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.

 

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”

A mild mushroom free May

Its getting busy around here! Just time for a quick update on May before it’s too late and we head into July.

First things first the weather, which despite a slow start, proved to come into it’s own in the latter half of the month and we only lit the boiler once for the heating. I topped up the water on occasion but as a whole the house stays warm and the sun is heating our water, all good. The bees seemed to be absent for the pollination of the fruit trees, but I happy to report then we seem to have an abundance of them now.

The crops went in the ground without any frost trauma from the dreaded Ice Saints. The beans were treated to an extra two wheels and the support structure must look odd to passers-by, that’s if we had any. We scaled back the potato patch as despite our best efforts to eat , feed to the animals and give away, we still have a mountain to go at. And with the extra space we popped in about two hundred pumpkin plants, with the hope of pressing our own oil later this year. We have also sown oats as all creatures great and small seem to like them and we still had our own seed from two years ago. Now that I think about both the potatoes and oats were planted in April, how time flies.

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Another month or so and you wont see the wheels, wires or the posts as they disappear under the Borlotti climbers

Work moved on in the house and the partition walls and ceiling received the plaster board finish with the exception on the hall which I am finishing in reed mat. We even managed to get the first of the shower trays in place, all of the pipes are set for the radiators and I even lime rendered the first room, well the first coat at least. Lets hope we can keep the momentum going!

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A bathroom almost ready for flooring and tiling.

Goats, pigs and chickens all seem to be doing fine and provide endless entertainment for Malina who has mastered the art of chicken catching and goat feeding and pig herding, even if the resulting mess keeps the washing machine busy and results in quite a few pulled faces as the bottom of her boots soil your t-shirt as you provide her transport on your shoulders!

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Note the animals taking cover in the background, Malina is here!

And finally, the composting toilet, it’s a while since I have mentioned it, but it has by no means been neglected. The pile that we closed up in September 2013 was opened up and provided us with compost for the veg garden and the pumpkins, probably close to 1000 litres of top quality humus. Evidence of our wedding remained in the pile as baby wipes had made it into the composting toilet on the day and they don’t compost! Mind you the two hares that ended up in there along with a rat that the dogs killed had all returned to nature, only the occasional bone remained.

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An old photo and now an empty pit, well it was, I have already started to fill it up with animal manure for composting.

For the record we are now emptying four buckets every twelve days, that’s two adults, occasional visitors and a child who I’m sure produces more than anyone else, an unforeseen advantage of reusable nappies is all the extra unadulterated poo for the pile.

Oh, and no mushrooms. I have picked mushrooms every year for three years in May, but this year zilch! The local wisdom is that it’s simply too dry following a mild winter with little snow melt, looks like I’ll have to wait before I have something to accompany my scrambles eggs 🙂

Eight buckets!

No Gold rings, partridges or turtle doves, and whilst the maids a milking may have brought them I was only left with the eight buckets, that’s what my true love got me for Christmas! With a capacity of 20 Litres, standing 33 cm tall and 33cm in diameter, not to mention the snap close, air tight lids and sturdy carrying handles. What more could I possibly want?

The white plastic looks almost food grade and it is polished to a high sheen which is soft and smooth to the touch, it wasn’t long before I had put the first one into service, confidant that it will serve it’s purpose well and will be in service for many years to come.

Having multiple buckets brings many advantages, but most of all I’m looking forward to the balance they provide, although it’s only my theory that two buckets are easier to carry than one? It’s also true to say that I will be able to set my own schedule, no longer a slave to a single buckets capacity, with the added luxury of multiple buckets (with lids) I may be able to wait out even the most inclement weather for the right moment to venture out.

I can’t speak for each individual bucket, but I am confidant that collectively they would save our family over £1500 over ten years in water charges, if we were connected to the mains. And that figure is assuming no increase in the price of water, which is very unlikely, not bad for a £20 investment.

I suppose the only downside to the gift is the work ahead to fulfil the promise that I made once I had the buckets in my possession, but I’m secretly looking forward to the challenge, even if some of my design ideas never passed Gosias scrutiny and exacting standards.

So what are the buckets for?

The composting toilets of course!

Although I don’t like to bore people with humanure facts, I’d like to share the startling calcualation that it takes between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes of water to deal with 1 tonne of crap in it’s various stages before its released back into the wild. Just because you forget about it after you flush it down the loo doesn’t mean it’s journey devouring resources has finished. So consider this, with a population of only 6 billion there isn’t enough fresh water in the world for everyone to have a flushing toilet, never mind the 8-10 billion we are heading towards by 2050.

Anyhow, must go, nature calls. Smile Happy New Year!!

P.S. I noticed that someone viewed an old post regarding the frequency of emptying the toilet, information that is considerably out of date now. So for the record and to provide some clarity, a family of three (yes Malina is contributing) I am changing the bucket every four or five days. With the added buckets I expect to empty two buckets every week or so and I’m less likely to have to stand up to have a shit!

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Shice!

Forgive the false advertising, but puppy pictures seem to work on my few Facebook followers 🙂

I have read about it, done the research, even chuckled to myself as I have heard of other peoples accounts of it happing. Joseph Jenkins explains that it happened to him from 1993 to 1997; that’s four years that he knows of whilst he was monitoring!

Even still, the proud feeling from the construction of my poor mans composting thermometer melted away as I checked the core temperature of my humanure pile a couple of weeks ago when I visited the land, I had hit 0°C and I am left with a pile of shice!

Further reading allays my fears and thankfully it’s nothing to worry about, as time goes by it will stop happening altogether, as long as I keep the faith and keep piling on the poo!

Off course I have sprung to action and I sprinkle the pile at every opportunity as and when I visit the land; a valid reason for my copious tea consumption. All I need now is some unadulterated child fec …..now there’s a stroke of luck! Yet another incentive to get the house habitable as soon as possible:)

Talking of child benefits we visited the local national insurance office today (CRUZ) to put in our claim for sleepless nights and nappy changing. Unlike the UK you receive a one off payment and depending on your earnings you may be entitled to a little bit extra and reduced national insurance contributions for the next five years; seems reasonable?

I have to say I was impressed by the officials stance; questioning us, checking our plans, motives and if we were already claiming money from the UK government. They assured us that there is an agreement between the nations and that they would find out if we were the recipients of multiple benefits; I wonder if claimants in the UK are asked similar questions or made aware of the consequences of claiming twice? As it happens I checked up on this and in the UK you are left to make a declaration on the form you have to fill in to claim child benefit; hardly the kind of small print even an English native speaker would bother to read!

I may have mentioned before that I am in the habit of downloading podcasts from Radio 4 to keep me entertained whilst walking the dogs, unfortunately The Archers omnibus only keeps me going for one decent walk and so I have taken to listening to various other broadcasts. One that I favour is More or Less (behind the stats) ‘Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us’

One program that struck me more than most was about immigration, the hot topic in the UK that politicians seem to skate around as they don’t know how to separate EU immigration from other immigration for fear of it becoming a racial issue (in my humble opinion) Have a listen here.

The  fact, if you believe what is said in the program, is that EU immigrants have made a net contribution to the British economy since 1995. It is only when you include figures for all immigrants that this figure becomes a negative. An EU immigrant puts in about £6k a year, where as a non EU immigrant takes out about £21k, and as for the UK nationals then we take out about £11k a year. No wonder the country is in so much debt! Well worth a listen if you have the time.

And time is the one thing I have run out of; it’s time to collect some compost 🙂

Just for those who couldn’t see the puppy picture, here it is 🙂

Taking it easy after a feed
Taking it easy after a feed

Going thermophilic

I have started two drafts to try and break the lull in my posting, one is an attempt to provide a round up of events over the last month or so, the second is a brief account of our wedding weekend; but as I reread them I just can’t seem to find the words to finish them, thinking that the subjects within could either do with there own post or indeed need to be posted at all.

Thankfully, having read and commented on a few blogs as I try and catch up, the solution has been provided by Pete of Beetley; I should be catching up with my composting toilet diary, the poor neglected subject that is so close to my heart!

As the proud owner of no less than three composting toilets, yes that’s right, three; I have a certain duty to perform on a regular basis, details of which I have posted on several previous occasions. This weekly event has remained much the same despite the increase in receptacles, I just happen to be emptying more buckets as we have guests and volunteers; that is until the wedding!

Seventy odd guests and only one toilet in action at the time, you may imagine that things got messy and people were off put by the whole idea; but with a last minute printed banner announcing the wooded area to be the G E N T S (thank you Dorrota) a ready supply of saw dust, a upgraded 40 litre container, anti bacterial hand gel and a bunch of flowers in a vase; well I don’t think anybody noticed the rudimentary facilities. Of course as the master of more than one ceremony that day the duty of emptying was most definitely mine, but I was pleasantly surprised that I only had to carry out the procedure three times’; a simple affair with the aid of the mini tractor and with the queue burgeoning to no more than four people whilst they waited for me to refresh the outhouse, I was able to keep all the wee in one place . And for those of you who may think the tractor was a bit over the top, believe me 40 litres of wee logged sawdust is heavy!

So what has any of this got to do with going thermophilic? In fact what is thermophilic? Thermophilic is the stage that a humanure pile or indeed a compost pile goes through as it’s temperature rises above 44°C (111 °F in old money) The microorganisms get very active and can raise the temperature as high as 70°C (158 °F), although such high temperatures happen very rarely according to the Humanure Handbook. This is when the pile kills off all the nasty things that may linger in the pile from your pile, although if you are a relatively healthy person it probably has less things to kill. The higher the temperature the quicker it kills pathogenic microorganisms, viruses and bacteria. Some sources say that 30 minutes at temperatures between 55 and 60°C will kill anything bad within the hour.

So when I discovered, with my newly acquired soil thermometer, that my compost had reached a temperature of 57°C following the addition of a wedding parties converted alcohol and soft drinks, not to mention the food scraps and other so called waste products; I knew at long last that I had gone thermophilic 🙂 Of course I may well have reached this stage many times before, but not having a handy thermometer to hand I never knew; even if I was aware of the steam rising as I pulled back the cover material and watched the heat rise as I made the latest deposit.

As you can imagine all this extra material to hand filled the pile pretty quickly and I closed off my trusty heap for the winter, hastily building another one closer to the house and the newly constructed outside toilet; I also refit the smaller capacity bucket again, getting the tractor out to empty the toilet is a little dramatic 🙂

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An old photo, this pile is now full to the brim and closed off with straw bales at the front; left to cool and mature for a year before adding to the soil to grow…well who knows, I’ll let you know next year.

Teraz terrace

I’m looking out of the window, just back from walking the dogs, happy that I made it before the storm that is now upon us. After a week of temperatures close to and exceeding 30 C it’s almost a relief to hear the crack of lightening and catch the cooling breeze through the open window; the crops will certainly benefit from the rain and if the forecast is to be believed then we should have a cooler week ahead to look forward to.

It’s been a hectic week or so as our friend Slawek came over to help out with the building of the terrace, working to the suns schedule we put in some serious time and have achieved a great deal, but it has made us realise that when your building a house you have little time for anything else. So we finally made the decision that keeping livestock this year is no longer an option, I think we knew this already and as time has gone by the inevitable conclusion had to be drawn; after all we have struggled to look after the garden this week and forgetting to water  your pigs is a little more serious than neglecting to the water the tomatoes; there’s always next year 🙂

Monday 17th June:

After a trip to the iron mongers to stock up on nails, nuts and bolts we started building the terrace.

Tuesday 18th June:

Building the terrace

Wednesday 19th June:

Building the terrace

Thursday 20th June:

Building the terrace. Emptied the composting toilet! And for those of you eagle eyed and interested people out there who noticed that it has lasted a long time then I can assure you that I have emptied it on two previous occasions, I just forgot to add the date to the Composting Toilet Diary; shame on me.

Friday 21st June:

Building the terrace

Saturday 22nd June:

Building the terrace

Of course it was all a little bit more involved than that and Slaweks woodworking experience shows as he has notched joists and created large scale mortise joints for the supporting posts; no metal angle brackets on this build. Meanwhile Gosia has got to grips with the plainer that we have borrowed from a family friend and the piles of wood shavings are testament to the many cubic meters of wood that have made it past the spinning blades; very sharp blades as the cuts on the back of my fingers prove after slipping when installing new blades. Mind you when you consider the lack of guards and the exposed mechanics of the home made machine then a couple of nicks are needed to earn respect and avoid more serious injury.

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Hard to believe that this plainer thicknesser was hand built during the communist era; if you wanted something back then you built it! And it works a treat.

You may guess that this is a big job and we were happy to have achieved the lower level and get the joists down ready for the decking next week; unfortunately the modrzew (larch) that we are using for the planks is very hard on the blades, as whilst the pine that we have used for the framing gave up it’s outer layers without too much fuss the boards require a little more attention, consequently we have had to order a new set of hardened steel blades. Lets hope they arrive in good time next week.

As I mentioned in my last post the horseflies are having a feeding frenzy and you have to be quick if you want to avoid making a blood donation to the insect world, thankfully we had the help of the yellowhammer. For some odd reason, possibly just because we are there, the horseflies are attracted to the white walls of the building and fly into them kamikaze style; dazed and confused by the sudden interruption in their flight they then fall to the floor and this is the point that our little yellow friends step in and are quick to take advantage of an immobilised lunch. I’m not sure if it’s learned behaviour, but a pair of birds have remained with us all week and they are happy to come within a few meters of us as we worked and of course we are happy with a reduction in the blood sucking insect population.

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Our little yellow friends

It’s easy to take all the wildlife for granted as you get used to seeing the newts, lizards, slow worms and toads, all good food for the visiting stalks and our resident buzzard who has happily started to announce his presence once again after a worrying mute period. Sadly none of these wondrous creatures eat the potato beetle and as the lave that missed our inspection start to grow the potato’s are starting loose a bit of foliage; lets hope this wont affect the crop too much and that our efforts of hand picking pay off. It’s a little disheartening as you see the farmer next door spray his crop, eradicating the pest almost over night; such an easy solution, or is it?

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Our potato patch

One final note, as I took a quick photo before we left of Saturday, the tomato experiment is starting to show results; the plant on the left seems to be developing a little faster than that on the right, contrary to the result I was hoping for as the plant on the right is the one grown in the humanure mix. Still it’s early days and it’s quite likely that I used two different plant varieties such was my attention to detail when I set up this highly scientific experiment. I only remember which one is which by remembering what right rhymes with!

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Humanure challenge tomato plants