Avian Flu Silver lining and odds and sods

Like all poultry keepers, I’m sick of this avian flu for one reason or another.  I do not want to get into politics as we all have our own views on it.  However, one thing I think most of us smallholders, self sufficient and self reliant folks have in common, is the ability to make the best from a bad situation.
Although the poultry is stuck inside, they do have light, food, water and warm beds so their lives could be worse.  However for us, the food bill to feed them seems high.  Now I don’t have last year’s costs to compare this too, however my gut feeling is that it’s high and although the wild birds are no longer taking their share, I reckon the barn mice and rats are! 
We’ve known for a while about hanging your poultry feeders off the ground to deter rats and other critters, but we’ve never got round to it.  So Steven has designed a hanging feeder which we are trialling in the barn.  We have put the same amount of food in on day 1 and then day 2.  Day 1 seeing the feeder on the floor and day 2 hanging up. 

I’ll report back on how well they have done.
Once we move them back outside, we’ll hang the feeders from the trees.  Now where the birds will go when they’re outside is another discussion.  Having the over winter in the barn has opened our minds to where we will house them in 2017 as other animals come along.  I’ll do more on that another day too.
So the silver linings being that we’re trialling a new way of feeding them that we’ve not done before and we’re giving thought to the best place for the hens in 2017. 
I’ve also been making mango chutney which Dawn posted about a week or 2 ago and I’ve wanted to do it since.  It’s a lovely recipe which you can find here.  I am really pleased that the food year is already off and running.  Who says preserving is only for the summer?

I’ll be using it in a sausage recipe on Sunday when I put a spread on for my daughters 10th birthday.
The seeds are making their way up into the daylight.  It always amazes me that these dormant seeds suddenly sprout life.  The first ones of the year are extra special.

I couldn’t finish without showing you this.  On a morning, the youngest dogs come with me to the barn to run off their energy.  So when they were quiet, my senses went on high alert and I found them both happily chewing on undesirable things!  Nothing poisonous, but I’ll spare you the details.  No wonder they were quiet.

Hedgerows, puppies and yukky things

I’ll start off with hedgerow photos.  Outside my house starts a bridlepath.  There’s a multitude of things along the bridleway however at the start of it, where my fence is, are bramble bushes.  Now I was mightily excited about these when I moved here, thinking we’d have hoards of brambles coming out of our ears and planning all I could do with them.  So I was disappointed to say the least when we got none!  They looked like they were starting to develop but just never did.  So I am wondering if we should cut them back down to the ground and let them start a fresh? 

I think we will strim the whole area and see what’s what.  I think there’s room to plant some small fruit trees/bushes out there.  I’ll chat with Steven about it this weekend.  We do have enough on our plates already, but my brain doesn’t switch off it seems!

Poor quality, my hands were freezing and wet.  The area I’m talking about is on the left.  Hi Rodney 🙂
More of a close up
My gorgeous girl, she could run this place single handed, she is so good.

Seen as though Rodney snuck into the top photo I thought I’d show you the dogs (I still call them puppies a year on) playing in the barn the other morning, whilst I was doing the horses.

Obviously something has been here, but what?  15 mins then were here for.
Rodney got bored before Buster

He realised he may be there for some time, waiting for his brother

 

We didn’t find anything Mum

Finally to the yukky bit.  My veg box arrived on Wednesday as expected so I used some of it to go with tea.  Jack, my son, love cauliflower at the moment so I was pleased to see one in the box.  Cutting into it, the flesh seemed a strange texture and on investigation it looks like slugs have been enjoying their winter in there.  I rescued some of it but as you can see in the yellower coloured photo on the top middle floret, there was lots of slug slime (?) all over.  I think I stabbed the slug when splitting it down.  Ooops.



The joys of growing your own (even if I didn’t grow this one)
Happy Friday everyone and have a fabulous weekend.  We’re hoping to start our next project this weekend, more soon. 
Tracy 🙂

Visiting friends and last of the rhubarb

This morning we drove to see a good friend at her livery yard where she keeps her horse. She’s moved there since we moved into our smallholding and we’ve not got round to going to see them, so today was the day for that.
It was lovely to catch up and the kids made some new animals friends too!

When we got home the rain started, which is a relief. I think I’m the only person  pleased by the rain! The fields are gasping for it and the mineral dressing I’ve just put on the smallest paddock won’t be worth it until it rains in. It’s due to rain most of today and tomorrow then be sunny again next week, which is just perfect.
The kids and I walked the puppies out as usual and took our food for free book which we recently ordered. I was surprised that I couldn’t find damsons in there but maybe I missed them. Here are ours in the orchard.
 
When we got back, Rodney was tired and wet so he decided to dry off and have a snooze next to the Aga.  There were some other berries that I couldn’t identify either, so will Google when I get chance.  I didn’t get a photo this time round but they are red berries with a yellow base, small and the leaves have 3 points larger but similar in style to the hawthorn (which has 5 points I think).
Given the wet weather, I decided to use up the last of the rhubarb that I picked and made rhubarb and vanilla jam. It is a huge success despite the expense of the vanilla. I will definitely make that each year.

Today is Ste’s last day at work for the week. I bet he can’t wait to finish. We’re going to collect the wild plums tomorrow, assuming they’re ready and a few windfall apples if any are there. They’re not ready to twist off the tree just yet so I’ll not remove them directly. We’re off to a party tonight, a great way to start the holidays as a family of 4. I’ve loved my week off with the kids so far. I might even put a lottery ticket on to see if we can extend it permanently!
 
Kids ready to walk out and see what goodies we can identify
My rescue hens are producing extremely well.  This one looked more painful!

Onion racks & reduced grocery budget!

It’s a new pay month for us (July’s pay paying for August’s food etc).  I’ve reduced our grocery budget for the month to £250.  That covers the next 4.5 weeks.  I’ve done this as at the moment we’re getting as much food for free as we will this year, so I’m making sure I make the most of it.  Let’s see if I can make it work. 

Therefore in this week’s delivery I’ve ordered milk, cream and cheese, but no veg other than kohl rabi to try.  We’ve never had it nor cooked with it and it’s supposed to be easy to grow and something I can plant now.  That’s arriving Wednesday as usual so more to follow.
This weekend we had my parents over for a BBQ on Saturday afternoon.  It was lovely, the weather was just right for us all.  They helped with some jobs around the place before settling down to homecooked food.  We managed to get quite a lot of weeding done in the veg garden with them and I very much appreciate their help.  The menu I did was on this week’s menu plan and it went down really well.  Homemade coleslaw is amazing, I will never buy shop made again!!  Here’s a picture of the redcurrant and red onion relish I made.  First time making relish too and I’m mightily impressed with how easy it is.

Full of goodness and has a whopping great kick (which you can tone down next time!)

The kids were invited to the neighbours to play with their kids giving Steven and I some time to potter and do jobs.  We started with topping the field (taking the nettles and docks down) and to do this we used the unconventional method of the ride on lawnmower that is more suited to Wimbledon style lawns!  It rose to the occasion marvellously and we now have a topped field which is ready to tidy up and rest for a few weeks before the horses go back on it.  He was a brave man going through those nettles in shorts!

 

Jack is loving life!

A troublesome set of nettles
Took care of them!
As you can see, Jack had a lovely time just playing in the field and been had a go at driving the lawnmower (or tractor as he refers to it).  He took to it with surprising ease and no doubt will be doing it himself in years to come.

Onions ready for rain to wash them off before being stored indoors.
Steven also made some onion racks/holders for the ones he planted not long after we moved in.  These are outside to hang them on whilst they wash off and dry out for a day or two.  Then they will be transferred to the barn for plaiting and storage.  I’m really pleased with them, they’re actually huge but mild.


I also made some soup with tortellini and used up more broad beans and peas, this time including purple podded peas too.  Don’t they look so pretty?  They almost remind me of a caterpillar in their perfect pod.  I’ll be growing more of these in 2017.





Perfectly formed
Gorgeous colour


The puppies enjoying their breakfast together followed by a play on the lawn.  I call them puppies but they’re just turned 1 now so moving on rapidly!!  Rodney is the rougher haired and Buster the tan smooth hair.  Gorgeous boys.  

Buster (bottom) and Rodney (top)


Buster

We also discovered we have a grape vine.  How I didn’t know is beyond me.  I guess I don’t come to this end of the garden very often.  The grapes are miniscule so whether we’ll get a crop I don’t know, but something to look in to all the same.

Grape vine
I found a wild apple tree which looks as fit and healthy as they come, so I’ve added that to the list of items I plan to use up once they’re ready.  It’s right opposite a bramble (blackberry) bush, so it’s almost nature shouting at me to make bramble and apple pie!  An Autumnal joy.  I think that’s enough of my ramblings for today.  PS what happened to the beginning of the week?

Rain, rain and more rain

Well this morning started off promising. The forecast was for rain early doors but it didn’t transpire until about 11am. However, when it started, it came in earnest and hasn’t really stopped. We have a river at the bottom of the field which runs along the main boundary of our land. It’s normally fairly deep but won’t flood given the banks that are in between us and it. However there is a beck that runs along another field to the river. This has been up and down since we moved in but I have never seen it as high or as forceful as it is tonight.
The new cows opposite don’t seem to mind the weather though!
To cheer us up we had a lovely warming tea of chicken, bacon, potatoes and tarragon stew. Very tasty and comforting.
Oh and there is blossom on the trees, whatever trees they are. Apple I think.