Adapting routines and a little business venture

Thank you to everyone who is commenting. I read every comment and will reply in due course. For now, I’ve a load of blog posts filling my head that I just need to get out there!! Here we go:

In addition to the quail expansion, we have lots of other ideas and rods in the fire.

We’ve taken on more laying hens, so we have 31 now and another 15 or so coming in 5 weeks time.  The idea of doing this is to provide ourselves with all of the eggs we could ever need and with a view to selling the surplus.  
There’s your basic brown hen and white leghorns here, very prolific layers though the white ones are extremely skittish and flighty.
Below are the eggs starting to build up, we’re averaging 20 a day right now and every one is spoken for the day or day after it is laid.
Our duck total is currently 4 Aylesbury, which we bought as 3 girls and a boy and since have proven the fertility of the eggs to only be low but still a reasonable amount.  We have put 19 in the incubator and will check for fertility again in a few days to only keep the good ones.  The plan for ducks is to grow some on for meat as we like duck, to sell them to friends as meat but then we would also like to become a local supplier of the breed as they are like hen’s teeth around here.  We will also sell the fertile eggs once fertility is up and also sell the duckings and adults.
At the end of February I received an early Mother’s Day gift which was just lovely.  Ste and the kids bought me 10 chicks from Durham hens.  I was sooo happy to get these, look!
There’s 8 Lavender Araucana and 2 Cream Legbars.  The first you can’t sex at birth but the legbars you can (from colourings).  Both of these hens lay blue-green eggs which is exactly why I wanted them as my own special addition.  We are going to breed these beautiful rare breeds too, which we hope will be the first of many to add to building up this little business.

Now taking all of this on whilst having a family, working full time, running a home and smallholding etc etc isn’t something that you can do without planning.  It means you have to adapt, change your routine, plan, review and do it all again if needs be.  Something that we are getting so much better at is doing this.  It’s no longer a shock to the system, which when you first set out it can be.  It’s planned in, dished out and gotten on with.

Every morning Rodney and I feed the horses, exercise (myself) and he sits and looks like he is training with me, I open up outside pens and feed the animals, starting at one end and systematically working to the other end.  Daily the horses stables are tended to morning and evening.  On a weekend I clean out what poultry houses need to be changed over.  The kids and Ste take turns with this but all have their own jobs too.  
I mean, do you even lift bro?
My barrow on our cleaning travels
However, now we’re getting more poultry we need to adapt.  What needed now is a daily spot clean of the poultry houses as this stops the hens and eggs becoming dirty and makes the weekend cleans fewer.  Once done, with a small bucket of chicken poop, I will head over to the compost bin and add it to it, along with any veg peelings and so on.  The horses muck goes to another pile as there’s SO much of it.  We also sell that to local allotments as we don’t use chemicals or straw and they can’t get enough of it.  It really is good sh1t!  We bag it up for them but currently don’ t have enough bags!  We reuse as much as possible to avoid increased plastic use.


We have another big change just happened too, more soon, which means even more adapting and changes which are all for the greater good and fantastically exciting.
Just as a side note, we did buy an incubator out of our savings to help up on our way with this.  It was a budget version and you may get what you pay for, however we will write a review once we have data to review.  In the mean time, this is it for anyone that is interested:


Take care everyone.

What are we doing now?

I’m still figuring out what day of the week works best for blog updates.  I think Monday’s are a good starting place as we can wrap up what we’ve done over the weekend and previous week.  Let’s trial it and see.  At the moment I’m also finding our what structure I might have, so until then, it’s a bit of everything 🙂

What are we up to right now?

Well, it is well and truly back to work and school this week, so all routine’s are resumed (some in an improved fashion) and we can all go back to knowing what day of the week it is.  I remember many years ago when Steven and I were very happy to have no routine.  How things have changed!  In a good way that is.  The fact that living on a smallholding demands routine, and more so planning, is something that is all to obvious the longer you live on one.  I bet many other people and places can relate to that too, not just smallholdings.  Running a family, working full time, being a stay at home mum, caring for people, looking after animals – it’s all so much easier if you have a routine and a plan. 

Sunday night saw me updating my files with the design of the main veg plot, and using RHS’ 4 year veg crop rotation (legumes, brassicas, potatoes, onion/roots then back to start) to plan what can go in the beds this year.  Inevitably we have beds that it doesn’t make sense to grow “that many” of something, so these will become the beds where the crops that don’t need to follow rotation will go.  Squash, the prolific and much loved (a’hem hated) courgettes, cucumbers, French and runner beans, sweetcorn and salad).

Veg plot planning

We haven’t bought any seed potatoes, spring planting onions or garlic yet.  We will probably look to do it at the end of January.  Ideally this year, we will have early, salad, main crops & lates so that we have as much coverage through the year as possible.  To be fair, our main crop from last year are still going well, despite the mice’s best attempts.
Something that has become obvious over Christmas is that Jack too needs a plan.  We give our kids jobs to do around the smallholding.  Be it looking after animals (feed and water) or clearing the table to making your own packed lunch (as much as possible) and so on.  Annie, our bullmastiff, very much appreciates all we do for her and gives us lots of cuddles in return!

This weekend we decided to cut back the apple trees in what we call the orchard.  It’s not a huge orchard, a handful of old, established fruit trees which we have rather cautiously taken one or two branches off in the winter before.  However, last year they took over but bore no fruit, so we promised ourselves we would be ruthless when it came to cutting them back for 2020 fruit.  Below is one of the cooking apple trees that has been prolific in previous years.  Fingers crossed it comes back well this year. The photo is before and I don’t have an after shot, I daren’t show you! 😉

The mice I mentioned before, the ones who ate the potatoes in the shed.  Well, Steven built that shed and we knew there wasn’t a single crack or hole in it and we couldn’t figure out how they were getting in!  Well I think the mice are rats, as we found the hole when giving the shed a clean out this weekend.  You’d think it had been done by machine looking at it, but you can see the teeth mark on it.  Bloody things.  Rat trap going down and the hole will get covered.  They get everywhere!

Speaking of shed’s, this one we bought a while ago to house poultry.  I can’t remember what it was at the time, however now it’s for chickens.  It’s getting too small though, as we had a shift around this weekend after processing 10 cockerels.  That left us 4 hens from that hatch that could go in with the other hens.  More room was needed so Steven ingeniously cut some nest box size holes out of the wall of the shed and moved the nest box from inside to outside, giving them extra space.  They roam during the day and just us this space for laying eggs and perching at night.  A great idea!  We’re going to do the same on the other side too as there’s a fair few in there now and no doubt they will all want to lay glorious eggs at the same time come spring!
 
Adding the nest box
From the inside, we will see if they need bigger holes
Some hens couldn’t resist having a sneak preview
Happily perching on the night 🙂
Another job that got done was the cleaning out of the goose pond and IBC tank that feeds it.  Both in dire need.  Unfortunately, the pond water has since dropped, so there’s a hole in the liner.  We will have to get another one as the water will be used by the geese and ducks when we set up our new area.  This is on the jobs list but not an immediate issue as the geese have alternative options and we don’t have the ducks yet. 

A long pipe connected to the IBC tank, held on by yours truly, helps the water make its way to the pond
A fine specimen 😉
This post is turning in to “what has Ste done”  – I do more than just take photos honestly!  For Christmas, Ste got lots of tools that he’s now having a play about with to see what he can use them for, making lots of little things like this in the process!

 
So what have I been doing.  I managed to get a freezer inventory done of the big chest freezer and of course we had loads of things that I’d forgotten about and will shortly be making an appearance on the menu plan.  I’ve also draft menu planned a good few weeks ahead, easily once you get in to it as for example we had lasagne the other day and I won’t be adding it to the plan for another 4-6 weeks ish, as we will have other pasta dishes on “pasta day” in between, plus with it being SO calorific, it’s a once in a month or so treat.  We’re both cutting back, as is everyone no doubt, after Christmas, so this kind of rule setting helps with that too.
I’ve decided on a framework for the menu plans, which helped dramatically.  For example Monday’s is a curry night, Tuesday’s will be fish or stir fry (Sunday left overs?), Wednesday’s is pasta or rice based, Thursday’s casserole/stew, Friday is a bit of a free for all such as gammon, chops, steak (yeh right), burgers etc.  Saturday is always a fry up at lunch then family teas on knees, easy meal & Sunday for the most part it is roast at noon and soup/farmhouse bread for tea.
Thanks to my dear friend Lou (visit here), I’ve got myself a household notebook together and am getting myself in order with writing everything down.  The freezer inventory, menu plans, shopping lists, outgoings and expenses, to do lists, jobs lists, daily routine lists, veg plot planning and so on.  Just talking these things through helps.  So although there isn’t a lot to show outwardly, I’m busy busy.
This week, we have managed to save some extra pennies unexpectedly, only small amounts but every little helps, so they will be put to one side instead of being consumed in to the wider pot.  We have set ourselves a financial target of what we would like to save this year, starting from zero.  I won’t be sharing figures in that respect as it’s all relative.  %’s would be better I think.  So we are at, 0.01% 🙂 
I wanted to share with you the below picture which I stopped to take when I came in the other night, I’m so proud of the space we have created outside (Steven again!).  It looks cosy, is very practical and hopefully will add value to the smallholding if we ever move in to another chapter 😉

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.

My night

Today I have felt off, having gone to bed with a niggle of a headache that was still there when I woke up. I felt quite short tempered all morning which isn’t normally me. So when I got home, I got in with jobs thay I knew being in a bad mood is good for. Cleaning! The kitchen got an overhaul and I started to feel better. I then took the puppies out for a lovely long walk. Despite it being a really blustery afternoon, we had a lovely walk out. The dogs found fox holes and something large has been wandering through the previously 3 foot high grass. I then put the ponies in the field for an hour, put the potatoes in the Aga for jackets, went back out and mucked the ponies stables out. Steven and I caught Barbara,  one of out sheep and checked her feet as she’s developed a limp. There wasn’t anything obviousl so I iodined them and she was free to go. She seemed easier on it just 30 mins after so whether the iodine worked I don’t know. Fingers crossed she’s fully ok tomorrow. Once the ponies were mucked out, I fed the chickens and got the geese their tea. In between this, Steven had to go for an appointment and we had tea when he got back. After tea I went back out to finish the horses and Ste went to his boxercise class (rather him than me). I collected the eggs and noticed there was a chicken egg in the duck house. I think they’re trying to confuse me.
I’m all finished until the morning now, in the house in my own which is very strange. The kids are at grandparents tonight so I am having a shower and washing my hair before I have to work 8 to 10. I do my evening work from home and it’s not hard, so I won’t complain.
In the photo with the chickens. Can you spot the odd one put?  Our cockrel isn’t supposed to be in here! Cheeky.

Night time visitor

I don’t think I have mentioned yet, but I am having a kind of detox September.  I’m not drinking alcohol, trying to eat cleaner than I normally might, cutting right back on the sugar intake and so on.  My theory that I am working towards is that if it isn’t or can’t be produced by nature, it doesn’t get eaten.  Yes you can pull this thought to bits, saying wine if from grapes etc but I am not going down that route.  As I said to a friend, if it doesn’t feel right, it won’t be. I’m eating salad dressing still and drinking cordial as that helps me get my salad and water intake.  I really do think that eating seasonally and home grown lends itself to this way of thinking anyway and as we cut out more and more shop bought food, it will happen automatically.  I’m just giving myself a bit of a boost.
I am sleeping better already.  I used to lay in bed and read for a hour before I went to sleep, often falling asleep with the book in my hand.  It would be 11pm before I got to sleep which is too late for me during the week.  So now I’m having a warm shower, getting into bed and going to sleep.  I’ve slept great this week apart from last night when the puppies heard something and started barking!
Steven’s doing it too, though with slightly different requirements.  He’s training to build up and I’m hoping to slim down (1 stone 5lb or so would be nice)!
With this in mind I was excited to receive the latest veg box which contained all sorts of healthy goodies.  We had half of the peppers in last night’s tea and the salad was mostly used in today’s lunches for work.  That leaves the spinach, borlotti beans, some onions, broccoli and courgettes for the next few days.  I’ve also been given courgettes so I am going to nip over to a couple of blogs to see how they’ve frozen them as I don’t want to waste them.  Also the borlotti beans look almost dried out, so I’m wondering if I need to soak them.  I’m sure I’ve read that they store very well.
When I locked up last night, I had another friend waiting for me, this time a hedgehog!  Do you remember the toad that jumped out on me before?  Well this little guy scared the life out of me as it was dark and I didn’t expect him to appear in my torchlight.  He was adorable!  I’m so pleased to know we have hedgehogs living with us, they need looking after!