Statues

Animal numbers have increased this year, although as you would expect that number is now decreasing again. Not that we have had the same predator problem this year as last, just more demand. Continue reading “Statues”

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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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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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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 🙂

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

150 Kg P = 900 M²

The equation for chips with everything! Or at least the start of the formula that will be expanded upon as time goes by, ah yes time; x T 🙂

Well maybe not chips as I can only recall having them a few times last year and only twice so far this year when I was in the UK, but it’s certain that we will be eating potatoes in some variation on a fairly regular basis once our crop comes through.

So let me explain, we (Gosia) planted six 25Kg sacks of seed potatoes on Tuesday the 23rd, covering an area of approximately nine hundred square meters, I would have loved to have helped, but as ever I just happened to be doing something else 🙂 Although, with the aid of Kazek, his son Pawel, a tractor and a planting machine the work was done in a little less than an hour. Unfortunately for me the deal is that as I missed the planting I’m now in charge of weeding and pest control!

It has to be said that as the ground hasn’t been worked for over 12 years and with the minimal preparation that we have done, it was considered ‘not too good’ for planting potatoes. However I insisted that we plant as I have read in the past that spuds will dig the land for you; something that my Uncle backed up as he has memories from his childhood on a post war small holding that concur; the best way to bring old land back into play is to plant it up with potatoes; we will see.

This left quite a chunk of land, so we set aside about 1000 M² for vegetable crops and the following day, the 24th, set about broadcasting 150 Kg of oats we had on the remaining 7000 M². Once again I was busy with something else and Kazek and Gosia paced the field for a good couple of hours scattering the seed as they went; I did get involved in setting up top-up points throughout the land to enable easy refilling of buckets, but other than that my input was minimal; thankfully it’s not a crop that needs weeding!

Broadcasting the oats
I was busy taking a photo 🙂

The primary reason for oats is to provide food for livestock in the future; it is also a very easy crop to grow and should do well without any further intervention, even on our heavy clay soil. As a reminder for myself, it is not recommended to grow oats on the same land in successive years, so I will have to investigate what we do next year; but that’s a long way off 🙂

One final note, again to myself, the potatoes were free and will provide any future seed requirements, the oats came in at 100 Zloty (£20) and fuel costs so far 450 Zloty (almost £100). We have of course more fuel cost to come at harvest time so that will have to be added to the equation, but if fuel costs keep going up like this I can see that we will be giving up the stable for a few horses, we should at least be able to feed them next year 🙂