income

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.

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: , , , , , , , , ,
Sep 212012
 
green hazel nut

The hazel – a good smallholder tree that also produces the hazelnut

Hazel trees are part of the genus Corylus which includes nearly 20 different specimens, and most types also yield delicious nuts that can be eaten raw or cooked (more of that later).  The tree’s smooth, reddish-brown wood is also prized for its durability and elasticity.

Hazelnut Tree

Hazel is fast growing and easy to shape and therefore has a long history of use in hedging. The leaves stay with the tree much longer than most other trees, sometimes well into December.  The tree/shrub also provides habitat to numerous animals and birds, as well as serving as a source of food for animals, butterflies and insects.

 Why are hazels a good smallholder tree?

It is a good smallholder tree because it offers so many uses, as well as fitting comfortably on a smallholding. Those not familiar with forest gardening or agroforestry might not know that hazels like willows can also be used as animal fodder.
“In pastures, cows nibble on the leaves which increases the butterfat content in the milk. Sheep will readily eat the leaves, and pigs get excited if given hazel branches because they search for the crunchy nuts to eat.”
Growing hazels is also an opportunity to grow and harvest nuts at home without having to plant trees that will grow huge, and take years before they produce. Hazels grow in fertile, well drained soil. Once established, they can produce heavily and consistently.

Things to make with hazel

  • hurdles – read more here on how to make them.
  • bean poles
  • pea sticks
  • hedge stakes
  • walking sticks
  • fishing rods
  • baskets
  • tool handles
  • shepherds’ crooks
  • charcoal

 Growing or propogating hazels

Hazels can be acquired in three ways:

  • You can start new plants from hazel nuts. They tend to take some time to germinate (use a file to rub a small notch through the shell of the nut before planting), and do best when planted in pots. When germinated, let them grow to at least 6 – 12 inches before you transplant them in their final position.
  •  An easier way to propagate is by digging runners from established bushes.  Hazels spread by underground runners that develop roots. These runners can be cut away from the main plant, ( in autumn time after leaves have dropped and and the bushes have gone dormant).
  •  If all else fails there are garden centres or nurseries that sell both native, and hybrid cross hazelnut plants.

Where to plant a hazel tree?

  • Hazels need full sunlight in order to thrive.
  • Hazel trees prefer soil that is slightly acidic.

Hazel pests and diseases

Occasionally, pests, such as leaf hoppers and caterpillars will attack the hazel tree and damage its leaves and twigs.  One other insect that you may not welcome is the Hazelnut Weevil (pictured below) read here for more information.

hazelnut eating insect

Hazel trees are durable and typically don’t fall victim to epidemics.  However, there are a few diseases that the tree is particularly susceptible to, including:

  • Crown Gall – causes the formation of round wart-like galls to form on the tree’s lower branches.
  • Twig Blight – attacks the tree’s twigs; though, if left untreated, the blight will cause damage to the Hazel’s leaves and lead to premature leaf drop.
  • Powdery Mildew – appears as a white coating on the top of the leaves. In severe cases the leaves will turn yellow and drop before autumn.

What is a hazelnut?

Hazelnuts are produced by hazel trees and generally ripen in late August. The shell of a ripened hazelnut is brown, glossy, and roughly ovoid. Once shelled, the hazelnut has a bitter dark brown skin, which should be removed before cooking the nuts. The flesh of hazelnuts is white, and slightly sweet when the bitter skin is not present. The nuts can be used as a topping for soups and salads. Many cooks toast hazelnuts before using them to enhance their mild flavour. They are a good source of Vitamin E and B. Oils from the nuts are extracted and used in a number of beauty products.

How are hazelnuts created?

The catkins actually bloom in the winter, which makes the hazelnut unusual for a fruit tree. The wind carries the pollen to the female red blossoms, and then, it goes dormant until spring, when fertilization actually occurs. Shortly afterward, the nut starts to develop.

Why eat hazelnuts?

Hazelnuts are eaten raw, roasted or ground into flour. They are not only tasty, but they offer many health benefits as well, making them a delicious and nutritious snack.
 
Here are four reasons to increase your intake of these super-healthy nuts.
1. They Contain Good fats – high in omega-9 fatty acids. These healthy oils play an important role in balancing cholesterol in the body, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and offer protection against coronary heart disease and diabetes.
2. They are rich in vitamins and minerals – an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin E.  Hazelnuts have the highest concentration of folate among all the tree nuts and also contain calcium, magnesium and potassium.
 3. They are rich in Phytochemicals – including proanthocyanidins, quercetin, and kaempherol.
 4. They are high in protein and fibre – a good alternate protein source for those who don’t eat meat.
 

Nut allergy info

More of the light oils are present when the nuts are green or raw (unroasted) and are much more dangerous for anyone with a nut allergy.

 Hazelnut FAQs

  • Will hazelnuts keep if I pick them when them when they are still green? You can harvest and store green hazel nuts as long as you allow them to dry properly (airing cupboard, window sill etc) and will keep till Christmas. Alternatively roast them, allow to cool and store roasted nuts in zipper bags. Use within a month or freeze them.
  •  Can I forage for hazelnuts in the wild?  Yes fresh green hazelnuts are prolific in most ancient hedgerows, and are ready to eat straight from the tree, (squirrels permitting).  In this green state they are quite different from the hard, brown-shelled, Christmas nut they will eventually become.  Their flesh has the crisp crunch of overgrown peas, and a sweet vegetable taste.  However they are probably smaller than the commercially grown ones.  Most wild hazels are best eaten green as they tend to be on the smaller size, and thus shrink to next to nothing if you let them ripen.
  •  What is a Cobnut?  A cobnut is the most widely cultivated form of  hazelnut (the word filbert is also sometimes used).   Cobnuts were traditionally grown in Kent and can still be found there, as well as in Sussex, Devon and Worcestershire. Grown commercially they are bigger than wild hazels and, provided they are fresh (the leafy frill on the nut casing should not be too brown and dried out), they are very worthwhile. You may be able to buy fresh hazels from the local farm shop or grocer.
  • How do I dry green hazelnuts?  Collect the nuts and keep the good ones (those not damaged or with scabs on) leave them in a dark but ventilated place they will rippen nicely.  Only use larger ones if you are aiming to keep them until Christmas.  Here’s a link to info on how to store the unripe ones which you often have to pick early to beat the squirrels/mice/birds to.
  • Where do dried hazelnuts come from? Despite the fact that hazelnuts are grow in many different regions worldwide, the vast majority of the dried ones sold in this country come from Turkey.
  •  How to remove the skins from hazelnuts? Try roasting them in the oven at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. Then put them in a towel and rub them until the brown skin falls off. Or place the nut on a hard flat surface and place a heavy board on top,  roll the board over them and most of the husks will split. Then pull off the husk where it splits.
  • When will hazels fruit? Hazels will begin to produce nuts three to four after planting, but it may take 2-3 more years before they really take off and produce heavily.  A healthy tree can remain fruitful until well into its fortieth year of life.
  • Do I need a male and female hazel tree? Hazels have both male and female blooms on the same plant which form during the prior year and remain dormant through most of the winter. They bloom very early in the year (spring). Male (pollen producing) blooms are called catkins. Female (fruiting) blooms produce the nuts and are very small and easily overlooked. They look similar to leaf buds on branches, but they are rounder shaped with very small red threads coming out of them.

 Hazelnut recipes

Home-Made Nutella
Roast your hazelnuts.   Using a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until fine and powdery. If your food processor is strong enough, the hazelnuts will eventually turn creamy and smooth. Then add the spread sauce made from 150g Icing sugar & 50g green & blacks cocoa powder. Video link to making nutella. Recipe link for vegans.
Pesto
Whizz up some hazel nuts and garlic in a blender with some olive oil , lightly simmer for a few minutes to take the edge off the nuts and garlic, then take off the heat and add chopped basil and serve on top of pasta.

Pickling 
Select the best hazelnuts, (plump without any sign of shriveling).  If the shells of the hazelnuts are still on, look for smooth, glossy shells with no signs of cracks or holes, and shake them. The nuts should not rattle in the shell, as this indicates that they have lost moisture.  Lay the nuts out on newspaper to dry for a few days before roasting them. Add your pickling ingredients and store in an airtight container.
 
Link to recipes
 

 Hazel Folklore

Celts and Druids believed that hazelnuts were a source of wisdom and the tree itself was sacred.  In Greek mythology hazel branches were woven into headpieces and worn to protect warriors from evil.  Irish folklore states that drinking hazelnut beverages helped develop prophetic powers.
 
In Roman Britain, Hazel trees were once cultivated and became so abundant that Scotland was named Caledonia (a term derived from Cal-Dun, meaning “Hill of Hazel”) after them.
 
The nuts of the Hazel were commonly used to bring luck by stringing them together and hanging them in the house.  Such a string of nuts were often given to a new bridesmaid as a gift to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health.  When eaten the hazelnuts are said to increase fertility, and of old were eaten before divination to increase inspiration.
 
Down through the ages the Hazel has always been considered magical, and was used primarily for its powers of divination.  Hazel divining rods or dowsing rod are used to detect water and mineral veins.  Typically a divining rod has two forks off its main stem shaped like the letter “Y”.  The two forks of the rod are gripped with the fore fingers along the forks, so that the tail end of the rod points down toward the ground to begin searching.  Another method was to peel the bark of the rod and simply lay it on the palm of the hand.

websites used in the making of this article:

Sep 062012
 
mon 203

Here are a few suggestions on what you can make with willow:

willow woven dragon sculpture

 

I would love to say these are our own creations but sadly they are not, wonderful none the less.

 

hand woven willow heron sculpture

 

willow statue

 

Now some more practical creations that I’m sure we could all make.

hand woven willow support

 A willow log basket is ideal to let your wood continue to dry out before you put them on the fire.

firewood container

Why not try a bower for you garden seat providing a good wind break and some privacy.

romantic willow bower for garden seat

Or why not plant a tunnel for the children?

childrens play willow tunnel

A fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge – flexible, green and looks good too!

willow hedge

 Here is something I did make.

 coloured willow wreath

 If you would like to buy some willow to make any of these structures then why not contact us, we sell a range of willow that is suitable for making living willow structures, or coloured willow for baskets and other smaller more artistic items. Link to our shop.

Looking for more?  I regularly update my willow board on pinterest with ideas and suggestions click here to check it out.  

Why not make your own Christmas wreath - here is a link with some good ideas.

Here is some more links to other things you can make with willow:

How do I prepare my willow for weaving?

Willow in different states have different names; green, brown, white and buff.  Green willow is fresh and not dried (items made with green willow will shrink when it dries out in a few weeks).  Brown willow has been dried and will need soaking to make it flexible again (average soaking time is 1 day per foot of willow length).  White willow has been dried soaked and skin removed (this rehydrates a lot quicker in a couple of hours).  Buff willow has been boiled and bark removed.  To find out more check out this link.

 September 6, 2012  employment, garden, green, income, post archive, tree Tagged with: , , , ,
Jul 262012
 
cassis

Things to make with seasonal excess produce 

Its summer here on the smallholding, and this is a time of plenty.  Fruit and vegetables are ripening and the chickens are at peak egg laying capacity.  Unfortunately this is when many of our farm gate customers are on holiday and we don’t like to waste anything, so when we have too much we have a range of  things we do to use up the excess or preserve for later.  Here are some of our favourite seasonal recipes:

Egg Mayonnaise

free range egg

Ingredients:

  • 2 free range egg yolks 
  • 1 whole free range egg
  • 2.5ml./half teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • 2.5ml./half teaspoon of salt
  • 1.25ml./quarter teaspoon pepper
  • 300ml./10 fl. oz. light oil (I prefer a vegetable and olive oil blend)
  • 15ml./1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 15ml./1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove crushed

If possible have all the ingredients at room temperature, as eggs taken straight from the fridge tend to curdle.  I use a blender to make my mayo, and start by cracking the whole egg into the blender.  Add the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper and beat on a low setting until they become creamy in colour.  Gradually beat in half the oil, drop by drop, until the sauce is thick and shiny.  Beat in the lemon juice, then the remaining oil, then the vinegar.  If you want to thin the mayo, add some more lemon juice, a little single cream or 15-30 ml./1-2 tablespoons of hot water.

Thick mayo may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about two weeks.

Tip: if the mayo does curdle, beat another egg yolk in a clean bowl and beat in the curdled mixture a teaspoon at a time.

Makes about 350 ml./12 fl. oz.

Goes well with some (freshly dug) cold potato salad. 

Here’s a link to a blog about 30 things you can do with egg shells. 

Blackcurrants

fruit jam

You can’t beat Blackcurrant jam on your porridge. Here is a link to a recipe.

A French WWoofer recently made us a Tarte Au Cassis which was delicious.  Here is a link to the recipe.
blackcurrant tart

You also can’t beat blackcurrant vodka for a sore throat.  Click here for a link to an alcoholic recipe, or here for a non alcoholic recipe.

Courgettes

Try this courgette lemon cake recipe.

 

Sloes

What to do with the left over sloes from sloe gin. 

 

Elderberry 

Recipe for cordial syrup.

 

Bramble or Blackberry 

Blackberry

Make bramble or blackberry oxymel to keep colds at bay in the Winter. Put 200g of blackberries in a jar covered with cider vinegar for 10 days.  Shake occasionally. Strain through muslin. Pour into sterilised bottle and store in the fridge. Put 2 tsps into boiling water. Add honey to taste.

Runner Beans

Here’s a link to making chutney with runner beans.

Onions

It’s harvest time – If you’ve got loads of onions, chop them up and freeze them in a container. They last for months.

Beeswax

I like me you were lucky enough to take some honey from your bees before autumn, then you will probably have some beeswax cappings left over from your frame of honey.  This can be used to make a range of things from furniture polish to hand lotion.  Click here for a link on how to make hand lotion, you can get your ingredients here (including wax balls if you are not a beekeeeper) to make the lotion. Put up into suitable containers and store in a fridge. Shelf life is about one month.  Here is another link which claims to last for up to 6 months.

“One benefit of using natural emollients over synthetic chemical emollients is that the industrial processes used to create synthetic emollients often destroy beneficial elements of the base material, and may require the addition of carcinogenic catalysts.”

Quote source

Mar 272012
 
when I grow up......

For sale leghorn and silkie hatching eggs from fifesmallholder

chicks sheltering with mum

Leghorn

 

We like the leghorns because they are not big chickens in size (cheaper to feed over winter) but produce good big white eggs on a very regular basis.  These eggs are popular especially at Easter because they can be easily dyed or decorated.  I have a range of colours of chicken (white, black, lavender) so not sure what colour the chicks will turn out to be.  The eggs are always white.

 

For more information on the breed click here.

 

Silkie

 

Silkie chickens are not a very prolific egg layer but are very suitable to someone who wants just a few hens for their own back garden.  Very popular with children.  They are a small breed, very cute, and not very destructive of the ground they are housed on.  They lay small cream eggs during the main laying season.

Silkies are also popular as broody hens and are an economical way of rearing chics without the need or expense of incubators or brooders.

white silkie hen

For more information on the breed click here.

 

Hybrid 

Multicoloured eggs are also available from our hybrid layers who are lay regularly. We are also hoping to rear Maran chickens this summer.  In the meantime the Maran cockerels are in with the hybrids.

 

 

For sale – fertilised hatching eggs

free range egg

 

Hatching eggs can be collected from the smallholding or sent to you in the post.  See my page for more information on hatching eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 March 27, 2012  income, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Jan 282012
 
hand woven willow heron sculpture

Willow cuttings available for sale from Fifesmallholder

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

  • Continental yellow

  • Zwarte Driebast

  • Flanders Red

  • Noire De villaine

  • Continental Purple

  • Brittany Green

Our willows can be used for different purposes 

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

Benefits of willow

  • Properties of Willow 

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

     

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

     

    S. alba – low lying conditions

    S. fragilis – river bank

    S. herbacea – mountains Scotland

    S. repens – colonises sand dunes

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

Planting willow

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

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

  • Bee Fodder

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

 

Willow links with Scottish place names 

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

 

Willow folklore

 click here for some folklore 

Links

Jan 152012
 
timber damage after storm at fife smallholder

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

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

Firewood

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

Woodlander

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

Wildlife

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

Beech mast and Beech leaves

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

The laughing woodpecker

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

Relationship between bats and woodpeckers

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

Bats and Beech

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

Owls and Beech

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

Livestock

Pigs and Beech

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

Pheasants, Poultry, Turkeys and Beech

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

Smallholder

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

Beech Tree facts

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

Folklore

names on a tree trunk

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

Recipe

Beech leaf Noyau

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

Links

Oct 122011
 
free range egg

smallholders can sell eggs direct

 

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

More info on eggs on my web page

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

 

 

 

Oct 102011
 

Smallholders and their dogs

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

Dog page

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

 Pups for sale

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

day old labrador pup

Day old pups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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