I’m not sure how it has happened but after a quick check of the calendar I found that it’s been around 6 weeks since the last blog update. I know that in general not much is growing at this time of year and so there wouldn’t be much progress to report but even by my (generally low) standards this is a bit poor!
I think it must be time to address that deficiency with a general update…
It’s nice to note that almost everything that has died down in the garden has not done so as a result of my amateur efforts!
After a promising start the runner beans faded out but I like to think that was mostly a consequence of the very wet weather we had about that time. The leeks which had looked so promising have just not lived up to my optimistic expectations. There is no danger of them winning any competitions but they are still perfectly edible of course (except where the chickens have had a go at them)
On the whole the potatoes, carrots and garlic were fairly successful but the broccoli seedlings I was given ended up mostly being chicken food – at least they seemed to enjoy it!
Perhaps the main disappointment has been the onions which were grown using sets I ordered from Marshalls. Although they did grow a little the final results don’t look anything like I had expected. I’ve not grown onions before so perhaps I was being unrealistic and maybe next time I’ll try growing them from seed but use another supplier like Thompson & Morgan instead.
The 3 chickens have scarified the furthest section of lawn to within an inch of it’s life but that was only to be expected. One benefit of the recent heavy rain has been that we needed to move the chicken run to the other end of the lawn which has had the effect of limiting any further damage in the original location.
We don’t know what to expect through the winter months but so far we are still getting fairly regular egg laying from them. An occasional 2 egg day is slightly more frequent now perhaps but we careful not to apportion any blame so I won’t name and shame the offender.
The most noticeable difference for me is that I only see the chickens at weekends now – from Monday to Thursday I head off to work in the dark and get back home in the dark. It’s only briefly on a Friday when I can leave work a little earlier and obviously over the weekend that I get to see them in daylight.
Smallholding property hunt
There have been a couple of occasions when we have experienced the minor disappointment of finding what looked to be a suitable property but because we haven’t sold yet we have been unable to take things further. On the bright side though, there have also been a couple of properties which had offers accepted but which have now come back on the market so there’s always hope.
There is a general feeling that the Tyne Valley or North Pennines will probably be the eventual destination but nothing can be finalised until we get a buyer for our property (and have an offer accepted for somewhere too!). We’d like to think that we’re not too bothered at this stage but I’m sure that when the time comes we’ll be just as picky as anyone else would be.
Any planning for life on the smallholding will necessarily be guided by the property we finally manage to buy but we are managing to devote some time to general ideas so that at least we feel like we’re making progress.
Having had back garden chickens for some time we will certainly increase the numbers over time and maybe even go for meat birds as well as layers. We got our existing 3 hybrids from Durham Hens and we’re very happy with them but there are many other places like Heydon Bridge Hens, Teviotdale Farm etc if we fancy trying something different.
As far as the other likely livestock we will try, I think that one of early contenders would have to be pigs – probably Tamworths to start with as I’ve already been for a very entertaining day at Yearle Tamworths near Wooler. There are generally some weaners available at most times of the year so we can hopefully plan things to suit our other workload.
I’m still not quite so certain about having cows or goats but in time it would be interesting to work with something for dairy produce. Personally I would favour goats but that’s mainly because I’ve always thought of cows as big scary beasts but also because I have occasionally had some goat meat from The Goat Company and its fantastic when done in a slow cooker.
Perhaps we may chose a few Shetland cattle then they wouldn’t seem so threatening as they are smaller and they are still very hardy so I might feel a little differently.
There are also loose plans about providing some sort of holiday accommodation but this would depend on the options available on the property we eventually buy. Many places we have seen have a barn or outbuildings which could be converted but I wouldn’t rule out the idea of a couple of Tents, Yurts or Tipis if there were no other options. I’m very impressed by the set up at Wild Northumbrian but haven’t yet had a chance to try them out – I think I’ll wait until spring now though!
Patience is a virtue
In the meantime we have to recognise that this is not the best financial climate (or time of year) to be selling property. We can only be patient, keep watching the property websites and handle an occasional viewing of our own property.
With so much to take on board and so many mistakes we are likely to make along the way, I’m more than happy to make the most of this time for planning and learning.
Do you have any top tips for novice smallholders that you can share?