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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

They've arrived!

Milly and Tilly arrived last week and are ruling the roost already. They were very nervous at least Milly was, Tilly is a precocious brat! But very lovable all the same. Dave is besotted!
Tilly gets stuck in to the hay bag

First milking, what a good girl


Someone just has to stick his nose in, he's not bothered that they are big, he was straight in the shed to see what was going on

This lot were very curious

Considering Milly has only recently been trained to hand milk and Dave is very much a novice things are going OK. We have had one batch of milk with a hoof in it which had to go on the compost heap, but generally she's very good and is giving us a couple of litres a day, Dave goes out with the dogs in the morning to cut browse for them which they love, and they like some of the waste veg which they share with the birds. Tilly has taken to the sunflowers and is stripping the lower leaves, shame as it reduces the shade for the birds but they all have to adapt. There is plenty of shade elsewhere.
First time out...they can hear that 'wolf' panting!

Tilly sets to trimming the pear tree

Happy munching keep those pesky ducks out of their water!

It's been a while since I strung a hay net up

Chilling under the walnut
The flies are a bit persistant though at the moment. After the stormy, humid weather there seems to have been an increase and Dave is out with his bottle of spray, a mix of water, citronella, vinegar and lavender may not stop the flies but smells nice! There is lots of stamping feet from the goats but Cagney is a dab hand at catching them and offering them to the chicks.

One small thing...Milly doesn't take to the dogs even though there were plenty at her old home. Bella is, as we knew she would be, rather nervous of these large animals and will huff at them while nervously twitching her tail, but Bonnie who wouldn't hurt a fly but who tends to pant quite loudly in the heat and search the fence for a way in when we are both in there, seems to be seen as rather ferocious and there is a lot of nervous bleating and stamping of feet. She'll get used to them, they can be trusted with the chicks so they aren't going to bother goats!

The first of the milk has been made into ricotta as I still had some cow's milk to use up. Flavored with garlic and herbs it was yummy with tomatoes, or on crackers, or as a topping for baked fish.

All our own work...except for the fish, we can't quite run to a sea!

Cagneys foster chicks seem to be doing fine. They are compact, sturdy little birds, very unlike the Shumen chicks we are used to, and are still keeping close to Mum. One was a bit lame after Cagney trod on it but seems OK now. They are not growing in size particularly fast but are feathering up nicely. The three amigos (older chicks) are doing well though one is a strange shape, rather like a rumpless araucana, though it's always been like that.

The three amigos off on a mission

With the temperature soaring to the mid 30s in the shade the ducks are struggling a bit. They have a cool water top up in their pond, but I think the attention of the drake, who's ardour doesn't seem to be diminishing, is setting the girls panting for the wrong reasons. Ducky has to wait her turn for a dip and it is quite alarming to see the way she pants, but hosing the patch of weeds gives her somewhere cool to sit while she waits her turn. The chickens are also happy to have their dust bathing area well hosed, they can't wait to get in to the damp and spread themselves out. Chicken egg production has diminished but we forgive them that. The ducks just seem to go on though, surprising us as we thought their laying season would be short.
Ducks in the shade of the sunflowers Tilyy hasn't stripped yet

A panting Ducky making for her camomile patch, her favourite place before the sun comes round

Things are a bit mixed in the veggie patch. We are having trouble with flea beetle and whitefly on the brassicas still. I have given up hope of anything coming from the last lot of veggies I sowed. Some did germinate but quickly disappeared. This may have been because of the snails which have been very active in the warm and wet weather. The tomatoes are doing OK and I have bottled more and used some for chutney, the cucumbers are mostly flying into poultry towers as we don't get to pick them every day so sometimes get too fat, same with the courgettes. The runner beans are doing well too and the weather has brought on a new flush of flowers. Venka has asked for some seed for next year, she's fascinated with how sturdy they are and how long they can grow. The remaining red and Tosca onions are gradually being used, but many have stopped growing due to lack of root and having chunks taken out of them. We have found more chafer grubs when digging potatoes and also mole crickets. Either could be the problem. The late planted sets down the other end are not growing either, but I suppose they could be a small variety, or late. We'll see. The potatoes are really growing with the wet weather, The Arran Pilot are done now and we are on to Maris Bard on the first row. They seem rather knobbly which is OK, but I'm not sure I like the flavour. They are too sweet. Might be better with dryer weather
The rhubarb has put on a spurt

There are lots of these huge black bees (or are they purple?) helping to pollinate the beans

Nearly missed this butterfly...and I did miss several more interesting ones!

We planted French marigolds between the tomatoes this year, not sure how effective they are at keeping bugs at bay, but they look nice

Tomato Rio Grande, buckled under the weight of huge fruit

Lots of ladybirds this year, here on peppers

Red cabbage, hearting well, looking stunning. If only all the brassicas looked so good

Hmmm...Romanesco, not sure

Lots of melons coming

Some sweet potatoes are doing well. but I have to keep moving the butternur squash as they have changed direction tis year and are determined to overpower the SP

This one is not so good

Baby butternut

The main planting of sweetcorn is bulking up
UGH! Mole cricket (was)

Hmmm...not your best side

Bottled cherry toms ready for winter tasted good!

And of course, with veggies now coming over the wall we are not short of much. Venka misses nothing!
Green peppers and white chillis from Venka...mostly mild but the occasional hotty

The flowers are doing well still. When some varieties fade others come in to fill the gaps. Unfortunately we have lost our Chat Noir dahlia, the very dark one, which got battered in a storm. It's a shame and I hope it will grow a bit again even if it gets no more flowers this year. We seem to have a lot of dark flowers this time so plenty of interest. I've given up trying to dead head cosmos and other annuals, I just can't keep up and the veggies are more important really.
Soggy roses, but they are already having a second flush

A self sown Million Bells petunia in the path

Busy bees

The globe thistles are breaking....happy bee

The yellow....

....and purple scabious are stunning

More dahlias blooming

Not the Chat Noir, but a smaller and I think just as striking dahlia

Lovely gladdies

Surely this bee can't pick up any more pollen

We were in town the other day to meet a couple from the UK over on holiday/house hunting. We had a great natter, giving me jaw ache. They kindly brought me some vanilla so custard is back on the menu! They are coming to see our plot tomorrow (hope it doesn't put them off!!!) and we will do a bit of a tour of the local villages. They will be continuing around the country at the weekend so I hope they are coping with the heat, far too hot for me to be out and about but when you are here for a short time you need to make the most of it.
While out and about it's good to see that the weather is not hampering activity. There are combines busy in the fields, followed by storks. There are many horse and carts about as the pickings in field and hedgerow are good. The countryside is turning yellow yet again, but not wit rape this time, now the sunflowers have started. They really are stunning, all different sizes so I suppose all give slightly different yields or quality of oil and or seeds.
Fields turning yellow

Waiting at the level crossing


  1. Dear Debra

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    P: 212-231-7716
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  2. Wow I'm finally caught up. What a fascinating life you lead. I read it enviously. Hoping to do the same in 5-10 years only here in the Netherlands (so please forgive any typo's). I wouldn't be able to cope with the heat or else I would cosider moving to a cheaper country. Luckily you can still find reasonably afordable properties in the border areas.Please don't think your life is boring to read about. I find it fascinating to read about the yearly cycle of planting and harvesting and all things affecting that. It will never get boring to me.

    That tomato must have been a siamese quadroplet or something. I'm amased it tasted good. And your flowers are all looking good. The goats look amazing. I'm glad to hear they get along so well with the chickens and the ducks. To bad that they don't like the dogs yet but it will come once they've settled in.

    I hope to read much more about your adventures for a long time. You inspire me.


    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

  3. Lovely to read about your fun with Tilly and Milly. The cheese looks yummy. I have never heard of mole crickets and wonder how large they are? All your flowers are beautiful. A very interesting post - thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Lindsey. Mole crickets are awful, they have shovel legs in front like a mole and attack plants from beneath the soil surface. Ugly brutes, but cats and chickens think they're tasty

  4. Stunning photos. The goats are gorgeous!

    1. Thank you. They are indeed, but far too knowing!

  5. I have just finished reading your blog from the start and loved every minute of it. I am so envious of your life, I would so love to live in a similar way but unfortunately it is not to be. If I'm being honest with myself, I probably have an unrealistically romantic notion of what a self sufficient life is like. I love the way you write and have loved reading about your animals and crops. You have inspired to me to get growing a little in my own garden, although it is a little late for this year so will gave to make do with planting some herbs and rhubarb for the time being. You have been very lucky with your neighbours, they sound so lovely and it is so nice to read how they include you in their family celebrations. Your posts and fantastic photos have taken me back to a holiday I had in a tiny village in Transylvania (different country I realise but appears to be a similar way of life) and I am now considering another visit. I look forward to reading about all your future adventures and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Many people have the rose tinted specs on about self sufficiency, but it is very hard work even to the degree that we do it. Most come out here with good intentions but soon give up, the veg in the markets is so cheap they feel it's not worth the work...but then moan about lack of choice haha. But with our backgrounds we had more idea and have had failures before so don't let them get to us.

      There is still time to get some things in the garden over there, check out garden centres for any plants to get a head start, and you can still sow early peas, (earlies are fast growing) spinach, salady things, chard. Later you can get some onion sets and garlic in to over winter. Get advice haha

      Yes, we are lucky to have fantastic neighbours. Only today they have helped us move and stack all our winter fire wood. Diamonds.

  6. Thank you for the advice. I'm a complete beginner at gardening so those pointers are a big help, will pay the garden centre a visit tomorrow and see what they have. Today I sowed (in pots) some feverfew (for migraines), rocket, mint, basil, thyme and chives so I've made a start. I love cooking simple, homely food and do a little jam making occasionally so I love seeing what you are making with all your produce. I'm a bit lost now I'm up to date with your blog as I've been reading it in every spare moment over the last week lol.

  7. You are going to be even busier than usual with your new arrivals! Enjoyed your post as usual, and the photos, especially the ugly tomatoes! I've never seen a mole cricket, but talking of the chickens liking them, I saw one of my hens pecking at something in the lawn, grabbed my binocs and she was giving a poor (hopefully dead by then) vole a very hard time! A nice organic way to control pests!

  8. I certainly am Mandy, we have had a hectic week so now have a build up of milk going 'goaty' in the fridge!

    And thank you for the kind comment on the photos, not anywhere near your standard but they do for illustration...and sometimes I get lucky.

    Our chooks love the meeces too, one downs shrews in one, Between them and the snakes and the cat we should be rodent free...some hope!

    1. I remember now one of my ducks getting a mouse and taking it back to the pond, then constanly dunking it whilst I guess, trying to swallow it whole. I did feel sorry for the poor mouse though! :-)
      Oh and I forgot to say I am envious of those fields of sunflowers. I'm too far north in France to see them.

  9. Thank you for posting such an interesting read, your lifestyle is truly envious and one can only but dream of following suite. How do I follow you though...this techno lacking brain cannot seem to find the (follow you) button.

  10. Meet another technopobe, I have no idea and I know others have had problems. I'll ask Dave if he can work it out.

    And thank you for your kind comments.