Monday, 21 August 2017

A day in the life

What is a day on a smallholding like? Obviously it will vary between individuals and holdings and, on any one holding, what time of the year it is. Here is a description of a day which I would say is fairly typical on a day when there are no other commitments off the holding.

The day started at 6:30 as usual and once the cats and the dog were fed it was off to feed the livestock. First the three hen houses were opened up and feed and water levels in the drinkers were checked. The same for the turkeys. The turkeys are not shut up over night. They have a netted enclosure and prefer to roost on the 3' foot high perches I've built for them. If they had their way they would fly high up on a tree, wander off and be vulnerable to foxes. They lead me on a merry-go-round if I try to round them up in the evening as they don't go into the shed that is available to them willingly. They are very hardy and don't seem to mind the cold.

Next the pigs are fed, making sure that their food is spread along a line about 8 or so feet long so that they each have plenty of space and the younger ones have ready access for their share. Whilst they are feeding I fill up the water troughs. The weather looks to be another sunny day so I also applied sun cream to the pink saddle of each of the Saddleback pigs to protect them from sunburn. I then pick up their poo in their paddock, a daily task, which goes into the compost. I collect about a 40 litre trug full. Before taking it to the composting area I revisit the hen houses and poo pick their too. If need be I top up their bedding with chopped straw. As the outside tap leading to the pig trough is located in the chicken run I turn off the tap whilst I'm at it.

I look over at the ram and his companion wether to check they are okay then collect some hay for the ewes and lambs who are in another field where the grass is now running thin. I have another field ready with some good re-growth ready to move them onto at the beginning of September which will flush them ready for when the ram re-joins them in October for tupping. All the ewes look like they are returning back to condition except one older ewe which I need to decide whether to tup her one final time this year or call it a day.

With the sheep sorted I go back and check I turned the tap off. Because I'm on auto pilot with the early morning jobs I sometimes can't remember if I turned the tap off or not.

Then it is on to the greenhouse and watering plants in there with a hose: a count to ten for each plant planted in the greenhouse border and a count to five for each pot grown plant. I turn off the greenhouse tap and head indoors for breakfast. On the way I check to see if I turned the tap off to the pig trough. Yes, I thought I had.

After the breakfast the main task for the day was to despatch the last two of the meat birds. We buy in batches of 20 day old chicks and grow them on. We have been dispatching two at a time over the last three weeks. It takes us about two hours to complete the task from setting up to clearing up and putting them in the freezer. These two came out at 3.4 and 3.2 kilograms respectively which is about average for the whole twenty birds. As usual when we despatch it was chicken liver and hearts for lunch today.

Last of the batch
Ready for the freezer

One task which was quite pressing was cutting off the tops of the potato plants. Yesterday evening I noticed some signs of blight so felt it best to clear all the top growth and burn it to prevent it creeping down into the tubers. 

What else today? Mowing the garden and vegetable plot areas. Spraying the gravel drive. Weeding the brassica beds. We also made some spicy tomato chutney. About 4pm the afternoon round of feeding and trough filling was done. The hens also get some mixed corn.

After dinner is when we usually do some harvesting as the day is cooler and it is a task with a more leisurely feel. Today plums, tomatoes, blackberries, autumn raspberries which are now coming through, courgettes and a cucumber. 

The last task at dusk is to shut up the hen house (and double check I turned that tap off).

Alongside all of this were the usual myriad of activities of everyday living. I sleep well at night. 

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