Amazing smells of Spring, First pick of Rhubarb and new Guinea pigs.

Monday 10th April : Damp this morning with fine drizzle 😐 however it feels ok temperature wise.

Did the morning rounds, 1 egg from the new ladies and evidence of eaten shell, I suspect as we moved them into the outdoor run, we actually do have a rat nicking them, no other reason for them to go from 5 to 1 egg so I need to remedy that and possibly move them back to the stable until further notice and see how many they lay there.

Put out the eggs in the shed which is looking very full of every type of egg we do 😀 and then went round to collect some bits for the rabbits, dandelion I have been growing into a big plant, bits of hazel, blackcurrant and some lovage. I have ordered a book called ‘beyond the pellets’ to learn about feeding rabbits naturally all year round with fresh produce but also ‘tree hay’ which is basically chopped and dried twigs, leaves etc for the winter feed. A mention of it of one of the smallholding sites sparked my interest in being able to feed the bunnies without buying pelleted feed, they get fed a lot of fresh greens during spring and summer but not winter so it will be an interesting read and hopefully a way forward to natural feeding.

I picked the very first lot of rhubarb 😃😃 that makes me very happy and now I just need to decide what I am going to do with it, of course stewed rhubarb and custard is a must as I always say, if you haven’t tried it since childhood do give it a go now you are older, it is delicious.

Then a task I wanted to try all spring but didn’t get round to it and I saw a quick easy way to have a go so that’s what I have done, tapped the maple tree, only I haven’t bored a hole in the trunk and done it that way, I have cut a small branch and taped a glass bottle onto it, fingers crossed I’m not too late for the rising sap and get at least a bit to try. I will check it later to see if I am going to get anything.

The smells this morning have been enough to lift the spirits, the black currant is very strong even just brushing past it, the rhubarb smells divine, the blossom on the trees is heavy, it’s all full of promise and deliciousness 😀

Now going to look at all the rhubarb recipes I have been collecting 😀

Made rhubarb crumble and extras for the freezer, a rhubarb tea bread (simple and quick (except soaking the fruit bit) recipe) and I have some stewed rhubarb and vanilla ready to eat with custard 😀 also made a loaf of bread today.

Rhubarb Tea Loaf

• 300g sultanas

• 200g roasted rhubarb (see note below)

• 300ml strong earl grey tea

• 100g dark brown sugar

• 275g self-raising flour

• 1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Mix the sultanas, rhubarb and sugar together in a large bowl. Cover with the tea and leave to soak overnight.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C(fan)/170°C/gas mark 3. Grease and baseline a 2lb/900g loaf tin. Stir the flour and egg into the fruit mixture. Pour into the prepared tin.

3. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cover the top with foil if it’s getting too brown.

4. NB: to roast the rhubarb chop into 2cm pieces, toss with 20g caster sugar (or more if you prefer it to be sweeter – I don’t think it needs more sugar in this recipe), cover and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, in an oven preheated to 200°C.

This is a recipe from sneakyveg.com as always I used what I had rather than what’s in the recipe so instead of Earl Grey tea I used a Green Tea and a Tetley tea bag and steeped them for about 10 mins, I used currants instead of sultanas and I added a splash of orange juice (just because 😜) I also did not wait overnight for the fruit to soak, I did two hours soaking because I couldn’t be bothered to wait 😝 it will still turn out fine I’m sure.

Tuesday 10th April 🤣🤣 spot the error, I figured I would leave it as it was and it’s turning into Groundhog Day round here as regards to the rain anyhow!

Wet, muddy, slippery, I’m beginning to think this is our lot, seriously, it has rained pretty much every day for nearly 3 weeks at least, how much more is there?

Although there is evidence of the grass growing through the mud so that’s a more positive outlook, more grass = more grass roots = something to soak up the rain 😀

According to the forecast (though it seems to change daily) tomorrow is the last day of rain for a while, fingers crossed 🤞

Cleaned out the duck shed with the help of Mia while Sam was doing the horse, Mia was plastered in mud by the time she finished but she enjoyed helping out, I think she will be a great asset as she gets older as she likes to get stuck in ‘I help’ is what she says 😀 After that we went for a well earned costa 😀

Fed the chickens late afternoon and collected the eggs, we are managing to keep up at the moment and we have some fall back in the form of pullet eggs as they are all laying now. We moved the new ducks back into the stable overnight to see what was happening with the eggs as I only got 1 yesterday, I think it’s because they don’t lay as early as my established lot, they have all laid by 8am which is when I let them out. The new ones seem to lay all during the morning and so yesterday they would have probably laid outside and the birds would eat them. I opened the stable at midday and they have gone for a wander so I may have to keep putting them in the stable for the time being otherwise I won’t get any eggs at all.

The book about feeding rabbits naturally arrived and I have part read it, very interesting, there is a lot of fresh food that I knew they could have of course but also some that I had no idea about. I think I have an abundance of assorted material that I will be able to feed them on and save money on pelleted feed, as I have said Spring and summer will be easy it’s the winter and autumn will be more difficult. With that in mind I have knocked up a herb drying screen, it’s rudimentary but it does the job and I made it with stuff I had lying round so free as well 😀 It will be for drying summer herbs that I can make a herb hay with in time. When I started researching it I was amazed that you can buy freshly cut willow sticks for your rabbit online at £12.99kg and dried raspberry leaves, two resources that I usually assign to the compost heap, not anymore, everything will be assessed for rabbit fodder!

Wednesday: A pleasant enough morning, early drizzle but that went and after the morning rounds I got on with some things in the garden. I put some water in a large bucket and then a sack full of manure in the water to make some manure feed, I still have some concentrate left from last year but no time like the present to make some more. Planted up some of the Pak Choi seedlings, some in the large tunnel and some in the small, the weaker seedlings I have planted in a square mushroom container to grow on for the rabbits, I doesn’t matter if they don’t survive but if they do that a bonus. Uncovered and moved the citrus trees into the large tunnel also gave them a feed, they haven’t done too badly over winter and two lemons are still clinging on in there, then tidied up the small tunnel where they have been overwintering. Pinched out the tips of the broad bean plants now that they have started to flower, the soft fleshy tops attract black fly and they are good to eat so they will be wilted and I will eat them with fish later today. Everything else is still a bit slow but hopefully once the temps climb they will burst into life 😜 Still all too wet to do much on the garden itself, too wet to hoe, to wet to walk on really so it’s a waiting game. I read an article about earthing up potatoes, ha, they haven’t even gone in the ground yet! I collected some forage bits for the rabbits to eat, I am looking at everything as potential rabbit feed now 🤣 I even thought about giving them the bean tops then decided against it, they can have the plants when they go over and I will have the tops 😝

Thursday: Got a little bit excited when my weather ap said 24 and sunny today, then it quickly corrected itself and went to 7 and light rain 😩 It’s grey and misty/damp out this morning hey ho beginning to get used to it now. Still waiting for the wire to arrive for the fruit cage otherwise I could have got on with that at least. The nighttime temperatures are no longer dropping so that’s a bonus, it means I don’t need to worry too much about the seedlings in the greenhouse as they should be fine, I can’t see a frost forecast for the next two weeks, famous last words 😜

Went in the greenhouse after feeding and pricked out the broccoli seedlings, once again I have about 50 plants lol don’t know what I’m going to do with all those! I also potted on the Aubergines and moved them into the large poly tunnel underneath another cloche, I have no idea if they will survive or not but they have got too big for the windowsill and there is no where else to move them to at the moment. I did the same with some pepper plants, the tomatoes I did last week seem to be holding their own, waiting for some warmth like the rest of us. The courgettes I had in the propagator on the window sill rotted away, I have never known a year like this one, normally things can be slow but this is ridiculous! There are things that are growing however so all is not lost, the strawberries in the tunnel have grown some flowers 😀 the garlic has sprouted that I planted out last week, the peas in the small tunnel have flowers on, the rhubarb is getting bigger, hope springs eternal, as Pope said.

Came in about 11.30 with the intention of doing some baking but the Sam arrived and we went out to clean the tack room and throw a whole load of crap away, then sorted out all the fencing stakes and electric tape so that it was all in one place finally. Then the rain came, again 😟

Came indoors to make an egg/dairy/gluten free cake, sounds like a recipe for disaster and may well be, it’s still in the oven but I’m not hopeful that this mix is going to bind together while cooking 😝

Then out to do the pm feeding and egg collection, take a couple of photos of the quail house on my way round for someone who wants an idea on how to build their own, then off to look at a property with Shelley and Martin, busy day 🤪

Friday: Road trip 😀 actually it was five minutes down the lane to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, so I got the morning rounds done quickly and off we went, picnic packed, plenty of layers on, had an exhausting day but thoroughly enjoyed by all of us😀

Back home in time to do the afternoon feeding but not before a well earned cup of tea and a sit down.

Did the feeding, collected the eggs, fed the horse then cleaned out the POL pen at the back, John came home halfway through doing it so gave me a hand and then we went to pick up some new pets 😀

You will remember the story of what a rogue ferret did to my guinea pigs back in November, well I have two news ones, meet Tinker and Tucker, two little boars from a friends of ours that breeds them.

I ordered 100g of wild flower seeds for heavy shade, we have put poultry fence all along the roadside of the side paddock, it has a lot of trees along there and we decided it was heavily shaded and as it is fenced off at the moment hopefully the seeds will grow.

Saturday: Cracking day, Sun, Sun, Sun all day long 😀 After feeding this morning we got on with wiring the fruit cage as the rolls had arrived finally. In my search for the right size hole and the right height and length as I wanted 25m long 1m high x 2 I didn’t check the quality of the wire and as a consequence it was not really a great quality, the top and bottom wires were pulled too tight causing bagging in the middle, however we have put it on and it dose not look too bad. Just got the netting to put over the top and the door to wire then it’s finished 😀

Grand National Day, and whatever your thoughts are on horse racing, in our house the GN has always been a big day, normally we would all be in the living room screaming at the telly (except last year when none of us had any horse anywhere near finishing) this year we had a group FaceTime as Charlie is in Italy and Sam was at her house, Shelley and Martin came to ours for the event, Martin and I both had the winner this year 😀 However I made the mistake of doing the bet online, not the same I would rather go and collect cash winnings from the bookies. And that was pretty much it especially as I had to spend a couple of hours on hold while trying to unlock my betting account (which I opened for the occasion) having cocked up signing in in the first place 😝

I was hoping tomorrow was going to be similar to today but rain is forecast ffs!

Sunday: Well it’s not too bad to wake up to, it’s dry at the moment and though obviously a lot cooler than yesterday, it’s not bad at all. Got the feeding done, cleaned out the geese and put fresh bedding in for the ducks, then it was on to finish the fruit cage. We joined together the two lots of wire, top and bottom and then got the net out to put over the roof, John had tensioned two wires across to support the netting. Almost immediately it became apparent that the net was a bit too short, we turned it round and nope it was not quite going to stretch, umming and arghing we decided to put up what we could and we would have to get another piece and stitch it together, not ideal but we had already bought this piece. At this point John decided to measure the length and width, now I did ask him to do this in the beginning and he told me it was definitely 8m x 5m, on measuring it properly this time he admitted it was 8.5m long, no wonder it won’t reach 🤪 I made an executive decision to reorder a piece big enough to cover the whole thing and will use the other netting elsewhere.

After we couldn’t finish that, John went to clean out the hens at the front and I did some hoeing on the veg beds, the asparagus is just starting to poke through so I weeded that bed and a couple of others. I no longer think weeding is a chore as it is now seen as rabbit fodder, I always used to give them the dandelions but now they are having nearly every weed and tuft of grass, two birds with one stone comes to mind. Then I did a bit of work on a new bed I have made at the bottom of one of the raised veg beds, I decided I don’t have enough flowers and so marked that area off at the end of last year for the purpose. I have a small raised bed in front of it which is also filled with primula, cowslips, dwarf lavender and a rose, I put some tete a tete bulbs in there so it will mostly be a spring bed and the first to give colour. Most of the plants I have chosen to go in there will be single flower because that is best for the insects and especially the bees, they can’t gather pollen from double headed flowers. There won’t be much uniformity to it, it will be what I have got already and planted haphazardly (until it gets on my nerves then I will re arrange it all 😜) It began to rain while I was doing this last part but it wasn’t cold so I carried on until the rain became a bit too heavy, no point damagingthe soil by treading it down.

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Beginnings, progress and endings.

Bank Holiday Monday 2nd April: Still raining 🌧 rained heavily in the night and as a consequence we now have the lake we usually have AND a tributary stream flowing into it across all the side paddocks, the hay barn is flooded, the stables are flooded, in fact, everywhere is bloody flooded. I know I said we need it but this is beyond a joke and still rain forecast every day up until Thursday! The fact that the farm slopes downwards towards the side paddock is our only saving grace really as at least it doesn’t stay up the top here very long.

We did the mornings rounds and slopped everything out, can hardly call it mucking out today as it just wet runny s**t 😜

John can’t finish the fruit cage as he needs a bit more wood and the wood yard is closed today, and even if he had it the holes he dug are filled with water. There is no chance whatsoever of getting on the garden as that is waterlogged and the problem is that it will be all to do once it starts to dry up and I will be back to single manpower.

At least we don’t have the snow that other parts of the country have had, I think I would just about blow my top lol.

I decided to hatch out some more quail so I ordered eggs from eBay as ours are not laying enough to use those and besides I could do with new bloodlines. I got the incubator out, last time the automatic humidity pump packed up and we still can’t fix it, dilemma, buy a new pump which is 1/3rd of the cost of a new machine and find out it’s the incubator circuit board that is causing the problem or buy a whole new set up and test the old pump on the new machine, that way if it works we will know exactly which part we need to buy, opted for whole new set up, I will need to do lots of hatching and selling to get my money back 😜

John spent a lot of time making sure that any more rainfall has an escape route and we don’t end up flooded, then he cleaned out the front hen house, meanwhile I did lots of washing and some research on various topics 😝

Tuesday: Shall I mention the weather, no need really, I’m sure you can guess what it’s like 😝 I have look at the long term forecast and we are due a lovely week of sunshine soon, though we all know how things can change 😜 John did the animals this morning while I sorted out the recycling, washing up, Rayburn, washing, tidying, made bread etc etc, then he went off to his Mums and get some more posts for the fruit cage, I sure am hoping that it gets finished this week! We have been totally hampered by the weather, I was hoping that the cage would be finished at the end of the week as there are other jobs to get done, it does not look like they will now, then I was hoping that as all the jobs were finished John would then have time to help with the veg garden sometimes and I don’t think that is going to happen.

All the framework is finished and concreted in, ordered the wire online but it won’t be here until next week 😐 Oh and we had bouts of sunshine inbetween rain showers today so that’s what I call improvement.

Wednesday: A dull start but at the time of writing it’s not raining, however I don’t expect that to last as it is forecast! I have a hospital appointment today, normally it’s at the JR in the morning but the Professor has inconsiderately decided to retire and the clinic has been moved to the Nuffield in the afternoons 😜 ok while it’s Easter hols but in future it will be a nightmare on the road. It appears that the discoid Lupus (which is what I was originally diagnosed with) is active which is why I have a permanent rash on my arms and some marking on my face, the doctor was really lovely and gave me a prescription for lotions and potions to help get it under control, luckily the systematic Lupus is still asleep 😴

Picked up Mia on the way back home.

Thursday: Well the long awaited and promised sunshine day has arrived and not disappointed (first things first, on with the factor 30) John fixed the small rabbit run roof that blew off in the last lot of gales, then he replaced one side of the muck heap where the timbers have all but rotted away, our chap with the wood arrived with some more to add to the mountain. Meanwhile I went into the greenhouse to see how everything is doing, moved stuff around, potted on, sowed some cucumber seeds and watered. Watered both the poly tunnels, the peas are beginning to get some flowers 😀 I put some Guinness down in the big tunnel in the slug traps, cut back the Japanese honeysuckle and pruned the gooseberry bushes, a bit late but they should be fine and I don’t want them sprawling. Then John and I discussed how and where we are going to grow the brassicas but we need to wait for the fruit cage wire before we can do that as we will build something off the side of the cage. Next a job that I was not looking forward too and that was the dispatch of the poorly duck 🙁 got to be done as she could barely get about any more, and then onto dispatching and plucking one of the bantam cockerels, we have four, I tried selling them, nothing and so might as well eat them, not much on them but it will provide a meal for two and leftovers for soup or something. The man with the wood came back with a second load! And then time for a well earned sit down (didn’t last long)

Potted on some more tomato seedlings and melon, they are getting a bit leggy with the lack of sunlight up to now, I can’t hold them back anymore or they will be too spindly, fingers crossed they survive otherwise I think I will just give up!

The new incubator is now up, running and primed ready for the eggs whenever they get delivered 😋

The nice weather looks short lived according to the forecast, however the temperatures look set to remain above 6c for most of the time which is fabulous as it means the grass should grow and cover up the mud in the paddocks 😀

John went out to change a set of taps, beforehand he had unloaded the feed he got the other day, when he got to the job and opened the back of the van he had a stowaway, a chicken had hopped in while he was emptying it lol.

Friday: Hopefully another dry day today. We did the morning rounds, I cleaned out the duck house and the small rabbit run while I was at it. I took a wander round the fields to have a look and see what kind of state they are in after the endless rain we have had, not too bad and will come back quite quickly once it stays dry. John chopped up and stacked some wood and then went off to his Mums, today it’s the hairdressers and shopping so he won’t be back until lunchtime. The bantam I dispatched and plucked yesterday needed processing so this was a good time to do that. I have done many a chicken before but not a bantam and I did wonder if it was too small to bother, however people eat smaller birds than that so better not waste it. I found the gutting much more difficult than a standard size chicken due to the small body cavity and I have small hands, so in the end I decided to spatchcock it and remove the insides after cutting up the back. This is still a delicate procedure with the insides as the last thing you want to do is burst any of the intestines or bowel, so I was very careful and luckily successful. I was going to freeze the bird but figured I might as well cook it today now that it has been done as I haven’t got anything else out of the freezer anyway.

So this photo is of the spatchcocked bantam (actually I am not putting the picture up because quite frankly it is the most ridiculous photo I have ever seen 🤣it should look like this

Except that I didn’t break the breastbone enough and it looks like this one but with attitude 🤣🤣🤣

I slathered it with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon 😀 it won’t look like a shop bought bird for two reasons, one, it is not pumped full of water to make it look nice and plump (as above)so the skin is quite dry and wrinkly, and two, it has not been bleached with a food grade bleach like they are in a processing unit, but it will taste 10 times better 😀 I cleaned up the feet and will roast those along with the neck and livers for the dogs. When I finished everything I used gets a wash in detol so as not to spread germs and voila, done.

Ok I will put the photo up but try not to fall off the chair laughing

I am aware that it looks a little like it’s sat there with it’s hands in the air 🤣🤣🤣

I went outside to burn some rubbish and the entrails of the bantam and needed to move the burning barrel as the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, sparks could either end up in the straw or burn small holes in my polytunnel. I tried moving it but it’s quite full of ash and heavy and hurt my shoulder so I thought that’s fine I will use the sack truck, looks for sack truck, nowhere to be found! Goes to phone hubby and his phone is on the side, bloody Nora, not even a simple task is possible when people don’t put things away or remotely even where they can be found! I really need that BIG shed with an even BIGGER paddock to stop things going walkabout 😡

Turns out the sack truck is somewhere under the mountain of wood, I ask you, ejit 🤪

John made the door frame for the fruit cage, I will try and gets some pics when I get a minute, and I did some bits in the garden including putting hoops over one of the raised beds ready for planting up, the chickens will be straight on it if I don’t cover it, I also planted some garlic bulbs and sowed some pumpkin seeds. Sam, Mia, Shelley, Josh and Florence came in the afternoon, Josh wanted to look for vegetables and so I introduced him to some bits in the garden, he happily chomped away on some chives and some pea shoots from the garden, Mia spat them out 😂

Made bread in the evening and set the quail eggs into the incubator, out of 48, three were broken in transit, not bad considering they have gone through the Royal Mail handling system!

Saturday: Did the morning stuff, John cleaned out the back hens and went to get sawdust and feed after going to his Mums, I got one of the hits ready for the ducks we are picking up later today, then I did cleaning indoors, bedroom, bathroom and living room, full move everything clean, not got time for the kitchen today as that will take a few hours it will have to wait for another day😜 Weather is not as bad as I expected it to be, had a small shower this morning but it has been dry since then 😀

Picked up the pekin duckies, in the end we were allocated eight rather than ten but that’s fine, these are ex commercial ducks, two years old and have never been able to immerse themselves fully in water! They have only ever had enough to submerge their heads into, as a consequence on their first time in water they are not yet waterproof, they soon will be once they start to preen and use their oil gland but for tonight they will stay in a stable so they don’t get cold. They are nice looking, clean (now they have been able to bath) healthy birds, I hope they enjoy their retirement with us and hopefully want to continue laying eggs 😀

Sunday: Today has been a fab day 😀 not particularly weatherwise but work wise it has been productive. Firstly the new ducks, we got 5eggs out of the 8 and they are big eggs at that, considering I didn’t think they would lay until they had settled in that’s a result. I moved into the outdoor run and closed the gate, the others had already been let out and gone off down the paddocks, however the drakes soon came running back up when they realised there was fresh talent around lol. I opened the gate later in the afternoon but they have chosen to stay where they are all day.

Next job was to go into the side paddock and remove all the electric fence stakes and tape and tidy it up, there was a few years worth of ‘bits of string’ which had been used to tie up various posts etc etc, all cut off and thrown away now. Then we cut a ‘gateway’ in the two fences to enable the chickens to move freely from the paddock they are in, we have put poultry netting up the length of the paddock close to their hut to shut off the front paddock so that we can drag it and seed it when the time is right.

I have drawn a lovely picture in the hopes it makes sense 😝

While we were out there we had a visit from a chap I have been in touch with on social media about the rats under the hut. Basically there is a group that take their dogs out and go ‘ratting’ it’s all done for free and watching the dogs work was an absolute treat, I say work, but they didn’t actually find any, the reason being that we have been so waterlogged that I think the rats moved out, it will only be temporary though as soon as it’s dry enough they will be back and so will the dogs!

Back to the paddock work and we then netted three sides of the bottom half of the side paddock, mainly to stop the hens wandering especially onto the roadside. It doesn’t sound like much but it takes forever to gather up fencing stakes and roll up the tape and we had to bring the poultry net down from the small paddock at the back so it took a fair amount of time all in all but very satisfying to get it done. Then John cleaned out the front hen house and burnt all the cardboard mite traps, while I went and took down some more tape and stakes (and oodles of string) from another part of the paddock, and neatly bundled and tied up all the stakes and tape, a fair amount of string and broken tape went in the bin. John did the afternoon feeding and the eggs then he lit the fire, Macca is cooking the dinner so I carried on pootling about outside, fed the horse, tidied up some more bits of rubbish and voila the day is done, almost, just got to put them all to bed later 😋

Jobs to do, manic egg sales and Eostre celebrations

Monday 26th March: A good productive day, John is off this week so we hoping to get a fair bit done, that’s the plan anyway! John went off to pick up a new batch of POL hens while I did the morning rounds. In the pen where we keep them he has installed some new devices for feeding and watering, I hope they appreciate it 😀

I wrote a list of jobs and once he was back we worked through them, first was the old sofa and a mattress that has been sat in the front for two months, we had to apply for a certificate to enable John to use the van to take stuff to the tip so that has at last been done. Then the flue needed cleaning out so after a coffee John went up on the roof and got that cleaned then cleaned out the fire. After that he cleaned out the chickens in the front house and burnt the rubbish and after that it was on to wood cutting, he did try and do the muck pile with the tractor but it was too wet.

Meanwhile I cleaned out the rabbit runs, the quail hut and the orchard chicken house, did a bit of cutting back of dead stuff, sorted out plants for selling that have been sat all winter and sowed some Swiss chard and some radishes. In between Sam and Mia and Shelley, Josh and Florence came to visit which was mayhem 🤪

I discovered a batch of 32 eggs in the tack room, did the freshness test on them, 2 floated (bad) 6 upended (not very fresh) but the rest were fine and stayed on the bottom, they obviously can’t be sold to customers but I can use them in cooking and in fact had some in a frittata for dinner, just need to be cracked into a cup first to double check them.

Plenty more jobs on the list but that’s it for today 😋

Been so busy I forgot to say

How springlike the weather was today

Buds bursting on flowers and trees

The distant buzz of bumble bees 🐝

A ray of sun is all it takes

For spring to leave winter in its wake

Tuesday: Two good days does not a spring make 😝 after the lovely weather we are back to wet and cold, not as cold as it has been but it’s not warm. I despair at ever being able to get on in the veg garden but instead of dwelling on what I can’t do I have decided to do what I can 😜 This morning I have concentrated on moving seedlings on a bit and hoping they will survive, I pricked out another pot of tomato seedlings, all have gone under cover in various ways but some in the greenhouse and some in the poly tunnel, fingers crossed we will have survivors! Then I pricked out the cabbage and Pak Choi seedlings, these will be fine as they don’t require any heat and have fared well up to now, I have sown some courgettes, some left in the greenhouse under cover and some I have bought indoors into the propagator. What I really need is a HUGE windowsill about 4ft wide and 6ft long lol, the problem is that we have small windows and so they don’t get the light they require, in the tunnels and greenhouse there is plenty of light but not enough heat. I thought about making heated staging for one of the tunnels but it seems like a big job and we can’t add any more to the list really.

John had to go out this morning and when he came back started digging the holes for the fruit cage posts, that is going to take a while 😝 I have Mia this afternoon so no chance of me helping which is just as well as I hate digging 🤪

I got some baking done first thing, fruit buns, Easter biscuits, a gluten free chocolate cake and a loaf of bread, mainly because John has been complaining there is nothing to eat!

And then while Mia was sleeping I made soap! I bought a kit to see how easy it would be and it’s very simple and quite satisfying to do, it’s my Mums birthday this weekend so she will be the lucky first recipient 😀 I was thinking that I could use my own dried flowers and herbs in future batches, all different scents, an exciting prospect.

Wednesday: Well wouldn’t you bloody know it, it’s raining again, the forecast is rain every bloody day for at least the next week, just when John is off to get some stuff done, god knows when we will be able to drag the paddocks if at all and digging posts in this weather is not great but concreting them in is not a good idea either! This morning I despair at ever getting on the veg garden or indeed getting much growing! I have sown a second lot of peas, the first lot rotted away, the second lot rotted away, maybe third time lucky? I have tried growing them under some cover, out of cover, the only thing I can think is when I water them they then get too cold and rot so I have just sprayed the top of the soil lightly this time and we will see what happens, good job peas come in big numbers of seed. I did a little bit in the greenhouse but that’s not much fun as the rain keeps dripping on my head, I just feel this morning like everything is working against us 🙁 BUT I am not a quitter so I will keep plodding on, eventually we may get a break, and I will concentrate on what can be grown so brassicas, broad beans, beetroot, pak choi, chard etc and hope the more tender stuff will catch up later on.

John managed to get one end of the fruit cage up and concreted in so at least that’s a start, though I’m hoping it will get finished!

Made another batch of soap.

Thursday: A frost this morning, well that wasn’t predicted 😝 as you will gather from that it was yet another cold start, talking to other growers on social media, they are all chomping at the bit, so at least I am not alone, however I do know that here we are usually two weeks behind when it come to growing stuff due to the lay of the land so I have no idea when things will get going 🤪

John did the animals this morning then off to his Mums, his week off is turning into half days only at the moment 🙄 he is looking very tired so while he is out I am busying making a nutritious dinner (chicken casserole) for him later, complete with turmeric for his aching bones, I may even throw in some dumplings to cheer him up 😀 I am making recipes out of the Lupus cookbook for my lunch and dinner, I’m not sure if it is helping, it seemed to the first week but since then I have suffered with aches and pains though it may be more to do with the cold weather as that has an effect too, it’s a non win situation as when the Sun comes out in full force I will be hiding away 😜

Some Calabrese plants arrived so I went out to plant some, actually I planted half of them in the poly tunnel, the other half I will plant outside once I can get on the garden to weed it and put the cage up, heaven knows when that will be? I sowed some coriander seeds for the greenhouse and some more basil seeds for the windowsill. Looking through my seeds I realised I hadn’t ordered any cucumbers or pumpkin so put an order in for them, the elephant garlic arrived and I need to find a place for those, I think I need a bigger veg patch lol. John did a bit more hole digging for the fruit cage posts though the weather is seriously hampering the job, it’s not much fun digging in the cold rain 😝

Hoping to rehome some 2 yr old laying ducks, just waiting to hear back about those, we only get a dozen a day but could easily sell more.

Good Friday: As well as the morning routine we covered a lot of ground today picking up little jobs here and there, I cleaned out the duck shed and cut up cardboard for the red mite traps, John fixed a loose door handle, put a plug on the pump in case of future electricity cuts so it can now run off the generator if that happens, he also finally fixed the dog shower. The shower got broke during the first lot of heavy snow so we have been without it for ages, he put in another that he had lying around but that leaked everywhere, third time lucky and we have a working shower again. Good job too as the dogs were desperate for a bath, well they weren’t but I was desperate to give them one, if it was up to them they would just stay dirty little mutts and love it, I think they disapprove of John finally get that job done 🤪 He also fixed some tiles that had come loose on the kitchen floor, and got a pile of wood inside to keep it dry. Shelley, Josh and Florence visited in the afternoon and I made some bread later on as we had none left.

The egg sales are absolutely going mad and we just about keeping up with the turnover.

Easter Saturday: No need to tell you what the weather is like 🙄 (she laughs and the hysteria is audible 🤪) We may look back during a long hot summer and think, thank goodness for all that rain in early Spring 😝

I was just reading reports that as of January 2018 we were heading for a drought as both the last Winters had been dry and the ground water was low, so I’m swayed a little to think that this large swathe of rain we are getting is actually a good thing and best not to moan about it. It has got me thinking though that we probably need to invest in more water storage tanks, we have approx 15,000 litres of storage but there are place that we could gather at least another 15,000 from so I will start looking into it.

I needed to use up the rest of those eggs we found and tested so I made two traybakes, one lemon and lime drizzle and one peanut butter 😀 In the afternoon I went with the grandchildren and their respective Mums to the village eggstravaganza, egg rolling completion down the hill, duck and boat racing on the pond then an Easter egg hunt in the churchyard. Josh won the duck race and got an egg which he shared nicely, then they both found hidden eggs, maybe next year they will be old enough to make Easter bonnets for that competition 😀

Easter Sunday: Eostre, an ancient celebration of new growth, new beginnings and everything associated with this time of year, birds laying eggs, flowers and trees bursting into bloom, wild animals including hares all doing what comes naturally, a glorious time of year indeed. And the weather has agreed as the Sun is shinning magnificently this morning, still a tad cold early on but the day holds promise 😀

We did the morning rounds and John has gone out to dig the last two holes for the fruit cage posts, then we will be visiting my Mum who has the unfortunate affliction of an April fools birthday, I can’t tell you how many horrid tricks we played on her when we were children, poor Mum 😋

We had dinner with Shelley, Martin, Josh and Florence late afternoon and when we returned the egg shed was empty, we have sold every available egg in the place!

We have been allocated 10ducks for rehoming so that will hopefully help with extra eggs.

Wild garlic, pizza (but not as we know it) and springing forward.

Monday: 19th March I’m not sure if I like marking off the weeks with the date, time seems to fly past even faster!

It’s still cold, the wind is still coming from the east and it’s bitter, hopefully it won’t be much longer before we see the temperatures rise, I’ve seriously considered moving somewhere warmer 😜

Not much to report in terms of the farm really as you can imagine the jobs that need doing are having to wait for the weather to warm up. The paddocks usually would be dragged and rolled in March but we are fast approaching the end of the month and not a hope of getting on them. The problem will be that when we can, the sun will be a lot warmer and dry everything a lot faster, coupled with the fact that John can’t just stop what he is doing during ‘the window of opportunity’ and quite rightly he says I shouldn’t be using the tractor if I am here all day by myself ‘health and safety’

We have made plans to topseed the paddocks which will mean enticing the hens to a different paddock during the daytime, we will see how that goes when the time is right. At the moment they are still on the front paddock which is showing signs of growth through the mud 😝but it will be good to get them off and get the grass sorted. There is still enough grass for the geese to graze if they venture further afield providing it’s not snow or frost, on those days we have to supplement their diet with pellets. They are laying well and have split their nests into two now, to begin with they were all laying in one nest, last year three of them sat on eggs but only produced one gosling between them, I’m hoping now they are more experienced we might get more.

Tuesday: Still a cold wind went I first went outside but by the finish of my rounds the wind had dropped and the sun was out, lovely to feel some warmth though it didn’t last very long. While I was waiting for the water buckets to fill I went to have a look and see if the wild garlic I planted last autumn had come up, it has 😀 I pinched a bit off the top of a leaf and oh my goodness the smell is amazing, very strong, I won’t harvest it this year but wait until next year although I can see the hens have been trying it already.

The worming we did over the seven days last week has boosted the egg numbers to almost maximum, 96 out of 100 from the front hens, I will settle for that.

The seedlings on the window sill have shot through, a bit too quickly really as they are getting leggy and with the temps still not up I can’t really move them anywhere 🙁 I may have to come up with a solution or it will have been wasted effort. I ordered some garlic, onions, kale and broccoli seeds on top of my last order as I am trying to figure out what we mostly want, need, eat, no point growing veg we don’t eat even if I do sell it, I need to make sure we are reaping the benefits as much as anyone.

The baby rabbits that were produced from the escaped bunny have produced a brood of their own under the decking 😩 I saw them nibbling on the lawn this morning, oh my days this rabbit thing is out of control, I need to get that sorted too, either cull them or try and move them off out into the paddock.

I have been trying out a new diet and recipe book for Lupus, Shelley got it for me for Mother’s Day, AIP is autoimmune protocol diet and cuts out things that cause inflammation or fatigue, although we eat fairly healthy in terms of not consuming processed foods in any great quantity there is still a lot to cut out and learning different ways of using alternative ingredients. I am on day three and last night for the first time in ages my hands did not seize up and I do feel like I have turned a corner energy wise, so I shall carry on with it and see how I do.

I made an alternative pizza for lunch today, for my last birthday one of my sisters gave me ‘a bunch of flours’ which included teff flour, don’t worry I’d never heard of it either! So I used that and ground almonds, egg, garlic powder and olive oil to make the base then walnuts, garlic oil and basil to make a pesto and topped with mushrooms and a bit of cheese (though the cheese is not strictly allowed 😲) verdict: not bad 😛

The fox got one of our older hens last night, shame as she was one of my faves, she was a light Sussex hybrid and was from a fairly old batch, she obviously didn’t go to bed last night and there are the feathers all over the yard to back that up 😟

Today is the Spring Equinox and it doesn’t even feel like we have entered into spring, equal measures of light and dark, well that’s great but can we please have some warmth to go with it now 🙏

Wednesday: Oh how long have we been waiting for a morning like this? Seems like forever! Frosty start but the sun shinning gave promise and hope and delivered 😀 After doing the morning rounds I went straight to the garden and greenhouse, I put classic fm on a little radio and had a wonderfully content 45 mins pottering and sowing seeds, mostly courgettes and squash but also some broccoli. The squash seeds will go under cover into a unheated propagator and if the temps threaten to plummet again I will have to bring them indoors. The broad beans have flowers on already and the other seedlings are sprouting nicely now. I did sow some basil into a pot and brought it inside to put in the windowsill propagator. I watered the peas in the small tunnel and the strawberry baskets in the big tunnel, everything is starting to bud, the blueberries, the fig and the apricot tree outside has little bombs of pink all over it just waiting to burst open.

Then Mia arrived for the day and we decided to go for a walk along the lane, listening and looking all the way down and back, I even saw a muntjac deer in the scrub but I figured by the time I got Mia unclipped and out it would be gone so she didn’t get to see it this time.

Normally each year I do a crop rotation plan, actually draw it out, but I’ve been doing it that many years now that it’s all in my head and I don’t really need to or so I think because when it then comes to planting I know I will probably put something in the wrong place and besides it’s good to have a record year on year so I shall draw one up and see how well I stick to it.

Thursday: I was very happy to see the promise in today’s weather, sunny, not too cold, hardly a wind, happy days as a bonus John was also at home so we should get plenty done.

After doing the morning rounds we moved stuff, tided stuff, sorted out stuff that needed doing. The hose from the rain water tanks to the ducks was one job that needed doing as the old hose had multiple holes in it and so whenever it was used the bit of yard inbetween ended up soaking wet, I already had new hose waiting so I did that job and filled up the water butts. John did a couple of hours here and there cutting up wood, we gathered up tarpaulin that had been over the Horse box but got ripped to shreds over the winter by the windy conditions. Moved a pile of wood that was given to us but left at the front of the driveway, moved some bags of compost that came out of the old boxes we demolished before building the new fence in the front. I did a bit of work in the garden dug up some more bindweed roots and dug up and potted up some raspberry canes, that was harder work than it sounds 😜 I’m sure we did more but I can’t think what right at the moment.

John did the afternoon feeding and egg collection, the trays are flying off the shelf which is great as it means we don’t need to deliver them, I just went out to a customer who had not been before and needed change and the wind is quite cold out there now, luckily I am inside cooking a beef dinner and a traditional rice pudding for Dad and Sue on their return visit.

Friday: A very productive and busy day, John has been busy getting the POL pen ready for a new batch of hens, we have a new water and feed system in place and he has built new nest boxes for them, all looking very good.

I have been busy in the garden, planting onion sets and the babington leeks, digging, clearing and tidying the raspberry area, putting up more canes and putting down weed membrane for the pots to stand on, potting on the new blueberry bushes, I tried a bit of hoeing but the ground is just a bit too wet still.

We are experiencing very high gates sales for the eggs, I think this week will be bumper takings 😀

Ooops sat here typing up and in walks John without his trousers on, the pressure washer he was using has just split and he got a soaking 🤣🤣

Saturday: I went to London with Charlie to watch both parts of Harry Potter, The Cursed Child, it was a very long bit thoroughly enjoyable day. John was left at home in charge, all seems well 🤪

Sunday: The clocks went forward and that seems to have such an impact on the day, the time just disappears! I was tired from yesterday but still up at the usual time, John did all the animals this morning and I went out and got some gardening done. I potted on some tomato plants that have been on the window sill, cleared up some more debris from the raspberry canes, still a bit more to do there but not much now, I tided, clipped and weeded the herb bed, hopefully everything will begin to burst into life very soon. John did the last finishes to the POL pen and will be picking up 30 pullets tomorrow morning, hopefully they will already be, or very close to, laying as the eggs sales have been off the scale this week!

The sunshine was just too good to stay inside and do the chores so after a cuppa and a snack I went back out determined to get something achieved. I decided on the large poly tunnel, I really should have stuff growing away in there by now but as I said a couple of weeks back, it really wasn’t ready. I do have some left over cauliflower plants in there from last autumn, strawberries in hanging baskets, the fig I moved into there and a couple of rows of beetroot and parsley but apart from that, nothing. And I still haven’t except that now all the soil has been raked over to a fine tilth, I have made two temporary raised beds where the clay seam is and I have weeded, it’s good to go as soon as I decide what to put in there 😀

Rain 😐 more bloody snow 😟 and a new Granddaughter 😍 😍

Monday 12th March: Monday morning and not a very inspiring one at that, the rain hasn’t stopped since late last night and everything is sodden this morning, the paddocks are mostly puddles of dirty water, the yard is turning into a stream and the veg beds, well let’s just say not much point even looking at those yet! On the bright side the reservoirs will be filling nicely 😀 the ducks are very happy 😀 and it’s not cold 😀 I was really hoping to get stuck in to a job or two outside today but I would just be wasting my time I think, I can’t even give the stable a tidy as the rain is making a mess in there too. I just looked at the forecast for the next few days I shouldn’t have bothered lol, rain right through till 11pm tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday are dry (both the days I have Mia) then Thursday and Friday pretty much raining all day, I think it will be a long week, hopefully our new granddaughter will put in an appearance at some point as she is due any day 😀

I am waiting for the pea seeds to sprout and then I could transfer them to the poly tunnel but only one has appeared so far, I’m hoping they are still there I did cover them so they would not get eaten by mice but they may have rotted away with the cold, I shall investigate later. I feel chuffed that I have at last seedlings on the window sill and the aubergine are obviously likening the warm as they have perked up beautifully. I keep thinking if we ever build I will have a special seedling room built on the front of the house at the same time and make use of the south facing aspect.

I went out to the greenhouse in the vain hope of getting something done but the temp is only just over 10c so there is not much point sowing seedlings besides that the compost is in a ton bag at the front of the drive getting soaked, the poly tunnel was next on my agenda but it actually has waterlogging around it and it’s seeping inside, this is very unusual but again means the ground will be too wet and cold to do anything in there. So I came back in the light the Rayburn and that wouldn’t go at the first lighting either, it seems I am destined not to get very far today at all 😐

The onions and garlic I planted back in the autumn are doing well despite the weather and the broad beans and peas that are either in the greenhouse or in the tunnel are both doing well so it’s not all doom and gloom, however the pea seeds I sowed have indeed rotted away during the cold snap, so I will have to put some more in.

Not to be outdone I decided to go back out and see just exactly what I could get done, so I bought in a couple of buckets of compost to dry out in the greenhouse, sowed some more pea seeds, did a bit of cutting back dead herbs, sowed some lettuce seeds in the poly tunnel after I took out the pepper plants I had left in to see if they would continue growing (they didn’t) and that was about it but at least it was something.

Tuesday: It’s not raining, not yet anyway 😝 that’s a bonus for the morning, did the rounds, all seems normal, had a bit of housework to do and some appointments and paperwork to sort out, feeling stressed however as one lot of paperwork is for HMRC and it doesn’t seem to be simple to get it done, e mailed the accountant to see if she can sort it, I can feel my blood pressure rising just at the thought of it all 😩 It’s old paperwork from the wrapping up of the plumbing company so I will be glad when it is done and dusted and I can consign the boxes to storage 😜

Three goes at lighting the Rayburn and I’m still not sure if it’s just going to go out! Eventually got it going and when the sun was shinning in the afternoon I had to open the back door as it was so warm lol, can’t win. Seriously though the sun was a more than welcome event after the past couple of weeks as there was definite heat in the air, we need a lot more to start drying up the ground but I will take today as a good sign 😀

Wednesday: Everyone was up and gone by 7 this morning, I also had an early start and the morning rounds, plus a few extra jobs, were done by 8.10 😀 I even filled up the wild bird feeders before I got dressed, need to look after them since I have provided them with plenty of homes to nest in, there is evidence of one of the new boxes being used as it has a piece of string hanging out of it, nesting material I presume. I also bought the quail some mealworms as they have stopped laying since the cold snap, sometimes they need a bit of extra protein to get them going again.

It’s dry in the sky at least, the ground is still wet and soggy, still slipping on the wet paddocks but getting better all the time.

Out of interest I had a look back at the blog from this time last year, the weather was definitely better, there is hardly a mention of rain and no mention of mud lol, I also appear to have got on a lot further with jobs than I have this year.

Had a productive morning after feeding, I weeded and put weed membrane on the long bean bed, it has been open to the elements all winter to help break it down, cut some evironmesh for the small raised beds, then covered most of one of the bigger beds in weed membrane, 3 reasons, obviously the first is to stop weed growth while it’s not being used, secondly to help warm up the soil and thirdly because the darn cats decide there is not enough room on 5 acres to do their business elsewhere!

Filled up one of the small raised beds with last years compost that we grew potatoes in, disturbed a mouse that was living inside the tonne bag as well, it was a wood mouse, it’s stash of hazelnuts was also in the there, poor thing didn’t know which direction to flee in so tried all directions lol. Then Mia arrived and got suited and booted as it is an ideal day to be outside, she had rides in the wheelbarrow, talked to the worms and chased a chicken round and round the garden, meanwhile I cleared some debris, dug up some bindweed roots and picked up some bits of rubbish. When we came in the fresh air had obviously done her good as she was hungry and ate a good amount of lunch 😀

Thankfully the Rayburn was playing ball today but the fire stick wasn’t! Why is that important, because it has pepper pig on it and I needed Mia to be occupied while I lit the Rayburn, in the end she settled for paw patrol on normal tv so at least I got the fire lit and the washing up from this morning done 😜

Thursday: Our newest granddaughter, Florence, arrived early hours of this morning 😀😀😀😀 Mum and Baby doing fine.

As you can imagine apart from lighting the Rayburn, feeding the hens and some cleaning, today has mostly been about the newest addition to the family, she is bootiful 😍😍😍

Friday: 🤪

Saturday: Cold with snow flurries today, John did the morning stuff then went off to get feed while I got some stuff done indoors, in the afternoon Dad and Sue called in for a couple of hours before making their way to Suffolk tomorrow, Shelley, Martin, John and Florence popped over for a visit later in the day as well. The AA had to be called out for Sue’s car as it wouldn’t start, that does not bode well for the journey ahead and I said it’s because they stopped here, all our rubbish luck for things rubbing off 😂

Sunday: Well wouldn’t you f**ing know it, snow ❄️ bloody snow ❄️ cold temperatures just what we don’t need, I feel like we are getting nowhere fast 😜 Bad moods all round especially after I told John that no matter what the weather he will have to clean out the front hen house, it wasn’t done yesterday and if it didn’t get done today then tomorrow he would be back at work and I would have three days of it to shift and my hands are not up to that at the moment, so off he went to do that while I cleaned out the duck shed which also needs doing. The dog bath had the shower head broken in the last cold snap by someone, can’t remember if I mentioned that but John put a new second hand one on yesterday and that is leaking so no good, coupled with the fact that the repair he put on the hole that appeared has come away and the bath filled up with leaking water then emptied it in the back 😡 ffs nothing seems to just go smoothly at the moment, it’s like skating uphill.P.s sorry it’s late 🤪

Wormer, propagators and Laaaandon Town.

Apologies if anyone received a messed up copy of this weeks blog, I had a malfunction 🤪

Here is the correct one 😀

Monday 5th March: Pleasant enough this morning if a tad colder than yesterday. On the rounds this morning I was thinking we now have a lot of cleaning to do as the snow which drifted into every available area has made it all wet and horrible, the rabbit pens have wet straw on the floor, the goose hut needs cleaning as does the duck shed, looks like a busy day ahead. I also noticed when I was cleaning the floor in the front hen house, a worm, not your common garden worm but I’m guessing one passed by a chicken! So having finished up my last lot of wormer back in November I set about trying to get some more, easier said than done, it seems, as with everything they have now withdrawn the bigger stronger tubs of wormer from sale, this means buying smaller tubs of lesser strength more frequently or buying pre medicated feed. Both of these options are way more expensive, there is a surprise, as far as I am concerned this is another way to squeeze out the small producers making it too expensive to run a going concern. I spent well over an hour trying to track some down to no avail and in the end I have had to order the feed which is approx £3/4 a bag dearer than normal feed, not a problem if you just have a few chickens but when you need 7 bags to worm your flock and they recommend (due to the lack of potency) that you worm every 3 months you can see it will start to get expensive. If we have to go down this route which it looks like we will, then we will have to put up the price of the eggs 😐

I got some beef and vegetable soup on the go in the slow cooker and went off outside to begin the task of cleaning out everyone. Ducks done, geese done, rabbits done and I discovered that the bantams are laying at long last hurrah, I have 4 gold laced Orpington bantams that seem all to be cockerels 😝 and three white silkies only one of which is a cockerel hopefully, well at least one is a hen, that was a rubbish hatch batch! I have a couple of egg customers that like bantam eggs so they will be happy.

AND the Sun is out oh boy happy to see that, in fact I got so warm cleaning out I took my coat off 😀😀 happy days. Couldn’t resist nipping into the greenhouse, it was a whopping 22c in there whoop whoop 😀 I just gave everything a watering, tempting to sow some seed but I will wait a while I think and wait for the weather to settle. I did pot on some of the aubergines to bring back indoors as I think the problem is soil depth they were in a shallow seed tray so I have potted up 6 of them and I will see how they go.

And then the rain came 😟lots of it so everywhere is soggy! On the evening session of putting everything away I also filled up all the rat bait boxes and filled known rat holes with poison, they are persistent little feckers seem to have permanently moved in in one area.

Not sure if I mentioned the glue traps for rats last week, anyhow after some discussion online with people I have decided not to use them, to be honest the picture looked grim and I was reluctant when I saw it and have now been persuaded not to use them so I won’t.

Tuesday: Not a bad morning weather wise, it’s dry for the moment and the temps are acceptable for the time of year. During the morning rounds I checked the rat poison nothing eaten yet so maybe the waterlogging has driven them off, we can hope anyways 😜 I was pretty productive yesterday with Farm stuff and household bits so I am trying to continue the trend today! Busied round and got everything done, then we were given some freshly caught Sea Bream, actually we swapped it for some of our rump steak, the bream is as I type marinading in olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and dried oregano (as I don’t have fresh available). I’m looking forward to tasting it, I will do some green beans to go with it and probably have to do John some potatoes, love a good swap 😀 I have also been busy on social media this morning selling trays of eggs, what with the lack of customers during the snow we have around ten trays that need shifting, does not take long for them to start stacking up when they are laying three trays a day, it’s good to keep them turning over.

Took me an age to get the Rayburn going, I am out of newspapers and was down to recycle rubbish which didn’t go too well, although in the end with much puffing it finally caught the wood and is now going strong. I have put out a call for papers on Facebook, we don’t have them but someone somewhere will have a stack of them I’m sure.

I have ordered an electric thermostatically controlled windowsill propagator, I took the plunge because our house temperature varies so much and the seedlings that were doing well are beginning to flag. It costs £30 but considering how much effort I have been putting in to these seedlings, for them to keel over is a waste of effort and time so that’s where my thoughts have taken me. There are a few models out there but I went for a fully closed in model, some of the other models have up to 7 smaller propagators in a tray all with their own lids, the downfall I feel with these is that the heat base then has escaping heat inbetween the trays.

This is the one I went for

This one is the one with separate propagators which might be handy but the heat source is underneath and so all the spaces inbetween each unit is also being heated and therefore escaping if you see what I mean 😜 Also it is not thermostatically controlled so the heat is constant, it costs about the same but wastes energy I think.

I will at least be able to get some more seedlings on the go, the problem with starting them too early is where do you move them onto if the weather and the temperatures have not got up to a reasonable level and you don’t have a heated greenhouse, by the time it arrives I think it will be a good time to get everything going.

The first real crop that will be arriving soon will be rhubarb mmmm so with that in mind while Mia was asleep I started looking for recipes to compile, rhubarb and ginger jam I will have to try and of course a rhubarb and custard cake but plain old stewed rhubarb and custard is not one to be overlooked in my opinion, always reminds me of childhood days 😀 last year Josh amazed us all by just chewing on a stick of rhubarb, I wonder if he will still like it this year?

Wednesday: The Sun is out 😀 but it was nippy first thing, still it should warm up a little. Did the morning feeding, watering, letting out and cleaning the front coop floor. The nest boxes need a clean as we couldn’t do it last weekend because of the snow and the chickens not leaving the hut lol it is impossible to do it with 100 hens round your feet! I will see if I can get it done tomorrow as I have Mia later today. We are on the Home run as far as the muddy paddocks are concerned, as the sun gets stronger it should dry the ground faster which will enable the grass to come through, it will only grow above 6c and we are getting those temperatures but the saturation of water means it still gets muddy with footfall all over it. The daffodils are beginning to peak out and once we see some blossom on the trees we will know the winter is behind us thank goodness.

The two good days I had have taken their toil on me and I am back to feeling rubbish, stiff joints, headache, generally unwell 🤒 I need to have more bloods tests to monitor the inflammation levels and if they are still high I guess they will investigate why. I was trying to eat healthy and cut out complex carbs, sugar etc but in return I end up with chronic acid reflux instead, at the moment this is a no win situation and I hope it passes soon as I want to be able to crack on 😝 It sure has been a difficult couple of months lately! Lupus is complex, it’s different for every sufferer and to manage it you need to really be in tune with your body but sometimes it gets a little out of control and takes a while to bring back into line.

Made some bread and another batch of fruit buns and a gluten free chocolate cake while I was waiting for Mia to arrive. Anyone who doesn’t know us may wonder why I cook with conventional AND gluten free flours, our youngest daughter who is now 26 was diagnosed a coeliac when she was 18 months old, for all the years she lived at home I mostly cooked gluten free, when she left home I gradually went back to wheat flours and now she is back home for a few months I cook with both again. Day to day cooking is still mostly gluten free, and she cooks for herself most of the time, most things I cook from scratch so I am still in the habit of mostly cooking with naturally gluten free ingredients it’s just bread and cakes that on the whole I use wheat flour for.

Thursday: It’s a bit nasty out there today, apparently the ‘pest from the west’ lol though we haven’t had the snow that other parts have had, we have had rain and it’s windy and a tad cold with it. I was hoping for a half decent day that would be pleasurable but alas it’s not to be, I wanted to get some work done in the garden but it’s very wet underfoot so best left hopefully the wind will dry it out as long as we don’t get any more rain. I am waiting on a couple of things to arrive so I can start seedlings off in the greenhouse, the compost I ordered is great but it needs to be finer for seedlings and I don’t have a fine riddle so I have ordered one and also I am still waiting for the windowsill propagator then I can start off things like the tomatoes and cucumbers etc. I feel it’s going to be a late start this year for most things, still, provided the weather gets better it should all catch up eventually.

Oh dear, today is not a good day mentally lol, it started with not being able to light the Rayburn, not even the paper would catch to start with, then I got soot all over my sleeve reaching further in trying in vain, eventually it got going but then I dropped the stack of wood I was bringing in on the floor I had just hoovered 😝 The train of thought then goes something like this, what the hell am I doing having to light a dirty bloody fire every day, why don’t I just move somewhere with all mod cons, what on Earth am I trying to achieve, am I achieving anything, ever, or am I just on a bloody hamster wheel going round and round and round! I know when spring arrives I will feel differently but the winters seem longer and harder each passing year, at the moment with various other things going on we are just treading water and trying to keep our heads above it, something will eventually give one way or another. John is flat out trying to catch up after having multiple days off with his Mums illnesses, snow days when he couldn’t finish the job he was on, then came burst pipes and multiple phone calls, he is looking stressed, I am trying to hold the fort here which is fine but the weather hampers everything and I am limited by what I can physically do, maybe we should just sell up, we won’t, it’s just one of those days 😩 I will make a list and a plan, that will help me find the way forward 😋

Did a few bits and pieces, wandered into the greenhouse, the seedlings I planted a while back are coming up, broad beans, cabbage, pak Choi the peas are slow but the temperature is around 20c in there again with the sun shining in but I decided against sowing much else for the time being. It is still very windy but not as cold as this morning.

Friday: Today is a better day all round 😀 even though yesterday felt dire and got worse when John went to deliver eggs and a tyre blew on the car, all very well except that we are off to London tomorrow which gives only a very tight time to get the tyre fixed and John is already flat out trying to squeeze everything else in! That said I still woke with enthusiasm today and the wind has dropped, the temperature is pleasant, as yet it’s not raining 🌧 One of the jobs John normally does is clean out the nesting boxes in the front hen house, normally every weekend but last weekend the snow meant the hens would not go out and so it was impossible. As I said we are away tomorrow so this really needed to be done before we go, we have been trialling these cardboard traps for red mite and it needs regular cleaning to be successful, so first thing before I did any of the other jobs I went out and cleaned them and burnt the old material, replaced with new cardboard, bedding and diatomaceous earth, then I fed and let out the rest of the animals.

The rain came later but I haven’t let it dampen my spirits 🤪 did the usual afternoon stuff then delivered 300 eggs in the evening 😜

Saturday: Today we are London bound to watch Les Miserables and stay over, John got it for me for Christmas and looking forward to it but first the animals have to be done. John went off the check on his Mum than go and pick up a special order of feed with the wormer added that the supplier had round earlier to say was now in, best to get it started as soon as possible. The girls are looking after everything in various measures so we are grateful for that.

I haven’t been to London for about 8 years, lol it’s a culture shock to say the least, at most I see about 5 people a day and I know all of them 😝 this is thousands of people all seemingly coming in the opposite direction, on the phone, gazing up, hell bent on getting somewhere, however I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, we saw the ‘Million Women’ march, went to China Town, watched people dancing to a busker at 11.30pm and of course watched the spectacular show Les Miserable, I confess, I cried at the scene where Jean Valjean was dying and I don’t think I stopped then till the end 😢fantastic show well worthy of the standing ovation. Being there with all those people, tall buildings blocking out the sky and the general pace of things, did make me appreciate our 5 acres of relaxed space and skies though and I returned with a new fondness for home 😀

Just as we were leaving on Saturday my windowsill propagator arrived and so once we had visited our respective Mothers for Mother’s Day and got back and lit the fire, I set about setting it up and sowing the seeds I wanted to go in there. Tomato, 3 varieties, good old Money Maker, a beefsteak variety and a plum tomato which will be great for freezing a sauces. I also sowed some pepper seeds, I know I wasn’t going to but these were free seeds of long sweet peppers so I thought I might as well try them out. I watered everything in the greenhouse and the peas and citrus trees in the small poly tunnel and feel like we are getting nearer to the time when plenty of outside work will get done, the Sun made a welcome appearance for a time today which brings plenty of hope with it 🌞

P.s. there is cherry blossom on the trees in London, obviously due to the higher temperatures there but yey spring is springing finally.

The beast from the East and all that goes with it!

Monday 26th Feb: It is cold this morning but not as cold as I was expecting it to be but time enough for that. Did the morning stuff had to break all the water buckets and was glad we filled them yesterday, though prolonged cold will obviously bring problems further down the line.

Made a shepherds pie with the left over slow roasted beef we had yesterday, I used the meat juices for the gravy and even fried the onions in the beef fat, just what you need to keep the cold out, I also made an apple and blackcurrant crumble again lots of vitamin c and a good stodgy pudding works wonders on the soul 😀

The rest of the day was mostly spent stoking the fire to keep the temps up inside and it’s nice and cosy so bring it on beast.

For the afternoon feeding and egg collection I dug out my duvet coat, a splendid if a little dusty affair, that came from a mountainous, snowy part of the world and is perfect for sub zero temperatures, only it wasn’t that sub zero lol, I found that the hosepipes were flowing freely so it can’t be minus anything just yet, a good opportunity to again top up the water buckets, a little snow flurry added to the ambience but that soon passed over and so we wait and see what happens next.

We are ready for most things except a loss of electric, still not got the generator sorted, the idea is to be able to plug the pump into it so that we can still run the Rayburn, I’ve got a feeling I will be cursing John if that happens and we still can’t do it.

It’s 4.30 and I’m looking out fo the window at the lovely sunshine wondering if this is all going to be something and nothing!

Made some oat and blueberry bars as I had a few oats to use up, trying to gradually use up store cupboard stuff and I will then replenish, anyone have a recipe to use up a tin of refried beans 🤣

Tuesday: Still cold although no sign of the snow that northern parts have had as yet.

Water buckets frozen solid, they take a good hard heeling to break them 😜 all the birds seem quite content and not showing any signs of the cold affecting them. Mia arrived early so it was lucky I had already got everything done except for lighting the Rayburn so I got that done quickly.

We have had snow flurries on and off all day mixed with sunshine!

I am slightly concerned for the aubergine seedlings on the window sill, although it’s warm during the day, during the night time the temp drops and where they once were thriving they are looking a little sad, I have put a clear polythene tent over them so hopefully they will recover, I only need two or three plants any way so it will be the strongest that pull through I guess. There are two melon seeds that have sprouted and they seem fine and strong, hopefully the other 4 seeds will sprout soon.

Putting the birds to bed this evening with a layering of crispy snow that looked blue in the moonlight, pure magic 😀 already -6 at 6.30 though, goodness knows how cold it will get overnight!

Wednesday: Goodness knows what the temps went down to last night I’m guessing about -10! So this morning I lit the Rayburn before going out and I wrapped up properly, my duvet coat, two pairs of gloves, one fingerless pair under the thermal gloves and my iso therm wellies. The only part of me that got cold was my face and a few gurning exercises when I came back in soon thawed it out 🤪 The water buckets were the most difficult thing this morning, as expected they were frozen solid, right to the bottom on the smaller buckets, I broke what I could which was most of them, just the one at the back that was too hard, luckily the sun is shinning this morning so it should melt off a little bit, the hens are free ranging so they will find the other water buckets soon enough. I checked the egg shed and one of the eggs had frozen and split, the others were fine but if the temperatures stay low we might have to start bringing them in over night. I have put plenty of bird seed out for the wild birds, I moved the feeder so it is now in the oak tree outside the back door which is lovely because I can see them all feeding and there are lots of them 😀

So far the ‘beast from the east’ has been more of a ‘cub’ but plenty of time left in the arctic blast to get bigger. The snow flurries are on, off, on again but the temperature has remained low all day. Went out for lunch with Shelley, Josh and Mia as it’s Shelley’s 30th Birthday today, the kids were in ‘full on’ mode, well behaved but hard work lol, luckily Mia was tired when we got back so I put her down for a sleep and went out to do the feeding and egg collecting. While I was out there I filled 4 wheelbarrows full of cut wood and bought that in and also quickly skipped out jacks stable, put some hay and water in for him so he can just be bought in later. I think tonight might be when it hits us if at all.

Thursday: The ‘beast’ was grumbling all night here, the winds never let up from 10pm till 7am, I was surprised that we didn’t have a blanket of snow. It has been steadily snowing since 7.30 now and the sky looks full, the warnings have been issued, schools and offices are closing from lunchtime, I wonder how bad it will get and I wonder if I will be the only one here tonight if the others can’t get back! As for the morning rounds, they were difficult especially watering, the buckets are frozen solid, the taps are frozen solid, I took out some cartons of water with me for the smaller animals and a bucket for the ducks. For the chickens I have moved the buckets inside, as the hens won’t come out I figured their collective body heat will melt at least a top layer of ice otherwise they will have to eat the snow which is what I guess wild animals would have to do.

From the weather reports I am expecting a white out blizzard I just hope the electric stays on! In preparation, as I have been caught out before I have charged everything up, torches, phones etc. I have learnt from previous episodes to keep an old plug straight into the phone line phone, as the ones that connect via a pod to the electric as well won’t work, all the little cogs in my survival wheel lol.

I have a beef stew in the slow cooker and I’ve made hot cross buns, without the crosses 😜

This was a recipe from the River Cottage Bread book, actually they were so easy I wondered why I had never made them before.

I have been looking at the forecast from RAF Brize Norton as it’s less than 2 miles away and the wind chill factor is -12 in the day time!

Well the afternoon round was a fun event……..NOT! The snow is coming down it’s f**king freezing in the wind and I had to spend the time carrying buckets of water from indoors to the outer reaches, they are heavy let me tell you, at least everything has had chance of a drink but my arms are hurting, pfft I know, weakling, there are times when I can easily carry stuff and times when I can’t, this is a can’t time and it’s not much fun. My blood tests came back from last week with high inflammation markers so that is the reason I am struggling with carrying. I filled up the wild bird feeder as they have gone through a fair bit of seed today, ready to hunker down no doubt.

There has been a red warning issued for tonight in the South, joy, still at least it gives me something to write about, the next few days possibly a week are going to be flipping hard work. While most people are thinking whoo hoo a snow day, I am thinking why the hell would you want to play in it 🤪

Friday: Well most people managed to get home last night and it didn’t look too bad this morning from the window but John went off in the van and came back an hour later after trying two roads out of the village both blocked by cars stuck in drifts of deep snow, he had to leave the van and walk back. So that meant with Charlie not going in either there were plenty of hands on deck as it were, good job because the girls couldn’t get here to do the horses as they were stuck in the lane for well over an hour. The stable block was full of drifted snow and so was the feed room and the hay barn, I have never seen it like this before. We fed and watered everything, cleaned snow off of the top of the poly tunnel, then I made some bread, Charlie did the cleaning and John decided he would sit on the sofa and watch tv. The livery girls got picked up and bought here, the same chap then knocked and asked John if he wanted him to tow his van back with him which he did, an egg customer came for eggs in his tractor lol, a load of sausage rolls in the Rayburn and a nice cuppa, a sit down for a while until it’s time to go back out later.

Just finished the final shift of the day putting everything to bed, it’s cold and snowy, I am sooooo over winter now it can shove off, lots of lovely pictures of people playing out in it bah humbug not me not these days 🤪everything is snuggly tucked up in stables, coops, shed, huts annnnd relax 😀

Some snow patterns lol

Saturday: In terms of the weather it’s quite pleasant this morning lol, the temperature is above freezing and I even went outside without my coat on to put out eggs after some customers came on sledges 🛷 John was here first thing to help with the water though that hopefully will be the last time we have to bucket it across as it is beginning to thaw. His phone has been going as frozen pipes begin to thaw and have burst, I went out and about 20 mins later I saw him coming back and trying to get out another way as cars are still stuck in the lane and village, eventually after going a long way round he managed to get to someone who had been stood with their finger over a pipe for two hours! The thaw will bring different problems including mud but hopefully spring will not be far away 🤞 It seems like we have been snowed in forever but it was only two days lol.

The weather has dominated everything we have done over the last few days and to be honest inbetween feeding and some wood cutting etc we did a lot of sitting on the sofa lol

Sunday: As I sat down to write this in the afternoon the heavens opened and I mean opened, hard, fast, heavy rain lol when will it ever just be normal weather again? The snow is now pretty much slush or it definitely will be now. We went round to Johns Mums first thing then down to the shop to get a few supplies, good job we didn’t need much because there was no fresh produce on the shelves!