Life on the farm: spring madness almost over

On the farm
The lambing madness seems to be over now. Around 50 sheep have had lambs and there are only a couple left in the nursery field. The rest have been moved back to various places on the farm, leaving the nursery field for the orphans.

So far there are only two orphan lambs (they lost one of them), and those are currently in the orchard, in the farm garden or in the paddock at the end of our back garden. When the grass in the nursery field has recovered, or when the last of the flock-sheep go, I think the orphans will be moved to the nursery field.

Cows in the main field.

The young cows were let out a couple of weeks ago and are getting used to being outside.

In the garden
The poet has been very busy in the garden, working hard. He’s turned over three beds in the back garden and trimmed many of the shrubs.

Working hard in the garden.

I honestly don’t know where this is coming from. He’s loving learning new skills and creating new life from scratch. But he never really has been one for gardening.

Trimming shrubs.

He built three raised beds and two planters, and is now working on chicken-wire-covered frames to put over the beds to keep the chickens off the seedlings.

Raised beds, one with chicken frame under construction

Two weeks ago he went around repotting all of the fruit trees and bushes. The apple tree, the grape vine and the blackcurrant bush all look really well. The gooseberry bush looks a little dead, but there are green shoots starting to show now.

Apple tree and grape vine (both past presents from my parents).

This coming bank holiday weekend, we’re hoping the beds will be ready for some outdoor seed-sowing. We have vegetables to sow in the potager and some flowers for the back garden.

Parsley, basil and chives, for the kitchen windowsill.

The seeds I sowed at Easter are starting to show, but the seeds that the poet sowed two weeks before that are doing really well. The cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are doing particularly well, as are the marigolds. And things like the onions and the calabrese are starting to show now too.

Only the basil was doing well for the herbs for the kitchen windowsill, but now the chives and the parsley are catching up.

Chitted potatoes.

Last week I chitted some potatoes. Those are currently on the kitchen windowsill, but we’re hoping they can go out next weekend.

We’re calling our little plot “Ian’s Farm”. He really is loving it and he’s doing the bulk of the work – I’m mainly directing!

“Ian’s Farm”

He’s also been busy in the stable, making racks from which to hang his growing collection of tools.

A place for everything, and everything in its place …

Chickens
The chickens are happy as pigs in muck. Pink is looking a bit scruffy, but the rest of them have really nice feathers now. We’re still getting between five and six eggs per day, so we’re still eating a boiled egg a day.

Can you see Pink’s pink bottom?

Aggie the Agoraphobic has taken to wandering off with farm chicken Madge and yesterday one of the children had to fetch her back to us! Poorly Pauline has made a full recovery and is getting more confident by the day.

Lara Croft: “Take *my* picture, *I’m* gorgeous!”

The Tour de Yorkshire
Another bank holiday weekend on the horizon. We have the Tour de Yorkshire cycling past the end of our drive this year. Three years ago we drove to Holmfirth to see the Tour de France. This year we have a grandstand view without going anywhere.

Let’s hope the weather holds out for them. And for us!

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!

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. 🙂