Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Rodent problem

This is what happens when gloves come into contact with rodents. This took two weeks since we last used them, my guess is a rat but I suppose a number of mice could have done the same damage.

Better check for some prices on new bee gloves.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Last Mutton of the season goes to slaughter

We took our last mutton animal of the season to the abattoir today. I have never liked this job but it is all part of the job of keeping sheep. We have decided to sell our mutton from September till april leaving the summer season to those selling beef and lamb.

We originally started producing mutton because of the longer lifespan it gave our animals. Now we have discovered the outstanding quality of well hung mutton and how the flavour comes through even when cooked in heavily spiced meals.

I wonder why anyone ever cooks with young lamb, it is not in the same league for flavour as our mutton.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Green Manure development

The green manure crop sown late summer last year has started to put a bit of growth on. The species you see here are clover re and white and the large leaf is chicory.The gras is mainly colts foot which has a smaller to but produces a large root mass. This is converted to humus after cultivation. The area seen here is going to be the leek and onion area, but first will be grazed for a week or more to improve incorporation rates.

New season tractor problems

The new season has started , the tractor which hasn't moved since November won't start. The problem in the battery area , first I thought we had dirty connections but after charging I tested it. Turns out we have a dud battery.So £75.00 later we have a functioning tractor once more, so bring on the new season, but we start with some relaxed leek harvesting, more work for the tractor next week.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Growing room and the plants response

We have been looking at the costs of the growing room (seen here with lights off), trying to decide on the value of running it against electricity costs. We have onions in there now lighting 20hrs per day maintaining a maximum temperature of 18.5c to a minimum of 12c.

Three weeks ago we sowed Ailsa Craig onions and put three trays in the tunnel and the same under the lights. Below you can see the comparison the trays n the left are from the growing room those to the right are from the tunnel.
You can see that not only are the growing room plants bigger but they are darker green and generally healthier looking.
We will see over the coming season which will produce a better crop but so far the groing room plants look well in advance and will probably repay the cost of electricity.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Chickens clearing out after cabbages and green manures

We are getting ready to sow the green manures so have removed all the covers and detritus from last years Brassica crop. The chickens have immediately moved in to complete the clear up job. There is a build up of short tailed voles under the covers, these cause havoc with any transplanted crop and will damage roots of green manures. we will leave the area uncovered for a few days so that owls and chickens can help reduce the vole population.The green manure we will use this year will be a bit different after the problems with re-growth of chicory pushing up our starch mulch. The new mix will be a mix of red clover, white clover and perennial ryegrass.
The red clover should provide nitrogen up to 300kg/Ha, white clover adds some nitrogen but also improves soil structure while the ryegrass will soak up the nitrogen which will be released when we incorporate next season.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Spring watch at Hopesay

Sure sign that spring is well on its way, a broad bean emerging, sown this year in Feb will provide a crop in that difficult period May and June known as the hungry gap These lettuce were overwintered as small 4 leaf seedlings are now starting to put on a bit of growth. You can just see to the right the remains of another lettuce crop. These were planted earlier and as a result wintered as more mature plants. They were decimated by Downy Mildew which hardly touched the seedlings growing in the next bed.
The lesson from this would appear to be plant earlier so plants are harvested before winter or plant late to winter as seedlings

For the first time this year we wintered spinach in the tunnel to get an early spring crop. So far it seems to have worked, I took my first cut this past week and it is showing strong growth so we will get more crops before the summer plants are available.
The seed trays are onions which were germinated in our growing room under artificial lights for 2 weeks before being stood out in the unheated tunnel.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Feeding pollen patties in spring

With sprung round the corner we have been feeding a weekly pattie of natural pollen plus other high protein foods. Making protein available to bees when there would be none naturally.
We hope to encourage early breeding giving us the opportunity to split hives in late April or early may and re queen with imported queens. Our winter losses are about the same as last year, a bit disappointing as it looked like we may have done better from early inspections. still those colonies that are alive are looking good, so following a really good summer we shuld be in good shape by the end of the year. Ever the optomist.