Forest gardening, Midsummer and a Harris Hawk

Monday 18th May: The weather looks set to be fair this week, no rain in sight which means lots of watering to be done! I’m pretty good this morning once I’ve taken something to help out so John did half the birds and I did the other half, we have 10 hatchlings in the final count, good strong chicks though so hopefully they will continue that way. Weeding and foraging for the rabbits goes hand in hand so I did some of that, there is plenty for them at this time of year. I made up a cutting compost mix as I have a few bits I want to try and strike, the mix is compost, sand and vermiculite and then the cuttings dipped in root gel and put on a lower shelf in a unheated propagator in the greenhouse out of direct sunlight, nothing to lose really so I will give them a go.

I sold 6 quail over the weekend 5 female and one male so the urgency to find them a proper place is not so bad now, my plan, I think, is to keep a male (and I have identified which one already) with a few females, that way I have two separate flocks and if I want to breed I can swap the males over for new bloodlines, the rest of the males I will probably let go and they can have a couple of days freedom before they become dinner for some other wildlife, it’s a dog eat dog world out there 😩 The POL sales also went crazy at the weekend, we haven’t sold any for a couple of weeks then all of a sudden 20 in one weekend!

Lots of pottering in the garden and a bit of planning for ‘forest gardening’ which I am going to have a go at, to be honest I already have bits of it in place I just didn’t realise there was an actual term for it! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening

Harvested some potatoes from the self setter box I have, it’s a large crate and I have now grown self setters in there for about 4 years in a row with no problems whatsoever ever, basically I harvest as I have today, leaving behind all the tiny potatoes and they grow again, I will probably get some more in time for Christmas and do the same all over again.

Picked a few strawberries and raspberries, not many but I plan to plant strawberries in with the forest garden as I have found that the best plants are always the ones that have self set, I’m beginning to think all this preening, pruning, row growing etc is a complete waste of time, I think I will let nature show me how it’s done 😀

I have noticed a fair bit of ‘June drop’ from the fruit trees, I just hope there is enough left at the end of the season to harvest, one of my plum branches has already snapped under the weight and the plums are pretty small at the minute. I have an apple tree in the paddock that is struggling, it’s been struggling ever since I put it in but this year it’s just not managing at all so I need to dig that up and move it, I think I will plant a sweet chestnut out there instead.

On my down time I am continuously learning, today it’s all about ‘swales’ as far as I can make out, it’s basically a ditch dug out on the contour or slope and piled up on the other side to create a water catchment that is ‘level’ this collects the rain and then filters it slowly or much more slowly at least in the downward direction meaning the plants in its pathway can utilise the water more efficiently. I am definitely going to give this a try, Swales can be large covering a whole field or they can be smaller such as in a veg plot setting, interesting and pretty obvious when you think about it, and obvious that our ‘natural’ Swales run in completely the wrong direction! I have also been reading other bits and pieces that seem obvious but I had never thought of it, I seem to be having my eyes opened just recently to a number of things, maybe I had closed my mind and was just bumbling through. I couldn’t really get my head around permaculture being anything more than lots of people trying to make money out of writing a book about it but I am beginning to see exactly what it’s all about and how to apply it, looking, learning and applying. Sure we are doing the basics, collecting rainwater etc but I am still having to stand and water everything which takes time, and I am missing out on useful water such as the duck pond when it’s emptied just gets tipped out, all those duck poo nutrients going to waste waahh what was I thinking 😜

Sowed a bed of carrot seeds where I had pulled the onions from.

I have spotted, pardon the pun, many, many ladybird larvae all over the garden, on a positive note this is fab for my garden however they are Harlequin larvae so not so good for the native ladybird ☹️ firstly, parasites that attack native ones don’t attack harlequins and secondly if the harlequins run out of food they will eat native ladybird eggs.

Had a dental appointment then dinner then out to cut the front paddock, it’s grown so much since we last did it which doesn’t seem that long ago, while John was on lawnmower duty I did a bit of watering then went to help him, typically it’s now spitting with rain 😝

Ordered a book called ‘Permaculture in a nutshell’ hopefully it will help me see what it is we need to be putting in place, meanwhile I am looking at things with new vision, I also ordered an Alder tree as apparently it fixes nitrogen and will be planting that out near the fruit trees in the paddock, and some horseradish, the last lot I bought as dried foot failed to appear although (I had forgotten) there is some on the side of the road just a bit up from us so I may go and dig a piece up from there as well.

Found a baby bird dead in the water butt, how it got there is a mystery as there is a lid on it, the only thing I can think is that it has fallen down the drainpipe?

Tuesday: Apart from John carrying two feed buckets to the front for me it was, me, myself, I, on morning duties today, I don’t mind telling you I was worn out after lol. Mum arrived fairly early to do some gardening 😀 yay many hands make light work as they say and I am always grateful for extra hands. She did some weeding up on the far end while I did some in the middle, then I potted up a thornless blackberry and some black currant seedlings that had grown in the brassica cage. I cut some broccoli, one for Mum and one for our dinner later.

At the moment I am collecting eggs from the Welsh Harlequin ducks that I separated off they will be the last batch of eggs to go in the incubator this year, I should be able to fit about 12 in there hopefully.

Some trees I ordered have arrived, not any old trees but ‘sacred’ trees, small leaved lime or linden, multiple uses including using the young leaves in salads, linden tea can be made for blood pressure and the bark can be used for rope making if I ever need it 😀 They are small at the moment but will reach a great height eventually, I will pot them up and bring them on keeping a close eye on them for a year, they can be used as coppice for fuel so there’s an option, I will probably use one in my ‘edible forest’ that is the veg garden.

The summer solstice is fast approaching, why does is come so quickly when winter drags on so long, anyhow I have found a recipe for honey cakes which are used as an offering for the ‘faeries’ on Midsummers eve, a pretty simple recipe and something I haven’t tried before so I will be giving them a go.

Wednesday: Ooops totally overdid it yesterday and by the evening I was not too good so a dose of painkillers and a good nights sleep was in order. This morning John kindly did the morning routine before going to work bless him, I showered and by 8.30 I had started to clean the kitchen which has been bugging me for a while. A deep clean, drawers, cupboards, walls etc so at this present time 12.30 I’m having a break and still have plenty to do in there.

I noticed a grasshopper on the wall by the breadbin, thought ah that’s sweet and took a photo,

I thought about putting it back outside but forgot, now I have to live with the consequences because on my, hoovering the tops of the walls round, I found a spider had wrapped said grasshopper up for lunch 😩 so I hoovered up that bastard too 🤪

Went on clean the living room and the bedroom, knackered now and shoulders are killing me ☹️ still it feels nice and clean everywhere, well not everywhere there is still the boot room and the office to de clutter and deweb but they can wait for another day.

After some more anti inflammatory pills and a rest some dinner it was back to work watering, picking etc and I made the honey cake, I use the term loosely and I won’t put the recipe on here because there are probably far better examples out there. Honey cake, well it has honey in it and it’s definitely cake, it also has a fair amount of coffee, I used decaf so we won’t be bouncing off the walls after eating it, it’s edible, pleasant enough but not what I would call honey cake really.

Today I picked a small tub of strawberries and raspberries, 4 heads of broccoli, some beetroot, a courgette, rainbow chard and some new potatoes, most of which I have put out for sale as we have already eaten. The dilemma is what to charge for naturally grown veg, I always check the supermarket prices but I feel that if I priced them like that they are grossly underpriced for what you are getting, something that actually tastes like its supposed to, been lovingly tended, had nothing sprayed on it whatsoever, the best veg you can get to be precise 😀

Thursday: Up in the middle of the night to eat and take anti inflammatory! The trouble is when I feel ok I get stuck into jobs then pay for it later on 😜 Anyhow, John did the morning routine then went off to get feed then take the van for a service, I had some paperwork to do so got on with that as much as I could because for some reason my iPad and printer are not talking to each other 🤪

In the afternoon I used the cardboard, that I had put on the floor in the greenhouse over winter, to cut and place round the squash plants that are growing outside, it’s a start to the mulching I need to get done. Mulch, mulch, mulch is my mantra of the week, we are in for a serious lack of rain and some very high temperatures which won’t do the plants any good at all so best start preparing now. John came home and was on in ‘half a job John’ mode, at this moment we have everything pulled out from under the kitchen sink as he is putting in an outside tap but that’s as far as he has got, then we have tools out in the orchard area where he has half fitted some angle irons at the top of the fencing with wire attached to it to stop the fox getting over, at one point I wondered where he had gone and he was up the garden weeding in goggles due to the high pollen count!!! “There is medication available you know” but you can’t help those who won’t help themselves can you 😩

Just been informed after asking what the plan is, that every time he goes to do a job he needs a tool that is in the van that has gone for a service, I get it now, I thought he was just being unproductive lol.

My bit of bedtime reading arrived yesterday ‘permaculture in a nutshell’ and today I have been making a plan to start the polyculture, permaculture, forest garden approach, I have a pear tree in the orchard that I will start with. I have chosen plants that I already have available:

Comfrey – Mulch/insect attractor

Lavender – attractor

Borage – attractor

Fennel – attractor

Rhubarb – mulch

Solomans seal

Strawberry – attractor/stabiliser

Thyme – soil stabiliser

Peas – nitrogen fixer

I still need to have fruit bushes which will probably be currant and roots which may be onion or wild garlic or chives but this is the basic outline of my ‘guild’ I will observe and see what does well and what fails, either way I will learn a fair bit I think.

I’ve just read a blog on a forest garden hedge so that will be another project to think about, ooo so much to do and so little time 😜 Inbetween that I fancied a snack so I made some raspberry fritters 😀 mashed banana, flour, cinnamon, mash and stir then add the raspberries then fry in coconut oil, rather delish with some creme fresh though they didn’t hold shape too well, still it all goes down the same way 😝

So I asked for an outside tap under the kitchen window and this happened!

Well I wouldn’t mind so much except that John is a time served plumber 😩 there was a LOT of swearing and a bit of a puddle and apparently the kitchen tap (which admittedly we had been having problems with) was f**ked this is why it has been leaking even though John fitted new washers a while back. On the up side I now have an outside tap to water the front plants with 😀

A bit later I asked John if it was connected to the hot, “nope, it’s just a cold tap and before you say anything, a hundred years ago they would have delighted with that fitted” so I said, “a hundred years ago they would have been delighted with rabbit for dinner “ guess what’s on the menu tomorrow 🤪

Mowed the grass and used the mowings for mulches on various plants that are in danger of drying out too quickly when this hot weather hits us.

Friday: By mutual agreement I have decided to take it a bit easier today, I find that I am suffering a lot once I stop in late evening and then the joints seize up over night. Having said that there are a couple of jobs I want to get done, the first is my second ‘guild’ an Apple tree this time. It was growing out in the paddock but it has never been happy there so I dug it up and pruned it back, put in in water to soak for a couple of days and planted it elsewhere this morning. So far I have planted comfrey, strawberries and black currant round it, there is a pumpkin growing close by and some Welsh onions, I need a few other things in there, I will probably try coriander as a quick growing herb and some broad beans for fixing nitrogen. I have some b bean plants that I cut back after they had finished, they are in a pot so will transplant easily.

As I look at things with new vision so much of ‘traditional’ gardening seems pretty foolhardy now, most attributed to the victorians who liked neat and tidy rows but then they had plenty of man power in the kitchen garden which I definitely don’t have here. One of the practices I will definitely adopt is the ‘chop and drop’ I mean unless you want compost to plant into then why on earth spend all that time taking it all to the compost heap, turning it and hauling it back again, chop it, leave it where it is and let nature do the work for you seems obvious now, unless of course there is disease but even then burn it and use the ash on the garden. I am rather liking this new outlook, how can I save time and work but still reap the benefits. Another thing I have taken more notice of is how/where plants grow, one instance is a rogue strawberry plant that had escaped out of the fruit cage and is growing in the path, it’s not watered or fed or tended in any way and yet it is in much better health than the cosseted ones inside the cage? Another observation is of 5 sweet potato plants, 4 of them struggling 1 which is under the tomato plants is romping away, again the 4 had greenfly which I wiped off but the other one didn’t have any, that information will be consigned to memory for future years.

Today I picked raspberries and strawberries, in previous years we had an abundance but I dug three rows of raspberries up last year as they were getting out of control in terms of I didn’t have time to tend or even pick them properly and the strawberries had got in the same kind of muddle so we cleared them, sadly this year I don’t have very many so there won’t be jam!

Saturday: Up early to take painkillers again so that I can get up at the usual time and be able to do some work! I did the morning rounds with John then onto a bit of watering in the shady areas, then I put up a temporary fence in the orchard to let the Welsh harlequins have more room but not get on the veg garden or they will eat the courgettes 😜 Then I planted a lime tree in the duck pen and put some protection round it, we were going to change the duck pen and move it but actually all it needs is some greenery in the form of trees and bushes and preferably ones with berries that will feed them too such as elderberry and currant, they will provide shade, shelter and forage. Then onto foraging for the rabbits, willow, hazel, lemon balm, plenty of plantain, dandelions, clover, thistle and birds foot trefoil and grass. It’s getting quite warm out there now after a cool start.

Charlie is making smoothies with the few berries I have collected 😀 there looks like there will be plenty of black currants and gooseberry and hopefully I will get some jam made with those although John is not particularly keen on those flavours as that’s all there will be he may actually try them 😝

I watched a red legged partridge, that had somehow managed to get in the front paddock with all the birds, frantically running round trying to find a way back out while being chased by all and sundry, it must have eventually got out as peace was resumed pretty quickly. We get a pair visit the farm every year, I presume they are the same pair and it’s always the same time of year.

Picked some gooseberries (I know they are ready because each time I go up there the blackbirds are ferreting about underneath them) topped and tailed them and made some jam with a bit of elderflower cordial in for good measure. I went slightly wrong, don’t know what I was thinking when I put the sugar in at the same time as the gooseberries 😜 no harm done really it just meant I needed to cook them slowly to begin with then on to a boil. While I was waiting I put the contents of the under the sink cupboard back after John advised me to leave it all out and check for any leaks after fitting the new kitchen tap, we now have a proper mixer tap back. I always sterilise my jam jars in the oven, it’s just how I prefer to do it, I know it can be done in the microwave or with sterilising fluid but that’s my preferred method, wash with hot soapy water, rinse and then with the oven set at around 120/30c they can stay in there until the jam is ready to jar up, I use a thermometer rather than a plate from the freezer, mainly because I can’t be bothered to keep going backwards and forwards to the freezer which is out the back! I was surprised how quickly the temperature went up to setting point so I’m hoping it does actually set. It was only after I made the jam I remembered I had bought a proper jam pan last year, I had to search for it but I will definitely use that next time so as not to burn it which can happen in a thinner saucepan. I had enough strawberries and raspberries to make a couple of jars of mixed jam so that’s what I did, in the proper pan this time. This jam had quite a lot of foam, you can remove it with a spoon just before putting it a jar, you can use a tiny amount of butter or oil when you cook the jam or you can do what I do and leave it. It is said that it can shorten the life of the jam but as two jars will probably not even last a month in this house then I don’t worry too much, I prefer to take it off when I open a jar. If you take it off you can heat it in the microwave and it will make a bit of extra jam ready for instant use, the foam is just jam bubbles so nothing terrible. Obviously if you are wanting to give your jam as a present/gift I would recommend scooping it off, if it’s for home use then don’t worry unless you really want to.

I made a pineapple, turmeric and ginger blitz in the nutrition bullet tonight, I need to try and get this inflammation down and I’d rather try and do it naturally rather than continuous pills.

The sunset tonight was magnificent, Charlie took some photos 😀

Sunday: I’m not in very good shape this morning, I will have to relent and call the doctor tomorrow and see what can be done. John did the morning stuff while I hobbled around, had a shower got dressed etc then I did manage to go outside and pick a few raspberries and do a bit of watering of stuff in the shade. Then I heard a peculiar noise 3 times so I was about to go and investigate when I heard somebody shouting hello across the hedge. It turns out a chap who was hawking at the farm over the back from us had lost his Harris hawk, so that’s the noise I could hear. We eventually located it in the top of one of our conifers and he called it down with a tit bit to entice it, her name was Missie and she was a beautiful bird. I invited the chap to feel free to catch rabbits with her here and I hope that he will take us up on the offer at some point as we are getting over run with them.

Didn’t do much for the rest of the day except watering in the evening, John cleaned out the front birds and we had to move a duck that the geese have regularly been picking on for some unknown reason ☹️

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Elderflower, more hatchlings and greenhouse planning.

Monday 11th June: An idyllic day, those are my thoughts of today, of course I haven’t done much again his morning so I can take the time to just enjoy what’s around me, sunshine, birdsong, gentle breeze, totally idyllic, I need to take more time to appreciate it in future I think. It is in fact a perfect morning for collecting elderflower heads, the sun has warmed them and the heady smell is wonderful, it’s something gentle I can do as the tree i use is just out the front, I picked 25 heads, added a couple of slices of lemon and lime and poured on boiling water, it will steep for 24hrs then I will decide what to make with it, cordial, syrup, jelly who knows? It is such an underrated, bountiful tree because of course later on in the year you get those glorious vitamin packed berries as well.

The Epsom salts arrived so I will be using them later providing my joints will co operate.

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

Tuesday: I pretty much didn’t do anything other than make some bread and the dinner today. Getting better slowly.

Wednesday: Same again today, I haven’t done much in the way of the farm/garden.

I did however notice something on the dog, Mia, Charlie bathed her on Sunday and said she had a sore, today I noticed another and my suspicions were aroused, mange from a mangey fox, Mia is the only dog who loves to roll in fox poo and seeing as they don’t go off the farm that’s the only way she could have caught it. She is off to the vet tomorrow for confirmation and decontamination will begin!

Mum called in today and bought the aubergine plants I had given her to nurture, they were started at the same time as my others which are in the tunnel but they are three times bigger and flowering! What am I doing wrong I keep asking myself?

Thursday: Feeling capable again today although John still did the morning routine. I got up showered took painkillers and set about a few tasks that needed doing, water the poly tunnels, we have misty drizzle today so outside will be fine. While I was out there I pulled the onions and garlic that are ready and will need a week or so to ‘cure’ there are still onions growing that I planted later so I have left those in. Then empty the brooder unit that the goslings were in as I am expecting a hatch of light Sussex this weekend, onto burning the card/paper rubbish that was piling up. Before all that I had put a wash load on but the red light was telling me that the filter was blocked so I had to drain off the water and empty that, I found two Kirby grips, a piece of wood and a small plastic bag! Time for coffee and a sit down I don’t want to over do it, though I know I’m feeling better as I keep thinking of all the jobs that need doing, I’m not muscly by any means but have noticed some muscle loss especially in my arms from not doing anything all week 😝 I also found some mesh and made a leaf guard for the new bit of guttering John put up over the rabbit run, best to keep as much rubbish out as possible.

The drizzle turned to very windy, great for drying the washing, not so good for plants 😜 normally I would fret about the runner beans being wind ravaged after they had only just been planted out but these were sown straight into the ground and are good strong plants with strong roots hopefully, so I’m not too worried.

In the afternoon Sam came over and we sorted out the dog area and fed the birds before taking Mia to the vets, I ordered some antibacterial shampoo which had arrived by the time we got back which was useful. Mia is on antibiotics as there is a bit of infection on one of the areas, we bathed her, put the spot on for the mites (it kills about a hundred other things too!) then on went the buster collar 😩 and I fed her the antibiotics, Patch and Alfie had a wash and the spot on as well, though they show no signs of having anything, better to be thorough. By this time my feet and ankles were killing and I had a lay down, John made dinner, well eggs on toast, popped to the shop to get some wet food so Mia will take the tablets, quick cuppa at my sisters and the day is done.

Oh, we had a lovely note in the egg money box today, some visitors from Singapore that were staying up the lane wrote to tell us that they had never had farm fresh eggs before and that the absolutely loved them and the children had adored seeing the birds in the front paddock, positive feedback, lovely.

Friday: Up early, painkillers, then a bit of early morning gardening 😀 John did the birds at the front early and I did the others a bit later on.

I did a bit of tidying up, planted some flowers, repotted some bits, picked the rest of the peas in the tunnel and then pulled up the plants, I have sweet potato growing there now, emptied out a large pot that had broken and was full of bulbs, all kinds of little jobs that needed doing. An hours sit down and I’m good to go again 😀

Slightly concerned about Molly the cat, I haven’t seen her for a couple of days, normally she is hanging around the garden, she does go off sometimes but the older she gets the less likely she is to come back and she is around 13/14 years old.

The light Sussex are starting to hatch, at the moment there is just one, I hope I get a few more than that!

Saturday: 10 little fluffy chicks in total, not great from 24 eggs but not too bad all in all. After morning jobs I did a bit of pottering again in the garden, I can’t actually get my teeth stuck into any great jobs as I still can’t bend at the knee terribly well but getting there slowly. Mostly pulling weeds which the rabbits were very grateful for as they have been on pellets all week with John feeding them, well I can’t really ask him to spend half an hour foraging for them on top of everything else he was doing can I 🤣 John did a bit of digging up docks in the big side paddock and then did a bit of weeding in the garden to help out. In the afternoon we went to look at greenhouses 😀 I decided I definitely need to get a new one, have decided which one I want and went to have a look at one that is up just to make sure. All we have to do is put a base down and they will come and install it, so watch this space 😀

Sunday: Father’s Day and we are off out for lunch later on, in the meantime we did a little bit of goodness knows what because I can’t remember but one of the things was make a planter out of an old pallet, I wanted it for lavenders in the front which is an idea I had right from when we first came but couldn’t do it because Kai would have just trodden all over it. Now I’m not so sure that’s what I want or need so I need to rethink what it is I want to achieve 😝 better do it soon as the lavender plants arrived yesterday!

Put the onions and garlic in the greenhouse to cure for a week or so before storing.

This week I have managed to pick broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, broccoli and cauliflower for our meals, I haven’t had much to put out for sale as yet but I’m sure there will be plenty soon.

Edibles at last, another birthday & a successful adoption.

Monday 4th June: Rain first thing, I watered last night so that seems a waste of time but you never know how things are going to go! John is back as his proper job this week so I am on my own doing the feeding etc this morning. When I finished that it was onto the veg garden and I did a bit of weeding before doing some picking, there is not much in the way of offerings at the moment but I did pick some broad beans, peas, asparagus, rhubarb, rainbow chard and 5 baby cauliflower. This all bodes well as I got a piece of gammon from the freezer last night so for dinner with it we are having cauliflower cheese, peas and broad beans, the other veg was put out for sale and gone within half an hour. The broad beans I have gone to the extra length of skinning them as well, not sure that’s the right term, so they are taken out of the pod first then the whiteish skin on each bean is also taken off and you are left with a bright green bean, worth it so I am told, I will let you know.

Sam and Mia came over and they cleaned out the rabbits while I got on with some more hoeing, it’s a constant activity with all this sunshine then rain, I did joke to John that I should maybe sell fat hen, chickweed and dandelion leaves as bagged salad, all are perfectly edible, his face said what most customers would say I think 🤪 There are plenty of people out there who regularly eat this kind of thing and some who exclusively eat ‘weeds’ and forage but I’m not sure we are ready for that just yet although most veg as we know it are just hybrid weeds 😝

On a positive note the garlic have formed beautiful large heads and the onions are doing very well, normally with all that rain they would start to rot but in the raised beds this year they are sitting pretty.

Tuesday: A pleasant enough day today, overcast, average spring temps so a good day to get stuff done. The morning routine went as per usual then onto the garden, I spent a good couple of hours in the big poly tunnel tying up tomatoes, beans, weeding etc, then Mum popped in for a coffee and I had a chat with her about a couple of problems in the garden, I have ordered some Epsom salts to try and combat some of the issues. Then onto hoeing in the fruit cage, it’s like a jungle in there, then Sam and Mia, Shelley, Josh and Flo arrived and made lunch, after they left I did the egg collection and afternoon feed, then a bit of hoovering and tidying and the day is done, well sort of as after dinner I did some more hoeing and sexed the goslings, I think they are both female, happy days 😀

At some point in the day I candled the eggs in the incubator, I removed nine that were not fertile, fingers crossed that the rest all hatch, I think there are 15 left in there.

Wednesday: A warmer day with sunshine from early on, I did the morning stuff then a bit of watering in the small tunnel then onto hoeing the pathways. Yesterday my muscles in my legs and arms were playing up but I took some paracetamol and all was well until later in the evening. This morning I took paracetamol a bit later and then did the hoeing but found I couldn’t manage much more than two pathways, always listening to what my body is trying to tell me, I gave it up and went and had a sit down instead, no point trying to do something I can’t and if I rest it should help.

I put the baby goslings out for an hour in a run on the lawn, I don’t think they quite knew what to make of it, I need to figure out what I am going to put them in as they are getting too big for the brooder unit.

Thursday: June 7th Johns Birthday 🎂 Overcast this morning but good temperatures. I did the morning routine, then picked some forage for the rabbits and a bit of watering, I looked over the garden to see what is coming in, tiny little courgettes forming, globe artichoke, heads of broccoli beginning to form so not too bad. I smile when I go past the onions and garlic as they are doing fabulously in the raised beds, we have been given some big pieces of timber that will be ideal to raise up more of the beds and we really need to put a lot of effort into soil structure come autumn. I have decided that polyculture is definitely the way forward for me, mixing up the veg with fruit trees/bushes and flowers, for the main part anyway, I will still need to heavily cover the brassicas.

Friday: You can probably tell by the lack of any thing written that I haven’t done much these past few days, that’s because of my joints/muscles, I don’t know what is wrong with them but they are not working properly. It could be the Lupus or it could be the virus John had at the beginning of the month, either way it’s has steadily got worse until this morning John had to do the animals as I couldn’t bear weight at all on my legs, plenty of painkillers and a bath hasn’t made much difference but I can at least walk again albeit slowly, I certainly cannot bend my knees though and it’s not just my legs affected one side of my jaw is stiff, some fingers and the palms of my hands, very random! I have to keep moving though otherwise it’s worse so some slow pottering is the order of the day. It gives me time to think about things and one of those is the goslings, looking back over the blog posts I realise the eggs can’t be much good the goose has been sat for too long now so tonight all being well I will try swapping the live goslings in and take the eggs out, who knows how this will go, I can only try and it will be the best option for all of them.

8pm and operation swap goslings for eggs gets under way, first John went out with some corn to entice the goose off her nest while I put the goslings in a bucket and covered them with a towel so they stayed silent. Corn thrown, off goosey gets, in I nip and unload the goslings into the nest and cover them with nest debris, remove the eggs, they start chirping and John shouts ‘she’s coming’ get out quick as the whole family is coming, lots of noise going on in there but they are not attacking so that’s a good sign. I watched for a few minutes before deciding to shutting them in once everything quietens down. I will have a look later and see how it’s going. I break open the eggs against a tree, oh my god what a stink with half grown embryos, they were never going to hatch so the right decision was made as long as all goes well.

Saturday: Still having trouble with my muscles/joints meaning I’m fairly incapacitated first thing in the morning, I got up at 6am to take painkillers and went back to bed to let them work then got up at 7am. John did the animals this morning before going off to get some dog food, a tap for the water butt and to do his Mum.

I am delighted to tell you that the adoption of the baby geese is going really well and today they are all out grazing happily together, I will definitely be doing that again next year, more successful all round.

Once the continuous painkillers were in action I managed to get some jobs done, it’s better to keep moving, once I stop it all seizes up again. I did a bit of weeding and gave that to the rabbits then planted up the rest of the tomato plants I had in the greenhouse, they are excess plants but I figured I may as well plant them out and might even get a crop from them before they get blight. I picked a bunch of asparagus, some strawberries, peas and some rainbow chard, watered the carrot seedlings and that was about it for the morning. John cleaned out the goose hut now everything is going well, then connected up a water butt to the guttering he put up on the rabbit run so there should always be water available for them now providing it rains occasionally that is lol.

Struggled a lot today, do a bit, sit down, do a bit, lay down, do a bit, sit down again, pants I hope this moves on quickly! Just finished watering the garden when it started to rain, I did check the forecast first and it was something like 5% chance 😝oh well.

Chickens are the most annoying things, John put a whole bale of straw in when he cleaned out the goose hut, tonight it’s all across the bloody paddock, scratched out by the hens!

Sunday: Still rather incapacitated so John has done all the jobs again while I lie around and take painkillers 😩 After the usual stuff and going to sort his Mum out he came back and turned my compost heap with the tractor, there is some great looking stuff in there and I want to be able to use it on the beds this autumn so it needs regular turning. Charlie is cooking a roast later so that leaves me free to sit around and not do much lol, eventually I got bored of that and suggested a trip to the garden centre which John readily agreed to as it means he can get out of working in the heat. I wanted to get some flowering plants of various descriptions, in the end the haul included the most amazing smelling rose and a patio grape with tons of fruit already forming on it, some plants came from the casualty dept and I have split and planted some of them and taken cuttings as well.

Hopefully I will start to feel better very soon as I have jobs I want to get on with 🤪

Video

The humble pea, the mother of all storms and a Cotswold rally.

Tuesday 29th May: We arrived back after a couple of days away in Wales, it was scorching down there and pretty muggy much like the rest of the country and overcast here when we arrived back but still muggy. Everything is still alive thank goodness, the farm has been well taken care of and even the grass has been cut 😀 huge thanks to Charlie and Macca and Sam for holding the fort x x

This morning at breakfast we met a couple who were in Wales looking for a smallholding to buy so as you can imagine we had a very interesting conversation with them and wish them well with their search, I know they were going to have a look at the blog so if you are reading this do keep us updated we would love to know when you find somewhere and next time you visit the Wildlife Park do call in for a cuppa and a look round 😀

John went off to visit his Mum and I did the afternoon feeding and egg collecting, everything is tip top order 😀 I noticed that the asparagus has shot up so I cut that, it’s pretty much going over now just the last few bunches left to be cut, had a look round the garden, everything has grown a good bit, the runner beans are curling up the poles, I pinched one or two strawberries that have ripened, then the rain came 😐

John came back and we had a cuppa and some gluten free coconut and pistachio cake that Charlie had made and with the rain still tipping down that will pretty much be it outside until shutting up time so I had better make a loaf of bread 😜

Bloody unbelievable, all the time we were away there was no trouble with the fox, the minute we get back there it is bold as brass running across the front paddock after the ducks at 8.30pm luckily John was out the back and heard a commotion so it was action stations. We managed to get all the birds locked away and we will run the electric fence all the way around the paddock tomorrow and connect to the mains. We also need to sort the duck pen, all this rain and it looks like a mud pit shame as it had dried out nicely with all the sunshine we had.

Wednesday: John was up early and did the animals this morning, felt something furry in the cat biscuits, tipped it over out ran a mouse and the cat had two breakfasts 😜 I did the goslings, quail chicks and then foraged for the rabbits as well as giving them the last of the stored cooking apples, they had comfrey, some thistle, weeds, mint and lemon balm.

Then as John had to go out to do a small job I thought it was a good time to have a go at making ricotta, while I was down at Dads he was asking how you make cheese so we found a simple method for him to try and I thought I am going to give it a go as well. I used whole milk and white vinegar, basically heat the milk up to 190f and then add white vinegar until it splits, strain it through muslin or a clean tea towel and leave it to keep straining for a couple of hours. That’s all there is to it, I added salt and powdered garlic but you can add whatever you fancy, nuts, herbs etc. I needed something to eat it on so I made some very basic crackers to which I added chives, I actually cut the chives to add to the cheese but forgot so put it in the cracker mix. There is a fair amount of whey comes off the cheese and I need to find something to use it in but I did use it in the cracker recipe instead of water which worked fine, if you had a sweet whey you could use it in smoothies etc but this is an acid whey as I have used vinegar (it doesn’t taste vinegary) so not ideal for that but any savoury recipe that calls for water you could substitute with the whey. I had a cheese mould from the cheese making course I went on so have used that to hold the cheese ball in but suspended above a dish/bowl in the cloth is all that is needed really. When I tested the crackers they are fab, crunchy but not too crunchy and will be great with the cream cheese on, I made the mistake of adding salt to the cracker recipe when I had already added salt to the milk to make the cheese (and then used the whey) so if there was one criticism I would say they have a tad too much salt in but not overly salty. The cheese was tasty but could do with more flavouring next time. There was still a large volume of whey left so I began searching for uses, I came across a Norwegian whey cheese that requires boiling the whey for several hours until it caramelises. It took about 1 and a half hours to reduce to a thick fudge like substance at which point I took it off the stove, I tasted it, not impressed, I will cool it and wait until tomorrow to see if it tastes any better, if not it was worth a try at least.

John came back and started moving the electric netting into the paddock we have four runs of 50 metres so we have used the whole lot and connected it to the mains electric, I went out to help him, it was raining and by the end the rain was actually running down my forehead and into my eyes………..come on foxy, I dare you 🤪

While I was out there the goose got off her nest for a while and I took a quick peek, one of the eggs had bust and was foul smelling, I’m unsure if the others are viable and I think it’s going over the time they should have hatched. I am going to candle the other eggs when I get a chance and if they are no good I may try to sneak in the incubated goslings, I have no idea how this will go and could be a disaster in which case we will end up with no goslings at all if she attacks them but I’m hoping that, if this is necessary, her mothering instincts will be strong enough for success, better for all of them.

My Mum made some calendula cream, it’s a beautiful rich yellow/orange colour and she bought a jar round for me, its for dry skin and can be used on hands and feet, it definitely made the back of my hands very soft, I will try it on my feet later 😀

I picked some rhubarb this morning, some for sale and some to stew with plums from the freezer and maple syrup to make a crumble for pudding, I had put the slow cooker on first thing with braising steak but someone (I can’t work out who) turned it off and unplugged it 😝 I didn’t realised till mid afternoon so then had to put it on the higher setting, luckily John has some things to do and will probably be late back.

There are lots of smaller versions of the garden birds about so I’m guessing they are fledglings, tiny blue tits and sparrows all making plenty of noise out there today.

Thursday: After the almost continuous rain since we got back, today seems like a better day all together, the ground is so wet underfoot that we must have had an awful lot of the wet stuff! John has some jobs to do today but did the birds beforehand, I did the goslings, quail and rabbits, then it was into the garden to see what needs doing, quite a lot 😝 I planted the next lot of mini corn outside, some tomato plants randomly, some runner beans again randomly in a spare bit of ground, I may as well get it all in and growing. Then I picked the peas from the small tunnel the ones that had overwintered, I have picked some in mangetout form but then left the rest to grow on. Nothing beats the humble pea, packed with flavour and goodness, and bit labour intensive for the return but definitely worthwhile, I have open frozen them so that I can bag them up and then add to them later in the year with more peas. After that I thought I’d better weed killer the paths, I don’t like doing it and I will hoe as much as possible up to a point but with the weather as it has been they have begun to romp, even the bindweed that I did before has put on new growth, I think it’s going to take an age to get that under control but I am determined to do it. In between all that I chatted to a couple of people, chased some escaped ducks back into the pen, cleaned and put the eggs out for sale and cut some more rhubarb. The rabbits have done well today as I pulled up the pak Choi that had run to seed and some salad leaves, sorrel and spinach that have all run to seed, lots have things have done that this year including some beetroot that self seeded in the poly tunnel so I pulled all those up, the beetroots are too tough to use 😐 Then I looked at the clock 11.56, that will do for a break as I feel knackered all ready, not sure if it’s the air pressure today or what but I’m flagging so a bit of recuperation and I will be good to go again.

Tidied out the fridge and the veg basket, made a smoothie with the fruit and orange juice that needed using up, put the washing out, get the washing back in an hour later as it started raining. I realised we had a close shave when I cleaned out the goslings, when the weather turned cold last week I lowered the heat lamp and raised it again when we came back, scorch mark on the mat 😧 it was a proper lamp with the guard and everything but um oooeer I won’t do that again. I wondered why one of the goslings had a wet patch on its back I thinking it’s sweating 😓 so I have turned the lamp off for the rest of the day and will only use it overnight in future, the quail can permanently come off of their lamp now as they have feathered up nicely and seem to be holding their own quite well, I still need to have a good look at each one to see how many females and how many males there are and decided what to keep and what to sell.

Oh yes and the damn rain, I am hoping it was two hours between the weed killer and the rain otherwise waste of a job 😝

Thunder, oooo I love a good thunder storm 😁

By the way I’m going to leave the Norwegian cheese to the Norwegians…..yuk, enough said.

I made some breakfast muffins, oats, almond butter, mashed banana an egg and some baking powder, and I added coconut flour for some bulk, mix up, spoon into cases, cook, easy peasy, I am terrible for getting breakfast, usually I just eat a banana then wonder why I’m starving at 10am 😆 I can’t be bothered to get porridge, even the two minute version 😜 and I don’t eat cereal or toast, I have to be in the right frame of mind for Greek yoghurt, honey and fruit, so these seem like a good, filling start to the day along with my decaf coffee.

It’s pouring down with rain again, the pathways had just started drying out, honestly it’s either raining or ridiculously hot this spring where are the mild springs we used to have, we knew where we were with them, this lot is up one minute and down the next.

We have lightening now too ⛈ love a good storm 😀

Well I wasn’t expecting that, as the song goes, huge clap of thunder a strike of lightening, a primal sound from the electric meter and we lost power! Luckily John had just come home and it was action stations to phone the electricity board and then get the generator up and running for the incubator, we had just got it sorted when the power came back on! The rain is flowing like a river all around the place, running through the back area because the drains can’t cope, poor quail are right in line but they should be fine it means I will have to clean them tomorrow and take out all the soggy bedding. On a positive note the water tanks will be full up 😀

According to the live lightening map the strike was right in the next field to us, no wonder it was loud!

Friday June 1st: Last night got worse when getting into bed I discovered it was soaking wet on my side, rain had found its way in through the overhead light fitting, not a happy bunny as I had to sleep on the sofa, John did offer but that was only after he had laughed hysterically by which time I had told him to F off!

This morning is clean up after the storms, John is working today so it’s down to me, mostly it was cleaning watery shit from the pen floors and we are forecast more of the same later tonight ☹️ The ducks, and rabbits need cleaning but I will wait for better weather as the rain is driving in so it would be a pointless task, oh what fun 🤪

Struggling today with the heavy jobs such as lugging buckets of feed and wet poo around, trying to fit a king size duvet into the dryer (not happening) when I just want to sleep. That is the result when I spend the day in the sun which I did on Monday, unfortunately even though I slapped on the lotion covered up and wore a hat, any uv rays and my immune system goes into attack mode which makes me very tired and normal function just does not happen.

I love that our slice of countryside is a haven for all kinds of wildlife except the one I happened to spot by chance when I was saying goodbye to Shelley , Josh and Flo, a ruddy great hornet flying behind a loose panel in the cladding on the front of the house. Out came the wasp killer and I sprayed it in, wether it is Asian or European I don’t know but I do know they are aggressive when they have a nest so pffft it gets a spray. I will keep an eye open to make sure it’s either dead or didn’t return 👀 As I was watching I also spotted a small bee going behind a different part but I will leave that one alone as it probably a solitary bee building a nest which is fine, I have come across those before and if you leave them alone they don’t bother you. Just did a bit of research and it’s most likely European which is better but still not good especially as it’s right by the kitchen window.

John came home in the late afternoon, just before the rain came luckily, and went up on the roof to see why the rain came in, we have an agricultural tin profile roof and there were 6 little pins holes in a row, how they got there is a mystery but they have now been sealed so I should not have a wet bed any longer! While we were stood outside I was telling him about the hornet and suddenly it flew right between the two of us, obviously the spray didn’t kill it, a bit more research needed.

Saturday: Up early helped John with the morning rounds then I spent a while squashing asparagus beetle which have emerged and are feeding and laying eggs on the plants, there must have been about 20/30 it’s gets more each year. They overwinter in the ground and emerge this time of year just as the asparagus is starting to go over, I need to go out with my glasses on and make sure I got all the teeny tiny eggs then I need to do it every other day really to see if I can knock them on the head, the first year it was just one plant affected now it’s most of them probably because I was slack last year. After that I got ready to go out for the day, I am off on The Cotswold Rally 2018 in aid of Adventure Ashram, I am going with my sister and niece in Daisy the 1968 Morris Minor 😀 hopefully she will make it all the way round (Daisy that is, not my sister 🤪) lol. It will be good to get out and about in the countryside we live in and really see it rather than just driving from a to b on a mission of some kind 😝

Well what day, we had a splendid time seeing some of the sights of The Cotswolds, we had a lot of laughs as Daisy struggled to get up hills and protested by flinging her glove compartment or the drivers door at every conceivable minute, no harm done though, we had the roof down and did plenty of singing along the country lanes, stopped for food and to see the areas of interest, noted where we want to return to and finally made home late afternoon 😀

Quick turn around as we were off to a wedding reception in the evening, another beautiful location on a warm Spring evening, what a day 😀

Sunday: Lovely morning, Charlie and Macca firstly babysat Josh for most of yesterday until the evening then they had Mia at ours last night so she was here this morning and awake bright and early just before 5am 😜 John did the rounds and we went out to see what he was doing, then we had a walk down the drive to see the cows in the field across the road.

It’s ridiculously hot out there even at 6.30pm, I had a walk round the garden and even the rhubarb is wilting today despite all that rain, I noticed that a lot of the soil has been washed away ☹️ and because of the extremes of weather things are bolting, running to seed or in the case of the potatoes, leggy, it’s hot, I’m tired, parts of me hurt and at this precise moment I’m thinking I won’t bother next year, I will probably change my mind by tomorrow but this year has bought different problems, I made a huge effort to cover and protect everything and the weather has dealt a blow instead 😆

Video

Goslings, wildlife pond & more fox attacks.

Monday 21st May: John is off again this week so he did most of the morning round, I followed behind doing the things he forgets to do! Then he spent the morning cutting wood and cleaned the floor of the POL pen in between. I did a bit of early morning hoeing and collected weeds for the rabbits and a bucketful for the POL hens. Then I remodelled a small chicken house for the Welsh Harlequin ducks I want to separate off, they will be going into the orchard to hopefully raise some ducklings or if they don’t I will have to incubate them but at least they will be pure bred ones. By lunchtime it was getting too hot for me to work out in the sun, I’m hoping we get a little bit of cooler weather sometime, seems to be all or nothing 😝

Made an apricot and walnut cake, I bought the apricots when we were shopping as I really fancied something with them in, cake wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but with John home this week I thought I’d better make some goodies for him to eat. My apricot tree has missed the frosts this year and there is a decent amount of fruit on it, yippee, fresh home grown apricots 😀

Simple recipe, and I as always just bung it all in together 😝

I also still had some biscuit dough in the freezer so got that out to bake biccies.

I am making peppercorn and mushroom sauce to go on my steak later, I will make it with cream cheese, the healthier option 😀

There is a 20% chance of rain later, fingers crossed 🤞 as the rhubarb has all but stopped growing since I picked the last lot over a week ago.

Whoop whoop, a downpour 😀 a pretty good one at that, it should partly fill up the water tanks and more importantly refresh the grass and veg garden, nothing better than rain the chivvy things along a bit 😀

Moved the Welsh Harlequin ducks this evening to their new quarters and I ordered Large Fowl Light Sussex hatching eggs, two lots from different ends of the country, I have tried to find some locally and failed so I will hatch out, it doesn’t matter how many cock birds I end up with because they will be for the table. I watched back to the land tonight and the herb fed hens struck a chord, I thought we do it with the rabbits, why not the hens? Not all of them, the egg layers are hybrid, high performance and need layers but the slower growing birds well that’s a whole different matter, now I just need to divide up my herbs to increase what’s available.

Tuesday: After the morning duties, which included letting the Welsh Harlequin ducks out into their new surroundings, it was time to sort out the quail hatchlings. They need to move on as I hopefully will need the brooder for goslings in a couple of days time, so we have got a hutch inside the back area and put them in there for the time being, they look pretty happy and there is much more space for them. John then did some more wood cutting while I did some gardening, planted up a few things including a melon that had been in a pot in the tunnel, sowed some more lettuce and spinach seeds, did a bit of tidying and just uncovered the bed to plant some peas when Mia arrived so that can wait until tomorrow now.

Found a frog 🐸 first a toad last week and now a frog actually a froglet as it was quite small, contemplating putting in a small wildlife pond somewhere but it needs careful consideration as to where to place it.

I seem to have large areas that still have not been planted up, though I have been better at successional sowing this year instead of everything in at once and consequently all producing at once! I find I am doing more pottering this year rather than full on back breaking work and obviously I’m enjoying that a lot more.

After Mia went home and we had our dinner it was time to do the watering which takes an age but is necessary until things are established, quickly sowed some peas and put netting up before sundown and time to put the animals to bed.

I ordered some perennial plug plants which arrived today for my flower bed area, I’m looking forward to having lots of colour in the garden.

Wednesday: John had some small plumbing jobs to do first thing so I did the morning rounds today, then picking for the rabbits, mostly cow parsley, dock, lemon balm and the broad bean foliage from those I was growing in the greenhouse over winter. Then onto a bit of gardening, weeding mostly, saving all the edible weeds in a bucket for the rabbits to have later on, clipping the bottom foliage from the hazel trees, also saving it for the rabbits (they dine like kings and queens) We keep some of our Hazels the traditional way which from my research can barely be found any more, it seems they grow them from a single stem these days. Ours were maintained like this before we inherited them and we have just kept it up, we strip the bottom for many reasons the main one was originally for security purposes so that we could see and be seen (nothing better than a hedge for an unwanted to hide behind) latterly we need to keep the light for the poly tunnels and it also makes collecting the nuts easier and now the rabbits will benefit too 😀

I have set the wildlife pond idea in motion, picked a site, it will just be very small and on one corner of the flower bed. Basically it will be a large container set in the ground, I have ordered small native pond plants and that’s it, build it and they will come as the saying goes 😀

I was out watering at about 7pm, I heard the chickens making a distinctive noise looked over the fence and there was a fox chasing one of my hens, it ran straight past me and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I bellowed FOOOOOOOXXXXXXXX, the dogs had been shut in as we had some visitors to the farm so John ran in the back to let them out, they chased it fast and furiously across two paddocks but inevitably it was faster and got away. Hopefully it’s had a bit of a scare and won’t come back but I doubt it, it was a youngster probably last years cub now they have been turned out.

And we have goslings piping in the incubator, in fact we have one that is now born 😀

Thursday: Rain, and plenty of it 😀 that’s great it means I don’t have to spend hours watering everything tonight. This morning while John did the rounds I got the brooder ready for the gosling, it is still a lone gosling at this present time, I also had to find out another lamp for the quail I moved as the temps suddenly took a dip and they were cold, everyone is happy for the time being 😀 The light Sussex eggs arrived super quickly so I’m hoping the goose hatching doesn’t go on for too long as I will need to get the next batch of eggs in 😝

In the afternoon I ‘knocked up’ the wildlife pond as the aquatic plants arrived this morning, I’m just waiting for an oxygenating one to arrive, everything else I used, I had lying around, I know at the minute it looks like I knocked it up lol but over the next couple of weeks it will fill out and look great. Around the edge I planted Solomons seal, lily of the valley, aquilegia and a huechera, all plants I had in pots doing nothing much else, the slates are for cover for wildlife to hide under, I also tied together 3 pieces of waste pipe that are under one of the slates, more hidey holes and a random statue that looks like a woman with a beard 🤣 I will clean it up for the next photo shoot. Your eyes do not deceive you there is a potato growing there too, self set so I have left it. There are big stones in the water for things to get in and out or for birds and insects to stand on for a drink, I’m looking forward to seeing what visits and hopefully the froglet and the toad will take up residence.

Tonight there is another family birthday, yep another one lol 😜

Friday: Feeling pretty hopeless this morning, the fox scaled the six foot enclosure and, violently, that’s the only word for it, ripped apart the cage my silkie chickens were in and massacred them. This over eight months of hatching, growing, nurturing, feeding, cleaning down the f**king drain and it didn’t even take all the bodies. Now we have to review every enclosure and hut because picking off ones wandering about is one thing but ripping apart doors and roofs to get in is an entirely different game altogether! Just giving up and giving in is on the agenda today.

A small upside today is another gosling has hatched in the incubator, though it was a long hatch and it’s pretty exhausted, fingers crossed it makes it through.

It’s tipping down again this morning, all or nothing as usual, weeks of nothing but sunshine and now days and days of nothing but rain.

Feeling pretty low about the whole thing, wondering what’s the point actually, I know what I should be doing is being pro active but in all honesty I don’t have the energy for it, I can’t see how I am going to beef everything up enough to stop something that aggressive, short of locking every bird away all day and all night the answers are just not there. I thought we could live in harmony with predators as long as we lock everything away which we do, always leaving a gathering early so that they are safely tucked up for the night, 365 days a year and you would think that would be enough but nope. Foxes are getting bigger, stronger, more aggressive and brazen, eventually that’s only going to go one way…………..🤔

Tonight we have put the ducks in with the rabbits and the pekin ducks have an extra bigger bolt on their door, I’m still worried that the strength this fox seems to have he will be able to rip the door off the goose hut or even the mesh off the rabbit cage but we have done what we can for the time being. I have set the camera up to try and catch what we are dealing with on film, might be something g larger for all we know.

Saturday: First thing I did was to go and get the sd card and have a look, def a fox not sure if it’s two different ones, one visit at 11pm and another visit at 2.30am, luckily nothing has been got so it’s a good day today 😀 Raining to begin with but not much, John did the feeding while I sorted out the baby quail and goslings, we now have two, the other eggs seems to have stopped developing at some point during incubation but at least they have each other. Then I went into sorting and potting on some plants in the greenhouse and planting some more brassicas before coming in and disinfecting the incubator ready for the next batch of eggs which are LF Light Sussex for our table birds.

Around 4pm the doorbell rang and a lady had come in to tell us that a fox had just gone into our front hedge, ffs at 4 in the afternoon! John did a walk round with the dogs and then I did another ten minutes later, they didn’t pick up any scent though, you can’t rest on your laurels for a minute.

Publishing a day early this week as we are off early in the morning down to Wales to visit Dad and Sue and the Welsh game fair will be on so we shall spend a daythere.

Video

30 seconds of bliss, forking heck 😜 & focaccia.

Monday 14th May 2018: Ahh where is the year disappearing too, how come Winter seems sooo long and the rest soooo short? Did the morning rounds, I let the few hens, that were in the stable for a couple of days, out and almost immediately they knocked over a quarter bucketful of corn that John had left lying around 😜 Did a little bit in the garden, planted the mini pop corn out under cloches, put some more tomato plants out for sale, not much to do at the moment really although I think I will need to water tonight it seems very dry already. Sat down for a coffee and recorded this 30 seconds of bliss, there were more seconds that that but I managed to capture the moment I think, not a dog barking, duck quacking, car passing, hen clucking, just the wild birdsong 😀 and me with my coffee, heaven.

I decided that the duck pen could do with some bushes of some sort for shade and hiding under, there is a row of conifers but they are to the North of the pen, so I set about digging up and elderflower, perfect as the ducks won’t eat it and it will get big pretty quickly once it takes root, plus it’s extra berries 😀 I was digging away forking the ground around it, put the fork under and went to lift, heard a breaking sound, checked my fork handle over, nope that hasn’t broken so I assumed it was a root, lifted my fork out and a prong has snapped off 😪 pants. Pretty sure this fork had a lifetime guarantee however I can’t remember where I bought it and the name has long since rubbed off!

I had some toast this morning, nothing unusual in that except that I put my hand to the back of the fridge to find something I had hidden 😝 French butter ❤️ My Dad and Sue had given me some when they came to stay last time, Sue had been given some by her brother in law, the genuine article and let me tell you if you have never had French butter then go and buy some, try and find an artisan one that would be the best, but the President one will be a good one to start with. I’ve read a few articles about how they make it and can’t quite decide why it tastes better it just does 😀 It’s hidden from John as he eats slabs of butter and has no appreciation of the taste so it’s for my consumption only 🤪

Today’s ‘oh I think I’ll have a go at that moment’ was to dig out and ancient scythe and have a go with it, specifically cutting down nettles which will then be left to dry and used for rabbit feed in the winter months when there is not a lot of fresh stuff growing. The blade looked decidedly blunt and the handles had wood worm at some point but I had a go, it just flattened the stingers, Samantha had a go, turns out I was holding wrong, and whoosh down came the nettles in one fell swoop, hooray even though it needs sharpening it still does an ok ish job so I cut down the nettles in the orchard where they are drying nicely on the ground. So much more pleasant than a petrol strimmer, lighter to hold as well, I just need to get the blade sharpened and ‘penned’ which apparently is hammering the edge of the blade and it’s good to go 😀

Never a dull moment I ordered some curing salt and I’m hoping to cure some of the breast of lamb that I have in the freezer, not your usual cured meat but we have a few of them and they don’t really yield much of a dinner unless stuffed. I looked it up and yep obviously it’s perfectly possible to make lamb bacon so that’s what I will have a go at.

Bit tired from all the Sun today but not complaining 😝

Had a lucky find today, someone was giving away some bird feeders with the caging round which will replace my feeder that I have cobbled mesh round to stop the crows, she wanted some brassica plants so we did swapsies 😀

Salt cure, pink salt (Prague powder, salt, brown sugar, pepper and crushed rosemary)

Tuesday: Another beautiful day 😀 Did the morning rounds making sure everyone has all the food and water they need until later, then a bit of foraging for the rabbits, comfrey, lovage, grass, cleavers and a couple of other bits, watered the mini corn, leeks and carrot seedlings then had a quick shower before making bread. While I was at it I have always fancied having a go at focaccia so I made some, this time of year I love all the Italian food influences mostly due to the wonderful aromas of the herbs as they are so strong at the moment.

Mia arrived and I made some mushroom and asparagus pasta for lunch, I am picking 3 bundles of asparagus a day and most of it is sold but I do keep a bit back for us to use now and again. Simple lunch, cook pasta, add asparagus just before the pasta finishes cooking, sauté some mushrooms and garlic, when they are done make a small quantity of veg stock, pour in and I added cream cheese but cream is fine, drain pasta, toss into mushroom mix, dish up and shave on some Parmesan 😀 tasty 😋

Had two funny moments with Mia today lol kids, First while Sam was still here and they went out to sort Jack out and I stayed in finishing the bread and making pasta, Mia comes to the back door and I expected Sam to be with her, Mia says Mummy’s stuck so I quickly take the pasta of the stove and the bread out of the oven. Show me where she is I said and off Mia runs in the direction of the paddock, we get round the corner and clearly Sam is NOT stuck just filling the water buckets 😂 turns out Mia didn’t want to stay so Sam said go back to the house and find Nana 😜 Second time was when Mia found a lily beetle crawling through a plant, I need my glasses she said 🤣🤣🤣 I’m guessing it’s because that’s what I always say when looking at something only difference, hers are sunglasses 😎

Off round to Mums for Ken’s birthday and some scoffs tonight, I know what your thinking 🤔 there is always a birthday, yep, that’s what happens with a big family that mostly all still live in the same area 😀 there is always cake 🎂

Came home and started looking at flower arranging lol, I have some of the most beautiful lilacs in and around the place and thought they would look nice indoors but I’m rubbish at arranging so I just ordered a book for 1p on Amazon plus £2.30 postage to reach myself how to do it right 😀

Wednesday: Did the morning rounds then Shelley came over with some strawberry plants for me, her strawberry box is overflowing with plants and I had seriously thinned mine out last Autumn, Josh and Mia helped to plant them up, hopefully they will recover quickly as they have lots of flowers on them so lots of potential strawberries, I put a good bit of manure in the compost to give them a boost.

I found some pork mince in the freezer, it was probably for stuffing or sausage rolls originally but I hadn’t used it so I typed in ‘what can I make with minced pork’ what I should have put is ‘what can I make with minced pork that John will eat’ 🤣 as most of the recipes are oriental or Mexican and he won’t eat either! In the end I did oriental pork for me which I will have with rice and a piggy pie for John which is basically shepherds pie but with pork lol.

I have not seen Diesel the cat for a couple of days, he has not been for his feed in the mornings, I have noticed he has been hunting a lot more lately so maybe he is not hungry but he can usually be found lying around somewhere, hopefully he will appear soon.

Thursday: Did the morning rounds, thought I had lost the new white ducks but found John must have shut them in the stable instead of the duck pen, phew. Everything else was in order so went on to do some watering and a bit of gardening, planted up the rest of the strawberry plants and dug a hole in the middle of each bean wigwam to put some manure in so that when I water the manure will feed the plants. I should have mucked up the beds last autumn but I didn’t and now this seems like the quickest and easiest way to get nutrients to the roots, really must try harder at the end of this year to manure all the beds.

Mixed up a salt cure for the breast of lamb, rubbed it all in and now it will sit in the fridge for 5 days, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

In the afternoon we went to Witney, I had to get a few things and we visited Johns Mum in hospital, we had lunch at Cafe Rouge which was rather nice, must be what it’s like to be retired I guess 😜

Still no sign of Diesel today 😏

We have some of the young hens keep coming back to the stable at night so that’s where we shut them in, only trouble is we can’t find where they lay their eggs, John knocked up a quick nesting box to put on the wall in the stable to try and encourage them to lay there, one did but the other 14 have laid goodness knows where. Tomorrow I will leave them shut in until lunchtime I think so that we at least get some eggs.

John went off with the metal detector to try and help the Doctor find his wedding ring, he tested it over a 50p before he went because though I bought it for him a few years ago he has never used it! They didn’t find it but apparently had quite a laugh trying then had tea and cake lol

John had to go out around 9.30 and Diesel was in the front driveway so that’s good news, if it is our cat that is, John has history of bringing home the wrong missing cat, a story for another time I think lol

Friday: Did the morning stuff then spent the day with the Grandchildren and their respective mothers, we had a picnic in the back paddock and had the best time playing and eating.

Saturday: On today’s agenda was cutting the grass in the front paddock, it is getting a bit long because the geese are sitting and so that means they are not grazing very far from their hut. We don’t want the grass to get too long for them to eat when the babies finally hatch out and adult geese can’t have the grass too long either. The ride on mower has been sat in the stable block all winter, it was covered in dust (must cover it next year) and obviously hasn’t been started for months. We pushed it out, cleaned it off, topped up with oil and petrol, put wd40 on every part we could see and then had a go at starting it………ta dah, it actually went lol so off I went and cut the paddock. Then we got an area ready for the eight pekin ducks, we decided to move them to be on their own as they are not very competitive for food and get seen off by the other ducks and the hens, consequently they don’t lay many eggs so hopefully this will improve their ability to lay. They seem happy as Larry, whoever he is?

Putting the geese to bed tonight I found five eggs turfed out of the nest and shed, I’m hoping they know what they are doing and that these eggs are duff, however they may just be clumsy geese 😝 For some reason one of the nests has got closer and closer to the door way, this happens every year and eggs end up outside, I will have to think of a way to stop it happening and quickly or we could lose all the eggs in the same way. I found a piece of wood to wedge in to hopefully stop any eggs rolling out.

Sunday: Got up got the jobs done then I promised John breakfast at the garden centre as I needed to get a few veg plants. Some of my squash seeds never grew, butternut and courgettes, I had a list of things I wanted to get they included, horseradish and squashes, but I also picked up a few other bits, cape gooseberry as I lost mine this year, Jerusalem artichokes, a honey squash which I have not seen before, a spaghetti squash and something entirely new to me, tiger nuts which is a grass that produces nodes under ground, we will see how they turn out. I also wanted a grape but the cheapest they had was £50 I’m not paying that lol, in fact I couldn’t believe the prices of plants these days. When I was at college many years ago our tutor who was from Yorkshire said that once you had grown stuff from seeds and cuttings you will never pay the garden centre prices again, he was not wrong and made me think I really ought to divide more plants and save more seed to sell next spring. When they are asking £4 for a tomato plants my 50p ones for sale are a total bargain 😀

We realised this morning that we had sustained quite a fox attack yesterday while we were out for the afternoon 😩 we lost at least 5 hens and a big Aylesbury duck. At one point I did think that we could live in harmony with the fox and we can as long as it doesn’t come during daylight hours but this is the second big attack we have suffered besides them being picked off one by one daily, so I’m afraid we need to do something about it and quickly.

5.40pm and I tried to do some watering but it’s still too hot out there and much as I would love to be out in it I can’t as it would make me ill, I will probably do a bit of research on shade gardening and start planning that lol.

Lily beetle, luckily I have no Lilly’s 😀 not sure what else they eat but they used to be notifiable, now they are so widespread it makes no difference!

The long range weather forecast shows no sign of rain in the near future 😖 I have very nearly used the thousands of litres of rain water from the tanks on the ducks and the veg garden so it will be mains water until they fill again, surprising how quickly it gets used up.

Dandelion honey, more fox attacks and a toad 😀

Sunday eve: Waiting to put the birds to bed as John is sleeping again, hope this illness passes soon 🤪it’s 8.30pm and still very light so might have a coffee outside while I’m waiting.

Bank Holiday Monday 7th May: Hot, hot, hot today phew. Got the birds done first thing, John was just well enough to help out a bit but then it wiped him out for a few hours. I did a few bits in the garden, picking asparagus, watering the tunnels etc, gave the rabbits some hay and did a bit of foraging for them. Meanwhile Charlie and Macca hoovered and tided the house oh and John changed the sheets on our bed, that is the first time in over thirty years he has done that! Then I finished making the dandelion honey, oh my days, that is some seriously good stuff, and going down a storm with everyone who tries it, obviously it’s not honey and it does have sugar in it, quite a lot, but it really does taste like honey, better in fact. Here is the link to the page and recipe http://tinandthyme.uk/2013/05/dandelion-honey/. Do have a go at making it if you are that way inclined, you won’t be disappointed, I will certainly be making some more at some point.

Had to laugh this morning, a local retired Doctor who is a customer of Johns phoned this morning, not on a plumbing matter but needed to borrow a metal detector as he has lost his wedding ring in the garden somewhere (that’s not what I laughed at just so you know 😝) but John told him his symptoms and asked him what he thought was wrong with him lol, he suggested taking aspirin instead of paracetamol and it seems to have done the trick to an extent, either that or he was getting better anyway 😝

Then Sam came over and we went to Cogges Farm craft fayre, I had planned to go with John but he wasn’t up to it, it was incredibly hot and as with most of these things there was not much shade so we only stayed a couple of hours before coming home again. When I got back Shelley and Martin were here and had done some of the jobs that John usually does like cleaning out the front hens, thank you everyone today for helping out and taking me out x x Martin showed me how to use the chop saw safely and I had a go so I should be able to start making stuff 😀

Charlie and Macca did a bbq in the evening, we had meat already in the freezer to use up but the salad leaves, chives, mange tout and asparagus all freshly picked 😀 from the garden to the plate.

Sitting here are 8.30 typing up and Charlie comes running in the back way with a hen , she was sat outside with Macca when the horse started making a racket the dogs shot off and they ran up the back to see foxy with a chicken in its mouth, the dogs chased the fox who dropped the hen minus a load of feathers! The hen has a puncture wound which I have purple sprayed and hopefully she will survive the shock, I have now shut her away with the rescue ducks in the stable, we caught up all the other hens out the back and shut them away and also shut the ducks in their compound. Last night we lost a hen at around the same time of night, we are suffering attacks daily now and the problem is that it’s still light and the hens are still out, they will be confined for the next few days until the fox either moves on elsewhere or stops visiting because there are no birds about.

I candled the goose eggs in the Incy and all but one are viable so hopefully we will have eight goslings 😀

A farmer in the village has lost his cows! Eight of them are missing and a Facebook appeal has been put out for any sightings, we haven’t seen anything hope he finds them soon 🙁

Tuesday: Wall to wall sunshine again this morning although showers are possible later which would be just perfect, save me watering the veg plants 😜

Got on quite early this morning as it is so pleasant working in the cooler morning air than the hotter parts of the day. As I said yesterday the birds at the back of the farm are being confined in their runs much to their disgust but I am not going to risk any more attacks from the fox. After feeding, straight into the garden to pick, this mornings offerings are asparagus, rhubarb, mangetout and some radish, mostly all put out for sale in the shed, some saved for dinner later. Forage for the rabbits, mostly dandelion and thistle today, I planted some more broccoli plants out in the cage and sowed some more seeds, mini corn, courgette (as the other seeds just rotted away) beetroot and coriander, I am trying to do them fortnightly so I get a succession this year instead of gluts! I picked some herbs for drying, sage, thyme, lovage and oregano, I intend to dry quite a lot this year to keep me going through the Winter months (though I don’t want to think about that too much just yet it still has to be prepared for) Watered the poly tunnels, I have moved a few things from the greenhouse into the tunnels as the greenhouse does not seem to be performing well this year. I have been pondering about rebuilding it or getting a new one or another tunnel, though the tunnels are really good nothings beat the feeling of being in a greenhouse in the spring, seems like a heart or head decision 🤔

Then Mia arrived had a bit of lunch then went for a sleep as she was quite tired, while she was sleeping I picked some of the thinner sticks of rhubarb to make a pudding for later, rhubarb pudding cake, easy, quick and hopefully delicious. I did a double take at the ingredients as there are no eggs in this pudding mix but I thought, ok, we will see how it turns out? The rhubarb retains its sharpness as the mix is sat on top of the fruit but there is plenty of sugar in it it counterbalance that, then it is soft and almost custard like with a chewy sweet topping, it’s fab, I love it and a dollop of creme fresh would top it off nicely 😀

Old Fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake Recipe

Ingredients

• 2 cups chopped rhubarb

• 1 3/4 cup sugar, divided

• 3 tablespoons butter, softened

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup milk

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

• 1 cup sifted flour

• 1 tablespoon cornstarch

• 2/3 cup boiling water

Directions

Cover the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch square pan with fruit. (I prefer an 8 inch or 9 inch square glass baking dish. You could also use a deep dish glass pie plate.)

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, extracts, milk and flour together (add a little more milk if it is too thick to pour); pour over fruit. Mix remaining sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over mixture in pan. Pour boiling water over the top. ( I know this sounds strange, but trust me, it works to create a pudding around the rhubarb in the bottom of the pan.)

Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes.

https://commonsensehome.com/rhubarb-pudding-cake/

I am having chicken left from the bbq last night with salad leaves from the tunnel, asparagus, mangetout and some avocado I need to use up, John will have his with beans and chips probably, some people don’t know when they are well off, I keep telling him he needs to change his diet but it’s like trying to drag a kicking and screaming bear out of the woods, not worth the bother 🤪

I ordered some silicone callipo style lolly moulds, we grow a lot of soft fruit and sometimes you can only eat so much of it so I thought the grandchildren would appreciate real fruit ice lollies if the weather stays on the same course it’s on now and I ordered biodegradable paper straws for smoothies 😀

The egg sales were extraordinary at the weekend which resulted in selling every available egg on the place, I thought today would see a slow down but nope, everything I put out this morning was gone by 2pm and I have just put out what is left of todays laying, great for us not so good for customers who turn up when they are all gone 😝

The farmer has found his cows, they had gone along the downs quite a long way away, I know the farmer was very upset at losing them so all has ended well 😀

Wednesday: Not much happening today, did the morning rounds, still keeping some birds confined to pens, we will be moving the pullets to the front house tonight to live with the older hens as we have secured 40 new POL for delivery on Friday, partly for demand in sales of hens and partly for the high demand in eggs. I did a bit of pottering in the garden then Mum called over so we sat and had coffee and chatted, then Sam and Mia arrived, Sam went off to work and so it was just Mia and I for the afternoon. We had good fun playing in the pirate ship, land ahoy lol.

After tea, which was beef stew today with frozen veg I am still using up from last year and some left over rhubarb pudding, I was looking at the stats for my blog site and I couldn’t believe that I have been blogging for seven years!! Oh my days lol, at some point when I get time I will have to have a random read of some of the posts 😝 no idea where that time has gone.

Covert operation completed at dusk and all pullets moved swiftly and without incident 😜 we had taken down the poultry netting across the big side paddock when we dragged it so we put that back up again to hopefully contain the hens or at least to put the fox off or give the hens a chance if it comes in the daytime.

Thursday: Another nice day forecast, a little cooler than of late but still pleasant enough. Before I did the morning round I spent an hour cleaning out the POL pen then onto feeding and watering the animals, nothing untoward in my rounds. After that I cut asparagus to put out for sale and went foraging for the rabbits, today they had ribwort, grass, dandelions, lilac, they love it, I love watching them love it 😊 Then Shelley, Josh and Florence came and it was time to play with Josh, we fed the rabbits, went for a wander across the paddocks, went up the back to take some treats to Jack, ran off some steam in the ménage, cuddled the baby quail and it was time for lunch 😀 In the afternoon I did a few bits then popped next door for a chat and a cuppa, came home and did some hoeing and watering. I realised I had put the hose from the rainwater tanks to the duck bath and forgotten to turn it off, all day 😝, I did think for a moment that I had lost all 15,000 litres but luckily there was still enough in there to water the plants, I’m not sure how much of it was lost but I will be glad when it rains again to fill them back up to maximum! Tonight’s jobs will be to round up the hens we moved last night some of whom have made their way to the back again which is all shut up so they can’t get in 😜

I have started meditating 😜 to focus mainly and to be honest I’ve only done two days at 5 mins each session so I’m not sure there is much to report but I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained 😀

I also want to tell you about an app called what3words, every single 3m x 3m square in the world has been allocated three random words, what’s the point I hear you ask, because that’s exactly what I first said but if you read up about it it’s actually brilliantly simple and useful. Words are easier to remember than co ordinates and the UN can use it to give people in refugee camps an ‘address’, the car manufacturers are beginning to use it in their sat navs so watch this space, just when you think there is nothing left to invent 🙂 and do download the app and see what yours are, then have fun typing in three random words and seeing where it takes you, it’s a free app.

Friday: An ok day weather wise. My first job was to spend a bit of time organising the duck compound, I needed to get the ducks that were in the stable into the compound so they have some outside space, then partition off the smaller duck house so that there are now three available areas for them to choose from. The problem at this time of year is the drakes, they are very amorous and competitive and it causes all kinds of racket, probably why a small group chose to go up to the back paddock each day out of the way. All ducks are now in the same compound and they have a choice of sleeping quarters so hopefully all will be well. Then onto finishing the rest of the rounds. After that it’s gardening, though I did put a couple of loads of washing on inbetween times and with the wind as it is today it should dry quickly. I have planted some of the leek seedlings, they may be a bit small but fingers crossed they will carry on growing, cut the grass, weed some of the beds, plant some dwarf beans straight into the beds, normally I would get them going in the greenhouse but with this years weather it’s getting late, they will hopefully be stronger plants for it. Sam and Mia called in and Sam gave Jack a good brush to get his winter coat out.

New batch of POL hens arrived this afternoon.

John is feeling much better thank goodness so we went out for steak 😁

Put the birds to bed, had to catch a few of them up and we put them in the stable, as it had rained a little I spread a bit of grass seed in the small back paddock then watered it in.

Saturday: realised I had left the hose on all night after watering in the seed 😆 Had a very busy day today and only just taken a break (3.30pm) Found a dead quail hen on my rounds, don’t know what happened to her they are only a year old ☹️ John spent most of the day cutting up wood, it’s getting there and we will definitely have enough to keep us warm next winter 😀 I spent all the rest of the time in the garden, I have put in the hazel poles for the runner beans and sowed the beans seeds straight into the ground, planted some tomato plants in the poly tunnel and some little gem lettuce seed tapes. Potted on some of the seedlings in the greenhouse, cabbage, tomatoes, doesn’t sound very much now I’ve written it down lol there must be something else I’m missing can’t remember now though 🤪

There is always something else to do but it can wait for another day as it will be feeding time soon, though we won’t be egg collecting as we have sold out again, bumper week this week selling out every day. I need to have a go with my chop saw, I need to tidy the kitchen, I really need to do some baking as I have not done anything all week!

I found a friend when I pulled back the weed membrane to put the bean poles in, I’m not sure if it’s a frog or a toad, I’m leaning towards toad anyway he let me pick him up and put him under some other membrane, I have no idea where he has come from as we don’t usually see them here.

Sunday: Had a lovely day today, did the morning rounds, had 4 lots of egg customers by 8am! Did a little bit in the garden before finally getting to play with my new toy which occupied me until well I to the afternoon 😀 I made two more bird boxes and a herb box whoop whoop. I had the best fun making them, I need to gen up on some carpentry skills really so that I’m not so ham fisted, there are obviously tricks of the trade that I’m not very au fait with, yet 😜 John spent most of the day cutting up wood and we now have a cleared space, still plenty of wood to cut yet but it’s getting there. His Mum is back in hospital so he went to visit her this afternoon, my sister and brother in law popped in for a cuppa, I dug deep into the depths of the freezer and found some smoked fish for dinner, I really need to make bread either tonight or tomorrow and a bit of baking would probably be appreciated 😝