Tuesday, 30 June 2020
David built this today for the ducklings, from old timber and some chipboard a friend was throwing out. It means we won't need to bring the ducklings into the house overnight - we have been putting them in the brooder box but we need that for chicks - we had 4 hatch over the weekend and we have another incubator with 9 eggs in it due to hatch later this week.
I checked out our strawberry bed today. Admittedly, it could do with weeding. There is a good quantity of fruit but it isn't ripe yet. I think the reason for the crop being late is the presence of a large ash tree which overshadows the bed. I'm thinking of moving the strawberries after taking off the fruit to a more suitable location, though I am not quite sure where yet.
I managed to pick a small number of strawberries. I just need some cream to go with them.
We have been searching for a new milking goat for 2 years and at last we have got one! She is an anglo-nubian so the milk should be high in fat and therefore good for butter and cheese making. She is a year and a half old and not yet kidded. She came with a billy of similar age. We named them Bubble (the nanny) and Squeak. Both have settled in well in the plot with the other nannies and babies. Hopefully next year we will be back to having lots of goats milk.
The ducklings are now growing rapidly and will soon outgrow the pen they are in through the day in our back garden. Fortunately we can extend the pen but at some point soon, we will move them to the smallholding. In the meantime, they are rather enjoying bath time.
Saturday, 27 June 2020
We took delivery of the 4 sheep we had been offered this afternoon. They are now in one of the paddocks on the smallholding and they have adopted the shelter that's in there. This was a bit surprising as sheep live almost entirely out of doors.
Thursday, 25 June 2020
I checked on the wild cherry trees yesterday. Normally by now I would have picked the cherry crop but this year they seem to be late, and in less abundance than usual. I suspect the dry spring slowed the growth of the cherries and then the wet first half of June slowed down the ripening of the fruit. So we await the gathering of the cherries.
We have been getting very few duck eggs. This is creating problems on a number of fronts. Firstly, we are unable to satisfy the demand for duck eggs.Secondly, we have too few eggs toincubate and hatch so we have new stock for next year. We reluctantly decided that the solution was to buy some fertile eggs or some ducklings.
We found some ducklings for sale yesterday: aylesburys, 5 days old, in Chilton, near Darlington. So we headed down to buy them. We got 11. Back home we put them into the brooder box which had 5 chicks in it. They were old enough to be moved to the nursery in the back garden.
As today was sunny and warm, we decided to put them in a pen in the back garden. Alas, we found they were small enough to escape through the bars of the pen. Half an hour of rounding them up followed, including crawling under the decking of our neighbour. We eventually recovered them all. After wrapping the pen in chickenwire, the ducklings went back in. They particularly appreciated the deep bowl of water that allowed them to swim rather than just paddle. Tonight they will go back into the brooder box but they can't stay there for long. The chicken eggs in one of our incubators are currently hatching so the ducklings will be quickly acclimatised to being outdoors. In about a month we will move them to the livestock plot where the adult ducks live.
Monday, 22 June 2020
Saturday, 20 June 2020
We have been offered 4 sheep by a friend. We checked them out today. We have the space for them but we've never kept sheep before. It means learning new skills though what we have researched so far suggests it is similar to keeping goats. The wool from these sheep is too short to spin but can be made into felt. One problem is that there is no ram.
We are pondering what to do but we may well be adding shepherding to our daily list of activities.
Tuesday, 16 June 2020
We moved the billies to their new paddock on Sunday so we decided to keep an eye on them through the night. That meant sleeping out in the spare goathouse in the next paddock. We decided to bring a bottle of wine, some deckchairs and the firepit for a bit of a celebration of the goat move. A pleasant night away from the house but still on our property thus keeping within the lockdown rules. This was our holiday for the year, lockdown style!
I woke up at 4am to check on the goats. The sun wasn't up but the sky was light. I could see the billies without using the torch - they were chomping their way through a low ash branch. They had clearly settled in.
I'm delighted to announce that we have now moved the billy goats to the new goat paddock on our main field. And they are loving it! Lots to eat as the grass hasn't been cut this year. There is also an overhanging ash branch - and ash is one of their favourites! We have one spare paddock which could possibly be used for pigs, or for the nannies. We've also been offered 4 sheep which could go onto our main field. We are still thinking about that! We've never kept sheep before. Word however is spreading about these potential acquisitions and requests for lamb have already been received!
The chick production line is now in fully operational mode. We currently have 3 incubators in operation. The chicks are move to a brooder box shortly after they hatch for a couple of weeks and then go into a nursery cage in our back garden. From there they go to the big cage on our Nearside plot (we use this also as a holding cage for the cockerel and hens from which we are taking eggs for hatching). Once the chicks are big enough, they will be released into the flock. We recently took the first batch of chicks to hatch from the nursery to the Nearside. That freed up space back home for the next batch of chicks.
Our biggest billy goat, Snow, lost his ear tag some time ago. We had to get a replacement.The first time we tagged Snow about two and a half years ago, he did not like the experience and avoided me for a week or so. He didn't particularly like the experience second time round but he's not been avoiding me. The tags are completely different to the ones we used to use. That meant having to buy a new applicator to put the tags on the ears. That was not cheap!
Friday, 12 June 2020
The incubators are working full time to hatch as many eggs as we can put in them without diverting too many from those we sell. Over the weekend, another 6 chicks hatched though unfortunately one died. These chicks were the first Rhode Island Reds to be hatched by us. The incubator has already been loaded up with another batch of eggs so hatchings at the start of July are expected.
Meanwhile we have someone coming today to take one of the barnvelder cockerels that hatched a few weeks ago.
We will be moving the billy goats to the new paddock on the smallholding this weekend, once the weather has calmed down. Perky, Snow and Sunny will be moved but for the time being we will keep the nannies and the 2 kids on the Whinnies in Sunniside. We are all looking forward to the change. The goats will love their new accommodation.
Sunday, 7 June 2020
I made some veggie pasties recently, to help use up some of the beans in our freezers (and thereby creating a bit of freezer space for this year's forthcoming crops). They came out better than I expected.
Given the demand for our eggs, I was in two minds as to whether or not to glaze them. However, a slightly damaged egg which couldn't be sold decided the issue.
We were called out to collect another swarm last week, this time from a village called No Place (yes, that is its name!) A relatively small swarm, we put it into one of the spare hives behind the greenhouse. Since then it has been difficult to judge the amount of activity in the hive as temperatures have dropped considerably so the bees are largely staying in. The rain hasn't helped either.
Cleaning the duck pond is one of those jobs that has to be done each year. No choice about it. Clean it or let it fester, especially in the heat we endured in May. So last week, we drained it, shoveled out all the muck, cleaned it and refilled it. Thankfully, the ducks seemed to appreciate our work and have had quite a time splashing about in the clean water.
Meanwhile, the muck from the bottom of the pond will be used to top up the compost in the potato bags we have on our drive. Nothing wasted!
Thursday, 4 June 2020
April was our first full month under lockdown. We started with our market for eggs suddenly disappearing, it became nearly impossible to get timber to build the new goat paddocks and the preserve making season started. But by the end of the month, everything was picking up quite nicely.