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.

A productive and wet weekend

The weekend forecast had one word – wet.  We decided to make the most of the rain and go to the cinema!  We rarely do this as a family, so we took the kids to see one of the kids films that is out and then went for some tea at a near by “diner”.  A treat that was enjoyed by all.  Given that it was going to be raining or snowing for pretty much all of the weekend, I hadn’t expected to get many outdoor jobs done.  However we managed to get a lot more done than originally thought.
Ste made me a potting bench, a counter top one so I can move it around as needed.  As usual, he used wood that we had to hand and in this instance, kept a part of the house alive using an old fireplace.  It’s perfect and does the exact job I need.  So I set about to use it.  I had lots of seedlings that were getting leggy, so I pricked them out and replanted them as deep as possible, so they grow nice and strong again, like they did last year.  It is huge, the reason it looks small here is I had my glove in my hand which got caught by the camera.

Below I have kale and spinach in the left hand tray – spinach hasn’t germinated yet, if at all.  Kale shot up so I won’t sow these 2 together again.  Then aubergine and beef tomatoes in the bag.  They’re next to my indoor peas which I sowed at the same time as the ones in the greenhouse (which are just starting to germinate so a week or 2 behind these).  The tray to the right is tomatoes, different varieties and 2 or 3 of each.
I made a bold move this weekend and binned the weaker seedlings and only kept a few strong ones of each.  I felt like I was doing something wrong throwing seedlings out!

I made a start on the plastic bottles that we had saved (Ste uses them for water in his gym) and am keeping them to use as mini greenhouses/cloches for when plants are put out or maybe for direct sowings to help germinate.  I’ve cut the bottom off so canes can be put through the hole in the lid, to support the bottle from flying away.

I sowed some sprouts and some flower seeds (sweet pea, cosmos) as I’d like to do my bit for the decline in bees and welcome them to my garden.  Not the wasps though, they can b****r off 😉 
A few more broad beans went in. These are the dwarf variety “Sutton” whereas the others are “Jubilee Hysor” left over from last year.  The Sutton does not need support so I will bear that in mind when planting out and just plant in blocks instead of rows.

 My bare root comfrey arrived.  I ordered 5 from ebay and to be honest when they turned up, I wondered what on earth they were!  However after a quick chat with Dawn and an email from the seller, I filled a container with damp compost, placed the roots in and covered with a touch more compost then wet newspaper.  I’ll see where to roots grow from then plant them up when the weather warms a bit.

 Speaking of warming things up.  I was like a kid in a toy shop when Ste bought me this beauty for Christmas.  Now I know some people aren’t fond of paraffin heaters but let’s give it a try.  It was recommended by UK here we grow on one of their You Tube videos.  I got it up and running and it had it’s first night on last night.  I’m pleased to say it kept the greenhouse at 6.3C.  I also got the heat bench up and running thanks to Ste, who rewired things so there is now power in the greenhouse! 
The bench heated wire works, so I will be starting to use that over the next couple of weeks.  Between the paraffin heater and the heated bench, the seedlings should do pretty well.  Just as well, as we’re running out of window sills in the house !

One thing I was really excited about was the piquant seeds Dawn sent me when she offered them on her blog.  The seeds originally came from Dani on Eco Footprint South Africa and I shall be offering mine when they are ready too.  I think it’s a lovely way of keeping this little pepper family going.

I have decided to try and get some batch cooking done on a weekend to start giving myself an easier life for week days.  This is my first attempt and scones in a long time.  These have blackberries in from the summer.  The blackberries were past their best when we picked them, so I froze them for use over the winter in puds and things.  They turned out really well so I buttered them and froze them individually for lunches.
After a weekend out in the cold and wet (and by gum it was both), Ste and I succumbed to a sore throat each.  Grace had a bunged up nose, but she hadn’t been out in the elements, so I think it’s a bit of a cold virus too.  I made Ste and I a Hot Toddy each using the following recipe from the internet:
Hot Toddy
1 shot whisky
1 tsp honey (I had 2)
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
off the boil hot water
slice lemon
lemon juice to taste
It was lovely actually and I felt fine this morning.
After lots of family time on Saturday afternoon, we watched another film last night.  Pirates of the carribean – you can see Jack with his telescope!  It was lovely to have the chill out time together.
The dogs enjoyed it too. 
I’ve lots more to write, but that’s enough for today – I’ll update you with other goings on shortly.
Happy Monday 🙂

Egg production down

We have finally started to see a decline in egg production. We’ve gone from a corker of a day last week with a record 23 down to today’s low of 8.
The middle hens have eaten one of their own as I saw them at it when I went in. Therefore we’ve no idea how many there could have been.
This cold snap we have had will be affecting them too. The weather has a lot to do with the amount they produce.
It’s not got above freezing all day.

Such a geek

For Christmas I received a wireless weather centre from Ste.  I love it. 

There is an outside section which is attached to a high point in between my vegetable plot and the greenhouse, which is the section of land I want to know most about. 

This transmits data at intervals (mine is set to 30 mins) to a touchscreen device that I have in the kitchen. 
I can then attach the computer to the touchscreen device and either view it on the computer or download it to a spread sheet and check a whole range of different things, some of which I know about and others I have no idea what it is.

This morning before work, I downloaded the data which is from Boxing Day until today and (here’s the geeky bit) I found some interesting results. 

My computer screen

Over the days, the wind mostly blows from the North/North East, with only once from the West when it was warmer.

The coldest it’s been outside is -2.6C and the warmest is 16.8C on Boxing Day!  It was super mild though, I remember having to disrobe when doing the jobs.
It tells me what the dew point is, which I remember reading about once in how it related to veg and growing – I’ve since forgotten so will research it again.
I can set an alert on it to warn me if the temperature drops below a certain amount, meaning I will have to cloche/fleece the seedlings when I get them in the ground.
Inside the kitchen the temperature has ranged from 19.3 to 26.1 which is when I’ve been having a good cooking session.  The Aga is always on so that room is always warm.  Heart of the house :).
I can find out all about relative and Absolute pressure – no idea about this one?!
Wind gusts last night were recorded but only at 30mph which I was shocked about as it woke me up 3 times and was SO loud.
Also we’ve had 16ml of rain since I switched it on back in December.
I do love things like this and will happily sit looking at the data for a good hour or so, probably terribly sad, but that’s me :D.
I also got a tiller for Christmas – aren’t I a very lucky girl!?

Preparing for winter….small steps

There is a cold front coming towards the end of the week so I’m making plans to ensure we don’t get caught out.  The last thing we want to be doing is walking to the wood store or topping up the outside animals’ bedding when it’s either raining or snowing, which is predicted.  According to today’s forecast on the BBC for our postcode, the temperature will drop from Thursday.
So the plan is:
  • Have all hats, scarves and gloves ready.
  • Bring wet shoes in to dry in front of the Aga.
  • Order new muck boots as mine are full of cracks – you get what you pay for.
  • Put extra straw into hens area for warmth.
  • Have horses rugs out ready to put on.
  • Top sheep hay up and move crystalyx to less poached area (unrelated to cold, but I just remembered!)
  • Keep animals water topped up constantly with spare buckets full in case pipes freeze over again.
  • Put extra food in for hens, cook pasta for bed time treat and have porridge ready to put in warm on a morning.
  • Have thick socks, thick trousers, jumpers and coat ready for Thursday morning for the morning feeds.  The last thing I want to be doing at 5:15am is hunting for warm clothes.
  • Fill the log basket.
  • Fill the coal basket.
  • Ensure enough kindling.
  • Have blankets in the room so we can cosy up as a family and if it does snow, watch it sat next to the wood burner with a hot chocolate in hand.
  • Just in case, have a sledge ready for us to have lots of fun on!
Planning a little further ahead I need to make sure we have enough medicine in should we need it.  We take tablets as infrequently as possible and prefer as natural a remedy as possible, but if we need to, we take it. 
In the meantime, I know this list can be seen as totally over the top, so here’s a picture of the dogs all chilling together to relax us all J

It was nearly 9C in the barn this morning.  Far too mild for this time of the year.  It’s turned out to be a bright day and the rain that was forecast didn’t really arrive.