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.

Growing update – success and setbacks

While reviewing the older blog posts in preparation for the recent blog update covering our first 5 years on the smallholding, I realised that the livestock still take up a much larger part of our work than was originally expected. I’d even noted this in a blog post last summer but somehow I’d never managed to deal with this imbalance.

Originally I had expected that growing fruit and vegetables would be an equal part of the work involved and hadn’t thought there’d be quite such a focus on animals. Obviously that is just the result of the decisions taken over time and these were all based on the options available at the time so I can see how we’ve ended up in the current situation.

In an attempt to rectify the balance a little on the blog, here is a quick update on the successes or otherwise with fruit/vegetables for this year (so far)…

Soft Fruit and Top Fruit

While the blackcurrants have been a roaring success, the red currants have usually taken the role of a sacrificial crop. We never lose many blackcurrants to the birds but the redcurrants are always picked clean. I think that this year I’ll make a greater effort to properly net the bushes in the hope that we can at least try some of our own redcurrants.

The fruit trees (apple, plum, pear) continue to make good progress but, during the bad snowfall in March, things must have been tough for the local wildlife. As a result the bark was stripped from most of our fruit trees and I’ve kept my fingers crossed since then in the hope that they’ll pull through.

Apple blossom - Spring 2018
Apple blossom – Spring 2018


Pear blossom and bark damage
Pear blossom and bark damage

Autumn onions

I left it a bit late last autumn when planting out my red onion sets but despite my failings there is still a decent enough showing in that raised bed. With any luck we should have a usable crop and it’s been a good lesson to learn about the proper planting times for crops going into the ground in autumn

Mixed results for the Red Onions
Mixed results for the Red Onions

Lambs and seeds

Continuing the general theme of reporting minor disasters, one batch of seed sowing suffered quite badly with an attack of lamb hooves. The “little darlings” pushed their way out an enclosure and over the relatively soft rabbit protection I had in place.

Having just sown some rows of seeds only a few days earlier, I was less than impressed and I plan to use the whole episode to help me get over the difficulties of sending them off to slaughter in due course.

As can be seen in the picture below, there were a few gaps in the rows where carrots and lettuce should be but I’ve now re-seeded them and hopefully we can still make use of the space.

Limited seed sowing success
Limited seed sowing success

Success comes at a price

To end on a high note, after a couple of failed years trying to grow courgettes, I have finally managed to raise some that didn’t die within a week or so of being planted out. Unfortunately I can already predict the likely outcome when they start producing because I always plant too many and never learn that lesson!

Luckily we quite like courgettes and if necessary can probably find someone who’ll take any spares but if all else fails then the excess can easily go to the pigs and chickens

You can have too many courgettes
You can have too many courgettes

Catching up with things

It’s been a very busy time over the last few months and the weeks just fly by but I’ve eventually realised that some events had not been fully covered by a blog update. Many events do get mentioned briefly through the Facebook or Twitter accounts but that doesn’t include much detail so it seems right that I post more information here.


This year we got exactly what we’d hoped for with the calving. A red heifer calf (Primrose) from Nellie on 30 May followed a few weeks later by a “black” bull calf (Frank) from Daisy on 12 June.

My initial belief that Frank was black is proving to be a little wrong and he is actually a lovely shade of brown which I assume should officially be called “dun”.

Frank (left) and Primrose (right)
Frank (left) and Primrose (right)

We are now looking forward to the arrival of the pedigree Dexter bull that we’re borrowing this year. We’ve heard good things about him and saw him while he was at a friends farm recently so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for another good result when calving time comes around next May or June.


We have 4 pigs from the first litter (from Sissy) and they are developing nicely. As we didn’t raise any pigs for meat last year, it’s been a good reminder this year for monitoring their growth and planning for the inevitable departure.  We don’t take this any more lightly now that we’ve had pigs for 4 years, it’s just as important to us now that they have a good life while they’re with us and a stress-free final trip to the abattoir.

The first 2 pigs from the older litter will be heading off to the butchers by early August and when I calculated their weight at 6 months old they were roughly 60kg which is fairly respectable. At feeding time tonight I managed another quick measurement for weight calculations and they are almost up to 74kg now.

Sissy and gang
Sissy and gang

Amazingly this is exactly what I’d been hoping for as they will be going off in 2 weeks time and should be about 80kg at that time. This is ideal for a basic “porker” like the first ones going off where we just want pork joints, sausages etc. With some careful monitoring, the other 2 pigs from this litter will go off about 3-4 weeks later when they’ll hopefully be 90kg or just over which is a better weight for a “baconer”.

The first batch of pork will be available for sale from 20 Aug and this year we also have 3 pigs from the second litter (from Esther) who are roughly 2 months younger. This will help to give us a regular supply of pork for sale from summer through to autumn or later this year.

More details on the pork for sale will be posted on the blog in due course and also on the Small Plot Big Ideas “shop” page on Facebook

Veg beds

Despite some poor results in other areas with growing produce this year, the garlic and onions that were planted last Autumn have now been harvested. The fairly respectable haul is currently drying in an outhouse while I think about the best way (and place) to store them. This is the second time that I’ve grown garlic and onions this way and I’m really pleased with the results. I think they’re definitely on the list for next year so I’ll need to reserve a spot to plant some more this autumn.

Garlic and onion crop
Garlic and onion crop

After a complete failure (yet again) with the dwarf beans, I’ve almost managed to fill the space with my excess leeks and some chard. I’m also hoping to get some more carrots sown in there very soon as well because we can always use more carrots and they are easy to grow – although never very straight!

With just a single row of parsnips this year, I think that Christmas dinner might be sorted out but not many parsnips left after that. I’ve never had much luck with germinating the seeds and I often think I won’t bother with them next time… However, the taste of a roasted parsnip which came fresh from the garden is something really special so I expect I’ll persevere with them.

Just space for one more row of something
Just space for one more row of something

Overall it’s been a pretty good growing season this year with no prolonged excessively dry (or wet) spells. There were some problems with rabbits sneaking in and nibbling my lettuces but adding some chicken wire to the boundary fence has fixed that problem.

The newly installed scarecrows from Waltons are now dealing with any potential problems with the extensive bird life in the garden. If I’m honest I really don’t mind sharing a little of it with them but I’m not sure they’ll leave any behind if I don’t do something!

Mr and Mrs keep watch
Mr and Mrs keep watch

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!

Raised bed progress

Despite having started constructing the raised veg beds back in October, further progress has been a little slow due to the high number of distractions in the intervening months. One thing is becoming very clear since we moved here, it’s all too easy to find yourself with many projects started but none fully completed!

With these new raised veg beds, the intention was always to come up with some covers to help extend the growing season but initially I had no particular approach in mind. Finally the delays got to me so I ordered some supplies from Premier Polytunnels  including a decent length of polythene to use as a cover.

At the same time, I took the opportunity to order a decent length of ground cover fabric to go in between the raised beds. It seems wise to get that in place sooner rather than later!

In an earlier post I showed the first stages of adding the water pipe hoops on one of the raised beds but with an hour or two to spare last weekend I finally completed the work on two of the four raised beds. This new area alone is more growing space than I had in the last house never mind the original vegetable bed here which is also expected to be fully utilised this year.

Polythene covers in place
Polythene covers in place

At least I can relax now if the chickens decide to invade the garden because the onions and garlic (on the left) and soft fruit bushes (at the back) are suitably protected. The onions in the nearest bed will just have to take their chances for the moment with a low fence around them – it seems that the chickens can’t be bothered to flap over that.

There is still some final work needed to properly tighten up the covers so that they can survive any bad weather but I’m still contemplating the best way of attaching the polythene to the raised veg beds. I’d like to make it completely removable if possible but perhaps it’s better to just attach it on one side so that it can be rolled back if needed.

Further ideas

There was always plans for another raised bed in this area but I’m inclined to hold back on that in case I take on more than can be properly managed in the coming year. Having said that, I usually buy far too many seeds each spring so I may hurriedly build something once I’ve filled up all other available space.

It will probably be best to completely fence off this new growing area – to prevent damage as a result of football in the garden, to stop any destruction by the chickens (and rabbits) and also from sheep being brought through to the fields at the back as well. That’s not a combination of problems I’ve had to consider in the past but I’m not complaining…

6 month assessment

Slightly surprisingly we’ve been in our “new” house for 6 months now so it seemed a good time to take stock and assess the situation. It’s also a good point to take the time to appreciate everything we have and how lucky we are to have it.

Over this period there have been a good number of successes, a few minor failures and plenty of schemes or plans for the future which may or may not ever come to fruition. Here is a quick run through for the record…


The 3 original "pet" hens
The 3 original “pet” hens

We made a seemingly minor decision during the first month or two to occasionally leave broody hens to hatch batches of eggs. However after the first three sets of chicks arrived  we quickly realised that we had reached full capacity on the under-productive white chickens that we inherited on our arrival here.

The first batch of chicks that hatched yielded just 2 – one male and one female – so the cockerel soon became the volunteer for our first attempt at killing and eating our own chicken.

Through the summer we found that it was just too much like hard work to find out if and where they’re laying eggs despite our efforts with fencing them in and generally improving the facilities provided for them.

Next spring we’ll give the existing flock another few months to prove themselves but if there’s no improvement then some extra point of lay hybrids will be brought in. There is always the possibility of getting rid of the inherited chickens but right now that seems a little drastic. On reflection perhaps a “layers flock” in a separate dedicated area will mean the existing flock can be treated as meat birds.


The Tamworths
The Tamworths

The huge success and enjoyment of our first foray into pig-keeping means that we will definitely be getting 2 or 3 weaners in Spring 2014. There is a temptation at this stage to go further next year by getting a couple of breeding sows but common sense should prevail and we’ll get more experience with weaners first.

The next batch of pigs will definitely be a different breed so we can compare them with the first two Tamworths and get more day-to-day practical experience before settling on a particular breed for the longer term

My preference would be for Oxford Sandy and Black weaners next simply based on their appearance but it’s just as likely that we’ll get whatever is available at the time locally to save headaches with transporting them.


From everything I’ve read, Dexters seem to be a good fit for our requirements if we are considering a house cow but with no prior experience of this I think some practical training will be needed first. There is also a consideration about the amount extra time this will take and how we can best fit that in with all the other plans we have (as well as the day jobs).

At least  any excess dairy products could be used to cut the pig feed bill and ease the financial burden but as usual there are also plans to try cheese and butter making or even yoghurt if we’re feeling daring.


Another appealing idea is to take on a few orphaned lambs from the local farmer and raise them for meat. However it might be better to wait until we’ve dealt with the pigs before deciding on that just in case we get too attached to them!

Our friendly local farmer is always willing to make use of our paddocks and hay meadow for his sheep from time to time so we can fall back on that option. It gives us the chance to watch closely how the professionals do it before making any decisions for our own flock.


The expansion of growing space should mean that more of each can be grown providing I can resist the temptation to just grow a larger number of varieties instead. Some of this extra space is already taken up with the onion sets and garlic but I have plenty more space and loads of ideas for next year!

Raised bed building
Raised bed building

My first batch of rhubarb will need to be moved to a more permanent home after starting life with us in large tubs so they could be transported when we moved house. As luck would have it, the house we eventually bought already had some healthy looking rhubarb but I’m sure we can find plenty of ways to use up any excess.

One of the great successes from the previous 6 months was the dwarf bean which were a freebie promotional packet of seeds but provided a good crop from a relatively small space. They will definitely be making an appearance again next year along with the leeks, carrots and beetroot.

One lesson learned the hard way this year was to properly protect cabbages from butterflies – much as I like to see them, I’d rather eat my own cabbages than feed them to the pigs. Needless to say, there are already plans to try some theories for removable netting covers for the new raised beds.


Our new fruit trees (3 apple, 1 plum and 1 pear) should be arriving any day now but for the first year or so while they get established we will be removing any fruit that forms. I’m happy to make sure of a better future harvest in future years and encourage its energy into growth rather than expect fruit in the first year.

All indications seem to be that they should survive in the North Pennines especially as the chosen spot is fairly well sheltered but still sunny (on a good day). It’s likely that any failures are much more likely to be down to my inexperience  but preparations are well in hand including tree guards and stakes.

Another fruit adventure is some soft fruit bushes which are due for delivery shortly – 2 each of blackcurrant, redcurrant and blueberry. That seemed a good variety of plants to try but, if space permits, we can always get more of those that do well over the next few years.

Other ideas…

We have already signed up for the installation of solar PV panels although for our situation these will be ground mounted in a field rather than on the roof. Although there is still the small matter of planning permission to get we’re reliably told that this has not been a problem on previous installations by the same company.

With such a wide range of ideas and options running around my head, it’s sometimes important to step back and keep focussed on the main issues. However in my “spare time” I can dream up even more schemes with varying levels of realism for such things as a holiday let conversion, biomass heating system, main house refurbishment, tree planting, fencing/walling repairs and so much more.

If only there were more hours in the day and an unlimited amount of money in the bank …


Building new vegetable beds

It didn’t take long after moving in for us to realise that having such a large expanse of lawn would be far too time-consuming every week even with the industrial grade petrol mower we bought. We could have just bought a ride-on mower and tackled the problem in that way but I preferred an alternate approach particularly as we had no need for so much lawn.

My approach was that if the grass takes too long to cut and we don’t use that area anyway then it makes sense to use that space for extra vegetable growing space. This is especially relevant as I had very quickly filled up the existing vegetable bed soon after we moved here!

General plan

After considering some different layouts and even briefly considering the idea of a parterre with fancy box hedging, I soon realised that this would involve almost as much work as the lawn which defeated some of the object! In the end I decided to be more practical and common sense prevailed – the final layout I devised was this:


Final veg bed layout
Final veg bed layout

Materials so far

Some lengths of 6″ x 2″ timber from the local timber merchants

Some 2 ft long, 2″ x 2″ corner posts to hold the beds together.

Unwanted cardboard boxes left over from the move

A few “dumpy” bags of compost (but I won’t recommend buy that again due to the poor quality)

Progress so far

This was never going to be a rush project as I only expected to use these for the first time next spring. However by the time I had some of them in place and filled with compost/soil it seemed a shame to waste the growing space.

The initial layout was an exercise in careful measuring and placing stakes. A layer of cardboard covered with grass cuttings and compost hopefully kills off the existing growth and acts as a good mulch base. This allowed me to visualise some of the layout before cutting any boards to length incase I decided the sizes weren’t working for me.

Step 1 - Cardboard, grass cuttings and compost
Step 1 – Cardboard, grass cuttings and compost

At first this didn’t look too promising to my untrained eye but after adding the boards around the edges including some old sleepers from elsewhere in the garden the first few came together quite nicely.

Step 2 - Edge boards and top soil
Step 2 – Edge boards and top soil

A Work In Progress

There are now 4 of the 7 raised beds in place and I couldn’t resist the temptation to plant something.

I’ve not used green manure before so I planted two beds with different varieties to try that out. Also a late sowing of carrots, onions and beetroot seemed like a good idea at the time but the weather has since become a lot more autumnal so I don’t expect much from that.

While waiting to see what if anything will germinate, I covered half of that bed with a clear plastic tunnel and the other half with some bubble wrap. It would have been interesting to see if there was a difference in the results between the two materials.

Unfortunately after I removed the covering temporarily on a day when the weather had picked up a bit, the chickens discovered the joys of scratching and dust bathing in the loose soil when I wasn’t looking.

I don’t expect much to survive now other than the few rows which I covered over again with the plastic cloche but you never know! The green manure may never recover but I can always try that next year.

Partially protected carrots, onions, beetroot
Partially protected carrots, onions, beetroot

Luckily I learnt my lesson from this episode and the next batch of sowing – garlic and overwintering onion sets – were planted last weekend behind a temporary 4 ft high fence

Garlic and onion behind a security fence
Garlic and onion behind a security fence

Some hard lessons learned but once I get the rest of the raised beds finished with luck all this effort will pay off in the spring when I can get much more in the ground that I did this year!

Time flies, carrot flies and cabbage white butterflies

The recent period of rain has been very welcome and luckily we’ve not had quite as much here in the North Pennines as some other areas of the UK. The time is flying past and given all these excellent growing conditions I knew it was probably time for another general vegetable update

Watching  the rainwater running out of the gutters and disappearing down the drains makes me want to add more water butts in a few places. On the other hand, I think we can probably expect  to have higher average rainfall here than at our old house near the coast so perhaps we won’t need them quite as much? Time will tell …

Existing raised beds

Existing raised beds
Existing raised beds

The existing raised beds with a few onions, carrots and beetroot are still going well. These were all planted at the start of June within a day or two of moving in.

We have already harvested a few small “baby” beetroots which tasted very nice with a not unpleasant “earthy” undertone (even though we washed/cooked them).

Another couple of short rows of beetroot have now been planted in the empty space which is just visible at the back.

These are already starting to show signs of growth so I’m definitely a convert to the idea of soaking beetroot seeds overnight before planting them.

The few carrots here are only just at the “baby” stage now and although a few have been sampled I hope to leave them in place a little longer. It would be good to get our first full sized carrot from the garden and in the meantime another short row of carrot seeds has been planted elsewhere for the future.

Around these carrots I sowed some onion seed in the hope that this would discourage carrot fly – not that I’ve seen any evidence of this. Perhaps the raised beds in a separate raised area have fooled the carrot flies because I think they don’t fly very high off the ground.

This is my first time growing onions from seed and they are doing remarkably well. I tried onion sets last year but I felt that was not quite as much fun – I prefer planting seeds instead of a smaller version of the finished article because seeds give a greater sense of achievement at harvest time.

It will obviously be a little while yet before we can consider trying these onions but they are developing well.  There are a few more onion seeds left so I think they will be planted towards the end of August to try overwintering them (if I can find the space).

The long veg bed

This is mostly devoted to cabbages and leeks – not because we’re big fans of those but because I bought too many seedlings for each and can’t bear to throw any of them away.

Cabbages and leeks
Cabbages and leeks

As usual a combination of eagerness to plant leeks and underestimating the size of cabbages has meant that some leeks are now being swamped by the expanding cabbages. I’m hoping that the leeks planted between the cabbages will put on enough growth that they can be used first before they get totally overwhelmed.

The handful of pea seeds which came up are at the back and doing their best to climb up their supports. There are even a few flowers starting to form so I may get a small saucer of peas this year if I’m lucky!

This weekend will probably involve some detailed examination of the cabbage plants.  I’ve seen a few cabbage white butterflies around the garden so it must be time to take action.

The “Old House” rhubarb

The two pots of rhubarb which were planted into pots at the old house before we moved are doing really well again. There was a period of a few weeks recently when they appeared to stop growing despite good weather, careful attention, watering and such like.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that the plants just needed more nutrition having exhausted the supply in the pots. A quick sprinkle of some Growmore plus a little extra compost to mix it in with and they soon burst into life again.

Rhubarb in pots
Rhubarb in pots

I’m not sure if I’m imaging things but I think this photo shows  the difference in leaf shapes quite nicely with the Stockbridge Arrow in the foreground having a more pronounce “arrow” shape to the leaves.

Seedling progress

Although it might be a little late, I recently planted some parsnip seeds on the basis that we really like parsnip. Hopefully they’ll develop well but not too quickly as I will need to find some space to plant them out once something else has been harvested

Parsnip seedlings
Parsnip seedlings

The free packet of Dwarf bean seeds have also been planted but I used some large troughs which we had brought with us. Perhaps not the best situation for them but I ran out of space very quickly and still wanted to give them a try this year. I can’t resist a freebie although I’m not sure that I’ll eat many of them – we’ll see how they develop.

Dwarf beans in troughs
Dwarf beans in troughs

Future plans

There is a common thread running through this post about a lack of growing space so it may not be long before some of the extensive and under-utilised lawn is replaced with raised beds. This is especially relevant through the spring and summer as I’d rather spend my time growing produce than cutting the grass every week.

Some sturdy rabbit defences will be needed as they seem to be getting bolder each week but I’m hoping that razor wire, sentry towers and armed guards will not be needed.

Perhaps there is even space for a small orchard if the sheltered location I have in mind will counteract our altitude here (1000ft above sea level). If I’m lucky there will be enough shelter from trees and low stone walls to give some fruit trees a chance?

The time has just flown by!

We’re still at the stage of keep track of how long we’ve been here although I’m sure that will change eventually. For now though, we’re doing the counting in weeks rather than months and it’s flying by!

This is the sixth week now and there is certainly never a dull moment…


Freshly cut hay
Freshly cut hay

The 2 meadows out the front have been cut by a neighbouring farmer and the current good weather will be really helpful.

I’m mentally taking notes about how this is done even though I don’t expect to be doing it myself at any point in the near future. It’s just good to watch and learn.

As this picture shows it has only just been cut so it will need turning a few times.

While I was out taking this photo of the meadow I realised it was probably time to post a progress update for the vegetables (more on this below).

Vegetable bed plans

All available veg bed space has now been used for something and there are plans to extend the current area for next year.

One idea is to convert up to 1/3 of the very large lawn area into a more productive space. The original thinking was for something like an orchard area with some raised veg beds alongside but a grander term for this might be “forest garden” if you favour the permaculture approach.

Either way I foresee the strong possibility of a continuous battle against rabbit incursions so I will definitely need to include defences in the overall plan!

Veg bed photo gallery

Having taken a range of photos of the vegetable progress, it seems a good excuse to try out the gallery facility that is provided within the WordPress system I use. My first impressions are that it does an excellent job and it’s certainly easy for me to set up.

However the experience will perhaps be different for people just reading this and viewing the pictures so let me know in the comments what you think.

Just click on any of the thumbnail images below and the gallery will load to let you see the large versions of the photos…


Slow and steady progress with the vegetables

Main vegetable growing area
Main vegetable growing area

There are a couple of areas that have obviously been set aside for vegetables in the past The main veg bed must have previously been a set of raised beds but now the framing has gone so I decided to level off the soil and convert it back into a single bed divided by paths.

As can be seen in the picture, the existing rhubarb (at the back) has been brought back into line with the huge flowers removed and many of the older, chunkier leaves taken off. this will be followed by a good mulching so hopefully in future this will continue to be productive.

I’ve decided to keep our original rhubarb in the pots where I planted them earlier this year. Maybe I’ll move them early next year perhaps but they probably need to get established where they are this year.

While on a recent trip to buy some machinery (a heavy duty strimmer), we popped into a nearby garden centre and I couldn’t resist getting a couple of trays of cabbage seedlings – one labelled as January King and the other Ruby Red I think.

Maybe 2 trays of 12 plants will prove to be too many though as they are now taking up much more space than I had planned to use for cabbages! Hopefully I can squeeze in a catch crop before they get too big as I need somewhere to plant out the lettuce seedlings that are coming on so well.

The peas and beetroot seeds at the back are only just starting to show signs of growth but I’m quite happy with that as the seeds have only been in for 2 weeks!

Existing Raised Beds

In an adjacent area there are 4 raised beds left by the previous owners which I have retained but as we’ve not been here long I have no specific plan for them.

Original raised beds
Original raised beds to be kept

On the first weekend we got here I planted some onion, carrots and beetroot but I deliberately left a little space for the moment so I can plant some more seeds once the first batch get going.

These beds also had some existing strawberry plants which are  a new thing for me. In the past I haven’t been bothered about soft fruit but now I’ve got a lot more space I’m starting to think about setting aside an area and investing in a fruit cage or similar. Something for the future I think as there is more than enough to be getting with right now.

Hopefully all I need is to maybe put down a little straw to keep the fruit off the damp soil and then maybe some sort of netting over the top to keep out the birds.

Despite those plans, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for getting fruit from these plants as the wall around this area seems to be populated with field mice. I’ve seen a couple of them but they are hard to spot – I’m sure they’ll be hungry for strawberries at some point.

Chicken Shacks

The chicken shack village is made up a number of “inherited” buildings from the previous owners (in the foreground) which are towering over the low rise chicken house we brought with us when we moved here (just visible near the back).

Chicken shack village
Chicken shack village

There is a main chicken house for the rooster (now known as John) and his ten lady friends – in the centre of the picture – and a couple of storage sheds on the left. One of these has a run attached which is currently home to a broody hen who has been sitting on 7 eggs for a week or two – it was eight eggs when we first got here but we think a stoat must have paid them a visit perhaps?

This is all situated between the paddocks at the back so the hens are not as close to the house as we were used to but now we have a rooster as well this is not such a bad thing in my opinion!

Luckily the two sets of chickens have settled into a truce where each set ignores the other apart from the occasional ruffling of feathers if there is food is involved. If anything I think it helps that our 3 hybrid hens are larger than the existing 10 hens which goes some way to compensate for the greater numbers should any disagreements arise.