So. It turns out that starting a blog is a bit like starting a smallholding. Ridiculously appealing yet unbelievably daunting, all at the same time. You see, I like the romance of the idea. How fabulous would it be to grow your own food? To go out into the garden and pick a few vegetables and collect the eggs to make a lunch. To go to the freezer and take out some of our own homegrown meat for the dinner. And surely, blogging about it would be great too? Who isn’t going to want to read about my adventures and see the carefully posed photographs of my Instagram ready patch of heaven? All I have to do is start. Seeds want to sprout. Plants want to grow. Hens want to lay. How hard can it really be?
Yes, the seeds want to sprout and absolutely the plants want to grow. But so too do the weeds. And boy do they grow. If I could figure out a use for docks and thistles, I would be made up. If I could figure out how to eat them, my food bill would be cut in half. Instead I fight what seems like a losing battle. I clear one patch, turn my back for all of two seconds and they have choked everything in sight. They march relentlessly on like an invading army. I may need a secret weapon. A goat. Himself is unconvinced. We tried goats before. A nightmare. We rushed headlong in and didn’t think it through. I lived in fear of the neighbours call to say that my little escape artists had gotten into their flower bed or eaten their washing off of the line. But I am nothing if not optimistic. My raspberries are doing well after all. If only I could get to them through the thistle jungle.
We have bees. I would not say I am a beekeeper. The bees sort of keep themselves. The local beekeepers roll their eyes and shake their heads despairingly when they see me coming. What do you mean you haven’t put any supers on yet? What do you mean you haven’t checked for queen cells? How could you let them swarm and not catch them? I am a terrible beekeeper. I need to be more organised and check them more regularly and then maybe we’d get more than the odd frame of honey.
As for the hens. The hens indeed wanted to lay and I miss the eggs but they were sporadic and sometimes soft-shelled with the occasional egg missing a shell altogether. They used to come running in search of grubs whenever I was digging up a bit of dirt. Occasionally, they mistook my toes as grubs. God loves a trier. Old age and Mr. Fox eventually dispatched our first flock. Naturally the fox left the cock for ages to crow outside our bedroom window. He wandered around lonely as a cloud that floats on high…. Eventually Mr. Fox took him as well. To get more hens or not, that is indeed the question.
We launched head first into another plan and with no thought to housing or pens. We got ducks for meat. Mr. Fox was incredibly grateful. So we built a pen. We gave them water and they gave us entertainment. They waddled along investigating everything. On Saturday mornings they gathered outside the window and cocked their heads to listen to the classical music I played on the radio. When the concert finished they resumed their hunt for food. How could I possibly wring their necks? They started to lay eggs. They were more reliable than the hens so I justified keeping them for laying and got other ducks for meat. Mr. Fox came a-calling. The ducks stopped laying. Time to get focused I decided. I named them Crispy Nos. 1-6. The ducks got focused and started laying again. Two even started sitting. How exciting. Ducklings surely must be on the way. But no. Only rotten eggs. But I think I know where we went wrong and I’ll be ready for the next sitting. The ducks have stopped laying again.
Anybody else seeing a pattern developing here? I need an overall strategy for my smallholding efforts. I need to be able to pull back and think things through. To start in one little corner and when I get that right to expand. I need to file my ideas and plans away somewhere and pull them out when the time is right for them in order to have any hope of success. Because Mr. Fox is anxiously awaiting my next harebrained scheme, I need a plan. But more than that, I need a cup of coffee.