Category Archives: chickens

Winter

The seasons have slide their way smoothly from one to the next here; the mornings have a chill to them and I had began leaving for work in the dawn light before the clock change. The harvest moon bought with it heavy rain and winds to bring down the first swirls of bright yellow, orange and red coloured leaves and since Samhain some of the dark evenings have held the promise of bright frosty mornings but as yet first light has only revealed rain soaked grounds or views hidden beneath a layer of mist.

Changing forest; October 2013

Changing forest; October 2013

The sheep have busied themselves searching out acorns before the wild boar begin to creep closer to the village edge in search of easier foraging and trips out with the goats have been spent underneath the sweet chestnut tree searching out the larger nuts before the goats snaffles them up. Sweet chestnuts are my old nanny’s favourite autumn treat.

Garden

At the end of September I spent some time reorganising my front garden to make it more of a usable space instead of an ‘unfinished projects’ staging area. I cleared the spreading mass of alpine strawberries, cut back bushes and removed a compost bin from the only area of soil and found space for two raised beds. These were filled with home made compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure from the patio’s potato buckets and now boast a mixture of cauliflowers, purple sprouting and leeks. On the table in the kitchen there are paper bags of onion sets to fill in the gaps.

After more alpine strawberry clearing I have managed to turn the rest of the ground I have between the steps and the patio into two separate-but-connected areas; one has been planted with kale (which I hope will recover from the caterpillar attack) mixed with wallflowers and I shall add garlic to the area. The other patch is defined by being between a winter flowering heather and the new raised beds; this area I have added spring bulbs to borage and self-seeded feverfew amongst a few paving stones I have added for access. In the spring I plan to sow poppies, sweetpeas and sunflowers and hope some of them survive the slugs.

Livestock

During the summer we have downsized on the number of goats we have and thankfully have managed to find lovely homes for the three ‘rescue pet’ goats we had. We now have our six breeding females and a meat wether. It’s so nice to be able to spend time out on the greens with them without having to arrange for two people to be there. The reduced feed cost has also meant that we have been able to think more carefully about the feed we use and have changed to a goat mix that has no GMO ingredients; something we are trying more and more to be aware of in all areas of our purchases.

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when with had some sun: August 2013

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when we had some sun: August 2013

Earlier in the year we had scab in our flock of sheep, the better summer we have had has helped them recover but it has meant that none of the fleeces have been suitable for sending off to be tamed and so we are keeping everyone on for this winter. (Fingers crossed it will be mild and they won’t need too much extra feed.)

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

During some time off work in September I also got myself some chickens for the garden at my house. I had been toying with the idea of getting myself some hens for a while, there is nothing like collecting your own eggs from your own garden. Me and mother had gone to collect some hens for her and in amongst the barn of fowl to be rehomed were three small black chicks. I wanted them as soon as I saw them and so they also came back with us.

They have already grown a lot since I first got them and are much more use to people, where they came from was an amazing place where the chickens were safe to just run free (seemingly no fox problem there) and in the spring a lot of the hens had gone off to nest and returned with their chicks in tow a few weeks later. The fourth hen I have I don’t think has anything to do with the  chicks but they were quick to follow her lead and she is very pretty.

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Progress

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close - 22nd April 2012

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close – 22nd April 2012

Last year was most definitely one of massive change for me; I moved house, my dad spent months seriously ill mostly in hospital and then died, I was made redundant for the third time from a job I loved and at a time when unemployment for people my age was rising each month and the relationship I had been in all of my adult life ended.

All of these things have completely changed the shape of my life forever and will carry on doing so for years to come I would imagine but it has also been the kick-up-the-bum I needed for me to take stock and decide what is most important to myself and what it is I really want from my life; a little hillside with my very own ‘hobbit hole’.

 This want is something that has been forming for years now but something over the last year has just clicked and made me realise I can make it real  and not just have it as an “if only…In a prefect world” dream.

Summer blooms - 20th August 2011

Summer blooms – 20th August 2011

I am a strong person and one of the things that makes me strong is the connection to the land I have. I feel most alive when I am out in *it*, cleaning out goat sheds, sowing seeds and watching the sky change. It is what I know and understand and when I am away from it I feel trapped and boxed in…

Willow capkins - 21st April 2010

Willow capkins – 21st April 2010

After my last redundancy I made some bad choices; I was so concerned with having a job I didn’t really consider the reason for working and told myself I could make it work. I was wrong and as a result the job/s I have had since November really haven’t been working, most weeks I worked six days a week and my only day off a week was as a result of me putting my foot down and even then that was often pushed with requests to work an extra shift; I am so much more than my job. I know it is possibly a thought that never even crossed others minds but I am a good carer*  because of the me that I am away from work and working six days a week for not enough money doesn’t leave much room for this.

However this has hopefully now changed and a few weeks ago I started a new job which will hopefully give me some sort of balance between work and home life as well as enough income, and so long as I am careful some left over to put into savings towards my hillside. It does of course come with its down sides; a week on week off rota so I shall be away every other week but hopefully these weeks can be used to learn the skills I am going to need e.g. green building and living off grid and maybe even extra time to blog and share what I learn.

Round house - 24th October 2010

Round house – 24th October 2010

Lots of things are going to have to change; the way I garden and allotment, the animals I keep… Thankfully I have my mother and sister who are happy to look after what I already have whilst I am away but thoughts of more chickens or some quail will need to go on hold for the forseeable future. I am going to need to learn and apply more permaculture methods to growing and storing food and I have questions about what to do about seed sowing next spring if I am going to be away. Growing in pots isn’t going to work as well as it did last year but it is all do able and feels like I might just be moving forward at long last.

*and this isn’t just me being big-headed about myself it is what I have been told by both my employers and something I believe when I have seen the way some others work

Mostly of things growing

It feels like I haven’t blogged in a long time but really it is just a week or so. So much is happening at the moment and at the same time nothing at all…

The weather has made it feel like we should be in the depths of summer but really it is still only spring and only just time to sow many things. My patio is filled with trays and pots of differing plants and plantlets at different stages of growth and the heat seems to have had a knock on effect in growth even with the tiny little plants which are watered every other day or some; they have shot up since the recent rain started.

Work at the allotment seems to have been on hold for a while for no really reason but last weekend I finally managed to start making an impact, even though it is only one that I will notice. Still the sea of green that my allotment has turned into has pleased me;

Allotment; before the weekend - 7th May 2011

Allotment; before the weekend - 7th May 2011Allotment; after the weekend - 8th May 2011

 Above the allotments on Saturday and then below the allotments on Sunday evening

Allotment; after the weekend - 8th May 2011

Allotment; after the weekend - 8th May 2011

It is so healthy looking. Ok it looks unloved and unruly and has been making my heart sink a little when I walk in through the gates but if you look probably, and maybe screw your eyes up just enough so as the nettles aren’t instantly identifiable as nettles, it is a little slice of green and lushness in amongst old pasture land. This plot down from mine is a path away and has been vacant and uncared for since the beginning of winter;

Next allotment over (with my potato bed in front)

Next allotment over (with my potato bed in front)

There is such a difference in the two, even covered in weeds there are still pickings to be had on my plots; wild salad leaves and nettles.

Rainbow over stormy skies - 8th May 2011

Rainbow over stormy skies - 8th May 2011

I am pleased with the difference my no-dig system is having too, I can tell the difference between the top layer of soil, which is dark, crumbly and lovely to handle, to that underneath which is clay like and until this weekend one dry lump. Oh, and the worms!! In one of the gardening books mother was given for her birthday there is a soil fertility test; if you have 4 worms in a spades depths of soil then you are working with good stuff, I have loads morn then that!

At home the  back garden defies me. It is in two parts; part a is a dry, dusty and old bonfire heap, part b is covered in brambles, ivy and bind weed. I want to level the bottom part off to have somewhere we can sit out and then have my greenhouse and vegetable beds higher up… It is going to take hard work and some time to get it to that stage. I have bought some chickens home to clear the weeds and they are doing their job ok. If all I get done this year is a few veg beds for winter ‘stuff’ back there I will be happy.

The front garden, which is mostly concerted over, now has a final plan to it for this year since I had an inspired day during the week. I had a sort of idea of what I wanted it to be and had been collecting bits and piece as I saw them, mostly about to be thrown away. Now it is all laided out and just needs to be planted up with the right things on the right day. Hopefully it is going to be beautiful, and I know it is going to be productive.

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 25th birthday; I have been on this earth for a quarter century.

May blossom - 26th May 2011

May blossom - 26th May 2011

It’s been a lovely weekend starting on Friday with more seed sowing (peas, beans, toms and the first squash) and then a lovely dinner cooked by lovely friends. Yesterday we started work on my plastic bottle greenhouse, the first two posts are in and ready for the back wall. It is finally becoming really!

Today I booked myself a slow start, mother let my chooks out whilst I spent some time having a shower, a cooked breakfast, including birthday cake and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, and poking at things in my garden where things are taking off fast now. This was followed by a ‘party’ lunch at mothers with jelly and Cornish Clotted cream ice cream then this afternoon we bought a chicken pen back to my house so as I can bring some hens back to clear some ground before planting squashes and rounded the day off with some potato planting and roast potatoes with gravy for dinner.

Hatching

Hatching has been and happened; even though I had the date written down and knew full well when it was going to happen it still seems to catch me out, for a started it happened a whole day earlier than it should have!

Hatching out - 4th March 2011

Hatching out - 4th March 2011

This was the first time I have used my new incubator (I have had it for over a year now though) and it has done pretty well. Seven out of twelve Silver Dorking eggs hatched, which possible doesn’t sound like the greatest hatch rate but it is still early in the year and I haven’t checked the others to see what was in them.

It does have one big design floor though as once the chicks have hatched and started to move around they can fall into the water pot which means I can’t leave them in there for the first twenty hours so as they absorb the goodness and anti-bodies from the yoke sack before feeding them chick crumbs and I lost one chick because it drowned itself before I realised the danger.

Silver Dorking chicks; 5 days old - 9th March 2011

Silver Dorking chicks; 5 days old - 9th March 2011

Sadly none of the Maran eggs hatched.

Hatching eggs

The eggs in my incubator are due to hatch on Friday, there are 12 Silver Dorking eggs from ebay, and 6 Maran eggs from a friend.

Hatching eggs - 28th February 2011

Hatching eggs - 28th February 2011

It is still early in the year so I am not expecting anywhere near a 100% hatch rate and I also haven’t candled them but love checking them each day and feeling the weight change as (I hope) the chick developes in its shell.

The Silver Dorking chicks are for my mother who got two young hens just before Richard Dorking died, always the way… It had been my plan to keep Silver Dorkings and breed my own chicks from Richard and Mrs. Dorking, who came from a freecycle member who was no longer able to keep their rare breed chickens, and I did hatch a few chicks but they were always weak possibly because Mrs. Dorking was so old and since she died during the bad snow the winter before last I have sort of given up of breeding pure breeds since then.

I would still like my ‘own’ breed though, I just don’t know what I want it to be! I got the Maran eggs as they are the very dark chocolately ones but I don’t really feel drawn to Marans as a breed as I love the old farmyard looking hens but who knows they might shin through when I have my own little flock of them

Signs of spring #2

I got my first egg of the year today!!

Other people’s hens seem to have been laying again for a while now and I have spent lots of time looking at different hens, comparing comb colour and worrying about egg eaters or wild birds getting in to the house and taking them before I get there.

There would have been a photo but it has already been cooked and eaten.

Hen tea party - 9th January 2011

Hen tea party - 9th January 2011

Everything feels a little crazy right now. I am still not into a routine after moving and I seem to be starting one of those busy times at work were at least one of my weekend days is taken up with something extra.

One of the tyres on our trailer has gone; which has called a halt to our mass clean out. Not a big problem shouldn’t be that hard to sort out and get going again… If only it were that simple. After trying one garage without the tyre and not getting very far I took the whole wheel into another tyre place to get a replacement. It turns out that our trailer has been made out of a base of an original original Mini and a replacement tyre will cost at least £50, each.

When I say the ‘original original’ Mini what I mean is when Mini’s first came out they had one size of tyre, then a little later they changed the size to a more standard one so it isn’t even like all the original Mini’s take the same size and there are very few that take the original original size now as they were the very first Minis.

The halt on the mass clean out has resulted in a halt to covering allotment beds ready for growing later this year. I’d hoped that if I managed to get at least most of it done last month then there would be about three months for it to rot down before anything was ready to plant out. I know that doesn’t sound long enough by ‘book’ standard but we have such a good eco-system (I think that is what I mean) thing rot down mega fast.

Allotment at sun set - 30th August 2010

Allotment at sun set - 30th August 2010

I have managed to go through my seed collection and work out what I haven’t got, only parsnips, sweetcorn, beetroot and seed potatoes, and now I just have to work out how I am going to fit in all the things I want to grow into the space I have.

I can’t wait to start sowing but I decided at the start of the year not to start growing anything until the 1st of March. Which will give me time to sort out everything out and also mean I don’t lose so many seedlings to leggy-ness or frost. It is a good plan… 22 days and counting.

Last week I was given some Maran hatching eggs so I have the incubator on. It is the first time I’ve used my new one. Yesterday the Beanie Babies went to their new home, after so many false starts. But they have gone to a lovely family where they will join their other goats to provide milk for making goats cheese once they have kidded.

Snow – the start of another cold winter?

We have also had snow but gladly it has not felt like such hard work this time.

This mornings bright start - 5th December 2010

This mornings bright start - 5th December 2010

We now have one 4×4 vehicle and our feed and hay deliveries have still made it through to us.

Making the most of the corn whilsh the other hens waited by their pop hold to be re-opened after cleaning out their house - 5th December 2010

Making the most of the corn whilst the other hens waited by their pop hole to be re-opened after cleaning out their house - 5th December 2010

The animals have not been impressed and on the coldest days I have kept the chickens in.

Friday night we had our thickest fall of snow, about 2 inches in a few hours but it was wetter than the other snow we had have had and so was only really a problem when driving through it and when it froze the next evening.

Today has been the warmest and a lot of the snow has gone but any snow that is left has turned into glassy looking ice under foot and on less used roads.

Country Markets

On Friday I attended my first local Country Market with some eggs.

Country Markets are what have taken over from WI markets as for some legal reason the WI was no longer able to carry on with the markets. They are run as co-operatives and so all the members take responsibly for making sure it runs smoothly and buy in packaging, etc. in bulk.  

It was a nice all be it an odd morning, the market runs like clock work and I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing as everyone has their job and gets on with. My eggs joined lots of jams, jellies and preserves, cakes and bread, plants and the first of the summer’s fruit and vegetables. I managed to sell three and a half-dozen eggs which will help ease the glut and pay for some feed! Up until this point they haven’t really had anyone there selling eggs so people wouldn’t have been really expecting to find eggs there, so I think it went well.

Country Markets are run all over the UK so it is worth having a look to see where your nearest one is, sadly they are seeing a downturn in customers all over the country at the moment which is such a shame as it is possibly one of the only ways of buying products direct from producers who are too small for larger outlets such as farmers markets or local shops who need a continues supply of stock.