Monday 28 August 2017


Where the chickens were kept over winter was pretty poached ground. 

When I moved the chickens I didn't want the docks and nettles to take over so I set about growing some crops to compost later on and move the fertility of that patch into the compost and then onto my garden. 
One of those crops was sunflowers, now to get the best from them I was supposed to harvested them semi mature and compost them. 

Well they grew so well down there I've just let them flower and they look amazing! These guys like chicken manure that's for sure! 

Even though it means less compost for next year, who wouldn't want to bring armfuls of these beautiful flowers back to the house! We've got hundreds of plants growing down there and each is wanting to flower. 

I think the house is going to be very pretty for the next few days! 

What's your favourite flower to grow to cut for the house?

Sunday 27 August 2017

Seed Swappers BBQ

As I'm the newest (and youngest) member of the Herefordshire Seed Swap I suggested a BBQ at mine for the summer meet up. I think they were all quite keen to see what we get up to here and where we were. 
Before we ate I took everyone on a whistle stop tour of the homestead, showing them the veg gardens, orchard, coppice, sheep and chickens, I'm just hopeful most could see past all the nettles and see the produce growing around it! The children provided much entertainment as well, stealing carrots and getting stung by the nettles! 
Such an amazing spread of food
Everyone brought some food with them and we had slow cooked a large joint of mutton and my wife baked bread rolls, it was a lovely spread of food. We all ate very well! With cakes and plums for pudding! 

These three did me proud and were very well behaved! 
It was a lovely evening, the weather was perfect and we sat out on the patio as it got dark. 
They're a lovely group of people and the seed swap is a great thing that I'm really keen to be a part of, I've got lots of crops for seed this year so I should be able to provide even more seed next year. It's also a group with a large bank of knowledge that I'm only too keen to tap into! 
Our next meet up is in October and it'll be interesting to see what seed we've managed to produce as a group! 

If there is a seed swap group near you why don't you try and get involved?

Friday 25 August 2017

A Visit To Dawn's Smallholding

Sorry I haven't got round to doing the list of posts I'd promised this week - they're coming it's just been a very busy week! 

Last week, when we were on holiday I got up early and crept out the house, leaving my wife and kids in bed. 
I was quite excited as I was going to see my blogging friend Dawn and have a tour of her smallholding in Wales. 
Milking time! 

I was on holiday in New Quay so it was only about a 45 minute journey through the welsh countryside, although it did take me a little longer to find the farm, even with some good instructions! It's pretty remote out there in the hills, far more than we are here with a large village on our door step.
The kids waiting to go back to their mums! 
I got there in time to see the chickens being fed and the goats being milked. Dawn and Martin seem to have everything very well organised, with loads of feed bins labled up and a chart with who has what each day. The milking operation was pretty swift as well, taking just over ten minutes for the three goats, each taking their turn on the stand to be milked and have a bit of feed. 

Some sheep that are a fair bit smaller than my own! 
Dawn then showed me round their smallholding. It's in a stunning location, the back fields have some great views over the surrounding countryside but I should imagine it has the weather hard when it's bad!  

I think it's also fair to say that the soil isn't great, Dawn is having to do a lot of work to improve the fertility there, I couldn't believe it when she walked me on to one field and said it hadn't been grazed yet. 
But with a combination of animal manure and some really good field maintenance I know it'll improve really quickly for them, their garden area was already testament to that with loads of produce growing outside in the beds and in both polytunnels. 

There was also lots of great ideas everywhere I looked. The one I really liked was the water containers at the back of very barn or field shelter, it really makes use of the natural resources and I thought the mini scaffold tower was a great way to raise them up. 

Couldn't go to Dawns and not see the Alpacas! 

Scaffold onion drying rack! 

Dawn and Martin - Such a hard working couple!
It was great to be able to have a guided tour around their smallholding that I had read so much about, it's also nice to met up in person with someone that I quiet often message and we each comment on each others blogs. 

It's also great to see a couple doing the whole "smallholding" thing properly, I've no time for time for people that always talk about doing something but don't, these guys really walk the walk and know what they're on about when it comes to smallholding because they are putting the skills and knowledge into practice every single day. 

So thanks again Dawn and Martin for your hospitality and time. Also sorry it was such short notice that I was going to turn up! 

Sunday 20 August 2017

Back From Holiday

We've just come back form a lovely week away in New Quay in Wales. 
I'd left our little farm in the capably hands of our neighbours so it was really nice to just switch off and relax. 
We had an amazing week, to start with the whole of my side of the family met up and stayed for a night, we ate well, had family with us to share with looking after the kids and even managed a trip to the pub!
The kids loved it as well and loved all the attention that was lavished on them! 

Big Sunday roast

My middle one taking full advantage and being carried back to the cottage! 

Brother and sister-in-law helping with the boy! 
The weather wasn't great the whole week, but that didn't dampen our spirits... 

...or not for long at least! 
The rest of the week was amazing as well, lots of time spent as a family and I've even managed to visit a few places that were really interesting and I learnt loads from. 
I'll be doing a few posts during the week on visiting Dawn from Being Self Sufficient In Wales, National Trust Property Llanerchaeron and a visit to Lammas Eco Village. 

Saturday 19 August 2017

Truth About Sheep

 I read this the other day in an old smallholding book and I thought it summed up keeping sheep perfectly.

Friday 18 August 2017

No Space Is No Excuse!

I saw this the other day driving around and had to share it.
The guy loves his potatoes but has no garden to grow them in so each year has these tubs up on his roof and waters them with a hose, He has to climb out of his window to do it!

What lenghts would you go to have some fresh produce?

Thursday 17 August 2017

Future Farmer

Found the boy sat on the stairs reading an old childhood book "the farmer" he was so excited to show me the sheep!

Can't imagine where he picked up the habbit of reading about farming all the time...

Wednesday 16 August 2017

The Garden from the air!

Looks almost organised...
My second garden was too low in resolution from the drone picture.

Sunday 13 August 2017

Next Years Fertility

A chance meeting last week resulting in me being told my neighbours were trying to get rid of a big load of horse muck as they were going round the world on a tandem bike!
Did I want any?
I'll have as much as you be got!
I'm the end he brought six loads, most is beautifully rotted, black crumbly goodness. Can't believe how good this stuff is.

Should go a long way to providing some of my soil fertility next year. 

I also got round to clearing the sheep shed, a job I should have done a few months earlier really as I only borrow the shed. 
I stacked it high and added a few sheep's fleeces for extra nitrogen and goodness (they're worth very little at the moment but I've heard they make good compost). I think I'll probably need to leave it for 12 months before use but it'll make some great compost.
I've another three bins full of this year's compost as well which should be ready for next year's growing season.

A few more loads of muck and I might have enough for next year! Bigger scale means more fertility needed!

Who here gets lots of muck in? 

How do you provide fertility to your plot?

Friday 11 August 2017

Globe Artichokes

These really divide people.
I love the faff and the messiness of eating this delicacy and I think it's all worth it for the amazing taste - my wife doesn't! Only my younger daughter liked them as well so I doubt they're going to become a regular feature in this house! 

Looking at the four heads in the picture above, they all came from the same packet of seed, a purple variety, so I think it's fair to say the seed company had some cross pollination! Might have to let them know if I can find the packet! 
We simply boil ours for around half an hour and serve with a little butter. The hearts in the middle taste divine! 
They are pretty much they only thing you can eat where you seem to end up with more than you started with.
These were heads off plants I sowed this year as well, I was reading somewhere today how they don't harvest them the first year, but I've never had any problems with them.

So where do you stand on this giant thistle with edible flower buds?

Love it or don't think it's worth the effort?

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Eden - Paradise Lost - Episode 1

So last year there was a new program started that put a load of people into the highlands in Scotland with the aim to "start again" a premise I could really get behind. 
I really enjoyed it on some levels and on others was left feeling frustrated, more by the way it ended.  
Channel Four dropped the program (without telling the people in the experiment) and as a wrap up they've put together five programmes to show what happened after we stopped watching last August.

I watch the first one last night and it was good to see the program again but immediately I was struck by the fact that I only seem to like a couple of characters out there. This might be down to editing but who knows! 

I think this is the main failing of the show, they seem to have put in the wrong people, maybe chosen for their skills or looks but not vetted for their social skills. I remember years ago watching Castaway 2000 (where we got Ben Fogle from!) and there was whole programmes on how they chose the people for it. They chose people they thought would gel as a team, who would lead, who would stand back and support, etc. Not saying this worked, but the Radio Times even gave a list to the producers of Eden of things to avoid, the main failing of castaway was the productions obsession with conflict and Edens seems to be the same. 

I get the impression that these days they try to pick people that won't get on as they think it makes better TV - this time I fear it may have back fired! A years worth of arguments doesn't make for big viewing figures. 

The leadership thing is really important as well, a group like this won't function well without a strong leader, from the viewing there doesn't seem to be one that stands out. That said the program is heavily edited to show one aspect of the show each time, maybe we'll see some leadership qualities in later episodes. 

Bullying seems rife with some group members feeling like outcasts. Food is being rationed for a year that's supposed to last for 3 months, making everyone tired, hungry and angry, this affects everything and there's no telling the difference it 's making to how people behave! 

I'm still going to watch the other episodes but can help feeling this was an opportunity missed. 

Did you watch it?

What did you think?

Monday 7 August 2017

Weed Pressure Stops Me Growing More!

Dad thinks I farm nettles!
Weed pressure is what makes organic gardening on a large scale very difficult. The land has a huge seed bank of weed seeds that really take some controlling and although I'm probably dealing with it the best way possible this year I wouldn't say I'm on top of it!

Who else is suffering with weed pressure?
What do you do to stay on top of it?

Friday 4 August 2017

Latvian Soup Peas

So one storage crop is now safely gathered in, my soup peas!
Now I'll level with you, I've not grown these or used them for cooking before but I thought they sounded interesting so I hope they taste good! 
They grew amazingly well (and looked beautiful), but in this country we never have quiet enough dry weather to dry them on the plant outside so instead I picked all the pods and put them on some drying racks I'd made. If I had more inside space I could have picked the whole plants and hung them up.
After about three weeks they'd dried out so all the pods were crisp and easy to break. 
My wife and I sat and podded all the peas whilst the girls were preparing some french beans for the freezer. Not a bad job outside on the patio in the sunshine. 
Although not the most impressive haul, we harvested about 2kg (4lb ish) of dried peas from a 10ft by 30" bed, I could have also sown them a little thicker if I wanted as well. 

Who else grows peas for drying?
How do you use them?

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Vlog 7 - Sheep & Chickens

I've put together another vlog! 
Lots fo high lights from the last few weeks and a walk around the homestead. Make sure you watch the end as there is the cuties video of my daughter trying to say "Peas if you please!", makes me chuckle every time I watch it! 

Thanks for watching and let me know what you think!

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