March roll call


4 humans – 2 little, 2 large

10 dogs – 2 collies, 5 labradors, 2 english springers

10 hens – 1 LF orpington, 1 bantam Orpington, 4 Ixworth, 4RIR

1 cockerel – Ixworth

4 ducks – 3 cayuga, 1 khaki campbell, 2 drakes – 1 khaki campbell, 1 white campbell

3 ferrets – 1 albino, 2 polecat


I love days like this, bright, sunny, mild and dry.  it’s the sort of day you can get loads of work done and finish the day feeling as if something was really accomplished!

I moved the my kiwi from the flimsy archway to the fence (hopefully it will be happy there and spread to cover the fence), planted the fennel next to the kiwi and filled in around them with some of the manure that was in the raised bed…. think we need to go back and finish mucking out that bull pen!  R planted the other climbing rose at the opposite end of the bed, so now I have 4 apple trees, 1 damson tree, 1 kiwi and two climbing roses along that fence,  I can’t wait until it matures, it’ll look so beautiful.  The bed needs filling a bit more and I’m going to throw in loads of wildflower seeds and comfrey.

We moved the straw bales out of the greenhouse (so I could get the paraffin heater in there – I didn’t think that paraffin heaters and straw bales would mix too well…!), they are wrapped up well with a tarpaulin and stacked at the side of the shed.  The baler band on both the full ones had broken on one side so they took a bit of manoeuvring and manhandling to get them re-tied and moved without them falling apart.  I’m down to two and a half bales now though so I might need to find some more before the end of winter.

One greenhouse bed is done, the mucked out straw from the chicken pen had pretty much filled the bed but I added some of the bull compost from the raised bed (I used a fair bit of the bull compost for other things so we really do need to go and finish mucking out that bull pen!) to make it level.  Finished it off with a coat of weed matting, tucked down the sides and that can sit there and wait for later in the season when I have to plants ready to go.  The chicken straw I put in half the bed last year when we moved it had rotted down beautifully, nothing was planted in it last year, it just had my strawberry grow bags stuck on top of it, but there was no sign of any straw and it was dark, crumbly and full of worms!

That bed now has  makeshift bench with my propagators on it, I’ve started some peppers, tomatoes, field beans, peas and comfrey.  The tomatoes are a tad early but they are all old seeds so I’ve not lost anything if they don’t come up, they are in a heated propagator and the greenhouse has the heater on in it though so they will be as warm in there as anywhere.  R planted some lettuce and chives and I popped some radishes in a wooden tray so with a bit of luck we will have some salad popping up soon.  The onions have been moved outside, as they don’t really need to be in the greenhouse.

The Husband finished the small chicken hut he was making, it’s in the pen so they can get used to it, there is no point worrying about a pen for it until I need to separate them, and that won’t be until someone goes broody.

I’ve been reading about humanure (you know if MI5 really do monitor what people do on the internet there are some agents out there who must really think I’m crazy!) and I’ve decided to experiment with composting the dog’s poo.  I know, I know, everything I’ve ever read on composting has been very strict on the ‘NO dog poo’ rule but if you can compost human poo why the hell not dog poo?  I quickly read this short book last night – Compost Everything – and found it interesting reading, and did some more research on the forums of Joseph Jenkins’ website.  So now there is a compost bin with a thick layer of straw in the bottom and a tub of shavings waiting to cover the ‘deposits’ I add.  Hopefully in a year or so I’ll have a bin of lovely compost that I can use of my flowers (I’m really not sure if I’ll have the guts to use it on plants producing food!), either that or I’ll have a compost bin full of dog poo, straw and shavings and it’ll be a disgusting, smelly mess!

I planted the last few bulbs that were starting to sprout in a bag in the kitchen, two big pots crammed full of daffodils, tulips and heaven only knows what else, any left over were scattered in the wildlife patch under my rowan tree and covered with some more soil, the soil level still needs bringing up a little but it’s getting there.  Loads of bulbs poking through now, and my snowdrops are beautiful.

I had a quick play in my shed, lots of almost finished things, (that I really must finish before I cut into my new wood!), then dinner of duck breast, mash and broccoli – ably cooked by R! Another day off work tomorrow, woohoo, lots to do in the shed – I will have some new stock in the WHW shop!


Beautiful, bright sunny February day.  We headed off over Hartside summit to Penrith to collect my wood order.  Popped into the car boot sale on the M6 junction, very disappointing, last time we went it was huge – filled the whole auction mart – this time there can’t have been more than 20 stalls there, didn’t see a single thing that caught my eye.  Picked up my wood order, oak, cherry and beech, and got some oak dowel and wheels as well.  Then up the M6 to Carlisle, Popped into Aldi and got a couple of work benches and a tool organiser for the shed wall, I dashed into B&Q while The Husband went to the trailer store to ask something about the camping trailer he is making.  Picked up some lengths of 2×2 and some nice waney edge boards – oak and beech.  Home in time for lunch!


Spent the afternoon tinkering in the shed – organised my tools on the wall and started a couple of new projects (tut, tut, I hadn’t finished the things that need finishing!).  The Husband started making a small chicken hut, so I can separate my chickens off to get some pure eggs, when  decide to hatch some off.  A painted his bird house – and the bench!

January role call


4 humans – can’t see this one changing any time soon!

10 dogs –  5 labs, 3 springers, 2 collies

10 hens – 4 Ixworth, 4 RIR, 1 big Orpington, 1 little Orpington

1 Cockerel – Arthur the Ixworth

4 ducks – 1 khaki Campbell, 3 Cayuga

2 drakes – Dennis the white Campbell and Harold the khaki Campbell

1 ferret

Garden plans

The garden has come come a long way in the last year, it’s almost unrecognisable as the same garden.  I do, of course have loads more planned for it.


  • Remake the chicken run (it’s still the temporary pen sections from when we moved in a hurry), so it’s high enough that I can walk inside without having to bend over (there is a net over the top to stop the chickens flying out and anything else getting in), and has a proper gate that I can get the wheelbarrow in.  I’m pondering whether to divide it in two so I can separate the chickens for breeding or to fatten some meat birds.
  • Make more raised beds. The beds we knocked up in the spring have done amazingly well and I’ve got another three planned.  Hopefully I’ll get them all built over the autumn so I can work on getting them filled in time for spring.
  • Wildlife, wildflower, pond area.  OK, once I’ve remade the chicken run and built more raised beds that doesn’t leave much room for anything else but I should be able to squeeze in a tiny pond and a patch of wildflowers around the base of my rowan tree.
  • Bark chip paths.  I have a pathological dislike of grass, it’s time consuming to maintain and turns into a boggy mess the minute it rains, so rather than leaving grass paths in between the raised beds I plan to lay a thick covering of bark chips.
  • Log store. Much of our wood is still sitting out in the open as lengths (some of it is still sitting in the field/woodland where is was felled as lengths!) waiting to be cut and stacked…. Yes it’s going to be a long, cold winter of trying to burn damp wood and giving the coal man more money than we need to!  Hopefully by this time next year we will have a good wood supply, cut and stacked under cover.
  • Fruit trees.  The apple trees I bought last year are in the ground, as are the damson trees (I can’t even remember where they came from…).  I’m planning on buying a few more apple trees and maybe a plum to plant around the edge and down the middle fence.
  • Front garden.  The front garden is a mess, it’s been completely neglected and needs loads of work.  Still no solid plans, I suspect a driveway is going to cost quite a bit both financially and for planning permission.  So I might stick to just cleaning it up and planting it with perennials.
  • Dog grass.  The grass in the dogs side of the garden needs attention, there is still gravel and weed matting down on the section that used to be used as parking for a caravan, the grass is patchy and already getting worn around the edges of the garden.  The plan is to remove the gravel and the weed matting, buy in a load of top soil and reseed with a grass designed for heavy use.
  • Gate.  We’re planning to replace the gate at the back of the garden, the old one is an old metal farm gate with chicken wire to stop the dogs getting through, which is alright and does the job but the gate post is rotten so we can’t open it and it mean the dogs can still see through and they do sometimes have a bark when someone walks past.  Considering we get horses passing this is something I want to avoid and, although the dogs are getting more used to people passing and bark less than when we first moved in, I’m still worried that they scare a horse and cause an accident.  So we plan to get a solid double gate to replace the old metal gate.
  • I’ve loads of perennials in pots and a big bag of bulbs that all need planting out.  The plan is to put these either in the front garden or in the border in the ‘garden’ side of the garden, so looking out of the house windows you look straight onto a flower border rather than just onto raised beds.
  • Patio/deck.  I’m desperate for somewhere to sit out in the garden, so in the summer or on warm spring/autumn days I can sit outside with a mug of tea (or a glass of wine).  The plan is to build a decking area coming out over the bit we store the wood – so it can act as a covered wood store.
  • Water harvesting. I’m planning to buy a load of water butts so I can harvest the water off the greenhouse, chicken shed, workshop and kennel roofs.  Hopefully this will ease the amount of water on the ground slightly and will reduce our need to use mains water in the garden substantially (the aim is to reduce it to nothing in the long term).

Spotty duck HQ – then and now

It’s 18 months since we picked up the keys for our home and , it needed an awful lot of work (it still does!) but we are getting there and it’s beginning to really feel like home.

Summer 2015 – long grass, huge conifer hedges and tumbledown old sheds.

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By early 2016 we had pretty much cleared the garden (apart from the huge conifer tree stumps, they were later dug out by hand!)

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April and May saw the greenhouse go up, the first bulbs show and the start of my raised beds.

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The summer saw us moving into our new home, the fence going up around the boundary and down the middle dividing the dogs from the garden.  The garden started to flourish – I think I managed to get one strawberry before the strawberry monster found it!

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Late summer and the garden began to bloom!  Huge sunflowers (that sadly blew over just before they flowered), a good haul of squashes, garden birds began to get more and more confident and become very regular visitors to the garden.  Our livestock also thrived, the chickens and ducks provided us with more eggs than we could possibly eat.

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The end of summer saw us making even more raised beds, the first frost and snow of the winter and the beginning of my quest to rid the garden bit of the garden of grass.

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And as we head into winter the jobs don’t end, there are new raised beds to fill, the earliest of next years crops to plant (garlic and onions so far), the paths all need bark chips laying before the spring weeds come up and of course the animals still need caring for even if egg production has dried up.

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Welcome to Spotty Duck tinyholding.

It’s always been animals with me, as far back as I can remember.  When I was little, growing up in suburban Johannesburg, I kept shongololos (the local name for millipedes – from the Zulu and Xhosa ukushonga; to roll up) in a shoe box full of dead leaves under my bed for weeks until they bred and my mom found them.  I spent hours watching bugs, toads, butterflies, anything that moved in our garden.  Devoured Gerald Durrell books as if my life depended on it and lived for my weekly riding lesson.

Moving to England changed that life but the animal obsession didn’t go away, less pets and no wildlife filled garden meant I spent more hours with my nose in a book or walking in the nearby woods, dreaming that one day I would have a smallholding or farm, lots of dogs, goats, chickens, horses and ducks.  College beckoned studying animal care, then agriculture, followed by canine behaviour and training.

Husband, two children and lots of dogs, chickens and ducks later we’ve finally got our own patch of England.  It’s not a farm and it’s too tiny to be even be a small, smallholding but it’s ours.