Tuesday 27 May 2014

A Day out and the fox strikes again!

Hello Everybody.
A week since I posted. I get worse don't I?!

Welcome to  Berenice and Emma on Blog lovin and to Marjorie and Pamela on the follower bar. It's really good to see you here.

A week a ago I was thinking we needed some rain. Silly me! it's been tipping it down since ! It is also quite warm so things are growing apace, particularly the weeds and the grass. the grass in the paddock is very long, much longer than usual,. The problem is that we only have two little lambs to graze it and the sit-on mower has broken.. We'll be cutting for hay if we don't get it cut soon.
On Friday D. and I had a rare awayday. A friend had visited an exhibition of the collection of Dukes of Portland that is currently housed at the Harley gallery at Wellbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. He thought we would enjoy this small but spectacular exhibition and insisted on taking us. ( He drove and also treated us to lunch ) he was right .. What a wonderful exhibition. I would thoroughly recommend a visit if you are anywhere close. Entry is free. As is often the case nowadays the outbuildings of this great house have been utilised to maximise the income necessary to maintain the estate. There is the exhibition/museum building, a garden centre, a resteraunt and a food shop.
 At lunch I had brie and cranberry sandwiches with salad and D. had the ploughmans. here is a picture of his meal. How nice does that look?!

 My Eldest Granddaughter has begun an apprenticeship which entails machine sewing. She has taken to this like a duck to water and has now ordered her first sewing machine. I was talking to a friend about this and she asked if EGD and myself could make use of some fabric she had stashed away.  Could we?!! We now have a large bag of different cottons ideal for patchwork and project work. I have told myself that I will not start anything new until I have finished my important outstanding projects. The most important of these is the removable  futon/ sofa cover for my Godson. This is in exchange for two tonne bags of chippings. A good bit of frugal bartering.

 And now for some really sad news.... The fox has been again! We have lost Mummy Buff, Black Mummy and Flump. We had just introduced Mummy Buff to Flump and they were getting on REALLY well (if you get what I mean) so we left them to it when we went inside for our tea. Less than half an hour later D. went outside to find Flump lying in the grass outside the barn and the two hens missing. Huddled in the corner of the barn was a hen with all the chicks behind her, ready to fight off all comers, bless her. D. looked over the wall to see the fox standing on a mound next door. We are absolutely gutted and going through a fierce fox-hating time at the mo.
 Talking of foxes, a wild animal that is, against all other animal trends, increasing in numbers. A few years ago a local chicken keeper, who kept chickens for a living not a hobby, took a shot at a fox that was circling his hen houses (NOT battery before anyone judges). His neighbour came out of her house shouting at him not to shoot the fox. It transpired that she was a member of a group that saves foxes from the towns and releases them into the country. I guess that little story will trigger different reactions !

Off to look at the comments on my last post and then to get ready for the tuesday gang for lunch.
Take Care All

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Frugal husband and Flump the chick-sitter

Hello from a really warm Derbyshire

Welcome to Mary and Vanessa on Blog lovin and Dawn as a Follower. Good to see a fellow beekeeper here. You sound as mad as us !

I could bore you all with more beekeeping stories. You will be pleased to hear that I will resist, suffice to say that there have been several different incidents as the warm weather continues and the bees remain strong.

D. insists that I give a mention to his frugal (i.e free) hive lids. He has recently made three new lids for our extra bees. He tells me that they are made from pallet wood and solar panel packing and painted with paint from the paint stash. "Ahh" I said "What about the nails?"  "I've used the nails that Gareth gave me that he found on the site when his house was being built" he replied smugly. I really had to search my memory before I came up with the date 1990!  Fair Point D. you win tight-a*** of the year award!

I am finally getting down to planting out. The gardens are in a bit of a state, but with some help from the land girls, Bob (shared lives) and (surprisingly) my grandson today, I feel that we are getting on top of the job. I shall take some pics soon.

Flump the Lump  has settled in beautifully. After his first night here one of the mother hens asked him if he minded looking after her chick while she went outside for a fag. Flump, being a New Man said "No problem". Big Mistake Flump ! He is now doing an awful lot of chick-sitting for the three mums who are having a ball, often leaving the chicks with Daddy day Care ( and he's not even their dad!)

I have now started my blight prevention tomato spraying exercise (see my last post) I am spraying some tomatoes with aspirin water, some with willow water and leaving the rest. here is the plan of the greenhouse. (The south end tomatoes are Marmande, Ailsa Craig, Roma and Harzfeuer.)

NORTH                                                                                                                     SOUTH
           Shirley Tomatoes       Shirley Tomatoes       Shirley Tomatoes      Mixed Tomatoes
                 Willow                       none                          none                           Aspirin
           Shirley Tomatoes     Shirley Tomatoes         Cucumbers                 Mixed Tomatoes
                Aspirin                       none                           none                         Willow

 As per suggested in the newspaper article I will spray 2 -3 times a month. I'll keep you posted.

I always have a Free Range Egg sign outside the house. As from this weekend I have a sign for plants for sale  - tomatoes, cabbages and sweet peas. Do you think it would be okay to put a "Bees for Sale" sign out there too?
Until next time


Tuesday 13 May 2014

Swarm City

Hello All
As they say in the TV programme "Mostly, I have been collecting swarms"

D. and I were beavering away repairing every single piece of beekeeping equipment left (not much!) and building new roofs and floors from our (considerable) wood stash when I looked out of the window to see a familiar cloud in the sky. I must say I was tempted to pretend I hadn't seen it and let it go, but we have a responsibility to our little friends, so I said "Another swarm D." He tried not to look too crestfallen, as he has spent the last fortnight making new hives and nothing else. Jobs are piling up around us, with deliveries of smallholding gold awaiting attention (more on this later) and gardens still to be dug etc etc.
 As I am collecting our equipment, the phone rings and it is our Godson who has been doing some fencing for someone and do we want the old fencing? I almost didn't pass it on to D. for the same reason as I nearly didn't tell him about the swarm! However, I did and D accepted the wood.(of course)
 This swarm landed on the golden rod and the weight soon bent the young stems over until the swarm was almost on the floor

We cobbled a Brood Box together from bits and pieces and D. put it in front of the swarm while we togged up. At least we wouldn't be balancing on ladders this time. Back to the site, Queen marker in hand just in case we saw her and this is what we saw. They had taken themselves in.

The easiest swarm collection ever!

Good job really as Gdson had arrived with his mate and trailer and pick-up load of stuff. They all set to to unload it all over yard and very pretty it looks too (not)  I went into the kitchen to make tea and my mobile rang. It was Gdson's wife to ask was he there and did he know about the bees? Yes, he does I said and after a bit of a chat it dawned on me that we might be at cross purposes. Yup,  Gdson's bees had swarmed ! Off he and I set in our car, leaving his mate to take the trailer and truck to pick up for their next job.
At Gdson's house we tog up again and collect a swarm from a low gate ..Hurrah another no-ladder swarm!

 Here is a pic of the pandemonium in the yard.
Behind the guys is a pile of logs we have gained, to the right is the truckload of fencing to the left is the trailer load of fencing and in front of them is more fencing thrown on top of a trailer full of horse muck we were given. So nothing to do there then!!

Finally what do people do about dishcloths? (just when you thought this post couldn't get any more glamorous)
As I was boiling the dishcloths this morning, which I do occasionally, the rest of the time putting them in the washing machine with  the whites, a friend arrived and said the kitchen smelled of washing day when she was a child. She uses J-cloths and kitchen roll and clearly thought I was strange.
Off to tidy up the yard!!
Back Soon

Monday 12 May 2014

The weather and Tomato Blight

Hello from warm, wet and windy Derbyshire.

I'm really pleased to welcome Compostwoman to my follower bar. I've been following you for a long time now and am chuffed you are here.

Say hello everybody to ...Flump, our new cockerel. He is a week off a year old and, as you can see, HUGE!!!  D. calls him Flump the Lump (  mmm  pot / kettle / black comes to mind!) At he moment he is in the barn with the rabbits and sundry mummy hens with chicks and a couple of broodys all running free, apart from the rabbits of course and he is such a gentleman.

As they say, there's a lot of weather about at the moment. The weeds and grass are growing apace as would the veg I am sure if I had any planted! I have some in but not much and the ground is so wet I shall have to be patient. The warm wet weather has meant that our bees are taking some looking after. We have now had four swarms!!! Here is a picture of D. passing down  a collected swarm to me. D. Has just swept the swarm into the box with his hand, which is why there are quite a few bees flying about. They are not aggressive just a little excited. Within half an hour of this pic being taken they were nicely settled in the box. This tree appears to have become a "Swarm Tree", so we will prune it to make it a little easier to collect any future swarms from it.
Talking of the weather, if it continues like this we will be at risk of Blight on the tomatoes and potatoes. I grow Sarpo Miras, which so far has demonstrated it's blight tolerance and in the greenhouse I use Bordeaux Mixture at the first signs of blight. We escaped it in the greenhouse last year, but it did wipe out the outdoor tomatoes. So I was very interested to read an article in "The Sunday Independent" of research into the use of aspirin to prevent Blight. James Wong states that aspirin can induce a state called "Systematically Acquired Resistance" he suggests spraying  the plants with a solution of  2 soluble aspirin to 4 litres of water 2 to 3 times a month. recent studies have shown a 47% reduction in Blight. An alternative is to make willow water (Willow is naturally high in salicylic Acid) from the fresh branches of willow.
I shall definitely have a go at this. I have determined to try both methods, as we have a large stand of willow here. I shall put the willow through the "muncher" and steep the munching in water for a couple of days. I shall then spray a section of the greenhouse, with Aspirin water, a section with willow water and not treat the rest. I shall start this week as it is a preventative measure not curative.
Here is a pic of one end of our greenhouse taken last week. it is easily divided into four parts as it is really four greenhouses bolted together! In the pathways are the dahlias waiting to go out as soon as the risk of frost is over. Notice the Dimplex radiator, bought down from the spare room and put on low, as frost was expected.
Here I have planted a few Little Gem lettuce as a catch crop, on the other side of the path I have planted Lollo Rosso. I'd like to be able to say that I left those buttercups outside the greenhouse for the bees, but in reality it is one of the many "Corners of Shame" we have here on our holding.
 Can you see the similarity of our Greenhouse base to yours Kev Alviti (English Homestead)? We have to step over a highish step to access inside too.
 That's all for now, off to prick out some seedlings, which is a job I really enjoy.
Back Soon

Thursday 8 May 2014

Downs and Ups

Hello fellow Frugellers!
A special Hello to Kita, Sandra Nix and Val Derbyshire on Blog Lovin and Jeanette on my follower sidebar.

Right, let's get the rubbish news over with first.
On Friday morning, before we set off for our Cornish Fishing weekend. I went out to feed the animals. I let the three lambs out into the paddock and gave them their bottles. Back to the barn to feed the rabbits and the nursery crew and found two chicks all on their own in the barn, with no sign of an adult..The mother hens with their single chicks were snug in their little runs within the barn and the four broody mums sat firmly on their eggs. So where was mummy hen and her side-kick (good friend)? I walked around the holding looking for them and found the feathers in the fruit garden...Mr Fox had called. We had left the top of the barn door open for the swallows and Rufus had taken his chance.
 The list I leave for my daughter when she takes over from us, had to be amended to include increased fox-security. I also set up a heat lamp for the chicks as a frost was expected.
Next into the house to make up and refrigerate bottles for the lambs for a couple of days. Archie still not looking too strong, but drinking his bottle with gusto.

The journey to Cornwall was horrendous with some serious accidents, roadworks and shear weight of traffic but we got there safe and sound and to bed early as we have an early start to Looe on Saturday morning. I drove D. to the boat and returned back to my friend's ready for a good old gossip and my mobile rang. It was YD to say that she had gone out to feed the lambs this morning to find that Archie had died in the night!
I had to explain what she had to do with poor little Archie re. fallen stock disposal, ear tags, movement books etc. Poor  YD what an awful thing for her to have to do.
 What she didn't tell me was that most of my bean plants had been taken by the frost, even though they were under glass. There wasn't anything either of us could do about that.

 I think that that is all the rubbish news. So onto the Good News...I feel as though I ought to end this post like Pam from  A Good Life in Tydd with ..."Reasons to be Grateful"....

The four new hens have settled in so well that I am struggling to identify which ones they are.

I have plenty of spare beans saved and have pre-soaked and re-planted some to replace the frosted ones.

The tomatoes are doing so well in the greenhouse that I have been pricking out the plants, some of which have flowers.

Another chick has been born.

We have had another swarm, which me were able to collect and box. Now numbered Hive No 8.

My daughter, granddaughter and a couple of friends turned out on Sunday to do a spot of digging for me, which meant that I was able to plant, Purpel Sprouting Brocolli, Calabrase and Greyhound Cabbages on Monday.

Over the weekend a neighbour sent us a large bunch of asparagus from her allotment.

Today I received a beautiful 11 month old Buff Orpington cockerel to "play" with Hugh's (our old BO Cockerel) close female relatives. His name is Flump.

D. has now sieved enough compost to fill both the greenhouses and many seed trays and plant pots.

ED bought another trailor of wood from her friend's

As you see much to be thankful for.

All for now. Off to read some of my favourite blogs.

ooh nearly forgot..D.caught some fish! I processed 10 pollack for the freezer, which yealded 11 pound of fillets.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Quick post about the bees

Hello All
After a REALLY  busy week I realise that it is over a week since I posted ! (and this one is going to be a quickie as we get ready for another fishing trip to Cornwall)
Where did the time go?!
 Much of the week has been spent outside. After the bees swarmed last week we looked through all our hives and saw that they were so strong that we had to fit supers on five hives. We have been keeping bees for over forty years and we have never had such a start to the year. I guess we will be spending a lot of time either trying to prevent the bees swarming or collecting the swarms if/when they do! With luck we should also get some honey.More importantly we should have a VERY good fruit year as the trees are covered with bees as soon as they are in blossom.
On Monday, B (shared lives guy) and D.were about to riddle some more compost for potting on some tomato plants which I hope top sell and I was about to go to the fodder rooms and collect EGD dog for "Doggy day Care" at ours and the phone rang. Our godson's bees had swarmed and he was the other side of Chesterfield on a job he couldn't leave. His sister was keeping her eye on them to see where they landed while we set off poste-haste to collect them.  They landed in a very tricky place on a fence, about 12 feet from their original hive, but after some maneuvering we finally boxed them and left them there for GDS.
I know I have said this before, but to remind you, You can't just move bees a few feet, you have to move them a couple of miles or so, leave them in that site for a day or two and then move them back to the site you want them to stay, which might only be a couple of feet away from where they started.
 It took us some time to gather the bees (and EGD's dog!) so we had to rush back as it was time for B. to go home. After putting our stuff away, exercising the dog, feeding the lambs etc etc we had a hasty tea and set off for the AGM of the Canal Society. On the way home we looked at our phones and there had been several missed calls from  GDS. D. phoned him back and said "Hope the bees are okay, bring them over to ours if you want to move them back to your other two". "Ah! " said GDS "I've been trying to ring you to ask if it is okay for me to bring all three hives over for a couple of days while I sort my bee site out.  I hope you don't mind, but I have bought them  over tonight while you were out."
So that's TEN hives in our front garden at the moment! And very nice friendly bees they are too.
Yesterday, as a thank you, he bought us a trailer load of logs .. Nice!

While we were at the meeting a member asked us if we could take their four hens that they can no longer keep. "No Problem" says D. and arranged for them to be bought over the next night. We put them in a small separate house that opens onto the main run and so far so good they haven't been given too hard a time by the others (there is plenty of room) As three year old virgins, they are a little "surprised" by Hugh, the cockerel, but as he has plenty more women to see to he isn't bothering them too much while they get used to married life!
There is much more to tell, but I need to get on with some letters for the Civic Society and get the house and animals ready to leave for YD to look after while we are in Cornwall. Ooh yes, and this afternoon we are going to look at some stoves as we need to get cracking on replacing the living room fire - I'm very excited by this.
We hear that the fishing hasn't been good this year. I'll let you know when we get back.
All for now