Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hen housing

Many people are now keeping hens, however many people don't seem to do their homework. I follow a poultry site and am amazed at some of the very silly questions that people ask, most of these questions are just common sense. There are a few basic rules for keeping poultry, all of which are common sense.

Your hens should be kept safe from predators. This means some form of bio security, fencing of some type, we use electric poultry fencing, although this is not cheap it does mean that the runs can be moved to allow for fresh grazing.

Adequate housing, vermin and draught proof housing that allow the hens to move around,but it should have good ventilation, preferably a house that is large enough to have a feeder and drinker inside. Feed should be kept dry and hens should have continuous access to clean fresh water.

A dust bathing area should be available, this helps to keep lice at bay and keep the feathers in good condition.

If you require your hens to stay in lay during the shorter days, a low wattage light should be provided.

Good quality feed is also essential. Also access to grit or oyster shell.

So the basic rules:
Free from fear.
Free from hunger or thirst.
Free to display natural behaviour. I.E. able to walk around and stretch their wings.
Good housing.

We always use organic feed for our hens, but this is our choice, if we could not access Organic feed we would certainly make sure the feed was GM free. There is no proof whatsoever that GM is safe, but plenty of studies indicated that it is not.

We now have our new hen house, this is the rearing house. After our chicks hatch we put them in a brooder with an electric hen, we keep them on heat for about three weeks, depending on the temperature and how well feathered they are. Again depending on temperature they are then moved to the nursery house, with an outside run. They do have a 40watt red bulb in the house in case the nights are cold. At about tens weeks old they then are moved into the rearing house. Depending of whether we are doing pure breeds or cross breeds, the unwanted birds will be slaughtered for the table at about six months.

We have now had our first broad beans, although we only set up the veg garden last May, we have been able to find some veg each day to eat. This year the garden is greatly expanded and we hope that it will keep us completely in veg for the coming year.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don Williams - Good Ole Boys Like Me

What can you say about this man except he's the greatest. We went to see him on Friday evening and although he is nearly seventy three years old, and had only arrived in Ireland the day before, he was fantastic.
For anyone who is C& W fan, he is a must see. Laid back, no gimmicks, just beautiful music. He engaged with the audience with lots of banter, apparently this is unusual for Don, he is known to be a man of few words. I even managed to get a reasonable photo of him. It was a night that we will never forget. For anyone who has never heard him I have posted a track for you to listen to. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Computer Nerds

Last week we had a small problem with the computer, Java Script was no longer working, after Simon had wasted a couple of hours trying to get it up and running, defeat was conceded and we took it to our local computer shop. I always do this with trepidation, so many times we have called on the help of experts and when we get the PC back we find everything has changed. The exception to this was when we lived in Galica, we had a great guy, Pedro, who despite our poor language skills always fixed the problem, and did not muck up what we already had!. The new guy is no Pedro, screen saver photo gone, two programs added that we had not asked for and worst of all, the program I used for downloading and editing my photos gone. I have spent half the day trying to find a program to do all of the above when I should have been out in the garden, Simon also spent over two hours trying to do the same. We now have found a program that works , but instead of taking just five minutes to do it all it takes forever, well not quite , but I'm sure you know what I mean.
So WHY I ask can people not just carry out the job you have asked them to do, why do they think that their job is to serve the computer rather than the customer? Tomorrow I will ask Simon to contact the shop and ask if it can be restored to it's former self, I better not do it as I will not be as diplomatic , and I'm sure we will need his help at some future date.

Many people view stinging nettles as a menace, however this humble plant is one of natures wonders. It has so many uses, from making beer to paper, liquid plant feed to insecticide, it can be added to bread and makes an high vitamin soup. There are many recipes on the internet for all of the above. For us it has two main uses, one as a foliar feed and secondly as an insect control and it also helps to protect potatoes from blight. Our basic recipe.
Fill a five gallon container ( preferable one with a tap fitted at the bottom) to the top with cut nettles, pushing them down well, add some water, just over a gallon, put on the lid of the container. It helps to push them down further, daily, for a few days. After a week or so, depending on the temperature you should have a lovely stinking mixture, it is then ready to use. For aphids ( greenfly, blackfly) we dilute at about fifty% for a foliar feed 8 to 1, to protect against blight and Colorado beetle 20%. We found with the Colorado beetle that although you would get the beetle and she would lay her eggs, when the grubs hatched they seemed unable to feed, thus our crop was protected. It helps to add some soft soap to the mixture, or at a push washing up liquid as this makes the liquid cling to the plants better.

Yesterday we attended an introduction to Permaculture meeting at friends farm, in all twenty four people came and all mucked in to doing some work. A kitchen garden bed was quickly dug and ridged for raised beds, tunnels got weeded and the bee hive was completed. Everyone brought food and the sun shone, well apart from a couple of quick showers, a good time was had by all. We then had a talk given on what Permaculture is, we left, as mystified as when we had arrived. I guess Permaculture means different things to different people. For us, crop rotation, composting and companion planting are very important. Care of the soil is the basis of good gardening. Shopping and buying local, and fair trade. Surly these things make up a Permanent Culture.

We were delighted to find cowslips growing at the farm, this is a plant that is rare to find nowadays, thanks to herbicides and fertilisers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The garden was noisy today with the buzzing of bees and hover flies, although the daffodils are now nearly over, they were so early this year it is now the turn of the tulips and other spring flowers.
I have planted the flower gardens with what I hope will be permanent plants and bulbs with the intent of attracting the pollinators, summer flowers apart from roses and summer bulbs are old fashioned cottage garden seeds, Larkspur, Clarkia ,Nigella, and cornflowers plus several others. Providing the slugs leave the seedlings alone the garden should be a riot of colour and provide plenty of food for the bees.

We do seem to have a problem with the slugs, they have munched their way through our pepper plants that were doing so well. I have had to make a further sowing of them, fortunately we invested in an electric propagator so they should come on OK. We have a vast array of slugs here and have counted at least fifteen different types, our ducks enjoy the ones we sling to them but there are far too many to collect them all up so I will have to use a barrier of salt.

We are now down to three Buff cockerels, one is in with our trio, and two spares, just in case, we sold one boy today. When we bought these birds they were young, but were assured they were all hens, all four turned out to be cocks. Still we know the boy has gone to a good home with a young poultry enthusiast. The trio are doing great, and this week we had our first eggs from them. Now being swamped with eggs and ice cream made now we are making lemon curd, plus lots of meringues, but there is only so much two people can eat.
If anyone has any other ideas of how to use up lots of eggs please let us know.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Agriculture's Big Players Getting Bigger

Agriculture's Big Players Getting Bigger

baby rabbits

The baby rabbits now look like ...well rabbits! They have found the great outdoors and are having great fun, running up and down the ramp, trying the grass, and enjoying life.There is a vast array of colours amongst them, white with the dark ears and noses, just like dad, brindled, like a wild rabbit, a beautiful golden fawn one and just one black, he/she is the runt of the litter, but cute and surviving well.
The local magpies have great curiosity about our rabbits, no doubt eyeing them up as a potential meal, but we like to think that it is maybe some strange form of friendship. The rabbits seem to think so.

We thought that we had cropped all of last years potatoes however today yielded a further 2 kg, they show no sign of rot, this is the Sarpo Mira variety, and blight resistant.

We now have a glut of eggs, I would have set some in the incubator but this is out on loan to a friend , as repayment she insisted in giving us a dozen goose eggs, I want to have a go at making decorated eggs from some of them, but I think five will be quite sufficient to experiment on, so what to do with all these eggs? Then I remembered a wonderful recipe for home made ice cream that we used to make in Spain, so we now have two, one lt tubs of pure ice cream, we did buy a small container of raspberries for one lot. Delicious, but very fattening.
I will also be making lemon curd this week, again a good use for all these eggs.

Unfortuantly the weather is slightly damp today, we had hoped to go out into the country side to see the bluebell woods, I have never known them to be so early as they are this year, and the perfume in the woods is lovely. This is yet another endangered species of plant, thanks to modern farming methods and the destruction of deciduous forests. There are lots of forests being planted here in Ireland, most of it is Sitka spruce, although some birds and Pine Martens will inhabit these forests, the flora is non existent.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Thank goodness for the poly-tunnel, the weather really has taking on a wintry feel, but it is forecasted to get slightly warmer tomorrow.
The beauty of having a tunnel means that the weather doesn't stop play and things keep on growing, this of course includes the weeds, the chickens and the rabbits recycle the weeds and in turn give us manure which we then compost, the beauty of Organic growing, just about everything has a use.

Stinging nettles will be made into a liquid feed, we will also use this on our potatoes to protect them against blight, also we have a lot of mares tail on the land, but again this can be made into a liquid and spayed on potatoes and the tomatoes to protect them.
As we now are doing nothing commercial we hope that we can be a low input holding. we will always have to buy hen feed, but the rabbits and donkeys we would hope to feed from our land. With luck we should be able to produce most of our own meat, just topping up from friends Organic lambs and beef. Pork however is off the menu for the foreseeable future.

Things are growing at a pace in the tunnel, with strawberries forming, the over wintered onions are looking good, the peas have the first sign of blosson and the broadbeans are in full bloom, the perfume is lovely, no wonder the bees have been busy. The tomatoes and pepper plants are also growing well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New month, weather change

Last month we had perfect weather, apart from the lack of rain, it was warmer here than in Teneriffe, this month it seems as though winter might have arrived.

We had a weekend away in the UK to celebrate Simon's uncle's ninetieth birthday, the weather was just right on Saturday for a visit to Hever Castle, in Kent. Hever was the home of Anne Boleyn second unlucky wife of Henry the eighth. The castle itself is very beautiful even though little of the Tudor interior remains, having been restored in 1905 by an American (Lord Astor] as to how he thought a castle should look.The grounds are superb and it was certainly worth a visit.
We had time to visit a lovely old Manor house, the chimneys are a work of art, and of course we had to force ourselves to drop into several of the old English pubs and sample the real ales, it was a hard job, but I guess if you are on holiday it is a thing you must do. All the pubs that we reluctantly had to visit sold real ale, a total delight, although we can buy it here in Ireland in bottles it does not seem the same without the atmosphere of an English pub.

There are many beautiful places to visit in the UK, and some lovely architecture, especially the very old places, it is not however a country either of us would ever wish to live again. All the roads seem totally crowded, and wherever you are you can hear traffic, even way out in the country side you can still hear the noise and night-time light pollution seems to be impossible to get away from, it makes us realise how lucky we are to live where we do

We arrived back to Ireland to light drizzle, the first rain we had seen for weeks.
Today we have had several showers of sleet, so the new potatoes are now covered with crop cover, just in case. The rest of the plants will just have to take their chances.

The rabbit, Flopsie has had a litter of fourteen kittens, unfortunately she has lost one, maybe it is just as well as she is an eating machine at the moment and her run needs to be moved twice a day, this is on top of her normal feed and leafy greens, she doesn't seem to have any preference and eats spinach with as much gusto as dandelions.

Our older chicks are all doing well, it seems as though the cross between Light Sussex and Buff Orpington has produced a fairly fast growing bird. They are now ready to go onto growers feed but here we have hit a slight problem, we can't source any Organic growers or GM free, so it is back to mixing our own , we are sprouting both wheat and barley and I have on order Organic soya beans to sprout, these should be here later this week, it will all be a bit hit and miss regarding the protein content of how much to feed of what, but given the fact that spouting increases the protein content by a third I'm sure we will be able to arrive at more of less the right mix.