Mar 112014
 
pullet for sale at fifesmallholder

Silkie, Leghorn, Legbar, Maran, and hybrid laying chickens for sale at fifesmallholder

Hatching time has started again and in a few weeks our chicks will be ready to start to lay eggs.  This is called ‘point of lay’  and these birds are called pullets.  They are all female.  Chickens start to lay eggs about 17 weeks old, and have moved from eating chick crumbs to pellets and wheat.

white silkie chic

We have several cockerels of different breeds so have hatched:

cockerel    hybrid laying hens (medium brown eggs) hardy and reliable layer

 Hybrid chickens rarely go broody, and will lay reliably throughout the year.  Pure bred chickens are more likely to only lay between April to September.  A hybrid born late summer should lay throughout its first winter with or without light in the hen shed.

leghorn poultry  pure bred leghorn (large white eggs) a good reliable layer 

Unlike other pure breeds leghorns lay well throughout the year but will require light in the hen shed in winter.  For a large fowl breed they are not too big despite the size of their eggs, and are therefore cheaper to feed than some of the larger breeds.  Good value for money.

 white silkie henpure bred silkies (small cream eggs) a good pet unreliable layer

If you do not have much room, a small hen shed, or do not want much damage in your garden then these are a good choice.  Although they only lay through the breeding season (April to September) they make up for this in character.  A docile chicken, that is lovely to look at and most are good with children.  We have a beardie cockerel so our chicks have extra character.

We now have pure bred cream crested legbars (large blue eggs) seasonal layer

These chickens produce lovely blue eggs and can be used to cross with any other hen and will produce a variation of blue or green eggs.  These chickens are auto-sexing and this works even on the cross chickens saving you the expense of rearing cockerels when these are unwanted.

We now have two unrelated maran cockerels and hope to start breeding pure marans over the summer of 2014 – these lay dark brown eggs.

We are also open to swapping cockerels to improve the gene pool – if you have a young healthy man who you would like to swap with one of ours then please contact us to discuss.   

Why buy new chickens?

bearded silkie chicken

Hens that start laying eggs in the autumn should lay all winter in the first year and will tide you over if your other hens stop as the daylight reduces in the winter months.  We move our hens into their winter housing which has a light to help encourage our girls to lay in the winter.  The light is not on all the time, only for a few hours each day, but it is enough to give our girls a rest and keep producing a few eggs.

free range white female silkie hen

How do you introduce new chickens to your old chickens?

It is always advisable to quarantine your new stock (in case of disease) and make sure that they have been treated for worms and mites before introducing them to your flock.  This is best done at night, however there will be some disorder until the hens sort out the pecking order.  To reduce the stress and bullying make sure that there is more than one feeding and drinking station so that new chickens are able to access food.

For sale

If you like what you see please get in touch.  Check out my poultry page.

Mar 102014
 
table bird chickens at fife smallholder

Backyard/garden poultry keeping

What you need to know if keeping a few chickens in your garden

Keeping a few hens or chickens in your back garden has become popular again, as people want an outdoor pet that also provides fresh free range eggs.  If you have a large back garden with space for your chickens to roam securely then why not?

cockerel

Before you embark on this adventure please do your homework first, and check to make sure that there are not any clauses in your lease, mortgage, or bye-laws that restrict the keeping of poultry.  I would also urge to consider very carefully the keeping of a cockerel – they are noisy and will annoy the neighbours.

Things to do before you buy chickens for your garden or 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.

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
mother and baby

Stepping Out

Feeding your animals/chickens

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of chicken and turkey feed direct from an agricultural supplier in large bags because this is the cheapest way to do it.  However you need to ensure that it is stored properly and protected from vermin. Read more.

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.
 

Can I sell my eggs?

Yes you can sell your clean fresh eggs direct but they will not be marked with a stamp like the ones in the supermarket.

free range egg

“Ungraded eggs sold direct to the final consumer at the producer’s farm gate or sold by the producer locally door-to door in the region of production will not have to be marked.”

Egg Box Labelling for small scale poultry keepers such as smallholders

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

white silkie hen

 Where can I buy chickens in Fife Scotland?

 Here at Fife Smallholder we sell fertilised eggs and chicken pullets or point of lay.  Read more
 

How Much Does It Cost To Keep Chickens?

It really depends on how much you want to spend.  I know people who keep a few hens that roost in a coal cellar at night on the back of a chair, and others whose chickens live in a bespoke Eglu.  Read more 

hen and chick

Top Of the World

How do I introduce new chickens to my existing chickens?

It is always advisable to quarantine your new stock (in case of disease) and make sure that they have been treated for worms and mites before introducing them to your flock.  This is best done at night, however there will be some disorder until the hens sort out the pecking order.  To reduce the stress and bullying make sure that there is more than one feeding and drinking station so that new chickens are able to access food.

 March 10, 2014  garden, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , ,
Oct 162013
 

The strange things that smallholders find!

I came across some star snot tonight whilst closing up the pigs.  What is it I hear you say?

“Suggestions include that the substance is a type of mould, an animal excretion or even ‘star snot’ from meteorites.”

There are many theories about what this stuff is, and more qualified people than I can tell you about it.  (Although being a self-confessed Trekie you can guess what one I like to think is the answer. )

 Click here for the link to one of my favourite radio programmes BBC Scotland  ‘Out Of Doors’ debating the subject.

Live Long And Prosper :0)

 

star snot

May 122013
 

Bible for Beekeepers & Smallholders who garden in Scotland

 

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

Register with this site and request your free ebook through the contact button.

May 062013
 

Best foot forward

Lambing time is an exhausting roller coaster of highs and lows, you go through the lambing process and come out the other end (sleep deprived) and breath a huge sigh as your last ewe and lamb goes out into the field.  Time to get back to normal……..But do not make the mistake of thinking that this is you finished.  Young lambs are very vulnerable to a range of factors that if not dealt with can impact on the welfare, and weight gain of the lamb.  However, if you keep an eye out you can spot an issue and deal with it quickly, saving you and the animal a lot of pain and expense.

 One problem that can occur is a lame lamb who may limp, lie down a lot, or be seen on its knees.  This lameness can be caused by a range of factors, from the physical (mud ball in the hoof, thorns, injury to the legs) to bacterial (footrot and scald) and viral (orf).  I would always recommend that you discuss with your vet in the first instance before attempting any self-diagnosis and/or treatment.

“Sheep that remain lame despite treatment and a period for recovery do not have a life worth living.  Sheep that are lame for one week or longer lose body condition and, as a result of lameness, they are debilitated and less productive. Lame lambs do not thrive and can lose body condition.”

There is no magic bullet or one vaccine that will prevent all the problems.  Prevention and prompt action are crucial.  Here are a few things that we have experienced over the years:

Orf (scabs and sores on mouth) in lambs

Orf is spread by direct contact.  It  is a zoonotic disease, which means that it is easily transmitted from animals to humans. SO BE CAREFUL. Outbreaks occur more frequently during periods of extreme temperatures such as late summer and winter.  Or infection can be caused by scratches from thistles of both growing and felled plants. Symptoms of Orf include scabs and sores on the lips and muzzle, and less commonly in the mouth of young lambs and on the eyelids, feet, and teats of ewes. The lesions progress to thick crusts which may bleed and cause secondary infections. Orf in the mouths of lambs may prevent suckling and cause weight loss, and can infect the udder of the mother ewe, thus potentially leading to mastitis. Sheep are prone to reinfection. Occasionally the infection can be extensive and persistent if the animal does not produce an immune response.

The virus is epitheliotropic, which means that it has an affinity for the skin. The period of incubation is relatively short. Susceptible animals usually develop the first signs of the disease 4 to 7 days after exposure that persists for 1 to 2 weeks or for longer periods. The disease affects sheep and goats.

“Extensive lesions on the feet can lead to lameness in adults and young animals.”

The infection is spread by direct and indirect contact from infected animals or by contact with infected tissue or saliva containing the virus. Lesions can be treated with a single application of 3 percent iodine solution. In severe cases of secondary bacterial infection, the usage of a systemic antibiotic is recommended.

Young animals are the most susceptible to contracting the disease. Lambs can contract orf after a few weeks of birth.
However, outbreaks in young animals are most frequent during postweaning.  Smallholders can help by applying antibiotic sprays on to large scabs, ensuring infected lambs receive sufficient milk and separating out the infected stock to slow down cross-transmission to healthy animals. It is advisable for those handling infected animals to wear disposable gloves to prevent cross-infection and self-infection. Vets need to be contacted if there is a risk of mis-diagnosis with other, more serious conditions.

Joint ill in lambs

Infectious polyarthritis (joint ill) is acquired during the first few days of life with lameness visible from five to 10 days-old. Typically only one joint is affected in approximately half of lambs with 2 to 4 joints in the remainder. The affected joint(s) are swollen, hot, and painful. Infection causes considerable muscle wastage.  You need to catch the lame lamb and treat it immediately with antibiotics.  Penicillin once daily for at least five consecutive days administered during the early stages of lameness effects a good cure rate in many infections.  Lambs with joint ill that continue to show moderate to severe lameness after two courses of antibiotic therapy do not grow well and represent a major welfare concern and you should consider having them culled.

  To prevent or reduce the incidence of joint ill, ensure that ewes are lambed in a clean, dry environment and that lambs take in adequate amounts of protective colostrum within six hours of birth. Dipping navels and providing clean lambing pens or dry lambing fields also help to protect lambs.

 

Scald or footrot

This was a hard lesson for us to learn.  If you do not identify and treat scald it can lead to foot rot which can then lead to fly strike.  These are issues you do not want to have to deal with and can cause severe health and welfare problems for the lambs.
“Scald is the most common cause of lameness in sheep
and is most prevalent when conditions underfoot are wet.”
 
Scald can be a precursor to some other more severe causes of lameness so needs to be treated promptly. It can affect all age groups but is more prevalent in lambs than ewes. Foot scald (interdigital dematitis) is an infection and is not contagious. Foot scald causes lameness, frequently on the front feet, and lesions are found between the hooves. The tissue between the toes of a sheep with foot scald are generally blanched and white, or red and swollen. Foot scald is much easier to treat than foot rot. Footrot is a very common condition, it is extremely painful and very contagious. Affected feet have a very characteristic foul smell and may be fly-struck.
 
It is recommended that you do not breed or buy replacements from sheep that have had scald or footrot, and that susceptibility to footrot can be inherited. However the plus side of this is that you can breed for improved resistance.  I know this is hard for smallholders when you pet lamb or favourite ewe is the one that you have the most issues with, but try to tough about this for the welfare of the flock.   Some breeds do fare better than others,  we keep a range of breeds and it is my experience that the more primitive or historic breeds are more resistant.

When treating, and YOU MUST DO SOMETHING, use an isolation pen for sheep with scald or footrot.  Move them immediately (for example to a pen) and consider using hydrated builders’ lime (or purchased from an agricultural merchant)  around water troughs and feed areas.

 Footrot is probably what will happen if you ignore the scald.  It is a highly contagious disease, caused by dual infection with the bacteria Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum (which also causes scald). F.necrophorum is widely found in the environment, especially in dung. D. nodosus survives primarily in infected sheep, although the duration of its survival on the pasture is not clear, probably a number of weeks. These two bacteria are closely connected and thrive on the by-products of each other.
 
Sheep that have been infected with or exposed to footrot do not develop any significant natural immunity or resistance. Short term immunity can be achieved using vaccines.  Spread is primarily from foot to foot via pasture or mud. Goats, cattle and possibly vehicles can act as carriers. However moist pastures, laneways and muddy yards are the main areas where footrot is spread.
 
“Older ewes, ewes rearing twins and male lambs are at higher risk of footrot.”
 
Affected feet have a characteristic foul smell and a grey ‘ooze’ may be seen. It causes extreme discomfort to the sheep and leaves the animal highly vulnerable to blowfly strike in the foot or along the flank where the sheep tucks its foot when it lies down.  The most effective footrot control were using an injectable antibiotic plus an antibiotic foot spray and treating a sheep as soon as lameness became evident. I is also recommended not to trim or footbath feet at this time as there is the strong risk that you will make the damage worse and transfer it to other sheep.  Leave the trimming until the lameness has gone.
 
Footrot bacteria are readily killed by dry heat, sunlight, cold, dry environment and a number of different chemicals. It is said that most domestic disinfectants will destroy D. nodosus but are not registered or recommended for treating sheep as they are easily de-activated by dirt contamination. Zinc Sulphate, “Radicate” and formalin (Formalin, Formol) are the chemicals currently registered for the treatment of footrot in footbaths.
 

Other lameness causes in lambs

Although we have no direct experience of the following – here are some other causes of lameness in lambs.

Erysipelas is caused by a bacterium present in soil. It is an uncommon condition in sheep but can cause outbreaks of lameness in lambs; if left untreated, lambs become severely debilitated and should be euthanised promptly.

Interesting related articles:

Apr 152013
 

From A to B

 Moving sheep can be a particularly challenging time for smallholders.  If like me you rent fields elsewhere, or have divided up your smallholding into more usable spaces. Then you may have to move your sheep regularly. However, smallholders rarely have a trained sheep dog, or access to expensive sheep handling equipment. Furthermore, smallholders often have rare breeds of sheep or more primitive types that are known to be difficult or less likely to flock together.  All of these factors combined can lead to a stressful time for both you and your sheep.  My experience is that moving sheep is a skilled job and one you need to learn.  

 Here at Fifesmallholder space is limited so anything we set up needs to be flexible, because areas have different uses at different times of year.  Through experience we have learned that you need to plan the movement of your sheep like military manoeuvres.  Especially during sesnsitive times like moving the girls (when pregnant) to get them scanned, vacinated and moved to lambing areas.

We use three things regularly:

Move sheep using food

 

  • We either draw sheep forward with food or divert them with food.  For example if you want to get a sheep to move forward through a gate that you are standing close too(behind is OK but if you are in front of them they will hesitate) then get their head in a bucket or let them eat from your hand (you need to give them some – if you just tease then they will give up).  Your sheep must be used to this and trust you otherwise this will not work (it takes time and patience but a sheep will eat out of your hand).  Winter time is the best time to do this (they are less interested in feed in the summer when there is plenty of grass), but we try to feed our sheep whenever we visit (especially if we are planning on doing something with them).  Lambs and those that have not lambed are another thing all together and are the hardest to try and tame (they do not trust and are very scared)  – we normally put an older ewe in with them that knows the ropes and who trusts you – the rest will follow (if the older sheep thinks its Ok then it must be) because of the herd instinct.  Likewise if we want to enter a field with the pickup and don’t want them crowding the gate and escaping – then feed them away from the area in question and take their mind off the opportunity.

Move sheep using their herding instinct

 

  • Sheep will always walk away from you (the danger) towards others like them (safety in numbers).  You can therefore drive them in a direction – if they are thinking about bolting or running past you might be able to stop them if you wave your arms erratically and make a sudden high pitched noise. You can also move sheep by countering their position, if they move left then you move left and stare at them – they will move right.  A good sheep dog can hold a flock with just a good eye or stare – try to act like a good sheepdog.  However if they decide to run past you – YOU WILL NOT CATCH THEM (short of a rugby tackle that might harm you or the sheep). In some situations you might only get one chance (they will learn and remember what has happened that day) – if you haven’t been working up to this (e.g. feeding them regularly etc) then either go for a cup of tea and start again or try another day.  Sheep are not stupid – they can also count.  One person is OK but two people means that something is going to happen.  Either hide the other person or try and do it yourself – you’d be surprised with the opportunities that present themselves – just be ready in advance so that you can close the gate or trailer.  A long rope on a gate is a good idea – it  enables you to swing something shut without being too close.  Another thing about sheep is that they will follow other sheep, so you either trap one sheep (e.g. in a trailer with a hurdle) or you get everyone else on the otherside of the gate and they will not want to be alone. However this also means that if you put a sheep in a pen (because it is sick for example), always make sure that they can see or have a friend in the pen with them. Otherwise they will get stressed or try to escape, if you want to move a ewe with lambs – just catch the lamb (easier said than done without a crook) and carry the lamb at nose height to the ewe and walk backwards.  The lamb will bleat and the ewe will respond and follow.  Another thing is that if you want to catch a sheep, do not look at it.  I know this sounds strange but you can get much closer to it if it does not think that it is the focus of the event.  Look somewhere else but watch the sheep out of the corner of your eye, or pretend to be doing something else.  We have a lot of metal lamb hurdles and have found them to be flexible and have lots of uses, if a sheep will not enter a gate or enclosure then make a funnel leading to a race and pen.  It also helps if you feed them in the pen regularly so that you can just close the gate.  Put the hurdles up in advance and let them get used to it, otherwise they will get suspicious of anything new.  On that subject, wearing the same jacket and not having strangers about does keep the stress down.  A bottle fed lamb, and ewes that have lambed will trust you more – use that to your advantage.

Move sheep using a dog

 

  • If you want to stop running around a field then get yourself a sheepdog, or a retired trials dog.  we dont have a sheep dog (it’s on the list) but it is not the first time that we have used our dogs to control a situation.  Sheep are not as scared of humans as they are about dogs – extend your coverage (a crook is also a good thing to make you seem bigger – it extends your arm) with a dog on a lead or extend-a-lead.  In a situation where a sheep keeps running away through a gap (they will find the opportunity and use it again and again), I have tied my dog there and the sheep will not pass the dog.  There are dangers involved in this situation – you need to know your dog and you need to make sure it cannot run free.  This could potentially be disasterous – either the dog could chase or attack the sheep and stress them, or the sheep could ram the dog and hurt it.  Unless it is a trained sheep dog – I always make sure they are on a lead and secured in position, I also only use no-aggressive breeds like my labradors or collie).  If all else fails then pay a shepherd to round up your sheep.

I know this all sounds complicated but you will fall into a way of doing things, I have seen a farmer move his sheep by just waving an empty feed bag from the back of a quad – all he needs is one sheep to follow and they all will.  Routine is another thing, if a sheep has done it before it will remember (that is where hefting originates from and the knowledge is passed from ewe to lamb).  Good luck, if you can afford it then invest in mobile systems that makes life easier.  Otherwise then plan your moves and leave nothing to chance.

Other tips:

  • We open the doors on our vehicle in order to prevent a sheep running past (blocking a single track road for example), this is done in the absence of hurdles.  
  • A bucket of feed in the trailer will often tempt someone in to investigate.
  • We prefer lamb hurdles that secure with a ring at the top – they are easier to handle than other hurdles.
  • The breed of sheep is important, it is my experience that the more primitive the breed the less trusting they are.  The one exception to this rule is Ryelands, it is said that the gate to a field can lie open and they won’t think to go through it.  We crossed our wild shetlands with a Ryeland tup for that reason and got a sheep that was easier to handle.  If you have sheep like Hebrideans then good luck!  However because smallholders are more hands on and likely to spent more time with their sheep, they may learn to trust or are not so scared – hopefully.
  • If you move the lamb first then normally a ewe will follow.  Keep it at head height to the ewe and move backwards or place the lamb in the area you want the ewe to go – it will call to its mum and she will move to it.

 

 

 April 15, 2013  dog, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , ,
Apr 012013
 

Its Easter and there is the sound of chicks in the old swallow nest attached to our sunroom.  This concerns me as 2013 has been the coldest Easter in 100 years.  We still have snow and its very cold.  I know that wild bird chicks need catepillars, and greenfly to survive and there will be very few (if any) of these around – I haven’t even seen a bumblee bee this year!  I want to give them some help (food that parents can take into the nest) and here are some useful links that I have found:

Advice from RSPB

“Temporary food shortage can occur at almost any time of the year, and if this happens during the breeding season, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young. Avoid using peanuts, fat and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their nestlings. If you feel you must put out peanuts, only do so in suitable mesh feeders that will not allow sizeable pieces of peanuts to be removed and provide a choking risk.

Meaty tinned dog and cat food form an acceptable substitute to earthworms during the warm, dry part of the summer when worms are beyond the birds’ reach. Blackbirds readily take dog food, and even feed it to their chicks.

Dry biscuits are not recommended as birds may choke on the hard lumps. It is sometimes added to cheaper seed mixtures for bulk. Soaked dog biscuit is excellent, except in hot weather as it quickly dries out. Petfood can attract larger birds such as magpies and gulls, and also neighbourhood cats. If this is likely to be a problem, it is best avoided.”

 In an emergency I am considering putting the following on my bird table for the parents to feed their chicks:

  • Yolk from hard-boiled eggs mixed with crushed, soaked cat biscuits, mealworms, finely chopped tinned cat or dog food, and some chick crumbs.

I also thought the advice on this webpage would be useful should I come across an abandoned chic:

 April 1, 2013  Nature, post archive, spring Tagged with: ,
Jan 252013
 

In honour of Burns Night 25th January – here is my favourite poem -

To A Mouse

In the poem the mouse’s hard work is destroyed in one fail swoop, and now it will be forced to suffer through the hard Scottish winter despite its careful preparations.

“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, 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’ murd’ring pattle! 

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,

Has broken nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

Which makes thee startle At me,

thy poor, earth-born companion,

An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! 

A daimen icker in a thrave ‘S a sma’ request;

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin! 

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste, 

An’ weary winter comin fast, 

An’ cozie here, beneath the blast, 

Thou thought to dwell

– Till crash! the cruel coulter past 

Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,

Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

But house or hald, 

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble, 

An’ cranreuch cauld! 

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain;

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy! 

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me 

The present only toucheth thee:

But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.

On prospects drear! An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,

I guess an’ fear! “

Robert Burns 1785

Listen to it being read here.  

For analysis of what it all means click here.

 January 25, 2013  Nature, post archive Tagged with: , ,
Dec 012012
 

Alternative Christmas Trifle Recipe

Where I grew up the Christmas menu was (and probably still is):

  • Prawn Cocktail
  • Turkey and Trimmings
  • Trifle

The trifle was always ‘home made’ from a selection of ingredients including; a tin of peaches, jelly, UHT spray foam, and the obligatory silver balls!  I was never a fan of this trifle but I’m all grown up now and found a version that suits my taste.  Why not try it yourself and see what you think.

*Health warning – you will have to clean out the hen shed to burn up all the calories this contains*

Cranberry and Chocolate Trifle

This is a pleasure to look at as well as eat so make sure you make it in a deep glass bowl, to show of the layers of brown, white and ruby red.

Prepare everything 48 hours in advance to allow the sugary chocolate to become gooey and sticky and begin to soak into the layers of creamy cranberry.

  • 250g grated dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa)
  • 250g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 200g unrefined demerara sugar
  • 2tbsp sieved cocoa
  • 1tbsp coffee granules
  • 600ml fresh double cream 
  • 300ml fresh single cream
  • 200ml crème fraiche
  • 250g jar of luxury cranberry sauce
  • a handful of dried cranberries

In a bowl combine 200g of the grated chocolate with the breadcrumbs, sugar, cocoa and coffee.  Stir well.  Whisk together the double and single cream until thick, but not stiff, then fold in the crème fraiche.

In a large glass bowl, place a third of the chocolate breadcrumbs in a level layer.  Top with a third of the cream and smooth it over.  Carefully add half of the jar of cranberry sauce, ensuring it is evenly distributed over the cream.  Continue to layer in the same manner: chocolate breadcrumbs, cream, then cranberry sauce, finishing with a layer of cream.  Cover and put in fridge for 48 hours.

Take out of fridge and sprinkle with silver balls (only kidding) grated chocolate and dried cranberries over the top.  Serve in small portions as this trifle is extremely rich.

 

Enjoy  :0)

 

 

 December 1, 2012  post archive, recipe Tagged with: , , , ,
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:
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: , ,
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