I have been away at an exhibition "up north" so have a bit of posting to catch up with. Like most people with livestock I have to rely on friends and neighbours to help out when I go away, so I try really hard to make the arrangements as foolproof and user friendly as possible. However I've noticed that my idea of foolproof seems to not always hold up to daily scrutiny by other people, and so my long suffering neighbour and friend Alison comes round before I go to see what kind of Heath Robinson contraptions I have come up with this time, guaranteed of course not to go wrong, break down, fall apart, allow escapes, fox attacks etc etc. The neighbours all know when we're going away with the incessant racket emanating from our garden, of hammering, sawing, and generally banging about for the whole of the previous week. Anyway, this time I spent a few days making some proper automatic feeders and drinkers with components from the Solway Feeders whom I highly recommend - website http://www.solwayfeeders.com/ -they sell all the bits and pieces you need for various options, and I also found a small industial unit in Cirencester who sell off used plastic barrels cheaply. (Contact Rachel at MJP Casings Cirencester http://www.naturalsausageskins.co.uk/ - also an excellent contact for anyone wanting to try sausagemaking at home) The large containers make excellent water butts and the smaller ones are useful for making large automatic feeders, and they are safe to use for livestock as they are approved food use containers. I will try to post some more construction details and photos later.
All this does mean that every time I go away I spend the preceeding two weeks preparing to go, then a week away, and when I get back there's a months weeding to do. And boy can those weeds grow in three weeks! The veg garden looks like a jungle! But at least there were no serious problems this time for Alan and Alison, and my new automatic feeders and drinkers worked pretty well. Even the automatic greenhouse watering timer seemed to work. Amazing!The weather up north seemed quite cool and rainy, and I think it was similar down here, which has also contributed to the weed overgrowth situation. Anyway, I set to, with help from the chickens, - I did the weeding, and they ate the insects - here they are tucking into an ants nest they found in the woodchip path.
One interesting thing Allan mentioned whilst I was away that he saw what he was fairly certain was a ferret in the garden. I have noticed the remains of some stolen eggs in the garden recently and had put it down to crows or magpies entering the duck house and dragging out eggs before I had collected them. Now I'm thinking it maybe another culprit, so I have brought the defunct squirrel catching cage out of retirement and baited it with an egg - nothing so far, but we will see.
This is a picture of one of the eggs, not broken as you can see, but opened on one side and completely emptied. So quite a delicate job really, I would love to hear from anyone who has seen anything similar.