My mornings

I am lucky.  I have 2 mornings.  1 at home then another at work.  I prefer my mornings at home 😉 I thought I’d share with you some photos from my morning’s this week.
I go outside around 5:30 making a mental note of what the weather has turned out like (and usually cursing the forecast if they have it wrong).
This week we have had dry mornings, though one was that foggy it felt Autumnal.
Outside our back door
Beyond the trees you see in the first photo
Looking back up to the house from the little paddock
This is where the farmers cows normally are but on this foggy morning, you can’t see them.
Normally they are very interested in what I am doing.
Whilst taking note of the weather, I head straight over to the big barn to feed the horses, saying hi to the sheep on the way.
 
The sheep know that they don’t get fed first, they are in to the routine now, so they generally just look up at me but don’t get up.
The horses are always very pleased to have been fed. 
Ryan, our female goose (I know) sleeps in the barn and she follows me around on a morning until I feed and water her.  She prefers the sheep food to her own.  Typical!
Hello…feed me please
This water looks like mine
I also give the free range chickens (fully free range) their breakfast, heads down, bottoms up.
Notice the dominant cockerel and the less dominant one…
After the chickens, horses and Ryan, come the sheep.  By now they are at the gate waiting for their food.
After the sheep, the pigs are up.  They are usually awake and rootling around when I turn up with a bucket for them.  By gum they are boisterous now.  No manners and you better hope you don’t get knocked over when feeding as I’m not convinced you’d get back up again.  Needless to say the kids are banned from going in there!
The look cute though.
Foggy morning
Sunnier morning
Beautiful afternoon
Once the big animals are taken care of, I open up the chickens, ducks and geese in the rest of the areas.
By now the cows have followed me along the edge of the field and watch intently.  These are young cows and most probably as stupid as last years, so we’re going to strengthen this area as I don’t want them getting into the chicken and orchard areas.
There are lots of them.  The gate in the below photo is where the bridleway (opposite direction to the gate) is, which is at the front of our house. 

 This is the orchard where the hens are, where we don’t want any cow interruptions!

There is a bottoms up theme here.
 The ducks and ducklings are let out (this is before we moved them) and the make their way busily to the pond.

Over on the other side of the smallholding, I make sure the plastic pond is refilled for the geese who are often too impatient to wait.  The sound of running water entices them.  They can be mean, so are separate from the ducks.

The female joins the male.

She sees what he has in mind and makes a sharp exit!

 I make sure everything has food and water, which we usually top up the night before but sometimes we don’t manage to complete them all or ‘life happens’, but I never leave without making sure all is well.
The Vorwerk hens usually settle down anywhere to lay their eggs just as we’re leaving for school and work.  We’ve had some fun times trying to locate where they are laying!  It’s just as well there’s only 6 that free range so much.  The rest free range, but are restricted in their areas.

Once I’ve done this, I get myself, the kids and the dogs sorted, make packed lunches, load the car, forget where I’ve put my phone, dash round for 30 seconds looking and then leave on time, wondering most days how I managed to pull it off.
I wouldn’t change it for a thing though, and no, it’s not too much like hard work.  For now, we have to go out to work as we do to pay the bills and this is how we make the most of it. 

Smallholding is in our blood, I’m sure of it.

Belated weekend antics

After the excitement of the pigs, I thought they needed their own post, so today’s post is to bring the blog up to date with the weekend’s fun and games.
Remember the sheep chasing the fighting cockerels?  Well, not 1, but 2 sheep managed to lock themselves in the outside toilet on Sunday.  I’ve not laughed so hard in a long time.
The chickens that hatched in December have now been moved to the meshed greenhouse to get them outside of the barn but keep them away from the big ones (they would be bullied.)  Eventually the girls will go in the main section and the boys will be dispatched for the freezer.  They will be small, so Ste will joint them and I’ll use in the slow cooker/curries and things like that.

We need to set our minds to the table birds we want this year, the Ross Cobbs.  They will be bought in at day olds.  We won’t be hatching any more laying hens this year but I will take a few orders of rare breeds for people to keep the pot topped up. 
The geese are starting to think about incubating their eggs so we hope for a few goslings to be running around the place in a month or 2.  I’m not sure what the sheep will make of that!

A bit blurry as this was mid “discussion” between the geese and sheep

Anyway, the weekend.
I sowed loads and loads of seeds and was in my element.  In went more cauliflower, cabbage, onions, beetroot, sunflowers, nasturtiums, swiss chard, courgettes, wild garlic, leeks, calabrese and tomatoes.  Lots of different varieties.
I was doing this in between lifting wheelbarrows with Ste who was shovelling the 4 tonne of soil we ordered.  He got 2 tonne moved yesterday into the beds which have the muck in them.  They’re ready for planting now, some will be empty a while yet though (pumpkins, squash and so on).
He was being watched with interest.

Whilst the birds were watching him, my daughter was watching something else.  She noticed a suspicious van drive by and park illegally along the bridleway.  So she did as she’s been told to and came to tell Ste and I who were shovelling yet more muck at the muck heap.  I swear, some days all we see is sh*t!
Anyway, she said it was open backed so Ste wondered if they were fly tipping which happens where we are being remote ish.  So he had a walk up to the van (maybe silly) and it was empty!  He took a photo of the reg and I sent it to the farmer who confirmed they shouldn’t be there.  The farmer could see them walking up the bridleway and went to have a polite word with them, and they left.  He messaged me to say they were hawkers, out with their dogs and are known to them for all the wrong reasons.
I must say, I’m glad they weren’t in the van when Ste went up and I’m also pleased I wasn’t out riding or walking the dogs as the hawkers dogs do tend to immobilise anything small and furry!
Who says county life is quiet?

Recipe books and geese

First on the list is using my abundance of recipe books. I love them. However I am terrible for finding something online, normally BBC good food and just having the recipe on my phone. What a waste of books and the money that went into buying them. So I am going to combine both methods. Tonight I had chicken out of the freezer and an abundance of leeks in the veg plot to get through which I feel hugely pleased about. So Mary Berry’s chicken with leek, potatoes and thyme seemed perfect. I had left over green veg from the other night. I was sceptical tasting it during cooking but it turned out lovely. A very nice recipe that can be cooked ahead. Please msg me if you would like the recipe.
 
 

 Remember Ryan the goose? Well turns out he should be called Rhianna or whatever the female equivalent of Ryan would be. Our male goose confirmed it yesterday.

One of our other female geese has been acting strange again which means she is either poorly or laying eggs again. Turns out she had stashed 3 eggs in the shed.
This mild winter is playing havoc with things. The geese think it’s Spring and there buds on the trees which normally wouldn’t be up yet. We’re due to go below freezing again tonight having said that.  Stay warm 🙂

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.

Spring is here!!!

What a beautiful day. Doesn’t the sun on your back put a spring in your step? It lifts my mood, makes me feel healthy and generally makes everything feel easier. The longer, lighter days make me feel less rushed. Today felt like we had all the time in the world and I have discovered that is a truly wonderful feeling.

We spent the afternoon as a family in the vegetable plot, weeding, sowing, discovering and generally having fun. Our daughter grace who is 9 played mum. She brought us drinks to quench our growing thirst and cookies to plug the hunger gap. Our son, jack, dug holes for England whilst Steven and I weeded and tidied. Everyone was happy and then jack  summed it up perfectly by saying “it’s lovely when we are all together isn’t it?” Never a truer word spoken.

We planted cauliflower and broccoli outside in the brassica bed and peas and broad beans in the legumes bed (check me out!).

This weekend say us take ownership if another 20 fertilised eggs. 3 weeks today and we will have the next round of chicks. The first lot are thriving and amazing us daily by how quickly they are growing. Their laying days will be here before we know it. Those that are boys will serve us up some good Sunday lunches we hope.

Needless to say the geese still aren’t laying!  They do however have a new and exclusive pond! Steven has dug a hole,  lined it with pond liner and made them a little place at the side to get in and out. Their apple shaped plastic pond is now empty and awaiting its next owners 😉

Unfortunately we still have lurgy floating around the household but we are determined to shake it off this week. We’re due a week of no rain and maybe even a little sun so what better weather to shift the last of the colds and lurgies.

The horses have spent some lovely time out this weekend and enjoyed every minute. We’re sorting their new paddock out with electric fence over the next week so that makes life easier for me as they can all go out together (currently split boys and girls).

Also a lovely lady over on househoarder had finally got the keys to her croft in Scotland. I can’t wait to read all about it over the coming months. Congratulations Caroline and hubby.

Plans for this week are make homemade laundry liquid, electric fence the small paddock, prick out latest tomato seeds, plant more seeds, build new home for next arrivals, train puppies off lead….hmm.  Ahh, I love this life :):)