Smallholder's Diary October 12 2009

THE pigs have just about reached their finishing weight and preparations are being made for their journey to the abattoir. There are certain requirements we need to carry out prior to transporting them. Firstly we need to clean out and disinfect our trail

THE pigs have just about reached their finishing weight and preparations are being made for their journey to the abattoir. There are certain requirements we need to carry out prior to transporting them. Firstly we need to clean out and disinfect our trailer, secondly, and the bit we are both a little apprehensive about, as not having done it before, the pigs need to be either ear tagged or slap marked with our 'herd number' prior to going to the abattoir. In this instance we decided to go for the slap mark which in effect will involve tattooing the pigs on both their front shoulders. This involves using a slap marker which is a metal rod at the end of which is a series of needles identifying our unique herd number; this will be stamped in to an ink pad before slapping both pigs twice each. Finally we need to ensure all the appropriate paperwork is completed and in order for there arrival at the abattoir.

The Light Sussex hens are now around 21 weeks old and we are expecting them to start laying eggs at any time now. The cockerels have clearly put on weight and we will be looking to dispatch some of them next week.

The Welsummer chicks are now 11 weeks old and doing very well. It appears at this stage that we have three cockerels and five hens. The one thing that is very noticeable about them is their striking colours which include several shades of brown and orange.

Although the weather just recently has been fantastic and could be described as an 'Indian summer', it has certainly had an effect on the vegetable plot as there has been a lack of water. Added together with the continuing onslaught from the White Cabbage Butterfly and their caterpillars, the plot is definitely looking a little bare in places. However, having said that the plot has provided us with a good supply of vegetables throughout the spring and summer, to the extent that we have an abundance of jams, chutney and relish.


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We are now turning our attention towards planting over wintering crops like onion sets, broad beans, peas and several types of brassicas and salad crops.

The polytunnel continues to produce salad crops in plentiful supply, although the recent chill at night is definitely starting to have an effect. In particular the sweet peppers and various types of chilli have done particularly well and continue to produce fruit. We have experimented in the polytunnel by planting some late carrot, beetroot and spring/summer cabbage to see how they will progress, and have planted a left over seed potato to see if we can get some new potatoes at Christmas.

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There is plenty to do in the garden now which will undoubtedly keep us busy for the next few weeks and holding our breath for more rain.

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