Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Thumb twiddling

The chicks are due to hatch tomorrow.  I always find the last day (and the day of hatching) quite nerve-wracking.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The things we (don't) do for them!

We have a large, unkempt and, frankly, rather ugly Pampas in our back garden.

Over the years we've cut it back, both gently with shears and aggressively with a machete. It relishes the challenge and comes back bigger and stronger than ever. We tried neglect. It laughed at our efforts and spread further.

We've talked about getting rid of it completely.  However, the chooks love it.  They use it to shelter from the heat on a hot sunny day, and they use it to shelter from the rain when necessary. They've dug enormous craters for additional dust baths. They spend quite a lot of time in it. 

They have another set of shrubs which should provide the same level of protection, and of course they have a walk in run with a roof...  but the Pampas is their favourite place... because it is close to the house and they can see us in the kitchen from the security of the Pampas fronds.

 So, we haven't removed it.   However, we are now considering removing half of it... the "back" half which they don't use.    We'll see.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Charity Shops

In our spare room we have a box for "To Ebay" and a box for "Charity Shop" stuff.  When the Ebay pile gets big enough, or has some items that are likely to make it worth listing, I have a bit if a purge.

When I do my research, I sometimes find that the item is too common to be worth selling (after ebay and Paypal fees),  or will require so much packaging (or prep for photographing) that it's just not worth the hassle of selling.   In those cases, the Charity shop pile gets bigger.

Sometimes I just can't bear to part with an item, even though it may have been hidden in one of the boxes for a long time... and even though I had forgotten all about it until I unearth it.

This time, I've been ruthless. No ruth was shown with various teapots, brand-new-with-tags clothes (BNWT),  or anything.  Everything went in one pile or the other. The Ebay stuff was listed,  and this morning I went to my nearly-local Oxfam shop to deliver a bootload of very saleable items (we try not to pass tat on to Oxfam).

It took me quite a long time to find a charity shop I was happy to go into to donate.    Even when I was working and was forever accumulating quality stuff which I donated,  I found that..that... gaze.. -  that the charity shop person often gives when you turn up to donate - really off-putting.  Even when I was smartly dressed in my work clothes.   Over time I visited many shops, never more than once because I just hated the experience.

Then, a few years ago, it was my the turn of my nearly-local Oxfam.  What a difference.  The ladies in there were very welcoming, and seemed genuinely pleased to be receiving a donation (even without seeing what was in the box/bag).   There is a little room at the back where a couple of them work on sorting out the stuff.   I went back another time, the same.  Each time, it was easier.  Even when they pounced on me on the way out to see if I would take part in the tag-a-bag scheme, it was OK.   I started to relax, a bit. Not much, but a bit.

Today was almost back to square one.  I think they had students looking after the shop.  As usual, I walked through the shop to the Little Room.  I walked in, and put my box - the first of several - on the floor, saying "is it OK to put this here?" as I did so.   I barely got a grunt from the girl who had her back to me.  I went back to my car, and hesitated before collecting the second box. I also had a suit-cover which contained a number of blouses (many BNWT).  I couldn't face going to another charity shop.

When I went in, I didn't get any reaction at all.   I had used my last-but-one bag tag, so I asked the girl how I could get some more.  She looked at me in panic, then turned round and appealed to someone else for help. 

The day was saved by a lovely lady who had been on the phone. She gave me some tags, apologised that I would have to write the number on myself, and thanked me for taking the time to donate.

So, I will go back again.

I don't know why I feel so uncomfortable about it.  The stuff I donate raises plenty of money (I know because I signed the gift aid thing and I get a report each year).  I don't want a fuss,  but I don't want to be ignored - or feel sneered at.

I think that making people (well, me) feel comfortable in that environment is a skill,  and it's a skill that few people seem to have.    I'm not sure it can be trained, either.

I hope that the shop appreciates the talent that those-with-it have.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


We don't make this often enough.

We use Delia's recpe for oven baked risotto, which eliminates the need for constantly adding a ladleful of stock, stirring, then another ladleful, etc.

Every time I make it, I wonder why we don't make it more often.

Yesterday I made it to use up some ham.  I remembered to defrost some home made chicken stock,  and this made it a really deeply flavoured risotto.   When we want to add something additional (like leftover chicken or ham), we cut it up small, and then stir it in for the final 5 minutes of cooking.

I must make this more often.

Monday, 21 May 2012



I bought a Tablet pc a few days ago.  I've been using instead of my regular PC as much as possible, so I can get used to it and see what I can do on it and what I can't.

It's lovely... but absolutely awful for my posture.   

Saturday, 19 May 2012


Went to the Allotment today for the first time in a couple of weeks (DH and OC other chap have been doing the daily visits).

Several broody ladies, with a clutch of them sitting together. Mrs needed a bit of a bottom clean: she has the same problem as Custard, her bottom forms a shelf which catches poo;  everyone else seems fine. Cuddled Norman and Notnorman, tried to cuddle their sister Siouxsie but she wasn't having any of that. No chance of getting near Ruby (our Welsh Black); and the two new Roo x WelshBlack girls from last year's hatch took corn from my hand but didn't want to be stroked.  We really must name them now they are staying.

I saw that poor Coffee, our chicken of fate, seems to have a scaly leg problem. Have got out some stuff to treat it with tomorrow.

Cleaned out all the coops,  DH did a lot of strimming around the outside.  Now that we are down to 8 on the allotment, we'll have to get them back to using two coops and leaving the shed free. I can then disinfect and poultry shield it, ready for the chicks.  Fortunatel we've got a couple of months before it's needed, but I would like to get the girls to stop using it well in advance of the time its needed.

Friday, 18 May 2012

New girl

I have a new girl. She's has very similar colouring to Roobarb,  but is much smaller, more pekin bantam sized.  She's going to be a House Hen, hich is just as well because when I tried to introduce her to the others, they all ran away in horror.

She looks much better in real life than she seems from this photo:
I've settled her in the hallway, but she looks far too lovely to be there.


The broodies, who have now been broody for four weeks, are noe getting confused. Whenever one of the three non-broody girls lays an egg and starts making the Egg announcement,  one of the broodies also starts claiming it and Announcing,  followed by the other broody.  This means that there are three hens trying to outshriek each other to announce the arrival of their egg. 

And the other two get perturbed by the squall and, presumably interpreting it as an Alarm, join in as well.

Such fun!

Thursday, 17 May 2012


Just candled the eggs... 16 out of 18 are developing.
Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


I've just managed to spill half a bottle of "high;y fragranced reed diffuser" oil. Everywhere. Including over me.

It's a brand I haven't used before, and the lid doesn't screw on.  I opened it today and put it in the living room to try it out (I usually have one in the hall and one in the bathroom).  I just went to move it and I forgot that, unlike the other two brands I've used before, the lid of the bottle just sits there. 

It crashed in spectacular fashion, spraying the dratted oil everywhere. All over the cupboard, down the wall, over me, over the floor. Who knew that the bottle was a tardis and that the propelled oil would increase exponentially in volume as it surged through the air?!

I've cleaned it all up,  washed my hands (several times), changed my clothes, but the smell is following me everywhere.  I'm not sure I even like it that much.


Well, Florence and Milly are still at it.

Squished up together in the divided nest box.  Coming out (of their own accord) once a day, together. Wandering around the garden, together.  Having a dust bathe, together.  Eating, drinking, together. Terrorising Tilda, together.

Then back in the nest box, together. 


Best friends forever. Yeah, right.


Yesterday we woke to the sound of something scrabbling across our roof.  We decided it might be birds, or it might be Cyril the Squirrel trying to move back in (he - or she - once nested in the roof space, before we had our bedroom built).

This morning we were again woken to the sound of many somethings scrabbling around.   A short while later, we heard several magpies begin their ack-ack-ack-ack alarm,  and this went on and on and on monotonously.

DH investigated.  We had 6 or 7 magpies on the roof (cue Hitchcock music), Wash was sunbathing on the patio table, and a very angry magpie was standing on the ground next to him sounding the alarm.   Wash was competely oblivious to the fact that the magpie was complaining about him.

DH went downstairs and opened the kitchen door to call Wash in.  He strolled in,  the Magpie stopped squawking, and the other Magpies moved off to other vantage points in the garden.

One for sorrow, 
Two for Mirth (or - incorrectly, -  Joy, if you watched the TV series)
Three for a Wedding ( or - incorrectly, -  Girl, if you watched the TV series)
Four for a Birth (or - incorrectly, -  Boy, if you watched the TV series)
Five for Silver
Six for Gold
Seven for a Secret Never to Tell (Never to be told)

After that it gets a bit variable depending on the source.   

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I forget

Both DH and I are getting a bit forgetful.

It started with the standard going-upstairs-and-then-forgetting-why;  it continued with being easily distracted. For example, going online to look something up, then forgetting that there was even a reason for going on line.

I had arranged for someone to come round to quote for paving over our front lawn, and the chap was coming today.  This morning, DH announced that if we were getting a porch, we should do it before we get the front paving done.    

DH's suggestion was eminently sensible... but I wasn't sure whether the "porch" idea had come from, so I asked him.    Slightly cross, he said about a conversation we had (supposedly) had 2 weeks ago.  I did not remember a discussion.   Very exasperated now,  he told me that we had discussed having a porch.  We'd talked about somewhere to hang wet coats in winter.

None of this rang a bell. Not even a distant bell.  I think DH had one of those mundane dreams which are so uneventful that they disappear into the back of the mind and become a "memory".  I remember we were shopping in Waitrose once, about 20 years ago now, and we reached the cereals.  DH went to get some cereals and I said that we had bought them yesterday.  Then I realised that we hadn't been shopping yesterday,  but I had had a very vivid (and boring) dream the night before which had involved us shopping in Waitrose. 

I told him this - and reminded him about the Waitrose dream - and he wasn't convinced. Or amused.

I remember years ago talking about a porch, before we had the driveway done.  We also talked about a car port.  I talked about a car port again last September when I got my new (to me) car.   I remember talking about a garage/workshop, in the back garden,  last summer.  But I don't remember a recent conversation about a porch. At all.

So. He thinks we had a conversation and I've forgotten (or I am being awkward and am pretending to have forgotten).  I'm confident that he's dreamt it, or has been speaking to someone else about porches and thinks it was me.

Both of us think we're right.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Gardening at last!

DH has been "doing the gardening" solo so far this year. He's been trying to get out when the weather breaks to plant out seedlings,  mow, and do other maintenance jobs.

Today was lovely.  DH had to pop to the garden centre, so I popped out to mow the grass.  The Girls get very excited at mowing time, and love to follow the mower. Or get in front of the mower.  We move their netting while we mow, and the moment there is a gap Tilda (yes, Tilda, our disabled chicken) rushes through it (or under it) and skips round the rest of the garden.  How we chuckle!

I ws clearing some weeds from the base of some blackcurant bushes, and I realised that the floor of the fruit cage was choked with weeds.  We had had to stop the Girls getting in there, as they had started to eat the fruit buds,  and the weeds have been gaining ground in the damp/warm/damp weather. So I started excavating them.

Several hours later, the green bin was half full, and the fruit cage looked better.  Now it just looks unkempt and a bit weedy,  rather than completely unloved and calling for a machete.

I also hacked down, and then manually uprooted, my last two gooseberry bushes.  They were mildewed, again.  Last year (and the year before) I had had enough and had decided to pull them out. Each time,  couldn't do it.  Instead, I did some proper pruning (to make a goblet shape) at the proper time, and gave them another chance.  And another.    Each year, I had to squash past them go get to the in-cage blackcurrants.Each year they spiked me mercilessly, as I tried to pick the other soft fruit.

They've gone now. 

I won't get any more, not even the mildew-resistant ones.  These were a particular vaiety of gooseberry that tasted (when not mikdewed) like really juicy white grapes.  Not like gooseberries at all.

I'm back in the house for a moment as one of them gave me a parting stab in the finger (through my gloves) with a particularly large thorn.   I don't blame it,  I was pulling it out by the roots at the time and I'd get a bit prickly I think.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Eggs away

They arrived on Wednesday. We stored them, pointy end down, for 24 hours. Washed them in egg sanitiser,  and put them in the incubator yeserday afternoon.

Fingers crossed for 31st May.

Ups and downs

Got up this morning and, as is part of my usual routine, bent down to scoop up yesterday's clothes to put them in the washing basket... while I'm writing this, I have to ask myself why I don't put them in the washing basket when I take them off, as the washing basket is just a basket (no lid) and it sits on the floor against the wall, right next to where I drop my clothes at night....  when I spotted something on my jumper. It looked like an animal turd.

I didn't have my specs on, so I'm quite used to such confusions and things turning out to be benign.   My jumper was inside out, so it wasn't something that had been on my jumper when I took it off.   I couldn't believe that the cats would have pooed inside the house (not unless very unwell, and they had seemed fine when they came to wake us up this morning).  

Closer inspection, I saw some blood.  I was a bit concerned now, bloody stools is not a good thing.  But it wasn't a turd. Perhaps it was a mouse? We sometimes get mouse entrails although not often left on discarded clothes  I got a bit of tissue (handily tossed on the floor from some packaging that I hadn't cleared up from yesterday.... I'm not always this slovenly, honestly.... and pushed it round. And then I saw what it was.

It looks like a bird embryo.  I'm assuming it was a newly hatched chick, although it looked more like an almost fuly formed embryo.   Bloody cats!!

I know and accept that hunting is part of their nature.  It took me many, many years to get to this point of acceptance.    When they catch mice, we always rescue the living ones and set them free well away from where the cats can get them. On the occasions that we get a dead mouse (or remnants of) then I'm very sad for the poor thing, but I recognise that it was one of a large brood, and there are many broods a year.   When it's a baby bird though.... I find it very hard to accept.

We will keep a watch on the cats and see if we can work out where it came from.  In a previous year, we cut out part of a tree which the cat was using to reach a nest,  and I will do the same again if it will help.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Waiting for the post

Hatching eggs are due to arrive today!

Last year we set our own eggs, and did so very early in the season.  We had a good hatch and were lucky with the weather so the chicks were able to have time outside from fairly early on.  The downside was that the boys reached maturity ong before the cold weather settled in.

So, this year, we decided to hatch late.  We'd done this a couple of years ago (we'd actually done two separate hatches, which is why the second one was late) and it worked really well.    We also decided we wanted to introduce some new bloodlines, so opted to buy in eggs rather than hatching our own.    We decided to get some more Welsh Blacks,  and some Sassos.  

First hitch was that Smart Chicks weren't supplying eggs this year.  I looked around at other Sasso suppliers, but it seemed to be white birds and I wanted the Roo and Mrs type that we had previously.     As our current cockerel was Roo and Mrs' son, we decided that we'd just go for Welsh Blacks this year, and maybe look at getting some Sasso eggs next year, with a view to replacing our cockerel the year after. All was ordered.

Time passed. In the meantime, our cockerel had become quite nasty - most unlike his dad and mum - and we decided he had to go.

A few days before the eggs were due, the incubators and paraphernalia were brought down from the loft, cleaned, disinfected,  put on to test and adjusted.  Then the WB supplier had a flood which meant that he had to delay sending out eggs (and deal with a whole load of associated issues, poor chap).

Well, today's the day we should be receiving our eggs. I'm looking forward to having chicks again, and I'm really curious to see what 100% WB chicks are like.  Our last hatch was Sasso/Sasso,  Sasso/WB, Australorp/Australorp, and one WB/WB - oneof the WB ladies laid an egg on the way home and, as we were just about to incubate our own eggs, we popped her egg in as well.  Roobarb is beautiful to look at, but  has no absolutely no patience for being held. 

Normally when we raise dinner chicks, we try not to handle them too much.  Enough so they don't panic,  but not so much that they become tame (too easy to get attached to them).   However, we're going to try handling this set quite a lot, as we may want to keep one of the boys and maybe one of the Girls.

We've been raising chicks for several years now, and it doesn't lose it's appeal.


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Leaky Shed?

Yesterday I raked up the Aubiose in the run, ready to disinfect with Stalosan (powder disinfectant).  Then, I emptied and cleaned the poo trays,  transferred the clean nesting box material to the poo trays,  put the rest in the compost,  and then went to the shed to get fresh stuff.

I needed to open a new bale.  When I opened it, I could see that part of it was sodden.  Botheration.

I moved the accumulation of stuff out of the way (stalosan, tins of grit, buckets of something else, collapsible dog crate,  chimney brushes,  small roll of chicken fencing...) so that I could take a look.  I moved the bag of Aubiose and found some newspaper underneath, completely sodden.

I was tempted to curse, but there wasn't much point and it's easy enough to turn these things into positives.  Instead, I found an empty Aubiose sack, and started to move the dry Aubiose into it.  I think I saved about half.

I couldn't see any obvious signs of water ingress.  Maybe it had been in the Aubiose already?  But that would have to be a lot of water, as the newspaper that had been underneath (quite by chance) was sodden. The floor was sodden, but in a bale-end shaped square.

It's possible that the front of the shed at floor level, just at that point, had water ingress.  We've had lots of torrential rain, it could perhaps have bounced in from the paving outside?       No idea.  I've had to clear the area and leave it open to dry, and I'll see what happens next time it rains heavily.

If it is a leak, then it's a good job the Aubiose was exactly there. It soaked up the leak and stopped the other boxes etc getting water damaged.  (That reminds me, I'd better pick up the Stalosan and put it on a shelf,  that would be an expensive thing to lose to damp).

And if it was water in the Aubiose already, then that would be good as it means we don't have a leaky shed.

Broodiness continues

Milly and Florence are obstinately continuing to be broody.  It's two and a half weeks now, so they should give up the idea in another week or so.

Every morning when I go to eject them, I find them squashed in one nestbox (DH made a divider so I could divide the Cube's roomy single nestbox into two slightly snug ones). usually they are both trying to cover an egg laid by one of the 3 non-broody girls.    The side they are sitting in rotates, as the non broody girls go into the unoccupied cubicle to lay.

Every morning, the same routing.  Lots of bad tempered growling (from the Girls, not me);  Milly comes out first, with her head down so low that I'm surprised she doesn't hypnotise herself.  I lower my hands, with her gripping to my thumbs or whatever else she's been able to get hold of,  then as I get near the ground she leaps off, lands, and a big poo explodes from her nether regions.   

Florence, who is much bigger and heavier and fidgetier, is harder to remove. She's learnt that if I have to get her out backwards, it's harder.  So, I try and get her out (holding her wings so she can't use them like arms to block the entrance), and as she comes out backwards she grips the edge of the egg port.  I then have to unstick one foot, which switches to grapping the fleshy part of my hand; and then unstick the other, which grabs the other hand, and  I move her away like that. Of course this means both my hands are rather full and I can't hod her wings, so we get a bit of wing flapping.  Her bottom is usually pointed at my chest at this point,  so I try to lower her to the ground as quickly as possible.

We repeat this process a couple of times a day.

On the plus side, it does give me an opportunity to stroke and cuddle my two girls who rarely permit me to handle them (especially Florence).

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Dinner chickens

The remaining 2011 Dinner chickens were dispatched on Monday. Four girls, plus the intolerable cockerel. Two girls for us, two girls for OC (other chap) and the boy will be for a shared coq au vin on Saturday.

DH did the gutting of ours yesterday;  the Girls are much harder to deal with than the boys, especially when they have reached maturity.

We had roast chicken for dinner, for the first time in months. Actually it's hte first time in months we've cooked chicken, as the only chicken we cook is chicken we have raised ourselves. (We do still have chicken on the odd occasion that we have a takeaway or restaurant curry). 

Once again I remind myself that,as I am not going to become a vegetarian, if I want to eat chicken then it's best to eat a chicken that I know has had a happy and full life and a quick and painless death.  If we weren't raising them ourselves, we would not really know what life they had.  If we weren't raising them, these birds would never have known life at all.

Sometimes...only sometimes... I hanker after blissful ignorance. When I could buy meat without thinking about it. When letting meat go past its sell by date and then get thrown away didn't trouble my Conscience at all.

Now, we work hard not to waste any meat, whether we buy it or raise it ourselves. We try not to overindulge,  create and use leftovers, etc.

The second bird is in the freezer.  By the time we get round to eating her, time will have passed since the whole dispatching/gutting bit, and it won't be quite so difficult.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Rekindling my interest

I've had a Kindle for a couple of years now. I'm a technophile and love technology. 

When I first got it, I downloaded some free books, and used it occasionally.  Every time I wanted to buy a book, I found that it was more expensive to buy the Kindle version, and I just couldn't bring myself to waste my money that way.  I understand that e-books are subject to VAT,  but even so, they are a bit overpriced compared to their paperback counterparts.  I'd buy loads if they were cheaper.

The other thing that stopped me buying books for it, was that  for some of the books I wanted, I already had the rest of the collection (all Terry Pratchetts,  all Jasper Ffordes,  all  Malcolm Pryce) on my bookshelves, and I couldn't imagine not having the rest of the respective collections on my bookshelf with them.

DH has another e-reader, not a Kindle,  and he's very happy with his. It still didn't inspire me to use mine.

Last year, after Game of Thrones finished, I decided I liked it enough to try reading the next book in the series.  The books are quite large, and I decided I'd buy it for my Kindle.  It sat, unread, on my Kindle for months.  I kept meaning to read it, I just couldn't get started. I wasn't really in a reading mood anyway, I had a couple of paperbacks to read and I couldn't be bothered to get started on those either.

Then the second season of Game of Thrones  was due to start on TV, so I decided to try reading the book beforehand.   I was hooked on the story.

I raced through the second book; I downloaded the third book (actually 2 volumes) and raced through that;  then the fourth book, which I took on holiday along with the fifth book (again 2 volumes).  I was pleased to have them on my Kindle because (a) I didn't have to wait for them to arrive,  (b) I didn't have to fill up my luggage with books, (c) I didn't have to hold them, and (d) my Kindle was very easy to carry around, and (e) I could read it while I was on the treadmill when we got back.

I've now finished the series. The next volume isn't due to be released until 2013, with the final volume not due until 2015. 

As I picked up one of the not-yet-read paperbacks to try and fill the gap,  I found I really missed my Kindle. I'm really surprised!

I'm even more surprised that I'm thinking of buying additional books for it, even though they are more expensive.  And even though it means I won't have complete colletions on my bookshelf.

I've still got a couple of paperbacks to finish before I buy any more.... and I guess I'll see how I feel then.  But I am finding that each time I pick up the current paperback, I'm seriously thinking about buying a Kindle copy of it  and putting the paperback away on the bookshelf.  I know it's only a matter of a few pounds, but I normally don't waste money in this way (I choose to waste it in other ways). 

I'm not at all suggesting that the Kindle is the best e-reader.  I strongly suspect that the one my DH has is much better.  Despite being a technophile, I just didn't really expect to be an e-reader fan at all.

Sulky Girls

Milly (Cream Legbar) and Florence (Australorp) are continuing to be broody.  If one of the other Girlies lays an egg in the nestbox, both of them squash in to try and mother it.

Every morning, and much to their very vocal disgust, I hoik them out. They each reward me with a torrent of verbal abuse and an enormous, indescribably vile smelling,  broody poo.

The abuse continues while they walk around the garden, walk into the run, eat food, drink waterm scratch around,  seek out the non-broody girls to bully them, and eventually go make their way back to the nestbox.

If the weather is dry, I hoik them out several times during the day, and the routine is repeated.  I just come in and shut the kitchen door so I don't have to hear them whinge.

Florence has taken to grippng the side of the egg port with her superstrong talons when I try and get her out. I'm getting quite adept at easing them off and outting my hand in its place so she grips me instead (wince).

Yesterday, they both came out of their own accord when I was scattering corn, and I was hopeful that the broody spell might be broken. 

But this morning, it was back to "normal".