Sunday, 11 March 2012

Egg-xtraordinary!

Sunday 11th March 2012
You may have noticed, the rising sun has crept so far along the horizon
that I have had to change position to capture it.

RIP Baldilocks
One of our chickens lost all the feathers on her back about a year ago and has never grown them back, but in every other way seemed quite healthy.. .until today.
Unfortunately, the humane course of action was to put her out of her misery. It's totally impractical to call a vet for a chicken, even if it could be saved, and we needed to think about protecting the rest of the flock from disease or infection too. Just one of the realities of running a smallholding, but at least we know we do everything within reason to give our animals a good life.

Collection day

When I get the trailer out, I like to make the most of it. A local farm is supplying me with free sacks of potatoes for the pigs at the moment. In return, I take them a pot of jam or a joint of pork every now and then. Any space in the trailer I fill with small straw bales, which are quite hard to find these days as most of the big farm machines bale straw and hay up into ginormous, immovable cylinders. The three farmers there are an invaluable source of farming wisdom, so I like to stay awhile for a chat too.
After this, it was straight round to another smallholder to pick up 120 bags of quality horse poo.
A Beautiful day for a dust bath
Ther est of the chickens had quickly gotten over the loss of one of their clan, and were clearly enjoying a communal dustbath and sunbathing session in my honeyberry patch.


Egg-streme
While they did this, I cleaned out their housing and collecting the eggs. I found this! Not available in the supermarkets. A totally soft egg and quite a curiosity.
Particularly when chickens first come back into lay after their moult, eggs come in various shapes and sizes. The shells are often ridged or heavily grooved, and often the shell is not uniformally hard. At the moment we are finding quite a high proportion of cracked eggs in the laying box. We check regularly for eggs, but they are susceptible if they're not properly formed. We feed broken oyster shells in with the chickens' food to increase the calcium available for egg-making, but some breakages do still occur. The important thing is to try to prevent the chooks from realising that inside those shells lies a tasty meal.



Strawberry fields
I love the weekends as I get to share the joys of the smallholding with Sue. As I was digging the veg beds and Sue was giving the herb bed its first hoe of the year, Don offered us the opportunity to plunder an old srawberry bed of his for the young plants produced laast year on the end of the many runners. From one very small area we gathered well over a hundred plants. Problem was, the strawberries took a real battering last year, going in a the beginning of a three month drought, so that out of 75 plants we purchased, only 6 survived. As a consequence, the strawberry bed had been abandoned for the year and had reverted to a jungle of grass and weeds. Anyway, our other jobs were abandoned to take advantage of this opportunity and we slaved till dusk to create our new strawberry bed. We still have enough plants to go under a couple of the orchard trees too.
We are very much looking forward to our own strawberry and gooseberry jam next year.

The last young strawberry plant goes into the new patch.

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