Thursday, 8 September 2016

Moving the ducklings


This week I am being the guest tweeter on SmallholdersUK account on Twitter. Each week a different smallholder is featured, celebrating the diversity of smallholders' lives and this week I am taking a turn at sharing my plastic beads of experience (it feels like I haven't advanced to pearls of wisdom yet). I didn't have a grand plan of what I was going to write about, but I did make some notes of subjects I knew I wanted to include.

I am surprised at how much additional energy I have used up in tweeting throughout the day, how tired I am in the evening and how quickly I'm getting off to sleep. Sadly though, I am still waking up at silly o'clock in the morning and lying in bed wondering if it's too early to get up. This morning that process of waking, staring at the ceiling, getting over hot, then too cold, dropping back to sleep and waking up again started at 1.25 am. So by 5 am I gave up and made my way downstairs and, as I often do when it's too early to start rumbling around outside, I put the television on.

I spend quite a lot of time reading and researching. YouTube has become my go-to learning resource as I can find so many really helpful vlogs and films. Obviously I don't take the word of just one person who's posted a film on the internet, I make sure that I watch several (or lots) of films about any particular subject. The more that one certain topic is covered in the same way, the more I can trust it to be likely to be true. But in the end, there's nothing quite like first hand experience. 

The experience has once again been of making compost, raised beds, preserving food for the late autumn and winter and putting in a new fence.

On Monday Mr J banged some fence posts into the ground in the duck enclosure so that we could start to section off part of it for the ducklings to use. The posts were recycled ones from my sister's home. She had replaced her fencing and these posts were of no use to her any more. My brother in law had kindly cut points on the bottom of each post to make getting them into the ground more easily.

I then stapled chicken wire to the posts and used heavy duty ground staples to secure it along the base.

 We hung a gate that I had found lying around on the other side of the of paddock (there have been some very useful bits and pieces that I've found that were left by the previous owners).
 We moved the two ducklings from their outside nursery pen into the new enclosure and watched as they revelled in the additional space that they suddenly had. Frederick was less than impressed at having two new neighbours, but over the last couple of days he has calmed down and now seems more miffed than cross.
The vegetable garden is filling out even more as the squashes make a last ditch attempt to produce their fruit before the days get cold. The purple sprouting broccoli(on the left) is an early variety, I hope that it will withstand the howling autumn and winter winds and flower early next year.

 Mr J and I created the next raised bed late on Tuesday afternoon when the strongest heat of the day had passed. I had put down a layer of cardboard in the morning and we covered it in topsoil and then in composted wood chippings. 
I will plant this up today with some purple curly kale seedlings and rainbow chard seeds (because the chickens like the leaves and we like the stems).

I was delighted to find that the compost pile made in early July is now a deep brown colour and although it's still quite soggy and I think I may move it to around the base of some fruit trees and cover it in composted wood chippings to help feed the fruit trees which have been working so hard to produce lots of apples. I've made another compost heap using chicken manure and wood shavings given to us by our neighbours, grass clippings, kitchen waste (uncooked fruit and vegetable waste), spent brewery grain and straw. I also turned the drier materials from the previous compost heap into the new one. The last heap is starting to rot down, I can still see the individual components but the centre is going brown and I will top the new heap with the partly decomposed material to add microbes to it.
I've made several trips into the field that borders our smallholding to pick blackberries. I've been careful to walk on the scrubby edges of the field to avoid damaging the clover crop that the farmer has growing there. The field is buzzing with the sound of our neighbours' bees, so hopefully there will be some delicious clover honey available later in the year.

  I have also been gathering windfall apples from my neighbours' garden. They have invited me to collect as many as I like as they feel overrun with cooking apples. Their cider apples are also ripe and they will be pressing them in the next week or so. I like it that the neighbours have a surplus to different crops to us and that they make different products to us. We are starting to swap surpluses and produce which gives both of us a wider choice of food.

I have now ordered some bare-rooted fruit trees and more hedging trees to complete the hedge planting from The Woodland Trust, who have a Welsh Farm Tree Pack scheme, which enables those who farm in Wales to buy trees to create more woodland at a reduced price. They also offer help to other parts of the UK. You can find out more information here

It's time to put the kettle on.

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