Monday, 28 July 2014

Hatching update

Recently we had two sets of eggs being incubated. The first set of 6 wellsummer eggs had been put under a broody hen and they began hatching on Thursday. You can see the first chick in the photo above. Shortly afterwards the second chick arrived. When I checked on them later, I found that the mother hen, Ginger, was on the floor of the henhouse with the two chicks under her whilst the 4 eggs were in the nest box. I could hear lots of activity from each egg so I decided to leave everything as it was. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake.

I checked a few hours later and found the eggs had not hatched and they were getting cold. I decided to break open the eggs, got the chicks out and tried to warm them in my hands. They were not strong but after a while I put them under Ginger in the hope she would warm them up. When I returned an hour later, two were dead, one was struggling to pull through and the 4th was doing well. The two early hatchings were fine and keeping warm under Ginger's wings. The next day, the chick that was struggling eventually died.

Meanwhile, we had another batch of cream legbar eggs in the incubator. They were due to hatch today (Sunday) according to our calculation but emerged yesterday instead. An interesting point about this batch is that it is the first time we have had all the eggs hatch.

All plan was to carefully introduced this second batch of chicks to Ginger in the hope they would adopt each other. So tonight, I took all the new chicks over to the allotment and put them into the henhouse with Ginger. I'm pleased to say that bonding was almost instantaneous. Ginger started chirping and purring and within a couple of minutes, all the chicks had disappeared under her wings for warmth and protection.

Ginger has spent nearly the whole of the last three and a half weeks in the henhouse. Tomorrow I need to build her a temporary run so she can get out and take the kids with her.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Harvesting the honey

The first of the honey crop has now been harvested. I took a super of 10 frames off this hive on Friday. The hive is our biggest and busiest. The frames went into the honey press last night and have produced a lovely golden honey which sold very well at our community cafe today. I will be taking honey from another hive later this week.

Early blackberries

I have mentioned this in previous summers but I will do so again. When I was a great deal younger than I am now, blackberries ripened in the autumn. From September onwards, we would be picking them. Autumn half term at school in October was knows as blackberry week. Now, the blackberries start ripening here in July. I took this photo last week in my allotment. It looks like we are heading for a good crop. I haven't started picking any yet as we still have loads of gooseberries, redcurrants, raspberries and blackcurrants to harvest but I expect to start getting in the blackberries shortly.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Pinkie the Golden Guernsey

We have two pygmy goats but as yet no milking goat. However earlier this week, we went to Wallsend to look at a golden guernsey nanny goat called Pinkie that is for sale. She is 4 years old and produces 3 litres of milk a day. We are considering whether or not to go ahead with buying her. It will mean sorting out a separate milking area. And she will need milking twice a day. It is a significant commitment but it also means filling in one of the gaps in our self-sufficient diet. The milk will allow us to make our own yogurts, cream and cheese.

A final decision will be made shortly.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bean failure

We grow runner beans every year and normally get a good crop. We grow broad beans most years and normally get a reasonable crop. This year, we have attempted to grow both. And both have been a disaster. The runner beans did not sprout. The broad beans seemed fine but after flowering they started to die back. We aren't sure what is the cause.

The broad beans were in planter bags in the back garden but we are going to pull them out and use the bags for a late potato crop.

Talking of which, on the main allotment, the hens have broken into one the the potato beds and eaten most of the leaves from the potato plants. Tomorrow we are going to have to put a cage over them to protect them.

Ducklings discover the pond

I moved our latest batch of ducklings to the allotment on Monday. They have settled in but do not stray far from the duck enclosure in which we lock all the ducks each evening to keep them away from the foxes. They have however discovered the pond next to the enclosure and have made good use of it.

Meanwhile, the eggs I placed under a brooding hen are due to hatch shortly. I checked the eggs tonight and could hear chirping coming from one of them. Fingers crossed that we'll have a successful hatching, unlike last year when our attempt to brood eggs under a hen rather than in an incubator was a total failure.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sausages and strawberries

On Friday we took delivery of our latest Tamworth pig from the slaughterhouse. We asked that some of the sausage meat be made into sausages and last night we tested them by having them for dinner! Not unexpectedly, they get a thumbs up from us. The potatoes came as part of a swap from another allotment holder. His new potatoes are well ahead of our. The peas sadly were a product from the freezer and initially came from a supermarket, not from the garden.

For dessert, we had strawberries pick fresh from the planters on the patio. The ice cream, sadly (again) was from the supermarket and therefore was the end result of an industrial production system. However, all is not lost. Tonight we will be looking at a golden guernsey milking goat that is for sale. According to the owner, she produces 3 litres of milk a day. (Our two existing goats are pygmies so cannot be used for milk production.) That will leave us awash with milk so we will be looking for lots of ways to use it up. Goats milk ice cream is something we are actively considering making.