Saturday, 17 March 2012

Change Of Blog

This blog was all about making sure I stayed in touch with the countryside and the farming practises that I was brought up with.
Since I've managed to buy a smallholding and move "properly" back into the countryside I've decided to create a new blog and stop using this one.
My new blog is called An English Homestead and it will detail how my young family start our smallholding and live as self sufficiently as possible from the land, growing our veg, breeding our meat, cutting our fuel, preserving all we can. It's going to mean lots of hard work but hopefully it will be worth it (and it should make some interesting reading).
I'm really looking forward to this adventure and I hope you'll follow it to offer help, advice and motivation when I need it.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Home Acre

In the "Bible" that is John Seymour's guide to self sufficiency it contains one of my favourite pictures - The one of the five acre holding (my sister got me this picture framed for Christmas).

As our smallholding is five acres its very apt, but I don't think there has ever been a farm laid out quite like that, nor would I want mine to be. For a start I have no desire to milk something everyday so the importance of a house cow goes out the window, along with a few of his other ideas (no watermill in mine either).

The one thing I do really like is the idea of "the home acre". This is based by the house and involves labour intensive things like veg growing, an orchard, sheds, chickens, a greenhouse, etc. And this is what I want to try and create my own version of.

The orchard I've started and yesterday I marked out where the laying chicken pen is going to go, as well as the soft fruit and allotment garden. They are all near to the house (and in range of the air rifle for rabbits and pigeons), will be rabbit netted and hopefully rotovated with a tractor in the next few weeks. Below this is the orchard, mentioned in the previous post, and to the side will be the pig pen (more on this later).

Between the chicken pen and garden I plan to have my greenhouse and I'll build some compost bins hidden by the hedge. Hopefully this first field will become a very productive area!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Orchard Progress

This week I've managed to get 17 trees into the ground. Some planted at night with torch (the neighbours must have thought I was burying bodies!) and quite a few planted today in the rain. I've put in common varieties like Cox and Braeburn but also interesting varieties such as Brownlees Russet and Medlar, so there should be a good mix.

I've still got to transplant a few trees from the allotment (two plums and a nectarine) and a pear from our old garden and then that will be enough in for this year. (I've still got loads of soft fruit to move and plant)

Next year I plan to plant a lot more plums, some more cooking apples and damsons as well as any others that take my fancy or are highly recommended! It's a small area of our smallholding but I plan for it to be a very productive one.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Started Our Orchard

Today I started my orchard.

Not much of a start I must admit, but i put two apple trees in just as it was getting dark tonight. A Cox Pippin and a Braburn, not very interesting varieties but you've got make sure you've got your tried and tested staples in first. These two are ones I lifted from the allotment, I only put them in last year so they should be fine with being moved (I hope), I've got a medlar and a Quince to go in as well that my mother brought me for Christmas (they're healed in at the moment).

I plan on putting in around thirty trees over the next year or two so any ideas on good varieties would be appreciated - I'm going to pick up two Scotts Bridgets tomorrow but more about that amazing apple another time! It's going to be a mixed orchard so apples, plums, pears, damsons will all be filling my belly every autum!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What To Do First

Big plans this weekend and the snow has stopped them all!
Still It means I can draw up some plans in the warm. I've decided that the first smallholding job I should do is to build a chicken pen and coop. I left my old coop at the old house as it was built for the pen that its in. I'm thinking of having around 8-10 laying birds to start with, hybrids probably, as we had 9 before and it seemed a manageable number to deal with. Also with this amount we can sell the surplus eggs to the neighbours and passers by to help pay for food and bedding.
Any one got any ideas on the perfect coop. I'm going to raise it off the ground by 18" to stop rats and give the birds something to shelter under and have some nest boxes on the side.
I've also got to think about the work to be done on some of the trees. Many of the large oaks need their crown raising as there are some heavy lower branches on them and it would benefit the trees if they were removed (also benefit the firewood pile!). Good job I've got a kind hearted brother to help me with this!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Big Plans

I've neglected this blog lately but I've been busy!

Firstly we've moved house (if you read my other blog then you'll already know this), so know we live in a beautiful countryside location at the foot of the Malvern hills with 5 acres of land to play with.

Secondly we've just had our first Child - little baby Evalyn - who is taking up lots of daddy's time as he can't draw himself away from her!

This year is going to be a busy one, not only have I got to earn enough money to pay the bills (and massive mortgage) but we've got our daughter to look after and a smallholding to start up. I plan to give up our old allotments (as they're too far away now) and get planting vegtables here quite soon (although digging may be done with a tractor), the start of an orchard in before spring gets here (already have some trees to plant), a large chicken pen for some replacement laying hens, a pig pen for some weaners to fatten up over the summer and maybe the start of a little flock of sheep.

And that's just for starters! My head is spinning with all the things I want to do. where do you think I should start?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

I Love Squash

Dilemma - I forgot to go and collect veg from the allotment at the weekend (no sprouts this week) and we wanted some veg to go with our tea. What comes to the rescue? Squash.

They sit in the house happy for months (last year they were still alright in may) and they taste amazing. Tonight I roasted a squash with some home grown shallots and peppers, with a little olive oil, to have with salmon, and they tasted so good. I even left the skin on, I just washed them, chopped and de-seeded them and chucked them in the oven - what could be easier? I could have cooked the seeds as well for a snack.

These could be bordering on the perfect vegetable (I love growing them as well)! What do you think?

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Visit From Mr. Fox

Woke up this morning and went through all my usual routines, then unlocked the back door - but didn't hear the chickens going mad like they usually do when I go outside. I knew straight away what must have happened, I grabbed a torch and confirmed it.

All nine chickens dead. The fox had only taken one and killed the rest for fun, they lay around the pen, heads bitten off.

I guess I've only got myself to blame as for the last four years I've only shut them in when its been cold and the one pen I thought was pretty fox proof. I'll learn from this and make sure in future I always shut them in - being in a village with a big fence all round the garden is no obstacle to a fox!

Even though I know the fox will be back tonight I don't feel very good about waving my 12 bore out of the bedroom window in the middle of a village (even though one neighbour has asked me to) and I can't set any snares or traps due to to other wildlife.

Looks like the fox won this one.

I'll have to wait until the spring now to get some more chickens so no fresh eggs this winter.