Planet Omlet is an exciting news feed of Eglu owners and friends on Omlet
Updated: Tuesday 31 December 2013
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Had our new chicken house delivered today and spent a couple of hours putting it together with the help of the chickens. Actually, the chickens were not much help. It is an Omlet Cube and will replace the Omlet Eglu we have had for the past 5 years. The new one was flat packed and came in many pieces, as you can see. Actually, it was easy to put together and fits into the existing chicken area perfectly well. The hens were unsure at first about going in there, and the plastic ladder has caused a few slippages, but they were encouraged to go in there for the evening and all five (even the two new girls) settled down for the evening inside. Also a note about the weather - 4 frosts this week! Having to fleece lots of early plants, like courgettes and beans, will be pleased when these arctic winds pass us by!
I picked up two new chickens from Perfect Poultry this week and brought them home. They will be in quarantine away from the other chickens for a while whilst everyone gets used to each other. Then we will mix them together in a few weeks... and watch them sort out the new pecking order. Buffy is a Wellsummer and Faith is a Bluebell mixed with something else. Buffy is already laying too.
Well, after so many weeks of
rain, it hasn't rained for it seems about three weeks now. The pigs
are settled in nicely though. The whole area (they have about 5
metres by 20 metres) is turned over already. If it rains, they will
be able to get even deeper. Dean seems to be a bit more nervous
than Sam (Dean is in the first picture here) maybe because he is
smaller, but he is eating lots and putting on weight, so hopefully
he will bulk up nicely despite his size when he got here. Sammy is
monster, very friendly and has got over his 'bitey' stage; now
loves to have a scratch. With all this sun I have tried to give
them a nice wet and muddy patch to wallow in, but it's a bit cold
still, so they ignore that and lie in the sun. I might have to get
the factor 30 out for them. Their favourite food so far seems to be
last years celery from the garden.
Meanwhile, the rest of the garden is exploding into green. I always forget how thick and colourful the garden gets in the summer, when I am stuck in the dark barren days of winter. Most of our seedlings are doing ok in the greenhouse and will be ready to plant out soon, but we are still getting frosts down here, so have to time it right before I commit to letting the seedlings risk the chance of a late frost. The chickens are fine, although we sadly lost Trinny about a month ago to Peritonitis, which is a condition chickens can have which stops them being able to lay eggs and can make them unwell. She roosts in peace. We will probably get a couple more soon to increase the flock, more news on that as it happens!
Big news today; me and MrH
finished the fencing around the new pig area and we got the pig ark
moved from last years pig area, fitted some double gates so it's
easier to move the pig ark each year. We also made some repairs to
the fencing on the old area. The rain was not helping, but we
ploughed on (sometimes it seemed literally).
So I went to get a couple of pigs from S&R's farm and we put them in the new area. They are a mix of Old White and Tamworth; although a lot of Tamworth there it seems.
It's Easter and therefore time
to unwrap the air dried ham that's been hung outside the barn since
last October. I have been waiting a LONG time to see whether the
whole exercise has been a success. When I unwrapped it, I must
admit that it was pretty mouldy, but the instructions I had
followed from Hugh F-W's book had warned me that it would be like
that, and that I needed to just scrub it with a nail brush and
So I did that, and it came up really well. The proof is always in the eating though, so we tried some and it was fantastic; I was so pleased that it was good and not salty like I expected.
Such a long time since posting an entry on the blog... but we have been busy. First of all, the rats were getting into the chicken area again (this time under the walls), so the week after Christmas, I dug 6 inches of earth (mud!) out of the whole area, fixed chicken wire from wall to wall at ground level and brought the earth back in to cover the wire. The rats continued to try to dig under for a while, but soon learned they could no longer get through the new wire. I also got tired of the water sitting on the roof of the chicken area and slowly draining in... this was just making the whole area a mud bath for the poor girls; so I took the roof off, built the front and sides up and refixed the roof at an angle, as shown above. Now the water runs clear of the area at the back and the girls stay much dryer. Should have done that when I built it really, but you live and learn. The snow caused the chickens the usual grumpiness, but it was the bees that I was most concerned about, as they were in their first year with me and I didn't want to loose my first colony! However, they seemed ok when I checked them two weeks ago on a rare sunny warm day. Quite a relief. The other big job has been to replace the old barn that had big holes in the roof. The old one really was on it's last legs and was not what I needed either, so I tore down the old one (see inset picture) and invested in having Al building a new one with my help. I just need to take down the old shed now too and the whole area will look much better. Photo of the new barn to follow!
Last Monday, we sent the boys,
Bert and Ernie, off to the abattoir. They boarded the trailer
perfectly happily, having wandered down the garden after me without
being at all boisterous or over excited. We got the meat back
yesterday and I've spent most of the weekend butchering the various
cuts into what we want. There was over 160kg of meat between them;
that's a lot of meat and more than we expected or were prepared
for, but we managed to sort it all out and get in the fridges and
freezers. We have made some sausages too and today had a small
joint for lunch; I am pleased to report that it was delicious and
neither of us had any problem with eating it. Putting them on the
trailer to go to the abattoir is one thing, but when it comes back,
it all just looks like meat and seems pretty separate from the
friendly pigs we have looked after for the last 22 weeks. Now, we
can't wait to get another two in March.
This entry is just an excuse to share with you this video of Bert
...Ernie likes a scratch, and the water trough does provide a vehicle for scratching, umm, certain parts, at just the right height. Bert, the ginger Tamworth, wants a drink, but once he finally managed to get to the water, it doesn't seem to quite taste as he hoped...
What a rubbish summer... I
thought they were telling us we would have a really sunny and warm
summer this year? I would prefer the Met Office just told us it
would be another wet summer and then if it was sunny, it would be a
nice surprise. Anyway, enough moaning... here is an update on how
things are going, as it's been a while since I updated the blog.
The Chickens are doing well, they are are eating well, as you can
see! Although Trinny wanted to make sure I had her good side for
this picture. The Bees are doing ok, not warm enough for them
really to be growing in numbers like I really wanted... hopefully
they will swell in numbers enough so that they survive through the
winter. I plan to start feeding them soon so they can get their
food supplies up.
The Pigs are REALLY getting
big now... it's hard to see the difference on the photographs, but
they are really doing well and nearly 'ready' to go... I reckon
there is another 4 or 5 weeks to go at most... then we will be
filling the freezer. Still not sure how we will feel about eating
them, as we have loved having them and spending time with them, but
we won't know unless we try. They have had a wonderful time to
date, eating really well and have lots of room to run around and
play (they do play too!). Currently the apples trees and the hazel
nut trees are giving them lots of tasty food to supplement their
usual pigs nuts... and they love the hog weed too, which we
seem to have lots of. We are eating well ourselves, with the garden
at full tilt, providing lots of different food for us.
The Squashes this year have
been a big success, especially the onion squashes which I grew from
seeds I got from one I bought from Waitrose and cooked in the
winter... I kept the seeds and they came through really well. Here
is a photo of some of the other stuff we have been reaping this
year. The tomatoes this year have been prolific, so I have been
making lots of Roasted Tomato Passata and freezing or putting it in
jars. The sweetcorn has been great too, hoping to grow more next
year in the area the pigs have been manuring this year.
After some very hot days the
garden is looking very green and lush. Glad I have those big rain
water butts. Also managed to finish the 'Insect-abode' this month,
with various spare bricks, tiles, logs, turf and straw, so provide
a veritable hotel for bugs and insects to make home in. I made one
at our last house from an old bookcase, but this one is much bigger
and heavier; the first couple of layers are made from old pallets
which are a great platform to build the rest on.
The pigs are doing well,
enjoying the early windfall from the apple trees and the sunshine,
although Ernie is still getting a bit sunburnt. They do insist,
even in this heat, on lying next to each other too, as you can see.
The bees are doing well, and are growing in numbers too. Here is a
shot I got of three of them hitting one of our many poppies, which
have been prolific this year. They also seem to love the courgette
flowers and now the sunflowers are starting to open up, those will
likely be popular too. The Hens are happy too, but
we are on Fox alert at the moment as S noticed one in the garden
last week; no-where near the chooks, but still too close for
comfort. Hopefully the proximity of the chooks to the house and us
will put it off. They are always locked in at night, but during the
day we let them out if we are at home... we would be very upset if
the fox got any of them.
I am pleased to report that the bees seem to have taken up full
residence in the hive.
I have checked them now a
couple of times and they seem to be filling the frames not just
with honey, but also with eggs. I must admit, I have not spotted
the queen yet, I they would not have eggs in there if she wasn't in
there too. The photo here shows one of the frames from in the
'super' box, where the bees are covering the frame with comb and
filling it with honey. With any luck there will be some in the next
month or so that we can have from them, but want to make sure they
have enough first (and need to get an extractor too - they are not
Meanwhile, the pigs are still
working on getting bigger. And sleeping, as you can see here in
their favourite spot under the sun shade I built them, as Ernie
does get a spot of sunburn on his ears if he is in the sun too
much. They are great company and love having us near them,
preferably in their pen so that we can be on hand to give them a
scratch when they want one - which is about 99% of the time. There
has also been a significant boost in the veg garden in the last
month with the warm weather. Some of the plants are struggling with
the heat, but most are ok as long as they have enough water. Good
job the water butts are nice and full.
Did I mention that I went on a Bee
Keeping course? Just for a day, in Bournemouth, very good it
was too, and gave me the confidence that it was something I could
do and would enjoy. So I bought a suit. Then I bought
a hive. I set the
hive up and got myself on the local swarm list, which means that
the local area swarm officer lets you know where a swarm is when it
is reported, and you get to go and bring it home (!).
Sounds scary - it is a bit.
However, a friend called me to tell me one of his mates had a swarm
in a box on his allotment - would I like it? So on Tuesday I
collected it, drove it home in the car (in my suit!), and put the
bees in the hive, hoping that they would take to it and stay there.
So far, so good; I checked on them for the first time today since
putting them in the hive on Tuesday and they seem relaxed and are
beavering away in the hive. Here is a picture of the hive, resting
on the stand I made for it from old pieces of timber; the piece at
the front on the bottom is a landing pad that the bees can use to
settle and make their way into the hive in their own time. You can
see some coming out/going in at the long hole in the bottom of the
hive, just above the landing pad. I am lucky to get a swarm this
early, it will give them time to get the hive up and running, build
their numbers and stores for the winter and so are more likely to
make it through the cold months. Not likely to get much honey from
them this year, though, but next year we should do! Watch this
As you can see, the pigs are settled and a lot more confident with us. They have got much bigger already, its amazing how quick they grow; I was concerned originally that they might not get big enough in 6 months, but no fear. Ernie, shown right here, is very friendly and likes a good scratch on his belly. Bert, the Tamworth, is a bit more aggressive and likes to have a scratch too, but also likes to chew clothes and shoes (whilst you are wearing them). Meanwhile, the chickens are doing well and now the weather is warmer, we are getting a regular three eggs a day. Got a great shot of Suzannah here from inside their chicken food feeder. The chickens are so entertaining, all four of them are great company in the garden. The veg garden is doing well, there is a lot coming through hard now in both the greenhouse and the veg plot. Looking forward to better success with some of last years failures, such as the chillies and the brassiccas. Some things are so lush, like the lettuce shown here; I took this in the rain today, it looked so fresh and colourful. Also trying to clear another area across the garden to make a semi formal herb garden, with box hedging and stuff. It will be good to get all my favourite herbs, like Rosemary, Tarragon, Parsley, Mint (I have 10 types!), Basil, Fennel, Sage and Thyme, all in one place and in an area where they can grow properly, rather than in the scattered pots they reside in right now. I shall take some pictures when it is done...
Had an interesting and
unexpected crop recently; Morel
mushrooms have been turning up in my borders. I spotted the
first one due to its size, otherwise they are pretty well
camouflaged in the bark that lies on the weed suppressant fabric.
The one shown here was about 15cm high! That's a pound coin next to
it. I looked them up in a couple of mushroom books I have, the best
I think is the
River Cottage one, which said they are fairly rare in the New
Forest although they are finding that the trend for using weed
suppressant fabric covered with bark mulch has caused a lot to turn
up as their spores (which are airborne) land on a promising looking
bit of bark, then find there is no way to get to the nutrients in
the soil, so they panic and try to fruit immediately, thereby
producing big Morels. We have about 8 patches of ones and twos
around the border at the moment. The first lot I picked and cooked
in a pie with some local venison. Very nice. So try fabric covered
with bark in your garden and see if you are lucky enough to get
some mushrooms showing up - thats the Morel of the story!
Got up early today, despite
being an Easter Sunday, to get the chickens out and prepare for the
new pigs. Walked over to J's as he is a neighbour who is well
local farmers, can help me choose which pigs to select and has
transport too. We choose a couple of pigs out of about 35; a mix of
Tamworths, Old Spots and Whites. As you can see, we picked out a
(the ginger one) and an Old
Spot. We got them home after completing the
required and into their new run. They were a bit jumpy for a while,
but eventually were rooting about happily and even managed to get a
couple of siestas in through the afternoon! S has decided to call
them Bert and
Ernie, despite all recommendations that we should not name
them; they are for fattening over the next 6 months and will be
slaughtered for meat, so we must try and not get too attached to
them. As you can see, this might be tricky...
A scurry of activity recently has put us into a position of being ready to buy some pigs now. The fencing went up at the start of the month; I even remembered to leave a big enough gap to get the pig ark in. The pig ark arrived from the Traditional Pig Ark Company in mid March and got lifted and shifted into position eventually, then the fencing completed and gate fitted; ready for the hogs. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, as you have to get a holding number from the Rural Payments Agency and then have registration with the Animal Health Registration people too; but it's not hard and they are keen to help you with the process, I must admit that it was painless and everyone I spoke to was helpful and friendly, full of advice and not at all officious. There is a great guide that takes you through what you need to do on the DEFRA website.
I have been shockingly slack
in terms of updating the blog through the winter, so it is time for
a well overdue update on the last few cold, wet months. We have had
plenty going on, despite the weather and a seasonal bout of colds.
For a start, two new chickens were picked up from Longdown to be slowly and
carefully introduced to our existing two; Trinny and Suzannah were
unimpressed by the new recruits, who were named Penelope (a Black
Rock) and Henrietta (a Warren). Shown here with Trinny, who is the
fat one on the left and is, for a change, not trying to peck them;
the new girls are on the right and recognisable by their short
combs and slightly concerned looks. We bought them the week before
Christmas and they are pretty much settled in now, only the
occasional peck from the other two to keep them in line. We hope
they will start to lay in about two weeks.On the building front, I
decided to bite the bullet and build a proper sized compost area on
the area underneath our Maple, which was used by the previous
owners to dump stuff on; old bits of machinery, tins and bottles,
several burst footballs, discarded dog toys, large amounts of
roofing felt and an impressive collection of used crisp packets
circa. 1982. It was nice to finally get rid of all that junk and
turn the carbuncle of the garden into a useful area. The second
part of the exercise was to build the structure that would hold in
and separate the four different compost areas, each about 1.5m
square. I only got around to taking a picture of it today, so you
get it in it's wonderful snow-covered state. Also managed to
finally get the old Apple tree chopped up; it had falled well
before we moved in and had just been left to rot. Now its a big
heap of wood to burn next winter when we get our wood burners
fitted in the house. The next big job is to use the fencing you can
see resting in the compost area above and use it to fence in the
new pig area.
It's great in the forest
around here at the moment as there are lots of pigs roaming around
free, eating up all the crab apples and acorns on the forest floor.
Even at 6 in the morning, or in the dark, we have seen them running
about, I don't know how they don't freeze. We are still planning to
get our own pigs next year, but before then I need to erect all the
fencing they will need to keep them in.
We are getting on with
clearing up more of the garden, but also found time to build a
platform in the chicken area for the chooks to get up onto. They
seem to like getting up there, I think because they can see much
more at that height - they are quite nosey and don't like to feel
they are missing out on anything. I will try and get some video of
them soon, everyone seemed to like the last one! Halloween tonight too,
but we are using ours this year to eat, some roasted, but they make
soup, that is my favourite way to use the flesh. The use of
coconut milk is key, so make sure you get some, and use some double
Another dry and sunny day today, so spent some time in the garden tidying up a few areas and planting some more salad in the greenhouse. Due to the recent sun and lack of frost (at least down here in the South!) the peppers in the greenhouse are still growing and ripening. See these in the picture - and they taste great. Also the lettuce and spring onions in there already are doing very well. There is so much coming out of the garden still, the photo shows what we pulled out today; carrots, parnips, leeks, courgettes, peppers and the very last of the tomatoes. Also today I made some sausages with the new mincer I got recently. This was the first time I tried it and it worked really well. This is the one I have and it has a sausage attachment, so to speak. I made them with apple and sage in them (both apples and sage from the garden, of course) and once I had experimented a little, got the seasoning right - I used the River Cottage Cook Book for some information on what might need to be needed in the mix, it was useful to get some tips as I haven't done this before. We tried a couple and they were great. If you fancy trying it yourself - I'd recommend it!