6am – 10pm…

Some people who complain about working 9-5 should try farming some day!

We got up at 6am and popped 14 Hubbards in to their crate for the quick 10 minute drive to the local poultry abattoir, then it was home for a quick coffee then out to do the animals (feeding, watering, letting out the poultry, giving everyone some straw bedding). I had a hospital appointment with my Dad and when I got back I took the dogs for a big run through the sheep fields and a splash down at the stream. Seeing a van parked at our pig shed I rushed back, it was one of our feed suppliers unloading a load of poultry feed….I was starting to feel tired from the early start and run about with the dogs but felt obliged to muck in and unload the 25kg sacks! I then spent an hour replying to emails, writing letters and sorting out customers invoices. Another quick coffee (note no lunch!!!) and it was time to do the animals once more and lock up all the birds.

Yesterday we moved the livestock trailer in to the pigs field where we have the last three of our our original sows who are no longer productive. The trailer was left open, full of straw and our hope was that one of the sows (probably Spot) would settle in there by herself and therefore nominate herself for the journey to Wishaw abattoir early on Thursday (tomorrow) morning. After finishing the animals for the night we peeked in the trailer and found Spot fast asleep we suddenly realised we had two options…hope she was still there at 6am in the morning or go and try and find out if the abattoir would accept her tonight. We didn’t think they’d be much point in trying the abattoir as everyone would have been home hours ago so we tried to remember which of our friends use Wishaw in the hope they’d know if you can drop a sow off the night before. Somehow I found myself dialing the abattoir’s number in the hope there might be a night watchman and couldn’t believe it when one of the ladies who works in the office answered (apparently she was waiting for an engineer to fix the alarm…lucky us!). She confirmed that we could drop off tonight and gave us instructions on where to put Spot, how to lock up and where to switch off the lights!

We rushed outside to check Spot was still in the trailer and quickly closed it up and headed out in to the cold night to Wishaw (wrapped up in several layers as our Land Rover Defender is so draughty and cold!). Everything went smoothly and Spot was delivered to a large pen with lots of straw and she quickly started to settle down for the night. We got home exhausted at 10pm and after feeding the dogs and cat, we crawled up to bed around 11pm (note no dinner!!!)

Sooooo tired!

Hogging the stove…

Scoobey is my parent’s dog, a “guide dog reject” who they have had since he was 2. He’s had a rough old year with almost uncontrollable diabetes which led to him losing his own sight, but he amazingly finds his way around familiar places really well…..and one place he is REALLY familiar with is the wood burning stove in our lounge, he just can’t get much closer!

Time I got on with this…

Ok, saying I’ve been pretty busy doesn’t really cut it does it when it’s literally been years since I updated our lovely little website or posted anything on it??? That will change from now on…even if no one ever reads any of this I would love to have it for my own record.

So much has happened over the last couple of years….we’ve built our much needed and long awaited farm house…and we’ve started hosting volunteers to stay and help with the daily chores…we’ve become involved with the wonderful “Food Assembly” movement…we’ve had the usual circle of life with our animals and increased our poultry production…we have had many highs and a few very sad lows, but we’re still going strong and constantly making changes.

Every night I’ll take a couple of minutes to think if there’s anything worth mentioning, and if there is I’l add it here there and then! Promise!

The incubator is on…

It’s been a couple of months since our incubator was last used so a thorough clean was in order….there’s no point in spending money on hatching eggs and not making sure you do everything you can to achieve the best hatch rate possible.

Our incubator was a really big purchase for us and we gave a great deal of thought as to whether we really needed it, but we now appreciate what a great piece of kit it is, and it has served us well. All of our ducks and turkeys have been hatched in it as well as huge quantities of Hubbard meat birds, and with surplus birds being sold to other smallholders it has paid us back some of the initial cost.

It is a Brinsea OvaEasy 190 and we opted for the additional humidity pump which makes sure that the conditions inside the incubator are just right 24 hours a day. It has three shelves which are set to tilt and turn the eggs at regular intervals along with a large hatching tray in the base. Over all its about the size of a small fridge and can hold up to 194 eggs at different stages of hatch (by using the hatching tray while other eggs are still turned in the trays above).

So last night after cleaning the incubator and all the associated trays and spacer bars I added water to the pump, checked all of the settings and let it run for a few hours to allow the conditions inside to stabilise…then it was in with some eggs!!!

The pine marten killing many of our favourite chickens last week was a horrible experience but in the wake of it I decided to have a fresh start at developing a little breeding flock (or two) of my favourite breeds. We’ve had mixed results using eggs bought on eBay but unable to source what I was looking for I’m giving it another try. I’ve been successful at winning several batches of White Silkie hatching eggs (both large fowl and bantam) as well as two lots of Lavendar Pekins and having ‘set‘ the first deliveries for a couple of days they were ready to incubate. The remainder of the eggs should arrive between Tuesday and Friday so I reckon I’ll have three hatches over a period of six days.

I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I’ll be candling the first batch in about a week and should know then which eggs are fertile and which can be rejected….fingers crossed!!!

Better late than never…

I can’t believe we have reached May already – it’s been a busy and topsy turvy year to date. The weather has been horrendous. We started lambing early in February which was quickly followed by hatching chicks and ducklings and piglets being born…something had to be put on hold and this time it was our seed planting. But we’re on the case now!

Rummaging around in the caravan that we use to store the junk (I mean tools and useful pieces of equipment), I at last managed to find what I was looking for…

At five years old it is doing really well to have survived on our crazy smallholding. It’s one of my all time favourite pieces of kit and it cost less than a tenner….can you guess what it is yet??? Ok, the picture above may have given you a clue!! It’s my paper pot maker!!!

I cannot tell you how calming and satisfying I find turning old strips of newspaper in to wonderful usable pots for our seeds and seedling…just wrap, turn and press…wrap, turn and press…

What you’re left with are perfect little pots that are so strong and can be planted straight in to the ground –  although I like to open up the bottom first just to give the roots a fighting chance 🙂

Success and news from Killearn’s Country Market…

A huge amount of effort was made to promote this month’s market by the two ladies who work so hard at organising it. With 24 stallholders, many of them first timers, it was as busy as the annual Christmas market! Customers were queuing from the moment we opened and the support from shoppers was fantastic…everyone was keen to engage with us and ask questions about who we are and what we produce.

There was a surprise visit from a very sweet environmental officer who was happy to answer our questions and offer advice….but of all the days to leave the temperature probe at home!!!! We make sure the butcher helps us comply with all regulations by vac-packing and labelling everything correctly for us. In addition everything travels in our refrigerated van where we monitor and log the temperature. Produce is brought in to the market in small quantities and kept chilled with our ice packs.

We sold out of our sausages, bacon and eggs (that’s everyone’s breakfast taken care of!!!) and we went home with just two haggis and five packs of burgers. We even had a couple of orders for our free range chicken and a large roasting joint – we really couldn’t be happier! So looking forward to June’s market and well done again to Daye and Gwenda for making this month’s such a success!

Paperwork and more paperwork…

Keeping livestock involves a fair bit of paperwork and record keeping including tagging/ ID records & movement forms. Running a business obviously requires records, accounts, annual returns, VAT submissions, invoicing customers, chasing payments, advertising and marketing . Dealing with food products also adds to the paperwork including food chain forms, temperature logs, food safety and hygiene procedures.

….and right now all of the above is in the process of being filed through. Less farmer, more administrator right now!!! Wish I could delegate some filing to the animals 🙂

Crikey, what a long day!…

We’re just home and it’s been a long, long day!!!

Our fridge van has been off the road for a couple of days having some repairs which meant we weren’t able to collect last week’s carcasses from the abattoir on Tuesday as planned. Instead we had to get up this morning at 5am to leave the house at 6am and be at the abattoir for 7am where the lovely Stewart having finished his morning chores could chop up the carcasses and load them in the van. That done, it was off to our butcher in Kirkintilloch for 8am allowing ourself a cheeky coffee and sandwich en route (which ended up being pretty much all we had all day!!!)

Then it was off to the farm where the usual mucking out, feeding and watering took us until around 1pm to finish. No rest for the wicked (or tired farmers) as we rushed back to the butcher who was doing a super fast turn around on our pork. Everything looked great and was loaded in to the van, then we were off again, this time to Glasgow to deliver our gorgeous rare breed pork to some restaurants in town. The chefs are all pretty busy on Friday nights and really want their produce delivered by 5pm at the latest so we were really up against the clock! To our relief we got round them all in time and decided what to do with all the free time we had (ha ha ha)….the decision came to us as we parked outside McDonalds in Milngavie having collected another couple of coffees (I must by a coffee machine, McDonalds are eating away at our profits!!!)…and within minutes we’d both dozed off!!!

Waking at 6.30pm (I’d like to say refreshed) we headed back to the farm and after the evening feeds, some fresh straw to the chooks and ducks and a final check to make sure everyone was locked up it was a quick trip to Tesco to pick up something quick for dinner and home. That was a LOT of miles we clocked up today, I’m hoping we manage to get a few hours rest at home tomorrow. Night!

Catch up!

Wow, I don’t know where the time is going! Days, weeks and months are just flying past. It only seems like last week when our first lamb arrived when in fact it’s been 2 months!

The weather has been absolutely horrible and I’ve been shocked to see on the news how other farmers (and their livestock – see picture above) have suffered with the snow….it’s so, so sad! We’ve been so lucky to be able to bring all but our largest pigs indoors and we managed to convert part of the pig barn to accommodate the sheep too. We were on hand to catch all ewes and lambs as they lambed and bring them straight indoors – most stayed inside for over a week allowing us to make sure the lambs were feeding well and strong enough for the elements. It also gave us the opportunity to give the ewes an ‘MOT’ and pedicure 🙂 and make sure all was well with them. Once back outside they have had full access to their large straw filled field shelter and at nights they all (sensibly) pack inside. Their bales of hay, energy licks and troughs for feed were all in this area, right beside a field gate making checking and feeding them each day much easier for us.

We have tried and failed to adopt Stinky Pete (a triplet who’s mother rejected it) on to other sheep so after a few weeks at home with us he now lives in the pig shed being pampered!!!

The outside pigs have all stayed within their straw filled arks most of the time, sometimes even being fed in there. All of the piglets have thrived apart from one little runt we’ve called Crusty. We realised early on that Crusty was losing condition and took her home for some TLC where we realised she was unable to suckle….a bit of training later and she was finishing her bottles of warm goats milk with ease and is now back with the rest of her family. She escapes daily when she hears us arrive so we give her some mashed banana and pig nuts in the shed where she can get a bit of piece to eat (her siblings are all four times larger than her!) and this is followed with a warm bottle and a cuddle….she’s quite a character! Most of these piglets have now been reserved for other smallholders who will rear them during the nicer months and kill them before the weather gets horrible in the Winter.

Our ducklings and Hubbard chicks are now around 2 months old and will soon be ready to kill. The ducklings are such characters, noisily quacking to us every time we walk past them. The Hubbards are (as they often do) getting a little aggressive towards us which is fine….there’ll be no tears shed when we take them to the poultry abattoir 😉

Moss our puppy is now over 1 year old and seems to have tired of eating her way through all of our vehicles….the damage she has cost makes her one of our most expensive purchases according to David!

The chickens and older ducks (the keepers) are all back in to the swing of laying eggs daily following the long dark winter with short days and now that the clocks have changed the days are lighter and longer and, dare I say it, I think Spring has arrived!

There will be plenty of updates this year as we get in to our second proper year of trading professionally. We’ll be trying new things at the farm. And of course the house will be getting built which will mean we can do even more hear at the farm!

OMG we’ve bought a tractor!…

After much deliberation and still no way of actually justifying it we have ordered a new (albeit small) tractor. Although financially it is way beyond the farm’s means, it has become more and more evident that we had to drag ourselves in to the 21st Century (in fact scrub that) the 19th Century!!!) and become farmers with a tractor! Ok, we have a useful little Kubota B6000 with front loader and rotorvator, but it’s not up to any heavy lifting….and up until a couple of months ago we had a very old “New Holland” but found out soon after buying it that a 2wd just wasn’t suitable for our land!

We’ve been shopping around and creating a wish list for a while now and until recently we were convinced a 5 series John Deere would be right for us although it was going to cost around £22,000 for a basic tractor with loader and that was without a cab!!! Three things made us change our mind come to our senses...the cost….a potential delay of three months for one to be shipped over from Europe….and no cab!!! What were we thinking, were we nuts??? This is Scotland where we are soaked, blown over, battered with hailstones and snowed on 10 months of the year and we thought we could manage without a cab!!!

We then saw some ads online for Farmtrac. They had just opened a dealership near us and following our enquiry they swamped us with some amazing deals on ex-demos….do you know they very nearly convinced us to splash out £30,000 on a huge tractor worth £45,000 but once more (and to my surprise) we came to our senses!!! You know if they’d actually come forward with something close to what we originally asked for they would probably have got a sale!

So back at square one and just about to leave for the farm one morning I was mid moan to David that we really had to sort out a tractor and in desperation I did a quick search on ebay….and there it was!!! I barely even looked at the ad before calling David over. He read it, viewed the pictures, looked up the specifications online and to my surprise he picked up the phone and called the seller!!! What was advertised was a 50hp Foton tractor – a demonstration model with only 7 hours on the clock. We’d never heard of them, but looking on google there are dozens of Chinese tractor makers I had never heard of! We then received a call from our new best friend Steve. Steve is the main importer of these tractors and has a factory in Wales where he builds them (they arrive in bits!). He directed us to his website where we were offered the choice of just about every tool and accessory for the tractor at a reduced price….it all seemed a little too good to be true.

Before handing over our hard earned cash we did some research on Foton, Danelander and even Steve and happy that we would actually receive a tractor in exchange for our money we went ahead with the deal. We have ordered the tractor with a 4 in 1 bucket, bale spikes, a 2 tonne tipping trailer, a harrow and a topper all for less than £20,000…..and the best news is….it has a cab (and a heater!!!!) 😉

It’ll be here in around a week…now I must go and smash open the piggy bank!!!