Keeping the rabbits out

There’s never enough time for all the possible jobs on our smallholding so there’s an element of prioritising the available time. However, growing and eating some of our own produce will always be a high priority for me.

The growing season starts a little later in the year for us as demonstrated by the last growing update that was posted in April and featured very little plant growth. I still enjoy growing some fresh, healthy food from just a few small seeds though and maybe one day when I have more spare time I’ll advance to a greenhouse or polytunnel as well.

It can be tricky to keep on top of the weeding, watering and general care along with all the other jobs – especially in the summer months. This is made even harder if the rabbits are happily sneaking in to the raised beds whenever they want.

Good growth from the dwarf beans and swedes

For the moment we have a combination of green, plastic coated wire fencing in place with added chicken wire because the baby rabbits kept squeezing through the small holes.

This seems to have been working well recently, especially now that I’ve started regular detailed examinations and made minor repairs as needed. Earlier this year there was a major set back by about 2-3 weeks after one or more intruders nibbled the tops off just about everything.

Eventually I must get around to replace this ramshackle fencing with something more presentable but for the moment it’s just important that the one task is handled properly – keeping my veg safe from the rabbits!

Nice straight lines for chard, parsnips, courgettes, leeks, dwarf beans and onions

The raised beds are really starting to come good now after the additions from our compost bins, some well rotted leaves from a couple of years ago and also the ash from our biomass pellet boiler every month or so.

Mixed results from the carrots and leeks

With just one bed (carrots and leeks) giving me cause for concern at this stage, I have high hopes for an ever increasing harvest in the coming weeks.

So far we’ve only had some chard (very nice as always) but I’m hoping for some decent small carrots when I get around to thinning those out.

First courgette on the way

The first few courgettes are always exciting of course but I also remember that they are soon followed by a glut despite my best efforts at succession sowing.

Some beetroot seedlings doing well

While I’m not a big fan of beetroot, it’s so easy to grow that I can’t stop myself sowing some seeds most years. Usually it goes nicely with some salad or occasionally we roast some with other root veg. This year I’m also planning to freeze some for use later so I’m hoping that I’ve sown about the right amount.

A hard decision that had to be made

Now that calving has finished for 2019, our small herd of Dexter cattle has reached a total of 9 which, I’m only too well aware, is too many for the available grazing land.

It’s a heart-warming sight to see them wandering around their summer grazing now but that won’t last long later in the year. If we don’t consider the longer term impact then our land would suffer with the extra wear and tear received during the winter months!

While we managed well enough through last winter, at that time we only had 6 head of cattle and 2 of those were calves born that year so they had less impact. Not forgetting that last winter was relatively easy for us when compared to the year before.

Quinn, Primrose and Petal
Quinn (with horns), Primrose and Petal

This time around it’s very clear to me that we need to reduce numbers and after careful consideration the decision is that a selection of red Dexters will have to go. Nothing against their colouring of course and we were very pleased to get 2 more red heifer calves this year.

We’re now bracing ourselves for the potential departure of Quinn along with Primrose and her new calf Petal. Hopefully they can find a good home with some local smallholders who will spoil them rotten!

This will be our first time selling any cattle so we’re a little down about it because they are all home-bred. However, as with the many¬†other tough smallholding decisions, you just have to deal with it and make sure you do the best you can for them.

Primrose with Petal
Primrose and Petal