Tuesday – A Blood Moon!

It’s been an interesting week, I have been out and about with my neighbour who was looking for a particular hen. First we went to Evesham only to find that the person we were going to meet had got their times mixed up which meant we had to meet him at the poultry auction later in the week. Now I always get a bit excited about going to the auction, you never know what you will find, as it is the school holidays it was very busy, which always pushes up the prices, however we did manage to come home with the hen that was being sought as well as a duck and some baby Cayuga ducklings. The hen and the duck are my neighbours and the ducklings we are sharing although she is looking after them at hers, the reason being that she wants her ducks to be friendly. If you get ducks when they are older they have a tendency to think you are some kind of alien and run away flapping and quacking from you, the younger you get them the tamer you can make them. If you hatch out ducklings and they are the first thing you see, they will imprint on you and you become Mum, this has it’s ups and downs though as they tend to follow you everywhere and if you go out of sight they make a complete racket!

I am hoping that my poultry order will arrive tomorrow, this includes more ducklings lol we will have so many ducks we won’t know what to do with them. A third of the order of hens will be going straight out to a new home and judging by the enquiries I have had the rest won’t be far behind, a quick turnover this month I think.

Our laying flock is in the front paddock and the horses have been in the field next door trimming the grass for me, I decided to let them through and help trim the edges in the paddock the hens are in……..big mistake. The first thing they did despite having plenty of grass to nibble on, was to jump the electric fencing and start eating the chicken food, I then spent a good half an hour trying to coax them out whilst trying to keep the hens in. This was also a bit of a disaster and approx 9 hens spent the day roaming the farm, consequently the egg count was down and no matter how hard I looked I never found any that might have been laid outside the enclosure, I won’t be doing that again.

Hubby managed to get the rotavator started yesterday after two evenings of trying, he has now churned over the patch that the potatoes are going in, he is going to dig in some manure and then it will be ready to plant into, just in time for Good Friday which is traditionally the day that it is done. Meanwhile, the beans, peas and garlic in the tunnel are still growing strongly and hopefully it won’t be long before we start getting a crop from them. The onions and garlic outside are doing just as well and I seem to have gone a bit overboard on the ordering of onion sets as more arrived in the post this week, so plenty to sell at the end of the season hopefully. I have started putting out rhubarb for sale which sells very quickly, I thought most people had a bit of rhubarb growing in their garden and that I would not be able to sell it but that does not seem to be the case.

We have plenty of seedlings growing away in the greenhouse and soon it will be time to get busy planting them, as we are well ahead we seem to have had a bit of a lull lately which is good because family life has been very busy of late, with the wedding and birthdays and family visiting from Australia, everything seems well under control for the time being!

I hatched out another batch of bantam chicks this week, one of them was small and weak and so we spent the day trying to rally it round, unfortunately it was all in vain and it died later on in the evening, it is always worth trying as I have had success before but not this time. The Norfolk Greys I hatched out five weeks ago are doing well and have now been moved outside, mainly because I needed the room for the next lot. Norfolk Greys are on the rare breed list and I was chuffed to hatch seven out of twelve eggs, although I think I have got four cockerels and three hens. I had a stroke of luck during a conversation on Facebook though and someone with an unrelated cockerel is moving just half an hour down the road in the summer so we will be able to exchange birds and get some different bloodlines underway which is great news for the breed. When I lost my other birds to the fox during the storm I wanted a change and it was a good opportunity to do something with rare breeds which is what I have always wanted to do.

We have a full moon this week on the 15th, and a Blood Moon at that, not only that but a Lunar eclipse as well, we have four Lunar Eclipses coming up over the next year, a phenomenon if ever there was one. The rise of a full moon definitely has a affect on the animals and they say on plants too but I have never given the planting to moon phases a go, I can see how it would probably work though, the same as the ebb and flow of the rivers and seas, as plants are nearly all water it makes sense.

Have a good week and watch for that Moon

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Shall I, shan’t I

I keep thinking I will give up writing my blog but to be honest it has become part of my routine and I find it quite therapeutic so for the time being I will carry on.

Unless there is a specific job that has to be done inside a time frame, my days are generally my own to decide what and when or even if I do it, a privileged position to be in I know. I usually get asked in the morning by one family member or another, what are you doing today, I haven’t decided yet is the general answer, most decisions are made around the weather which is pretty unstable at the minute. When the weather is dry we always make the most of it and get on with as much outside as we can, I can tell you that this time last year it was lovely and sunny and we were sorting out the paddocks but this year we have only part done them as the corners are still very wet and we are unable to get into them with the roller without getting stuck. It does not look like it is going to dry up any time soon either, although the air temp is quite mild, the ground is still taking a beating from the rain, so that rules out cleaning out the chickens this week, I don’t want to mess the grass up any more than necessary.

The arrival of 60 point of lay hens next week means I need to get cracking and sort the pens out ready for them. I have managed to creosote a couple of huts so we are not far off, I also take delivery of 12 day old ducklings which will need a bit more organising. They will need to be under a heat lamp for a few weeks until they feather up, at the minute I have the Norfolk Grey hatchlings still under a lamp at night although it is turned off in the daytime. With the imminent hatching of more chicks we are running a conveyer belt system, incubator, brooder box, then onto the bigger cage with lamp, then outside during warmer parts of the day until finally out all day and night, with each new lot following the last. The next batch of eggs in will be Quail as I have customers waiting to buy them, it all takes a bit of organisation and a lot of cleaning!

I was a little concerned about one of the cats in the week, we had not seen Felix for a couple of days, but he finally turned up one morning strolling across the yard as if he had never been gone. The two cats are proper farm cats, not ferrel, but they live all year outside and I supplement their feed if necessary. At this time of year there is an abundance of food around for them to catch, usually baby rabbits, they eat everything but the fluffy tail which they kindly leave as a present for us, sometimes they catch things you rather wish they wouldn’t such as garden birds, and they are pretty good at waiting outside a nest site for fledgling chicks which is horrible and if I catch them I generally shoo them away but as far as they are concerned they are just doing their job and they keep the rodent population down so I can’t tell them off too much.

We managed to get in a whole day of gardening last week mostly weeding and potting on, I still have not planted the root veg seeds or the potatoes but there is still plenty of time. This year to save time and effort I have ordered tomato, melon, cucumber and aubergines plants which should arrive any time now, they are grafted plants and will be nice and strong when they get here. We have got the poly tunnel ready with old feed bags full of compost and hope they will do well in there. I did get hubby to connect up the watering system a couple of weeks ago bit it happened to be the day before the coldest night we have had this winter and the pipes froze which forced them to come apart and leak all over the garden when it thawed so we disconnected them again for the time being. As soon as those plants are in situ however we will need to try connecting it up again, every little helps and when we first started I would spend most of the day watering which was very time consuming. When I look back I can see how much progress we have made and the mistakes we have learnt from although there are probably still plenty more to make I am sure.

By some miracle the nails I had put on for the wedding are still going strong! I was not sure about having them in the first place and to begin with things were a bit of a task but it is surprising what you can get used to and now I will miss them when the first one breaks or comes off, that does not mean I will be replacing them though, it’s just nice while it has lasted. Looking at the list I have made for the week ahead I wonder how much more they can take, but up to now I have creosoted, weeded, hitched up the heavy roller, mucked out and washed up in them, brilliant!

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What a weekend, back to reality now.

After a fabulous but exhausting weekend of family celebrations and with the clocks going forward as well, I can hardly bring myself to get started on the farm this morning. Our daughters wedding was fabulous despite some thunder, lightening and rain, then we had lunch the next day with family, Mother’s Day on Sunday and my Mum’s 70th birthday party, I am just about done in!

Our farm sitter did a brilliant job which was much appreciated as we could not have had such a relaxed time away without the knowledge that someone was in charge back home. Everything was as it should be when we returned which she was very relived about.

The difficulty is motivation now after being on such a high all weekend, there is plenty to get on with as I have 70 birds arriving in a couple of weeks and need to get everything organised for them. The veg garden will be a priority as we are behind with some of the planting, but we can soon catch up hopefully. I had nice nails put on for the wedding and they are still on but for how much longer is anyone’s guess, it is quiet difficult to do the nitty gritty jobs with talons lol.

We are still having our sleep interrupted by the dog barking at whatever is mooching around at night, probably a fox but it could be badgers or deer, whatever it is I wish it would find somewhere else to go so we can sleep right through the night for a change.

The egg numbers have increased significantly and even the quail are laying again now, the hatchlings are growing at a steady rate and I have another batch arriving next week, we will have chicks galore hopefully.

The weather is warming up and the trees and shrubs are slowly beginning to burst into bud, nice to see greenery again after the grey months of Winter.

That is about as much as I can muster today, so have a great week everybody x

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Cold but Sunny this morning

I thought I would do a pictorial blog this week, I managed to photograph all but the cats who are nowhere to be seen, and the baby quail who hide every time you go near them.

We are still being woken in the early hours everyday by the dog barking at the fox, I hope it gives up soon as it’s very tiring!

The quail are laying a couple of eggs a day again and the little shed is beginning to have a bigger range of products for sale.

The hen that was attacked by the fox last week is doing ok, still not weight bearing on her leg but laying eggs so hopefully she will recover given time.

As you can see from the pics everyone loves a bit of sunshine including me, fingers crossed it stays all week as our middle daughter gets married on Friday :)

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In the paddock at 4am in my PJ’s!

Luckily there was no one around at 4am on Sunday morning otherwise they would have seen me in the front paddock in my pyjamas trying to round up chickens. The dog began barking and so I opened to the window to see what was occurring, plenty of squeal from my chickens……fox, I grabbed the torch, put my shoes on and ran out there. The fox had got in the pen, the battery was not only low but the earth wire had come off rendering it useless, he had tried to drag out one of the chickens from underneath the coop. We gathered up any hens that had got out and put them in the more secure big coop, put a new battery on and went back inside. I didn’t bother going back to bed however just in case he came back again, in the morning I could see which hen he had tried to get as she had a bald bleeding patch and was standing on one leg, I assume he had pulled it and it was hurting. I took her out of the run and fixed her up, put her in the back run where she promptly laid an egg. She is still looking a bit sorry for herself and I am unsure if she is going to recover, the shock can often kill them very easily.

The rest of the week has passed by without any drama I am glad to say. The weather has been great and we have been able to get on with plenty of outdoor jobs, the weeding of the large veg beds is almost complete with just one more to do, I have adopted a little and often approach and we are much further ahead this year than last so I do not feel under any pressure. We dug up all the remaining leeks to make way for this years veg and there are plenty of them and in good condition, not rotting in the ground kick last year. I will use a few of them to make batches of leek and potato soup for the freezer, but if anyone wants some just give me a shout. The broad beans, peas, garlic and carrots in the poly tunnel are coming along nicely they will be a welcome early harvest and the rhubarb is growing quickly so it won’t be long before we are eating home grown produce again.

Sunday was a most glorious day and the tractor actually started for a change so we got it out and dragged the paddocks that needed doing. We drag them to break up any lumps of mud, pull out any thatch and spread and muck that is still on the ground so that the grass grows a bit more evenly. We tried rolling but it is still a little soft and the tractor got stuck more than once and so we will wait until next weekend and try again. It is a fine balance because while most of the paddock is drying out fast, the poached areas near the gateways are still boggy and difficult to roll, but if you leave it too long it bakes hard and is too lumpy to roll, timing is key.

The eggs from the incubator hatched out on Friday, I currently have seven Norfolk Greys and three Light Sussex bantams, I have more eggs on the way, all bantams, Rhode Island Reds and Lemon Pekins, they will go in this week. This year is all about the birds, I have just ordered sixty point of lay hens on top of the sixty arriving in April, I have also ordered six day old geese and 12 day old meat birds, as well as the twelve day old ducks arriving soon, plenty of new birds to keep me busy on the farm in the next couple of months.

These are the newest arrivals in the brooder, I have just bought an extra large indoor rabbit cage for them to move into when they get big enough :)

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Decent weather at last!

Finally we have had a run of decent weather which makes life a lot easier and certainly a lot happier :)

I feel much more inclined to get on when the ground is dry and I am not trudging through mud, will still have some fairly wet areas especially where the horses have churned up the ground but it is drying up daily.

The vegetable garden has got some much needed attention this week, I have spent at least three days out there, weeding and tidying, I even cut the grass, it was a bit wet and sticky but now it has dried out it looks ok. I have planted the onion sets and the garlic, then covered it over with environmesh so that the birds don’t tug at the ends of the onions and pull them back out of the ground. Mum has been over this week and put weed barrier down on the birds, bees and beer bed, it got very weedy last year and was quite impossible to keep it tidy so this year we have decided to cover the ground and hopefully it will be less work. I have also been weeding and cutting back in the herb garden, that got a bit neglected last year and needed an overhaul, any herbs that could be divided have been potted up ready for selling. There are four sage bushes in there but they have never done very well, they obviously don’t like it there and so I have dug them up and potted them for the time being until they recover, I then need to find somewhere else for them to be planted, somewhere they will thrive.

One of the paddocks also had a bit of a makeover when I had a spare hour last week, they can get overlooked with so much else to do, but cutting back the hedge so that it does not interfere with the electric fence is just as important as well as fixing any broken fencing and picking up stray bits of rubbish, generally making sure it is fit for purpose which is to keep the horses in.

We have had a couple of nights of disturbed sleep this week for various reasons, the first was the dog yapping continuously, we went out but could not see anything untoward, in the morning I discovered that one of the ducks had got herself shut in the fruit cage and was there all night which is why the dog was creating a fuss. The second time was a bit louder, with excited barking and a new noise that I had not heard before, at 1.30 in the morning I went out to see what was going on. One of the dogs had a cockerel in his kennel, the other who is locked in was trying to dig through the wooden floor to get to the cockerel. There was no way I was going to be able to get the bird off of the dog so I went to the freezer and got the other one a bone to chew on hoping that would quieten them down, it did, eventually. It seems that the fox had opened the door to the run where the cockerel was as there were feathers everywhere in there, I can only make an educated guess at what happened next, the cockerel must have got out through the door ran round to the front on the farm, a trail of feathers shows which route he took, then hopped over the gate and into the waiting dogs jaws! Out of the frying pan into the fire :(

The Norfolk Grey eggs that I set in the incubator are due to hatch at the end of this week, I candled them and all of them are fertile so I am hoping for a high hatch rate, it was not the same for the bantam eggs only four out of six were fertile so less success there. They won’t be going outside for quite a while yet but I have been getting the pen that they will eventually go to ready, best to get it done sooner rather than later when it would be a last minute rush, I have been there before lol.

On a personal front we have exciting times coming up very quickly, at the end of this week my brother and his family will be flying in from Australia, and a week after that our middle daughter will be getting married, I have my fingers crossed for some weather like the weekend just gone. Trying to keep my nails clean and unchipped is proving to be a bit of a challenge particularly as I like to hand weed and I have tried different gloves but they all let the dirt through in the end. I shall have to have a manicure and take before and after photos as it is unlikely that my hands will look like that again for a very long time!

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Eventful week!

I have had a fairly packed week this week and certainly an eventful one. They say everything comes in threes and I think that is true to an extent.

The beginning of the week was a very productive one, I fixed the greenhouse back up so that it was useable again, no wind and rain blowing in any more, tidied up all the plastic pots so they are no longer flying all round the garden every time the wind blows. I also took the opportunity on a dry day to give the greenhouse a coat of wood preservative and put a few more slabs down around the outside, it’s looking good any ready for anything now. I potted up Lupin seedlings that I found while I was weeding and a couple of small Bay trees that were growing from the roots of my big Bay tree. Some Mushroom spawn that I ordered I have now put in a dark box full of rotted muck and finger crossed they will grow, I also potted up around 12 raspberry canes that Mum bought over and a loganberry. A visitor who came to get some muck for his garden is kindly going to bring me a Clematis later on in the year that he has potted up which will be some welcome colour and much appreciated. Those jobs were all in between the rainy days of course, when it’s nice like this morning it’s easy to get on, I love a frosty sunny morning, it lifts the soul, but the minute the rain comes I scuttle off back indoors, mainly because it’s cold with it and I don’t want to end up with the flu.

That was all at the beginning of the week, by Thursday our first of three struck, that was the phone call so say that the Landrover hand broken down. It was at the end of the day as our eldest daughter was driving home, luckily Hubby was not too far away and went to find her, it had to go into the garage to be fixed thankfully it does not look like it will be too expensive! The second and by far the worst was on the Friday evening, we knew the Rayburn and the flues needed cleaning and they were scheduled for the weekend. For some reason as we were getting ready to go and see our middle daughter for her birthday, Hubby decided to open her up to get her going a bit and then went for a shave, the next thing I saw was smoke billowing across the front yard. The chimney had caught fire and there was a lot of clinker in the flue box, normally when you shut it all down it dies down and goes out, but not this time. It took us a couple of hours to get the situation fully under control, Hubby was up on the roof with a wet towel over the flue but the enamel flue got so hot that it was glowing red in places and the twin wall flue got so hot that anything remotely flammable near it started to catch. Luckily we have a small kitchen extinguisher which I hate because it is quite ugly, but on this occasion I was glad it was there, it is the first time I have ever used one, I hope it’s the last. This one had powder in it and when I set it off the powder worked immediately but there was a layer of it all over the kitchen, then Hubby decided to be on the safe side he was smash a whole in the kitchen ceiling to make sure that nothing was in the ceiling cavity, the place looked like the aftermath of a disaster movie at the end of it. Eventually when we were sure it was all cold we went off to have a bit of birthday cake and a well earned cuppa. We were up early on the Saturday morning to start cleaning out all the flues and the fire box and of course the kitchen, typically it had been a cold night and so the sooner we did it the warmer we would be. The calendar is now marked once a month to clean out the flues even if they don’t need it doing!

As I am writing this it occurs to me that we have had more than three things actually as five of the Quail have died this week, probably my fault as I put them outside a bit too early I think. The most likely explanation is that they were too cold and huddled up together squashing the ones at the bottom, I have put an extra thick hay bed in for the remainder and so far they seem fine.

The last of the three that I originally thought about was the horse. Three of them went down to the field in the village on Saturday afternoon, this helps to keep our paddocks from getting too poached and gives them a change of scenery. Last night one of the horses appeared unwell, she had not eaten breakfast or dinner and was not interested in her hay, to make matters worse it was hammering down and she was laying down in the mud. Things always seem to happen at night when it is more difficult to asses a situation. She had to be bought back up to the yard which normally would not be a problem, but it was pitch black and raining heavily, walking back through the village is not too bad as it is lit but once outside the village and on the lane back home there are no lights. Torches in hand to warn traffic they walked her back without incident thankfully. Her temperature was up slightly and she has a bit of a snotty nose, so she is now in the warm and had some medication and seems to be a bit better this morning, certainly gobbling her food down anyway which is a good sign.

The weather forecasters say we can expect warmer weather at the end of the week, I do hope they are right, I have onion sets that need planting and it would be nice to be able to spend a couple of days in a row out on the garden to get everything up together. I have some little tete a tete daffodils that have now flowered and they make me smile whenever I walk past them, it’s great to see a splash of bright colour in amongst the rain and the mud, for me they hold the promise of what is to come.

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