Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Year One part 3 Permanent Planting

   The Shrubberies were put in early in the year to make a colourful welcome as we drive along the lane into our yard.
 Our friend Jane gave us several shrubs and others were lifted from the area next to the piggeries and stables.
  I planted the perennial shrubs along the length of the border and have added a few more since. 

 After a few months of growing the long shrubbery has filled out and has given us some colour every month. Some of the plants in the shrubbery have uses in addition to looking attractive. The buddleia has attacted many butterflies and other pollinators as have all the flowers on the shrubs. I've harvested the lavender flowers, dried them and I will use them to make lavender bags, lavender sugar and to refresh the pot pourri in our home. The roses will produce rosehips which I will add to the rosehips gathered from the hedgerows and other sources (read about rosehips from my sister's home here).The fushia bush should provide us with berries, although as yet it hasn't produced very much and having never tried fushia, I'm keen to find out whether the berries from this particular hardy bush are sweet or have a bitter aftertaste.

The short shrubbery is still only half completed but is already starting to look good.

 We brought with us several pots of raspberry plants that had been lifted from Mr J's parents' home, together with shrubs, herbaceous plants and a couple of small trees.

Jane helped me to dig the turf from the area that would become the herbaceous border (actually Jane lifted the most of it) and we planted it with the plants that she had given to us and some that we had brought from our previous house. Over the year I haven't weeded the area anywhere near as much as was needed and as a result we've had a display of weed and wild flowers amongst the cultivated perennial plants.

The Food Forest

I decided that creating a permanent planting area filled with edible plants and supporting plants would be a good use of a large space. The more I explored the ideas behind permaculture and the way to use the land in harmony with nature, the more I realised it fits exactly with our thinking and a food forest should work really on this site.
I've had to make some compromises with how to start the food forest, but I'm happy with how it is coming along. Wood chippings have been poured onto the area and composted wood chippings used to make planting beds. It was a bit tougher than just pouring wood chippings, because finding a source of wood chippings took me several months. My budget for the garden is close to zero and it was important to find a free source of materials, but luckily I have now found a local tree surgeon who brings a trailer load of chipped wood on a reasonably regular basis. It gets dumped in the front garden and I then move it one wheelbarrow load at a time to the place I want it. 

 We made a small wildlife pond using a butyl liner that was already on the smallholding when we moved in. It's not very pretty, but as the planting around the edges grow, it should hide the liner and attract beneficial wildlife.

We've recently bought 17 fruit trees which I am in the process of planting and below them I've put fruit shrubs like currants and raspberries (lots and lots of autumn fruiting raspberries), herbs and ground cover plants like strawberries. I've been researching perennial vegetables to include in this area and in the meantime, for the next couple of years at least, I will use some of the food forest area to grow annual vegetables that will act as good ground cover (like some of the squashes I'd like to grow).

 It will take a few years for the food forest to establish and there will always be some maintenance tasks to do there, but it should be more productive in relation to the effort put in as time goes on. 

Hedges and boundaries 

There is very little hedging around the boundary and whilst that gives us fabulous views across the adjacent land, it also gives us no protection from the wind that whistles across the area from the Severn Estuary.

In early spring, Jane helped us to plant a hedge around the east and south sides of smallholding. It is mixed native hedging, that will be good for wildlife, pollinators and food and although still very small, it has started to fill out over the year and I'd imagine that by their fifth year, the hedge plants will be around shoulder high and knitted together to form a thick wind shelter and a good place for birds and other wildlife to live. I used weed supressing membrane and planted through it in an effort to slow down the invasive weeds coming through the stock fencing that surrounds the smallholding. 

I've put up some wind break fabric on the stock fencing to reduce the impact of the wind on the plants in the garden and as some relief for the chickens who were getting blown around by the wind. Much of the winter and spring brought winds of 30 to 40 mph and a few times it reached up to 60mph, which, if you are a small chicken (or a large human) is pretty miserable to be in.

We still need to plant some hedging along the west boundary and I've ordered some more native hedging to put in the ground later in the year together with some elderberry trees that we can lift from below our trees. I'm also going to add some fast growing trees like eucalyptus which I'll keep cut back so that they are large bushes rather than tall trees.

Now that we have divided up the paddock and are happy with the area designated for the chickens, we've put in a more permanent fence. I've started to plant some fruit canes along the fence that can be supported by it, offer more protection for the chickens, look attractive and be productive.

I've written further blogs looking at the vegetable garden and our animals . The best way to ensure that you don't miss them is to subscribe to my blog, which you can do below!

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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Year One photo tour Animals

We lost our beloved cat Archie shortly after we moved here and haven't found another cat to fill his galumphing boots as yet. But we did find a lot of other animals over the year.
 Bluebell, Jack and Diesel were the first to arrive.
   And Jack has laid some huge eggs over the year (read about this huge egg here)
   The six Crested Cream Legbar girls arrived in February.
 And Laddie joined us a few weeks later, sadly he didn't survive very long, but it was long enough to fertilise a couple of eggs, which we hatched.

 And Big Red was hatched on 3rd May together with Little White, our first white Jersey Giant. (read about the hatching here). She was a beautiful chick, who grew into a beautiful chicken and we were very excited to be able to sample her first egg.

 At twenty-three weeks old she started crowing and we had to accept that she was not a she at all, but a robust and good natured cockerel.
 By twelve to fourteen weeks old Big Red was already a very promising cockerel, over the rest of the year he has grown into a large, happy and healthy boy.
 Our next batch of eggs gave us two more Jersey Giants, an Australorp and hybrid cross.

These four chicks have now grown into lovely birds, the Australorp is almost at point of lay and the Jersey Giants appear to be a hen and cockerel, but I'm not going to be sure that the hen is a hen until it starts laying.
This splendid looking bantam cockerel came to stay for a while, he arrived with scaly leg mite which we treated until his legs were clear and he fathered four little chicks, two with Jack and two with Diesel. The two Diesel chicks are sweet little white girls with the occasional black splash feathers who have joined the flock as potential layers, although I don't expect them to start laying before spring. The cockerel went to live with our friend Helen when we got a replacement for Laddie the Cream Legbar cockerel. 

His replacement was Jarvis who looked splendid, but the girls didn't take a shine to him and he was quite rough with them. They did, however, like one of the younger cockerels that we got at the same time as Jarvis. So Jarvis was dispatched and the Cream Legbar girls now live happily with Squeaky and Poo, who so far haven't fought over the ladies and seem to co-exist with relative harmony.

I continued to buy in hatching eggs.
   And the Dirty Dozen were hatched at the end of July. Eight Australorp chicks and four hybrids (the bantam's offspring).
 At eight weeks old, we separated the Australorps into their own enclosure. It looks like we may have one female and seven males. So together with the Australorp female from the previous hatch, we should be able to breed our own birds next year.

At the same time as raising new chickens, we also got ducks and raised ducklings.

 Frederick and Mrs Warne arrived in mid Spring, a young pair who had bonded well and she was already laying eggs almost daily. I added a couple of her eggs to the incubator and our first two ducklings stole our hearts.

  At around ten weeks old the ducklings joined their parents in the main duck field and have integrated well. 
The next batch of eggs were bought in from two different sources so that there is an introduction of new genes into the flock. From those eggs we hatched five ducklings which are seem happy and healthy and are now almost ready to join the flock. Once we have established which of the young birds that have hatched this year are male, we will select the one or two that we want to keep for breeding and dispatch any other males.
 As I type, I have one more batch of eggs in the incubator. It's very late in the year to be raising birds, but we will keep the young chicks under the cover of the stable until they are fully feathered and ready to venture outside in the winter cool.

Looking back over the first year on our smallholding, we have achieved so much, learnt so much and laughed so much. We still have much to do, much to learn and hopefully much, much more to laugh about.

I've written further blogs looking at the vegetable garden and permanent planting areas . The best way to ensure that you don't miss them is to subscribe to my blog, which you can do below!

 If you'd like to receive my blog posts direct to your inbox just enter your email address in the box below and follow the instructions. You'll probably need to confirm by clicking a link in your email inbox and then you will receive my blog each time a new entry is published. You can, of course, cancel your subscription at any time.
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