Home grown tea and mini orchard update

For the last couple of week’s we’ve been having mostly home grown teas. They mostly revolve around chicken, boiled potatoes, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and onion. I feel very happy to think that almost all of the teas are home grown.
This time of year is abundant for harvests and it certainly feels like we have to prioritise what to do as the list is ever expanding. We’ve been working on the mini orchard which is where the apple trees are that we bought off Kev. They’re all looking really healthy so I know he will be pleased to hear that.
Our next stage was to tidy it all up. Weeds are our nemesis, as every gardener no doubt. I loathe giving time to them so we decided to work smartly and do what we can do to keep them at bay or kill them completely.

So we looked around and gave thought to what we can do cheaply and effectively. We’ve loads  of branches off trees piled up around the smallholding and in time these need shifting. So it dawned on us that we can use our wood chipper that we bought as part of this place killing two birds with one stone again! We started putting the branches through the chipper and have managed to produce some really great wood chip!

We took the grass out around the orchard, ground membraned it and covered it all with wood chip. I can’t believe how neat and tidy, and weed free it is!  The back section is still flowers and fruit trees so in soil so weeds will still come through there but we can work with that for now.

Another job ticked off the list 🙂

 
 

 

Maximising our outside space

When we were looking for a smallholding, I wanted as much land as possible.  When we moved here, initially we were pleased that we hadn’t got as much land as we’d originally set out to get.  Now, 18 months later and feeling like we have lived here forever, we’re hoping to get more land at some point.  That’s another story, but my point is, when we were looking for a place, we attended River Cottage Summer Fair where we met Tim Maddams.  A lovely chap who we got on talking to about our hopes and dreams.  He couldn’t believe the price differences in what we could buy in North East England, compared to “down South”.   We too were shocked.
We also stayed at a working farm for 2 nights, whilst we visited River Cottage and met a lovely family who we also got on talking to.  It was calving season and as we stood watching a mother give birth to twins (which I didn’t even know cows could do) the farmer was telling us that it’s a lot harder to manage 4 acres than it is 40 acres.
We looked shocked and he said, ‘land management – it is all in the land management’.  We need to make sure we rotate, rest, harrow etc etc as and when we can.  It’s easier said than done, as we don’t have the tools that farmers do, so we make do and mend.  (I rolled my field using the tyres on my fiesta for example!).
So part of what we have is the area knows as Chickenville.  Not surprisingly, this has housed our chickens since we moved in.  They’ve done a great jobs of killing the weeds and the floor is now just mud.  So these chickens have now been given part of the little paddock.
Chickenville was a dense and dark area when we bought this place.
 
Little by little we have chopped the trees down and turned them into fire size pieces ready to keep us warm in the following year’s winter.
 
This is double depth to the wall and one of Ste’s favourite places!
So back to my original point, of using your land wisely.
This is how Chickenville looks today.  What a cracking space.  Now the chickens are out using the little paddock, we’re wondering what we could use this space for.  Time will tell, we’re not in a rush to make any mistakes.
 

What a beautiful weekend

I know it’s a common thing to say, but this weekend just flew by.  We did have a busy one mind you, it was glorious weather! 
The greenhouse was difficult to keep cool and I actually lost some tomato seedlings which I’m gutted about.  They were in this heat in the propagator too, so even hotter.  I have lots more sown, but still sad when it happens.
It was a weekend of fencing again.  We have a stock fence that separates the small paddock and the field.  The field has a gate which is not linked to the small paddock and it’s become a mud bath over winter, so we’ve decided to put another gate in as an alternative route whilst that one recovers. 
Ste took part of the stock fence down, to make room for the gate.  A trip to Mole Valley (agricultural store) later and we had the wood necessary for the job.

In no time at all, Ste had dug the holes out, post crete’d in the posts and added the fence rails. 

 
We then had a chat about the stock fence which started to look tired and aged against the new post and rail section.  Our intention was to eventually replace the full thing, but not immediately.  This weekend’s task was to get the gate ready for use.
Of course, best laid plans were thrown to one side and we set about (we being Ste) and took up the stock fencing, keeping it for the pig area at a later date.  The field now looks amusing in that there is a gate in place, but an open space which you can just walk around.  We had another run to the agricultural store and got the rest of the wood needed to put a full fence up. 
 
I wasn’t sat on my haunches whilst Ste was busy with the fence.  I’ve planted up the rest of the trees in to the mini orchard and am really pleased with the results.  It’s still work in progress as there’s a lot of soft fruit to go in, but so far, so good.  We’ve the last 2 apple trees, a pear, 2 apricot, an almond and a rogue fig…the fig isn’t in the ground yet as I’m not sure what to do with him.
The grass area will eventually be removed and some replaced with culinary and medicinal herb beds.  That’s something I really want to learn a bit more about.