As you can see by the pics, there was a lot of work to do before we could even get to planting anything. The house needed everything doing, re-configuration, new kitchen, bathroom, central heating and complete re-decoration. The garden needed complete clearance as it was full of ramshackle sheds brimming with rubbish and the odd roadsweeper, trailer, caravan and robin reliant!
Weeding, rotivating, weeding, digging and weeding, adding compost, more weeding, endless weeding sums up this year! We had a great fun making ‘Tim’ the carrot boat though (prevents carrot fly infestations by lifting them off the ground apparently)… and he’s still going strong.
We managed to grow a few potatoes and finger thin carrots this year and convert the coalshed and workshop into a studio office.
A random phone call asking if we wanted 2 hens and a house for £50 saw the introduction of Beryl and her chick Bailey to Mels Farm. After carrying it all flat-packed on the back of the L200 and nearly losing it all at a steep roundabout they were safe and sound on the lawn until we got around to building the run…here the chicken-proofing of the garden began!
We managed not to lose our frozen fingers to the icy green house building in January, which we soon planted up to start the veg growing for the year. It was an amazing year for growing, leaving us with more than 20 stones of beefsteak Marmande tomatoes, all ripe when we came back from holiday in August. Needless to say we made chutney that year…we also dried tomatoes, bottled tomatoes, preserved them in oil, handed them to anyone who would take them…enough tomatoes already!
Disappearing Trees and the unbelievable neighbour, is the nice way to introduce our ‘lovely’ neighbour! He has decided to cut down the entire boundary of elderberry trees, in the middle of the night, without speaking to us first! Needless to say, no more elderberry jelly, jam or cordial as these were the best fruiting trees on our plot! Seething to say the least!
We did manage to successfully grow some other fab foods however 🙂
Including the now famous ‘Caramelised’ Tomato and Chilli Chutney, as in, I eventually went to bed at about 2am after trying to get the Chilli Chutney to reduce and ending up burning the bottom of the pan. I actually turned out quite scrummy and when we gave it to people for Xmas, had requests for seconds!
We lost all the brassicas to pigeons last year, so the first project of this year is netting a cage for fruit and a few cabbage, cauliflower and kale plants. There are times when you wish that you could just spend the extra money on the kit, but our self designed aluminum frame and netting works well even if it has a door held together by a plant tie at the moment!
The worst winter ever… Hammer and chiseling the carrots out of the boat!!
This year we decided to fit a new kitchen, ourselves. this meant that the garden got terribly ignored, and we paid for it in the veg yield and weed re-growth.
We did find room for 4 young hens to add to Beryl and Bailey – welcome Barbara, Sylvia, Margo and Betty. We then started our egg business selling our surplus eggs to friends and colleagues, the chickens paid their way!
The Chickens did so well that we decided to rescue 4 ex-battery hens. We drove for miles to meet the 1000 hens rescued that morning and collect our 4 randomly selected evacuees. Unfortunately the stress was too much for one of the girls, Mabel, who died the next day, but we welcomed a feather-bear brood – Ruby, Audrey and the much maligned Mavis. the chronicles of Mavis are ongoing…
We started to sow the orchard as a wild-flower area, but found that chickens loved to eat the seed…increased security and hope for some wildflowers next year.
An Accident?? I came home from work to put the chucks to bed as usual but couldn’t find Mavis anywhere. After about an hour of hunting around now with torch and giving up hope thinking she had been eaten by a fox, I heard a rustle in the corner of the orchard. It was Mavis on the other side of the fence on our ‘lovely’ neighbours garden border, unable to move. I carefully lifted her back over and brought her inside to have a better look. One of her legs and possibly a wing were broken and I began to fear this was the end for her. I took her to the vet who confirmed her leg was broken in two places but her wing was fine. Painkillers, antibiotics and total rest were prescribed as xrays and pinning were far too expensive. Mavis ‘the house chuck’ was inside with us about a month before we let her outside into her small run, but unfortunately the other chucks didn’t recognize her anymore and we’ve had to separate her ever since 😦
It was truly Easter this year with a nest of baby rabbits in the middle of the veg patch and a clutch of broody hens’ eggs for us to find. Thankfully our neighbour hadn’t killed the rabbit mummy and they moved out so that we could plant some veg (for them to come back and eat later in the year it seems…)
We missed the memo about the all-summer monsoon season, really we wouldn’t have tried so hard if we had known. A disappointing and frustrating year for us and the chickens. All the veg struggled and we were lucky to get a few bits for the table. Some of the notable successes were Black Beans, Courgettes, Melons, Sweet Peppers, Beetroot.
Duckins! I managed to finish the duck enclosure and ended up putting Mavis in there as the nights are drawing in and I couldn’t get home in time to open the gate that separated her from a beasting by the other chucks!
Maybe we will get the paths done… partly… or maybe not. A new neighbour means loss of one of our parking spaces, detour to cement mixing to lay new parking spot and slabs for new shed…arrghh
Still no brassicas, 😦 the weather has been awful all year, the worst so far. Nearly all the roads round our house are closed due to flooding and the garden has turned into a quagmire. Not a good end to the growing season.
It’s a good job we have supermarkets, as the chucks have decided to go on strike! We think they are abit under the weather with a clash of moulting, redmites and intolerance! Drastic actions to be taken in the form of: chemical warfare with mite preparations for the chucks and houses; vitamins, poultry spice, oils for an immune boost and; new bigger housing in an effort to prevent the pecking/night time stresses.
Unfortunately this means, garden chess again 😦 One of our older sheds is to be converted into the new housing which means it needs emptying into a new shed, and two new bases laying! Out comes the cement mixer again…
Now another chicken injury! Barbara is now limping but for no apparent reason. Vet prescribes rest again as this seemed to work for Mavis, and the up-side is that Mavis gets a buddy in the now termed ‘nursery’ enclosure.
Big plans for this year!
Firstly, we have some new additions to introduce: Marnie and Bronte, our new kittens 🙂 who are ridiculously cute but also ridiculously naughty in the middle of the night!
The house is almost finished so we can concentrate more on the garden, fingers crossed. January starts with us putting up the new shed, ready to empty the ‘new’ chicken shed and weeding the ‘formal’ gdn in an attempt to plant all our bulbs as they are sprouting in their dry pots in the shed as its so mild at the moment. Hopefully the chucks will settle quickly into their new home and start laying again soon, esp if it stays warm.