Category Archives: chickens

Once upon a time, many moons ago…

I was learning to knit again. It was on this day in 2008 that I posted my first proper blog post.This is my second blog, the first one was very much a warm up to this one. And having spent some time reading back through my posts I thought I had posted most of it on this one any way, and all not that long ago either! I began blogging in November 2007 with this: 

A place to begin…Last night I finally got the push I needed to start off, I was on a forum and someone said that they would love to follow something like this, there are already loads of popular TV series, books and magazines about self sufficient so that must mean that other people are interested to. So this is my two pence worth to add to. My idea is very simple: produce as much food for myself as is possible with what I’ve got, that said I already know that it isn’t as simple a task as it sounds. I also would like to learn how to live as cheaply as possible and make some money from the things I enjoy doing.

 What I already have/where I’m at: I already keep goats, two of whom are in milk but I’m not milking them at the moment for no really reason other than the fact that I haven’t sorted myself out into doing this. I have quail; I got some for my last years Christmas present (in April, but I said I wanted to wait to get what I really wanted rather than having something else) from these there is one male left and I brought four more the other day, two females and two males and I brought 24 eggs, 12 of two types, for hatching from ebay last night, they should arrive on Tuesday next week.

 I’m a vegetarian, but others in my family eat meat, and I’ve got most of a vegetable garden up and running now but ‘the family’ have just been told that we can use part of a field we keep donkeys on as a vegetable garden as well which is quite a big space. I’m going up there tomorrow to start clearing the ground and covering some of it with manure ready for the summer.

 “The Family”: that is me (eldest daughter) my parents, my two younger sisters, a younger brother and my boyfriend. ‘The Family’ also includes a whole host of dogs, cats, ponies, donkeys, cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and a guinea pig. I don’t think I’ve left anything out but I might have.

 So there are a lot of us, some useful others not so useful. I plan to be adding more very soon and to start adding some photo’s when I’ve got to grips with how to do things on here.

I changed blogs as I wanted to have more control of the way that it looked, and in particular a banner that I could add my own photos to.  A train track in the middle of nowhere is nice… But it wasn’t really what I was looking for. 

So what has changed since my first ever blog post? Well, I have almost finished my first own-spun and knitted project… more details coming soon. 

I have grown my own potatoes for the first time, and leeks, and carrots, and some other thing too; I have made butter and cheese from our own cows milk and cream. I have started keeping chickens, and am having another break from keeping quail, mother has the remaining trio that I had. 

‘The Family’ has grown, my baby sister will be eighteen this summer, we all have boy/girlfriends and although we are all still one big family it feels like we are also splitting off into our own little families as well. 

I am a published magazine writer… Twice. 

I have a much better job and am in much better health then I was back then. I have survived no less than two redundancies. I have become much more of an ‘outdoors’ person, even in the pouring rain I am still happy enough (cue a week long down-pour, sorry) and have much more of an idea of who I am and what I want to do. 

All this sounds very fluffy and… Picture prefect, but the thing is the milestones for ‘this kind of life’ are more woolly or yearly events than anything else. Lambing is followed by shearing, sowing time is followed by the growing season, followed by harvest time… Each year starts with hopes and dreams of building on what has been started the year before, which is followed by successes and failures, wet muddy times followed by the smell of grass cutting and fat happy animals sun bathing. It is a circle that keeps going and has no really ending. 

So here I am again, writing a blog post, in the middle of lambing. It has been raining outside and it is probably not all that different to the very first time I put fingers to keyboard for the first post of this blog and that is just fine by me…

28th December 2009

Cows eating hay - Christmas Eve 2009

Well, that is Christmas over with for another year, and it passed in an unremarkable but pleasant way. The snow and ice stayed around to make it a white Christmas day but then cleared on Boxing Day to give a few days rest before the four to eight inches of snow that is forecast to fall tomorrow morning reaches us. The week between Christmas and New Year feels a little like limb and seems to last longer than it really is.

Donkeys eating hay – Christmas Eve 2009

On Boxing Day I got up to find that we had had a fox attack during the night, some left dead, two injured and others fine still in their house. Unfortunately I think it was my fault as the door wasn’t done up properly. The two injured ones are in the house by the stove and doing ok.

 Other than the fox attack it has all been quite, I got some lovely presents including a jacket and a woven scarf or wrap. I got my new camera but they sent the wrong model, the one up from the one that was ordered, but it doesn’t record sound so it is going back.

Rolling along

I worked out today that I only have eight more days of work left this year, it still doesn’t make me feel like I have anymore time for anything this month though.

I have lots I want to blog about but can’t seem to manage to put anything in to words when I sit down to do so…. 

This weekend has been spent looking after a sick hen, who was christened Henny Penny, who has gone back out in with some other hens today after she learnt to fly out of her box and onto the bed, digging out the goat pen and putting up some more fencing on one of our fields.

Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield

I have read another book! And it was well worth the two month wait for the library to get it in.

I’m been interested in the subject of permaculture for a while and the more I found out about it the more interested and the more of a good idea, or right way of doing things, it seems to be. But it is a massive subject, and it is very hard to work out where to start with it but this book is excellent starting place, easy to read and, possibly most importantly, it makes it easier to see how permaculture can be made use of.

After reading the book I have decided on two smallish projects that will make a real difference, with very little work and with mean less of a work load in the long run.

Firstly; water butts near to the chickens and goat housing. We did have water butts by the goat house, isn’t that far from where the chickens and rabbits are kept, but the main one fell over twice (the garden isn’t very level in places and it wasn’t the best made or placed stand for it) and then the tap broke and it hasn’t been used since, meaning that water has to be carried all the way from the top of the garden by the house to the bottom of the garden where all the animals are. It also comes off the mains, which is not ideal.  We have a few water butts that could be used, they just need taps and putting in place. And now is the prefect time of year to do this seeing as we should be getting all the winter rain soon.

The input for this will be small maybe a few hours work, and minimum cost, the out come and productivity of it will be less carrying of water by people, less use of mains water, rain water is probably better for the animals, making use of a resource that would have otherwise gone to waste and the guttering on the goat housing (which is already up until the new housing is finished) will help stop some of the run off into the goat pen which makes is wet and bogging in wet weather.

Secondly; I am going to use a ‘no-dig’ method to bring the new allotment ground into use. The beds will be 1.2 meters wide, and the length of the allotment long, and the paths will all be 1 meter wide. After the beds have been pegged out (which has already started being done) they are ‘lined’ with cardboard boxes, which our local supermarket are more than grateful to give us, so as all of the ground and any weeds are covered and then this is covered in manure. This can be planted straight into, so long as the manure isn’t to fresh, and a layer of grass cuttings or straw (hay is not a good idea as it probably has lots of grass seeds in amongst it) to keep the moisture and warmth in.

The input for this will be a lot less than if I dug over each bed by hand, and added manure and then dug this in. It will mean weeds are less of a problem as the cardboard will block off the light to them. It will also mean that the ‘eco-system’ that builds up in soil to break things down and turn them into usable materials for the plants will not be disturbed and so can carrying on building up as the field was turned from grazing to allotment plots in April. Hopefully resulting in better soil and better crops.

Some other interesting bits from the book:

  • The first LETS was started in Canada in the 1930s in a small mining town, when the mining company pulled out of the area people were left with skills, and a need for other skills, but no way of earning a living and so the first LETS was born.
  • Growing vegetables in the tradition rows of beds is not the most productive way of growing them but where they are grown in this way than beds should be 1.2 meters way meaning the middle can be reached from either side, and paths should be 1 meter wide.
  • If you are already doing any of the following then you have already started practising permaculture: Enjoying the beauty of nature, growing some of your own food, walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of taking the car, making decisions about what you buy on the basis of how it affects the earth, reusing and recycling materials, supporting nature conservation

Dorking chicks

Whilst I was away some of my Silver Dorking chicks hatched

In the end I only ended up with six eggs as the seller who I bought the second half a dozen from chickens stopped laying. When I candled the eggs at twelve days then five out of the six seemed to have chicks in so I was a little disappointed to only have two chicks hatch, especially as I never normally bother to candle eggs, but they are still very sweet.

List #2

Well, the lists have continued and I like cross things off and see what I’m got done (sad!).

Sow seeds: more winter and spring greens have been sown, there is only really time for one more sowing of a few things now.
book basket making course places:Me and middle-younger-sister are now booked on a basket making course in October, I have been wanting to go on one for about a year now. Imagine harvesting home grown veg and bringing it home in a home made basket.
carry on weeding and harvesting at allotment: Very must an on-going job at the moment!
trim goats feet:All girls, and most boys, with neat(ish) feet now and not at all thankful for it.
Move chicks outside: Chicks now outside in their own hutch, I don’t think they are sure if to be please or up set about it.
Move broody:I’m still not 100% sure if Mrs Dorking is sitting, every time I see her she is out eating and drinking but when I check on her egg it is always warm. The first half a dozen eggs have been put in the incubator (clean out and service incubator) but the second lot STILL haven’t arrived, if she is sitting alright when they arrive she shall have those, if not then they will go in the incubator as well and I will leave her with her one egg to see how she does.

Going once, going twice…

And sold! I have a dozen Silver Dorkings eggs on they’re way to me.

Mrs Dorking is very unhappy about her move but the incubator is now cleaned and back on as a back up.

broody hen

Mrs Dorking has gone broody, she’s been sitting tight for about four days now, so this evening she has been moved to her own little hutch where she can be left in peace away from the other hens who want to lay eggs (or not as is more the truth.)

It is the first time that she has gone broody so I have no idea if she will stay sitting now that she has been moved but I’m hoping to hatch some unrated Silver Dorkings under her to add to the ‘flock’.

I am bidding on some eggs on ebay, I have just missed out on the first set with five seconds to go, I was sat at the computer counting down, by twenty pence!

Silver Dorkings

There is another Silver Dorking egg hatched in the incubator, we’ve moved the last chicks that were left in our room outside a few weeks ago.

It had become so normal to have one kind of bird or chick, quail, gosling, etc. making a noise in the room that I almost didn’t even realise  when I heard the first cheeping that is was coming from the incubator at all.

A new chick hatching has bought up the question again about whether our bigger chicks are girls or boys…

Silver Dorking chicks are ‘sex-linked’ which means that they have different markings for girls and boys when they are born. I think from the markings that they had when they were born were boys, but now that their feathers are through I’m not so sure as they look more like the hens feathers then the cockerals.

Any way, whatever the two older chicks are, the one in the incubator is the other sort!

Home cooking

Well, the rain that has been forecast for the last few days arrived today but we haven’t done too badly as the last three days were it has been meant to be rain we have just had showers, and showers that it is easy to ignore and carry on working through.

I’ve managed to spend a fair amount of time at the allotment, and also taking down the kids house in readiness for putting up the new goat housing. This morning wasn’t bad either, the rain held off while we moved some ewes and lambs.I moved the three chicks that have been living inside (not in the brooder for a while but still in the house) to a new house and clear the goat pen a little. It is still getting very water logged whenever with get rain and doesn’t drain by itself, a problem that might hopefully be sorted with the new house but I think will need to be worked on for a while yet. The goat housing and pen are at the bottom of the garden and so the pen ends up with all the rain from the rest of the garden running into it, I did plant some willow the other side of the pen this spring in the hope that they would suck up some of the extra water but they have not taken. I will try again later this year.

The highlight of the weekend has been the start of ‘real’ harvesting from the allotment. Tonights dinner was mostly home grown and was cooked on the Rayburn which has also been heating some water for us.

We had savoury pancakes with a kale* and courgette* gravy filling and a cheese sauce and garlic* kale* (a recipe adapted from Colour It Green). I think the only vegetable in the whole meal that wasn’t home grown was the onions, and the ones on the allotment are coming along nicely!

*home grown