Thursday 1 January, 2004
Happy New Year everybody!
Last night I had an unexpected trip to the vets with Cassius, our first rescue cat who's been with us nearly 2 years now. He was having trouble passing water, and seemed to be in some discomfort. A quick call to the vet confirmed that we needed to get him seen as quickly as possible, so at about 6.30pm, in driving sleet, I whisked him over to Broadleys Veterinary Hospital in Stirling. They found some crystals in his urine, so he's on a course of anti-biotics and anti-flammatory drugs, and will be assessed at the end of the course.
Thursday 8 January, 2004
Yesterday a very large cardboard box was waiting for me when I returned from work. At first I excitedly believed it to be my new digital camera (the fantastic Sony 717), but on closer inspection it was from Chase Organics. Disappointment soon turned to excitement again as I realised the package contained our seed potatoes, shallots and onion sets.
We're only growing 2 varieties of spuds this year - Red Duke of York for earlies and Desiree for main crop. The seed looks in good condition, and will now spend a couple of weeks in the cool, dark garage, until the first sprouts are visible. At that point they will be transferred to egg boxes and moved into the front hall of the house where the light will encourage stronger shoots. Sometime in March the earlies will go in the ground, with the Desiree following a couple of weeks after.
Saturday 10 January, 2004
We compost extensively, with everything which can be composted ending up in one of our 5 bins. Even at that though there are times of the year when we struggle to find room for everything, so we decided to explore the wonderful world of wormeries.
The commercial offerings are very impressive, but tend to have a price tag to match. Being thrifty, and having a very handy dad, I decided there was no need to shell out over 50 quid on what is really just a stack of boxes. Lo and behold a search on usenet revealed a gem of a site with plans for a cheap, homemade wormery.
Saturday 17 January, 2004
This morning I lifted the last of our parsnips, so that I could fork some well-rotted manure into the raised beds in preparation for this year's sowing. I expected them to be quite large considering the length of time they've been in the ground, but not quite this large!
This bad boy in the photograph weighed in at 5 1/4 pounds and measured nearly 2 feet in length - enough to make a few gallons of roasted parsnip and parmesan soup and have a few left over for chips, roasters and parsnip pastry. Parsnips aren't something we've had great success with in the past. Germination is always a problem, even with fresh seed (which is a must for parsnips - never use last year's left-over seed). I understand It's not possible to transplant them, so it's direct sowing only, but it's testament to how tasty they are that we persevere year after year even with such a high failure rate.
Saturday 17 January, 2004
This morning I planted our garlic, 42 cloves in total, 6 rows of 7. Traditionally garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and lifted on the longest, timing I've always kept to until this year. I'm a a little later than usual, but it won't make any difference to the end result.
Related article: Growing Garlic.
Sunday 18 January, 2004
On Friday we returned from a short break in the Lake District to find an email from a farm in Dumfries which has Tamworth weaners available. As previously mentioned our source of last year's weaners had told us before Christmas that they would have no litters this year, and we were struggling to find another source close enough to be practical. So Rosemary placed a wanted ad in the Smallholders Online newsletter and lo and behold it looks to have done the job. Dumfries isn't exactly local, but the 3 hour journey each way in our old Land Rover will be well worth it.
Saturday 24 January, 2004
The weather has been kind to us lately considering the time of year, so today I've managed to dig holes for the 20 fence posts for the extended pig pens. The ground was easy to dig - not so wet as to be a quagmire, but soft enough that the only problems were the odd stone, piece of wire and a couple of boulders. Tomorrow I'll set the posts in concrete, making sure that the bottoms are surrounded with gravel to assist drainage - the last thing you want with wooden stobs is the bottom encased in concrete, since rainwater will have nowhere to escape to and the post will rot. Next weekend if they have set well we'll hire a nailgun and attach the rails, build and hang the gates and staple the sheep netting.
Sunday 25 January, 2004
We're, well I'm, lucky enough to have a horse. For those interested, Smokey, or Munro of Millfield, is a 15.1hh grey Highland gelding. He'll be seven in May and I've owned him since August 2002. Owning Smokey has been the fulfillment of a lifetime's dream and I could bore for Britain on his positive attributes (many) and shortcomings (few).
Anyway, last winter (2002/03), Smokey worked very hard to provide us with copious amounts of dung. Every morning when I mucked out his box, I would put on my "Marigolds" and fill a large skip with the "hard stuff", shaking off excess shavings, and bring it home in the boot of the car.
Monday 26 January, 2004
Yesterday evening I registered the diary with Scottish Blogs, the most excellent portal for, you've guessed it, Scottish blogs. This is the first bit of publicity we've undertaken for the site, mostly because it's still some way from being finished, so if you've arrived from SB please accept my apologies - apart from this diary not much else on the site is complete and fully functional.
I'm hoping the added pressure of knowing there's a chance that someone will be looking at the site will make me get my finger out and get it finished. It's never worked before though.
Wednesday 28 January, 2004
I've not been a proponent of CSS for very long, but now I'm well and truly hooked. Yes I read DWWS some time ago, and yes I've read Eric Meyer and yes I've been a subscriber to css-discuss for ages, but it isn't until now that I've been working with this stuff for a while that it's actually clicked. Reusable, rapid development, global changes with a swish of your mouse (well, click of your keyboard really but that doesn't sound as good), it's a powerful beast.
Thursday 29 January, 2004
One of the reasons we keep pigs is of course to eat their meat. It's hard to describe how much better than your average, intensively farmed supermarket pork our own organic, free range Tamworth pork tastes. So rather than try here's a snap of the rolled shoulder we had earlier this week - as good cold the next day with pickled shallots and beetroot as it was hot with the juices running and the crackling crisp and light.
Friday 30 January, 2004
Earlier this week a customer settled up with us for the balance of the half pig we sold him in October. He's been very happy with the meat, the only thing he'd change next time would be the size of the joints. Being novices we didn't really know what best to ask our butcher what to do with the carcases, and some of the gigots turned out to be rather large. Had the pork been supplied unfrozen this wouldn't have been such a problem, but it was very deep frozen. We'll know better next year.
Anyway, the wee bit of money coming in has now gone straight out again - on worms. As mentioned previously my dad has built a budget wormery for us. The only ingredients needed now are the worms, some bedding and plenty of tasty waste for them to chomp through. Well, the first two ingredients have now been accounted for thanks to Worms Direct - I've ordered a Worm & Bedding Kit which should be with us next week some time. It was a painless e-commerce experience, and judging by the reviews on the site we won't be disappointed with the product. I'm excited by the prospect of a worm colony of my very own, I will strive to be a responsible and caring guardian.