Oct 312012
 

Do you have a woodburner or log burning stove and need to stock up for the winter?

Tip – best to buy by volume but if buying by weight then make sure the wood is seasoned.

It is better to buy wood by volume than by weight because between 35% and 60% of the weight of freshly felled wood comes from water. Under the Weights and Measures Act, coal and smokeless fuel have to be sold in defined weights, which makes it easy for you to compare the cost between suppliers. Unless there is a local statutory instrument in force, there will be no such statutory weight for deliveries of wood. The logs and wood are usually sold in “nets” or by lorry load, so take care to check the amount you can expect to get for your money. Fresh felled wood weighs about one tonne per solid cubic metre but will lose up to half its weight when it becomes fully air dried, so find out for how long the wood has been seasoned before delivery.

Tip – make sure the logs are the right size for your stove

Ideally, logs purchased should be no more than 10cm thick. Any that are will need to be split again to ensure that they burn properly. Generally speaking, close grained smooth woods make better fuel than those in which the grain is open and rough.

 Poplar is one of the wettest woods when freshly fuelled and ash (at 35%) one of driest. Seasoning reduces the moisture content of the wood. Wood felled during one winter should be seasoned until the next and preferably a second winter before it is burned. Trees felled during the Spring/Summer will have a very high moisture content compared to those felled in late Autumn/Winter, therefore whilst a log first cut in January may be ready to burn within say, a year, it is necessary for a log cut in May to be seasoned for at least two years.

 

When buying firewood – what is a chord?

The chord is one of the most common measurements for purchasing fuel wood.

A cord is a stacked unit volume of wood measuring

4 x 4 x 8 feet    = 128 cubic feet This volume includes bark and air space. Due to the irregular shape of wood the air space in the cord can be as high as 40 percent. The net cord volume can therefore be as low as 75 cubic feet. In general net cord volume range 80 – 100 cubic feet.

1ft(foot) = 0.3048m

 October 31, 2012  post archive, tree Tagged with: , ,
Oct 312012
 
010adecember2011 034

Blackthorn Sloe Berry 

Last year at Fifesmallholder we harvested our very own sloes for making into that wonderful winter liqueur Sloe Gin.  Many people do not associate sloes with the blackthorn shrub, but this is the name of the seed that it produces.  Like some root vegetables that improve after a frost (makes them sweeter) advice is that you are best to collect sloes after a frost. The skins become soft and bletted (half rotten) and become more permeable.  Sloe Gin made at this time will be ready just in time for Christmas.  

However if you have no blackthorns on your property you are unlikely to find any left by then.  Many people will pick the sloes early winter when they are plump (not wizened) and then put them in the freezer.

What is a sloe?

Also known as blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), the sloe is the ancestor of all our cultivated plums, yet the wild sloe is the tartest, most acid berry you will ever taste.  This deciduous shrub flowers from March to May and bears fruit in September and October.  The flowering of the blackthorn is often accompanied by a cold spell, and this is known as ‘blackthorn winter’.

For all its eye-watering acidity, the sloe is a very useful fruit: it makes a clear jelly, wine, sloe & apple cheese, and sloe gin.

Not sure how to tell the difference between a Hawthorn and a Blackthorn?  

The blackthorn will produce small white flowers before the leaves in March and April.  Hawthorn will produce flowers after leaves.  Hawthorn berries are small and red, blackthorn berries or sloes are bigger and purple/black in colour.

How to make sloe gin

Pick about 500g (1lb) of the berries. Pierce the skin of each berry  with a fort to help the gin and juices to mingle more easily.  Mix the sloes with half their weight of sugar, then half-fill bottles with this mixture.  Pour gin (alternatively brandy or aquavit) in to the bottles until they are nearly full, and seal tightly.  Store for at least 2 months, and shake occasionally to help dissolve and disperse the sugar.  Strain the liquor through fine muslin or filter paper until quite clear. The result is a brilliant, deep pink liqueur, sour-sweet and refreshing.  Bottle, and store for use.

 

 October 31, 2012  garden, post archive, recipe, tree, winter Tagged with: , , ,
Oct 292012
 
fungi

Wild mushroom, what and how to collect?

woodland fungi

woodland fungi

It’s a very good year for fungi, and we have quite a range of mushrooms in our wood that I like to look at but am too cautious to try to eat.  But for those of you who are more adventurous than I am here is some useful information:

What fungi to collect

  • Wildlife, especially insects, need mushrooms too, so only pick what you will use.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous and others rare and should not be collected – only collect what you know and take a field guide with you to identify mushrooms where you find them.
  • Some species are vulnerable, so please consider whether there is an alternative species that is more common that might suit your purpose.

How to collect mushrooms

  • Allow mushrooms to release spores, do not pick mushrooms until the cap has opened out and leave those that are past their best.
  • The main part of the mushroom is below the surface; take care not to damage or trample it and not to disturb its surroundings.
  • Scatter trimmings discreetly in the same area as the mushroom came from.

Check out these links if you want to know more

      

Oct 282012
 

What is nectar?

Nectar – nectar is loaded with sugars and is a bee’s main source of energy.

What is pollen?

Pollen – pollen provides a balanced diet of proteins and fats.  

Bees forage for both nectar and pollen from plants and flowers.  Dry pollen, is a food source for bees, which contains 16 – 30% protein, 1 – 10% fat, 1 – 7% starch, many vitamins, but little sugar.  Bees mix dry pollen with nectar and/or honey to compact the pollen in the pollen basket. The protein source needed for rearing one worker bee from larval to adult stage requires approximately 120 to 145 mg of pollen.

“An average bee colony will collect about 20 to 57 kg (44 to 125 pounds) of pollen a year.”

Pollen comes in different colours and you can see it either dusted on the bee, in the pollen sacs on the bees leg, or stored in the beeswax foundation along with honey and brood.  Each plant produces a different pollen colour and because honeybees collect pollen from only one source at a time it is easy to see the colours. The bee adds a tiny amount of nectar to the pollen as it collects it which makes the pollen stay on the bee’s pollen basket or sac, which is in fact on just one strand on each rear leg.  However, bumblebees’ pollen sacs don’t have similar colours, because they  gather pollen from a variety of plants so the colours are mixed up.  

Here is a link to a pocket pollen colour guide that will help with your identification.

Why do pollinators collect pollen?

“So why do bees collect pollen? It is a source of protein, fat, starch and vitamins and fed to bee larvae along with honey and a little of what is called queen jelly, a secretion from the glands in the heads of worker bees.”

The nectar is the bees source of energy while the pollen is consumed because it is a source of protein and other nutrients and is feed to growing larvae.  In the process of collecting pollen and nectar they inadvertently fertilise flowers, trees, and plants (read more).

Plants can attract pollinators through scent (e.g. moths find flowers at night using the smell) or colours (bees are more attracted to some colours e.g. blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow).  Some bees also have a special connection with certain flowers. These bees are called oligolectic and it means that you will see the females gather pollen only on a few species of plants. For more information on the different types of bees and what plants they like click here.

Bees are a big help to plants that flower because they help with pollination. When honey bees land on a flower to drink its nectar, pollen grains stick to its legs and bodies. Then, the pollen rubs off on other flowers and helps them reproduce.
 
“The importance of garden plants yielding nectar and pollen is that together they provide a continuous food supply from early spring to late autumn. Colonies of bees need food through their active season , so that they can develop and rear new bees. “
 October 28, 2012  bee, Flowers, garden, insects, post archive Tagged with: , , ,
Oct 282012
 
autumn sunrise at fife smallholder

Photographic opportunities are endless on our smallholding

  

mother and baby

Stepping Out

 I recently invested in a new digital camera and have renewed my love of photography, this website is full of pictures of  views from the smallholding, and the flora and fauna within the smallholding.  It gives another perspective on life, as well as chronicling events and the seasons.  Check out our Gallery page on the website or our flickr web page for more pics.

pink rose

My photographs are just as widely sought online as the web pages, and there are plenty of people out there who use this medium to promote themselves,  their website, and earn an income.  Other people develop a business using their photographic skills like a Wwoofer who stayed with us this summer.  Her work is good (and includes some pics of my labradors) here is a shameless plug for her website.

gundog

Useful Links

 October 28, 2012  employment, fungi, income, photography, post archive Tagged with: , , ,
Oct 242012
 

Using wet or fresh wood for a fire

In simple terms, the word ‘seasoned’ means ‘dry’ and the term ‘green’ means ‘freshly cut from living tree’.

Why is it not a good idea to burn green wood on a fire?

Green wood carries about a third of its weight as water, which on the fire evaporates and helps to carry the heat away up the chimney.  You can often hear a log sizzle or hiss in the fire if it is too green or damp.  

How do I know if wood has been seasoned?

It’s essential to know that the wood you are buying is properly seasoned and not still full of moisture. Here are some quick checks to help you tell the difference:

  • Seasoned wood weighs much less than green wood.
  • Seasoned wood looks darker, or grey when compared to freshly cut or “green” wood which is usually more yellow or cream coloured.
  •  Seasoned wood will have drying cracks showing at the flat, cut end.
  • Seasoned wood will have loose bark compared to the bark of green wood which will be tightly attached.
  • When two pieces of seasoned wood are knocked together they make a high, hollow sound whereas green wood makes a more dull sound.
  • Seasoned wood should not hiss when burnt, this is the water in the wood boiling and being forced out as steam. 

What to do if you buy wood that has not been seasoned

If you buy logs which have not been seasoned, you should cut them to length (300mm or 10″ to 18″), split to size and stacked. Tree branches and trunks contain thousands of microscopic tubes which carry water from the roots to the leaves, and these tubes can stay full of water for years after the tree has been felled (or pruned). Cutting the wood to shorter lengths opens these tubes to the atmosphere which increases evaporation.

The stack should be completely covered on the top to prevent rain wetting the wood but air must be allowed to reach the sides of the stack. Leave to season for at least 1 year (more if possible). Some logs may take 3 to 4 years to fully season. Bring the fuel into the house a few days before you want to use it to get it as dry as possible. 

All wood will, when supported by lots of kindling and/or a good ember base, will burn unseasoned. However, you may find some woods are not worth using in this state due to the length of ‘hissing’ time (as the water boils from within the wood) before they can burn.

Moisture content of firewood

  • by volume wet wood has about 85% of the energy of oven-dry wood
  • by weight wet wood has less than half –  42% – of the energy of oven-dry wood
Whilst seasoning it should preferably be stored under cover in an airy place such as an open sided lean-to. The only way of knowing if your firewood is ready to burn is by knowing the moisture content. Wood should be burned when the moisture content is below 25% – ‘air-dry’. You can tell if a log is dry because the bark will come away easily in the hand and the log will have splits across the grain.  
 
You can also purchase a damp or moisture meter from any hardware store that is suitable for use on wood.   If you buy your own moisture meter you will be sure that your logs are dry enough to burn. Owning a moisture meter will also reduce any ‘misunderstandings’ on the suitability of the logs you buy in: pick a random log, split it and use the moisture meter to measure the moisture content of the wood across the grain.
 
It is important the logs are dry and well seasoned. Burning wet or unseasoned wood is less efficient and can cause harmful build up of deposits in the chimney over a very short time. Thick coatings of creosote or resinous material can cause chimney fires, or prevent the chimney functioning properly. This can allow harmful fumes to escape into the dwelling.
 

 Heat values from wood, moisture content of wood, and how long to season firewood

Wood from different trees has different heat values The table below provides a useful comparison. 
               Weight per m3 in kg Gross heat value kW/kg (btu/lb)  
 
Ash        674   4.1   (6,350)   35% moisture green  1 summer season needed
  Beech 690   4.3   (6,700)   45% moisture green   1-2 summers season needed
  Birch   662   4.1   (6,350)   45%  moisture green  1 summer season needed
  Elm      540   3.6   (5,600)   60%  moisture green 2-3 summers season needed
  Oak       770  4.5   (7,000)   50%  moisture green2-3 summers season needed
  Poplar 465   2.6  (4,100)    65%   moisture green 1 summer season needed
Softwoods Pine 410 2.6 (4,100) 60% moisture green 1 summer season needed
 /Fir
 October 24, 2012  post archive, tree Tagged with: , ,
Oct 242012
 

Difference between hard and soft wood

The two categories of woods, softwood and hardwood, do not actually refer to how hard or soft a wood is to the touch but rather how dense the wood is.  Hardwoods are trees that lose their leaves seasonally, and softwoods are trees that keep their foliage all year.

Typical Firewoods

Ash, white – Hardwood – Good firewood

Beech – Hardwood – Good firewood

Birch, yellow – Hardwood – Good firewood

Chestnut – Hardwood – Excessive sparking, can be dangerous

Cottonwood – Hardwood – Good firewood

Elm, white – Hardwood – Difficult to split, burns well

Hickory – Hardwood – Slow steady fire, best firewood

Maple, sugar – Hardwood – Good firewood

Oak, red – Hardwood – Slow steady fire

Oak, white – Hardwood – Slow steady fire

Pine, yellow – Softwood – Quick hot fire, smokier than hardwood

Pine, white – Softwood – Quick hot fire, smokier than hardwood

Walnut, black – Hardwood – Good firewood

 October 24, 2012  post archive, tree Tagged with: , , ,
Oct 232012
 
burning logs in fire

Firewood 

“To have no fire, or a bad fire, to sit by, is a most dismal thing.”

William Cobbett

Lighting a fire

They say that making up a fire is an art in itself and everyone finds what works for them eventually – I was always told that a fire should light with one match and generally I have found that to be so.  Having got the fire to light sometimes it just doesn’t do and I am at a loss as to why.  For an explanation and tips on how to light a fire check out this article.  

Below is a poem by an unknown author that may help us all to know the best firewood to burn and keep us warm.

What to burn

“Oak logs will warm you well, if they’re old and dry.

Larch logs of pine will smell, but the sparks will fly.

Beech logs for Christmas time; yewl logs heat well.

‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime for anyone to sell.

Birch logs will burn too fast; chestnut scarce at all.

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

Holly logs will burn like wax; you should burn them green.

Elm logs like smouldering flax, no flame to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs, they will scent your room.

Cherry logs across the dogs smell like flowers in bloom.

But ash logs, all smooth and grey, burn them green or old.

Buy up all that come your way, they’re worth their weight in gold.”

The quality of firewood is based upon various characteristics such as its speed of burn, heat given off, tendency to spark (spit), ease of splitting, time required to season, etc.

 Grade: 1 = Poor, Grade: 2 = Okay, Grade: 3 = Good, Grade: 4 = Excellent.

Firewood Rating Table
Common Name:  Botanical Name:  Comments:
 Alder Alnus  Low quality firewood.Grade: 1 
 Apple Malus  Needs to be well seasoned. Burns well with a pleasant smell and no sparking/spitting. Grade: 3
 Ash Fraxinus  One of the best firewoods. It has a low water content and is easily split with an axe. Burns best when seasoned but can be burned green. Grade: 4 
 Beech Fagus  Beech has a high water content and will therefore only burn when seasoned. Grade: 3 
 Birch Betula  An excellent firewood that will burn when green. However, it burns quickly so should be mixed with a slower burning wood such as Oak. Grade: 3/4
 Cedar  Cedrus  A good firewood which burns with a pleasant smell. Gives a good lasting heat and does not spit much. Small pieces may be burned green.Grade: 2/3 
 Cherry Prunus  Must be well seasoned. Burns with a pleasant smell without spitting.Grade: 2/3 
 Elm Ulmus  A good firewood but due to its high water content of approximately 140% (more water than wood!) it must be seasoned very well. It may need assistance from another faster burning wood such as Birch to keep it burning well. However it gives off a good, lasting heat and burns very slowly. Larger pieces of wood will prove difficult to split. Grade: 2/3
 Eucalyptus Eucalyptus  Allow to season well since the wood is very sappy when fresh. Can be difficult to split due to stringy wood fibre. Best method is to slice into rings and allow to season during the summer, the rings will start to split themselves. Burns fast with a pleasant smell and without spitting. Grade: 2/3
 Hawthorn Crataegus  A good firewood. Grade: 3/4 
 Hazel Corylus  An excellent wood when seasoned. Burns fast without spitting. Grade: 4 
 Holly Ilex  A good firewood that can be burned green. Grade: 3 
 Hornbeam Carpinus  Burns well. Grade: 3 
 Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum  A fairly poor firewood.Grade: 2 
 Larch Larix  A very poor firewood which spits excessively while burning and leaves an oily soot in the chimney. Provides a good heat. Grade: 1
 Lime Tilia  Poor quality firewood.Grade: 2 
 Oak Quercus  One of the best firewoods. When seasoned well, it gives off a good, lasting heat. Burns reasonably slowly.Grade: 4 
 Pear Pyrus  If well seasoned it burns nicely with a pleasant smell. Grade: 3 
 Pine Pinus  Burns hot but needs to be well seasoned. Leaves an oily soot in the chimney and spits excessively.Grade: 1 
 Plane Platanus  A reasonable quality firewood. Grade: 3 
 Poplar Populus Very poor firewood. Burns with a poor heat and only usable when well seasoned. Grade: 1
 Rowan Sorbus aucuparia Burns well. Grade: 3
 Spruce Picea Low quality. Grade: 2
 Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa Burns when seasoned but spits continuously and excessively.Not for use on an open fire and make sure wood-burning stoves have a good door catch!Grade: 1/2
 Maple (including Sycamore) Acer Burns well. Grade: 3
 Walnut Juglans  Poor quality firewood.Grade: 2 
 Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron  Very bad quality. Grade: 1 
 Willow Salix  A high water content means it needs to be well seasoned. Grade: 2/3 
 Yew Taxus  Usable. Grade: 2/3 

Burning green or unseasoned wood

In simple terms, the word ‘seasoned’ means ‘dry’ and the term ‘green’ means ‘freshly cut from living tree’.

Green wood carries about a third of its weight as water, which on the fire evaporates and helps to carry the heat away up the chimney.  You can often hear a log sizzle or hiss in the fire if it is too green or damp.  Read More

Difference between wood and coal for burning

Wood fuel has typically less than half the calorific value of coal and smokeless fuel which burns for longer, so you must be prepared to use a greater volume of wood to heat your home or room, unless you use both wood and mineral solid fuel. Coal ash should be disposed of in your rubbish, whilst wood ash has many uses and should not be discarded.

Best wood for an open fire

Generally hardwoods are best for open fires because they tend not to spit excessively, however there are exceptions  (horse chestnut spit badly making them a hazard in an open fire). Conifer wood (like spruce) tends to spit excessively when fresh, so is best used for sealed wood burning stoves, again there are exceptions. Many conifers also cause an oily, sticky ‘soot’ to form inside the chimney which can increase the risks of chimney fires. Once properly seasoned conifer wood can be successfully used on the open fire without excessive spitting. Ideally, conifer wood is best mixed with hardwood.

 Where to find firewood

The most common form of wood fuel at the moment is logs. These will usually come from local sources and can be brought from a variety of outlets – e.g. coal merchants, farmers, tree surgeons. There are now companies who only supply firewood.  If you cannot afford to purchase firewood, then why not contact your local Forestry Commission office and enquire about a Scavenging Permit to lift leftover wood after an area has been harvested.  The only other option is to grow your own – however this is a long term investment (unless you buy a mature woodland) some trees grow faster than others such as the fast growing willow Viminalis but the downside is that you have to store them for longer before they are dry enough to burn. 

Buying logs – what you need to know and ask

It is better to buy wood by volume than by weight because between 35% and 60% of the weight of freshly felled wood comes from water. Read More 

Which trees are hardwood or softwood and what is the difference for firewood?

The two categories of woods, softwood and hardwood, do not actually refer to how hard or soft a wood is to the touch but rather how dense the wood is.  Read More. 

Useful links to information about buying and drying firewood

 October 23, 2012  green, post archive, tree Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Oct 192012
 
PLS-00008663-001

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores

To a mouse – Robert Burns

“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.”

Winter time is likely to be the time when you start to suspect you have rats or mice (also known as rodents or vermin).   It is cold and food supplies are less plentiful outside – this is often the time when rodents move into the house or buildings around the smallholding. As a nature lover I am happy to live and let live – so what is the big issue about mice and rats?

What is the risk from rats and mice?

Rats and mice spread germs that can cause severe illnesses and disease in humans, some of which can be fatal to humans, although this is very rare.  They can carry  Salmonella and Weils Disease through their droppings and urine.   Campylobacter (Campylobacter infections, can cause diarrhoea and fever. This bacteria is spread via rodents to poultry and thus enter the human food chain  and Leptospira.  The pathogens of this potentially fatal febrile disease are transmitted via rodent urine and can enter the human blood stream through small cuts, for instance.  Mice may also carry tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a fungal skin disease) in humans.

Rats and mice can also cause fires by gnawing on cables. Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that half of all agricultural fires in Great Britain can be traced back to rodents.

Signs of rodent infestation:

  • Sounds. Gnawing, climbing noises in walls, squeaks.
  • Droppings. Found along walls, behind objects and near food supplies.
  • Burrows. Rat burrows are indicated by fresh diggings along foundations, through floorboards into wall spaces.
  • Runs. Look for dust-free areas along walls and behind storage material. A tracking patch made of flour, rolled smooth with a cylindrical object, can be placed in pathways overnight to determine if rodents are present.
  • Gnawing may be visible on doors, ledges, in corners, in wall material, on stored materials, or on other surfaces wherever mice are present. Fresh accumulations of wood shavings, insulation, and other gnawed material indicate active infestations. Fresh gnawing marks will be pale in colour.
  • Rodent odours. Persistent musky odours are a positive sign of infestation.
  • Visual sighting. Daylight sighting of mice is common. Rats are seen in daylight only if populations are high. Quietly enter your barn at night, wait in silence for five minutes and listen for the sound of rodent activity. Look around with a powerful torch; rat eyes will reflect the light.
  • Smudge (rub) marks. These may be found on pipes or rafters where dirt and oil from their fur leave a greasy film.
  • Urine, both wet and dry, will fluoresce under ultraviolet light, although so will some other materials. Urine stains may occur along travel-ways or in feeding areas.

“It is a generally accepted rule of thumb that there are approximately 25 mice or rats for every one that is seen.”

Why Control Rodents?

Damage from rodents comes in many forms:

  • Damage to buildings. Mice and rats will damage wood and electrical wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Destruction of insulation. Many livestock and poultry facilities show serious deterioration within five years. Associated with this damage are costs for re-insulation, increased energy costs and poorer feed conversions by animals.
  • Feed consumed. A colony of 100 rats will consume over 1 tonne of feed in 1 year.
  • Feed contaminated. A rat can contaminate 10 times the amount of feed it eats with its droppings, urine and hair. A rat produces 25,000 droppings per year, a mouse 17,000.
  • Biosecurity. Rodents are recognized as carriers of approximately 45 diseases, including salmonellosis, pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, swine dysentery, trichinosis, and toxoplasmosis. Mice and rats can carry disease-causing organisms on their feet, increasing the spread of disease.

Is It A Rat Or Mouse Problem?

Since rats and mice require different control strategies, you should determine which vermin you have. The simplest way to differentiate between the types of infestation is by examining the droppings.

Rodent or Vermin Droppings

Mouse droppings are black and rice-kernel size, whereas rat droppings are black and bean-sized.

Breeding

Mice and rats have tremendous breeding potential. Under ideal situations, a pair of rats and their offspring can produce 20,000,000 young in 3 years. Mice reproduce even faster.

Life expectancy of a rat is around one year, during which female rats will typically breed five times and produce an average of 8 offspring. A mouse life expectancy is around one year, during which a female may breed up to six times and produce about six offspring.

Mice prefer to nest in dark secluded areas with little chance of disturbance. They may burrow into the ground in fields or around structures when other shelter is not readily available. Nests are constructed of shredded fibrous materials such as paper, and generally have the appearance of a “ball” of material loosely woven together. They are usually 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in diameter.  Foraging territories are no more than 6 metres away. If there is abundant food nearby they can nest within 1.2-1.6 metres of the source.

Litters of 5 or 6 young mice are born 19 to 21 days after mating, although females that conceive while still nursing may have a slightly longer gestation period. Mice are born hairless and with their eyes closed. They grow rapidly, and after 2 weeks they are covered with hair and their eyes and ears are open. They begin to make short excursions from the nest and eat solid food at 3 weeks. Weaning soon follows, and mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age.

Mice may breed year-round, but when living outdoors, they breed mostly in spring and autumn. A female may have 5 to 10 litters per year. Mouse populations can therefore grow rapidly under good conditions, although breeding and survival of young decline markedly when population densities become high.

Senses

Rats and mice have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing. They do not like open areas and prefer contact with walls and other objects.

Mice are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odour.

Habits

Rats and mice move rapidly and are excellent climbers and have no problem climbing vertical brick walls. They are also active burrowers and like to build nests in compost heaps or underneath hedges, sheds and decking. In the house they will nest in wall cavities and beneath floorboards. They are mainly active at night feeding on a range of commodities, particularly cereals and cereal products. They will eat about 10% of their own body weight of food daily. Rats require a regular supply of water, whereas mice do not as there is normally enough to survive on in their food. Rats are also good swimmers and are often found in sewers where there is food, water and shelter.

The front teeth of rats grow continuously and to keep the teeth to a useful length the rat needs to gnaw on hard objects all the time; objects can include lead water pipes, brickwork, electric cables, wood and anything else available. They usually have well worn runs between their living area and their food and water sources.

Mice will easily enter gaps of 5mm wide and they are very good climbers.

If a pencil fits in a gap, then a mouse can get in!

Mice eat many types of food but prefer seeds and grain. They are not hesitant to eat new foods and are considered “nibblers,” sampling many kinds of items that may exist in their environment. Foods high in fat, protein, or sugar may be preferred even when grain and seed are present. Such items include bacon, chocolate sweets, and butter (a little melted chocolate is a favourite in our mouse traps).

They do not range far from the nest. The maximum range for rats is 45 m (148 ft), for mice 9 m (30 ft). Rats are extremely apprehensive about new objects and will avoid them for several days. Leaving a trap out for about 5 days is necessary to ensure acceptance. Mice quickly accept new objects. This becomes very important when designing baiting or trapping programs.

Rodent Damage

Rats and mice will invade buildings in search of food and shelter. In doing so they may be involved in the transmission of disease, soiling and destroying belongings, damaging equipment and can cause serious structural damage by gnawing through cables, waterpipes and woodwork etc. They also eat and destroy food stores.

Did you know?

  • mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age?
  • worldwide, rats transmit roughly 40 diseases?
  • unlike mice, rats avoid anything new? They only take tiny amounts of freshly laid-out bait and often avoid new traps completely.
  • rats do not just eat food leftovers, but also soap and paper, dead mice, birds and fowl
  • a rat produces 25000 droppings per year, a mouse 17000.
  • rats and mice are highly adaptable creatures. Some of them have even developed resistance to rodenticides

Controlling and reducing vermin 

The next step in controlling a rodent problem is to reduce the population with a combination of baits, traps, and cats.  It is best to ensure that you set up a programme of activity that is overseen by you – some of the work can be undertaken by other people such as private pest control companies, or your local authority pest control officer.  However, this will be an ongoing matter that will require you to be vigilant and pro-active.

Prevention – Reducing rodent infestations

Eliminating Hiding Places and Nesting Sites

Rodents do not like to be exposed. Maintain sound housekeeping, eliminate loosely piled building materials, old feed bags or anything else that a rodent can hide in or under.

“Best practice says that when cleaning you should let it air for 30 to 60 minutes, and if you find mice droppings or you find nesting material, you should spray it with a 10% bleach solution or disinfectant, and let it soak in for a while.  Ideally you should never sweep or vacum the droppings because this puts infectious matter into the air, where it can be inhaled.  The best bet is to clean with something disposable whilst wearing rubber gloves.”

Remove Food and Water

Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, open water troughs, sweating pipes and open drains. Keep all feeds in rodent-proof bins (we use metal dustbins with lids or old wheelie bins), covered cans or metal hoppers. Reduce feed spillage and immediately dispose of dead animals. Without readily available food and water, populations cannot build.

Mice and Rat Predators

vermin control

Some dogs  and cats will catch and kill mice and rats.  Cats may limit low-level mouse or rat populations.  However, if conditions are ideal for rodents, cats cannot eliminate a problem because they are not able to catch mice as quickly as they multiply. Cats may also introduce disease into a facility by bringing in rodents caught in fields.

Around most structures, mice can find many places to hide and rear their young out of the reach of such predators. Cats probably cannot eliminate existing mouse populations, but in some situations they may be able to prevent reinfestations once mice have been controlled. Farm cats, if sufficient in number, may serve this function.

Noise

Mice are somewhat wary animals and can be frightened by unfamiliar sounds or sounds coming from new locations. Most rodents, however, can quickly become accustomed to new sounds heard repeatedly.  There is little evidence to suggest that rodents’ responses to no-specific, high-frequency sound (ultrasonic sound) is any different from their response to sound within the range of human hearing.  Tests of commercial ultrasonic devices have indicated that rodents may be repelled from the immediate area of the ultrasound for a few days, but then will return and resume normal activities.

Repellents

Rodents find some types of tastes and odors objectionable, but chemical repellents are seldom a practical solution to mouse infestations. Substances such as moth balls (naphthalene) or household ammonia, in sufficient concentration, may have at least temporary effects in keeping mice out of certain enclosed areas.

Other solutions to rodent problems, including rodent-proof construction and methods of population reduction, are usually more permanent and cost-effective than the use of repellents.

Toxicants

Anticoagulants (slow-acting, chronic toxicants). Mice are susceptible to all of the various anticoagulant rodenticides , but they are generally less sensitive (often far less sensitive) to the active ingredients than rats.  Anticoagulants have the same effect on nearly all warm-blooded animals, but the sensitivity to these toxicants varies among species. Additionally, residues of anticoagulants which are present in the bodies of dead or dying rodents can cause toxic effects to scavengers and predators.

Anticoagulant Resistance

Within any population of  mice, some individuals are less sensitive to anticoagulants than others. Where anticoagulants have been used over long periods of time at a particular location, there is an increased potential for the existence of a population that is somewhat resistant to the lethal effects of the baits.

Anticoagulant Bait Failure

Resistance is only one (and perhaps the least likely) reason for failure in the control of mice with anticoagulant baits. Control with baits that are highly accepted may fail for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Too short a period of bait exposure. —Insufficient bait and insufficient replenishment of bait (none remains from one baiting to the next).
  • Too few bait stations and/or too far apart. For mice, stations should be within 6 feet (2 m) of one another in areas where mice are active. —Too small a control area, permitting mice to move in from untreated adjacent areas. —Genetic resistance to the anticoagulant. Although this is unlikely, it should be suspected if about the same amount of bait is taken daily for several weeks.

Reasons for failure to achieve control with anticoagulant baits :

  • Poor bait choice, or bait formulated improperly. Other foods are more attractive to the mice.
  • Improperly placed bait stations. Other foods are more convenient to the mice.
  • Abundance of other food choices.
  • Tainted bait: the bait has become mouldy, rancid, insect-infested, or contaminated with other material that reduces acceptance. Discard old bait periodically, and replace it with fresh.
  • Occasionally, mice accept bait well and an initial population reduction is successful. Then bait acceptance appears to stop although some mice remain. In such instances, it is likely that the remaining mice never accepted the bait, either because of its formulation or placement. The best strategy is to switch to a different bait formulation, place baits at different locations, and/ or use other control methods such as traps.

“Never place bait stations where livestock, pets, or other animals can knock them over. Spilled bait may be a potential hazard, particularly to smaller animals.”

 If misused, anticoagulant rodenticides can be lethal to non-target animals such as dogs, pigs, and cats.

Rodent droppings and pigs

The causative organism of Erysipelas in pigs is the ubiquitous bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, formally known as Erysipelas insidiosa. The bacterium can survive in soil or dung for 6 months or more but probably more significantly is carried by a wide range of wild birds as well as rodents, especially mice. Pigs are particularly susceptible to disease with this organism and the classical manifestations are the acute, septicaemic form producing sudden deaths or in milder cases “diamonds”. These forms of the disease can be controlled by a combination of hygiene, medication and vaccination.

Mice have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, such as swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called “bloody scours.”

Rodents and poultry

It has been estimated that rodents can increase poultry feed ussage by as much as 2% especially in the cold weather. Rats and mice are likely to find poultry houses a great place to live. Rodents spread diseases to poultry flocks by contaminating feed and bird living area with urine or droppings. Rats and mice are linked to poultry diseases such as salmonellosis, colibacillosis, coryza, pasteurellosis, mycoplasmosis, hemorrhagic enteritis,hymenolepiasis, capilariasis, and ascaridiasis. Because of their ability to harbor pathogens, rodents also can carry over disease organisms from one flock to another even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected.  Rodents also carry parasites such as lice, fleas, and mites.

All types of rodents eat poultry feed and they waste and contaminate more than they eat. It has been suggested by some authorities that one rat eats approximately 25 pounds of feed per year.   In addition to damage and feed loss rodents can cause high mortality rates and production losses. Rats have been known to kill baby chicks and break and eat eggs, and they may frighten birds by their movements or by noises they create.  Research has shown that by reducing the rodent population in poultry houses the bird mortality rate can also be lowered.

Rodent proofing a building

• Concrete: Concrete should be 2 inches thick if made of precast reinforced concrete plates fastened together, or at least 3¾ inches thick if not reinforced.
• Galvanized Sheet Metal: 24 Gauge or heavier; perforated sheet metal or grills should be 14 gauge.
Brick: Regular size, 3¾ inches thick with joints filled with mortar.
• Hardware Cloth: 19 Gauge ½ by ½ inch mesh to exclude rats, 24 gauge, ¼ by ¼ to exclude both rats and mice.

Any openings that are needed for ventilation should be screened or rodent proofed to prevent rodent access. With elimination of entry points, any potential hiding places outside the house should also be eliminated. Obvious food sources such as spilled feed should also be eliminated, use hanging feeders and remove any uneaten food before nightfall.

In some instances, a strip of heavy gravel placed adjacent to building foundations or other structures will reduce rodent burrowing at these locations. In any event, keep the perimeter of buildings and other structures clean of weeds and debris (including stacked lumber, firewood, and other stored materials) to discourage rodent activity and to allow easier detection of rodent sign.

However, any drastic change to their habitat may cause rodents to abandon their habitat. However they will only move to the next building or into the woods to wait until the coast is clear to return. Therefore the best plan is to elimate the rodents before undertaking a major clear-up.

Livestock food storage – making it vermin proof

Where possible, store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers or rooms. Stack sacked or boxed foods in orderly rows on pallets or tables in a way that allows for thorough inspection for evidence of mice. In such storage areas, keep stored materials away from walls.  Sweep floors frequently to permit ready detection of fresh droppings.

When storing foods or feed on pallets, keep in mind that mice can jump up more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) from a flat surface. They are also good climbers and can walk up surfaces such as wood or concrete (unless the surfaces have a slick finish). Mice can live for considerable periods of time within a pallet of feed without coming down to the floor.

Useful links

Oct 182012
 
burning logs in fire

How to make a log fire

In these days of central heating where you push a button or the heating comes on automatically by timer – heating your house with a log burning  or dual fuel stove can be a challenge, and for many is a skill that they have never learned.  As children many of us were warned away from fire, and discouraged from playing with matches.  Our houses were warmed by gas, electricity, or oil.

So you have opened up a fireplace or installed a stove, and are struggling to light that fire or get a good blaze going.  Ray Mears can produce a fire from a spark in the wilderness but you have gone through several matches and firelighters and still there is a pitiful flicker that produces no heat.

What are the tips to lighting a fire?

The things you need to consider are:

  • Air flow or draw of the fire

    Your chimney is the lungs of the house and you need air flow to feed the flames and build up heat.  When we had an open fire this included opening the door in the room, or putting up a sheet of newspaper against the chimney opening to create a rush of air.  In a stove this is easier by opening the vents and door slightly.  Sometimes there are issues about not having enough of a draw – if this is the case seek professional help – a cowl (see link) might be required and on occasion I have heard of a electric fan assisted cowl to artificially generate a flow of air.  If you have an open fire then beware of back-draft when it is windy – sometimes it is just not worth  setting a fire (you can get a cowl to help this see link above).  Or you may have to much of a draw that creates a draft when the pass door is open -(we experienced this which is why personally we prefer stoves).  We have not had a problem with back-draft since we installed the stoves and when the fires are not lit – we don’t have the cold air coming down the chimney.  One last point on an open fire – they are less efficient than stoves because you lose a lot of heat up the chimney.  Stoves retain heat simply from their structure and they enable you to control the rate of burn thereby maximising efficiency.

  • Type of wood you are using to light the fire

  See my other blog on what types of wood burn best.  Most types of wood when unseasoned or green, are too full of sap and water to burn effectively (Ash is the exception).  Also some wood just does not burn very well.  The heavier and therefore denser the wood, the higher its calorific value and therefore the longer it will burn. Hardwoods tend to be denser than softwoods such as pine and spruce and some of the densest are oak and beech. However, some of the very dense hardwoods like oak and elm can be very difficult to burn, so it is usually best to burn them with another type of wood as well. Softwoods tend to be easy to light and to burn quickly (making them very good kindling). Some of the best woods to burn are ash, beech, hornbeam, hawthorn, crab apple and wild cherry.

Your wood needs to be seasoned (dried over a period of time or in a kiln). If buying from a log merchant, check that your load will be well seasoned and ready to throw on the fire.  If you are still unsure, or storing it yourself, use a moisture meter to detect when the timber’s content is below 25%.  Until then, store in a pile with plenty of air circulating around it.

  • Moisture content of wood for the fire

 This can affect how well wood will burn.  Wet wood is also less efficient because the rising steam takes away heat from the room. It will also coat your chimney with resin and soot which is a major cause of chimney fires. More information on this issue can be found here.

  • Size of wood in the fire

 You need to light a small piece of wood and newspaper or firelighter that then lights a bigger piece (called kindling) that then lights a log.  Heat needs to build up and you need a bed of embers burning before logs will burn freely. Check out this You Tube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6aIeIZfTkg&feature=related

  • Log fires need a lot of attention

They burn quickly and can go out if not attended or fed with other logs.  Coal is a less green option but gives a greater long lasting heat.  However it produces a lot more ash or spoil that is considered toxic and cannot be used in your hen shed or compost.  We put our wood ash under the roosting perches to balance out the acidity of the hen poop. The chicken manure and wood ash react, driving off the nitrogen and drying out the manure. The result is an easily handled, easy-to-store, organic fertilizer that is rich in potassium and phosphorus.  We also add wood ash to the hens dust bath.  Wood ash is a good source of potash check out this link for more info.  For the reasons given we do not mix wood (apart from initial lighting with kindling) with coal, we have one type of fire or the other.

  • Health and safety

Open fires can be more dangerous than wood burning stoves because of the sparks they produce – amongst other dangers.  Never leave an open fire unattended, however stoves can become dangerously hot and touching them or proximity of materials close to stoves can melt, or smoulder.  Fire guards, proximity, and health & safety are things that must always be taken into consideration.

  • Flammable materials

do not burn things in your fire that can cause fumes or are dangerous.

  • Maintenance of chimney

make sure your chimney is cleaned or swept regularly – it is recommended that this is done at least once a year.  Otherwise that roaring fire might turn into something far more dangerous…….  When coal soot deposits or wood tar deposits build up to a sufficient level there is the risk of chimney fire. The heat from the fire warms the deposits releasing the combustible volatiles until they ignite. The fire then migrates up the chimney as the burning deposits heat the chimney above. Chimney fires can damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people. Here are some useful links http://www.chimney-cleaners.co.uk/chimney-fires.phphttp://www.stovesonline.co.uk/chimney-fires.htmlhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3drlKFx8P7Y.

We fitted chinese hats to the tops of our chimneys to stop rain getting in, birds getting in, and reduces downdraft.  Check out this link for examples of caps or hats for your chimney.

Making a fire

When your wood is ready, make a wigwam of dry kindling (gathered twigs, chopped up logs, or pallets cut into batons) over scrunched up sheets of newspaper.  Once the paper is lit in several places, this is the foundation of your fire.  Other items that give it extra spark include fir cones, loose or dry bark, or cardboard such as empty toilet rolls. When the kindling is roaring (if using a stove, open up the vent fully or for an open hearth, use bellows to fan the flames), start by adding one log and then more once the fire is established (in a stove leave the vent partially open to keep it steady).  Continue to stir/poke the fire to stimulate combustion and feed with fuel when necessary.

 A log stove can go out quickly if left without fuel, if you wish to stoke up a fire then you need to reduce the air flow and make sure there is plenty of fuel so that it can be left overnight, for example, to burn slowly or smoulder and produce a low heat over a long time.  Hardwoods such as oak are best suited to this as they are dense and slow-burning.

With coal it is possible to pack it down, reduce the air flow, (some people even pour a little moisture over the top to create a crust), and restart the fire again in the morning.  This is less likely to happen with wood as it will burn quicker.

 Wood ash

Unlike coal ash that should be disposed as rubbish, wood ash has many beneficial uses and should be treasured.  Wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus. And amongst other things is good for your compost, garden, and chicken dust bath. Read more

 October 18, 2012  green, post archive, smallholder, tree Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Oct 112012
 
15sep12 015

Why Grow your own firewood?

Wood is the natural sustainable choice of fuel for many domestic fires – in use since the first fire thousands of years ago. When we warm our homes with wood, we participate in a natural cycle that we share with ancient ancestors.

The ability to burn wood for heat in our homes gives us more control and options for fuel. We are no longer dependent on large energy utilities and multinational corporations whose charges only ever increase. Even if we have to buy in our logs at least we are supporting our local economy.

Unlike the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas or oil, burning firewood releases no more greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) than would be produced were the wood to simply rot on the forest floor. If we are responsible in the ways we grow, cut, and burn our firewood, wood burning can actually be a good choice for the environment.

When sourcing wood you have three choices, buy in, buy a mature woodland, or grow your own.  This article will focus on the latter, check out this other article about sourcing wood away from the smallholding.

What trees are the best to grow for firewood?

Note that all woods burn better when seasoned and some burn better when split rather than as whole logs.  In general the better woods for burning that you are most likely to come by are:

  • Apple and pear – burn slowly and steadily with little flame but good heat.  The scent is also pleasing.
  • Ash – the best burning wood providing plenty of heat (will also burn green)
  • Beech and hornbeam – good when well seasoned
  • Birch – good heat and bright flame, burns quickly
  • Blackthorn and hawthorn – very good, burns slowly but with good heat
  • Cherry – also burns slowly with good heat and a pleasant scent
  • Cypress – burns well but fast when seasoned, and may spit
  • Hazel – good
  • Holly – good when well seasoned
  • Horse Chestnut – good flame and heating power but spits a lot
  • Larch – fairly good for heat but crackles and spits
  • Maple – good
  • Oak – very old dry seasoned oak is excellent, burning slowly with a good heat
  • Pine – burns well with a bright flame but crackles and spits
  • Poplar – burns very slowly with little heat
  • Willow – good if seasoned well

If the tree you are looking for is not here then try this link.

Timescale for harvesting wood as fuel

If starting from scratch then the quickest tree to plant and harvest is willow.  It can be grown on damp unusable ground, and if properly undertaken, will produce wood of a size that is manageable by a smallholder without specialist equipment.

Willow as firewood

Pros

Super fast growing varieties can produce logs up to 3 inches or more thick in only 5 years.  It is best to cut or coppice in the dormant season from late autumn to late winter.  This ensures there is the least quantity of water within the coppice poles, which reduces the time taken to season the firewood to a minimum.

To get reasonably sized logs you will have to coppice your willow every 4-5 years.  The advantage of short rotation coppicing has always been the small diameter of the trees which enabled them to be worked with hand tools.  The production of firewood is best carried out using the coppice system  because a felling licence is not required to cut coppice poles with a diameter at breast height (1.3m from the ground) of 15cm or less.

Cons

Willow wood is mostly water and takes a long time to dry out.  Some other woods will dry all on their own, simply as a function of time, but the willow dries best with good access to a breeze. Otherwise it can rot or start to grow again before it drys out.  If it sits outside and get’s rained on, it will soak up water like a sponge even if it was previously “dry”. Willow has to be kept dry- in other words, kept under cover. It should dry for a minimum of six months, but letting it dry for two to three years improves its performance slightly.

Willow is very soft wood and it burns very quickly so mix it in with your other firewood because it won’t last long.

Click here for more information on the benefits of willow, planting willow, and willow types for sale.

Coppicing trees 

Many species of tree can be coppiced (e.g. hazel). This involves regularly cutting the tree down to a stump called a stool. Multiple new shoots (known as poles) regrow from the stool. The cutting is done on cycle so to keep a consistent supply you need to plan ahead and have sets of trees which you cut each year. The interval between cutting depends on the species of tree. The trees are cut during the winter before the sap has risen, and the branches are all cut low to the ground. By repeatedly cutting the trees their lifespan can be greatly increased. One of the advantages of coppicing is that you do not need to replant the trees every time you cut.

The new growth is fairly straight and manageable, and can grow very fast. Because the wood from coppicing is relatively small it also takes less time than large logs to season and you should easily be able to season it over one summer. Coppiced firewood can be burnt in a wood stove and is ideal for use in gasification / batch boilers – these boilers have very larger fireboxes which can take long length logs. You fill up the firebox and the boiler burns the fuel transferring the heat to a heat storage or accumulator tank for use when needed.

Many types of deciduous tree can be coppiced: Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch (3-4 year cycle), Hazel (7 year cycle), Hornbeam, Oak (50 year cycle), Sycamore Sweet Chestnut (15-20 year cycle), Willow, Sweet Chestnut, Hazel (7 year cycle), and Hornbeam. 

Turning trees into firewood

Once you have harvested your wood you must split any logs that are more than 6 inches in diameter.  This increases the surface area of the wood exposed to the elements and therefore enhances drying.  You can get mechanical splitters, and attachments for a tractor, when you have large quantities to split, but they are not cheap.

For the average user or smallholder a maul is the tool needed.  It is a type of axe with a heavy wide head especially for splitting logs.  A maul does not need to be particularly sharp – unlike a narrow felling axe which slices at wood and needs to be sharpened regularly.  You can use a felling axe for splitting logs but it is much harder work than a maul.  The trick with a maul is to let the weight of the head do the work – swing the maul over your shoulder and let the head fall on to the log without forcing it down.  The wide head will force the log apart.  It’s also important to have the log you are splitting at a good height – on a tree stump or larger log about 18 inches to 2 feet off the ground is ideal – this makes the job easier and avoids back damage.

Kindling

Trees and shrubs suitable for kindling include:

  • The older wood or prunings of Buddleia
  • Gorse -as a fuel it has a high concentration of oil in its leaves and branches, and so catches fire easily and burns well, giving off a heat almost equal to that of charcoal.
  • Lilac: Thinner branches make good kindling, whilst the thicker burn well with a clear flame and a very pleasant smell.
  • Rhododendron: Old thick and tough stems burn well.


More articles on firewood can be found here


Oct 102012
 
scotland flag

You’ve got the land and now want some animals – Who do I need to contact? What are the rules? Where do I get the paperwork? What if something goes wrong?

If you are not interested in keeping animals on your land or smallholding then you probably won’t want to go any further than registering (if at all) your smallholding.

Keeping Livestock

If you are planning to keep animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, hens, and cattle then read on. Different rules apply to different animals. It is complicated – but not insurmountable! 

Is there a difference between a pet animal and livestock?

Do not assume that because your animal (e.g. sheep, micro-pig, goat, alpaca) is to be kept as a pet that these rules do not necessarily apply to you.  Ignorance is not a defence – if in doubt ask your local authority animal welfare officer.

Bureaucracy surrounding the smallholding

The bureaucracy surrounding agriculture and smallholding is a challenge, don’t let it get on top of you, but don’t ignore it either. You are treated by the authorities just the same as the big guys, and will therefore have to comply with all the regulations. It’s not what you came into smallholding for I know, but the good thing is that you are not alone! Local smallholder associations are there to provide support and advice.

 Things to do before you buy animals for your smallholding

‘Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.’

  • It is important that you read and understand the welfare guides/codes of recommendation relating to the animals you intend to keep.  Read more here.
  • You must register your land or ‘holding’ and get a CPH number (a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept). You need this number before you purchase/acquire/move any animal onto your smallholding.
  • You must get a flock or herdmark number for your livestock (e.g. sheep and pigs)
  • Get the relevant movement documentation for your animal (from the previous owner) and be aware of the regulations around transporting animals. You may need a licence for moving certain agricultural animals (e.g. pigs see below).

Once you have your animals – other things you need to do

  • Your animals must be properly identifiable, with the correct flock or herdmark numbers. Different animals have different tagging rules and some even require electronic identification (e.g. sheep).
  • Poultry and other fowl may require to be registered (see below).
  • You need to keep a register and medications book. Return an annual inventory where requested, and notify a range of agencies depending on the animal and it’s movements (more details below).

Feeding your animals/livestock

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of animal feed direct from an agricultural supplier which is pre-mixed, however rules do apply about how that feed is stored (and your premises may be inspected to make sure you comply), as well as what different animals can be fed (e.g. pigs cannot be fed anything that has had contact with your kitchen).

You must be registered with your local authority if you;
  • manufacture animal feed,
  • market animal feed,
  • import animal feed,
  • store animal feed,
  • transport animal feed,
  • sell co-products of food industry as animal feed,
  • carry out on-farm mixing,
  • feed food producing animals,
  • grow crops to be used as animal feed.
 Contact your local authority Animal Health Officer for details.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed as well as improving food safety throughout the food chain. This includes improving hygiene on farms and making sure that public health is not put at risk through what is fed to animals.  Food hygiene legislation applies to farmers, growers and other producers, in many cases for the first time as part of the ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety. There is a question and answer section available on the Food Standards Agency FSA website.

Smallholder paperwork

If you are the owner or occupier of a smallholding, you also need to keep records of animal stock on your premises. This is called a register of the animals on your holding; you should keep a separate register for each holding you use. This register will hold information about your animals, the holding and any movements of animals on or off your holding. You can keep your own records, in any format you wish however, it must contain all the necessary information as set out in the Scottish Government website you can download one from here .

Registering your smallholding

You must register your holding within 30 days from the date you first keep animals.  If you are a new sheep/goat/pig/cattle keeper you must register your holding with your local Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID) Office.  They will give you a CPH number which is a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept. The CPH code is used when reporting and recording animal movements.

Where do I get a Flock/herdmark number from?

You must get flockmark/herdmark number for your animals.  This is done by contacting your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).
They will give you a flockmark (sheep) or herdmark (goats/pigs) for your holding. The flockmark or herdmark is allocated to the holding and must be used to identify all animals born on the holding. Keepers who use the same holding must use the same flockmark or herdmark. You require the flockmark or herdmark to buy identification tags and electronic identifiers (from agricultural shops/suppliers).  You must also inform your local AHDO within 30 days of ceasing to keep animals on a holding.

Movement of animals

What is samu?

You must notify movements of animals on to your holding to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU).
SAMU, Government Buildings, 161 Brooms Road, Dumfries, DG1 3ES
Phone: 0845 601 7597, Fax: 01387 274 457
samu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
When an animal moves, its movement must be recorded in the triplicate movement document (sheep and goats – different rules apply for pigs) and then reported to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) within 3 days of arrival at the holding by the receiving keeper; moves that take place via a Market in Scotland will be notified to SAMU by the Market. The movement document forms the basis of the notification to SAMU. The white copy of the triplicate movement document can be either posted or faxed to SAMU. You can also complete electronic notification of the movement details.

You get your triplicate movement document (sheep and goats) from the RPID office.  All movements from a holding in Scotland (except those for emergency veterinary treatment) must be accompanied by a movement document and sent to SAMU .

Annual inventory of sheep and goats

You must return the annual inventory of sheep and goats sent to you directly by the Scottish Government. They will only know to do this if you have registered your smallholding.

REGISTRATION OF PIG HOLDINGS

Keepers of pigs are required to register holdings where pigs are kept and must maintain records of all pig movements.  Any owner or person in charge of pigs is required to notify the Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) at local AHDO office giving details of :
i. name and address of the owner or occupier of the holding
ii. identification number (CPH) of the holding
iii. species of livestock kept, and
iv. to notify the DVM within one month, of any changes to these details

Moving pigs

When pigs are moved a self declaration movement document or a licence issued by the local authority or Divisional Veterinary Manager must accompany the animals on their journey. Where a self declaration movement document is used a copy must be forwarded to the local authority within 3 days. The local authority will in turn notify the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) of the details of the movement.
In the event of disease outbreak, the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measure to control and eradicate highly contagious diseases.
Self declaration movement documents are therefore used to record the details of a movement in instances where keepers move pigs from a farm. The type of declaration to be used (Schedule 2, Schedule 3, or Schedule 4) will depend on the purposes for which the pigs are being moved and the destination to which the pigs are being moved to.
  • Schedule 2: Movement of pigs from a farm form of declaration
  • Schedule 3: Movement of pigs from a farm for breeding, exhibition, artificial insemination, or veterinary treatment form of declaration
  • Schedule 4: Movement of pigs on return to farm after movement from farm for breeding purposes form of declaration
Keepers need to be aware of the requirements being placed upon them when using self declaration movement documents.  No fees are payable. This is simply a notification process with the requirement being to forward a copy of the relevant self declaration to the local authority within 3 days. Tacit consent applies. This is only a notification process so this means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted if you have not heard from the local authority by the end of the target completion period.
Examples of forms can be downloaded from websites below:
Downlodad animal transportation advice and get info on pig movement licences etc from this web page

Do I need to register my chicken?

If you own or keep 50 or more poultry birds then you must register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). This is due to the avian influenza (preventative measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.  The poultry register remains open to allow for the continual voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 poultry. Bird species that must registered:
  •      Chickens 
  •      Turkeys 
  •       Ducks     
  •       Geese
  •       Quail     
  •       Emus  
  •       Rheas    
  •       Kiwis
  •      Pheasants  
  •      Partridge  
  •      Guinea fowl 
  •      Cassowaries
You can register with DEFRA by calling free on 0800 634 1112.

Disease in your livestock

Reporting Notifiable Diseases

Many animal diseases are highly contagious and must be reported as soon as an outbreak is suspected. Such notifiable disease include:
  •   Foot and Mouth Disease         
  • Swine Fever        
  •  Anthrax            
  • Rabies
If you suspect signs of notifiable disease, or have a case confirmed, you must report it immediately to: DEFRA Divisional Veterinary Manager, Local Authority Animal Health Officer and Police.  A comprehensive list of notifiable disease can be obtained from the DEFRA website

LOCAL AUTHORITY CONTACT DETAILS

You can find out your local authority animal health officer here.

Animals going to slaughter

Animals going to slaughter require a range of documentation

  • transfer of ownership through your triplicate book (see above)
  • movement licence for pigs (see above)
  • food chain document (see below)
  • you must also abide by the correct transport regulations and use a method of transport that is acceptable (e.g. you may find that an abbattoir might refuse to accept the delivery of sheep or pigs on a horse trailer because there is insufficient side gates which increases the risk of escape).

Food chain information

From 1 January 2010 EU food hygiene legislation required slaughterhouse operators to ‘request, receive, check and act upon’ food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, sheep and goats sent for slaughter for human consumption. 
Read more here.

The ‘five freedoms’.

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. By access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vision.
  • Freedom from discomfort. By provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and rest area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease. By preventing or rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment including humane slaughter.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. By ensuring that conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering
Oct 072012
 
01may12 036

What to plant to attract pollinators, insects, bees, moths and butterflies to your garden

Bees and other pollinators are active in the fifesmallholder garden and woodland, from very early in Spring until the Autumn frosts.  Sometimes, if you are lucky you might see a bumble bee flying in a warm winter day but rarely a honey bee. Moths and butterflies are also seasonal, some overwinter and others migrate here in good weather. In order to make sure that there is always pollen and nectar available, it’s important to have suitable plants in flower, at the appropriate time. 

“We used to have 27 species of Bumble Bee in Britain, two have become extinct in the last 70 years and several more are on the critical list.”

As well as providing bee friendly habitats and nesting sites why not join the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust  and/or your local Beekeepers association

“Bees and butterflies hibernate in winter, so don’t forage when it’s truly cold. But it’s good to have a few winter-flowering plants that bees can use on warmer days and a regular food source from March to November.”

Plant flowers in groups

Flowers clustered into groups of the same species will attract more bees than individual plants scattered through the border. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.

“if you plant them they will come”

What is pollen and nectar?

Nectar – nectar is loaded with sugars and is a bee’s main source of energy.

Pollen – pollen provides a balanced diet of proteins and fats.  

Bees forage for both nectar and pollen from plants and flowers.  Read more. 

 What Is A Pollinator?

Here in Britain ‘pollinators’ means small flying insects such as hoverflies, bees, beetles, butterflies and moths.

 What do I need to plant for nectar and pollen?

 

“Most bedding plants are absolutely useless for bees and so are most with double flowers.”

Research suggests native plants are four times more attractive to native bees and pollinators. They are also usually well adapted to your growing conditions and can thrive with minimum attention.  Below is a list of plants and flowers suitable for pollinators and include pictures of ones that grow in our garden and woodland.

“Single flowered cultivars (some are marked as ‘Single Flowers’) are more useful to bees than double flowered cultivars.”

Annuals

An annual is a plant that grows, flowers and sets seed all in one year.

 Balsam 

Birds foot trefoil  

Borage

Calendula

California poppy

 Candytuft

China aster

Clarkia

Convolvulus

Corncockle

Cornflower

 Cosmos

 

Digitalis

Echium  

Forget me not

French marigold

Gypsophilia

Impatiens

Lavatera

Limnathes

Mallow 

Mignonette

Nasturtium

Nicotiana

Nigella

Phacelia

Poppy

Saponaria

Scabious

 Sunflower

Teasel

Zinnia

 

 Perennials

Perennials are plants that flower and die down in the winter but return every spring/summer.

 

 Achillea 

Aconitum 

 

Angelica

Antirrhinum

Alyssum

Aubretia 

Aster

 Campanula

 Canterbury Bells

 Catmint

 Clematis 

 Cowslip

Fuchsia

 Geranium

 Geum

Goldenrod

Gypsophilia

 Harebell

 Heather

Hellebores  

Helianthus

Hollyhock

Honeysuckle

Horehound

Hyssop

Iris  

 

Ivy 

Jacob’s ladder

Japanese anemone

 

Kniphophia

 Lavatera

Lavender

Lupin 

 Mallow 

 Meadowsweet  

Michaelmas daisy

 Mint 

Ox-eye daisy

 Peony

 Poppy

 

Ragged robin

Red campion

Rudbeckia

Scabious,

 Savory 

Sea holly

 Sedum

Thrift

Thyme 

Verbena Bonariensis

Veronica longifolia

Wallflower

 

 Bulbs & Corms

 Aconite

Agapanthus 

Allium 

Camassia

 Chionodoxa 

Colchicum 

Crocus

Fritillaria

Galanthus nivalis

Hyacinth

Ixia

 Leucojum

Muscari

Narcissus

Scilla

Snowdrop

Trillium

Tulip

 

Herbs

Basil

Calindrinia Bianca

Chicory

Chives  

Coriander

Foeniculum

Lemon Balm

Marjoram

Mint

Rosemary

 Sage

Thyme 

 

Trees

 

Alder 

Apple

 Apricot

Ash

Birch

Blackthorn

Cherry

Chestnut  

Elder

Hawthorn 

This honey can be sought after because of its rarity. The Hawthorn only yields nectar for a short period of time so the bees have to be quick.   Read more about the Hawthorn tree.

Hazel

Laurel

Lime

Maple

Oak

Pear

Plum

 Peach 

Privet

Sycamore

Sweet and horse chestnut

 Blacl locust

Willow

 

Shrubs

 

 Berberis

Broom

Buddleia

Buckthorn

Choisia

Ceanothus 

 

Cotoneaster

Echium

Elderberry

 Escallonia

 Flowering currants

Fuchsia

 Gorse 

Heather

 

Hebe

Holly

 

Mahonia

 

 Pyrocanthus 

 Privet

Quince

Snowberry

 

Weeds

A weed is a flower in the wrong place.

 

Blackberry

Chick weed

 

Clover

Coltsfoot 

Dandelion

Dead nettles

 

Field Scabious

Hairy Willowherb

Hedera helix known as common Ivy

Hogweed

Knapweed

Rosebay willow herb 

Thistle

 Yarrow

 

 Vegetables (when left to flower)

Asparagus

 
Beans of all varieties 

Brassicas 

Broad bean 

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

 Chicory

 Chives

Courgettes 

Endive

Field Bean

Fruiting currants

Kale (and other brassicas)

Leeks

 Marrows 

Oil seed rape

Onions

Parsnips 

Pumpkins 

Radish 

Swede 

Turnips 

 Fruit

Blueberry bush

Gooseberry bushes    

Raspberry

Strawberry

 

Flowers

 

 Asters

Borage

 Christmas rose

Nasturtiums 

Pansies

Poached egg plant

Phacelia

Violets  

Tansy 

 

For more information and photographs please register for my ebook on this subject.

 

Websites used in the making of this article:

 

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