Pancake day πŸ˜€

Happy pancake day, one of our milestone days here on the farm and probably our favourite! 

It’s a good job we have things to look forward too as the weather has been shocking to say the least, the constant rain had resulted in a lake in the paddocks, even the hay barn flooded which is only the second time since we have been here. On the upside the winds that came with it didn’t cause any damage apart from lots of twig debris all over the place. It’s a shame about the rain as the ground had begun to dry up beautifully, almost a pleasure to walk around in, ah well at least it should get drier, quicker from now on, fingers crossed. 

Hubby and eldest daughters partner spent Sunday working on the tractor, putting new engine mount brackets in place, we discovered that the old ones had sheared in half and at some point in its history had already been welded back together. Luckily we had the tractor in under cover so that made life easier for them, they were rewarded at the end of the day with roast beef and all the trimmings a good payment I reckon πŸ˜€ 

We bought new Quail and they have been readily laying and I have even had two goose eggs, hopefully more will follow. 

When you work on your own, self motivation is important, though hard, especially when the weather is crap! As I wrote in a previous blog I have been trying to get something useful done outside every day, however the weather put paid to that over the past few days, but I have managed to tidy and organise the greenhouse, get some more broad bean seeds in, no sign of them sprouting yet though. I have also set the seed potatoes out to chit and today I have lined and filled a super duper new strawberry trough that hubby built and planted the strawberry plants in it. It’s waist height so hopefully I don’t have to scrabble around on the ground picking the fruit, that’s the plan lol. I have also cleared an area of existing fencing in readiness for the new rabbit run to be built, they are still living in the chicken run at the moment and I don’t think the new arrival hens that we picked up at the weekend are too impressed with their room mates 😝

I let the ducks and the geese out to free range today, the horses are in for the third day running because it’s so wet so I thought it an ideal time for them to have a roam about and get some extra nutrition from worms and weeds! The geese are getting more aggressive as they often do this time of year, that’s why they are normally confined to their quarters as they tend to terrorise everything and everyone on the yard, eventually when mating gets serious they will even have a go at me so you have to keep your wits about you or end up with a nasty nip on the back of the leg, trying to make a fast getaway is even harder in the slippery mud!! 

The workload will begin to crank up from here on in as long as the weather permits so hopefully there will be more to write about as long as I can keep motivated and it’s surprising how the glimpse of sunshine can help. In the meantime enjoy your pancakes, lemon & sugar, or banana and choc spread, we even have salted caramel sauce this year, what’s your favourite? 

Have a great week πŸ˜‹

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Planning, ordering, making lists, I might even get some actual work done πŸ˜€

I kinda like this time of year, making lists, planning and ordering, it’s the calm before the storm in terms of workload.

The lists include things that didn’t get done last year and are transferred to this year in the hopes that they may get completed! Planning is nearly always undone by weather or circumstance, but it still needs to be done, and ordering of course is most women’s delight even if it is a combination of planks of wood and plants lol. 

Most of my seeds I ordered on Black Friday would you believe and got them half price (chuffed😁) but I also need to replace or replenish some plants, one of the blueberry bushes died and so needed replacing, in the end I ordered three to cover the whole season. The same  with the strawberries, they are four years old now and need replacing, so I ordered enough to cover the season instead of just the month of June, hopefully it won’t be a manic picking session every morning, I can take my time over a longer period. 

I ordered my seed potatoes and left it a bit late as the variety I wanted was sold out already! This year I decided to go for more earlies and less main crop as we harvested a large crop of late potatoes and I don’t think we are going to get through them all before the new season starts again. People tend to buy the new potatoes but not the older ones for storing so that’s the logic behind my thinking. I also ordered a couple of novelty items like black radish and endamme (soya) beans to see how they go. Although last years ‘trials’ were not so good, the cucamelon were a waste of time, the oca need a bit of getting used too as far as customers are concerned! 

I am going to have another go at sweet potato, the only time I have done them they didn’t amount to anything so a bit more research is in order and hopefully we will be more successful this year.

The planning isn’t just confined to the veg garden, I have been sourcing and ordering some new Quail which we will be picking up next weekend and I need some more laying ducks, I am on the case but the nearest I can find with what I want is in Bath, however a nice little trip out in the countryside would not be a bad thing. We intend to replace our laying flock of chickens but timming is key as we do not want to run out of eggs, although they are not laying very many at the minute anyway. The older ladies will be sold off very cheaply to make way for the younger, hopefully more prolific hens 😜

I am hopeful that the geese will lay this spring otherwise they will be heading for the freezer, I can’t keep feeding livestock that is not giving me any return, I have told them but whether they listened or not is another matter πŸ˜‹

The fluctuating weather takes a bit of keeping up with, downpours, wind, frozen ground, you never know what the next day will bring but it’s all heading towards spring so I am not complaining. I took some photos around the farm when it was frozen, it’s always quite beautiful on those days 

Our straw and hay supplier has run out of both already this year and so I have had to ring round to find another supply. That’s the first time in six years he has actually run out completely, some of his fields were too wet last year to harvest and so he had to plough it back in creating a bit of a shortfall. I realise how spoilt we are with him as he will deliver at short notice and now I have to be on top of things and plan ahead.

From this week onwards I have committed myself to trying to get something achieved in the veg garden everyday, so far, so good (I know it’s only Tuesday) but yesterday I cut back the herbs, and did the hoeing on that whole bed including the asparagus and rhubarb areas, and today I have hoed the bed next to it, counted up how many new boards I need to replace the rotten ones and planted some broad bean seeds to bring on and plant in the poly tunnel, I’m on a roll 😝

I have given Hubby the job of planning and building the outdoor rabbit enclosure for the five rabbits we have, at the minute they are in the chicken pen but we will need that soon for the new chooks. The rabbits won’t be making us money except for the odd litter we might sell but they are lovely to have around and you do need something just for enjoyment purposes, well that’s my excuse anyway! 

Have a fab week β˜”οΈβ„οΈπŸ’¦β˜€οΈ whatever the weather πŸ˜ƒ

   
    
   

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January, the month of planning.

Here is the blog I had already written up last week, the one that the ‘rant’ replaced, on the up side, it saved me a hour of time this week πŸ˜€

Happy New Year to you all, I hope you had a good one.

The beginning of the year nearly always brings planning to the fore, planning holidays, planning diets or abstentions and for me planning the veg garden in particular. The first thing on the list is always the rotation plan and I have completed that although I do find it gets tweaked a little as time goes on. Next on the list are jobs that need doing before any kind of planting can even begin, repairs being the main one, some boards around the beds have rotted and need replacing and although it’s a bit wet at the moment they can be ordered in readiness. Due to the amount of rain we have had (and it’s not finished yet) the most planning I need to do is in regards to the soil, the garden is on a slight slope and those two things combined will mean that leaching will have occurred for sure. Nutrients and minerals will have been washed away and need to be replaced, we have piles of manure and will be using plenty of that to increase the bulk and improve the soil properties but I think extra will be needed this year. With that in mind I have ordered the usual suspects, blood, fish and bone, a slow acting fertiliser, this will be used at the potting up or planting stage and sulphate of potash to encourage flowering especially around the strawberries, more flowers = more fruit, this will be lightly forked in so that it reaches the roots. Two others that I will be trying are mycorrhizal fungus and a totally new one on me, Rock Dust! The fungus has been around for a few years and has a symbiotic relationship with plants meaning that the fungus lives on the roots of the plants but far from being harmful it actually helps the roots by helping them to access nutrients from further afield than they normally would be able to reach. The rock dust is exactly that crushed rock containing plenty of minerals, there are stories of fantastic results and huge veg when using this product, I am not wanting competition sized carrots but I am hoping for good healthy plants πŸ˜ƒ

I have been able to get some planting under way, I have JalapeΓ±os and tomato seeds in a heated propagator on the side in the boot room and also basil and coriander on the window sill, so we are underway. I really ought to think about getting some veg sown in the poly tunnel as I left that fallow over winter, I thought the soil might be too wet but I had a look today and it seems fine so broad beans and early peas could go in and hopefully not get eaten by mice! 

Strangely the Quail have started to lay again already, this could be due to the unseasonably warm weather or the fact that I had to bring them indoors and the light is on in the morning and evening thus increasing the amount of light they are getting, I think the latter is more likely. With that fact in mind today I ran a cable across to the chicken house and put a light in there, I have drawn up a tally sheet to record the number of eggs we get and see if the light makes any difference, I am mindful that as the nights draw out the egg numbers would increase naturally as well but it will be interesting to find out if it works. Trivia: Did you know that when a hen is born she is born with all the eggs she will ever produce already inside her! 

Footnote: as yet the egg numbers have not changed in the last week at all πŸ˜”

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I’ve tried, I really have tried.Β 

You know what, this week I was gonna write an informative piece about the rain and the leaching in the soil and what I am planning to do to correct that, in fact I had it all typed up BUT I just can’t hold it in anymore, I have to moan. I have tried really hard not to do that this Winter, after all lots of people have far bigger mountains to climb and my mud is trivial, however, mud and rain and the chaos it causes  is my mountain! I am so pissed off trudging and slipping around in what can only be described as slurry, that’s animal shit on top of wet mud, I am trying, I really am, to face each day with a smile,  but inside I am thinking, when will all this be over. Every night I watch the weather forecast and pray for minus figures but no, just more rain is forecast, I know there are people far worse off with flooding but it doesn’t make the daily tasks any easier here, and right on cue as I write this, more rain is coming down, it’s exasperating. 

Some people have the good fortune to fall in shit and come up smelling of roses, I have never been one of those people, nope, I just stink of shit and look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards! I try, I really try, Christmas Day I got all dressed up to go out to dinner, to get to the car you have to open the gate, the wooden gate that has been rained on for weeks now, it’s covered in an inconspicuous green slime, at this point it is now all over my hands and I have no where to wipe it off, why did I bother? That’s why most times, I don’t bother, you will never see me all nicely dressed with a full face of makeup around the farm, more likely I am splattered in slurry from head to toe. 

I don’t just feel sorry for myself mind you, I feel sorry for the birds, well chickens in particular, it was all going so well up to the beginning of December, I had transferred them to nice grass, that is just a big slurry pit now, I do have the other half that is green but I am trying to save it for when the weather turns so that they at least have good pasture to move to.  I am having to use it to turn the horse out now and again but I can’t put him out for long as it is so soft under foot it would be wrecked in no time at all. The liveries have had to move to spring paddocks already because the horses keep losing shoes in the suction of the mud, that means that come spring none of the paddocks will be in a good state, it’s a sorry state of affairs to be sure. 

The Ducks of course love it, they don’t care how muddy they get wallowing around in it, the more it rains, the more they wallow, the muddier it gets, the geese don’t care either BUT I DO. It’s like trying to get up the stairs when you are three and a half sheets to the wind and some bastard has greased your shoes! I just hope there is a change of weather on the horizon, I don’t care which, frozen ground or warmer to dry up the ground but it really can’t come soon enough as far as I am concerned. In the mean time of course I will just keep on doing what I am doing, trudging, slipping, sliding and getting splattered, hanging on to side rails to try and get some traction and despairing each time I go out there. 

When I come in I spend my time planning for better times, and how to sort the leaching problem on the veg patch, that’s if there is any soil left after all this, fingers crossed we don’t have a wet Spring as well or we are doomed, doomed I tell you 😜

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He is here πŸ˜ƒ

I have a spare five minutes to sit and ‘blog’ πŸ˜ƒ I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year and all that it brings. Our Christmas present arrived on the Solstice, 22nd December, a totally gorgeous little grandson, Mum and Baby doing fine, we did think we would still be waiting but he decided to get here before the festivities, just! 

Daily chores still have to be done regardless of new arrivals or eating, drinking and making merry. We had Christmas dinner at our eldest daughters and the youngest daughter very kindly looked after the animals in the afternoon and evening so that we did not have to rush back, very much appreciated it was too. 

At this time of year we are pretty much ‘treading water’ so to speak, feeding, cleaning, feeding, cleaning, that goes for the animals inside as well as out πŸ˜‰ although I must say we have had some lovely sunny days that have prompted a bit of weeding and some general tidying up to be done. I would get excited and say that the daffodils are coming up nicely and that the primroses have flowered but I know that this is likely to be disasterous if we get a cold snap now, everything has been lulled into a false sense of security, even the pigeons are ‘at it’ 

We are expecting storm Frank over the next 48 hours, hopefully it will only mean some rain and and bit of wind for us, those further North are not so lucky and I can’t imagine what it must be like to be battered and flooded over and over again, bad enough in towns and cities but for small holdings and farms times will be difficult and hard work. 

I had an unexpected phone call from the owner of one of Mia’s puppies (Dave, that’s the puppy not the owner lol) to let me know he is doing well, they were a year old on the 14th December, it was lovely to hear from them and they are hoping to come and visit sometime in the new year so I will look forward to that although it may be chaos 😝

A Happy 2016 to you all, and I for one will delight in the nights drawing out again as we move into the New Year. 

πŸŽ„πŸΌπŸ‘Ά

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Cherry Valley Duck

We have been here six years last month and finally got round to do something we have put off all that time! The time had come to dispatch the duck with the bad foot, I had tried to help it recover but it was getting worse meaning that he was mostly flapping around on his belly which was very unfair on him. He was only just over a year old and a dual purpose Cherry Valley  duck and so I felt that it would be sacralige to just cull and dispose of him and so the intention was to eat him. In all the time we have been here we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat the ducks, they have very soulful eyes you know, we have raised and eaten many chickens but not the ducks lol.

We made a snap decision to do the deed and decided that as the necks are pretty strong, decapitation would be the best way, this is still legal although not ideal but as we don’t have a bolt gun then an axe it would have to be. To be honest it was not that bad and very quick as you can imagine, once we had got over it I went on to pluck it, hang it and eviserate it the next day, then it went in the oven that evening with garlic, celery, bay leaves and oranges,  it was delicious and I am glad we didn’t waste it. We probably will do ducks again but I am not in any hurry to rush out to the pen and round them up they will be delighted to know 😝

On a whim I decided to add six bunnies to our farm, we had already decided to get some next spring and build an outdoor area for them, but an opportunity to good to miss presented itself and within two hours they had arrived. Someone was looking to re home, a male, two unrelated females and three of their babies, plus two huge hutches, some may think I am mad to do that, I think I would be mad not to 😁 

I learnt two very important things this week related to farming in general, firstly last month saw the end of grandfather rights. For those that have never heard of these, it gave anyone born before 1964 the right to buy and use various chemical sprays without a certificate, Hubby just came into that category and secondly that rodencides will come under strict regulation next year, you will also need a certificate to buy and use those. How will this affect us? Well as we  only use chemicals as last resort, and only once in the last six years, the spraying probably won’t be a problem, besides our eldest daughters partner has the correct certificate if we need to call on him, but the rodenticide issue is a different matter. I have already noticed the increase in rat activity on the farm, as soon as winter arrives they tend to move closer to a food source and with chicken feeders around,  the obvious place to set up home are under the huts. Even a concreted floor does not stop them digging under and squating, waiting till dark and coming out to pick up any leftovers. Obviously good husbandry is the key but getting the amount of food right so that the chickens have enough to keep them full and not leave any is a tricky balance. A rat population can explode pretty quickly, at the moment it’s not a problem here but I need to keep putting bait down to prevent it getting out of hand. Sometimes I use bait boxes but you have to put them in the direct path the rats use otherwise they won’t go near them, usually I locate their exit hole and fill it with bait and then place a stone securely over it so that the chickens can’t get at the bait, you would be amazed at how much the rats will eat every day. So next year I don’t know how we will go about getting rid of them, paying a contractor to come in is not going to be cost effective on a place this small, we may have resort to sitting out at night and shooting them or getting a small dog for ‘ratting’  purposes! To be honest I haven’t fully looked into the rodenticide issue you may still be able to buy household strength poison but I will cross that bridge when we get to it. 

We are still waiting for the arrival of our Grandson, the due date is tomorrow, hopefully for our daughters sake I will have news on that front in next weeks blog, we also found out last week that our other grandchild due next April, will be a little girl, how lucky are we to be blessed with one of each 😘

  
  
Have a fab week πŸ­πŸ‡πŸ—

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Eggs, eggs, wherefore art thou?Β 

Good morning πŸ˜ƒ the sun is shinning beautifully this morning which is cheery although the downside is that I can see how much my windows need cleaning 😜 We have been luckier than our Northern neighbours with the weather and my heartfelt wishes go out to those who have lost livestock in the floods this week.

The strong winds have continued to dry up the ground which is very welcome and given me an entertaining moment one blustery morning when letting out the geese. Normally when I let them out they have a little run and stretch their wings and I don’t know who was more surprised me or the one of the geese when she suddenly became airbourne and went up about eight foot lol. 

The guniea fowl that arrived by them selves decided to leave by themselves just like that, I went out to feed one afternoon and they had gone, I did think I had heard them in the back field that day but it didn’t really register until I went out later and there was no sign of them. Something has killed two of the quail, something small enough to get through a 1/2 inch square wire so I am guessing stoat or weasel, luckily two others were hidden in the house and I have now moved them to a place of safety indoors. 

Hubby finished work early on Friday and so I took the opportunity to get the apple tree in the front drive pruned. It was last done two years ago and so needed about a third taken out, it was a bit windy and at times drizzly but we persevered. The result is not quite as I would have liked as far as shape is concerned but it’s quite difficult giving instruction to someone up a tree but it’s not bad. 

This week I have also got on with bottling the Christmas presents, sloe gin and rumtopf, the latter tastes amazing and I am glad there was enough left for us to drink at Christmas. I didn’t throw the sloes away, I have reused them in a whisky infusion for sloe whisky next year, I think I will do an apple brandy as well, a good duo I think. 

The egg situation has not picked up yet and the chooks are just about coming to the end of their moult now, I have mixed together all the powdered spices I ordered and they had their first batch last night which went down very well. They have aniseed, fenugreek, ginger and turmeric, I coat some wholewheat in oil then put a spoonful of powder in and that sticks to the oil. I hope egg numbers will improve soon as the amount of customers far outweighs the amount of eggs at the moment, already this morning five cars had driven up before 8.30! We have become very popular over the last year however I am reluctant to increase the number of birds as it would take us to the next level of regulations which would enevitably increase costs, besides it was never part of the plan to become an ‘egg station’. 

The photos are before and after, plus Hubby up the tree lol and the Christmas tipple bottles.    
    
   
Have a great week πŸ“ 🍏

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