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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Seeds of promise…

Finally after a much later start than usual, I have trays of seedlings growing on healthily in my tiny greenhouse.

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I have pea shoots pushing up through the damp earth, waving their bright green leaves at the sky.

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I have birdsong to accompany me during my early morning milking and to lift my spirits and make rising so early less tiresome.

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I have sunshine in my garden and with it grows the seed of promise for a productive Summer.

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When life throws obstacles at you it is easy to get disheartened, feel total despair and give up. We can learn so much from nature at times like this.

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When the unpredictable weather conditions make it impossible for germination to begin, when nature decides to throw in a googly…the seeds silently bide their time and still they arrive full of energy and life anew. Fresh, unspoilt and ready to take on the world!

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So although my vegetable and flower garden has got off to a slower than predicted start this year, due to the dire Spring we have had……and I, like many others here in the UK atm, are weathering some incredibly tough economic times, I  feel so grateful to have nature to guide me, comfort me and help me through the tough days.

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My garden is not only my sanctuary, my food store, my larder, my exercise, my hobby …….it is my friend too and I love it unconditionally xx

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Chasing my tail….

I have had a very busy few days.

I have been exchanging my labour/ gardening skills for some much-needed firewood, seeds and other bits n pieces that I cannot produce myself (Some yummy edible treats for my daughter’s birthday on Sunday were amongst the items I bartered for this week )

I have also been tending a regular client’s garden for the first time this year. The big Spring clear up and grass cutting commenced on his plot this week. 27 grass boxes full of lawn clippings were removed!… which sadly he doesn’t compost himself but sends away in his green waste bin to be composted by the council.

The ground was a bit wetter than expected but I got a good finish and the client was very happy with the results. I also dug out some of his last remaining compost, from an old heap he had tucked away at the back of his plot, into a few wheelbarrows to spread on a large rose bed he has at the front of his bungalow.

I aim to bag up some of my well-rotted horse manure and use that on some of his other flower borders, as they could all do with more organic matter being incorporated into them.

On top of all this outdoor ‘work’, I am also selling my organic kefir grains online, making my cheese/ bread, milking my goats each morning , tending my own garden and all my livestock, getting seeds sown and helping my father sell his old motorbike on ebay.

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I have squeezed in my basic bread baking/ housework/ washing and H’s educational work in-between jobs…or whilst working.

H often brings a book along with her when we head out to work on someone else’s plot. She is also keen to learn more about gardening or the plants and insects we come across during our work outside. Every activity is a learning opportunity!

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Jobs that I have failed to get done are: more wood sawing/chopping (I am very low on ‘ready to burn’ fuel atm) , new geese enclosure fence posts erected,  although I did manage to paint them all with preservative, so they are ready to go but just not actually in the ground…yet!

I am still in the midst of trying to empty the old woodshed at the rear of the cottage and get all  the stored wood onto the side drive ready to cut and stack into the ‘not yet built’ woodstore …and I have to admit that the cottage floors haven’t been hoovered for two days *sigh

I seem to be chasing my tail.

But despite a hectic week, I have managed to get fairly organised for my youngest child’s birthday this Sunday. She has already had one gift early, some stick insects, as it would have been impossible for me to hide them. She has two Indian stickies and two Black Beauty Peruvian ones.. and yes she has named them all!

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If the weather is nice on Sunday, we plan to take a picnic to our local open farm (yes, a busman’s holiday!), with one of her brothers and her dad and whoever else wants to join us.

If the weather is wet we will have a family day indoors and a mini party with a fancy tea and cakes and play board games.

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Today’s jobs have included doing the last of the laundry, digging out some of my homemade compost and sieving it.. adding sieved leaf mold and sand to it.. and using it to fill the inner cardboard tubes from a year’s supply of loo rolls ( I keep everything haha).

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These loo roll tubes get used to grow my peas and beans in and also some runner beans for a client’s garden.

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I have run very short of space in my teeny lean-to greenhouse, so have used an insulated box with a clear perspex lid as a mini greenhouse.I have placed this against the exterior South facing wall of the cottage, where the brick behind it will retain heat and where there is good light. Fingers crossed it does the job!

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We have had a very cold Spring so far and many plants are a few weeks behind schedule but  my borders here at Riverside are finally coming to life and we got a light sprinkling of much-needed rain today which made the garden smell wonderful. Am I odd by loving the smell of rain and wet soil?

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…..and some sad news.. Crystal, the ride n drive pony that H enjoys riding, and the one that I occasionally drive as a single, is off to a new home for the Summer..possibly long term ..along with her three companions, Freddie, Bunny and Paddy..so we will be without a riding pony for H this summer and I will certainly miss driving Bunny and Crystal.

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At least we still have Honeybee and Bumblebee, our two littl’uns to ‘play’ with. Maybe it is time to seriously look for a larger ride n drive pony that needs a loving home?…x

Sun rays and doggy days….

I think this photo say it all.

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Yay!… Sun!!

 

We had some much needed sunshine today..and the dogs made the most of it and had a fabulous time running and playing in the field.

Tag my whippet truly loves to run. Chuggie my little liver-shunt pug cross, went investigating in the long grass and Peaches our new little rescue dog had some proper muddy fun, acting like a real part of the pack. She has gone from being a timid quivering girl to a bouncy confident dog in no time at all and today gave her the opportunity to really run and play.

It has been great to see the transformation.

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Tag my whippet just loves to run!

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Chuggie Chugster surveys his estate

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Peaches enjoying the sun on her ears

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Excellent recall.. Tag is such a good boy.

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Happy Peaches

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Haha!

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Her tongue hangs out a lot . Bless her.

 

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Peaches can run!

 

A shaft of sunlight lit up a dusting of chaff, as we scooped into a feed bucket for the ponies and it floated and sparkled like glitter in the feed room.

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….and we found sunny yellow lesser celandines, lifting their golden faces up to the sun,

Imageand the ponies seem much happier now the rain has stopped although NOTHING stops them eating 😉

 

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Ponies enjoying the sun on their backs.

All in all it has been a wonderful day 🙂

 

 

The first day of Spring…or is it?

So Spring has sprung..apparently..somewhere in the UK? ..but not here in Lincolnshire…yet!

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Despite a lovely show of flowers from the pretty pink heather growing by my wildlife pond and from the snowdrops that are brave enough to open their delicate white flowers long before the sun puts it’s hat on, as far as I am concerned we are still, albeit unofficially, stuck in Winter.

Spring pah!

Although I did spot a very lonely, sunshiny yellow dandelion, whilst out walking today, which made me smile.

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Spring or not, today here, in deepest rural Lincs, we have had yet more snow, sleet and freezing rain. The ground is either sodden or frozen.

Temperatures feel even lower with the bitter icy wind cutting across the open farmland and whipping around your ankles. It bites at your nose and tingles your ears. My extremities become a vivid shade of pink, my nose begins to run ( sexy huh!) and my fingers ‘burn’ with the cold til they throb and ache!

There is nothing quite so chilling as plunging a bucket into an icy water-butt and accidentally spilling most of the contents over oneself before you have even had breakfast!  Brrrrrr!!

I have a greenhouse full of seed trays, doing not very much at all 😦

I have goats that refuse to go out (and who can blame them). Instead they are happily munching their way through record amounts of hay, whilst tucked up inside their warm and cosy sheds.

My two driving ponies are competing with them for the most consumed hay in one season! It is a close call as to who will win! But I know my purse is definitely losing!

I have arm muscles like Popeye, from lugging, chopping and sawing up vast quantities of foraged and scrap wood for my fire…… all Winter long. It certainly does heat you twice.. or in my case three times.. fetching.. then cutting/ chopping ….and then finally burning.

I like the burning bit best. It heats my home and my water ..and makes lovely toasted marshmallows and roast chestnuts…so I shouldn’t complain 😉

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So what is one to do when Winter refuses to leave and nothing much is progressing outside… (apart from eating marshmallows and chestnuts that is.)…….

Well in my case I bake bread and cakes ( yep more nommy stuff..do you sense a theme?) …I drink tea and write ….I help my daughter with her projects   ….and I get on with indoors jobs, like ..dum dum dum…..the dreaded ‘housework’.

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But I am LONGING to be outdoors, with my hands in the soil…

To feel the sun on my back, as I work in the garden….

To smell freshly cut grass…

To have a break from sawing and chopping wood and fetching it in each and every day …..

….and from getting up at silly o’clock each morning to get the fire lit before my daughter rises…*sigh

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Roll on Spring and Summer!

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A blessed Equinox to you all x