Friday 30 June 2017

Asleep on the job

goat in wheelbarrow June 17

I couldn't resist the temptation to take this photo last week. This is one of the billy kids occupying our wheelbarrow. They are growing rapidly!

Toad out of a hole

toad June 17

We are always keen to live in harmony with the natural world so I was pleased to see this toad hopping about the path outside out allotment recently. There are a number of small ponds on the Whinnies Community Garden so we have a good number of amphibians on the site. They're good for eating bugs!

Making hay

hay making June 17

Last week we started making hay. We had had a long run of dry, sunny weather so we are intent on putting it to good use. For us, hay making is a gradual process. We pick a couple of sacks of grass and leaves each day and leave them on a patch on the allotment to dry out. It is then added to the store so that it can be used over winter for the goats.

Alas, this week we have had constant rain!

Testing the stove

stove June 17 (2)

About 3 years ago I spotted an old iron stove in a junk shop. I bought it with the intention of using it in a workshed which we are still to build. I stored it in a corner of the greenhouse and largely forgot about it. The ever increasing piles of kindling and firewood, from the branches I feed to the goats, encouraged me to test out the stove last week. We set it away on the allotment one evening and sat enjoying it with a few beers. All we need to do now is build the workshed!

sitting on allotment June 17

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Emmanuel College Fair

Emmanuel College fair June 17

We took our two newest ducklings to the Emmanuel College fair earlier this month. They were very useful in attracting people to our table where we were selling our preserves. If I had charged people to hold them and have their photos taken with them, I would have doubled my takings!

ducklings June 17

Dark brown hatching eggs

eggs June 17

We bought these hatching eggs recently. Note the very dark brown colour of three of them. They are wellsummer eggs and I'm hoping any hens that hatch from them will lay eggs of the same colour. They will be a great addition to the range of different coloured eggs produced by our flock.

Milk and solids

Whinnie goat baby June 17 1

Whinnie, the goat kid we are raising by hand, has a strong appetite for milk but we have not yet got him onto eating solids. He is however starting to chew on various items, both edible and inedible. We are trying to spoon feed him bran and oats mixed in milk with varying degrees of success. Hopefully soon he will start eating leaves.

Moving the chicks and ducklings

We moved the chicks and ducklings from our back garden to the allotment yesterday. I'm pleased to say they have all settled in well.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Apple, rhubarb and ginger jam

preserves making June 17

Another attempt to reduce the quantity of food in the freezers was made last week when we used 4 kg of last year's rhubarb to make rhubarb, apple and ginger jam (and a rhubarb crumble). 18 jars were made. Alas, the apples and ginger were not grown by us. We had to buy them.

Ripening cherries

cherries June 17 (1)

I checked on the wild cherry crop last week. It was ripening but was not quite ready for picking. I will revisit it today. Stand by for cherry pie, cakes and jams.

Turning the fruit cage into a maternity ward

clearing the fruit cage June 17

Our fruit cage was heavily overgrown with nettles recently. I spent an afternoon clearing them out - the goats had quite a snack on them. The soft fruit crop in the cage is not yet ready for picking but the main reason for clearing the nettles was to allow it to be used as a maternity ward for hens with chicks. Three hens are now in there with their chicks. When they are bigger, they will be released into the flock.

chicks June 17 (3)

We are using big pots as temporary henhouses.

chicks June 17 (1)

Brooding hens

brooding hen June 17

More of our hens than ever before have gone broody this year. I try not to break them of the habit so I put them in a safe place where they can't be disturbed. Sometimes they insist on brooding where eggs are laid. We've had one hen brooding her eggs in an old oil drum next to the compost bin. We have another currently brooding under the shed. Fortunately, the one above was happy to be moved into a spare henhouse. Her eggs are due to hatch in two weeks.

Kells Lane Fair

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (11)

For the 4th year running we attended the Kells Lane Fair in Low Fell, Gateshead, to sell our eggs and jams. This time we took Whinnie, the baby goat we are hand raising. He was a smash hit with people visiting the fair. I had no problem getting volunteers to look after him through the day!

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (10)

Sunday 25 June 2017

Are we going to get some sloes this year?

sloes June 17

For a number of years, we've had no sloes on the local hedgerows. I'm hoping for an improvement in 2017. I've had a look at the hedgerows yesterday while I was picking leaves for the goats. I spotted sloes growing on the blackthorn. Fingers crossed I'll be make sloe gin in the autumn!

Pigeons for plucking

sack of pigeons June 17

I found this sack of pigeons hanging on my allotment gate yesterday. My job for this afternoon is to pluck them and strip off the breast meat. Not the pleasantest of jobs for a Sunday afternoon!

Friday 23 June 2017

4 star rating

Environmentl Health rating June 17

We had our environmental health check on our kitchen on Wednesday for our preserve-making microbusiness. I'm chuffed to report that we got a 4 star rating! The certificate will be proudly displayed on our stall tomorrow at the Kells Lane Fair in Low Fell, Gateshead.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Using the back garden - the mini greenhouse

mini greenhouse June 17

For the first time, we have made the back garden of our house earn its keep. The patio is now full of pots and bags growing vegetables. The lawn has been turned over to a polytunnel. We have also installed a mini greenhouse on the patio which is currently full.

More quail eggs

quail eggs June 17

The quail chicks we hatched in March have now matured. True to their productive form, they have started laying. We are now getting between 16 and 24 eggs a day. Looks like we will be having more quail egg salads.

Dehorning Whinnie

dehorning the goat kids June 17 1

Whinnie, the goat kid we have been raising by hand, has been dehorned as we have decided to keep him. He was bred for meat but we have put so much effort into keeping him alive that we can't bring ourselves to have him slaughtered. He will of course need to earn his keep but we aren't sure yet how he will. We had already selected a billy kid to service the nannies. Whinnie is so used to being with people that he could have a role going to shows and fairs. There's plenty of time yet to decide. However, his days as a house goat are about to end. Tonight he will be staying overnight on the livestock allotment for the first time.

More chicks

hen with chicks June 17 1

The gold top hen that went broody last month abandoned her eggs after a few days. We think the problem was the weather. We had some heavy rain and it leaked into the nest box. The positive news is that she adopted 4 chicks we hatched in the incubator. Mother and chicks are doing well.

Willow herb

willowherb June 17

The willow herb has been growing well but until recently we have resisted picking it to feed to the goats. Last week, this very common weed had grown sufficiently for us to start picking it. The goats love it and they eat both leaves and stalk.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Cropping the weeds

nettles and goosegrass June 17

Our Farside allotment still had patches of weeds, mainly goose grass, brambles and nettles. They are an ideal fodder crop for the goats and are now part of their daily diet.

goats feeding June 17 4

goats feeding June 17 1


peppers in greenhouse June 17

The greenhouse has been in full swing since the start of the spring but recently we have been able to move most plants out to the poly tunnel or the vegetable allotment. So we had some space left in the greenhouse to use up. We have filled some of it with peppers. We bought the plants rather than grow them from seed but they are doing well and the warm late spring seems to be ideal for them.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Whinnie Update

Feeding baby goat May 17 2

Whinnie, the baby goat we are raising by hand, is making great progress. After 3 weeks of being unable to walk, he discovered his legs and has been making up for lost time. We are gradually introducing him to the herd but he still spend most of the day at our house, some of which is spent in the garden. We will soon however move him fully to the animal allotment. He will have his own shed at night and will continue to be bottle fed by us though we need to get him on to eating solids. I'm hoping that more time spent with the other goats on the allotment will encourage him to start eating leaves.

Pork and bean casserole

pork and beans May 17

We found in the freezer a pig knuckle with enough meat on it to do two meals if used sparingly. We boiled up the knuckle, stripped the meat (the bones will eventually be made into bonemeal) which then went into a casserole with some beans. Admittedly, the beans were not grown by us. They were dried and had been in jars in the pantry for years. Time to get them used up.

Snacking on the hedge

hawthorn hedge May 17 2

Our Farside allotment started the year with a hawthorn hedge about 5 metres high. This hedge is about 30 metres long and had not been maintained in decades. One of the big jobs of the year is to get it under control. We've been chopping it down to about 1.5 metres in height. We are now about half way. The branches are fed to the goats - they  love hawthorn. Once they have eaten the leaves, twigs and bark, the branches are chopped up for firewood. We now have a significant supply of fuel.

Photo above - the section that has been brought down to size. Below - what's left to be done.
hawthorn hedge May 17 1

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Hedgehog on the allotment

hedgehog June 17

We were delighted to find this hedgehog on the path leading to our livestock allotment a couple of nights ago. We have't seen a hedgehog on the Whinnies for a few years so hopefully they are making a comeback. They are great for eating slugs, snails and bugs that otherwise eat our crops!