After moving to our current location in Charing, Nr Ashford, Kent, we decided to try to improve our lifestyle and become more self sufficient. In addition to organically growing our own vegetables and making jams and chutneys from the fruit in our orchards, we started keeping chickens for their eggs on a small scale.
I come from a farming background, as my parents, who only live a mile down the lane from us, bought a disused poultry farm when I was around 12 years old. My Sisters and I grew up surrounded by sheep, horses, goats and chickens. We duly took turns to get up in the night to huddle next to the warmth of the Argur in the kitchen, whilst sleepily bottle feeding orphaned lambs, before being turned out of bed first thing in the morning to help our Dad milk the goats, or to bring in the logs!
Some twenty years later, it didn't take me long to go back to my roots!
Pats farming experience on the other hand, was slightly different to mine, but probably just as much fun for a 12-year old! It consisted of him being paid by a neighbouring Farmer to ride a motorcycle around the cherry orchards to scare off the birds (and probably everything else in the vicinity!) The experience of which has unfortunately not stayed with him, as I cannot recall the last time I ever saw a cherry growing on our cherry tree!
After receiving a panic stricken call at 7am from our Daughters one morning, pleading with us to save some ex-battery hens from being slaughtered, we found ourselves looking over the stable door at not 10 but 50 bedraggled, featherless, pitiful looking birds. They really seemed to have lost all of their dignity.
After a few months, some tlc and patience, the hens had regrown most of their feathers and regained their trust in people and it wasn't long before they were trying to come through the back door to find us in the kitchen, roosting on our patio furniture, or jumping in the way of Pat's digger bucket when he was busy moving our manure heap!
We enjoyed looking after these hens and they gave us so much pleasure, that we then became braver and bought some ducks and a few geese.
From that, we became interested in incubating our own eggs to further increase our stock. This soon became an obsession as well as a hobby and we were approached by friends to also supply them with some of our brood! We began putting the proceeds of the sales towards restocking and improving the facilities for the animals. Every day brought with it a new adventure or experience and our rewards were immense from the learning aspect and on a personal level!
At the same time, having always had an interest in the craft of beekeeping, we enrolled on a beekeeping course for beginners. This led us to the start of our 'beekeeping adventure', Pats obsession for learning everything possible about bees, including their behaviour, genetics and biology. His latest quest is Queen bee rearing via his little mating nucs (boxes) that are scattered throughout our smallholding!
Five years on and we now run a beekeeping supplies business being agents of Maisemore Beekeeping Supplies, offer beekeeping tuition, run very successful beginners courses in beekeeping which has created friendship and business links with management and staff at Hever Castle, Eastwell Manor, Godmersham Park and the Ashford International Hotel in addition to many other individuals and businesses.
The feedback from our students is that they thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience, many of whom have since taken up the craft and are now doing extremely well with their own colonies of bees, that we supplied for them.
We also run group chicken keeping courses and visit Kent Schools, Clubs and Associations (by request) to give talks and demonstrations in beekeeping, chicken keeping and incubating eggs.
In 2010, we also tried our hand at being pig farmers, having purchased some Berkshire weaners (piglets). We enjoyed this learning curve and the delicious supply of meat in our freezer as a result of our farming efforts, we have since dedicated a page on this site to our pig farming endeavours. Over the past few years we have increased on the number of pigs that we have had.
We took part on a Sausage Making Course in 2011, which was great fun, we have added a page on this website which details our experience!
We love the lifestyle, we are really happy in the home that we have created for ourselves here at "The Ark" and we consider ourselves very fortunate to both passionately share the same hobbies, interests and our love of animals.
We are registered with the local Parish Council as a Small Holding and also with Defra for the birds and the bees on our premise.
From 2014 we will only be supplying beekeeping equipment.
WELCOME TO THE
ARK, THE HOME OF THE BEES