Ups and downs.

What has been happening for the past two weeks? Well we have had a mixed bag of weather, rain, wind, mild, freezing you name it we have had it. The wind bought a tree down in the front driveway and to be honest we were lucky to get away with just that, at one time I did think the roof was going to go it was banging about so much. The rain has of course made the mud much worse and a new pastime of mud skating has been invented, it takes much more effort to get too and from the paddocks and at times with a horse in each hand it’s downright hairy stuff! 

Hubby had flu, not really but you know what they are like, a sniffle and a cough and anyone would think the insurance policies needed dusting off πŸ˜‰ obviously his legs were incapacitated because of it and so not much got done that particular weekend. 

The geese have been my main focus over the past few days, the grass is fast running out now and it’s time to turn to other forms of feeding for them. The large quantity of fallen cooking apples that are too small for using in cooking have been a godsend, at least 6 wheelbarrow fulls have kept them going, there is grass in the front paddocks but it is not stock fenced and right next to the road and they can’t be trusted not to roam, the fencing is on the list but we have not got round to it yet. In the meantime I have just ordered some waterfowl feed and some ingredients to make a poultry spice, you can buy it ready made in pellet form but it’s much cheaper to get the ingredients and mix them. I have been sat today making notes to make the best use of the herbs I could use from the garden next year, the trouble is that when they are growing the grass is abundant and they are not needed so I need to look at drying them or harvesting the seeds to grind to a powder ready for Winter use. I have sweet cicely growing and I can probably grow fenugreek and ginger and use those next year, well that’s the plan at the minute.

The dogs are filthy every day and need to be bathed before they come in, luckily we have a great set up in the form of a plastic bath and hot and cold taps with a shower attachment, they don’t know how lucky they are but judging by their aversion to the word ‘bath’ you would think they were about to be whipped 😝 We did reach a milestone however when Patch finally got in the bath by himself instead of having to be dragged out from the back of his cage, he was rewarded with much praise and treats πŸ˜„

I have made my Christmas mincemeat, I almost forgot which would have been sacrilege as I haven’t bought shop mincemeat for years. I had a quick look through the cupboards, gathered together odds and sods plus my homemade glacΓ© cherries and voila, four jars of mincemeat ready for the feast of mince pies which I traditionally start making on the 1st of December. I normally make the Christmas pudding as well but this year we are at our eldest daughters so no need to do that and I gave up making Christmas cake a few years ago when it took longer to eat it all up than it did to make it and feed it for a few weeks.

With the shortening of daylight hours comes the drop in the number of eggs laid by the chickens, fortunately they are still laying enough to cover the cost of feed at the moment, not much longer until the shortest day thank goodness and the nights will draw out again, it is one of the dates during the year that is firmly set in my memory as we limp through the colder months. 

Have a great week 🐢

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Waste not, want not.

Hands up if you have been watching Hugh’s programme about waste food that is still perfectly edible, I have and frankly I am appalled! I am aware food is wasted both by the supermarkets and in homes but the scale has flabbergasted me. All of us have busy lives and it’s easy to slip into that kind of behaviour but we need to make a concerted effort to use up what we buy instead of throwing it away.

With that in mind today’s dinner is made up of yesterday’s lamb bones, a sweet potato that was in danger of drying up, tomatoes that have been in the fridge for a couple of weeks, some bits of veg (and the stalks) and some Oca which is a new veg that I have just harvested. I also scraped up the meat juices that have solidified in the roasting pan, it smells great and makes me feel good for using everything up. 

Going back to the new vegetable I trialed this year, Oca is a tuber from the Wood Sorrel family and is highly nutritious, vitamin c, iron, zinc and vitamin B to name a few of the beneficial components, it can be boiled, fried, stir fried, roasted or eaten raw a good all rounder. The type I grew are a golden colour but they also come with a pink tinge, the young leaves and shoots can be eaten early on as well if you prefer. As yet I have only put them in today’s soup but I will be experimenting with them over the next few weeks.


When Dad went home last week I sent him off with some pig trotters that I had in the freezer, I’ve never tried them and they don’t really appeal to me and I usually give them to the dogs but I know he loves them and so I had a phone call in the week to say he had cooked them and they were delicious lol. He was also amazed that you can find just about anything at the touch of a button on the Internet and after a conversation about a bread my Nan used to make we found the recipe, it’s called Stottie Cake although it is a bread. When he was a boy they used to eat it warm with treacle and he phoned the following day to say that he had made some and that it was just as good as his boyhood memory, I have not had a go yet but I think I will, there are numerous recipes on google and we went for a more authentic version without olive oil as I doubt they had it back then! 

The farm in general is ticking along as usual although a lot muddier now, I just have to remember that it’s not forever in fact I will be looking forward to frozen mornings although they bring their own problems such as frozen water buckets and frozen finger tips. I have noticed rat holes under the chicken house and so have put down bait to knock those on the head quickly, I have not seen any all summer and so they must have moved residence to be nearer to an easy food source i.e chicken feed. The last of the veg have been harvested, artichoke and the oca and apart from windfall apples that’s this years crop done, next month it will be time to work out the crop rotation for next Spring and think about what I want to grow. Next year will be a busy one as I will have not one but two grandchildren, one due in five weeks and  our eldest daughter and her partner are also expecting a baby in April, just think how many hands I will have to help when they get older 😁 I hope they find the farm a wonderful place to visit and grow up around and that when they are in their seventies like Dad they too have memories of freshly baked bread and cakes as well as muddy wellies and mucky hands. 

Have a fabulous week and don’t forget to use everything up, it’s great soup weather 🍲

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Don’t forget to grease your nipples! πŸ˜

My Dad came over from Wales to stay for a week last week and so apart from the basics of feeding, watering, egg collecting etc, I didn’t get much else done including blogging as we spent a great deal of time chattering and making tea for visitors who had not seen him for a while.

Dad used to live here before we bought the place so was very familiar with everything, the sad thing is that he has got a bit too old to do anything now but he did go around oiling and sharpening tools because they hadn’t been done. On Friday afternoon Hubby went to get the tractor out to move the muck heap but on starting it there was a noise that did not sound good! Dad was in his element, it seems that the fan was hitting the casing this was caused by the engine having moved on its mounting, Hubby is very good at a multitude of tasks but machinery is not one of them. If it had been left entirely to Hubby he would have just bent the fan so that it no longer hit and not bothered to find out why it had moved, luckily Dad was here and pointed out that the engine was loose! When I took out a cup of tea to them I found them both up to their elbows in greasy, dirtyness and big grins, they were having a great time. In time honoured practice a ‘temporary repair’ was made using bale string and a spanner as a tourniquet to hold the engine in the correct position, I must add that the bolts were tightened as well but it appears that the bushes have worn? While the tractor was out I had a lesson in tractor maintenance from Dad, honestly with just Hubby and I looking after  the tractor it’s like the blind leading the blind. Although I can look after and service my lawn mower, even sharpen the blades, a tractor is a whole new ball game. We found an old grease gun left behind when dad moved, and I had a lesson on using it to grease the nipples, who knew there were even such things on a tractor lol, not me that’s for sure. 

The next thing we learnt was that the small covered area was built to house the horse box (we usually keep the tractor there) our box had been parked round the back of the stables and tarpaulined up for the Winter but someone wanted to borrow it one evening last week and after trying to push it out in the dark we decided to park it in the intended spot, it could then be towed straight out and back in again, easy, Why hadn’t we thought of it before? However our box was a little too tall, literally 2″ too tall, so Hubby got the pick axe and set about digging out two ruts for the wheels to go in. I found the whole scenario quite amusing, you know how it is ladies, your trying to do something and the other half is always giving instructions on how he thinks it should be done, a bit straighter, quicker, higher, lower, whatever the task there is always a comment, well in this instance Hubby had a taste of his own medicine as Dad was giving instructions on straightening up a bit or needs to be deeper or too deep or too close to the uprights. I could tell by his face he was irritated but too polite to say anything, I stood watching with my tea in my hand giving him a ‘now you know how I feel’ smirk. 

Needless to say as I didn’t get much done last week I have a fair bit to catch up on, this morning as well as the usual jobs, I have deep cleaned the duck houses and the quail house, cleaned out the goose hut, wormed and fleaed the dogs and cat, bought the horses in to clean off the mud from their feet, raked up fallen apples from the front drive and captured an escaped Guniea Fowl! Just got time to write this, have a spot of lunch and then it will be time to light the Rayburn, feed the animals, collect the eggs and cook the dinner!

Dads parting words to Hubby were “don’t forget to get those bushes sorted, it’s only a temporary repair”, we will see how long it stays like that or if anyone knows a good tractor mechanic send them our way 😜

Have a great week and enjoy bonfire night πŸ’₯

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Now I know what some of you are thinking ‘what’s Hubby done now’ sorry to disappoint you, he appears to be blemish free this week! The ‘why?’ are genuine musings that I have pondered over while going about my work, I work alone all day, every day for at least five days a week and so with only myself to talk to (not out loud, I hasten to add) questions pop up all the time and none more so than this week.

Some musings are more intelligent than others such as why are we trading with China? and do we have more to fear from the controlling president of that country than we do from thousands of immigrants pouring into Europe with the only agenda for them being a decent life for their families? Sorry, that’s probably a bit deep for a smallholding blog but it is what goes on in my head along with why do flies make that irritating buzzing sound when they fly? Birds fly, but they don’t make a sound like you instantly want to swat them every time they come near, come to think of it they do not dive bomb you every few seconds either. They are not very clever, I mean if they went silently about their business we wouldn’t be reaching for the fly spray in the height of summer would we?

Other musings range from, why did we lend our new 1m blade electric hedge trimmer out and why didn’t they notice that the flex was dangerously close to the blade that chops thing off? I actually know the answer to this, because said person is an idiot that is why, and now we have a lovely piece of blue tape covering up the joiner (exasperated sigh) Shall I continue? Why when there are five acres, and a considerable amount of countryside thereafter available, does the cat want to **** right where you have just planted seedlings? Β Why wont the geese go to bed on the only night there is no one around to help? Why would you think it is perfectly ok to go and get your eggs from the local smallholding honesty shed at 11.30pm? Why didn’t anyone bring me chocolate home today? they must have known I needed some :) It is at this point you are probably thinking, yep, she spends too much time on her own with only the chickens to talk to lol

Why is life so cruel sometimes? that applies to humans and animals alike, this week it all went very wrong for one of our new point of lay hens, life was ticking along nicely for her, she had been reared in a shed for the best part of 16 weeks then she arrived here and had her first taste of outdoor life, the smells, sounds, and new sights such as dogs and horses, in her prime she laid her first egg and disaster struck. A prolapse is not something I have had to deal with before and so I turned to Google to find out what to do, first bathe the prolapse in antiseptic, then using Vaseline and gloves push the prolapse back to where it came from (not for the squeamish I can assure you) Β use Witch Hazel to bathe it afterwards in the hopes that it will retract and deflate. Leave the hen somewhere quiet overnight with water only and see what happens, the hen went into shock, that’s what happened and so the kindest thing to do was ‘the deed’. Normally I don’t get sentimental feelings over the hens but I really felt sorry for this one, she was only a youngster and hardly had a chance at a happy life.

The tidying up of the veg plot has continued this week and this morning I began to venture out further onto the farm and identify areas that needed doing, one main area being the hedge along the front driveway. So that is where I was, trimming the hedge with my blue bandaged electric trimmer when today’s Why? came along, actually I wonder this one every year and people who do it seem to think it is a very reasonable thing to do, I however, cannot see the point, except under certain circumstances (which I consider to be ludicrous anyway). Why do people feel the need to spend most of Autumn and the first part of Winter gathering up all the leaves that have been shed from the trees? Do people not know that the worms and the weather will do most of it for you without any sweat being broken at all? Perhaps its a case of that shiny red/green leafblower in the corner of the garage is calling and you cant wait to play with it or it might be that the only bit of earth that actually belongs to you (so to speak because I bet a pound to a penny if it came to it you would not own the fracking rights under your driveway) has been entirely covered with block paving or slabs (that’s the ludicrous bit as far as I’m concerned and a topic for a whole blog of its own one day) and understandably you don’t want to slip on the wet soggy leaves. If you leave those leaves they will enrich the soil beneath them, ok so I know it will look untidy for a few weeks but its far better for the ground than buying lawn feed or soil improver surely, you don’t have to break into your wallet or that sweat, you can sit in the evening sun, sipping your glass of cider/ale/prossecco smug in the knowledge that those worms are working for you ;)

Have a great week :)

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Hubby + Mud + Rain = Mess

Hubby unexpectedly had a week off last week after finishing a job early, that’s great I thought we can get a few more jobs finished. I should have known better if I thought we could finish off the jobs already started instead he decides to investigate  the blockage in the drainage tube that runs under the hard standing and is supposed to run out onto the veg garden. Now this would have been fine as we had purchased two 5000ltr water tanks back in the summer and they needed installing  in roughly the same area, the problem was that he chose the worst two days of weather in goodness knows how many dry weeks to do it. He dug up the pipe which was under around two foot of mud and disconnected the existing tanks to use elsewhere, so that meant, as it practically rained non stop for 48 hours, hundreds of litres of rain coming off the roof straight into the mud mound he had made! Not to be deterred he carried on working out in it and eventually I heard a whoop of joy when a tennis ball came floating out,  of course all that tramping around was making the whole area muddier and muddier, I think he just likes to make a mess and that’s fine but when I get called out there to help lift the tanks into place I am not best pleased at working in the rain slipping around and trying to grab hold of a cylindrical tank with no obvious grip holds when it is soaking wet 😜 a real ‘good life’ moment if it had been filmed.

Having said that when the tanks are all in place we will be able to save nearly 8000ltrs of rain water and that has got to be worth the effort. Not only that but I am told there will be a pump fitted so that I can water the veg garden in next to no time so brownie points for Hubby. I just wonder why he didn’t pick a dry day😬

He spent the rest of his week off, cutting up wood and altering gateways and fencing, because we are on clay seams in places, the posts move a lot during Winter months and the gate to the jump paddock in particular was  practically non openable because of the post listing. In the same area we a have a bit of rough ground that we have now incorporated into the goose paddock with new fencing and gates  and it’s all looking very tidy.While I was explaining exactly what I wanted with the fence and gates I had Pygmy goats in mind lol, I think if I mention it often enough he will come round to the idea πŸ˜‹

Meanwhile apart from having to make endless cups of tea and coffee, I have been busy trying to get the veg plot up together, I had hoped for a little help but Hubby keeps finding other jobs that ‘need doing before winter’ well that’s true so I set about the jobs by myself. I have cleared bed after bed of exhausted veg plants, asparagus , beans, potato tops, squash, I have cleared out tomato and pepper plants, cucumber, melon etc from the poly tunnels and given them a wash down. I cleared the fruit cage of wanton raspberry runners (potted some up) and weeds and tided up the canes that will bear fruit next year and I have lump hammered wobbly posts back into the ground, despite the ‘lump’ bit keep falling off the broken handle! The compost heap now looks like a green mountain and is about six foot high, it will shrink down over the next few months once the weather has worked on it, I will probably give it a helping hand in a couple of weeks time by treading on it to compact it and agitate it to start working. Having done all that there is still more to do, two more beds need weeding and all the dead stuff cut away, hops to be precise, they grow like weeds and have suffocated the patio fruit trees this year so I may have to think about relocating them. The rest of the carrots need pulling up and processing for the freezer, I have tried storing them in previous years but to be honest freezing is the better option just a little more time consuming. Normally I would then think about overwintering veg but I am considering giving myself the Winter off this year and just start early next year. I usually do brassicas over winter because they don’t get decimated by caterpillars but then I end up with cauliflowers all at once and I don’t like them frozen they have an odd taste, the other veg I do are broad beans and peas, garlic and onions but I have enough from this year to see me through so I think I will leave the ground fallow for a change. 

We have discovered the beginnings of the the dreaded red mite in the new chicken hut, dam and blast it πŸ˜– so this week after the feed round in the morning and before I set to on the garden I have been trying to creosote the nest boxes in rotation doing four of them each morning, there are sixteen altogether. Trying to block them off so the hens don’t go in them is a challenge but I am winning and have four left to do tomorrow, it won’t get rid of them all but it will knock the numbers back considerably and hopefully the rest of the little b******s will freeze to death in the winter 😜

This morning I have had to catch hold of a poorly duck, at first I thought it had a broken leg as it was dragging it behind but when I looked it over it was bearing weight on it and I couldn’t detect any sign of a break or dislocation. It is sat in the quiet of the stable until I go out and investigate further. The ducks, like the chickens have been moulting and this one is also having trouble with its new pin feathers coming through, sometimes they can cause bleeding at the point of exit through the skin, it’s not having a good day so some TLC is in order and we will see if it gets better or not. 

There has been a definite nip in the air the last two mornings, I am not sure if we had a frost or not this morning, an extra layer was needed as well as gloves and a hat, and the late afternoon temps seem to plummet quickly. Since she came back into action we have been lighting the Rayburn around 3pm and letting it go out over night but I don’t think it will be long before she is running constantly. 

Whatever you are doing this week, have a good one πŸ”

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It’s broken 😟

Of course I am talking about the weather! We can’t complain really we have had the most glorious few weeks of early Autumn sunshine and reasonable temperatures but it looks like that has come to an end and we would be lucky to get that back again anytime soon. 

So with the sun beaming down every day I have been very busy tidying up the vegetable plot, cutting grass, cleaning out pens and so on. I went away for a short stay to a Spa hotel with my daughters as a birthday treat for one of them which was fabulous, when I came home I had a renewed vigour for work. Unfortunately I wore myself out and by this weekend I was down to pottering to conserve energy, that’s the Lupus, it’s best not to go flat out at anything but with the weather on my side I couldn’t help myself lol. 

The cat has still not returned and so I imagine she has been hit by a car which leaves Desiel on his own, not that he seems to mind, I did contemplate getting another yard cat but I think I will leave it for the time being and see if Desiel manages to keep the mouse population down by himself. I say mouse population but in actual fact we don’t have many, every time we clear an area I expect to see something small a furry thing shoot out or the remains of a nest but it’s never there, I assume he is very good at his job πŸ˜ƒ

I had what I considered ‘the perfect moment’ the other morning, I had been clearing the potato patch and burning the tops and any weeds, I sat down on the bench to drink my coffee, the morning sun was shining, the smoke from the bonfire was wafting gently, as I looked up across the field through a gap in the hedge I could see the local herd of deer grazing on the stubble, that’s just perfect,  I thought to myself I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than right here, right now, lucky me πŸ˜€

I picked the last of the patty pan squash, there were small ones still on there but they were not going to get any bigger so they went to feed the chickens, then I pulled up the plants which over the summer had got huge, there are still courgettes forming so have left those for the time being, butternut squash are the next lot to be harvested although they are quite small this year they will still have enough on them to be useful. I had a customer ask me if the butternut squash were imported as her daughter had told her that you can’t grow squash in this country! Of course it delighted me to inform her that everything for sale in the little shed is grown right here on the farm and that squash are easily grown here. I thought people were more clued up these days about the food they eat but obviously there are still folks out there who are not and educating people about where their food comes from and how it it grown is part of what I try to do. At this point there is a whole essay forming in my mind about, fresh, local, seasonal produce, food miles, chemicals and how supermarkets are massive buildings of brainwashing, but I am not going to to go there today, I will save it for another time, maybe even a different blog site entirely, this one is for the lighter side of farm life 😜

It is as we move through these next two seasons that all our hard work will seem worth it, plenty of wood cut up to keep us warm on the cold days, and plenty of produce in the freezers for making fruit pies and crumbles, slow cooked stews and soups. As yesterday was a foggy cold start I thought I would cook a roast, I don’t bother in the summer as I am usually too busy, as always, I sent a group text to the children and their other halves to see who wanted one, the replies came in like quick fire, yes, yes, yes, faster than they ever reply to anything else 😜 and so the evening was spent with everyone round the table tucking into a Sunday roast, a great end to a great week. 

Here’s hoping you have a great week πŸ‚

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Living the dream!Β 

The dream was long lazy sunny days with a table laden with home grown and cooked food, a bit like the Dolmio advert where the whole family is busy organising the table for a lesuirly supper in the evening warmth. The reality is that I have already got a soaking three times this week and it’s only Tuesday! Not to be deterred I have decided to sing in the rain, that little plan will probably only last as long as the rain is warmish rain, as soon as it comes with cold wind I think my resolve will disappear 😝

I can’t complain at the weather really as we have had some good spells of dry sunshine, and it is Autumn after all so we are on the slippery slope towards Winter. The vegetables are in the last throws of producing, one great result this year is that the bean wigwams are still standing, normally they have caved under the weight and with the added help of strong winds are usually on the floor by now. At the weekend I picked everything there was and stacked The Little Shed full of beans, beetroot, garlic, artichoke, courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes as well as the first few butternut squash. I have already decided I need a bigger shed next year as it gets a bit packed in there especially with the rhubarb when it’s in full production, I will have to call it, The Bit Bigger, Little Shed lol

There is plenty to do in the veg garden in the form of tidying up, no doubt this bout of rain will put an end to the patty pan, they will be full of mildew if they don’t get chance to dry out so they will need to be dug up as will everything else that has finished. I dug up the main crop potatoes last week and managed to dry off the skins outside before bringing them in and put them in sacks, we have approx 7 sacks of spuds, should keep us going through to next year. We now have a freezer full of fruit, veg, sacks of potatoes, strings of onions and garlic, plenty to keep us going all winter. I have been trying to use up stuff in the freezers on a daily basis, rather than buy anything and so we have had some random meals, I really need to label everything properly as one lot of frozen gravy, soup or stew looks very much like another and it’s pot luck as to what flavour is defrosted.

Bella, the cat, has gone missing, she disappeared last Tuesday evening and we have not seen her since, I have walked up and down the lane to make sure has not been hit by a car, I have asked neighbours to keep an eye out and got in touch with the farrier to make sure she didn’t get into his van and jump out at his next appointment but there is no sign of her at all πŸ˜•

Mia and Patch have gone next door today to Muddy Mutts to have a good bath and a hair cut, Patch doesn’t really need a cut but he is going for a shampoo and a bit of socialising, Mia on the other hand is longer haired and I had to give her a rinse before taking her this morning as she was already filthy. I have put clean bedding down for when they return but with this rain it won’t stay clean very long, they love running around in the wet getting as dirty as possible but are no so keen on the bath at the end of the day. The chickens and horses are hating the rain, the ducks and geese on the other hand are loving it, you can please some of the ‘people’ some of the time but not all of them all of the time πŸ˜‰

We have been lighting the Rayburn every afternoon about 3pm although as Sod’s law goes the sun usually appears just as it gets going, it’s hit and miss at the minute, sometimes it’s chilly outside and inside its cosy but sometimes the temps are higher outside and it gets a bit stuffy inside, nevertheless it is now part of the daily routine and besides its free wood therefore free heat and hot water and that is most satisfying 😁

I took a few photos on the farm last week and thought they would look great in black and white, even the bright orange flames of the fire look pretty good, the only thing that does not show up very well is the steam rising from the muck heap, we really must tap into that energy one of these  days even if it’s only to heat water for washing out feed bowls or something.

Have a great week 🌻


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