Saturday, 25 February 2017

Arthur's Escapade Lands Him In The Doghouse

21st February 2017 - Arthur's Unauthorised Adventure
Today was going swimmingly well. I had a very productive morning cleaning out the chickens, tending to the sheep and finishing off the final fedge.


I finished erecting the blackberry poles. The blackberries (to include various tayberries, loganberries, wineberries etc) have never really taken off, which has been a bit of a disappointment. But one plant, a thornless - thank goodness - loganberry has suddenly taken off with eight strong stems up to about ten foot long.

Weaving and tying these stems into their supports was quite a therapeutic job, not too dissimilar to constructing the fedges. It was only just early afternoon and I had plenty of time for a few more jobs. Next up was to build a living willow bench next to the future pond. I looked around for Arthur, who had been mooching around the veg patch for most of the morning, but there was no sign.
No worries. He had probably gone back inside to cuddle up with Boris, who had in no uncertain terms decided to stay in and have a lazy day.
But there was no sign of him in the house either.
😟 I opened every door in case he had got himself stuck in somewhere. I checked all his favourite sleeping places. But there was no sign. Another sweep of the garden and still nothing.
This was getting a little worrying.
😥 Sue had mentioned that he seemed to be showing a lot of interest in one of the stretches of dyke along his regular walk, so I called Boris out and we headed up the land, over the Lambert Drain dyke and along his favourite dyke. But ten minutes later we had reached the end of the dyke and still no sign. So back to the farm, more and more desperate calling of Arthur's name. I checked all the stables and the garage - he has got himself locked in the garage before and didn't even think to bark.
😦But there was still absolutely no sign of him. He would have appeared by now, even if he had been on the scent of a rabbit.
I got in the car and headed round to the river. The landscape is dead flat and the fields are bare, so I could see everywhere apart from down in the dykes. A woman had just walked the whole length of the Main Drain but she had not seen him. By now I was becoming really desperate. How far could he have wandered? Could he have fallen down somewhere or got himself hurt?
😢 I decided to call into the neighbours just to alert them to be on the look out for him. The last time I had seen him he had been whimpering at the fence, unusually keen to be friendly with their whippets and ridgebacks. I began to wonder if he might have decided to go off following them.

Iain kindly started up his multiterrain vehicle and we headed off along the Main Drain. Meanwhile Carol Ann took the dogs back out to repeat the circuit she had walked earlier.
It was now well over two hours since Arthur had last been seen and I was contemplating calling Sue to come home from work as early as possible and help in the search.
😓 There was no sign of Arthur along the Main Drain, nor along any of the dykes or in any of the strips of woodland planted for game cover. We were just walking through a game crop when a phone call came through from Carol Ann back along the Main Drain. Arthur was over there, alive and well!

😁 I was so relieved. We drove round to be informed that he had headed back along the dyke towards home. Back onto the vehicle and back onto the farm. We strode through the veg patch and there, looking slightly worried and very guilty, was Arthur, nose pressed to the orchard gate. 🙊

I felt like the parent who had just found their runaway child. I wanted to pick him up and hug him at the same time as firmly chastising him. Instead, I opened the gate and ignored him. He followed me back to the house like butter wouldn't melt.

I was so relieved.

Arthur is now grounded. The gates round the veg patch will be kept closed and his free-ranging will be kept under strict control.

I really didn't feel like doing anything else today. I was mentally drained. Arthur was exhausted too!!!

Arthur trying to creep up to me after his escapade
It just remains for me to thank the neighbours again. Without them I might still be out searching for a little dog in a big landscape.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Living Willow Fedges and Archway

19th February 2017to show them how to build a fedge and an arch out of willow. In case you don't know, a fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge, constructed from live willow poles.

A willow after harvesting.
Believe it or not all these offshoots
have only been growing for one year.
That's because all the energy from the root system
is going into growing these new shoots.
We started off with an instructional DVD before heading out to harvest the willow. Each year I cut most of my willows down to a stump and as if by magic they grow lovely straight new shoots. The more established they get, the longer and stronger the shoots.
These one year old shoots are full of growth hormones. You simply lop them off and poke them a foot in the ground. Nothing will stop them rooting... Well, that's not quite true, for they need to grow away from competition from other trees and they ideally need to be planted through a weed-suppressing fabric, at least until they get a hold.




With twelve little helpers, harvesting and trimming the willow took next to no time. I had done the groundwork with the mulch fabric and marking out and planned to split the group into three teams, two working on fedges and one team on an archway.


We had a pizza break after harvesting before heading out to start the main job. There was stiff competition for the best poles, but the archway team got first dibs as they needed the longest ones.



Building a fedge is just like a giant version of basket-making, but all very simple techniques broken down into just a few steps. I have to say though that teaching adults is much more difficult than teaching primary age children!

Firstly the uprights go into the ground, a foot or more ideally.

Next the binders - long straight sticks woven in to hold the uprights in place. These will eventually rot down and die, but by then the living willow part will have well and truly rooted and should have pressure grafted itself together.


An archway is basically two fedges joined at the top.
With the uprights in place and secured, the weavers go in, thinner whips so they don't pull the uprights out of shape. These are woven in and shaped to however you choose. We tried to follow the example in the DVD.

Finally the tops of the uprights are used to form the top of the fedge.

So that's the basics. Of course, there is room for considerable artistic impression and improvisation along the way.

We didn't quite have time to finish before people had to head back to feed their animals, but I spent the next day finishing everything off.

This fedge will act as a screen for the shed, especially in the summer



Thursday, 23 February 2017

Battered by Doris Day

Last time they tried to call a storm "Doris" it was so insulted that it veered off and fizzled out at the last moment, suffering further ignominy and being downgraded to lose the right to be named.

But Doris has clearly just been away brooding, for today she returned with a vengeance.
We don't exactly live in a sheltered part of the country. You can't live in The Fens if you don't enjoy a love/hate relationship with the wind. But Storm Doris was forecast to sweep right through the middle of the country today with a sting in the tail for Lincolnshire and East Anglia. Guess who lives right on the border of those two areas!


I was at work for the day, but had taken a few precautions like taking down some heras fencing and netting and making sure doors were shut tight. As I left in the morning the atmosphere felt ominous.

During the day the winds picked up and I could hear the gusts thudding against the windows. A tree even came down in the school garden. Social media brought me tales of flying sheds and fallen trees on friends' smallholdings. It was with some trepidation that I drove home, taking a different route to usual having heard that one of the roads was closed due to a couple of fallen trees.

The drive across the fens was gusty and there were bits of tree all over the roads. At one point a large box crossed the road in front of me. I saw several large trees down.


As I pulled up to the farm it was apparent that the trees that had come down were just a little further along our road. There were flashing blue lights and no traffic was passing either way. I struggled to open the car door and had to brace myself against the relentless wind. Two trees were down, one laying across the telephone wires and taking out part of the fence.


Venturing further onto the smallholding, things actually got better. A few bins, buckets and trestle tables were strewn around the place and one of the empty chicken coops had its roof ripped off, but apart form that we seem so far to have escaped.

As I write, we are all snuggled up in the living room. The winds are starting to die down and it is now dark outside. I have just seen on the news that a double-decker bus was blown over near Wisbech!

As Doris heads out into the North Sea, she leaves behind a battered landscape. If we can get through the next couple of hours, when north-westerly winds are due to rush into the vacuum she has left, I will be quite relieved to have gotten off lightly. We'll see what a morning survey of the farm brings.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Almost a Valentine's Goose Egg



16th February 2017
A typical day on the smallholding, with all sorts going on. It is the variety of tasks every day that I love.
In no particular order:

Trip to Holbeach to stock up on nails, disinfectant, fencing staples and onion sets.
Carrots and turnips sown in polytunnel
Stables cleaned and disinfected
Blackberry posts erected
First goose egg.
Pyrethrum arrived.


A few words about some of these. First off, the first goose egg of the year! Just two days after Valentine's, the traditional start of laying. Sue snaffled it as goose eggs are her favourite. We'll take the eggs for quite some time before leaving the females to sit on a few eggs. After trying goose for the first time a few weeks ago, we'll definitely be aiming for a few young birds this year.
The carrots and turnips are the first seeds I have sown directly into the soil this year. I only grow very early turnips in the polytunnel as when it becomes a humid jungle later in the year the turnips are very quick to rot.
Meanwhile, the mangetout plants are shooting up and will be ready to go into the beds when they are 3" high.


The pyrethrum arriving is very exciting. Pyrethrum has always been a favourite of organic gardeners. As with any chemical it is still a last resort, always being better to encourage natural predators. But as I have said before, the polytunnel is hardly a natural environment. Pyrethrum has only just come back onto the market, having disappeared due to crazy and prohibitively expensive licensing rules clearly designed to favour the big multinational peddlers.
Although harmful to bees (it is after all an insecticide), if applied in the evening it does its job and won't hurt the bees in the morning.

I am trying a new way of erecting the blackberry posts. The problem is that when you strain the wires which will support the canes, they inevitably pull the posts inwards and the wires slacken off. This time I am using an idea from a very old book, nailing underground cross-braces onto the posts. They greatly increase the surface area which is pushing against the soil and should hopefully limit movement.


17th February 2017
I put up bird houses today. A colonial nest box which I hope the sparrows will find. It will probably be the house sparrows, but I am really hoping it is tree sparrows. Both these species are colonial nesters. I moved another old bird box which was incorrectly sited - facing south-east west, into the sun and the prevailing wind and rain.




Finally, an open-fronted teapot nestbox designed for birds such as robins, wrens and wagtails. I have tucked it against an ivy clad trunk near the house.
While all this was going on, unbeknown to me Sue was shooing a Sparrowhawk out of the hallway.

Next job was to finish off the blackberry posts using a system called Gripple to tension the nylon wires. It works by passing the nylon through a little gizmo which completely prevents it sliding back the other way. This is okay until you pull it a little too far onto the wire! Fortunately they provide a small wire tool just for this situation... until that gets stuck as well. Eventually I managed to extricate it with brute force and a screwdriver.
I took out my frustration on the edible hedgerow, applying the annual severe haircut. It seems drastic, but helps the hedge to bush up. Done at this time of year, it has minimal impact on the birds. This is a perilous job as the blackthorn has a habit of biting back.


Last job for the day was to rearrange the heras fencing to create an area for the turkeys to live in when they are allowed out. It needs to be netted, as otherwise the turkeys will just hop the fence and be wandering everywhere. Even with some of the restrictions lifted, this would still not be permitted.

18th February 2017
I spent some time in the dyke a the end of the land today. The reason being that, after 6 years, I spotted 3 drainage pipes leading into it from my land. I guess they must have become more exposed last time the drainage board cleared the dyke. There was quite a trickle of water coming from each pipe, but the entrances were clogged up. I cleared them, then spent some time playing with the water levels in the dyke!
I got a new species for the farm too, for there were two one inch long fish in the shallow water. I have no idea what type.


The Ixworth trio, who will lay the eggs which will become our meat chickens for the year, have settled well into the small stable. They are laying (well, the two hens at least) but today I erected a hay feeder in the corner in the hope that they start laying in there.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A buzz about the place

15th February 2017

Yesterday Sue was worried that she had lost one of her bee colonies. Apparently if you put your ear up to the hive you can hear them buzzing, even when they are huddled together in a tight cluster to keep warm.
But today as the sun warmed the air there was a contented buzzing on the smallholding. You didn't have to put your ear up to the hive to hear it, for the bees were out and sounding happy.
Even better news. Both hives were out.
It's good for them to get out and get some fresh air and it is their first chance in the year to clean out the hive. But there is not much food around at this time of year. A few snowdrops and aconites, maybe a few hazel catkins and a couple of mahonias in flower, but it is lean pickings. This is the time of year when bees can starve, for it is a simple equation of energy in/energy out.

The bees weren't the only busy ones today. We were cleaning the stables in readiness for a change around when we get to the end of the month and some of the poultry can hopefully go out.

I trimmed the wildlife hedges right back. They need to be done when they are still dormant and before the birds are nesting. For a while the sparrows and dunnocks may need to find somewhere else to roost, but many of the hedgerow trees are budding up, their leaves about to unfurl and create a perfect place for feeding and nesting.

One sad sign of the times today. There was a female greenfinch at the feeders. Why is this sad? Because it is of note. Greenfinches are the latest of our farmland birds to be suffering a plummet in their numbers. Hopefully a male will appear and we will be treated to their delightfully wheezy song.

Finally, I got my car back! There had been bad news earlier in the day, The alternator had been replaced but no diesel was coming through the system. This was at the back of my mind all day, which is why I busied myself trying not to think about it. But all was ok in the end. It seems that the alternator failing had quite an effect on the electrics of the car.

My mechanic even got a hug!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Valentine's Day Bloodbath

14th February 2017



Bloodbath!
The turkeys and the geese are getting fed up with each other and a fair few squabbles are breaking out. But nothing had prepared me for what I found on Tuesday morning, for the water in their drinks buckets was stained deep red/purple.
I quickly inspected all the birds, expecting to see at the very least a few bloody feathers, but I couldn't see anything untoward. I even counted the ducks, in case one of them had incurred the wrath of the turkeys or the geese.


It was then that I remembered. Yesterday I had thrown in a few old beetroots for the geese to eat!

Later on in the day Sue confessed that she had found a dead duck in the stable the day before... which had turned out to be a beetroot.

With the car still being repaired, Sue kindly took me out to see some local birds today. Firstly it was back to the Great Grey Shrike at Deeping High Bank, just a short hop across the fens for us. Unfortunately it wasn't playing ball this frosty morning, but we did discover a nice circular walk we could do with the dogs which takes in a long stretch along the river. Today it held flocks of tufted ducks, wigeon, teal and a few cormorants and goosanders too.

So it was another short drive across the fens to Willow Tree Fen, an excellent newly created reserve which Boris has already visited once to see a Red-footed Falcon.

Today's bird was a bluethroat which had been showing incredibly well along the main path. Bluethroats are typically a coastal migrant in Spring and Autumn, so quite what this bird is doing here at the back end of winter is anybody's guess.

The car park at Willow Tree Fen would typically be lucky to hold more than a couple of cars, but today was a quite different story. It seems there are more retired birdwatchers in the area than I had realised.



Boris and Arthur were very well behaved. In fact they were considerably quieter than some of the photographers who were hogging the front row and who had scattered the path with mealworms to attract the bird closer to their cameras. Their fieldcraft is sadly lacking.


I just enjoyed the bird. It showed so well that Sue was able to watch it through the telescope too, though disappointingly Arthur is showing very little interest in birdwatching whatsoever. After a while I remembered that I should be able to hold the phone up to the telescope and manage some sort of picture. I didn't try too hard, but managed a few record shots. All the sharp ones were when the bird was facing away, but I'm sure you'd rather see why it is called a Bluethroat.


It was good to meet a couple of my more eccentric friends there too.


When we got home I spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I am still determined to spend more time turning the food I grow into tasty meals. Today's was to be a marathon cooking session to culminate with a lovely Valentine's meal with my wife. Just perfect.

The main course was to be slow-roast shoulder of hogget in merguez spices and with almost 7 hours cooking time I needed to get it started.
Then it was on to mixing and kneading one of my favourite loaves, a Pan Gallego full of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and millet. A totally different sort of bread was a Sage Soda Bread, made without yeast.
To go with the bread I knocked up one of my favourite soups, Butternut and Peanut Butter (courtesy of Hugh F-W) as well as a Cream of Artichoke Soup. I am not sure I will like the latter, but it would be a good way of using up some of the Jerusalem Artichokes which grow so easily in the garden.

Finally, one of the treats of being grown up and cooking for yourself is that you can pick your favourite childhood recipes and improve them. A bread and butter pudding had every conceivable luxurious ingredient added. It turned out absolutely delicious.

And that was that. A very enjoyable Valentine's Day with a bit of everything I love.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Potato Day

Sorry. Not many photos. My car temporarily broke the phone. Read on for more details.

11th February 2017
Cambridgeshire Self-Sufficiency Group's 8th (I think) Potato Day.
This is an event where the club buys in over 50 varieties of seed potato to sell to members and the general public. Potato days are a great way to try new varieties as you can buy as few or as many as you like. Not only that, but it is the cheapest way of buying seed potatoes if you don't want to buy them in 25kg sacks!

As with last year I was there to help out with the setting up, which basically involves unloading about 100 sacks of potatoes and arranging them on tables in alphabetical order. I arrived at the hall at 8am sharp, which involved a 7 o'clock departure from the farm in driving snow, fortunately not of the settling kind.

As well as being helpful, helping out also entitles me to choose my potatoes in peace, before the general public come flooding through the doors. There were about 700 visitors this year.
I don't like that many people, so I quickly chose my potatoes and made a hasty departure.

The varieties I have chosen for this year are:

Aaron Pilot
- a good, reliable First Early. I find it to store well in the ground too.
Red Duke of York
- a floury early potato which is excellent for chips or roast too. Has a firm place on the list.
Duke of York
- I decided to try the non-red variety too this year, mainly on the recommendation of Lawrence D Hills in his pioneering book on organic growing (published over 45 years ago). He recommends these as an early which can be left in the ground to grow larger. One advantage of this which I hadn't considered is that, in an early blight year, you at least get a reasonable crop. I doubt Mr Hills would have realised just how warm and wet our summers would become and how regular blight would become.
Orla
- another early which can be left in to become a Maincrop. A disease resistant organic favourite. I have grown this once before.

Charlotte
- a great performer in this area. 100kg were sold out in 25 minutes at the potato day. My most reliable cropper, matures early and tubers seem resistant to blight. Extremely little slug damage too. What puzzles me is that these qualities are not pushed on websites. Maybe it's a secret not to be shared!
Kestrel
- different taste qualities, but otherwise rivals Charlotte for blight and slug resistance. Another Second Early so it guarantees a crop even if the tops have to come off early. Firmer flesh than Charlotte and stores even longer. Great for chips. First grown by me two years ago. Last year I grew Blue Kestrel, but they were not available this year.

Desiree
- a great old-fashioned performer and one of my favourites for baking and boiling. You can't go far wrong with this one.
Cara
- a Maincrop variety popular with organic growers as it has high blight resistance. Some negative reviews about going soggy when boiled. I bought a few to try
Valor
- the only variety I've never grown before. An offspring of Cara.

Pink Fir Apple
- last year I got none. In 2015 I got sacks full. Let's hope it does well this year. I've missed the taste.

Altogether I bought just over 10kg of seed potatoes. A tenner's worth of potatoes should last the two of us comfortably for the whole year.

Four Hours and a Tow Truck later...
Two miles out of Huntingdon the car broke down. Completely kaput. Sleet outside and no heating, stuck in a muddy layby by the side of a busy road in the middle of nowhere. Thank goodness for Google Maps and phone reception.
Fortunately the breakdown service didn't take too long and I had plenty of spare coats flung in the back of the car as usual. But the car stubbornly refused to spring to life so it was another hour long wait for a tow truck.
The alternator had gone and the battery was so dead we couldn't even get the car into neutral without jump leads.

The journey to my local garage was quite enjoyable given the circumstances. The driver was a chirpy old fellow and there were great views over the dykes and Washes. And being in the passenger seat I noticed so much more than when I am driving. Not only that, but I saved a little petrol money too!

I did take photos of Potato Day and of my car being winched onto the back of a lorry, but it seems the alternator going affected more than just the car, as I had to reboot my phone to get it working and I had lost the day's photos. I think the car tried to suck power through the phone charger since its own battery offered nothing.


With the weather matching my mood, cold and grey, I spent what was left of the day setting my potatoes to chit.

12th February 2017
Squeaky Clean Polytunnel
Keen to catch up on some of yesterday's lost time, I was up early and creosoting some of the wood in the polytunnel. An extreme measure but I am determined to get rid of the red spider mite this year. I have decided that the environment inside a polytunnel is so false that there is no point trying to maintain a natural balance. Of course, I will still use organic means wherever possible and I will still encourage hoverflies, ladybirds, bees, toads.

With this job done, I planted up some of the Arran Pilot potatoes for a really early crop.

So that's where chicken comes from
Next up were the last of the meat chickens along with the young cockerel who is excess to requirements. This didn't take long but I'm sure you don't want all the details. They are readily available in other posts I have written!

Open space for the lambs
The recent wet weather has meant that the three Shetland lambs quickly turned their enclosure into a muddy quagmire, so today I moved them to the first paddock. This meant that they were within sight of the adults and much baaing ensued. Not being used to so much open space or electric fencing, it wasn't long before one of the lambs was through the fence, across the separating paddock and through the second fence to join the adults. It didn't matter too much. It always takes the sheep a few hours to learn about the fence, after which they tend not to go through it.

Later in the afternoon I caught the lamb and carried it back to join the others. There were no more problems.

With the meat chickens gone and the young cockerel dispatched, a stable had become free which gave us the opportunity to move Priscilla and her chick in with rest. They got a fair bit of hassle to start (to be expected) but we kept a close eye. Moving things around a bit in the stable gave the other chickens something else to think about and gave the new chickens somewhere to take refuge if they needed.
With darkness now upon us, I retired to the farmhouse but continued working. For the seed-sowing season is upon us. Today it was cauliflower, kohl rabi and lettuces. These are sown in trays inside but will go straight to the polytunnel once they germinate. They do not need heat, as long as temperatures do not plunge ridiculously low.

13th February 2017
At this point I didn't realise the Ixworth cockerel had taken out my glasses.
He came peacefully in the end.

Ixworth trio in a flap
Only the Ixworth trio remained down in the chicken pen, in a coop only just large enough for them to stretch their wings. Catching them was quite an effort, during which I got a few wings in the face and lost my glasses in the mud, but we managed to get them down to the now spare stable. They are inside but have space and straw aplenty.



I finally got round to planting the dozen or so small Christmas trees I purchased for £1 each. These are available every year and will add a nice bit of variety and greenery to the smallholding given patience.

Evenings are for seed sowing now. Today it was two trays of leeks which will be enough to keep us going through next winter.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Bird Flu - The Latest

It's that sign again. Another proclamation from The Ministry.

The poor chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys have now been confined in the stables for longer than I can remember. Supposedly this is to protect them from catching bird flu which is occurring at a higher rate than usual in wild birds.
The Prevention Order was originally issued in early December, then extended until the end of February. Communication from The Ministry was poor and haphazard at best and the wording ambiguous.

Cases of bird flu have continued in the wild and on poultry farms, despite the precautions, so there was never much hope of the order being lifted at the end of February. After all, the wild ducks and gulls which visit us in cold weather would not have returned to the continent yet.


There are several big problems if the incarceration continues after 28th February. Firstly, free range producers lose their free range status.
For us here at Swallow Farm, the geese and turkeys will be laying soon but without sufficient space it is very unlikely they will manage to rear any young. That will be two of our big meat sources gone. On top of this, the geese will be getting much more territorial soon and we just don't have enough space for two protective ganders and five broody geese.



And so we got another announcement a couple of days ago. At least they are giving us time to plan this time. The country has been split into High Risk Areas and the rest. In the High Risk Areas, the housing order will, unless there are significant changes, remain in place until at least the end of April.
These HRAs seem to generally be within 10km of the coast or to follow the main rivers and Washes. Unfortunately for many of our friends, the marshes around The Wash and the flood areas around the Nene Washes and Ouse Washes remain High Risk.
Fortunately for us we do not fall into one of these areas, which means that in theory our birds can go out in 18 days time.  But it is not that straightforward. Some of the looser wording of earlier orders has been tightened up and there are hoops to jump through, which is why we have been given some time to prepare the ground, quite literally. We will have to take biosecurity even more seriously.

Good news for some of our poultry.
Being outside the High Risk Areas does at least give us some options.

Overall the chickens have settled in to 'barn life', though I'm sure they will eventually be happy to get outside and enjoy their natural surroundings and behaviour. The ducks are faring quite well, though they would definitely be much happier outside.

The turkeys and the geese have learned to co-exist, but I get the distinct impression there has been quite some strutting to establish a pecking order. But these are messy. They crap everywhere and spill their water as soon as it is topped up. I have to move in slow motion in the stable to avoid panicking them too.
The geese will be laying very soon and will need enough space to make dry nests. The old turkey hen laid outside last year and won't be able to find anywhere to sit on eggs within the cramped stables.

On top of all this, the ewes will need the middle stable from mid-March.










The Plan
The size of protective netting for outside has changed from small enough to keep out all birds and their droppings (totally unrealistic) to 50mm mesh so that snow does not bring everything down. This means that we should be able to give the turkeys their own small outdoor range, along with the Ixworth trio who are currently living in a very small coop. We have to risk assess the land, remove standing water and take every measure we can to keep wild birds out of the area.

The geese will move into the smaller stable but will be given access to the wide central path down the land. This will give them fresh grass, fresh air and room to spread their wings. We should be able to arrange it so their water is not in the same stable as the nests they will build, so hopefully we can still get a few goslings.

As for the chickens, the meat birds will be going very, very soon. This will release one small stable. Our plans to start incubating more Ixworth hens are up the swanney as, for the moment at least, the last thing we need is more poultry to house.
Priscilla (daughter of Elvis) has been living with her two chicks in another small coop, but the male chick is now 24 weeks old so we will be 'waving goodbye' to him too. Priscilla and her young hen will come up to the stables, where all the laying hens will move in to the larger stable vacated by the geese.

We will try to come up with a plan to let them outside, if only for short periods in a very limited area.


So that is the immediate future for our poultry. Let's hope things improve soon.

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