Friday, 18 December 2009


We have had a real downfall of snow here. Great fun for the children – snowball fights on the way to school, hoorah! But not so much fun for the sheep - but then I guess they are welsh mountain sheep after all, so for all we know they are loving it! Obviously they can’t get at the grass when it is snowing and their water freezes over. So we were out in full 4X4 mode skating over icy country roads on a mission of mercy this morning. Judging by the loud bleating that greeted our arrival, the flock was pretty keen to see us (or, more likely, their food). We gave extra rations of sheep mix and put down a bale of hay in each field. They dived into the hay and there is definitely enough there to keep them going for a while (or until tomorrow!). Their trough was totally iced over, so we broke the ice up and put in some extra water.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


We made our debut at the local Farmers Market today. It was at a National Trust Property and coincided with a Victorian Day – so everyone was in costume (including us after some nifty last minute needlework!). A great atmosphere with carols and street sellers hawking their wares from baskets.

We had some Highland beef butchered the previous day and were able to bring a good supply of vacuum packed meat. It was very difficult to estimate what the demand would be and we were a little concerned at the slow start. But all that changed when we fired up the camping stove and cooked our samples of steak. The whiff of Highland beef in the air really attracted people to our stall and after a tester we got lots of custom. We were pleased that the reaction to the taste test was so positive. We were not quite sure what cuts of meat would be most popular but soon found that the steaks, roasts and (to our surprise) brisket seemed to go very quickly. We had set ourselves a provisional sales target and were really delighted that at the end of the day we had totally sold out. Definitely a great success.

The success was not just in meat sales, it also proved to be a really fun family day out. We had told quite a few friends that we would be there and they all popped by to say hello. We also had some really interesting conversations with like minded foodies and self sufficiency aficionados. And we got to know a few of our fellow stall holders (special thanks to the cake stall next door, which was the prime attraction for the children!). Our 8 year old had a brilliant time giving out change and bagging up people’s meat. I think he was more excited than anyone about having our own “shop”.

After our first Farmers Market we have lots of ideas for how to improve on the next one. We’ll definitely be back!

Friday, 4 December 2009


Just in case you are wondering about the chicken chaos in the's what happened to the ornamental (i.e. "not for eating"!)cabbages in one afternoon.




For good measure they dug up the spring bulbs in that planter too.
The gourmet chicken garden has finally given a convincing answer to the
question: "what plants will chickens not touch?" Answer: "Not many!" We can safely say that they do not like onions or celery, but everything else seems to be fair game. Thankfully our new electric chicken fence arrived today, so the battle between chooks and vegetation may be evened up again.

On another front entirely, we are all very excited to be doing our first Farmers Market next weekend. The Market happens to coincide with a Victorian Christmas Day, so it will all be in fancy dress just to add to the sense of occasion. We will have some fabulous Highland Beef on our stall - with plenty of delicious steak to taste too. We hope people enjoy it and that we will make a few more Tiny Farmer converts on the day!

The sheep are doing well and getting used to their local celebrity status - not only do we have several reception classes following adopted sheep, we also have BBC Radio Cambridgeshire doing regular interviews and items throughout the year following ewe 562. Take a look at the latest interview below, or follow the sheep on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Catch up

The lack of a blog entry for a few days is in no way an indicator of lack of goings on at Tiny Farmer. Sadly we haven’t really had the energy to write too much given that the whole family has been smitten with flu. Fortunately we are all on the mend now, but it certainly gave our energy levels a bit of a knock and it was a shock to be so knocked out that we couldn’t even make it out of bed. So many thanks to all the friends and neighbours who were so fantastically helpful in our moment of need (especially liked the homemade soup!).

There has been no lack of incident during the week. We have, sadly, suffered another bit of rural vandalism. On visiting our rented barn the other day we were shocked to discover that it had been broken into and several items stolen – including our rotovator and chainsaw. They tried to take the trailer too but fortunately the lock proved effective. It was one of a number of burglaries in the area that night. Police forensics came out and did their bit – but unfortunately didn’t manage to get any decent prints. Case closed.

It is suddenly feeling very wintery too – that north wind is really cutting. The sheep are needing a bit of hay to supplement their grass (which is looking lack luster). Now that energy levels are restored we'll move them onto some different fields and grass will be plentiful again.
The chickens are in trouble too. After a week or so of free range chaos our garden looks like a disaster zone and every spring blub has been dug up. Worse, they decided to stretch their wings and fly into the neighbouring gardens and try to colonize them too. Oh dear. Plan B coming into force very soon.

Tiny Farmer out.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Chicken Run!

The chickens have escaped! No, they haven’t run away – it was a fully sanctioned bust out from their run. Unfortunately the recent torrential rain has turned their enclosure into a mud bath and the poor chicks looked like they’d had a bad day at Glastonbury

This is Henny Penny – she used to be white and it looks like she could be doing with a pair of wellies. The only solution was to give the chickens the freedom of the garden again. We don’t have too much for them to devour in the vegetable beds anyway. As you can see they are making the most of their new found freedom

and enjoying perching on pots and trees. They are getting very adventurous now and often come up to the kitchen window and tap on the glass when we are in the kitchen! The only slight problem we have found with the new free range arrangement is that their free-range manure is not confined to the grass or the veg plot – it is often to be found on the paths and pots and has already made its way on to the bottom of a shoe or two. Great.

We thought that all the freedom to forage must be good for the birds. So were horrified to notice after a few days of this arrangement that Sarrie was looking distinctly unwell. How about this for a half-plucked chicken look?

After researching all the horrible chicken illnesses she might have contracted and doing a night hunt for Red Mite, we asked our chicken expert neighbour for her thoughts. “She’s just moulting”….phew! Let’s hope that it’s nothing more serious and that she grows some new feathers soon. Not a good look, Sarrie!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Dangerous Dogs – dead sheep

Yesterday we went to check on the lambs. One was looking very unwell. She was lying down and although she could walk when encouraged, her head was drooping. After a closer look and a bit of detective work by a keen eyed 8-year old, we realized what had happened…the lambs had been attacked by a loose dog. There was still saliva on the lamb’s neck, under her fleece we discovered serious puncture wounds and there was evidence of fresh blood on the wood of the sheep shelter. It was also clear that the fence had been breached.

We called out the vet and he confirmed our worst fears – the lamb had been attacked by a dog (of Labrador size or bigger) and shaken violently causing a broken neck and brain damage. The poor lamb had no chance of recovery and it only remained for us to hold her and comfort her as the vet put her out of her misery. Our daughter held the torch in the darkness and we said goodbye to the lamb for the last time. It was unexpectedly emotional.

We only had long enough to wipe our tears and mop our blood stained clothes before traipsing in to the local police station to report the attack. The officers were extremely sympathetic and recorded the case, offered liaison with their rural team and the officer for the area. They also confirmed what our rather vengeful son wanted to know…”can we shoot a dog if it tries to eat our sheep?” The answer was an unequivocal “yes”. However, as it is highly unlikely that we will be shooting rampaging dogs, we have opted for a number of polite notices alerting dog owners to the dangers of letting dogs off the leash near a sheep field. We have also put up another 50 meters of mesh to make it even harder for dogs to get into the field.

Poor lamb.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Mr Ram arrives

Hooray - we now have a ram in the flock!

What an exciting time for the sheep flock, the past few days have been a hive of activity. We separated the lambs from the ewes, put the lambs in a different field and then introduced the ram to the ewes. We know that he has been a very busy as we fitted a harness to him that held a red crayon - this then leaves a red mark on the ewe. A good number of the ewes are already marked red which is promising. We'll change the colour of the wax crayon in 3 weeks time and will then be able to see which ewes have taken.

The lambs seem happy enough in their new field. We put up a rubbing post for them (identical to the one in their first field) and they seem to be enjoying it. I'm sure they are getting up to all sorts of mischief now that they are away from the older more sensible ewes and it is also clear that a new pecking order has been established.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Happy Hallowe’en

We were really chuffed about this one…our own massive pumpkin lanterns for Hallowe’en? Isn’t that just great! The children certainly thought so! We spent an afternoon scooping them out and carving the scary faces (completed with fake blood dripping from the terrifying teeth!). Big pumpkins are, of course, a lot easier to dig out than the small ones as you can get the spoon in much easier. Doesn’t begin to compare to childhood agonies trying to make neep lanterns…a turnip is not quite as yielding as a nice pulpy pumpkin. We dried out the pumpkin seed and will fry them up with sugar and Worcester sauce to make nice healthy nibbles.

I am pleased to report that we also used some windfall apples to “dook” with. So all in all a very self sufficient Hallowe’en. Can’t say we ate any less chocolate mind you!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Just about ready...

Well, well - I think it's fair to say that Tiny Farmer has had a good lesson in fence buidling! In preparation for the new lambs and ram arriving next week we had to build a fence on another field - this is to keep the lambs away from the ram. The length of the fencing was only 250 metres, but it did need 4 corner posts driven into the ground and has 5 strands of wire. No doubt many many miles were walked in the 6 hours it took to erect the fence. Luckily the weather was kind and it was a sunny day.

So that's it - I think we are just about ready for the new arrivals.

We just have to hope that the ram harness arrives in time now as we only ordered that today - fingers crossed and luckily it's not being sent by post. We will attach a brightly coloured crayon to the harness and will be able to see which ewes have been served by the ram...but more about that next week as it all unfolds.

Tiny Farmer out

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hen Care

Several of our chicken keeping friends have reported infestations of Red Mite. Red Mites are nasty little critters a bit like lice – blood sucking parasites. We’ve been told that the signs to look out for are egg production going down and the chickens starting to peck each other and getting bald patches. Apparently Red Mite has been increasingly common in recent years due to our relatively mild winters (and the mites not getting frozen to death in the coldest months). If your chickens get Red Mite it can be very hard to eradicate and the chicken coop can get re-infested again and again. So prevention is better than cure. So this weekend the children had the job of trying to catch each chicken and dust them all over with a special Red Mite powder. Easier said than done and there were all sorts of clever kids plans involving lettuce leaves and trap doors. However the simplest solution was just to catch each bird using our patented chicken-catching towel , a quick dust and away they go. The children really enjoyed the chance to stroke the birds – who are generally not that keen on being handled. Certainly a fun (and useful!) way to while away an afternoon…

Monday, 19 October 2009

One big happy family

Happy to report that all the ewes are now one big happy flock. They seem to have sorted out who the leaders should be and the older and more dominant ewes seem to have it all under control.

Treat time is now quite comical as we have 27 ewes thundering towards us with much baa'ing. We have two feeding troughs so that the lamb ewes and smaller ewes don't get muscled out by the bigger ones. I guess we'll be getting through quite a bit more sheep mix now than when there were only 7 - time to start buying in bulk!

We trimmed the whole flock’s feet on Friday and gave them all a worm treatment. This was a good opportunity to look at the new arrivals closely, which was just as well as some of their feet needed quite a bit of attention and care. We will watch this closely over the next few months and make sure that they get sorted. I could tell that we'd handled 27 sheep rather that 7 by the state of my hamstring muscles on Saturday…well I guess it beats paying gym fees eh?

The next big job is to get the fencing sorted before the arrival of the ram and some more lambs in a few weeks. With the flock a bit bigger now we also need to get a better water system as we won't want to be taking water to the whole flock on a daily basis. Right, thinking cap on then!

Tiny Farmer out

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Look ewe's arrived...

Well, we did it...we drove all the way to Wiltshire and came back with another 20 sheep! If you were travelling on the M25 or M3 and were held up by the trailer full of sheep please accept my apologies.

The Tiny Farmer flock sure has grown and the "baa" chorus that greets us at feeding time is now quite loud. The new members to the flock are a mixture of lambs, 2 year old ewes and a few 3 and 4 year olds, hopefully this will instill a certain amount of sense come lambing season next year.

The original 7 ewes are now separated from the new arrivals by electric fence for the moment. This will hopefully give the new lot a chance to settle in and also allow the whole group to become familiar before being combined into one flock.

Friday is a big sheep day as we'll be trimming feet on the whole flock and giving them all a worming treatment - dealing with 27 will be a big step up from 7. I expect that Friday will be an early night after rugby tackling so many sheep in one day.
The next big day in the sheep calendar is November 1st when the ram arrives, accompanied by another 8 lambs. That will take the Tiny Farmer flock up to maximum capacity, for now anyway...

Tiny Farmer out

Friday, 9 October 2009


OK we'll admit it, we're not great fans of marrows - well not enough to want to eat them at every meal for the next 2 months, which is what we'd have to do to get through the amount we have.
We planted quite a few courgette plants on the allotment and have eaten quite a few courgettes from them - but then almost overnight the rest of the crop turned into an army of monster marrows. We have enjoyed having them on display with our pumpkins and squashes and have tried all sorts of different recipes but sadly there is not a lot of enthusiasm in this family when it comes to eating the things.
However, we hate to see vegetables go to waste so having given away as much as possible to every marrow-eating friend and neighbour we could think of, we finally decided to set up a free marrow stall outside our house. To be honest, we weren’t holding our breath that any of them would disappear – even if we were literally giving them away. But, amazingly, after only a couple of hours our large pile of gargantuan courgettes had vanished.
With Macmillan Coffee morning coming up we decided to repeat the exercise, only this time we left a "charity box" out for people who wanted to give a donation to Macmillan - so win win all round - we no longer have a glut of marrows, money has been raised for Macmillan and people will be enjoying the marrows.
So a big thanks to all the marrow loving passerby's and thanks to all who donated.
Enjoy the marrows!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Tiny Farmer Mutton Bash

We wanted to thank everyone who had been supportive of the Tiny Farmer project this year – so we decided to have a bit of a celebration. No ordinary food fest would do though, so we decided to salute that slightly outmoded meat – mutton. We sourced a ewe (rare breed Norfolk Horn), from the same farm that will be providing our lamb for the lamb share in the next few months, and had the butcher prepare three equal portions of burgers, sausages and diced mutton for a curry.

50 burgers, 60 sausages and 6kgs of curry seemed a sufficient amount to keep everyone's hunger at bay. It also gave us a good excuse to prepare vast quantities of potato salad and beetroot salad (using the supplies from the allotment).
We certainly enjoyed the bash and hope to be able to do something similar next year again. I guess it's a kind of Tiny Farmer harvest celebration, with a twist…

Party out of the way and thoughts are now turning to the new additions to our own flock of Black Welsh Mountain ewes. 10 breeding ewes, 14 ewe lambs and a ram will be arriving in the next few weeks. The ram will tup the 17 ewes (our existing 7 plus the new 10) and the 14 new lambs will need a separate field as we wouldn't want them tupped this year. That should take the Tiny Farmer flock numbers up a bit - the kids are very excited!
Best get on with that fencing then…

Thursday, 24 September 2009

New website & wheat update

Well well - Tiny Farmer has a shiny new website at and we are very pleased with the result. Our meat shares have grown quite a bit over the past while and we thought it appropriate to have something decent for people to look at and also help us share our message of welfare friendly meat.

Now on to the all important wheat...

Yes, finally we managed to harvest some of the wheat. Most of the wheat field was actually weeds and grasses interspersed with a few beautiful meadow flowers. However with our trusty sickle we got in a bit of the harvest. Cutting wheat by hand really is back breaking work….and that is just the start of it!
The ears of wheat then had to be separated from the stalks – which took ages and is very rough on the hands. Next the wheat has to be separated from the chaff (by means of pummeling a bag of the stuff on the back patio and throwing it up to let the chaff blow away)
…and that is before we even start to think about grinding the stuff. Phew, this is going to be one labour intensive loaf of bread…

I think we'll have to frame it in a special box as you wouldn't want to eat something that had taken that much time.
I somehow think we might be careful about planting another field of wheat next year, that is unless we can source a mini combine harvester from there's a thought.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Tractor time

Hooray - got to play on the tractor last week again as we cut the grass fields in preparation for winter. The fields all look very neat now and hopefully there will be enough grass for the sheep through the winter period, if not we will have to bring in some hay.
Time on the tractor is very enjoyable and it's good to see every bit of the fields up close. Somehow hours just seem to evaporate - it's definitely one of the more fun activities!!!

While we had the tractor we took the opportunity to cut all of the weeds down on the allotment (we'd harvested as much wheat as we could - we'll post about what happened to that later in the week). The allotment looks much tidier and we'll be doing that again in the future. The only crops now left to harvest are potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkins, kale, leeks & beetroot. This will be enough for a few weeks and then we'll have to revert to the trusty market for most of our veg again.

We also took the opportunity to check the sheep's feet and apply the pour-on medication that prevents fly strike. As always the sheep were not that pleased at being caught and will no doubt be grumpy with us for the next few days - nothing that a few molasses flavoured sheep treats can't fix.

This morning we took some hoggets and a ewe that we had sourced from a local farmer to the butcher. The hoggets will be for a meat share and the ewe will be used to make mutton curry, mutton burgers & mutton sausages for a Tiny Farmer bash that we'll be throwing soon.

As you can tell from the above it's been a very busy week, but also a very satisfying one...

Stay tuned to hear what happened to our wheat.

Monday, 14 September 2009


No, not that kind of Neighbourhood Watch…we’re all watching each other’s fruit trees. In the spirit of neighbourhood barter we have been plundering each other’s gardens in search of windfall apples and plums. In return for our fruit we have received jam and with other people’s apples we’ve made excellent pies.

It is also time for blackberrying. We love cycling to our local park to pick blackberries. Sadly this year’s crop has been very disappointing. Not because of a lack of fruit – but because of the number of new foragers who have got there before us. For years we were the only ones out with our old ice cream boxes filling up with fruit for the freezer. But I suspect that the current media obsession with GYO, Digging In etc is encouraging more people to get out into the hedgerows. Good! The more people who get to enjoy autumn blackberries the better!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tiny Farmer by the Sea

The Tiny Farmers have been on holiday. Of course, going away for a week meant there was no one to look after the sheep or the chickens. However, we managed to get hold of a sheep-sitter (really!) and fortunately have hen-loving neighbours who are only too happy to look after our brood when we are away. The allotment, however, has been left to its own devices and we are dreading going as we may not be able to find our vegetables after 2 weeks of unchecked weed growth!

We are glad to report that we did try and take a bit of the self-sufficient spirit with us on vacation. We all went mackerel fishing one day and managed to catch our supper! Delicious!

On an entirely different note we tried one of the hams that we have been preparing. This one was salted for 4 weeks and then air dried for 3 months. We were absolutely amazed that it tasted anything like ham - we were all very sceptical especially seeing as the ham was air dried over the summer months.Very happy to report that it was very very tasty indeed and we will certainly be doing a lot more of that. to go and deal with those weeds at the allotment.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Tiny Farmer Beef!

As usual when there is not much action on the blog it’s an indication of lots of action at Tiny Farmer HQ. Last Thursday we finally took delivery of the first of our 21day aged Angus beef. We had orders for 22 boxes of 10kg and 5kg packs and it was quite a logistical feat getting the meat from the butcher and to our friends. The meat had to be transported in iced poly boxes and we hired a refrigerated truck to keep everything cool before each box was delivered.

It was great to be getting the beef to all the people who had placed orders over a month ago. It was even better to get phone calls and emails from people the next day telling us how much they enjoyed their steaks!

On the sheep side of things…

It was quite a family affair when we went up to worm the sheep the other day. They needed to be wormed and have their toenails trimmed. So while dad rugby tackled the each sheep to the ground and got her in a non-struggling upright position, mum prepared the worming syringe and youngest daughter stood by with the spray marker to put a red dot on each sheep that had been treated. An unusual way for the family to spend a Saturday afternoon but good fun all the same.

We also took the opportunity to visit the allotment and dig up yet more potatoes and beetroot (and cabbage and marrows and beans…). As you can see one of us at least is getting very handy with a fork.

Veg boxes are now our routine visiting gift!

And lastly the chicken…

We couldn't believe that we had reached the end of our chicken supply (they were the 12 chickens that we had ordered before Christmas last year and were the first items in our freezer). Luckily the farmer had some more ready so we collected 6 oven ready chickens on Sunday. 3 of them have been cut up so that we can have the usual stir fries, curries & all important BBQ supplies and the remaining 3 will be ready for roasting as and when over the coming months.

The next big job is making sure that we harvest the tiny amount of wheat that did manage to grow at the field. Despite best intentions over the past few weeks to get this task done it keeps slipping off the "to-do" list. Stay tuned for progress...

Tiny Farmer out.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


It is, of course, no surprise that we now have too much veg. We are absolutely coming down with beetroot, French beans and tatties. Not to mention the cabbages and the squashes (which are growing like triffids!). Fortunately we have some very grateful friends and neighbours who are only too willing to take excess veg off our hands. We recently sent a whole sack of potatoes off to Scotland with our returning relatives. We have given potatoes to all our neighbours and have something of a barter situation going on with apples from a nearby garden. Some kind souls have even offered to buy veg from us and I have to admit that it is quite satisfying being able to put together a whole variety of home grown vegetables in one box.

We are getting quite used to the art of blanching and freezing. Here is just one freezer drawer full of frozen veg.

It is a little of our supply of beans and beetroot. We are not entirely convinced that beetroot will freeze well – though all the experts say it is fine. So we have tried various techniques – boiling and dicing and baking and quartering etc – to increase chances of success. We are still eating tons of beetroot grated raw in salads - and we’ve even tried the chocolate and beetroot muffins. We are less concerned about the frozen French beans – which look fresh and green and ready to eat. Very much looking forward to eating through that supply over the winter months.