Monday, 22 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! It has been too long. 

It takes a great deal of effect to maintain a blog and due to this, I had to put it on hold while I gave my attention to other areas of my life.
I am currently working and studying, in addition to being a mother, a wife, a milk maid, a cook and unfortunately a cleaner.

So with exams recently sat, I am able to update you on the goings on here at the cottage.

We are all ready for Christmas and the children are very excited. They finished up with school and play school on Friday and are counting down the nights still Santa comes.

We are over wintering my two young horses and the children's pony max together in a new sand paddock. It is working out very well and it doesn't hold a drop of rain.
They are feed haylage along the fence and it is super easy to keep them now.

Moo, the jersey cow has  been dry since we brought her in, back in October. She is her own cow yard near the horses. She is due her calf early in March and her belly is growing everyday. We let her out on grass for a few hours on dry days.
Our milking machine failed just before we dried her up, It will require a new motor and after some consideration, we have decided to purchase a brand new portable milking machine in the New Year. In the long run it should be more cost efficient. I do not want a newly freshening cow without a reliable milk machine.

The bees are clustered for winter. They fly on warmer days to collect water and empty their bowels. I will start to feed them when the days warm up in the new year. At the moment they can't break cluster to feed, I just hope that they stored enough for themselves during last season. We only took a few frames of heather honey from one hive. Some of this has been stored, should I need to it give it to a lighter/weaker hive.

The fox visited and took our two ducks and a young pet chicken called chirp chirp. The children were very saddened by this.
We currently have two roosters and ten hens that are still laying well for us. I collect about four eggs each morning at the moment.

Hubby got two male ferrets a few months ago to resolve the rat issue that we had. Our shed was alive with the amount of rats that were present.
Thankfully the ferrets have cleared out all rats in our immediate area. They have proven to be very easy to keep as we release them a few times a week and they come back for feeding, which is raw meat and off cuts free from our butcher. They are not very tame and handling of them requires gloves. I'm glad we got them.

Merry Christmas xx

Friday, 10 October 2014


Winter is drawing in and I feel it!
The evening are getting dark earlier and nights much colder. I have ordered the round bales of haylage for the winter and the animals will be moving in from the fields soon.

We have sold six of the seven piglets over the last few days. The remaining one will stay with the sow for company. They were very easy to sell which surprised me. I had imagined the market at this time of year would be poor compared to spring. Who wants additional livestock going into winter?

The cow will move into the cow yard in the next two weeks. She wouldn't see a field again until  May next year. The milking machine had broke down about two weeks ago and instead of forking out a few hundred to fix it , we have decided to buy a new portable machine in the spring when she freshens. At the moment I am hand-milking her every evening. She is giving about 5 litres on once a day milking. Once she moves indoor, we will dry her off. She is due her angus calf in early March.

The hens are doing well. We are getting about seven eggs a day from ten hens ( one pullet, two ducks and two roosters ). We expect to get (less) eggs right through winter as many of the hens are this years.

The bees are still foraging in the middle of the day. A great deal of pollen is brought back into the hives each day. I expect that the queens will slow down now and then cease laying sometime next month. The full hives should have plenty of stores as I took so little from them but I will continue to feed the two nuc's.

We have three horses. A pony for the children and two youngsters for me. The youngsters stayed at my sisters farm all summer, but the older of the two, a two yr old Mermus R gelding will move back here for the winter. I will collect him at the end of this month. I will be training him over the winter to lunge, long rein and then ride. I prefer to start them young and slow. I worked with him for a few weeks during the summer and he can already be tacked up in cross-ties and take my weight lying over his back. The children continue their riding lessons and will be riding their pony max over the winter. I plan to bring them to lead-rein show jumping leagues in Feb with him.

The range in the kitchen and open fire in the sitting-room is lit every day. The cottage is very cosy and snug! Thank God for turf :-)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Honey frames

The bee keeping year in winding down. The weather has become cooler, especially at night but the bees are still bringing in plenty of pollen mainly from ivy.
I took another three frames of capped honey out of the hives today. This will leave them plenty for the winter. I feel that it will be enough for for us to use over the winter and surplus for the bees larder. If the honey is still there in the spring, I might harvest it then.
I was looking forward to harvesting honey comb but all the frames I brought in happen to be built on wired foundation, which I will be phasing out over the next few years, in preference for foundation-less frames where the bees will draw their own comb.

I made up new batches of salve/balm for the house with the beeswax. I use this for minor cuts and irritated skin, and as udder balm for the cow. It is so simple, cheap and effective! It works so well for nappy rash  in young children and for outdoor winter cracked hands.
The recipe is so simple, just five parts olive oil to one part beeswax. 
I usually add a few drops of essential just because they smell so nice. Gently heat on the range until the beeswax melts into the olive oil. Using more beeswax will produce a firmer salve, which may be preferred during summer months.

We have four piglets going to new homes this evening and another one going to a neighbour in the morning. So this time tomorrow we will have two piglets instead of seven. I am delighted by this!
Piglets eat a lot, and seven eat an awful lot of food! 
It will take a lot of the pressure for milk production off the sow, as they have started to damage her teats with their fierce competition for udder space.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Honey Harvest

The weather has been especially warm, dry and pleasant for September. The bees are very busy everyday bringing in pollen from heather, ivy and late flowering plants.
They have stored so much honey in a few weeks that I have had to put back on supers and move a nuc into a full hive.
I am pleased because it means that we will not need to feed them over the winter but I will still give them a block of fondant in early spring, for my own piece of mind ;-)

We were able to take one super frame from one of the hives. We do not have an extractor so we gently scraped the honey into a bowl leaving the back wall of the foundation intact. I placed the sticky bowls and frame outside and the bees cleaned it up for me within a few hours.
This one frame produced one litre of honey and I managed to filter about 200g of bees wax. I will take another full box of supers off the hives this weekend yet leaving them with plenty.

When I did an inspection of one hive, I found capped queen cells, plenty of drones and an unmarked queen. This hive had a marked queen! This hive had a double brood box and I had added a super also. I assume that the cells are supercedure as there was brood and eggs of all ages, the time of year and that there was only 3-4 cells produced. I did not see the orginal queen but I did not do a full check into the bottom box.

I apolagise for my lack of blog postings. I am working and studying at the moment and time escapes me. I don't imagine that it will improve until after Christmas, so bear with me  ;-)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Piglets are growing!

The piglets are growing quickly. They are five weeks now.
They have become experts at escaping and chasing the cat and dogs!?!
Mum enjoys a break from them every now and then. They will be moving on to new homes at eight week, we will keep two for ourselves.
It will be nice to have less mouths to feed as the cow has started to dry off and there is less milk available. She is due a calf next March :-)

Our boys have started pony riding on Saturday mornings in the local riding club. I hope it is the start of a life long passion.

Friday, 5 September 2014


The turf is all home. There is comfort is having a shed full of fuel as we approach the winter. This will heat our cottage, provide hot water and do much of our cooking over the next six months. 

The children had been busy yesterday helping me collect mushrooms after school.
The fields are full of them. I made and am still making large amounts of mushroom and courgette soup for freezing.
We have lots of courgette and maturing pumpkins in the veg garden.

The piglets are very cute and hardy now. They get out of their yard through the gate and ramble around the field and garden exploring until Sally sow calls them back with her grunts. 
They are great fun to watch. Soon they will have grown too big to fit through and escape. 

The children are back at school and I'm back at work part time. Our home has became  hectic is the mornings and quite during the day. Life is moving on!

The cow has dropped milk production as  is expected for this time of year. In the next 4-6 wks she will come in off the land and stay in her cow yard for the winter. At Christmas we will dry her off. She is due her calf in March. 

The bees are doing well and are flying everyday now. The ivy and heather is starting here and they are bringing in loads of pollen to build up for winter.

I will have less time to update the blog but I will update it :-)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ginger Beer Plant

I bought some ginger beer plant culture a few weeks ago via the internet. I love the idea of cultured and fermented foods and this one was another to play with.

The beer plant came dehydrated for ease of transport and I let it settle in sugared watered overnight to activate again.

I played around with a few recipes and I have settled on my favourite; ginger & lime !

To make 2 litres:

250 g sugar
Juice of three limes
7 cm of ginger
Tablespoon of ginger beer plant culture

Strain the juice of the limes into a large glass jar and add the ginger, grated in a muslin or finely sliced loose.
Add the sugar and then some boiling water, and allow to sit for 10 mins, stirring occasionally.
Make up the balance with cool water.
Add the ginger beer culture.
Cover the jar with a cloth and elastic band to keep out flies.
Leave it to ferment for 3-5 days.

Pour it into clean bottles and add a half teaspoon of sugar to each bottle to allow for a second ferment. This will produce the fizz. Make sure your bottles are of a good standard and will be able to handle the pressure as it builds. After 2-3 days store them in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation process.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The new piglets

We counted ten cute piglets this morning!
Sally sow is very proud of her new family and was smiling and grunting happily this morning when we came to visit. 
I give her a few biscuits as a treat and a good scratch.
I think she will be a very good mum, and the piglets are so cute! 
Spotty ones, white ones and two brown striped little piggies :-) 

Piglets coming soon :-)

Sally sow has been growing very big these last few weeks. Her udder started to show about three weeks ago and milk  started to leak today. 
This was noticed by the amount of flies around her. We cleaned out her accommodation and put in fresh bedding. She is delighted and settling in now. 
I suspect that she is currently in labour. She is very restless and noisy at the moment although she normally takes a nap after dinner. She enjoyed a good scratch from us while trying to rest between grunts and position changes.

We will be checking in on her regularly and hopefully by morning she will have a healthy litter of piglets.
Exciting !!! :-)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Update on mating nuc experiment

The mating nuc was not as successful as I had hoped, but it was a good learning experience!

The bees ate through the sealant to access all four chambers which left me with one lovely queen that was laying well until I accidentally killed her!
The photo above is of the workers trying to revive/groom her. I found her on the floor of the nuc, I assumed that I crushed her as I removed the frames. This is the first time that I have killed a queen, I felt like a guilty queen killer :-(
I took her out of the hive and placed her on the roof of another hive. A strong wind lost her!
I had planned to store her in alcohol, If I can remember this is an effective swarm lure. 

I had ordered three six frame poly nucs. I spilt the mating nuc into two (instead of four) and moved them into two of the poly nucs. This was made up of four frames with stores and eggs from the queen I had killed, with two additional frames for the bees to fill with stores. 

A week later, I checked them very carefully and they both had multiple capped queen cells. 
The poly nucs are very handy as there is a built in feeder and a clear screen to view the bees without upsetting them. I gave them both a block of fondant. I don't plan to do anything with these two nucs until next spring other than feed them. I'm sure they will sort themselves out regarding a queen.

I used the third poly nuc to house a weak colony that I had used for spilts earlier in the year. I'm hoping the better insulation will allow the workers to start foraging earlier instead of heating brood. I really want this hive to build up for winter as I love their queen. A lovely native dark queen, that produces docile and vigorous bees. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Fluffy & Light Fruit Scones

I'm Back!! After a bit of a break from blog land. 

I baked some yummy scones this morning for friends that are visiting later today. My sister loves this recipe and says it makes the best light fluffy scones ever. I'm not so into scones but I do bake them regularly for her.

To make six large scones:

300 g self raising flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
Half cup of raisins soaked in hot tea
pinch of salt
3 eggs
butter/ milk to mix ( use butter if using shop bought milk or just milk if using heavy jersey milk)

Mix the ingredients together until it looks like the above photo. The raisins should be strained first. It should be fairly wet.
Dust the work surface with flour and gently shape the dough without working it too hard.
I used a cup to cut out the scones.
Place the scones onto a flour dusted oven try.
Glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Place in the oven for 20 mins at 200 degree.

Enjoy with a cup of tea xxx

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

July Update

We have one broody hen sitting on eggs for the last week. I have marked them but I am finding it difficult to remove the additional eggs that the other hens are laying in her box. 
She doesn't appreciate my interference!
Last week we forgot to close the door on the hen house. A fox came and climbed the stairs and pulled four hens from their perch. Hubby was so annoyed in the morning! We have decided to change the design of the stairs to make it fox proof. It is inevitable that we will forget to close the hen door once in a while. 

The mart is held on Wednesdays in our local town, I will go there tomorrow and buy more pullets to replace these. Our egg supply is getting worryingly low!

We started to harvest the new potatoes in the veg garden as we need them. I made a lovely seafood chowder yesterday using our veg and herbs from the garden, fish that we caught last month and our new potatoes . It tasted so good and didn't last long.

I have started to harvest the soft fruits before the birds get every last one. They are busy pecking the young apples and pears from the trees and doing all sorts of damage. 

I checked the mating nuc on Friday. The queen cells where due to hatch on Thursday. Every cell was hatched in the four chambers and I could hear but not find the virgin queens. They make a strange high pitched sound that has a pattern similar to hens clocking. I even found that the workers behaved very different. They all were wiggle dancing on the frames and making a strong hiss sound while being very calm and gentle.
I will leave them alone for the next two weeks as they seem to be doing well. At that stage I will be looking out for eggs and a chance to mark the queens. The weather is promising for successful mating flights.

The cow was ai'ed about five weeks ago. I had marked in my diary when she was due to come into heat again. I was pleased when this date had passed with no signs of heat. A few days later I noticed that for a few hours, the bullocks showed interest in her and a couple tried to mount her although she wouldn't stand. This passed as quickly as it came.
She could be pregnant and that was a false heat! We will have her scanned in the next few weeks to confirm, but the vet tells me that it is typical for a cow to have a 'break through heat' in early pregnancy. 
A typical heat for her lasts about three days. A day coming into heat, a half day at standing heat and a day coming out. Fingers crossed she took to the Angus straw.

We are going to England at the end of the month to holiday and visit friends for four days. I can really see the disadvantage of having so many animals as it can be difficult to get someone reliable to look after them. Especially if you have a cow in milk!
In the future it will suit us better to holiday during the winter when the cow is dry and the farm is sleeping!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bees - mating nuc

I had removed the queen from hive #3 12 days ago and put her into a nuc box.
A few days later they had started to make a dozen queen cells. I didn't want to waste any of these cells as I really like this strain of bees. They are native black bees and I find them to be very docile and yet productive. 
If I let them sort themselves out, the first queen that would emerge would kill all the other queens while in their cells. Such a waste of good virgin queens!

So I came up with a plan! I designed a four chamber mating box that Hubby helped me build.
It has the same dimensions as a brood box, so it can be used with national brood frames and a national roof.

Each chamber takes two frames comfortably and there is an entrance/exist hole, one on each side of the box, as can be seen from the top photo. So as to discourage drifting especially amongst the virgin queens.
There is mesh over each chamber, so I can inspect sections individually and so that the bees cannot access other sections.

This morning I opened up hive #3 and with a knife I started to cut generously around some of the capped queen cells. They are 12 days old and are due to hatch at 16 days.
I placed the mating nuc on the stand of the original hive and divided up the frames and bees between the four sections. Each section got one frame of stores and one frame of capped brood. I then took a cut out queen cell and very carefully wedged it between the two frames, like in the photo below. I was glad that the spacing was generous as had I made it a tight two frame fit, I would have been unable to place a queen cell easily between the frames. The bees immediately started to 'roar' when I moved them, but stopped when I returned the queen cells. One of the chambers received the frame that had a dozen queen cells minus the few I had cut away. I am worried that due to drifting, some chambers will not have enough bees to keep the queen cells warm and look after the queens when they hatch. 
When I checked them this evening, there was activity at all four entrances and when I took off the lid, there was an even amount of bees between the chambers. Hope it says like this!
This is experimental for me, but it could be very rewarding to have 4 mated queens in a few weeks.
We plan to experiment with a perone style hive if this mating nuc box works out.