Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Re- Purposed

Its been a while I know and this will be a quick post too, just wanted to share a picture of our latest re-purposing project. This belfast sink was up until recently buried on the smallholding, then it was used as a trough for the pigs but they found it a bit too easy to get into. So having drooled for years over those stone troughs with alpine plants in at garden centres I made my own. The grit was £3 and the plants another £3. looking at the picture I should perhaps of washed it better first........oops never mind mother nature will sort it out. 

The old galvanised sheep trough we painted and planted with herbs last year is doing well and has kept us in parsley, bay and rosemary all winter, I have even taken some cutting which have all rooted.

The next re-purposed planter is going to be one of these: 
(image from ebay )

We bought three off a friend for the price of one really , one has a crack in and would be fine as a feeder but I fancy transforming it ....................any ideas? (Its 3 feet wide and a bit rusty) 

Hopefully catch up with goings on in the veg plot soon, if I can ever stop "doing" long enough to "talk" about it lol. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

New Year, New Fedge

In the aftermath of the high winds (two of our chicken coops imploded and a huge crack willow fell) we decided we needed to work on creating some shelter for the chicken enclosure from the south easterly winds. After a bit of research we decided on a willow fedge, we had planted some small cuttings of willow and most seem to have taken but they are just too small to offer any protection. These will be transplanted elsewhere , and may in time be harvested as more fedge material.

A fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge and offers an almost instantaneous permeable barrier. Research led us to many discussions on aerodynamics and  lots of diagrams about turbulence and eddies. Essentially a fedge filters the wind and calms it , the air which goes over the top is buffeted away by the filtered air below which prevents it from heading ground-ward.  This leads to improved air circulation on the side opposite the prevailing wind and the creation of a micro-climate. This micro-climate can serve many functions such as preventing soil erosion ,warming the soil and providing shelter for small birds and mammals. Our primary concern was to channel the wind away from our hen houses, so we concentrated on the area directly in front of them, The fedge itself is in the vegetable plot but  the hen houses are close by, we decided to build the fedge a metre away from the existing fence to allow access for maintenance to both the fence and the fedge. 

We began by banging a few 5ft posts in about 6ft apart we then made planting holes with a thin dibber a foot apart along the length of the fedge line, 2 willow whips 6-7ft long were placed side by side in each hole and pushed in to a depth of about 12 inches then the fun began! The weaving took longer than expected and it was definitely a 2 person job, as we needed to tie in the branches where they crossed to prevent them un-weaving. In essence one of the 2 whips goes left and the other right but they alternate between going in front of and behind at the points at which they cross the other whips.  Once the willow starts to grow we will need to continue to weave it in once it reaches about 6ft tall we will cut off the growing tips to encourage bushing out, also anything above this height it seems can create turbulence in the area we want to protect. We used biodegradable sisal twine to tie the crossing branches once the plants are established it will rot away, it is also possible that these crossed branches will graft to one another making the structure even stronger. we used mainly salix viminalis or Osier willow which we harvested from the farm we mixed this with a bit of coloured willow I got from a friend. We look forward to seeing it grow and hope it has the desired effect on the chicken coop.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

New Hobby

Santa was really good to me this year, he brought me the most perfect gift, something I have wanted for a long time, a few weeks before Christmas this arrived:

Ashford traditional wheel
I have wanted to learn to spin for several years and after some encouragement(and a few practices on her wheel) from a spinning friend I took the plunge and ordered a wheel. it came from Wingham Woolwork which is the country's cheapest supplier of Ashford spinning wheels,which come from New Zealand where they know a bit about sheep. much practising has done and my hand eye coordination is getting better, this is my first ball of usable yarn

I have joined  a spinning guild and two local groups so should be able to spin with friends at least three times a month.It is great spinning in the company of others you learn so much more than from books alone. So far I have been gifted several rare breed sheep fleeces and promised many more, preparing the fleece is more time consuming than expected but washed fleece ready to spin costs around £20 a kg so grateful for the gifts! 

So far I have fleece from the following breeds

Jacob (the picture above is Jacob)
Torwen(welsh sheep)
Ouessant (mini French sheep)

The fleeces are in a range of colours from jet black through to white and all shades of brown grey and cream in between.  I have managed to get all the fleece washed and almost all of it carded on a drum carder hired from the spinners guild for £4 for the month. Carding is the process of getting the fibres all neat ready for spinning and is very time consuming and more than a bit fiddly, so this bit of kit has saved me loads of time and at £250 I don't think I will ever own my own. As well as spinning raw fleece I have ordered some ready to spin 'roving' also know as 'tops' from World of Wool , this is much easier to spin than fleece but costs much more. I have ordered 3 colourways:




 I am looking forward to spinning these lovely colour combinations, I will post pictures once it is spun up and the non spinners among you will be surprised at the change in their appearance as the colours change so much once twisted . Spinning is very relaxing lulling me into an almost Zen like state and it is totally addictive. Only downside is there aren't enough hours in the day to spend doing it, although the recent bad weather has meant doing a little more than usual. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014


Unloading the car
Last Monday our three (not so little any more pigs) made their final journey, we used a fantastic small abattoir who guided us novices through the whole process and treated our animals with respect in their final minutes. On Wednesday the carcasses were delivered to our local butcher, who guided and advised me through the cutting process. On Monday I collected the freezer ready meat all nicely packaged and labelled as well as 3 loins in cure which will become bacon and 3 boned legs of pork in a cure to become hams . the bacon will be ready tomorrow and the family are salivating in anticipation, the ham will be another week or so and will be cooked sliced and frozen (the hocks will be turned into soup). the butcher commented on the fact our meat wasn't as fatty as a lot of rare breed pork he sees, although he also said the eye of the loin was a little smaller than commercial pig meat....I guess you can't win them all.

Bacon in a smoke dry cure
Along withall the joints and chops etc came 120lbs of minced meat  ready for me to turn into sausages , we ended up with almost 150lbs after mixing with spice mix. rusk and water.  Some of this went into sausage skins others were pressed into burgers, and the Italian flavour ones were turned into meatballs and mince mix ready for an easy spag bol! I have made sausages before but never mastered the linking bit very well, but with the help of this video I think you will agree I finally cracked it 

The first run
The total amount of meat we have ended up with is around the 400lb mark we have not weighed the hams yet as they are bigger than my scales go up to (5kg) which we calculate as having cost us around £600 to produce including all feed, transport and butchery costs it also includes the cost of the tagging equipment which was £50 for 30 tags and the applicator gun so we have lots of tags  for future use.  So £1.50 lb for free range pork is a bargain, of course this doesn't account for labour and make up for all those wet early mornings but it tastes pretty good , we have sold around £250 worth already to friends and family so the stuff we eat is getting cheaper by the minute :) We also received 10lbs of back fat, some of which we rendered into lard for domestic use the rest has been mixed with bird seed and dried fruit to make homemade fat balls for the garden birds......nothing wasted here.

We really enjoyed pigkeeping but learned a few lessons along the way, like next time keep them over summer! We wont have any more this year as it will take us a while to work our way through the meat mountain, in fact we plan to keep a few lambs this year if we can get hold of a few orphans in the next few months. Overall we feel our first venture into large scale  meat production went well and are enjoying eating our home produced meat, i wonder how long it will be before someone asks what sort of pork is for tea tonight? 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Full Moon Over the Wolds

This was the view from our bedroom on Monday evening, the full moon rising over The Lincolnshire Wolds.  I spent many hours looking at it that night and as it soared higher into to the sky it lit the whole of the river valley, nature is so beautiful it's nice to reflect on it sometimes.

The Lincolnshire Wolds are a series of hills, a limestone ridge, which runs parallel to the east coast.  It runs from the river Humber in the north to the town of Spilsby in the south, It's dedicated an AONB. It's the highest ground in the East of England and the ridge itself is home to many rare wildflowers, it's very popular with walkers too but best of all it's the view from our bedroom window.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Win vouchers

My friend Nyk over on the frugal blog has £60 of Amazon vouchers to give away, pop over to her blog and leave a comment(after taking a VERY short survey to be included in the draw.


Saturday, 28 September 2013


Ever since we moved we have been working towards getting some pigs, this is the only thing we hadn't been able to practice beforehand.  We have had the fencing done around the pen for some time, we salvaged an old Belfast sink to use as a trough, and a tyre and bucket to use for water. We rescued and renovated an old pig ark  abandoned on the riverbank outside the farm, this saved us a fortune as new ones are over £300. 

We bought electric fencing  so we could section the paddock off so as to rest and rotate the land, then we waited for our pigs , we waited and waited and eventually came to the realisation that our supplier had let us down.  We put out an appeal to smallholding friends and were contacted about some newly born piglets, we went to visit them fell in love and arranged to go back once they were weaned. On Wednesday we made the journey to Grantham to collect them, the loading went without a hitch , and they slept all the way home.  Once home they refused to wake up and get out of the trailer , in the end they had to be persuaded out and duly set about exploring their new home. 

The bred is Oxford Sandy and Black , also known as the plum pudding pig , they are all boys and will stay with us until January. They are such fascinating creatures and as yet have no names, I was going to name them but realised pretty quickly this was a bad idea . They love apples and we have been foraging the hedgerows for wild ones to supplement their diet, all the veg garden waste we can is going to them too along with their pig nuts (anything to reduce the feed bill). They have gotten to know us quickly and have settled into their new routine easily, pig watching has taken over from chicken and duck watching and they love a good tickle behind the ears. I have to say the pigs arriving has made me feel so content and feel like all our dreams have finally come to fruition. We just love our new life and can't wait to build on our first years progress.