Monday, 29 May 2017

Early elderflower

elderflower May 17 1

Where we are in Britain, elder normally starts flowering in early to mid June. This year it is a couple of weeks early, presumably down to the absence of any serious winter and the warmer than usual spring temperatures. It looks like I will be making elderflower champagne shortly.

elderflower May 17 2

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Introducing Whinnie to the other goats

Pinkie and Whinnie May 17 (1)

Whinnie, the goat kid we are raising by hand, was taken to the allotment last week to be introduced to the other goats. The aim is to gradually integrate him into our small herd. Most of the other animals had a sniff at him and then walked away uninterested. Pinkie however was a bit more aggressive, dragging him by his ears and at one point head butting him. As he gets bigger, he will be able to better defend himself but we kept him on the allotment supervised for about an hour before taking him home again.

I took him back a couple of days later but he ended up on the Whinnies Community Garden where the volunteers have taken a shine to him and are keen to look after him.

We will continue to hand feed him at home but we have already moved the 4am feed back to 6am and soon it will be put back further. The trick now is to get him eating solids. He's starting to explore the whole concept of eating by chewing on whatever takes his fancy. In the house that means paper and clothes. In the back garden it's plant pots and stones. We hope soon to get him eating bran and oats mixed in milk.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Swapping at the Hop Garden

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 2

The Hop Garden in High Spen is a community run allotment and I've often attended events they have hosted in the past. On Sunday, I headed to High Spen to go to the garden's swap event. The currency at these events is anything produced on the allotment that is surplus. The idea is that people swap what they have too much of, for something they don't have enough of. I took 6 boxes of quail eggs and brought back tomato and pepper plants and a goose egg!

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 5

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 1

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Lamb and chicken pie

lamb and chicken pie May 17 (2)

Some leftover lamb and a roast chicken made for a great pie recently. It also help create a bit more space in the freezers.

Best foot forward

Goat kid May 17 1

The second goat kid born to Spot at the end of April was too weak to stay with his mother. When we brought him back home to bottle feed him and raise him by hand, we did not have high hopes of a recovery. The kid, named Whinnie by supporters of the Whinnies Community Garden where we keep our animals, turned out to be a bit of a fighter. Nevertheless, before today we had not been able to get him to stand on his feet. We had built him a harness but that didn't really do the job. Earlier this week, he seemed to be worse and I was contemplating giving him to the end of this week to see if he was going to recover or else we may have to consider putting him down.

Today, he managed to get onto his feet. He was very wobbly. He fell over a few times and he propped himself up against the settee a bit, but he was actually on his feet. We are not out of the woods yet but I am much more hopeful that he will make a full recovery.

And at that point we have a problem. He was breed for slaughter but we have invested so much time and effort and resources in keeping him alive and helping him to recover that sending him for slaughter later this year is not something we really want to do. We can't however keep him with our little herd of goats as we already have a billy. So we are looking for solutions and a possible new home for him.

Goat kid May 17 2

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Video: animal update

We've had goat babies, quail chicks and hen chicks recently. Plus a competition for names for the goat babies. It's all covered in this video, including a bit at the end of me bottle feeding the kid.

Toad in the hole

toad in the hole May 17

Another search of one of our freezers for something for dinner produced another tray of sausages from our last pig. A very nice toad in the hole was the result.

Goodbye Freckles

sick hen May 17

We have had our first hen death of the year. Freckles was a bit special for us as she was the final hen we still had from the first batch of eggs we ever hatched, back in 2013. She had always roosted in a tree that overhangs the allotment, though she had to tolerate 3 months of confinement in the henhouse and fruit cage along with all the other hens over the winter, under DEFRA instructions, following the bird flu outbreak. Freckles was a cream legbar, a breed that laid green eggs. She however was a bit of an individualist. She laid brown eggs instead.

Thursday, 4 May 2017


kid disbudded Apr 17

This photo was taken just a few days ago, a couple of weeks after the kids were debudded. It shows the marks where the horn stumps were removed. There is no sign of the horns growing. Job done!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

More babies

New goat babies Apr 17 1

On Sunday I got to the allotment in the afternoon to find that Spot had had two babies, both billies. One was strong and receiving lots of attention from Spot. The other was weak (though he had a strong voice) and lying on the ground, unable to get up. It was clear he wasn't going to survive without intervention from us. I took off my shirt, wrapped him in it and took him home. We had in store a sack of dried goat milk for kids so we made some and put it into one of the bottles we had bought ready for just such an eventuality.

We managed to get him to drink some of the milk but throughout the evening he was too weak to stand up. If we put him on his feet, his legs seemed to move in completely different directions. We persevered, feeding him regularly through the evening. We even put him in a box next to our bed and fed him at 4am, then again at 6am and 8am.

Through Monday, he remained noticeably wobbly on his feet and his legs still seemed to go in all directions. However, though on Sunday my expectation was that he would not survive, I became more confident that he would pull through. Tuesday saw further improvement and he certainly showed he has an appetite. Today has seen further improvement with his legs working properly and he is quite steady and beginning to skip around.

The problem for us is that Spot will not accept him as he was taken away from her shortly after birth and she will not have bonded with him. We are stuck with the job of bottle feeding him until he is weaned. He can't stay in the house for too long either or else he will make a complete mess of the place! We will need to consider how to reintroduce him back to the allotment and the other goats. I suspect it will be a couple of weeks yet before we can do that. In the meantime, he continues to be fed at 4am (and many other times of the day as well) and to sunbath in our back garden.

New goat babies Apr 17 3

New goat babies Apr 17 4

bottling feeding a goat kid Apr 17

Mint in abundance

mint Apr 17

When we took on our Marley Hill allotment, there was already mint growing there. Mint, of course, is very invasive. It can easily take over. That is what happens in Marley Hill. There is always a battle to hold back the mint hoards. It does however mean that we will be making lots of mint sauce, mint tea, mint jelly and so on.

Peas and beans

growing broad beams Apr 17

We have planted lots of beans and peas on our Marley Hill allotment. The beans are growing quite well. The peas are looking a bit unimpressive however. It looks like something has been at the leaves. We discovered an old packet of peas a few days ago. There was nothing to be lost by planting them though we put them on our Farside allotment rather than Marley Hill.

growing peas Apr 17 (1)


kids in water butt Apr 17

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the allotment to let out the animals and feed them. It took me ages to find the two kids. They were happily sleeping in a water butt that was lying on its side. We had a repeat performance today. A thorough search of the allotment and I eventually found them in an empty cold frame.

Replanting the lovage

lovage roots Apr 17

The large lovage plant on what is now our livestock allotment has been dug up and moved to the Farside plot as part of our decision to separate the fauna from the flora. We had tried to fence off the corner of the garden where the lovage, and other herbs, were growing but the goats eventually broke in and feasted on the lovage (which also made Georgina a bit ill though recovery was quick). The huge root system now appears to have established itself. Next winter we will split it up as it is now getting too large.

Debudding the kids

kids disbudded Apr 17 (3)

As we have decided to keep the two kids born to Georgina, we have hand them debudded by the vet. In effect, the stub of the horn is burnt off, effectively killing off the horns. The operation is done under an anaesthetic. It was carried out 2 weeks ago and appears to have been a success. There's been no growth on the horns.

kids disbudded Apr 17 (4)

kids disbudded Apr 17 (1)

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Hidden eggs

eggs Apr 17

Some of our hens have been at their old habit of finding hidden places to lay. These 11 eggs were found in an old oil drum next to the compost bin. As we don't know the date they were laid, we can't sell them. I suspect there will be lots of salads in our diet this week.

An unexpected pregnancy

We had the vet out to see Pinkie a couple of months ago when she was unwell. He was not our usual vet but he examined her and said she was not pregnant. So on Tuesday, when Pinkie started having contractions, and we called the vet (our usual vet) to see her, we were surprised when he announced she was pregnant and had gone into labour. He assisted with the birth though sadly the kid was still born. Pinkie is doing well and is eating lots of grass and leaves. Hopefully she will make a recovery from the birth and from her recent weight loss.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The kids are eating

goats eatng sprouts Apr 17 (1)

Someone recently pulled out all their remaining sprouts and kale and left them for our goats. They had something of a feast but it was interesting to note that the 2 kids were joining in. There is some way to go before they are weened but they are no longer 100% dependent on Georgina's milk.

goats eatng sprouts Apr 17 (3)

goats eatng sprouts Apr 17 (2)

Pot roasted chicken in wine

pot roasted chicken Apr 17

This was yet another of our cockerels from last year. We decided to pot roast it. In the cupboard under our stairs, we also have a large quantity of homemade wine. We cooked this chicken in red wine we made from blackberries and elderberries. The meat has been stripped from the bones and will be used in a pie.

Note the corn on the cob. We grew this in 2007, the first year we had the allotment. The two cobs were rediscovered while doing a sort-out of the freezers. It would have been a shame not to use them up.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Chicken and lamb pie

chicken and lamb pie Apr 17 (1)

The leftovers from the recent roast lamb and chicken were put to good use. With some vegetables, they went into a pie. It lasted us for three meals.

chicken and lamb pie Apr 17 (2)

Rhubarb crumble

rhubarb crumble Apr 17

We still have lots of rhubarb in the freezer from last year. Rhubarb crumble is an excellent way to use it up.

Roast chicken

roast chicken Apr 17 (1)

This was one of our cockerels from last year. He was taking up space in the freezer. Time for a roast chicken dinner.

roast chicken Apr 17 (2)

Jam tarts

jam tarts Apr 17

We have lots of old jars of jam so to use at least some of them up, we've been making jam tarts. There's still lots of jam to go!

Eggs into the incubator

eggs in incubator Apr 17

One of our hens went broody recently. We decided to buy her a half dozen eggs, plus another dozen to go into the incubator. Unfortunately, the hen did not like being moved from the small goat house where she was sitting to the chick house. She abandoned the eggs immediately so all 18 went into the incubator together. Hatching should be in a couple of weeks. The eggs are 6 wellsummers and 12 blacktails.

Roast lamb

roast lamb Apr 17

Another search of the freezers and another discovery of something that has been there for a number of years and could do with being used up to create space for forthcoming crops. This leg of lamb came from friend in 2012 who keeps sheep. She swapped for some of our pork from the pig we bought that year.

We had the joint roasted. Even though it was nearly 5 years old, the meat was fine.

Friday, 21 April 2017

14 quail chicks

quail chicks Apr 17 (5)

Earlier this month one of our incubators was a hive of activity when the quail eggs started hatching. In total, 19 of the 24 eggs hatched though 5 chicks subsequently died. The 14 remaining chicks are eating their way through lots of food and are growing quickly. In a few weeks they will be added to the quail house.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Baked trout

baked trout Apr 17

We sorted through one of our freezers the other day and found 5 trout. We had one of them baked. The others were left in the freezer but in the near future they will be smoked, used to make soup and made into fishcakes.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Two new hens

White leghorn hens Apr 17 (1)

We recently sold 4 of our hens. They were aged between 2 and 3 years old but are still good layers. They were largely for company for a cockerel we gave away. As part replacement, we bought a couple of white leghorn hens yesterday. I'm pleased to report that both laid today. The eggs are white. We have one other white leghorn and she was previously the only hen we had producing white eggs. So there will be quite a variety of colours of eggs which we take for sale at the Paddock in High Spen: white, various different shades of brown, green, green/blue, beige, brown/pink and, of course, white.

Fiddler on the roof

goat kids on roof Apr 17 (1)

The 2 goat kids are now very active. They've discovered their legs and run about at great speed. They've also learnt to climb on the sheds. This seems a great game to them!

goat kids on roof Apr 17 (3)

goat kids on roof Apr 17 (5)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Bramble jelly

bramble jelly Apr 17

My Dad is seriously ill and is in hospital. He is very frail and confined to bed. One of his requests was that I should use the 4 boxes of blackberries in his freezer to make bramble jelly. This was the first preserve he taught me to make when I was a child. On Saturday I made the jelly - 10 jars. I took one to the hospital today (Monday) along with a loaf of homemade bread. It was a bit of a picnic. My sister Esther brought in one of her corned beef pies.

corned beef pie Apr 17

Dad doesn't have much of an appetite at the moment but he did have some of the pie and the bread and jelly.

Awaiting a delivery from Spot

pregnant goat Apr 17 (2)

Spot has made a full recovery from her illness last week. She also seems to have recovered from the loss of her brother Spotless. The two were normally seen together and would normally huddle together when sleeping. She has however come out of his shadow and is more pushy and forward, especially when food is available. We are now waiting for the birth of her babies. We reckon she will have twins and they will arrive within the next 10 days. Her udders are gradually filling up. What we don't know yet is whether she will be like her grandmother Geraldine, who was a milking goat, or her mother Georgina who produces milk for her offspring but not enough for us to take milk from her. We will know in a few days.

pregnant goat Apr 17 (1)

Monday, 17 April 2017

Frost expected

gardening fleece Apr 17 (2)

Weather forecasts for this week are warning of frosts. We aren't taking any risks. We've put a fleece over the onions. Sadly, we didn't have enough to cover the garlic as well. This is the first time we've used a fleece so we have no previous experiences to guide our expectations.

gardening fleece Apr 17 (1)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The devastating loss of Spotless

goats on paving Mar 17 3

I have some bad news. Spotless, our beautiful billy goat, died suddenly yesterday. He had been fine on Monday. On Tuesday morning, I found him unwell with terrible diarrhoea. He didn't want to eat anything. Spot, his very pregnant sister, though not suffering from diarrhoea, was equally lethargic and off her food. I decided to see if they were recovering by lunchtime and if not, I would call the vet. My visit to them in the early afternoon was a shock. Spotless was far worse. I immediately called the vet but he died before she arrived.

This is a devastating loss for us. He was a fabulous looking animal and had just become a father. With such a death, I wanted a postmortem. My guess is that he had eaten something, as had Spot (though probably in a smaller quantity).

Ellen, the vet, advised at that point against medical treatment of Spot as otherwise it would cause her to terminate her pregnancy. Spot needed to be monitored and a decision would need to be taken on treatment if she showed no improvement. She also advised that we give Spot some vegetable oil to help flush out her system.

I checked on Spot at 10pm, midnight and then at 4am. She was settled but uncomfortable with constant grunting and regular stomach contractions. At 8am, when we fed all the animals, the grunts and contractions had stopped but it seemed she was still not interested in food, until we gave her fresh grass which she more enthusiastically ate.

Throughout Wednesday, Spot showed more signs of recovery. She is now eating normally (see hoto below) and was especially keen on the hawthorn branches we now give the goats. The good news is that her recovery means she doesn't need medical treatment. That means her pregnancy should run to its full term (in about 2-3 weeks she is due).

Spotless was collected today to go for a postmortem. We await the result. We are missing him greatly.

goats eating grass Apr 17 3