Dec 312011
 
wellington boot

The footwear of choice on this smallholding – the wellie!  

To be precise – the muckboot (and no we are not paid to say that).  

Here is a wee ditty sung by Billy Connolly praising the humble wellington boot!

 

If it wisnae fur yer wellies

where would you be?
you’d be in the hospital or infirmary
cause you wid have a dose o the flu
or even plurasie
if it wisnae fur yer feet in yer wellies!

Wellies they are wonderful
wellies they are swell
they keep out the watter
and they keep in the smell.
When your sittin in a room
you kin always tell when some
B***r take aff thur wellies

Lyrics – Billy Connolly

 December 31, 2011  post archive, smallholder Tagged with:
Dec 282011
 

Importance of short tailed or field voles to conserving predators and raptors

In the winter when the rough grass has stopped growing and weeds have died down in our wood, the runs or motorways of the short tailed or field vole become more prominent.  This little creature plays a very big part in the ecosystem that exists within our smallholding, because it is the main source of food for the Kestrels and Tawny Owls found at Fife Smallholder.  Both these birds have nationally been in decline, and their presence here is a good example of the part that smallholdings can play in conserving wildlife in the countryside.

What does a short tailed or field vole look like?

Microtus pennsylvanicus

Description

Body length 10 – 12 cm. Grey-brown above, cream-grey below. The tail is less than 40% of body length, the tail is also much shorter than that of a bank vole. Ears are almost completely covered by fur, whereas those of bank vole are more prominent. The eyes are relatively smaller than those of a bank vole.

 Reproduction

Between March and December, the short-tailed field vole may have as many as four to five litters containing 4-6 young. The young females are ready to mate  at 6 weeks.

Where do short tailed field voles live?

They are found generally in moist grassy habitats, such as woodland, marsh, or river banks.  Here we find them in the rough grass in our wood and wild areas.

Although they dig burrows, they usually build nests above ground and build intricate runways through grasses.  Sometimes, voles will use the burrows of moles to get around.  Many vole families will share the runway systems.

English: Patterns of vole runs Tracks left in ...

Voles feed on a variety of herbaceous plants and grasses. Voles feed on above and below ground plant parts such as foliage, seeds, stems, roots and bulbs. As food becomes scarce in autumn and early winter, voles may seek the tasty cambium of small tree roots, crowns and trunks.

Short tailed field voles can damage trees

 Trees chewed by short tailed field voles are stunted, spindly and have very little foliage. Leaves can even show signs of reddening and other water-stress symptoms.  Damaged trees can look like they have been whittled near the trunk. The chew marks made by a vole can be recognized by: the pattern, location, and the size of the bite marks. Voles feed close to the ground, if not below ground.
For trees, there are protective barriers available. These tree guards can be purchased or homemade. Guards are often made out of plastic.  Make sure that the height of the guard is at least 12 inches and also plant the base of the guard deep enough that voles cannot burrow beneath them, 6-10 inches is enough. Check these guards regularly because you may have just made a cosy vole home!

Who eats field voles?

Kestrels and Tawny Owls eat the voles that are found in our wood and rough grassland on the smallholding.  As an important food source for owls and some other predators, their population peaks and troughs in a four-year cycle.  As they travel, field voles leave a trail of scent to warn off other voles. Hunting birds of prey, such as kestrels (identified by its characteristic hovering and perch hunting techniques) look out for the UV light that radiates from the trails.

Relationship between voles and Tawny Owls

Deutsch: Ein Waldkauz (Strix aluco). English: ...

Tawny Owls prey primarily on short tail voles, field mice and shrews. They will hunt at day and at night but usually at first and last light. They will hunt in and around wooded areas and in fields. Tawny Owl numbers have dropped dramatically over the last 80 or so years. As the Tawny Owl (like most birds of Prey) are very high up on the food chain,  any human changes that destruct and fragment the habitats and environments of animals at the bottom, invariably affects things at the top.

Reasons for the decline of the tawny owl

  •  Hedgerow destruction and replacement with maintenance free fencing. Great for Modern Farming but bad for mice and voles
  •  Increase in stocking density of Sheep and greater silage production. Lots of food for Cows and Sheep but means that the grass is too short for voles to run around in.

Relationship between field voles and Kestrels

Kestrel populations have declined over the last 25 years, but has remained stable over the last few years.  Population fluctuations generally tend to parallel that of its main prey species (the short-tailed vole) which has been affected by farming intensification and the lost of rough grassland.  The Kestrel has also suffered from increased competition from other raptors that have recovered from the low population levels in the second half of the 20th century.
The short tailed field vole is the preferred diet of Kestrels and breeding performance is closely tied in to the three-year cycles of this small mammal. In peak vole years Kestrel territory occupation is high, clutch sizes large and brood survival high. When the vole numbers bottom out after the peak the Kestrel occupation and productivity also falls.

The effect of snow on voles and predators

Snow can be good for voles as it protects their runs from the Owls and Kestrels, and voles can benefit from a fall of snow because it provides an insulating blanket over their territory.  Voles can eat roots below ground, and can therefore continue to find food.

Predators such as Tawny Owls and Kestrels find it much harder to catch voles after a snow fall and this weather can put great stress on these birds.

Dec 222011
 

Free Range Scotch Egg Recipe – What to do with stale bread

You can’t beat some free range eggs from Fifesmallholder, even in winter the yolk is still a strong yellow colour.  A reflection of the feed they are fed and  what they eat whilst wandering about our pasture or woodland.  Here is a good recipe for eggs that are not as fresh as they might be (fresh eggs sold direct from a smallholder will not peel as well because they may only be a couple of days old – you need to give them a couple of weeks so that the shell peels away more easily).

* please try to buy locally or support Scottish producers*

makes 4 scotch eggs

Ingredients:

  • 5 free range eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g (14oz) free range pork sausages
  • 30g (1& 1/4 oz) flour
  • 4 tbs milk
  • 80g (3oz) fine breadcrumbs from a stale loaf
  • olive oil or sunflower oil for frying

Method:

1. Fill a saucepan with water and place over a medium heat.  When it is simmering steadily, add four eggs.  Cook for 7 minutes then drain and place in a bowl of iced water for 5 minutes.  Cool completely and peel.  Set aside.

2. Open up your sausages to access the sausage meat, discard the skins.  Season the meat well and divide into four. Using wet hands,  flatten each piece, then shape into a cup big enough to hold an egg.  Place an egg into each cup and then pinch the meat around the egg to seal it inside.  Set aside.

3. Line a plate with non-stick baking paper and set aside.

4. Prepare the coating for the eggs by placing the flour on a flat dish then seasoning.  In a wide,  shallow bowl,  beat the remaining egg with the milk.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate.

5. Take a meat wrapped egg and roll it in the seasoned flour to coat, shaking off the excess.  Now dip it in the beaten egg mixture, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Set aside on the non-stick baking paper and repeat with the remaining eggs.

6. Pre-heat oil in a deep-frying pan or saucepan (filled one third full with oil) to 160 deg C or 325 deg F and fry two eggs at a time for 6 minutes.  Using tongs, rotate eggs to ensure they brown evenly.  Drain on kitchen paper, and allow to cool before serving or refrigerating.  Once cool, the eggs will last for 2 days in an airtight container.

For more egg information check out my egg page.

 December 22, 2011  post archive, recipe Tagged with: , , , ,
Nov 192011
 

Benefits of Cider Vinegar, Garlic, and Poultry Spice to a Smallholder

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

As the light shortens and we come into autumn/winter some of my hens moult, and today I gave them some things that I feel will help them to replace their feathers, and maximise their health for the cold months ahead.  Lack of daylight and moulting means less eggs (energy goes into making new feathers), but I don’t mind a drop in egg production over the winter because I think it gives the hens a bit of a rest, and helps them to stay strong over the long dark, cold, damp days till spring.

Winter behaviour of chickens

The hens seem to stay in their sheds more over winter, and particularly during a cold spell when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.  They therefore have less access to minerals and food that they would normally consume whilst out free ranging in the field or woodland.

Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is an age-old product beloved by many traditional chicken keepers to promote all round health and vitality in poultry (and many other animals). 

What does it do?

  • Aids digestion of chickens

 helping to break down minerals and fats and assists the bird to assimilate proteins and convert food better.

  •  Lowers the Ph of the chicken’s digestive tract 

rendering it to be 90% less welcoming to Pathogens.

  •  Provides a natural source of Potassium and other important trace minerals

 Helps to improve fertility and general well-being.

  •  Depresses the growth of Algae in the chicken water drinker

 Use cider vinegar only in a plastic drinker.

  •  Helps clean the plumage of grease and old bloom, when used in baths.

It is therefore excellent for show birds.

  •  Clears respiratory tracts

  • Can also be used to treat minor wounds and skin irritations

At a dose of no more than 1 part to 10.

  • Cleans feeding and drinking equipment 

and is often sprayed into and around housing as a very effective fly and insect deterrent.

  • Will help chickens with stress 

which is one of the main contributors to their immune system lowering and letting in disease

How much cider vinegar do I use?

 Add to the drinking water at the rate of 5ml per litre of clean drinking water.  As a guide I would suggest 10ml of Apple Cider Vinegar per litre of fresh water – be careful not to add to much as it may stop the hens drinking which would be a problem.

*Caution*

“Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not an alternative to regular worming. It has been shown to improve resistance to internal parasites but is no substitute. Many keepers use ACV to improve resistance to coccidosis in particular.”

What Is Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease of poultry which affects the digestive tract and is primarily found in chickens and turkeys. If not treated it can lead to death. The symptoms are:
  • Ruffled feathers.
  • Unthriftiness.
  • Head drawn back into shoulders.
  • A chilled appearance.
  • Diarrhoea which may have blood in it.

Causes of coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite (coccidia).  Poultry are exposed to the protozoan parasite via their droppings, dirty drinkers and damp litter in their huts.  Coccidia thrives in damp conditions such as damp chicken litter and is found in chicken manure.  Coccidia can also be found in water that is not kept clean and free of chicken droppings.

Stress in chickens

Times of stress for a chicken may include:
  • Moving house
  • Introducing new birds or mixing up the pecking order
  • If snow falls on the ground (a stressful change in environment for chickens)
  • After a fright – e.g. fox or dog attack
  • After injury

What is the difference between cider vinegar I get in the supermarket and others?

The difference is that the ACV sold in the supermarket is filtered and pasturised to preserve the product and kill off bacteria. This also kills off the beneficial ‘good’ bacteria. The equine / animal feed ACV is unpasturised and unfiltered.

What about cider vinegar and worms?

Personally, I believe they help make the gut an unpleasant environment for worms but cannot replace a chemical wormer if you have a confirmed case of worms.  If in any doubt, if you don’t want to use a licensed wormer (Flubenvet) then do get a worm count done. As well as the health implications for your birds when not worming correctly, finding a worm inside an egg is unpleasant for you and your customers.  Check out this link for more info on worms and their treatment.
 

Poultry Spice 

Give your birds a boost in Spring or after the moult with this natural nutritional supplement plus extra minerals in a spice base. One teaspoonful to be given in the usual wet or dry mash for every 10 fowls. In cold weather a little more of the powder may be given. Specially recommended for improving all round condition and performance. Invaluable for rearing Poultry, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys and Game birds.

Poultry Spice contains minerals, powdered ginger, turmeric, fenugreek and aniseed. Click on the links to find out more about the health benefits of these spices to humans, and hopefully, our feathered friends.

Garlic

Garlic is supposed to keep the mites and lice away.
 
Nov 062011
 
puppy picture

We have updated our puppy page @ fifesmallholder

Smallholding puppies can be found here:

The pups are now 4 weeks old, and have their own facebook page:

More photos on my flickr page:

 November 6, 2011  dog, employment, income, post archive Tagged with: , , , ,
Nov 022011
 
fungi

The relationship between trees and fungi

Its been a good year for mushrooms or fungi, on our smallholding.

 

woodland mushroom at fife smallholder

 

What is fungi?

Fungi, together with the bacteria, are the ‘decomposers’ of our environment and they are just as important as the ‘producers’ the green plants. Fungi lack the green pigment chlorophyll, the pigment that is essential in converting sunlight into plant energy, because they don’t have this pigment, fungi have to get their energy from other sources, from organic material produced by other plants.

Fungi are not plants but belong in a kingdom of their own. Their cell walls are made of chitin (a white horny substance more easily recognised as the substance that forms the outer skeletons of crabs!) and instead of using photosynthesis to obtain energy they digest organic matter.

Where will I find fungi?

Many fungi grow only in very specific places, or are associated with particular kinds of trees. i.e. ‘Birch’ polypore or Razorstrop, a bracket fungus.  Fruiting bodies may also be produced in a particular season. Although Autumn (August to November)  is the most fruitful season. In spring for example, there are Saint George’s mushroom so named because the fruiting bodies first appear around the 23rd April, which is St. George’s Day. In Summer  –  giant Puffballs and the edible bracket ‘Chicken of the woods’.

woodland fungi

woodland fungi

The fungi in the picture above is likely to be Honey Fungus.  This is a destructive parasite which can be found on tree stumps, roots and buried branches.  It is recognisable  from the black rhizomes encircling its host which resemble a network of leather bootlaces.  Do not eat raw.  Collect the caps when young, when the gills are white.  Blanch before cooking and then fry slowly.  Honey Fungus has  a strong flavour and firm texture.        

Types of fungi

Fungi can be divided into three groups:

  •  Saprophytes 

are probably the most numerous, performing a vital role in breaking down dead organic matter. Feeding on dead tree trunks, decomposed plant remains in the soil, dead insects, man-made foodstuffs and clothes. e.g. Stinkhorns.

  • Parasites 

Parasitism is the dark side of fungal ecology, these fungi obtain all their nutrients from a living host. In many cases resulting in the death of the poor host. A plant parasite commonly seen locally is the Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea.

  • Symbionts 

These fungi live in close association with the roots of other living plants to their mutual benefit, this symbiotic relationship is known as mycorrhizae (fungus roots).  The fungus benefits by receiving sugars from a plant and the plant obtains phosphates and other nutrients from the fungus.

In particular, this is the type of mushroom I am interested in – the mycorrhizal. They have a symbiotic relationship (friendly exchange) with trees or other plants.  Mushroom mycelium receives carbohydrates and other nutrition from trees while delivering minerals and water. The tree often receives a significant amount of it’s water intake by delivery from the extended mycelial network. Both organisms benefit. More than 90% of all plants form beneficial associations with fungus.

Trees in our woodland

Oak  supports many species including maitake,  chanterelles,  chicken of the woods, honey mushrooms, oysters and many others. 

White, yellow, and other birches can harbor polypores on the wood and chanterelles,  and others on the ground. Mature, scarred, or dying trees usually produce more. 

Beech are where you find chanterelles,  and occasionally oysters.

 

mushroom found on smallholding

nibbled mushroom

What fungi is in our wood just now?

Bearded Milk Cap: Lactarius pubescens 

All the Lactarius species produce a milky fluid if the gills or the cap is damaged, giving rise to the common name “milk caps”. Cap 3-10cm across, convex with a depressed disc and in rolled margin, becoming flat then shallowly funnel-shaped with an arched margin; pale tan or cinnamon pink, slightly darker at the disc. Found on soil amongst birch, Broadleaved and mixed woodland, parks. Common. Late August to October to autumn.

Jew’s  Ear –  Auricularia auricula- judae

 
Common, found in the UK  all year round. Soft, floppy, reddish brown ear on branches. Jew’s Ear fungus likes to grow on common elder and false acacia.  It is edible and considered a delicacy in the far east. n.b.  ‘Jews ear’ refer to the legend that Judas hung himself on an Elder  the ‘ear’ being his returned spirit.

 Oyster Mushrooms – Pleurotus ostreatus

In the woods near me there is a semi-rotten beech tree that hosts oyster mushroom mycellium. Every year, after a very cold snap (usually in January) the mycellium runs and its fruiting bodies appear. Behold! Sumptuous oyster mushrooms.

Check out this website for lots more info

http://www.rspbliverpool.org.uk/Fungi.htm 

Check out other posts from Fife Smallholder on this topic including the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code.

Oct 302011
 
hawthorn logs gathered on smallholding for winter fuel

Gathering logs on the smallholding for fuel

Today we have been gathering up logs, that have been sawn up for winter fuel.  These logs will not be used this winter, but will be stacked and allowed to dry out ready for use next winter.

fife smallholder gathering logs for winter

 

Information about hawthorn

We have many Hawthorn trees in our wood, and this was one that was past its best.  Hawthorn wood is hard-wearing and often used in the past to make handles for knives and daggers.  No wood burns more readily than hawthorn, even when green, and it is known as the hottest firewood.  Excellent charcoal is made from hawthorn.  Here in Scotland the bark was used to dye wool black and in most country places hawthorn leaves were used to make a refreshing tea.  Hawthorn flowers can be added to syrups and can make a lovely wine.

Hawthorn and blackthorn both have the character for a good hedge: they are easy to germinate, quick to grow and capable of being trained in any direction.  if haws, from the hawthorn, are put in a bag and soaked in water all the winter and then sown in February or March, they will come up the first year.

Hawthorn berries are popular with wild birds. For information on flowers, pollinators and insects that are attracted to the hawthorn click here.

Hawthorn Folklore 

Hawthorn is linked to May Day ceremonies and was believed to protect people and livestock from evil influences and lightning: and witches too, who get tangled up in the prickles.  Never bring May (hawthorn blossom) indoors, though.  Because of its association with Christ’s crown of thorns it is thought to bring death to the household.

Click here for lots more lore on Hawthorn.

hawthorn at fifesmallholder

What type of wood makes the best fuel?

“Hawthorn logs are good to last, if you cut them in the fall.”

Check out this post to find out more.

What is the difference between hawthorn and blackthorn?

Check out this post to find out.

Oct 232011
 
scotland flag

If you are a smallholder in Scotland who has animals or livestock then read on.

 

Did you know?

“Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless that person has access to all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals while that person is attending to them, and is acquainted with the provisions of those Codes.”

Says who?

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (S.S.I. 2000 No. 442), Regulation 10.
It also states that :
– Any person who employs or engages a person to attend to animals must ensure that the person attending to the animals:
• is acquainted with the provisions of all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals being attended to;
• has access to a copy of those Codes while he is attending to the animals;
and
• has received instruction and guidance on those Codes.

How do I get access to the welfare codes?

In order to secure a high level of welfare in livestock and other animals, various codes of recommendation and practice have been issued on the Authority of the Scottish Parliament pursuant to section 37 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

click here for a general link or:

 The Five Freedoms 

The five freedoms are a set of recommendations for the welfare of animals in all environments.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 

by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort; 

by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease; 

by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express natural behaviour; 

by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress;

 by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

“The Five Freedoms are basic ideals of welfare for farm animals, wherever the animals may be, such as at farms, markets, slaughterhouses, or in transit, and should be applied by anyone in charge of the animals or handling them. “

 

 

Oct 122011
 
free range egg

smallholders can sell eggs direct

 

Producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to mark their eggs – so long as they provide other information such as their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs at the point of sale.

More info on eggs on my web page

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/chicken/egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Back to topic

 

 

 

Oct 102011
 

Smallholders and their dogs

Read about the uses of dogs on a smallholding, & pups for sale.

Dog page

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog

 Pups for sale

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog/pup

day old labrador pup

Day old pups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 012011
 

What is the white spot on my honey bees -is it a disease or mite?

fife smallholder honey bee

It is October, autumn here in Scotland and my bees are taking advantage of a late spell of warm weather to gather stores for the winter.  I can often tell what they are bringing in to the hive by the colours on their bodies.  Some of the bees in the picture have a white spot on their backs.  This is a good example where the bee has been touched by the plant whilst it has been raiding the flower for nectar.  This crop of nectar which was swallowed by the bee will be regurgitated and turned into honey, and capped with wax for eating later when it is too cold to fly.

fife smallholder bee fodder himalayan balsam

This is the plant that causes the white spot, Himalayan Balsam.  A good source of food for bees in autumn.

Sep 282011
 

Every smallholder should have at least one hive of bees

My garden and wood are well stocked with bee friendly plants and flowers, I have been known to follow bees round a garden centre and buy whatever they land on.  Plants for bees is one of my passions and I love to see them on a flower or shrub.  A consequence of this is that the moths, butterflies, and bumble bees benefit too.  Win win.  From January to December I have something in flower just in case they need nectar or pollen.

So ………. when all this well stocked larder is open to them, why do they choose to go to a flowering weed ?  :0)

honey bee

honey bee

 Click here for a link to more information about plants for bees.

Sep 272011
 

We love our sheep at Fife Smallholder.  

Please check out our new page that shows the diversity of colours and sheep breeds we have.  Starter flocks are sometimes available for sale.

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/sheep

smallholder sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 September 27, 2011  livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Sep 102011
 

Our smallholder garden has plants that the birds enjoy the seeds from in the autumn.

There is a delicate balance going on – the sparrows are quite heavy and bob about in the wind whilst eating the seeds.  This is a resident flock of sparrows that live on our smallholding.  But we also get migrant and seasonal birds that visit, to eat from the range of berries, nuts, and seeds that are available naturally.

 

Wild birds in smallholder garden.

Feeding wild birds in winter

In winter, small birds should be fat to avoid starvation and lean and agile to escape predators. This means that they face a trade-off between the costs and benefits of carrying fat reserves. Every day they must gain enough fat to survive the coming night. Severe winter weather can therefore be a major hazard for survival. A bird will lose a substantial proportion of its body weight during one cold winters night, and unless it is able to replenish its reserves, a prolonged cold spell could be catastrophic for large numbers of birds. Some species such as tits and crows cache or store food for times of less natural food abundance.
 

Supplementary Feeding

If offering supplementary foods provide a wide variety of foods at different levels – on the ground, in feeders and on a bird table. Scraps of bread (provided it isn’t stale), cooked rice and lentils, dried fruit such as raisins and sultanas, apples, oranges and grapes, coconut halves, mashed potatoes, peanuts, vegetable suet, millet and black sunflower seeds are all suitable foods to offer to birds. It is also possible to purchase ready-made up high-energy bird food mixes.
 
Providing birds with supplementary food will bring them closer for you to enjoy their fascinating behaviour and wonderful colours. However, supplementary feeding can’t provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need, so it’s important to create and manage your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through well-managed lawns,  shrub and flowerbeds.
 

All year round food for wild birds

If you provide both natural and supplementary food, your garden will be visited year-round by a host of different birds.
 

Ways of Attracting Birds into the Garden

There are many simple things that we can do to entice birds into the garden and encourage them to live and breed there. Basically, birds need water for bathing and drinking, a constant supply of food, shelter from the elements and nest sites. Water can be supplied by making a small pond with marshy edges or if that isn’t possible by obtaining a birdbath or drinking dish and regularly changing the water. Nest boxes can be installed for breeding purposes and climbing plants (e.g. ivy, honeysuckle and clematis) and shrubs, especially prickly shrubs, will provide additional natural nest sites as well as berries for the birds to eat. A well-stocked bird table will provide food, but of course providing natural sources of food is even better. With careful planning, it should be possible to provide a natural supply of food for birds for most of the year. Plants and shrubs, which provide fruit, berries and seeds are especially useful to birds and don’t be in too much of a hurry to pull up your weeds as many of these will also provide food for birds.
 
 

How to identify some common garden birds from their song

Planting for Birds

There are many trees, shrubs and plants that are especially attractive to birds, but of course the plants that you choose to grow will depend on the size of your garden/allotment, soil type, aspect and your own personal preferences. However, when selecting which plants to grow for birds do try and choose plants that don’t all produce food at the same time!
 

Trees

If you have a large garden or smallholding you may wish to include some trees. Trees provide shelter, nest sites and perches for birds, but there are many trees that will also provide them with food. Oak supplies acorns and woodpigeons, and woodpeckers will eat these. Rowan’s berries are popular with thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, bramblings, blackbirds and waxwings and the fruits of bird cherry (Prunus padus) and wild cherry (Prunus avium) are much loved by birds. Alder provides food for siskins,  goldfinches and tits, both the cones and the catkins being eaten. Bullfinches eat the seeds of ash and beech mast is popular with bramblings,  great tits, woodpeckers and chaffinches. Goldfinches and bramblings like the seeds of silver birch and various insectivorous birds also feed on the many insects that live on this tree. Conifers such as scots pine, larch, spruce, and yew also supply food for birds and have the advantage that they do not lose their leaves in winter, thus providing all-year cover. Scots pine seeds are eaten by finches, woodpeckers and the Scottish crossbill. Various types of thrushes eat yew’s berries and the seeds of larch and spruce are popular with finches, spruce seeds also being eaten by woodpeckers and European crossbills. Fruit trees such as apple, crab apple and plum are especially popular with birds. So why not plant some fruit trees or fruit bushes just for wildlife?
 

Hedging Plants

Hedges act as windbreaks and like trees provide shelter, somewhere to roost and nest sites for birds. Of particular value in a hedge are shrubs bearing berries such as elder, spindle (Euonymus europaeus), bramble, blackthorn, hawthorn, holly and wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare), which supply food for birds as well as shelter. In addition quite a few of these shrubs are spiny and offer good protection from cats and other predators. Hawthorn is popular with many nesting birds for this reason who often nest in tangles of bramble.
winter seeds for wild birds
 
Waxwings and redwings will eat hawthorn’s berries, whereas those of blackthorn are popular with thrushes. Holly and elder berries are loved by many types of birds, but are especially popular with blackcaps and thrushes. Hazel can also be used to make a hedge and its nuts are a valuable source of food for many mammals as well as for birds such as woodpeckers, jays, pigeons. Why not plant some honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)? It will soon clamber over the hedge and thrushes, warblers and blackcaps will eat its berries. Dog rose (Rosa canina) and guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) produce hips and also do well in a hedge.
 

Useful Shrubs

The following shrubs should attract birds into your garden/allotment:
 
  •  Berberis (Berberis stenophylla) – Berries are mainly eaten by thrushes and blackcaps.
  •  Cotoneaster (especially C. horizontalis, x watereri and C. frigida) – Waxwings, fieldfares, redwings and blackcaps will eat cotoneaster berries.
  •  Pyracantha – (P. coccinea, Pyracantha ‘Mojave’, Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’). Berries mainly eaten by blackcaps, waxwings and certain thrushes. Can be used to make a hedge.
  •  Viburnum – Waxwings like these berries. Can also be used to make a hedge.
  •  Ivy – Best grown up a fence, wall or tree. Woodpigeons, thrushes, warblers, blackcaps and robins eat ivy berries, which ripen in the winter.
  •  Mistletoe – Is an important garden plant, supplying berries at a time of year when food is normally in short supply.
  •  Buddleia – This shrub is tremendously popular as a nectar source for butterflies, but it will also provide seeds for bullfinches and other seed-eating birds.

Garden Plants

Many garden plants will supply seeds for seed-eating garden birds such as finches and linnets. These include evening primrose, michaelmas daisy, foxglove, aubretia, forget-me-not, sunflower, cosmos, snapdragon, wallflower, sweet william, lavender, sweet rocket, honesty, goldenrod, bird’s-foot-trefoil and globe thistle. And when I left some purple sprouting broccoli to go to seed I found that the seeds attracted quite a few greenfinches.
 

Weeds

As previously mentioned many plants that are generally classified as weeds are of tremendous food value for birds. Burdock, chickweed, cow parsley, clover, dandelion, groundsel, black medick, greater stitchwort, hogweed, fat hen, knapweed, shepherd’s purse, plantains (e.g. ribwort and hoary plantain), stinging nettles, teasel and many types of thistles such as spear thistle and woolly thistle will all provide seeds for birds to eat. Thistle seeds are especially popular with goldfinches, linnets, siskins and serin whereas goldfinches will eat the seeds of dandelions, groundsel, knapweed and fuller’s teasel. Dock, stinging nettle and meadow cranesbill seeds are popular with bullfinches.
 

Bird Identifier

The RSPB has an improved, interactive bird identifier to work out what bird you saw. Tell them a few details about the bird and they will suggest what it could have been. 
 
 
 


Sep 082011
 
green hazel nut

I love this time of year on the smallholding.

When there are lots of free wild food to eat, pickle, and add to desserts.

wild autumn raspberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my blog called ‘Too Much Of a Good Thing’  for tips and recipes on using up some of natures harvest.

Aug 272011
 

Why do chickens lose their feathers?

Now that it is coming into the colder weather on my smallholding, my hens are starting to moult! This makes no sense to me – why not do it in the warm summer when they won’t get so cold?

Check out this link which gives an explanation about moulting chickens.

 

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

Brrrrrr


When a chicken is about a year old she will start to lose her feathers but don’t panic, this is meant to happen. She is moulting. This is a completely harmless process of plumage rejuvenation and takes between 4 to 6 weeks. 
Make sure the birds are well fed during this period as it takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers. I also give them poultry spice at this time. 

Because of all the energy taking up with moulting, your chickens will stop laying until their new feathers have grown. It is also important to remember not to clip your chickens wings when they are moulting, but also that clipped wings will regrow after a moult and may need attended to again.

moulting chicken feathers

 Fancy making a jumper for your moulting chicken or rescue battery hen?  

Check out this link http://littlehenrescue.co.uk/jumpers.aspx

 August 27, 2011  autumn, livestock, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , , ,
Aug 242011
 

 Meadow sweet grows on our smallholding and is doing especially well in the wet meadow.

Its fuzzy white flowering heads standing out like blobs of shaving cream sprayed on to its dark green leaves. Meadow sweet has an especially proud history because it was used for relieving headaches and in 1897 its painkiller chemicals inspired the synthesis of aspirin – named after the plant’s old scientific name, Spiraea.

 

 

 

 August 24, 2011  Flowers, garden, post archive Tagged with: , , , ,
Aug 232011
 

A smallholder always loves free food.  

However, someone is enjoying eating the fungi in our wood and it’s not me. Perhaps it’s the hedgehog ………

nibbled mushroom

A wide range of animals are known to eat wild mushrooms – including badgers, deer, mice, pigs, rabbits and squirrels. Wild mushrooms are also eaten by slugs, snails and many insects.

“It is dangerous to assume that it is safe for humans to eat the same species that animals consume without any ill effects – deer and rabbits can eat poisonous fungi with impunity.”

Check out my other blogs about mushrooms:

 

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