Blog Index
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24 April 2017

Those of you familiar with my weekly email will know that from time to time I vent my spleen concerning the amount of rubbish that is strewn about our roads mainly by consumers of fast foods, cigarettes and sugary drinks. The picture above is four of the volunteers who gave of their time on Saturday past to do something about it. Organised by the Straid Village and District Community Group over twenty people young and old participated and approximately six miles of road plus the village itself were subjected to a thorough clean up. We collected in the region of 40 sacks of rubbish.  Similar groups  are doing similar things throughout the province. Hitherto I’ve tended to confine myself to being an old grump complaining about the dark. You’d be amazed how pleased with myself I now feel, having, as it were, helped to light a candle.
It turned a bit colder today yet it still remains stubbornly dry - which weather allows us to be reasonably up to date with all our vegetable sowing and planting out – there is however very little in the way of any home grown vegetables ready for harvesting. We’re in the hungry gap, at the very end of all last season’s vegetables (our own kale, leeks, swedes, parsnips, etc. are all now finished) with still some months to go before we start to harvest this season’s outdoor vegetables. Even tunnel produced crops are thin on the ground at the moment. Mercifully we can supplement our meagre diet with imports – this week the first of the asparagus crop should be with us and last week it gave me pleasure to see the first of the year’s nectarines coming in from Spain.
The Spring 2017 edition of Freckle magazine has just arrived with as usual its thought provoking articles, poems and wonderful photography. All beautifully presented and only £6.
See you soon


10 APRIL 2017

How can you tell  crow from a rook? The answer is that if you see two or more crows together, then they are rooks. If you see a rook on its own, it’s a crow.  To add further complication, the bird in the picture is, I am reliably informed, a jackdaw. Frankly they all look and sound the same to me. Whatever they are, they provide an entertaining aerial floor show for customers sitting in the garden room as they try to build their nests underneath our solar panels. (That is the jackdaws, not the customers.) Most of their building material ends up on the ground below and so far as we can tell, any twig that fails quality control once, doesn’t get a second chance. Thus we have an enormous stack of kindling piling up which we will use for lighting the Tea Room fire next winter.

The older I get, the more endearing I find these birds, and I’m fairly sure it would be easy enough to train them to eat out of your hand. (Less difficult perhaps, than to train them not to dump on our windscreens.)

See you soon



03 APRIL 2017

We keep trying to augment our wildflower population – behold Patricia planting out some primrose on the farm walk. We have also planted cowslip and oxeye daisy. It is disappointing how paltry a hundred plants appear when in the ground. We plan to do more next year and no doubt each year thereafter.

See you soon.



27 MARCH 2017

There was a question on Gardeners’ Question Time about growing vegetables on land that had previously been used by hens. Bob Flowerdew mentioned that he was keeping all his hens in the greenhouse at the moment because of government ordered restriction on outdoor rearing, brought in to prevent the spread of Asian Flu to the domestic flock. He’s facing exactly the same problem that we are facing – the birds become bored if they don’t have free range access and start to bully one another, ultimately pecking the weaker ones, leaving a bloodied corpse for us to find in the morning. No matter what diversions we try and no matter how loosely we house them, the problem keeps recurring. It is to avoid this problem that beak tipping is common practice in intensive systems and is indeed permitted by the basic European organic standard. Beak tipping is forbidden by the Soil Association, a prohibition that is based on the premise that the birds are genuinely free ranged. It’s a bit of a nightmare. (Beak tipping is still standard practice in most so-called free range systems, where despite having theoretical access to the outdoors, most of the huge flocks prefer to remain in the house 24 hours per day.)

There’s a similar problem with intensively reared pigs, which in confined spaces bite each other’s tails off. The standard answer to this is to cut their tails off before they’re bitten off. Tail docking is forbidden in organic systems – you will note that all our pigs are still equipped with tails.

Despite the problems we are facing with the rapidly diminishing flock we have, we continue to look to the future. In the picture above you see our next flock that Patricia picked up from a hatchery in Mount Norris last week. These have just hatched and are easily and safely transported for an hour or so in the box, before being released into heated accommodation. None of these chicks have been beak tipped and we are praying that the restrictions on outdoor flocks will have been lifted when they are due to go out to pasture in a few weeks’ time. From top left Sussex, Barred, Black’s and Blue. All brown eggers.

See you soon.