Friday, 24 March 2017

First harvests, blossom and poorly nana

Last year the rhubarb we had was what was left by the previous owners and it's a mid to late variety so I wasn't expecting any for a good while yet.  I did buy some early variety from The Range just to get some more in and low and behold it's massive already!  So we harvested some the other day and I stewed it to have with my breakfast.
 

The other reason I harvested some, was to give some to my Nana.  She's been very poorly lately.  On Sunday we had to get the paramedics out for her, long story, but she is on the mend now.  On Wednesday we took her some fresh rhubarb, a loaf of bread, 6 eggs and some daffs.  It all cheered her up no end.
 
The ducklings are growing by the minute and will soon be too big for the brooder so this weekend we will be sorting out alternate accommodation for them.

 
The puppies just looked too cute for words.



When walking out along the lane, I noticed a patch of blossom in the hedge on just one small area.  I'm going to remember where it is, as the rest of the hedge is totally different, so hopefully this will bear something edible in the coming months.


We have a weekend of gardening, fencing and family this weekend.  I hope you all have a good one.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Can you ever have enough apple trees and a blog award.

No is the answer!  We are the proud owners of 12 new apple trees of the following varieties:
Fiesta
Howgate Wonder (cooking)
Discovery
Ellstons Orange
May queen
Bakers delicious
Winston
Scotch Bridgett (cooking)
Bramley (cooking)
Red Windsor
Winter banana
Cookers are labelled, remainder are eating apples which will produce at different times of season.
Kev from An English Homestead sells them and we can't praise him highly enough.  Excellent prices, brilliantly packaged and a wealth of information. 
It was a big job to fit into a Saturday, as there was a lot of clearing to get on with before we could plant them.  You may remember the front fence coming down, not a year after it went up (oops)?  Well that was the start of the mini orchard.


The area along the trellis was cleared except the huge plant in the middle.  Everything is being rehomed that was there.
 We rotavatored the patch and cleared it of debris, weeds and odds and sods.
 The Ste set about digging holes around 60-80cm apart so we can grow these trees as cordons.  They will be pruned when needed in the summer (next year Kev?) to restrict their growth.
 A total of 10 went in at these close intervals along the back row.  We have 2 left to go in, 1 of which is going in right about where Rodney is sniffing in the photo below!
This grass area will house other fruit and nut trees, all I need is chocolate and I might be on to something ;)

I'm really pleased with them and how they went in.  We followed instructions online, loosely.  A bucket or 2 of rotted muck went in with each of them along with a bamboo stick at 45 degree angle.  They will look great.  One is coming in to blossom already!

Finally, I'm really pleased to say my little blog won an award for "best smallholding blog" from Walton Blog awards.  There were only 13 nominations but I'm really pleased and would like to thank anyone that voted :)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Spring time jobs

It's that time of year when we need to be preparing for the coming seasons.  That doesn't just mean for the animals, but for our garden too.  We like to eat and work outside as much as possible and this includes having family and friends over for BBQ's and even the odd day off enjoying a long, lazy summer day, with a glass of something alcoholic and good food to share, usually sat round some sort of outdoor fire.
It's been sunny this week, but still cold.  So now was the perfect time to clean the block pavings which are at the back of our house.  They have gone fairly yukky over the winter and came up a treat.  It took Ste 3 hours to pressure wash the whole area, but it won't need doing again until next year, so it's time well spent.
 
Before
During
After
There's lots of other jobs to do, not all for Spring as such.  We've pig fencing to sort, hedges to trim, fields to fertilise, field gates to put in...oh and did I mention the new mini orchard?  More on that soon :)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sheep and sheds


So this blog has been nominated as one of thirteen super smallholding blogs and I wasn't even aware until recently!  Voting is closed, but here's the link to see what it's about.  Thank you to those who did know about it and voted for me.  It was very nice to be nominated.  The offered me a free mug during the process, which turned up and had a slogan for a 'shed load of tea'.
 Which was fairly apt, as when I took my morning brew outside, I caught the sheep in the goose shed 'cat' flap, quite happily trying to steal Mother Goose's food.  Mother Goose gave her a right telling off, but being a sheep, she was not in the slightest bit bothered.

 Little Miss sheep went off and had her breakfast after taking all she could of mammy goose's.

 
 Then after a hard day of chatting with her friends, they settled down for the night.


Our animal's antics do make me smile....!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

First hatch of 2017

We started the incubator with 15 duck eggs in a few weeks ago.  The ducklings are due tomorrow and we were worried if any would arrive due to the power cut last week.  I am pleased to report these little ones were not put off by any power cut and so far we have 7 ducklings all out and looking fine.  These will all be table birds unless their weight and sex tells us otherwise.  We have a runner duck who produces a lot of eggs and she is crossed with an Aylesbury and Appleyard (they all live together) so I'm not sure what size bird they will make.  If they are female and too light, we'll keep them for eggs only.  It will all be part of the experiment.  We're after some heavier female ducks at some point this year.
On their way to the brooder in the barn.  Thse guys are dry and fluffy, so it's time to go.
Soft and cute ;)
On Friday we're going to set the incubator away again with goose eggs.  They are supposed to be harder to incubate and we'll only fit a few in.  Again, these will be raised for the table.
Once they're out, I plan on incubating the rare breeds we have if there's any demand for them...I also like to see them round the place - they won't be table birds.
We've gone from wishing Spring would hurry up, to full steam ahead in a blink of an eye.  It's light enough to do jobs before 6am here now and light until after 6pm.  It makes smallholding life so much easier, especially when we work too. 
I have the early rhubarb that is ready to be picked which is a very special occasion, I love rhubarb!  The asparagus follows that and then broad beans and peas.  Hopefully lots of salad items in between too.  How lovely.
The piglets are doing fabulously, one is growing slightly quicker than the other so we're supervising feeds.  They're 5 weeks old today.
Slightly blurry as they wouldn't pose for me!
To those who are on Facebook and commented (in my defense I feel ;) ) that they will become boisterous quickly....1 week on and they are already charging around bashing in to me at feeding time.  LOL.  Super adorable still though.

Friday, 10 March 2017

IBC tanks, duck ponds and fencing

Just part of the day in the life of a smallholder?  There's been a few jobs that Ste has wanted to get done which he's managed to since he had 3 days off work this week.
The first one was due to me changing my mind on something.  When we moved here, we housed the rescue hens in a part of the veg plot which only had flowers in it, as at the time I was sure I wasn't interested in flowers.  I've since come to realise their beneficial properties for the bees if nothing else, so the fence he put up to keep the hens in, has now been removed and used elsewhere, allowing me in to make the space into our fruit garden.  As I can't remember what was in there, this project will be done over the Spring and Summer so I can make sure we put everything that's in there to some use.

During the "take down"
We're getting some new apple trees off Kev, which will go along the back trellis and in place of some fir trees which are just out of sight here.  The fir trees will go to another location where we need them.  Then the grass will become the soft fruit area.  So many ideas!

The pond had a leak in it, so we bought some more liner and Ste has updated it, the ducks love it :)

1 year ago to the day!


The fence he put up last year to keep the ponies in their paddock, doesn't keep the sheep in there when it's there turn.  So he had added an extra rail on.
 One sheep proof fence (I can almost hear the sheep laughing at this statement now)
He moved one of the new IBC tanks in to the veg plot and has come up with a genius way of collecting rainwater in there where there is no guttering etc to get the run off from.  We hope it works well, after all, we get a lot of downpours.


Plastic on IBC tank to run off into hole.
He also managed to fix up a hose pipe connect direct to the IBC tank so I can use the hose pipe in there.  The flow will be slower but it's free!
We will grow things around the wooden frame to disguise it.  I'm really pleased with it, very inventive.
Jack and Ste also picked us girls the first daffs of the year.  Spring has arrived at our smallholding.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The tale of the powercut

Last night, when I was hoping for a full night sleep due to being up with my son the previous night, my daughter came in at 1:30am to tell me she couldn't get the bathroom light on so she didn't dare go to the loo.  I said the bulb must have gone, so use mine.  She said that's not working either.  In a part sleep, part awake state, I realised we were having a power cut.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  We have 15 duck eggs with 6 days left in the incubator that's reliant on the power.  The piglets are under heat in the barn and the greenhouse bench is on to look after my tender seedlings. 
The saw me on the phone to the power company to find out what's wrong.  It will be back on by 4:30 they say.  Feeling rather sad and acutely aware that we're relying on someone to supply our energy, I sat and waited with Ste.  At 2:30 I had dozed off and he woke me to say it's back on.  He checked the incubator and it had gone down to 25 for 37+. 
Please keep your fingers crossed that the ducklings make it.
The piglets were fine when I went out to feed, blearly eyed and with a stinking headache (unrelated to the night's events) and I just hope the seeds/seedlings that are reliant on the heat were unaffected.  It wasn't too cold last night, no where near freezing so may be a lucky escape.
It has started me thinking about producing our own energy though.
Incidentally, we would still be able to cool and heat the kitchen off the Aga, so that is a bonus.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Belated weekend antics

After the excitement of the pigs, I thought they needed their own post, so today's post is to bring the blog up to date with the weekend's fun and games.
Remember the sheep chasing the fighting cockerels?  Well, not 1, but 2 sheep managed to lock themselves in the outside toilet on Sunday.  I've not laughed so hard in a long time.
The chickens that hatched in December have now been moved to the meshed greenhouse to get them outside of the barn but keep them away from the big ones (they would be bullied.)  Eventually the girls will go in the main section and the boys will be dispatched for the freezer.  They will be small, so Ste will joint them and I'll use in the slow cooker/curries and things like that.


We need to set our minds to the table birds we want this year, the Ross Cobbs.  They will be bought in at day olds.  We won't be hatching any more laying hens this year but I will take a few orders of rare breeds for people to keep the pot topped up. 
The geese are starting to think about incubating their eggs so we hope for a few goslings to be running around the place in a month or 2.  I'm not sure what the sheep will make of that!
A bit blurry as this was mid "discussion" between the geese and sheep
Anyway, the weekend.
I sowed loads and loads of seeds and was in my element.  In went more cauliflower, cabbage, onions, beetroot, sunflowers, nasturtiums, swiss chard, courgettes, wild garlic, leeks, calabrese and tomatoes.  Lots of different varieties.
I was doing this in between lifting wheelbarrows with Ste who was shovelling the 4 tonne of soil we ordered.  He got 2 tonne moved yesterday into the beds which have the muck in them.  They're ready for planting now, some will be empty a while yet though (pumpkins, squash and so on).
He was being watched with interest.
Whilst the birds were watching him, my daughter was watching something else.  She noticed a suspicious van drive by and park illegally along the bridleway.  So she did as she's been told to and came to tell Ste and I who were shovelling yet more muck at the muck heap.  I swear, some days all we see is sh*t!
Anyway, she said it was open backed so Ste wondered if they were fly tipping which happens where we are being remote ish.  So he had a walk up to the van (maybe silly) and it was empty!  He took a photo of the reg and I sent it to the farmer who confirmed they shouldn't be there.  The farmer could see them walking up the bridleway and went to have a polite word with them, and they left.  He messaged me to say they were hawkers, out with their dogs and are known to them for all the wrong reasons.
I must say, I'm glad they weren't in the van when Ste went up and I'm also pleased I wasn't out riding or walking the dogs as the hawkers dogs do tend to immobilise anything small and furry!
Who says county life is quiet?

Monday, 6 March 2017

Pigs!

The weekend finally has arrived when we reached an important milestone in our drive towards self sufficiency of meat and took on 2 piglets. 

They are large white cross landrace.  Large white are best known for bacon pigs according to the internet, but we shall be keeping these for 6 months and using them to fill our freezer with goodies that we hope to see us through 12 months.  I have no idea if 2 pigs will give us enough meat for a family of 4 for 12 months or not.  I will let you know in 18 months time!
We collected them at 9:30 on Saturday morning and of course used a method of transport most people wouldn't....but that is us all over !
They settled in amazingly quickly considering they have never felt straw under their feet before and have only known their mother.  The farmer, a neighbour friend, was kind enough to lend us a heat lamp as they still need to be under heat for a few weeks yet.
They are from different litters (same father, I need to find the piggy term) but get on well.  Both similar sized, so there's less chance of bullying.
They are very young so we're feeding them their feed in milk at the moment and will eventually get them just on to the hard feed in a few days.  The milk is very good for them anyway though.
Grace named them - not me! Sunflower and buttercup.  They're both girls and will live in the barn until the warmer weather comes, when they then have a job to do.  I need part of a paddock turning over as it's riddled with nettles and weeds.  I hope they do a good job!
We plan on feeding them home grown veg to supplement their hard feed which is their primary feed source of course.
Ste said something that really stuck with me at the weekend.  Our smallholding is nearly complete.  How nice of a feeling is that?
'Nearly' as we have some other arrivals due soon ;)



Thursday, 2 March 2017

Seed sowing, promotion, poorly kids, angry sheep and fighting cockerels!

The week started off promising as I found out I've been given a promotion at work which is great as at one stage I wondered if I would be laid off. 
Then my son was off school with a terrible cold which doesn't sound too bad, but sleepless nights and snotty noses take their toll on him and me!
Yesterday saw my 2 Vorwek cockerels were told off by the sheep.  They were arguing and the sheep decided they didn't like it and hilariously started chasing the cockerel who was "winning" around after headbutting him 2 foot into the air.  After videoing (It won't let me upload) said chase I set about my jobs but they continued and it got nasty so I broke it up and put some septicleanse on the wound (too strong of a word) and received some good advise off my facebook friends (thank you bloggers who are on there and responded - it's given me some good ideas for what to have in my first aid bag moving forward). 
They are stunning, however 1 is now up for sale.  They're both coming into their own and do their jobs well, but they will hurt each other if they stay together.  I think I will keep the stronger of the 2 as he will do a better job at keeping the fox away hopefully.


Did someone order March?  I've gone from feeling it will never arrive to hardly believing it is here!  I've been keeping on top of the sowing of seeds as I am trying to do some successionally to ensure we have crops of things throughout the year.  The heat bench is a blessing and it is on permanently now.  This is what the greenhouse looked like at the weekend.
Tomatoes and some flowers, also PSB on this one
Corn salad in old strawberry box - reusing is very important
Carrots, 1 aubergine and all season kale at the back
Leeks, cauli and cabbage and more flowers I think
Sweet peas, peas in drainpipe, blueberry plants and fig tree (stick!)
3 "free" blueberry plants from GYO mag (paid postage) and some currant cuttings I took myself
My comfrey is coming through, yey!
I have taken delivery of 4.5 tonnes of screened topsoil.  This will go on the veg beds which have been filled with muck.  John Seymour grew carrots in muck and said his were fine, so I am going to try it.  I don't mind forked carrots, I just want food!

 The wagon was huge but it did make me appreciate the late February blue sky.  The driver also bough 3 1/2 dozen eggs off us, so a good day all round.
 My lovely parents bought us a conference pear tree just because they wanted to, so I promptly soaked it, dug a hole and put a bucket of rotted muck in and firmed the tree down.  I love that we're planting trees for future generations to benefit from, as well as us of course.
I got my first/second earlies in, some outside and some in the polytunnel to experiment and know what to do next year.
I've planted Swift (FE), Athlete (SE) and British Queen (SE)

We have been getting goose eggs regularly for a couple of weeks now and I have found they make the best frittata I've tasted.  We had a massive one which turned out to be a double yoker.  I'll be using the rest to make some cakes for the freezer that I will pre slice and pack ready to use in packed lunches.
 

 

 I can't recall if I posted this already, but these are some bulbs which the chickens must have scratched out last summer and have self rooted in silly places.  I rescued them and look forward to seeing what they are.
 
 We are expecting new additions Saturday!!! Stay tuned!