Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Veggie Harvest

Wow! What a feast of veg! This a just a taste of the kind of harvest we are reaping these days. No more vegetable boxes for this household.

As you can see we have a fantastic supply of summer veg – potatoes, broad beans, beetroot, cougettes, rather overgrown marrow-sized cougettes. One of the great things about growing your own is that you can pick them at the size you think is tastiest e.g. small broad beans seem much more palatable to me than those big fat leathery ones, we also much prefer baby courgettes to the enormous marrows we ended up with by mistake. We have also been trying out new recipes and have over come some childhood prejudices to certain vegetables e.g. broad beans which are fantastic in Italian salads or fried with tomatoes and onions; and beetroot – again, lovely grated in salads or baked or as salad leaves etc etc. It is amazing how over cooked (or horribly pickled!) vegetables can put you off for a very long time.

We have been generously handing out mini veg boxes to friends as we have definitely over-planted this year. We have also had a very great pleasure of having friends over to dinner and being able to produce a completely self-sufficient meal.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Have You Any Wool?

Well, yes…seven bags full actually.

There’s quite a bit of wool on a Welsh Mountain sheep and they must’ve been feeling pretty hot as the temperature soared to 24degrees yesterday. So it was great to get the shearer in last night to give the girls a haircut for the summer.

Sheep shearing is a highly skilled job – a large part of the skill is being able to keep strong wriggly animals still for long enough to shear them without giving them a nick with the shears. Our sheep are even more difficult because they are black and this makes it very difficult to see the skin from the wool. The shearer did a fantastic job and I think you will agree that they look quite different with their new short hair.

In fact, they look so different they often cannot recognize each other for a while and this resulted in two of them having a bit of a butting session till they sorted out who was who!

Shearing seven black sheep in the corner of a field is not a very common sight these days – so it was not surpising that several passing cars stopped to have a look and were every bit as entranced as we were.

The only question now is – what to do with all that wool?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Happy Faaather’s Day

Bit worried when we went to check the sheep the other night and discovered one of them was limping. The next day she looked even worse so we decided to have a look and see what the trouble was. Easier said than done, of course. It is a two man job to round the flock up and get them penned in and then shepherd them into the ark and try and find the right one without losing all the rest (if only we’d trained our dog about seven years ago!).

Anyway after catching no 560 and giving her a good checkup we were relieved it was nothing to do with the foot trimming exercise last week. We sprayed a little antiseptic on, just in case. She seemed to be very distressed when we touched her leg. There was no obvious damage but she may well have knocked it against something and got a bit of a bruise. The happy conclusion to the story is that she was up and about and ready for action within a day or two. No 560 was so grateful she even sent a “Happy Faaathers Day” card!

The crops are looking good too. Look at this…

Yes it’s wheat! Can you believe it? After half sowing, half throwing all that seed around all those months ago we really didn’t expect to see anything much come up. But amazingly it has made its way through the weeds and poppies and will soon be turning golden in the summer sun (we hope). Then we can run carelessly through it like something out of a 1970s Flake advert or – on a more practical level – harvest it with a sickle and make some flour. Wow! It’s thrilling!

PS – Defender clearly didn’t like the look of the chicken run and has gone back to her clutch of (fake) eggs. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Defender’s Back!

Great news – Defender’s back! To our amazement she came out of the nesting box of her own volition for the first time in what seems like months (but is probably more like six weeks). Even better news is that we had four eggs today – that means that all the girls are laying again and Defender must have recovered from her bout of broodiness. Phew! Let’s hope she doesn’t pass the baby blues on to anyone else!

The rest of the livestock are looking pretty healthy too. We spent last Friday worming the sheep and trimming their feet. Quite a physical job and they weren’t too keen on the manicure, but once we got them rolled over and sitting back on their haunches they submitted to the inevitable quite meekly. Not sure it will be quite such an easy job in the winter when we’re all mired in mud!

Things are looking good on the field too (the weeds are especially healthy). We have been enjoying the lovely new potatoes and given the masses of maincrops and lates yet to come, it looks like we’ll be self sufficient in spuds for the rest of the year…and possibly 2010…we’re talking lots of tatties….

Friday, 12 June 2009

Our First Self Sufficient meal

Here it is…our first home grown meal. The mangetouts from the garden, potatoes from the allotment and pork from our friend’s pig. It was a great meal and somehow tasted even better, knowing that none of it had ever been part of a supermarket supply chain! We are hoping for many more meals like this now that the vegetables are coming on so well.
As you can see the mangetouts are doing really well….the only problem is that the children have discovered them, so I can’t imagine many will actually make it as far as the kitchen table. All the early spuds in the garden are in flower now, so we’ll start digging them up in a couple of weeks. The carrots and beetroot are looking very healthy too but still a little bit too small yet. We have a glut of onions and shallots, so I imagine we’ll soon be trying to dry them and weave them into big bunches… (then get a beret and a bike and French accent and we’re in business!)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Making the sheeps house a home....

The past few days have seen a flurry of activity on the sheep field.

First to appear was the scratching post. We just took 2 fence posts and drove them into the ground with the post driver. It looks like the sheep might even be using it as there are traces of wool all over it now. I hope they are enjoying it...

Next to arrive was the field shelter for the sheep. We ordered an ark that should be able to house up to about 15 sheep, so at least there is room to grow. The sheep hurdles also arrived which means that we'll now be able to round them up for shearing, worming and checking their feet occasionally.

We even managed to tempt them inside the sheep hurdles. We'll use the next few days to get them used to the hurdles and they will remain out, this is so that they don't only associate the hurdles with being herded into the pen. Otherwise you can just imagine that they'd run to the far corners of the field every time they saw the hurldes appear. I hope it works.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Grass cuttings...

Yesterday we got to play with a tractor and topper and cut the grass on the 5 acres of sheep fields. Driving the tractor was an enormous amount of fun and I am already looking forward to the second cutting later in the year.

Having said it was fun, it was also really hard work - didn't even stop for a lunch break and ate my sandwich on the move.
Despite the fields looking relatively smooth, they are actually quite bumpy when you drive over them (even in a tractor with a suspension seat!).
It was a good chance to get to see every single inch of the fields up close. I think they will benefit from some scarifying next spring - more tractor driving - what a shame...
The sheep seemed very happy with the result and I'm sure that they will enjoy the results of the labour. You can see them in the distance investigating the first strip of cut grass, they really are a curious bunch.

This weekends task will be to erect a rubbing post for them made from 2 round fence posts. I think they will enjoy it - and it's also a better option than them using the Land Rovers bumpers and doors, which they were doing yesterday.

The next week or two will be quite focused on the sheep; they are being wormed next Friday and will also need to be sheared in the next 2 weeks at the latest. Let's hope those sheep hurdles that I ordered arrive soon, otherwise I can imagine that hours will be spent trying to herd the sheep.
Might be time to ask our mad Springer Spaniel to to try and double up as a sheep dog...on second thoughts, and knowing our dog...that would probably just add to the chaos.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Henny Penny's huge egg

The chickens’ eggs are gradually getting bigger. When they first started laying the eggs were a bit on the titchy side but now are approaching average egg dimensions. However, we really weren’t prepared for Henny Penny’s super large egg. As you can see, the usual egg size on the left is dwarfed by that huge white egg on the right. No wonder there was a lot of clucking coming from the nesting box that morning – ouch! We haven’t eaten the egg yet so are just assuming it is a double yoker – or maybe a gift from a passing ostrich.

Tomorrow is a big day for the sheep as the grass in their field is being cut down to a sensible height. I'm sure they'll enjoy not being lost in the grass. I, of course, will enjoy playing with the small tractor...

Tiny Farmer out