Fruit Garden · Kitchen Garden

The Vegetable Garden and Orchard -Well Eventually!

Apologies to The Garden Smallholder readers lately (especially Do What You Love) for my lack of posts. Aside from my love of the outdoors, gardening and our small scale smallholding, I am in fact a dab hand at decorating. I can now be found most days head to toe in dust, paint and old wallpaper scraps. Attractive huh?

Our bedroom was crying out to be redecorated. I thought I could live with the way it was for at least a little while longer than I have, but my hands started getting that itchy feeling. I could not help myself, before I knew it I had grabbed the stripping knife and the hideous wallpaper was no more. All the walls have been stripped and I am in the process of getting them prepped. The other chore was to removed the polystyrene ceiling tiles. I have aches and pains in the muscles of my arms that I never knew existed. The ceiling is in a bit of a mess now so it needs to be skimmed over by a plasterer at some point when we are feeling a bit flush. Its going to cost a fair few pounds but the end result should look great and far safer than having a fire hazard above our heads! Trouble is I have started eyeing up our sons bedroom. OK, I have gone past the eyeing up stage and whipped the wallpaper from the walls of that room too, but you already guessed that right?

Anyway, on to the garden smallholding which im sure is far more interesting than my decorating woes. I grabbed my camera from its dusty shelf on Sunday and took some snap shots of how the vegetable garden and mini orchard looks now. As you can see its all very messy indeed. I would dearly love to get the ground cleared but im so afraid of disturbing hibernating animals. That would never sit easy with me, the death of a hedgehog or some other poor creature from my doings would really upset me. Good things come to those that wait as they say, so wait I shall.

mini-orchard-to-be

vegetable-garden-post-clear-up-operation

jungle-mess

I think its hard to visualise from these photos and angles how large this area is, it will take some back breaking to get it looking anything like a vegetable garden and orchard let alone plant anything. I guess that’s all part of the excitement. In a strange sort of way I am glad that we did not inherit a beautifully planned, planted and well tendered vegetable plot when we bought the house, because then it would not really feel like ours. Its not all doom and gloom out there though, the main garden is beautiful and has been very well cared for over the years, but there is still plenty of room for us to stamp our wellies all over which is nice. No, its the last section of the garden that we have dedicated our little dream of the good life to that needs all the help it can get.

The sheer hard work, passion and determination to get at least something in the form of a vegetable or fruit tree in the ground this year is all there, bubbling away inside of me. I pray it will be possible, the photos shout “You need a miracle!”

The good news is I have managed to secure offers of help from some big strong lads in the form of my father, brother and of course Richie so roll on late spring I say! Im not work shy, I shall be pulling my sleeves up and mucking in just as much as them. Cannot wait.

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First Snowfall Of The Year

Jasons-snow-pawprint

At last it has snowed. I awoke today to see clean fresh unspoilt snow covering the garden like a blanket. The flakes were falling fast and furious and were big and fluffy, gorgeous! It has been so cold the past few days and nights that I have been surprised that the snow did not come sooner. I took Jason our dog outside with me while I tended to the hens, he had a great time running around and trying to eat the snow. I love snow paws and as you can see from the above photograph, Jason is a big boy! The hens were spared cold feet, they have a roof on their enclosure so the snow did not make it inside, they seemed quite interested in it all the same. I will let them out to free range a little later, this will be their first experience of snow.

Of course our children J & J could not resist coming out to play too, snow and children are a match made in heaven. I think its the only time they do not complain about being cold!

J and J-playing-in-the-snow

By this time the snow was getting pretty wrecked, I love freshly fallen snow but its a shame not to enjoy it. The wild birds will find today pretty hard to find food, so my next job was to refill the feeders after their feast last night. I also scatter seed around for the larger birds. The Pheasants in particular do well out of me, at the last count there were 4 at one time feeding from the ground.

snowy-bird-feeder

The weather forecast predicts more snow, perhaps there will be enough to build a snowman next time?

Plans

Plans and Flu

Veg Garden Gate

For fear of sounding like a right old moaner, I refrained from blogging over the Christmas holidays about the lack of activity within the garden smallholding due to flu hitting our household the week before Christmas. I still cannot seem to shake it. Obviously when you have animals to care for their needs MUST be met everyday, even if you feel like you cannot lift your head from your pillow. Some mornings I felt just like that. A lot of people it seems were affected by this darn flu bug during the Christmas festivities, it really knocks you for six.

The mini orchard plans have come to a grinded halt as well as everything else. I wanted to get some sort of plan drawn up for the vegetable garden, the plot is so overgrown at the moment its hard to visualise where the vegetable beds will be just by looking at it. Im feeling a lot better than I did so I will try and get on with the plans which I think will help tremendously.

Seeds

We are working on the theory of having 5 decent size beds, with one being a permanent bed and the other 4 rotating what we grow each year. How this will work in practise we have yet to see! I think it will help if  we work out exactly what our family are more likely to eat and go from there. It can be very tempting to grow as much as you can squeeze in, but im sure that would lead to waste which I would hate. Also, I dont wish to make the same mistake as last year by punching above my weight attempting crops that were just too difficult for a beginner. Of course they dwindled, shriveled and died and it left me feeling a bit deflated overall. But, I did have some success though!

So my plan for the next few weeks is to come up with some sort of drawing that I can refer back to when the time comes to clear the plot of brambles and nettles. Not all of it is going though, just the area we need for growing our vegetables. We are very lucky to live next to a mini woodland thats bursting with wildlife. I am hoping to see many butterflies this coming spring and summer and leaving the nettles and bramble wildpatch area will be the perfect habitat for some of our native species, and hopefully some good photographs!

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Happy New Year 2009

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope that the new year resolutions you may have made are not too difficult to stick to? I have not bothered this year, simply because I am so rubbish at sticking to them.

Anyway, happy 2009 xx

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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

merry-christmas

Merry Christmas xx

Flower Garden

Quick Tree Update

A while ago I blogged about a neglected apple tree that turned out not to be an apple tree but still a neglected tree regardless. Still with me? Ok, well after examining said tree and pruning hard it came to our attention that the tree was past saving. Basically it was rotten to the core, badly decomposing and not in a good way at all. My dad cut it down for me today, what was left of it will be used for firewood. I feel a bit sad but we will be replacing the tree with many others soon so I suppose this should counteract the negativity. I HATE seeing a tree felled but sometimes I guess it has to be done. Bah!

Chickens

The Good Life

Mrs N

This photo was taken on a warm summers day in August. This is Mrs N, an ex battery chicken who not long ago could only dream of a day spent cooling herself in the dirt, eating grass and insects whilst the sun warmed her feathers. I love this photo, particularly because Mrs N was in such a state when we met her. She has since grown into a confident and happy little hen, just as the other girls have.

I wonder what she was thinking……I wonder if she remembers anything about her battery cage life……hope not.

Chickens

Chicken Knickers

There is something very cute about fluffy chicken knickers. In fact I find myself  photographing chicken knickers a lot when the girls are sporting a nice pair. Over the past 8 months I have built up quite a collection. Ok, this makes me sound very odd indeed now so I shall end this post here and leave you with some of my favourite fluffy knickers images! Hope you like :)

dollys-knicks

lizzies-knickers

lizzie-lilys-bloomers

Dont you just love em!

Fruit Garden

Fruit Trees For A Micro Orchard

apples

After a few days of researching endless varieties of apples and other tree fruit we have at last made a choice of two apple trees, for the time being anyway! We have so far chosen Cox’s Orange Pippin and Discovery. The Cox is self fertile so it does not require another tree to produce a crop, but it could produce a better crop with a pollinator nearby. Discovery on the other hand does need a pollinator, the Cox should fit the bill nicely as they are both in the same pollination group.

We are aware that Cox’s Orange Pippin is known to be temperamental, but because the flavour is so highly praised its got to be worth a try……besides Rich would sulk like a girl if a Cox did not make the final wish list. A variety of plum called Marjorie’s Seedling has also made it onto our wish list, a culinary and dessert plum of rich purple. We did think about a Victoria but decided we would prefer a purple plum instead – a personal preference of ours. We are still undecided about a pear tree but Conference looks like the most likely choice so far. It is a partially self fertile tree so we should really plant a suitable pollinator, but our neighbours garden (which exceeds half an acre) is planted with numerous plums and apples so we should get away with just the one tree. Well thats the plan anyway.

A large section of our garden which is particially overgrown at present (due to be cleared in spring) is where our micro orchard and large vegetable garden will finally reside. Cant wait!

Chickens

The Longest Moult Ever?

rose

This is our lovely Rose, well she is lovely to us anyway. When we got her in April this year her neck feathers were partially missing, whether or not this was the start of her moult or effects of caged life (neck rubbing against the battery cage whilst feeding etc) I just don’t know. Time has gone on and she has moulted out all of her neck feathers, only to regrow the feathers immediately behind her earlobes. The rest of her neck is bare.

Recently she also decided to get shot of her knickers, so each morning I am greeted by her pink bottom. Charming! No sign of her knick knocks making a come back either im afraid, this moult seems to be never ending. I wonder which part of herself she will decide to moult out next? Lily was feather pinching for a bit but seems to have stopped now after a taste of gentian violet spray, courtesy of Rose’s bare bottom. Yum.

I know some moults can take forever, how to help them through it and the reasons behind it etc etc but  I really wish she would grow her clothes back soon, its so cold now I worry for her. Frostbite worries me too (can you tell im a born worrier?) so the vaseline pot came out again today, which of course the girls all love. Not. I have not resorted to smearing it on Rose’s bum just yet but I may have to at this rate, it was -5 here the other night.

Ewwww, the joys of chicken keeping!

Flower Garden

Red Faced and Appleless

Calling all tree spotters – We need a tree identified please!

Let me explain. It seems that the neglected apple tree that we thought we had at the end of the garden is not an apple tree after all, according to a neighbour. But, that leaves us rather stumped (no pun intended) as we do not know what the tree is. Serves me right I suppose, getting all ahead of myself and assuming that it was an apple tree because next door has one that looks similar to ours but tons healthier and with apples on (oh the shame)  bah, im so gutted!

So, all we know is we have a crusty looking tree that failed to leaf this year (when we viewed the house at the end of summer I remember the tree being bare) and it seems for many years according to the neighbour. So what is it?  

tree-trunk

frosty-tree

Wildlife

Frosty Pheasants

pheasant

Another visit from the pheasants, two males this time normally there are three. They peck at fallen seed from the bird feeders. I think they are just magnificent birds and I feel so lucky to watch them feeding in our garden. The photos were taken through a closed bedroom window, if I had attempted to open it I would have scared them away, and they make such a noise when they are alarmed.

frosty-pheasants

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Green Meme #1

A Little Slice Of Life has tagged us, thankyou! I finally managed to grab 5 mins to myself so here goes……

The Guidelines:

1. Link to Green Meme Bloggers

2. Link to whoever tagged you

3. Include meme number

4. Include these guidelines in your post

5. Answer questions (erm – that bit’s quite important)

6. Tag 3 other green bloggers.

1. Name two motivations for being green: 

1. My children. I worry about what state this planet will be in when the time comes for them to have children of their own.

2. Nature, animals and wildlife. I have loved the outdoors since a child and feel most happiest when surrounded by the fruits of nature.

2. Name 2 eco-unfriendly items you refuse to give up

1. My hair dryer, I have very long hair and really need a hair dryer!

2. My car, BUT I am walking more and more and now use it only when necessary.

3. Are you at peace with, or do you feel guilty about no.2?

I feel terribly guilty about what my exhaust fumes are doing to the planet, hence why I would rather walk than drive.

 4. What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?

Probably my car. At the moment I cannot be car free, so im a little stuck with this one.

5. Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?

We have just moved into our current house, and according to the HIP report it is actually not too bad. We are looking into the possibilty of using solar energy some time in the future, this will be something we would consider changing.

6. What’s eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?

Eco frustrating: 

Even though we live in a small rural village, cars are still a boil on the landscape. I would love to travel everywhere by horse, oh what a wonderful world that would be.

Bottle Banks. We dont have any in our village, and the recycling scheme will not take them, so a trip by car is necessary to deposit them in the next village bottle banks. Argghhh!

Eco fantastic:

The local schools are teaching the children to live a more greener lifestyle, they even have a flock of hens and some ducks for the children to look after. The recycling scheme is easy to use.

7. Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow you own?

We have started growing our own. We keep chickens too.  If I buy in produce I prefer organic wherever possible and have been checking out the local produce which is very good so far.

8. What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?

My car ! I really wish I did not need it.

9. Do you have a green confession?

Still having to rely on the supermarket frequently, I hate them!

10. Do you have the support of family and/or friends?

My other half is supportive of my choice to keep hens. He spent all of last weekend in the freezing cold rain putting the roof on the chicken run even though he moans and groans about the hens some of the time, especially when he treads in a chicken poop! One thing I will say though, he is very supportive of my views on intensive farming, particularly battery hens.

My parents grow their own fruit and veg, and enjoy free fresh eggs from our hens.

Ok, I now have to choose 3 other blogs to take part but im struggling to find ones that have not already been tagged! Ok for now I chose Stiggy over at One Man And His Chickens. Hope thats ok?!

Wildlife

Jobs For Winter and Wildlife

Brrr sure is chilly outside and the weather report predicts heavy snow fall which is going to make it tougher for wild birds and other wildlife to find food. One of the first tasks we took on in our garden since move in day was provide the wild birds with feeders of seeds and nuts, fat balls and drinking water. The previous owners of our house fed the birds, we made sure the supply did not end, the birds rely on it now especially as the ground has been frozen solid for the past week or so. For our efforts we have been rewarded by a display of hungry beauties feeding regularly.  A territorial robin defends ‘his’ patch with such passion, the little soldier. A squirrel pinched all the nuts by breaking the netting, I watched him or her carrying the nuts over to the wooded area to bury for the winter months ahead. I dont mind,  plenty of food for the birds and the squirrel needs to eat too!

From all the wild birds that have visited so far, I think the award for the most beautiful to the eye goes to the trio of male pheasants that drop by everyday. I realise that they are interested in our hens, but they also feed on the dropped seeds which saves me a job next year weeding! Another job/project that has now been completed is fitting a roof on the chicken run, joy oh joy the girls stay dry during the wet weather, and I also stay dry whilst attending to the everyday chickeny tasks that need doing yay!

At the very end of the garden (where the vegetables will eventually be grown) is an old and neglected apple tree which to be honest is in a bit of a sorry state. It is in need of a good pruning, hopefully this will give the tree the pick-me-up it so badly needs. I just hope we are not too late to save it. Speaking of vegetables, I would have liked to have at least made a start on digging out some new beds but the ground has just been so frozen solid that I have given up for now. Some ground needs to be cleared of overgrown brambles, but these are going to be left till late spring just in case hedgehogs or other hibernating creatures are tucked safetly inside. Not all of it will go, we plan on leaving a wild patch, also some blackberries!

Apologies for the lack of photos, I have only just got my camera equipment back from my parents who were looking after it for me during the move, there was no way I was allowing it to go on the removal lorry.

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Internet Connection

We are now in our new home, the move went smoothly which was amazing really seeing as we had so many animals to transport! Getting back online has proved tricky though but hey ho it seems to be working now. We will have to play catch up for a bit but hopefully it wont take too long, lots to do and blog about and so many great blogs we have missed reading I see we have been tagged too by Little Slice Of Life

Apologies for not completing your tag yet, we will try and do it as soon as we can, thankyou for thinking of us.

Chickens · Uncategorized

The Hardworking Gardeners

cleaning-up 

The packing is now almost done, just the last few essentials remain. Its all very exciting and scary at the same time, but we are all looking forward to getting settled into our new home in time for Christmas.

Yesterday we spent some time in the garden generally cleaning and tidying around. A few pots of finished plants and veg needed tending to and the hens decided they would like to help ‘clean up’ the woodlice that ran out from under the plant pots, they mostly made a mess but they throughly enjoyed helping us out. After all their hardwork they were treated to a bowl of lettuce, dried mealworms, sweetcorn and grain.

Well, its hungry work this gardening lark!

Chickens

Tough Old Birds, The Morning After Bonfire Night

six-eggs

I spent most of last night worrying myself sick about the hens while the fireworks were whizzing and crashing around, and im sure I was not alone. Our dog does not bat an eyelid at fireworks, in fact he seems to rather like them. I have always said he was wasted on us and should have been a working dog. Our rabbits have seen it all before, if the fireworks get too loud they happily hop into their bedroom department of their hutches and sit it out, but the hens I was very worried for.

I let the girls out earlier than usual this morning, purely because I was fretting about what I would find. All sorts of scary images flashed through my mind, I took a deep breath and opened the pop hole…..my worry was all in vain! They all barged their way eagerly out of the coop like they always do and started eating and scratching around in an instant.

Its amazing really how tough ex battery hens are, but then again I guess they have to be considering their past lives. I did expect their egg production to be down or of poor quality due to the trauma of the fireworks today but again I was wrong, all six hens laid and not one soft shelled egg amongst them.

They truly are tough old birds!

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Exchange Of Contracts, Finally!

The news we have waited so long to hear is finally ringing in our ears, to say we are over the moon is an understatement. This year has been a long and hard road to follow and now we are a step closer to our dream of the good life. Moving day is just around the corner.

Pets

Daft Rabbit and Defender Of Chooks

As we have mentioned before, we have two pet rabbits here. One is a black and white Dutch called Niki, my (Karen) favourite breed of rabbit for their lovely nature, and an agouti Dwarf Lop called Edge who is a daft as a brush, whatever that means. Edge is our daughters pet and she looks after him very well ensuring all his daily needs are met. We feel this is a great way for children to learn the responsibility of owning and caring for an animal.

We have kept numerous rabbits here for many years and can honestly say have never had a rabbit quite like Edge before, he is truely unique. Not only does this rabbit think he is a cat, or human or both, he actually adores our daughter in the sense that he follows her everywhere, loves to be cuddled, handled, brushed and stroked, never once has he displayed any type of aggression or distress. Of course our daughter is very responsible and looks after him well, but even so the bond between them is magical. Edge has no fear either of our rather large German Shepherd dog who roams the garden smallholding. Edge would rather lick our dog on the nose than run away, he really is that daft!

Onto our German Shepherd dog. He is 3 years old now and he has been a part of our family since he was a tiny puppy. Looking back at his puppy photos its hard to believe he was once so small! We have nicknamed him ‘Defender Of Chooks’ because he chased a fox away that crept out of some shrubs in daylight to get a closer look at our hens. It was a pure heart-in-your-mouth moment that was over in seconds, our dog saw to that and we have not had another daylight visit since. Clever fox.

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Witches and Ghouls

Our two children having fun dressing up tonight. Better get on with the packing, lots to do and so little time!

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!