Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pallet fence for the vegetable garden


Back at the start of December I finished creating the pallet fence along one side of the vegetable garden (read about it here).

And just four days later took it apart again to use the pallets to build the front of the chicken palace because the Avian Flu Prevention Zone measures were enforced.

Last Tuesday, we managed to collect some more pallets from the local business that we buy the pallets from and yesterday I decided to rebuild the fence around the vegetable garden.

The weather was glorious yesterday, it was frosty start but the sun threw a deep pink colour across the smallholding making the frost twinkle. After I had done the morning chores and Mr J had gone to work, I carried the pallets to the annual vegetable garden, put them into place ensuring that I had a pallet at right angles to the fence between each fence pallet and tied them together. 
To go around a corkscrew willow tree that is slap bang in the middle of the fence line, I used a double length pallet so that I didn't need to put a cross brace where the tree is planted.

I was so pleased to have some fresh air and sunshine that when I went back inside I opened the patio door and the ground floor windows to air the house. 

To celebrate the winter sunshine and that so many of the chickens have come into lay, either back into lay or laying for the first time, I decided to have an egg salad for lunch. Both the smaller chickens that we hatched at the end of July last year that are a cross between the bantam cockerel we had for a short while and either Jack or Diesel (I can't remember which of them) have started laying this week. Two of the Jersey Giant girls have started laying, one of the Australorp chickens (we call her Mrs O) has been laying for around two weeks. A couple of the Cream Legbar girls starting laying again last week, which is fabulous as I had got to the point of thinking that they would never lay again. So we are now collecting around 9 - 12 eggs a day and I expect this to rise as the light levels increase and the days get longer.
I get a huge amount of satisfaction from being able to go to the garden and gather food for our meals and yesterday while a couple of eggs were cooking, I collected some salad leaves from the greenhouse and some lamb's lettuce (corn salad) and spring onions from the vegetable garden.

The rest of the day I was busied myself with cleaning out the chicken house in the field (that is currently home to our meat bird). I was somewhat alarmed to discover that there is red mite in the house, so I cleaned it out as much as I could and sprinkled diatomaceous earth (DE) all around the corners, the perch supports and all the usual hiding spots for red mite. After I had put fresh sawdust in the henhouse, I sprinkled some more DE over the sawdust in the areas that I know the bird sits. Hopefully that will prevent him being bitten by the mites and it will kill them off. Once he has been dispatched, Mr J and I will take the house apart and treat all of the wood including in the joint sections that I can't reach by puffing and sprinkling the DE while the house it together.

Having dealt with the red mite situation as much as I can right now, I went inside, peeled off my outer clothing and put it straight into the washing machine so that I didn't transfer the mite from the house in the field to the other henhouses. I have seen no evidence of mite in the other houses, so wanted to take as many precautions as possible to prevent the spread.

Clean clothing on, I headed back outside just in time to greet our friend the tree surgeon who had arrived with a large trailer load of wood chippings. These comprise mostly of hedging plants and have a fairly high leylandii content, so I don't want that to go onto the garden soil, but these chippings are ideal for use on the pathways in the vegetable garden. The pathways have a weed suppressing membrane over the ground and chippings over the membrane. The chippings will break down over the next couple of years and then I will add it to the soil and then I can put down new chippings on the pathways.

This arrangement with the tree surgeon seems ideal. For his customers who want the waste wood cleared away from their property, he needs to either store the chippings, take them to a tip (which has a cost implication for him) or he can deliver them to someone who can make use of them (me!). I now have a long term source of wood chippings and once the pathways are all covered, I can leave the heaps of chippings in situ for a year or so to let it break down before adding it to the garden. When he delivers chippings that do not have a leylandii in them I can make wood chip heaps in the chicken fields and let them scratch through the chippings (which they love to do), turning them (which they are very good at doing), adding their manure (which they do naturally) and helping it to break down quickly.

It was a very satisfying day and exhausted, I fell asleep on the sofa by 9pm. If you'd like to see my day on today's vlog you can find it here or click on the video below.

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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Happy Duck Dance Day


I've had a very quiet day, after the push to get the chicken walkway completed I am tired, so taking things slowly and gently seemed a sensible idea.

Thankfully yesterday I had the energy to dispatch a chicken which we had for lunch today. The Jersey Giant boy was almost 27 weeks old and although there was the potential for the meat to be a little tough, it was succulent and the best tasting of our own meat chickens that we have had to date. We both agreed that we'd like to raise more Australorps and Jersey Giants this year and that perhaps the answer to raising the meat birds is to keep the boys together in their own space and just have one male in each breeding pen at a time. With a little moving of houses and building covered runs (in readiness for the next lockdown), we can keep the male meat birds in a good sized space of their own.

The chickens are now laying well and I've been gathering eight to ten eggs a day. In the nesting box of the chicken palace I found a full size egg. It would probably be an extra large egg if I was buying it in a shop. I think it was the older of the Australorp girls' eggs and over lunch Mr J and I discussed that it is heading towards the time for us to separate the Australorps and Jersey Giants. We have a house and a covered run that we can move the Australorps into and then a couple of weeks after that we should be able to incubate some of our own Australorp eggs and some Jersey Giant eggs knowing that they will be true to breed chicks.

As the sun went down today I wandered out to put the ducks to bed. I had left the water on that fills their little duck pond and it has spilled out onto the ground. The ducks seemed very happy with the resulting muddy mess. I filmed them as they were dibbling and Frederickson did a happy duck dance. This made my day!



In case the video won't play for you, it can be found on YouTube here.

In the spirit of having a gentle day, today's blog is short (but hopefully sweet), so I think it's time I put the kettle on for a fresh cuppa!
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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Thought for food vlog

After a reasonably busy day I have now uploaded a new vlog to YouTube in which I think about the realities with producing our own food, deal with a tricky lock and enjoy spending time with the chickens.



If clicking on the video image doesn't work for you, you can find today's vlog on my YouTube channel here.


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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Chicken walkway Part 2

Having made a start on the new chicken walkway on Friday, (read about it here) we spent part of the weekend and most of Monday working on it too.


For the first time since we moved here I spotted a ship or perhaps it is a boat, whichever it is, it was a vessel on the River Severn beneath the Second Severn Crossing. Little events like this are important to me, I find a huge amount of pleasure in just enjoying the moment.

 Late on Sunday afternoon, after the chickens had been locked safely into their houses, I 
strengthened the door to the chicken palace. It is made from three pre-fabricated panels that I have strapped together with cable ties. I've now added 2x1 wood along each side to hold panels rigid and to give me something to which I can attach hinges. 

Mr J continued to knock upright posts into the ground and then we fixed cross bars and roof supports to them. The walkway/run measures 8.25m long and 2.25m wide, it's a bit of a beast. We had to work our way around the pallet on the floor as it protects a drain access (man hole type thing) which doesn't have a metal cover on it, just a piece of rotting wood over it and the rotting pallet over that. One of my tasks this week is to find a suitable metal cover for the drain access.
Once we'd got all the posts into the ground and the horizontal bars and roof supports, Mr J cut the excess off the top of the posts., 
While he cut the uprights, I cut two lengths of chicken wire and used cable ties to join them to create one large sheet of chicken wire to cover the roof area.
We wrestled the chicken wire roof into place and secured it with a few strategically placed cable ties. It took a bit of jiggling around and more than several choice phrases, but it is now at least over the roof struts ready to be fully secured into place.

Then I stapled chicken wire around the lower part of the run, it continues across the ground by about 40cms which will help to secure the chicken wire to the ground and hopefully deter any digging predators.
Mr J then put together a door frame and I covered it with 1/4 inch wire mesh.

Today I have continued to secure the roofing wire to the beams, trying to pull the tension across the width as I go. I then attached some clear plastic and windbreak fabric to the upper section of the side. I didn't have enough of either material to complete the job, but that will do until I buy some more windbreak fabric. I will fix chicken wire to the outside of the upper section too, but on a day that is less rainy.

So we still need to hang the door and put the scaffold netting over the top of it, but it's almost completed. The girls have been very curious about what we are doing and I'm looking forward to being able to let them out to play in it.

Of course I have overdone it this week and Mr J is back to work tomorrow after his first well-earned week of holiday from work since he began his job at the start of August. Finishing the walkway may have to wait a few days while I rest and recuperate. 

I'll start that process by putting the kettle on and making a cuppa!


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Monday, 16 January 2017

Homestead Vlog Tour January 2017

Hooray, I've finally done it, I have made a vlog tour of the smallholding! 



Well, actually it's not a complete tour of all of the smallholding, but a brief stroll around the annual vegetable garden and an introduction to the chickens and ducks.

If clicking on the image above doesn't work, you can also find my vlog on YouTube here.

I think it's going to take me a little while to get the hang of editing a vlog and to come out from behind the camera more often. I've always been a production team type of person rather than an on-stage person, so seeing myself on a screen is a little unnerving.

Anyway, if you like the vlog, please hit the like button on YouTube and subscribe to my channel, that way you'll receive a notification each time I upload a new vlog.

If you like the music that I've used, it's by Kafkadiva, it is taken from their album Big Toes & Fingers (Explicit) and is a track called Breathe. 

You can find it on Amazon (via my affliates link) below.



For more information about my affliates links, please see the Small Print and Disclosure section.
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