Sold out! 

I am losing track of the blogs, I thought I had done one last week but it seems not so apologies for that.

I will start with today as that is the easy bit to remember, the job that took up most of my time this morning was searching for Bella, the little cat. She is quite a pesky little thing, always around your feet so it was noticeable this morning when she was nowhere to be seen, I fed Deisel, thinking she will appear in a minute, but even after finishing all the feeding she had still not turned up. I began by asking those who had bought a vehicle onto the yard to check that she hadn’t crawled in unnoticed, then I checked all the outbuildings, twice, I walked down the lane and along the hedgerows in case she had been squished. I came in and got the dog on a lead and walked the lane again to see if the dog could smell her anywhere, I went down to the next farm to see if anyone had seen her, nope not a thing. It is very unusual for her to go anywhere other than hang around the stable block so I decided to watch the CCTV to see if I could work out when she was last here. I could see that she was about until 9pm after that she does not appear again even when the dogs were let out for their last wee before bed, and there was no sign of her in the morning when the first livery arrived. By 12 noon, I had decided to give up looking and get on with the jobs I had planned for the day, after sending the last of many texts to the others discussing what could have happened to her, I went outside for one more look, lo and behold, there she is sat on top of the bale as if nothing had happened, huge sighs of relief all round, I am guessing that as she is now nearly 6 months old, this is the beginning of her wanderings and we will have more absences in the coming months.

The weather has now turned quite nicely and we are getting more sunshine than not, however we are lacking a bit of rain, I hate to say it but it’s true, the average rainfall is down for the month and the ground is rock solid! We started repairing and replacing fencing the weekend before last, the winter weather takes it’s toll on the wood and we last did it nearly four years ago, we were surprised however at how much some of the rails had rotted and quite a few posts just snapped off in the ground. Hubby keeps muttering that post ramming is a young mans job, I can’t argue with him there but we didn’t have any sons, all daughters and so all you are going to get from them is cake! Actually that’s not true, as you probably know they are pretty good at turning their hand to physical work and have been helping as and when they can.

The greenhouse is full to bursting with seedlings coming up, some have already been potted on, others are slower to develop, the samphire in particular, I should have know when the label said erratic viability! The onions and garlic that I planted are shooting up fast and the potatoes are just beginning to show greenery above ground. I have been thinking that I may have to water the garden tonight though as there is no sign of rain until the weekend. The first pickings of rhubarb have been put out and sold and on Sunday I picked the first of the cauliflowers that have been growing overwinter in the poly tunnel, we are going to have one with a homemade beef pie for tea tonight so that is something to look forward to.

The Quail are growing well and I have now bought them a food dish that they can’t kick the food out of, there was a huge amount of waste when they were able to get in the dish and scratch it all about. It won’t be long before I can tell if they are make or female and then they will be ready for selling. My bad luck bird story this year are the geese, it turns out that I have five ganders! Not a goose in sight, how did that happen, I am on the look out for females but it will be difficult this time of year as they are already either breeding or laying and so not up for sale :(

The laying flock is doing well and the egg numbers are still up, luckily the customer base has picked up as well and the turnover of eggs is healthy. The point of lay hens for sale have been flying out the door, not literally lol, but we have just SOLD OUT this morning, that was 55 birds in two and half weeks! The next lot don’t arrive until the beginning of May and I already have a list of people waiting. 

Enjoy the sunshine, they say it will be colder again next week, not too cold I hope and if we could just have a little bit of rain I will be very grateful ;) 

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Get cracking!

I will probably blog a bit more frequently from here on in, there is more to tell you and if I left it to fortnightly it would end up as an essay! 

On a warm(ish) day last week, I decided now was the time to get cracking with the seed sowing and planting. It was a lovely sunny morning and for a change no cold wind, so I set about busying myself in the greenhouse sowing seeds.

First in at this time of year go the squash seeds, butternut squash, courgettes and this year some patty pan which are nice a sweet according to the packet. The sweet corn have also been planted along with broad beans, all of the trays have been covered with a plastic lid, not just to increase the temperature but because last year I lost a few trays to mice. You soon realise you have mice after waiting patiently for a couple of weeks for the shoots to appear and still nothing, on further investigation you find no sign of the seeds! While I was on a roll I did a bit of hoeing and then planted up the garlic, onion and shallot bulbs.  Straight lines have never been my strong point they are a bit wonky but that does not really matter unless you are growing a prize winning plot, the lines just make it easier to hoe inbetween without hitting the crops and damaging them. I did think I would just be able to push the bulbs into the ground but the soil was harder than I expected and so I used the dibber to make holes to drop the bulbs into. The skill here is not to make the holes too deep because if it rains the holes will hold water and the bulbs will rot away, always a risk at this time of the year. The next thing I do is cover the area in environmesh, this does two things, firstly it stops the birds tugging at the tips of the bulbs and uprooting them, and secondly the moisture that accumulates overnight is enough to keep the bulbs going without watering them for a while, again because if I water them in and then it rains they may get waterlogged. 

Since I wrote the first bit we have at last been blessed with a couple of sunny days :) so I went all out, planted all the seed potatoes, rows of carrots, parsnip, beetroot and chicory. I also planted up the salad leaf box with spinach, watercress, lettuce leaves and spring onions as well as planting artichoke seeds, samphire and sugar snap peas, phew. Weeding as always played a bit part of the day and Hubby did a fine job on a couple of the beds, although I did have to convert him from hand weeding to hoeing otherwise it would not get finished before they started growing again. 

In the poly tunnel that have early veg I at last found the beginnings of a cauliflower, I was beginning to think I had only planted cabbages, the broad beans have flowers and the garlic is has good strong growth. We have reconnected the outside taps, I hope we have seen the last of any freezing weather or they will soon pop the pipes off and leak like they did at the end of the year when we forgot to disconnect them :(

I saw the first Bee today quickly followed by a butterfly, not literally following the bee though lol, we have plenty of daffodils brightening up the place now as well as a few other early spring flowering plants, it’s looking a whole lot better than the drabness of Winter. 

I was very pleased to find a supplier for Quail, normally I would hatch them out  myself but I am down to only four hens which cannot lay enough eggs to fill an incubator in the time that they would be viable. We set off on Saturday morning and came back with thirty tiny little chicks just a week old, they may be small but they can eat for England! 

Our push on the egg front, due to the incredible number they were laying, resulted in record takings over a two week period, in fact it was so successful that we actually sold out of eggs and then had to play catch up, it’s all or nothing. Nothing is exactly what we have had from the geese so far, zilch, not one single egg, so either they are all male, I am not convinced of this or, well in all honesty, I have no idea why they would not be laying but if they do not start soon they will end up being diner which would be a grea shame. 

The weather forecast is good for the next couple of days and so I will be spending the time outside, I have some wire netting to put around the fruit cage and some weed cover to go on one of the permanent beds as well as more weeding, then there is the herb garden to tackle, it has been left to get a bit overgrown so that will be quite a project to bring it back into line. It’s good to be able to finally get outside without shivering though so I will make the most of it before it gets too hot for me ;) 

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Thought of the day…….

I wish it would warm up just a little bit, I am fed up of wearing my winter coat outside now, we have had a couple of warm days but in general it’s still cold.

Here is a round up of some of the things I have been doing

Cut back the old foliage from the two golden hops, it twists and turns as it grows and was hard to get off the canes they were on. There is a good article on brewing your own beer using hops in one of the magazines this month, I must put it on my have a go list which seems to get longer and not much ticked off! 

Pruned the gooseberry bushes, the idea is to open out the middle so that they are easier to harvest, but either way a good thick pair of gloves is a must because the thorns are vicious. 

Gave the Japanese Honeysuckle a small trim, the berries from this plant can be eaten and they taste a bit like figs, but they are small and quite squishy when ripe so I usually leave them for the birds to enjoy

Ordered heavy duty ground cover for the hop bed, made a mistake last year of using a lightweight one then putting bark on top, the cover ripped all over the place because of the wind and the chickens and now it’s a mess! 

Ordered a new net to catch roaming chickens and clip their wings before I start planting otherwise I will be pulling my hair out. 

Finished off weeding the poly tunnel and sweeping the path

Assessing what exactly needs doing and trying to implement a plan to achieve this lol

Started weeding, and now that won’t stop until the end of the year, shall have to make a daily slot early in the morning to do this otherwise leaving it too long will result in a major job to complete. 

Round up loose chickens which I have now achieved, I built a temporary pen to house them in until the growing season is well under way, typically though, just where I wanted to put a post there was a large slab of stone I had to get the heavy duty machinery out to break it up before I could get the post in, then lo and behold the second place I needed a post was also stone, that was a hard days work. 

I spotted a sparrow hawk eating a pigeon in the duck pen, at first I thought he had got one of the ducks but luckily for me and unluckily for the pigeon it wasn’t. On the same morning a herd of about 20 fallow deer spent the morning grazing and resting in the next field, they were there for a good couple of hours, a beautiful sight to see.

The new, yet to be tested, fox proof run is finished, just in time for the delivery of hens tomorrow, I do hope they enjoy the des res with a scratching area, roosting bars, a perspex roof so they don’t get wet, I may move in there myself ;) 

We have made it to the vernal equinox, had an eclipse and seen a supermoon all on the same day last week, still not much warmer though :(  but on a brighter note there are splashes of bright yellow all around the place as the daffodils finally burst open, and the buds on the trees are emerging more and more each day, it won’t be long before England’s green and pleasant land returns.

The thought for the day occurred to me when I was asked ‘do I eat healthily’ I replied ‘yes’ but the more I gave it some thought the more I wondered, what is considered healthy? I said yes in an instant because, most of what we eat, we have grown ourselves, I also cook from scratch with ingredients I have to hand and although we do have some processed foods like biscuits or white bread on the whole we don’t eat much of it. I mulled over the question a few days later and reflected that the person questioning probably meant, do I live on salads, have no fats, eat only lean meat and fish deny myself sugar and caffeine, the answer is a categoric NO! I would still consider my diet to be healthy though, it’s not sprayed with any  pesticides, ( salad crops being the most highly sprayed crop of all)  fumigator, growth hormones or injected with antibiotic as routine, it’s a fresh as it possibly can be and cooked in conjunction with other fresh ingredients. What is a healthy diet, answers on a postcard please :) 

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Cracking weather this weekend :) 

Early Spring and the weather was an absolute treat, the farm was a hive of activity, jobs such as dragging one of the fields and the ménage ment the tractor was in operation which was great fun. My aim at this time of year is to tidy up the front of the property ready for Easter, I don’t know why but it’s a goal I set myself. Armed with a hoe, an edge cutter, wheelbarrow and shovel I started by cutting back the edges of the driveway grass to a nice straight edge, it always looks like you have achieved a lot if the edges have been done for some reason. The tiny Tete a tete daffodils are just beginning to burst open in the pots and the larger daffs will follow quickly I am sure. Everything has tiny buds that will transform within a couple of weeks and we will be sure that Spring has arrived, the birds are beginning to gather twigs for nesting and the geese are getting more aggressive so we are definitely on the way :) 

Hubby has been busy building a fox proof pen for the point of lay hens and we have found and met a new supplier for both hens and feed, the feed is a £1 a bag cheaper than we buy it now and although that does not sound like much when you think we use 3/4 bags a week the saving soon adds up.

I purposely went out to take lots of photos this morning and hopefully they will upload ok, there is not much of interest in them really but I thought it would give the reader a better idea of how things are looking at the moment.

I have been doing a bit of tidying and repairs in the garden, the fruit cage needs a little bit of fixing, in the first year we used net, which worked well, but with the ravages of the Winter winds it soon began to break down and so in the second year I fixed wire around the bottom half. This year the top half is being wired as well and I have done most of that this morning, until my hands got too cold that is, the top will just about last another year I think, at least the birds will not be able to get through the tiny holes at any rate. 

The photos are of Patch who is doing well and will be a good farm dog I think, he is already quite obedient long may it last!

The new fox proof pen that Hubby is in the middle of building

The chickens, both the totally free range ones and the free range but behind an electric fence ones

The veg garden and greenhouse in readiness

A view of the paddocks with the horses in the distance thankful for a bit of grass at this time of year

Mia, who as always is waiting for someone to throw the ball

The geese and the ducks

As you can see it’s all still a bit dreary but at least the ground has dried up quite a bit making it easier to walk about. To get the field work done at this time of year you have be aware of the state of the ground and seize the window of opportunity, too soon and it’s too wet and you make more mess, to late and because we are on clay, it quickly becomes rock hard, luckily this weekend it was just the right time to get some of it done. Some of the paddocks are still too wet, they are lower lying and hopefully we will be able to get the timing right for those over the next couple of weeks :) 













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THUD!

At last I have drawn up the crop rotation plan, I keep all the previous years so that I can determine what needs to go where, I follow a three year rotation and so need to look at the two years previous in order to plan this year. It is now pinned up in the greenhouse so that everyone is knows what is to be planted and where.

We had a good bit of weather at the beginning of the month and I was able to spend a couple of days outside, first job was to tidy the greenhouse, take down all the old plastic that was lining it and sweep away the cobwebs. I had ordered a smoke bomb to kill off any insects which I thought would be quicker than scrubbing it down but the smoke bomb was a bit fat fail. I attempted to light it three times, the third time I even set a little bonfire of cardboard under it but it still fizzled out to nothing so I gave up on that entirely. I had to do a bit of mending to the greenhouse as it really is on it’s last legs but to replace it would cost a good few thousand for its size and so I will keep cobbling it together until it falls down :)

I ordered a ton bag of seed compost which has now arrived and tidied up the pots so I am ready to go when the weather turns. I did contemplate putting some early seeds in, Aubergine being one of them, but I decided to wait as it will be better for them to catch up than struggle in the colder temperatures.

I cleared the first poly tunnel of old tomato and pepper plants, all the compost has gone into a bin ready to reuse on the garden at a later date, the seed potatoes are chatting nicely in the greenhouse and I managed to weed and tidy the second poly tunnel. There is still plenty growing in there, the radishes are nice and crisp and I couldn’t resist munching on a couple while I was working. The garlic is growing well in there as are the brassicas and a few broad bean plants and some sprouts, the best haul of the day were the weeds, a whole wheelbarrow full of chick weed which I took out to the chickens who were extremely grateful having had no fresh greenery for weeks now. They devoured that in an instant, it’s funny because chickweed is now being grown commercially as a speciality dish in restaurants, lucky chickens.

The outside areas of the veg plot are not even worth looking at for the time being, the ground is still very cold and this week particularly wet, it’s best to wait until the weather improves which I am hoping along with the rest of the country will be very soon.

Hubby has started work on the new improved hen run, this one is for the point of lay that we sell to the public, the ground will be concreted and the roof will be covered, that should make for easier cleaning and also mean that we can keep them in stock all year round not just in the warmer, drier months as we have done up to now. Having said that I just phoned the supplier this morning and they have not got much left to sell, I knew my order should have gone in earlier and now I will have to search around to see if I can find another supplier to supplement what I have been able to order otherwise we will have disappointed customers.

The chickens are still laying fabulously despite the rubbish weather, the ground is sodden and it’s like trying to walk on an ice rink sometimes, especially when the ground is deep frozen but the top has thawed a little. Yesterday I went down into the mud with a THUD, full on fall from upright, I knew I was going but I couldn’t get my feet placed correctly to stop myself, at that precise moment, I did think to myself, WTF am I doing trudging around in the mud every Winter! I am hoping that was the lowest point of the Winter months and we are on the up and up, at least there was no damage done just hurt pride and I swear I heard a chicken chuckle ;)

We have a fox that is causing problems, last night while I was fast asleep I heard a noise that woke me right under our window, I got up and opened the window but couldn’t see anything. On examination of the CCTV this morning I could see, the fox turn up, me hanging out of the window for a few minutes and I could also see foxy sat just out of my view, he continued to sit there for a good ten minutes after I closed it, hedging his bets as to wether it was worth another try or not. This morning I have set both traps, I will get him before he gets my birds hopefully.

I noticed the daffodils have pushed their way through quite a bit and I can see the flowers still tightly wrapped but ready to burst when the time is right. I have also noticed that the grass is trying it’s best to poke it’s head above the mud, birds are beginning to gather up twigs ready for nesting and the ducks and geese are beginning to get twitterpatted, that’s a term from Bambi (I think) all these signs mean that Spring is just around the corner, thank goodness for that, I don’t think I can wait much longer :)

This years crop rotation plan

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It may not entirely surprise you to know that we ended up with one of the puppies after all, so I will introduce you to the newest farm dog, Patch, as you can see from the photo, Mia is thrilled to bits to have someone share her bed with lol

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Hello February :)

February has finally arrived, the shortest month on the calender, but physcologically the longest month of the year! Why? because we get a glimpse of things to come when the Sun peeps through but its far too early to begin any preparations for sowing, there is always a chance that the weather will bite you on the backside if you get too keen. The Sun is shinning gloriously today as it was yesterday and you can feel Spring in the air but at the begining of the month the temperatures were low, we went down to around -9 at night here which resulted in a burst pipe in the tack room, water, water everywhere, luckily it had not been flowing for long, around ten minutes before someone noticed it.

I have ordered (and they have arrived) all my seeds ready for the moment I deem fit for planting, I have included some new (to me) items such as Samphire, Cucamelon, and Watercress, I am also contemplating Water Melon, those together with all the usual suspects will keep me busy during the early Spring. Also waiting patiently are the seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets, I did very well last year and still have onions and garlic to use up so I may end up having plenty of those to sell this coming season.

We have had some wildlife visitors, some welcome, some not so. I have been feeding the geese pellets because of the shortage of grass and the local population of pheasants have cottoned on to this, it started with five and at the last count there were sixteen. Obviously I cant afford to feed that lot so there are days when I dont feed the geese but let them out to free range the farm instead, this seems to stop the pheasants for a couple of days but they soon know when the menu is back up and running. The other visitor is the Fox, with my cctv I am able to playback and two  nights running seen the fox trying to get at the Quail, I was told last week that they had shot a couple over the back from me and for the past couple of nights there has been no sign of them so thats reassuring.

The puppies are now eight weeks and as I write this four of them have gone to thier new homes, we are just waiting for someone to look at the last one tomorrow and then they will all be gone. I have enjoyed looking after them, well mostly, last week they all had the runs and I didnt know if I was coming or going, I will miss thier cuteness but will be glad to get back to routine and so I suspect will Mia.

As for everything else, its pretty much the same as the last blog really, we are getting plenty of eggs from the hens, the ducks are being a bit lazy and I have customers waiting for duck eggs but you cant make them lay so they will just have to wait a while. Bella the kitten continues to settle in, well she is pretty much settled really, she knows the routine now and Diesel is allowing her to be in the same vicinity at last, she takes most things in her stride, nearly always hitching a lift on the back of the horse out to the paddock, I must try and get a photo of that to post for next time.

Indoors we have been busy decorating for the past few months and are very nearly at the end of that so Hubby will be back on outside duties which have suffered a bit, well you cant do everything at once can you, dont let him know I said that otherwise he will use it as an excuse to slow down!

So thats about it for this time, I will go back to planning the veg plot, think about ordering some compost, maybe even get the propagator out and get something on the go such are my itchy fingers, not too hasty though or it will backfire, sure as eggs are eggs!

 

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Winter Blues

Well Blue Monday came and went, to be honest I can’t see what is so depressing about it, at least we are on the right side of the year for a return of Spring :) We have plenty of signs that the circle of life is continuing, the bulbs are beginning to push their way through the frosty crust of earth, little tips of green peeping out are a good reminder that warmer days will come eventually. I have a shrub that we planted in the driveway last year, the name escapes me, but it has just started to flower, when I saw the little white blossom I literally broke out into a smile, the fragrance is strong too, which is why we decided to put it there, even if it’s not for long we should get wafts of perfume when walking by.

Today I spotted Fallow deer in the field behind us, about six of them in all, we tried to get a bit closer but their senses are sharp and we only got halfway across our paddock before their heads came up and they ran off, they will be back I am sure. We also have about five hen pheasants that have been coming for breakfast everyday in the goose paddock, they are eating the grain that the geese leave. It started off with just one and each day another would arrive and now it’s a party!

We have had a flutter of Snow, luckily it was only a layer, just enough to look pretty but not so much it causes a mess when it melts. On the morning of the snowfall it was still dark when I got up, I opened the door to look out and realised it was snowing, everything was totally still and quiet and you could nearly hear the shuffle of the snow when it hit the ground, it’s almost eerie.

I spent a morning doing a bit of baking, the result was a couple of fruit cakes, a lemon and lime drizzle cake, two bakewell puddings, a Brazil and cherry cake and a Victoria sandwhich, not a bad mornings work. My aim was to use up as much as I could from my baking cupboard, which I think I achieved. We are trying to make an effort to use up what we already have rather than buy something else, so as long as I have made cakes and puddings Hubby is not allowed to buy any when we go shopping. We are getting through some of the fruit and veg that was frozen last year, which is good because it won’t be long before we are picking again. The temptation to grab something quick off the shelf in the supermarket is great especially when you are busy and don’t have much time, but the reward of making and eating your own produce is much greater in my opinion and it tastes soo much better.

Hubby and my Stepdad have been busy concreting the feed room floor, up to that point all the feed bins were on pallets of various heights and sizes, some of the wood had broken and it was a bit of a hazard to say the least. Often the room would flood during heavy rainfall, but now we have a lovely level dry surface to walk on, a small thing but it makes all the difference to the start of the day if you can go about your business without twisting your ankle ;)

Bella, the kitten, fast becoming a small cat, has continued to settle in, and Diesel seems to be much more tolerant of her now, although he has not quite got to the stage where he will share milk with her, he does at least let her sit within a couple of feet of him and let her watch. Eventually they will become good friends and go off hunting together I am sure.

Mia’s puppies are growing super fast and all developing their own characters, they are five weeks old now and when I let them all out of the pen it’s pure carnage. They take up a fair bit of time through the day as Mia is only feeding them morning and before bed, the rest of the time, about three times a day, I let them out to eat hard feed, then there is a constant round of mopping up after them. As soon as I turn to clear up one lot another appears and they have now got to the age where, trying to grab the tissue as I clear up, is a great game. Then they need a little playtime, so they have carrots to chew on, cardboard tubes and empty plastic tubs to push around and a ball to figure out, who says you need fancy toys, after that comes the best bit, cuddle time, I am making the most of it while they are still here.

I made an attempt at looking through the seed catalogues last week, normally I am very keen to get my order in, that in turn makes me a bit too keen to get planting and inevitably the weather prevents this from happening so I end up disappointed, maybe I am learning finally not to be too hasty, or maybe I am just procrastinating, I haven’t made my mind up yet lol. Either way when I finally do get to start on the garden, I have ordered a fetching little number called a ‘facekini’ google it, that way you won’t be too afraid if you turn up a the farm and see me out in it, who knew something like that even existed, I am hoping it will mean I can spend longer outside in the sunshine, even if I frighten all the locals!

The CCTV is nearly operational, I say nearly because although I have managed to connect it all up to make sure it works, the only camera I have on is perched in the windowsill. I am still waiting for one or two things I need before locating them outside. I must say I am rather impressed with the quality of the picture both in the daytime and at night. It’s mostly for watching the wildlife around the farm, it will be interesting to see what is lurking, and if we manage to catch any two legged lurkers while we are at it then all the better :)

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