I’m not going to lie the past six months have been tough, really tough. Living in a caravan over winter has not been fun. I’ll do an update at some point on what’s been going on the past few months but first let me introduce you to our latest additions.
Yesterday, J and I were undertaking the rather arduous, and somewhat late, task of planting our seed potatoes in our newly dug bed when I began discussing where we might have our ducks and fruit cages. J has been desperate to get ducks for quite a while and we’d been putting it off as firstly, we’re quite busy and secondly we’ve struggled to locate a drake. Ultimately we plan to breed our ducks and use them for meat so we will need both males and females in the correct ratios. Anyway yesterday we decided to give our local poultry breeder a call to see what she had in stock and she had just hatched seven ducklings of one of a suitable breed. She was going to call us back once she had sexed them (not the easiest things to do with ducklings unless you are a professional). We decided to go and see them later that day and before we knew it she had called back to say there were two male and five female. It kind of seemed like fate to have almost perfect ratios so we just jumped in the car, with C of of course, and headed straight there. And yes, you’ve guessed it, we bought them all.
The breed is called Silver Appleyard and they are good layers, about 180 eggs a year each, and grow to a good size for meat. So we’ve been spending the past day getting to know them. Finding out what on earth to do with day old ducklings has involved lots of internet searching but we think we’ve got a handle on the basics. They’ll stay inside in their brooder (large box with a heat lamp) for about three weeks and then slowly be introduced to their new home outside. Which we don’t have yet. But for now it’s basically making sure that they have food and water and keep warm. One of our boys is weaker than the others and we’ve had to give him special attention by hand feeding him. We’ll update on him soon if he makes it through the night. The others had their first bath today. They loved it but we only kept them in for a short while as they don’t have the oil needed for waterproofing themselves. We’ll try to let them have a little swim every day if possible.
It is now just over a year since we moved into the cottage and so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what we’ve managed to achieve in a year. Both J and I have moments when we just want to walk away from the cottage as there is so much to do and it can feel stifling at times. Sometimes it seems as though what we have to do is unsumountable and that we will never get to the end of it so I thought it would be quite cathartic to have a look back at how far we’ve already come to help gear us up for the next phase of our work. I had originally planned this as one post but having started to write it there were just way too many pictures for one post so I’m going to spread it across three or four weeks. So this week we have the orchard.
The orchard before:
The orchard after:
When we first moved in the trees in the orchard were looking a bit sorry for themselves and the fruit trees hadn’t been picked properly for years so weren’t fruiting that well. The big pile of rubbish next to the garage was the furniture that we cleared from the house, totally filled with woodworm or infested with mice. That went on the fire.
When we came to empty the solar (the building behind the pile of rubbish in the first picture above) it had a wasps nest inside and the floor collapsed so it had to come down too and onto the fire it went. The horse chestnut tree (centre of the second picture above) was diseased so has been removed and the stump is now a climbing frame for the chickens.
Where the pile of rubbish was now stands a concrete slab large enough to fit three sheds (due to arrive in the next few weeks) and there is a gravel drive leading up to it (excuse the chicken in the middle of the drive).
The massive composting pile of garden waste (picture three at the top) had to be removed and we had another fire or two. That took a long long time.
Now the far corner of the orchard is where I’m planning on building C a cafe/shop thing out of old pallets as its a nice shaded area. The rest of that cleared space is mainly occupied by the chickens, you can see the behind the fence of the photo below where I have a nice space for C’s cafe.
I mentioned earlier that the trees in the orchard needed some serious pruning. J has taken charge of this even though he really has very little knowledge on the subject. The two apple trees in the orchard had a number of lower branches pruned back although I confess that was mainly to make it easier to get the mower round as the branches hung very low but it was also quite overcrowded. The plum tree also had a bit of a prune too. This has given us much better quality fruit yields this year.
J has built two pens to store leaves and create leaf mound.
The pampas grass that was in the middle of the orchard has had to be hacked back a bit after the chickens starting using it as an alternative nest. That still needs some work doing to it.
There is obviously still a bit to go in the orchard. The trees will get another good prune soon and hopefully will keep improving as the years go by. The pampas grass needs either cutting back and tidying up or digging up. There are a number of damson trees which have grown up in the centre of the pampas which need removing as there are too many crowded into a small space. I need to create a nice shaded play area for C in the corner and build her a cafe/shop. We have another couple of trees to plant in the orchard, another plum and another apple, in line with the existing apple trees. The sheds have to be bought and assembled on the concrete slab and the edging to the driveway needs to be finished. That’s probably about it for the orchard for now although that may change in time. Not bad work for year 1 in the cottage. Next week I’ll have a look at the recreation area which is the area I’m probably most proud of. Be sure to follow us to make sure you don’t miss it.
So Jessie went into her crate and went to sleep herself last night whilst J and I were watching TV. We took advantage of that and after J took her outside for a wee, we shut her in and went up to bed. She didn’t cry out and seemed to have settled nicely. Now before we got Jessie, J and I agreed (or more rather I insisted) that any night disturbances were up to him. This was for many reasons; firstly, as J was the one who was so desperate for a dog; secondly, as I sleep with earplugs as I’m a light sleeper; and finally, because I did all the night shifts with C (to be fair to him, that was because she was breastfed and give him his due he did help with middle of the night poos if required). We’d been advised by the breeder not to go down to her in the night. She’s not been attended to in the night for a bit now with the litter and won’t need feeding in the night so she should be fine. Well, she’s understandably going to be a bit lonely in the night as she’s used to having her mum and fellow pups there, but she doesn’t need anything else.
Now according to J, Jessie woke up at 5:24am and cried for a bit, C also woke up and started to sing back at Jessie. They all dropped back off and when J got up at 7 there was a fair bit of mess in the cage. She had her breakfast and by the time C and I got up at about 7:40, J was still waiting outside for her to do her business. Today has mainly been spent constantly trying to predict when she needs the toilet and rushing outside with her. She was introduced to her first other dog (that is fine at the age as long as you’re sure the other dog has been vaccinated) and she played really nicely, if rather excitedly.
We’re following Kennel Club guidelines about introducing her to as many different types of people/animals/situations whilst she is still young. 16 weeks is considered by most as the cut off time when her big learning and developmental phase will have passed. This is referred to in most of the literature as socialisation. From our point of view, we want Jessie to be a family dog who is comfortable around people and animals and not only fits in with, but enhances our current lifestyle. This afternoon we have some more friends visiting and I’m hopefully going to get some more of our friends, with their toddlers, round next week as I think early introductions will benefit them all. First up though, J has just taken her to the vet for her vaccinations so C and I are going to take advantage and get the Duplo out.
So today was the big day. The day we collected our new puppy Jessie from the breeder. Our last morning dog free started well, the three of us sitting in the lounge watching The Secret Life of Pets (great movie by the way, highly recommend it) and drinking our coffees (well frothy milk for C but she calls it coffee). C was of course wearing the obligatory dress, this morning’s offering was a Belle dress from Beauty and the Beast. In my head tomorrow morning will be identical but with Jessie sitting next to C, in reality I think tomorrow morning will be spent clearing up dog mess and doubting our decision after night of being kept awake from dog whining. We made the decision for J to collect Jessie by himself so that if she was distressed in the car C didn’t have to see it and could have a positive first interaction in her own home. J was due to pick her up at 2pm, although as there was horrendous traffic on the M5 he didn’t end up getting back to us until just after 4pm.
The plan, which thankfully we managed to execute, was for him to carry her straight from the car to her pee post in the garden for some private time and then lead her into the house through the living room door. There C and I would be waiting to give her cuddles and offer her toys. As soon as C saw her she was ridiculously excited and wanted to hold her lead and give her a walk (she has been ‘walking’ her hobbyhorse for the past couple of weeks with the lead around the living room). Although both were cautious at first C was soon stroking Jessie and Jessie was trying to play with C. We’re trying to crate train Jessie from the start so we are locking her in there when we have our meals, we don’t want a dog who begs at the table. J had watched her whilst I prepped our tea (very lazy tea of fish fingers, potato waffles and sweet corn so I could focus on Jessie too). When I was serving up J put Jessie in her crate and she whined for pretty much the whole of our dinner, which C didn’t like as she kept asking why Jessie was crying. You have to make sure that she stops whining before you go in so she doesn’t think that if she keeps doing it you will come back.
She was pleased to see us when she was let out, although it has made me anxious for how she will be tonight. Soon it was time for her dinner; she’s currently on three meals a day, 7am, noon and 6pm with each feed of 55g. Thankfully she loves her food. I insisted we took her immediately outside. J stayed outside with her for a bit but she did nothing so he brought her back in. A couple of minutes later she started sniffing around and circling, clearly getting ready. I picked her up and managed to get most of it on the puppy pad. Thankfully J was to hand to clean up. As C has now gone to bed, J and I are watching a film and Jessie is having a snooze in her crate, door open, with J lying next to her. This is the type of evening we’d envisaged having with her. Though i am dreading tonight. I’ll update tomorrow with how it goes.