Monday, 18 May 2015


No not a volcano and mountains, but
a rather large black cloud moving in
A comment by Karen last week on this blog made me think. She said our preparation is like a military exercise, which in some ways it is and in some ways it isn't. We know there is a specific sequence of events that has to happen before we can do a job and that gets refined each year - well sometimes it does, sometimes we forget what we did and have to relearn every year. As far as the alpaca clean out is concerned we work on the principle that we need a clean house at this time of year for several reasons, firstly it is close to the time of the birth of the cria and we need a clean place for them to be born in; secondly we shear the alpacas in their respective sheds, as it is a familiar environment, and there is nothing worse than kneeling down somewhere that is not too clean; thirdly to keep the pest numbers down - over winter heat is generated by the rotting manure, which is supposed to be good for the animals and once it freezes there is no shifting it anyway and neither does it create a problem of smell, this time of the year it is different though; fourthly if the bedding layer got much higher we wouldn't be able to get in there comfortably. So as soon as we get a dry enough day to use the tractor and trailer we move into cleaning mode and get in there and get the job done.

If you look carefully, there is smoke coming from the
greenhouse in the foreground. It was 6C this evening
Seed and potato planting is another of those jobs and is also very weather dependent. We know there are usually dry spells in the spring followed by wet and showery weather, so we have to move fast to get the seeds in while we can and in so doing also taking advantage of the wet weather to water in our seeds. We also know from experience that there can be quite a prolonged dry spell in May or June and so getting the seeds in and growing well before then is quite crucial. A lot of the time it actually feels more instinctive than planned, but when we see our neighbours doing the same thing then we know we have really just attuned ourselves to the natural cycle of things around here. It took a little time to get used to, as the season is longer in the UK where we learnt the craft of growing vegetables. Having to wait until late April, May or even early June seems far too long, but the longer days and warmer summers usually make up for the shorter season.

Yey! Cherry blossom
There was a bit of excitement this week, I heard a commotion one day as I sat in the greenhouse sifting compost. It was severe enough to make me run outside to find out what was causing it. What I saw was our rather elderly and portly big white chicken, we aptly call Big Bird, flying across the pond - no mean feat for a bird of her size and age, especially when she spends most of her time very slowly sauntering along with a distinct limp these days. A fox was also heading in her direction. With nothing I could immediately find to throw at the fox I just ran and hoped it would see me and scarper - which fortunately it did.

A rather ragged looking tail now. He looks a bit bedraggled
here as it has been a miserably wet day
The poor scared chickens were all gathered around one cockerel regardless of which batch it was from, meanwhile the other cockerel was trying to be brave and warn everyone. I couldn't get hold of Ian as he was strimming and couldn't hear his phone and so I spent the next half hour trying to coax the chickens from the chicken house back into their place to shut them in safe and sound. Unfortunately one of the chickens was really freaked out and I didn't dare pick her up as I knew the cockerel would not be happy.  The other batch of chickens went into their ark no problem, but I had to go and get Ian to coax the cockerel in as he wasn't going anywhere near me and my attempt to catch him with the net, whilst successful was not fruitful in the end as he escaped from it, before I could get hold of him. Ian found a few of his tail feathers a couple of days later and so we think the fox must have nearly got him – no wonder he was a bit freaked out.

Asparagus is starting to come through, but only one plant
is showing signs, which is a bit worrying
On our way home we saw that fox again, a fallow deer and a stork in a field and it made us think - how many other places would you see those within a short space of time on our way home from “work”? The variety of small birds is not huge around us, probably due to the harsh winters but we definitely do have swallows, siskins, wagtails, blackbird, chaffinches, bullfinches and I think some type of warbler. What we do see on a regular basis, which is a bit more unusal are ospreys, eagles, storks and cranes. Today we saw some white egrets on our way home from town after a visit to the dentist.

I tried taking a picture of the baby chicks but they weren't
cooperating. You can see the two black ones can't you?
From left to right, grey, black, mottled white, black, white.
No? I can't see them very well either. Maybe another day
Whilst on the subject of dentists, as you may have gathered we have finally found a dentist that speaks English and works within a reasonable distance. She isn’t the cheapest dentist around (either that or the prices have gone up recently), but at least I can call her myself and make an appointment. The other good news is that it only took one injection and it didn’t hurt whilst she administered it from some weird gadget that counted down to us in English. She laughed and said it was an English-speaking machine and could translate for us. I wish! The bad news is that one tooth will have to be extracted at a later date, one tooth had a hole that was so deep she had to do root canal treatment and I still have one tooth that needs a filling. So that means two more trips to see her and she booked us in for the hygienist the next time.

Mr. Tellus has been enjoying his yearly
outing to see the ladies. Well one in
particular. We are fairly certain the
younger alpaca we tried to mate last
year is not pregnant and so trying
again this year. We will only mate her,
the older ladies can have a rest from
producing. Tellus and Estelle though
only seemed interested for two days, so
 will try again in a few days time.
Ian had a late evening phone call this week with a request to transport a horse for a friend. It is the first time that our horsebox, has actually been used to transport a horse. It has been used to transport a cow, sheep and alpacas in terms of animals; it has also been used to transport furniture, hay, the two wheel tractor, rotavator and wood, so it is quite a novelty to use it for what it has been intended to for. Ian was quite pleased that the horse even left us with a present of some manure, but it did stink the greenhouse out when he put it on one of the beds. It has now been dug in and so doesn’t smell so much.

One we didn't part with
We said goodbye to twenty of our chicks this week, nine of the little ones and eleven of the bigger ones. We kept all the pretty looking ones – so much for selecting for meat birds or good laying birds. We thought it would be interesting though to see how they turn out, as some of them are so black I wasn’t able to take a photo of them in the dim light of home. Oddly enough there weren’t any brown ones, even though we do have about three good brown layers. Another twenty are on to incubate for another request for new stock.

Various salad type leaves in the greenhouse
Bill a regular commenter on here recently listed all the seeds he has sown on his farm on his blog, so I thought I would have a go at my list. I haven't put all the varieties, because some are seed we have kept or been given and I cannot be 100% certain of the variety. Ian is much better at keeping records than I am but he doesn't do much in the way of seed planting - unless it is en masse.

Carrots, Leeks,, Parsnip Kale, Short beans x 4 (red, stripey, spotted, black), Climbing beans x3, Turnip, Broad beans, Swede - 3 (rutabaga for my American friends), Beetroot, Cabbage x3,  Chinese cabbage,  Scorzonera, Carrots x2 (more later), Kohlrabi, Chicory x2, Celtuce, Onions -at least 3 varieties, Rainbow chard, Garlic, Welsh onion, Calabrese, Chenopodium giganteum

For the Greenhouse
Spinach, Peppers x3, Chick peas, Spring onion, Sweetcorn, Cape gooseberry, Rocket, Lettuce (outside too), Radish (outside too), Tokoyo Bekana, Peas, Tomatoes x 20, Mizuna, Sesame

Herbs and Flowers
Sage, Coriander (cilantro), Basil, Marigolds, Dill, Basil x6, Fenugreek, Cress, Mustard, Winter purslane, Spicy shrub, Parsley x2, Bergamot, Peppermint, Lavender, Marshmallow, Nigella

Field types

Wheat - April awned (small bed of these), Oats - hulless (again  a small bed of these), Buckwheat, Clover, Beans (brown and beige), Sunflowers

Estelle, Tellus' lady friend. She badly needs her teeth
cutting, but hopefully the remedy the
tooth-a-matic (what a name!) is on its way.
The twenty varieties of tomatoes does not necessarily mean many of each, honest, it is just people give us the odd one and we add them to the varieties grown. Some are even named by the people who gave us them because we lost the names along the way. I think we will start to drop some of the varieties this next year though. The clover will be in for a few years to improve the soil in a particularly sandy area, so it will be cut to mulch it into the ground. At home I have also started on the squashes and cucumbers – there is no point in starting them too early because of the risk of frosts if they are planted out too early.

Snowdrop has been showing signs of discomfort just lately
and so we hope those are signs of an imminent arrival
On a positive note Ian's mother's house has now had an offer put on it that has been accepted. Not sure how long the process will take now though before it is finally sold. I know it always seems to take an inordinately long time in the UK.


  1. I see that you will be eating very well this year. :)
    Your reference to rocket reminded me that we are growing arugula (our word for it) too. One of my favorites.
    I'm off this morning to buy drip tape for our languishing gardens. As I mentioned to someone else, sometimes I wish we could just dial in whatever weather conditions we need, but I suppose that would take a lot of the fun away. :)

    1. I hope we will be eating well. Now if our hunter would just bag us a wild boar, then we will be really eating well :)

      I didn't know that arugula and rocket were the same thing. That's good to know. It took me long enough when living in America to find out that cilantro and coriander were the same thing.

      I guess if we could dial the right weather conditions for each of us, the result would be chaos. It would have to be done to a very fine scale indeed :D I see the weather forecast has changed for this week though in our favour. We are finally getting some dry days and not another week of rain. Oh the weeds will love it

  2. Wow! No wonder you've been busy. Still hopefully a good harvest to look forward to. Must have missed you on FB (don't know how) but glad I checked your blog knowing that you usually post on Mondays.

    1. Hopefully a good harvest Mavis, somethings should work from that list anyway. You didn't miss me on FB, I forgot to post the link - it was late when I finished :) Thanks for the reminder

  3. Short question: where do the chicks go?

    1. A friend of ours from camp days took them to his mother-in-law's who lives close-ish. The next lot will be going to our milk lady, who has some rather ancient hens and needs to replace them.

  4. ooooo I get a mention!! How exciting!!

    1. Well your comment did get me thinking. Credit where credit is due :)


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