Monday, April 29, 2013

New additions, fruitful growth and other things....

I have more news to share on yet more members of our ever-growing 'smallholding' menagerie. I know I have said it often, but really I can't believe just how blessed we are to be living here.  To be living our dream.

We have had yet more sunshine.  Just how cool is that?  More warmth on our backs as we toil in the garden, more fuel for the growth of our vegetables and flowers, and more happy smiles to be seen all around.  So joyous.

We have spent the weekend collecting new additions and working outdoors.  We are very much in the mindset that we have to make the most of every dry day right now.  We just don't know what the next day will have in store for us weather wise so live from day to day with very little planning.

The children are adoring having so much space to play and run around in.  They have definitely upped their level of imaginative role-playing games since being here.  The latest role-playing phase appears to be set within the Viking era.  It is rather fantastic to be able to see 2, 7, 11 and 15 year olds having such adventures together (the 17 year old is often to be found baking or reading instead).

For a few weeks now we have been discussing adding more chickens to our current girlie clan.  We initially had 4 girls, but sadly one was taken by a predator of sorts and we were down to the 3.  All lay daily and are very contented it seems.  We expanded their run to being more of pen sized proportions.  We want to allow them to free-range throughout the acre land but the fencing isn't up to that right now and I don't really want to go down the wing-clipping route if I can help it.  It is so difficult deciding what to do for the best.  More space but less defence against predators or less space and slightly more defence?  I know that really in the chicken vs fox wars there is usually only the one winner, but I would like to think that I'd given my gals every chance of making a get-away.

Their current set up now looks a bit like this...

We have upped the wire fencing somewhat in height and the space is now rather large - larger than what it may appear to you on the photo.

The then trio loved their new found freedom.  They now have an old unused (therefore empty) pond to explore.  It has a rather muddy base bottom which clearly hosts a variety of grubs and bugs that they are enjoying scratching about to find.  They are displaying their natural behaviour far more than they did in the run and all in all it's a good feeling to know you've enhanced their days. 

On Saturday we decided to double our chicken crew and add three more girlies.  We headed back to the place we bought our original gals from - MoonRidge Farm.  It is a huge place.  Their chickens roam around the place in mahoosive pens, having the freedom to be within their shelters or out and about at leisure.  They all look very healthy and happy ladies.  Moonridge also has a variety of other animals which you are free to look around at leisure.  They have deer, wallabies, ducks, geese and peacocks to name a few.  We had a stroll around the grounds before trying to decide on which breed of chickens we wished to take home with us.  We had pretty much settled on another Cuckoo Maran as a replacement for the one that we lost, but weren't sure on the others.  After watching the birds scooting and scratching around, we chose a couple.  A Bovans Nera and another Blue Maran.  

So here is a full run down on our current outdoor chickens.

Our oldies:

Babs, our Blue Maran.

Charlie our Columbian Black Tail.

Betsy-May our Light Sussex (poor picture sorry).

and then our newbies:

Clarabelle our Bovans Nera.  Photo really doesn't show the beautiful plumage of this girl with her gorgeous green sheen to her top feathers. 

Lulu our Cuckoo Maran...

and Tilly our second Blue Maran, a lighter more silvery colour than Babs so I can tell the two apart!

I hope that they settle in to their new home with us quickly and enjoy being doted on by the children!  We still have four chicks under heat inside too, two doing incredibly well and two doing not so well but still bright-eyed and eating well, so we are giving them every chance.  

Whilst at Moonridge, the goslings and ducklings caught our eye.  Now I will point out that we have discussed many times adding geese and ducks at some point, but didn't really have a plan as to when.  Obviously confinement is an issue and we would probably have to go down the wing clipping route to ensure they stayed with us.  Then I researched Indian Runner ducks and found out that they don't fly but rather they run around in quite a comical fashion.  We checked out the runner ducklings at Moonridge and fell in love.

I would like to introduce you to Bumble, Doris and Pip....

Once again apologies for the poor photo quality, it's difficult to get them to stand still as all they want to do is follow people around and come and see what you are up to.  I love them dearly.  I really didn't think I would be taken with ducks but I truly have been.  They are just off-heat and caged indoors at the moment until their feather growth develops as it is still a little chilly at times weather wise, but they have free-roaming sessions throughout the day when we are around to supervise.  

After all the excitement of the new additions and ensuring the settling in process ran smoothly, our Saturday didn't involve much else once the newbies were home.  We did spend a bit of time outside with the goats.  They had to explore the chicken house of course in preparation for the new gals...

Pixie just couldn't get a hang of this perching malarkey, but refused to give up.

They also enjoyed a leisurely browse together...

I also managed to find the time to clip Kira our spaniel.  This isn't a job I relish in all honesty.  Kira didn't have the best of starts in life and she struggles with confidence.  The noise of the clippers is enough to send her into a panic, it is so sad.  I put the job of clipping her off for as long as possible but she really does feel and look so much better once relieved of her mass of fur in the warmer months.

Here she is as the hairy beast she once was...

and here she is now...

Not a perfect job by any means, but wow she was so good this time!  No fear was shown.  No uncontrollable weeing, no dragging herself along the floor, no tail firmly clamped between her legs.  She actually appeared to enjoy it, rolling on her back for her belly to be done and tail wagging throughout.  

Hmm, maybe this open air lifestyle is being as much benefit to my gorgeous canine pal as to the rest of us.

Our Sunday was spent out in the fresh air, playing with the animals and doing a few of the chores around the place.  The weather wasn't as sunny as it has been and that was reflected in the temperature, but it was pleasant enough. 

Our greenhouse stocks are starting to shoot, I'm amazed at how quickly some have taken...

We also decided to take the plunge and chuck a few spuds into the ground to see what happened.  Potato planting is a family activity you know...

**Note on a personal level**

Some of you may have noticed that I have deactivated my account on Facebook as of late last night.  This is a personal decision taken after hearing something hurtful, although it has to be said that I have been thinking about doing so for a long time due the greater demands on my time at the moment.  

There have been a few, erm, shall we say dramas (?) within the home-education community on Facebook and to be honest I wish to stay as far away as possible from such issues.  My life here is blissful.  I wish to have a peaceful and joyful existence with my children and refuse to allow this to be damaged by an online community of people - many of which I will never cross paths with in real life.  I try to stay away from any confrontation or issues that don't concern me, but it seems impossible to completely keep my name out of things.  I refuse to use my blog as a public sounding board to share my grievances, I never have done and I never will do, it just isn't the right place.  But I feel I have to say something to stop the chinese whisper mentality spreading around and to say for the record that I am ok!  I was hurt that my FB status updates and at least one private message had been shared within a group I was not a member of (and by the sound of it I would run a million miles away from being a part of!) without my permission or knowledge.  It is not the content of those messages that bothers me, there was nothing within them that needed to be kept hidden, but it was the underhand and secretive way they were used and put up for discussion.  I am so far from being that sort of person that does such things, and it is hurtful when I'm not offered the same respect or courtesy in return.

As said, it isn't the only reason for my leaving.  My time is becoming more and more limited as we are reaching for our dreams and Facebook is a huge time-eater and one that isn't needed in my life right now.  This latest episode within the HE community on there has just given me that final push to make that decision. That's not to say that FB isn't an amazing place for home-edders to gain support and network, just that it isn't  right for me at this time.

I don't know if it will be a permanent leaving or just a temporary break, life will decide that in time.  For now though, thank you to those genuinely fabulous people I was able to get to know a little, your support and friendship will always be appreciated.

Of course I will still be online, updating my blog and sharing photos with you all as well as working on Classroom Free so you can't get rid of me that easily, sorry *grin*.


  1. Don't know whether you've done it Julia but it's usually better to introduce a new set of hens separately to avoid pecking and enable them to get used to one another. We haven't tried it yet but are planning an introductory cage so the new hens can roam and come into contact with the others but there is no risk of them getting hurt untill pecking order is established.

    1. Hi Yvonne, thanks for your comment. The new hens were separated at first, then introduced into the big space under a very careful watchful eye (paranoid mama) and separated at night. We are lucky that the hen house has two compartments so you can keep birds separate or open it up so they can mix. When separated they can still see and hear each other but are kept apart via floor to ceiling chicken wire. Introductions are being taken slowly but are going ok thus far. Thanks again :)

  2. Really love your updates! chicken pen looks fab, we also have hickens and have lost several over the years to seriously cunning foxes but I always think that I protect them the best I can , look after them as if they were extra children but accept that unless they are enclosed in such a tiny run that they would unhappy (and so would I!) that the risks are worth it. For me a potentially shorter happy life is preferable to a long miserable one!

    Enjoy the ducks , we have cayuga's and they are fab!

    Also thanks to you and your lovely blog we should be 'goat owners' to soon! I have wanted some for years but hubby was not so keen until he saw your photos! Thank you

    1. Oh that is fabulous news, congratulations on becoming a soon-to-be goat owners. We absolutely adore ours and they truly bring us so much joy.

      Thank you for your kind words and it's nice to know that I'm not alone in the way I'm thinking regarding taking the risk to provide for happier chickens. It's a real pros and cons situation isn't it?

      Love and blessings,
      Jules x

  3. Those Ducks are gorgeous !!! bet Taisia spends all day tootling after them xxxx

  4. Well ... thanks for explaining why you're missing from my newsfeed this morning. I obviously missed the drama 'cos the last I saw were you were uploading photos and apologising because facebook wasn't playing nice to let you upload them in bulk. BTW Naomi says your ducklings are 'cute'n'dinky' lol.
    You're probably better off out of it for a while given some of the 'happenings' recently - don't understand why people have to be nasty! With the weather seemingly improving, (strike me down if I've jinxed it), you'll want to be spending more time outside with your family and your rapidly expanding menagerie anyway but I have to say, it's their loss not yours.
    Sooooooooo ... onwards and upwards precious lady. Keep living the dream and don't allow anyone to spoil it for you.

    Max's Craft Creations

  5. Lovely to see the photos of all your hens looking so happy. We have new ground to grow in this year too, as you know, and taking a very 'just plant it and see what happens' approach is exciting. You'll be missed on FB, but as you say, life is so much more than that. ♥ xxxxx

  6. Love your updates & the life you are creating. Just shared all your photos with the kiddos & they loved them. So wonderful to have such a natural outdoors life & childhood.

    Sorry to hear about the Facebook drama & I will miss your updates & messages there but we'll understand your reasons for doing it. I find I have real phases with it sometimes Im there a lot then I can go months without looking & don't miss it at all. The latter seem to be getting longer & more enjoyable so I may follow your lead soon

  7. Hi Julia, I have been "lurking" for the last few months but thought I would say "hi". I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog - my husband and I live in Dorset and HE our two sons (7 & 6) and have been for the last two years since we "rescued" our eldest from school which he found so terribly distressing...a very sad time for us all. But now we are all enjoying life, almost to the full...the next step is to try and "escape to the country", which is why your blog is so encouraging - its where we want to be in a year or so. I also wanted to say that I completely understand your viewpoint on Facebook. I only recently joined Facebook, mainly for access to HE info and sites, but it is so easy for it to take up too much of your time - time that is precious. Wishing you, and your family, continued success in your adventure and I look forward to reading all about it. Kim x

  8. Ah, that big yellow warming orb in the sky makes all the difference doesn't it? Although the 'good life' looks pretty darn good at any time of the year I'd imagine. :)

    With spring finally springing here, there just aren't enough hours in the days to spend in the garden. Makes a huge difference to our chickens also, egg laying has gone into overdrive!! We have runners also, we were told and have found that they don't necessarily need a pond, just a deep bucket of water to dunk their heads in to keep their eyes clean, we don't have a pond but rescued a bath from the tip and let the rain fill that up here and there. The runners really are a comical sight running around, they don't enjoy their cuddles anymore tho! ;)

    I always look forward to your updates, they truly are inspiring :)
    Hope the weather stays good for you. :)

  9. Love your girlies! And your baby ducks are sooooo cute. I really hope we are able to finally add some animals one of these days. We still don't have any. Just wanted to say hi and tell you that I am enjoying your blog. Michelle

  10. Such a lovely update Julia, you guys are doing so much! You are very motivating to me to get up and do 'something' :)

    Your ducks are fab...we started with Indian Runners and have kept them for a couple of years now, they are just lovely (and the eggs are amazing too, you will not be disappointed!)

    Completely understand your FB decision, it does take up so much time, even when you try to limit your time there it just doesn't work. Life is too amazing in the real world for you right now, that much is clear :)

    Hope its OK to add this, but here's my tuppence worth on chicken safety issues...after chasing a fox away three times of late, in broad daylight, (once trying to carry away our neighbor's cockerel in it's mouth!) the only fool proof deterrent we know of it electric fencing...a big run, moved about as the grass is thoroughly pecked, but with decent electric fencing. This particular fox walks all the way along our boundary each time, with our hens and ducks looking curiously at him/her, mere inches away, to get at next door's free rangers. I am tempting fate here, but we haven't lost any livestock to foxes in over 6 years, a combination of the fencing and meticulously shutting them all in each night :) It's just a matter of keeping them moving, so they enjoy the free range aspect but are also well protected. Search 'chicken tractors', you've probably heard of the term anyway, but they get fresh pasture, you get good fertile land :)

    Good luck Julia, you are doing so well, I love watching your progress! With love, Carly xxx

  11. It is really lovely seeing your menagerie growing, and likewise the garden! It must take a lot of energy seeing to it all, I'm tired just reading ;-)
    Am absolutely sure you won't miss Facebook at all, I think it's one of those things that once it's gone you wonder why you bothered!!
    Just wanted to thank you for your supportive email a while back - our son has been flexi schooling while hubby and I scrabbled about changing hours at work etc, and his last day at school is Friday. Home Ed here we come!!!!!! I'm so excited. Thanks again

  12. love seeing your pictures and hearing about how things are going, trying to get inspired to do more with our big garden, can sense ducks might happen here one day . . . .
    love to you all xx