Outside space in February, including seeds, chickens and eggs

Look what we found growing in the muck pile, perfectly polished mushrooms.  They are still there, I don’t trust myself to identify mushrooms, but I do appreciate them and one day, who knows, Ste may try them 😉

 Where there is muck there is money?  We we gifted a gesture of cash for some muck we bagged up for the allotments recently, isn’t that great?  Maybe we can make an income from it as we look to set up our own little farm business in the coming months.

 The muck has been getting used in the veg plot to feed or mulch the beds before we covered them.  It’s hard work, but very worth it.  Hopefully this will keep the weeds down as well as prep the beds for when we are ready to fill them.  It’ll be end May, early June here for most things as last year we learnt the hard way when we had a frost on May 27th and we lost a load of plants.


One thing we want to get sorted pretty soon, maybe on a March goal is the rain water collection and how to then use it.  We think we will get a motorised pump to help distribute the water from the tanks to wherever it needs to be.  At the bottom of the veg plot, on the other side of the fence is the compost heap we are trying to put together.  It’s coming along really well with green and brown items.  According to Charles Dowding, it should be ready in 8 months or so once full.  I have no idea how long it’ll take to fill, it’s a big size container!
It is the furthest bed here that we are using it for.  The other beds look like this mess as the storms that are passing through keep ripping the fronts off them.  I’m going to turn one in to a hot bed and sow some carrots and parsnips in them this weekend – how controversial using muck for roots 😉
Wandering away from the muck heaps takes you around to the greenhouse where I’ve been sowing seeds since Valentine’s Day.  The leeks took a while to show but they are there!  I’ve a couple of varieties to try.  This was my workstation at the time!

 The salad, kale, tomatoes etc are coming along well.  Some of these will be pricked out and moved on this weekend, which hopefully won’t shock them.
 Giant sunflowers!!
 Thrilled to see the wild garlic Ste bought me for my birthday (best present EVER)  taking hold.  We have NEVER had it before, so I hope it likes living there. 
I rescued some snowdrops from a near death experience at the muck heap too, not sure where they will go yet.
Taking a step outside the greenhouse is a view to stop and enjoy.  It’s not all been rain.
Then we have the latest additions!  I have such a soft spot for ducks and I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to get these 4, 3 girls and a boy of the Aylesbury.  We’ve already been getting lots of beautiful eggs from them which we have popped 19 in to the incubator in an effort to start breeding them as we would like to become a supplier in the area, which there isn’t many of.  Another income opportunity hopefully.  
We’ve been getting plenty of chicken eggs too and have lots of lovely people asking to buy them from us each week.

The geese on the other hand aren’t laying yet and they won’t even use the blinking pond we re did for them! I have no idea what’s going on there, they prefer to drink the stagnant water that gathers in the drain pipes and things laying around the place!
Staying on the poultry theme, the meat birds have just been processed and my god are they big.  I’m really pleased with this lot, which will see us through the next 10 weeks for sure.  We have a plan with meat birds, I’ll come back to that again in another blog post.
The other meat we produced in 2019 was the lamb, which I took the last lot out of the freezer the other night.  Hell’s bells I didn’t realise there was so much left.  So I am now frantically cooking this lot, to refreeze in cooked form and get it put back in the freezzer in an orderly fashion.  Again, it’ll be on the foody post in the coming days and weeks.
Here’s my kitchen window view keeping an eye on the weather.  We’ve had some spectacular colours!
Something else that has been going on is the tup arriving.  He joined us on the 16th Feb and will stay with us a few weeks.  Hoping to have lambs the first week or 2 in to July, but it could be 3 weeks after that, depending on if he catches them or not.  I think they are all pleased to be inside at the moment on dry straw with nice hay.  It’s certainly better than being on the wet muddy fields with the storms blowing a hooey around you.
 Here he is, we called him Arthur.  He’s very sweet and his black ears are forever twitching in opposite directions.  He’s not that tall compared to the last tup, but he’s chunkier.  Let’s see what happens 🙂

Finally, Annie is still underwhelmed by everything and is still sneaking a nap in places she really shouldn’t. 

 Have a lovely weekend all.  We have a very busy schedule Friday through to Sunday so we will catch up with another post next week.

November update plus over wintering seeds and planning for 2018 sowing

Now Autumn is half way through, it’s got me thinking more and more about seasonal sowing and growing.  As well as preparing the ground for the next season (bean trenches and manuring) I’m also thinking about what I can over-winter, that will give me extra early harvests next year. 

This year (2017) my broad bean harvest was abysmal.  I don’t know what got to them, but it just did not work for me.  variety that can be planted in the Autumn here in the UK is Bunyard’s exhibition.  I’ve purchased some from Victoriana Nurseries and have been sowing them.  As I live in the North East, to grow these over winter, I feel these plants would need some protection to get through so once they start to show, I cover them with a small cloche tunnel of some description. 

Broad beans are part of the legume family and as I follow a 4 year crop rotation, they are to be planted where the onion and root family were the previous year.  The broad beans I have sown directly are 2cm deep in double rows.  The double row is (about) 23cm apart and the space between each double row is 60cm to allow me to get in and harvest the beans.  A double row of these Autumn planted beans will be followed by double row in February, March then April. That should see us through.  Depending on how prolific they are, these plants will hopefully be cropping well into July and August and therefore once the seeds are sown, that bed will be unusable for anything else until the plants are spent.

Other legumes that I have decided on for 2018 growing is a climbing pea called Victorian Colossal.  I’m really excited to grow this variety based on research I’ve done.  According to Victoriana Nurseries, this pea also does well when grown on a trench, so I’ve dug a trench where the peas will grow next year too.  This variety doesn’t seem to be an over-winter one so in the meantime, I looked into what variety would be good to try and over-winter.  Douce Provence comes up regularly and I grew this in my first year here which was a good crop. 
If you recall, I ordered my Autumn planting garlic, onions and shallots in mid-September which I’ve now received and are mostly planted out.  A few garlic are left to do.  These all come under the ‘onion and root’ part of crop rotation (along with leeks) and need to be planted where the potatoes were.  Next year, the legumes will follow on from the onions and roots meaning I might be able to get a late summer crop but I’m getting ahead of myself now.  They are coming through spectacularly, especially the shallots.

We’ve also got a visitor for a couple of months.  The guy over the river, who helped us with taking the pigs to slaughter, offered us a tup for a couple of months to hopefully cover the girls, giving us April lambs.  He seems nice enough so far, though sometimes they can get aggressive when they are with their girls.  The kids have been told not to go near him just in case.

 Steven and I had a child free morning today, something we never have, so we headed down to the area where the pigs had been, to see how many weeds have come through.  Not too many to be fair.  No more should grow now as the day time temperatures are consistently below 6C I would say.  We’ve some exciting things planned for this area next year.

I’ve also given the greenhouse a further tidy, binning another few plants that were done for.  Sadly, the courgette plant which serviced us so well has gone to compost heaven.  It was a golden zucchini variety – a freeby from the GYO magazine and I will definitely be growing them again next year.

Things are slowly returning back to normal here after our busy times.  I’m looking forward to a normal week at work, Monday night preserves tomorrow and bring you updates on the meat birds which are growing at a steady rate.

Shearing sheep saga but a bit of smallholding luck

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll admit it. We tried to shear our own sheep a weekend or two ago. We read up on it, ordered electric shears and watched lots and lots of YouTube videos, so we were totally prepared, right? Wrong!! So, so wrong.
It was due to be very hot on the Saturday onwards, so on the Friday after work we put the horses out in the fields to free up the stables, where they all had a good roll and enjoyed the sun on their backs.

We herded the sheep into the stables where we had the gear set up. Ste decided which one we were to do first and put her on her back in the correct position. She fought, she wasn’t supposed to do that. We must have something wrong. So we adjusted, and she settled. Off we went. “Shoot”, the shears don’t glide through like they do on YouTube. We percivere and lose about 10 litres of water though sweat. After what feels like 2 hours but in reality is 20 minutes, we give up as we’re stressing her and us.
We resorted to manual shears and the sheep standing on all 4 legs! She stood better that way. I think we did a grand job but turns out not haha!

We fear her friends were laughing at her, so we put a cry for help out. 

We are so lucky that a friend of ours responded that same night, only 2 hours later, she and her lovely husband turned up with clippers who know what they were doing! He does it for a living and had just finished his flock.

He did our 3 in no time and I am pleased to say we have an agreement for the next few years too!
In another stroke of luck, we had a couple of beers afterwards and they offered us their tup called Charlie for use at home before they use him on theirs!! This is amazing news for us and goes to show what a bit of friendship and luck can do for us smallholders.