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On your marks, get set, Birdwatch

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There’s so much flying around now regarding bird watching & The Great British Bird Watch (January 27th-29th), but we do hope that you don’t just watch them on these days! Our British Wild Birds bring such joy to peoples lives who get so much enjoyment out of feeding and watching them that it would be such a shame to only bother for this occasion. I get it that its great to log what you can see in your garden, or wherever you choose to do your birdwatch - in the park , in a wood, or even outside your window at work. Although, here at Laverock Hal, we hope that it’s like a dog isn’t just for Xmas, it’s for life, and so feeding and watching the birds should be a part of your life too, not just for these 2 days!In order to encourage as many birds to count as...
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From little acorns

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Old Year, New Year, its that interim time when you don’t know what day it is, where you need to be but hopefully enjoy the relaxing time before the New Year gears up and off we all go again.I put some photos of our project on our Facebook page this morning but thought I’d explain a bit more what we’re up to, hence this post.You’ll all remember that we started a woodland and pond project early last year on the farm. It had been in the pipeline for a while, but we got started planting trees and it all started taking shape early last year. I uploaded photos of the little trees on earlier blogs, with their biodegradable covers to protect them, the newly dug pond and the impressive deer fence, which will be taken down once the trees are established, we hope this will be done in about 5 years’...
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Watch the birdie

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 Some of you might have seen me and Chris in the article in the Newcastle Journal on Saturday, pictured next to our new pond at our newly planted nature reserve.  I put a link there from our Facebook page too, so if you follow us you may already have seen and read all about this.Its great to have some publicity for our new venture and many thanks to Angela who took the photos, and had her photo taken by me (pictured here) and Keith who wrote the article. The pictures were taken on a rather blustery day, and we had to abandon the pickup as the route was so wet and walk rather a long way so rather than thinking I’d look windswept and rather like a Barbour advert, instead I look short and rather bedraggled!The area is coming on so well, we have ordered more trees for a small area...
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Its not about the money

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It never ever was about the money. Those of us born into farming know that making money in farming is never a given, yes you can sometimes make money, but the weather often has other ideas and throws some unbelievable extremes our way. Imagine planting all your crops to be harvested next year, they’re looking good and then it starts to rain, and rain, and rain. That is exactly what has happened this Autumn and its not looking like its going to stop any time soon. “You can always plant again in the Spring, can’t you?” Yes, we can plant again, but imagine the financial toll of buying more seed, ripping up the rotting plants from the Autumn sowing, working the land and then planting again. Its not just about the money, it’s the physical and mental toll it takes on you too.Imagine doing all of this and not knowing if...
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Floods of Opportunities

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No one has escaped the floods; it feels like it has rained since September and with a long Winter ahead of us it’s going to be ‘Wellie Weather’ for a long time ahead. The weather was so bad that we were unable to plant next year’s crops so the seed has had to be put aside for next Autumn, and we will plant other varieties in the Spring, if it ever dries up!We were bothered that we were unable to plant the crops we hoped but as things have turned out, with the weather we have had the poor seedlings might have rotted off anyway so maybe it’s for the best that we have only planted some fields. If all goes according to plan, we hope to plant a totally new crop which could interest our readers when it comes to being harvested. Have I got you interested yet, well I...
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Food for Thought

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I’ve just done a Facebook post about differing qualities of Wild Bird Foods and thought I’d do a blog post about it too.I was recently approached by a customer who told me that a local bargain shop was selling great Wild Bird Food at just £3.99 for a 12.6kg bag. This I had to see, I trotted off to our local ‘Bargain’ store to check out said Wild Bird Food. It was in an attractive bag with a clear part so you could see exactly what you were buying, wheat!, yes mostly wheat, I would approximate that it was about 90% wheat with some cut maize, black sunflowers and very few suet pellets. The label claimed that this food is specifically aimed for putting in feeders to attract smaller birds, including robins. Admittedly they will eat the suet pellets and the cut maize, but much of this food would be useful...
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Aniseedy secrets

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A lot of people who read my blog are avid wild bird twitchers, however, a lot of our sales come from our racing pigeon foods, too. In fact, the inspiration for our most popular bird food came from this industry. Many people know the story of our humble beginnings with making bird food mixes from friends, and it’s at this point that Chris learnt that aniseed oil is a great way of attracting pigeons back to their nest boxes, and that the liquorice/aniseed smell is delicious.This is why we coat some of our pigeon mixes in the oil, including the aptly named ‘trapping’ mix, to make sure those pigeons are trapped in the quickest time they can be! Pigeons are, in their tastes, very similar to a lot of the wild birds in this respect, we have added aniseed oil into the no waste wild bird food and found that people...
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Is it over yet?

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I think everyone knows how stressful it can be for farmers at this time of year, and people are very appreciative for the most part. I thought it would be fun to write a post of the top 5 typical harvest mishaps that make Chris’s hair end up more grey every year!I don’t remember a year that a combine, tractor or something else hasn’t broken down in a vital place or time!Just because he is working long and strange hours does not stop us from selling our bird foods at normal times in the day.The food that I’ve made never tastes quite as good once it’s been sitting on the stove for 5 hours! Although, I know he would never complain!!Going from busy to not busy just because of a little rain – I don’t think there’s too many jobs that would make you wait 3 days until you can start...
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Thistle be a butterfly invasion

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They’re here!!! – a once every 10-year migration of Painted Lady Butterflies, and we have seen them in our new eco project and woodland, how amazing is that?I had no idea about this until I looked it up when we got home, all I knew was that as we walked the dogs around there were clouds of these beautiful butterflies hovering over our heads and landing on the thistles. I can honestly say that I have never seen so many butterflies in one place at any one time and am totally in awe that they decided to visit us. My photo is lousy, but we decided to just enjoy the situation rather than worry about getting the best photo possible.Apparently, these tiny butterflies fly at speeds of up to 30 mph and at a height of 1km to reach our shores from Africa en route to the Arctic Circle, a trip...
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Have you got a bully in your garden?

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Have you got a bully on your feeder?Now, we are not here to discuss birds and wildlife that bully others off their perch today, but more to talk about the favourite of my regular visitors – the bullfinch! The male can be easily spotted by a blue-grey back and bright rose-pink breast, belly and cheeks, whereas the female is more pinkish and brown.Whilst looking outside at the glorious weather of late I realised that I may love to look at them, and yet know very little about them in comparison to many other animals, wild or tame. Of course, known as wild birds in the UK they were once a popular cage bird too, probably before we began to bring parrots and other exotics. They would even imitate like parrots – perhaps a lot smarter than would be thought of this small red-bellied bird. These stout birds are also known to be...
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Floods & Finches

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What a week weather wise! I don’t know if you’ve had floods, freezing temperatures, driving wind & rain where you live, but we certainly have up here in Northumberland. The crops are soggy and battered whereas last year they were droughted off and suffering with extreme heat. We’re hoping that the weather will stabilise a little this week so we can make our haylage crop for Winter horse fodder for our Livery stables, but there again we hoped we could do that three weeks ago.The gardens are so green & the water baths for the birds most definitely have not needed filling, although the keeping the feeders filled has been a constant job. I’ve been watching soggy little sparrows just out of the nest lining up at our bird table (thankfully a covered one) being shown by the adult where the easiest grub is. The poor birds were struggling to fly...
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Is the grass always greener?

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Come for a walk he said. How romantic I thought, but how wrong could I be. My first indication should have been when I wasn’t allowed to take our 2 dogs. Into the pickup we went, strange when we were supposed to be going for a walk. When we got to an outlying field, I found out why I had been invited for a walk. Blackgrass. One word but it can mean ruin to cereal crops.Last year Chris found a rogue patch of Blackgrass which appeared in the corner of a field, he rogued it which means walking up and down the rows, pulling out the rogue grass, by the root and then burning it well away from other crops. As it had been raining it was apparently an ideal evening to check for blackgrass as the rain would mean that the grass would be easier to pull out and not...
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Podcasts and Pigeons

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This is a first for the family; Robyn has been interviewed for a Podcast called Rock & Roll Farming run by the lovely Will Evans, a farming journalist with Farmers Weekly & also a farmer. He heard about Robyn from the article she did for Farmers Guardian last year, in which she talked openly about coping with epilepsy whilst living on a farm and the difficulties that can arise. One such problem being that we live in an isolated place, and so isn’t on a bus route – this makes it a real difficulty for her to get out independently. All things that most of us take for granted, like being able to lock the bathroom door (we have no locks on our bathroom in case Robyn has a seizure, so we can reach her quickly), or not going to parties and clubs with strobe lighting due to the fact she...
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Packaging Nightmare

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We have had our Internet shop for about 5 years and have sent out countless bags of our Bird foods all over the UK. Our woven polypropylene bags transport amazingly well and we are really proud that we are ‘doing our bit’ for the environment as our bags are recyclable, and indeed we have seen them used for a number of imaginative projects after they are emptied, growing strawberries, potatoes, fishing boat floats and even clothes for a recycling project!We have now been told by our couriers that if we don’t wish to incur extra charges for a ‘non standard parcel’ we have to put our bags into boxes so they can be processed more easily through the ‘hub’sysytem. I have argued and pleaded with the agents, but they are immovable on this, unless we box up our bags, we will incur a £5 per parcel surcharge. We certainly aren’t happy...
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Easter Eggs

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Easter is a time of lambs, chicks & chocolate according to the TV adverts! We love to see the new born lambs springing along in the bright green grass alongside their mums & baby chicks & ducklings tootling along with their mums, plus the flowers, especially daffodils bursting into life & cheering us all up after a long drab Winter.The Easter eggs we are most interested in are the type that the birds are laying & the significance of that new life form that will be produced, and how we can help them all along. We have supported the birds all Winter and they seem to have come through pretty unscathed, unlike last year when we all had to contend with the ‘Beast from the East’ and the cold Spring that came so late before we were indulged with one of the hottest Summers on record. It truly was a year...
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I swear we haven't gone nuts

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I swear we haven’t gone nuts!Gardening really does take some patience – the same can be said for farming – however, growing trees does seem to be a slow experience! It was lovely to take the two dogs down with Robyn to see their progress, not only has Walter expanded a lot since the two of us visited that plot, but the trees are really looking healthy as can be.I really am enjoying watching the project progress, a few years ago it was just an idea, then it was a query, and now they’re verging on 2ft tall! It’s so lovely to feel as if Chris and I are setting up this woodland that can be enjoyed not only by the wildlife of the future, but also people of the future!Our own little biosphere continues to grow in all manners, Robyn and the dogs played in the, now quite large, wetland...
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Home made Fat Balls

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I’m sharing a blog post from our Facebook friends at Sloane & Sons, about how to make Fat Balls to feed the birds as I’m sure that lots of our customers would be interested and there are lots of parents or teachers out there who could be looking for a wildlife project just like this one for either their children at home or their class as a project.I was going to write my own blog about this, but Sloane & Sons have very kindly allowed me to copy theirs and I’m sure you will agree that it is an informative post, and as well as saving me writing one, its also nice to be able to share. Here goes … and please don’t forget where to buy the bird food to use for your home-made fat balls, or indeed your Garden Furniture!https://www.laverockhallfarm.co.uk/wild-bird-foodhttps://www.gardenbenches.com/You can of course choose to use shop-bought fat balls,...
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Sticks & Storms

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The weather has been rather blustery here today on the farm, the remnants of #StormGareth mean that the farmyard mud has dried up but there are branches from the trees everywhere, young Walter is thrilled as he loves a stick and to prevent any accidents, he has been trained to bring them to mum in exchange for a gravy bone. This system seems to work very well, and he is now systematically clearing all sticks from our front garden when he is let out for a wee, a massive task but we are getting there, and it also helps with his training too.The farm is quiet apart from putting fertiliser on the Winter crops, but we have been very busy in our bagging shed. Our newest ranges of caged bird feeds have been very well received and we have had to make several batches to keep up with the demand, as...
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Birds go Wild for our Food

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Chris has been making more of our Laverock No Waste Wild Bird Food today - the one that the seeds are coated in Aniseed Oil, lots of you comment on this food and it is one of the first ones we made and is still just as popular with our customers today,  as the birds just keep coming back and back to the feeders. It has some great high energy ingredients including sunflower hearts, safflower, groats plus cut maize, Niger seed & canary seed, cut maize & more. We call this our No Waste bird food as all of the seeds are without shells so there should be no waste in your garden. People have confused this by thinking that the seeds are no mess, ie. the seeds won't grow in the garden if they drop. For this to be the case they would have to be heat treated, sort of...
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Has Spring Sprung?

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What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time we were battling the Beast from the East which lasted about 2 weeks, we were blocked in here as the snow was just drifting across our road and as it was blowing directly from the coast the snowploughs just couldn’t keep it clear and safe. The drifts were above the hedges and the landscape looked very pretty but oh so cold and rather dangerous too.We braved the snow in the 4x4 pickup to feed the birds down the fields and I tried to video it but the wind was blowing so strongly it was almost impossible. The birds flocked from all over where they had been seeking shelter in the hedges and I’m sure they were almost starving poor things. Chris walked and poured bird food from the bags & the birds just swooped in almost over his head to...
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