Thursday 30 December 2021

Storm Arwen keeps on delivering


The effects of Storm Arwen still seem to be with us, after nearly a month. We are continuing to find fallen branches. A nearby care home lost a very large branch from a tree and they are happy for us to chop it up nd take it away. That way, they don't have to pay a tree surgeon. The goats are now happily eating the twigs and stripping the bark. Plenty more to come.

More sheep

 This afternoon we made a trip into the wilds of Co Durham to check out these beauties - 9 Hebridean ewes. We will be taking delivery of them next week. They were a rare breed though their numbers have increased and the breed is no longer regarded as seriously endangered. They are smaller than our texels and we will be keeping them separate to avoid cross breeding. It does mean however that we will need to get a Hebridean ram. The search starts now.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Getting ready to build a new duck run


Our existing duck run needs to be rebuilt. It is currently in a poor state and this can only get worse while the ducks are confined to it due to the avian flu restrictions. So, we are going to build a new duck run next to the old one and then transfer the birds to the new one. We can then dismantle the old one, get rid of the rotten fence posts and then rebuild it. Some of the ducks can then be returned to it, the others can stay in the new run, giving them extra space. Once the poultry lockdown is over and the birds can go free range again, the new run will become home for the chickens we will be breeding this year.

The first job to do however was to chop the large number of branches that are on the site where the new run will go. That was my main job this morning. Once they've been cleared we can start to build the new run.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

11 billion

11 billion - that's the number of wet wipes used and thrown away in the UK in the past year, according to BBC News. They are one of the main causes of blocked sewers. 90% of wet wipes contain plastic. In other words, they are single-use plastic products and we use an unbelievable number of them. But do we really need to use them in our homes? I'm old enough to remember using a wet rag. Literally, it was an old bit of fabric dipped in water and applied to the tasks that are now done by wet wipes. Instead of throwing them in the bin or down the loo, we put them into the washing and used them again. Is it really too much to ask people to go back to doing that instead of using environmentally damaging wet wipes?

Sunday 17 October 2021

No energy crisis here


No energy crisis for us. We did a deal for firewood which will be enough to keep us warm until May next year. All for the price of half a lamb!

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Chicks on the move - video


The last of the chicks hatched this year have now been adopted by mother hens. Older chicks that are now point of lay have been moved from the chick run to one of our chicken runs. All the birds have settled down as you can see in this video.

Sunday 10 October 2021

Final chicks of the year


The last chicks of the year have now been adopted by a mother hen and are in the chick run. The chicks in the above picture were actually bought as the buff Orpington hen was due to get a set of chicks we had hatched in our own incubator. Due to a miscalculation by us as to hatching dates, the chicks had to go into the brooder box which also contained a hen which we had separated off because she has a lump on the side of her head. We had tried to treat the lump but our attempts were unsuccessful. She was in the brooder box to ensure she was eating properly (she was!) Our fear was that she could attack the chicks when we put them under the heater in the box but when we checked on them first thing in the morning, she had adopted the chicks and was doing everything that a mother hen should do!

So this successful adoption meant the buff Orpington, which had been sitting on fake eggs for 20 days, was going to need a new set of chicks. We were after some more Rhode Island reds so we bought 5 chicks which the buff Orpington then adopted. They are now all in the chick run.

There will be no more hen eggs hatched this year though we have discovered one of our ducks has gone broody and is sitting on some eggs under one of our hedges.

Making raised beds from rubbish


We grow lots of soft fruit on our Farside allotment but our strawberry patch is constantly being invaded by raspberries, brambles, comfrey, nettles and weeds. We have set ourselves the task of creating a series of raised beds to be planted up with the strawberries. And the other condition is that the raised beds must be built from waste and rubbish. We have just about achieved this.

The raised beds are made from paving stone boxes. These are very strong and sturdy as they are used to transport heavy paving stones. The boxes have been lined with plastic feed sacks which are stapled into place. These staples are the only items which are bought. The boxes have been filled with layers of waste - mainly from our goat and hen houses. Some but not all of this muck has been partially rotted down. Ther are also layers of garden waste and cardboard. This material will rot down slowly, gradually releasing nutrients on which the plants in the raised beds will feed. The final layer is fully rotted down garden compost.

We have so far created three raised beds. We have about another 17 to go.

Thursday 16 September 2021

The Bowes Show


On Saturday we headed to the Bowes Agricultural Show. It was cancelled last year because of the pandemic so I was delighted it was back on this year. We won no first prizes but got one second, two thirds and a fourth. Now that we keep sheep, we spend lots of time watching the sheep competitions.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Deer in the distance


I filmed this a few days ago while walking to our smallholding in the evening: two deer on the neighbouring field though they are regular visitors to our land. The camera was on maximum zoom as the deer were is the distance, hence the occasional jumpy image.

Sunday 29 August 2021

Ramesses wrecks the henhouses


Ramesses, our latest goat kid, is growing remarkably quickly. This video was filmed a month ago. He had taken a shine to jumping on the henhouses. The bigger and heavier he got, the more damage was done. One of the henhouses ended up with a smashed up roof!

Gooseberry, blackcurrant and apple jelly


14 jars of gooseberry, blackcurrant and apple jelly came off the self-sufficiency production line this morning. Sone of the jars will be swapped, some will be sold at craft fairs, the rest will be used by us.

Friday 27 August 2021

Jam production line


Coming off the self-sufficiency production line today: gooseberry jam.

Friday 20 August 2021

More chicks


5 chicks have hatched in one of our incubators over the last 24 hours. They were timed to hatch when one of our hens had been brooding some plastic eggs in the hedge on our livestock allotment and had done her 21 days. I'm pleased to report that the hen has now adopted the chicks.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Making brawn


The pigs went to slaughter a couple of weeks ago. We then had five pig heads to use. We made one into brawn,

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Dolly back from the vet


Just back from the vet where Dolly had the cast removed from her leg. She is well and walking properly. (Above photos before the cast was removed, below afterwards.)

Monday 9 August 2021

The pork arrives

 Pigs were back from the abattoir last week. Here are a few pics of what is now in the freezer.

Making brawn


As I write this post, I have on the cooker a large pan containing a pig's head and vegetables for a stock. I'm making brawn - a useful way to ensure none of the meat on a pig's head (and there is a great deal of meat!) is wasted.

Rendering fat


We found a large bag of unprocessed pig fat in one of our freezers last week. We urgently needed the freezer space to accommodate the pig and offal that had just come back from the abattoir so the fat was removed from the freezer. I'm rendering it this morning.

Cherry and gooseberry ketchup


I made cherry and gooseberry ketchup recently. It is a by-product of a jelly I made so making the ketchup was a useful way to reduce waste (it is made from a fruit puree extracted from the cherry and gooseberry pulp).

Fruit purees can be extracted from other pulps. In one of my freezers I have some plum puree from last year which I'm going to make into ketchup as well.

Saturday 31 July 2021

Horn trimming


Perky had his horns trimmed this week. One was heading to being in-growing if it wasn't cut. He is now looking as elegant as usual.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Bath time


4 ducklings hatched in our incubator recently. We added them to the duckling run where they were adopted by the slightly older ducklings we got a few weeks ago. As you can see, they rather like bathing together in the seed tray we use as a water bowl. They have a paddling pool as well which we use as a duck pond.



A friend has been fishing in the Shetlands. He caught this rather nice cod and has now swapped it with me. I will be providing jams etc in return. It's rather nice to have fish back in our diet. We have so little of it now as the two people we previously traded with for fish are no longer in a position to go fishing.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Gooseberry and raspberry gins


It's not just jam we've been making with our gooseberries and raspberries. We've been making fruit liqueurs as well.

Gooseberry and raspberry jam


Plenty of gooseberries and raspberries to pick at the moment. They go well together as a jam. The gooseberries supply tartness and pectin while the raspberries supply the sweetness. I made 16 jars the other day.

Goat food glut


Lots of hedges in our area are being cut at the moment and people are giving us their hedge trimmings to feed to the goats. We have an enormous glut but the goats will be feasting for some days to come.

Dinner tonight!

We are having a duck egg and goat cheese flan for dinner tonight. Home produced and home made. Yum!

Friday 16 July 2021

Self-sufficient salad


A rather pleasant salad for lunch recently and most ingredients were home produced: potatoes, quail eggs. lettuce, herbs and goat cheese. The mayonnaise sadly came out of a bottle purchased in the local supermarket.

Making butter


Now that we are milking the goat, we are able to make butter from the cream. And Mabel's milk has lots of cream in it!

Saturday 10 July 2021

Milking Mabel


Mabel is now producing far more milk than her baby needs so we are milking her to take off the surplus.

Friday 9 July 2021

Slow move forward to a sloe crop


It has been years since we have had a decent crop of sloes but I spotted a blackthorn in a local hedgerow recently which had lots of fruit on it. Not yet ripe but it could be that we are heading for a decent crop this autumn. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

The baby is named


Our new Anglo-Nubian billy kid has now been named. We asked local residents to come up with names and we would choose the best. We chose one with an Egyptian theme (the Nubian desert is partly in Egypt). To find out the new name, click on the video!

Is she or isn't she

Over the winter, our Anglo-Nubian nanny, Bubble, was in with Perky, one of our billy goats. She did not get pregnant. But more recently she has been in with Sunny, our other billy. And now there are signs she may be pregnant. We are not entirely sure, but we are hopeful. We are keeping an eye on her. We'll keep you updated.

Saturday 19 June 2021

New duties for our nannies


We have moved 3 of our nanny goats to an overgrown paddock on the edge of our smallholding. They have a new task to perform. They are to eat all the grass and weeds. What a tough life!

Friday 18 June 2021

New arrival


Mabel, the British Alpine goat we bought in April, had her baby last night. We had no information on the breed of the father but the moment I saw the kid, I could see that Dad was an Anglo-Nubian. The kid is a billy and this time, that's good news for us. We need an Anglo-Nubian billy for Bubble, our Anglo-Nubian nanny who so far has not fallen pregnant to our two other billies (which are Saanen crosses). We bought Bubble because she is from a milking breed so no pregnancy means no milk. Mabel's baby will hopefully solve that problem when he grows up.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Toad of Toad Hall

We have found our first toad on the smallholding - a toad. It was under some wood which we moved to create a temporary gate. We are delighted to have them around. They eat the bugs that would otherwise eat our crops.

The pigs have arrived - the video


I shot this video when my friend Steve's weaners arrived. Sadly I wasn't there to film their actual arrival when one of the pigs escaped and ran around the sheep field!

Monday 14 June 2021

Sheep sheering - the video


We filmed this on the day we first attempted to shear the sheep. We got one sheep done. The others had to wait.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Repairing the goathouse


Last month we had much more rain than usual. The result was a flooded goathouse. To avoid a repeat, we took up the paving stones on the floor, put down a thick layer of recycled gravel and relaid the paving stones. The result: a dry goathouse!

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Our first attempt at sheep shearing


We turned our hand to sheep shearing today. As a first ever attempt it wasn't too bad though I doubt we will win any sheep shearing competitions. Ethel however was pleased to be rid of her heavy winter coat. We will shear the other sheep on Thursday.

Monday 31 May 2021

New chicks

 Our first chicks of the year hatched over the weekend. All 7 have been adopted by a mother hen.

Wednesday 26 May 2021


 Every day we are visited by a pheasant and his crow friends to eat the leftover sheep feed!

Thursday 20 May 2021

First hatchlings of the year

Our first hatchlings this year came in the form of ducklings. We have previously hatched ducklings in our incubator. This was the first time we have had a duck go broody and sit of the eggs. Mum and her 5 babies (one more than the 4 in the photo!) are now in a separate run and are doing well.

Friday 30 April 2021

Keeping the home fire burning

April has been rather odd as far as the weather is concerned. Sunny and dry through the day, very cold and dry through the night. It's been great for charging up the battery from the solar panels. But the cold has required us to bring the stove back into use to heat the house. Our cat was happy with that! 

Monday 26 April 2021

Babies at last!

 Our 2 Texel sheep lambed in February. And then we waited for Madge, our Suffolk, to give birth. And we waited some more, and kept waiting......

The waiting came to an end yesterday. Madge had 2 babies, both girls.

Saturday 13 March 2021

Donating 2 goats

 Last month we donated the two small goats, Sooty and Sweep, to a charitable organisation just a couple of km from where we live. They run outdoor educational activities for children, especially those needing extra help. The two goats were hand raised by us so they are very friendly and used to being handled by people. The video above was filmed on the day we moved them.

Friday 12 March 2021

Our first lambs

We are new to sheep keeping but this video was filmed on the day in February when our first lambs were born. Ethel had three babies but one did not survive the birth.

Monday 8 March 2021

Digging up artichokes

We have one crop from last year that is still being harvested: Jerusalem artichokes. I dug up another sack of them yesterday. Great in soups, veggie curries, gratin and especially lovely when roasted.

Our first lambs

We now have three lambs! Ethel and Dot have had their babies. Alas, they are all tups so we won't be keeping any. One sheep is still waiting to give birth. Madge is looking large and hopefully will have at least one ewe. Fingers crossed.

Thursday 25 February 2021

New kids


Three kids were born this month, all females. Two were to new mums and sadly neither knew what to do and showed no interest in their babies. We are raising them by hand. They are pictured above. We've named them Janie and Dolly. Until a couple of days ago we were keeping them in the house at night and taking them through the day to be with the adults.

Spot, our older nanny, has, as usual, been a great mum for her baby Seren. No need to hand raise her.


We are needing bedding, especially for the chickens. They continue to be confined to their henhouses and runs while the restrictions remain in place to control avian flu. SO we are going through all the papers we have in the house to decide whether or not we need to keep them. If they are no longer needed, they are shredded and taken to the henhouses. My completed sudoku fell victim to this last week. 

Wednesday 3 February 2021

New arrivals


We had our first baby of the year born yesterday. Jolene, one of our nannies gave birth to Dolly who, unfortunately, she rejected. We are now raising her by hand. This was Jolene's first birth.

Today, Spot, our oldest and most experienced nanny, gave birth to a boy and a girl. They don't have names yet.

Thursday 28 January 2021

Sunrise over the smallholding

We've been doing some early starts this week to check on the sheep and, especially on one in particular (Ethel) who was unwell last week but is now well on the way to full recovery. The early start meant we experienced this great sunrise at 7.45am on Tuesday.

Monday 25 January 2021

Frozen pond


We are going through a rather cold snap at the moment. All water has turned to ice. The duck pond is frozen solid. I'm not sure what the ducks are making of it but they are unable to bathe and keep themselves fully clean. Hopefully a thaw is on its way.