July update

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Mo and her first egg!

There are plenty signs that Winter is drawing to an early close. We have had a very, very mild Winter with only a handful of proper frosty mornings. The days have been brilliant and warm with abundant sunshine. We have had very few of those mornings where you don’t want to get out of bed until 10am because it is still below 0C! The downside of this is that the frost usually kills off flies, ticks and other pests which we have had to contend with throughout most of Winter. In Summer, we will have to be extra careful, especially with biliary-causing ticks in the long grass, posing a potentially life threatening danger to the dogs and livestock. We are already seeing buds and blossoms on the fruit trees!

If you follow our Facebook page, you would have seen our latest addition to the Bramleigh family – Elliot! He is our rainbow after the storm following the loss of Oskar in April. He has filled us with so much joy and happiness again! He is so different to Oskar so we can carry both in deep love in our hearts. Our older dog, Sheeba, and our cat still have to get used to Elliot! He was born by Andre’s mom’s dogs, a beautiful German Shepherd and a Belgian Shepherd.

We also added new hens to our flock… you can read our post here

We are also very excited to welcome our first WWOOF volunteer in mid-August! An extra set of hands will be very welcome on the farm!

Our Market Garden:

The area dedicated to our market garden has been tilled and watered. Plastic sheeting is then laid on top of this creating ideal conditions for germination… of weeds! Because of the sheeting, the weeds are consequently smothered as they try to reach the light, die and decay into the soil so no plant matter is wasted. The theory is that when we pick up the plastic at the beginning of spring, any seeds lying dormant in the soil would have germinated so one can plant without unwanted competition.

The chickens and geese have finally gone mobile! Andre spent many hours converting the sweet little doll house of a chicken coop into a mobile coop. With the help of poultry netting, the chickens are now moved around every couple of days. The quad bike pulls the mobile coop (usually while the chickens are still roosting) and they wake up to a new neighbourhood. The geese too. Except that they are easier to herd with a few handfuls of corn! The geese and chickens each have their own fenced in area where they have a job to do. The geese, being grazers, eat the grass shoots and in turn fertilise the ground ready for more grass to grow. The chickens come in a couple days after the geese to eat insects and larvae that may have hatched in such fertile conditions. Both help with trampling the grass so that that which is not eaten, becomes compost. The chickens also have a role to play in preparing the soil for growing. They will eat insects, fertilise and scarify (a cool new word we learnt recently – to separate, break up and loosen the soil, not related to scar) as they go.

The geese are entering breeding season now at the beginning of Spring so they are wanting to make their own rules at the moment! Territory wars between males have caused the geese to ‘fly the net’ (yes, the poultry net!) but this will surely settle once the females have begun to lay. Trying anything new is not without its challenges! No matter how much time and research go into the planning stage, these are animals, living creatures with their own instincts and needs. We have to respect that and be sensitive to their needs. One of the poor males has been kicked out of the gaggle and now follows us or Thulas around, and if not, he honks trying to locate the others all day and night!

We are now eagerly awaiting the arrival of goats who will assist with grazing and browsing the overgrown shrubs in the paddocks. Again the chickens will be moved behind the goats to make the most of any insect life in the area. This provides a natural, rich and appropriate diet for both animals. Hopefully the proof will be in their milk and egg production!IMG_6270

We are also looking into getting a Jersey milk cow who will provide enough milk for us, our staff and the guesthouse. We have enjoyed our yoghurt making each week with fresh raw milk from the dairy next door and hope to expand this into butter and cheese making too. There is nothing like using ‘homegrown’ milk though! Jersey cows also have a higher fat content in their milk which makes it ideal for creamy butter and cheese.

Perhaps one step at a time is the wisest here – let’s get used to the goats first! It is too tempting to want everything all at once resulting in a very steep learning curve – which is potentially detrimental. We have had to learn that we need to remember to take it slow and get used to each new addition before the next.

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