Monthly Archives: February 2010

Lambs, potatos and studies

I have not meant to not post for a week, but it has been very busy here.   

The snow that fell last Thursday stayed around until the middle of this week, with more falling on Tuesday but not sticking.   

On Friday morning the snow was almost as deep as it got in the last lot of snow. And it was with, umm, say 5″ of snow on the ground that lambing started.   

Our sheep graze on the common land near to our house and we lamb outside and then bring ewes and lambs in as they are born. It is very interesting actually, lambing outside means that lambs are almost always born in daylight and mother has kept a note of where each ewe chooses to lamb for the last few years. Some of our original flock come from a sheep farmer whose land edges part of the common and ewes that were born on this farm seem to lamb as close to his land as they can get, normally under his hedge.   

We also now have some second generation ewes that we have breed, these ewes seem to go back to where they were born to lamb themselves. The older ewes also seem to have an order that they lamb in, possibly because of when their seasons are but it doesn’t change much from year to year.   

Our first ewe to lamb this year was Charlotte, whose a first timer. She is a Cotswold cross ewe, so is quite big, and noisy too. Not surprisingly really, as she had ring-womb and so was unable to deliver. After a while trying to deliver the lamb ourselves it was a nerve racking drive to the vets along icy roads.   

Charlottle with her lamb - 19th February 2010


It was bad news when we arrived, the lambs tongue was blue and dry and the lamb was mostly likely dead already. Our vet spent some time and delivered the little black ram lamb, who still had a heart beat! He was very weak and the nurse took him and put him on oxygen and bullied him back to life.   

The lamb was small, and showing signs of being premature. The vet checked for any other lambs and found a funny colour ‘water bag’ but no sign of another lamb. It is mostly likely extra strain and stress from the snow that has cause her to pick up some sort of infection and miscarry a lamb and go into labour early.   

The nurse bought the lamb back and we gave it to Charlottle who seemed pleased enough with it so long as she didn’t have to get up and was happy enough to carry on cleaning him.   

We bought them home and put them in a house together so as they could bond and we could make sure the lamb got extra top-up feeds as Charlotte didn’t have much milk. All seemed fine until Sunday night when mother went to give him his last feed and check of the night and found him dead. He had been doing so well and acting just like any other lamb until then too.   

On Tuesday morning we had our next lot of lambs, Cobweb and the Cotswold both lambed on their own. Cobweb, who normally has triplets and spends the whole summer losing lambs, had twins girls and the Cotswold also has a female lamb. All nice sized and doing well, although Cobweb is not at all happy about being brought in and isn’t sure how many lambs she has. Today they came out whilst I cleaned their house out for the first time, it was nice seeing the first of our lambs out on the green.  

The Cotswold out with her lamb - 27th February 2010


The Cobweb with her lambs - 27th February 2010


Yesterday also saw our the first of this years goat kids born.  

Lenka with her first kid a few minutes after it was born - 27th February 2010


My mothers British Tog, Lenka, had twin girls. These are Lenkas first kids and she is doing well with them.  

My mum got Lenka two years ago, she has very good breeding but before she came to us she had just been kept as a pet really. She was very over weight and was already possibly to old to become pregnant. It was a little disappointing when she didn’t kid last year but not really suprising given how over weight she was, and it just makes this years kids extra nice. 


Lenka cleaning up her second kid less than a minute after it was born. 

During the week my seed potato order arrived, also a package from the Potato Council containing loads of information about potato growing, recipes and two varieties of seed potato to try. There is also a massive wall chart to record the weather during the growing season and the final harvest weight. The info says to start earlys chitting on March 2nd, which happily is the right moon day for starting root vegetables off so I will start all my earlys chitting on that day. 

This weekend we have made big progress on the new goat house, and this evening we finished putting the first section of roof on. Yay! 

The other thing that has been keeping me busy this week is ‘course work’. I am a month through a three month intro course with the Open University. I am finding it hard going at the moment, partly because I am not studying what I really want to (but doing this course means I will do better at what I want to do, weather science) and because of all the other day-t0-day things that are going on.

A surprise on YouTube – the seed parcel returns

I don’t really go on my YouTube channel very often, and the last time I was there was two months ago according to when the last video was up-loaded – a big surprise as it told me it was an incompatible format for uploading.

The last video I made was when the seed parcel got back to me, but as I didn’t have a proper camera I tried recording it on my phone (hence the bad sound) when I tried to up-load it told me it didn’t work but it has.

So here it is, better late than never…

It happened again

Snow - 18th February 2010

Well, we are one of the worst hit areas of todays snow and the world outside is now white once again.

The sheep are already feed up and waiting at the gate for us to get on and do something about it. The geese (still no gander) are shut away again with chickens of all things, what do we think they are? And the goats are stood in the house looking out with “if you think I’m going out in that you can forget it” looks on their faces.

The pigs, however, where having mad races and were happy enough when I took them some extra bedding just before it got dark.

My seed orders have arrived though, just waiting on the seed potatoes now.

Lent rules

Ok, I am now on day two of Lent and am doing ok even when I got home from work yesterday and forgot and raided the fridge, I did stop myself in time. Today I stocked up on rice cakes as I did miss having a snack, normally a sandwich, to eat when I got home from work yesterday. I also got a few others bits.

I am giving up wheat as a staple not wheat for Lent, so those are the rules that I have for myself in my head after taking a look in the cupboards.

I cannot eat: bread, noodles, cake, pasta, pizza but of course if I can make these things without wheat flour then I can.

I can eat: stock cubes, soy sauce, hot chocolate, flavoured potato crisps.

I was going to get some peanut butter and honey to go on my rice cakes but couldn’t find a UK blend of honey among the blended honey from almost everywhere else in the world so I go an interesting looking apple and pear pure fruit spread which is not, although a little sweet if you spoon it on in the fashion that I do with almost everything.

I have started posting what I am eating in my facebook page and twitter feed (appears on the right hand side also)

Allotment 14/02/2010 – First work of the year

On Sunday me, mother and middle-younger-sister spent the afternoon at the allotment starting to get beds ready for the new growing season and generally tidying up the plots.

I’m aware that I have been posting a lot of boring looking posts without any writing, so I will post what we did in the photos that I took:

Allotment 14th February 2010 - The allotment when we arrived

Allotment 14th February 2010 - The remainder of the kale

Allotment 14th February 2010 - The remainder of the kale bed

Allotment 14th February 2010 - Moving the manure pile onto the beds

Allotment 14th February 2010 - Potato tyres filled with manure. Half a borrow load each

Allotment 14th February 2010 - Harvesting jerusalem artichokes

Sustainable food

The UK relays on three main foods; wheat, potatoes and rice. Since reading this in Permaculture in a Nutshell I have noticed how true this is, the main staple of most of our meals is one of these, and often a meal includes more than one of these three.

The way that wheat is grown takes a lot of oil; so does the way that potatoes are grown commercially in this country. Rice growing requires a lot of water and land is often flooded to produce rice. When I was in Kenya we visited a wetland that had been reduced to make way for rice paddy fields. Rice is the main food staple for half the world population and although I haven’t found any figures on it, I would imagine that wheat makes up a great deal of the stamp diets of the other half as I did find out that wheat now covers more of the land than any other kind of plant, so a guess that half of the world relay on it as a food staple doesn’t sound so out landish.

Relaying so heavily on so few foods is clearly very dangerous, just imagine what the results of a mass failure of rice one year would cause? Or what the Irish potato famine was like, but then scale that up for half of the world’s population. There are of course other factors that could cause a crop failure, e.g. weather or pollination failure.

And then there are the resources these foods take to grow and the impact that monocropping has on wildlife and soil fertility. I have yet to meet or read about any smallholder, veggie grower or allotmenteer who just grows one crop to get them through the year. Instead I would case it has one of the many pleasures of growing or producing your own food is that you get to try different things, some might not do so well in your area, so you try another, or you might not favour the taste / size / shape / colour of a variety, so you try another. 

It is will all this in mind that I have decided to give up wheat (as a staple) for lent. Why wheat not rice or potatoes? I eat a lot more wheat than rice, and potatoes, well, I like them too much to give them up right now. I am not going to give up wheat completely either, just were it is a main ingredient. When I started to look at what I wasn’t going to be able to eat if I gave it up completely, there was very little left I could eat without buying specialised food, and that really isn’t the point of giving up wheat.

My aim for giving up wheat as a staple is to make myself less dependant on it as a food sources, after all I can’t grow it. Lent starts on Wednesday so if you know of any nice food that doesn’t included wheat please let me know.

Mindless, idiotic acts

Tuesday night we had a phone call from the police, a donkey had been reported as being loose in the village, was it ours? It most likely was, as far as I can think ours is the only in the village so we went off to search for her which didn’t take long as someone had tied her to the field gate… It would of been helpful if they can called to let us know she was there as if the police had managed to contact us then she might have been there all night. Everyone knows who’s she is and where we live.

When we got home the geese were out, or had been let out after they had been put to bed at dusk. The two females were there making a fuss at the gate as they know they shouldn’t be out at night but no sign off the gander. We searched in all the places he might have hidden himself, then all the place that he might have wander off to, then all the hidden places again, then further a field on foot and by car. Still no sign. We searched all the hidden places again and then check all the other chicken houses and his house just incase… still no sign.

There was nothing more anyone could think of to do other than hope that he came home in the morning. He didn’t. The next morning the postie joined us in our search whilst he did his round of the village. Still no sign and he is still missing.

We haven’t seen any sign that a fox has taken him so all we can hope is the he was stolen and is living a nice-ish life somewhere else. Hopefully.

It makes my blood boil! What the hell was the point of letting out our geese, they’ve never done anyone any harm. There is no point, none at all. As much as I remind myself that the world is full of nice people, there are still some f***ing idiots out there too.

Needed recognition

My contract for my current job runs out at the end of March, which is something I’m been stressing about, possibly mostly as it’s a bit of an unknown. I’ve never had an end date for a job before and I love this job so much.

Since I started it I just feel like such a healthier, positive, valued employee and person, which is so different from how my last job and employers made me feel. I’ve been telling myself that it’ll be fine, so long as I have enough to keep my animals and allotments I’ll be fine and won’t mind what I do. interesting job seem so hard to come by at the moment, especially local interesting jobs. 

On Tuesday I had a meeting with my team leader / manager / director / founder of the company (I’m not really sure what to call her) to talk about my annual report which is the first one I have ever written and was stuck with what I thought was a long way to go but as it turns out is nearly done after all… Any way, before we started we had a chat about how the project is going, what is happening in the other districts, and funding.

The first piece of good news is the person I am covering for is going to be needed where he is for an extra month, so my contract is going to be extended to cover this period.

The second, bigger, piece of good news they like my style of work and value my input into the organisation so much they are basically creating a whole new job just for me! Some of it will be carrying on with what I have been doing, as I have managed to under-spend by £10,000, some on new funded projects (if we can get the funding) and some of it will be working in other districts.

The finally details of what I will be doing still need working out and finalising, but I will have another years contract and I’m happy.

Having a think… or maybe just going round in circles

This morning this months LETS newsletter arrived, along with a membership renewal form.

I didn’t go to this months meeting as it would have been to much of a rush after work to get there, and to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort. I am in two minds about LETS at the moment, on one hand I am a member because I believe it is a step in the right direction, it stands for a part of something that I want so badly… But on the other hand I am not sure what I am getting out of it.

To be active within the local branch you basically have to go to meetings, which are monthly and some times just feel like hassle to get to with work and all. More or less it is the same people who go along to meetings, and almost all the trading is based on goods not services. I got some nice Christmas presents for some people at the December meeting but I’m not really sure what else I have gotten… Sometimes, especially coming up to meetings, it feels like I am turning my much needed time and cash into ‘DEANS’ when it could possibly be used in a much more productive way towards my life.

I do support the ideology, it just seems to ‘fit’ with how I want to live my life, and that is why I am a member. If I am going to be a member than I want to be active and involved and not be just another member who pays my membership each year and means to do better (and there are a lot of them on the list) but what is it I am getting out of it…

And that is how my thoughts on the matter go round and round. Now the new question is; Do I fill in this years membership renewal and see how it goes for another year, or put my efforts into something else?

I really could do with some help on this one… Answers on the back of a postcard, PLEASE!


We now have two pigs…

Old spot pigs - 5th February 2010


Exploring the pen - 5th February 2010


Rooting around - 5th February 2010

 They are Gloucester Old Spots and for meat. They are currently in part of the vegetable garden doing a very nice job of digging it over and getting rid of the nettles and their root system.