Tuesday, 25 June 2019

A Month On

The solstice has passed and we enjoyed a sneaky bonfire and a bottle of wine. You need a permit out here for bonfires but barbecues are allowed and on the night of San Juan everyone has bonfires to celebrate the pagan midsummer and drive away evils by jumping over the fire. We didn't jump over ours but we got rid of a lot of last year's brush and waste. A month on from the last pic and the veggies are doing well despite the rather cold and rainy June. The grass and weeds have grown well as have the slug and snail population but local corn is struggling and tomatoes and peppers are very behind.
My sweetcorn is doing quite well but I started it in the polytunnel early this year and it has paid off. I also had good germination on the edible lupins so fingers crossed they will do well. I am a bit worried about snails but nothing awful has happened yet.
The polytunnel has yielded our first tomato of the year yesterday and we are eating loganberries for breakfast. I spotted a flower on a courgette yesterday as well so hoping for a good squash year.
Our lovely chickens are growing fast and are now fed twice a day. They adore Tim, but perhaps it is the jug in his hand that attracts them to him. Whenever he passes by the fence they run to him excitedly, wings flapping to give them extra speed.
It looks as though the heat wave forecast for most of Europe is going to miss us here in Galicia. We have a low pressure hanging off the coast which is pushing the heat past us and we are all grateful for that. The forecast is for low twenties which is enough for me. Finally a pic of Nosher who is making the most of his straw bale whilst he can. We use the straw for mulching in the summer and he is always disappointed when we take it away. Dreaming of 'ratting' perhaps?
Edited to add that we have our view back. Unusually they have been cutting back deciduous woodland this week and we just noticed that the woodland at the bottom of our land has gone so we can see for miles again. Unfortunately this was mixed oak woodland as well as pine and probably full of nesting birds at this time of year. We are hoping that they replant with native species but I expect it will be pine or eucalyptus, neither of which is any good for wildlife.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Growth Spurt

Post sheep, the grass is coming back with a vengeance and I have been busy planting out home raised seedlings with others brought in from the local market. I am a fan of Carole Depp and in the spirit of good prepping (for the downturn that is to come) I am trying to source, test and refine local varieties of veggies which are tough enough to cope with changes in climate and feed us.

We are trying 'Granny's beans' this year bought from an old lady at the local market. She assured me that they were good eaten green and for drying so we shall see. Another newbie for this year are sweet lupins which can be eaten green or dried. Tomatoes and potatoes both readily get blight here so although I am still trying to grow tomatoes, I am also putting my faith in oca and may move to tomatillos both of which are blight free even if the yields are a little less than their domesticated relations.
It looks as though it will be a good loganberry year.

Flowers keep blooming and beer traps are working against the slug and snail menace. All that cheap beer going to waste, it makes me want to weep.
Finally the darling meat chickens are having a fabulous time in the orchard. Hesitant at first they now spend all day eating, grazing, snoozing, dust bathing and chasing insects in the long grass. I often sit and watch them doing what chickens should. Their chicken mates are at this moment shut up in sheds, never seeing daylight or experiencing the joy of summer afternoons dozing in dappled shade. I know that eating meat is unfashionable at the moment but the argument for and against doesn't have to be binary, there are always shades of grey.

I firmly believe that there is a place for animals on a small holding, eating good quality natural food, living a good quality of life and providing valuable manure. Money and profit shouldn't be the main driving force behind good animal husbandry and if that makes meat more expensive and out of the reach of consumers on a everyday basis then so be it. We should value meat as the incredible nourishing gift that it is. A life was lost in order to provide it so down with your cheap burgers and nasty feed lots and cages, and a salute to the poor animals forced to endure the living hell of factory farms. We should be getting them out of there and into the sunlight where their joy can enrich humanities soul. Enough of preaching, here is a pic of Sheldon and Cyril et al.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Goodbye Sheep and Hello Chickens

Unfortunately the sheep didn't work out this time. There were six hungry mouths and our secure areas got grazed down quickly and the other larger areas which are less well fenced and/or contain delicate shrubs and trees were escaped from, or the entire contents were eaten down including our rarer trees. The senior ewes had been raised with goats, and like goats they had a taste for trees and shrubs and were happy to stand on their hind legs to reach everything below six feet high. They were also adept at leaning hard on our fence posts, some of which gave under the strain allowing them unfettered access to the out of bounds areas including our neighbour's hay fields.
All this meant that we had to supervise them constantly which wasn't going to work out when Tim started work earlier this week. Luckily a friend knew a farmer with a flock and he took them all to join his gang and I have no doubt they are enjoying their company as we speak. Buster the ram's future is less certain, if he doesn't get on with the resident ram one of them will be next weeks dinner but he was originally a meat lamb so he has had an extra year of life, sex and rock'n'roll. We will have a couple of lambs again to fatten on our land but we now know we don't have enough grass to run a flock year round so lesson learnt. Also 'goaty' sheep are much more destructive than innocent run-of-the-mill lambs which are so much easier to manage.
After the sheep went we moved forward with our plan to raise our own meat with a batch of meat birds. We have eight rubia pollos and they will enjoy the delights of our orchard for most of the summer. We avoided the white Cobb hybrid birds as the poor things grow so fast that they can barely walk and they just sit and get huge very quickly and have to be slaughtered at around 8 weeks old as they go off their feet and have heart attacks due to their size. Another example of man breeding animals for his own use and ignoring their quality of life. At least the brown birds we have will be able to walk, forage and dust bathe and we will let them live until they start to struggle with their weight at which point we will kill them quickly and humanely here on our small holding.

On a cheerier note the weather is all over the place, up to 30 degrees C for a couple of days and now back to single digits but the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing lustily and the veggies are sprouting madly. Nature's bounty brings such joy.