New Animal Treatment Room

Finally we have a dedicated room to look after those animals in need of extra care. For the last ten years we’ve been using the kitchen, the Sunny Room (the only living area room that gets sun in the day, hence the name!), the hall way, the garage. You name the room, at one stage or another there’s been a poorly or young animal in it.

But not anymore (well – not any more as often as there was). The dedicated room has stainless steel worktop for easy disinfection, an industrial floor, and soon to also have medicine cabinets and cupboards. The first occupants? The hedgehogs who have been rescued from outside because they were either caught in the flooding in the area, or are part of the large number of underweight hoglets which seem so prevalent this year around the country.

Importantly, it’s not attached to the main house, so any animals being looked after will get some peace and quiet!

Root Crops

Another scribbled mental note – these are so useful for the following year, to get a feel for the plants that do well here. The day began with the usual dandelion beheading – another barrow full, then watering the new fruit trees in as it’s been a dry week so far. The strawberries and raspberries had some of the lovely manure donated by Ken spread around their bases, as did the rhubarb and gooseberries. The geese had their full clean out – fresh straw in the houses, ponds emptied and refilled.

Then on to the root crops. This plot hasn’t been manured, but the squash stations will have plenty added just before they go in later in the year. For now the stations will have cloches dropped where the plants will go, to help warm the ground up. The seed that went in today were one 9′ row of Flyaway F1 carrot, three rows of Boltardy beetroot and three rows of Hollow Crown parsnip.

All root crops were netted against the dreaded pigeon, sparrows and rabbits. Or row of peas were also netted, but we need to rethink the layout of the peas and beans to make netting easier. Whatever the case, we need more netting!

The final job of the day was to water in all the seeds sown over the last two days – that was over an hour’s job as the onion patch was also beginning to look a bit parched. As were the strawberries, rhubarb, gooseberries and currant bushes. A quick check on the chicks, who have now taken up residency in the garage as the fluff and dust produced by week two was just too much to keep them in the house, and 10 o’clock saw me finally stumbling in, to a warm fire and mahoosive mug of sweet tea. Perfectamundo 🙂

Sparrow Mites

It’s not a nice post, but as this is a record for us, this is something worth keeping an eye out for. When this sparrow was found it was very weak and disorientated. We could see what appeared to be growths on its head but as it was an evening we kept it in a box outside so it would be safe, but by the time morning came around it had died. We called the vet, just in case it was something contagious, and they let us know that these brown things are, in fact, mites. Poor thing 🙁

100 Sparrows and Counting!

2012 Sparrows

This may be getting a little silly, but we now have around 100 regular sparrow visitors, thanks to Suz’s regular feeding regime and sparrow box installation (yes – I know there’s another waiting to go up!)

Just to remind you – we had 5 regular sparrow visitors when we first came here 5 years ago, they pretty much double every year!

Starlings

A rather dodgy quality video of a small starling flock. I remember seeing more of these when I was a child over in north Shropshire, but I rarely see them these days. This is the first time I’ve seen them here.

2012 Starling Flock

Baby Blue Tit

Having seen blue tits here since we’ve lived here, we have never seen a baby one. Suz spotted this at the front of the cottage, hiding under a bush whilst waiting for its mum to arrive with a mouthful of food. Here’s hoping we end up with many more!

House Sparrows

It’s a record I think. Our last post in April recorded 25 house sparrows seen at once, up from 5 in the year before and none when we moved in (cats are wonderful creatures eh?).

Today I counted around 50 sparrows in and around the garden at one time – the ground under the main feeder was literally crawling with sparrows of all ages. Thanks to Suz for filling our feeder it gives them a great feast, plus the other three houses at Merrybower all provide a decent amount of cover and nosh for the little peckers.

Digging for Easter Eggs…

…I wish! A call from the fencing contractor means we might have a paddock fence sometime next week, so the rush was on to level the 2 foot step from the paddock to the main field. Gary and Liz next door needed to level it as it crossed a vegetable plot in their land, and we needed to level it as it would prove rather inconvenient to jump 2 feet every time we wanted to enter the field!

The other problem with this border is that it’s the lowest level in that corner of the field and in heavy rain we end  up with a decent pond – not something you want on your entrance or veggie patch. Our solution was to collectively remove the headland strip from the main field, which was about 5′ across and 1′ deep, and drop the soil into the ditch in the water logged paddock to raise it. Before we did any moving of soil we needed to lift the turf so we could reuse it, and peel back the existing fence (sheep netting and barbed wire) on the border so we could shovel the soil across.

On removing the turf we thought it would be a good time to see just how deep the surface water level is around by us. We know we’re in a 100 year flood plain, but the farmers like the land as whilst it does get wet in heavy downpours, there’s enough flint in the soil to help it drain quickly. The soil is also sandy loam, so good for growing most things 🙂 We dug down and no sooner had we dug a spade’s depth in the lower levelled paddock did we hit water. This means our houses are only about 3 feet above surface water level – admittedly after it’s been constantly raining. We felt quite cheery about this as one of the plans is to build a well for us all to use. We have them dotted around us in fields and front gardens, but the pump outside ours was removed a while ago, so we thought we’d put a new one in to the rear of the cottages. To be honest, for irrigation purposes, we could probably get away with digging a pond! The water level is so high as we are in the Trent Wash and, as someone pointed out to us, only 25% of the water travelling down the valley is visible in the river – the rest moves through the ground! So what we were actually looking at was the River Trent running under our feet! Sure enough, when we dug a channel out we could see, as it filled slowly, that the current was ever-so-slightly running in the same direction as the river over a mile away! We dug this channel out to about 3 feet below our final level and filled it 12″ high with flint pebbles we’d rescued from our vegetable patches. We then backfilled it with almost 2′ of top soil from the headland and replaced the turf. We hope this will help that part of the paddock to drain quicker, but we know with the extra foot of soil we’ve added that the water level is at least 2′ below now, so great for roots but won’t sit high enough to water-log our root veg.

All of this took 2 solid days of digging and moving the soil, but it sure was worth it! Gary and Liz now have a flat vegetable patch and we have a smooth-ish transition from the paddock to Acre Field.

On other fronts, the tomatoes inside are almost ready to pot into individual pots, the cucumbers are showing their faces, as are the marigolds and nasturtiums, and I believe some lettuce outside are peeking out! Things are happening 🙂 We also have around 25 house sparrows, up from 5 the first year we moved in. We put this down to no more cats that the previous owner had, extra sparrow boxes we’ve put up, and regular seed being put out by Suz. Excellent!

Our two new chickens are now laying as well, so we’re getting around 18 eggs a week at the moment which is plenty!

Last but not least, a coupe of shots of the rear of the cottages as another reminder of what they used to look like 🙂