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. 

Hello sheep

Thank you to everyone who commented regarding the mouldy jam on the previous post. I have picked myself up and moved on! That’s not why I have been a few days behind with posting, it’s because I am in a course at work all week and my days and nignts are interupted because of it. Roll on next week.
Having said that, I have an announcement to make! Say hello to our 3 lambs! We don’t have names for them yet though we will be naming them as these girls will hopefully be sticking around to give us babies in 2018. Until then, we’ll be trying to give them a happy and healthy life. They’re 6 months old and not long since weaned off their mother. They arrived Sunday tea time, just in time for the crazy week to start! So we spent Sunday 5pm to 7 pm sorting fences…or so we thought. Until Steven got home the next day to find the paddock empty and not a lamb in sight. Turns out they thought the farmers plants were more tasty than our field. A manic dash and 3 captured sheep later, Ste was driving home with 3 sheep in rhe car. Yes, the car. So today we we rather pleased to discover the sheep there when we got up and when we came home. A successful day!

Fences, cooking and veg box delivery

This morning I was pleasantly pleased when I got up to do the animals as the ponies were still in the paddock I had left them in.  Sounds normal right?  Well one of the ponies jumped out of the paddock the other week and I worried he would get caught up in the stock fencing, so it’s on my mind every time they use the small paddock.  I set about letting the ducks, geese and hens out.  Everything was fine so I headed in the house and got on with my morning jobs.  At 7:25 just before we were due to leave for work, I dashed out to put a pile of hay in the paddock so they had something to keep them occupied whilst I was at work.  The field is sparse.  Anyway, I noticed a pony poo in a place where ponies shouldn’t be.  Turns out Jake had snapped the electric fence (this one isn’t on and they’ve never been interested before, plus we don’t have another battery for it) and gone for a wander round before retuning himself ‘present and correct’ in the paddock!  Dashing around I brought the 2 ponies in so they are now sulking in the stables until I get chance to fix it.  They won’t be going out any more in that paddock when I am not there.  We have plans to put a new fence up but finances and timing is against us.  Steven is working double shifts effectively for the next 2 weeks and being a butcher, this is physically draining, so he has nothing left in his when he gets home and it’s not fair to ask him to start putting fences up when he’s in pain after work.  He’s taking a few days off at the end of July so hopefully it’ll get done then.  I’m going to use the time in between now and then to overseed the paddock and get the grass up so I don’t have to supplement it with hay.  We managed to leave the house at 7:40, which given what happened, wasn’t bad going!      

I’ve still been working on my grocery / menu plans.  Steven’s asked if we can put a loaf of bread on every night, or every other night, as what we don’t eat, the hens will.  So last night I put a wholemeal loaf on and we had fresh bread toasted this morning with the strawberry jam that I made.  It was lovely.  I made a couple of mistakes with the jam which I will remember for next time and avoid.  It only made 2 family size jars though and that was 1kg of strawberries.  I will pick more this weekend and see what else I can make.  We have family over on Saturday night so I plan on making strawberry shortbread with extra thick cream – a recipe from Caroline on The House Hoarder.  It went down well with her builders so I think it’ll go down well here too!

Tonight I am making rhubarb and gooseberry jam, something we haven’t tried before.  I also desperately need to harvest the cauliflowers and turn some into cauliflower and cheese soup and blanch the rest and freeze. 

We are due our first veg box delivery today which I am ridiculously excited over, so I will take some photos and let you know how impressed I was (or wasn’t) with it in tomorrow’s post and will also update more on the grocery shopping thoughts I have been having.

Finished product – strawberry jam, only gets 8/10 from me though!

The toad that pops out to see me when I am locking up on a night.

My 2 Lakendvelder’s and Jake, looking innocent!

Geese playing follow the leader when I let them out this morning.

Last night’s small loaf from the breadmaker.  I don’t make by hand as can’t find the time so this is the next best thing.

May Day Bank Holiday

We have slowed down in people who are wanting muck from us, the Spring surge of keen gardeners has wilted to a snail’s pace.  Of course that’s the cycle.  We did however have a regular guy take a trailer full from us at the weekend, which made a dent in our ever increasing manure pile!  In an effort to slow down the bedding going on the heap over the summer, I’ve started putting the ponies out a lot more now the weather’s picked up.  It is catch 22 as we want the grass to come through enough to keep them but also we want them out on it!
So in an effort to allow both the boys and girls out together and to reduce the impact on the grass, Steven has put up a new fence to create a small paddock around the ground we lovingly named “Thistle Paddock” as it was overgrown and unloved when we moved in back in January.  The fence looks great, but they aren’t cheap to buy are they?  We are using electric tape around the other parts of the paddock, until we can afford the rest.  The tape will only do its job for so long though as they boys desire for the nicer looking grass will overcome their fear of the tape!
Although we now have a cow problem!  Next door’s cows are constantly trying to get in with our horses and by God do they knock stock posts out easily.  They’re going to do themselves an injury if they aren’t careful as they insist on getting tangled in wires and walking on the most inappropriate place.  So if anyone has any techniques to keep the cows away, I’ll be happy to hear them!!
Over the bank holiday weekend we had family and friends over and it’s been a lovely time.  It has meant that I have got nothing done that I should have though and the house is looking unloved and in need of a good tidy and clean.  The problem is we’re so limited on time during the week and at the weekends people descend on us or we find more important jobs to do.  We’ll get round to it, at some point!
Our hens are well and truly paying for themselves now.  We have made over £40 in egg sales over the last 3/4 weeks, so say average of £10 a week.  That will pay for their next round of food and hopefully we will get to the point where we have a bit extra in the kitty too. 
The goslings have finally hatched too!  We haven’t got any decent photos yet as they are really protective of them, understandably.  As soon as we can, we’ll get a few good shot of them.  We’ve sectioned off what we can to make their area gosling proof but as you can imagine, on a smallholding, there’s only so much you can do and we’ve decided to let Mam do her job and what will be will be.  The geese have been managing for years and years without our help, so I’m sure she has this in the bag!  We’ve already got 2 requests for Christmas geese and a request to buy some for a community corner that a local resident is putting together.  We’ll see, we don’t even know how many we have yet, or indeed if they’ll make it.
Our rescue girls are doing really well despite losing one of their friends a while back.  They’re contributing the most to the £10 a week money.  They make me smile every day, they seem to have so much more character and need for interaction than our pure breeds and older girls.  It’s lovely.  We’ve tried to find more to rehome, but nowhere has any dates available yet.
Our growers (the ones we hatched out first) are coming on leaps and bounds, literally.  The cockerels are learning to crow and the hens are flitting around as they see fit.  They are 11 weeks on Saturday so they will have to stay in their separate bit for a while yet.  That leaves us with a dilemma of where to put the 6 chicks that we have which are only a few weeks old as they are due to go out soon, especially now the weather’s picked up and they can feel the sun on their backs.  We may have to make a makeshift pen next to the rescue girls until we can put the growers elsewhere.  We do have a long term plan of where they will go, but it’s whether we will have the time before we go on holiday.
Veggies wise, I’m hoping that now the sun is back, that we will be able to get into the veg plot again and with Steven’s man power and my planting skills, we can put the rest of the plants in that are looking sad in their small pots waiting to be planted out.
I counted my tomato plants last night and I think there were 23, but a few of which may have been lost to the frost.  I’m thinking about putting a few of them into their grow bags at the weekend and see how they manage.  I bought some tomatorite thinking I should be feeding them now, but the bottle says to feed when the fruit starts to form. 
The potatos aren’t looking great at all.  The little green shoots that started to appear have gone brown and slimy.  Should I have covered those little green shoots with more earth?  I’ll try and post some pictures soon as I forgot to get some when I was investigating last night.
Also, on spuds, we bought a huge bag full and they’ve all sprouted, they aren’t seed potatoes but eating ones and were intended for our tea.  There’s just too many though. Some of them have 6 inch shoots on then, can I plant them?