Friday, 23 December 2016

A New Reason To Drink Beer!

Tuesday 13th December 2016

Lady Penelope appeared right outside the kitchen window today, accompanied by her "chick", which has certainly increased in size since the last time I saw it. It was a lovely day, so I decided to move the Shetland sheep right up to the end of the land where the grass is longer. They will gradually work back towards the farmhouse, by which time the grass should have recovered enough to feed them for a bit more. There's not much goodness or growth in the grass at this time of year, but as long as the weather stays mild the Shetlands, being a primitive native breed, will cope fine. They are a very low maintenance sheep.

Despite this, they have become pretty habituated to me now, so all I had to do was to untie the electric fence tape and they followed me right on through. They set about munching straight away, except for Rameses, the lamb we bottle fed who still likes to come for a cuddle.

There was another move for the poultry too. It looks as if they will be locked up inside for quite some time, but the turkeys have not seemed happy in the middle stable. In fact I'm not sure they've yet been down to the ground, spending all of their time in the rafters. So today I set about the not straightforward task of swapping over the turkeys and the laying hen flock.

It's not all about the animals though. There is still work to be done in the veg garden and there are still crops to be harvested, mostly roots which lie safely below the surface (if you ignore the unwanted attentions of voles and the occasional slug).
I can't remember if I mentioned it, but my parsnip crop this year has turned into a bumper crop, so much so that I stopped digging them after I'd dug less than a quarter of the bounty. Many were so long that I couldn't even get the whole root out of the ground.

So that was the morning taken care of. The days are short now, so after lunch I decided to take the dogs for a walk along the river. But our walk was sadly spoiled by a large group of shooters who rolled up in their vehicles and started trudging across the fields towards the patches of game cover. Apparently, riding a quadbike along a public footpath is perfectly acceptable, as is flushing a whole herd of wild swans.
I just stood on the river bank with Boris and Arthur watching proceedings, but when the first couple of shots went off I continued my walk along the footpath. Unfortunately I think this made it very difficult for them to carry on shooting and they eventually gave up and retreated to their four wheel drives to head off and invade another field.

Wednesday 14th December 2016
I got home from work today to find a mystery empty plastic bottle chewed up by the dogs. In general they are very well-behaved while we are away, but that may be because anything chewable is moved out of reach. We eventually figured out that the tube had been filled with a liquid silicone which is used for making drawers slide open easier. After hot-cross-bungate, which cost us several hundred pounds, this was the last thing we needed. We decided to just keep a very close eye on the dogs, which meant that they got to spend their first ever nights on the bed with us!
Fortunately all was fine.

Saturday 17th December 2016
Never mind bird flu! I have final succumbed to Sue's cold, though I think it has mutated into a serious strain of man flu.
Talking about bird flu, it was today announced that a turkey farm in North Lincolnshire has been hit by H5N8. This can only be bad new as far as us having to keep our poultry confined is concerned.

The turkeys seem slightly happier in the larger stable, but today two of the stags started fighting. This was inevitable, but bad news for one of them who was moved to separate accommodation.
Winter garden clearance continued, clearing beds, turning and spreading compost. The dogs helped by manically digging, though not necessarily where I wanted them too. Ah well! As long as they are having fun.

I collected the post as it was getting dark to find that my copy of this pioneering classic book had arrived. Lawrence Hills was pretty much the founder of the organic movement and this book was published back in 1971, when I was five years old.
I was engrossed for the rest of the evening and beyond, reading about rotation, compost and comfrey. Some was wildly out of date, much I knew already, but reading this book was still quite inspirational and got me fired up about planning the veg plot for 2017.

Reading a stranger's notes neatly penned around the edges of the pages was fascinating too and gave the book a deeper story.

Sunday 18th December 2016
The day started with the demise of Mr Turkey. It was only a couple of days ahead of schedule anyway, what with Christmas coming up and all that. He did manage to give me several whacks in the face with his wings before his eventual demise. Boris and Arthur were as usual very keen to help with proceedings. Note Arthur's almost perfect camouflage.

Along with the turkey went our spare drake Muscovy Duck, who I have only really been keeping as a reserve in case anything happens to the other drake. Three of the meat chickens met their maker too. Winter is a time when the livestock are 'thinned' to take advantage of summer and autumn's growth. It is only really the breeding stock, the egg birds and any which need to grow on a bit more who get kept into the winter.

The Muscovy trio and the egg-laying hens are safe and happy in their stable.
The dogs continued to 'help out' as I cleared the asparagus bed and piled on compost to give the bed renewed strength.

Best news of the day was that I discovered a new reason to drink beer!!!
I have been using cheap tennis balls to cover the tops of poles over which to drape bird netting. I thought it was rather clever and original until I read a recommendation in the Lawrence Hills book to do exactly the same but using jam jars instead.
As I was plundering the garage for saved jam jars, I came across several saved glass beer bottles and it struck me that these are perfectly designed for the task.

A Pedigree design!
Final job of the day, before darkness fell, was to move the willow branch which has been edging the small pond I put in the veg plot.
This willow branch has taken root in the pond and thrown up a whole row of tall shoots.
Today I moved it and buried the log in the soil where I want it to grow. I am going to place willow logs across all the ponds now as I have an idea for a rather snazzy row of willows along the farm boundary behind the pig pen.
It has been a busy weekend, especially for the dogs who have been very busy helping out.
Sunday night called for a rest.

... until Gerry found a mouse in the living room.

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