Wednesday 31 March 2010

A Handy Little Tip

Just a little post today as I've only just got Broadband back, there was no sign of the Internet earlier, just a number to call to check for faults and work in progress, when I phoned, the list of places without Internet went on and on and on........ So I left the computer alone and went and made some more soaps for my Craft Fair on Saturday morning.
Now it's suddenly popped back on and I thought I'd leave you with a handy little tip before Easter.
If like me you've used up all your diddy little plant pots for seedlings but you still have some more to get started instead of putting them into huge pots and risking a straggly root system, put cardboard dividers into a large pot and then treat it as four little pots.
The pictures show you what I mean. It means each seedling gets a good start with a strong compact root system and you also have less fiddly little pots around the place.
Just appeared in the polytunnel are my lovely little celery seedlings and cucumber plants, I have four cucumbers in pots and two tray fulls.....I wonder how many cucumbers you get off each plant......and there are an awful lot of celery seedlings. I could be in for a very 'salady' summer!!
I am now taking a little Blogging break for Easter so I'd like to wish you all a lovely Easter, may all your eggs be chocolatey (or gorgeous free-range with golden yolks) and may your teeth survive the onslaught of all the sugar!! Back Soon. (The PIF names will go into a hat over the weekend and be drawn on Easter Sunday, if you would still like to enter scroll down to my earlier post.) Sue xx

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Welcome to our house.
Well you asked for both, photos of animals and vegetables, so today as I have run out of words there are pictures, not brilliant ones but all snapped this morning while I was out with the animals and watering in the polytunnel.
The weather here is cold and blustery, with not a hint of Spring in the air. March is truly 'going out like a lion', I only hope April, (my birthday month) will bring with it some warmer and drier weather. We have a full four day weekend planned, with finishing off raised beds, pathways and planting being the most important jobs, so fingers crossed.
I tried for an 'Eastery' shot of daffs and chickens......
.........but they wouldn't pose!
The pigs just wouldn't stop eating........
....the Kiwi plant stood to attention and smiled.......
.....the dogs posed briefly!
The courgette is yummily sturdy!
The black buckets we are growing are doing fine! # Radishes, mixed leaves and peas growing bigger by the day.
And I may have overdone it with the lettuces!
#I asked Archie the cat, but he is just sitting on the fence.
And for those of you who feel short-changed by the 'vegetable' pictures....alright I KNOW they are only baby plants, some fully grown ones from last year, including...especially for Charlotte at Cottontails a carrot with two legs....that's the nearest I get to 'vegetable art', (although I did briefly think about making it a pair of trousers!). #
Sue xx

Mr Egg Marketing Inspector Calls

Well today we had a visitor, Mr Egg Marketing Inspector from Animal Health. Luckily he received a warm welcome from the girls and they followed us over to inspect their homes like the nice welcoming little ladies they are. He got his tape measure out and took all the vital statistics (of the houses not the chickens) and then came in and inspected where the eggs were kept and sat down with his calculator and worked out the numbers of chickens that could comfortably (and legally) live in the houses and then asked lots of questions.
Molly even laid him an egg. Coco was sat on it, so I had to explain that it wasn't a Welsummer egg it was indeed a White Star egg, and yes they do lay brown eggs my girls not white ones as White Stars usually do.
We now have our very own Registration Number and our eggs can be traced back to us no matter where they wander. For all of you out there with only a couple of hens don't panic, you only need this if you are selling to the public and you have 50 birds or over.
We have only 19 at the moment, but that will rise to 44 by the end of April with the arrival of 20 more laying birds and my lovely little Lavender Pekin Bantams which have been born (woohoo) and are due to be picked up by us in two weeks. Four sisters and a cockerel from a different brood, he'll the first boy chicken on the farm, now that should be interesting.
I'll have to go now as we are out of milk and going for a pint of milk here is a 60 minute round trip (so you have to make it worthwhile and buy lots more shopping too!!).
Back tomorrow but I'll leave you with a question.....would you like to see pictures of the animals or pictures of the vegetables.....the choice is yours!!
Sue xx

Monday 29 March 2010

PIF........I'm back!!

We got back yesterday evening to find the farm still standing, the animals well fed and happy, and the chicken house completely spring-cleaned.
We must go away more often.
Mum and Dad have looked after everything magnificently - THANK YOU.
They said they enjoyed the break and I truly hope they meant it. They seem to have done an awful amount of farmwork and housework for people 'enjoying a break', I only hope they are not too tired as they are coming back in a couple of weeks while we nip off to Devon for a mini-break for my birthday.
We got back to a little pile of post, and in amongst all the bills and circulars was a little parcel addressed to me.........something I had completely forgotten about. Back in January I volunteered for a 'Pay in Forward' with Denise from A Bun Can Dance. She has put together a lovely parcel just for me with all these gorgeous things.
A gorgeous handmade bunting banner, with 'Pigs in Clover' written on some of the flags, each flag is different and lovingly handmade. The thought that has gone into this is amazing and it looks beautiful, something I will treasure forever. (There is a closer picture at the top of the post, although the pictures don't do it justice.)
Some lovely pieces of fabric (I feel lavender hearts coming on!!).
A beautifully handmade pouch with Denises' label inside. And finally some gorgeous photo-cards by Denise herself, I don't think I'll be able to send them to anyone though, they are going on my inspirations noticeboard. # What a wonderful thing to come back to. # And now I have to 'Pay in Forward' to three PIF volunteers.........if you would like to take part in this all you have to do is leave me a comment saying so. If there are more than three comments I will do a little draw to choose just three. And all you have to do after you receive your parcel from me is to Pay it Forward to three more people. # I will send off my parcels as soon as I have had time to have a peek at your Blogs to try and see what I think you would like. The things from Denise's PIF can be either handmade or vintage or bought especially for the person. So you don't have to be a whizz kid on the sewing machine to join in. #
What a lovely way to brighten someones day. # Back to farming talk tomorrow, and thanks again to my lovely parents for all their help. # Sue xx

Thursday 25 March 2010

Leaving the farm......

We're leaving the farm in the capable hands of my Mum and Dad for the weekend, while we zoom up the motorway to Cumbria and Scotland.
We're spending Friday night in Cumbria and then Saturday night in Peebles visiting LH's Mum, she's not very well at the moment, so we're hoping a visit will do her good.
It also give my Mum and Dad a chance to get re-acquainted with the animals. They've known the cats for years.
Love the pigs to bits.
Have yet to meet the new girls.
Know all the tricks the old girls get up too!
And will be aided and abetted by the lovely Rosy.
Sophie will be coming with us to visit her Granny Jessie. The animal feed bins have all been labelled, so hopefully they will all get the right grub, if not knowing our lot they wouldn't mind a bit! Instructions and phone numbers have been printed out and if I can persuade her to, maybe Mum will be a guest Blogger, if not I'll be back next week with more news and escapades from this mud pool we call home.
Have a great weekend.
Sue xx

Wednesday 24 March 2010


I have Garlic!!
The bed I planted out on the 13th March just outside the polytunnel is bursting with garlic....wey hey!! How can this make me SO happy. Well last year I planted it too late and it did nothing, I was really disappointed as garlic is something we both love and is brilliant for transforming lots of other veg into tasty treats.

I also have lots of little baby beetroot seedlings appearing before my very eyes. Yummy indeed, I see lots of beetroot in our salads soon and maybe even a few jars of pickled beetroot to see us through the leaner winter months.

Of course if I got some goats I could perhaps make some cheese to go with it...........!

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 March 2010

The Simple Life

At the moment I am still going through a time of decision making and change in my life, always though the priority is to stay on our path to a more simple life. Last nights decision was to simplify my Blogging and so from now on there will be only this, my main Blog. Sorry for the followers of the others, but most of you are readers of this first and foremost anyway.

I will, of course, update snippets of information that would normally have appeared on the others on here. I was sometimes torn anyway which Blog to put which information on with this Blog being the one that encompasses most of our lifestyle changes.
Now it is simple, all in one place and quickly updatable (if that is even a word!).
16 squares warming up ready to be filled with salad crops.
Now, onto what I mentioned yesterday about my latest planting idea, it was one I spotted last year on Karons' Blog (call by, she's stuck on her sofa at the moment and would love some company). I don't know if she saw it through but the idea stayed with me and I thought I would give it a go now I have more planting space to play with.
You take a small bed, a raised one is easiest, although any will do, mark it into squares with string, and in each section you plant a different vegetable or salad crop. The idea behind it is that they are planted so closely together there is no room for weeds, so no weeding, they support each other from the ravages of wind and blustery weather and it makes watering your thirsty salad crops easier because they are all in one space. This bed also has the advantage of if you only have a few seeds or a couple of plants left over after planting full rows in the main beds you can allocate them their own little square of the grid.
Now obviously this year I am growing on a much bigger scale, but I thought this would be an ideal way of growing the things we eat on a daily basis close to hand, right outside the back door and if I run out of inspiration for tea I can stroll out and see what's ready to eat all in a bed measuring just 2 metres square.
I marked it out by eye, banged in a few of LH's little silver tacks and marked out the grids with some lavender ribbon (it's my girly veggie bed after all). Today I will sit and ponder on what plants/seeds to sow there while the soil is warming up under its blanket of ripped open compost bags. They are brilliant for this as they are black and made of nice thick polythene, so they will absorb the warmth of any sun we get in the next few days.
It's a great way to have a good mixed veggie bed if you only have a small garden too, as you can have a good assortment of your favourite crops in as small a space as you can fit in. It would also be ideal as a way of introducing children to the joys of vegetable growing.
I'll let you know how I get on with mine. If you like the idea and are thinking of having a go yourself let me know and we can compare progress.
Sue xx

Monday 22 March 2010

All in a Day

We had to work around the weather this weekend, so what was to have been a two day bed building and planting session had to be done in a day.
Saturday morning was spent doing a Farmers Market in Tetsworth, with LH nipping here there and everywhere picking up, and ordering parts for the tractor and plough and a huge 'poo' pickup. The afternoon was to have seen us donning wellies and digging for Britain, instead the heavens had other ideas and sent forth torrents of rain, a quick meeting later and we decided to down tools and head off to the garden centre for some necessary supplies and a very civilised cup of coffee and slice of cake.
On Sunday we woke to sunny skies, so after the usual animal feeding and cleaning out we set to work. First job was to fill with top soil the middle three beds, built a couple of weeks ago and currently holding only well-rotted manure (these poo pick ups are good in many ways!).
Once they were turned over and filled up (many, many wheelbarrow loads later) we stood back briefly to admire them, the chickens inspected them and then we moved on to the next jobs of the day.
For LH that entailed building three more raised beds and for me it meant going over to the polytunnel for a marathon planting session.
I have just managed a second planting of peas, beetroot, cabbage, spring onion, cauliflowers, leeks, peppers, french marigolds, sweetcorn, perpetual spinach, and feverfew.
Just poking their little faces to the sky this week are some of my tomato plants, I was only complaining to LH the night before that nothing was showing in the tomato trays and then Sunday morning there was one tiny seedling, by the afternoon there were three and when LH came in to inspect my work (he had heard the radio blaring away and suspected a rave was going on instead of a planting session!) I proudly said "here are my three tomatoes" and he looked at me as though I was mad and said "there are four" one had appeared and was one whole centimetre tall in an hour!!
The six beds at the back are now all covered with polythene to warm the soil ready for the potatoes, going in soon. There is lots of in filling needed around these last three beds as the ground level drops suddenly here, which is the reason we have had a foot deep puddle there all winter. Unfortunately we ran out of time and muscle power on Sunday night.
My favourite plants - courgettes. There's something so chunky and substantial about their leaves, I love them.
More on my latest planting idea tomorrow.
Sue xx

Sunday 21 March 2010

Glorious Sunday

Sunday has dawned gloriously sunny, it is now 7.29am and the chickens are running around enjoying the sunshine, I have already cleaned out their house and their are clamouring to get back in to lay their eggs. Lovely Hubby is away feeding the pigs and the days hard labour is about to begin.
Somehow though when there are two of us to enjoy the sunshine and laugh at the animals it doesn't seem like such hard work.
Enjoy your day.
Sue xx

Friday 19 March 2010

Spoilt Pigs

Fortnum and Mason Cognac Orange Marmalade on chunky doorstep slices of bread. Dipping into the pigs afternoon snack for a tasty bit of pear yesterday, as I strolled over to the barn, I came to the realisation that they are eating as well as us.
Bananas, avocados, apples and pears....Betty's favourite.

At the moment, as we have been unable to find a nearby greengrocers (we have no 'nearby' shops) that will give us unsold and unusable fruit and veggies, so I have been buying cheap packs of the same from the a large supermarket (yes, we did have a word with the manager there, and no, they "are not allowed" to donate unsold fruit and veg to anyone "it could cause foot and mouth disease you know"!! Instead they have been told 'by head office' to throw it in the bin.

Topped off with marmalade on bread.......oooh yummy!
Hopefully thanks to our extensive veggie planting programme we will be in a better position next year to feed our pigs the veggies of their dreams for minimal cost to us. In the meantime however, I will continue to snack on their food and it does mean that the fridges are always full of a most delightful array of tempting fruit and veggies and Mr Cadbury is seeing much less of my pennies at the sweetie shop.
(FYI - the marmalade was seriously out of date and the bread was a few days old so don't panic too much..........however the pear was delicious!)
I'll be back on Monday, I have a busy two days coming up so will not be able to post, have a lovely weekend.
Sue xx

Thursday 18 March 2010

Sophie Calls a Meeting!

Well the new girls are settling in. They still don't like to be handled, but now no longer run away in panic if you approach them.

I always find the softly, softly approach best for the first couple of weeks when you have so many. Any grabbing of a passing bird creates consternation amongst the others and delays their taming.

"Meet me in front of the shed in 10 mins......"

If they're close enough for a stroke, such as when I'm putting them to bed then they get one and they soon learn that human hands are not just out to grab them.

It helped that Sophie called a meeting of the Speckledys yesterday and had a word!!

"Are you actually listening to me?"

" I think that went well! "

"Do you speak 'dog'.....I didn't get a word of that.....Do you think I nodded in the right places?"
Sue xx