Friday, 18 November 2016

Comings and goings

Although the weather has turned colder, the work in the garden continues. Not at such a speedy pace, but we have achieved quite a lot in the last month.
 The tree surgeons have done a splendid job, taking out five spindly sycamores at the back of the piggeries and one rather beautiful sycamore which unfortunately was going against the front wall of one piggery. We have kept the huge trees on the right of the photo and most of those on the left.
  I've continue to be surprised at the difference it makes, with a new sense of space and openess.
  And it creates an ideal space for some of the chickens to live in. We plan to move the Australorps to this area so that they can clear away the weeds and gorge themselves on the grubs and bugs that have been living here relatively undisturbed.
 At the start of the week was the Supermoon. It was overcast and cloudy as the moon first rose, but as it got higher in the sky the cloud cover was less and I took this photo of the moon over the sycamore trees and barn. I was rather pleased that I managed to include the lights of the Severn Bridge at the bottom of the photo.

 Inside the house, the latest chicks to hatch are doing well. The smallest one is a little Jersey Giant that is about two-thirds the size of these two. It had an issue with its umbilical cord when it hatched and I imagine that as it has survived a week, it will make it to maturity. But, I'm not holding my breath, these little chicks are vulnerable and their immune systems aren't fully formed yet, so there is every chance that the smallest, weakest one may succomb to infection. Usually by a week old I would have transferred them to the nursery pen in the stable, but as they were a very late hatch, I'm going to keep them in the warmth of the house for an additional week or so to give them more time to grow some feathers and get stronger.

Today two new Jersey Giant pullets arrive on the smallholding. They are coming from the breeder that we have had hatching eggs from, the girls are surplus to his requirements and very much wanted here, so it's a win-win situation. These girls will join our tiny flock of white Jersey Giants to help us increase the flock next year and to offer hatching eggs for sale.

Jersey Giants are lovely birds with docile, gentle temperaments and although very big, they have a grace to them. They were bred to be large meat birds, similar in size to turkeys but without all the gobbling noisiness. I now have two bloodlines of white Jersey Giants which means that their offspring should be strong and healthy (and we hope happy) birds.

My friend Kayt mentioned that she would be happy to have more chickens and I know that her girls also live in a large open space, so I asked her whether she wanted some of the hyline girls that we have here. They are producing far more eggs than we need for the kitchen and if we aren't careful, we will end up with too many birds and far too many eggs. So on Sunday she is going to have half a dozen of the layers that we have here to add to her flock. I know that her birds have stopped laying at the moment, so I'm sure she will welcome the eggs that our girls are laying.

I have started to think about ways to sell our surplus eggs, vegetables and fruit and to that end, today I will be researching and start approaching local food outlets and also finding out whether I need to register as a food business, take out specific insurance etc. if we find somewhere to sell the surpluses. As there isn't a huge amount of produce to sell, it may not be economically viable, so today's research will be to find all of that information to be able to make an informed decision.

And before I start the research I think it must be time for a cuppa!
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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Moving gestures

 Our new friends James and Dee of Happy Homestead are due to move house very soon and because they are moving to a remote croft on the Scottish islands of Orkney, they have decided that taking their chickens on the long journey north would be too much for the girls. So we are giving them a home with us.

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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