Rain, rain and more rain – but that’s ok!

I think most of the UK has had rain this week.  The ground here desperately needed it.  It’s rained non stop for a good few days so all of the water butts are full.  Some of the barn guttering is blocked from downpours and things are looking a bit depressed (my chamomile is squished for example) but once the sun comes it’ll right itself.  However some of the animals are loving it:
Some not so much
 The 4 Vorwerk girls and 2 boys sought shelter in the barn, you only ever see them in here at feeding time but looks like they all fancied a trip to the hairdressers together.

After complaining about the pigs not turning the field over as much as we’d hoped – look at it now after the rain!  I’m really pleased.  These 2 will be going within the next month and they will have done a great job by then.  Once they go we will get in there and take out the roots they’ve uprooted but not eaten, maybe rake or tiller it depending how it is and then leave it until March when it’ll be planted up with potatoes then squash later in the year.  We’re also growing 2018 pigs fodder in here.

The sunflowers are now heading for 5 or 6 foot and some are really strange looking!  Pretty colours all the same.

Look at the sweetcorn!  This has flew up with the recent downpours!
 
This morning I was outside at 5:30 sowing seeds.  Crazy you might say but there’s method in my madness.  Firstly, my back was giving me jip and I needed to walk it off, secondly on a weekend I always seem to get distracted by other jobs like weeding and thirdly I find I get a lot more achieved when I get out of bed and get on with it straight away.  Of course I had to go to work so the only way to get everything done is get up early and crack on!  The seeds I got in were spring onion, pak choi, leeks (second cropping, winter giant 3), perpetual spinach, cauliflower autumn giant, cabbage verbote 3 (which was organic and I’d not realised).
The rain always makes the veg plot look so green so I quickly snapped a couple of shots for you to see from this morning.
Beans intercropped with spinach in this closest shot

Lavender and spuds in this view, plus the obligatory steel bin to burn stuff in!
 Chamomile is what you can see, all squashed in the middle of this pic.
Brassicas with Jerusalem artichokes below.  I wasn’t sure if these would be ok together but I am moving the artichokes to a metal bin (with holes in) one this round is done.

That’s my round up done, enjoy the weekend.

Spring bank holiday

What beautiful weather we’ve been having, perfect growing conditions with long sunny days and dare I say it, a long wet day on Sunday! The rest of the week is looking fine so I’m hoping to see some growth on my brassicas. They’ve been shredded to skeletal remains by something! The first batch do seem to be recovering but their growth is definitely stunted and therefore I don’t think brassicas are doing as well as last year. June will be the the deciding month. I think it’s been colder this year earlier on too.

I’ve spent some great hours in the veg plot, greenhouse and polytunnel, though there’s many more hours needed in them. The weather I spoke of is great for the weeds too!

The tomatoes and peas are looking good though again, I don’t think we’ve as many peas as last year. Still time to sow some more of course and I have discovered just the spot for those.

Bush Tomatoes
Polytunnel peas
A while back I sowed some Purple Top Milan turnips in the polytunnel and they all went to seed, so I am guessing it’s too warm for them.  The pigs had them for their supper last night.

 In order to net off the fruit bushes growing alongside the rhubarb, we needed to harvest some more rhubarb which was fine as it’s had a rest since the last harvest.  Here’s Grace stood with some of the harvest and the leaves which were almost as big as her.

 I tried to thin the carrots out a bit more and when I pulled this one out I nearly died of shock.  I’ve never been able to grow carrots before! 

On Sunday we all went for a lovely, long, family walk out.

 The dogs could smell something but we couldn’t see anything.  Maybe a rabbit was just here.

We also netted the strawberries as they have shot up out of nowhere.

 As have the currants and gooseberries

Inspired, I then decided to have a wander round the veg plot taking snaps of how we’re doing.
Rhubarb and currant area

Onions with catch crops in between

The start of direct sowings coming through with quick crops interspersed.  Chamomile is closest here, to make tea with.

 I started planting up the bean bed.  This bed had the trenches dug in it a few month ago, which were filled with veg peelings.  I need to do that at the end of this year so they rot down better next year, but they will still retain the moisture in the bed which is needed.  here we have runner beans with sweet peas in the middle, and nasturtiums at the front.  This bed isn’t finished yet but only so many hours in the day.

 This is my pea and broad bean bed which I’m just not overly happy with.  I’ve put some borlotti’s in the edge too to create an archway if they grow high enough, linked to the next bed.  I’m going to sow more peas, but this bed is the most disappointing this year so far.

 Here’s the main crop potato bed which also has comfrey along the long side as I needed somewhere to put it.  Once it’s in, it’s in, so no going back now.

Comfrey

 This bed has the early potatoes at the top and the tomatoes I’ve just planted out in the bottom.  There’s a lot of conflicting information about these 2 being planted together.  I’ve gone with the risky view as I’ve tonnes more tomatoes elsewhere, so if I lose them, I need to take it on the chin.  The early potatoes are due to come up any time now but they’re a little behind due to the cold weather start again.

 Here we have my version of The Three Sisters which you can read about online.  It’s a method for planting your squash, sweetcorn and beans/peas etc together.  I’ve got sunflowers in instead with my squash and sweetcorn.  We’ll use the sunflowers for food for us and the chickens and also to sow as seeds again next year.

 A happy nasturtium flower which are also edible!  I’ve not tried one yet.

All in all we had a lovely family weekend together.  The kids are off for half term now and they are also off next week for 5 PD days as our school clumps them all together.  Ste and I have taken this week off too, so I hope to get lots sown, grown, harvested and made during this time off.


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.

May Day bank holiday fun

Well this was a weekend to remember.  Having the extra day has been brilliant to getting this done on the smallholding.
First up the pigs came out in a skin condition again which the vet had already identified as Erysipelas, harmless if caught early, which we did within 12 hours.

We collected the antibiotics from the vets and set about it ourselves with the help of our lovely neighbours who is a doctor and his wife, a nurse!  The pigs were in good hands and it’s cleared up already.  They had two doses, one on Saturday and one today (Monday).
On Sunday, we moved them from the barn to their new accommodation in the paddock and sat and watched them for a while.

 They were ridiculously happy and ran and ran and ran!

As they’re old enough to be off the heat, they can be sent out to work now the frosts have hopefully passed.  We hope that they will turn the paddock over as it’s riddled with nettles.  We chopped the nettles down before they went in there as they would possibly suffer from nettle rash.  They don’t have hard hides yet and are still easily scraped or cut. 
Steven carried them from the barn to the paddock, needing a helping hand for the heavier one as boy they can wriggle and are so powerful.  Another week and we wouldn’t have been able to move them like that.  They love their new pen which is made from pallets begged from our farmer neighbour. 

Grace helped bring the straw down for their bed, using an ingenious transportation method.

 Jack enjoyed watching them play.

We also got the sheep into the stable when the horses were in the field, and gave them a tidy up on their back end as they were getting matted.  No photos, I’ll spare you!
I got some rhubarb vodka on the go for Christmas gifts and to help keep us warm this winter.

The veg plot is really taking shape now and should be fully up and running by the end of this month. I managed to get the red cabbage in which I have a soft spot for, the sweetcorn and sunflowers (heads will be for the chickens).  I’ve sown some more peas, kohl rabi and calabrese to ensure we have a successional harvest of them. 
Tonight I harvested kale, swiss chard, asparagus and PSB for our tea, making a cottage pie using a slimming world recipe (inspired by Lou, thank you) and it was delicious with the PSB and asparagus on the side.

The first fruit has arrived on my tomatoes so I will start feeding those ones which I am really pleased about.

Pigs!

The weekend finally has arrived when we reached an important milestone in our drive towards self sufficiency of meat and took on 2 piglets. 

They are large white cross landrace.  Large white are best known for bacon pigs according to the internet, but we shall be keeping these for 6 months and using them to fill our freezer with goodies that we hope to see us through 12 months.  I have no idea if 2 pigs will give us enough meat for a family of 4 for 12 months or not.  I will let you know in 18 months time!
We collected them at 9:30 on Saturday morning and of course used a method of transport most people wouldn’t….but that is us all over !

They settled in amazingly quickly considering they have never felt straw under their feet before and have only known their mother.  The farmer, a neighbour friend, was kind enough to lend us a heat lamp as they still need to be under heat for a few weeks yet.

They are from different litters (same father, I need to find the piggy term) but get on well.  Both similar sized, so there’s less chance of bullying.

They are very young so we’re feeding them their feed in milk at the moment and will eventually get them just on to the hard feed in a few days.  The milk is very good for them anyway though.
Grace named them – not me! Sunflower and buttercup.  They’re both girls and will live in the barn until the warmer weather comes, when they then have a job to do.  I need part of a paddock turning over as it’s riddled with nettles and weeds.  I hope they do a good job!
We plan on feeding them home grown veg to supplement their hard feed which is their primary feed source of course.
Ste said something that really stuck with me at the weekend.  Our smallholding is nearly complete.  How nice of a feeling is that?
‘Nearly’ as we have some other arrivals due soon 😉