February 2004RSS feed


Sunday 1 February, 2004

by Dan at 8:55pm in Gardening Comments closed

SnowdropsI've no idea if they're early or not, but today I noticed the first snowdrops starting to emerge in one of the small corner beds in the garden. At the very least it's a sure sign that despite the recent cold spell here, the dark mornings and nights are starting to fade and the amazing (to me) cycle of growth and decay is about to start all over again.

A satisfactory weekend

Sunday 1 February, 2004

by Dan at 9:34pm in Anything goes Comments closed

There have been times on a winter's Sunday evening when I've looked back at the weekend past and reflected on how little I've achieved in the smallholding. There were some good reasons - inclement weather, family commitments, work commitments - but there were also bad excuses, and plain laziness. Since we both work full-time I tell myself that it's important to get some rest at the weekend, and I'm sure that's true, but it's always disappointing when you achieve less than you feel you should have, in whatever field.

1,000 new charges

Tuesday 3 February, 2004

by Dan at 7:33pm in Composting 4 comments Comments closed

Bucket of wormsToday we became responsible for another 1,000 or so lives. Yes, our worms arrived from Worms Direct, in a big white bucket with 'Live Worms' pasted on the side. The bucket contains worms and some established bedding - mostly made up of worm casings - which should ensure a quick and stress-free move into their new home. I checked over our home-made worm bins, and made a few preparations for tomorrow's relocation - drilled some ventilation holes in the side of what will be the started bin; made a carpet cover for the top bin; soaked some newspapers to act as a barrier over the mesh on the bottom of the starter bin.

Early morning spuds

Thursday 5 February, 2004

by Dan at 4:09pm in Anything goes Comments closed

Yesterday morning I managed to get an hour outside from 7am before getting ready for work. I love that time of day and am so happy that with every passing day we're getting extra minutes of light in the morning. It's strange that I seem to achieve more around the smallholding in the early hours than at any other time, yet at work I get my best results after about 4pm.

Anyway, I used the time productively and apart from getting the worms successfully into their new home I also moved the potatoes from their dark resting place into the light of our potting shed. In previous years during the months of February and March I've taken over the front hall of our cottage with egg boxes full of sprouting spuds, but this autumn we had the hall redecorated and I think Rosemary would flip if I filled it with spuds now.

Home grown tea

Thursday 5 February, 2004

by Dan at 7:15pm in Recipes Comments closed

Tonight we're indulging in another home-grown tea - a potato, leek and bacon bake accompanied by some sweetcorn. Everything except the bacon is our own, and next year we hope to cure some pork for bacon so we'll be able to do it all ourselves. It's meals like this that make the effort of growing vegetables worthwhile - there's a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that not only are all the ingredients organic, produced without a trace of chemical or hormone, but they all come with not a single food mile between them (okay the bacon is from Ayrshire, so about 50 food miles then).

Site progress

Thursday 5 February, 2004

by Dan at 10:59pm in TAS Website 2 comments Comments closed

Slowly but surely the site is now coming together and we're starting to feel less embarassed by visitors finding their way here from the few seeds we've sown so far in cyberspace. The About Us page is complete, the Links database is up and running and just needs populating and some work on the styling, and Rosemary assures me she has more text for articles to come this weekend. The search engine is also completed, with the index being updated each night.

It's not a 6ft hutch, is it?

Friday 6 February, 2004

by Dan at 6:48pm in Poultry Comments closed

It was so disappointing. We had arranged to pick up our new hens, 8 Rhode Island Reds, this coming Sunday. The new ark was sitting in shrink-wrapped glory waiting to be assembled. We were all set.

So imagine our disappointment on opening said ark this afternoon (we'd both finished at 4pm specially to tackle the task) to find that the instructions and fixings were not for our Boughton 904 but instead a 6ft Proper Hutch. A phone call to Forsham secured an assurance that the correct instructions and fixings will be with us on Monday, but it leaves us with the imminent arrival of 8 hens and nowhere for them to live.

Sunrise on the Forth

Saturday 7 February, 2004

by Dan at 9:39am in Gardening 2 comments Comments closed

We are blessed with a wonderful location here at TAS, on the northern bank of the River Forth just west of Alloa. To the west we can see the Campsie hills, Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument and Ben Ledi (this view features on the Archives banner). To the north the Ochil Hills, to the south Alloa Inch and across to South Alloa, and to the east the sometimes uninspiring view of Kincardine and beyond to Grangemouth. When the sun comes up this view can be anything but uninspiring though, and this morning was a case in point.

Poultry articles

Saturday 7 February, 2004

by Dan at 7:19pm in Poultry 1 comment Comments closed

This afternoon the snow stopped me doing much more outside after finishing the fence posts for the new pig pens so I spent a couple of hours completing the poultry articles. This will at least be good news to David, who will now be able to demonstrate to Hilary that keeping hens means a little effort, a great deal of enjoyment and some fantastic products.

Thoughts of Cows

Saturday 7 February, 2004

by Rosemary at 9:01pm in Cattle 1 comment Comments closed

We don't have any cattle and don't have room for any. But that doesn't stop me musing over what might be, if the six numbers come up tonight. What started me musing about cows was an advertisement in this month's "Country Smallholding" selling two Jersey heifers. If we had more land and I had more time (two big "ifs", I grant you), I'd like to have a house cow. I like cows.

In my gap year, some twenty blah years, I worked on a commercial dairy farm near Glasgow. I'll not bore you with details, but the cows there were Holstein Friesians, which are black and white and pretty big. These are very specialised dairy cows. I was fortunate in that the people I worked for were excellent stockmen and I learned an awful lot. Of course, in the intervening years, I've forgotten some of it but I still remember filling my milk container (perk of the job) with fresh, creamy (skimmed off the top of the tank), unpasteurised milk.

Soil blocks

Sunday 8 February, 2004

by Dan at 6:50pm in Growing 3 comments Comments closed

Soil blocksThis weekend has seen the start of the serious work surrounding the growing of vegetables. A sowing and planting schedule was produced yesterday, detailing which varieities of which vegetables I'm growing this year, where they are to be grown, when the sowing dates will be and the method of cultivation. Apart from planting shallots today's tasks included the sowing of early leeks, Startrack, possibly for showing at the local Horticultural Society show (I'm a new member this year and have never been to a show) but most certainly for munching come the autumn. The method of growing I'm adopting again this year for many crops, including leeks, is the soil block.

The Meatrix

Tuesday 10 February, 2004

by Dan at 9:15pm in Recipes Comments closed

I've just stumbled across a great site called 'The Meatrix' (from the You Grow Girl forums). It needs Flash and sound to get the full effect, but underneath the excellent animation is a great site concerned with factory farming and local food production.

New hens

Thursday 12 February, 2004

by Dan at 6:35pm in Poultry Comments closed

Yesterday evening we made the short trip to Drum to collect our new hens - 8 Rhode Island Reds in fabulous condition, just coming into lay. Due to Forsham's abysmal customer service (I won't say more) we didn't have the fixings for constructing the new ark, so they spent their first night here in the shed before being moved into the old ark this morning once it was vacated by the old hens (keeping up?).

This afternoon we got the new ark built, just in time for one of our old Rhodies who was clearly needing some private time and liked the look of the new nest boxes - she went straight in as soon as the last screw was affixed and did her stuff. The new hens are a little freaked by Tess, who treats the arks like Hen TV, and who is mesmerised by the new arrivals, but they'll soon treat her with the same disdain as every other animal we own. We'll tackle the integration of the old and new in a week or so, but for now everyone has a safe, comfortable home and somewhere private to lay.

On the palm of my hand there's a blister

Saturday 14 February, 2004

by Dan at 9:21pm in Anything goes 1 comment Comments closed

What a glorious day it was today in Central Scotland. The sun shone, warming the greenhouse to over 22 degrees, Rosemary and I spent the morning walking the dogs, taking Cas to the vet for a booster, and visiting the Farmers Market in Stirling where we bought:

  • Veggies - carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, butternut squash
  • Kippers
  • Steak pies
  • Soft cheese with smoked garlic, and smoked mature Scottish Cheddar
  • A rabbit and some venison

This last will go nicely with the pheasant breasts and legs we have in the freezer, which we swapped for some pork chops. What we actually got were 4 entire pheasants, and the nice chap we bartered with kindly showed me how to extract the breasts and remove the legs quickly and easily.

Meet Copper

Sunday 15 February, 2004

by Dan at 7:29pm in Cats Comments closed

Our new cat CopperThis afternoon the latest (and last for the time being) addition to our domestic menagerie arrived. Copper is a 13 year-old female tortoiseshell cat who until today lived with a work colleague. Unfortunately the arrival of a new baby has turned out to be too much for said colleague, and we heard about Copper via an advert on the work intranet.

Settling in

Monday 16 February, 2004

by Rosemary at 10:01pm in Cats Comments closed

Well, Copper seems to be settling in OK. She's a wee bit anxious but she's eating and all her bodily functions seem to be operating just fine.

Meg is officially freaked by the new arrival so she had an extra scoop of "Calm-a-Pet" on her dinner tonight. By next week, she'll be worrying about something else. Tess, I'm pleased to say, still loves Cass best.

I've only really noticed how big Cass is, now we've got Copper. He's quite stocky and weighed in at 5.75kg at his last visit to the vet, although he's certainly not overweight. He seems fine with Copper, although Meg barked at both of them tonight - the cats shot under our bed and obviously found themselves too close for comfort, then sorted themselves out in a flurry of spitting. They seem to have patched up their differences, now, though. Watching them, it looks like Cass is dominant - she won't try to stare him down, but it all seems pretty non-aggressive.

Settling in

Monday 16 February, 2004

by Rosemary at 10:01pm in Sheep Comments closed

Well, our three Ryelands seem to have settled in fine. They like the grass covered mound of rubble in the field - gives them a good vantage pont to keep a lookout for anyone who looks like they MIGHT have a bucket with them.

The judicious use of small amounts of sheep mix means that we can now get hands on two of the three - Jinxy is proving a little shyer than Juno and Jura. A friend of mine thinks they look like Ewoks, which is pretty true.

I'm just glad we managed to move them between outbreaks of FMD. Our pigs are due to be slaughtered on 16th October, which should be OK if nothing else changes. If we can't move them to slaughter, it's a bit of a pain and we'll be paying for feed we don't need, but for commercial farmers it must be a nightmare.

Clackmannanshire Horticultural Society Annual Open Show

Monday 16 February, 2004

by Rosemary at 10:27pm in Growing Comments closed

The schedule arrived today for the local horticultural show (Saturday 18th September 2004, Cochrane Hall, Alva). Dan and I joined this year for the princely sum of £2 each. We're planning to exhibit in at least a few classes each. It's all quite serious - there a loads of rules about what you can and cannot do, but apparently exhibitors come from far and wide. For a top prize of £8 (for a hanging basket), that's pretty dedicated.

I'm focussing on the Baking and Preserves section so we'll have scones coming out of our ears, as practice gets into full swing.

Rick Stein's Food Heroes

Friday 20 February, 2004

by Dan at 9:03am in Recipes 7 comments Comments closed

Last night saw the start of the latest series of the excellent Rick Stein's Food Heroes on BBC2. It's a must-see programme for anyone interested in real food, and Stein's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious. In the first programme he tackled (no pun intended) Clovelly Herring, organic Guernsey beef, an organic veg grower and a Cornish producer of sparkling wine.

The highlight for me was when 14 butchers from Smithfiled market assembled in a local hostelry to participate in a beef taste test. To a man they were dismissive of the concept of organic beef before the tasting, but lo and behold 11 of the 14 selected the organic Guernsey over supermarket 'finest' and high-street 'cheapest'. The guernsey was grass-fed, hung for a good couple of weeks and the difference obviously shone through.

Legumes and fencing

Saturday 21 February, 2004

by Dan at 5:52pm in Growing Comments closed

Photos from 21st Feb 2004Another busy Saturday, thanks to the clement weather. I got out into the old pigpen (rotovated last weekend) and made beds for and planted broad beans (Stereo) and early peas (Douce Provence and Pilot). The pigpen is about 30 feet by 40 feet, and I'm using a system described by Eliot Coleman - 4 foot beds, each separated by a 12 inch path. The width of the bed allows access from both sides, reducing soil compaction and making maintenance a whole lot easier. The pen has been divided down the middle so in total we've got 12 beds measuring 4 feet x 18 feet.

Gallery now open

Sunday 22 February, 2004

by Dan at 3:50pm in TAS Website Comments closed

The gallery is now open, and almost finished. It's based on Photostack, a nice little PHP package written by Noel Jackson.

I say 'almost' because there are a lot more images to be added, and because there's something wrong with the PHP which detects the current page, so the left menu isn't working properly (although it seems to be across the site, so I've obviously broken something). I not quite happy with the layout yet either...

Out and about

Sunday 22 February, 2004

by Rosemary at 8:33pm in Cats Comments closed

It's been a lovely weekend here, so Copper had her first outing on Saturday. She had a lovely time exploring the garden, particularly Cassius's cat mint, sizing up the hens and chasing the dogs. We're pleased that she seems to be quite settled and happy. She's been out again today (Sunday) and, after a sardine tea, she's been lying in front of the open fire toasting her toes. She is an absolute sweetheart and we're really glad to have her.

However, we've discovered Copper's weakness - chimneys! We have an open fire in the living room. The fire has a little hatch at the back, presumably to stop draughts when the fire isn't lit. This hatch had been left open last night and Dan spotted Copper's tail disappearing up through the hatch this morning. Fortunately, she couldn't go far but she was pretty dirty and was very smokey smelling when she reappeared. The hatch is now firmly shut when the fire isn't lit.

GM doubts

Tuesday 24 February, 2004

by Dan at 8:45pm in Agriculture 1 comment Comments closed

While the UK government prepares to take a decision which very few of its citizens support and which could have far-reaching implications for the environment, the man who is effectively Ethiopia's Environment Minister had this to say on the issue of GM crops:

"A single technology does not constitute development. There is no evidence that GM varieties produce better or more than their non-GM counterparts. They only bring in new vulnerabilities." (BBC News)

New article and links

Friday 27 February, 2004

by Dan at 10:24pm in TAS Website Comments closed

Added a new article, 'Why grow vegetables?', and a few links to animal welfare sites. Plans for the weekend include fixing sheep netting to the new pigpens and building the gates for them. There is some outstanding sowing to be down but the spell of cold, frosty weather we've been experiencing is set to remain with us for a few days yet, so the parsnips and spring onions will have to wait awhile.

I should also mention the kind gift we got from a friend - thanks Graham, that's a fine scoop!

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