Life on the farm: Good Friday 2017 (***cute lamb alert***)

On the farm
They’ve been lambing on the farm this past week, painting numbers on the sides of the sheep as they give birth, and painting the same numbers on any lambs born to that sheep.

The main field is now bereft of sheep. They’re all in the maternity barn, in the nursery field, or they’ve been moved back to the fields where they usually live.

Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Instead, the young cows have now been let out into the main field. Oh, what a lovely sight to see these youngsters running and skipping across the grass as they were given their first outing from the barns. They’ve been to have a look at us and we may get pictures over the coming days.

Back to the lambs, the nursery field is at the top of our front garden, so we’ve been able to watch as another pair of lambs and their mother are added to the flock before being moved along.

Picture: Ian Wordsworth

The mothers are very curious, but one did chase after me when I surprised her while I wheeled the wheelie-bin down the drive on Wednesday evening. It made a very loud rumbling noise.

Her baby, just the one, was curled up in a ball and I think she was frightened I was going to hurt it.

Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Another of the mothers, “Number 28”, is less frightened. This one has managed to clamber up the dry-stone wall into our front garden, where she investigated one of the (so far) empty raised beds in our potager.

I think Number 28 and her lamb have been moved now, as we’ve not seen her for a couple of days.

Picture: Diane Wordsworth

In the garden
The brand-new greenhouse has started to earn its keep. The marigolds are doing really well and, now, so are the cucumbers.

Cucumber seedlings alongside brassicas. (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

The seeds sown on 2 April are still appearing, but some are still a little slow – the onions, for example, and the brassicas. I think all of these have a longer germination time, but the first brassica, a calabrese broccoli, has already reared its tiny head.

A calabrese broccoli showing its tiny head. (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

We bought some herb pots for the kitchen windowsill to plant up. So far the basil is doing the best, with the chives just showing this week. The parsley is taking a little while longer, though …

Herb pots for the kitchen windowsill. (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Last week’s 20 strawberry plants have taken nicely in their HUGE hanging baskets. (He was a little disappointed that I didn’t share a picture of his very well-made greenhouse staging, so the picture below gives some idea of how that looks.)

Twenty strawberry plants in four MASSIVE hanging baskets. (Plus hand-made staging.) (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Chickens
The chickens, bless them, continue to thrive. And they continue to show their appreciation by laying eggs. We’re definitely up to 5 or 6 eggs a day now, and they’re starting to come to their names as well.

The poet had to put some chicken wire around the garden gate to stop the dog from escaping. For a while, it also kept the chickens out, and that meant a cleaner floor.

Agatha (Aggie the Agoraphobic). (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

However, Baldy and Blondie are both regular visitors to the garden now that they’ve worked out how to hop around the edge, or even over the top with a garden tub strategically placed to break their landing. The other girls will follow if they think they’re missing something, aka food.

Our beautiful Blondie, the biggest and fattest of the lot. (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Happy Easter!
We have the long weekend off for Easter, without any pre-planned visits or trips or anything. We are, however, expecting a delivery of compost today for the raised beds, and we hope to be doing more work in the garden if the weather is nice. There may also be fishing and walking.

Have a great weekend!

Life on the farm: April 2017

One of the orphan lambs.

On the farm
They say that when the first lamb arrives, it’s the first day of spring. So our first day of spring was actually just over a month ago, on 4 March.

Their granddaughter #2 has 3 brown sheep (I *will* find out the breed). She’s only 13 or 14, but already she owns these sheep. Late last year, these brown sheep were taken to meet a male, and each one of them delivered this spring.

The first one, on 4 March, had a white lamb and a black lamb. Over the following week or so, the other 2 brown sheep also had lambs. In the end, between them, there were 3 black lambs and 2 white lambs, and while one of the mothers seemed to be rejecting one of the black lambs, it was just a temporary blip and he did manage to get enough nourishment from the other mothers in the meantime.

Granddaughter #1 has a horse. But on the same weekend the first lamb arrived, she bought 3 cade (“kay-dee”) or orphan lambs from a neighbouring farm. These were kept in the barn for a few weeks, but are now out in the orchard at the side of our garden.

(GD#1 removed her horse’s blanket during the week and took her for a canter around the main field (on the other side of the orchard). The blanket’s back on again now, so maybe the temperature has dropped again.)

Sheep no. 2 keeping her own lamb close.

The farmer has another, bigger flock, of around 200 sheep when they’re all present and correct.

These sheep didn’t start to have lambs until after 1 April, but the whole family have turned out and are keeping watch. Any that look like they might be having difficulty are taken into the barn and looked after. Those that manage quite well by themselves are checked over.

The sheep and lambs are all numbered (we think they may have seen this tip on the BBC’s Countryfile), then those that need to be kept close are moved to the nursery field (at the front of our house) while the others go back in the main field.

Elsewhere on the farm, the cows are still indoors, but I think they’ll be let out soon enough.

(left to right) Baldy, Pink and Aggie (Blondie’s in the background) investigating the new greenhouse

The farmer has bought some beautiful black calves, and he has some calves of his own too. However, some of the cows (about 4) have ringworm, so they’re being treated for that and kept away from the others.

In Baggins Bottom
On the home patch, the poet has been busy assembling a new greenhouse. This arrived during a storm in mid-March and he had to abandon the project for a few days until the winds died down.

Once the greenhouse was finished and stable, he then set about building some greenhouse staging out of wood. He’s not a carpenter but he does enjoy creating things, and he did exactly what I asked him to.

The new greenhouse next to the year-old shed.

The two-tier staging wraps around 2 sides of the greenhouse in an L-shape. The remaining side will be for 2 grow-bags – one for 3 tomatoes and one for 2 cucumbers.

Of course, the chickens now think that this is another place for them to shelter – they won’t think that when the hot weather arrives.

Seed-sowing started on 2 April: cauliflower, calabrese broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cordon tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, onions, Brussels sprouts and marigolds. The marigolds are companion planting for the cherry tomatoes, which will be going into tubs and baskets.

Marigold seedlings.

Yesterday, 5 of the marigolds sprouted, and today there are 5 more. The poet isn’t a gardener either (“I hate gardening”), yet he’s so proud of these tiny little things – again, it’s the creating something from nothing part.

We have 20 strawberry plants coming, 10 each of 2 varieties. Those will be going into hanging baskets when they arrive.

We have a tractor that the poet used to cut the grass with at the last house, but we don’t have that big a lawn here. The old electric mower he used to own conked out at the end of last year, and last week we had to go and buy a new lawn mower so he could give the grass its first cut.

Eggs.

The chickens are doing well. They’ve been with us for 4 months now, and we still have the half-a-dozen we started with. They’re laying 4 – 5 eggs per day between them, and we’re giving dozens away.

I was well-chuffed when we had 6 eggs one day last week, but when we had 7 … (SEVEN!) I was a tad surprised, as we still only have 6 chickens.

We’re trying to get creative with recipes that include eggs. If work settles down, I’ll have time to do some baking. I want to get some big jars so I can pickle some, and we’re each having a hard-boiled egg every weekday with our lunch, I’m having it in a salad while the poet is eating it like an apple.

With the warmer weather and the longer days, the poet hopes to do more fishing soon, starting this afternoon when he gets home from work if the weather is nice enough.

Hopefully, me and the dog will have chance to get out and about and share more news and pictures over the coming weeks. I’ll be swapping the mobile phone for my camera.

Kitchen garden: Umming and ahhing (list alert)

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Our back garden from halfway down the garden (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

One of the new regular features in Baggins Bottom will be our new kitchen garden, which we’re starting from scratch.

This picture was taken from about halfway down the garden and I think there’s a lot of wasted space there. (There’s even more grass behind this picture, about the same distance again to the fence.)

The houses (you can see 2 of them in this picture, but there are 5 here and another across the courtyard) are 17th century. They’re not quite Jacobean, as they were built in 1629, 4 years after that period. I think they’re classed as Carolean, which is also referred to as Caroline – I think. The manor house (the one across the courtyard) might be a little older.

So while “Elizabethan knot garden” screams at me, it’s actually miles too late for that period. But I think that Carolean/Caroline gardens are far too grand. And while the “potager” garden is probably perfect, I don’t believe that’s strictly historically accurate either, and it’s French – but I think it’s what we’re going for.

Now then, I’m a bit loathe to spend a lot of money on this plot of land as it’s unlikely to be our “forever” home. Or, then again, it could be. Who knows? So one of our quandaries at the moment is how much to spend and how permanent to make the features.

The garden is very, very wet too. You can see it’s on a slope and it’s part of a larger hill. So all the water runs down through the land, making it very boggy at this time of year. Next door have had lots of sophisticated drainage put in, but we don’t want to spend that kind of money.

Here, then, are some of the decisions we need to make:

  1. Because of the drainage, or lack thereof, we’re going to build raised beds. But do we make them regimental? Or do we put them on the diagonal? Or do we make an architectural pattern of them? Or do we make one big one …?
  2. For crop rotation, we need at least 3 raised beds. But I have a hankering for 4 … for some reason (OCD?). The raised beds will be one of the poet’s many projects. If we don’t go for raised beds for the moment, we might consider a series of pots, barrels and herb wheels on the patio instead …
  3. We need to move that washing line as it blocks our view from the living room window. I don’t like rotary washing lines, I’ve always preferred a long line, but I like a path for the line to follow, so I can hang out and fetch in washing without my feet getting muddy. But the garden is 100 feet long, and a path will not only slice it in 2 but also cost a lot of money. Opposite the kitchen window might be the ideal place for another rotary line, one we can bring in when not in use (this one doesn’t fold down). But we might have other plans for that area …
  4. To greenhouse or not to greenhouse? There’s an ideal spot for one, opposite the kitchen window, in the top right-hand corner of the “lawn” (I use the term loosely, it’s actually “grass”). But we need to build up the floor so it’s level with the patio, and that means shuttering and concreting … and that means more money. If we don’t go for a greenhouse, we can put a temporary part-greenhouse against the wall …

And something else for us to consider is that this is a grade II listed building, so we have to be careful what we do on the outside. The patio is crumbling, so if we put up a retaining wall, it has to be “in keeping”, and anyway, we’d prefer to do that in any case.

So we have lots of things to consider, and we need to get started this month. We’ve started by taking the “before” pictures, we’ve measured the garden, and we have a pad of graph paper so we can start drawing and playing with (loose) plans. The next step is to make some of those decisions.

Product tests: As we find our way around we’ll be using all sorts of equipment, so watch out for product tests and reviews too. And if you have something you’d like us to test, use the contact form to get in touch.

Wish us luck. 🙂