We have committed to doing smallholding properly- really learning about the animal’s needs and best care, and learning to do jobs on our own, rather than buy in specialists. And that takes time. Industrial tracts of time. But one thing I have found- and I hope the kids get this- is that making, repairing and doing things with your hands is healing. It soothes. You feel good when you come in from the land.
The smallholding kind of tells you what job needs doing- and when. For instance, the chickens started getting into next doors garden, which is bad news for her manicured lawn, because they poo everywhere and some of their poo’s are as big as the eggs they aren’t laying yet. Our dog Moby was also getting out, and he has no road sense. In fact were pretty sure he had a near death experience, because a passing pedestrian told us he was outside the gate, barking like a nutter, and now he cringes around the roadside with little eyes, which mean he’s guilty or scared.
So we had to fence the winter thinned hedge. In the summer it was a thick lush barrier, but now it is 70% gaps. Fencing costs a bomb, even second hand, but we got a bargain from this old guy who was selling some semi rotten panels on behalf of his son (which is a bit strange and complex, come to think about it) Anyway we got them cheap, and I had to borrow his trailer to get them home. Then he sold me his trailer and we got another real bargain.
We had to wedge the fence panels in the hedge trees, and for now its held up my garden poles and part of the new barrier is made up of bits of old shelving and even an old sand tray, which looks rubbish and makes me dribble. It looks like some hillbillies built it after an atomic incident. But we have decided it has to hold until we can do it properly, to the standard of the main boundary fence and gate. It does the job. And our free range chickens are contained.
Let me tell you, chickens are amazing. Some of my best friends are chickens. We have three sub colonies- Audrey the Light Sussex mother hen and her 17 mixed breed hooligans, then Mrs Puff, Patchy and Sandy the three Warren hybrids, and then the three surviving hand reared hybrids- Custard the Sussex Ranger (a known psycho), and RePecca and Lollipop the…whatever they are. Brown theme. Nervous. These latter three have a shallow gene pool, if you ask me. But we love them.
Audrey’s brood have become pretty big- and its time to split them. There also appear to be few cockerels amongst them, but we aren’t quite sure who is who, as nobody is crowing yet, and they’re all naturally big as well, because they have Brahma blood in them. We just bought them a new coop, that arrived via our trailer last week. We will sex them when the identifying tags (I somehow bought from China on Ebay) arrive. Probably on my 50th birthday. We will be giving our cockerels away for free, so contact me if you want ’em.
Things are slowly falling into place- sometimes too slow, but tangible nonetheless. As we adapt, and read the signs. We have a freedom to innovate and solve problems our way; the land is ours and its a canvas we can paint on without fear. We don’t have a boss to impress; we aren’t creating a product; there’s no time pressure.
And its nice to plan, to slowly assemble the bits we need to address a new job- like we have to MOT the sheep soon. It has suddenly become the right time, because two of them are tame enough to hand feed and they follow us and call to us now in the mornings and evenings. We need to check their teeth, their hooves, and their bottoms for problems and disease, and damage from too much poo getting caught around the bum area. Naturally, I can’t wait for that job.
We have bought the foot trimming tools, and the foot spray. Now we just need a day with three adults so we can corral them, and one of us wrestle them into this strange sitting position where they go limp and let it happen.