Yesterday afternoon they brought the girls to our little smallholding to start the next phase of their lives. We have put them into a house of their own in a section of the field away from the other chickens for a week or two to allow them to settle in before they join the main flock of layers.
As it was dusk when they arrived, the chickens were put straight into their temporary house, so we didn't really get any time to spend with them. They also brought with them a selection of fruit bushes that they are kindly giving to us. The plant pots were put on the edge of the shrubbery for ease of storage until I had the time (and daylight) to move them into the food forest.
I am so excited by these gifts, James and Dee's generosity should give us years of harvests and I feel touched by their kindness. They were going to give us the water butts that they have been using to collect rainwater, which we could definitely do with more of.
But over a cuppa yesterday, I suggested that they took these bulky items with them and filled them with items that they are taking to their croft, so that the smaller items were protected by the plastic and they could save on the cost of having large items delivered to their new home.
As sun rose this morning, I let the birds out of their houses for the day and spent a gentle half an hour or so moving the new fruit bushes to the food forest area. Placing them where they might eventually be planted and then repositioning each one until I was happy with their placement.
James and Dee returned this morning with a second car-load of plants for us as well as some bags of potting compost and ericaceous compost. We talked some more about chickens and ducks, about how easy the different breeds are to care for and they told us more about the new life upon which they are about to embark.
So in a blink, the food forest has a dozen or so additional bushes which include raspberries, gooseberries, currants, honey-berries, a loganberry, rosemary, mint and several varieties of blueberries. Growing in one pot, below the blueberry, is a cluster of strawberries, which I'll use as ground cover.
Earlier in the week, we had more new arrivals. Three little chicks hatched on Wednesday and Thursday. One is the offspring of Big Red and either Jack or Diesel (we aren't sure which one yet) and the other two are white Jersey Giants to add to our small flock of these majestic white birds. The Jersey Giants are from a different breeder (and different line) to the ones that we have here already, which means that next year we will have a breeding flock and will be able to offer hatching eggs for sale.
I also had another nice little surprise on Thursday.
When this month's Country Smallholding magazine arrived in the post, I found that I had been included in an article about the first few months of smallholding. I'd been asked to write a short piece about three months ago, but didn't know whether it would be included in the magazine. It was equally nice to see that our friend Helen had been included too, with her pigs, the Swanbridge Porkers.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been posting a three-part review of our first year on the smallholding. There has been a lot happening here and it has left me feeling quite tired. The tree surgeons have been to remove the spindly trees behind the piggeries, I've raked up and moved several cubic metres of leaves to make leaf mould and I've also been busy studying.
I've enrolled to take an online course with Oregon State University and have been engrossed in reading, researching and absorbing information from the Introduction to Permaculture course. It's been useful to confirm that many of the practices that I've used (in the garden) fit perfectly from a permaculture perspective and I've learnt in more depth about using the natural lay of the land and water flow to make the most of the space we have. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will have completed the course and done well enough to be awarded a badge, which I will proudly display on my blog page.
So this evening's plan is to watch a couple of gardening programmes that I've recorded and then get back to studying. But first, it's time for a cuppa!
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