Life in the Countryside · Vegetable growing

Potatoes in bags

So this year we have decided to grow our potatoes in grow bags. There are several reasons for this. Partly this is down to our potatoes from last year. Across the UK last year was quite poor conditions for potato growth, lots of wet weather at the wrong kind of time ended up with blight and slugs being more common than usual. We didn’t experience any blight but we did have a fair amount of our crop hit by slugs. It was a real disappointment to dig up our lovely harvest and find it had been damaged. We also had our potatoes in the field last year and we trialled using lazy beds which were a lot of work to set up and I don’t think they necessarily gave us the best crops. This year a couple of things are different. We now have the dog and the dog kennel up in the field. We also will be living up there in the not too distant future in our caravan as the work is completed. The area we used last year has grown over a fair bit as we kind of neglected it a bit (oops). So we decided to grow our potatoes in bags this year. Growing potatoes in bags is a great way for anyone to start growing some of their own veggies as it requires very little outside space, it could even be done on a balcony, and requires very little skill. In a previous house of ours we had grown potatoes in bags one year so we still had some bags left over but they can be bought from most garden centres or online. I’m even planning on using some of our spare recycling bags this year for our larger main crop varieties.

I always like to chit my seed potatoes, although you don’t really need to chit main crop varieties but as I buy all my seed potatoes at the same time it makes sense to. For chitting potatoes all you require is an egg box or two. Make sure that the side of the potato with the most eyes is facing upmost and leave them to sit in a warm dark place. Chitting just helps to give the seed potatoes a head start. Make sure before you start that you roll down the sides of the grow bag for ease of planting and for more sun exposure, we will roll them up again when we earth up the potatoes. For planting potatoes into bags I tend to go for 4 to 5 inches of a mixture of compost and well rotten manure and then water them and leave for 10-15 minutes or so to let it drain downwards. Then place three seed potatoes with the largest chits pointing upwards (as shown below). There are variations in the sizes of grow bags so if the label suggests to include more or less then go with that. Cover the potatoes with more compost (say three or four inches) and then lightly water again. As there have been a fair number of cold snaps (lots of snow) this year, when I first planted our early potatoes I kept them in the greenhouse to make sure they got off to a good start. If you don’t have a greenhouse then you could keep them indoors until all sign of frost has passed or just don’t plant until a bit later.

In a couple of weeks you should see the first signs of growth. Don’t get over excited and start earthing up yet, I like to wait until I have a good four or five inches of growth first time so I can be sure that they’re well established. Then cover them with compost until the tops of the plants are only just showing. Repeat as often as you can until the bags are full and then just wait. Below are our Red Duke of York earlies. The three bags on the left we planted first and are just about to have their final earthing up, the two bags on the right were planted a couple of weeks later and are due their first earthing up. I’ll update more about how to know when potatoes are ready nearer to the time.

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Fruit growing · Life in the Countryside · Vegetable growing

Tomato bed

So our greenhouse has one side sectioned off to be used as a growing bed. This week one of my jobs was to prepare the bed ready for our tomatoes. As a family it is surprising how many tomatoes we actually use in various forms. Both C and I enjoy eating cherry tomatoes and we also use raw tomatoes in salads (I love a good capers salad). I use tomato as a base in my cooking a lot (my husband would say too much) and we also like to indulge in the odd sun dried tomato. In previous years we have grown cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets and the taste compared to shop bought varieties was incredible, so much so that J even liked them. So we’re really excited about growing so many more varieties of our own tomatoes this year. We’ve already planted some seeds and they have began to grow (with varying success) so this week I got our beds ready for when they are big enough to be transplanted out.

Now the bed down the side of the greenhouse is a really good size and was one of the reasons that we chose this particular greenhouse. We’ve filled the base of the bed with gravel. This apparently is good for helping with watering as you water the gravel and it keeps moisture in the greenhouse? I’m not really sure exactly but J has done his research and says it does. Then on top of this we have space for six grow bags, and the requisite black plastic trays underneath them. The at the end there is still just about space for our two citrus trees. Citrus trees? Yup, we have two citrus trees, one orange (I think it’s actually a mandarine to be exact) and one lime. They’re only little, although I did repot them recently, but they should hopefully give us a couple of fruits this year. They’re just starting to show new Spring growth as you can see below.

We mainly wanted the orange tree as we like to eat oranges, and, I’m not going to lie, the lime tree is mainly for gin and tonics. They will be alright to go outside in warmer weather, if we ever get any, but they will need to spend the colder months inside.

Anyhow, back to the tomatoes. So the bed is all set up, we do have everything ready for when the tomatoes need support but we’ll wait to add them as required. We have 18 slots to fill grow bag wise now and I’ve planted numerous seeds, of a number of different varieties, which are slowly starting to show promise. I’ve also planted a couple of pepper seeds and I’ll probably dedicate one grow bag to these. The flowers you can see are little C’s selection from the garden centre a few weeks ago. Like her daddy she really loves growing flowers and also has some in her bedroom, she loves stroking the petals.

Next to the flowers is our greenhouse heater which gives it an extra boost when it gets particularly chilly, which it has a lot in recent weeks! I’ve also given the greenhouse a good old tidy as you can probably tell. We have our little bistro set of table and chairs in the greenhouse at the moment and it fits quite nicely over the power supply stand. There is a lovely long work bench down the opposite side to the tomato bed which is now fairly clear and stores various paraphernalia at either end. Our seedlings are currently in the various propagators you can see. The purple thing is C’s fairy garden in case you were wondering.

Our tools are currently laying flat underneath the workbench. Not necessarily a permanent location for them yet but one which suits them for now. I have a lovely folding tray table at the very back which is useful both inside and outside, mainly for holding cups of tea at the moment but hopefully more when the weather gets a bit better. C has her own supply of gardening bits as you can see at the bottom right of the picture including her Peter Rabbit gardening apron which I made for her recently. I have plans for one for myself, although probably not with the same fabric.

So this has been a rather distracted post I know, so I shall end by bringing it back to tomatoes. Here are some of my tomato seedlings when they finally appeared. Thankfully they have grown a little bit more since this photo.

Craft · Life in the Countryside

Cabin update

So the cabin has had a few new additions since I last wrote about it. For my Christmas I received a mannequin so that I could get into dressmaking a bit more. It has proved to be a most valuable addition as my measurements usually don’t clearly fit into one particular size (in fact on one pattern my waist and bust were three sizes apart).

It is brilliant for putting partly constructed items on to check and adjust the fit and sits really nicely in the corner of my room. It generally has several partially constructed items draped across it.

I’ve also purchased some lamps so that when I’m in the cabin on an evening the light is a bit softer, especially if I’m sitting in my chair reading. I looked around for ages to find three matching lamps that I was happy with. I wanted one tall lamp for behind my chair and a small ones for two of the other corners of the room. In the end I found what I was looking for in B and Q.

However, the most exciting new addition to the cabin is my overlocker. For a while now my husband has been asking me if I want a new sewing machine. My machine was a gift of sorts from a friend of my father-in-laws who didn’t really use it. It’s a good few years old now but it is such a good quality machine and it does everything I could possibly want from it so I see no reason to upgrade it. So instead of a new machine I asked for an overlocker. An overlocker is a great machine for giving your seams a professional finish and it also enables you to stitch with more stretchy material. I’ll probably do another post in the future about overlocker but for now here is a picture of my fabulous new addition.

The rest of the cabin is pretty much as was. It is constantly in need of a tidy up, I mean if I have free time to sew then why would I want to spend it tidying? What I have found though is that we’re using it a lot more now as a family. If I go down to sew of an evening then J will often pop down for a cup of coffee and will sit it my chair chatting whilst I sew. I’ll often pop down there for an hour or so with C during the day as she has some toys kept down there as is always exciting for her to re-discover toys. C has become really fascinated with my sewing now, partially as I’ve made a few items for her recently which she loves so she’s really loved watching me create them. She’s also wanted to help several times. As any mum knows, toddler help is the least helpful kind of help. She’s “helped” me organise my fabrics, by pulling them onto the floor and using them as blankets for her and her toys. She has wanted to sew and has ended up sitting on my lap and guiding a piece of material through the machine using one of the fancy embroidery stitches. No doubt before long she’ll be wanting to make her own items which will come with it’s own challenges I’m sure. I’ll share soon some of my recent makes that I’m most proud of and some of my planned projects.

Life in the Countryside · Parenting

Forest school

Now this is a bit of a bizarre update as it has nothing to do with the cottage garden but it is something which is playing an increasing part in our lives and I think is worth talking about. For those of you that don’t know I work in a primary school and my daughter attends a nursery nearby. Both offer forest school as part of their provisions. What is forest school I hear you ask? Is it the latest parenting trend? We didn’t have forest school back when I was at school, why do we have it now? Well the truth is, in my opinion, that childhood has changed somewhat over the past few years. I worked in a secondary school for a number of years and over that time I noticed that children were becoming increasingly isolated from each other. For boys in particular this was a problem. They would spend hours and hours every day in their bedrooms playing computer games or on their phones and iPads. Alone. Inside. Not engaging with anyone else apart from online. Forest school is basically taking children outside (ideally to a forest of course) and re-introducing them to nature. Frequently there is a fire and a fire circle of logs surrounding it forming the centre of the ‘camp’. Fire based activities tend to include gathering logs (the lighting of the fire tends to be left to an adult) and various forms of cooking. I’ve seen popcorn popped (using two metal sieves attached together at the end of a long pole to hold it over the fire), marshmallows toasted on sticks as well as soup and pasta cooked in a more traditional way.

A common feature of a forest school is a mud kitchen. Now I don’t really remember having much of a play kitchen when I was younger, but that could be old age catching up with me, but we definitely did lots of making potions in the garden. A mud kitchen can take various forms. It can be as simple as some pots and utensils that children can play with or as fancy as a proper wooden outdoor kitchen. Mud kitchens have become very trendy at the moment with various companies charging not insignificant amounts of money for high end personalised ones. Children of all ages seem to really love them and a quick search on Pinterest will bring up a vast array of homemade versions. I have ambitions to create a covered one for C in our garden this summer out of pallets but haven’t finalised a design yet. I’m looking at putting it into the corner of our orchard and so far have out a base of four pallets down which I’m planning to secure together. The walls will pretty much be pallets stood on edge with some shaping and a window cut in maybe. Then I’m going to use the corrugated iron for which currently tops our coal shed as a roof. Ideally I’d like to create a kitchen bench type thing inside using our current kitchen sink and making a hob of some kind. Or at least thats the plan. I’ll start working on it sometime when the evenings start getting lighter so watch this space.

I can’t put up any photos up from my forest school experiences for child protection issues so I’ve added some of my random favourites in just to add a little colour. Forest school at a nursery level involves lot more crafty activities. Some of the ones I’ve seen include:

  • Taping a piece of paper onto a tree and using crayons to do bark rubbings.
  • Painting using mud as the paint.
  • Making a bird feeder by threading cheerios or similar onto a pipe cleaner (great for those fine motor skills too).
  • Using circles of cardboard and strips of sellotape across it to make a ‘stained glass window’. Stick leaves and twigs and other things found in nature onto the sellotape then backing it with more sellotape.
  • Using sticks to draw shapes in the mud.
  • Making faces and collages using twigs, leaves and other things found in nature.

The older children love building dens with ropes and tarpaulin and creating pretend battles. I’ve also seen children pretending to be dogs chasing each other and children digging for bugs and building homes for worms. What really stands out to me though is that forest school seems to be a place where children can just be children. Away from technology and the pressures of our society, children really relish the chance to just be children. The chance to let their imaginations take hold. Whilst it is amazing to see and be a part of, it saddens me. The fact that such activities don’t exist as part of childrens lives unless we specifically arrange it is a pity. Seeing how some children struggle to play outside without the structure we often give them just reinforces to me how much we need to keep making sure kids stay as kids for as long as they can. That they don’t miss out on being outside and enjoying the wonder that is nature. That’s my rant over. I promise my next post will update you more on what the cottage garden trio have been up to.

chickens · Dog · Life in the Countryside · Parenting

Snow days

It’s been pretty hard to avoid the fact that the UK has been hit by a storm of pretty mammoth proportions recently. All three of us had a snow day on Friday even though J did have to work from home. We’d had a bit of snow so far this winter so C and Jessie had experienced it a bit but this weekend it really came down hard. There is really something quite magical about the snow and the effect that it has on puppies and children. Even though it makes things so much harder it is just quite beautiful. That said I know that the storm has brought great tragedy and difficulty to many people so we are very lucky to have been able to enjoy its beauty.

This was the scene on Thursday night when I insisted that J and I don our wellies and walk out to the field just to look at its beauty. Jessie has absolutely adored the snow and would have spent all day out there had we let her. She has sniffed and dug and bounded all over. The funniest thing has been throwing snowballs and her trying to fetch them back.

On first seeing the snow C did ask “Can we open our presents now?” Which was pretty adorable and made me realise how much toddlers associate snow with Christmas rather than winter. I guess so many Christmas films show snow in them that the association is inevitable. The first thing C wanted to do was throw snowballs at daddy (which I strongly encouraged) and then build a snowman. It turns out that getting a toddler to build a snowman with a dog’s help isn’t as easy as you think but our garden is now proudly home to two snowmen (largely through the efforts of J but I did help).

C was so excited about putting the coal for the eyes, although we were lacking a carrot for a nose as I had just used the last of them for our roast dinner so we had to adapt with extra coal and an apple. I’ll be interested to see how long they last and I think C will be quite sad when they melt. I themed our Christmas Eve hamper this year on Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’ and when she watched the film she was really upset when the snowman melted.

I think the highlight of our snow endeavours for C was sledging. We already had a sledge in one of the sheds which J’s dad have over-excitedly bought a year ago when they said it was going to be a bit cold (no snow appeared that time). We don’t have any hills in the garden so C had to settle with being pulled around the field, which she adored.

In fact to get her back inside we had to bribe her with the promise of hot chocolate with marshmallows. She later described her favourite part of the day as being sledging. Being ‘trapped’ at home was actually quite nice in many respects. We had milk in and used the bread maker to keep ourselves stocked up with fresh bread. I baked a lovely coconut and raspberry sponge which was lovely still warm from the oven and even better the next day with custard. I had been running the freezer down in preparation for the big move so it wasn’t quite as well stocked as usual. However, we were still able to rustle up some lovely meals; roast dinner, egg and chips, beef bourguignon and new potatoes, Boursin topped ciabatta pizza and of course porridge or eggs and toast for breakfast. It has really reinforced to me the importance of having a well stocked freezer as a family. When we have the work done my aim is to have a large American fridge/freezer in the kitchen and two additional freezers in the sheds. And maybe a chest freezer too if we start producing our own meat.

I’m not sure how our veggies in the raised beds will have faired with the snow. We have strawberries and asparagus in there as permanent additions and our leeks which we planted back in October half term still in a bed too. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the big thaw to see how they have coped.

The fire has proved invaluable in this weather. Some of our water pipes did freeze inside the house due to lack of heat but once we put all our electric radiators on they thawed by Friday morning. We’ve actually been quite toasty.

The chickens have struggled in the weather and we have done what we can do for them but until it thaws properly it will be a bit touch and go for them. Their eglu is insulated and designed to withstand snow so they are fine in there but they really didn’t like coming out of it so we moved their water and food temporarily into their coop and are just going to have to wait it out and see how they do. We’ve still had at least three eggs everyday so they can’t be doing that badly but I’m prepared for the fact that we may lose a couple. Fingers crossed though.

Life in the Countryside · The cottage

A little heat to warm us up

So when we moved into the cottage it had a traditional open fire. A very welcome feature given that the cottage has no central heating. When we first moved in we loved the novelty of having a fire and quite enjoyed laying it and sitting by the fire on a lazy Sunday afternoon. However, last winter was miserable. Really miserable. There is a big difference in lighting a first because you choose to and lighting one because you have to. Getting home from work when it’s dark and having to clear out and re-lay and light a fire when you have a toddler demanding your attention is not an enjoyable chore. We do have some electric radiators around the house in the bedrooms etc but they don’t really warm the downstairs as well as a fire does. Not only that but having a massive hole in your living room, even in the form of a chimney, does make it a bit chilly.

The long term plan had always been to add in a log burner when we did the big works on the cottage but as we have found winters so grim in the cottage we decided to get the burner installed in November so we could get some benefit from it this year. Though I really think it was my husbands way of trying to make me less grumpy as I tended to be the one having to deal with the fire as I generally arrive home first. So we enlisted a professional to rip out the old fireplace, open it up to the original size (which is pretty hard to determine beforehand) and then (a week or so later) fit a log burner. Now we were really lucky to get some great advice about burners. Most people tend to live by the mantra of bigger is better but when it comes to log burners than that isn’t true. It is really important to size your burner correctly for the size of room. If it’s too large then the burner will overheat the room or you’ll end up using it inefficiently and it’ll cost more in fuel. A burner should be kept at a fairly even temperature in order to work efficiently. Too hot and it can damage the components or flue. Too cold and it will go out and just not keep you warm. A burner can be run for several consecutive days if used properly it just needs a bit of tended to to keep it ticking over.

Anyhow I’ve become distracted talking about burners. As it turned out once the fire was ripped out we had a lovely sized space to work with and after much research J purchased an AGA multifuel burner to fill it. It has proven to be a great little burner and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It fact since installing it we have discovered that another of our friends has the same one and also loves it. We’ve had the stone at the back re-pointed but we will get the sides re-plastered when we get the major cottage work done. It has really changed the way we look at the room and it seems so much more open now. And honestly it has really improved our lives. It took a couple of days to get used to how to use it properly but now we shut it down every night and it keeps burning slowly through the night releasing minimal heat (but still some heat nonetheless). Then every morning we just open it up, wait for it to warm back up and then add more fuel. It feels so much safer leaving it burning when we are asleep or out and it is so much more efficient with fuel. Not only that but cleaning and maintaining it is so easy. It definitely provides more heat per unit of fuel than the open fire did and leaves behind far less ash. And as the chimney is now covered it feels like there is less heat escaping from the room. The surround still looks very messy but I still love it and J loves being able to brew coffee on top of it.

Life in the Countryside

I’m back…

Now I know it has been a while since I’ve written. A long while. But something today has made me decide to start writing again. What happened to make me stop? Well a combination of things really; lack of motivation, lack of things to write about, the rubbish winter weather, but mainly life just got in the way. Now that doesn’t mean that life has got any less hectic now, in fact with the big build scheduled to start in the next few months and the Spring planting season starting hopefully soon (that is if the latest big storm doesn’t bring the country to the standstill that the news would have us believe). Now today I was off work as C was sick. She’d been up in the night so I was tired from getting up with her and generally pretty grouchy. (She’s fine by the way, I suspect it was something she ate). J had walked Jessie this morning and put her in the kennel (I don’t think I’ve written about this yet so will do a dog update soon) so that I could give all my focus to C. By early afternoon C wasn’t being ill anymore and had managed to hold down food and water. We had also watched Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs twice and she was keen to watch it again whereas I wanted to do anything but that, so I left her snuggled up watching TV for five minutes and headed up to the field to collect Jessie from the kennel.

Whilst up there I checked on the girls as there water has tended to get frozen over and collected the eggs. We’re back on five a day now after a long spell of Anna not laying. To be honest she did look like she was going to die as she lost a lot of feathers and looked rather scrawny but she’s just about back to normal now. We still have one other non-layer since the end of last summer but we have no idea who it is (one of the three normal coloured layers) so are just keeping an eye out to try and guess who that one is.

Anyhow, whenever I collect Jessie from the kennel after work I normally use the ball thrower and we spend ten minutes or so playing fetch in the field. So inevitably now whenever I get her she wants to play fetch. So we did a bit of fetch and wandered down to the greenhouse to check it out as we did so. Now the greenhouse is one of my new favourite places to be at the cottage. It has electric to it so we have a heater and a light there which provides a welcome shelter from the bitter cold outside. It has our little bistro chairs and tables set in so you can sit down and just enjoy the views of the garden. We have started spending the odd hour or so down there having a cup of tea and pottering.

It was pottering in the greenhouse today that made me decide to write again. Just less than two weeks ago C and I planted some tomato seedlings. And today to my delight I spotted the first few shoots appearing. Such a simple thing but something that reminded me why we’re putting so much time, money and effort into this place. We want to produce lots of our own food. We want to have a hobby that we can do as a family and that we can always learn from. We want our daughter to grow up running around outside instead of sat glued to her mobile phone. We want to be a happy trio. And today these little seedlings reminded me of that.

Life in the Countryside

A Month off blogging

So at the beginning of October it was both my and my daughter’s birthday. Then we were away for the weekend and life just got in the way for five minutes. I knew I hadn’t blogged for a couple of weeks although I’d started to write a couple of posts but never finished them so I decided instead of trying to catch up that I would have a month off blogging. I did post the odd picture on instagram but I stayed away from my blog. And do you know what? It did me the world of good. Let me explain what I mean. I started my blog back in April for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to have somewhere to record the work we were doing in our cottage as I had been taking loads of photos but not really actually doing anything with them apart from just keeping them on my phone. My second reason was as a way to share with friends and family who don’t live nearby what we were up to. I found I was becoming a bit of a bore with updates every time I saw or spoke to people. I’ve really enjoyed writing on my blog but it had sometimes got to the point that I was feeling every time we did something I had to immediately write up about it. Which is a bit silly really as the blog was supposed to be enjoyable and not a burden. So instead I’m going to try and write once or twice a week and not try and talk about everything we do. But first, here’s a quick summary of what we’ve been up to this past month.

Birthdays

Both C and I had our birthdays, she was three and I was 32 (again, I decided that I liked the age 32 so have decided to stay there for a while). C was so much more aware this year about her birthday and was ridiculously excited in the build up to it. Her actual birthday was on a Tuesday and she had her party the Saturday before which actually worked really well as it meant we could spread out the present opening. And boy she really got excited about presents this year. And I have to confess that I did too as she’s reached the age of Playmobil and Sylvanian families and Disney princesses, all the toys that I remember fondly from my childhood. As her party was a pottery painting party I did a multi-coloured layer cake covered in pink icing. I’ve started writing a post about it but for now here’s a sneak preview.


Sheds

We are now the proud owners of three sheds which fit nicely onto our concrete slab next to the garage. Currently they are fairly empty but the plan is that when we do our big house rennovation next year we will use them to store our house contents in. Though they may not be to everyone’s taste as they are plastic, they suit us perfectly as they need no maintenance at all.


The caravan

So we’ve spent our first weekend away in the caravan and I have to say we have, thankfully, made the right choice. It was lovely to have all our stuff already packed in it, with food in the fridge and cupboards ready for the weekend. Although I played no part in the actual hooking up of the van once we arrived at the campsite (that was all J’s role) it was a relatively quick process and it really felt like a home from home. I’m not naive enough to think that it’ll be a breeze living in it, but I think it will be manageable with the added bonus of having a take along holiday home when the house work is done. 


The animals

We have the sheep back in the field and they are living in relative harmony with the chickens (although I think that’s mainly down to the electric fence). We do have one of the chickens currently not laying but as it’s one of the ‘normal coloured’ egg layers then we don’t know which one it is and we don’t really know what to do about it. They all seem fairly healthy so we’re just letting them get on with things as normal and are hoping that it resolves itself in time. Jessie is getting on fairly well with the other animals. That it she doesn’t try to chase them too much although she has been very curious about the sheep. She’s going through a phase of wanting to chew everything as she’s losing her baby teeth (we haven’t found any yet but I think she’s eating them) and is a right old scamp when it comes to helping in the garden – she loves racing around the recreation area and jumping in the raised beds. 


Holiday

We have just come back from a week away in Rhodes, our first time going away in October half term, and it was just what we needed. We stayed at an all inclusive resort on the south of the island in a lovely suite with a private pool and were blessed with weather that was very warm but not too hot and we all had a relaxing time. I’ll do a write up soon about our trip and suggestions for anyone thinking about visiting Rhodes but for now here are some sneaky pictures.


There are lots of other things that have happened over the last month which I’ve probably forgotten, but for now that’s it. The cottage garden trio are still here and still surviving life in the countryside slowly working on creating our dream family home.

Life in the Countryside · Raised beds · Recreation area · Vegetable growing

Cutting the asparagus back

So our asparagus crowns went in in April and for the first year you are supposed to not harvest them at all and let the foliage grow wild so that the crowns can really develop and establish. It was lovely to see the spears appear from the ground but as they grew into foliage the bed looked a bit messy.


So when it comes to Autumn and the foliage starts to turn brown and die back you can cut the stems back to about one inch above the ground and them mulch the bed. 


The bed now looks so much neater and hopefully we will have a good crop next year. One of the crowns does look a little weaker than the others but fingers crossed it will still produce well. It may seem a pain to have to not harvest it in the first year, but as crowns can typically last for 20 years, leaving one years worth of harvest in order to have 20 years of excellent harvest seems a small sacrifice to make. Hopefully it will pay off next year. 

chickens · Life in the Countryside · The field

Moving the chickens

So after we had the hedges and the grass all cut back recently we decided to move the chickens out of the orchard and into the field. There were a couple of reasons behind this. Firstly the grass in the orchard needs some time to recover from the girls pecking at it and creating dust baths so we’re going to reseed it and give it a bit of tlc. Secondly, it was a right pain trying to mow around the chicken pen as there wasn’t really enough space to move the electric fence easily so you had to mow a bit, then move it, then mow a bit then move it etc. If they are in the field then we can just mow half the field, move them permanently and then mow the rest. Thirdly, we were actually missing having the orchard as a place to spend time in. We really liked the orchard and had a couple of barbecues there last summer and wanted to get back to it being more of a social area to spend time in as a family. So our plan was simple, move their Eglu and then remove the fence and herd them into the field. We figured that the chickens would follow their home as it moved. By gosh we were wrong. So first we moved the Eglu, the chickens were mildly interested in what we were doing but mainly focused on pecking at the area where the Eglu had once stood. C and I tried to bribe them to come out of the gate in their fence using meal worms. No luck. So we started taking down the fence, again they showed a mild interest in what we were doing but then just decided to explore the rest of the orchard. 


So my father in law began to mow the orchard to even up the grass where the fence had been removed. Admittedly they did move away from the mower, but only a little bit and still stayed determinedly in the orchard. By now they were getting a bit more confident and were exploring the full reach of the orchard, but still stopping short when it came to moving towards the field. Now we had kept Jessie inside whilst we did this as we thought she’d be a bit of a hindrance (I did want to keep C away too as she was equally a hindrance but you can’t really lock a toddler in a cage) but we then thought we could use her to help encourage the chickens into the field. She has only seen the chickens from behind the electric fence before and so we figured she would relish the idea of chasing them. If only we could manage to get her to chase them in the right direction. The result…she had a mild interest in the chickens but was more interested in exploring the orchard. We tried leaving them in the hope they would go by themselves but we were worried about them not managing to get home before it got dark and we know there are foxes about (hence the electric fence). Eventually we used all of our resources (me, my husband, my father in law, the dog and some netting) to try to trap one or two at a time so we could then carry them to the field. I don’t have any photos of this because I didn’t have a free hand to take photos! We managed to get five up there but Dorothy (remember her, the elusive let’s hide our eggs chicken) decided to hide in the hedge between the orchard and the field (which she couldn’t get through because of the fence). We ended up leaving her and coming back a couple of times and we eventually managed to pick her up and get her there but it was hard work. This is their new home in the field.


They seem to have settled in quite nicely. Once they’ve been there for a couple of weeks then we’ll give them the chance to free range even further into the field.