Monday, 24 September 2012

Drowned rats

Yesterday the weather tool a slight turn for the worse, and the rain which we have been repeatedly promised for weeks finally arrived.

The Big Girls are fine. They have a lovely clear-roofed walk in run. Their current paddock arrangement lets them use the hedge against the back fence, and several dense shrubs.  They have no need to get wet at all.

The Littlees have a Cube which means they can shelter under it for the worst of the  weather, and they have a bed with several dense, small, shrubs which keep the weather off.  However, the Littlees haven't really seen rain before, and don't understand that their feathers aren't waterproof.

It was too late yesterday to go and find the winter covers, so I decided to do it first thing this morning.

First thing this morning, the rain was torrential.  Still, it meant that the winter covers were needed more than ever, so I braved the rain to go and find them in the shed.   It was too wet to try and do both runs,  so I decided to do the Littlees.

It took a bit longer than I expected, mainly because (a) I hadn't cut the cover to fit in advance and (b) the punched holes weren't in the right places.   Fortunately I had bought a load of Klingons in the past, and a rummage in a cupboard meant I could find four of them. 

The rain got heavier.  DH offered to come and help, but I declined.  Firstly, I was wearing his rain hat as I don't have one of my own;  and secondly,  doing it myself meant I could take my time and tweak it here and there and redo the clips as often as necessary to get it right.

My head was dry, but the rest of me was saturated.  The Littlees still haven't understood the need to keep dry so the 3 of us look like drowned rats.

I may have to get them in later and hairdryer them.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Flock animals

Poppy (new Wlesh Black/Australorp) and Lotti (Exchequer Leghorn) are so lovely, they have already carved out little soft spots for themselves.

Poppy is a really gentle friendly girl. Right from hatching, she was one of the four chicks that clamoured to be picked up.  I've continued to develop this by frequent pick-ups, each rewarded with a treat.  I've also encouraged her to come and see me when I am sitting outside,  and she gets a reward each time she comes into the kitchen to find me (something which I suspect I will regret later).

Lotti is a typical Leghorn. Very skittish and flighty.  She doesn't want to be picked up, thank you. However, she does want to come and land on me.  She's been learning to leap and land on my arm, bird-of-prey style.  I had to do this because her previous habit was aiming herself at Poppy on my arm, or landing willynilly on my head. Highly amusing, but it was wearing a bit thin.   Lotti jas a deformed foot, which doesn't impede her running around or flying, but it does mean she can't grip when she's trying to perch on something.

They roam around the garden together, and snuggle up together for rests.  Occasionally their roaming takes them close to the netting which separates them from the Big Girls.   The Big Girls do their best to ignore the Littlees, but every so often we hear a commotion resulting from one of the Biggees launching themself furiously at the netting, and scaring off the Littlees.   There have been a couple of sharp pecks, but usually the Littlees stay just out of range.

For the last few days I've temporarily opened up both free ranging areas, so they get half the garden each but can't get in to each others areas.   I don't want to do any joint free ranging until the Littlees reach point of lay (or maybe ever) where they might be grown up enough mentally to make a stand.  But this does give both sets some new areas to explore, and they do come across each other at the Borders every so often.

Yesterday, and again today,  I noticed that Poppy and Lotti were snuggled together for a rest - but along one of the borders.  Miles away from where they normally rest.   On the other side of the border, several of the Biggees were also having a rest. 

I don't, for a moment, think the Biggees have accepted the Littlees.  I think it was just a warm day, and everyone was chilling out.  The Littlees (presumably) wanted to feel part of a bigger flock; and the Biggees were (I suspect) pretending they hadn't noticed.

It was rather sweet.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Testing the power of social networks

A guy I used to work with had a baby daughter who had a brain tumour, and died aged 3. To try and help other children, Rob and his wife set up a charity called "Anna's Hope". Story here:

Anna's Hope is one of 25 charities (out of 3500 applications) who has been put forward to win a £250K house. The eventual winner will be chosen by public online vote, closing on 20th September. The winner will be the one who has the most contacts and makes best use of social media .

Rob is competing against much bigger charities with bigger networks and more resources, so we're trying to spread the word. If you would like to help, please vote

Anyone from anywhere in the world can vote. You can vote multiple times, but only once per day. (if you have a Smartphone, you may be able to vote from that in addition to your desktop/laptop, I'm not sure how they are doing the once a day restriction).

Winning the house means that Anna's hope will reach its target of £1m and be able to set up the First Neuro Rehabilitation Service in the UK for Children with Brain Tumours

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


It's been a really mixed year for garden produce. Of course last year was outstanding, so the comparison is all the more stark.

No Quince; low volme of raspberries and strawberries, and those we did have just didn't have much flavour.  A reduced number of apples, and the crop has been devastated by the blasted parakeets;  very few pears, and those have also been stolen by the parakeets.   Sweetcorn did reasonably well; courgettes were good;  tomaotes - much fewer than usual garlic, less than usual. Blackcurrants in abundance. Peas - a small crop; salad leaves - ok, cucumber - ok. Chillies were good. The cherry crop was abysmal.  Basil failed completely. Pumpkins and squash - we have quite a few, haven't tried them yet.

Yesterday DH picked the last of the tomatoes, and he's turning them into passata today.  Last year we produced more jars than I can count.  This year, many of those hars are sitting empty in the cupboard.

We had some wind which had knocked over many of the sweetcorn plants.  I picked them yesterday, then blanched and froze the cobs. 

The Autumn raspberries have been cropping well, and these are much more full of flavour - all that late sunshine.

The hostas have been glorious. Not edible of course, but lovely nonetheless. 

And now we're clearing vegetable beds, cleaning the greenhouse,  doing the autunmn pruning, and generally getting ready for winter.

Next year will, I hope, be better.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Eyes have it

Well, that was surprisingly easy.

It was a bit odd on the first afternoon and evening.  The next morning I put on my new specs and didn't really think about it too much. No problem descending the stairs (I realised later that I already move my head -rather than my eyes- down to see where I am going, so no issues there).   I'm still needing to make minor adjustments ot my head position when I am reading, but it's barely noticeable.

I'm off to the opticians today to choose my "free" second pair.   And to get my prescription so I can get my old pair re-lensed,  I'm keen to use Cillary Blue again after DH's great experience with them earlier this year.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Eye, eye

Just picked up my new specs, with my first ever pair of varifocal lenses in.

Normal vision is great. It's going to take me a day or two to get used to moving my head (and not overmoving it) to look at things slightly to the side. Or down.

Haven't tried stairs yet.. The road near the opticians was being dug-up, and that was interesting enough for my first trial.

So far, not as difficult as I expected it to be.

Monday, 10 September 2012


I'm officially getting old now.  I've reached the age where I need varifocals.

It's been coming for a few years.  When I was in my early 40s, my optician told me that at some point (probably in the then  next year) I'd find that I was having a bit of difficulty reading.   Each year I went back for my eye test, and each year the optician expressed surprise that It hadn't happened.

A couple of years ago, I tried to read something one morning and found I couldn't focus on the page.  A bit later in the day, it was fine.   The same thing happened one evening.   At my next appointment, my optician confirmed that it was nearly time.   She explained the pros and cons of varifocals; however, the incidences of not being able to read were very spaced out,  and I decided to carry on for a while, as the reading problem was very intermittent and wasn't causing any problems.

And then a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't intermittent any more.  I was fine reading my 'puter,  I was fine when there was contrast.  But I was struggling to read the crossword clue numbers in the newspaper, and the print on jars,  and I had to keep adjusting the text size on my Kindle. (What a fantastic thing to be able to do. When my eyes are tired, I make the text bigger. When my eyes are OK, I make the text smaller!).  I can't abide it when people deny they are having sight or hearing problems, so on my next visit to town I called in to the optician to choose some glasses.  I had to have another sight test as I felt my eyes had deteriorated significantly (in the reading capability) and if I was going to get new specs it should be with the latest prescription.

Some time later I emerged and went back to my car.  I was getting in when a man appeared and asked me to take a look at my car.  He pointed to the rear quarter. "Was that there when you left the car?" he asked, indicating a dent and scrape.   No, it hadn't been. My poor car.   He then went on to tell me that he and his passenger had been sitting in the car in front of mine and had heard a crash. They then saw the car behind me continue to force its way out of the space by damaging my car.  The driver drove off without stopping.

He gave me his details, and told me to report it to a local police station.   I was in a bit of shock.   I hadn't noticed, I would have driven home and not noticed until I next passed the back of the car.   I would have had to pay to get it fixed, or lose my no claims discount.  Thank goodness there were witnesses!  I thanked him profusely,  and went to the police station to make my report.

I phoned the insurance company and told them about it.  There are a lot of insurance scams going on, so they asked a lot of questions.   They confirned that the other vehicle was insured, so they would start the process.    Again I was thankful that someone had witnessed the incident and had given me the information.

Some days later, the Constable to whom I reported the incident phoned me.  The driver has 24 hours to report an accident, and no report was received.  (That surprised me a bit, especially as the other driver's insurance company would have been contacted: surely that would have prompted them to 'fess up.)   He had spoken to the witnesses, who confirmed the details. And there was CCTV footage which showed the entire incident.   How lucky was that?!

What a rotten thing for the other driver to have done.   If they had waited for me (or left their details), I would not have been angry, it's just a car after all and it can be fixed. But the fact that they drove off and then failed to report it really has made me cross.   I think it's a s*itty thing to do to someone.

All the hassle (driving to the Police station, the Police report takes quite a while to fill in;  all the extra time on the phone to the Insurance company because it was a hit-and-run,); all the worry of what would happen; all the Police time taken up with this,  the witnesses time;   and what if I hadn't been lucky enough to have witnesses? The driver wasn't to know that.    I hope they throw the book at her.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Baby Girls

The Baby Girls are getting on wonderfully.   We've moved the Cube (again) so that their fenced area includes their own personal flowerbed playground.  We  hacked down some Verbascum that were causing problems with the netting:They'd finished flowering anyway and, as I'm not a great fan of Verbascum,  I was happy to chop them down before the seed pods opened.  I've  no idea where these came from as they only appeared last year and they are now trying to out compete the equally enormous (but much loved by me) Hollyhocks.  I did resist taking the opportunity of chopping down a neighbouring Verbascum who wasn't actually in the way:   I don't hate Verbascum, I'm just not that keen on them.

I also had to prune my Rosemary, which she needed anyway;  and the Bay tree had to have a trim.

The Welsh Black girl continues to be a happy little thing,  pleased to be picked up (usually rewarded, of course) unless she is On A Mission.  The Exchequer doesn't like to be picked up thank you,  but if I have WB on one hand,  the Exchequer launches herself to land either on my head,  or on the WB. This is highly amusing for me, although not the WB,  but I can see this may be less smile inducing as she gets bigger.

Yesterday as she launched herself from the ground I put my arm out; she changed trajectory mid flapflap and landed delicately on my arm.    We did a couple more of these during the day,  I'm looking forward to seeing whether she does the same today.

I still haven't settled on names.

I find myself looking at these two apparently content little girls, and thinking about what will happen when they are old enough to go in with the Big Girls.   Two years ago I had four same-hatchlings who had grown up together and got on well.... and when they were introduced to the Big Girls and had to get established in the pecking order, things changed.  'Tilda, our disabled chicken, started getting picked on, and remains hen pecked today;  Custard turned into a spiteful old bag,  actively seeking out Tilda to bully her; Florence doesn't go quite that far, but asserts her dominance over Tilda at every opportunity; Roobarb, however,  gets on well with TIlda and I've only seen a rare quick tap from her. 

I look at my happy new girls and I find myself thinking maybe keep them as two flocks   II  certainly won't be in a hurry to integrate them, especially while Milly (superbitch) rules the other roost.  She's the one from whom the others learnt to be bullies.

Even poor Tilda turned into a frenzied moster the other day: one of the Littlees escaped and walked near to here Tilda was sunbathing, on the other side of the fencing.   I didn't keep any of last year's hatch because I didn't want to put Tilda through integration

I wasn't going to be adding to the flock this year... but we had to buy-in fertile eggs this year, and the chap I bought from also has Exchequers.   I thought about it, thought about Tilda, and resisted the temptation.  But then the incubator failed,  and we had to go back for a second batch.    Still I resisted, and asked just for 20 Welsh Black eggs.

I collected the eggs this time. When I got there, he didn't have 20 eggs available, he only had 17. I saw it as a (convenient) sign from fate, and I  asked him to add two exchequer eggs.  Only 2. I didn't get 3 and round it up to 20,  I just got two in the hope that one or both would be a girl.  If neither was a girl, well, I wouldn't be keeping any of the hatch then. I'd leave it to Fate.

And here we are.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Goodbye Ruby

Ruby, our remaining Welsh Black lady; sister of Rose, who had a prolapse earlier this year; mother or Aunt of my Garden Girl, Roobarb.  Our lovely Ruby had to be culled today.

She hadn't been herself for a little while.  She looked physically fine,  no problems around the vent, no obvious signs of injury.  She laid softees two days apart, so initially we thought that might be the problem.   We gave her nutridrops, which seemed to perk her up a bit,  gave her water.   She didn't seem ill, just not right.  She let us pick her up, which was odd to start with.

A couple of days ago, DH came home from the allotment. He said that he thought Ruby was blind, in one or both eyes.    Each day, we gave her water, showed her the feed. She didn't seem to want to eat or drink.  When we went to see the chicks the other night, I found her outside the henhouse. I lifted her in, but I realised that she probably couldn't see to get in at night.

With that realisation, we looked at options.   We could, potentially, bring her home and hose her here, where we could put her to bed and help her out each day.  However, our Garden Girls are not the most welcoming, and I couldn't see them tolerating her.  That wouldn't be fair on her.

It became clear that we were going to have to cull her, sooner or later.  It's one thing to be living on the allotment now, while it's warm, but it wasn't fair on her if the weather took a turn for the worse.    It's hard to decide whether a hen is sitting quietly enjoying the sunshine, or whether she was sitting quietly waiting to fade away.   Her comb and wattles were still very red. She didn't want to drink.

This morning, we discussed it again.  We didn't want to do it, but we didn't want to not do it and have Ruby die slowly.  We watched her while we went about our jobs.  In the end, it came down to whether we would do the deed today, tomorrow, Wednesday...   Whatever day, the end result would be the same. If not today, the need to do it would be hanging over us - especially over DH who does the deed.

In the end, we decided to do it today. It was a lovely sunny day, she'd been sitting quietly in the sun and so it would be better than waiting until she was  in extremis.  I offered to do it, as poor DH always ends up with this job and he hates it.  DH declined my offer.

I cried. I always cry. I was crying because we were saying goodbye to our lovely girl.   I stood with DH and Ruby while it was done.

It never gets easier. Even when it's for the best.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Babies - update

We paused Doctor Who last night, to drive to the Allotment to check on the CHicks before it got too dark find any lost ones.  There weren't any. Lost ones, I mean. They were all tucked up in the shed, in two distinct groups.

The shed has a long perch along the length, and a perch across the width.  It also has roosting bars in one corner, at a much lower level,    and lots of floor space.  As the birds decide they want to perch, we will add more roosting bars.  Eventually they will all migrate to the perches.

One group were on roosting bars, with two birds perching on the pole above the roosting bars. The other group were in the diagonally opposite corner, on the floor, with one bird perched on the battery box.   DH will take a plank and bricks today, so they can rest there but not on the battery box.


This morning, back home, the Baby Girls were up bright and early.

I let the Big Girls out at about 8am, but couldn't let the Littlees out because there was no one around to supervise . We had taken all the chick netting to the allotment and hadn't brought any back. It's not much of a hardship as they have lots of fesh grass in their run. 

After my shower, I let them out and they ran gleefully (yes, gleefully) to the flowerbed. They've been busy excavating it since then.   Distraction is a good technique for helping them not to fret about their missing brothers and sisters.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Back home

Back home we started to sort out the two little Girls.  We let them out to completely free range while we removed one section from their Cube (they still have 3m).  I raked the lawn, and then started to move water from two water butts to soak into the ground.
The Girls were having a whale of a time. They quickly found a flower bed to excavate, and we let them.  We moved the newly shortened Cube to some fresh grass, still leaving the Girls to do as they pleased.

A bit later I bribed green ring to come and sit on my lap.  Exchequer eventually came and joined in,  and then they went and sat on DH's lap.  Isabelle, our cat, was disgusted by this and turned round pointedly so that she had her back to DH.

After much clearing up,  we eventually popped them into the Cube run.  They're sitting together at the moment, and we'll wait and see if they go to bed.  We've put the nest box divider into the Cube to make it a bit more cosy.   We'll have to be very aware of the overnight temperatures so we can make sure they are OK.

It'll be a long time before they are old enough to try integrating with the Big Girls.

Names next, I guess.

Harder than expected

I cried. A lot.

It started as I was getting stuff ready to take to the Allotment, long before it came time to catch the chicks.   We packed the car with the netting, the feeders, the drinker, the stuff to do the water butts, the stuff to adjust their side shelter.  We prepped the two boxes (a dog crate and a sturdy box), and I hung coop feeders into the dog crte with the Garvo Alfa mix in. 

Then we started to catch the chicks, one by one.  The first 8 were easy, they were the ones who were used to being handled. They were quite happy in the crate with the Garvo.  The second 8 were a bit more of a challenge.  Eventually, everyone was in and we carefully carried the boxes to the car.  The two little Girls, left behind, were cheeping frantically. Poor little things.

At the Allotment, we put them in their coop - it's actually a shed, plenty of room for the 16 of them.  We shut them in with a feeder and drinker, and set about putting up double rows of netting. Then we did the water butts. Then replaced a window with fly screen, strimmed the grass that we've been growing especially for them.   Everything took time.  

Eventually we were ready to let them out.  I coaxed them out by shaking some Garvo and calling them.  Eventually they all came out, and they piled onto the grass.   We watched them for a while, then started to pack up the car.

They were starting to explore their area when we left. We'll go back at bed time to see if they've managed to find their way in.

I'll miss them.