Adapting routines and a little business venture

Thank you to everyone who is commenting. I read every comment and will reply in due course. For now, I’ve a load of blog posts filling my head that I just need to get out there!! Here we go:

In addition to the quail expansion, we have lots of other ideas and rods in the fire.

We’ve taken on more laying hens, so we have 31 now and another 15 or so coming in 5 weeks time.  The idea of doing this is to provide ourselves with all of the eggs we could ever need and with a view to selling the surplus.  
There’s your basic brown hen and white leghorns here, very prolific layers though the white ones are extremely skittish and flighty.
Below are the eggs starting to build up, we’re averaging 20 a day right now and every one is spoken for the day or day after it is laid.
Our duck total is currently 4 Aylesbury, which we bought as 3 girls and a boy and since have proven the fertility of the eggs to only be low but still a reasonable amount.  We have put 19 in the incubator and will check for fertility again in a few days to only keep the good ones.  The plan for ducks is to grow some on for meat as we like duck, to sell them to friends as meat but then we would also like to become a local supplier of the breed as they are like hen’s teeth around here.  We will also sell the fertile eggs once fertility is up and also sell the duckings and adults.
At the end of February I received an early Mother’s Day gift which was just lovely.  Ste and the kids bought me 10 chicks from Durham hens.  I was sooo happy to get these, look!
There’s 8 Lavender Araucana and 2 Cream Legbars.  The first you can’t sex at birth but the legbars you can (from colourings).  Both of these hens lay blue-green eggs which is exactly why I wanted them as my own special addition.  We are going to breed these beautiful rare breeds too, which we hope will be the first of many to add to building up this little business.

Now taking all of this on whilst having a family, working full time, running a home and smallholding etc etc isn’t something that you can do without planning.  It means you have to adapt, change your routine, plan, review and do it all again if needs be.  Something that we are getting so much better at is doing this.  It’s no longer a shock to the system, which when you first set out it can be.  It’s planned in, dished out and gotten on with.

Every morning Rodney and I feed the horses, exercise (myself) and he sits and looks like he is training with me, I open up outside pens and feed the animals, starting at one end and systematically working to the other end.  Daily the horses stables are tended to morning and evening.  On a weekend I clean out what poultry houses need to be changed over.  The kids and Ste take turns with this but all have their own jobs too.  
I mean, do you even lift bro?
My barrow on our cleaning travels
However, now we’re getting more poultry we need to adapt.  What needed now is a daily spot clean of the poultry houses as this stops the hens and eggs becoming dirty and makes the weekend cleans fewer.  Once done, with a small bucket of chicken poop, I will head over to the compost bin and add it to it, along with any veg peelings and so on.  The horses muck goes to another pile as there’s SO much of it.  We also sell that to local allotments as we don’t use chemicals or straw and they can’t get enough of it.  It really is good sh1t!  We bag it up for them but currently don’ t have enough bags!  We reuse as much as possible to avoid increased plastic use.

We have another big change just happened too, more soon, which means even more adapting and changes which are all for the greater good and fantastically exciting.
Just as a side note, we did buy an incubator out of our savings to help up on our way with this.  It was a budget version and you may get what you pay for, however we will write a review once we have data to review.  In the mean time, this is it for anyone that is interested:

Take care everyone.

Planning the coming year’s harvest including freebies

I love freebies.  I’ve just been given these seeds from my lovely Dad who has given up his allotment and asked if he can help out on mine through the year. 

I have taken delivery of some fruit trees.  Sadly, I had to pay for these :).  There’s a pear, fig tree, almond and apricot.  At the moment they are all in temporary containers in the greenhouse.  Their names from the website are:

Large Fig Tree ‘Brown Turkey’ 1ft Tall in a 2LPot.Ready to Fruit, Sweet Taste
Apricot Bergeron Tree 4-5ft Tall, Self-fertile Sweet & Tasty Orange Flesh
Conference Pear Tree 4-5ft Tall, Self-Fertile & Heavy Cropper, Ready to Fruit
Large 4-5ft Sweet Almond Tree ‘Robijn’,Ready To Fruit, Nice Pink Flowers.
Thanks for the website recommendation, Dawn.
I don’t know where they will stay permanently, but they’re all small enough to be in pots for now.
 Last year we had tonnes of currants (black, red and white) and we used them all.  Cordial is on the menu this year, but I need to find out how to store it long term, I have in my head that it doesn’t freeze but I don’t know if that’s true.  Elderflower was my son’s favourite and a beautiful taste of spring in a glass, with the promises of the great things to come.
This is the fruit cage we have made that in currently being changed into temporary chicken housing.  It’ll do a great job over the soft fruit come summer.

I must get round to pruning the raspberries but I really don’t know if they are summer or autumn fruiting as they fruited the whole way through!  So I am worried about killing them off or stunting their harvest. Same for the currants for their pruning.
We have cut the asparagus ferns down and top dressed with horse muck that’s been rotting away.  Asparagus was one, maybe the, first foods we harvested in 2016.  I look forward to that.  It took me by surprise last year with the amount we could harvest.  I may sell some this year if there’s too much for us.  I’ve also found some nice recipes so we don’t tire of it.
I shall soon be forcing some rhubarb too.  Just one plant I think.  Rhubarb is one of my favourites.
I started preparing for sowing this weekend.  Maybe too early I know, but that’s part of the experiment.  I’ll soon start the onions, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, chillis, broad beans, salad leaves, spinach and cauliflowers.  I am only doing a few of each (she says).  Also I am going to get my strawberry plants that I took from runners under cover to see what happens.  This is it, we’re off on the 2017 road to self-sufficiency!
A harvest of a different kind now… the chicks we hatched early December have been moved outside into the big barn.
First time they have seen big chickens!
They have heat there still but plenty more space now as they’d outgrown the brooder. I am not sure what will go in the brooder next. Steven made a heat lamp from a mixing bowl, heat lamp bulb and some mesh (to stop them burning themselves on it).  I was super impressed and a fraction of the cost were we to have bought it in the shop.
It was a very foggy day all day today with the temperatures barely getting above freezing.  The greenhouse door was frozen closed with the frost that developed overnight.  We use the tap in there for the water for the horses.  It soon thawed out.  This was taken when I was riding out this morning.  It was lovely.

Catching up with December’s antics.

I was just reading Dawn’s blog to catch up when I glanced at her sidebar and noticed it said 6 days since my last post.  That has gone scarily quick.  As much as I love December and the Christmas build up, there is a lot to do on top of the usual. 

The elves have been busy keeping an eye in the kids.  No matter how I moved them round, this photo still looked pretty rude and it wasn’t meant to!  Sorry about that, though I did get a giggle.

We’ve found another hay supplier.  I didn’t need one, but whilst helping a friend in need at the weekend, we got chatting and he is local and does small bales for £3 a bale which is average for here.  The hay was nice and dry, no mould and not too sweet, so will be good for the horses and sheep when they get their extra.  Grace also made a new friend.  The innocent trust between a puppy and a child made my heart melt. 

Steven made a new friend.  What a corker of a boy!

Buster is adamant there is something in the walls.  I can’t hear anything and I hope it isn’t mice or worse.  No suggestion other than Buster refusing to move, looking transfixed at it.

For those who have heard about the bird flu preventative requirements, we’ve done our bit to follow DEFRA’s guidelines on avian flu and housed ours in the barn with the horses.  Grace is the only one who can easily get in and out to their feeders, she’s a big help. 
They hens do decide to roost anywhere but where we want them too mind you.  At least it’s all in the barn.  I can’t wait to get them back out again.
We have managed to hatch 13 chicks, ready for next year’s laying hens.  Sadly we lost 1.  I am going to also raise some more of my rare breeds.  The chicks are inside and were hatched on Thursday 8th December meaning they will be at point of lay on 11th May.  This years last hatch which were July 2nd are now at point of lay but aren’t laying.  I presume given the time of year, they don’t want to!  We’re still getting a lot of eggs though from out main hens so that’s great. 

 I’ve also bought the sheep a mineral lick as the grass is obviously not growing.  Plus I have acquired a new chest freezer (new to us) for FREE but I insisted our friend take some petrol money for dropping it off.

Meet Ryan

Time for an update on the goslings that were hatched. 
After losing the one to the pond, the remaining 4 are doing extremely well and following the adult geese everywhere.  They seem to be thriving and enjoying life.  The day or two after the first lot arrived saw a few strange things happen.  Firstly, the other Mother Goose abandoned her eggs in favour of walking round with her friend and her friend’s goslings.  So the remaining eggs in the shed went cold and we thought were goners.  Anyway, as we said we would, we let nature take its course and left them there.  We had a couple that hatched ok but died  for one reason or another and some that died trying to hatch.  A day or two later, when one was trying to get out and struggling, we decided nature had its own way for long enough and we helped the little dude out.  Mother Goose has already rejected a couple of goslings that hatched after the first day (that accounted for some of the deaths I mentioned), so we decided to pop Ryan as he is now called, in to the incubator and see if he made it.  He did and now Steven and I have been adopted by him as his parents!  His favourite past time is swimming round in the sink.

With this in mind, when 7 Vorwerk chicks (breed of hen) came up for sale a day later, I thought they would make great friends for Ryan and we were right.  For now anyway, before he gets too big!

It wasn’t a silly move though as I now have the 2 breeds I really wanted, Lakenvelder and Vorwerk.  I shall breed these myself over the next year or so, when I introduce some from a different blood line (some people say it matters, others say it doesn’t). 

Time to move

Remember the chicks we hatched 7 weeks ago? Well they are ready to move outside now. We have had them off the heat lamp during the day for a couple of days and then we switched it off over night too. So Saturday night saw us move them in to their newly penned off area in Chickenville. This morning I opened their coop and they all had a peek outside and decided to stay indoors for a few hours. Eventually, they plucked up enough courage to venture out of the coop and soon were coming and going although they wanted to spend most of their time inside still.
The rescue girls are doing well. Every day sees them venturing further,  developing a  personality and gaining in confidence. One of them, Miss Marple, is as bold as brass. She comes over and feeds from out hands and pecks away at our boots without even flinching when we move.
Steven’s been working super hard taking the latest lot of trees down from the copse. The wood pile is building up nicely and combined with the coal we have bought, should see us nice and snug through winter 2016.
This weekend we haven’t had much time to ourselves but the time we did have was well spent in the vegetable plot. The strawberry plot is coming on nicely. These may look quite close together but they are measured out at the recommended distance and if we need to, we can thin them out. The broad beans and peas that I sowed a few weeks back are finally started to look like real plants growing through. I have some in the greenhouse which are a few weeks ahead of them and look fabulous.
This coming week will see us both at work as usual and the forecast is dire from Tuesday so hopefully we can make the most of tomorrow evening. Although the kids are back to school so they will probably be tired tomorrow night.
Grocery wise we should have enough in to see us through to pay day on 25th as per the plan.
One thing I would really like to concentrate on this week is taking in lunches to work again as I have got out of the habit of it.