Friday, 21 April 2017
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
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
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.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
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.
Dad doesn't have much of an appetite at the moment but he did have some of the pie and the bread and jelly.
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.
Monday, 17 April 2017
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.
Thursday, 13 April 2017
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.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
The quail chicks have been hatching today. So far we have 12. The chicks have already been moved to the brooder box and the remaining eggs are still in the incubator. They are a chirpy lot. I'm sitting downstairs at the moment but I can hear the chicks upstairs. A good sign.
I made this short video for the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside (where our 2 main allotments are) to advertise the open day that is being held on Sunday 16th April, from 11am to 3pm. The Deputy Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Pauline Dillon, is the special guest.
One of the other allotment holders left a pile of swedes outside our gate recently. They are no use for us to eat but are great for the goats who love them. One is chopped up each day and mixed into their morning feed. The goats have a habit of picking through the feed to eat the swede pieces first!
Friday, 7 April 2017
The goat kids are now 5 days old and are taking a great interest in their surroundings. They have been leaping about today like proverbial spring lambs. Georgina is being a great mother but we are expecting them to start investigating food over the next few days.
Spring is early this year. The leaves on the hawthorn are therefore early. This is useful as it means we are able to start chopping back overgrown hedges sooner than usual. The first branches came down on Thursday and were fed to the goats.
The goats made quick work of the leaves and overnight they also ate some of the twigs and bark.
The goat kids were interested in the branches but are yet to have a go at eating them.
The branches were then chopped up for fuel. They will be stored on our Farside allotment where they will be dried out for a couple of years.
Monday, 3 April 2017
Friday, 31 March 2017
It looks as though Georgina is close to kidding. She's been checked out by the vet as she has a prolapse of her uterus. The vet is not too worried, telling me this is reasonably common. Georgina has been given an injection to induce her. We will be checking on her regularly throughout the night.
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Pinkie's health has been of some concern recently. She stopped milking early in December, nearly two months earlier than the previous cycle. She has been getting a bit thin and when she seemed unwell a couple of weeks ago, the vet came out to look at her and suggested she may have a breathing problem. He also said that she wasn't pregnant. In a sense, we were pleased about that latter point. We want her to get her health back and put some weight back on. That wasn't going to be achieved if she were pregnant again. In the meantime, we've been feeding her more food (not easy with the other 3 goats around).
However, over the past 10 days or so, her udders have been swelling up. She has started lactating even though she is not pregnant. Tonight, I decided to milk her. She gave us 1.5 litres. Though Pinkie is our only milking goat, I'd prefer her not to be lactating. I need her energy directed at putting weight back on. So even though we have increased her feed, we are going to increase it further. Fortunately, spring greenery is growing so we can add this to her diet.
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Rocky was our first cockerel. He was a light sussex/silkie cross. We were given him by a friend and he lived with our chickens for a year. Then we were told we were no longer allowed to keep cockerels on our allotment so we rehoused him with another friend, Laura, who has a smallholding. Laura also runs the Paddock Farm Shop in High Spen, Gateshead where we sell our eggs. Sadly, Laura's flock of chickens fell prey to a fox last week. Most of them were killed, including Rocky. The fox actually struck through the day. Fortunately, some of the hens escaped the attack and managed to hide themselves away. Over the following 2 days, 16 birds returned, though 40 died.
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
We hadn't been up to our Marley Hill allotment for a couple of weeks but a visit there yesterday meant we discovered some rhubarb growing in our compost heap. It seems some partial roots had been dug up during a weeding session and dumped on the heap where they started sprouting. We've now extended the rhubarb bed on the Farside allotment to accommodate them.
The warm winter and early spring meant we were planting seeds early. The greenhouse is now full of seed trays so we have set up a mini one in the back garden. I suspect the garden will be used more productively this year. Previously, our food producing activities have been on our allotments. The garden space however is needed for growing.
One of the other allotment holders left a large pile of cabbages outside our gate today, presumably for the goats. I sorted through them and found that many are in a good enough condition for us to eat. A small number will therefore find their way back to our kitchen. To balance this, someone has been leaving large quantities of swedes for the goats. There seems to be an endless supply.
We rent our 2 large allotments from the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside and on Easter Sunday, 16th April, from 11am to 3pm, there will be an open day. I am organising it! I am hoping we will have some goat babies by then to show off, though Georgina is taking her time to produce them. I'll publish more details about the open day once they are arranged.
Monday, 27 March 2017
One of my favourite foods is sprouts. And I have just replenished our supply after a friend invited us to pick all the sprout plants for the goats. Many of the actual sprouts themselves were in a good enough condition to be used by us. I will be making sprout and stilton soup. Watch this space.
What we didn't use ourselves, the goats enjoyed.
The blackthorn in the local hedgerows is now blossoming. For a number of years now we have had next to no sloe crop. Hopefully this year will give us at least a modest supply. We don't just use them to make sloe gin. We use them in hedgerow jelly and, were we to have enough, they make a great jelly when combined with crab apples.
I have just about finished making the paved area for the goats from the broken paving stones I was given. They love it, spending quite a bit of time sleeping on it, through both day and night. I have some unbroken paving stones which we will be using to create more paths soon.
After a number of weeks chitting in the garage, the potatoes have been planted. We are growing rooster, King Edwards and pink fur apples. They have gone into the Farside allotment, where we plan to grow most of our fruit. This allotment hasn't been used for years but planting potatoes will help break up the ground.
Friday, 24 March 2017
Kingsway community orchard which I helped set up 6 years ago in Sunniside, the village where I live, had a recent addition of 100 trees, thanks to a deal I was able to strike with environmental charity Groundwork. They had a huge number of fruit trees they wanted sold so I was able to negotiate a deal for 100 trees for a total price of £200. Given that a fruit tree typically costs about £25, this was definitely a bargain not to be overlooked. Gateshead Council's Local Community Fund paid for the trees and officers arranged for the Princes Trust volunteers to plant them on Tuesday. The orchard was therefore able to extend onto the wasteland next to the trees that have been there for 6 years. Hopefully this will grow into a great community asset in the years to come (though it will be quite some time before there will be any fruit.)