Rhubarb, a birthday, bathroom and Annie :)

I am really noticing the change in daylight hours this last week. Que the panic moment where Spring is upon us and I don’t feel ready. In anticipation of this, we’re getting a nice, early starting with the seed sowing again this year. Inevitably there will be some losses but it has served me well for the last 2 years since we started on this journey.

We have now sown most varieties of tomatoes, peppers and chillis, aubergine, leeks, peas, lettuce and cucumbers.  The peas went into guttering and have been placed in the greenhouse, for when they are ready to plant out, maybe April time.  They will just slide straight into a trench from the guttering, suffering little disturbance and making life easier for me.

I’ve sown SO many tomatoes this year.  A few reasons, one as my harvest was poor last year, also to find out which varieties suit our weather here in the North East from which I will save seed and use next year.  I plan on making and preserving enough tomato sauces (be it pasta, ketchup, bottled etc) to last a family until the next tomato season and I also will sell some, be it plants to grow on, or tomatoes to eat.

Some of the tomatoes from last weekend are flying up – for those which are leggy, I will replant up to their leaves as tomatoes are happy to do this.

Below the broad bean expermiment is underway.  The Aquadulce are coming through ahead of the Bunyard’s exhibition.

Finally sweet peas are doing well (ignore the label, it’s not what is sown).  I’m really looking forward to a great display of sweet peas this year, they are lovely plants and the bees love them too.

I invested in some capiliary matting to hopefully help with the watering of all the seedlings as that is a very time consuming job once we’re underway.  Anything to make life easier!

The rhubarb that I put the black bin on is not showing at all, but this little plant here took off last year and it is looking like it will this year too!  Look at it, no forcing and it’s away already.  The growing season is here!
In doing all of the seeds, I am spending a lot of time in the potting shed and Annie has been joining me now she is allowed out.  She is turning into such a lovely dog.

Unfortunately, the fox has paid us another visit.  The 3rd now.  We have Vorwerk chickens that free range completely, meaning they sleep where they want to.  Inevitably that meant they were easy pickings and 4 of the 6 went last night.  The 2 hens that remain are now in with the other chickens and locked away on a night.

One of the reasons I am not managing to post so much is the amount we have going on at the moment.  Here’s one of our current projects.  The family bathroom.  It is one of the more dated rooms in the house so we have decided to get on with it rather than wait until the Autumn, which was the first plan.  Unfortunately, the walls and ceiling all need replacing, but at least it should be a job that we only do once.

I’m lucky Ste just gets on with it – this is how we take old baths out in this house.

I’m sure it’ll be worth it!
It’s Grace’s birthday on Wednesday, she will be 11.  This is her 3rd birthday in the house and for each one we have thrown her a little tea party.  She had a friend over, family came and we enjoyed a nice few hours together.  Look at the cake my Mam made for her – simply delicious!  Grace is a lucky girl.
I really am trying to make sure we all slow down a bit here as January has gone by in the blink of an eye and it’s a bit worrying!  We get up at 5 and don’t stop until we go to bed around 10.  Being busy is great, but not at the expense of time going by too quickly.  I’m going to see what we can do to slow the days down a bit! 

Duck disruption!

Part of running a smallholding is thinking on your feet and not always knowing what’s coming next, but then to quickly adapt to it when the time calls for it.
We found this duckling (she’s big but young) hiding away after being pestered by the male older duck.  He’d taken a liking to her and was extremely rough.  As her wings cover her back, it hadn’t been obvious that he’d hurt her quite as much as he had.
We gathered her up and assessed how bad she was.  To be fair, it looks painful but she was ok in herself.
On looking at her back, we noticed how amazing her colourings are.  They’re really coming through.
We bathed it quickly in cooled boiled water which we always have in the barn for such an occasion.  She let us do it and hid in my coat nice and relaxed.
Grace noticed another one had been hurt too, so we whipped that one out and they stayed in the barn for the day, recovering in the horses hay and straw.  Sadly the second one has a poorly eye where he’s caught her and it’s still poorly but slowly getting better.
The ducklings have all been moved to another location now, a large pathway where they can eat the weeds for me!  The will remain their until they are ready for the freezer, so it is only temporary. 
***You may wonder why we move them if they are going to be killed anyway.  As many of my readers know, the most important thing for us is that the animals are happy and have a healthy life and then we dispatch them in the quickest, humanist way possible.***
Grace, like a lot of kids, wants to be a vet when she leave education and she enjoys looking after the animals in the good and the bad times.  Here she is holding one of the ducks she rescued.
We also took the time to take the eggs from under the goose and make them up a new bed.  It was the right choice as the eggs were foul and Mother Goose needs to recover now, she’s been sat a long time and has lost a lot of weight.

We’re locking up around 9.15 each night now, once it’s getting dark and everything has gone to bed.  The morning’s are lovely and light which makes running a smallholding and working that bit easier.  One day, hopefully soon, only 1of us will have to go out to work and 1 can stay at home to run the smallholding.  That’s the plan anyway 🙂

Guest post!

Hi my name is Grace. I am 10 years old and
I love living at the farm house with all of my animals.
I am so lucky to  live here with my wonderful family.
Here is a picture of the pigs.
They have grown lots since we first bought them.
My mam was getting the ducklings food when she got this picture of them.
because if there is any food in sight of the pigs then they
will squeal until you give them the food or if they’re hungry they will also squeal about that.
they are going outside soon and in August we will hopefully be getting goats.

Today, when we were opening the goose shed we found some
 baby gosling’s under the mams wing and she will soon be hatching some more.
The other mam is sat on some eggs as well ,so hopefully she is going to hatch some goslings too.
We also have some goose eggs in the incubator which might hatch ,as well as what the mams are hatching.
I am so excited that we have baby goslings. We had some goslings last 
year and they were all off the same mam and it all went really well last
year , so hopefully it will all go well this year.  

Here are the chickens all having a big feed.
The dark brown hen is my favourite chicken
and her name is Jess. She is 11 years old and she survived
when the fox came in the night ,but that was in the old house.
The brown chicken in front of her is called big bertha also survived
when the fox came.
They all enjoy a big feast.

And here is a chicken hiding in my pony’s hay.
I think she making a nest to lay a egg for us to eat.
Yum yum… 
That is it for now ,so thank you for reading my little blog post
and I just can’t wait to see if I have got any comments on my blog and I am sure
I will get some amazing comments.
Speak to you soon…
…Bye for now…Grace xx

My little family and our new ways

Since we moved to the smallholding, life has changed.  We had a vision of the lifestyle we thought it would be.  A lot of that has come true which is simply amazing.  What we didn’t realise, is how we would change as people, nurturing our new way or life, our values, what’s truly important and what really just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  We’ve been through some ups and downs as we figure this out, but it’s always worked out.  We have a strong family bond and the smallholding is developing that even further. 
So I thought I would share a couple of things that made me smile recently.
Ste made crispy cakes with rolo chocolates to finish them off.  I’m told the kids helped too 😉  They’ve been taken each day as packed lunch treats.
He’s also started making Sunday lunch for us.  I’m seriously jealous of how well these Yorkshire puddings turned out!!  He’s got a job for life there.

Ste and I collected nettles from the paddock recently and I made nettle soup!  This too is a first and despite my brain thinking otherwise, it was actually ok.  True, I wouldn’t choose it over butternut squash soup, but given its health benefits, I’ll happily eat it seasonally. 

It had a slight tinge of leek and potato – the recipe was from River Cottage website.

I moved on to nettle tea as I’ve read some excellent things about it’s medicinal values.  Only a small batch to start with.  I washed the nettles, boiled then simmered them for a few minutes and strained through a muslin cloth to get rid of the residue.
 It was very palatable!  I was shocked actually.  This is something I will turn back to, maybe drying nettles to allow for all year round availability.  Or can you use nettles any time of the year for tea? 
Grace is also finding her green fingers.  She has a natural curiosity with seeds and plants and enjoys sorting through the seed tray.  She asked me only just this morning if the rhubarb was ok as there’s a ‘big green thing’ growing in it.  I smiled and told her “hopefully”…after all, we’re all learning, so only time will tell! She’s sown some seeds for me too.
Jack likes to take his bike everywhere he goes on the smallholding.  Here he is, a dab hand at carrying a chicken feeder on his handle bars and taking it to get refilled at the feed station.

 Once the animals are fed, he collects the eggs, using any bucket he can lay his hands on to do so.  This one being an empty horse supplement bucket that Jill uses who keeps her horse with us.  It’s a job he can do himself and I like the sense of achievement he gets from it.  Looks like he does too?

So even though some days are hard, most days bring a huge happiness to us all.  Steven and I both work full time as well as run the smallholding, so we like to make sure we step back and smell the roses every now and then, and enjoy what we’ve built up and how our lives are changing.  It’s truly amazing and I welcome every minute of it.

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.