As the winter slowly passes, spring will soon be here. The spring equinox having been and gone means that the days will gradually be lengthening and the hens will soon be in full lay. The girls have produced enough eggs to keep the household going through the winter, but there haven't been enough to warrant any regular sales.
We've only got one pair of white ducks remaining with us, for the time being, but I'm already planning on having a couple more as soon as we get settled into the new house - probably Khaki Campbells or some more Indian Runner ducks, as I like both. Our solitary duck, Phoebe, is laying an egg every morning now, but I don't want to incubate/hatch any of these, as there would be no point. We need some nice new ducklings for spring, completely unrelated to Joey, our white Aylesbury X drake.
Preparations for moving house are underway. We are digging up everything that we planted; it's a bit like un - gardening! Fruit bushes, apple trees, plum trees, pear trees and cherry trees - the entire mini orchard has to be moved. The crab apples have already been transplanted into large pots, as have most of the gooseberries and tayberries. There's an entire row of raspberries still to be dug, along with the blackcurrants. If the rain stays away, we should get them into pots this weekend.
All of the vegetable beds have been dug over, so the hens and ducks have now been given free access to these areas, in the hope that they'll root out anything we've missed. Our miniature white Silkie hen, however, prefers to dust bath in the damp soil, so she is constantly filthy!
The sleepers that surround the deep vegetable bed are being rehomed. The soil from the original square foot garden will be ideal for filling in holes after the fruit trees have been removed. It will mean raking and rolling the entire area, but I'll get some grass seed spread on it, just as soon as the hens and ducks have all been transported to their new home.
The grape vine seems to be surviving relatively well, as is the Russian Vine. Not a very popular species, I know, especially for anyone with a small garden, but it will be kept well trimmed. I'd not long put an arch across the garden gate and planted honeysuckle either side, so it all needs to be carefully removed and transplanted before the plants fully recover from their winter hibernation.
Bird boxes along the fence should be removed, but I've already seen bluetits flitting in and out of them on a regular basis. I have no intentions of disturbing them and am prepared to forfeit a few bird boxes in order to encourage them to continue breeding here.
My longterm plan of cultivating willow had just been newly implemented when we received notice to quit this house, so I'm hoping that the withies that were planted won't mind too much if we move them again. I'm determined to have a mini willow plantation somewhere, so the next garden should be the place to start again... without fear of any landlord asking us to move.
Most of what is in the greenhouse will be composted. Only the trays of lettuce seedlings will come with us, although I am desparate to get a few more seeds sown. Trouble is, we don't, yet, have an exact date for moving, so the greenhouse needs to be dismantled in readiness, as does the garden shed.
The next step is to sell the surplus quail so we can dismantle their run. Japanese Coturnix Quail are very hardy little game birds! They have lived outside in a corner of our garden all year round and we're still getting a few eggs. I was amazed they survived the -16C temperatures during the hardest part (so far) of this winter. At that point, their eggs were freezing solid before I could get out to collect them in the mornings. It's still dipping below zero here first thing, but a few of the hens have continued to lay throughout winter - not bad going for what is traditionally thought of as a migratory bird.
I'll probably keep about a dozen quail hens and three of the best cockerels to take to the new place, then start incubating / hatching new stock as soon as we're orgaised enough to safely run an incubator and brooder. Pity this variety of quail are known more for their laying ability than their interest in breeding!
There isn't a great deal more we can do to prepare the garden for our next big move. All I can do is hope that it will be our last for many years, and that we can reliably call it home. I'm glad we didn't set down too many roots here and am now looking forward to beginning again - a whole new frugaldom project and the creation of the new microholding.
Rest assured that the entire process will be well photographed and documented, once again. I now have three full years' worth of this project, including two false starts. 2011 needs to be our final startup! Wish me luck!