Nov 302012
 
coloured willow and dog wood stems

Coloured willow stems for sale at fifesmallholder

It’s winter again and the coloured willows and dog woods that have been hidden by the other flowers and shrubs, now shine out in the garden.  I have been admiring them, and thinking about what I will do with them.  Some I will leave in the garden to enjoy, but will harvest the rest.  Some we sell, customers can come and gather their own, or we deliver within reasonable distances.  I also like to use them in my own Christmas Decorations  (such as wreaths and table decorations) but I also display them in house throughout winter, instead of supermarket flowers.  The smaller branches are put into a vase and will give me a long period of enjoyment.  

willow weaving

“These coloured stems are always a favourite with flower arrangers and florists at this time of year when other foliage is past its best.  “

coloured willow stems

Coloured stems in a vase just keep on giving

First is their contrasting stem colours, then (in the vase with water and the heat of the house) they will develop buds (the white buds on the dark stems are lovely), leaves (fresh vibrant green) and lastly flowers.  When I’m done they will have rooted easily in the water and I can then replant them. For me that is sustainable local flowers and stems!

willow bud

Twisted coloured willow ring/Christmas wreath

I will also make a twisted willow ring or wreath, ( I mentioned this in a previous post), the colours remain vibrant over the winter and slowly over time.  I then use the previous winter’s willow ring as the basic structure to make my Christmas wreath which is covered with with winter flowers (such as viburnum) and evergreen foliage collected from my garden.

wreath

Coloured willow and dog wood stems for your garden

The thicker stems of my prunings may be stuck into the ground in a damp spot in my garden or woodland.  This is the time of year to do it (when the plant is dormant) and they will grow away in the Spring (although they do grow better if kept weed free whilst establishing themselves).  The decorative willow is not as vibrant in growth as the superwillow that we grow elsewhere on the smallholding for firewood, wattles, and living willow structures.  This means that the decorative willow produces fine shoots and branches suitable for the vase or weaving.  To ensure vibrancy and suitable shoots every year the willow does require to be harvested or coppiced.  This  keeps the willow at a good visual height and size and ensures a fresh growth of young colourful stems every winter.

The many uses of willow

willow cuttings

Finally, it is also a great source of pollen and nectar for the bees and insects in the spring.  

All of the above are for sale at fifesmallholder – please visit our shop

 coloured willow wreath

 Click here for another post on things to make with willow.

Why not check out my Willow Board on Pinterest for lots of ideas and tips on things to make with willow?

 

Nov 272012
 
tup and ram lamb at fifesmallholder

Its tupping time at Fifesmallholder

We have been a bit later putting our boys in with our girls this year.  There has been two bad winters in a row previously and an April lambing will hopefully mean that the lambs get a better start in life.  We do not bring our sheep in for lambing, but keep them out in the lambing field and bring them in once lambing is  immenent or they have just lambed.  We do not have a large lambing shed and have found that this method means that shelter is given when they need it the most.  However, if the weather is bad then we need to make sure that the pregnant ewes have sufficient shelter and feed.

It is a good idea to make sure that both boys (known as a tup or ram) and girls (known as a ewe) are in peak condition.

Flush The Ewes

 To improve the chances of twins, you can help the ewe produce more eggs at ovulation. To do this you can put the ewes on fresh grazing for a few days/weeks along with a mineral lick, this will give the ewe a boost in condition. Usually resulting in an increase in eggs ovulated… which hopefully means twins or triplets.

How Often Is A Female Sheep Fertile?

A ewe will come in season every 21 days until she has conceived. I advise that you put a marking raddle/harness on your Ram. Every 21 days you should change the colour of the crayon. Doing this will allow you take note of what period the ewe will lamb in and help you organise things (holidays, help etc).

How long is a female sheep or ewe pregnant for?

The ewes gestation period is typically 147 days. Allow 145-149 days and you will be safe.  A common saying is if you put your tup in on 5th November you can expect lambs from the 1st April.

* Tip – make sure this years ewe lambs are well away from all this mullarkey – otherwise you might end up with a teenage mother*

This Is What They Have Been Waiting All Year For

Make sure your ram/tup is in good condition at tupping time”

Your tups need to be firing on all cylinders! Peak fitness is essential, the most common reason for a lazy tup will be poor feet. Keep them trimmed and tidy. We have two proven tups (producing good healthy lambs last year) but it is always good to be prepared for any eventuality by having an heir and a spare.  They keep each other company throughout the summer, and mean that I have a mix of genes in my lambs, a backup in case one of them gets sick, and a guarantee that at least one of them will perform.  

For me lambing is the best time on the smallholding and I look forward to it every year.

 November 27, 2012  autumn, employment, income, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Nov 212012
 
green logo

Fifesmallholder is celebrating European Week for Waste Reduction  17th-25th November

Avoid wasting food and save up to £430 per year

This is what the average Scottish household throws away every year!  It’s not just peelings and bones. Most of this is good food that we simply haven’t got around to eating. Over two-thirds of food waste could have been avoided if we planned, stored and managed it better. 

Visit www.wasteawarelovefood.org.uk for more hints and tips on how to reduce your food waste.

Stop the unwanted mail coming through your door

Over a third of all direct mail is thrown straight in the bin, unopened! 5 easy steps can help you reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive and discard.

Visit www.stop-the-drop.org.uk for more information.

Transform your kitchen and garden waste into compost…

For 10 good reasons on why this is a good idea visit this web page on composting.  Or why not get yourself a wormery.  Check out our Poultry and Pig pages, or this post, to find out why you should not feed kitchen waste to your chickens or pigs.

Give your unwanted items a new home

Opportunities for finding new homes for your unwanted items are increasing.

Skip

Need a skip? Recycle Fife Skip Hire are available come rain or shine! Phone on 01592 781984 or visit the website  for more info.

 Smallholder recycling tips

  • we cut up our plastic milk bottles to make scoops for feeding hens
  • we incorporate shredded paper from home & work into bedding for our chickens 

You can find out more information at www.ewwr.eu

 November 21, 2012  garden, green, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , ,
Nov 202012
 

Spider web on gorse

The autumn dew and general winter humidity is a good medium to highlight spider webs around the smallholding.  Here is a picture I took on a gorse bush in our woodland.  We have a lot of gorse on the smallholding read more.

 

gorse web

 

Click here for a link to pictures helping you to identify spiders.  

Did you know?

  • there are approximately 700 native species of spider in the UK

The Natural History Museum’s Department of Entomology offers a worldwide insect identification and advice service on insects and other arthropods such as spiders, scorpions, millipedes, mites and ticks. No charges are usually made for simple enquiries but the identification service is chargeable and fairly expensive.

The Museum also runs a Bug Forum to assist with insect identification.

Natural History Museum identification and advisory service: 
Telephone – 020 7942 5045

British Arachnological Society:
Offers advice and identification of British species.  See their website FAQs ‘What spiders do I get in my house?’ and ‘What spiders do I find in my garden?’ for detailed descriptions and photos. 

 

 November 20, 2012  autumn, biodiversity, post archive Tagged with: ,
Nov 182012
 
Bird On A Wire

Why the swallows like to come to Fife Smallholder every year

The pictures of this nest sum up for me the reasons why the swallows find our part of the world a good place to come.  They arrive every year in the late spring, and if the weather is not poor (like last year 2012) they will have one or two broods in the season.  Our hen sheds are popular spots for them to make their nests and raise their broods and we make sure there is an ‘in’ and an ‘out’ where we can.  This is achieved by removing wooden panels high up to allow the swallow to enter and exit even when the hens are shut in for the night.

 

summer migrant nest

I follow @swallowsightings on Twitter so know when the swallows first arrive in Britain and then slowly travel up the country following the spring, to our home in Fife.  As the saying goes, “one swalllow doesn’t make a summer” but the sight of the first swallow is a very welcome one.  I am also a fan of Springwatch and love the fact that they regularly feature this migratory bird nesting and raising chics as well as tracking them to their winter homes in Africa and other sunnier climates.  Click here for a link to BBC info and footage on swallows.

 

What is a nest made of

These pictures show how the nest is constructed with ingredients found around the smallholding.  We have heavy clay and the swallows use this along with water from our pond to create the bricks or building blocks, this is then woven with horse hair and straw to give strength and rigidity.  Then the cup is lined with feathers to make it soft and warm.  Some nests are used again and again, and others are built every year.  We have two spots where the nests are removed once the swallows have gone, but are built again in the same spot every year.  I can only presume that it is the same swallows who build them and like the view.

There is plenty of insects to eat around the smallholding, but the swallows particularly like swooping low over our sheep fields, presumably getting insects and flies that are attracted to the sheep poop.  When it rains or is very windy they are found flying  in our woods – following the insects who have gone there for shelter. I think of them as the day shift, and the bats as the night shift. They have a very distinctive call, and I know when the cat is around because they will buzz it and give off an alarm call.

All too soon the swallows and their young start to line up along the overhead electricity cable, I have counted over 100 on a good year.  Then one day you look around and they have gone, sometimes leaving the last brood which has fledged and will feed up before they too leave for the sunshine.  I find it fascinating that these young fledglings will fly unguided all the way to their wintering grounds, and that they have the strength to do this journey so soon after leaving the nest.

There are many migrant birds that visit our home, but the swallows are by far my favourite.  Like all things in the cycle of life, they will be sighted once more on the southern shores of Britain and I will eagerly follow their journey north to my home.  Its winter here in Scotland just now, but it pleases me to think that my Scottish born swallows will be enjoying themselves in the warmth of the sunshine in Africa feeding and getting ready to follow the spring north to their breeding grounds in Scotland, where there are plenty of midges and beasties for them to eat.

 

 November 18, 2012  bird watching, insects, post archive Tagged with:
%d bloggers like this: