The birds and the bees and horny goats……Ooer!

Hello and first of all sorry for the lack of blogging lately. I have been very busy with one thing or another..I bet you are wondering what on earth the blog’s title is about!

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Summer has FINALLY arrived and is on my dinner plate.. All from my plot.

The weather  in the UK has warmed up considerably these last few weeks, which means everything is growing like mad here in the permaculture veg gardens (yes including weeds) and I am busy harvesting, cooking and preserving my produce on a daily basis,  as well as spending far more time watering crops, shifting and watering compost heaps and of course watering the greenhouse. The resident livestock are enjoying the warm, dry weather but again I am spending more time topping up water buckets and administering fly repellents etc.

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Enjoying some sunshine!

As the breeding season gets into full swing here in the UK, a few wildlife ‘rescues’ have come our way. My daughter and I have been busy feeding a range of birds that have come to Riverside via one person or another. Here are a few photos and a video of what we have been up to. This event has instigated a new home education project about British Corvids.

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An injured crow has come to live with us

We spent 4 days feeding two of these little guys (Swallows) .They were fed every hour on the hour, with a mix of waxworms, mealworms and wild caught mosquitoes /flies/bugs. Sadly they didn’t make it, despite our very best efforts 😦 They came to us from a local farm, where they had fallen from the eaves of a tall barn and were being stalked by the farm cats and dogs. They seem to gain strength, were feeding well but at 4 am one morning I found one dead and the other passed in the evening of the same day . Very sad.

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Two rather cute fluffy pigeon squabs were far easier to keep alive and are now feeding independently and have almost lost the last of the downy feathers on their necks. They are practising flying and have become rather tame and are happy to sit on our shoulders or on my head.

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We have named them Ping and Pong 🙂

…and finally on Friday we took delivery of a rather special if somewhat scruffy and sad-looking injured crow. A lovely lady had found him close to death with appalling injuries to his eye and head and had nursed him back to health, albeit still a bit scabby and bald. However she was unable to keep him longterm despite wanting to, so he made his way to us via the lady’s two wonderfully kind children, who endured a 400 mile round trip in stifling hot weather to get him to me. He is proving to be quite a character and although he is blind in one eye ( it appears to be missing or hidden under some granulated hard scar tissue ) and he has also been scalped by whatever cause his injuries, he is still surprisingly trusting and gentle to handle.

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Arguine -Corona or Riverside

What a special bird! He will live out his days here at Riverside. He is far too tame to be released and his ability to fly is affected by his lack of vision, so he has a permanent home here with us and all our other animals.

The dogs have met him briefly and seem totally uninterested in our new resident. I have yet to introduce the cats to him. I am waiting for him to get more confident/strong before letting them meet one another. The cats have met our resident imprinted duck and we often have occasionally weak or poorly poultry in the cottage, so I expect they will take it in their stride. Image Re: Bees.I have had my bait hive set up in two different areas of the garden but been unsuccessful in attracting a colony this year..so it looks as though  I shall have to be patient or save up and buy a colony. I am seeing plenty of bee activity..both honeybees and native species which is great news for  the garden !

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Re: The Horny goat…..No we are not talking about breeding haha!…. but rather less exciting we are talking horns and unfortunately one rather pointy horn made sudden contact with one of my eyes this week and I am sporting a rather fetching purple bruise and split in the socket just above my eyeball.

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I am thankful that it wasn’t a cm or so lower as it would have made contact with my eyeball or even worse with my daughter’s face if she had been close by.

This is just one of the reasons why resident dairy goats here are disbudded under general anaesthetic before they are a week old 🙂

Here is Nemmie aka Anemone..our latest addition.. minus her horns. Growing fast!

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..and despite all the bird care and other time-consuming stuff, I have tried hard to make more time to drive the ponies whilst the weather is good. Had a lovely trot around the village the other day and they are now both settled back in their other paddock enjoying the sunshine and have FINALLY shed the very last their winter coats!

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Take care and thank you for dropping by xx

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What’s for dinner Mum?

Today saw the first of our courgettes harvested..Yay!…along with more early peas, various salad leaves, chard, tree spinach, rocket, mizuna, red orach, various herbs and other edible goodies.. and as always we have eggs from our quail and hens and milk, cheese and yogurt etc from our wonderful dairy goats.  ….and maybe we’ll have butter soon too, if I can get my hands on a cheap or free cream separator!

So today’s dinner was this delight for the eyes and palate.  As you can see my daughter was quite happy with what I served up! . “What’s for dinner Mum?”  ..A rainbow.. xxx

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Fresh laid eggs used in an omelette with courgette, peas, chives, onions and garlic ..all from the garden..a few dots of  home-made kefir cheese melted into it under the grill..Served with a medley of salad leaves: including tree spinach, red orach, nasturtium leaves, various frilly / oak leaf lettuces, both red and green varieties, mizuna, pea shoots, raw peas, borage flowers, chive flowers, chives, cos lettuce, rocket and shredded spring onions. .and a home-baked bread roll. … all washed down with home-made elderflower cordial.

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Nom..nom..nom..Image

Pretty and tastes great too!

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Chicken tractors and mole diggers..

As always space is at a premium here at Riverside and more growing space is always needed. I have decided to add a long narrow border alongside the path that leads to the goat sheds. I have put my little chicken tractor on the area and have let my broody hen and her chicks start to clear the area for me..as they eat all the vegetation I move the coop along…and so on… I shall cover the cleared area with cardboard and cover that with well rotted compost, ready for planting.

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I have had some quite severe problems with moles here this season. They appeared back in September last year and spent most of their time  making molehills on the riverbank.. That was fine.. but now they have moved into my veg beds are are also undermining the newly planted fruit trees that I added to my little forest garden area. So I have bought a couple of solar powered sonic mole repellent units. No new molehills have appeared ..yet!

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The veg areas are filling out a bit now.. but it has been incredibly wet and windy here today so some of the plants are looking a little battered.

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…the newly planted willow arches are now green and lush!Image

The borage plants are in flower….

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One batch of elderflower cordial has already been made.. and as more sweetly scented  flowers open more will be made.. always leaving some behind to form berries for later in the season for elderberry recipes.

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Imageand whilst everything grows and blossoms here at Riverside our own latest flowergirl Anemone the goat kid blossoms too.. She is growing fast!

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The geese enjoy the sun in-between the rain.. They are moulting at the moment  so we have feathers everywhere…and Holly is STILL sitting on her eggs. x

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The vivid magenta sparkly centres of tree spinach brighten up a dull day

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Looks like we shall have an abundance of currants..if we get to them before the bird do, when they ripen!

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and strawberries too…Not ripe yet ( grown outside, not under glass or plastic) ..but plenty of fruit on the plants, ready to ripen. Every plant is heavy with fruit. Looks to be a bumper year for strawbs!

ImageDespite the unpredictable wet and windy weather lately, there is a feeling of natural richness here. Image

Everything looks healthy, lush and green!

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Mizuna doing really well. We cannot eat it as fast as it grows.

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and the garlic is due to be harvested soon.

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Lupins adorn the orchard wall border.

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And I have been very kindly gifted this little polytunnel frame, by my lovely cousin…so next season I should be even more prepared for the growing season..Just need to get the plastic cover sorted asap! (Let me know the cheapest option).

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Goosegogs (Gooseberries) are looking good but still unripe. I have four gooseberry bushes here so far.

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All in all it is all looking udderly fantastic.

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….and I think Anemone (nicknamed Nemmie) agrees 🙂

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Riverside’s little goat herd has grown. Birthing photos! (Graphic)

On Tues evening, Marigold went gently and quietly into labour and produced a beautiful little female kid. We have named her Anemone.

Here are a few photos showing the birthing process and the rather fabulous end result!

(The pics are best avoided if you are a bit squeamish)

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At the beginning of labour the ‘bubble’ appears. It may burst or remain intact. You may be able to see two tiny white hooves inside it. Normal deliveries are head first with the head between the feet. The tongue is often hanging out. This is normal.

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Here you can see the tiny white hooves and a pink tongue and nose appearing. The ‘bubble’ has burst.

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And a few minutes later the kid is born and mum licks and licks to clean her.(Softly bleating all the while) I do intervene a bit and clear the kid’s nose and mouth of mucus and give the kid a brisk rub with a rough towel.. and then let mum take over.

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Warm water with molasses is appreciated after the birth .

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Welcome to the world Anemone xxxx

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What a gorgeous girl! Anemone xxx

Mum and baby x

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Both doing great!!

……….and here is a link to my favourite website about goat keeping and kidding . Enjoy!

The grass is always greener…………….after rain.

Everything is so green and lush and vibrant here now. I am loving it! The recent rain has sent everything into overdrive. Grass in the fields and all my vegetable plants are growing fast! Trees are in full leaf now. Better late than never! There is rich dappled shade to sit under on sunny days. I love that contrast of light and dark.  It is wonderful!

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The grazing, that I rent further up the lane, really needed the boost and the paddocks that I am resting til later in the year are looking lush and healthy at last.

I shall strip graze the paddocks using electric tape to allow the ponies to access a little fresh land each week. Shetlands and other native ponies do not need too much rich grazing. In fact it can be dangerous for them to be allowed too much spring grass, as they tend to be more prone to laminitis….(and mine are right piggies and will scoff and scoff til they bloat!) Both of mine came to me as previous sufferers of ‘lami’ and one has Metabolic Cushings Disease, so I have to be extra vigilant.

By dividing the paddocks off into weekly strips, not only is it a better use of land but it also means the grass gets grazed down evenly and tends to grow better as a result. I can control how much they eat and watch them for signs of weight gain and loss etc. I simply move the posts forward once a week ( with the tape still attached but the energiser turned off) and I ensure they have access to water.

I  have just purchase two secondhand Aquaroll 40 litre water containers, large cylindrical containers that you can roll out to where you need the water..so no heavy buckets to lug across fields. I only need to do this in the middle paddocks luckily,  as both end ones have water containers set under a gutter systems that run off the roof of each shelter and they are self filling every time we have rain. So I rarely need to top those up.

Because two of the paddock areas have large field shelters in them, if we are forecast severe weather the ponies are simply put into those ones and in Winter when the grass is sparse and low in nutrients, the paddocks are only divided in half. That way the ponies always have access to warm stabling  with thick bedding and one paddock is rested completely for 6 months, ready for spring. When it all starts growing again and needs dividing up into smaller areas I simply bring out the electric fencing again..

Seeing as the weather has warmed up now, we are heading towards June after all!…..and the ground has dried out here at Riverside, I have moved my hens back outside onto a new piece of ground. Electric poultry netting gives you so much freedom to rotate your animals grazing areas. I use it for my goats, geese and hens here…and I use electric tape for the pony paddock dividers, the main fencing is post and rail with electric  wire on the inside. It is a great system for those with a small amount of land. Flexible, secure and easy to move.

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One hen (A Pied Sussex named Blackberry) is still in the winter coop, as she has just hatched a clutch of eggs, so she is enjoying some time alone to rear her babies. She will be re-introduced to the flock once the babies are a bit bigger. I am hoping for at least two hens  out of her chicks, ( Sod’s Law will mean they all turn out to be cockerels no doubt haha). We could do with a couple more egg layers here, so fingers crossed.

One chick appears to be a very pretty subtle blue/ grey colour! They are mixed breeds, as the cockerel I ran with the hens this time is a  multicoloured frizzle cross, so we get surprise colouration/ feathering/ shapes and sizes and we like it that way. Hybrid vigour and a hotchpotch of colours!

The wild moorhen that settled here has hatched all her eggs. I haven’t done a proper head count (They are tiny and they move so fast and in all honesty I don’t want to disturb them too much) but it seems I may have got it wrong thinking she had lost some of her eggs before hatch day, as I am sure I have seen at least 5 chicks! They are in the water already..darting about between the reeds and calling for their mum when she strays too far.

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Holly-Hot-Pants my broody goose is still sitting tight on her nest inside the shed, ( no idea how many eggs she has!) with Teasel-Tussle the gander guarding her. I am the only one that can get  anywhere near close enough to feed them, change their water and tidy the shed.. albeit tentatively! I haven’t disturbed the back of the shed where her nest is. I will clean it properly once she is up and about with her babies.

Daisy-Do-Gooder, the other female goose I have here, is being ignored by them both. She seems to be piggy in the middle and appears to be no use to either of them. Poor Daisy! But she remains devoted to Teasel, bless her,  despite being given the cold shoulder and she refuses to be  parted from them even if given the choice.

Marigold my VERY pregnant goat doesn’t have long to go now. Her official due date is in the first week of June..but she is looking HUGE!..and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she popped early. I am hoping for twins or a single kid.Triplets would be a lot for her to cope with, she is a first kidder and I prefer to let the kids feed naturally on their mothers rather than be bottle fed. So two would be more than enough. Hoping for females of course!

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This shared milking system I have used here has worked well with Tansy and her twin kids.  I am still milking every morning and am getting around 1.5 litres a day from her. Not bad  from just one milking session. I am making lots of cheese and yoghurt and kefir and using it in my tea and coffee etc. Even people who tell me they dislike goat’s milk have taken it in tea and coffee when visiting me here and have remarked at how lovely it is.. No goaty tang at all!

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Although despite all this lovely raw milk I have here I am still buying in some organic cows milk, just to culture the kefir grains that I sell online and to experiment with more cheese recipes. Not sure if I’d be allowed to use my raw milk for kefir sales..so I am playing it safe with shop bought stuff for my customers.

I will be doing two milkings a day once the kids are fully weaned, which going by their progress won’t be long, as Tansy is letting them feed less and less and they are happily eating concentrates, plenty of good hay and are grazing/ browsing well outside and they drink plenty of water. Time flies!

My little incubator is still going. I set some duck eggs into it straight after hatching the quail. I just adjusted the humidity for duck eggs ( quail eggs need far lower humidity).

I was hoping for the best really, as these were eggs gifted to me from a neighbour of my parents. She gave them to me to feed to my dogs, as they were past their best and a bit too old for humans to eat.

I risked it and tried my luck with the incubator, having nothing much to lose. I popped them in to see if any were fertile and on day two, disaster!!… we lost power ..So I thought they’d be  well and truly done for. If any were going to be viable then chilling them on day two was probably not the best way to get any to develop! However, miraculously 5 have survived and have continually candled fertile! Amazing! So we shall see what we get from our pot luck, chilled and re-heated, rather old dog food duck eggs.

If we get any at all it will be remarkable!

Sadly during that power outage we lost three quail chicks, as it happened in the middle of the night when we were sleeping and their heat lamp went off. I awoke at 3 am noticing we had no light/power so rushed out to check. I was too late to save them all sadly, as one had died under the huddle of chicks trying to keep warm, but we quickly set the brooder cage in front of the woodstove and got a good fire going and set tea-lights all around it to keep the temperature up til we sorted the power problem out. A day later we were left with 17 healthy chicks from 20 and so not all was lost, but things like this really do get you down.

It was such a shame. My daughter was so upset. She had got up with me at 3 am , helped me move the brooder cage in front of the stove and she had tried everything to revive the tiny floppy cold chick..but her efforts were in vain.

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On a brighter note the veg garden here at Riverside is doing well. No major hitches (yet) this season . I have not grown as many plants that need heat or protection this year, after struggling with some tender plants last season.

I have also given up with growing sweetcorn, after losing three sowings of expensive organic seed last year, to hungry mice! I hope they enjoyed it as much I would have if it had grown and developed cobs haha

I am desperately short of  growing space here ( If I had my way the lawn would go completely! Not sure my landlord would be so keen though) and so the space for things like sweetcorn etc which needs to be grown in blocks for successful pollination, can be used for other things that I know I can grow easily and successfully. I love my leafy greens, garlic, leeks, soft fruit, herbs and salads, so am using the space that I do have for those kind of things…and cramming edibles into every available space. I am also still planting trees on the river bank…Lots of trees.

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I am trying to get more hardy, heavy cropping and perennial edibles in the garden. Dotting them in amongst the flower borders. I am planting out soft fruit  bushes under trees (grown from cuttings)  and then low growing herbs grown from seed and other fruiting  plants like strawberries under and in front of those. Areas between trees have been sown with a wildflower meadow mix…and I am not mowing that area til after it has set seed.

On the subject of mowing, I now mow all my grass with a small push mower. It is leaving a bit more length to the lawn and the other plants that grow in the lawn don’t get decapitated, which is great for bees, as flowers like clover etc are left in place… and is so quiet and easy to use, even on a big plot like this. I am so glad I gave away my two petrol mowers!

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With the weather in the UK ( and worldwide) so unpredictable now and temperatures so slow to warm up each year, I guess growing hardy edible perennials/ annuals is the way forward, if I want to have plenty to eat. Unless you have space for massive polytunnels!

I don’t have a polytunnel yet, in fact I only have a tiny lean to greenhouse here atm (which is a bit too sheltered/shaded), so space for protected crops is severely limited! I aim to fill the garden with stuff I can grow well in our weather and I aim to do all this on a mega tight budget..so plants are mostly grown from seed/ cuttings. Patience is required, with quite some time passing before some plants are mature. So it is a work in progress and maybe something I will never see reach fruition  But half the joy is discovering that something does really well on your plot, especially where other things have failed and in watching them grow steadily, even if you never see the end result.

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Keeping fingers firmly crossed that my tenancy here goes on for a few more years yet. I do so love it here! But with private rental properties you just never know…….

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Homemade vanilla goat’s milk ice cream.

This is a recipe for a very easy basic custard style vanilla ice cream.

I made it using my own goat’s milk and my goose eggs.

Ingredients

2 pints of  fresh goat’s milk

2 vanilla pods

4 freshly laid hen egg yolks or 2 fresh goose egg yolks

4 oz caster sugar ( You could use honey)  Adjust amount depending on how sweet you like your ice- cream.

3 level tsp Cornflour

Method

Heat the goat’s milk and the contents of the scraped out insides of the vanilla pods on the hob until  at simmering point. Do it slowly over a low heat. But do not boil.

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together for a couple of minutes or so until sugar is almost dissolved.

When the vanilla infused milk starts to come to simmering point, take it off the stove and pour it in with the egg and sugar mixture, in a heatproof bowl ….and whisk continually, then return to  the pan and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until thickened.

Allow to cool completely..Do not eat yet!  😉

After it’s cooled down, you’re ready to make ice cream!

Tip the custard-like mix into the frozen base of an ice cream maker. I got a basic Kenwood one from Freegle. You simply freeze the special double walled bowl overnight and the paddle sits on top of it  to stir your mix as it freezes. ….or failing that tip the mix into a tupperware tub and pop in the freezer.

A machine will stir the mixture as it freezes, saving you the work… but if you are doing it manually you will need to keep whisking the mix as it freezes..so check the freezer every 15 mins or so and whisk/stir thoroughly and then pop back in to freeze again.  Repeat for as long as it takes to get an ice cream consistency .

This mixing keeps the ice crystals small and allows the ice cream to be creamy rather than like sorbet..As it gets stiffer you may need to use a fork rather than a wire whisk.


Once frozen ..simply eat and enjoy!

This makes a gorgeous pale golden ice cream with tiny flecks of vanilla seeds in. Delicious and so easy!

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