Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Mixed Bag of Spring feelings

Spring has sprung and with it has come a new season and it is a bit mixed.
The Joys
The dogs are finally out of the inner gardern and running around within the electric fence. They seems to like the freedom, space and for Carmen to jump on the roof of the kennels. The lack of dogs in the inner garden means we can lay some old floor tiles and get out the Hot-tub in time for the Summer! 
Our goats (2/3 suspected) are pregnant which means we could have little kids running around any moment now. Andy has felt the hoof of a baby from the outside and its very exciting combined with a little nervy. If we get a girl, we will try to sell her but boy will be castrated and fattened up for the winter chop!
We've also got our first batch of meaty day old chickens and they seem to be doing ok. They huddle up to a light in a glass jar in a custom box which we've borrowed. They should be ready to meet the rest of the flock in about 6 weeks time and be ready to eat in 3 months. We will do another batch or two of meaty chickens and then refresh our laying bird but this all depends upon growth speed etc
The majority of the Veg patch is planted. We've peas already shooting up and looking for life from our grain area (oats, barley, wheat and sunflowers). We've bought tomatoes, celeriac  and aubergine plantings and will add to the collection with some tomatoes, paprikas and cucumbers in May

The Woes
Our Rabbits - We've had to dispatch several breeding rabbits (1st and 2nd generation) as they have had a hip and skin problems. They have had dislocated hips and others have had large areas of skin and fur coming off. They weren't happy and this was rather sad. The remaining rabbits have not successfully bred after their infections. Fortunately, Snowball, a borrowed buck, seems to be able to do the business with some 2nd generation girls so we have about 9 week-old babies and about 12 month old bunnies
The lawn mower - Our sit-down lawnmower is continually giving grief. The current battle is with the drive belt from the motor to the wheels. It seems to be overheating, stretching and falling off. We've decided to retire this mower to maintenance, lawn sweeping and general tractor pulling duties and resurrect an old hand tractor (doubles as a snow plough) which will be better for cutting the wild Hungarian grasslands. The old mower needs a new motor which is expensive but should then do the job
Watering - the season long relationship with the sprinker and moving it every 30mins has begun and with the watering comes the weeding. Andy is determined not to let the veg patch become a wild grassland.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Goodby winter, hello blogging spring

Winter seems to be finally over. The nights are now regularly in the positive celcius and the sun is now warm when standing in all of its yellow glow.The blog has been bare and barren like the ground as it didn't seem riveting news to regularly post about not much changing.

We've tried to get our goats pregnant by borrowing "steve the stud" from a local neighbour whom we met via our local vet. Breeding Goats is a mystic art and we aren't sure if we were successful. The worse case scenario is that we have three "living lawnMower". Also, our rabbits haven't been so productive, we have about 20 young rabbits but a couple of our older second generation rabbits have died and our original colony aren't producing litters. Hopefully, we won't have a major bunny problem

The main news is that our dogs have been moved into their doggy area, which is secured by electric fencing, barbed wire, tiles and so much more. They've seem to learnt that the touching the white cable is bad (6000V hurts!)  and are behaving better. The next step in garden development is to expand the region protected by electric fencing  so they have a larger area to run around in and to look mean and scary!

The big plan this year is for chickens, We are aiming for about 45 new chickens with 30 being meat chickens. This should sort out our meat needs for the year, give us some stock to sell and refresh our laying chickens.

The warm march weather has heralded the first wave of planting. Potatoes and peas are the first crops going into the ground. We're scaling up the spud production this year and will be adding seedling when they appear at the local market I'll add some photos when there is something to show!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Farm Update

It has been a while since I've updated the blog regarding our farm. We've had a good-ish year with animal husbandary and veg growth. So in no particular order here is their season news.

Dogs

Its been a quite a quiet year for the dogs, no major dog escapes and no one has been too sick. The electric fence has finally finished and it is too effective. I've tested it on myself and it has a bite/kick! The dogs are terrified of the fence and the area where the fence is. They are currently camped in the area between the kitchen and the house. The winter will be spent coaching them into going into their new home.

Rabbits

We've had rabbits now for about a year and overall its been a slow but good year. We've finally managed to breed our original group and at one point we had over 25 rabbits. In the later part of this year, Mr Brown and his ladies picked up a bacterial infection which has taken about 3 months for them to shake off. We don't know the full extent and effects of the medication which was used. The best case scenario is that these rabbits can bred and are kept separate from the other rabbits. The worse case is that they are all sterile, so we would need another buck; Mr Brown would be kept as a pet (he is sooo cute!) and other girls would be dispatched. The descendants of have been unaffected so with the help of an external Buck, we've successfully mated the remain girls. The first litter didn't survive and another litter in our colony space appeared today :)

Chickens

The Chickens have been a suprise success. We've eaten the 19 chickens down to 7 chickens and 2 cockerels. The 7 ladies have each been producing an egg a day so we are upto our necks in fresh free-range eggs. We are already planning for next year's batch of day-old chicks. We're aiming for 20 meat chickens, some more egg layers and some orpington chickens.

Goats

Hopefully our grass munching goats are all pregnant by Steve the stud. We'll only really know in January when you can see the bugles. The milk is drying up slowly. We've gone from 3 liters a day to about 1.5 l every 3 day but this should increase with the hopeful spring kids.

Vegetables

We planted loads of vegetables this year, the success stories from our seeds were pumpkins, butternut squashes, courgettes, sunflowers and potatoes. WE also managed to grow tomatoes and paprika peppers from plantlings. We are planning expanding the patch to produce more next year so We've ploughed the patch and are waiting for the spring

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Cheese

Our goats are still producing milk. It's about 1 litre a day and this small but regular supply means that our fridge and freezer rapidly fills up with milk. The answer to all these problems is goats cheese. 5l of milk roughly produces 500g of dairy goodness. The process involves pasteurising milk and then adding rennet with magic ingredients to the room temperature milk. The next day, there is a pan of separated curds and whey which looks like a massive blancmange. This is seperated by a cheesecloth and then the curds can be pressed to make cheese.

We've nailed the process down and seem to be able to make three or four varieties .Hard cheese can be made by the addition of calcium chloride whilst the omission of this leads to a smooth cream cheese. We have made a white camembert-esq cheese and a blue cheese by adding a small remnant of cheese source (usually bought from Tescos)  to the cool milk and allow mould to grow on the final cheese. We've also made a Goaty mozzarella by heat treating and hand pressing the curds. 

All the cheese taste great and slightly goaty - they all improve by waiting a week or two in the fridge, if they can last that long!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Kindling the Morning Prayers

I've finally managed to find a way to automagically download The COFE daily prayers and make them appear on my kindle. A combination of wget (to download), perl (to tweak the HTML) and calibre to convert the html and then upload to my e-book library means that I can read without the temptations and distractions of the internet morning and evening prayers whilst watching the dogs run around in the garden.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Chickens

Our flock of birds have finally come good. We are averaging about 3 eggs a day. They range from a mini to goliath size. The cockerels are fattening up nicely and a couple have made it to the pot. They are very tasty and come with a big layer of fat inside. The remaining cockerels routinely have singing competitions at early hours of the morning just to let us know that they are awake. The chickens keep the goats on their toes as well by stealing little bits of food away from them when they are not looking or are not nimble enough to get to them. We do have one odd aggressive chicken which does like to peck Andy on the head and feet when he approaches her. The eggs are a lovely addition to our growing organic farm food which this year has been remarkably successful due to Andy's hard work and amazingly good weather for it. 
It is a pretty wonderful feeling just wandering out into the garden and either picking your own food, selecting eggs, milking or eyeing up the next meat meal feast :)



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Offlineness and kindle-ism

I've just returned to the online world after spending a week teaching english at a camp. Samm has done an awesome job looking after the farm and our friends have been an amazing support of energy, food, love and company to her throughout the week. Returning to the internet,  I'm surprised to see that the world hasn't fallen apart, the ice-caps haven't melted, etc and the world has only incrementally changed. Thankfully, nothing major happened (ala Russia 1991) but it has caused me to re-evaluate my priorities.
I'm not going to be checking out of the internet but certainly trying to improve the quality not quantity of time spent online

One of the Joys of being away was reading using my 1st generation kindle which samm lovingly gave me one Christmas. The beauty of the device is that it is just an e-ink reader (it can read books out too which is great as I get travel sick if i try to read) but has no other major feature. This means I'm not distracted by other things and I can focus in on the details. The only downside to kindling is that I remember written works by layout and relative position of important text within a paragraph in a book. Depending upon how I move around in the document, the kindle unhelpfully reformats and changes the layout for me. This slight disadvantage is overcome by the ability to make and remove notes so If i jot something down in the book, I'm not remind of my stupid thoughts for the duration of the book's life.
I'm now trying to convert long web articles onto my kindle. The process isn't tricky just a few steps. First, i  save the web page, then opening it in Sigil and resave at as an epub file. this is  then covert to mobi within calibre which can be automagically sent to the kindle. This enables me to enjoy, read and return to short Web-essay with out the need to check my facebook status every other second.