The new additions are settling in

An early Easter present was the arrival of the three Oxford Sandy and Black (OSB) weaners and they’ve settled in well so it’s time for a formal introduction.

If I’m honest it was only supposed to be 2 weaners originally but I was “unsupervised” when I went to pick them up and couldn’t resist the extra one! I liked the idea of keeping the 3 brothers together

We had decided to try a different breed so that we can compare our experiences and the resulting meat with the first 2 Tamworths last year. It will be interesting to see if keeping 3 boys is different from the 2 girls last year but I’m not expecting too many differences between the breeds.

The one immediately noticable difference is that OSB pigs have “lop ears” so it helps to talk gently when approaching them. They can’t see quite as well with their ears in the way whereas the Tamworth has “pricked ears” so they can easily see you coming.

We have no plans to officially name them since they’re ultimately heading for the freezer but it always helps to have some means of identifying each individual animal. As luck would have it I spotted a simple way to tell them apart by looking at their back legs and noting the black colouring.

Let me introduce them and you’ll see what I mean…

Two Legs
Two Legs


Filling the raised beds

With the good weather over the last few days the first batches of seedlings have made some really good progress. However, there is due to be a little less sun and a little more rain from tomorrow so it seemed that today was a good time to plant some of them out in the raised beds.


I spent most of last summer learning the hard way about the damage that cabbage white caterpillars can inflict and as a result this year my preparations have been more thorough. A large roll of butterfly netting has been ready and waiting in the potting shed until the seedlings in the cold frame were ready!

Once the two types of cabbage seedlings had been planted out it was on with the netting and I’ll be keeping a close eye on things, trying to make sure nothing gets through. I even have a few seedlings of each variety left over so if I can find some space I can plant those to feed to the pigs.

Cabbages planted and netted
Cabbages planted and netted


Some carrot seeds were planted directly into the raised bed recently and now the seedlings from an earlier planting have been planted as well. This fills up that specific raised bed with the onions that were planted at the end of last year.

There has been no sign of life yet from the directly sown seeds and the seedlings sown indoors are only just big enough to plant out. Luckily I found out after moving here last year that carrots seem to do well so I have high hopes for a good harvest.

Carrots and Onions
Carrots and Onions

Feeding time

At 7am on a beautiful sunny morning I set off on the newly extended round of feeding.

First up and most vocal was the neighbours tups. Another 9 of them arrived yesterday to make it 11 in total and all were very pleased to see me. In some cases they were a little too eager to get at the food but I managed to escape unscathed.

Heads in the trough
Heads in the trough

Next it was the chickens and they were less keen to emerge. Eventually a few emerged to peck at the food I’d delivered and appear in this picture – maybe the others were having a bad hair day?

Not many early risers here
Not many early risers here

Finally it was the turn of the newly arrived pigs but when I got to their area in the woods there was no sign of them. A quick check in their ark showed why – They had decided to have a lie in after the stress of moving house yesterday!

Breakfast? Maybe later...
Breakfast? Maybe later…

A change of scene

After a month or more of grazing the limited grass in a nearby paddock, today seemed a good time to move our guests to a new spot. We’re only looking after the neighbours tups while he is busy with lambing but it’s been interesting to see them at such close quarters.

Somewhere with an untouched lush growth of grass was the order of the day and not hard to achieve as it’s only 100 yards away from their previous home for the last few weeks.

I’m sure they’ll love the fresh grass on offer but I’m doubt whether they will fully appreciate the glorious view of a North Pennines valley in spring time as well!

Fresh grass and a lovely view
Fresh grass and a lovely view

Finishing off the raised beds

At last, construction of the new raised bed area can be considered complete! The final task of shifting 4 tonnes of slate chippings with a spade and wheelbarrow is finished. It took a little longer than I had originally expected but the results are exactly what I wanted.

The pressure is now on to make sure the veg grows in nice neat lines and nothing spoils the arrangement…

Raised beds - all done!
Raised beds – all done!

For the moment the soft fruit bushes are taking up a raised bed on their own but they will probably not be there forever. Another raised bed is already filled with garlic and onion sets that were planted last year and they seem to be doing well.

The over spill of onions made a couple of rows in another raised bed and these have been joined by a quick row of carrots – the first sown direct outside. Hopefully this has been timed right to fit in with an earlier sowing using root trainers (as a test) so that the harvest can be spread out a little. It also means that all space in this bed has been allocated.

Onions and carrots
Onions and carrots

Although there’s not much to show for it yet, this bed has the first beetroot sowing and now a row of leeks sown direct as well. There is a batch of leeks that were sown in pots earlier and they are coming along nicely so this bed is also pretty much allocated as well.

Beetroot and leeks
Beetroot and leeks

That leaves just the last raised bed to be filled which is completely empty at the moment but the plan is to use that for parsnips and swede. Last years attempts at parsnips were planted far too late in the year after out house move so nothing came of them. I’ve never tried growing swede before but it’s good to try new things and I’ll be interested to see how that goes!

Progress report

I realise that it’s been some time since the last blog update. This is despite a temporary and unplanned change in my employment status which, as it happens, came at a very good time with so much to do.

Luckily right now it’s a blustery, showery Sunday afternoon so I can happily come inside for a change without feeling like I am neglecting the outside jobs!

Raised beds

After finally taking delivery of the wood for the path edges there has been some further progress with the remaining work to finish off the new beds.The edging is now in place all around the outside so the paths can be properly completed as soon as the weather allows.

Around half of the slate chippings have been wheelbarrowed in and it’s starting to take shape but there is just the small matter of shovelling the other 2 tonnes. Weather permitting that will be tackled this week so all the work is completed before any more planting takes place in the raised beds.

Seed sowing

I have sown a range of seeds at irregular intervals since mid-March with the earliest seeds kept in the loft room which should be a fairly warm place to encourage germination. Today it was the turn of a few dwarf French Beans to get sown into pots and more will follow at a suitable interval to prolong the crop I hope.

So far the cabbages, carrots and leeks are all doing well having survived the move outside to the cold frame. The sweetcorn is just getting going although the germination rate is a little disappointing. Those will have to stay indoors for a while longer I think – this is the North Pennines after all!

Another recent addition to the seed and cutting area was a simple strawberry pallet as a trial. A simple use for a pallet but if it works then I intend to have a go at the better pallet planter on the Lovely Greens blog at some point in the future.

Wood clearance

With the eager assistance of some weekend visitors another section of the woods has been cleared and the larger trunks or branches stored away under cover for next years firewood. The job would have taken a lot longer without the help and if I’m honest might not have been started until much later in the year!

The chainsaw and log splitter are being deployed at regular intervals to work through the pile whenever time allows.

Recent Photo Gallery

Given such a delay in updates I think a gallery of photos is needed to give a better overview of the general progress on all fronts.