But more on that later....
I hadn't thought much had happened since our last post but having jotted a few notes down it seems it has - here is a round up:
With much relief and a wee bottle of the bubbly stuff we celebrated the completion of the sale of our old house. So we are back down to one mortgage, one set of utility bills and no longer have the worry of an empty house hundreds of miles away. Having said that our lovely ex neighbours have been watching it for us and our next door neighbour Karen even mowed the lawns so that the new folks didn't arrive to a jungle - thank you Karen, you are the best!
We approached the previous owners of the small holding to see if they still wanted to sell their two fields (another 13 acres) but they've decided to hold on to them for at least another year - if we still have capital available we'll think about buying then. We may however make a bit of a dent in the pot sooner than that..
but more on that later!
Following Dave's successful course at Kate Humble's place in Monmouthshire a few weeks ago, I set out at the crack of dawn to make it to Camarthenshire by 8 am for my Goat Keeping course. Thrown in for free was a quick 'learn as you go' introduction to Off Roading as the farm was at the bottom of a very steep valley via a road that had been partially washed away during the winter storms - thankfully the Landcruiser took it all in its stride and I arrived safely in time for the morning milking. The set up was like a normal cow dairy, although the clusters only have two suction cups. Goats udders and teats come in different sizes and the latter rarely point in an easy downward direction, added to this Goats don't like having their legs touched so getting the suction cups on some 'appendages' was a bit of a challenge! Once we had milked about 70 goats by machine we got to have a go at milking by hand - there is a very basic satisfaction in getting the technique right and seeing that lovely milk come out.
Milking complete and it was off to see the youngsters - two sets - the teenagers were very nosey..
and the kids were very cute..
Next job was to put down fresh straw in the main adult barn. You can either muck out every couple of days or go for the deep litter method where you just lay fresh straw on top of the old every couple of days and muck out completely every 6 months. This farm uses the deep bedding method and it seems to help to keep the goats warm and the draughts out - of course you need some heavy weight machinery to perform the clearing..
but more on that later...
Finally on to health issues - Goats are bit tricksy - there are couple of killer infections they can get for which vaccination is a must, added to that are worms and they are a martyr to their feet - we were shown how to trim hooves and how to spot and treat 'Scald' and 'Strawberry Foot' - of course our instructor made it look so easy :)
This was a dairy herd so a different breed from the ones we will have, but the course was invaluable and I came away with so many questions answered. Goats are real characters - cheeky, very naughty, complete chancers and yet so tactile.
Planning & Construction
Whilst we wait for our contractors to complete the electrical work and make a start on the barn roof (they work to 'Welsh' time which is akin to 'Irish' time), we have turned our attention to our top paddock. The smaller of our two fields, it sits above our allotment and the grass/vegetation is a pretty rough mix. Our plan is to construct 4 enclosures which we will stock with pigs, table birds and veg in rotation - the theory is that the pigs will dig and manure, the birds will add more manure and the veg will grow beautifully! Dave managed to mow most of the field with the little garden tractor and we've hired a local guy to do the fencing for us... we are awaiting a start date.. whilst 'Welsh' time may well strike again, this guy will still get the job done faster and better than we could hope to achieve ourselves. We need to figure out how to get water up there and we'll need some heavy weight machinery to transport feed and bedding up there, not to mention shifting the pig arc from one enclosure to another..
but more on that later..
Fruit and Veg
We are slowly digging out beds and planting as we go. We have a soft fruit section which was looking in a very shabby state when we moved in. We've cleared out the black plastic which was acting as a weed suppressant, weeded where it had failed and covered the ground with wood chippings saved from our recent tree felling. These wood chippings were in huge bags in the front yard, I got tired of waiting for the box for the garden tractor to arrive so I started barrowing the chippings up to the allotment...yup - the box finally arrived when all but half of the last bag was left.. Murphy's law. I went into full small holder mode for the area in front and re-used wood from the poly tunnel to create two new beds - rustic but functional.
The soft fruits are coming on well - we have had quite a few strawberries from the poly tunnel and the outside ones are starting to ripen now, as are the early raspberries. Blueberries aren't far behind, the red and blackcurrants are starting to colour and the gooseberries are getting there too.
The poly tunnel is looking good - sweetcorn, peas, borlotti beans, courgettes and cucumbers all doing well. We love the automatic watering system, we don't love the slugs but the hens love the slugs :) Special mention to Dave for his pea supports.. he likes to give peas a chance >groan<.
I've cleared the greenhouse out and the supply chain is looking pretty healthy. Like the poly tunnel, the greenhouse also has an automatic watering system but I haven't used it as yet - I like to check progress of my little seedlings every day anyway (actually I can't believe I've managed to grow stuff so it is an opportunity for a virtual fist pump when I see the first signs of life in a pot...I know, bit sad!)
No new additions but we nearly lost one. Margot (one of the ginger hens) fell ill - poor girl had a beak full of mucus and to our inexperienced eyes, didn't look like she would make it. Fortunately our friend Neil came to visit and took a look at her - whilst she clearly wasn't well her wings hadn't dropped and her eyes were clear so we started putting apple cider vinegar in their water and kept a close eye on her. Happy to report that Margot is pretty much back to normal - so glad that Neil didn't have to give me an impromptu introduction to chicken dispatching. The ladies are laying well and providing us with 2 to 3 eggs a day. They have become very tame - here is Monica sitting on my knee - I've never been photo bombed by a chicken before.
Freddie is doing really well - he has had his first vacs and micro chip and he and Dex are as thick as thieves. We had some difficulty getting Freddie to eat in the early days and the vet did comment that he was a little on the thin side (yes he really is all fluff), but we seem to have got past that now and he is growing well. He hasn't however grown into his huge feet yet and you can tell when he is behind you from the flipper like slapping as each paw hits the ground!
And for you Tallie fans out there - she is absolutely fine, taking life easy as is befitting her more advanced years and enjoying the fact that Dex has someone younger to annoy.
Our friends Neil, Danni and Indi came over for the day, armed as usual with more gifts of eggs and plants - you spoil us! As they had been to visit when we first moved in, it was great to show them what we've managed to achieve so far and talk through our next plans. So glad to have Neil on hand to check over Margot for us. After a nice relaxing BBQ (I love that it is the man's domain!) we got the garden tractor out - Indi looks very much at home!
And I love this photo that Danni took - Indi is so relaxed around dogs and out of our three, Dex is her favourite.
This weekend our friend Lenka is coming for her first visit and daughter Bex for her second - so excited to see them both!
Is it 'Later' now?
So - we went to look at livestock trailers today and have ordered an Ifor Williams TA5 (for those in the know we've gone for the double axle, 4' high, 8' long braked model) - will be a few weeks before it arrives but that's fine.
So far so good, day going as planned. But then we got chatting further to the sales guy about tractors, we talked about our idea of getting a compact tractor and what we needed it to do - mowing, baling, clearing out 6 months of goat bedding, transporting feed, hay and straw, hoisting pig arcs from one enclosure to another.. and without much persuasion, fast came to the conclusion that a full size tractor would suit our needs far better. Of course we will not being buying a brand new tractor, there is a second hand one coming in to the dealership soon so we'll take a look at the spec when it does.
Meantime they did have a similar one on the plot that had sadly already been sold.. but it would have been rude not to try it out for size right?
Well done to our adopted country on their magnificent result against Slovakia. I guess Thursday's match is win-win situation for us but I have to say the Welsh team spirit and work ethic has won me over....not to mention the rather lush Chris Coleman!