Saturday, 29 June 2013

A quick update on everything on the smallholding

The pigs are all healthy and eating us out of house and home as usual. They have put on a sudden spurt of growth which prompted me to pay a visit to the butcher last week! Two will be going on a little journey at the beginning of the summer holiday. One will be spared for a while, to go off for bacon in the winter, and Daisy's future is still a matter of discussion between Sue and I.
Two of their sisters who I sold have already gone, but ours grow more slowly as they spend all their time chasing each other.

At the last count, there were 65 guineafowl eggs hidden in the grass. But still every evening eleven birds roost on the fence so none is sitting ... yet.
The guineafowl have, however, discovered the strawberries. Not just ours, but Don's too. They have always been allowed to wander free and have never previously caused too much damage. For now, the strawberries will be netted and we will monitor the situation.

The chickens all seem happy at the moment. We are getting about a dozen eggs a day. A few have shown signs of broodiness but have given up when we keep taking their eggs. Elvis, who we want to go broody, has most unusually shown little inclination to sit. Shame, as we were rather hoping to hatch out some blue eggs.

The geese have finally given up on their efforts to hatch an egg. Maybe next year they'll have more success. So for now they are back out in the paddock to keep the grass down. They have quickly settled into their new routine and every evening wait at the gate to waddle in line into the stable for the night. One goes on the right of the divider, the rest go on the left.
The poor girls who spent so long sitting on the nest are slowly getting back into condition.

Ducks Still waddling.

The sheep have settled in to living in their new home, up in the pasture, where they are beginning to make an impact on the grass. The one who had the limp is now completely better and they are all growing fast. I accidentally left the electric fence off last night and one got out, but it didn't go far. They are happy where they are as long as they have fresh grass.

Who knows! They are now closed down for a few weeks. All we can see is this unusual cluster at the bottom of the hive. We think they're clustering around newly built queen cells. With luck both hives will successfully manage to make a queen which mates successfully. We'll know if they have been successful if there are eggs when we next open them.

The owls continue to delight us, more and more during the day. I saw a young one being fed the other day. Once in a while I hear the swallows causing a commotion and look up to see a dumpy Little Owl being pursued by a line of graceful but angry swallows.
Not such good news with the Barn Owls. There seem to be very, very few about. It seems that their boxes have been taken over by Jackdaws.
A couple of weeks ago I spent some time assessing the young woodland trees. If you remember, this job was interrupted by the arrival of a Pacific Swift in Suffolk. Most are doing well, though we suffered a few losses. By next year they should be looking more like small trees than weedy saplings.
The Ash saplings all seem to be doing well. Time will tell whether the threat from Ash dieback is as serious as it seemed last year.


The orchard trees, all planted two winters ago, are beginning to flourish. We should get a more significant amount of fruit this year. However, pollination was patchy, especially of the cherries and plums. Goodness knows where our bees were going to get their food, but they studiously ignored all of my and Don's offerings.

Soft Fruit
All the soft fruit is developing nicely. It looks like being a bumper year for gooseberries. I really look forward to this annual treat. The other fruit that should be ready early is the strawberries, but I seem to have very little ripe fruit this year. Neighbours and friends are already harvesting.
However, as alluded to above, I think I've discovered the reason.

Those pesky guineafowl seem to have found the fruit before me. The netting will have to come out.


Runners struggling to get going

Beans n Peas : Every year is different in the world of vegetable growing. Last year beans and peas, if the young shoots got past the slugs, did well. This year, nobody's beans are coming up fast. The weather has been too cool and they could do with a bit more (warm) rain.
The broad beans, though, have loved the cool weather.

Roots : Parsnips are flourishing again. Carrots are patchy again, but much better than last year. The experiment to sow carrots into a bed of mixed annual flowers has backfired somewhat as the weeds grew first. This happened with the other beds which I reserved just for the flowers. It's impossible to get in there with the rotavator or even the hoe. Still, a few weeks of selective weeding may just reveal some pleasant hidden treasures.  

Spuds : I'm a bit worried about the spuds. The tops are looking good, but it's been a bit dry at the crucial time when the tubers should be forming. I dug up one of my Earlies a couple of weeks ago and there were no tubers at all! Those I grew in bags had a disappointing yield too. I'll have to make changes for next year.
However, I'm still pretty confident that the outdoor crops will come good. I probably just need to be patient. They did go in a little later than I hoped and I did not get to chit them properly as the house was in such a mess with the building works. 

Brassicas : This year I've actually got round to transplanting the young brassicas into the veg beds outside and they've even got protection. They'd better work, or I'll be giving up on them.


As you can see, I've even gone to the effort of making collars for them out of old carpet underlay. This, in theory, should stop them being devastated by cabbage root fly.

Work on the house is almost finished. We're still waiting for the scaffolding to come down and there's a couple of jobs for the plumber to finish off (it's only been six months since he first came!) All we need to do now is decorate every room. That'll be in our spare time then!

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