Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Meet Bambi

Little Bambi arrived on Saturday afternoon, after a huge day of travelling, which included a 3 hour flight. She was bewildered and terrified when we got her off the plane, and once she was in my arms she clung on for dear life. After about 15 minutes in the car, snuggled in a cosy blanket in my lap, she relaxed and settled, and spent the following hour's drive home asleep.
Despite her big journey here she's settled in super fast and is an absolute delight. I haven't met a puppy before that enjoys having her belly rubbed as much as Bambi, or one that at the age of 8 weeks old likes to offer her paw as a greeting.
She's confident, content and so very gentle, besides being completely adorable and entirely spoilt.

Rilla is getting used to Bambi; she's not the kind of dog to get jealous but she is always timid of puppies until she gets to know them. She's beginning to try to play with Bambi though, and I know that in a week's time Rilla will be completely relaxed around her, and they'll end up being good friends. In the meantime she's happy to share her bones, toys and bedroom with Bambi, and when the little pup grows up Rilla will no doubt share her sheep with her too.

Border Collies are such delightful dogs, it's lovely having two around. Bambi is similar to Rilla in so many ways, but so different at the same time. They may be from different bloodlines and be different colours but they do share lots of breed traits, and I think Rilla will enjoy having someone around who understands her peculiar ways of playing.


What did you do on the weekend?
Was yours full-on like ours or a relaxing end to the week?
I feel rather in need of a holiday after the last few hectic weekendless weeks we've had....since holidays don't happen around here, not proper ones, (try getting someone to babysit this large menagerie!), we're on a go-slow this week. Amidst the busyness, tiredness and chaos there are puppy cuddles, another clutch of newborn baby chicks to admire and there is always tea.

I hope your week is a good one!

Sarah x

PS Do you remember Meeting Rilla back in August 2012?


Friday, May 1, 2015

A Peak Into My Potting Shed

Out the back of our house is a small lean-to. It's back wall is the tin of the car shed, and it has a sloping tin roof, and two open sides. The closed in side is made of wooden slats, the ones pictured above. The sunlight streams through them throughout the day, creating pretty patterns on the bench beneath them.
It's a small space with a concrete floor, opening out onto the backyard. It has an old rusted wood stove with a metal chimney in it (which we never use), a large box filled with wood for the inside fireplace (which we use all the time in winter) and to the left is our small pebbled herb garden. Squeezed into this little lean-to is also my potting area.

The potting area is small, and the plants only get morning sunlight as the roof is made of tin. As a result the seedlings tend to grow on a lean, but I try to turn their little pots and trays around daily to keep them straight. We intend one day to replace some of the tin roof with that clear plastic roofing so that the seedlings can grow strong and tall but still be sheltered from heavy rain. 

It's not the most ideal area for raising seedlings, but it's the only spot I have and I've come to treasure it. It's a place of peace and quiet where I get to think and dream and imagine whilst I go about my work.

Here I spent hours poking seeds into trays and pots and punnets, thinking of the flowers and fruit and vegetables they will produce when they are planted into the veggie patch. 
Here dreams and hopes come to life as little green shoots emerge from beneath the earth, and here they are sometimes shattered when whole trays of seedlings have to be tossed due to grub infestation*.
Here I water, watch, wait and nurture tiny new plants until they are big and strong enough to be planted out into the garden. 
Here cuttings are taken, propagated, planted. Here things sometimes get forgotten about and shrivel before they get their feet into the garden. Here hangs a crumpled old sketch of two rainbow chickens my sister painted ages ago. 
Here also are a few pastel panels and vegetable murals when an afternoon of creative craziness coincided with having the paint out.

At the moment my potting area is filled with tall sunflower seedlings, tiny new thyme and sage shoots, trays of seeds that have been freshly planted and are yet to shoot, and many winter vegetables of different ages and stages.
There are also some Cornflowers in their paper sacks - apparently they need darkness to germinate so I popped the two punnets into brown paper lunch bags and pegged the top shut. Despite the packet saying they took 14-21 days to germinate, mine shot within a couple of days. I removed them from their packet and placed them where they would receive some sun. I've never grown Cornflowers before but am quite enjoying them so far.


Do you have a potting shed I wonder? 
Is it a large and roomy greenhouse or a small space like mine?
Do you plant seeds, seedlings or take cuttings?
Have you any Cornflower growing tips for me?

Enjoy the weekend, and welcome to a new month!

Sarah x

*Fortunately I have managed to put an end to the seedling-tossing after purchasing some Grow Cover. It is a wonderful product and I highly recommend it**! I put such plants that are susceptible to grubs under it, such as kale, cabbage, chard, broccoli and cauliflower.

**I say that of my own, unpaid, un-sponsored opinion :-)


Friday, April 24, 2015

A State of Egglessness

This homesteading/farming/self-sufficiency thing isn't as easy as it sounds, or looks, or logic tells you it should be.
I mean, chickens lay eggs, right?
Why, you ask?
I've asked myself the same.
We have been in a state of egglessness for quite a while now.

For one we keep two flocks of Silkies, and whilst they do lay, they aren't known for taking out best-layer-of-the-year awards. They can't be depended upon for one's egg supply.
Their laying comes and goes, and with the last bout of laying I set most of the eggs as we need to breed from them. The need to breed from them brings me to point two...

Our line of laying Australorps all but died out.
You see they were in their prime when we moved here 3 years ago, and lived the good old free range lifestyle, mostly because we didn't have anywhere to lock them up and it takes a while to get around to building chicken pens.
They laid here and there, big beautiful nests of creamy brown coloured eggs. We'd find some early on and enjoy collecting eggs from them daily. Most of the nests however we inevitably found when they had filled it with 20 or more eggs and had moved on to a different spot...by this stage the freshness of said eggs was unknown and so they weren't used.

Then we finally got around to building the chicken pens and the hens were put into them - large, roomy pens mind you, because they were our future veggie gardens. The hens laid, we enjoyed eggs a plenty, taking the homegrown egg for granted.

Then we got busy with all the stuff that needed doing to this patch that had been neglected for almost a decade by the previous owner. We had cattle arriving, paddocks to fence, yards to build and skip loads and skip loads of rubbish to clear out of the place. I've lost count of the amount of skips we've filled with stuff from this farm.
Skips and rubbish and cattle aside, time went on and of course the hens passed their prime and the laying began to slow. Still we paid no attention.
We should have.

It was at this stage of the hens lives that we should have put aside our need to eat their eggs and begun to collect clutches of them to set. We should have put eggs under Silkie hens every time they went broody and had them raising future replacement pullets for us.
Alas, the thought did not enter our minds. By the time it did occur to us that perhaps we needed some replacement birds, getting the hens to pop out an egg or the rooster to do his duty was a difficult task. Special mashes were mixed up, herbs that would help them lay added to the mix.
It was too late.

They'd reached their golden years, our beautiful line of Australorps that had proved themselves good layers had hit retirement with no offspring to carry on their bloodline.
It didn't bother them of course, but it bothered us.

For the last little bit we've been relying on our Silkies to lay us eggs, and that they do, when it takes their fancy. In between their bouts of laying we purchase eggs in small quantities from a local free range, bio-dynamic chicken farm. We've seen the farm and it is free range in the true sense of the word - chickens with feathers and beaks intact, in un-crowded conditions, roaming lush grassy hills to their hearts content. Bio-dynamic, organic grassy hills at that.
However to be buying eggs just feels a bit strange and nonsensical when we have a small farm where the focus is homegrown...and we aren't growing the obvious..EGGS.

You'll remember the arrival of Mr Mussels? With that trio of beautiful birds we also purchased three Plymouth Rock x Australorp pullets of the same age. The Sussex and the Australorp crosses are all beginning to mature now and all eyes are watching them for any signs of laying. It can't be long now before these girls start to give us eggs. Surely.
I've announced to our poultry that if they don't end up laying, I'll drop my heritage breed poultry ideals and purchase a trio of commercial layers. I really hope I don't have to because, as I've said before, I love heritage breeds.

Only time will tell.
In the mean time, the egg rations will continue in our kitchen.


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