Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Love it when a plan comes together

Excitement here at Maes-y-Delyn, over the past few days. Some things may seem more trivial than others, but after a long few weekends of hard work, it’s exciting to see the end of a project, and it all coming together!

Whilst it was another full on weekend, and there are always the general jobs to do. This weekend we finished (well it could do with another coat of paint, but still) our mini cattle yard! So our poddies moved out into the paddock- although protected for the moment. And reinforced with mesh, since Ruby decided to show her ingenuity and wandered out to Betty (our heifer) all on her own. We think it may have been a fluke, but the fact is she managed it.

The move itself went better than we could have expected. We cut the barb wire in the fence, ready. And lead them down the garden with the lure of a bottle. At 3 months, they are still being bottle fed; though now we are trying to wean them. So exposing them to the paddock, with access to fresh grass (and an older cow to show them what to do) will hopefully assist; since I have cut their bottle feeds to once a day. For the time being they will remain in the yard, unless supervised. But as they get bigger they will eventually integrate.  As we have had them we have witnessed them grow, dramatically… but in the big wide world, they look so small.

As I mentioned we cut the fence to move the cows, and this was part of another job that has been lingering on the ‘to do list’ for a while… our own gate to the paddock. Now this may not seem like such an exciting thing, but it is!

For the last year our only means of accessing our paddock has been through the neighbour’s field; which he has been very kind in letting us do or involved climbing through the lines on barbed wire… which was not always straightforward. As when we bought the place there was already a gate into the field, via the rear garden or shed. Problem with this is, as it turned out when we had the alignments surveyed (long story) most of the gateway and ½ the ground our tanks sat on, belonged to next door.  So between moving the tanks and the temporary fencing this access has not been practical to say the least. So especially as we will be going into the field daily to feed the calves, having a gate is wonderful.

Another bit of anticipated excitement is the imminent arrival of more piglets; Sage and (fingers crossed) for our first pure Berkshire litter.  Having handed over the final pair of sow from Christmas Hams litter on Sunday; much to her relief- she’s been running around like a lunatic ever since and took no time in re-establishing her place in the hierarchy.  So I promptly cleaned and re-stocked the pen for the next farrowing sow. SO Sage is happily settling in, though she is looking big (not huge, as its her first litter) she doesn’t look ‘low’ or ‘full’ yet. So hopefully be the end of the week.



In other new arrivals, our geese proudly and noisily announce their new arrivals Monday morning! To be honest I thought there must have been some unexpected or unwelcome visitor… as they make rather good guard dogs as well as snake catchers. But I opened the curtains to all 3 geese and their 3 goslings!  I did get a closer look this morning; however they have 3 very closely doting parents; so not that close.

So with the major constructions and animal excitement we have not done a great deal in terms of the garden. I did plant out a few more Rosella bushes along the fence; following the success of the rosella jam… so fingers crossed for a good yummy crop next year. Given the chickens leave them alone long enough.  But otherwise we have been mostly reaping the benefits of our previous efforts- We do need to get a few new seeds in ASAP to make the most of spring.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Poultry progress... goosey, goosey, gander...turkeys & chicks

2 day old Indian game chick (foreground),
day old Sussex chick (back ground), 
Goose eggs beside 
Plymouth Rock & Silver Sussex
We have had a small gaggle of geese for around a year now and they are finally laying… well at least one is. So having collected the first few eggs, as they were lying here and there with no obvious sign of a nest, she finally started nesting.

So the three we collected are in the incubator and I think our goose is sat or 3 or 4 herself. And she is very attentive nester, covering her nest whenever she leaves for feed or a drink; we're rather grateful that she is leaving for these, as some girls become quite ill and unwell as they refuse to leave their nests for anything.

Fortunately the geese are not too aggressive, they are a little protective when you approach the nest, but we don't really have any need to. So not a bad spot to nest... well not now we've given her a shelter anyway. Originally she was sat in the hot sun, panting! I know its winter here, but the temperatures still reach the mid- 20's and it is still hot in the direct sun.

So she did allow me near the nest to place this cover over for her... think she understood that I was not there to harm her or her nest.

As for those in the incubator we were a little concerned they wouldn't fit, but they do. Strangely though, through our research (having never had goose eggs before) we have to submerse them in warm water after 14 days.

From candling there did appear to be action in two of the three, however one appears to have stopped... so fingers crossed for a few goslings later this month!

In other poultry happenings our Silver Sussex (definitely 2 roosters and a hen) and pair of Plymouth rocks progressed to the big wide world. Whilst our intention is to keep them in a secure run during the day for the time being, they did appear at home at the weekend; investigating the wider parts of the garden (and patio).

This made room for the bantam Indian Game chicks and older turkey poults to move outdoors. And for the brooder box inhabitants to shuffle around to make room for a few new arrivals.
One successful Indian Game chick (from our 2 dozen eggs) and a Light Sussex (or possibly cross) stolen from under the turkeys. These we have removed as they have continued to sit, and the hens continue to replenish thier nest. So hopefully they will forgive us and return to the flock.  


Piggy happenings…

Well the piglets are almost ready for their new homes! And I don’t think it can come quick enough for mum, but when you see them pile on her for a feed, you can kind of see why!

Feed time
They are definitely big enough to leave their Mum having eaten solid food from around the 2nd or 3rd day, so they really do not need her milk now. And even ‘Berky’ our grower has begun to pay them attention through the fencing, something he hasn’t really done until now, guess they were too small. And am sure Christmas Ham will be happy to be a member of the mob again. They regularly congregate around an area of the pen where she is, and her tail ‘wags’. Pigs are exceptionally social and intelligent animals, so penning them off does seem harsh at time, though it is necessary for the protection of their young and to minimise stress to the sow.
Berky grooming his Dad
Smokey grooming him too

So the first should be collected Friday morning and hopefully the rest in the following week. It is always sad to see them head off to their new homes. But there is some urgency to their rehoming on this occasion as we need the farrowing pen for Sage our Berkshire girl, who only as a few weeks until she has her first litter.

We have been a little reserved in discussing her pregnancy as, as with Christmas Ham’s first litter she hasn’t ‘shown’ until recently. So there is always some doubt, particularly with our lack of success with Streaky, our original Berkshire sow…or should that be gilt? As she never had a litter.

However, as you can see Sage is beginning to fill out and looking increasingly subdued in the warm winter sunshine.

We have also rotated their pen, allowing them to graze in the vegetated portion and sectioning off another area to recover. As the winter months are dry, we are regularly watering this area to encourage regrowth. Although this is not really a ‘garden’ it is part of our method to maintain our own fodder supply. That and the pigs manure creates a very fertile environment and the fruit and vegetables we feed them, tend to successfully propagate… so we regularly harvest or transfer some plants to our gardens whilst the area is establishing. Once it has, the pigs are allowed in and the process begins again.

Welcome to spring

What a weekend and welcome to spring. Where did the weekend, go... or August and winter for that matter!
I firstly want to apologise, as I had written up a blog as part of the Garden Share Collective- an initiative of another Liz of  www.strayedtable.com/grow/garden-share
The purpose idea being a collective of bloggers share their gardening experiences, no matter how big; container gardeners to farms on a monthly basis; discussing the highs and lows, their plans and their harvests. I felt that although our smallholding is a lifestyle choice, aimed at self-sufficiency, the gardening aspect is probably under represented. Possibly due to my lack of ‘green fingers’ and that plants are not as dynamic as animals. However that does not mean they are any less important to our way of life and therefore a monthly update and discussion would be a great addition, and may even widen our current online audience and community, gaining new ideas and inspiration from others and vise versa.
So back to my apology. As our first blog for this community I had the text written up, but wanted to add a few pictures… and that’s where it all went wrong. The weekend has come and gone and I missed the deadline. So I still wished to mention the collective, as I feel it is a wonderful initiative, which I stumbled upon through blogs I regularly read. And hope to participate (and be more organised) for next month.
And as such our month of August saw the addition of a few fruit trees. As a general rule our plants

and animals all serve a purpose, generally (but not limited to food). Therefore our boundary fencing has seen a few additions over the past year, and a few more this month. As we planted a few finger limes along the pig pen. These spikey foliaged large shrubs/ small trees, will hopefully develop into a hedge, providing privacy and screening from the road (for us and the pigs), as well as a wind break, shade and fruit.

Further along we have added a couple of carob trees and a second mulberry. We already have one that we planted as a seedling last year (that has begun to fruit), along with a Mangosteen, a few rosella bushes and a macadamia seedling.
We have a ‘dwarf orchid’, well a collection of dwarf fruit trees surrounding our bio-tank. This is a waste management system and the trees make the most of the water it supplies. We replaced a few unsuccessful trees with a couple of cumquats, as well as another Brazillian cherry tree.
Otherwise this month my garden has been reasonably neglected. Well neglected may be a little harsh, our main attention has been watering, since the dry season is well underway. So we haven’t planted anything new, merely support and enjoying (harvesting) what we have. As I have mentioned time and time again, I am not naturally ‘green fingered’ so anything that is resilient or self seeding has a place in my patch, especially the herb bed. Our basil continuously produces and seeds, the oregano makes a fabulous ground cover and even the coriander has begun to grow (from last years plant). I love the herb bed, its set along side the shed, so is close to the house (and kitchen) and provides alovely fragrance along the path.
We are also reaping the rewards from our ‘vine patch’; tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchinis. Our raised bed has a major first is our corn, so far they are growing well, so shall keep you posted. Interplanted with cucumbers (that have begun to flower), Asian veggies (bok choi, pak choi, chinese cabbage), radishes and (on the fencing- to keep chooks out) snow peas; that are abundant at the moment!
The strawberry patch is thriving along with the fennel and eggplant (making up the 2nd raised bed), whilst the capsicum and Ceylon spinach, along with my ‘bunching brocolli’ are holding on- though sum what in need of some TLC, whilst the carrots and celery thrive at th other end of the 3rd rasied be.
Then there are a few patch beds homing the lettuces; that bolt and continue to be self seeding and our bunching onions, that again provide a continuous supply.    
As for what we were doing all weekend that was so important that I missed the deadline.
Our cattle shed- this shed constructed from salvaged materials will provide security and shelter for our poddies, as they are due (over due) to migrate to the paddock.
The frame was initially a chook run, that was to be scrapped and the roofing and cladding were recycled from an old roof.  It may appear small for a cattle shed, but as we do not have a large property and therefore will not have a great number of animals, it should be more than sufficient.