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Garden Smallholding Blog

Blogging about growing fruit, vegetables and herbs and keeping chickens and ducks.

Our Chickens Have Red Mite Again

Posted by: admin

Tagged in: Chickens

Yup, they have it again. They have had it before, the last time was last year at the hottest point in the summer. At first, one of the birds seemed unwell - slightly listless, and then very shortly afterwards died. This obviously caught us completely off guard and we started doing some homework.
We quickly gathered that the probable cause was red mite - I have set up a definition article for this on the site now to give you an outline of exactly what these little parasites are.
In a nutshell, they are a very resillient small insect that breeds like wildfire. The live in the nooks and crannies of the henhouse, emerging at night to feed on the blood of the chickens. They are grey in colour until they have fed, then they enlarge and take on the red colour - obviously, this is where they are pumped up on blood.
A healthy chicken can die within three to four days once these mites set upon them, so it is important to catch them quick.

Our problem last year was that we were caught completely off guard. Once we were aware of the problem, we set about cleaning out the hen house, at the time we had a second hand wooden job that had seemed fit for purpose. We emptied it and scrubbed it clean with Jeyes Fluid. Once dry, we dusted it out with Red "Exter" Mite powder which is non-chemical. It is a very fine powder that consists of Diatomaceous Earth and works by attaching itself to the mites electrostatically causing them to die. The blurb reads:

"Controls insects by physical means, not chemical. It will be picked up on the red mite exoskeleton by static electricity, and through cuts and abrasion into the cuticle, the red mite no longer retains moisture and therefore dies"

This approach brought short-term relief only, and on pulling a few parts of the wooden hen house off, realised that it was absolutely riddled with them, and that were in every possible gap, and were fighting a losing battle.

Our next move was to purchase a plastic tool store box - an image is shown below;

We figured that a plastic unit with cleaner lines etc would be far easier to clean - we could just jet off the mites with a garden hose with a spray attachment. It would be easier to dust etc also. We put a roost in it and made a plastic nest box from a cereal store that sat on the floor.

We then set about burning the old hen house - it was terrible. We got covered in the mites - they got absolutely everywhere - clothes, hair etc. The burning was a very liberating experience! In this case, revenge was a dish best served hot!

Since this point, the mites have not been a problem, until this weekend......

They are back with a vengence.

We have applied the same drill as we did with the old hen house, we have washed it out, and dusted. We have detail cleaned the perch with Jeyes, and applied Vaseline to either end of it where it meets the house - this stops a lot of the mites crawling out of the gaps and onto the perch to get to the hens of a night. Unfortunately, this action was not enough to save one of our hens which died this evening.

The clean up will have to be an ongoing procedure, but these mites are absolutely everywhere, and the worrying thing is there is a small log outdoors in the chicken enclosure and when we turned it over, there were mites under there also. We have got our work cut out. 

Blueberry Bushes and Fruit Picking

Posted by: admin

Sunday evening, and it has been another really hot and sunny day. The weekend weather has been glorious again - Monday to Friday workers couldn't have asked for more.

One of the blueberry bushes in the greenhouse is only small, but has yielded loads of berries.... I haven't a clue as to what variety it is. They taste great too! Have a look at the image below. I don't really think it does the bush justice. 

Blueberry bush in our greenhouse

I have been picking some blueberry and raspberries on both days this weekend - have a look at the two bowls - one from Saturday and one from Sunday. There are loads more raspberries to come, and a fair few blueberries remaining.

Freshly picked blueberries and raspberries  Freshly picked blueberries and raspberries 

They taste great! My 4 year old daughter ate two helpings of raspberries with cream this evening!

Fruit Frenzy

Posted by: admin

Tagged in: Raspberries Red

Have been incredibly busy over the last couple of days, so have not had an opportunity to post. This post is being hurriedly typed by somebody who should minimise the window and get back to some work! 

Again, South East Kent is basking in this fantastic hot and sunny weather.
Fortunately for the garden, on Thursday night we had a huge thunderstorm - the like of which I have never experienced in the UK, with torrential rain. Everything was nicely soaked, so that has only left me needing to water in the greenhouse and polytunnel.

Because of the sun, and the fact that I have kept everything well watered, all of the fruit and veg are growing like crazy. The fruit yield is pretty good this year and my beloved raspberries will not disappoint. I took some up close pictures of them - see below.

 Ripe and unripe raspberries  Ripe and unripe raspberries


And Yet Another Beautiful Day!

Posted by: admin

Tagged in: Tomato , Raspberries Red , Goji , Birds ,  Gooseberry

The sun has shone all day in South East Kent, and my soft fruits are generally doing fantastically.
My wife tided and tied up the raspberries as they were getting completely out of control, and then put netting over them. This will keep the many birds from stealing them. Fortunately, until now they have been pretty distracted by the two cherry trees that we have in our garden, and seem intent on pinching the unripe fruit from them. Since the first few raspberries ripened at the start of the week, the number ready for picking has steadily increased daily and I may have to stick a 'pick your own sign' up outside my house! I will upload some images soon.

A couple of soft fruit additions to my garden this season do not seem to be faring so well - namely the pink gooseberries and the goji berries. I was given them in April as a birthday present by my mother-in-law (more about her later!), and left it until earlier this month to plant them. Disgustingly lazy, and ungrateful, I know. They went into the ground in a mix of the local soil and my compost.  Maybe I am worrying unecessarily, the Goji should be extremely hardy and thrive on neglect, but neither plant looks as healthy as I would like. I will just have to keep a close eye on them and will post progress on here.

My wife also planted some cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse today - we already have a lots of different varieties going on in the polytunnel that were planted a couple of months ago, but the ones today she originally planted weeks ago from seed in a tray as a last minute bit of amusement, and they have grown like mad. They have been planted in a mix of the local soil, manure from the mother-in-laws and some of my compost. Looks like we are going to be able to supply the local greengrocer if yields per plant are anything like last years.

I know I said I would mention the blackcurrants today, but have run short of time, so will mention those tomorrow. 

I said I would say about my mother-in-law - fantastic lady, has a smallholding about half a mile down the road, and she has been the inspiration for a lot of what we have planted in our garden. She is often very experimental with the things that she grows.
She also has lots of experience with livestock - has kept sheep, pigs, ducks, and chickens amongst other things.
Her rocket simply blows your head off with a hardcore pepper sensation!
I must persuade her to blog on here and share her experiences - it would be a valuable resource.

Right, off to water everything again from the water butts, will report back soon.


Another Beautiful Day!

Posted by: admin

This is my first blog post on my new site. I hope that it will be the first of many, but I purchased the domain almost 2 years ago and have simply not had the time to do anything with it until now. Hopefully if people stumble across it, they can either benefit from some of my experiences, or simply find it of interest enough to spur them on to do similar things. I am sure many veteran grow your own bods will probably find this to be an amusing read!

It is a mild, still evening here in Kent. It has been gloriously sunny and dry. I have just been in the garden and watered my fruit and veg as there has been precious little rainfall recently.
Fortunately, my water butts are still pretty full and I have not had to resort to the use of a hosepipe as many people have. It is a pretty good feeling to have plenty of rainwater in reserve and to fill the watering can up and potter around watering directly onto the base of the said fruit and veg. I am not entirely trusting of using mains water on my fruit and veg, it is usually a last resort in our garden.

My blueberries in the greenhouse are almost done - I have kept them in pots and mixed shop bought ericaceous compost with my own compost from my compost bins - maybe 30% shop bought and 70% my own stuff. They have then been topped off with a thin layer of bark chippings to keep the moisture in and to inhibit weed growth. Weed growth appears to be an unfortunate by-product of using my own compost, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks by a huge margin. I have 5 bushes, 3 of one variety, 2 of another. The general idea is that they all yield fruit at different times in the summer, but as I have stuck them in the greenhouse, they have all produced at roughly the same time, give or take a week. I have had loads from them! Far more berries than my family have had by growing them outdoors. I have really enjoyed going out to the greenhouse just as the sun is rising and grazing straight from the bushes for breakfast. The difference in the berry taste between the varieties is striking. I wish I had kept the names of the particular varieties! I will just have to call them all Blueberry Anonymous! The oversupply has ended up being washed, dried and bagged, and placed in the freezer.
The only fly in the ointment, or should I say, bug in the greenhouse is pesky little green caterpillars. (If I remember to, I will take some pictures of the little blighters, and their destructive handywork!). The have a real taste for the blueberries, as they did for my raspberries last year. they are about half an inch long (12mm approx), bright green, and make little homes for themselves by sticking two or more leaves together right next to a cluster of blueberries. When you pull the leaves apart, they emerge at a rate of knots and fling themselves off the leaves and attempt a dash for freedom. I have spent ages picking through my blueberry bushes and squishing them, keeping any part eaten berries for seed. I will NOT use chemicals to nail them. This simply goes against what I am hoping to achieve.

I am now drooling at the prospect of my raspberries being ready. They are planted outdoors in the borders, I have only a couple of the same variety in the greenhouse and they are almost done also, but the the ones in the borders have just a few days to go. I have picked through and found the odd ripe one. I am going to have hundreds! I cannot wait, and neither can one of my daughters, who is more ravenous than the caterpillars that I have just been moaning about.

 I will blog some more tomorrow about the blackcurrants that are just about ready. Things will be really busy for me in the garden over the next couple of days.

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