Thursday 29 April 2010

Getting Ready for More Chickens

Today I have been spending a bit of time getting ready for tomorrows arrival of 19 more chickens. 'Eggxtra' supplies were needed ready for for our expansion in the egg market, and more egg boxes required for the millions of sales were are 'eggxpecting' in the near future.
The chicken catching net is just a precaution, I don't like to use a net unless absolutely necessary as it scares the birds. I also ordered some more rubber eggs to go in the nesting boxes to give the new girls a hint at where to lay. I used to have a couple of nice china ones and a couple of rubber ones but someone......

mentioning no names.......... when she was a little baby puppy, instead of the big nusiance puppy she is now, ran off with them thinking they were odd shaped balls, and they have not been seen since.
We are setting off bright and early tomorrow morning to pick up the new girls, so I'll introduce you to them when they have taken up residence on the farm.
Sue xx

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Washing, Wigwams and Flowers......

Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day and I was out and about making the most of it.

First on the list get the washing done, I've finally caught up with the holiday washing backlog....phew!!

Then I erected a wigwam for some of the Beans to grow up, they are looking lovely and strong in the polytunnel at the moment and are ready to move to a new home. Then that ground to a halt as the chickens were watching my every move and I couldn't figure out how to protect the beans, and the rest of the bed from my greedy little friends. Thinking cap on!!
So I moved over to planting out my Golden Cabbage seedlings, here it was a true battle of wills with chickens spotting me from a far and dashing over. At first I was aided by Rosy the dog, who seeing me chasing away the chickens, got in on the act and did it for me, but then she got confused and started chasing them the other way, back towards me. I quickly put on the cover I had made already (which I forgot to photograph!!) and started the long round of watering everything that's been planted recently.
Then it was over to the polytunnel (phew!.....far too hot to work in there in the afternoons now) to pick something for our tea. I got a brilliant haul of lettuce and mixed leaves, with the last of the first sowing of radish, some whoppers amongst them, and a few herbs to scatter on top.

Added to the haul were some of our eggs (and a few sausages for Lovely Hubby, my carnivore caveman).......yummy!!

Then I stopped to think, I am truly getting carried away with this photographing everything lark.....

......but what the was a lovely moon....pity my camera just could not do it justice!!

The only way I can have pretty flowers is to put them in a pot sitting in the top of my old chimney. Dad was laughing as I added plant after plant to my trolley in the garden centre, but I managed to fit all but one in and it looks lovely, for now anyway, it might get a bit crowded looking when the Poached Egg Plants are a bit bigger. I just hope the Welsummers don't see them (they have been known to jump and peck.......little b*****s that they are!

Sue xx

Monday 26 April 2010

Broccoli and Radishes

The title says it all....yesterday I planted Broccoli and Radishes. It was a strange day, after the glorious sunshine of the last couple of weeks it felt damp and still and there was a 'difference' about things. No other way to describe it.
Some of the sections in my experimental 16 section bed are now taken.
Maybe part of that was being on my own again, although the tractors are chugging away in the fields all around us at the moment and every now and then I get a toot from the horn of the Landrover and a friendly wave as our landlord whizzes past on the track, I am usually on my knees planting away with only the interference of the cats, dogs and chickens. I do find myself talking to them more and more, maybe one day I will turn into a mad old farming woman having in-depth conversations with the stock!!

More Broccoli in the small bed, interplanted with Radishes.

The polytunnel is now slowly giving up it's stock of seedlings as they are being transplanted into the main Kitchen Garden Beds. Soon there will be room for the Tomatoes and Peppers to spread into bigger pots and for the Kiwi plants to climb their strings to the roof. The best news is that my Grapevine has sprung back into life after appearing to be nothing more than a dry desicated twig....good job I didn't pull it up in disgust. The only overwintering things that I have lost are the lemon and lime plants. I will not be replacing these as bought lemons and limes are cheaper than buying more plants, and to tell the truth this seems to be the one exception where shop bought tastes better than homegrown (in my case anyway).

Another Kitchen Garden bed full of promise.

The worst part of yesterday was keeping the chickens off the tender young Broccoli seedlings. As you can see from the picture, I ran out of room under the mesh 'tunnels' so I reverted to last years trick of using 'pop' bottles as mini greenhouses, unfortunately I cut one too few, so I covered all the seedlings on the outside and dashed over to the polytunnel to cut another, in the 2 minutes this took, the uncovered Broccoli was eaten...lock, stock and barrel by a VERY naughty chicken!!

Yes Molly.......I know it was you!!

Today I am going to plant out some peas after making twiggy supports from them, I really quite enjoy this making use of what lies around the farm, and all the branches from the trees LH has been 'trimming' (I call it butchering...but there you go!) are coming in very useful. I'll have to move fast to cover them up though, as chickens LOVE pea shoots!

Sue xx

Progress Report.....

While we were away, chilling out in various Devon villages last week, my lovely parents managed not only to feed and look after all the animals (2 dogs, 2 cats, 5 pigs and 19 chickens) they also managed to get lots of jobs done on the farm.

They weeded the lavender bed.

Planted three rows of Kale.

Planted two beds of Main Crop potatoes (Maris Piper) along with over a hundred Beetroot plants.
And they still managed to make friends with and feed the horses in the paddock, clean the henhouse each day, squeeze in a couple of afternoons shopping AND keep the house clean and tidy. So a HUGE thank you to you both Mum and Dad.

This lovely bird feeder and the bird bath at the top of this post are just two of the things I have been spending my birthday money on.

Now it's back to planting for me, after the lovely cooling and thirst quenching (for the soil) rain yesterday the soil is lovely and soft again and I am taking the opportunity to plant out a lot of the seedlings from the polytunnel. This morning I am concentrating on my Broccoli seedlings and then later I am hoping to fill my little square 16 section bed with a selection of plants from the polytunnel.

Back with some pictures tomorrow.

Sue xx

Saturday 24 April 2010

Picking up tips.......

Hubby getting advice from someone who's been around gardens for a while.
While we were away we kept our eyes open looking for tips and good ideas to help us back on the farm. We met some lovely people and got good advice. And now fired up and ready to go, we are straight back to work.
Sue xx

Friday 23 April 2010

Let them eat cake......!

What can I say.........I have been thoroughly spoilt for the last few days. As you can see from the pictures, I have had a couple of cakes to work my way through (with a little help from my parents and Lovely Hubby).

We had a fantastic break in gloriously sunny Devon, with one too many cream teas, a couple of Cornish pasties and lots of lovely cider. I dread to think what the scales will tell me when I hop on to check my weight tomorrow, (they'll most likely say "get off quick, you're breaking us").
But 'what the heck' as we say in're only fifty once (thank goodness). The diet can start on Monday and in the meantime I have to thank my fantastically hard working parents, who have once again looked after the farm, the animals and the house, and the best way to thank them is with hold the diet and let the chomping commence!!
And can I just say a HUGE thank you to everyone for their lovely comments on my last post and for not shrieking and running for the hills at seeing my photo.
Back with farm Blogging on Monday.
Sue xx

Sunday 18 April 2010

Holidays are here.......

From today, Monday, I am taking a little Blogging break, as Lovely Hubby is whisking me off to a tiny cottage in Devon to celebrate my birthday. this birthday has been creeping up on me faster than I dare to think, but I have now reached the grand old age of a number that starts with a five and ends with a big fat zero.
There is nothing for it but to grit my teeth and hope that the next 50 years is as varied and enjoyable as the last 50!! And if it's not I want my money back!!

So I leave you with a picture of my labours of Friday afternoon, (made just before the piggy fiasco). Eleven jars of Bramble Jam. I had to make it.........I accidently left the freezer door ajar all night and the 3 kilos of blackberries we picked last September defrosted...........senility already!!
It can only get better........she says.....laughing uncontrollably and falling off her chair.
Sue xx

Free Range Piggies......

The pigs lulled us into a false sense of security last year when they meekly followed us to the barn for their winter housing.

So, when we had a spare half hour on Friday afternoon, we decided to move them back to their pigs arks in the orchard for the summer. We had obviously not stopped the consider that we hadn't used their bucket training at all over the winter and the Middle Whites, Maud and Martha, are now as big as Betty the Berkshire.

After initial reservations from the pigs about crossing the line where the electric fencing had been, we decided they could climb over the little wall and go around the edge of the field instead. No problem.

Then they got in front of the house........long luscious grass won over a bucket of pig nuts any day and they followed their noses.........

.......came to a halt at Lovely Hubby and the paddock fence........
.......trotted over to the front of the hen houses.........

.......decided the mixture of grass and Layers Pellets was too much to ignore.....

.....and basically, just wandered, willy, nilly eating whatever took their fancy. We took time out to cool down with a nice glass of iced water and then it was back to tempting piggies to go in the right direction.
Eventually the Middle Whites were tempted by the sound of pig nuts falling into a trough and after much cajoling and many, many bananas, once again took up residence in their Summer enclosure.

Betty on the other hand wanted freedom.......

LH followed, and led and pushed, and tried to keep her on track, but when you've a pig that weighs as much as you and has no handles and not much command of the English language there's not much you can do......
....except keep up.......
....overtake when necessary, to keep her from re-visiting the pond.......

.....protect her sides from the plough blades......

.....until, eventually she makes for home and tucks herself up in the ark.

Four hours after we started on our little adventure, we stood and watched as the piggies introduced themselves to their new next door neighbours, Lulu and Lottie, the baby Large Blacks.........

and the gorgeous chestnut coloured horses, Poppy and Frank.
All went well in the end, and today happiness reigns in the orchard, and we are happier, wiser and determined to get their bucket training back up to standard.
Sue xx

Saturday 17 April 2010


So sorry I've been missing.
Our internet connection disappeared with a fizz and a sizzle on Wednesday night and has only just returned. SO much has been going on in the meantime that I could spend hours on here telling you all about it, unfortunately, I have some potatoes to plant so I'll be back soon.....
I promise!!
Sue xx

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Back to Basics

Yesterday after walking the dogs, I called by the polytunnel to pick my lunch. A handful of two different types of lettuce leaves, a handful of mixed leaves and a couple of radishes. On my way back to the house I looked in the henhouses and found 3 eggs already laid (it was only 9am) and it got me seriously thinking how close to self sufficiency we could truly be, and very soon.
Although Lovely Hubby is the biggest carnivore I have ever known he does love his veggies, I eat chicken and fish occasionally but am more than happy on a diet of veggies, eggs and cheese, and soon we will be growing almost all the fruit and vegetables that we eat.
We have started to eat the produce from the polytunnel already, well ahead of last year. The chickens are in almost full production now and we have been getting a dozen eggs a day since last week. So even now we wouldn't starve, it's a lovely thought that we can be more self reliant. Getting back to the land is what makes me love this life, during winter it's hard to appreciate things, the mud is deep and yucky, the dogs bring it and lots of other equally messy things indoors for me to spend time cleaning up. But in Spring when it's drier outside and the plants and soil beckon it's a different story.

Courgette getting it's 3rd true leaf.
There is something so satisfying about planting a seed, watching it pop it's head out of the soil, and then day by day grow into something that will nourish you and your animals. Maybe I should do a day-by-day seed photo diary.....could I be that organised?
In the meantime I have started a list at the top of my sidebar to log just what we are eating that we are producing ourselves, just to inspire me and keep me on track.

Yesterday I mentioned our visitors in the paddock...........they are two gorgeous horses that are temporarily living there while some work is being done on their usual field in the village. As we hadn't got around to ploughing up any of the paddock and knowing that they needed somewhere to stay, we offered to rent out the grazing for a couple of weeks. As usual when you really want a photo of something (I had promised you after all) it proves impossible to get a decent shot, they seemed to find the bit of grass in the middle extremely tasty for hours yesterday and even with the zoom this is the best I could get.
They seemed fascinated on their first morning here, watching the goings on with the chickens and dogs and cats, then they spotted the little piggies and were even more fascinated. I'm so glad we're entertaining them so well whilst they are here.
As soon as they move out we will be planting a quarter of the paddock with crops to feed us and our animals, and turning part of it into our new bird area, for geese and turkeys, in the meantime we have these lovely creatures to watch. Against the green of the grass their chestnut coats look beautiful. And for once we have animals on the farm that I don't have to do anything for or with. Their owners visit most days to see that they are okay, and I just check that they have water in their trough.
Sue xx

Lulu and Lottie

This is a picture of Lulu and Lottie taken when we went to visit them with their Mum Cilla, a few weeks ago. Then they were three weeks old.

Now they are big girls of eight weeks old, and this is them this morning.

Already friendly, they came running over when they saw me. They let me stroke them and tickle them behind their ears. They watched in amazement while I filled the trough with water from the hose and tried to drink the water while it was still frothy with bubbles.

The food trough is tipped on its side at the moment as they are too small to comfortably eat out of it, but doing it this way they get used to eating at it, and as a bonus it will be a good way for us to see how much they have grown later on.
They are settling in well, but already we have more animal visitors on the farm......they are living in the paddock, I will try to get a good photo for tomorrows post. (They are very beautiful!!)
Thank you for all the lovely comments yesterday.
Sue xx