How to make dishwasher tablets and a web page update

I sent out a few samples about a month ago and it was pointed out to me that I should probably update the website www.winkos.co.uk with all the new products we have. Today I can announce that I have pretty much updated everything, bar the formatting, adding pictures, checking for spelling mistakes not to mention grammar and punctuation, and all the other things that I am meant to get round to. If you happen to visit and would like to make suggestions or corrections then please do, I’m always open to new ideas and red crosses next to my work Smile

So why am I posting about how to make dishwasher tablets? Because I foolishly mentioned on one of the pages on the website that I intend to add links to tips, tricks and other products out there that may help the planet out a bit, and for whats its worth I’m kicking off with how to make dishwasher tablets.

I wont get into the debate about which is best, washing up by hand or using a dishwasher as we do both in our house, but if you do have a dishwasher then making your own tablets will cut down on the number of harmful chemicals that you are adding to an already toxic world, and that alone can’t be a bad thing.

I just checked eBay and all the ingredients  are freely available in the UK so I’m assuming that you can pick them up pretty much anywhere in the world. I would suggest at least a kilo of each, or 5kg if you are thinking about the economics of the process.

So here we go, on with the lesson.

You will need:

A big bowl

A spoon

1 x Salt

1 x Borax or Borax substitute (the latter is better)

1 x Bicarbonate of soda

1/2 x Citric acid

Silicone moulds or plastic tray at least 1cm deep

Choose your measurement, I just use a cup, any old cup. Of course you could get all organised and measure the total capacity of your moulds and then divide it by 4.5 to define your own unit of measurement, but like I said, a cup works for me.

Method

Mix it all together in the bowl with the spoon, once mixed well tip the mixture into your mould(s).

Thats it, well other than waiting for a day or so for the mixture to pull a bit of moisture out of the atmosphere which will turn the powder mix into a solid. It can also be used in powder form if you dont want to wait.

Next time you put the dishwasher on just chuck in a chunk (dont worry about the little draw thing, all that does is release the tablet about 30 seconds after you start the wash) and add you rinsing aide. And here’s the real secret of the whole process, get rid of your fancy coloured chemical laden rinse aids and use white vinigar, yes thats what I said white vinigar. YES VINIGAR! Any will do but white spirit vinigar works best from experience.

 

Be amazed by the results!

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Product review: Dansha Farms Goat Milking Machine

I promised this review more than a year ago which means that I have used this machine for around 18 months.

In saying that as I have replaced the jar, the lid, the pipes, the reducing couplers and the motor, so it has to be questioned if I am still using the original. Triggers brush from ‘Only Fools ad Horses’ springs to mind.

Before I go into too much detail I will share you the review that I submitted on the Dansha Farms website:

I would first like to make it clear that the product, Brute milker, is a great idea and has made the daily milking of three goats a lot easier. I would happily recommend it to anyone living in the USA.

Unfortunately as we live in Europe we have had a number of issues with the customer service when we first purchased the goods and now with the warranty after six months of use. I won’t go into details, but if you intend buying a milker and live outside of the USA then I recommend you use Ebay for the purchase as you will be provided with buyer protection and if you have problems in the future your voice is more likely to be heard.

I submitted the review after 6 months of use following the failure of the motor. I was unsuccessful in resolving this problem with the manufacturer who suggested that I send the unit back (to America) and he would fix the problem for me for a fee. So much for the warranty! I also had problems with customs clearance when I first purchased the item which I could have avoided if I had purchased via Ebay. Dansha Farms did not publish my review nor did they contact me further.

Undeterred I stripped down the unit and discovered that the motor was commonly available as an aquarium pump motor on Ebay or Amazon for less than £10 with free shipping from China, so problem solved.

The machine itself may first appear to be quite complicated, but once you have set it up, mounting the motor to your milking stand, it becomes far easier to operate. It does require a power source, although some units can be purchased with a portable battery pack. Our unit plugs into a standard 240v supply.

After initial connection of the cups to teats, which is a skill learned after a few attempts, it’s very straight forward and I soon learned that I could get on with other jobs as the milk flowed into the gallon (4.5 litre) jar. It’s probably best to stay nearby so that you can keep an eye on things, but I spend the time getting food ready for the next goat and collecting hay ready to refill the stable.

It should also be noted that the process itself is no quicker than milking by hand, if anything it is slower when you take into account the cleaning of the equipment once finished. However if you have more than three goats to milk it can save the finger cramps that I often experience, or if you suffer from any kind of rheumatism in the hands this machine would be a godsend.

As I mentioned cleaning takes an extra 5 minutes at the end of milking and I spend 15 minutes every weekend giving the pipes and fittings a thorough clean. For this reason I have reverted to hand milking as I only have two goats to milk at the moment.

So in summery, buy one if your hands ache at all when milking but shop around the internet as Dansha are by no means the only people who sell them. And if you are feeling adventurous then build your own, which I have all but done now since I have replaced almost all the parts. Drop me a message and I will point you toward various parts required and how to assemble should you need a bit of guidance.

I have never been a milkman

Whilst milking the goats, as I do every morning, I started to think about my unwritten book and how it is likely to stay that way. And so I decided it was time to reveal its title ‘ I have never been a milkman’

It all stems from the fact that of the of the 30 odd, close to 40 jobs, I have had in my life I was never a milkman. More specifically whilst in my teens I was never able to get onto the lucrative milk round as the milk runner, backwards and forwards between moving float and doorstep, delivering the daily pints of milk to the population of Skipton.

Paperboy, mornings, evenings and Sundays. Holiday barge cleaner on a Saturday. Occasional waiter and washer upper at a local restaurant. A summer season on the fair in Morecombe running the Ghost Train after graduating from Hook a Duck, not to mention spending my free time standing outside a pub on the promenade selling Rubik Cubes   In fact by the time I was sixteen I had even stared to work behind the bar at the local Working Mans Club such was the law that allowed 16 years olds to work in private clubs, but I was never a milkman.

Then it dawned on me as I shivered in –7c (19f), eagerly grasping the bulbus warm teats of Monday, the goat, to stop my fingers from freezing, that I have finally made it. My dream come true, my ambition fulfilled. I am a Milkman!

Monday
Monday

Well, it’s about time

So here we are again, snow scattered on the ground this morning, the nights well and truly drawing in and my duties on the farm reduced to the milking of the goats now that the pigs have enjoyed their final meal. In theory I now have time to blog, although in truth it’s more about making time than having time and I’m the master of procrastination. Continue reading “Well, it’s about time”

Spring

I mentioned in my last post that I had a few in drafts, but as often happens the moment is lost and I have decided to write an update encompassing those posts and more, otherwise it could be October before I post anything!

Animals

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One of the posts was about a dog attack on our rabbits, ten of twelve lost including Mummy rabbit and Peter rabbit, who between them kept up a steady meat supply. So much so that we had reached one of our goals, to become self sufficient in meat. The pigs, a lamb in exchange for crops, a dozen or so meat chickens and the occasional bit of venison helped in the mix.

Luckily one of the females that survived was pregnant and our supply will resume again in the near future and the cages and runs will be reinforced with a welded wire mesh. Lesson learnt, although we still don’t know who the dogs belonged to.

I mentioned before that we are are now up to six female goats, two in milk, three kids and the last doing an impression of a bus as she waddles around with who knows how many additions to the heard inside her huge belly. Expect an update on this soon. Of course having so many goats means that we have more milk than we can drink, make cheese and of course soap out of, so the cats and dogs get their share as well. It will be good to have pigs again soon so that we have something to eat all the whey that we seem to produce. Thankfully Gosia has developed a market for the cheese, I can only eat so much!

It is worth noting that with all these extra goats (three were an unexpected gift in the autumn) we ran out of hay and oats so we have had to purchase extra. My profit from pigs and rabbits was ploughed back into the business so to speak. A bit more planning this year, more oats and more hay, both achievable with the land we have and we have had an offer to use a neighbours field if required.

Wood

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Oats and hay are not the only things we ran out of this year, we also ran out of wood! The old wooden house that we demolished two years ago was finally returned to the earth as ash and smoke, not to mention what I thought was a good pile of firewood from the land. Alas the colder than normal winter and its duration whittled down the pile quicker than I expected and to make sure we could get through the final throes of winter we had to buy 3 cubic meters (about a cord).

Keen to avoid the same fate again this coming winter I have made inroads into our woodland and cut out and chopped a good 10 cubic to season over the spring and summer. We also have the promise of some ash, which was struck by disease, in exchange for some help moving and chopping, so I’m hoping we will be good.

With all the tree felling we decided to invest in a branch chopper that fits on the back of the tractor, it pretty much devours anything up to 5-7cm (2-3 inches) in diameter and spits it out in 10 cm (4 inch) lengths. This frees up a lot of time that would otherwise be spent doing the job manually and provides extra fuel that would otherwise have been left in piles to rot down as we never seemed to be able to borrow the neighbours implement of destruction! Recently aware of the cost of buying wood we calculated that the investment will be paid off in a couple of years.

Airbnb

I don’t know how many times I have said that the house is almost finished, but the house is almost finished! The only thing of any significance that needs doing is the terrace railing\barrier….the thing that stops people falling off! We have employed the skills of a local carpenter to make the components and we hope to be fitting in the next month or so. This will ultimately make it safe for guests to stay which is what had always niggled in the back of our mind and stopped placing the advert. Of course many dangers still remain, six goats with horns, potholes that the dogs have dug in search of moles, wild rabbit killing dogs, I better stop before the list becomes another reason why we cant take guests.

Of course anyone out there that may be reading this is welcome to contact us directly and make enquiries about availability, we would love to hear from you and offer a commission free, blogger discount!

In fact I’ll offer a free long weekend (short break) to anyone who can take decent photos to help promote our B&B, all you have to do is get to Krakow or Rzeszow airport and we will look after from there. Having looked at my poor attempt below I think we need something better.

Composting toilets

I know that many of you want to know how things are going with the pile? Well I’m pleased to say that I have just emptied one of the four piles that we are running at the moment, this was added to the second pile that has reached maturity over the last 14 months and between them we have at least 1000 litre’s of sweet smelling, crumbly, nutritious compost.

I have taken a slightly different approach whilst emptying  the piles this year by digging out from the centre, which leaves a nice giant whole to fill with new manure. I watched a few videos on the Humanure Handbook website and this seems to be a better method. I can tell you that once emptied the whole is filled again with eighteen 20l buckets of manure and 4 buckets of kitchen scraps. Topped off with straw and up to temperature (50c\120f) over the last month. I may try and do a time lapse on this pile, a picture every month, you may be surprised, if not interested!

Soap

I expect some of you fecophobes would like to wash your hands after reading the last bit, well help is at hand with Gosias hand made soaps!

Although there is nothing new on the site you can always get in touch via the contact form at www.winkos.co.uk or www.zielonakoza.pl if Polish is your preferred language. Or comment below. And for those of you who have bought soaps of us for the first time or as a repeat order, thank you, your support is very much appreciated!

Gosia must be doing something right as she recently received a request to run a workshop and demonstration in a local hotel, to a visiting group of about 30 guests from the UK!

Gosia has also teamed up with a friend, Iza, who is felting the soaps with her own designs. We are expecting a selection for the Easter markets so I will take some  more pictures, the only one we have left at the moment is a hemp oil soap. I’m sure you will agree that Izas artistic talent adds a new dimension to the soaps. So if you are looking for a unique gift idea then we have the answer.

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More

Probably, but it’s taken me a week to write this! The weather has been great and the tractor busy getting the oats sown and compost spread, I actually got sun  burnt whilst working out in the field!

The sad news is that Sunday, the pregnant goat, had stillborn twins. Mother is well though and shows no signs of on-going infection so we will put it down to one of those things. Nature can be cruel at times.

 

Early start, late finish.

It has been a funny start to the season, late March, early April showed so much promise with temperatures reaching the mid twenties (77f). The noise of traction could be heard all around as farmers rushed to get seed in the ground. We were no exception and with a new array of tractor tools fashioned from old horse drawn equipment I set too and managed to prepare the ground for a dusting of oats by the 5th of April. A good early start to the years crops.

Continue reading “Early start, late finish.”

Carnivorous compost

I often write about the many animals that we keep, not only the daily chores and routines that revolve around them, but also the entertainment and companionship that they provide and I’m hoping that we will soon marvel at the wonder of birth when the new goats arrive. Continue reading “Carnivorous compost”

Bringing home the bacon

I know, I know I said bacon and the picture is of sausages!

March already, when did that happen! So much for my resolution to try and post more on the blog. It’s not like I haven’t had anything to report, as we have kept ourselves busy and the house becomes more of a house everyday. Continue reading “Bringing home the bacon”

A bug free, cherry full, jam making June

What a great month we had, the weather was warm but not overly so despite a few days exceeding 30C, the orchard is providing fruit by the bucket and we didn’t see a single mosquito or horse fly. If you ever decide to holiday in Poland then June is the month to do it. Rooms available from Easter 2016!

With the good weather I happy to report that the house heating has now remained dormant since early May, although topping up the waters heat is still required on occasion. Of course the downside of the sunshine is the lack of rain, although despite a slowing of growth on the crops everything is managing to hold on without human intervention. The watering can came out for some late plantings, but I like to let things fend for themselves if possible.

Our first cherries of the year came around the 10th of June and we thanked the previous owner for their foresight in planting successional fruiting trees. As one tree finished the next came of tap and we are still picking cherries now, in the middle of July. I thought my tree climbing day were over!

The strawberries came and went, leaving many an empty flan dish and nine jars of jam, made from a mixture of cultivated and wild fruit. Contrary to Mrs Beeton’s recipe of 14lbs of sugar to 12lbs of fruit, we use half as much sugar to fruit and the result is a jam that tastes of the fruit used, 4Kg (9lbs) of fruit 2Kg (4.4lbs) sugar in our case.  Cost per 400g (1lb) jar works out at about 15p (for the sugar and heat) Mrs Beeton noted that it cost 7d per jar in 1904, I wonder how the two compare?

Official jam taster Malina gives the nod f approval to the latest batch of jam.
Official jam taster Malina gives the nod f approval to the latest batch of jam.

The freezer is also starting to fill up with vegetables and our decision to hold on with the chest freezer purchase until we have the pigs to fill it may have to be brought forward. I noted the advice given on a blog about freezing fruit and making jam in the winter when the heat of the stove helps to heat the house, sound advice and something I think we will do next year, as long as the pigs leave some room!

Despite the increasing harvest and crop maintenance (weeding), Gosia and I managed to continue work in the house and a week with Gran as babysitter saw the upstairs plastered with the first coat of lime. Another step closer.

I’m reminded of Orwell’s Animal Farm every time I visit the stable, as the pigs seem to be slowly edging themselves towards a higher station, already they have taken up residence in the stable leaving behind the arc that I lovingly crafted for them! Thankfully the goats have other ideas and a butt to the butt is a comical site if there is a tasty morsel to be had and the hierarchy is to be maintained.

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Out my way!

Mind you I can see a pattern of weight throwing going on and it’s only a matter of time before King George will be crowned. The pneumonia that Peppa suffered from, costing more in vet bills that her purchase price, seems to have cleared up, however her weight gain is slow as is typical of the condition (so I read). Still it’s good to see her healthy and enjoying her food at last.

The chickens remain oblivious to the targets that I set, although at 275 eggs for the month they almost received their bonus. With the addition of an extra hen donated by a friend and the more of the pullets coming on line, a dozen a day is more and more common in July. 300, 400 eggs a month, where will it end? My ability to count them in on a evening is becoming more difficult and to put even further stress on my fingers and toes we invested in 10 broilers and 5 cockerels, food for the future and a test for my convictions.

Given all the food that has to be prepared for the 55 mouths that now reside in the stable, it would be good practice for running a restaurant. I’m just glad we are getting by with our own feed from last years harvest, I dread to think how much it would cost if we bought in the commercial offering. We are keeping a close eye on cost to plant and harvest this year so we have a good idea how much our food is costing. Of course it’s more important to us to know how the animals are treated and what they are fed, but if the cost is comparable to that of a supermarket then we are quid’s in.

One of the old battery hens showed signs of illness early in the month, refusing to leave the nesting box, I thought her days were over and expected to find her dead. After about a week of this behaviour it struck us that she may just be broody, so we put a clutch of 12 eggs underneath her. More mouths to feed, or more chickens to feed us? As an optimist I go with the latter.

Reading back over this post I’m reminded how quickly time goes and how much we still have to do to be up and running for next year, a target that sometimes seems unattainable. But then we have a day like yesterday (18th July) with the delivery of 60 cubic meters (about 70 tonnes) of crushed rock to spread over the dirt track that passes as our road. A big job for Gosia and I, but then the a Gran and Granddad, a brother and two nephews arrive with rakes, sledge hammers and shovels at the ready. I’m happy to report that despite the heat of the day we all enjoyed a BBQ and a beer by 3pm with the job completed. I even had time to pick a bucket of cherries, as nothing says thank you quite like a bucket of fresh cherries !

I need a bigger hat!

Egg production is on the up, yesterday was our first 10 egg day!

We have had 12 before now but that included Lillie’s secret stash of 4 in the goats hay rack. Lillie is the Lilliput hen than Kazek gave us a month or so ago.

Mays total was 181 and believe it or not we consumed them all along with an extra 20 that the mother-in-law shipped in with two brother in-laws who visited for a week to help out with work on the upstairs.

Despite the loss of one of the older hens the first batch of pullets are coming into lay and I expect that we will top 300 eggs this month.

And to make sure we have a steady supply through the winter we purchased 10 more pullets, about 10 weeks old, which should start laying in September and brings our flock up to a total of 30. ‘Enough’ I say as Gosia sets about making yet another cake! Although I do like cake.

With young pullets only costing a couple of quid each it’s a no brainer, 20 eggs each and they pay for themselves, based on the cost of inferior the low cost supermarket eggs. Our running tally of 360 eggs so far covers the cost of the first 18 that we purchased back in March. It will be interesting to see how quickly they pay for all the other sundry equipment that goes into their care.

Omelette anyone?

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Making hay whilst the sun shines

That’s what they say so that’s what we did.

I’d guess a couple of acres, possibly a bit more, of grass cut by tractor on Saturday the 30th. And just like when lighting the BBQ or forgetting your umbrella it decided to rain, despite a clear 10 day weather forecast.

This changed our schedule a little and the hay had to be left to dry until Monday when we turned it all by hand, an all day job, as our neighbour with the tractor was working his 24 hour shift at the garage.

No sooner had we finished then another storm crept in, dropped a few more buckets of water on the hay and moved on.

Thankfully we have had temperatures close to 30c (86f) most of the week and Kazek turned up a couple of times a day with tractor and hay turning machine thingy, and so on Wednesday we piled the first nine stacks. No bales here, just odd shaped domes of fresh, sweet smelling hay. Apparently the way the hay is stacked varies from region to region, with that in mind I think I have invented a new way, although I doubt it’s a style that will catch on.

We will be putting it in the barn today along with the hay from the bottom fields that we have left in windrows as the weather stayed fine. We probably have have twice as much as we need for the Sunday and Monday (the goats) but then who knows what else will be eating it come the winter.

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A rare appearance from me next to the last and smallest stack of the day. I could never have done it without Malina!
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Look daddy, look what’s happened to that nice hay stack.

We are not vegetarians

But we do care for animals, so when we arrived at the farm to view the świnia złotnicka that we had found via an advert on tablica.pl we were a little shocked at the conditions that the animals were kept in.

I guess we were a little naive to expect anything else, but after talking to the farmer a couple of times on the phone to check various details we had expected something a little different.

The search for a traditional Polish breed had taken a while and we had expected to have to travel over 200Km to find some that fit the standard, but then eagle eyed Gosia spotted a photo of the desired spotted pigs on the website and we made the call to discuss purchase. We were assured that they were in fact świnia złotnicka and that they were kept on grass. This turned out to mean that the sow was a świnia złotnicka and that they cut grass and included it in their diet fed in a wheel barrow. Buyer beware!

Still we were here and the thought of a 400Km round trip didn’t appeal, plus we had the opportunity to liberate a couple of piglets and so grabbing them by the hind legs I popped a couple into the back of the van.

That was three weeks ago, time which has not been without incident. Initially you think that the electric fence that you put together is sufficient to hold the timid little souls, well it is until they get a bit of confidence and realise that the shock is only a temporary thing and if you are moving fast enough you hardly even notice it! Still no harm done and there is the outer perimeter fence that I put up for the goats to keep them in, the electric fence was simply there to divide the paddock. Um well lets just say that the standing joke now is that I have spent two days putting in fencing that it has taken two days for the pigs to work out away around, or should that be through! Thankfully they respond to my voice and the promise of food, so despite having free range pigs as well as hens I can get them all back in there respective areas with a shout and a rattle of a bucket, the latter more effective.

I know the standard advice is not to name anything you intend on eating,  and my bucket call remains ‘c’mon pigs’, but as our lunchtime viewing is often Postman Pat, Masha and the Bear or Peppa Pig it was inevitable that we had to bring Pinky and Perky up to date, and so Peppa and George it is.

Peppa took a turn for the worse on Wednesday, fading fast into Thursday with a high temperature, no interest in food and buried in the straw of the arc (ark?). Friday morning and she was still no better and all the reading I had done indicated something that would end in death unless caught in time and treated with antibiotics, so we called the vet.

Arriving an hour and a half later he immediately administered three injections and then by our request. although against our organic principles, a worming shot. He even left a shot for George as we couldn’t catch him at the time. 70 Pln, yes that’s about £12.50 or just shy of $18 for a call out and injections. A very small price to pay in the hope that she might pull through. His diagnosis was as vague as mine and he left saying that the next 24 hours would settle her fate.

Two hours later and she was running around like a mad thing, eating drinking, ploughing the field, smiles all round. I guessed one of the shots must have been steroids as later that evening she was back in the same state, although the panting had eased. Expecting the worse the next day we found them both happy in with the chickens (two fences away) and so again our hopes were raised that all was well, but then as the day wore on the same thing. Which brings us to today, and as we set off to serve breakfast to our long and short term guests we discussed the possibility of finding a dead porker.

I headed to the barn to get the various mixes ready for the guests with special dietary needs as I heard Gosia exclaim something that I won’t even type in Polish.

Needless to say that she had opened the back door of the stable to let the chickens out into the run only to discover that someone had come in with a rotavator over night, or should I say two happy brown snouted pigs greeted her with grunts of glee 🙂

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Talking of vegetarians, I stumbled upon Rabbit Food the other day whilst searching for goats! I think Corrie Louise may well fill the food blog gap that Food and Forage Hebrides left, well worth a look.

Room for two more? it’s just a couple of kids!

Gosia and I often talk of livestock; what to get and more importantly when to get it and with spring sprung the choice of young stock is at it’s height. We had some success with lambs a few years ago, but then we put things on hold as we put our energy into the house and of course Malina! Now we have the chickens and following the progress across at Farma Sadlowo we decided it was time to take the plunge. We have considered a cow for a couple of years, heading towards the Dexter as a more manageable breed with its diminutive size, but a cow is a massive investment and unless you have something to do with all the milk can they be a waste of valuable time and resources, and so, like Terry and Marta we opted for a couple of goats.

As heard animals you are advised to always get at least two, and as the future plan is to milk them it seemed like two young does would be the answer. We decided on young goats so that we can train and tame them to make life easier for us in the future. We will also be free of the milking task until next year, given us the much needed time to finish the house and open up for business. Well at least that’s the plan!

Checking the internet for likely orphans we soon discovered a spot selling goats along with lambs at a very good rate and a decision was quickly made to buy two of each, but not quick enough as the offer had expired by the time we made the phone call. Still we went for option two and managed to pick up two three month old kids for a knock down price. Both very similar to look at but from different mothers, which could work in out favour in the future if we start to breed (the goats that is, our breeding days are over!)

I had already taken the hammer, saw and cordless drill down to the stable and after explaining to the chickens what was going on they agreed to give up a section of the holiday let to some new guests. Six pallets, a set of hinges and an old Snickers (Marathon to me) display tray to catch any stray hay and we were in business to take in the new residents. A short drive, two dog leads and five bales of straw in the van and we shuck hands on the deal.

You may recall that the hens had already outgrown there purpose built enclosure so I was glad to give it a new purpose, and after the second day we let the little ladies out to take on the grass that the hens had refused or failed to eat.

And there you have it, two more mouths to feed, but they fit in well with the morning and evening ritual, enjoying extra treats of willow branches cut from any tree I happen to pass on the journey and a handful of oats first and last thing to help to make friends. They already come running when they hear my voice and Gosia and Malina have also bonded with buckets of fresh picked grass.

Goat update.

It’s almost two weeks since we picked up the goats, from this day forward to be known as Sunday and Monday. It should have been Sandy and Mandy, but I misheard Gosia (no she doesn’t have a cockney accent) and by the time she noticed that I had given them different names it was too late. Despite that I thought it would make naming the next five easier and who knows it could be the birth of the ‘Happy Days Milking Company’! Gosia didn’t get it either.

Anyhow, the update is to report that they too have outgrown the holding pen and after a weeks work, forty three posts, one hundred and thirty five meters of wire fencing and an additional gate, I released them onto the bottom pasture. Lots of lovely spring grass and weeds, wild raspberry canes, sloe and hazel trees poking through or overhanging the fence. A goats paradise? Apparently not as they found a gap in my yet to be fixed gate and headed off on a mission for some clumps of grass they spotted on an earlier bid for freedom. Thankfully a willow branch laden with fresh leaves and a ‘come on girls’ and they were back in the fold. Sometimes I wonder if these animals appreciate the work I put in for them!

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103 not out, despite a strong challenge by Barbara

The chickens seem to be settling in well now, it’s over a month since we got them and laying patterns are becoming more predictable and miss formed eggs, caused by stress, seem to be a thing of the past. We have also given them free range of the land and the enclosure I built to protect against foxes has little purpose. We were rewarded with 103 eggs for the first thirty days of board and lodging provided. In addition Kazek, our neighbour in the valley, added a mothering hen with three chicks to bring our guest list up to twenty-three, although this dropped to twenty-two as one of the chicks didn’t make it through the first night. Still this wasn’t enough to satisfy our egg appetite and we had to ship in an extra thirty-five eggs from my mother-in-law to fill a gap when production was at a low ebb. No surprise then that we are now sitting on a surplus of seventeen eggs as production has levelled off at five or six a day.

If you look out of the window most days at around five o’clock you will see a tumble of fur as Zara and Dennis play fight with Barbara, a neighbours dog, who is enjoying his freedom from the chain that holds him for most of his day. Forgive the names but as our Dennis is a bitch it seemed only right the neighbours dog to be given a feminine name, so he was christened Barbara.

Bite, snarl, jump, chase and run, all the time looking for an exposed leg, or tail, or neck, or.. Great fun to watch and despite our dogs enjoying total freedom of the surrounding land,  and joining me on two walks a day, they seem to have endless energy available to them. The fun often goes on for an hour or so before Barbara hightails it back home, Zara and Dennis often in pursuit, not returning until later in the evening. We consider the money spent on vets bills well spent as chastity is not strong in the canine world!

By now you can probably guess where I’m going with this story and at around five o’clock on Monday afternoon (last week), whilst enjoying some homemade pasta with our dwindling supply of tomato sauce from last year, the phone rang.

Kazek had heard a commotion from our chickens and had spotted one in a tree! No sooner had the translation reached me then I was hot footing it down the track to the stable, Jackie sprinting ahead sensing that a chase was on. I’m not sure what the record is for a 300 meter sprint in poor mans Crocs (£3 at Lidl)  is, but I must have been close; just in time to see the back end of Barbara scampering away with Jackie in hot pursuit.

An Indian head dress, a pillow, what do you do with that many feathers? One of the girls must be dead? Well not the mothering hen, she’s perched at the top of a tree, looking down at the electricity pole below her, how the hell! Skirting around the area and beating the drum of the feed bucket chickens start to appear, I count to 21. If we only lost one then we were lucky I tell myself as I coral them into the safety of the fenced area.

It was a slow journey to let the chickens out the next morning, sad that we could no longer let them roam free and that we had lost one in learning our lesson. Then, as I neared the old stable I noticed a lone hen, nestled in a pile of dead grass that we had raked up the day before whilst clearing land. No losses after all, although inspecting the chickens more closely I worked out where most of the feathers had come from!

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How do you fit eighteen into a double bed?

Of course I could go with the original title ‘chicken week’ but then it’s more than two weeks since we got our first batch of chickens and it may be another week before I publish this post and as it stands you may still be intrigued as to why I chose the title I did, despite the clue.

As our belt tightening increases as the excess fat we had falls away on showers, tiles, flooring, stairs and other such fancy things, we decided it was time to commit some time to generating some more of our own food. And with our appetite for eggs outstripping the mother in-laws supply, chickens seemed like the obvious choice. Low cost and low maintenance, once the setup is done, perfect if I am to finish the upstairs in the house this year!

We did experience some really good weather in the middle of March and this spurred me on to fencing an area off for the flock, eager to keep the cost down I used some of the willow I had recently felled for the posts. I’m secretly hoping that they may take root and not rot, fingers crossed of that one. All in all, using the barn as one of the enclosing walls, I managed to create an area of about 200 square meters for them to free range in. I may extend this in future but it seemed like a good area to start with and it used up a 50m roll of wire fence that we picked up cheep!

The old stable, our home for three summers, was the obvious choice for chicken house as we know that it is rat proof, fairly well insulated and provides plenty of space.

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A quick read through a couple of books, plus a scan on the interweb and I concocted a plan for the perch and nesting area. The perch is made up using the willow that seems to be strewn across the land at the moment and is attached to the wall with a handy hinge so that it can be lifted and secured when I do the muck out. Thank you http://www.raising-chickens.org the idea.

As for the nesting boxes, well that’s when the old head and foot board came into play and our double bed was cut up to create eight nesting boxes. By rights you need one box for every four chickens so that’s accommodation for thirty two sorted out, but as the title suggests we ended up with eighteen chucks.

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It could well have turned out differently as we met the man with the chicken van outside the local church to make our purchase, astute as he was, spotting my English accent, he began to pass startled chickens out of his aromatic van counting out the ten layers (ex battery hybrids) and five 3 month old pullets (mixed breed) that we requested. He then added four more layers and five more pullets, mumbling something that Gosia understood to be ‘these ones are on the house’ alas when it came to paying he expected payment for all! Imagine his surprise when Gosia announced that we didn’t have the money for the extras, and so he proceeded to taka back the extras that we couldn’t afford declaring that he didn’t believe that an Englishman didn’t have any money! Still we ended up with three extra at a reduced price and we are now the happy feeders and collectors of ten layers and eight pullets.

By sheer coincidence, as the deal was going down, a police car pulled up and parked within 20 meters of this shady avian exchange and as we set off back on the road we were hailed and waved to a stop. Perhaps there is a law against the trading of chickens within sight of a church? We had seen some curtains twitching when we first arrived and news travels faster the village than by satellite.

As it happens there was a wide load coming through the village (a temporary shop by all accounts) and the police were directing traffic to take an alternate route, so our slate remains clean in the eyes of the law and God, I think!

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Dorrota and Steve, our friends from across the valley,  have built up quite a flock themselves over the last year or two were kind enough to donate a cock and lots of out of date bread to supplement our chickens diet. The bread needs to be dried first and then soaked as required before adding to the grain mix that we have a plentiful supply of. Having under floor heating helps with the drying process!

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So as March ended we reached a twelve day tally of thirty-nine eggs, just about enough to keep me eating the diet I have become accustomed to, although in April we had to ask Gosias mum for an egg injection to get us over the Easter period and the additional salads and cakes that are an expected part of the celebrations in Poland. Still we are averaging about four eggs a day, not bad considering the cold and snowy weather we are having at the moment, roll on this week as the temperatures are supposed to rise. The outside jobs are mounting up and we need more eggs to keep me going 🙂

Two out of three aint bad

Was that the title of the song or the line I can remember? Either way this is not a post about music or food.

You may remember that I was running a tight schedule to try and get a few things finished for Gosias names day last weekend (18th Jan)? Well the news is that I almost finished on time!

Actually the two items I did complete were for Malina so that she had somewhere to sit to put her shoes on and also somewhere to hang her coat 🙂

The bench was in a sorry state when we bought it for £20 about two years ago and I think it’s life in our barn didn’t do it any favours either, but I’m certain the woodworm is from times past and the only rotten wood was on the arm.

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The bench design is a classic in Poland, almost certainly homemade, it is the original bench bed. The seat lifts and the lower section slides out to reveal an overlap of planks making up the base of the bed. The bedding would be stored inside until needed. Sadly I only thought about pictures after I had started on the repair.

I managed to make a replacement upright for the arm and with copious amounts of glue and wood filler, a dowel to keep things in place and a nail or two you would hardly know that it’s a botch job!

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Still once I had taken off the lose paint, smoothed down the edges and gone to town with the paint brush it started to look ok. Gosia mixed up the colour using an assortment of paints and only changed her mind once (after the second coat) turquoise, green, graphite, white and cream apparently, given a passable duck egg blue finish. And of course Gosia made the pillows, her many boxes of collected materials coming to good use.

You will be pleased to know that I have no pictures of the coat hook shelf thingy build, but it’s essentially made from a few planks left over from our scaffolding and off cuts from the terrace decking. We did buy the hooks in and nails and glue were involved, but other than that it’s a freebie. Let me know if you want one making Smile

 

I did actually finish the bathroom door as well, essential for the guests on the day, but it was only a temporary installation as I still need build the frame, so I left it out of the shot until it is eventually finished.

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It was a great day by the way, Gosia forgave my slack schedule and we had quite a few first time visitors who generally gave there approval to the house so far. The composting toilet was well used 🙂  Talking of which, that’s my current project, so avoid this space if you don’t want to see how my prototype Winkoloo turned out.