We are well into spring now, I spotted a Mallard duck with 7 little ducklings yesterday morning swimming in the Beck behind us. They can not have been more than 2-3days old, but were bombing along with mum. The daffodils are in full bloom and there are signs of the tulips making an appearance too. We must not forget the lambs in the fields and the egg shells discarded from nests way up in the trees. The grass is growing and thus are the ever persistent weeds. I think we can safely say spring is well and true sprung 🙂
Here at Slate House Farm, we are hatching weekly and have had great success so far this year with our duck hatches, lots if little Cayuga’s waddling around. We have some Call ducks in the incubator due in a couple of weeks, and as i write this post we have some Swedish blue’s making their way out of the eggs :).
We’re starting to think about Christmas here, I know its extremely early, but we raise our own birds for the table here, so need to plan dinner 🙂 I’m using Cyril bason (www.cyril-bason.co.uk) for my turkeys this year after last years not so great results with eBay eggs, from low quality eggs. I used them today for my meat birds (Hubbard’s), I have 40 or so delivered every 10-12 weeks. The Hubbard is a free range version of your common supermarket/broiler type chicken, only the grow at a slower rate, and thus grow healthily without the added complications the broilers face. I have been very satisfied with the results from the Hubbard’s so far, the average breast weighing 250g+. Back to the turkeys ill be ordering a number of Bronze and Norfolk Black, more than what I need, but i’ll sell some on at 5 weeks to cover my own costs :).
The kid goats are doing very well, 5 weeks of age now, the weaker one which caused us some concern for the first week or so, is now flourishing, albeit slightly smaller than the others, but full of energy all the same. They we’re moved to their outside pen a couple of weeks back, they have a couple of shelters to cover from the elements, but the kids enjoy the freedom, sun on their backs and fresh air 🙂
The Lambs are track, a good size and much has been doing a great job with them. They’re almost 6 weeks old, and it will soon be time to think about weaning them off mum, getting them tagged and give them their first vaccine booster. With 7 to do (2 lambs, 5 kids), im trying to find something that is suitable for goats and sheep, but covers the key vaccines and Pasturella. Pasturella is not so critical for goats, but key for the sheep, from reading around I expect I’ll end up buying two, which will double my costs, but the animals welfare is paramount.
Work with the fruit and veg is also underway, but not without it problems. Due to my own error, I lost 50 of my tomato plants and all my chilli plants to the frost. They were in propagator in my poly tunnel which has a thermostat, but i unplugged it for something and forgot to put it back 🙁 So I have reverted to some plug plants to get me going again). I didn’t need all i had sown, but the plan was to sell a few from the gate to help cover my costs. The fruit tree’s are starting to blossom, after last years poor crop not helped by the weather and more so the bugs and fungi making a mess of the rest I will spray my tree’s this year. Copper sulphate and Limestone (Bordeaux Mix) seems to be the favoured option on the interweb, so I’m going to have a go at knocking up my own. Garlic spray was also mentioned, if anyone has used Garlic Spray before I would be interested in your feedback. The spuds are also in, I only grow some Charlotte salad spuds here, living in arable country a sack of spuds from the local farmer is great value for money, and given time and space its not cost effective. I know it goes against the self sufficient model, but i can barter my crops, eggs, meat for other veg i don’t grow:)
We’re running a Field to Plate course this weekend for those interested in dispatching and dressing their own chicken. We’ve a few people coming, not as many as I would like, but start small, then grow :). I ran the course for the Lincolnshire Smallholders and Self Sufficiency club last, year and it was a great success, so hoping to build on it this time.
The pigs are doing great, such fab characters, the first will be ready in a few months to go off for the table. I am hoping to get a slot at a local farmers market and try to sell some of the pork, our eggs and some of our veg produce when the meat is ready 🙂 Once the Goats have been weaned, we’ll have our supply of fresh milk back :), time for some cheese again me thinks. I can’t sell the cheese (or the milk), but we love it.
I think that’s about it for April, until May’s update I wish you all well. Andrew