We have often been asked what it is like to be Smallholders, so we have decided to add this page to the website to describe the events of a typical day here at The Ark. This obviously does depend on the time of year and the type of weather, so this page will be updated to reflect each season as it changes. It is currently winter.
With everything that we have going on, we have to plan and manage as much of our time as effectively as possible, so we have a very large diary! If we want to go away on holiday or go out for the day, unless it is somewhere fairly local, this has to be planned around in advance, organising cover for the animals as necessary. It does sound like hard work, but it is a lifestyle that we both enjoy together, like anything it has its good and its bad sides; we are both constantly learning and it can be very satisfying and very rewarding.
7.30-8am I am up, dressed and downstairs. Our cat Milo has a heart condition and won't take his daily 5-tablets unless I roll them up in Wensleydale cheese to make small, fully loaded cheese balls (yes, he is fussy!) and feed them to him one by one! Once he is medicated, I feed him and our other cat Muffin. Jess, our Weimeraner then has her cereal, drizzled with Propaline syrup, which is a medication which prevents her from being incontinent. She suffers from spaying incontinence, which sadly can affect some bitches after they have been spayed.
When it is light, I will then go outside to let the animals out.
First out are the chickens. This winter, we decided that we would downsize our flock to avoid having to buy in lots of feed, which has steadily increased in price and also to alleviate the need for additional labour in the colder weather. We both planned to be fully restocked by the end of February.
I open the pop hole to the main chicken coop and watch the one cockerel and six hens as they slowly venture out through the hole. In the darker winter mornings, they don't feel safe coming out unless the sun has risen and it is light. This mornings weather is cold and wet. The ground is sticky from the last few days rain and I am wishing that I has worn my waterproof trousers!
I check the nest boxes for any sign of eggs. There are none. This is the fifth week that the hens have been off lay. I make a mental note to give them some poultry spice when I feed them later.
I then let out the Indian Runner Ducks. We only breed the white ones now in both standard and crested varieties. I watch them doing their funny skittle like run as they make their way, quacking excitedly over to the bathing ponds that I freshly filled for them when I put them away the previous afternoon.
Next is the turn of the Giant Dewlap Toulouse Geese. They are in breeding pairs and each have a stable to themselves. The ganders are always noisy in the mornings and they are now starting to get very protective of their geese. I am hoping that they will start laying over the next month or so.
I refill the water buckets in the bedding pens to save the need for doing it later and replenish the hanging waterers in the chicken house, checking the level of chicken feed whilst I am in there.
I go and see Freddie my horse, who is looking over his stable door and beginning to kick it impatiently. I change his rugs, mix up his chaff and chop up some carrots for him before letting him follow me down to his paddock.
I refill his hay net with hay and lower it into a metal dustbin, whilst I boil the kettle. I then pour the water over his hay and put on the lid in order to steam the hay. The steaming prevents the dust in the hay from irritating him and making him cough when he eats it.
After checking the level of water in Freddies water trough, I feed the guinea pigs and go back indoors.Today I am working, so I get changed and leave for work for the day.
6pm It is already dark. I arrive back home, put on some waterproof clothing and go up to the paddock. I put the geese and ducks away after feeding them some corn and waterfowl pellets. I then lock up the chickens.
6.30pm. I clean out Freddies stable, replenish his hay and water before leadingFreddie in from the field to his stable. I give him a quick flick over with his brush, change his rugs and feed him while I pick the mud from his hooves.
7.15pm I then walk the dogs around the woods, before going back inside to feed the dogs and the cats.
Pat is now home and we catch up with each other over tea.