Monthly Archives: May 2010

Rain

It rained today, so for the first time in three months, we spent the day sleeping in, Reading the papers and lighting a fire. It was nice to just sit still for a bit in our own company and enjoy the house which we spend so little time in. I think I’ve had a glimpse of the good parts of winter smallholding, although I am aware it will also be lots of cleaning out on the rain etc.

It’s just starting to feel like we have the basics in place and can relax every now and then. We are getting 6 eggs a day and more salad than we can eat, so the living is beginning to feel a bit ‘easy’.


Joyful spring

Ho hum, the ups and downs have swung mostly to ups again. The weather is fantastic and being outside all the time is such a joy. Thanks Gill for your encouraging comments, it really helps to hear that we aren’t making too many mistakes.

All is well again now, the meat chicks are all looking much better, although all of the stock is feeling the heat and flopping around alot. The hens are all laying well and we managed to sell £5 worth of eggs this week, along with some salad. This will go some way to paying for the feeds. We have more than enough eggs for ourselves. The salad in the poly is growing faster than we can cut and eat it, so my food bills have definitely gone down. Can’t wait to be able to harvest some meat. I will really feel like a proper small holder then.

Becs and I have decided that eggs and honey (veg when poss) will be our cash crops, these will hopefully pay for the feed to fatten the meat stocks for our use. The eggs are very hassel free and seem to be easy to sell and transport.

Hopefully our neighbours will be moving their goat house this weekend, so we may have some new pictures to share by next week.

Our broody muscovy Virginia is such a little star she is sitting on 11 eggs, we are going to add 4 runner duck eggs this weekend to her clutch and cross our fingers.

I still can’t believe we are living the good life. We have to keep pinching ourselves.


On the other hand..some good news

Becs and I have both been saying that smallholding is real rollercoster of emotions, you seem to be dealing with life and death more than in a normal existance, and you have so much responisbility, one mistake can lead to illness for your animals. All I can say is that we are trying our best to get it right and keep everyone well.

The good news is that the muscovey duck Virginia has gone broody. She is now sitting on a clutch of 8 eggs, and we hope that she may add a few more to that total. So fingers crossed, we may have some ducklings before the end of June.

The other piece of good news is that we have some nice new neighbours who have asked if they can keep their pygmy goats on our land. We have given this a lot of thought, and have decided to say yes. Partly because we want to be able to help, but partly because we think that having some friends near who might be able to help us out from time to time could be good. We have worked out a peppercorn rent, and the goats coudl be moving in as soon as this weekend, which is pretty exciting. Anyway, watch this space…I will post some pics when I have some.


Another bad few days

I always find it takes me a bit longer to write up bad events on the holding, and we seem to have a had a bit of a bad run over the past week or so. Something’s have happened due to rookie errors and others have been a bit unlucky. I am going to write it all up, as I want to be able to look back and remember some of the lessons we have learnt, but also others might be able to avoid mistakes.

The ducklings didn’t hatch. Well…one did, but it couldn’t get out of the egg. When we tried to put a towel under the eggs, to help the hatch (as many books advise) the temperature changed too much, and we lost control of the environment.

I think in future, if we try to incubate again, I would put a towel in right from the start, so that when the crucial hatch day comes we don’t need to fiddle around. We also moved the incubator, which in retrospect was a mistake, temperature and humidity is everything. On the positive side, I’m pretty sure we got the eggs pretty far along (this is also very sad for obvious reasons), the cheap incubator just makes things harder to manage, but it could work and I might have another go with some of our fertile Muscovy eggs in the future, but not right now.

The other sad thing that has happened is that we have lost a meat bird. My diagnosis is Coccidiosis, which is not great at all, as the spores live on the soil for ages. The laying hens are inoculated against this, but obviously you don’t inoculate meat birds. Several reasons could be the cause. 1) I have given them too much free range, which means all the birds mix, I am learning that this makes control of parasites more difficult. 2) We have not allowed enough distance between the birds and the droppings overnight, and although we clean them out completely, this has obviously led to this problem. 3) We didn’t feed them a preventative chick crumb for long enough.  I have now taken the following steps to try to eradicate the problem in the rest of the meat flock. 1) I have penned them in on fresh grass, I intend to move them everyday to a fresh area to avoid re-infection from the droppings. 2) We have moved them higher off of the floor away from their own droppings. 3) I am giving them cider vinegar in their water, this raises the acidity in the gut, and although it will not fight the Coccidiosis, it will improve their gut health and help them to fight it. 4) I have a more drastic medicine I can give them, but as they are for human consumption I am reluctant to put this chemical into their systems, and will monitor things are a few more days. We may lose some more, but some look like they will survive. 5) I have bought a disinfectant that fights this type of parasite for the houses. 6) I have moved them to a new house.  

My final thoughts on this, are that meat chickens are a bit of a hassle. They don’t have the same vaccinations as hens, so they are more susceptible to parasites, (I am obviously using a wormer, but this doesn’t work against Coccidiosis). I am going to see how the Muscovy’s do with raising their young, and we may decide to not bother with chickens for meat. On the whole I think that rabbits and muscoveys are going to be less heart ache….but we’ll see.


Hatching Ducklings


Bee progress

Our friend in the north of the county is still working on our bee nucleus for us, which is just as well as we haven’t got the hives ready yet… So much to do. I need to spend a day assembling our flat packed one and sorting the bits and pieces given to us by S and N.


Polytunnel progress

All is going exceptionally well in the polytunnel, we are now harvesting some nice salads to go with the eggs that the hens are now laying. Outside about half of the asparagus crowns have worked, so we may need to replace sone gaps next year, but at least not all were eaten by our little slimey friends.