Saturday 31 May 2014

Small family farms feed the World but corporate farming is taking over.

When you watch,"Countryfile" on Sunday evening you get the impression that the World is fed by large industrialised farms like those of Adam Henson and his neighbours in the Cotswolds. Not so!......

Small family farms feed 70% of the World population on 25% of the farmland, this includes Crofters.

Farmland is being consolidated into bigger and bigger units. Watch this space..... its won't be long before the Archer's farm," Brookfield" is swallowed up by the Ambridge Mega Dairy.

The Scottish Government is colluding in this transfer of money and land to farming corporations by considering the idea that 61% of Scotland's farmland, which is rough grazing, should receive only 15% of the CAP budget The other 85% will go to large farms on the best land, more corporate welfare for the already wealthy?

If you are interested have a look at the internalional peasant farmer organisation website; 

Friday 30 May 2014

Dude Crofting

Happy Dude
The downside of keeping ewes indoors from January to April is the dung. Once they are turned out there's about twenty tonnes of the stuff to shift with a graip and a wheelbarrow. My family still haven't bought me a little grey Ferguson tractor!

Geoff Campbell suggested; "Dude Crofting". In the USA they have Dude Ranching; lots of horse riding, steer roping, beer drinking and barbecues.  We do things differently in Kilchoan, this dude croft would offer; shit shovelling, egg collecting, goat milking and even more shit shovelling.

Geoff volunteered to help with the mucking out as a guinea pig Dude. For me it was a great success, we finished the job in less than half the time expected. The "Dude" wanted cross training, its the "Ardnamurchan Half Marathon" on Saturday. I don't have the time, can't spare two and a half hours to run from the Lighthouse and back.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Weaning the kids

Clover, Rowan and Willow are three months old nest week. They are eating as much concentrate as I care to give them, hay and grass. This means that their rumens  are fully functioning so they don't need their mother's milk. Since they were four weeks old they have been separated from their Mums at night and the Mums were milked each morning. From tomorrow its back to twice daily milking.

They will have to be kept quite separate now so they are penned in a corner of the sheep house. Sfter a few days they'll be turned out to graze but in a separate field from the does. I don't want them to start suckiling again.

The next job is to label them with one ear tag and one pastern tag on a hind leg. Each tag has our unique herd number and a unique number for the goat. This is too ensure traceability after the last Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001. Each animal must have two separate identifiers; tags or tag and pastern tag, or tag and tattoo. Its EU rules!

Weasels in the wall

Drystone walls are perfect weasel habitat full of crevices, tunnels, nooks and crannies that are also a home for mice. just as I was about to feed the chicks in the brooder house this morning four weasels dashed across the path and into the retaining wall. A mother and three young judging by their size and colour. they are small enough to go anywhere a mouse can go and five years ago I lost a whole pen of  week old chicks to a weasel that got into their 10mm mesh brooder cage. All but two were all killed minutes before I got there. I waited and withing minutes the weasel was back to finish the job but ran off when it saw me.

This morning I stood still and made a squeaking noise by sucking back of my hand. The weasels came back and I was able to photograph them They can't resist the sound of a distressed rabbit.

It was probably the sound of the chicks in the brooder house that attracted them.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Multi purpose hens - muckspreading

Industrious chucks get started before the spreading
A lot of much has accumulated over winter in the sheep house and the goat house; they have to be "mucked out". I don't have a little grey Ferguson tractor and trailer so it has to be done with a muck graip and a wheelbarrow. Spreading isn't easy. If I dump each barrow load about five meters apart it can then be cast about by the graip. This still leaves big matted lumps. Hens might be the solution they immediately attacked the lumps with their claws scattering the manure in all directions.

This is an experiment because any muck that I spread on the hay park now has to disappear before we cut it for haylage at the end of July. Alistair my neighbour is sceptical so I've left a strip to see what happens. If it works I'll do the same over the whole field next year. In the meantime the rest of it, tonnes of it, is going on to the midden to rot down and to be spread in the Autumn.

Better bread

There haven't been any new posts for two weeks because I've been away; learning how to make sourdough bread at Andrew Whitley's farmhouse near Edinburgh. I have made bread with flour, dried yeast, water, salt, honey and butter for about twenty years and I was quite satisfied with it until I tasted sourdough then read Andrew's book, "Bread Matters".

We made; wholemeal, brioche, baguette, Borodinsky rye, and spiced fruit buns and I am a convert to this simpler more wholesome method of bread making. The ingredients are just flour, water and salt.                    a loaf stays fresher longer so there's less waste and it tastes so much better. No point telling you how to do it, you can buy the book or you could go on one of Andrew's courses.

It was my, "post lambing holiday" not just bread making; the RSC, Malvern Spring Garden Festival, the Henry Moore / Rodin exhibition at Compton Verney and a really good Indian meal. I got back to find everything in good order Kate, Gracie and Dale did A great job, maybe I'm not needed and should set  up a mini-bakery!