Posts Tagged ‘grow your own’

Asleep on the job

Apologies to all of you who must be bored rigid with my witterings about digging the vegetable garden but it’s taken over my life so the fact that it’s also taken over the blog is inevitable.

I’ve finally developed a rhythm and a system and found today’s efforts to be extremely relaxing, not least because it feels like I’m finally making progress. I’m still not sure how many stones I should be removing from what’s proving to be damn good soil, but I’m picking up as many as I can.

On Monday, Snipe tried to help me by retrieving all the stones I was throwing out of the patch but as I don’t let her play with stones, it really didn’t take her long to connect the cross tone of my voice with her actions: she brought me the squeaky green ghost as an apology. She chewed it for a while and was obviously watching me tackle the turf, since, to make up for her earlier indiscretion, she helped out:

Snipe helps dig the veggie garden!

Snipe helps dig the veggie garden!

Yesterday, however, all my “helpers” spent the afternoon snoozing in the sun:

Snipe

Snipe

The weaners

The weaners

Midge

Midge

I doubt I’ll be digging much over the next few days, as the forecast looks rather soggy, so if you’re lucky, I might find something else to blog about! Maybe…!

As the sun shines, so I dig

Yesterday was my third day of digging the veggie garden and I’ve finally developed a routine and a system and have, I hoped, figured out what I’m doing!

It’s going well. Progress is still slow but much better than on the previous two days. The trouble is, it’s going to start raining this afternoon so I have a feeling that now that both I and my muscles have figured things out, I’ll have to stop. Meh!

And the weaners are still having fun on their patch, though progress was not as fast as on the previous day. Some were keen to keep working for their grub, but others were happy to take the chance that I’ll feed them and love them whether they sleep or dig!

B and the weaners - 22 March 2009

B and the weaners

B was finally able to spend a non-rainy day at the farm with me and it was so lovely to have her around. She often helped her father in his vegetable garden when she was a child so was able to offer lots of advice and helpful tips, but mainly I just enjoyed her company and conversation. We don’t see enough of each other and spending a day in the sunshine was a real treat. In fact, I’ve been spoilt rotten with company over the past few days so today will be very quiet. Too quiet, I think.

Dig it baby, dig it!

Yesterday was a tough day, as my aching muscles are only too willing to attest this morning. It was a lovely day: the sun was shining, the sky was blue and a cool breeze refreshed and regenerated: a perfect start to spring even if I was barely aware of the fact until I caught up on my blog reading last night!

I managed to talk Jennie into spending the day with me at the farm and had forgotten how much pleasure can be gained from doing one’s usual routine in the company of a wonderful friend.

We spent the morning getting the chores done and then planned to spend the afternoon in the orchard, where I would continue digging the vegetable garden and Jennie would sit back and enjoy the sunshine, get some fresh air into her lungs to beat her lurgy, groom Snipe, who is moulting by the bucket at the moment, and attempt to repair my trousers, which have decided to fall to pieces for no apparent reason: maybe an attempt to get out of digging?

But when we went to the orchard, the previous day’s efforts looked somewhat lacking:

The veg garden after Day 1 - 21 March 2009

The veg garden after Day 1

With the rest of that patch to dig, plus another of a similar size, we decided to call in the reinforcements:

The weaners on the vegetable garden - 21 March 2009

The weaners on the vegetable garden

With those four working on the second patch, I carried on with the first. Progress was, however, slow. My arms and back simply did not want to co-operate and it took me a long time to warm my muscles up and get them to do anything useful. And then, typically, just after Jennie joined me in the digging and we got into a routine, we came across a very large stone:

Jennie finds the boulder

Jennie finds the boulder

It took us a v.e.r.y l.o.n.g t.i.m.e to dig that wretched stone out of the ground, though we entertained ourselves with stories of buried treasure and Roman coins.

Jennie and the boulder - 21 March 2009

Jennie and the boulder

Being March, the hours of daylight available for digging were still limited and with the weaners to return to their enclosure, and all the pigs and chickens to feed, we were forced to call it a day.

It really didn’t seem like anything had changed!

The vegetable garden after Day 2 - 21 March 2009

The vegetable garden after Day 2

Still, at least the weaners had fun and I’m hoping that a second session today will, if nothing else, get rid of the grass, which will make things a lot easier!

The weaners on the vegetable garden - the results! 21 March 2009

The weaners on the vegetable garden - the results!

Things are looking up, however, as the weather forecast for the next couple of days has changed and it might not be raining on Monday after all, which means I get a bit more time to dig. Maybe!

Don’t suppose anyone fancies a day in the sunshine, working on their muscles and fitness?

Nah, didn’t think so!!!!

Busy, busy, busy!

Bailey, Tia and the dogs - 19 March 2009

Bailey, Tia and the dogs - 19 March 2009

While these guys have been relaxing and chilling in the sunshine, I’ve been digging. And digging. And digging. And yet it doesn’t feel like I’ve achieved very much!

It looks as though it’s going to rain on Monday so I’ll be spending the weekend with a fork in hand so please forgive my likely online absence over the next couple of days. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be outside yourselves during this spell of good weather and won’t be reading this until it rains anyway…!

Enjoying the sun

Well, hasn’t this week been a contrast to last week’s deluge? The field is almost dry enough to abandon my wellies though I’m not risking it as my leather boots are departing from the sole and I like having dry feet… Hmm, really must dig out my new pair!

Photographic evidence of the bright blue skies! Very odd seeing that backdrop for the winter-esque trees!

Photographic evidence of the bright blue skies! Very odd seeing that backdrop for the winter-esque trees!

Anyway, I’ve been spending most of my time outside, enjoying the feeling of the sun on my back as I’ve been doing those jobs I either couldn’t do because of the weather – or didn’t feel like doing because of the weather! I’ve moved Scrumpy and Brini’s enclosure, giving them a large amount of untouched ground, though I left the ark where it was, and also gave the weaners some fresh ground, which they are doing a great job of clearing. Bye bye, reeds and brambles!

The chickens’ Eglu and Cube have been well and truly scrubbed out and I’m making an effort to stop being so lazy and have been cleaning out their poo every day, though I’ll stick to scrubbing it out on a weekly basis. I will, however, be realistic and admit here and now that it’s quite unlikely that the poo trays will be emptied on days when it’s tipping it down… I also moved the chickens off the veg patch and onto fresh ground, ahead of tomorrow’s digging efforts. Jennie and her boys are coming to break ground with me, which will be lots of fun. It’s one thing doing all this on your own, but it’s something different altogether when you have company.

I’ve cleaned out the shipping container where I keep the animals’ feed. Well, I’ve cleaned half of it, but I’m also in the middle of scrubbing out all the feed bins as well. Now that the temperature’s warmed up, it’s become quite evident that I need better storage for things like rubbish so I have fiddled and faddled and come up with different ways of storing everything. When it’s finished, I should have lots more room and will hopefully know where everything is!!

What else?

What have they heard? Evidently *not* me calling them so they'd look at the camera!!

What have they heard? Evidently *not* me calling them so they'd look at the camera!!

I’ve enjoyed the company of the dogs and have been walking them down to the river where Midge happily follows the scents of animal trails and Snipe leaps in and out of the water, fetching sticks and just generally having fun. I really must find out when the spring/summer dog ban on the beaches comes into force and if there’s still time, take them one more time. Maybe that would be a fun way to end tomorrow’s day with Jennie and boys? Work hard digging and then celebrate with the beach and maybe an ice cream?!

Finally, I must not forget the pigs and since they drop to the ground and snore like roaring dragons the second they get a hint of sunshine, I have spent many a happy hour sharing their sun-worship. This is what life is all about!

Me and my man!!! 15 March 2009

Me and my man!!! 15 March 2009

The to-do list is, however, ever-growing and I still have to plot out the veg patch (made complicated by the fact that it’s a large circle, quartered by wide paths: great for a 4-year crop rotation but not so great as only one quarter was used last year, but it was quartered again so I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t plant in it. Another quarter was used for the lasagne garden, but only a third of that has composted properly! Hmm.

One soggy doggy, waiting for permission to leap back into the river!

One soggy doggy, waiting for permission to leap back into the river!

I also need to finish cleaning the shipping container and feed bins etc and sort something out for rubbish, recycling and the fruit and veg I get for the pigs, otherwise I’ll be experiencing a very stinky summer!

Finally, I also need to rake up all the long grass that the chickens have helpfully scratched out of the ground (a) so it doesn’t kill the new grass trying to grow underneath it, and (b) so I can use it on the lasagne garden.

A busy couple of days ahead: can’t wait!

Sunset

Sunset

Round-up

It’s been a busy few days

  • Wormed the pigs this week. Used the injection Ivomectin, which does internal worms and external parasites. Stabbed myself as well several times, so I’m covered. Not easy to inject “under the skin” when your pigs don’t have very loose skin. Add that to the self-injecting and next time, I’m using granules.
  • Sliced my finger open yesterday on a tin as I picked it up to throw into the recycling box. Ouch.
  • B has gone away for the week to see relatives. Not sure who misses her more, me or her cat. Horatio’s consequently sulking big time and won’t talk to me. I’ll put a wash on soon, that’ll cheer him up.
  • After many months of eating properly, Midge has gone back to being a fussy eater and in the past three days, hasn’t eaten much more than a handful of biscuits. All I can do is wait for her to get hungry…
  • My hand is covered in scratches. I think one of the cats went for me while I was asleep last night!
  • Before worming the pigs, I measured them all to get an estimate of their weights. I’ve been feeding them too much. Oops!
  • It was sunny yesterday morning when I fed the pigs, so I didn’t put on my waterproof coat. Predictably, the heavens opened and I was forced to wait it out in Tia and Bailey’s ark. Tia was thrilled and settled down for lots of belly rubs and head scritches. Bailey was a bit surprised when he eventually had enough of the hailstones and made for shelter!
  • I want to get on with the vegetable garden but we keep getting frosts. Most annoying.

Nemo: the results

So, having done The Deed, plucked him and gutted him, we discovered that Leghorn x Buff Orpingtons don’t, in fact, carry a lot of weight (ie meat) especially when you’ve been feeding him ad lib with the layers and haven’t been deliberately fattening him for the pot.

So rather than cooking up a roast chicken dinner, we instead roasted the bird on Sunday night and last night B made the most delicious risotto! Lots of peas and garlic, more chicken than we expected – plus the magic ingredient, fresh cream!

If I’m honest, while the dish was scrummy, the taste of the chicken didn’t stand out in the same way that out home reared pork and sausages did.

We’ve decided that this is because we roasted him and then let him sit for 24 hours before cooking him again in a risotto, rather than munching our way through the chicken as soon as he came out of the oven.

Still, it’s really made me think about the chicken I have so glibly purchases in the past and I have a feeling I’m reconsidering my diet. Do I really want to eat the Bird’s Eye chicken pieces in the freezer? What about the shop’s own ones?

Now that Nemo is no longer crowing in the chicken run, the death of a chicken for my dinner means a lot more than picking up anonymous ingredients in the supermarket. I’ve only eaten shop-bought sausages on a handful of occasions since putting Vicky and Albert in the freezer last March and while I have eaten plenty of bacon and gammon, I’m not sure if I’ve had a shop pork joint since then, either.

But pigs are different: I don’t slaughter them at home, for one thing. And, for another, other than sausages, pork isn’t a basic ingredient for me. I rarely ate it before we got the pigs and my consumption of pork has increased dramatically in the past year, mainly because, for the first time in my life, I’ve found that I actually like pork: it’s just the taste of poor welfare standards that I disliked before, even though I didn’t know it!

Maybe the “he had a good life” thing is something we just say to kid ourselves but I either believe that or I become vegetarian. And since that’s not on my agenda, I’ll put welfare first. A good life, a good death. I’ll always let my chooks free range, maybe develop a system where I can keep any broilers in their own pen for the last month or so in order to put some weight on them, but that’s for the future.

For now, I can report that the chickens spent yesterday dust bathing in the sun, pecking at bugs and grubs and generally demolishing the old vegetable patch (it seems they really like kale!). They were feeling so good that seven of my eight layers popped an egg out for me. Fat Boy was on top of the world and even found the time to tell Flint off (the little guy took advantage of the tensions between Fat Boy and Nemo to pester all the hens), not to some special time with Buffy, his favourite.

Happy chickens - 16 February 2009

Happy chickens - 16 February 2009

It was a good day.