Sunday, 22 June 2014

Goat update and Burnt Milk/Cheese

We have swapped Brownie boy goat ( and for a white baby buck from Mako which we've named Jimmy white (left on the photo below). He is completely unrelated to any of our goats  so breeding in the autumn this year should be fine and should happen naturally. He also is quite full of life and love and is very hard to distinguish (from a distance) from Snowdrop
Jimmy White (left) and Snowdrop(right) with old and new (white) chickens 
One of the side products of this swap is that Goaty is producing lots of milk (~2 L/day) and so with careful management, we are starting to make cheese again in 10 L batches. However, disaster struck during the pasteurisation of our milk - Our 10 L enamel pan has started to burn milk! There is a scratch/fault on the bottom of the pan and this has resulted in the current batch of curds being tainted with a nasty burnt taste. The Dogs will be come mid-class for a while and dine on Goats cheese and Mixed dog food whilst the big pan will be relegated to water-heating duty and large pasta/potato and rice cooking.

The solution will be a nice 15L Stainless steel pan which can be mercilessly scrubbed without affecting any subsequent heat treatments

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Meggy Harvest

In a corner by our vegetable patch, we have a thicket of wild fruit trees. This years' warm/wet weather has results in a large amount of budding fruit. The first to appear this year is the sour-cherries. This 15l bucketful of cherries is about 55% of all the fruit on the trees but all I could reach with the assistance of a walking/goat herding stick. We also have fruit from new trees which have naturally grown from fallen seeds.

It looks like we will be making a lot of cherry jam and cherry wine :) 

Our job for the cold weather will be to top the cherry trees so that they grow out instead of up and to remove the non-fruit trees so we can access next year's harvest a little easier

Monday, 12 May 2014

First Fruit

Today I'm happier than a Fraggle as I discovered our first fruit(vegetable technically) is ready for harvesting. So for the rest of the week, we'll be eating radishes

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Lawnmower joy!

Grass is a wonderful thing and I can use it to feed our growing collection of animals on the cheesefarm. However, one of my continual banes has been finding a machine to cut the grass. Also, the mixture of April rain, warm and sunshine means that patches of grassland have been a knee-high jungle which is home for flies, ticks and wet legs when walking in the garden early in the morning.

So, Mower news time

  1. Bio-Mowers - We've recently increased the number of mowers to 5 (see here) but unfortunately, they are quite picky and are slowly and reluctantly munching the grass. The rate of mowing is quite slow and highly affected by rain, unlike sheep who are unaffected by all weather. However, the mowing is cheaper than feeding them grain! These are also the quietest mowers
  2. Scissors Mower - We've resurrected The Mother-in-Law's old Lawnmower which looks a bit like this one.
    (Actual photo pending home internet - see here for reason why) by installing a new petrol engine upon the base. The engine was about £160 (cmp with >£500 for a new machine) with the installation costs about £15. The machine is basically a two-wheeled hedge trimmer. It goes very slowly, makes a terrible loud noise but is virtually unstoppable . The oscillating cutters chomp at  ground level anything up to 10cm in diameter. It is very effective at making long grass short and all-terrain cutting but it's not very good at a fine lawn finish and that is where ...
  3. Sit-down lawnmower - This is the finishing machine especially as it pulls the lawn sweeper and collects the grass in big piles. This machine has been broken more times then i can remember. Starter motors; ignition switches, wheels. tyres, the machine has virtually been rebuilt. The latest woe was a slipping drive belt when starting and changing gears. The expensive drive belt has taken some punishment and I was expecting a trip back to the repair shop when I had an inspired moment. The problem wasn't with the belt as issues happen when the cluch is depressed (a safety requirement to start the engine). The clutch works by reducing tension in the driving belt, reducing the  motor speed, thus enables gear changes. The problem  was I was looking for the problem in the wrong place as source of my troubles was the hook which kept the slack drive belt on the pulley system. It had been bent away and thus when the clutch was depressed, the slack drive belt fell out of the drive system and the mower stopped moving. One quick bend and everything now work :)
The breaking news is that we have all the tech ready to cut the grass, the ear plugs are primed (so I can still hear in my later life) but now need the good weather to get mowing!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Baby farm

This Easter time is very exciting on the farm as we have had an abundance of Babies. The first litter was Rabbits and we've had two litters(9 & 11) using Snowball as the dad. The older litter are in the boiler room whilst the smallest litter are in a nestbox with the main colony of rabbits
The next babies were day-old meat chickens which we bought from the local market. We've been raising them in a custom-box heated by a glass jar with a light in the centre. These chickens are only 2 weeks old and are massive. When all their feathers are grown, we will add them to the current flock and start again. They should be ready for in June/July

The latest addition to our animal family is Snowdrop and Brownie. They were born, we think, early easter Monday and they are doing great. Snowdrop is a girl and Brownie is a boy and Goatie produced them all well and fine without any help. Brownie was a little wet from the birthing process but now has dryed out a bit. They both seem fine, a little unstable on their feet but big and strong goats :) Mummy Goatie is also bleating to them lots and has lots of milk. Steve did his job

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!