Tuesday, 26 March 2013

March Planning

As with this time of year ,there is much planning for the coming season.

It is very cold at the moment, so the veg garden is a few weeks behind. We have had frost every night, so no growth in the garden. We had most of the spring work done by Feb. Always best to stay ahead of the weeds and the work. Otherwise it can be off putting as it builds up. The poly tunnel is doing better. I had planted one side of it for spring last November. I put in onions, brood beans and peas. I had then manured heavily the other side. That is now planted with three varieties and beans, many varieties of tomatoes, four varieties of peas, courgettes and pumpkins. As we save much of our own seed, we use mainly heirloom varieties. In the propagators I have three trays of sweet corn and some peppers.
The outside beds were covered last October with fresh manure. That has broke down well since and we have dug it in. This acts like a mulch preventing weeds growing and protecting the bed underneath during the winter. It heats up the soil as it breaks down. We noticed a large increase of worm population as we dug it over in spring. Always a positive sign.

We completed our orchard last week. We leveled and fenced a paddock about a third of an acre and planted a dozen fruit trees. We had planted twenty fruit tree over the past two years, but these are planted all over the place mainly along fence lines. We then spread grass seed. We hope to move the bees and chickens into this area. I am feed up of chicken poo on my front door step!

We lost one hive during the winter,  it requeened late due to failed mating flights due to weather. Its bee number were too low to pull through even with all the extra feeding. Then a mouse took up residence to finish the few remaining bees. This would only happen in a week colony that can't defend themselves. That leaves us with two hives left. I have been feeding them for the last six weeks as spring time puts pressure on them. The queen starts to lay and the winter bees start to die off. Their need for food increases massively with the brood and a failing number of foragers, but with this weather they would not be able to forage.
I plan on putting extra brood boxes on each hive and split them in May. But with everything with bees, it will depend on the weather.
We have a fr bull calf who the boys named 'rex'. He is nearly six months now. The cow and calf were herd tested a few weeks ago. When his blue card (passport) comes back from the department, he will going into the freezer. And I can't wait. Calves are so cute when they are born but bull calves quickly grow up to be a pain. Just thinking of the meat helps me tolerate him. He will charge me when he is in the field. I need a stick with me any time I handle him. The kids aren't let near him.
He is eating as much as the cow now, and we really feel that. He is taking so much milk that we have occasionally had to get milk from our neighbours that milk a jersey also. So his time is up. The fact that he has been on milk for the six months should mean that he has enough meat on him to hang for a few weeks. The last calf we sent to our butcher (6mth jersey bull) he was able to hang him for 4weeks. Yum!
We purchased the calf from a dairy at a month old. He will be killed at our local butcher, a few miles away.
We still have a sheep in the freezer, but we will be glad to add veal and later pork and bacon.

We are half way through completing a cow yard and pig run. I'm very excited about this. This means that when its finished and with the calf gone, we will be buying in three weaner pigs to fatten during the summer. I am excited about this as its been two years since we have had pigs. We will be feeding the surplus milk, whey, veg waste, restaurant food waste and rolled oats.
We know lots of people with restaurants that have asked us to take away their food bins as it costs them money to have them collected. Win win for all.
I have 24 eggs in the incubator at the moment. They are due to hatch on the 3rd of April. A friend of my uncle give them to us. He said that they are black rocks and Sussex. The fox took a few hens over the winter and we are down to six at the moment. Not nearly enough for our needs, but I have resisted buying eggs in the shop. I would be nice to see a broody hen with her chicks in the orchard next year.


  1. Hello,
    I visited your blog.
    Congratulations for your work!! An interesting and nice blog!!
    Good luck with your blog!
    Greetings from Algarve, Portugal
    Paulo Gonçalves

    I invite you to visit my blog

    1. Hi Paul,
      I enjoyed your blog. Great photos of Portugal's history.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Re raising a calf for meat, its something I'm considering for the future, a few questions?
    I've seen Freisan bull calves cheaply for sale with the offer 'can castrate if wanted', whats the story with castration when raising bull calves for meat? Why would you or wouldn't you? Does it depend how old you're raising the calf to before slaughter.
    I assume you have to bottle feed calves unless they're weaned?
    Any info greatly appreciated

  3. Hi natterjack,
    We don't castrate bull calves as they will have a better conversion rate of feed:meat produced. This suits us as we kill them at 6 mths. If we were going to keep them longer we would castrate to have them more docile .
    I would advise against fr calves. They are too lean. We have found jersey to be the best of the dairy breeds. We would only brother to produce jersey veal again. It was wonderful.
    If we happen upon a meat breed I would rear that to two years on my sisters farm as we don't have the space here .
    Hope that helps ;-)


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