Monday 30 May 2016

My Best Man Speech For My Brother

Well some of you asked for it so here it is:

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Daves big brother Kev, and I’m honoured to be his best man today. It’s the first time Dave’s let me be best at anything since I was about 12! You can see from looking around this room, Dave and Helen are a couple that have many friends.

First of all I’m sure you’ll agree that Helen looks lovely, as do her bridesmaids and flowers girls. 

And what an amazing venue we’re in

To be honest with you all when trying to think of stories for the traditional character assassination of the groom it has been difficult, I was hoping that the stag do was going to give me plenty of ammunition. I wish I could tell you that Dave went wild, got blind drunk, spent an hour chasing a turkey to put in one of the rooms, missed the bus going home after a night out, ended up going back to the wrong farm and topped the evening off by getting forcibly removed by the police, but that was Gary!

Gary they’re  still pestering me for your details …

As brother s we’ve spent a lot of time together and like many brothers  most of this time has been focused on trying to find the best way to inflict pain on each other or get into trouble, whether that’s being shot in the face point black by a BB gun or wrestling in the grain store (dad used to get quite involved in this as well) and trying not to get caught by mum as we walked grain all round the house, or stealing some kittens and only to be given away by their incessant meowing and the infestation of fleas that we both caught.

Dave was always a little heavy handed growing up. He’s the only person I know who was, genually, almost expelled from playschool and earned the nick name CRUSHER. Mum and dad always tells the story about when he was a baby, barely crawling, he climbed up onto the chair, then table, and then bladdered a plant to death with a plastic hammer – 

He says his tree surgery has come on a long way, other may argue it hasn’t…

When Dave and Helen started going out I remember Dave coming back one night with a couple of pheasants that Helen had been given, I think Dave had big plans to dress them and take them back to Helens parents ready to cook, a good way to impress the inlaws. He asked me to show him and went at it like a bull in a china shop, grabbed a load of feathers and ripped off big chunks of skin. I think when he finished it could be described, at best, as road kill. I’m not sure what her parents thought of it when he gave them to them, or if he took my advice to chuck them in the hedge on his way there and pretend the dog stole it.

His heavy handedness applies to other things in his life…

Years ago at Reading festival we were sat round a smouldering camp fire on the first night, the wood we bought just wouldn’t burn and everyone who was trying to light the fire was inebriated. Suddenly a drunken Dave  jumps up and shouts “I know what will work – PARFIN!” and he gets a bottle of it and throws it over the fire. Unfortunately I was sat the other side of his little fire lighting attempt and a line of paraffin goes onto the fire, lights and engulfs my legs. I jump up, my legs on fire, people and tents everywhere, All Dave offered was to shout the words “DROP AND ROLL, DROP AND ROLL!” Over and over.

Luckily all he’d done was singed off all the hairs on my legs, like a low level Brazilian!

It was at a previous Reading festival that I noticed Dave had got an eye for Helen and What a whirlwind romance it’s been since then, just ten short years to get to where they are now and I don’t think I’m alone when I say, that I for one could see them here from the first time they told me they were going out, they always seemed to be made for each other.

In fact I’d say that this marriage is more than that, it’s a matter of survival for Dave now. When Helen goes away things go downhill rapidly. In fact one day last year I was giving Dave a hand, he hadn’t been shopping in two weeks, cupboards were getting bare and Claire phoned me up to say that she was going to come over and is there anything we needed. He paused for a while and couldn’t think of anything, then he said “Oh, milk if she wants a cup of tea” and then just as I was about to hang up he shout “TOILET PAPER, TELL HER TO BRING TOILET PAPER!” Good job I didn’t have to find that one out the hard way!

I do have to question Helens sanity in wanting to join our family as well. One night sticks in my mind when we were a little cruel to her. I was getting ready to go and help dad feed the sheep, when I heard Helens car pull up. Giggling to myself I turned off all the lights and hid behind the door way. When I jumped out on her she must have jumped three foot in the air, she was a bag of nerves. What a reaction! I chuckled all the way up to the sheep shed and when I got there dad came over to me with a big grin on his face and starts telling me how I should have seen how far Helen jumped when he booed on her getting out the car. Twice within a couple of minutes, it’s a wonder she ever came back.

It’s tradition to give you some advice for married life in the best mans speech.  So I’ll give you this from one of the happiest married couples I know, my own mum and dad. Last year Emma asked them why there relationship had lasted so long. They both answered at exactly the same time.

Dad said “Because I love her”

And mum said “Because we never see each other!”

But in all seriousness I can honestly say that as the father to two young girls I’d be more than happy if they ended up with a man who is as honest, thoughtful and caring as my brother. He’s the best brother I could hope to have and a true friend who I can always count on.

He’s found a truly amazing woman to marry, for a long time Helen has already been a sister to Claire and I and an aunty to my children but it’s great for them to finally make it official.

I wish you many years of love and happiness

Please be upstanding for the new Mr and Mrs Alviti

Sunday 29 May 2016

My Little Brother Got Married!

My brother got married yesterday to the woman of his dreams, Helen. We always knew they were going to be be together for ever so it's nice that they've finally made it official! 
The day was simply perfect. An amazing venue, perfect weather, great food and great company. 
The five of us all scrubbed up! Love my little family.

Happy flower girls!

The happy couple

My sisters boyfriend, me and my beautiful sister
Dave and Helen
A little page boy
My eldest and youngest

They loved the dancing
PJ's on for the end of the night
I'm sure I'll put some more pictures on here from the wedding yet, these are just a few off my phone and from my mum so I'm really looking forward to the professional ones and all the ones everyone else took. 
I think we're all still on a high from it now, we've spent the day at my brothers having pizzas and spending time with friends which has been a great way to round the weekend off. 
If you all ask nicely I might even put my best man speech on...

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Seeds Finally Organised!

Firstly a quick apology for not replying to comments or writing on other blogs lately, as usual I've been really busy. I've been reading and enjoying the comments and I will reply when I get chance, please keep commenting though!

Right I think I'm finally organised with my seeds, although now I think I might have taken it a step too far and there may be an element of OCD involved with this, but it should stop the ten minute search for the right packet of seed and I know at a quick glance how many seeds I have. 
I've divided my seeds up into 12 groups - a little extreme maybe but let me walk you through them...

Cucurbits, grains and melon - all my squashes, cucumbers, melons and small scale grains. 

Solanaceae - one of my favourite groups of veg, the nightshade family. All my tomato, chilli and pepper seeds in here. Lots of self saved seeds in here as well

Roots- I tend to buy new roots seeds each year. These include parsnips, carrots and more unusual ones like salsify and scorzonera

Salads - Lots of varieties in here

Brassicas - I always think that these are the easiest and hardest to grow. The seed seems to last forever but everything wants to eat the plants! 

Legumes - Beans, peas and more beans! 

Beets - beetroot, leaf beets, chard - I love growing and eating these! 

Herbs and edible flowers - I grow lots of herbs from seed. It can take a while for them to grow but it saves a lot of money if you get good plants at the end. I also grow lots of annual herbs like basil and coriander. 

Fast growing - I've broken with by strict grouping with this box, but this contains all the fast growing things that I intend to sow on a regular basis, like radish, mustard greens, turnips, etc. 

Alliums - Although I don;t grow many of these from seed currently I intend to start doing it more in the future rather than buying sets each year, 

Unusual - This is for anything that doesn't fit in the other groupings. 

Green manures - This is a bigger box and contains big bags of green manures that I intend to be much better using this year! 

I also have a box number thirteen that contains flowers, but to be honest they don't get grown that much so live on a different shelf! 

So I think I'm finally organised with my seeds, who else has a set up like this? How do you store yours?

Monday 23 May 2016

Draining A Field

It's been a busy few weeks, with no real sign of it letting up just yet. One of the big jobs we've done is to drain the field next to the house. 
Although it's on a slope this field always lies wet and makes it a nightmare to move vehicles around, so whilst we were putting in new drains for the extension and had the machinery there we decided to go for it and put land drains in the whole field. 

 This involved using the Robocut with trencher to dig the trenches, lots of digging on the junctions by hand and cleaning out the bottom of the trenches with a home made tool (which I'm going to post about later).
We then shovelled drainage gravel into the bottom of the trench, added perforated drainage pipe, jointed all the junctions and then added more drainage gravel on top before backfilling with soil. 

It was a massive job but one that should make the land much better for years to come. 
To me adding this kind of infrastructure is key to improving this place to make it somewhere that we're going to stay for a long long time. I'm just lucky with my family that between us we have the knowledge, skills and tools to the job for the lowest cost possible and it's always enjoyable working with them. 

Saturday 21 May 2016

Vaccinating Lambs and Tailing Sheep

 Last Sunday I had a fair few working here. My dad and brother had come to give me a hand with all the drainage/clearance work we were doing in preparation for the extension.
Nick, A young lad who sometimes works on my fathers farm, also came to help. He really keen on helping with anything sheep, and has some of his own, so I seized the opportunity and got him to help me vaccinate the lambs as they're at the age where they should have their first stage of injections.

Nick and me - stupid hat optional.
These injections are nuder the skin, I bought a special syringe for the job that automatically fills after each injection and has a cap on the top so it sterilises each time as well, clever stuff but it did take me a little while to figure out! 

Treating feet for scald due to the long grass
Whilst we were doing that we also checked every lambs foot for scald and treated them locally rather than treating every animal en mass. 

 I also took the decision to tail all the sheep. This is a job that Nick was dead keen to do, so I caught and held the ewe whilst he used his battery trimmers to dagg them. 

It's around the time of year when fly strike will become a problem, so rather than chemically treat them with a fly repellent (which I will have to once they've been sheared next month), dagging them removes all the muck they've built up over winter, which in turn removes where the flys will lay their eggs. I like to think it's a fairly proactive approach that reduces my need of chemicals, although I'll still have to keep a careful watch for maggots.
Lambs waiting for their mummies. 
The lambs are looking pretty healthy and they've started to eat their creep feed as well. Hopefully these lambs will finish faster this year than last.
Anyone else been tailing sheep or vaccinating lambs?

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Four Long Days

We've been working hard to get things ready fro the extension here on the homestead.
We've been putting in soak aways for drainage, digging footings for the patio and adding land drains to the field by the house which is always wet. We've got an incredible amount done.

I'll do a proper post on it all later in the week, at the moment I'm very stiff and sore and ache all over, as only four days on a shovel can so to you.
Unfortunately we ended tonight with the picture above - the track coming off the big digger! Could be worse I suppose, but it's something we could have done without,,,

Sunday 15 May 2016

Temporary Water Job

 The one field I rent hasn't got a water supply. 
To combat this I use a "water cube", which holds a fair amount of water, but I have to pick it up with the tractor, fill it up, then take it back down to the sheep. A bit of a hassle and they seem to be drinking a fair bit at the moment, what with the hot weather and still having their woolly jumpers!
Water cube
 The field next door has a water trough but it's some distance away from where I want it (the other field also has a brook but it's fenced one side so this field has no access. So I decided the other night to run a temporary water line to the cube to save using the tractor and make things a bit quicker and easier. 
The hose pipe goes over the bridge to the brook

Runs up the field 40 yards

Changes over to alkathene pipe (as I did't have enough pipe of either).

The alkathene then runs up the field some more

To the other water trove that's been disconnected. 
I normally hate temporary jobs, but this is one that should save me a lot of time in the long run. If I owned the field then I'd add water straight away, but as it's rented it's really not worth it. 
Anyone else make do with temporary jobs to provide water to their stock or crops?

Friday 13 May 2016

Growing From Mouldy Seed

I'm always amazed by seeds, as I'm sure many of you are. all that potential saved up in that little package. 
Last year I saved some Fat Baby Achocha seeds (a type of exploding cucumbers), although they weren't an incredible veg they were still interesting and tasty enough to be worth growing again at some point. 
Mouldy seeds
I saved the seed in an old medicine bottle once I'd dried them and just to make sure I added some rice to absorb any moisture left in them. 
I obviously got it wrong somewhere down the line and when I came to use them a few weeks ago they were mouldy, you could smell the mould on them before you could see it. I really didn't fancy spending out again on these seeds so I thought I'd just sow them anyway, mould and all, and see what happened.

Seeds germinating
I sowed them thickly, left them a week or so in the greenhouse and ended up with a pretty much 100% germination rate! I really didn't think they would germinate, so I'm pretty pleased.

Grown on for a few days

A ripe fruit from last summer.
I'll make sure I'll grow a few plants this year from my seedlings and I'll save a new batch of seeds, picking out the best fruit to save from. This time I'll make sure they're 100% dry before I store them. 

How does everyone else dry their seeds for seed Saving? 
Is there a way that you can check how dry they are before storing them?

Monday 9 May 2016

What's Your Best (or Worst) Bread Making Mistake?

The other day dad and I were working when I saw my wife loading the kids into the car, 
"what's up?" I asked. 
"Something wrong with your bread I need to go buy some for lunch."
I went in and saw my "loaf", I knew what had happened, as I was putting it all in the bread maker one of the girls had asked me a question and I forgot to put the yeast in. 
An unleaven loaf.
Although it was a annoying it was quite funny as I think you could knock someone out with that loaf. It reminded me of the time I forgot to put the paddle in for stirring, so when I came to eat my lunch there was just a bowl of burn flour! 
So it got me wondering if anyone reading his has any stories of bread failing to do what it's meant to or doing something unexpected? I'd love to here your stories! 

Sunday 8 May 2016

Windowsill Gardening

The growing season here can be pretty short, we aren't really frost free until the second week in June, although it can be much earlier than that, anything before is a risk. So to extend the season I start most tender plants off in the greenhouse or in the house.
Pepper plants and other seedlings coming along, melons and cucumbers mainly as well as more strawberries.
 This year I've been using the windowsill to their full potential, starting lots of seeds in my heated propagator as well as potting on tomatoes and letting them grow on in the house. I've still got lots growing in the greenhouse but this way I'm hedging my bets encase it freezes hard one night and I don't realise in time. 
Chilli Pepper plants in the living room
 So all my south facing windows are full, there's about nine varieties of chilli peppers, three types of tomatoes (with another 6 types in the greenhouse)  and then some Minnesota melon seedlings, heritage cucumber and a Mexican herb I've forgotten the name of spread all round the house. The only room I've haven't put plants in is my girls bedroom as it has a blackout blind and I'd rather go without tomatoes than that in the summer, as it makes them sleep past sunrise! 
Some leggy Tomatoes, they should be okay but it shows that starting them too early can be a bad thing. Some are just forming their first truss.  
Who else has a house that's filling up with plants desperate to go outside?

Saturday 7 May 2016

Liebster Award 2016

The Liebster is doing the rounds again and I've been lucky enough to be nominated by two of my favourite blogs - Tricky Wolf at Fast-SOS and Kirsty at Rural Retreat Restoration.

Here's what it's about -

The idea of the Liebster Blog Awards is to discover new blogs and here's what you need to do to take part:
  • Ensure you thank the person who has nominated you and include links back to their blog, after all it's important you share their lovely blog too!
  • Include a photo/badge of the Liebster Blog Awards logo on your blog post to show you've taken part. 
  • Answer the 10 questions asked by the blogger who has nominated you
  • Nominate 5 bloggers that you want to share with your followers and blog viewers
  • Create 10 new questions to ask your nominees - have some fun!
  • Ensure you make your nominees aware that they have been nominated so they know to answer their questions!

So I've got two sets of questions to answer! Here's are Kirsty's:

1. If someone threw you a surprise party would you love it or hate it?
Depends who was there!

2. If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Rest is for the weak.

3. Do you have any fun family traditions?
Too many traditions to list! Most around Christmas and enforced by my sister! 

4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
A really tough one I have no idea really, there are so many. I guess one that really sticks in my memory is The River Cottage Cook Book as I read it at a time when I was thinking about how I wanted my life to be and I think it helped me make some decisions that meant I ended up here. 

5. What’s the best holiday you’ve ever been on?
I guess I'd say the last one, because having children makes it so special and the focus of it all changes. 
Before children it would be our honeymoon to Thailand - We stayed in an Eco Friendly hotel and it was nothing short of amazing. 

6. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would you change?
Nothing at all. I think time travel would be dangerous, what with the butterfly effect and all, but then I guess any changes would have already happened so it wouldn't matter! 

7. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I often say that I think I had the best childhood possible and that's what I'm trying to emulate with my own children. I guess I wish money had been easier for my parents so they didn't have to work so hard, but then again that's shaped us all into the people we've become so I can take real positives from it. 

8. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be?
Hard drive with my photos on it, but then I have a backup at my parents house. 

9. If you could live somewhere else in the world, where would it be?
New Zealand, Canada, France or Italy, I think I've looked at living in them all! 

10. What makes you really angry?
I'm sure I'd share the same one as Kirsty on this - people. Not my friends or family but people in general! I think misanthropy is the word! 

And Here are Tricky Wolf's:

1. If you could remove one thing from the world what would it be?
If it's just one thing and to be selfish my hayfever! 

2. What's one thing have you not done that you really want to do and what's stopping you?
Write a book, one day I'd love to write a book. I guess knowledge and experience (and writing ability) are the things stopping me as well as time and dedication! Maybe one day I'll see my name in print. 

3. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
Anything on my homestead, with my children. When I get home and they're desperate to come outside with me and help it just makes me happy. 

4. When was the last time you REALLY laughed?
I laugh all the time, but I guess, rather cruelly, when I tickled one of my girls so much last night she wet herself! I felt so guilty but it was pretty funny! We both had to jump in the bath!

5. What is your greatest fear?
I try not to worry about too much if I can help it. I guess the health of friends and love ones is something I'd never want to loose.

6. What are you most grateful for?
My health and the health of my family

7. When was the last time you felt out of your depth?
Delivering my son on the bathroom floor. Little bit more involved than I wanted to be I guess, luckily it went well and we can laugh about it now! 

8. What are your values and are you being true to them? 
I think I have strong family values and try to be a good father, husband, son and brother.

9. What do you want your life to be in 5 years?Like it is now, although no mortgage would be nice...

10. If you could wave a magic wand and do anything, what would you do?

I'm going to be sickly sweet here and say remove all childhood illness and diseases, it just breaks my heart to see it. 

Okay now the five blogs that I nominate:

Annie at Annies Journal
Michael at Nails and Sawdust

And the ten questions I want to ask them (I've pinched a few questions here but thinking of ten is hard!) - 

1. If you had a big lottery win what would you do with it all?
2. How do you think you'd fair in a zombie apocalypse?
3. If you had six months warning do you think you could grow all you needed to feed yourself and your family.
4. What's your perfect night in or out?
5.If you had to pick a different career what would you do instead?
6. What advice would you give your younger self?
7. What's your most hated food?
8. The last thing you really laughed hard at?
9. Is there a time you've made a massive fool of yourself in public that you laugh about now?
10. If you had a warning label what would it say?

Thursday 5 May 2016

My Eldest Checking The Sheep!

Before we started lambing the girls were both quite, understandably, scared of the sheep. They're much bigger than them and when you're only three feet tall I imagine they're quite intimidating. They used to hide in the trailer or shed and scream if they came near. 
Of course with my no fuss approach I'd very rarely intervene so they'd have to sort these hungry sheep by themselves, they leant to close the trailer gates by themselves fairly quickly! 
Fast forward a month and they've both become quite fearless. Put a crook in my eldest's hands and she becomes like a warrior princess, ready to charge at the sheep, swinging it around her head! 
I love the little video above where she's trying to catch a lamb to play with it. 

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Sheep's Wool As A Garden Mulch

It's fairly common knowledge that sheep's wool is a pretty low value commodity in this country, the cost of the wool only just covers shearing and that's not including your won time or taking it to the wool yard. 
It's a shame when you think that much of the wealth of this country was built on wool hundreds of years ago.
So I've been trying to think what to do with what I've got left from last year and one idea kept popping into my head - a garden mulch.
Covering a 4ft by 10ft bed
Reading about it there seems to have been a few people that have tried it and they all say good things. 
Here are a few of it's characteristics that will make it work well as a mulch - 
 It's good at suppressing weeds, 
Has good water retention, 
It's 100% natural, 
It'll bio-degrade over time, 
It'll hold the heat of the day and warm the soil, 
The lanolin in the wool acts as a natural slug deterrent  
It'll be great for the local bird population who'll have the best nests for miles around
As it rots it'll also put nitrogen back into the ground. 
Mulching between some newly planted Rosemary
I think this is worth a try so I've got a few fleeces out and set them in place and I've also added a few to sell on Etsy to see if other people are willing to give it a try.
What do you think? A good idea or not? anyone have any experience with using wool in this way?

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