Friday, 30 January 2015

Plans, plots and chickens in pots

The first month of 2015 has pretty much come and gone and although I hanker for milder Spring days I can’t help but feel that January passed at breakneck speed.  So far we’ve decorated parts of the house, continued to fence off paddocks, trim hedges and give the place a general tidy up.  This coupled with the running of the business (www.doolittlesdispensary.com) and creating our own pet food lines (launching shortly) has meant I’ve had little time to do much else. 

The ever-present to-do list taunts me with tasks completed and others awaiting completion. I’m determined to get a few key tasks done prior to the madness of Spring, namely establishing beds on a burgeoning lawn and building breeding pens for the pure breed chickens.  When Spring arrives I know I’ll have no time at all to do these things for I’ll have thousands of seeds to sow and eggs to hatch - the time of year when it seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Of course, in reality it’s a time of year I absolutely love!
New Years Bonfire 2015/16
In my last blog I discussed that plans to start the vegetable patch were afoot and progress has most certainly been made.  The old chicken run has been dismantled and we had a fantastic New Years Eve party bonfire with the old chicken shed we inherited that was so far beyond repair. It got to the point where I’d put my foot through the base every time I entered – it had to go.  This coupled with tree branches and other bits of scrap wood left by the previous landowner made for a great spectacle and a much-needed warm with mulled wine and roast chestnuts.  Where once the rickety old shed hung on for dear life lies a patch of well-fertilised earth – my prime-growing space!  This weekend I plan to create several composting trenches upon which I’ll eventually grow beans and squash along with no dig beds for the rest of the produce.  Homemade compost and rotted manure will make for the topping for these beds with a layer of cardboard beneath to smother the weeds below.  I’ll post an update on this shortly.
Speckled Sussex cockerels
Although there is little active growth in the garden right now, bar a few stoic Brassica crops and overwintering fruit bushes stand proud despite the cold just waiting to jump back into action, I’ve managed to produce the first home-grown food of 2015 in the form of meat.  Last year I hatched a dual-purpose strain of Speckled Sussex (see previous posts) that if male were destined for the plate in an effort to become self-sufficient.  A happy compromise, as I couldn’t source the Ixworth eggs I so desired (perhaps this year?).  As it happens, it turns out that Speckled Sussex are a fantastic meat breed plus the girls from the same hatch have gone to mix with my laying flock and will help to bolster production there.  The cockerels grew well with the smallest weighing in at around 5lb dressed with most averaging around 6-7lb.  The taste is like nothing I’ve experienced from shop bought meat and that coupled with knowing exactly what’s gone in to them and how they’ve been raised means that this is something I’ll certainly continue with, although I’ll probably experiment with breeds to see exactly what’s achievable.


The main goal for 2015 is to produce various meals for the home that are entirely home grown – although we will be largely restricted to chicken and eggs as the main protein sources.  I will also attempt to sell items from the farm gate and in local farm shops – flowers, plants, vegetables and other foodstuffs will form the majority of these items but I hope in time to develop and diversify.  

2015 is the year I’ve always dreamt of – the year I finally get to say I’m a smallholder.
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