Little Grey Fergie

2016 little grey fergie

“Dunk, there’s an auction over in Newark – they’re selling off loads of old tractors.” Suz taunted me with. We really probably don’t have quite enough land to warrant a tractor, something like a sit-on mower that could two would be more appropriate.

“Aye, I’ve seen it, but they’re all reasonably new – and they’re not a  little grey Fergie – something with a bit of character and as simple as a mule.” I responded.

Twenty minutes passed, I sat at the PC above the garage and an email landed in my inbox, from Suz who was sat at her desk pulling a late one in the house. It was an advert for a little grey Fergie, a TE D20 to be precise – the D denoting not diesel as one would imagine, but a petrol/evaporating oil combo engine. The price was good, and it was local. Suz was taunting me, but I wasn’t going to bite.

I locked up and entered the house. “So, do we own a tractor then?” queried Suz. “Eh?” I exclaimed. “I thought you were just joshing!”

That said, I questioned no more, and first thing in the morning called the number in the ad. A young lad answered, and later that morning I’d whizzed over to meet the little grey Fergi, sat at a Fergi specialist workshop. It had been rescued from a greenhouse where it had been sat for ten years, with another. The other had been broken for parts, but the young lad had convinced the owner of the workshop that this one would run, and sure enough so she does! A bit of bartering, and a flatbed trip to Merrybower thrown in, and the deal was done. So we’re now the proud owners of a 1951 little grey Fergi, sounds reasonably good, the PTO and hydraulics work, though someone has welded up the adjustable arm at the back. She needs a coat of paint at some stage, but we’ll start with cleaning and replacing engine bits before we even start to think along those lines. First and foremost she’ll be used to cart stuff to and from the orchard, manure from outside Merrybower, apples to the house, maybe even a spot of ploughing of the hay meadow, Can’t wait! I expect when you own something like this you’ll find uses for it! Needless to say though, I’m dead chuffed!

Cider No.2 – Sydney Camm’s Marvel Machine

2016 cider sydney camm's marvel machineSydney Camm’s Marvel Machine is a popular phrase amongst a group of friends sharing a passion for flighty things (not the poultry type) and has always been a name chosen to adourn a cider. This cider, our second ‘mix’, is a little bit thought out, in that I know two of the varieties for sure! It’s approximately one third Dabinet cider apples, one third Rosemary Russets and one third a random cooker scrumped from Farmer John next door. You can see what it used to look like back in December, here.

As it used late varieties, in started to ferment, and then went dormant over winter, which is what I’ve been looking for. Come April it sprang back into life again and continued with a slow ferment. Still going this week with a bubble every twelve minutes or so from the airlock, I decided to measure the SG, which came out at around 1.000 – a bit above total dry. Bottling now is safe, but I don’t have the experience to know if there’s enough SG left to create a natural carbonation in the bottle – we’ll soon see, unless we drink it all before that happens! It did taste fuller bodied though, and a touch sweeter, but still very much a dry cider. This is the second time a Dabinet-based cider has overwintered, so this coming season I’ll make another version of Sydney Camm’s Marvel Machine, but replace the unknown cooker with a known variety, and bottle it with a slightly higher SG to ensure in-bottle carbonation.


Marsh Daisy Eggs

2016 marsh daisy eggsWe’ve been thinking of adding another breed to our chickens here at Merrybower, and flicking through a borrowed poultry magazine I stumbled across the name Marsh Daisy. It sounded pleasing, so I read the article, and discovered this breed was on the endangered list. Originally from Lancashire – not a million miles from Derbyshire – it had similar qualities to the Derbyshire Redcap. Namely, a rose comb, flighty and a good forager. They were, according to the article, easier to tame than a Redcap, which made it sound a bit easier.

I mentioned it to Rob over a cuppa one morning, and he’d been looking to possibly replace the bantam Brown Leghorns with something, so between us we decided to have a bash at helping an old breed out. So where to find some Marsh Daisy eggs?! Using the ubiquitous internet I tracked down the Marsh Daisy Breeders Group and spoke to Sharon who runs it. A trip to Wales a couple of months later and Sharon had fifteen precious eggs ready for us, which was fantastic, and after admiring their setup I hastened back with my eggy cargo, and six pints of fresh milk from their new cow! Delicious!

One for Me, One for You, One for Me…

It was like choosing sides for a playground footy match – Rob and I chose the best twelve Marsh Daisy eggs, six each, and then we split the last three between us (my egg equivalent in the footy picking terms). There were also a couple of odd white eggs that one of Sharon’s Marsh Daisies had popped out, so again we placed one of those in each of our piles. Today Rob placed his under a broody bantam, whereas here we’ve gone the incubator route, as it’s a good excuse to fill the incubator with more Light Sussex eggs. Fingers crossed!

Light Sussex Chicks

Light Sussex Chicks at Three Weeks

Light Sussex ChicksI can’t believe we’re already at the end of the first three weeks the Light Sussex chicks have been with us – they grow up so fast! Over the course of the first few weeks, everything about the chicks gets bigger – the noise, their appetites, and their daily pile of brown gifts left in haphazard piles on the wood chippings. Ah yes, and the smell also grows bigger – when you wake up to the not-so-fresh odour of chick poop, it’s probably about time they moved to the garage. Today was that morning – no amount of coffee could unplug my nostrils – so for the first time ever the chicks were lifted out of the house and on to grass. I love that feeling – showing them the world for the first time, knowing that it just gets better hereon. The weather was warm and we borrowed the rabbit run for them to play in for a couple of hours – there were no complaints about cold so we knew we were good to go with the cleaning. Whilst they skipped and frolicked (well – ate and drank), I gave their brooder a thorough clean and disinfect with Dettol, and moved it into the garage. The heatlamp is at its highest, their feathers are coming along nicely, with the black heads appearing quickly. We may even be ready by the start of week four to move them off the lamp, but I’ll check the outside temperature and their feathering before risking that – they may need another week.

Light Sussex ChicksThey’re still on chick crumbs, with a coccidiostat to help build up an immunity to coccidiosis. At six weeks we’ll start mixing grower’s pellets into the crumbs, over the course of a few days, until by week seven they’ll be on growers only. This will change to layer’s pellets at around 22 weeks – some suggest earlier but as these are Light Sussex chicks – a pure breed and slower to mature – 22 weeks is about right. If for some reason one of them starts laying quicker than that, then we’ll start the layers before then.