Smallholding Sunday

I am starting a series of blog posts, about the things we get done and need to do around the holding…. maybe accountability, maybe a kick up the bum when we need it, maybe all just pie in the sky….. I will add videos onto the YouTube Channel for a monthly tour of the main bits of the holding as well! Hopefully around the same time as my monthly updates posts!

So for a first posting, maybe a list of to dos I seem to add to almost daily. These are over and above our daily chores of feeding and watering the animals which has to be done whatever the weather, although the chickens didn’t like the snow we had recently!

So my list at the moment:

  • Barn gutterings and down pipes (this will have to wait till later in the year and for a dry time, but we have managed to repair the middle barn sidings so far less water incursion there)
  • Tin hut finishing (there are MANY small and large jobs for this to happen but it will happen this year!)
  • New duck enclosure, they need a new house, more space and we plan to add it onto the current large chicken run
  • New willow plantings, both basketry and biofuel (J has finally said the whole little field can be put to willow!! Yay!! Well other than my dye beds, which will move up to allow for the duck enclosure to be added.
  • Renovate chicken shed enclosure after fox incursion last year, make the run ‘walk in able’
  • Make a hedgehog enclosure, Holly will need a safe outdoor garden space to live in come the spring, with log piles, a shallow pond and sleeping box.
  • 2 long hedgerows to cut and reshape into a hedge rather than the tangled mess, and to also add to our wood supplies for next year.
  • Camping pitch x1 in the far pasture.
  • Start clearing the holding field for building work/landscaping though this will be an ongoing project over the next few years. I plan to build a cabin to run courses and more forest school etc.
  • Planting, growing, harvesting, fruit and veg
  • Planting and growing dye plants
  • Ongoing garden projects, both for the children and for flowers and prettiness!
  • Make a pond
  • Make more wildlife garden areas
  • Plant trees
  • Continue clearing and sorting the inside of the barns, removing rubbish, from years of accumulation both by us and the previous owners. Making workable areas and storage.
  • Pigs, at some point in the springtime the pigs will head off on their final journey to the abattoir

We have always had lots of plans each year for this place, last year we did a lot of gardening and we managed a few final fencing jobs, some holiday let building, a pig house, and a play palace for the boys. In fact since we bought the place in 2014 we have built a house, started and almost completed a second, built a veg garden, three huge raised beds and a polytunnel, planted an orchard, fenced and fenced and fenced. We have built a fruit cage, planted withy beds, a dome and a tunnel, more gardening after beating back enormous bramble forests….

So far this year, we have managed to start cutting back one of the hedgerows, the longest in fact! We are about halfway down the inner side, the outer side was done by tractor flail cutting. So just the tops to do on that half and then into the really overstood half! This has so far gained us about 5 foot more garden space for the holiday let. Now I need to chip the brash and get the willow fedge planted and the holiday let garden can rest till spring, when patio, gate building and planting will start in earnest. The far field hedge will allow us to plant some quick growing pines, for biodiversity, screening and firewood and also to prepare the camping pitch and compost loo site for the summer months.

We have planted our little horse chestnut tree, we have mastered sourdough and we have measured, planned out and written a to order list for the three new enclosures or extensions we need to build.

What’s doing??

We have been busy as bees round the holding still, but since the start of lockdown in March we have not had any significant rainfall!!! 10 weeks!!

Things are tinder dry outside…. we are having to regularly water everywhere and currently just the other side of our nearest village there is a forestry and field fire that the forestry services and a helicopter have been battling since Sunday evening…

Thankfully there is some rain forecast tonight and for at least the morning tomorrow! The earth here will give a sigh of relief I expect when it starts to fall!!

In the meantime here a few snapshots of the past few weeks here! New fencing, shearing, turning out the horses, new chicks, new play stuff for the boys, elderflowers and a lot more!!

A few updates!!

Things are starting to grow in the Polytunnel and the fruit cage has a heap of green strawberries!!

James has built the majority of the first long raised beds!! Just awaiting delivery of the blocks for the rest of this bed and the second now!! But we could wait and started to plant!!! Beans this end…. ran out of canes but had a heap of branches!!! So for now we use those!!! Broccoli, cauliflower (any suggestions for deterring cabbage whites gratefully received!!) celeriac, some pumpkins and courgette so far!!!

The hay meadows are looking glorious following the spell of hot weather we have had!

The hedgerows are growing amazingly now!! Fingers crossed that they’ll now be a bit more Wanda proof!!! But I’ll still check on her each day to make sure!!!

We have had some seeds sent from the seed share project from @croydongardener on Instagram!! Some really unusual squashes etc all heirlooms too!! Can’t wait to get those planted!!

Last week was half term so my sister and the children came to visit. They enjoyed meeting the tenants in the field currently!! Such beautiful little foals and their gorgeous mamas!!

They had fun building some of their own toys for bits from the barn and building dens!!

My niece turned ten also so I made a cake and she helped me ice it!!! Mmmmm chocolate orange cake!!! Yum!!!

I cant remember whether I included the bee hive in the last update or not but James has built a bee hive and we are now awaiting our first bees once he has it sited!! So exciting!!! We shall have our own honey next year!!!’

Lots of things happen here each week it seems…. time flies and it won’t be long before we will be looking to get our hay cut and baled up!!

Sheepy shenanigans

So…. back in February a Beulah speckled face sheep appeared on our yard…. we tried everything to find its owner, contacted ALL the agencies had animal health out, and the animal health lady checked her databases for us to try to trace the owner…. no avail… so we advertised on the gate post…. and fourteen days later she became ours…..

So we have a Wanda!!

Now Wanda is an amazing escapologist…. she has tested all and I mean ALL of our boundaries…. shown us EVERY possible spot that is even the slightest bit weak and gappy!!!

So we have had MANY trips to other fields coaxing her back with the bucket into the field we want her in and also trips further afield to neighbours’s land and the lane and the walking path to the next village even!!!!

We have used bit of baling twine, logs, old posts, brash, bits of old gates, everything to try and keep her in the one field…..

Then a neighbour struck on a fabulous idea…. poor beast is in need of a friend… ah ha!!! She only started to try and escape once the rental sheep went home…. so the neighbours gave us Baabara!!

And a few days later!!! And a little more baking twine and brash… (she had one last hoorah into the next door field thankfully of ours!!) Wanda and Baabara are happily in the one field!!

With their neighbours…. the rental ponies and their utterly gorgeous foals!!!

Busy weeks!!

So the past two weeks have been filled with visitors and LOTS of outside work….. not much time for crafting except in between visitors and knitting of an evening!!

We started with a few days with my sister and niece and nephew!!

Someone was very pleased with his visitors!! And we had wall building round the Polytunnel!!

Playdoh….. painting…… forest school trip!

Bird box building and painting….

Phew very busy!!

Then last week my parents came for a few days!

It turned colder…. but we have meshed the fruit cage….. planted and frost fleeced a few plants that had been delivered…. blueberries in pots in some good Ericaceous compost as our soil isn’t right for them but we need them as young sir would eat his body weight in blueberries!! Well fruit in general!!

Then we had lots more Polytunnel progress…. just a shame on the final day the wind picked up so we couldn’t get the plastic on….

We had a wood delivery too…. didn’t get as much in last year as this year has required!! It’s all a learning process and bear in mind this time last year we were only able to collect wood every other weekend!!!

Any way all this done plus toddler wrangling…. plus catering…. keeping the home fires burning…. and growing a baby….. phew

We have had a quieter weekend this weekend sans visitors!

Finishing some jobs in the fruit cage….

Using sawdust to make paths…. cable tying the mesh further and pegging it down….

Then today….

Chipping the brash piles we’ve had lying about from hedgerow sorting!! Finally seem to be making some progress in rejuvenating some of the hedgerows and hope we will be able to lay some of them in a couple of years to thicken them up and really sort them!

Escaping sheep….

The second sheep related mayhem…..

I was stood surveying the brambles left to hack up and something caught my eye from the corner near where we buried Polly…

A white fluffy something, standing staring back at me chewing happily away on a mouthful of contraband grass!!!

Damn sheep have made it the through the gap in the hedge that the brambles once covered……

Over we went with Sookie, who on sighting the sheep at closer proximity than she expected shot back to us and behind our legs, sheep clambered back through the gap and James and I spent the next twenty minutes using some of our cut branches in the field to weave across the gap! making a mental note to add some hazel saplings into this hedgerow with tree guards to give us something in the future to lay properly and reinstate a more solid hedgerow!!

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Another weekend at the farm!

Last weekend we went to the farm with my Mum and Dad, so naturally we got a few jobs done!!

Mum and I did some extreme sloe picking, meaning the hedgerow needed cutting back from the gate a smidge and we could reach some of the really good sloes so…. Stihl motor plus extendy chain saw attachment…. And I cut them good branches down!!! Whilst Mum picked them clean!!!

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Meanwhile back in the barn where our tank for the borehole is Dad and apprentice James were building “the coffin”

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This is a wooden box which will eventually be stuffed with fleeces/wool to insulate the water tank!!! And it also doubles as a work bench!!

Dad and James built it using a load of the wood left from taking down the housing from my Granny’s swimming pool!!

Mum and I were then trusted to take out Ally the gator into the fields for a drive round the hedgerows…. Where we picked blackberries, rose hips and also found we have honeysuckle in the hedgerows!! So pretty!! We also had a sneaky game of slalom racing round the haylage bales!!! Te he!!!

Wildlife in the banks

I found a few lovely specimens of plant-life nestled in the banks of our hedgerows and borders on the May bank holiday!!! Any help identifying the unnamed hoots would be greatly appreciated!! I appear to have left the book on my newly made shelving unit in the hovel!!!

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Borage?

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Bluebells

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Red campion?

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More bluebells and…..

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Oo and bonus point for naming the fungus!

My first jobs!!

Finally after fussing the baby St. Bernard next door and a bit of pootling about I gained possession of the spade!!!! Alleluiah!!!! I snatched up the spade, loaded it into my wheelbarrow and left the men folk mulling over their newly dug ditch and Mum cutting back the cotoneaster on the front of the building. My mission was to find some the field growing baby trees and return them to growing in some of the smaller hedgerow spaces!! As I got into Big field I realised that the owner of the sheep tenants had been in a reopened the gate….. Sheep tenants and their lambs were all over the big field and the small field…… Hmmmmm Pup had come to dig trees with me….. However she was amazing and she just careened about fairly close to me and woofed a bit when the sheep got too bold and wandered over to investigate in the goings on in the corner of the field!!

In all I found down the one hedge line 6 baby field growing trees and replanted them in the gap between Big field and Small field.

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I still need to start reinstating some banking here though, by chucking some rocks, of which there are many, and earth in here!!
James came to collect me after I had been gone for a hour or so and we wandered back to get some lunch!