Sunday, 27 February 2011

Brawn before brains

We've made the brawn, but we're a bit porked out at the moment (we  had roast pork yesterday, pork with hoisin sauce this evening, and we've having leftover sausage tomorrow).  So, we've packed it and we're going to freeze it for later.

We've also made pork stock with the bones (roasted the bones first),  we had so much stuff for stock that we had to use the pressure canner as a pressure cooker.

Ham is still sitting in the fridge in its Wiltshire cure; bacon still dry curing in the fridge as well. 

Pork with hoisin sauce

Following on from butchering our half pig, we had a large hand of pork (3.4kg) yesterday for dinner, as we had friends around.  I slow-roasted it, using Jamie Oliver's recipe for bone-in pork shoulder,   allowing extra time for the middle part of the cooking (6 hours instead of 4.5).  It was fantastic.  Moist, juicy, tasty.  (No good if you like your pork sliced, this was fall-off-the-bone-in-chunks meat.

This evening for dinner we made piadines, which are an unleavened bread-type affair. We make these when we want to have "fajitas".     We shredded (scuffed about with two forks, in the manner of the waiters at chinese restaurants) some of the leftover pork and we made "pancakes" with the piadines, hoisin sauce, finely sliced cucumber and finely sliced spring onion.

OMG, it was delicious!

I've spent years not eating pork because when I think of it I think of dry squeaky meat.  These other cuts are such a revelation to me!

This will definitely be a regular feature on our leftover roast pork menu!

Gnom gnom gnom.

At last!

Roobarb (Egg from one of the Welsh Blacks who is mainly Indian Game) crouched for me today, for the first time!  

And I think we have a first egg from her.   She's 45 weeks old.  Even older than Jasmine, my Welsummer, was when she eventually decided to lay.

Of course I did the egg dance in the garden,  whoo hoo!

Lard-i-dah pics

I've never really rated lard before... but making our own has made me look at it differently.    

The front jars have liquid lard in, only just rendered. The one on the left is half full.  The jars behind have lard in which had been out of the oven for about half an hour and was starting to set....

And this picture shows the set lard.  It is really white, and looks like face cream. There is no smell at al

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Dinner update

Roast pork was perfect.  Very tender, very moist. Not overcooked at all.


As soon as the lemon curd was in the souffle dishes, and the remainder in the jars,  we put the fat from yesterday's pig into two roasting dishes and popped it in the warm oven to render down.

After 30 minutes we already had quite a lot of liquid,  so DH strained it into a jug and put the rest of the fat back in the oven.   We then poured the hot fat into hot (sterilised) jars and put on hot (sterilised) lids.  It looks amazing! It's a light golden colour, and incredibly clear. It smells clean too. 

It'll solidify into white lard, and I'm looking forward to trying it as it'll be such a pure product.

We're also going to try roasting tonight's potatoes in some of it.  Shirley says it's only bettered by goose fat,  so let's see.

Good job S&K don't mind being subjected to these experiments!

Smells like a Brewery in here

So, today our good friends S&K are coming to dinner.  We're having pork (of course, that's the whole reason for inviting them!) and I thought I'd try Jamie's slow roast pork recipe.  It takes 6 hours, but is for a 2 kg joint.  My joint is 3.5 kg, so I spent a frustrating few minutes this morning trying to work out how much to increase the cooking time to.

In the end, it meant that I needed to get the Pork on *immediately* .   It was still cold from the fridge, so I've increased the initial blast of Gas 7 (180, 160Fan) from 30 mins to 45 mins.   I then covered in foil, and turned the heat down to gas 3 (150 fan) and set the timer for 6 hours (1.5 hours more than Jamie's recipe).

DH came home from doing the allotment chickens,  and started to make sausages.  I did the calculations for him, and weighed out the seasoning and rusk, and left him to it. I braved the town centre to get vegetables for dinner, bits for the ham cure, and other bits.  I'm never going into town on a Saturday again.

When I got home, DH had made one enormous batch of sausages, and was busy bagging them up.    The 3.1kg of sausage meat allocated to this batch turned into 4 kilos of sausages.     

I started to make the lemon curd for tonight's dessert, while he made the second batch.   1kg of sausagemeat turned into 1.3 kg of sausages.  They smell divine.

DH started to make the Wiltshire Cure for the ham.   We've found several recipes for Wiltshire Cure,  all different.  In the end we settled on Hugh's recipe,  so DH ended up boiling up a huge vat of cure, which included 1kg of treacle and 3 litres of beer. Boddington's was on offer, so that's what we had.    

The sboiling mixture smells gorgeous, very malty and beery - in a good way.  Smells like a brewery in here.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Telling Porkies

So, today we collected our half pig, and spent 5 and a half hours with Shirley teaching us how to convert it into the cuts we wanted.

What a great day!  I'm exhausted, my back aches; and we're currently still going, as we're making brine to cure a ham and the head.

First we learned to cut the half carcass into the four primary cuts.  This was relatively easy to do.  Having said that, if we decide to butcher our own half carcass next time (if we live long enough to eat all this pork and need a second half), I'll ask her to break it into the primary cuts as 4 pieces are much easier to move than 1 complete side!

SHirley had sent us some information in advance and had asked us to think about what sort of things we wanted to get from the side.   So, faced with the 4 primary cuts (belly, loin, leg, hand), we went through the things we had decided.

Belly:  one part for roasting,  one part for bacon
Hand: top part - shoulder - for roasting,  bottom part -  hand - for roasting
Leg : part to be used to make our own ham; rest to be processed into cubes or mince
Loin: 9 huge loin chops;  rest of loin processed into cubes or mince (we could have had more chops, or made bacon; but only DH eats pork chops,  and we alrweady had a load of belly for streaky bacon).

As we processed the bits,  we had a bowl for "sausages",  a bowl for "mince", a bowl for "diced", a bag for "lard",  and a bag for "rubbish".     

Of the parts mentioned, we ended up with:
Mince: 1.4 kg (bagged in 250g or 300g packs)
Chops: 3.4kg]
Diced: 2.7kg (in 250g or 300g packs)
Offucts for sausages: 4.1kg
Leg (for ham): 3.4kg
Hand (for roasting): 3.525kg
Shoulder (=spare rib joint for roasting): 2.95kg
Hock: 626g
Belly (for bacon) 1.630kg
Belly (for roasting) 1.9kg
Loin Joint (wither for roasting or breaking down to make diced/minced pork: 1.9kg

In addition I have as yet unweighed fat, for larding;  half a head, for brawn;  and 2 pigs trotters.

We're currently making the brine to deal with the head and the ham;  and we'll shortly be dry curing the belly for the bacon.

I'll write more when I have more information.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The slightest whiff off Spring...

..and I have to throw open windows and doors to let the house breathe.

And then I find myself emptying the living room of furniture so I can get the dust bunnies and tumbleweed,  and give the floor a good scrubbing.   Then leave it to dry with the fresh air blowing through.

Or, perhaps more accurately,  I start by moving one of the sofas into the middle of the room and am horrified at the number of lost treasures I find under there, all nestling in tumbleweed and dust bunnies.  And because the sofas have electric bits to lift up the legs, I can't actually move them that far,  so it becomes a dance of military precision: move furniture, sweep floor, wash floor, scrub bits; whilst part A is drying,  move furniture elsewhere in the room and go through the same  process; while B is drying, do it in a third area.  Then move A back, revealing D to be cleaned, etc etc etc.   Eventually, all done and moved back.  And clean.  Until I light the stove anyway.

The next whiff of Spring will probably see me doing all the curtains in the house.  Unless I happen to be cleaning another room at the time

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Shampoo Champagnoise

2011 is a Significant Anniversary for us.

In fact, it's made up of series of events each of which is worth celebrating for its significance..

Yesterday was one such day.  It was a Noteworthy occasion.  We debated whether to go out to dinner to celebrate, but decided not to.   It was, however,  important enough to open something special to toast with.

I'm not that keen on Champagne, but I do like a variery of other wines made in mehode champagnoise.     I opened it last night, being careful to twist the bottle not the cork.    There was no shaking or disturbance.  The cork didn't fly off, it came out correctly.  But then the contents erupted.  In a shower of champagnoise, I put the bottle on the table and watched, everything in slow motion.  There wasn't any point trying to cover the top of the bottle, that would have just made the contents evacuate over a wider area.

The table as sodden.  My hair was sodden. My clothes, the chairs, the floor....  In total, over half the bottle evacuated.

But it tasted delicious. What was left of it, anyway.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Teeny weeny egg

Another pic from my camera.

Looks like a Cadbury's mini egg.

Bathing beauty

I've just been downloading some pics from my camera, and I found this one.

Custard hadd a particularly poo-ey bottom, and I had to give her a quick bath and blow dry

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Done, And Ouch.

Well Milly eventually laid her egg, and I was able to go and empty the nest box, scrub it, jet wash it, Poultry Shield it.  I also tried to clean the roof with the pressure washer. At some point I realised that I was bitterly cold, and I came in to get a warm coat and warmer gloves.   I didn't finish that bit, which I'm sure I'll regret.

Then I jet washed the nest box divider. It's wooden, so I put it in the house (our house) to dry overnight. I've put the single nest box wall back in the coop for now.  As they've all been trying to squash in to the same nestbox, perhaps they'll prefer it.  But actually I'm in no doubt the Girls will voice their disapproval tomorrow morning.

I then got some old towels and dried everything,  and then started to put things away.   It's surprising how long it takes to re-roll up the extension lead, and the hose,  and the pressure washer bits when one is cold and tired.

Then, poo trays back in and lined with Aubiose.  The back, back on.   Fresh Aubiose in the nestbox.  Everything away.

And my back hurts. A lot. 

I have a Chiro check up tomorrow, fortunately, so she can take a look.  I'm off to try a steam bath to see if that helps.

Still not going to plan

I connected the long hose to the water butt, so I could reach the cube.   Managed to get everything over there (other end of the Garden),  and found that Milly, Lily and now Daisy were squashed into one nest box. 

I did some gentle scrubbing.  I emptied the unoccupied nestbox of it's Aubiose (to put in the poo trays).  I went back to the patio, and towelled off everything.   

I've been backwards and forwards.  Lily and Daisy are in the garden. Milly is still sitting, refusing to budge. 

It's getting overcast, and overly cold. 


Things don't go according to Plan

The Cube needs a really good scrubbing.  

Until the trees were recently pruned, the branches overhung it, and we've ended up with creeping green whatever all over it.   Normally this doesn't happen, as I give (gave) the Cube a good scrub and jet wash every 4-6 weeks.

During the winter, this didn't happen.  It was partially a feature of the weather, and the outside tap being turned off completely.  It was partially a feature of having 8 hens, and those who were laying taking all day to do so - so it was hard to find a big enough window to get the cube dismantled, scrubbed, dried and reassembled.  It was partially a feature of laziness.

I've been waiting for a sunny day...a sunny day when I am not working... and we just haven't had one.   Today was dryish, and not too cold,  so I took a bucket of warm water and started scrubbing the outside.   I took Fairy Liquid with me,  but wasn't able to use it because the Girls were greedily drinking the discharged water.

Having got a lot of the greeny stuff off,  I decided I might as well do the roosting bars and the poo trays.  A couple more partial buckets of water later, and I thought I'd finish these off and then jetwash everything. DH mentioned the other day that he had turned the garden tap back on.

I carried all the removable bits over to the patio,  put some Virkon in a bucket of water and gave them a final scrub.  I then went to get out the pressure washer,  found the key to unlock the kitchen window to pass the plug through,  connected it all up, and got ready to pressure rinse the bits.  Nothing. 

There was a stop thingy on the hose. I went back to the tap, which had a multi way thingy on it.  I couldn't work out what was on or off, so I unscrewed it. I was left with the tap and no water.  I tried it both ways - righty tighty and loosey lefty.  No water.

In the kitchen, I looked at the amazing array of pipes under the sink (it comes of having a meter, and a water softener, and not having the water softener connected to the outside tap nor the dishwasher. And having 3 kitchen taps. 

Anyway, it was fairly easy to find the pipe to the outside.  It was partially on. Or partially off.  I turned it one way, all the way, and went outside.  Nothing. I turned it the other way, all the way, and went outside. Nothing.  

Back inside, we now had a steady drip, not in a good way.  I phoned DH.  He suggested I used the water butt.

So, I found some hose to connect the water butt to the pressure washer, and I rinsed everything.  Then I sprayed everything with Poultry Shield.

By now, it was starting to get a bit chilly.  I couldn't get the hose to the pressure washer to reach to the Cube, so I thought I would go and scrub the inside with Virkon.  My thinking was that by the time I was done, DH would be home and all would be fixed.     More hot water.   And then I found Milly and Lily (who has already laid an egg this morning) sitting in the nest box.

So I've come inside to write this, while I'm waiting for her to Get On With It.  Then perhaps I can get scrubbing. 

Although it is a bit chilly now...

What goes on in their little heads?

Sunday morning.  We get a lot of egg-announcement type crowing.  Lots of it. Non stop.    When it goes on like this, it usually means that someone is hogging the nestbox, and someone else wants to lay.

I got up and went outside to have a look.  6 hens looked at me, as though butter wouldn't melt in their beaks.  None of them was crowing.   Not even Florence, who I'd seen crowing when I looked out of my bedroom window.

I peeped into the Cube, looking through one of the air vents.  I could see that Custard (one of our 4 youngest girls) was sitting in one of the nest boxes,  and Lily was standing on the roosting bars trying to get into the same next box.  Using the one next door clearly wasn't under consideration.

I watched, and saw Lily trying to get into the nestbox with Custard.  Custard wouldn't budge.  In the end, Lily sat across Custard.  I left them to it and went back to bed.

Later, I got up, showered, dressed.  Went out at 10.00 to let the Girls out and noticed that Lily and Custard were missing.  They were now side by side in the nestbox.

At 10.50, I went out to see whether we had any eggs, and found Lily and Custard still squashed together.    I opened the egg port, and gently felt around underneath them, pulling out 3 eggs.  One was definitely Lily's (white),  one was Florence's, and the third one was either Custard, Roobarb or Tilda's.   I need to see them side by side to be able to tell which is which.

Once I removed the eggs,  the Girls came out of the nestbox.

Surely Custard isn't going broody already?! It's only February!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Funny how things become "normal"

We had 3 hens originally.  

One died very soon after we got them and, as is best practice, we decided to introduce 2 new girls.   After keeping them separate, and then gradually introducing them,  this meant we had 4 girls in our Run.

I remember DH and I talking about whether we would get more, and we both agreed that 4 was probably enough in the size of run we had. (3mx4m + a T piece).  My neighbour asked if we would be getting more, or was 4 enough? (SHe wasn't being funny, it was a genuine enquiry).

Then Scarlett's crop got impacted, and we weren't able to save her.   3 birds didn't seem enough, so, as is best practice,  we got 2 more.  After keeping them separate and then gradually introducing them, this meant we had 5 girls in our run.  We added an extra 1m squared to the T piece of the run.  5 Girls seemed enough.    We couldn't imagine only having 3 again.

Then Jasmine (one of the last two to be added) died suddenly.    We were down to 4 Girls.   It was OK.  We agreed we would wait until we had another loss before adding any more.

On the Allotment, we needed to add to our breeding flock.  We bought 2 gorgeous Welsh Blacks  and, on impulse, some Australorp hatching eggs.  One of the WBs laid an egg on the way home, so we incubated that as well , along with the Australorp eggs, and a few of our Sasso breeding flock eggs.  We only had 1 Australorp hatch,  plus the Egg that was laid on the way home,  and the breeding eggs.  Only 2 of the Sassos  were Girls.

All of the chicks lived happily together.  The Australorp turned out to be a Girl, and I wanted to add her to my garden flock.   You can't introduce only 1, so  I was trying to source a similarly aged Gold Campine girl.   It didn't work out, so we decided we'd add one of the Sassos to the Garden flock as well.  The Egg, a Welsh Black, we had planned for her to join our breeding flock. Youcan't introduce only 1, so we decided to keep the other Sasso as well.

Now, the 4 Girls were very young, far too young to introduce to either grown up flock, so we kept them all together.  We were running out of space at the Allotment, the weather was rubbish,  so we took the decision to introduce all four to our Garden flock,  and then in the Spring we would introduce the two breeders  to the breeding flock.

The introductions, despite taking it very slowly and starting with separate accomodation, were very, very painful.  The four youngsters, despite being at point-of-lay when we finally started to let them mix with the established Garden Girls,  were mercilessly bullied.  There wasn't any blood drawn it rarely got that physical,  but they really were harrassed. It was horrible.

Once minute I felt dreadful for the newbies, who had been living as a little group of 4 so happil, until I introdced them to the Big Girls.  I felt especially awful when they started to try and dominate each other.   The next minute I was feeling awful for my established Girls, who had been living quite happily as a group of 4.  The reorganising of the pecking order meant that myoldest girl, the head chook,  was having her authority challenged and she was losing it.  That would not have happened if I hadn't introduced newbies.

Eventually, peace broke out.  We currently have 8 hens in the Garden.  We extended the T piece by another 1.5 square metres.   They free range all day, every day.   

I'm not sure that the two earmarked for the breeding flock will go and join the breeding flock.  It's not, as you might think, that I have grown so attached to them that I want them as my pets.  Of course, that's part of it.  But that's more of a "..and another thing.." rather than the real reason.

The real reason is that both flocks are stable at the moment.  If I introdue 2 newbies to the breeding flock, we - and they, of course - are going to have to live through those weeks of horribleness.  Not only will it be hard on the two interlopers, it's not going to be much fun for the established breeding girls.  And it may cause pecking order repercussions here.

It's now become "normal" to see 8 girls in my garden.  Of course, I can't imagine having any more than 8.  If and when one of them dies (which is likely to be sooner rather than later,  our oldest Girl is definitely showing her age),  we will not replace her with 2 hens.      We'll wait until we get to 6 or fewer, and then look at additions.

Famous last words?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Net result

We're planning to extend the pens at the Allotment, and so we needed some more electric fencing to cover the new layout.      

I saw recently that Omlet has changed their netting.  The new netting can't be electrified, but it is interesting.  It's significantly taller than the electric netting,  it has much smaller squares at the bottom making it suitable for smaller hens, or partially grown chicks,  and it has a new style of post which is easier to push into the ground.

I coudn't justify buying any for our garden,  although I could see the extra height might reduce Lily's escape episodes.    So when DH mentioned he needed more electric fencing, the solution presented itself.

I bought an appropriate length of new Omlet netting,  and gave DH the equivalent lengtj of my older, electrifiable, stuff.

Everyone is happy.   Apart from the Girls who have discovered that they can't really get their heads through the netting to reach the greener grass.  Lily did have a darned good try though.

I see Omlet have also started to do Walk In Runs, using the same coated weldmesh that they use for their normal runs.  They come complete with fox proof skirts.   If I didn't already have a walk in run, I think I would be looking at buying one of theirs.

Baking, again

This morning I got up early to bake some cakes to take to a business meeting.

First up, some carrot and cardamom cupcakes.  I needed to get these made first as they need to be iced. And to be iced, they need to be cold.     I had weighed out most of the ingredients last night, but the carrots needed to be peeled and grated immediately before using.    Eventually, they were in the oven.

While they were cooking, I started to make the second batch, Banana and Cinnamon Muffins.   Everything was going well,  although I had to steal half a banana set aside for DH breakfast to make up the required 400g.   The Buttermilk was still in the fridge from last week's butter making.... it's started to sour, so I hope it's OK in this recipe.  Again, I had made weighed out the dry ingredients last night.  I had got to the last step (mixing in the mashed bananas) and the cupcakes were still in the oven.  I only have one deep bun tin, so I cleared up.

Cupcakes were done,  out of the tray, put the tray to cool, carried on clearing up.  I'm not normally an especially messy cake cook,  but because I had weighed out so much last night, I had debris everywhere.

Eventually the tin was cool enough for me to put out the muffin cases,  and away we went.   I had my shower and got dressed while they were baking.

The muffin recipe says cook for 20-30 mins.  I had set the timer for 20 mins, and they weren't quite done. Another 5.  Then I was casually reading through the recipe, and I realised that they were on the same heat as the cupcakes (equiv gas mark 4), and they should have been lower.   Bother.

I turned the temperature down. Futile, I know.   The next time I tested them, the skewer came out they are sitting in the muffin tin now, cooling slightly,  before I turn them out on to a baking sheet.

They smell OK.

I'm normally quite good at cakes, not sure what has happened!  Never mind, if they don't turn out right I can turn them into emergency trifle bases.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Well, I made the macaroons.

I decided to follow Margeurite Patten's recipe, in her Baking book.  I was a bit unsure about how much to whip the egg whites.  She says "until they are just frothy" and advises against trying to whip them to firm.   But exactly when is "just frothy"?

The first signs of frothiness appeared very quickly.  But I couldn't believe that was it. So I whipped faster and for longer. When I say "I", I mean "using my mixer, I".  I stopped. Still frothy.  I had another whizz. And another.    

Eventually my nerves couldn't stand it, and I stopped.   I muxed everything else in,  and then made little thingummies on baking trays.    I popped two trays in the oven.

How to tell if they are done?  The cooking time depends on size.  Uh-huh.    Right.  Well, I had more balls than the recipe should have yielded,  so let's assume that I need the shortest amount of time.      But looking at them, how can you tell? Should they be crisp? Soggy? Moist? 

I still have 4 egg whites in the fridge, and a big bag of almonds so I can make another batch of ground almonds if necessary.  So, I got them out and they are cooling on the baking sheets as I type.

We'll see.

Whipping up enthusiasm

I've got a load of egg whites in the fridge (from the custard I made the other day).  I keep meaning to try my hand at macaroons.

The last lot of egg whites ended up in the bin.

I've also got a business meeting tomorrow, and I thought I might make some carrot cupcakes and some banana muffins.   I need to go and buy some cream cheese to make the proper frosting for the carrot cakes. 

I just can't get seem to get started on any of it.   

Every time I think "Right, come on then, let's get that recipe book out" I get sidetracked.   I've had to take some photos of the Girls.   I had to investigate a noise. Put some washing on.  Tidy up a bit.   Cancel tomorrow's milk.   Sort out my handwashing (into a pile ready to be handwashed).   Put the heating on.   put the kettlle on.    Hang out the washing.  Reboil the cooled kettle to make the cup of tea.

I'm writing it down here as a way of giving myself a kick up the b*m.   But it's also just another way of procrastinating really. 

Guinea fowl

OC (Other Chap) mentioned that he'd quite like to try raising Guinea Fowl this year.  I had reservations about it, but after DH and I looked into it, I was quite interested in the idea.     Not sure we're going to do it though because (a) they fly. High.  so we aren't sure we'll be able to contain them on the allotment, and (b) they are quite noisy.   

We bought a guinea fowl to try yesterday. Made Delia's recipe, the one with 30 cloves of garlic.   Very easy, very delicious. (although not sure it has as much flavour as our super duper home reared dinner chickens).   We've only eaten the breast so far, we'll be eating the rest for tonight's dinner, and it'll be interesting to see what the darker meat tastes like.

Good old Delia.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Swiss Roll Woes

I have some cream in the fridge which must be used by yesterday.  I fancied custard.  So I started to whip some up.  I have a litre of cream, so I doubled Delia's recipe, using up 6 precious eggs in the process.

Part way through the cream simmering with the vanilla pod, I had a fancy for some Swiss Roll to eat with my custard - specifically some Swiss Roll with Lemon Curd.

I looked in my Delia cookbook. Hmm.   I looked in my Margeurite Patten cookbook and came across  rather more complicated recipe, which promised a lighter result.

So, I got going.     The initial stages were interesting,  and the mix looked fab and light.  Now, Margeurite says it takes 9 minutes for this to cook.    After 9 minutes, mine was no where near cooked.  So I added 2 minutes.  Then I added 2 minutes and turned the oven up (my fan oven, annoyingly, uses the same equivalent for gas 4 and 5).   Then I added another 2 minutes. 

At this point it was starting to look golden brown, and it was a little but more firm, but it wasn't cooked.  So I added another 2 minutes.

I think it's been in for 15 minutes so far.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Roo Trouble

A couple of weeks ago, DH mentioned that Roo occasionally attacks him.  It was always explainable:  DHwas carrying a large yellow trug, or he had gauntlets on, or...something.     We put it down to the start of the breeding season,  and possiby the crows from the cockerel a few plots away.

Today I went with DH to the allotment to clean out the coops whilst he did the waterers and feeders etc.    Roo tried to attack me.  I was carrying a small pink trug, and DH told me that was what had upset Roo.

A few minutes later, I was walking across Roo's pen carrying a tub of Stalosan. Roo tried to attack me.  I put the tub down, and told Roo not to be so stupid.

A bit later,  I was walking back across his pen carrying a small dustpan and brush, and he REALLY attacked me.  It hurt. Quite a bit.   

From then on, I watched out of the corner of my eye everytime I walked across the pen, or while I was working on his coop.  He sidled up to me - not in a "helloooo" kind of way - and then fluffed up. I faced him and glared,  and told him that yes, if e attached me, he would hurt me more than I would hurt him; but he needed to know that we only kept him because he was such a sweetie.  And if he wasn't a sweetie anymore, he could and WOULD be replaced.

I started to work out how we could replace him.  Obviously, we will have his offspring with the Welsh Blacks (Rose and Ruby), and we could easily raise and keep one of the boys from the next hatch.  But we like the Sasso x Welsh Black cross.    We could possibly keep one of Mrs Roo's boys, if we hatch any... but we think they are too closely related, and I'm not sure it would be good to have one of their boys as a stud.        Getting him to fertilise Custard's eggs might be the best option.  Custard is his daughter, but by our other Sasso girl, who is no longer with us.  

I don't really want to put Custard in with the breeding flock, but I'm sure we could arrange for her to visit Roo (or her and one of the others).  But I don't want to separate my garden girls for too long.  And how can I get her (them) on to Breeder pellets, when she's in with everyone else?

Hmmm.   Have to think about it.
Oh, when I got home - covered in Stalosan and Diatom, plus some virkon as I had been scrubbing and sterilising the spare roosting bars ,  I got changed. 

I have several puncture wounds on my leg.  Not as bad as when Flint ripped my jeans, but quite sore.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


We're going to learn how to butcher a pig. 

I'm still very squeamish when it comes to gutting chickens.    I still cringe a bit when it comes to less usual bits of animals.    But I am determined to get over these irrational things.   Meat is meat, whichever part of the animal it comes from,  and it's not fair on an animal (as much as eating an animal can ever be regarded as "fair") to waste so much.

So.  We're going to learn how to deal with a half pig.  And then I imagine we'll be eating pork for some time to come.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Memories, part 2

I have a habit of writing in notebooks from the back page moving forwards.  It's usually just jottings.

So, sitting waiting for the BBKA meeting to start with my "chicken notes" (now renamed "chicken & bee notes") providing much happy nostalgia, I flipped to the back to see what sort of things I had scribbled there.


Specifically, potential chicken names.

There on the very first line were the names I had originally chosen: Esme, Gytha, Magrat, Agnes.   I can't see those names now (even when I am reading Terry Pratchett) without chuckling.    Those names are what caused my husband's hen hostility to reach boiling point, so much so that he actually had an outburst in a restaurant.

We had been having lunch out with DS1 (S) and his wife (T).  T was asking me about the upcoming chickens, and we were talking about names.  I told her that I had finally decided on the names, and I reeled off "Esme, Gytha, Magrat and Agnes".    DH choked and snapped at me "When did it get to FOUR??"   I explained about the names, and the breeds (I was going to have a Cochin at the time) and that the Cochin would obviously be Agnes, because she fitted Terry Pratchett's description of Agnes.  And I couldn't go from Gytha to Agnes, I needed to have a Magrat as well.

But then I realised that DH wasn't joking.  He was very, very, unhappy.  He didn't want chickens at all.  He had given up trying to prevent me from getting them, and had accepted the logic behind  3 was better than 2.

Anyway.  The upshot was that I didn't get 4 chickens, I got 3.  And I couldn't bring myself to use those names.

The reason the memory makes me chuckle,  is that we now have 8 Garden Girls, and two flocks of 4 each at the Allotment.  The Allotmenteers are really my DH's chickens.   And he's now really into chickens.

The rest of the names on the pages were all in 3s. 

 "Broody Bunch"  : Jan, Marcia and Cindy
"Upstairs Downstairs": Rose Ruby Daisy 
"TV": Mary, Mungo, Midge;  and "George, Zippy, Bungle" 
"Old Lady Names": none written in, just a comment "very common for hens"

A few groups were highlighted by a cloud, indicating they had made it through to serious consideration

"Chicken names" Pollo, Gallina, Kip (i.e. "chicken" in other languages)
"Firefly": Yo, Saff, Bridge (Yolanda, Saffron, Bridget, the aliases of Mal's "wife") I also had Inara, Kaylee and Zoe written down, but crossed out.
"Goodies": Tim, Bill, Graeme

Then, over the page, in a really BIG cloud
Delilah, Lydia, Scarlett 

And those were the names I chose for my first three Girls. All that work on triptychs,  and I decided to go for unrelated names! 

The reason was that linked names are fine while everyone is OK. But as time goes on and you end up with survivors,   the linked names can sound a bit daft without their counterparts.

Over the page, I had numerous miscellaneous names scribbled on, obviously at different times as the names came to me.  Some of the names (example: Jasmine, Daisy) I chose for later hens.  

And re-reading some of the other names, I wish I'd remembered these notes when naming other hens.  I've got some great names on there.  I'll keep them for my next hens. Whenever they may be.

Memories, part 1.

Went to our first BBKA (British BeeKeeper Association) Meeting the other evening.  It was a really interesting talk about Swarming,  and I was pleased that we were already familiar with a lot of it (thanks to our course at the BCA), but there was also new stuff which were not (quite correctly) part of our course.

I grabbed my old "chicken notes" notebook to take with me andd, of course, I made plenty of notes.

While we were waiting for the evening to get underway I was flicking through the notebook.  It went right back to when the chickens were just a glint in my eye.  I have lists and lists, of breeds I might be considering,  suppliers,   other stuff that needed to be bought and where sold it for the best price.

It went on to show how I narrowed down my breed (and supplier) choices, and the dilemmas I faced about how to get the birds I wanted when no one supplier supplied them all.

I could see the whole path from starting, to ending up with a Transylvanian Naked neck and a Buff Sussex from Wernlas, and a Bluebelle from Sharon Gould at Pinvin.     I had maps and directions and timings about how I would get from one to the other.   My B&B booking at Ludlow at the "Hen and Chickens" guest house (selected entirely on the basis of its name!)

Ah, nostalgia.

I turned to the back pages of the book, and it raised the biggest smile of all....

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Maple and Pecan Muffins

I made butter yesterday,  so I made a batch of Maple and Pecan muffins today, to use some of the buttermilk.  I used a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.

Texture is good, very moist.  Not as mapley (or as pecan-y) as I was perhaps expecting, but they taste fine.    

I didn't think this through.  DH doesn't eat anything with nuts in, so he won't eat them.  There are 12   10 of them.  I can't eat anymore. 2 was more than enough.  I thought about taking them round to my neighbour, but that just seems bizzare.

I can see that these are going to haunt me as I serve them up in various disguises over the next few days.  

EDITED TO ADD:  I took 4 round to my lovely next door neighbour. Hope she likes them.   

Marriages Report

Everyone has now completed their 7 days with the Marriages pellets-with-Flubenvet.  We've had mixed results.

Normally, we feed Smallholder feed to everyone, so we knew we might have a bit of a problem with acceptance at just changing the feed overnight, with no gradual introduction.


At the Allotment we use Grandpa's Feeders (which I highly recommend, worth the money), so we filled the two feeders with 4kg each. We allowed 1kg per bird, which allows for 150g per chook per day.  We expected this to be far too much for our Laydees, who are little things,  and possibly for our Breeding Flock, who aren't laying much at the moment and are eating correspondingly less food.

At home, I measured out 4kg initially spread into their 5 Grubs . During the course of the seven days I added 2x500g, and 1x375g extra.  At the end of the 7 days, the remaining feed was collected and weighed.

At the end of the 7 days, we collected the remaining food from each pen, and weighed it.

In our breeding pen,  the birds consumed an average of 75g per day per bird.  It would have been more, but the cold snap meant that we had been feeding more corn than usual, and obviously this tool the place of some rations. Given that they aren't laying, and Roo doesn't lay at all of course, means that we are reasonably happy with this. 

The Laydees - goodness knows what they were eating, because it certainly wasn't the pellets.   They seem to have eaten only 25g per bird per day  Again, it's possible that the extra-corn-to-combat-the-cold -spell got in the way.   I'm also wondering if I made a mistake with my weighing out?

The Garden Girls, who were a last minute addition to the trial, did really well. I kept them in the Run longer in the mornings, not letting them out until 11am,  and they were back in at 4pm.  I also only gave them a token amount of corn, abd very few treats. They ate an average of 90g per bird per day,  and that seems fine as well, especially as only 4 of them are laying.

So, I will use Marriages-with-Flubenvet again in the summer  I'll measure again next time,  and if the Laydees still don't eat it, I'll resort to the old method of worming them.

It's a shame that the current batch of pellets will expire before they are next due for worming.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Papardelle - perhaps not

Home made meatballs for dinner yesterday. with Papardelle pasta.   This is strange stuff: much, MUCH wider than taglietelle, and actually quite difficult to twirl.   I'd bought it some time ago to have with a rather meaty lamb ragout, when it was eaten with a knife and fork rather than as pasta.  Anyway. As usual I cooked three portions, one for me, one for DH, and one for the Girls.  The Girls' portion was left in fresh water overnight.

At treat time, I snipped it all up and took it out to the Girls.  Despite it being snipped, the pieces were still rather large.  As usual there was a scrummage, and then each Girl shot of in a different direction,  the size of treat varying wildly.   They make such a song and dance of having a treat and running off with it,  you think they'd learn that it was much better to just run off, eat, and come back?  No.   They run off chuntering.  Sometimes they run round in circles past each other chuntering,  with  pasta flailing behind in the wind.

The cleverest ones just gobble it down and come back for more.  Lily and Daisy are able to eat several pieces in the time it takes Roobarb to run round the garden, put her pasta down, pick it up, run around again, put it down, bok loudly, then nibble it.

This pasta produced even more bizarre behaviour than I normally get to see when we have Pasta fun.

When one came back, I'd put down some more.  The others would see more pasta, and come running back, usually irrespective of whether they had finished their piece.    

It made me chuckle to watch them trying to stuff another piece of pasta in their beak when their beak was already fully occupied.     I had to be careful to only put down small amounts, as I think we might have had a few problems.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Bird Feeders

Some time ago I replaced all our bird feeders with some much better, modular, ones which are less susceptible to getting a crust of rotten food stuck at the bottom.

They work really well, and they keep out all the large birds.  I'd love to feed the blackbirds and thrushes, but having feeders they can get to means that we become inundated with Starlings and, worse,  pigeons.   

We already have big fat pigeons in our garden.  They are so huge that they wobble when they sit on the fences.     They are so greedy, and they prevent anyone else from getting feed.

Anyway.   When I replaced the old feeders, I bought 1 for peanuts, 1 for nijer seeds, and 1 for mixed seed.   They started off on a pole in the middle of the garden, where it would be harder for the cats to sneak up on them.   We closed off that bed agfter the sudden death of Jasmine, my Welsummer hen,  and moved the pole to right outiside the kitchen window.

I didn't think that the birds would come, with it being so close to the house.  However, it's also close to he cherry tree and, as it turns out, this means the feeders are really popular. The birds tend to watch from the cherry tree and , when they are sure it's safe, they flit over to the feeder, eat, then fly off again.

There is a big step down to outside from the kitchen, which means that , from inside the house, the feeders end up being at window height. This is great, and I love to see all the birds. 

The peanuts and mixed seeds are eaten quickly, but we didn't get any takers for the nijer seeds for a long time.
Recently though we've had a couple of these little chaps having a nibble...

We also have a couple of robins visiting.  They are very territorial, so only one is at the feeder at once. The other one waits in the cherry tree:

The Girls Help Out Again

DH was out clearing the fruit cage the other day.  The old weed-suppressing fabric needed removing (it's full of holes and not doing it's job) and the tayberry needed pruning.

We'll need to move the Girls' ranging area soon, as we want to reseed some of the back of their pen with Chicken Grass.   We thought that taking the matting of the fruit cage would give them some interest ad give some of the more worn areas of the rest of their "pen" a bit of a rest.

The Girls were beside themselves with excitement as DH lifted each piece, and they leapt in as soon as it was clear 

At times, DH couldn't move without finding a chicken (sometimes literally) on his foot!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Marriages Pellets with Flubenvet

I feel my Girls Smallholder Layers pellets.  They're very happy with them, and I'm not looking to change.

It's time to worm everyone.  I normally do this with a measured dose for each Girl (I have very accurate scales) but find it quite hard on the Allotment where the Girls (and Roo) aren't so happy at being caught and picked up.

I heard that Marriages were now doing 10kg bags of their Pellets-with-Flubenvet,  and I thought I'd give this a whirl for the Allotment crowd.  As I was placing my order, I decided to try it on the Garden Girls as well, so I ended up buying a 20kg sack anyway.

The feed for the Allotment crowd was changed on 27 January. We weighed out 1 kg for each bird (on the basis that each bird would eat 150g per day for 7 days).  In reality, I would expect the smaller Laydees to eat less;  and as the Breeders aren't laying at the moment, they might well only be eating 100g a day each.     We're going to weigh the leftover feed at the end of the seven days, so we can see if the Girls seem to have consumed the right amount.

For the Allotmentees, it has definitely less painful than trying to catch each individual chook each day for 7 days.  Howver,  I haven't been around though to see how well (or not) they have adapted to the change in feed.  Or how well they'll adapt when we change them back on Thursday! 

I've just started the Garden Girls on it., this afternoon. I did it when I shut the Girls up for the evening.   Tilda (youngster) doesn't seem to mind the change, she had her beak in one of the feeders and was chomping away quite happily.    Delilah (oldest girl, very slow now) looked in several of the feeders before giving in and eating something.    Milly (loony, second oldest, bulliest chook) was not impressed, and decided to chase Tilda round the Run. as if it was her fault that the food had changed. The others are still busy rooking for remnants of their afternoon corn, and I don't think they've tried it yet.

I'm not sure about this. Normally I would gradually change the feed over the course of a week or som but that's just not practical with this type of food.  I'll be keeping a close eye on the Girls this week to see how they cope - and how they deal with the change back to Smallholders at the end of the 7 days. Then I can decide what to do next  time.

It would be fab if it works.  It's not a particularly cheap way of getting Flbenvey into them, but (a) it's easier for me,  and (b) it's the best way of making sure each chook gets the right dose.