Tuesday 19 August 2014

Firewood sawing and splitting for the elderly

I used to enjoy splitting logs by hand especially ash and beech that split easily and with a satisfying,"crack". But I'm older now and the wood is different; gnarled, twisted and knotty,  spruce mainly.  The maul just bounces off it, or is it me?

We elderly wood burners have been saved by Finnish engineering. Its a petrol engine powered circular saw and log splitter. It arrives at your log pile and splits a tonne of logs an hour.

Previously a tonne of logs took me the best part of a day. All you are required to do is to hand the logs up to Hughie who operates the machine.

The log is placed upright in a steel box that is pushed forward on to a screw that drives into the wood followed by a wedge....then presto......the log splits and is thrown on the pile....simples.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

"Rations for livestock"

Fifty years ago every undergraduate studying agriculture, every agricultural advisor, every feed compounder
MAFF Bulletin 48
and many farmers had a copy of "Rations for livestock" Ministry of Agriculture Bulletin No.48. It was, and still is a mini encyclopaedia of materials that can be fed to livestock. It was essential if you were formulating rations especially for dairy and beef cows.

I had to dig mine out yesterday.

Alistair and I went to the new Glenborrowdale Distillery for some "draff" or distillers grains. During the distilling process the carbohydrates in the malted grain are used to make alcohol the grains that are left over are richer in protein and fibre than barley, about 18% protein and 15% fibre. I know this because I looked it up in Bulletin 48!

If the wet grains are ensiled the draff keeps quite well and is an excellent feed for cattle to supplement low protein barley or oats. If the sheep and goats will eat it it could be added to their winter ration. We've excluded the air to ensile it by putting it in plastic bags tied at the neck.

If the sheep will eat it; it doesn't look very appetising , but cattle like it, mixed with bruised oats it should  give as a ration that is considerably cheaper than proprietary sheep nuts and just as good.

To get an idea of how effective this ration will be I have to estimate how much haylage, draff and oats a sheep or goat will eat in a day. This is a percentage of body weight,
Then estimate the energy content, protein content and digestibility of each ingredient and see if it meets the animals requirements.

All of this estimating makes me sound like an economist but it does work if you apply the information in Bull. 48.

Bulletin 48 is long out of print and out of date in many respects because we no longer have a Ministry of Agriculture or politicians who think that UK agriculture is important. They'll find out one day that its vitally important and they were fools to think otherwise.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Little red hen does it again

In the last two years the little red hen has hatched and reared about six batches of chicks and ducks.

This time there were four chicks from six eggs. They are Ancona bantams, black with white flecks the floppy red combs.

Originally imported from Italy in the 19th Century the large fowl version lay over 200 eggs a year and the bantams are reputed to be just as prolific. Friendly little birds they are good hens for the back garden. These are for my grand daughter.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Starlings raid the hen house.

If eight rabbits eat as much as a sheep and eight sheep eat as much as a cow how many starlings eat as much as a hen?

I stopped the rock pigeons eating half of the hen food by putting the feeders inside the hen houses.

But starlings are more inquisitive, more daring and perhaps hungrier. They are helping themselves to high energy, high protein layers pellets every day.

I've seen  a flock of more than twenty perching on one hen house roof. They then take turns to raid the feeder. Even the robins get in on the act.

A hen eats about 125 g layers pellets each day and perhaps the ratio is the same; eight starlings to a hen so 20 starlings eat about 300 g hen food a day at roughly 50 p a kilo.

It can't go on ! I'll have to devise or buy a bird proof feeder.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Meet Mimi the kitten

Hard wired to sleep on top of the Rayburn
A picture worth 1000 words, what can I add?

August in the poly tunnel : Gherkins are taking over

I thought that gherkins would be difficult to grow but they are taking over the poly tunnel.  There should be a huge crop for pickling.

Salads are always easy, reliable and only ten minutes from the tunnel to the plate.

A second crop of perpetual flowering strawberries are ripening (Mara des bois ) a cultivar of the alpine strawberry with superb flavour.

Tomatoes are turning red and the garlic bulbs, harvested last month, are ready to bunch up and store, they usually keep for ten months or more.

Now its time to start again with winter salads, chicory, lambs lettuce and a few early tatties for Christmas.