Thursday, 30 June 2016
Last month we put some duck eggs into one of our incubators. One duckling hatched and to our surprise, a chick hatched as well. We bought 4 more chicks (barnvelders) and put them into the brooder box with the the other chick and the duckling. They were kept there for 4 weeks until they were big enough to go to the allotment.
We put the birds into the smaller of the 2 chick houses, with its own enclosed run, in preparation for introducing them into the flock as a whole. However, the duckling made a mess of the enclosure and as he was a reasonable size, I removed him one evening to one of the henhouses in which roosts a lone duck which we hatched last autumn. Our 8 other ducks and 2 drakes lives as a close knit group and spend the evening in their own duck run. We had hoped the lone duck would join them but after 7 months on the allotment she has shown no signs of doing so. We were hoping therefore the lone duck and the duckling (which is a drake) would bond. Alas, they weren't interested.
The next morning I let out the animals and the duckling quickly found his way to his family of chicks in the chick house. He sat outside it all day. I took the decision to let him return to the chicks but we moved them to the bigger chick house and its enclosed run. A few days later I decided they were big enough to be integrated into the flock so at lock up I moved them all to one of the henhouses. The next day, when they were let out, they quickly learnt where the food was. But they all went around the allotment as a group. And in the evening, they headed to the larger chick house to roost, rather than the henhouse.
It will be interesting to see how the duckling deals with the chicks as they all mature.
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
I did a recent swap with a friend for some rhubarb. When he told me he had lots for me, I headed down to his house, filled the boot of the car and had to make a second journey to collect what was left - another full boot. Preserves and pies will be on the menu soon.
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
We have vast quantities of cream from Pinkie's milk. My initial plan was to turn it all into butter but we opted instead to use some of it to make ice cream. This turnout out to be a good move. The ice cream is gorgeous. We've made two varieties: rhubarb with ginger and lemon marmalade (we found an old jar of lemon marmalade and this seemed a useful way to use it up).
We've had some of the rhubarb and ginger with rhubarb crumble. A very nice combination.
Monday, 27 June 2016
My experiment in hay making was both a success and a failure. On Thursday I checked the hay I cut at the community orchard. It had dried nicely so I decided to gather it in the next day. Alas, when I got to the orchard on Friday, I found the council had cut the grass on the land around the orchard, right where I had put the grass to dry. The entire crop had been shredded by the council's lawn mowers! In future I will have to make the hay after the council lawn mowers have just been around.
I am currently making more hay though the sun is not expected to shine for the next couple of days. Rain is forecast instead. Instead, I'm laying out the grass on a pallet in the milking parlour. As it dries out it will go onto the haystack and be replaced with more fresh grass. Over the summer I should build up enough to get us through the winter.
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
After a week of damp weather we are enjoying a dry period (until Saturday when the forecast suggests rain). Time to make more hay. I want to cut down on the feed I have to buy in for the winter so the more we can produce ourselves, the better. All nettles pulled up on the allotment are dried but I have also picked grass on the somewhat overgrown community orchard in Sunniside. Some has been brought back to the allotment to be fed to the goats and what I don't give to them is dried in the sun. As the animals tend to kick it about, I've had a go at leaving the picked grass on the ground at the orchard. I am about to check on it but I'm hoping this experiment will work both to produce a good hay crop over the coming months but also to help get some of the grass and weeds at the orchard under control.
We are milking Pinkie earlier than we expected, due to the loss of her kid. She is being very productive. When I got back from London yesterday, I took 6 litres from her. This figure was very high simply because it was her first milking since the birth. Today I took off 3 litres. She is therefore producing much more at this stage than last year. I will need to dust down the cheese making recipes.
In the meantime I had some muesli for breakfast with a liberal dose of Pinkie's milk. And tonight we had cauliflower cheese. Sadly both meals contained significant ingredients bought from supermarkets.
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
We have taken a decision to keep Spot, the nanny kid born two weeks ago to Georgina. The loss of Geraldine last month means we need to fill her gap. We had planned to keep any of Pinkie's nanny kids but this came to nothing when she had only one offspring, a billy (which died after 2 days). Spot is a Saanen, a milking breed, and Georgina is a cross but we are reasonably certain she is part milker.
I'm saddened to report that Pinkie's baby, which we had named Milky, died in the early hours of Monday morning. It was clear on Sunday morning that he was ill. Pinkie was trying to get him to stand up but he wouldn't budge. Unfortunately I had to be in London over the weekend and only got back yesterday afternoon so David had to look after matters. He took Milky home to keep him warm. The vet was called and he was fed through a tube straight to his stomach with milk made from goat milk powder we had in reserve. David then milked Pinkie and later fed some to the baby using a bottle. But it wasn't enough and Milky passed away.
It means for the second year running Pinkie is providing us with milk but has no kids. Fortunately she is recovering well from the birth.
Saturday, 18 June 2016
I'm pleased to report that Pinkie, our Golden Guernsey goat, gave birth to a billy kid this morning. It was a vet assisted birth as she was 2 days late. I had been up all night with her in the goat house waiting to go into labour. After last year's drama, in which Pinkie had to have a caesarian and we lost the 2 kids at birth, along with the death of Geraldine in labour 3 weeks ago, this time we were taking no chances, hence the decision to have a vet around when she was ready to go.
Both mother and son are doing well.
Sunday, 12 June 2016
Our raspberry patch has become somewhat overrun with nettles. Today I set about resolving this problem. Armed with gloves and a long-sleeve shirt, I pulled up the nettles. They are not being wasted however. Our goats eat them both fresh and dried. I am making hay at the moment and the dried nettles are being added to the hay crop.
The photo above shows the overrun raspberry patch.
The raspberry patch cleared on one side (note the large quantity of nettles in the background waiting to be cleared).
One of the numerous piles of nettles which will be dried out over the next few days and added to the hay crop.
Saturday, 11 June 2016
The 13 quail chicks hatched last month were moved to the quail house yesterday. 7 were male, 6 female. Some of the males will be slaughtered so watch out for quail recipes. We also have 3 people interested in buying quail hens though at the moment we don't have enough to fulfill demand. We may have to hatch some more.
For the last couple of weeks there has been a great deal of mayflower. The hedgerows are full of it. I feed the goats hawthorn branches every day and have found they eat the mayflower first. Whether or not it leads to lots of hawberries is yet to be seen. There has been a great deal of cherry blossom but my impression is that this will not lead to a big quantity of cherries. Judging by what I've seen on the trees, the cherry crop will be down on last year. The hawes will ripen from the late summer onwards. They are full of pectin so they are very useful in making jams and preserves.
Friday, 10 June 2016
I made this video as part of a history project with which I am involved. We are researching the history of the Washingwell/Fugar area and I am concentrating on the medieval period. I am making a number of videos about medieval food. This one is about using the green shoots of spring to make a salad. Most people would recognise them as weeds. We need to relearn their usefulness.
Thursday, 9 June 2016
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
This morning I found one of the ducks sitting on 3 eggs in the duck run. She stayed put when all the other ducks went off to feed when the run was opened up. We have only once before had a broody duck and she tried to set up a nest outside the run. We couldn't let that continue as she would have had no protection against foxes. It's a different matter in the duck run so we have decided to let her continue with the eggs.
I checked on Georgina and the kids at 4am today. They were fine. Georgina was eating the afterbirth. That was good news as it meant she had expelled it so it was not stuck inside her where it could go bad. The kids stayed in the goat house through the morning but emerged for a while this evening. They seem to be doing well. Georgina is constantly bleating to them.
We had hoped she would just have the one kid as this was her first go at motherhood but she is coping well with 2.
On Sunday we carried out a hive check. This was not a detailed look. We simply looked at a couple of brooder frames in each hive and some of the super frames. One hive has not yet started using its super, one hive is what I call "in recovery stage" (it survived the winter but was weak though it is now improving) and the rest were strong with supers filling with honey. One hive in particular has come close to filling its super so we added a second to the hive. Overall, it's looking like there will be a good honey crop this year.
I read an article in an old copy of The Smallholder Magazine that goats like goosegrass (cleavers). We have lots growing in local hedgerows so I collected a bagful and gave them to Pinkie and Georgina yesterday (before Georgina went into labour). The article was correct. They loved them. As did the hens. They will be appearing regularly in their diet from now on.
At last we have had a successful goat birth. Georgina tonight had a boy and a girl. They arrived very quickly and were standing and suckling even before the vet got there. All 3 are doing well. For tonight only they are being kept in the old goat paddock. I will check on them at 4am.
Tuesday, 7 June 2016
On Sunday, I found our first swarm on the season in the hawthorn hedge on our allotment. It was a bit of a challenge to get it into the swarm box as we had to cut the branches from around it to get to it. We did eventually get it into the swarm box only to discover a 2nd swarm a couple of metres further along the hedge. It was a bit more accessible but we had to use a bucket to catch it. We turned it upside down over the swarm and them used the smoker to drive the bucket upside down on a sheet and waited for the bees on the outside to go inside.
We did not have to wait long for some action. Suddenly the whole swarm took to the air and flew off in the direction of the local woodland. It is a frustrating experience watching a swarm fly to freedom like that. They sell for £200. And if they are not sold (we haven't yet sold a swarm) they are new hives that go into honey production next year.
Alas, the news was not so good with the other swarm. When we transferred it into the hive we discovered that a huge number of bees had drowned in honey. We had not seen anything like this before. We did some research and found that when the swarms get too hot (Sunday was a hot day), the bees regurgitate honey which they use as a coolant by putting on their heads. The drawback is that lots of them drown. I am not convinced the swarm has survived. There are some bees around the hive but I am about to do a check to see if the bulk of the bees are still alive.