I *may* have a new home

So much has happened in the months that have passed since my last proper blog post.  I do sincerely apologise for the huge gap in my blogging but in all honestly ‘life’ simply took over.

A dear relative’s health issues became a priority for my family. My beloved Uncle (who has been more like a grandfather to me over the years) has been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and it has been quite a lot for my family to come to terms with. Sadly it is progressing at quite a pace and we are losing the man we once knew. But no matter how much his memory fails him, we still all love him dearly and we make sure he feels and knows that daily. We are united as a team/ family and are sharing in his care. My parents have been truly amazing!  xxx

A long on /off relationship finally broke down and  so I ended up single once more and that also took it’s toll on me emotionally and of course the constant search for a new home took up a huge amount of my time/ energy and it  interrupted my sleep and my day-to-day functioning
(During all of this I also had an odd online stalker/ harassment issue, which was luckily dealt with promptly by the police….. but was unsettling none the less……. especially for my daughter)

………and of course I was still home educating my daughter, working to pay bills and running this place on my own..hence  the severe lack of blogging…..Oops!

I have been  gardening with far less motivation than is normal for me. I simply couldn’t and cannot  focus on growing as much food as I usually do (seeing as I thought I wouldn’t be here to harvest a lot of it) and I couldn’t put my goats in kid last Autumn either, as I was in limbo about when they would be moving to a new place ( If I could even find any land!) and I truly didn’t want to stress them and move them when they were heavily pregnant. So all that went on hold too 😦

There was so much turmoil and a foreboding unsettling uncertainty with my housing issue and to a degree it still continues…and in all honesty I am tired of it now.

However, some positive news,  I was approached a week or so ago by a lady who had seen my advert on the Preloved website.  It was an advert about me looking for a new home and it looks increasingly promising that she may indeed have something suitable. Fingers crossed!!!
I have sent in references as requested but am just awaiting my landlord’s one to be written > *sigh < despite several reminders to get it to me asap ….He is reluctant to see me leave here before he sells up, so he is dragging his heels a bit with the reference, which is rather upsetting not to mention frustrating, as I have been a very good tenant over the last 6 yrs….. and his go slow attitude could mean we lose this new tenancy offer!

Anyway….I am keeping everything crossed that all goes well eventually, as the new place is, rather wonderfully, a longterm tenancy!!…. whoop!!! ….. and it is  only 4 miles from here, which means H and I will have a sense of permanency and belonging and we can really get into growing more fruit and perennials, all the while knowing that we will be around to see them mature and bear fruit. It also means I can invest more into the permaculture way of life both financially with things like a polytunnel / plants and with energy/ ideas etc!

On a personal front I have a rather wonderful new man in my life (yes it surprised me too!) We both  wish to keep things very private but I am no longer a single woman and am rather liking that fact!

Well enough for now.. more updates soon .. I promise.

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A normal quiet night at home by the fire xxx

 

I will leave you with a recent photo or two.

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Tansy

 Much love and bright blessings from all at Riverside xxxx

 

 

 

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!

Recent happenings…

Just a quick catch up and an opportunity to post some photos taken with my new (to me) camera. I am just getting to grips with all the settings on it, so bear with me.

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As is usual it has been a busy few days here at Riverside. I have spent time weeding, watering and planting out more young veg plants and more willow whips. My broad beans are smothered in flowers this year!  So pretty! The garden is looking great and I really feel as though I have made some worthwhile permaculture progress this year with more top and soft fruit planted and more native trees too.

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We  have had a few  Spring hatchings.  As you know we hatched our quail eggs in the incubator a few weeks ago.  You can see the newly hatched chicks here... and you can see the latest photos of them that I took today when I moved them to a larger brooder cage.. They are almost off heat now and are fully feathered, which really shows how fast they mature. The females start laying at just 6 weeks old!

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The wild moorhen ( Mildred)  hatched her babies in a nest on my pond recently too. The chicks have been  making the most of the warmer weather and  have been sunbathing on top of a clump of marsh marigolds with their mum each day,  but they move SO fast that I have failed miserably to get a photo that is worth sharing! I will continue to try, but for now here is a photo of one of the goat kids, Heather, having fun in the sun today.

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My pied Sussex hen (Blackberry) hatched four of her five eggs, but sadly one chick didn’t survive. (See pics of her and her three surviving babies below). Very cute chicks. Two are dark grey with cream under bellies..and one is a pale dusky blue/ cream. An unusual colour. The sire of these chicks was a red and blue frizzle cross called Rowan. He is the friendliest and least aggressive of our cockerels here.  So we shall have to see what their mature feathering turns out to be like! We also have some mixed duck eggs in the incubator due to hatch, the beginning of June.

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One of my geese ( Holly-Hot-Pants)  is sitting tight  on her well-tended, deep feather lined nest and is due to hatch her eggs fairly soon. She is not even coming off to eat and drink  (and is looking a little bedraggled, bless her) so I am running the gauntlet with the gander charging at me every day as I place food and water within her reach.

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We are still awaiting Marigold’s kidding and she is looking fit and well and still has a ravenous appetite. Barley, a blue frizzle cross cockerel, has taken to sleeping with her inside her goat shed  every night and he spends a large part of the day sitting on her hindquarters crowing his head off! They are inseparable!  I think she likes having her back tickled by his feet  🙂

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ImageI have been blessed to have help here this weekend, so some much-needed DIY was definitely in order!

My ex husband ( a builder) has been here helping me to build a long wooden wall planter to replace the small  rickety fence that used to sit on top of the old yard wall but that had rotted so badly that it was falling down bit by bit….In fact one whole panel fell down as I was showing him it!

ImageSo here is a pic of the project whilst it is still unfinished..A work in progress.. It will need staining and lining with plastic feed sacks, to help retain moisture, and then filling with gravel at the base and then compost on top of that. It will eventually be planted out with all edible and medicinal plants.

It gets LOTS of sun, which is great as most of my growing space here is in partial  shade. Sunny growing space is at a premium here,  so every little bit helps.

 I will leave you with a few more recent photos.. Catch you all soon x

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Thank you for dropping by xxxx

Tales from our River Bank: Ratty, Owl and Mole pay a visit.

It is 6:30 am. I have lit the fire and am now outside, alone in the garden, or so I think…..

I am heading towards the goats shed to do the morning milking, pail in hand, humming contentedly to myself, listening to the birdsong, breathing in the chill frosty air.

My daughter failed to rise with me this morning and is sleeping peacefully, snuggled up in bed under numerous heavy blankets and feather filled eider-downs, with the dogs at her feet.

I greet the goats with a chirpy “Good morning girls”. Then take a scoop of feed to Marigold (my pregnant goat). I then lead Tansy, my milker, to the milking stand that is set inside the warmth of the feed store.

I put her breakfast in the milking stand trough, she climbs willingly up onto it and starts to eat, noisily.

I wash her udders, talk to her soothingly and strip a little milk from each udder into the strip cup.. and then proceed to milk her properly into the pail. I listen to the rhythmic whooshing and frothing sounds of the milk as it hits the bucket. It is almost hypnotizing.

Tansy suddenly stops eating, looks up and stares out of the doorway ….and there, right in front of us, is a barn owl, swooping silently over the veg patch, then settling down to perch on the fence post that is barely ten feet from where I am sitting.

It has it’s back to us and it is seemingly unaware that we are there. I sit stock still hardly daring to breathe..and in seconds, all too soon,  it is gone. Beautiful!

I smile and carry on milking.

Tansy settles back down to the serious job of eating. She finishes her rations in super quick time and becomes fidgety. I calm her with my voice but she is determined to make it known that she wants more food and so she bleats loudly in my ear, then nuzzles and pulls my hair. I cave in and give her another handful.

Eventually milking is completed. I wash her now soft udder and massage a little udder cream into it. I give her the carrot slices that I have been hiding in my pocket and lead her back to the goat shed, where her kids are waiting to finish emptying her udder.

I top up all of the hay-racks and water buckets for the goats. Then quickly feed the hens, quail, geese and duck. All done in super quick time, I take the milk pail back to the kitchen in order to filter and cool the milk as fast as possible, but as I do so I see a small mound of earth move on the riverbank, right next to a clump of snowdrops….

Suddenly a tiny black furry head and two huge feet appear in the centre of it.. then promptly they disappear again. A Mole!! That is a first for me, as I have never seen a live mole before, only the apparently undamaged carcasses, that my old cat Rosie used to present to me occasionally.

We have ‘trouble’ with moles here at Riverside. The riverbank is dotted with their hills and the steeply sloped bank is no longer is a smooth swathe of grasses and wild-flowers, but is instead a cratered ankle breaking, obstacle course! But to see a mole, a real live mole, albeit for such a brief moment, is a delight!

Indoors again now, hands washed and time to pour the fresh, frothy milk through a filter into a large milk jug. The lid is put on tightly and the jug is submerged into a deep bowl of icy cold water. The cold tap runs into the bowl and over the jug and overflows into the sink, acting as a make shift cooling system. It works fine.

Once thoroughly chilled, the jug is put in the fridge.1.6 litres of wonderful natural goat’s milk from this morning’s milking!  Thank you Tansy!

I  top up the fire and make a cup of tea. My daughter is still sleeping and the dogs are now  fussing me for a biscuit, which of course they get.

I then sit down at the kitchen table to drink my morning cup of tea. I gaze out of the window at my bird feeder and there sitting on a hanging bird table, right in front of me, is a rat. Fat, brown and furry, with two black glossy bead-like eyes and small almost transparent rounded ears. It’s almost hairless tail is hanging over the edge of the tray. It twitches the tip of it now and then as it stuffs sunflower seeds into it’s mouth. I tap on the window. Nothing…..It simply looks at me. Haha! The cheek of it! Eventually it climbs down and picks up a few fallen seeds from the grass under the feeder and then runs off into next door’s orchard.

Now as much as I would prefer rats not to come here, and I am quite aware of the diseases they can spread, I still have to admire this little chap’s boldness and ingenuity. My bird feeder is metal and he has scaled a single, smooth metal tubular pole to get to the hanging tray at the very top. Quite a feat!

I think it is impossible to get on top of the rat population here. There have always been rats along riverbanks.  It is the perfect habitat for them, and although I do set traps and we do get owls hunting them here, there will always be rats where there is water. It is something I have learned to live with.

But I do not encourage them to come near the cottage or in the animals housing. All animal feed is locked away in metal bins. No food is left out.

But it seems that they have now learned to climb my bird table !  So what to do about that? More traps maybe?

It is now 8:30 am.Time to wake my daughter. I have Tales of the River Bank to tell her …..Ratty and Mole and Owl came to visit today  🙂

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Have a great day!

Milk maid

Milk maid

My daughter milking Tansy. March 2013

Another self sufficiency landmark reached …

Today was day 1 of milking one of my very own goats.

You may have read a previous post about how my mother kept a small dairy herd many years ago. I have yearned to own my own herd since I was about 20.

Now aged 45, divorced, bringing up and educating my youngest child on my own, in a teeny tiny rented cottage in East Lincs UK, with some rented land and a lot of enthusiasm, I have finally fulfilled a dream.

My two female goats, Marigold and Tansy, were put to a billy in Autumn/Winter 2012.

One was covered back in Oct and one in January and low and behold one has kidded already and is therefore producing milk!

The other female, Marigold, isn’t due to kid until June.

I allow kids to have the first 7 days of their mum’s milk 24/7 and now that they are over a week old I am simply separating them overnight (within sight and smell of one an other) to enable me to milk Tansy early each morning before the kids feed and then I simply put them all back together again.

Tansy doesn’t seem the least bit upset by being in a separate space to the babies overnight.  She settles down to chew the cud and rest.

The babies seem quite happy and content too. They have a molasses lick, fresh water and hay to nibble at, if they need it. But to be honest they tend to sleep, snuggled up in the deep straw til morning.

Tansy is far more interested in getting her morning concentrate ration/hay and chopped veggies when I arrive at 6.30 am than she is about getting to her kids.

Whilst she is eating her breakfast I wipe her udders with disposable udder wipes and add a little udder cream to my hands and rub them together to try to warm them up a bit. It is jolly cold at 6:30am and we are experiencing record low temperatures for March here in Lincs UK atm with thick ice/ constant sprinkles of snow and Siberian winds! So my warm hands make the whole process far less of a shock to her warm, full udders.

I talk to her soothingly, pop my little wooden milking stool between my legs and rest my head on her flank and gently start milking. Talking to her all the while” Steady Tansy, good girl, stand still, There’s a clever girl” and so on….

The first few squirts are sent into a special cup called a strip cup, it has a black shelf part way down, with holes to allow milk to pass through and it allows you to check for any problems like flakes, blood, lumps in the milk etc.

As it all looks OK I swap to my stainless steel milking pail.

When milking you must try to keep a regular gentle rhythm going. No pulling on the teats. Just  gently close off the milk supply with the gap between thumb and forefinger at the very top of the teat, then gradually close the other fingers as they go down against the teat, one after the other, all in order, pressing the milk lower and lower into the teat until it squirts out into the bucket with a whoosh.

It is a gentle motion, it doesn’t need to be hard work at all but it does use muscles in your hands that you don’t usually use, so can make your hand ache at first until you get used to it.

Tansy has never ever had her udders milked by human hands before, so obviously it takes some getting used to for her too, but gentle but firm handling and a confident attitude worked wonders (plus food of course) and she soon settled down.

I quietly sang a song as I milked her to help her relax and to help me keep a rhythm going 🙂

Today I only milked one udder at a time but once she is more settled and used to the routine I will start milking both udders together in alternate squirts, to save time.

Once I had two soft empty udders in front of me and a half full bucket of frothing fresh milk, I wiped her over again and let the kids in.

They stripped her right out and with the extra demand for milk that my morning milking causes Tansy will very soon make more to meet demand.

The kids then set about bouncing from one log to another in the bench play area at the back of the goat shed. They really love to climb and prance and play.

Tansy is being fed a dairy goat ration twice a day ( morning and evening) and a midday meal of chopped fresh vegetables and fruit, plus ad lib good quality hay 24/7.

She has fresh water twice a day ( served warm with a tiny dot of molasses in) and she has access to a mineral lick and solid paddock vitamin and mineral block for goats too. Once the weather warms up she and the kids can go out into the little exercise paddock that has been rested since Oct, to graze down the grass and wild herbs that grow there.

At our very first milking session my daughter also had a go at playing milk maid for the first time and she managed quite successfully to milk a fair bit into the bucket. She was thrilled! Tansy was a very good girl for her and stood very still.

We came indoors as soon as we were done, in order to quickly filter and cool the milk. Once that was completed it was time to put the kettle on.

We celebrated our landmark event with a nice cup of tea …………….

………………..and of course we used our very own goat’s milk!  🙂

Sorry for the lack of photos but with my hands busy milking I didn’t actually take any pics.

Maybe I will take some of my daughter milking her tomorrow. So watch this space.

Thanks for popping by x