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Journey to a smallholding

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January 2017

Book review: Pigs in Clover

As you will know, my blog is about my journey to a smallholding. I’m not there yet, so I gather as much information as I can and try as much as possible in the space I have, while looking for that perfect smallholding (see previous posts, such as ‘Looking for a needle in a hay stack’.

So for Christmas I was given a book: Pigs in Clover by Simon Dawson. It looks like this:

pigs-in-clover

It’s a true story about how Simon Dawson went from being a London estate agent, to a self-sufficient smallholder in Exmoor.

Whilst it was given to me so I could read someone else’s journey, so I could gather more information as to how it is done and how difficult it is, and this book certainly provides this information, it is also the funniest book I have read in a very long time.

I read the book in a week, and that was me trying to make it last. I just couldn’t put it down. Every chapter is full of witty tales and surprises.

It covered lots of areas. I hadn’t considered how poor we may be when we move to a smallholding. I have planned all the different business ventures we could have depending on the smallholding we purchase, but never really thought about how we’d cope before they are set up and successful. The book also covers death, I’ll admit I cried a bit. I haven’t had to deal with animals dying yet and I know I won’t be very good at that at all. I’m too soft. He also questions the food chain, and eating meat. Whilst I could never be vegetarian, I’m not sure how I’ll manage sending my animals (which I’m sure will end up as pets) to slaughter. I don’t want to give too much away about the book, so I’ll stop there.

The back cover says: “So join Simon and his extended animal family on this laugh-out-loud rural adventure and learn what it takes to truly survive self-sufficiency.” And that’s exactly what you get from this book. I certainly learnt a lot from the book and it also gave me a lot to think about.  But it was also highly entertaining.

Whether you are like me, wanting to be a smallholder but not there yet, or already living the good life, I have to recommend this book. Such a fantastic read. He has a second book, The Sty’s The Limit, which I hope to get for my birthday next month.

There is also a website, which I have found since reading the book. It gives lots more information about them, their smallholding and what they offer, including courses to learn about running a smallholding, how to look after free-range animals, rearing pigs and butchery. http://www.hiddenvalleypigs.co.uk/

 

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Avian flu and chicken spa facilities

In December, it was announced that there was a risk of avian flu, and that all poultry needed to be kept inside / away from wild birds.

The current strain of bird flu is of very low risk to public health, but the wellbeing of birds is paramount.

The quarantine period has now been extended to the end of February following further cases being found. Sadly, some of those are local to me.

Our five chickens have a fantastic run which we built last year, with a roof, so wild birds or any other animals, can’t get to them. They have plenty of space to roam in the fresh air, but without being entirely free range. Therefore, we are complying with the rules to keep them and their food and water away from wild birds.

This weekend, we thought we’d spend the day in the enclosure and entertain them.

We’ve gone a little ‘grand designs’ on the run to ensure they are not bored. We dug holes (which they loved) and we planted some greenery that hopefully they won’t eat, but will attract lots of bugs and insects and also provide interesting hiding places. They have various hanging feeders, a pile of logs of varying heights to jump on and to attract woodlice (a favourite bug of theirs), straw to kick through, a dust bath area and perches that get lots of sunshine (when the sun makes an appearance).

My husband also installed “spa facilities” as he called it, which was an old litter tray filled with water for them to paddle, but much to his disappointment they weren’t interested in that (I did try to tell him they weren’t ducks). So, after  mumbling something about them being silly chickens, he told them their spa membership fee was non-refundable and removed it.

They seem pleased with their new activity centre, although what they most enjoyed most was us digging with a shovel and them jumping in the hole, which I’m afraid we can’t do all day everyday! We still have jobs to go to unfortunately.

Our girls are happy where they are, but I’m sure there are many chicken owners who are struggling with makeshift enclosures while the quarantine is in place. Hopefully not for too much longer, but the birds’ welfare is the most important thing, so if indoors is the answer for now, then so be it. Better to be indoors and healthy than free range and dying of avian flu.

For more information about avian flu and the protective measures, there’s a handy factsheet on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/581952/ai-birdflu-factsheet-170106.pdf

There’s also some useful information in the February edition of Country Smallholding magazine, which is out now. (Their website is www.countrysmallholding.com )

And finally,  a few pics of my girls, because it’s not often they pose for the camera.

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