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<< May 2021 June 2021 July 2021 >>

1st: Dogs 2nd: Rhea 3rd: Rhea 4th: Alpacas 5th: Rhea 6th: The Land 7th: Fruit and Veg 8th: Poultry 9th: The Land 10th: Poultry
11th: Rhea 12th: The Land 13th: Rhea 14th: The Land 15th: Cats 16th: The Land 17th: Alpacas 18th: Alpacas 19th: Sheep 20th: Fruit and Veg
21st: Wool and Fibre 22nd: The Land 23rd: Goats 24th: The Land 25th: The Land 26th: The Land 27th: Poultry 28th: Goats 29th: Rhea 30h: Dogs + Cats
1st: All six in shot!
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2nd: First Rhea Chicks
We have our first two Rhea chicks. We 'unpicked' this one on 29th May - it was on Day 41 of incubation and Day 6 of 'Hatching Lockdown' so we felt it needed a helping hand. It arrived weak, with some blood loss from its abdomen, a slightly offset beak and curved feet. We taped its feet which has worked a treat but 4 days on we are still unsure how much (if anything) it is eating as we have seen no sign of any pecking at the food. We have been dipping its beak in the lettuce and spinach filled water and trickling chick crumbs down its beak but the jury is out as to whether this is being successful or not!! The food and water are both showing signs if disturbance but this could be through 'feet' not 'beak' activity.
Chick number two arrived all by itself 2 days ago and is looking very strong, although again, no pecking has yet been viewed.
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3rd: And then there were three
Last night we unpicked our third rhea: this time a white one. He was very sticky and wet and as the photo shows is a tad bald in places but he seems strong and alert. It's lovely having a trio now AND in even more exciting news, rhea number one is definitely eating in public and so we feel a lot more confident that the others will follow suit (hopefully at four days old, number two already is). A combination of chopped lettuce and spinach and a liberal sprinkling of chick crumbs are obviously doing the trick!! Huge relief!!
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4th: Castrations
Today was all a bit grim as it was Castration Day: six alpacas, one lamb and one goat. First up was Mrs White's ram lamb whose testicles has been a bit evasive when we tried to ring him at just under a week old. Legally, banding has to be done in the first 7 days so having missed the opportunity, he was booked in today for a full testicle removal. He sat on Jack's lap and was as good as gold and within half an hour was back with mum. Tarragon wasn't quite so easy - goats are a bit more resistant to having any procedures done so he needed a bit of valium to calm him down as well as the local anesthetic. His recovery time was much longer and he was still wobbly and rather cross with us as bedtime.
The alpacas all went really well: Io was the most bolshy but on the whole the rest just allowed it all to happen and then were very glad to be released back into their paddock. We had a bit more lying down than usual into the afternoon/ evening but essentially, they were all as right as rain.
We now no longer have any entire 4-leggeds on the smallholding as per our plan to no longer breed or to allow any breeding: a horrid step to take but now done, a way of ensuring relative peace and harmony and no need for any separation between males and females.
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5th: Egg laying resumes
After a gap of almost a month, the rhea have started laying again - big relief. Last year they carried in well into August so May felt just a little early! This is White Toe proudly sitting on his nest - although once again we will be taking the eggs away for the incubator. We have three eggs due to hatch on 12th and then, fingers crossed, these latest ones will provide us with a few more chicks in July!!
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6th: Bufo Bufo
It is rather wonderful what can be found on a smallholding in spring. This was in the sheep's water bucket this morning - small, but in every way, perfectly formed - the Common Toad (Bufo Bufo). And it does seem rather unfair to call it 'common'.
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7th: And now to wait
The allotment is a wee bit behind thanks to the weird weather this spring but if all goes well, we should still be in for a bumper crop of fruit and veg come late summer/ early autumn. We have: potatoes, onion, garlic, butternut squash, french dwarf beans, spinach, swiss chard, cabbage, calibreese, peas, mangetout and runner beans; raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and rhubarb. And in the greenhouse: strawberries, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes, more squash and cucumbers. AND in the cold frames, the grow bags are now ready to receive salad leaves, raddish and spring onion!!! Fingers crossed for exactly the right amount of rain and sunshine at exactly all the right times!!
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8th: Increasing the flock
Egg numbers have been steadily dropping, due probably to having too many broodies and quite a few older girls. A couple of days ago therefore we collected/ took delivery of a few extra: 5 mixed-breed hens from Katherine and Nick along with 5 Lohman/ Columbian Blacktails and 2 Marans from a new contact Julie Pratt. Three of Katherine's are already laying as they are last year's birds sop egg numbers have 'swelled' by 2/3 a day already. They are all spending a few days inside to make sure they are fit and healthy and then we will start to allow them outside to mix with the others. We eat a lot of eggs and more so since we stopped eating meat and Linda and Inge also take 3-4 boxes a week too. We really don't want to run out!! Relaxed at Home
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9th: Sublime to the ridiculous
So as we try to creep up on the swallow on the fence for a closer look, Chips tugs at Jack's phone pocket in the vague hope that a bottle of milk may be lurking therein... never a dull moment...
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10th: Spot the Runner Duck
The grass in our poultry area is just a tad long at the moment!!
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11th: Feeding Frenzy
The chopped lettuce and spinach is proving as popular with the turkey poults as it is with the rhea chicks - we are lucky once again to be getting 'seconds' from James at Simmons Fruit and Veg - still costs us a few pounds a week to keep them in their greens mind you!! And worth every penny!
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12th: Mother Nature
Where we can on the smallholding, we are leaving Mother Nature to do what she does best. This fabulous patch of buttercups is just one of many on the allotment where we are leaving the grass to grow in those parts where we don't have established beds. The poultry area is similarly blessed although we do need to tackle some of the nettles in there as they are creeping more and more each year and killing other species off (as well as providing fabulous cover for the fox!!!!). In the non-grazed fields we have scores of oak trees growing. The rhea don't touch them but the sheep will so we are trying to work out how best to try to preserve some. Mother Nature is great but as with most things in life, a balance must be had and a helping hand given in in order for everything to co-exist together!!
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13th: Regular as clockwork
After their gap of several weeks, the rhea are now in a very regular pattern of laying 3 eggs every 2 days. We have two nests although only one is being laid in, and all the males seem to be keen to 'sit', other than White Toe who sits the least, preferring instead to proudly look after his harem of ladies. We have had two more chicks hatch from our latest batch, both white, giving us a total of five with just two of them grey! So far all the chicks seem quite strong (fingers crossed). Our latest batch of 13 eggs went in the incubator 4 days ago and in a couple of days we can candle them and see how well fertility is doing!!!
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14th: Daily task
Every day when we walk round the fields with the dogs, checking stock as we go and topping up any feeders/ drinkers as required, we now have an additional task on the list: flattening mole hills!! It's immensely satisfying, albeit a little disheartening as within hours they are back but, the grass is happier for our attention and it all looks so much better. At the end of the day, the moles are helping to aerate our land - we just wish they didn't have to create such whopping huge grass-killing mounds when they do. We have a vague hope our constant kicking of their hills may give them an almighty headache and make them move on - but we fear this might be an expectation too far!!
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15th: These two...
Cute as chips... always
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16th: Poultry Clear up
The Poultry Paddock is a little overgrown... or rather a lot!! We are on a mission this year to tackle it and reclaim some of the land that is being dominated by nettles. We also need to address the grass which is very very long. We have a lot of willow growing now and it needs space to really mature. Today was rather hot for brush cutting and shifting wood but we made a respectable start.
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17th: Shearing
Today was Alpaca Shearing Day - we were up at 5.45am (a main feat in itself). Our shearers Beth and Nisha (along with five-month old Evie) arrived by 7.15am and seven pretty long hours later, we had 15 incredibly smart looking animals and 30 bags of fibre. It all went really well, we were set up to shear outside on the old cow woodchip area but having escaped the forecast rain last night, we then were treated to quite a long shower first thing so we headed inside to the barn. By mid morning we were glad to be inside as it had then started to get quite warm.
Well, Adrastea screamed throughout (no surprise there), we had more screaming from Mercury and Cellestio, a couple of stressy wees and some pretty horrid teeth grinding (the later had to be done though). We are massively excited about the fibre, some of the first cuts feel just amazing.
The alpacas have now all met, albeit with a fence between them - tomorrow we may tentatively see if they would like to start to mix!!!
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18th: All together
After 24 hours of staring at each other over the fence, this afternoon we opened up the gates and allowed new to meet old. We were then treated to the spectacular sight of 15 alpacas galloping round the field as one, before a more thorough sniff and look!! We watched with fascination and a little nervousness as Neptune and Adrastea (flock leaders) eyed each other up before each of them then wandered off with a shrug.
There is a school of thought that even castrated males shouldn't live with females as they may still be inclined to want to mate and so can stress or even, if penetration occurs, damage the reproductive system. Neptune has in the past tried to mate with Venus, pretty much always in times of stress (such as when a new visitor is on the land). We will monitor our new boys very carefully and hope that as their testosterone diminishes and in the absence of any entire males, all will be okay!!! It is all rather amazing to see the 15 together in the long grass of Swallow field. The sheep incidentally were all quite unfazed by a doubling of the numbers. Between them all we now have 40 fleece animals!! That is a lot of rugs!!!!
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19th: The Three Cs
Sometime soon we need to stop feeding these three milk guzzlers... will we be able to stand the noise though??
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20th: The Allotment
So far we are keeping on top of the allotment and feeling really pleased with progress. A good half of the fruit bushes are laden with flowers, the rhubarb is finally showing signs of getting established and the many seeds we planted back on the 7th are pretty much all really showing. Yesterday we also planted a load of salad seeds in our cold frames. It is going to be great to have a freezer full of fruit and veg as opposed to meat!!!
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21st: Carding and Batts
We have had a couple of wool and fibre evenings. David has been getting the loom ready for the next Alpaca rug, using the last of last year's fibre and Jack is back to picking and carding sheep fleece. We want to use all previous year's fibre and wool before starting on this year's. It's all huge fun and it feels so amazing to be using products from our own animals like this. With a total of 40 alpacas and sheep now, the big question is will we have too much or too little to work with? Time (and energy) will tell.
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22nd: More poultry paddock clearing
Another afternoon in the Poultry Paddock saw the frame round the willow removed and the area strimmed so the willow no longer have to compete with so many nettles. We have now put the frame round the bare patch by the IBC tank in the vague hope the grass might start to reclaim it without so many birds wandering over the ground. We also strimmed more round the pig arc. It's all very satisfying it has to be said. The plan is to get more trees in the area we are clearing to provide shade, cover and interest for the birds *wild and domesticated) and prevent quite so many nettles and thistles reestablishing themselves. Although a few thistles will always be welcome for the goldfinches.
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23rd: BBC
Barrington, Bruno and Chestnut are such a joy to have around. We miss our other goats as individuals but is is fabulous to have seen these three grow in confidence and to get on so, so well. They get no hassle from older animals, they get first choice at everything and they are so easy to manage. In the mornings we usually have to hunt for poo in their shelter and often wonder if they spent anytime in there. They also get a lot of browsing as we continue to tidy and trim all over the smallholding/ garden. It is an utter, utter joy to have them.
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24th: Oak saplings
One of the many many oak saplings growing in our bottom 3-acre field (now you know why we call it Oak Field). The rhea don't touch them and we really hope we can figure out a way to keep a few of them protected for when the sheep and alpacas come in here to graze. It would be just fabulous to have a few left to grow there. There are all self-seeded from the oaks in the hedgerows, we reckon there must be at least a hundred growing. Just think what would happen if we left the field un-grazed and un-topped and came back in 20 years!! Just love these colours!!
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25th June: Colour
Two of our favourite flowers in the garden: the Orange Hawkweed and the Yellow Poppy. Both are massively abundant this year due to their very successful ability to self seed. Of course it also makes them a 'weed' in some people's opinions - never in ours though, we love them. They brighten up every space they fill. The Orange Hawkweed is also called Fox and Cubs due to the fact the flowers are formed in clusters and when the first one opens, it appears much bigger than the yet-to-emerge buds! The 'Hawkweek' name results from the belief that the hawk used it to give it its acute eyesight. The Yellow Poppy is also known as the Welsh Poppy and is common in Wales and the South West, although there are also 'garden' varieties!
We are delighted to have these self seeding in our gravel paths and borders - we aren't 'tidy' gardeners and as such, both these plants fit in beautifully!!
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26th: Opening up the view
We reluctantly took down the young alder trees by the corner of the stables today. They were getting too big for the area, restricting the pathways, and making mowing hard. Our consciences were slightly mollified by the fact we knew we would have some very happy goats!! What was amazing was looking back at a photo taken on 1st August 2016 just after we moved, and seeing how small they were then - a mere 2/3 foot high.
We now have our view back and were rewarded with this stunning sunset!! The bottom photo was taken at the end of last month.
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27th: Enjoying the land
The birds are certainly enjoying the freshly cleared land in their paddock. We are putting the pond, drinkers and feeders there in order to both keep the hard standing outside the stables cleaner, and also so they spend more time scratching up the remains of the nettles and docks and hopefully helping to keep them at bay a bit (we can but hope).
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28th: Share and share alike
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29th: First exploration
The rhea chicks are now out in their run - we encouraged them through the pophole and it was all wonderfully tentative as they stood closely as a group and looked about them. Their gosling mate was far less worried and he began to peck at the grass with huge enthusiasm within a mere few seconds!! Getting the young birds outside as soon as it feels safe to do so, always leaves us feeling mightily relieved. No animals should have to spend time indoors unless they absolutely have to.
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30th: Totally best buddies
Sparrow and Pickle!!!
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