Saturday, 17 September 2011

About time too - it's autumn!

Yep, I know, i've been remiss in keeping this blog going through the summer - apologies. It's been a bit of a busy time here, ar y fferm.

When I left you Spotty Nose was yet to drop, Amber the Chicken was a bit poorly and my thumb was throbbing, smashed, as it had been, between two rocks.

Well all did not go well with Spotty Nose. Not long after I last wrote Louise was up doing the early morning check (by that I mean 3 a.m.) only to find a dead ram lamb. She came to get me and I sat with Spotty Nose to make sure there wasn't a second lamb due to come, but there wasn't, just the single. The lamb had been licked clean on one side, but had clearly not got up as he was dirty on the other. She might have had a difficult birth or it might have been born dead, we'll never know.

So we are left with just the three.

Wooly Jumper, our single ewe lamb

Over the summer they've all done really well, growing nicely and putting on weight even though the weather has been poor. The lambs didn't go for the chop this time, instead one Louise and I's mutual customers, Maggie, has bought them and they went off to her place, a farm about 6 miles away. I'll be able to check up on them each month when I go to do the windows!

The lambs about to go to Maggie's

Our ram lamb - he's grown a lot (see last blog entry)

Amber the chicken was another tragic case. She finally gave up the ghost and I did a backyard autopsy on her to find some sort of growth inside her.We've put it down to egg peritonitis. Indeed she wasn't the only chicken we lost. I had to despatch another hen who refused to get better and put weight on. As anyone with a smallholding will tell you the birth and death of animals is all part of the deal.

Gill, Louise's sister came down at the end of April to give us a hand given I was out of action and it was the busiest time of the year. I think she began to regret it as she tackled the area the pigs had been with the rotovator.

Gill about to face Round 2 with the rotovator...

The ground was as hard as iron due to the hot spell we'd had and it was hilarious watching here as it bounced and dragged her around all time trying to keep her cool! Actually she was a massive help, so THANKS again Gill!

Given it was so nice we put the courgettes and squash/pumpkins out in mid-May - just as the weather turned cold, wet and windy. Indeed most of our small seedlings were hopelessly held back by the weather. So whilst i'm on the subject here's what's been a success and failure:

Successes: Strawberries, raspberries, spuds (5 varieties - Anya, King Ed, Desiree, Swift and another I can't remember), onions, garlic, shallots, peas, spinach, beetroot. Salad (but that doesn't count as you have to be a total plonker not to be able to grow that).

Failures: Tomatoes (not one red fruit - I kid you not. And yes, they were in the greenhouse), aubergine, runner beans (3 ft tall as I write - not one bean), broad beans, sweetcorn (leaning 45 degrees 'cos of the wind), courgettes, butternut squash (hopeless), cucumber (especially hopeless). Spuds (I know they are in the 'success' row, but see below.

The spuds were maddening. They grew well and just as I spotted some blight I dug them all up and washed them clean, discarding any that were less than 100% perfect. Dried in the sun they were packed into paper spud sacks - all in all about 12 hours hard work. We had around 12 bags of spuds. A week later the bags were leaking a stinking, slimy supporating goo; an investigation showed that a good half of the crop had turned to mush.
At this point I contemplated putting the house on the market and moving to a 3 bed semi in lovely Newport.

In the end we cleaned the crop (again) and repacked in bags. Luckily we'd had far too much (we could have supplied the local chippy for a season and still had enough for ourselves) so we are no spud-less. The ones that remain seem to be ok, but we'll see.

Enough for a demijohn of Chateux Haul Y Bryn?

The garlic did well this year

Leeks and spinach

Our rubbish courgettes. Back to the green ones next year...

A barrow load of onions.

Autumn colours

So here we are at the start of autumn. Already the leaves are turning and we've had a big storm just a few days ago. I've binned the tomato plants out of disgust and the onions and garlic are out of the ground. The swallows that nest in our stable raised two broods this year and have left for Africa. The brassicas are doing OK-ish and the sheep are begining to put weight on now the lambs have gone - soon it will be time for their boyfriend to come a calling, and the whole cycle will start again.

We have a short break soon, it being our 10th wedding anniversary, but after that we've plenty of digging to be done in preparation for winter if anyone fancies a break with a difference. In the meantime it's hwyl for now and thanks for reading.

Louise and Gill scoffing cake (post boot camp) and Jasper in his usual position, ready to hoover up any titbits.