Summer 2018- sun, sun, sun

After one of the wetest winters in Suffolk the sun came out and we have not really had any rain since April. The ground is now baked hard and the grass has stopped growing.

The combination of a wet winter and sping and then a warm late spring, early summer has given us a wonderful crop of blossom in the orchard. It looks as though we will get a bumper harvest of plums, apples, pears, quinces, mulberries and medlars. Only the cherries have had problems- the birds took them all before they could be harvested.

April blossom bee

 

The blossom has givent the bees a good start to the year, the one remaing hive filled with bees and honey. Three supers were added and two were capped with wax and after extraction have yielded 28 Lbs or 12.7 kg of flowers sweet honey. It is probably a combination of nectar from oil seed rape and fruit trees.

 

 

Hive with two supers full of honeyThe hive proved so strong that it stated making extra queen cells which could have resulted in a swarm. So the hive was split and we now have two hives back again with the newer one building up numbers and growing in strength. Thanks again to my mentor at Stowmarket Beekeepers for all the advice.

 

 

 

Our Jacob sheep had a couple of foot problems over the winter but we managed to trim and treat once we could catch the one that had the limp. In spite of daily bucket feeding they are still quite wild.  Snowdrop who is the most nervy was limping  for a week of so and we could not pen her up. The vet was canceled three times as she jumped over 1.5 meters out of the fenced area to escape any treatment. We decided that she could not be too bad and within a few days she was not showing any sign of problems.

Towards the end of May the sheep needed shearing, it was hot and rather humid, good weather for nasty flystrike. This is where blowflies lay eggs on mostly dirty or damp wool, the maggots hatch and then eat into the sheep. It can kill and must be very unpleasent. We spray to prevent this but the dangerous time is when they are in full fleece, somewhat dirty round the back and it is hot and humid.

The sheep were penned up first thing, thanks to my wife being able to close the gate when they were feeding and trap them. The sheep still did not trust me as I had had to to pen them for spraying.  After a bit of a tussle, all three were a lot thinner and cooler.

sheared sheep may 2018

We now have three sacks of lovely wool and need to find a hobby spinner who would like to wash and separate the browns and  blacks from the white wool.

The rescue chickens, continue to lay most days but Bettie and Hettie have started to bully the smallest one, Nettie, so we have had to give her a fenced off part of the enclosure and her own nesting box. They can all see each other, and cluck away together but pecking is not possible.

Hettie separated

The veg patch is going well, we have had a good crop of cabbage, broad beans, asparagus and have made three litres of blackcurrent juice which is unsweetened and good with tonic (and gin or vodka if you want some alcohol). The stawberries have suffered a bit from a lack of water as have the raspberries. We are looking forwad to a lots of salads in the weeks to come.

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Winter catchup: rescue chickens, rain, snow, rain and snow

sheep in snow jan 2018

Jacob sheep with frosty backs tuck into some fresh hay

 

Writing this in what has been one of the hottest summers in Suffolk for some time, it is hard to remember what a miserable winter we had.  There was rain then snow in December, then it warmed up and did not seem to stop raining until we hit another cold snap in February, then rain again and a final deluge of snow.

hives in snow feb 18

 

All this a played havoc with my bees. I went into the winter with two reasonably strong hives and diligently fed them throughout the winter. Unfortunately, sometime between the two spring cold weeks, one of the hives died. From the look of it, they must have gone out foraging and on their return failed to find the food stores. All very sad.

 

In October 2017 we finally got some chickens. Thanks to the British Hens Welfare Trust, we picked up three rather bald former cage birds.

I was really impressed by how well the BHWT organised the event with minimal upset for birds or their new owners.

The new hens needed some help finding their way into the coop  and up the gangplank but soon picked up the idea. By November they were running about as though they owned the place, laying regularly and feathered with bright combs.  The snow did not seem to faze them too much and they all seemed to get on well through the winter.

chickens in feather

Rescue hens settling into a free ranging life