Friday, 29 October 2010

Still here

Daisy is still with us, and seems to be doing well.   Fingers crossed that the antibiotics killed the opportunistic little bugs.

Great excitement yesterday: Florence crouched for DH.  Then she followed him everywhere.  Then she crouched for Washburn. Being a cat, he didn't really understand what the chook was going on about.   Being Wash, he didn't really care.

She crouched for me today.  

Seems like eggs are on the way...

Monday, 18 October 2010


Daisy has Pneumonia!

Vet says it is likely she was a bit under the weather, and this -combined with the recent cold snap - enabled an opportunistic virus to take hold.  He mentioned that extra lightweight birds like Daisy tend to be a bit more susceptible to this sort of thing.He specialises in chickens, so we have no reason to doubt him.

He's given her an antibiotic injection (which is a first, we normally have liquid antibiotic for the Girls),  and then tablets twice a day for 6 days.

Vet says she'll either rally, or she won't.   He's concerned the others may detect that she's ill and pick on her, so we'll need to keep an eye on that.

She's in the garden looking as bright as a button at the moment, so it's looking hopeful.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Daisy is having trouble breathing. She rattles, and is a bit wheezy.

Of course, all the books (and the internet) list dreadful problems linked to respiratory problems.    Fortunately (I hope) she doesn't have the other symptoms associated with the infectious diseases: her eyes are clear, she has no discharge from any orifice,  she's eating and drinking OK.

Despite the reassurance,  I'm concerned it may be bad news.  I'll be phoning the Vet tomorrow morning to arrange to take her in.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Several hours later....

My spreadsheet tells me that I've washed and weighed just over 103 Kilos of apples, which DH has crushed and pressed to turn into cider.   I've also got another 4 or so kilos in a pan simmering  on the hob, which I will portion and freeze when cold.

The volume of juice varied according to variety. Our best result was with our russet tree, with an excellent conversion rate of about 65%. The combined fruit from the other two trees yielded 50-53% juice, which isn't bad. 

Not sure of the total yield ytet, DH is still pressing the final batch.

The crushing was very fast, the pressing was a bottleneck, not surprising with this quantity of apples.  I think we'll invest in a cloth and rack press for next year.

I'm just taking a break from cleaning up.

I'll update later when I have the final yield.

UPDATE: 62 litres of juice, an average of about 60% conversion.
Most has been prepped for cider, but I have 2 litres of juice which I pasteurised this morning.  

An apple a day...

The apples on the other two trees are now ripe enough to be harvested,  and we found teh extra long handle for the fruit picker so we can get more of the lovely Golden NOble apples from the middle tree as well.

Over the last few days DH has been busy picking,  and we now have 8 crates - yes, 8 crates - of apples in the kitchen.

Today we started wshing, crushing and pressing them, ready to turn them into cider.  We've done one pressing of 20 kilos of apples so far. The next 20 kilos are washed and ready to be crushed.  And I  have about 40Kilos either washed or sitting in one of the sinks.  And I still have crates to empty.

I'll be back later to update....

Monday, 11 October 2010

Quince update

Oh my goodness!

This morning, the juice was still a pale pink colour, and not at all clear. It looked like the juice from a pink grapefruit.

I went ahead with the recipe,  heating the juice with the equivalent amount of sugar (1 litre of juice, 1 kilo of sugar), and a bit of lemon juice.  I heated it gently to help the sugar dissolve, and then suddenly it went clear!

I boiled rapidly to reach setting point, and I now have the most amazing amber coloured jelly!  It's quite sharp tasting, so I think my friend Kevin will be happy. It looked very soft set when I potted it,  I'm hoping it will increase in firmness as it cools down.

I'm really looking forward to giving my neighbour her half!

Sunday, 10 October 2010


I have a quince tree.  It was a birthday present from DH, some years ago. It was a year od or so when he bought it.   We knew that it takes some years before Quinces become productive, so we weren't surprised when in our first (it was 2) we had nothing; our 2nd year (aged 3) we had only 1 fruit;  year 3 (aged 4), 3 fruits.   We had expected year 4 (aged 5) would be a bumper year, but it wasn't.  Quinces (and many apples) suffered with the weather.

This year we had one fruit, very low down.  It got henpecked.

Last year, my neighbour asked me if I could make anything with her ornamental quinces (japonicas). I made some unimpressive jam.   This year, despite last year's less-than-successful attempt, she brought more japonicas round. 

So, I decided to try Japonica Jelly.  I started to follow an online recipe, one which sepcifically mentioned Japonicas.   It said to wash the japonicas, and chop roughly. No need to peel, core, de-seed or destalk.

I used the food processor to chop them up, which it did magnificently and rapidly.  I put them on to simmer, set the timer for 2 hours (2 hours!) and I suddenly wondered if I could pressure cook them.  Surely, even if I just gave them a head start, it would be better than 2 hours! 

Margeurite Patten (un the excellent Basic Basics Pressure Cooking) doesn't mention quinces, but she does mention crab apples. Not the same, but not dissimilar.  So, I put them on to pressure cook instead.

The smell filled the was heavenly!   And after 8 minutes steaming, I turned the heat off and let the pressure cooker return to room temperature at its own pace.   Then I schlooped all the pulp - and it was lovely and mushy - into a straining bag.  The liquid is a gorgeous pink colour - but it isn't clear.  That's a shame.  I tasted some of the pulp. I've tried to find a smilie which shows a lemon-sucking face, but I can't.  

So, I have to leave it dripping overnight, and then I'll make Jelly tomorrow.  It's always tricky to do this and to keep both the receptacle and the straining bag protected from flies...but this year, I have my pressure canner.  So I've stood the bowl, with the strainer on top, inside the canner. And I can get the lid on, so all will be protected.

Roll on tomorrow.

I have lots more Japonicas, so I'm really hoping this tastes good. If I make a second batch, I might try NOT chopping the japonicas up first.   But  I am tempted to try Japonica vodka.  I could perhaps adapt my Blackcurrant Vodka recipe, which is a bit farty, but gives a really intense flavour.  Mm. Maybe.  Let's see what the Jelly tastes like first.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Diffusing the situation

Milly has been running around with soggy knickers.   I managed to surprise her today, and brought her in the house to clean her up.  I could see that it was beyond the wet-cotton-wool-pad option, more drastic action was called for.

A minute later I had Milly standing on a towel on the draining board,eating cat food and corn, while I put some warm water in the sink.  A couple of minutes after that, and she was in the sink having her knickers washed.   Not my favourite job.

The promised sunny weather failed to arrive,  so I decided to use a hair dryer on her.  I used to use a hairdryer on Scarlett, and she really liked it. I wasn't sure about Milly.     i dug the hairdryer out of the chicken cupboard (I don't use one on my hair), and I eventually managed to find the diffuser, which I find essential for making sure that the feathers dry without singeing the hen.

To my surprise, Milly seemed to quite like it.  I was able to hold the hairdryer in one hand, and use the other hand to flick throgh ther feathers to help them dry.  She didn't show signs of wanting to escape.

As I put her back in the garden, I saw that Custard was also claggy.  Flushed with the Milly success, I had no hesitation in bringing her in and standing her on the towel while I ran fresh water.  She wasn't so happy.

She didn't mind standing in the warm water, but she did object to me cleaning her nether regions.   And she wasn't too keen on the dryer.  Not frightened, but she was a bit stressed about being inside.  She ended up on the windowsill, and I dried her while she was there.

Of course the clearing up isn't half as  much fun as the hen washing, especially as I have to disinfect the sink area and the surrounding worktop.  (And, thanks to Custard, the windowsill). 

Hope they stay clean for a little while.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


So, the de-sensitisation process has begun.

Armed with a cup of corn, anNette and I went out into the garden.  anNette was standing by my side discreetly, and all the Girls came running up expectantly. I threw corn. The Girls descended on the corn.  I moved anNette a bit, and everyone ran shrieking under the shrub.

I realised that anNette doesn't look so much like the Grim Reaper, she/it looks like a Big Black Bird of Prey. No wonder they were scared.

With one arm out holding anNette, still upright, but the wind blowing the net out lile a windsock, I attempted to thrown corn with the other hand.  I clicked, I called, I chirrped, I threw.

Eventually, Lily came out.  Then a few others.  Tilda and Delilah remained under the bay tree, refusing to budge.  I moved Net.  Everyone ran away.  More calling, more corn.  

Then I turned round and walked in.

I can see this is going to take some time.

Grim Reaper

Four of the Girls (two oldies nd two nebies) are impossible to catch.  Up to now I've just accepted that oldies Delilah and Milly aren't interested in being picked up. But I worked hard with Lily and Daisy, and they associate being picked up with being given corn, so they are always happy to be caught.  Tilda and Custard are similar.  I've made no progress with Florence and Roobarb, and if I can't catch them I can't teach them to associate being caught with being given corn.

So I decided to give in and add a "Poultry Catching Net" to my recent FlytesoFancy order.  It arrived this afternoon.

I went out with it...and all hell broke lose.  Chickens scattered eveywhere.  No one would stay hidden though. As soon as I got within 20 feet of whichever bush they were sheltering under, they would break cover and then run at speed.  This was accompanied by that bok bokking alarm that chickens give when they want to warn the rest of the flock of impending danger.

So, I strolled around the garden with my net in hand (upright).  Hopeless.  I mean, it made me giggle, because real chickens really running is very similar to watching cartoon chickens.  But I couldn't get near any of them. 

I realise that I might need to stroll around the pen, net in hand, while I feed them, just to get them used to its presence before I try and actually catch anyone.

I gave up and walked back to the house. Wash was sitting in the doorway living up to his name (having a good old Wash), and he stared at me.  Then he stared at the net and did a double take.  Then he ran.

As I came through the doorway, I caught site of my reflection.

Definite ringer for the Grim Reaper.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Winter prep

A break in the rain today, so I took the opportunity to scrub the roof panels on the Run,  and I also replaced the summer covers/shades with a waterproof winter tarpaulin on the Cube run part.

It's a bit of a balancing act.  I want to weatherproof that part of the run, but I need to allow it to breathe as well.  The fantastic heavy duty clear tarp that I bought is superb at the weatherproofing, but hopeless at breathability.

So I faffed about for ages before I cut the tarp to size (it was 3m x4m, and I was dithering about the best way to cut it to leave me a useable piece for the spare run).

In the end, I decided to use Omlet wind shades along the bottom of one side, to provide breathability but some protection,  and the tarpaulin over ther rest.  For the moment, I've left the area immediately under the Cube cover free,  I will add the wind shades to this as the weather worsens.

The Girls were very excited.  Lily "helped" me where I was pulling the bungee cords through the weldmesh (fortunately her beak isn't too sharp these days),;and Florence decided to test the side of the new panels for edibility.    When Florence announced that  it wasn't edible,  'Tilda came to have a look and tested it herself, just in case

It's hard to get a decent pic of the whole setup - I'm pleased I cleaned the roof panels before I took this one..
 One of the good things about the new Tarp is that Iit's possible to see through it, a little bit anyway.  You can see the Cube ladder through it in the picture above. 

And while I was upstairs taking this, I spied Izzy on a shed roof...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Where are we now

Sorry for the long gap.   I work on an ad hoc conultancy basis, and the work I do is very Autumn and Spring focussed.  It's been a busy month, and I haven't had much time for anything other than work.

Luckily for me, I work from home; this means I can coninue to keep an eye on the Girls,  and squeeze in preserving stuff in between.

The integration continues.

Everyone goes to bed, just a few minor squabbles.   Roobard, 'Tilda and Florence are consigned to the nestbox, with Florence sitting on the separator between the nest box and roosting bars;  Custard (who has been in-lay for some time now) is allowed on the roosting bars.

The running away and chasing continues during the day, but more often than not everyone gets on with it, as long as the Littlees keep themselves to themselves.  

Roobarb (the Welsh Black egg that was laid en route when we were bringing Rose and Ruby from Wales to their new home) is just amazing, but completely scared of her own shadow. At treat time, she grabs a treea then runs off into a quiet corner. It takes her forever to eat it, and sometimes she picks it up and streaks across the garden with it. By this time, the others have finished scoffing, and chase her.  If only she kept quiet and got on with eating it, she'd be fine!

I've seen Custard (Sasso) peck 'Tilda (Sasso, disabled) on the top of the head, and that really did make me sad.

I sometimes wish I'd just kept them all separate. The Littlees were a happy little flock They (presumably) had their own pecking order, but they'd grown up with it.  Anyway, it's pointless thinking about that because 2 separate flocks would mean problems with free ranging areas, especially in the winter when the grass isn't renewing itself.

I've been trying to tame the Littlees.  Custard has been much more friendly since she came in to lay. She crouches for me, and I can pick her up without too much trouble.    The other 3, especially Roobarb,  continue to be completely panic stricken.  Florence (Australorp) is so funny. She's an enormous bird but completely unaware of the fact that she's so much bigger than everyone else.  She is stunning.

The Old Girls are moulting, so I've been giving them cat food every few days. Was a bit concerned it migght bring out their aggressiveness even more, but I'm not sure that it does really.

Down on the allotment, the established flocks are moulting as well.  We'd really like to take the saddles off the 3 breeding girls, but we aren't sure what's happening with Roo treading.   I've been finding out more about trimming toes and spurs, so we might do that with Roo and then removed the Girls' saddles for the winter.