For many days the UK has been gripped by the ‘Beast from the East’, snow and freezing temperatures tucking signs of spring firmly under a white blanket. Now storm Emma approaches from the Atlantic bringing more snow, clashing with Siberian air causing icy high winds and blizzard conditions. The entire country is now under a severe weather warning with worse yet to come, parts of Scotland, south-west England and Wales are on red alert for snow. Lives are at risk.
Even though it’s still snowing here in the east of England and so cold I can barely feel my fingers, I feel our region has got off lightly so far compared to some. Having said that, those with livestock to care for makes things difficult wherever you are. Our chickens refuse to leave the coops and drinkers freeze within half an hour of refilling. I really feel for farmers and smallholders, plus it is lambing season.
The above photo was taken yesterday on my phone with shaky cold hands! Today the garden is completely submerged and it’s too cold to stand around taking photos. Us Brits have a good moan about the weather, hot or cold we’ll find something to complain about but we really are getting our a*se whopped right now.
Well, I almost fainted. What a great start to 2018!
First up I’d like to thank Bed-Down for running such a generous competition and for picking little ol’ me as the winner. I’ve never won anything quite like this before, the coop will really come in handy when we build the extra chicken run we’ve planned for some time now, more about that soon. The bedding smells divine and being super soft it’s particularly perfect for tatty ex battery hens needing some extra TLC and a nice soft bed to rest in at night. I know our hens are going to love snuggling down in it. Thank you to Marriage’s for the Royal Variety mixed corn, I can honestly say it’s the best we’ve ever used with our chickens. It’s contains pieces of carrot, peas and sunflower seeds, our hens go bonkers for it.
The coop and bedding were delivered to us a couple of days ago, I’m not well enough to have a photo done with it just yet due to recent surgery so Bed-Down kindly allowed me to use theirs. Once I’m able to I will take more photos and move some chickens in! Hurrah!
Superior quality bedding crafted from the finest, golden wheat straw, sustainably harvested fresh from Norfolk fields before being chopped and dust extracted with our unique Easy Breathe™ process for better respiratory health.
Encourages the natural behaviour of poultry!
Cozy Chicken at a glance
Poultry bedding from chopped and improved wheat straw
Insulating in winter, light and airy in summer
Durable, absorbent, comfortable for hens
Keeps eggs safe and clean
Naturally anti-bacterial & anti-fungal
Pleasant natural pine fragrance
Great value for money, easy to use & store
If you don’t already follow Bed-Down on Facebook please do look them up and give their page a ‘like’. Follow Bed-Down on Twitter too. Keep your eyes peeled for more competitions throughout the year, you never know your luck!
This year has been a tricky year for me with regards to my health. As some of you are already aware I had surgery in June which meant I couldn’t spend much time at all in my beloved vegetable garden during the best part of summer. The garden and blog were neglected and so the best part of autumn has been spent getting the veg beds and paths under control – which we managed to do before all the heavy snow arrived!
I’m scheduled for major surgery in a few weeks time but I plan to be fighting fit and back on my feet in the greenhouse sowing the first seeds of spring as soon as I can (I might be a little late with it all depending on how I feel but everything catches up eventually!). I look forward to reading blogs and watching YouTube channels to see what you’ve all been up to in your gardens, allotments and smallholdings as I recover.
As this year comes to a close I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for following our small but precious backyard farm / garden smallholding journey, not just on the blog but via social media too. I wish you all a happy 2018 and a great growing year ahead.
Last weekend we collected our tree from Stagsden Christmas Trees. A local family run business, we go there every year and just adore their Christmas shop.
I love decorating the tree, it’s one of the things I love most about Christmas. Our collection of tree ornaments has grown considerably since we first started buying them, right before the birth of our first child, over 20 years ago.
Wooo it’s Halloween (eeek!) and it’s a bit chilly outside! I’m having a rummage through seed packets and giving them a sort out, then I’ll be splitting garlic bulbs into single cloves ready for planting soon. Vampires won’t bother me today *cue evil laugh*.
Meanwhile, the latest news from the garden smallholding….the hens are busy scoffing carving out the insides of pumpkins for us. But I’d better be quick to collect the empty skins!
What? No free ranging? Are you kidding me??!! Afraid not kiddo.
We haven’t allowed our chickens to free range since early December 2016. The Chief Veterinary Officer declared a Prevention Zone to help protect poultry and other captive birds from a strain of Avian Influenza (H5N8) in Europe. Since the Prevention Zone was announced, cases have been confirmed across the UK. By continuing to keep our flock separate from wild birds and maintaining biosecurity measures on our premises, we’re doing the very best we can to protect our chickens from this threat.
Updates and further information regarding Avian Influenza and the current situation are available on the DEFRA website, please do keep checking to make sure you are complying with the latest prevention zone requirements. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu
We had a wonderful Christmas but I find the run up to New Year a little boring. I love family time but I’m not one to sit around for hours/days on end doing nothing, I get the urge to do something other than eat junk and fall asleep in front of the TV watching the obligatory Christmas repeats of Only Fools and Horses.
I decided to review the blog during the quiet moments over the holidays and it quickly dawned on me that I missed some things out during 2016. The Monthly Peek at the Veg Garden posts ended rather abruptly in June (I have no idea why and I’m sorry about that) and in July we went to Beer near Seaton, a delightful fishing village in East Devon with a visit to River Cottage HQ while we were there. It was an amazing holiday and I’m stumped as to why I didn’t blog about it?!
I’m going to amend all of that by sharing photos of the gorgeous Jurassic Coast scenery in Beer and Seaton (I had to really cull the photos down, otherwise this post will never end!) and our memories of River Cottage HQ. I’ve thrown a couple of our garden harvests in too!
There’s a village by the sea, it’s a little piece of heaven and the angels call it Beer …
Beer is a fishing village in East Devon, England. The village faces Lyme Bay and is a little over one mile west of the coastal town of Seaton. If you’d like to know more about this beautiful unspoilt sea village, please do take a look at this informative website: http://www.beer-devon.co.uk/about/
Our dining experience visit to River Cottage HQ in Axminster was just amazing. Arriving at 6pm we were transported in groups by tractor and trailer down the famous winding hill to the even more famous white farmhouse. Being a massive fan of River Cottage I did get ridiculously excited as the house grew in size as we got nearer.
After getting off the trailer we entered a huge yurt, there we were greeted with delicious canapes and offered shots of a local-made cider, being Kingston Black for our evening. We were then encouraged to explore our surroundings including the River Cottage farmhouse and kitchen garden.
We made our way to the barn to be seated for our meal, the seating arrangement encourages you to get to know your fellow diners with many sharing starters (as well as many individual ones) to break the ice. The food was just as delicious as I imagined it to be, fresh seasonal food from the kitchen garden and farm as well as local produce too. The staff were informative and welcoming, the kitchen is left open for you to pop your head round the door to meet the chefs if you wish. The ingredients for each dish were explained, Hugh’s philosophy for fresh home-grown produce, animal welfare and supporting local producers/smallholders/farmers was very evident.
I can honestly say I’ve never eaten so much in one evening! Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and if you have any other dietary requirement the staff are only too pleased to help.
As we climbed back into the trailer in the dark it was very obvious the awkwardness of being with strangers at the start of the evening had disappeared. Everyone giggled loudly as the bumpy trailer slowly began climbing the hill. Perhaps it was just the wine! My parents, Rich and I all left with full stomachs and wonderful memories
And last but not least, some harvests from the garden at the end of the year. Ta da!
A little bit of fame this month, my blog (and a little about me) features on page 88 in the February edition of Kitchen Garden Magazine! I’m absolutely delighted my blog was chosen to feature in the Growing Guides section, the pick of the best gardening apps, websites and blogs.
Thank you Tony Flanagan for contacting me, I’m enjoying a good read of my copy with a lovely cup of tea to celebrate.
The autumn equinox, the first day of autumn occurs today. Well hello pumpkins, chunky knits, soup and leaf kicking season! The most beautiful season of all. To celebrate the arrival of autumn, here’s a selection of my favourite autumnal images I’ve had the pleasure to take. Enjoy!
I’ve really enjoyed decorating the house for the festive holiday, the lingering scent of a fresh tree sets the mood for me. There’s something special about fresh greenery in the house at Christmas / Yule, it’s so cheery and beautiful to look at, and it smells wonderful too.
I dressed the fireplace mantle using fresh sprigs of pine, fresh pine cones and ivy from the garden, a simple lit berry garland adds a touch of sparkle. Windowsills were dressed with a mixture of pine branches and ivy, pine cones and bunched cinnamon sticks tied with raffia and dried fruit on wires.
Add a festive touch to your home by bringing a little of the outside in, use things from the garden or collect bits on a walk.
We visited one of our favourite places to walk yesterday, a chance to give our dog a good run and sniffing adventure before the anticipated storm arrived to knock our socks off. It was also a great opportunity to take some photos of beautiful Browns Wood at this magical time of year.
It was a perfect autumnal day and the woods offered plenty of beautiful subjects to photograph. Glowing Field Maple leaves caught my attention, the exotic colour highlighted further by sunlight streaming down onto the tree branches from above.
Looking around at the ground I often find things of interest, like this forgotten tree stump covered in a thick coat of Ivy.
Dried teasel line a long path, separating the new section of woodland from the field beyond. Long grasses sway in the wind, wildflower seed heads rattle eerily, scattering seeds everywhere.
Deeper into the ancient woods, light struggled to filter through from above, creating dramatic light, colour and long shadows.
Exiting the ancient woods, dark and dramatic shadows greet the light from the fields beyond.
Heavy rain fell overnight and it appears our location escaped the damaging wind. Looking at news reports today, others were not so lucky with gusts of up to 105 mph, trees coming down, flooding and loss of power.
Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count took me out of my zoned out state of mind for a while, giving me something else to think about other than how incredibly numb and sad I feel at the moment. Since my last post regarding the loss of one of our beloved dogs, sadly my Nan passed away a couple of days ago. It was expected, she’d been terminally ill for a long while. Although I’m relieved she’s no longer suffering, my heart is crushed. At 39 years old I know how lucky I was to still have a grandparent to confide in, to be spoilt rotten by. I will miss that.
I loved listening to her stories. We recently giggled together like a couple of school girls over her confession of having had a huge crush on Stewart Granger in her younger years. She was a beautiful lady; skin as soft as silk, olive complexion and hardly a wrinkle, sparkling eyes and a naughty grin.
I spent 15 minutes counting butterflies the day after her passing, mesmerised by their beauty and grace, smiling inside, because they reminded me of her.
Our garden is a visual and audible treat at the moment, even though spring arrived a little late this year everything appears to be catching up. The huge pine trees are a nursery to many garden birds right now, twiggy nests can be seen in branches.
Blackbirds are nesting inside the rockery conifers surrounding the pond, occasionally I hear the ‘peep peep’ sound of hungry chicks throughout the day, eagerly awaiting the return of their parents with food. At dusk we are treated to an aerial display of bats hunting, if we listen really carefully we can just make out the distinct clicking-sound. Another nocturnal visitor to our garden and a favourite of mine is the hedgehog, they can be heard snuffling around the lawn at night, on a clear moon-lit evening we might catch a glimpse of one, scurrying off into bushes.
I’ve noticed squirrels digging in the lawn, taking off for the pine trees when I approach. I love watching them leap from tree to tree with the grace and skill of a gymnast. Some of the fruit trees are ablaze with blossom, attracting bumblebees in their numbers, daffodils are just finishing now and Forget-me-nots are taking centre stage, creating a pretty blue haze.
I saw my first ladybird of the year yesterday and a number of butterflies on the wing are passing through the garden too, mainly Peacock. Here’s a great website for those unfamiliar with UK butterfly species: http://www.britishbutterflies.co.uk/index.asp
I love nature, especially during spring. I hope you’re enjoying watching and listening to nature/wildlife in your garden too.