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.