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Brambles, brambles, brambles

bramble invasion

We have spent a lot of the summer dealing with brambles.  Our hen run was overgrown with them in places and large areas near the house are, well, just overgrown with the prickly monsters.

We decided to act.

We started on the stone dyke bordering the hen run.  It was completely covered in a mix of honeysuckle and brambles.  It took weeks to clear that.  Then the area behind the lambing shed was also bramble heaven.  Lambs can get caught up in brambles and get trapped.  So Nicole spent days digging them out.

Bramble free zone
Bramble free zone

And the other side of the hen run stone dyke was also overrun.  Nicole heroically cleared this area.

But still they come; and come; and come.  It can be hard to get the roots out, so you have to go back and keep cutting them back.  We turned our backs for a seconds and they were invading the lambing shed!

I reckon we’ll be clearing brambles for years to come!

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Getting out more

Clatteringshaws Loch from Benniguinea

We live in a beautiful part of the world (windfarms notwithstanding – don’t get me started), but in the year and a half we have lived here, we have yet to explore any of it.  So, as part of our scaling back, we promised ourselves that we’d make the effort to get out more.

Our first trip was to nearby Clatteringshaws.  Clatteringshaws has a dam (hydro electric, a loch, walks and a visitor centre.  It’s home to one of two Bruce’s stones sited in Galloway. I found a walk there listed on www.walkhighlands.co.uk and printed out instructions.  The dogs were ecstatic – new smells and new places to explore.  We walked up the hill  Benniguinea) through the forest following the instructions.  Of course, we missed our turn and walked all the way to the top!  But it was worth it for the views.

Cleaning HariboWe found the turn off on the way back down and it was a lovely wee path through a mix of broad-leaf and pine forest.  Of course, Haribo found the smelliest fox scat in the area and proceeded to roll in it.  He managed to get it right under the collar and all over his neck.  Cue impromptu bath in a nearby ditch.  Boy, I cannot begin to describe how smelly that was!

Talking of Haribo, he really has chilled out lately.  He came to us with many problems but, aside from a bit of fear aggression, he’s a happy dog now.

Anyway, we had brought a picnic and came down to the loch and found a nice wee beach just down from the visitor centre.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tea and sandwiches.  A day out is definitely a great tonic.  We have, since, also located excellent walks down on the coast between Kippford and Rockcliffe.  These are helped hugely by the excellent we cafe in Rockcliffe.

Clatteringshaws Loch
Clatteringshaws Loch
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It’s been a while

Blogs are a blessing but also a bind sometimes.  The need to add updates sort of nags away at the back of one’s mind.  That said, I haven’t paid much attention to that inner voice having not posted anything all summer.  How did that happen – well, one day at a time!

Anyway, here’s a bit of an update.  I’ll add some more detailed stories shortly.

As you can imagine, the summer months were as busy as ever.  Looking after cows, sheep, dogs and hens as well as each other takes a fair amount of time.  Then there’s maintaining 27 acres of mixed woodland, keeping the house sorted, the gardens, the veggie patch – the list of jobs never seems to get any smaller!

gypsy caravan - front
needing attention

So, what have we been up to.  Well, the hot summer months early on provided an excellent opportunity to refurbish the gypsy caravan.  It had suffered somewhat from last year’s long wet summer and then the harsh winter.  Paint was flaking off, the canvas was tearing – it needed attention. Desperately.

gypsy caravan restored
gypsy caravan restored

So, between us, we got to work.  I mainly did the outside.  Nicole sorted out the inside.  And over a period of weeks, we transformed it.  We still have some artwork to add, but the weather closed in so we’ll do that next spring.  I’ll add a more detailed account of this in another post.

chicken and chickLast year, one of our hens produced 13 chickens.  Four of these are females and this year all four of them took it upon themselves to go broody.  Between them, they managed a grand total of one chick.  Pipette, as we called her, has now grown up into a lovely hen.  We are looking forward to her starting laying soon.

The others, well one sat on two eggs all summer before giving up.  Another sat on a golf ball and the fourth lay her eggs under a bush and then abandoned them.  We’re not quite sure what happened, but our cockerel was getting on a bit and he was also their father.  Inbreeding can be quite a problem.  As chance would have it, one of our neighbours had a lonely cockerel (his entourage of hens having been killed by his ex’s new dog), so we took him on as a replacement.

Given we were being run ragged, we had a discussion in the summer and decided to scale back.  As a result, we have sold our cows to a lovely farm just west of Kilmarnock.  The new owners make amazing chocolate, so we’ll be keeping in touch with them.  We also sold our tups (we’re having some time off lambing and also, they are related to too many of our ewes).  They went to a lovely smallholding just outside Peebles.

Talking of lambing, we did well with our lambs this year, 18 in total (10 girls and 8 boys).  We have sold 4 lambs and two gimmers (also to the farm near Kilmarnock) so we still have plenty of sheep.  The 8 boys were castrated and that has made life much easier as we don’t have to separate them.

Other than that, we upgraded the sheep field shelter with a water system (gutters,  drainpipes and a trough).  We had problems with one of our tanks leaking so this gives extra water security.  Digressing, we had to hump a lot of water up during the hot spell – pumping out of the river into a 600 litre bowser and towing it into the fields.  Then the cows drank copious amounts, so it was an ongoing job!  Back on the shelter, we also added a lot of slabs as it can get a bit muddy at times.

Our veggie patch has been a success producing turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, beetroot, courgettes, kale and brussel sprouts galore.  We did have to remove a lot of caterpillars, otherwise it might have been a different story.  The leeks are coming on nicely too.

Nicole has been doing a lot of gardening and is slowly getting things the way she wants them.  She has ordered a batch of roses to go into new flower beds.  Also, the small flower meadow continued to flower right up till a few days ago.

And, of course, with winter approaching we are having to turn the heating on.  It’s powered mainly by wood, so that means much chopping – we get through a lot of wood!

wood pile and George