Category Archives: Starting Out

How to make amazing compost

I can now answer that question as I am a compost millionaire, with more compost than I know what to do with. It has only taken me five years to master it, but hey ho. The secret recipe is below
1) Chop everything up small with a sharp spade or similar. This helps it to rot down quicker, but more importantly enables you to fork it and turn it over with out finding massive weed ‘spiders’ that get tangled to everything.

2) layer it up so you have carbon stuff and nitrogen stuff…dried and brown stuff mixed with green leafy or grassy stuff.

3) water it

4) turn it

The last one is the most important. If you do this it will rot down super quick (3 months), if not, it can linger around for years.

I have dismantled and rebuilt all of our 5 compost bins. The previous incarnations had been in situ since we moved in 5 years ago so were beginning to rot. I have moved them up and changed the design slightly to accommodate better compost making.

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The main difference is the open fronts. This is to make sure that they can easily and regularly turned. Closed fronts encourage over filling and no turning, which means the matter does not break down.

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2014 Spring clean

William Morris said ” have nothing in your house which you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful “.

We decided to begin 2014 by having a huge sort out of every one our storage spaces. It has been amazingly therapeutic and fun. The difficulty with sorting out old stuff is trying to keep as much of it out of landfill as possible, and I a pleased to say that we have only taken one boot full of things to the dump, everything else has been rehoused with a new family or gone to the charity shop. Dumpable items were only really for things that we just could not pass on or repurpose due to being broken.

Every cupboard in our house is now leaner and meaner, and I really do feel that less is more in this respect. Having slightly less in each cupboard had enabled me to know what is in there and be able to access it, rather than having to crap surf over tonnes of rubbish every time I want a slightly more obscure item.

What has this got to do with Smallholding. I hear you ask? Well, when you are a smallholder you have a lot more tools, so organisation is essential, most people don’t have to find homes for spinning wheels, jam pans, mincers, butchers saws, incubators… And the list goes on. I’d love to have less possessions, and our dinky little house does keep a bit of a check on that, but there are something’s that you need to keep for sentimental reasons or to do a practical job, so organised spaces helps that.

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Sencemeadow Charter

1) Our animals will be raised in an outdoor free range environment which allows them to express all of their natural behaviours.

2) Our animals will live a stress free life with on demand access to food and water.

3) Our animals will either be swiftly despatched on the premises, or taken to a local abattoir.

4) We will not use any pesticides or artificial chemical based fertilisers on our land.

5) We will encourage wild life and a sustainable permaculture approach.

6) We will seek to promote a diet in which meat is respected and eaten no more than twice a week.

7) We will use as much of the animal as possible.

8) We will respect the soil and endeavor to replenish the fertility.


How to make a Goose House, (Economical/Recycled/Cheap)

I am hoping this post will be useful to other smallholders and by writing this as a ‘How to guide,’ I might get up the google listings and get it out there. I think this is such as good idea I wannna share it!

In my previous lisiting Winter plannning, I discussed buying a plastic goose house, the links lead me to several different designs. All of which were plastic, which I wanted. Plastic houses are easier to clean than wooden ones, last longer and also don’t harbour any nasty mites which can bother poultry. BUT, plastic is not so great for the enviroment, and all of them cost between £200 and £300….which is pants!

So, I had this idea of buying a little playhouse on ebay and using it for the geese. I just won an auction on this Little Tikes design for £36. It is pretty gordy in its current form, but I am going hamerite paint it green to make it a bit more outdoorsy.

Geese  don’t have massive requirements for a house, but I want to be able to shut them in at night as I think they are a bit noisy. This will muffle the sound, keep them dry and warm in the deep winter and I spose it could give fox protection if the windows were fitted with grills. I have an electric fence so fox protection is not such an issue.

Sadly the phone that comes as standard with this design is missing, but at least the play kitchen is still there. If you know anything about Geese you will know that they do love toys almost as much as dogs. Once I have installed it, I will take some pics of the gang playing with it.


Winter smallholding planning

Warning* This is going to be a long post with lots of admin in it*

I am sitting in my kitchen. It’s a lovely Autumn day today, the sun has been shinning,but after spending the morning harvesting I have decided to come inside and do some essential research and planning that will move our little project here forward this winter.

I am multi-tasking, as I have a large piece of Venison in the oven slow roasting, it smells amazing. This is the first piece of non Sencemeadow meat we have bought in a year, so I am really looking forward to trying it. Becky’s aunt got hold of a whole deer for us from a local (to her) source down in Sussex. The deer was culled as part of a management programme to ensure the continued health of a semi wild herd. £80 for a whole deer, what a bargain! We have 4 very large roasting joints (enough for 6 people each), and a load of stewing meat along with the offal. We may be giving away a few pieces to family, but in the main we will be eating it over the course of the year. It travelled back from Sussex frozen, wrapped in a wool blanket and did not defrost which is pretty amazing. I have completed the essential sizzle part of the roast, and now it is cooking in earnest. I have learnt a valuable lesson today, don’t wear a long beaded necklace when leaning over a basting tin…oh well, at least it can washed.

So picture me, sitting in my kitchen typing away, with the smell of a fantastic roast dinner floating through the air.

Winter Projects 2011

  •  Pasture management

This winter we need to apply some lime to the pasture. We have a bad case of buttercups which, if left, will eventually destroy the quality of the grazing. Buttercups occur because the pasture is too acidic. Buttercups thrive in acidic soil more than grass, so eventually they take over. (Cue horror film music). In order to tackle this properly, we need. A local  soil testing facility, somewhere to buy lime and a method to apply it. Some links to follow-up.

http://www.rhysbiotech.co.uk/

http://www.mslanalysis.com/#!soil-testing

Lime info

http://www.aglime.org.uk/technical05.htm

Seems like a contractor might be the way to go. Buy the lime inclusive of spreading. Need to look in our local rural trader for contractors for a quote.

  • Goose House

We have had some pretty terrific high winds for this time of year and the home-made pallet craft goose house may be on its last legs. Below are some options for more robust replacement.

http://www.animalarks.co.uk/animalarks.php?id=64 Carbery arc looks good and versatile.

Also considering a second-hand children’s plastic playhouse from ebay. These are about £30 rather than £300. We would need to use hammerite and spray it.

  • Hedging

More on this and the headings below in a later post

  • Apple trees
  • Grape Vines
  • Footpath hedge management

Tree Stakes in the Forest Garden (RJ highjack)

As we have now decided our forest garden, while growing, would make a good overwinter pasture for the sheep, we need to think about protecting the young trees we planted last year. The sheep are quite naughty and will basically just eat them all if we leave them be, in fact they will think it is Christmas. I’ve found this company who seem to do some suitable protection and suggest that it is all about the staking with deer and sheep. They look pretty robust and easy to assemble/put in. It will take a while as there are around 30 trees to deal with in that area, but it will be worth it.

https://www.acornplantingproducts.co.uk/index.php?page=products_treeguardtrees

They do ‘shelterguards’ or ‘treeguards’, the difference seeming to be that the former are made of material that encourages a micro-climate around the tree and stimulates growth. The material they are made of is photodegradable too and is expected to last 5 years, which would hopefully be enough growing time. We would need 1.2m tubes https://www.acornplantingproducts.co.uk/index.php?page=products_shelterguardtrees , each with 2 stakes (25mm) https://www.acornplantingproducts.co.uk/index.php?page=products_stakescanes , which all together would be about £120. We’d also need some additional ties (2 for each tree), which will be extra, but I’ll have to call about that as I’m not sure which are the most suitable.


Rabbit breeding and 2015 farm

We decided to put Mack and Flow together last week. Its been 3 months since they last bred and Flow seems to have had a good rest. The exact date was 22nd of June, so that should give us a kindling date of around the 20th of July. We might try them one more time before the winter, we will see how she is.

Becs and I have been thinking about what we might do in the next cycle of animals. Its been great to have a go at everything this first year, and we will happily keep all of our animals into their retirement, but realistically speaking after the first 5 years we will be in a position to have a change. Rabbits are only really fertile for the first 3-4 years of their life, so I think Mack and Flow would become pets after that. My experience of chickens is that 5 years is a pretty long life and they defo don’t lay eggs after that.  Muscovys and geese are much longer lived. Geese can live for 20 years (although I think this is uncommon) and Muscovys can live for 10 plus.

My thoughts are that we may not continue with Rabbits, as although they are very productive, they are a pain when they are growing as they escape a lot! I don;t like the idea of raising them in small hutches, so ours always have a large outdoor run.  Also I feel the same about chickens, they are very productive in terms of eggs, but we can’t keep a cockrill, so we can’t breed them and they are so susceptible to mites etc. Muscov ducks are so hardy, I love them to bits and will always keep them, the geese are here for the long haul, and the sheep are brilliant and practically no work.

Becky has different views on this, but my view of the 2015 farm would be;

More Soay sheep

More Muscovy ducks and maybe a few female Karki cambells for eggs

and our Geese.

 

I would stop selling eggs, and just have enough birds to keep us in eggs. I would run the Muscovy and the geese in together and the Soays in a seperate pasture.  We would hopefully have bees my then as well.

Anyway its along way off, but that is my thinking at the moment.

 


First Successful Soay Lamb

The first Soay lamb was born last night. Becs and I managed to see the final stages through binoculars, but it was dark, so we could only really see the outlines. We set our alarm really early this morning, to go out and check progress,and also to ear tag the lamb. The lamb is a little tup (boy). Becs has just looked upsome more things about what to expect. The lamb will be pretty slow and stationary for the first few days, feeding occasionally. Then more bouncy after about 3 days. As long as he is up on his feet and close to mum we have nothing to worry about.

Both Ewe and lamb are doing really well.

5 hours after it was born