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Journey to a smallholding

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gardening

Chickens, veg and everything else!

Since my last blog, following the fox attack, we’ve gained two new rescue hens. They haven’t been named individually as they look the same, so they have been called ‘The Twins’.

They only took a week to settle into the flock, much quicker than last time. I think we’re getting the hang of introducing new birds.

The twins seem very happy, keen to try anything remotely edible and running around the garden trying to take off like a plane down a runway! Happy rescue hens. Thank you to Taylor’s Rehoming Centre for rescuing them and allowing us to give them a home. (http://www.westdorsetrspca.org/taylors.htm)

Our other three girls, Violet, Ginger and Snowball, have all recovered well from the attack and are back to normal, although Violet still limps slightly.

One thing it did make us decide though, is not to continue with building our own chicken house. For those of you that read and follow my blog, you will know that we were building our own chicken house, for under £30.  It was going well. We have the base, sides, a door and ramp, perches, nesting boxes. Everything except the legs and the roof. However, having seen how clever a fox can be and how determined he was to get to our girls, we don’t trust our building and DIY skills. If anything happened to them again, and it was because our house wasn’t secure enough, we’d never forgive ourselves. Our chickens’ safety comes before saving money. So, apologies to anyone who was following to see how that project panned out.

On another, non chicken related note, my veg garden is growing well. We had our first meal last night using home grown peas and mange tout. I can’t say they tasted any better than shop bought, but it was satisfying to know they were out of our garden.

Pencil radishes on the other hand, have proved disappointing. Huge, promising greenery on the top, and very little beneath. They were a free pack of seeds with my order from Mr Fothergills, (http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/) so nothing wasted, but I wouldn’t buy them. Next year I will try the proper round radishes instead.

Last year I had rubbish luck with courgettes, only getting a single small courgette through the whole season! This year is looking more promising so far. But we will see.

Something I haven’t blogged about for a while is moving house. We’ve been to see a few properties recently. All lovely in their own way, but not quite right one way or another. To say I’m getting frustrated is an understatement.

Another frustrating thing is that I have acquired a shepherd’s hut. There’s one at my family farm, that is rotten and sunk into the ground. It’s been there for over 50 years apparently. It’s something I grew up seeing every day and would love to restore. 

At the recent Bath & West Show, I met a lovely man who restores shepherd’s huts, and to my surprise, he lives locally (www.plankbridge.com). His huts look stunning and I have no doubt that he would do a fantastic job restoring ours to something beautiful. I spoke to my Uncle about this, and he has no interest in the hut, but has said I can have it if I want it. Excellent. How exciting.

The problem? I have nowhere to put it once restored. I need to find my new home with land first. Another reason to find something soon. So now, I have run out of space in my home and garden, want to grow my chicken flock, get ducks, have more veg beds and a greenhouse, and space to put a shepherd’s hut. The list of reasons for moving is growing, but the list of properties available is not.

Still, life is good and that is something to be grateful for.

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One year on…

computer-book-and-phone

So it’s been a year since I started this blog! So I thought I’d review what’s been happening…

What’s happened in the last year?

Plants grew from seed last spring, and mainly died in my garden in summer! Although they were much more successful in other gardens. It was my first year growing from seed though, so I’m counting it as a success that they grew in the first place!

We improved our DIY skills, much to our amazement, and built a brilliant new home for our chickens. Luckily what we built last Easter has actually been perfect for the avian flu outbreak, as it is a fully enclosed pen, with roof. The girls love it. The sides are chicken wire so they are roaming outside in the fresh air, but with the safety of secure boundaries and a clear plastic roof so they don’t even have to get wet when it’s chucking it down with rain! Over recent months we’ve adapted it to include more perches, and a gravel area as they were digging some seriously big pits… and on that subject, where does the soil go?! It seems to vanish and the pen looks like the surface of the moon! But they have great fun doing it, and they love a good dust bath in the moon craters!

Talking of chickens, we gained two new rescue hens, Violet and Rusty,  in October, which increased our flock to 5. Introducing them to the 3 posh birds was a two week slog of trying to stop them fighting and injuring eachother. At one point, I really didn’t think Violet would make it, but one morning they were suddenly getting on with eachother and they have been ever since. They really did have to establish their pecking order first though!

If I’m honest, the two new rescue hens are our favourites now. They have settled in so well and are much more friendly and I think grateful, because the life they have now is so much better than the caged battery hen life they had before. I feel proud to have given them a home, and can’t wait to get more and do it all again.

What hasn’t happened?

Moving home. We’re still on the hunt for a new home which will give us more space, more land and less neighbours! We’re constantly searching, with alerts coming through from Rightmove (www.rightmove.co.uk) almost daily, but nothing quite fits our criteria. We’ve done “drive-bys” on potentials, but ruled them out because of location, busy roads, or neighbours being too close, or the fact that estate agents seem to be photography wizards making them look much bigger and better than they really are! We’ll keep searching, but it is frustrating and a little disheartening sometimes, as it feels we’ll never find the right place.

We haven’t got a dog. My heart wants one right now, in fact, years ago, but my brain knows I need to be working less / at home more, and preferably in our new forever home (if we find it) first. Plus, I’m still not sure how our needy but very loved cat would cope with a dog, and he comes first (even before the husband).

What about the blog?

When I started this blog a year ago, I wasn’t sure if it would take off. Would I have enough to write about? Who would be interested in reading it? What if no one does? Probably the same questions as many think when starting to write a blog.

However, I’m pleased to say the blog has started to take off in recent months, with many more visitors (thank you!) and people retweeting my blog posts on Twitter. I was very proud to see comments and retweets on Twitter from Country Smallholding Magazine, Mr Fothergills, and author Simon Dawson, to name a few. Rather exciting! Thank you to everyone for their support. Please do send in any comments you have and keep sharing my content!

I’ve enjoyed writing more than I thought I would. Design has always been my main skill set, with writing second. But writing about something I’m passionate about has certainly made me more interested in writing, more so than design, a fact that I surprise myself with.

The year ahead

Expect to see more posts from me. I’m aiming to do at least one a month this year. I hope to feature more recommendations and words of advice and some funny stories along the way too!

I’ve already bought more seeds that I could possibly grow in my garden this year, so I hope they are successful in growing, and you never know, they may even provide produce too if I’m lucky!

The girls are already earning their keep, their egg sales pay for their food, as well as providing us with tasty eggs too. We don’t really have the space to increase our flock again this year, so we’ll just continue to keep our regular egg customers happy with a constant supply.

And finally, the search for our new home will continue.

Other than that, the rest of the year is a mystery to us all. Let’s see what it brings!

 

Don’t forget the flowers!

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Today, with the help of my green fingered Mum, I focussed on the front garden. I’ve dotted a few home grown courgettes and sweetcorn in there as it’s the sunniest spot, but the rest has been planted with flowers. 

Now to wait until it fills out.

Hard work today, I’ve caught the sun way too much, but a really great day.

I’ve also sold 4 of my courgette plants this week! Only 50p each, but very pleased people wanted to buy them!

Next task is to sow peas and transform a pallet into a herb and salad garden.

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