Wednesday, 19 October 2016


It's hard to believe we are only just embarking on our 8th year here at The Larches. We've learned so much, forgotten so much. In my 50th year I have noticed that there is only so much storage capacity in my noggin. Sometimes, when I learn something new, something old falls out the back... I wish I was more like my phone; when that gets close to being filled with gorgeous pictures of the sproglets, alpaca, lamb or plant, I add a SD card and all is well.

Shrimp 2014
We've just sold our 2016 lambs at market. Raised solely on our natural grass paddocks and their mums' milk, we were commended on their health and size and were rewarded with a very good price. Possibly the top price for lambs at that market. #Chuffed. We seem to specialise in making small things bigger; lambs, alpaca, plants. Shrimp, born two years ago, is now indistinguishable from my other sheep and she will go to the tup this year and have lambs of her own next year. Similarly Cleopatra lamb is well on her way to catching up her peers, and yet, earlier this year, she was sharing a bean bag with the cats, her nappy on, in the sitting room!
Cleopatra 2015
I'm not as gullible as I used to be, more's the pity. When I first started to keep hens, I was surprised to find a tiny egg one morning and when I next saw a neighbour I showed him.
"Lord!" he said. "That's very rare." He looked at me dead on.
"That's a Rooster egg." he said. I looked from he to it and it to he. He had me for approx 6 seconds, but he had me.

We had a Rooster Egg this week again, though I suspect that one of my hens, who has been looking worse for wear, lacking feathers and generally not looking her best, is finally out of moult!

2p, Rooster Egg, Standard Egg.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Lambing on the couch.

Last night was my 8th on the couch in the sitting room. The couch is fine, though I could do with it being about 2ft longer, so as I don't have to poke my legs off the side/stick them up on the arms/curl them foetal-style.  The benefits of being on the couch far outweigh the negatives; I can cough, blow my nose, [flu while lambing, of course] stoke the fire, make coffee, watch the cctv for signs of lambing in the barn and watch tv: multitasking, all without disturbing the rest of the family.

The lambs are appearing slowly and the latest arrivals are triplet girls. The first lamb arrived naturally and was so tiny I feared I may have to rear her myself, but Cocoa instantly mothered her. Next lamb was taking too long to appear so I helped a little and she was a good size. Finally Cocoa, tired from licking and loving her two new daughters, lay down to try to deliver the last lamb. This lamb was enormous and seemed to be stuck halfway, coming out Superman style. It took a fair bit of pulling by me before the lamb was free in a great whoosh of fluids. All lambs seem to be thriving and as I have no suitable foster mums at the moment, I may leave Cocoa to raise all three and supplement the tiny one with some extra feeds.

There were no new arrivals last night, giving me a chance to catch up on some sleep. When I'm not sleeping my choice of tv through the night is almost exclusively food related. Greedy guts. Loving the Hairy Bikers Bakeation and I've discovered a wonderful programme called Destination Flavour: Japan with chef Adam Liaw, explaining Japanese cuisine. So interesting, love learning about new techniques and flavours.

It's 6am now and the sun, though not warm, is sending a lovely glow to the land. I'm off to check the barn and the sheep and feed the alpaca girls in the fields. Happy Easter all, enjoy your chocolate!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cheating at Gardening: Free Plants

At the end of January I decided it was time to get gardening again. I sowed a few seeds and a few more and a few more. My greenhouse is too cold still for seedlings so I have used any space in the kitchen, utility room and hallways and I have a feeling the family will shortly need to check into a hotel.....

In February I foolishly popped into a well known garden centre  for 'just a look' and left clutching some gorgeous fuchsia plug plants and a couple of clematis. These plants are doing splendidly and so today I have decided to tripple my investment. The 8 annual fuchsia have become 24 and the 2 clematis have become 8. Obviously I took cuttings. I'm no Monty, but I'm pretty sure I followed advice given on the web and am hopeful that my new babies will thrive. [Even if I can't spell Fushcia/Fuscia on their labels!!!]

Having taken cuttings from these plants, I fed them well with Lou's Poo plant tea and the clematis were repotted to larger pots with a good layer of Lou's Poo Beans at their roots.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Winter: So last season

I cannot claim that this winter has been the first one to challenge me at The Larches. Our first winter, where we were snowed in for almost 6 weeks, in a house with whistly windows, rats in the attic and open fires that seemed to give out no heat, was interesting. This winter has been very mild in Shropshire, no, strike that, it has been unnaturally warm. Without experiencing a warm winter, had I been offered one in previous years, I would have jumped at the chance. In future I will decline any such stupid offer in preference for a proper winter with cold, less rain and a smattering of snow to put my fruit trees to sleep! This winter, the warm has created rains, after rains, after rains. There had better not be talk of drought mid summer. #Justsaying.

My general rule about blogging at The Archers At The Larches is not to be moany. There is generally an upside to everything if you look hard enough but since the 12 December, when Hubby had a fall on the land, my father fell ill, my mother in law too, felt rather frailer than usual and the rain drenched the land over and over, I began to have a sense of humour failure and therefore retreated from the blog for your safety Dear Reader.

Anyhoo, life goes on; Hubby is all better, MIL is improving and we hope that Dad is mending, escaped from hospital. Word is, the weather is set to improve, (bloody good job, as it couldn't get worse than the beginning of this week, up here 1000ft above sea level!) ..

Fortunately my sheep and the alpaca have been looked after well and their tummies are swelling with the promise of new life. Lambing starts here in 10 days and though this is a nervous time, being my third solo year, it is also an optimistic time. We have help close by, with a very supportive farmer friend and the services of a good vet. I also have a very competent 13yo, who is resourceful and observant and a caring, keen 11yo and Hubby, of course, who is the bringer of calm, technical know-how, (close curcuit TV in the barn is now available on my iPad so I can check on progress from beside the fire) and he is Chief of Staff while I am asleep.

Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Fertiliser continues to thrive, with new retailers supporting the product up and down the country. We have reports of it being used to grow fantastic chillis, magnificent tomatoes and saving citrus trees from near death, as well as nourishing every other plant it's added to. We are delighted that influencial gardeners and growers love the product and we look forward to taking Lou's Poo to Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court this year, sponsored by a Gold Medal winner. More on this story to follow in the next blogs......   

My seedlings give me great comfort that spring is indeed on its way. Ammi majus, Scarlet geranium, Cactus and standard Dahlia of every color, lobelia, convovulus, cup and saucer vine all vie for space in my warmer environments, while outside in the walled garden, pots of sweet pea, allium, fennel, sweet rocket, strawberry and much much more are begining to show signs of spring growth. I believe in growing things hard and when potting on, I always add a few Lou's Poo Beans to the compost mix. The Beans add drainage and are a great source of slow release NPK.

Well, it's just after 7am and time to feed the animals, I'll post again soon.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon