A somewhat belated 2018 Nevruz celebration – there has been a lot going on here and the blog has fallen behind – I will try and catch up although the posts might be brief.
If I had to choose one thing that sums up changes over the past year on the smallholding I think it would be the goats.
Firstly Iggy Pop had a lovely Baby Soda Pop who in turn delighted everyone on the campsite. I learnt to milk a goat – luckily for me Iggy was a kind and gentle teacher and I learned quite quickly that she wouldn’t stand in the milk bucket if the treats and branches kept coming! She is also generously lets kids learn how to milk on her – egg collecting has moved up a step!
I started making some easy cheeses with her milk – curd cheese, halloumi, ricotta and mozzarella as well as yoghurt.
I also collected 4 Anglo-Nubian goats in September – Elsie and her daughter Ellen and another two 6 month-old goats Sage and Sorrel – the micro-dairy gang was ready. I hoped that Elsie had been covered by Odin the marvellous buck who lived with the herd we bought them from. And at around 3am on 1st February (after a very long day teaching in London for me) she had triplets – Eleven, Esme and Emilia.
Of course they were born at a really cold point of the year a couple of weeks before a massive snow storm came through. But this just gave me the opportunity to try out the little goats I had bought them in a fit of panic-buying.
Smallholding isn’t always fun though and when she was about 6 weeks old Esme fell and broke her leg so we had to have her killed which chipped at my heart a little bit. Better news is that co-milking with Elsie I am getting about 1.5 litres of milk from her a day – although she does often stand in the milking pail!
This year was also the first year piglets were born on the smallholding. No.2 had 6 live piglets, 4 girls and 2 boys (the 7th piglet died). The bacon and sausages we are now selling are therefore from our own rare-breed, large black, free-range completely home-grown pigs.
Of course we also hatched out ducklings and chicks. I built up a good stock of maran, ixworth and blue-egg laying hens and cockerel, but a fox attack in October decimated my flock leaving at least 31 dead. I have now started again to try and rebuild the flocks.
Lambing happened in an intense three day period over Easter, but luckily my friend Kerry was here to help out. Five ewes lambed 11 lambs, but unfortunately one of the ewes died and we were left with two orphans Fraggle and River. As the weather was cold we may have carried them in for a few evenings and fed them sitting on the sofa!
Bobtail had triplets and again chewed off their tails. However after a bad dose of scours going through the lambs this winter I can now kind of see the benefit of docking lambs’ tails – it really helps keep their back ends clean.
Then in the autumn Kenny the fabulous ram came to stay, leapt over a lot of fences and was enamored with the ewes and unfortunately Fraggle the orphan lamb. I am currently in the middle of this year’s lambing but I will post some updates very soon … I promise.
We also had snow which was dramatic.
The alpacas continued to thrive (although they were slacking on the night of the fox attack), but the best thing was that Adam sent me a scarf that he had made from Inky Dinky Do’s fleece – carding, spinning, dyeing and then knitting it. I love it (and I think Inky Dinky did too – although the debate continues as to whether this is Inky or Juniper)
The polytunnel of dreams had its first proper year and it was glorious. It produced a vast amount of food that we duly ate including thousands of strawberries, my first peaches, potatoes, beans, peas, lettuces, sunflowers, brassicas, peppers and aubergines among other stuff.
The fruit did well. I picked lots of mulberries, but the birds picked more. We had quite a lot of damsons and Kerry stoned about 18kg of them for me – but still no real greengages – the tree is infested with greenfly every year.
The apple haul wasn’t as good as previous years but we still made some juice
The polytunnel of dreams was also featured in a magazine which to be honest felt as good as publishing academic books which maybe says something about the direction my life should take in future.
But it turns out that putting hay down as a mulch in a hot wet environment isn’t such a good idea as grass grows. By the end of the summer it was an overgrown mess and I despaired. However at the end of the year I resolved to clear it up and managed it with the help of some friends.
I started planting a few weeks ago and it is starting to come alive again – again there will be an update on this soon.
Our Christmas project was also gardening related – we completely renovated the hugelkultur to try and make it easier to manage.
The bees continued to thrive. I caught a swarm, rescued a swarm from someone in a nearby village (with their help and expert advice) and robbed lots of summer and heather honey.
The heather honey has been so prolific the last two years I think it is actually worth investing in a heather honey press as it is a nightmare to extract from the comb.
I went into the winter with 6 hives (a couple were quite weak) and on first check this spring they have all survived.
Zephi continued to grow and really is a lovely albeit very naughty (and difficult) dog. Kainaat of course continues to be the prince among dogs and is lovely. As I had some health issues this year we didn’t compete in any trials except a local one, but who knows, maybe next year.
I carried on my heroic wild swimming and in July Alfie and I went for an adventure and swam 3km from Durdle Door to Lulworth Cove with a group of swimmers. It was amazing, but very hard. I had a brilliant time and I hope more adventures will happen soon. I also bought a wetsuit which makes winter swimming so much easier.
In my other life (as the reluctant historian) – I finished another book Liberating Histories; my research shifted to focus more on art and how artists use forms of past-talk in their work to contribute to socio-political conversations; I ended up travelling quite a lot to speak in some interesting places where I met some lovely people; best of all I finally went part-time at work.
Which can only mean one thing … yes the cafe will open this year.
I am still finalising things and have a daunting amount to do, but I will get there. So let’s see what 2018 brings ..