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.

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