Saturday, 25 June 2016

One hell of a hail storm

21st June
Six chicks have now hatched and are fluffed up nicely in the incubator. There's no sign of anything happening to the other twelve eggs though, which is disappointing. We are only collecting them from two Ixworth hens though, so it took a couple of weeks to collect a clutch to go in the incubator.

I set up a broody box for them which included our new (second hand) electric hen. I am much happier using this than the anglepoise lamp we used to use. I was never quite sure I wouldn't come home to a molten plastic box or worse still.




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The weather was good today so mowing was very much on the agenda. This is a job which feels very much like repainting the Forth Bridge, never ending! I don't mind doing it but it takes time away from other jobs.
In between mowing I took full advantage of the new neighbours' invitation to harvest their strawberries, which always appear to be ready before ours. Sue has dried a fair few and the rest are in the freezer waiting to be turned into jam, ice cream and yogurt.


22nd June
I am a bit surprised to report that we are up to 11 chicks. They are all safely in the broody box. The next batch of eggs will be in the incubator as soon as I have time to clean it out.

23rd June
The electric fence in the top paddock has been set on full bluff for a while now as the battery has no power in it. But the Shetland lambs have figured this out and hop through it with impunity. Within the confines of the paddock this is not really a problem since there is enough flimsy fence to still keep them where I want them. The problem is though that the lambs now have horns and I came home from work today to find one pathetically entangled. It was no great effort to set it free, but I decided that now would be a good time to move the lambs up with the adult Shetlands. The ewes' udders would have completely dried up by now and the adults need a little help keeping the grass down this year.

Before the move I did a little maintenance work on the electric fence which runs all round the bottom field. This one is mains powered and it's not a good idea to touch it! A couple of wooden posts needed replacing and I wanted to set up the strip grazing system again.

This was a couple of hours work, so at about 8pm I led the lambs down to be reunited with their mums and dad, Rambo. The two new lambs we bought from Church Farm went too. Introducing seven at once would share out the stress if there was to be any argie-bargie. As it was, the sheep mixed together very well...

... until the Shetland lambs started going straight through the electric fence and into the orchard.

This was more serious, as from there they could go absolutely anywhere if they so chose. They could also do a lot of damage to the trees, as Shetlands' favourite food is tree bark. I tested the fence and it was very weak.
A few older parts of wire had started to rust a little and in places the fence was running through very long grass indeed. It was possible that too much electricity was being lost along the fence. However, my poor understanding of the subject led me to believe that at least at the beginning of the fence the charge should still be strong. I tested it and it wasn't.
By now, the sheep were back out into the orchard again and it was raining heavily. I turned the fence off and decided to reconnect it where the lead-in wire comes in. It was while I was doing this that I received a rather sharp shock! My finger was tingling for several minutes afterwards. There was obviously power somewhere.
Still the power was low. I went right back to the energiser in the stable and reconnected the lead-in wire at that end. Still no difference.
There was no choice but to go all round the perimeter of the fence moving the posts inwards to shorter grass and pushing the long and very wet grass away from the base. By the time I got all the way round time was getting on and I was absolutely drenched. Not only was the rain coming down heavily but the water was travelling up my trousers from the sodden long grass. From there gravity took it back down into my boots which were squelching nicely.

I got back to the beginning and tested the power again. Still no difference. :-(

This was clearly going to need further investigation, but darkness was approaching so I took the decision to move the lambs back to the top paddock.
The whole evening had gone, I was drenched, the sheep were back in the same place and I now had two electric fences not working.
On the plus side... any suggestions?

24th June
The morning after the night before.
I always stay up ridiculously late on election nights. I'm addicted to the coverage. I'll keep away from the politics. Suffice to say that I'm glad I grow all my own food - it just might shield me from some of the worst effects of what's to come.

Good news today. At the fifth attempt I've finally managed to germinate some Pea Beans. I literally chucked loads of them into a seed tray and covered them in compost as a final last ditch attempt.

More good news. Sue has been away for a couple of days and now she is back. She came back to another swarm of bees. At a guess from the same hive as the last one. Sometimes they just keep swarming.
The swarm I caught a couple of days ago didn't stay in the end. By the morning the spare hive was completely empty. Hopefully we'll have more luck with this lot.

Final job for the day was to nip out the tomato side shoots. As well as those in the polytunnel I'm growing lots outside this year. This is always a risk and often comes to nothing, but if everything comes together we will have mountains of tomatoes at the end of the year. The first ones should be ready in the polytunnel in the not too distant future.

25th June


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The videos, if they've worked, say it all.
I was working on the bean patch today, weeding, edging and planting out module grown plants where there were gaps. Only a couple of the kidney beans had come through so replacing these was the main job.
After that I set about erecting supports for the broad bean plants which are on the verge of collapsing under their own weight. Half way through this the heavens opened and I had to make a run for it into the polytunnel. This was to be no normal storm though. Hailstones absolutely pelted down for half an hour. Fortunately for you, in the name of the blog, I made a run back to the house to get my phone and record the event. I was literally running through about an inch of water and hailstones. My second drenching in three days.

When it finally eased off there was water everywhere and piles of hailstones.




I hadn't twigged that the brassica netting might be in trouble too. When I went back out to check all the birds and animals were okay I noticed that the aluminium poles were dangerously bent and the netting was weighed down with hailstones, which I had to scoop out by hand. It is late June and my hands are stinging from scooping up hailstones. Something is wrong here.



Fortunately the netting was strong enough not to tear and the poles sprung back into shape. Otherwise a fairly harmless but spectacular weather event could have been a bit of a disaster.


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