Friday 26 October 2018

Night noises

Spice, our Golden Retriever, unusually started to bark about 3 am last night. I thought I had better go and check in case it was an intruder so that I could give them short shrift. Luckily for them there was no one around, so there was no need to deploy a kung fu dragon's claw strike (as demonstrated on You Tube). 

Anyhow, as I waited in the still of the night while Spice quietly wondered around to find the best place to pee, it was interesting to hear the various animal noises in just the ten minutes I was standing in the pitch darkness. A Tawney owl was calling with the familiar twit twoo. I hear them virtually every evening at dusk coming from a small wooded area across the road. The British Trust for Ornithology is currently carrying out a survey of Tawney owls and are inviting people to take part if they hear any. 

More concerning was the regular bark of a fox. Our poultry are shut up each day as soon as they all go in when it begins to get dark. Clearly, vigilance needs to be maintained.

Every now and then a pheasant let out a screech. This is a common sound here as they nest in the tree-lined boundary to our holding.

In what was otherwise silence in the dead of night, there seemed to be a lot still going on.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Hurtling towards winter

The clocks go back this weekend, a sure indication that winter is on its way. The weather has in fact been rather mild during September and October making it very pleasant to work outdoors. 

The new ram has now joined the ewes for what should be his busiest time of the year. I've put them in the smaller of our fields to make it easier for him. We had three ram lambs born this year and these are separated out. One of them has grown big and sturdy and a smallholder in Suffolk who is building a flock of Wiltshire Horns has bought him. He looks big enough in all departments to do the job this year. We also sent off two elderly ewes. One of them needed help giving birth this year so I did not want to breed from her again. Both were more than eight years old.

One of our young sows was AI'd three months ago but is still not showing any obvious signs of pregnancy. In fact she appears to have continued to come into season. However, I gather that this is still possible. Sows have two uterine 'horns' and it is apparently possible for a small litter to be confined to one of the horns while the other has a regular oestrous cycle. I'll be bringing her into the farrowing house just in case.

The bees have still been flying on warm days. I've started to feed them sugar solution and will switch to fondant at the end of the year. They got through last winter's harshness okay so it makes sense to continue with a regime that seems to work.

A lot of time has been spent harvesting, storing and preserving summer crops. In the greenhouse some pepper and chilli plants remain, as well as a couple of tomato vines. Not for much longer though. Most of the greenhouse I have cleared  to make space for some Little Gem lettuce and some tatsoi, an oriental leaf vegetable. Outside leeks, parsnips, chard, Jerusalem artichokes and mangolds are still in situ. Apart from some impressive early cauliflowers, the brassicas have performed poorly this year so the remaining raggedy specimens have been removed.

Archetypal autumn crop. We'll eat some but I really grow
gourds for their ornamental value for indoors

Some of the regular 'winter jobs' are underway. Gradually clearing the vegetable plots and adding a layer of compost, making next year's compost in the process. I've pruned the fruit bushes and tied in canes and finished by adding a thick  mulch ready for next summer's fruit bonanza. 

Lots more to do as always.