Monday, 27 August 2012

We still have four sheep from last year waiting for the Farmers Markets. These are Badger Face with one Wiltshire Horn cross, looking good with particularly neat hair or fleece style all hand finished.

Working the dog with Badger Face is different from Hill Radnors our usual breed. Badger Face will take off at the slightest approach from the dog. Seen below Millie has got them to a standstill but she has to work well back, any closer and they will bolt and they can really shift - the only sheep I've seen move quicker are the primitive sheep like Hebridean and Soay.

Late late swarms

 This year is the biggest years for swarms I've seen. 
 We just had what looked like a prime swarm land on our property in the second week of August. 

Then the next day another was spotted flying past, but they obviously had somewhere else in mind
 Once I had boxed the swarm I knew the queen was in as the workers started fanning to attract stragglers,
 You can see the Nasonov gland exposed as the bees stick their abdomens in the air and propel the  pheromone by fanning their wings. Within the hour all the bees were safely sitting in the box.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The vegetable plot

For the first time this season we are seeing a good growth rate on the vegetable plot, brassicas are moving ahead well and we should see  a  reasonable crop. The leeks are coming on, not so sure if they have enough time but we are due some warmer weather towards the end of the week.

The wet weather has been ideal for couch grass which we generally have a problem wit. These beds had to be abandoned and will be rotovated at the first opportunity during dry weath

This years lambs

Millie about to round up the lambs for a quick inspection
This years crop of lambs looking good so far, I am hoping to sell the ewe lambs at the annual Radnor sheep sales while the males will be fattened and sold as mutton

The bees have had another poor couple of weeks, I was hoping that the warm spell would continue for two or even three weeks but the weather closed in again and the bees were put back to maintaining honey levels rather than adding to any crop.
The remainder of the season now will be focused on getting the bees into the winter disease free and with ample stores.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Good, bad and lessons learned

This is the strangest season I've known  we are by my reckoning four weeks behind what we have come to regard as normal. By far the most demanding of years as almost everything has been negatively affected.
The vegetables such as carrots parsnips leeks and beetroot have been slowed down but should hopefully produce a crop they require relativity low growing temperatures. All the most marginal crops however have effectively lost a month of their growing season. While we may get some tomatoes, courgettes, fine beans and squash the shorter growing season will  dramatically reduce the harvest.

The bees have had it rough I've not lost any colonies but have had to feed once in June. The swarming this year has been phenomenal. In one apiary I had all 14 colonies swarming in July and even had a swarm issue in the last week of July.      

The sheep have enjoyed the good grass growth and we have one the best crop of lambs. The hay though still has not been cut as our contractor was away during our only (so far) good week. We're sweating on three or four consecutive rain free days, none in sight so far.

So what have we learned this year?
We have an urgent need to build diversity into our systems. the climate now can produce drought or flood, poor light levels or searing heat. To produce economic crops in these variable conditions there has to be a range of crops able to cope with these extremes.
The poor growing conditions have highlighted a fertility problem here. When there are low temperatures and poor light, fertility needs to be high in order to take advantage of  what warmth there is. Our green manure system will be incorporated with the animals (hens and sheep) to boost nitrogen and phosphate levels.   

Keeping the bees with young queens is vital in poor years, to loose half your bees and the stores to a swarm can spell disaster for the honey crop. This year has been the worst for swarming by an order of magnitude Next year we will be raising queens for all the colonies from the earliest possible date regardless of the
 age of the queen. We are aiming for each colony to have a queen of the current year and a partner nucleus hive with a young queen.

The sheep this year have done well, lambs are looking good with no signs of the fly and worm problem of last year. We have developed a comprehensive health plan with the vet and so far it seems to have produced the desired results.

We may have to look into our own hay making equipment this year, the opportunity to make good hay can have a  tiny window that small hay producers like us need to be able to respond quickly before the chance is gone. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New arthropod

Her is the latest in the unusual insects found in Hopesay. This one is a Pseudoscorpion, not the actual one nor I suspect the same species but pretty similar. Ours was about 3mm long and very active bombing up and down Adams'  arm with those little pincers going ten to the dozen.

The previous mystery arthropod was a snake fly, never seen by me before bur apparantly not that unusual.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Lambs weaned today

At last I ahve weaned the lambs today, a couple weeks later than planned but I should be able to put the tup in with the ewes a bit earlier this year as the ewes are in much better condition than last year. So a week or so on poor pasture before moving onto good grass should get them in condition to take the tup in late September. I may have to resort to some additional feeding if they are looking a bit thin.