Jan 282012
 
hand woven willow heron sculpture

Willow cuttings available for sale from Fifesmallholder

  • Salix Viminalis – very fast growing and ideal for firewood etc.

  • Continental yellow

  • Zwarte Driebast

  • Flanders Red

  • Noire De villaine

  • Continental Purple

  • Brittany Green

Our willows can be used for different purposes 

 
 “there is a willow grows aslant the brook
that shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream”
 
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
 

Benefits of willow

  • Properties of Willow 

    Willows will grow in a range of habitats and survives in most localities.  In soil of pH 6.0 – 8.0  Most soil types. Most topography.

     

    There are species of Willow, which are adapted to different conditions:

     

    S. alba – low lying conditions

    S. fragilis – river bank

    S. herbacea – mountains Scotland

    S. repens – colonises sand dunes

 
Willows are the fastest growing & highest yielding tree or shrub in Britain. When grown as Short Rotation Coppice they can produce as much as 10 to 15 tonnes of dry wood per hectare per year and often more on the better sites.
 
Farmers are now growing willow to supply power stations with a natural, renewable and carbon neutral source of energy. It is usually harvested on a 3 year rotation then chipped, dried and loaded into giant hoppers to be fed automatically into the boilers to produce electricity and/or heat.
 
For a smallholder or householder though, logs are more useful than woodchips. Known as the 5 year Coppice Rotation, a site is divided into 5 beds and 1 bed is harvested each year, providing a regular supply of firewood year on year.
 
Using this system, 500 plants on 750 sq m (less than a fifth of an Acre) can produce 1 Tonne of dry firewood every year.
 
To read more about firewood click here.

Planting willow

These plants are delivered as setts – unrooted cuttings.  Willows should be planted during the time when they are dormant, i.e. after the leaves have dropped and before the sap starts to rise again.
 
As they need to develop a good root system, before they can afford to develop leaves, willow cuttings should be planted between December and the beginning of April and willow rods should be in the ground by the beginning
of March.
 
They establish rapidly in any soft earth, free of weeds.  Soak them in water overnight, then plant them to about half their depth, coloured end pointing upwards. Cut back half the new growth in the winter after planting to make them bush out.
 
Planting willows link 
 
  • Healing

Country folk have been familiar with the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bitter bark as a remedy for colds and fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria.

  • Bee Fodder

Willow benefits pollinating insects in early spring. Willow plants when flowering produce both nectar and pollen. Females give only nectar, but male plants give both nectar and pollen. Planting a variety of willow types, will give an extended flowering season. The Salix Viminals often flowers in April, at the end of the period that is crucial to honey bee brood building time.
 
click here for more information 
 
  • Willow is a good supplementary feed for sheep and lambs, it also helps them cope/expel/resist worms.

 

Willow links with Scottish place names 

The Gaelic words for willow are shellach, or suil, and feature in Scottish place names such as Achnashellach in Ross-shire, Glensuileag in Inverness-shire and Corrieshalloch on Speyside. These names would have referred to both the presence of willow and the attendant industries utilising the willow’s gifts.

 

Willow folklore

 click here for some folklore 

Links

Jan 202012
 
grantown on spey 031

“It is a common myth sometimes believed by novice smallholders that sheep don’t need to be given water”

As with people, water is the most important “nutrient” that sheep need. How much they consume depends upon their age, and size, as well as temperature of the water and the amount of moisture in their feed. Sheep consuming wet grass or wet feeds (e.g. silage) won’t drink a lot of water because they are getting plenty of water from their feed. Conversely, they will drink more water if they are eating dry hay or dry, mature grass.

“Sheep don’t like to drink dirty water.”

Pregnant Ewe

For pregnant ewes, water intake increases by the third month of gestation, is doubled by the fifth month, and is greater for twin-bearing ewes than for ewes carrying a single foetus. A lack of water accompanied by a severe depression in feed intake predisposes ewes to all sorts of problems, namely unthriftiness, malnutrition and, possibly, pregnancy disease in the case of multiple bearing ewes. It is estimated that lactating ewes require 100 percent more water than non-lactating ewes.

Summer/Warm Weather

Sheep may consume 12 times more water in summer than in winter. Adequate intake of good-quality water is essential for ewes to excrete excess toxic substance such as oxalates, ammonia, and mineral salts.

How Much Does A Sheep Drink? 

 How much a sheep drinks depends on the sheeps growth stage, if she is lactating (producing milk for lambs), the ambient temperature and the moisture content of the feed they are eating.    

Daily Water Requirements

——————————————
Adult sheep 1-2 gallons or about 4 litres
Lactating ewes 2-3 gallons or up to 10 litres
Feeder lambs 1-2 gallons
Baby lambs 0.1-0.3 gallon or about 1 litre
——————————————

Temperature

Try to maintain water temperature above 35 F in winter and below 75 F in summer.

 Running Water

Sheep actually prefer to drink from running water rather than from still water . Running water is generally much healthier and less polluted than stagnant , still water .  Furthermore, sheep are afraid of water.  If they fall in, their coat of wool will soak up the water and pull them to the bottom. So they gravitate to water that is still. If the water is moving, the shepherd makes a dam that will cause the water to be quiet and still. Once that water is still, the sheep drink and are refreshed.

Health

Always keep clean drinking water available because sheep, unlike cattle, do not drink dirty water. If the water is not clean there will be a decline in the production of sheep. This will cause them to eat less, have trouble digesting food properly, be more likely to get digestive and metabolic problems.

Coccidiosis in sheep & goats

Illness such as coccidiosis can occur as a result of drinking water contaminated by sheep faeces or droppings.  This is a common disease of sheep and goats, especially when they are placed under stress:
  •  putting too many sheep and goats together
  • keeping sheep and goats in dirty, wet pens
  • sudden changing of feed
  • moving sheep and goats to a different location 
  • weaning (removing lambs/kids from their mothers).
It is an important disease because it leads to economic losses as a result of deaths, poor growth and treatment costs. It usually affects younger animals. The disease is most severe in
  •  lambs/kids 2 to 8 weeks of age
  • lambs/kids 2 to 3 weeks after weaning
  • adult sheep and goats moved to a new location or experiencing some other form of stress.

Kidney Stones In Rams

Having sufficient water also helps prevent the development of kidney stones in male sheep. Sheep and goats get sick by eating food or drinking water contaminated by the droppings.  It is also claimed that cider vinegar given regularly to stud males (tup/ram) will help prevent urinary calculi (stones).

Rain & Dew

When sheep feed on large amounts of new growth and there is precipitation (including dew, as sheep are dawn feeders), sheep need less water. When sheep are confined or are eating large amounts of hay, more water is typically needed. Sheep require clean water, and may refuse to drink water that is covered in scum or algae.

Winter & Snow

In the winter if there is snow, as long as it is not hard, sheep will eat enough of the snow to get all the water they will need.  However they do prefer warm water to cold water and may reduce their intake.  Drinking cold water slows the function of the rumen and can lead to loss of condition.   If you ever wonder why ewes are not producing enough milk for their lambs, don’t overlook the possibility that they’re not drinking enough water because it’s too cold.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding a little AC vinegar to the drinking water or storage tank will help to prevent algae growth, especially in the summer. ACV is a well-known water purifier, we add ACV every time we re-fill the water trough.  It also acts as a natural antibiotic, and we find it helps the sheep maintain their health in every season.
Cider vinegar helps maintain the correct pH in the body, which is probably one of the reasons it is so useful. Due to its potassium content, it is invaluable for all animals just before breeding, because potassium deficiencies cause blood vessel constriction, affecting the extremities and also it seems the cervix and uterus in the final stages of pregnancy; dystocia (difficult birth) is the result.
Apple cider vinegar can tarnish metal watering containers over time; only use it in plastic containers.

Garlic

 Do not add the raw garlic juice to the sheep’s watering trough. It will become rancid in a short time, additionally the natural oils in the garlic juice will rise to the top of the water and the rest of the juice will mix in the water. Both the juice and garlic oils are essential in treating parasites. Adding to water is not a recommended method.
Jan 152012
 
timber damage after storm at fife smallholder

The relationship between Beech, Bats, Woodpeckers, Owls, and Pigs on our smallholding

‘Piglet has his own house, a “very grand house in the middle of a beech tree,” which he gave to Owl when his house was blown down on a very blustery day’ .
Winnie the poo
large beech trees in winter
We have some large Beech sentinels in our wood that are estimated to be 190 years old, and one of them suffered damage in the recent high winds that hit Central Scotland.  The limbs on these trees are very large and although unfortunate it does offer opportunities from the adversity.
fallen tree trunk from beech tree

Firewood

Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burns for many hours with bright but calm flames.

Woodlander

Beech wood burns well and can be used to smoke herrings and cheese. Chips of beech wood are also used in the brewing and making of some beers. 

Wildlife

Although a fallen limb or tree is good for firewood, it is also a part of the natural process within a wood and many species depend on this happening to maintain the balance and ecosystem that exists within a woodland.  The larger the concentration of old trees in an area and the longer they have been present on site the richer the variety of species you will find among them.
Many species live here all year round. Some are visitors and some live here permanently. Some come for the spring (Great spotted woodpecker), summer (Insects: Hoverflies, Birds: Green woodpecker), autumn (Fungi), and others for the winter months (such as Brambling birds ). Because of the variety of habitats available. A range of birds use the broad leaved woodland, evergreen conifer, open rough grassland and low bog areas.
nest in beech tree

Beech mast and Beech leaves

Beech mast is also a favourite food of many woodland animals such as badgers, deer, mice and squirrels and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars.

The laughing woodpecker

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of the woodpeckers and has been known to visit our woods and its collection of fallen and rotten timber. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight, and will climb up tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching. It has a very distinctive call in that it sounds like it is laughing.
rotten wood and timber

Relationship between bats and woodpeckers

Tree are vitally important for our bats. The majority of British bat species have been recorded roosting in trees and some, such as the Noctule, rely almost exclusively on them. Noctules are often found in Woodpecker holes appearing to prefer them over natural cavities. Some researchers have suggested that Noctules may be dependant on woodpeckers to provide suitable roosting opportunities. Read more about bats.
potential bat roost in old woodpecker hole in tree
The picture shows an old woodpecker hole which could be used by Noctules for roosting. The hole is formed in a soft section of the stem of a tree. The stem has been infected by a decay fungi which has caused the wood to become soft enough to allow the woodpecker to create the hole. This potential roost has been created by a complex ecological relationship between Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), Tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) and woodpecker, possibly the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).  It isn’t just roosting opportunities that make beech trees useful for bats. The trees attract insects and therefore provide valuable foraging habitats.

Bats and Beech

Bats roost in trees, in obvious cavities, cracks and splits, but also in less obvious places such as under ivy and under loose bark.  The damaged parts of a tree are the most likely places to find roosting bats.  Any tree can be used for roosting as long as shelter is provided,  but old oak, beech, ash and Scots pine are most frequently used. Bat roost sites can be at any height, although the upper trunk and branches are favoured. Entrance holes may be narrow slits on the underside of a branch that can be easily overlooked, as well as more obvious old woodpecker holes in the main trunk.

Owls and Beech

One of the best trees to attract owls is the beech tree. That’s not because owls eat the beech mast, or beechnuts, but because the mice eat them. In this way, the carnivorous owls get nice, fat, juicy mice to eat to keep them in the area.
beech nut casings
“As long as owl’s habitat is left alone by man and in such a state as to produce a great number of rodents, there will be no loss of owls in a region. One of the things that those people managing woodlands can do is not to clear out all of the undercover where mice live. Tawny owls will particularly benefit from this practice. Wood left on the ground and a pile left to rot will draw all kinds of insects which also feeds owls.”
decaying wood attracts insects that are predated by owls

Livestock

Pigs and Beech

Livestock were once released into beech woodlands to feast on the beech’s oil-rich bounty. The nuts were also important as a source of food, particularly for pigs. They are energy rich and could be used to fatten pigs up for market. The period when the nuts ripened and fell was perfectly timed to fatten swine for late autumn butchering. A farmer with access to oak or beech mast could thus convert calories present in nuts into calories in pork with little or no additional effort and at no additional cost in fodder. Indeed, by using mast rights a farmer was able to make use of a resource that would otherwise be unharvested or very inefficiently harvested.

Pheasants, Poultry, Turkeys and Beech

Beech mast has also been used to feed pheasants, poultry, and turkeys.  Beech nuts should never be fed to horses.
fifesmallholder beech trees in autumn

Smallholder

It is commonly accepted that the foods used to feed and to finish meat livestock affect the final flavour of the product. Pigs  fed on oak mast, chestnut mast or beech mast has a reputation for producing exceptional finished meat. As a result, with the new interest in artisanal and high quality foods as well as humane stock handling, there is a resurgence of mast-fed pork.
While beechnuts are nutritious for humans, eating too many can cause headaches or giddiness, as vast amounts of potash are contained within the tree.

Beech Tree facts

  • Beech trees are shallow rooted, and mature trees are at risk of being uprooted in high winds.
  • These trees grow slowly, eventually reaching a height of up to 120 feet, with branches spanning 50 feet.
  • The nuts are encased in a spiny bur and are favored by birds and other wildlife. Beech has a full crop of nuts every 5 years but does not really start producing a good crop until it is at least 50 years old.
  • The timber is practically pure white and is used to make furniture and toys.
  • The tree is best known for its many and low branches that create a deep shade.
  • Beech leaves take a long time to decay, so few nutrients are released to nourish ground plants. Consequently, there is little undergrowth in a beech wood, unless trees have been deliberately thinned out (coppiced).

Folklore

names on a tree trunk

Magically, beech is specifically useful for making wishes. To do this write a or scratch your wish on a piece of beech wood then bury it in an appropriate spot.  As your written wish is claimed by the earth so will it begin to manifest in life.  Beech is also popular with lovers, as witnessed by the many hearts arrows and names carved upon the smooth trunks of beech trees.
beech leaves in fifesmallholder wood

Recipe

Beech leaf Noyau

1 bottle vodka
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 glass of brandy
Collect young, fresh beech leaves and strip them from the twigs.  Half fill an emptly bottle or jar with the leaves  and then pour on the bottle of vodka.  Seal up the container and keep leaves in it for 3 weeks, before straining them off.  Boil the sugar in half pint of water and add this to the vodka with a good sized glass of brandy.  You should end up with 2 almost  full bottles of noyau for the price of one bottle of vodka.

Links

Jan 042012
 
hand washing

The risk of cryptosporidium salmonella and E.coli on the smallholding

A smallholder can be very busy and multi-tasking is something you get used to.  It is therefore very easy to forget to wear protection, gloves, or wash your hands properly.  Especially at this time of year when it can be very muddy.

Your hands are permanently dirty from being outside, and can often have cuts or wounds from some mishap or other.  Or you are bottle feeding young lambs or hatched chics, and people (especially children) want to come and see them.  What is the risk in that?

The bacteria Escherichia coliand Salmonella and the protozoa Cryptosporidium are among the organisms that have the potential to cause serious disease that may be found in animal droppings and on contaminated surfaces around smallholdings.

What is cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan (single celled) parasite of human and animal importance, which if ingested, can cause an illness called cryptosporidiosis.  It can be transmitted through contact with soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal faeces. The most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, which can range from mild to severe. Cryptosporidiosis is most common in children aged between one and five years, but it can affect anyone. People with weak immune systems are likely to be most seriously affected.
Over 45 different species of animals including poultry, fish, reptiles, small mammals (rodents, dogs, and cats) and large mammals (including cattle and sheep) can become infected with Crytposporidium parvum.  The reservoir for this organism includes people, cattle, deer and many other species of animal.
Oocysts are shed in the faeces and can survive under very adverse environmental conditions. The oocysts are very resistant to disinfectants. People can re-infect themselves one or more times.  Human infection may be acquired by four main routes: from other people, from animals and their faeces, from untreated drinking water contaminated by either agricultural or human sewage sources, and from swimming in contaminated water. 
Cryptosporidiosis can be prevented by using good personal hygiene. Hands should be washed with soap after using bathroom facilities. Only clean or filtered water should be consumed, and food must be prepared properly.
“Individuals who work with animals should wear protective clothing, and washing hands after handling animals is essential.”

Farm animals at risk 

A number of different Cryptosporidium species infect animals. In humans, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis. In animals, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.  
Young farm animals can also suffer from Cryptosporidium diarrhoea.”
 The disease in calves/lambs/kids
  •  One to four weeks old
  • Diarrhoea, anorexia, and weight loss
  • Often occurs with other diarrhoea-causing bacteria and/or viruses, or in animals that have a compromised immune system
  • Re-infection can cause relapses, chronic infection and death
  • Infected calves/lambs/kids pass the organism in their faecal material
Humans can become infected with Cryptosporidium parvum through exposure to young ruminants with diarrhoea. Take proper precautions when treating calves/lambs/kids with diarrhoea.
  •  Wear protective gloves
  • Wash hands
  • Clean the environment

What is E. coli?

 Escherichia coli (E. coli) are common bacteria which live in the intestines of warm blooded animals. There are certain forms, or strains, of E.coli which are normally found in the intestine of healthy people and animals without causing any ill effects. A number of E. coli strains cause illness but E. coli O157 is associated with more serious illness. For the majority of people the infection is usually self limited and clears within seven days, but children under five are vulnerable to more severe illness. Symptoms can range from mild through to severe diarrhoea, to a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) that affects the blood, kidneys and in severe cases, the central nervous system.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is found in a range of food products, including meat, produce and eggs. Salmonellosis is an infection of animals and man caused by a group of bacteria called Salmonella. These can live in the digestive tract of a wide range of mammals including people and birds. Over 2,500 strains (serovars) of Salmonella are known most of which rarely cause disease. However certain strains, such as S.enteritidis and S.typhimurium, may cause human disease if, for example, foodstuffs become contaminated with animal faeces.
“Eggs from infected hens and milk from infected dairy herds may also contain salmonella.”
Infection may also follow contact with infected animals. It is usually fairly short-lived and often does not cause any obvious disease. However disease may occur with high temperature, diarrhoea and blood poisoning. In a few cases infected animals or people may carry certain strains of the bacteria for prolonged periods. 

Prevention

 Cryptosporidiosis is highly infectious so proper sanitation and good hygiene practices are important measures in the prevention of cryptosporidiosis.  Such measures include: 
  • washing hands thoroughly with soap (I prefer to use ant-bacterial) and warm water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, cleaning up after others with diarrhoea, after contact with domestic or farm animals
  • washing or peeling raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating 
  • avoiding unpasteurised milk and fruit juices

Sanitiser hand gels

Reliance on sanitiser hand gels instead of hand washing is not effective in killing bugs such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium. Visitors should be made aware that using sanitising gels is not a substitute for washing hands with soap and hot water and drying them, as gels may fail to remove contamination in the way that soap and running water can. However it is likely that using sanitising gels following handwashing with soap and water may provide extra benefit.

Handwashing 

 “Hand washing is the single most important prevention step in reducing transmission of gastrointestinal infections after handling animals and it’s crucial that hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after touching or petting animals or their surroundings on a visit to a smallholding. ” 
There are five basic ways to manage diarrhoea and vomiting and prevent the spread of diseases:
  • Careful hand washing is the most important prevention measure that you can take. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry afterwards. Do not share towels.
  • Use gloves when handling soiled articles from ill people. Wash soiled clothing and bed linen on ‘hot cycle’.
  • If looking after someone with gastroenteritis, carefully disinfect toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps and toilet door handles daily and after use. Use a bleach-based household cleaner, diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and hygienic preparation and serving of food.
If you have gastroenteritis, don’t return to school or work until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Look what happened in the Archers.  Don’t visit patients in local hospitals and long-term care facilities. While many people tend to feel better sooner, illness can still be spread if they return to work or school within 48 hours since the last symptom.

Other tips for a safe smallholding visit include:

  • Don’t put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the smallholding.
  • Don’t kiss animals nor allow children to put their faces close to animals.
  • Don’t eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the smallholding, including sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
  • Don’t eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
  • Only eat and drink in picnic or designated areas.
  • Remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become dirty and clean push-chair wheels.

Useful information

  •  A leaflet detailing advice for the public on avoiding infection on farm visits can be found on the HPA’s website 
  •  The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for those running and visiting petting farms can be found on the HSE’s website 
  • Information sheet 
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