Thursday, 30 December 2010

Salami update

The Salami seems to be progressing well.  It's shrinking and shrivelling a bit, so something is definitely happening.

We haven't had any mould on the outside yet. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  The instructions say that mould can just be wiped off - so we aren't sure if mould is expected or just a possibility.  It's quite free and cool  and dry air in the loft, so the conditions aren't really right for mould development.

We tried one of the little "Peperami" style salamis a couple of days ago. Teh flavour was OK, but I didn't really like the ratio of inside to outside.  But I don't like Peperami either, for the same reason.

So I guess it's all going according to plan...

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Pogo has disappeared

DH just phoned me from the Allotment. One of our Laydees-who-Lay, Pogo, has disappeared.  No signes of a struggle inside out Hen Pen, but feathers some distance away.

Poor little girl. She and her sistwers were the first chicks we raised ourselves, and from our own eggs. She was the girl who had an injured leg last year, and who we carefuly nurtured back to full health.  So very sad.

We don't know if something got in to the pen and got her,  or whether she managed to fly out and was got that way.   The hen pen is surrounded by Heras fencing, which is partially buried.  And the Heras fencing is surrounded by working electric fencing.    It was unlikely to be a fox, as no one else was taken and there was no carnage.

I hope the end was quick for her.


Yesterday I let the Girls out of the Run and onto our "lawn" (a bit of green grass outside the kitchen window which we try to keep chicken free) because their free range area is still mostly snow covered and I thought they'd enjoy the grass.

I was on tenterhooks, as it is potentially possible for them to escape.. they would need to find their way round to the other side of the ouse, past the waterbutts, along the bed, and right into the bottom to enable Wash and Izzy to get from the front garden to the back garden without having to leap onto and over the fence.

After an hour or so of grazing, I put them back into their own area,  and rummaged around in the shed to find the last remaining piece of netting. This is now rigged up to prevent them from accessing the catgap.    

This morning when I let them out, there was a stampede. Seven chooks came rushing out, along the path, and onto the "lawn".    Tilda stayed behind to eat from the feeders in the run in peace.

Tomorrow, if we keep the arrangement in place, I'll try and get DH to let them out, and I'll stand by with the camera.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Building the beehive

DH makes me smile.

The beehives (and other bee bits) arrived, beautifully packed into a large box, on Christmas Eve.   DH wanted to unpack.  I wasn't sure this was a good idea: it was just before Christmas, we had people coming, and it seemed to me that two beehives (and other bee bits) packed neatly into one box was less trouble than two beehives (and other bee bits) unpacked.

The box was too heavy (alledgedly) to carry upstairs.  I offered to help, but apparently this wasn't a good idea.  DH suggested unpacking it, carrying the stuff upstairs,  and then packing it up again.  I wasn't sure this was a good idea: in my experience of unpacking well-packed boxes, it's usually impossible to repack them. Even with photos taken.

DH suggested that unpacking them and then partially building them would be a good idea, as they woudn't take up much space that wayl the frames could go inside the boxes and supers,  they would be easier to move than a heavy box or lots of unboxed bits.  

Realising that this was not going to end until the box was unpacked, I agreed.  DH unpacked everything.

Sometime later, DH came downstairs and suggested that it might be a good idea to start glueing the bits of hive that needed gluieng. Just to the point where they needed painting, of course.  Apparently, if he was making them up to store them, he might as well be glueing them.

He glued them.

Next it was the paint.  DH suggested we might as well get the paint. Or at least choose the colour.    He chose the colour, I agreed to it. Having chosen the colour, apparently we might as well get it.  Just so we had it ready, for when it was time to paint them.  

We got the paint.

Now that we had the paint, and the hives were partially glued, we might as well paint them. Then he could finish the glueing.

Here's a partially glued super... partially painted...

Isabelle decided to inspect before painting...

...and then Washburn decided to check the quality of the paint job..

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Sprouting off

For the first time EVER (that is, in my adult life since I've been making my own Christmas menu choices),  sprouts will be making an appearance on the Christmas Lunch table.

Sprouts are one of the (many) hated-things I've been trying to train myself to tolerate.   I've succeeded - if the sprouts are fresh and are lightly steamed so they are still a but crunchy.

Frozen sprouts, however they are cooked, still have tht horrible metallic aftertaste.  And fresh sprouts boiled are still inedible.

I've even managed to eat fresh sprouts raw.  Next year (I don't mean at Christmas, I like to try these things out well in advance) I'll progress to trying other ways of cooking sprouts. The TV chefs seem to have lots of ideas,  and I'm looking forward to trying them. But this year, being a First,  I wanted to have sprouts in all their naturally sprouty glory.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Food heroes - The Traditional Beef Company

For the last umpteen years we've bought most of our beef from online supplier Donald Russell.  I love their stuff, superb quality. (We buy our mutton and lamb, and Pork, from other specialist suppliers).  We've tried other suppliers  of beef,from time to time, but have always gone back to Donald Russell because of the quality of the product and the excellent service.

This year we were at the Good Food show at Olympia, and tasted some slow roasted silverside from the Traditional Beef Company,  a supplier we hadn't previously tried.   The beef was excellent, and we bought various items. - a silverside joint,  some Ribeye steaks, some shin for slow cooking   The chap on the stall was the farmer, Robin, and he was lovely. Very passionate about his product.  Having followed his instructions on slow roasting the silverside, resulting in the most juicy and tender non-Christmas cut we'd ever eaten, (and absolutely incredibly moist when cold as well!)  we decided to buy our christmas beef from them this year.

I ordered early, and explained that it was a Christmas order, so elivery was scheduled for w/c 20 December.  I emailed them on Friday last week, to check that everything was OK, and I received an email back saying that  delivery would be on Monday or Tuesday.  I found this a bit odd - how could meat be delivered by courier on Monday, as there wouldn't be a pickup on Sunday. However, I just assumed it would be Tuesday.

On Saturday, the snow which had already reappeared in parts of the country, reached us.  

No delivery on Monday (which wasn't a surprise),  and at lunchtime Tuesday I decided to phone them to check. Just to make sure.   I was thinking that, worst case, I could probably drive there and collect - but if I was going to do that, I'd need to knowso I could make suitable arrangements .  Or if that wasn't going to be possible, at least we'd know and would have time to go and buy something.

Phoned - no answer.  Not worried - they were probably busy.packing orders.   Phoned later, and got Robin's wife on the phone.  Asked about my delivery, and she said they were a day behind because tit snowed heavily on Saturday  and theywere snowed in at the weekend.... but Robin is doing the deliveries himself.   I expressed surprise at this, and said I had assumed they would use a courier - she explained that normally they do,  but they are so remote that they haven't been able to get a courier to come,  and at the moment the couriers can't guarantee a timely delivery so even if they got the boxes to the courier, they couldn't be sure it would get delivered in time.

Thinking she meant Robin was making local deliveries, I said where I was, and offered to meet him somewhere.  She explained that they've borrowed a landrover so they can get off their farm and out of the village,   and Robin is doing all the deliveries. Everywhere. And not to worry, my beef would definitely be here by Christmas.

And it is. It was delivered, personally, today

What a fantastic couple!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Getting braver

It's warmer today. For the second day running, the Girls' drinkers haven't been frozen.  It's lunchtime now, and we've reached +1.

Yesterday I emptied the poo trays, and relined them with newspaper and Aubiose (from the nest box).  I then filled up the nest box using a product called Hempbed, which my supplier (Graham from Pawsnclaws) provided as Aubiose isn't available at the moment.  I also topped up the floor of the run.  I don't normally do this - I prefer to empty out and then put fresh in, but:

(a) It's been really cold
(b) the Aubiose that was on the floor was in quite good condition, just getting a bit sparse (because the girls tend to excavate it, often out of the run)
(c) Have you seen the snow?

The Hempbed, a Dutch product, is similar and yet very different to Aubiose/Hemcore.  It's similar in size to Aubiose,  but  feels much harder.   It smells lovely - not Citronella (like Hemcore)..I can't put my finger (or my nose) on what the smell is. Eucalyptus perhaps?

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.

So, this morning, ALL the girls came out of the run. Eventually.  It's the first time they've all been out since the snow came last Saturday.  Even Milly and Delilah came out. 

They keep scaring themselves.   Every so often I catch them all, necks erect, all pointed in the same direction, staring at something.  There hasn't been anything there that I can see.

Of course, they haven't all stayed out together long enough for me to get a photo.  I will keep trying.

Roobarb has taken to standing in the snow on one leg. Perfectly still, like a hen on a pole. 

I love my chooks.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Minus 13.5

That's what our outside thermometer is reading.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Chickens in the Snow 2. The three wise hens.

Meanwhile, 'Tilda, Custard and Roobarb came out to watch Lily's exploits

Chickens in the snow. Lily gets that sinking feeling...

Let the Girls out this morning, as Lily in particular was being Vey Vocal in expressing her annoyance at Being Kept In.

She bolted out of the open door and strutted across the snow towards the Pampas grass...

  It wasn't as interesting as she thought, and she came out straightaway...and started to sink in the snow....
  ..then she marched back through the (rather deep) snow...

  ..until she reached the safety of the front of the run...
...and she's stayed inside since.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

For goodness sake!

So, it's been snowing, and I've left the chooks shut in the walk in run. This morning, first thing, they had porridge.

I went out a while ago to check the water hadn't refrozen,  picked the ice out, and topped it up.  I also emptied some feeders and refilled them, saving the slightly stale pellets to make evening porridge.

I've just taken their "evening" porridge out to them, and I saw that Custard (Sasso) had a few pooey rocks clinging to her drawers.  I decided that they needed removing, as they couldn't be comfortable. Normally I use cotton wool and warm water for small clusters,  and I put the girl in a sink of warm water if it's really bad.  It was too cold for a bath today, so I decided to use baby wipes.

Came in, got my baby wipes, put on my disposable gloves, and went out. Caught Custard, started to work on her knickers.  I managed to drop a wetwipe, and before I could bend down to get it, Daisy had run off with it.

She was running around the run - the bit that isn't walk-in - with this blooming wet wip hanging from her beak. Every few seconds she stopped, and pecked it, and the others (except Custard, who was still under my arm, and Tilda who was stuck on a shelf) were gathered round trying to steal the prize. Then she'd snatch it up again, run around, and repeat.

I carried on sorting out Custard, whilst keeping my eyes glued on Daisy and the damned wet wipe.  She didn't seem to be eating it (thank heavens it wasn't cotton wool!) but I could see that she was pecking it.   

Eventually, I went to get a bamboo cane,  threw corn around like confetti, and waited for Daisy to drop it. As soon as she had, I used the bamboo cane to drag it along the floor of the not-walk-in run.     

The movement caused a great deal of interest, and the rest of the Ladies stopped their corn foraging and came to watch.  

Fortunatelty I managed to grab it, just as Daisy launched her beak at it.

For goodness sake!


Like so many other parts of the country, it's snowing. Heavily.

DH got a taxi back from the pub yesterday, so this morning I tookl him to get his car, just as the snow started.  The 7 mile journey was slow, but OK.  He was going on from there to get new tyres fitted.

I stopped at the local cake decorating shop, to pick up a box and board for an impromptu cake I'm making for my niece today (assuming that the snow doesn't prevent us from getting together).   When I came out, my car was covered with snow and the snow on the roads was starting to turn black.

I had less than a quarter tank of petrol, and I debated whether to go straight home, or whether to fill up.  I decided that once I got home I wouldn't be going anywhere,  so it might be best to fill up whilst out.    This was a good decision, but by the time I left the nearest petrol station,  the roads were in a really bad state. (FOr our part of the country, which doesn't deal well with snow).

I crawled home at about 10 miles per hour.  There was a car in front of me for part of the journey, and every time s/he braked, the back end slid across the road.  I went for the engine braking method - kept a looooong way behind, and took my foot off the accelerator way, way, way before I needed to slow down.

Eventually I got home.   Checked on the chooks, put some corn in their run and saw a snow mound from the end of the run which isn't panelled off.  Found some stuff in the shed and temporarily wedged it against the end of the run.  Emptied the poo trays so that the frozen poo wouldn't act like ice blocks.  CHecked the water hadn't refrozen, and locked the girls in the run.

The snow is falling really thickly now, big flakes, straight down.  DH is still out, hope he gets back soon and safely.

One good thing.  Hopefully in a day or two  I'll be able to get some pics of chooks in the snow, to use on Christmas Cards for next year.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Buzzy Busy

We've ordered a beehive.

Christmas Cakes

Christmas Cakes are all done now.  I'm always pleased/relieved when they are out of the house!
First up,  a Creole Cake, with a glazed nut topping
 Next, an iced cake. I found a daisy plunger cutter in my cupboard , and I really like the addition. Shame it doesn't show up very well in the photo.... 
Another iced cake,similar idea, different colours

And here's the cake which has my Poinsettia on...

Happy bunny now that they are all finished!

Deck the Doors

Just finished making my Wreath for the front door.  This year I managed to do it without suffering multiple stab wounds from threading wire to hold the ornaments.

I managed to get hold of some small chicken decorations. They're all over my tree, and I've got one in the middle of the Wreath, It doesn't show up too well on the pic above, so here's a closer view
Looks better in real life than it does in the photo.

The kitchen smells lovely now. A combination of the fern-iness of the wreath, plus the cinnamon sticks which are now on it.  And my box of wreath building bits has a tiny, ancient, bottle of Yuletide oil in.  I don't like unnatural room things, but I do like the fact that when I open the box each year it smells of Christmas.

I've also finished icing my christmas cakes. I'll try and post pictures later.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Little princess

Lily laid an egg yesterday, the first one in weeks.  I didn't see it until I opened the cupboard this morning,  as I've been leaving early every day to go to Oxford and not getting back until the chooks are tucked up for the night.

So today was the first time in nearly a week that I saw the girls properly. (I do sometimes see one or two of them, when I am pouring boiling water on their frozen glugs in the dark).

Lily looked stunning.  She's persil white and, for the first time in ages she has a full tail. That too is sparkling white, and erect, just as a the tail of a leghorn hybrid should be.  Her knickers are pristine,  and her comb - which was pink while she was moulting - is turning a shade of lipstick red.  She looks like a different girl.

I raked out the run today and put Stalosan down.  I "normally" do this once a week, but with one thing and another it's been several weeks. There was a lot of debris to be removed - feathers,  brussels sprouts,  swede skins,  dead corncob husks...  Drinkers were removed, scrubbed, and refilled.   I haven't refilled the feeders yet, I want them to finishe up what's in there as I've lost track of which are the freshest ones.

I wasn't sure whether grass continues to grow - albeit slowly - in winter, or whether it just stops.   In case it does grow a bit, I've reclaimed a large patch so that it can recover,  and I've given the girls the Pampas bed in exchange.   They were very excited, and have been rooking about and dustbathing non stop.    

I also spent some time trying to get the Veg Bed's excavated soil back in to it.  I'm on to a loser here because everytime I do this, the Girls get very excited and rook through it again.   I think I'll have to fence them off the Veg bed soon.

Finally, I raked up the leaves.  Lily then started to do something rather strange. So strange that I did a double take, and then I stopped my raking to watch her to see if I imagined it.

She came out of the Run and started inspecting leaves.  Not the leaves I'd been raking, leaves that have been on the grass for some time.  She picked up a leaf, then twisted her neck around, leaf in beak, and put it on her back, down towards her tail.  Then another one.  Then a bit of pampas grass.  The leaves just fell off, but she carried on doing it. Walking round that patch of grass, inspecting leaves, finding one she liked, and then putting it on her back.

Any ideas?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Scrawny creatures

The established Allotment crews are looking very sorry for themselves.

At the moment I only see them once a week or two. DH goes down on his own to do them.    It makes it easy for me to notice changes in them. when I do see them.  Roo didn't recognise me at all this time, and started to sidle up and challenge me as soon as I stepped into his run.

I talked to him, and it didn't make any difference. Then I made that cockerel noise (you know, the one cockerels make when they have a tasty morsel to offer a passing hen).  He looked at me sideways, then suddenly relaxed and stopped posturing.

Later, he was happy to eat corn from my hand, so we're obviously friends again. 

His 3 girls are mid moult and very bare.  Two of the girls have pink shoulders, which is emphasised because they are wearing saddles.   We aren't sure that Roo has stopped activity, so we can't take the saddles off - lesser of two evils.    Mrs Roo has a bright pink bottom,  but she wasn't carrying a lot of poo rocks for a change. Poor girl is shaped like a brick and it's hard for the poo to miss her feathers.

Roo is looking a bit threadbare on his chest.  It's more noticeable because his sons are in the next pen, looking enormous and glossy.  They look like larger versions of their Dad, but more multicoloured.  I expect Roo'll be relieved when they finally go, which should be in a couple of weeks. 

Over in the Laydees pen, all 5 of them are mid moult. They are tiny birds (seemingly especially dwarfish now that we are used to the statuesque Florence), and the lack of feathers make them look like little doves.   They are off lay, of course, and so are refusing to be handled.  It makes inspecting them very time consuming and difficult.

Norm didn't recognise me at all. No pecking my foot for corn, which I missed.  She looks particularly tiny.  

At the moment, the 2 moulting flocks are having cat food every other day to supplement their diet.  And because it's cold, they are having extra corn.  We've found that if we put down lettuce, tomatoes and corn, the corn is their preference, so I guess they know what they need.


Selfish people

Our allotment shed was broken into.  The battery which powers the electric fence was stolen. Selfish badwords.

We're lucky they didn't steal the fencing. And fortunately we have Heras fencing around the plot, and a padlocked gate to get through. so it would have taken a lot more effort for them to get through that to get to the chooks.

Doubly thankful  that we have Heras fencing (partially buried), because the RSPCA recently released some foxes nearby (thanks a bunch!) and we've had foxes prowling around even when we are there.

We have an old battery which we've taken down there until we can get another Leisure one.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I've just opened the tester bottle of Prunelle, which I made earlier in the summer using the golden plums from the tree in the garden. Haven't had it before, so wasn't sure how it would turn out.

It's delicious.  Sweet without being too liqueur-y.   Definitely something to repeat next year.


Chickens in the snow

We had a light smattering of snow overnight.

Washburn (Ginger Cat) went out this morning to investigate his territory, and I love that I can see the route he takes. Dinky little pawprints in untouched snow.

Went to let the Girls out of their Run and foud that 3 of them were still in the Cube. Milly (who's moulting), Delilah (who is our oldest hen) and Tilda.   The other 5 didn't exactly rush out to freedom, which makes a pleasant change as they usually stampede past me.

I went back to the house to watch.  Roobarb (young girl, first snow) perched on the ledge and Looked.   Eventually, she got up and went back into the run.  Daisy (seasoned snow pro, she and Lily arrived when it was snowing) marched out.  She marched a few steps,  stopped, turned round, and marched back in.

As soon as the wet weather started we put corrugated roofing plastic round the sides of the main run, so it should help protect them.  If they don't come out in a while, I think I'll go and shut the door.   Fox protection.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Too cold

We're in that small disgonal strip across the South East which, so far, hasn't had much snow to speak of.

It's still bitter outside.

Had to have the heating on during the day for the last two days, which is very unusual.  Even extra layers weren't keeping us warm, especially extremities like fingers and noses.

On the allotment, DH has had to start putting a special protective ointment on Roo's magnificent comb.  Vaseline works, but we use something called Comb & Wattle Balm which I bought a while ago from the Longcroft Soap company (website unavailable at the moment, else I'd post a link).

Roo wasn't too happy about the indignity of being balmed,  but he got over it.

Meanwhile, the Laydees are refusing to come out of their coop.   In the Garden, the Girls are venturing out for a wander, and then congregating somewhere. Currently "somewhere" is in the middle of the fruit cage. I imagine the bushes and the edging give them shelter (although we have put sides up round their run as well.

Unusual to see them all so close together and so still!