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.

Job done!Image

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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Moppet makes an appearance.

I don’t usually take my camera out with me when I am milking. Goats and delicate equipment tend not to mix awfully well. Those of you that keep goats will understand. But something today prompted me to take my (borrowed) camera with me.

My camera broke a while ago and I am currently using one that belongs to my parents, until I can afford to replace my one or find one on Freecycle/ Freegle that needs a home.

So anyway, I tucked it into my pocket, inside its protective case for extra protection, and carried on with my early morning rounds.

On my way back inside the cottage, with a pail full of frothy, creamy milk, I always throw a handful of grain into the pond for Mildred. She is the wild moorhen that has chosen to make a nest here.

You can read more about her nest making and egg laying here and here. She laid 6  eggs in total.

As I walked past  today and scattered her grain for her, she hopped off her nest to hide under the ivy until I had passed, as she always does,  and on doing so she revealed one newly hatched chick!! I have named it Moppet. The photo explains why. I am not sure that you could call it beautiful haha! But what a cutie!

See there was a reason I took my camera today!

It looks like there are only two more eggs left in her nest so maybe she discarded some or a rat took them?

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Welcome to the world Moppet and welcome to Riverside.  xxx

If you’d like to  make a donation, no matter how small,  towards my new camera fund, please feel free to do so using the Donate Button.

I love taking photos to share with you all.

Thank you x

~*~*~UPDATE~*~*~

Three chicks now spotted. …and an egg still to hatch!

(Some were hiding in the reeds)

Mildred’s best nest and tantalising trout pouts….

Over the last few days I have been silently observing the comings and goings of a little female moorhen.

She has taken it upon herself to build a nest in amongst the small clump of yellow flag irises in my wildlife pond. This not only poses her the problem of how to go about doing this task and yet remain unseen, but it also means that she is quite a few metres away from the river that runs along one boundary here, her usual home, and the place she usually feeds.

But I have noticed that the duckweed we had in the pond is gradually disappearing, so I am guessing she has been eating that?

Her initial nest remains unfinished and is quite visible to passers-by. I thought she had abandoned the idea of raising her brood, especially as it is so very close to my cottage, but I was wrong.  Mildred, as she will now be known, has made a second nest underneath the overhanging ivy that tumbles down into the pond, on the side nearest to the cottage.

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So it is with bated breath that I creep past every time I go out of the back gate and occasionally I just glimpse a little black feathered bottom disappearing into the hedgerow or under the ivy.

I shall keep you updated as to whether Mildred manages to hatch out any eggs.  Fingers crossed for her.

I will try my best to get some photos and may even set up my daughter’s camera trap this weekend.

The water level in the river here is quite low at the moment. My daughter and I took a stroll down to the little jetty today. It has been a gloriously sunny day and we sat watching the trout rise to catch flies. Their pouty little mouths come right out of the water and swiftly suck in the insects that fly too close to the water’s surface and in a split second the buzzing gnats and mosquitoes become trout dinner.

We have both rainbow and brown trout here. The rainbow trout seem to be the tamest and one bravely swam out from under the jetty whilst we were sitting there today. It’s spotted body was clearly visible and even the soft blush of pink on its sides could be seen! Beautiful!

Insect life is gradually increasing here at Riverside now that the weather has warmed up a bit. We spotted yet more butterflies today. Two peacock butterflies, a vibrant neon brimstone, a small white (in my greenhouse) and a red admiral…..and LOTS of bees, both honeybees and bumblebees, which REALLY made me smile!

Some thirsty honey bees had inadvertently fallen into the river and were floating on the surface,  as we sat watching the fish rise, and so my daughter hooked them out with her little net and laid them in the grass to dry out. They lived to see another day.

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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!