the farmer told me about it as I hadn’t been over there in the light on Tuesday.  He said it was a large one and asked if we wanted the wood for our log burners.  We jumped at the chance so this morning before we left for work, I dashed over with my old phone to get a couple of photos.  He said it was big but I didn’t realise how big.  It’s massive!  We’ll have our work cut out on this one.  The chainsaw won’t fit through its width, so it will have to be chopped from each side.  Just think how much wood we will get from it which is free heating for winters to come.  The chopped up wood can stay in the wood store and season until we’re ready to use it.  Combined with the wood we’re going to have from trees we’re taking down next year (and will replace with fruit etc trees elsewhere), we’ll have enough wood for the next few winters easily.  That’s a great feeling, as even if the price of oil rockets, we’ll still be warm.  Our boiler can run the water off the electricity instead of the oil if needed, so we’re covered for hot water and heat.

Grace included for sizing


It was just getting light as I took this, so not a great photo but you can make the length and girth of it
The fact the tree has fell so close to our buildings and animals however is a bit worrying, so we will be sure to check what other things could fall or break and injure something or someone in the event of another storm.
When we get round to chopping this up, I'll do a blog post on it as I think it'll be a full weekend's work!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The next project......

Our weekend was a really productive one.  On Friday Grace, my daughter, had her friend over.  It was lovely to have her here.  She fit in perfectly, she felt right at home with the animals, enjoyed the food I made (making their own pizzas too), helped with the jobs and had girly fun.  They had a lovely time together.  One of the jobs I asked them to do, was to find the nest that my rare breed chickens have made.  The chickens are called Vorwerks and are gorgeous.  They free range anywhere they like which makes finding eggs fun.  The girls did a great job discovering 18 eggs hidden in a warm part of the barn.  We’ve removed them and they keep on laying there.  She doesn’t seem broody so we will keep taking them away and maybe just leaving one or two, to let her know it’s ok to keep laying there.


Saturday morning I went out for my usual hack out and despite it being brisk and showery, it was great.  Blew the cobwebs away and set me up for the day.  I came back and Steven was up and the kids were all having fun.  I made them pancakes and we said goodbye to Grace’s friend who had to leave for an appointment otherwise she would have stayed all day.  We had some really nice comments from the friend’s Mum who is originally from Yorkshire.  She misses it and said our smallholding in the country reminded her of it. You could see her appreciation in her face as she looked around the fields and took a deep breath in. 
We then trooped off to the agricultural store where we had sourced some wood for the new project – more raised beds!  To which most people have looked in shock and said, “what do you need more for?”.  The answer is simple.  We would like to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and I have an area of land that is being turned into a mud bath due to the high travel through it.  We pass over it multiple times daily to let the animals out, in, feed, water, muck heap etc etc.  That means barrows, buckets, big wellies, kids pounding around and animals, lots of animals.  The animals are being moved to a new location in January so that will solve that.  We’re putting a purpose built pathway in for the high travel area and in an effort to make every part of our land work for us, we’re adding more raised beds.  5 big ones and 4 small ones.  The amount and size was dictated by the amount of wood we could get for the price we could afford.  I will do a detailed post when the time is right but the plans right now are potatoes in the largest bed, peas, beans and such in bed 2, brassicas in 3, a pumpkin patch in 4 & 5 and then the 4 smaller ones will be salads, radishes, kale, tomatoes, etc etc. 
I am currently reading up about rotating your beds and companion planting.  I don’t understand how you can companion plant with something outside of the rotational group though, as then you may plant that companion plant as the main crop in that bed the next year. 
Anyway, after we got the wood on Saturday, we had people arrive to collect a trailer full of muck which took the rest of the daylight so we locked up and went inside for the night.  Sunday was due to rain all day but it didn’t!  Steven got the first big bed made and we agreed on the design for the rest (always work in progress!).  We sat outside and had a hot cuppa and a biscuit in the cold looking at what he’d achieved.  He really is a clever and handy husband. 
The start of the new beds.  getting the sizing right after putting all of the wood together
The plan is to get the rest of the beds made, put plastic on the inside of the sides before the muck goes in, to try and save the wood in the long term.  We’ll turn the grass that’s there into the ground and fill them to rest until Spring.  Hopefully the Spring worms will do their jobs over the next few months and they will be ready to plant up come the growing season.
Yes, this is in addition to the 2017 poly tunnel and the veg plot we already have, so I will need to plan it into my daily activities to be able to tend to it all.  If we’re going to do this, we’re doing it properly.  After all, that’s why we waited so long for the right place.
More pics to follow of the finished beds, these were just a couple I snapped in between jobs as I was dashing by with barrows of muck to fill the other veg beds.
We also bought a sheep trough which they put straight to good use and my Dad and Father in law came over to fix our ride on mower.  It now works a treat and I’m going to do a final topping of the nettles in the little paddock which can then dry out and the sheep will move into the for a while.
Lucky thought I had food on me and still needs to figure the trough out.


Sorry for the poor quality but you get the idea :)


Friday, 18 November 2016

Hedgerows, puppies and yukky things

I'll start off with hedgerow photos.  Outside my house starts a bridlepath.  There's a multitude of things along the bridleway however at the start of it, where my fence is, are bramble bushes.  Now I was mightily excited about these when I moved here, thinking we'd have hoards of brambles coming out of our ears and planning all I could do with them.  So I was disappointed to say the least when we got none!  They looked like they were starting to develop but just never did.  So I am wondering if we should cut them back down to the ground and let them start a fresh? 


I think we will strim the whole area and see what's what.  I think there's room to plant some small fruit trees/bushes out there.  I'll chat with Steven about it this weekend.  We do have enough on our plates already, but my brain doesn't switch off it seems!
Poor quality, my hands were freezing and wet.  The area I'm talking about is on the left.  Hi Rodney :)


More of a close up
My gorgeous girl, she could run this place single handed, she is so good.
Seen as though Rodney snuck into the top photo I thought I'd show you the dogs (I still call them puppies a year on) playing in the barn the other morning, whilst I was doing the horses.


Obviously something has been here, but what?  15 mins then were here for.
Rodney got bored before Buster

He realised he may be there for some time, waiting for his brother
 
We didn't find anything Mum

Finally to the yukky bit.  My veg box arrived on Wednesday as expected so I used some of it to go with tea.  Jack, my son, love cauliflower at the moment so I was pleased to see one in the box.  Cutting into it, the flesh seemed a strange texture and on investigation it looks like slugs have been enjoying their winter in there.  I rescued some of it but as you can see in the yellower coloured photo on the top middle floret, there was lots of slug slime (?) all over.  I think I stabbed the slug when splitting it down.  Ooops.



The joys of growing your own (even if I didn't grow this one)

Happy Friday everyone and have a fabulous weekend.  We're hoping to start our next project this weekend, more soon. 

Tracy :)

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Lovely lady

Tricia, aka PattyPan who has the blog http://tarragonnthyme.blogspot.co.uk is a lovely lady who sent me a book on preserving following my post on losing all of my jams (here).  She didn't want me to give up after the set back and very kindly offered to send me this book:
 

I don't know how to rotate :)

It arrived yesterday and I immediately set to work looking through it planning my next move.

It was inscribed with a personal note which made me smile.  So thoughtful.

Thank you Tricia, blogland can be a truly wonderful place, meeting like minded people and generating new ideas. 


Also - I am in the middle of update my blogs that I read on my sidebar, so I will be sure to make sure everyone I enjoy reading is on there soon.  :)

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

More planning - this time meat

Now I appreciate not everyone wants to raise, kill and eat their own meat and in this post I am thinking more about next year and planning the meat,  Writing it down here lets my thoughts develop.  So if this isn’t for you, please take this as fair warning J  If you’re all about knowing where your meat comes from, giving animals a happy and healthy life and ensuring their dispatch is a stress free and quick as possible, then do read on.

As we won’t be self-sufficient in pork etc until November 2017 and as I am getting itchy feet I think I will ask Steven to bring home half a pig from work.  For those who don’t know, he is a butcher.  We would need to buy it from the shop of course, but I would be very interested to watch him do his thing and fill up the freezer for the coming months in 2017.  It would also aid me in my quest to be stocked up for the new year on as much as possible from day one. 
We eat a fair amount of meat.  My motto for food (and drink for that matter) is everything in moderation, which is key, but as there’s 4 of us we do get through a fair bit.  Most weekends we have people visiting and I usually feed visitors.  In 2017 I hope to have family round for Sunday dinners as we’ll have the dining room useable by then.  I would like to be able to put a roasting joint on the table every weekend and look forward to that being from our own smallholding.
I have decided (a stake in the ground was required, so I may be way off) that I would like 40 roasting birds and 40 jointing birds.  A lot right?  Well given that we have chicken a lot during the week and some weeks enjoy a roast mid-week, plus some will be given to family and that we host a lot of gatherings during the year where I put a big spread on, I think this is a reasonable amount to aim for.  I could be way off but until I try, I won’t know. 
We’ve made enquiries about getting fertilised eggs from a nearby farm for a large breed of hen. I think they are called Cornish or Ross cobs, either way, they are big.  We’ll pick 40 eggs up early in the New Year when they are available and get them straight in the incubator for dispatch early May.  The next 40 can go in later in the year for dispatching October time when the flies have died off a bit.  That should see us right with the chicken we would like.  I will need another new freezer though.
We also would like to increase the numbers of our laying hens and to ensure a good start to the year, have decided to trial some hens eggs that we’ve not bred from before.  The eggs are going into the incubator this Friday, 18th November to hatch in 21 days, meaning they will be point of lay (22 weeks) on 12th May 2017.  May 2017 is obviously getting on for half way through the year, so you see why we want to get going on that project?  The chicks will live in the warm kitchen or utility in the house and move to the barn in straw bedding when big enough.  They’ll be under heat in the garage in between those periods as winter isn’t the best time to hatch eggs out.
Obviously some of those will be cockerels so they will be our next table birds which will be dispatched as and when they are needed.
Come November 2017 we’ll have our own pork too.  That leaves lamb.  Our current girls will be going in with the tup in 2017 so we hope to have April 2018 lamb.  Yes, I do like to plan.  ;-)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

We're going on an adventure

We moved into the smallholding on January 15th of this year and it seems there are still lots of places I haven't yet seen properly and lots to discover that changes with the seasons.  Let me show you what I mean.
I discovered this tree/bush right outside my back door that I had no idea was there.  I believe it is a quince tree?
 
It's only about knee high, this is me looking down on it.
 
Steven tried it, it was very sour.


To the left of the patch where the quince tree is a gate which a wall now stands behind.  This wall now separates us from the neighbours.  The gate used to lead out to the working part of the farm, the old barns and stables. 
Between the gate and the wall
I'm wondering if this area is too shaded to have as a herb garden?  I'd like to do something with the space but I am not sure what.
 
So many huge pots outside of the very small brick barn.
This was left by the previous owners, we're going to use the trough for the sheep

That's the barn infront of Steven, our neighbours house to the right.
The other side of the barn, the wall to the right is newly built and is the neighbours.  I'm not sure why they left this passageway.
 

Part of the woods

Getting ready for Christmas

 

 These photos make up most of my thinking for the weekend.  What could we do with the space, what did people do with it before us?  How to make the most of it all....my mind is overflowing with ideas which is fabulous.
We're also looking at the area where the polytunnel and new raised beds will go, more on that tomorrow.  I'm off to cook the chicken for our Sunday Dinner - sets us up for the working week ahead.

 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A little catch up, birthdays, snow, polytunnel thoughts and 2017 potatoes!


I have broken my phone and have an old spare which doesn’t do photo’s as well but bear with me.  It also means I have to boot the laptop up to see blogs and updates (first world problems, I know).  Wednesday saw us with snow on the ground.  It was short lived and didn’t affect the roads.  It was so pretty to see everywhere white and the smallholding animals all looking around wondering what it was.  I know some people don’t like the snow, but I do and I do hope we have a white Christmas.
The kids played in it, all be it briefly, and I took what photos I could.  We call one of our chicken areas “Chickenville” and the kids wrote it out in the snow (when they were supposed to be doing their jobs ;) ).  It’s so nice to see them enjoying it all.

Goose foot print









It was Steven’s birthday on Tuesday and despite being at work all day and needing to remove a radiator in the dining room for decorating, he seemed to enjoy it.  He sent me this photo the next day when he had time to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in his gadget that he received.

I’ve been doing more thinking ahead and keeping more notes in my notebook.  This time I have been writing down everything we have as packed lunches, with a view to ensuring I have the contents covered in our GYO plan for 2017.  For example the salads we have contain mixed leaves, spring onion/red/white, radish, cucumber, tomatoes, lots of peppers, sweetcorn, coleslaw and when we’re feeling adventurous, cous cous.  I think we can have this covered in 2017.  Also soups and quiche.
That led me on to thinking about the polytunnel again.  If I can afford one, it’ll be March/April time so we will have missed the early start, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start things elsewhere in the house and heat the greenhouse too, before moving them to the polytunnel when it’s ready.  The purpose of the polytunnel will be to extend the growing season and give me more space to allow us to be self-sufficient in vegetables throughout the year.
The salad items listed above will be mostly grown in the polytunnel although I think the sweetcorn will be half and half for pollination reasons.  In anticipation of next year, I’ve pre ordered my potatoes going for the following options (which will be delivered February):
First Earlies:  Swift (general purpose) and red duke of York (good for roasting).  These will be ready 10 weeks after planting.
Second Earlies:  British Queen (GP but excellent roasting) and Athlete which are lovely cold in salads.  These will be ready 13 weeks after planting.
Maincrop made up of early maincrop:  Carolus (GP),  Maincrop:  Blue salad (I fancy these for something different), Cara for baking and chipping and late maincrop of Sarpo Mire which can be stored until Christmas and King Edward which I think are the same.  These will be ready 20 weeks after planting.
The idea here is they all get planted at the same time and are ready to eat at different stages.  I will grow some in containers and bags but most in the ground.  We’re making a few new beds outside, 1 of which will be for the potatoes.  Having no idea how many potatoes we use and how much each plant will produce, we could be rolling in them or short for demand.  This really is an experiment.  Each order supplies apx 15 tubers (1kg).  It cost me £37 inc P&P so I will see how much we get for our money and make a note of it as next year progresses.