Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Nora and Batty, last years Sasso x Welsh Black girls, are moulting.  Nora has been moulting for a while and, in true hybrid fashion, decided to shed all her feathers in one go.  She spent a while looking like an oven ready,  and then time as a porcupine.

Her twin sister, Batty, started moulting in the last couple of days:

Norman and her sisters had the sense to moult a few weeks ago, before the weather changed. Norman has been proudly modelling her winter collection (she's the small, non moulting, chicken in the pic below)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Tilda, update

Tilda is still not well.

I got her out of the nestbox again yesterday, same routine with the Garvo, Garvo treats and grapes. I also offered her some yoghurt, but as she then stuck her beak in the Garvo her beak ended up being a mealworm and corn collage.

I wiped it off, gave her some more Nutridrops.  Later, I put her back in the nestbox.

This morning she was out in the run, fluffed up in a corner. I brought her in, gave her some Garvo and some grapes, followed by some Nutridrops.  I then left her in the kitchen with a bowl of Garvo and some spinach and water.  She picked at the Garvo, ignored the rest.  Later, more grapes.   After a couple of hours, she was dozing, so I offered her some more food, and then put her back in the Run where she had been this morning.

A bit later, she'd moved to the Pampas grass. She's sitting very fluffed up, and not looking well.  If she wasn't moulting, I'd think she was maybe laying a softy.

I'll leave her where she is for now, and bring her in again for another snackerel in a couple of hours.

I think a trip to the Vet will be too stressful for her at the moment, she needs to be a bit stronger first.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Poorly Tildy

Tilda, my special needs hen, isn't very well.

She was a bit quiet on Frday evening. Yesterday morning she didn't come out o fthe Cube in the morning, I found her sitting in the nestbox.  I brought her in, hand fed her (she wasn't very interested), gave her some Nutridrops, and then put her back in the nestbox.

She came out of the nestbox a few minutes later (the Nutridrops having taken effect) and sat under the pampas all day.   I offered her some food and water during the day, and some grapes, and I put her in the nestbox when I shut everyone else in.

This morning, still in the nestbox.  I brought her in to the kitchen, offered her some food (which she ate, a little), some cat food (a morsel), some water (she refused), and I forced some Nutridrops into her beak (being careful not to overload, otherwise the liquid would g odown the wrong tube, into her lungs, and drown her).   She needs liquid, so I cut up some grapes, which she did gobble down.  Not the most nutricious food,  but full of water so not bad.

I then sat her in the corner of the kitchen, with an upturned box as a table, giving her a bugget of Garvo, garvo treats, chick crumb, growers pellets, fish based cat food, and water.  She's pecking at it (pun intended), but eats the growers pellets or the Garvos when I hold them up for her.  She's not interested in the water or the cat food.

I'll get her to eat some more, then I'll put her back in the nest box for now. She won't have the stress of the kitchen and the cats that way (although the cats are probably more stressed about her presence than she is about theirs).

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Bad weather, push on

This mirning the weather forcaster confirmed that bad weather was on its way.  

I had planned to move the Littlees (LGs) Cube and run in three stages to its final destination, the theory being that they wouldn't get stressed if their Cube was still appriximately where they left it.  My thought, prior to this morningm was to simply turn the Cube round 180 degrees (so it would be facing the correct way) and move it back a bit,meaning it ws just two more adjustments to get it into place.  The Garden had other thoughts.

The Cube and its run are about 3metres long.  It's about 1m wide, but then has a fixed skirt all the way round which is excellent for fox-restistance but a pain in the b*m to move.    The garden is rather undulating, and has shrubs at strategic points which are just that little bit too close togethet to get the Cube through.

I wish I'd taken photos to illustrate just how well our garden is designed to thwart any attempt at manouevering such a large object

I started by trying to turn the Cube round, because once it was pushed back there would be no room to do so.   As I was on my own, I was able to manhandle it,  and I got it part way round.  I was then stumped by a rose bush.  Nothing for it, I gave the rose a good prune, and managed to get the Cube up and over it, with the rose in the middle.  One side was now trapped on some plant or other that was growing near the pampas.  Chop chop, snip snip.  No problem now.  It's green bin day today, so I was able to dispose of the evidence.

Finally, te Cube was around and pushed back a bit.  Perfect.  A bit awkward for getting round (Big Girls (BGs) run on one side, and some shrubby things beginning with E (Eleagnea or somesuch) on the other.  Tough.  It was only for a couple of days.  And then I realised the skirt was sitting on my Vinca.

There was no room (at all) for a sideways move.  Sod the vinca.  I had lots of it. I'd grown it all from cuttings,  it was taking over a bed in the driveway, who needed this bit.    But this bit had flourished underneath these enormous shrubs.  It had survived chickens. It wasn't out of control.    I couldn't leave it to die like this.

So I had to move the Cube backwards again.  And a long way.  And So far back that there was no way the LGs would realise it was their home, just moved a bit. 

The bGs were very excited at having a new run in their area to play with.  So, I had to shut everyone in their respective runs, with some corn,  in the hope of reacquainting the LGs with "home".

At least it means that their bed is next to the BGs Cube, so there will be a lot of protection if  there is bad weather. 

And we can leave it as it is, while we work out whether to connect it to the BGs covered run in some form of semi-permanent way.  It's only semi permanent as we will be wanting an empty Cube next Spring for next year's hatch.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


I can see that there isn't going to be a magic moment when the Littlees (LGs) suddenly decide to go to bed with the Big Girls (BGs).  

Tonight they were happy enough popping into the BGs' run for some corn, but then popped out again to try and go in their own run. It was temporarily occupied by Florence and Milly. Florence got out fairly quickly, then proceeded to run around the garden,  running away from me, and got caught in some fencing.    When I calmed her down I realised that she was moulting quite a lot. It was a relief, frankly, as I had assumed that the black feathers I'd been finding were from Poppy being henpecked.

Milly was less easy to persuade out. In the end I had to pretend to be distracted, so she could lurch past me.  She then ran into a corner and ran backwards and forwards as thoug she was trapped.  In the end I decided to help her out by going to catch her.  She seemed relieved, and then pretended to be affronted.  Daft old bat.

When the forecasters mentioned snow, I gave in and ordered an extreme weather jacket for the Cube. I'd been considering it for a while, but had thoight that if the Girls were all integrated, it wouldn't be necessary.  However, with the forecase of snow posisbly this weekend, I decided it would be a good idea  just in case, as the LGs were still on their own.  

Tomorrow I might move the LGs' cube again. It's a bit soon, but it would be good from a weather perspective to have it next to the other one... connecting it to the BG's run might be a step too far. We'll see.

Monday, 22 October 2012


This evening I went out to put the Girls away. As usual, I had some corn for the Big Girls (BGs) and some Garvo AlfaMix with a bit of Garvo treat for the Littlees (LGs).    As usual, I went to the BGs walk in run first, and scattered the corn.  The BGs rushed in, headed by Poppy.  Lotti hoovered up corn around the outside.

I threw in some more corn and a bit of the Garvo.   Lotti popped in.   I thought about what to do.   I was tempted to close the door, but it felt too soon to be forcing the issue.   So, I pushed the door to, wedging a brick in to stop it closing completely.  This would discourage the BGs from coming out again, but would leave an escape route for the LGs if the BGs noticed them and decided to chase them.

I stayed in the kitchen, but I could be seen by beady eyes, so I moved to the bedroom to watch them.  Poppy and Lotti popped in and out of the BGs' run,  but made no attempt to go back to their own.  I decided that if they went into their own run, I'd go straight down and give them some corn and shut them in (they needed time to eat the corn to help keep them warm overnight).

It occurred to me that Poppy might stay in the BG run, and Lotti might not; she's much more timid.  I decided I'd have to add her into in the Cube when it was dark, if that happened. 

Dusk fell further,  and still they were in and out in and out.  Then they were out, but standing in the middle of the free range area looking as though they were having a discussion on what to do.  They still made no attempt to go into their own run.   Then they came and stood in their area, although not in their run.   I decided that it would soon be too dark for them to eat,  so I made the decision for them. I went downstairs, put the corn in their run and they ran in straight away.  Then I shut everyone up for the night.

Good progress.  I'll try the same thing tomorrow... and I'm moving the LGs' cube a bit nearer the BGs' cube tomorrow as well.

Speeding up

The integration has been going well.  The "gap" in the netting which separates the two free range areas is big enough for the Littlees to pass through easily, so they can come and go as they please. It's small enough to prevent Custard and Tilda getting through;  but Milly, Roobarn and, surprisingly, Florence (Australorp) are able to get into the Littlees' area.

I'd prefer it if Milly couldn't get in, as she is such a vicious old bag, but she's a Legbar so very small.  The good thing is it means the two LIttlees only have 3 Big Girls (BGs) to contend with,  and only 1 of them (Milly) is nasty.  The other nasty BG, Custard, hasn't been able to get through the gap; neither can the usually mild manneredTilda, who is bottom of 5 and doesn't want to be bottom of 7 so is (understandably) not tolerating the Littlees very well.
There have been a few squabbles, and the Littlees are doing a lot of running away. Especially Lotti.  I think that Popy gets away with things because she's black and looks like Florence, so the BGs don't immediately realise she's an intruder.
I moved the Littlees cube again today, backing it up nearer to where it is going to end up (next to the BGs cube).    Snow is forecast for Friday, which will be a problem because the two Littlees may have trouble keeping warm at night.   I'm going to accelerate moving their CUbe so it is next to the other one by Friday.   I was hoping to be able to do it a couple of feet at a time,  getting it in place in about  a week or so from today.    Best laid plans, and all that.

I've ordered an extrme weather jacket from Omlet, just in case. 

This morning I also opened the two areas together, so Custard and Tilda can now storm nito the Littlees area at will.

The free ranging started with the 5 BGs occupying the LIttlees run,  and Poppy and Lotti perching on the seats in the BG's run. 

I've also seen Lotty and Poppy squaring up to each other more often, so I assume they are establishing a pecking order for themselves as well.

Never mind.  It will pass.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Pigging time again

Today we collected half a Pig from Shirley at WildWoods, to butcher at home.   This is the fourth? (or fifth? No, I think it's the fourth.) half pig we've had so in theory we are old hands at it now.

Mostly, it went like a dream, thanks in no small part to my notes from last time. ANd the butchery equipment we asked people to contribute to for our Birthdays last year - it always helps to have proper knives and a saw.  We had a bit of a Moment when trying to deal with the Hand/Shoulder primary cut,  and we had to watch the video I took when we were being trained.    It went well.

The shed freezer is packed.  The house freezer and fridge are bursting at the seams... 3 Kilos of meat for sausage is chilling in the fridge waiting to be minced;  the two cuts to be turned into bacon are in bags in the fridge; the eye of loin for lonzino is in a bag in the fridge.

The price of the  half pig is increasing each time, which is to be expected the way feed prices are going.  Out of interest,  this time I looked at the price per kilo of the various cuts at the place we used to buy our pork from (Butts Farm Shop, South Cerney), and totted up what we would have spent buying the pork we produced.     This porker was excellent value... although I'm not taking into account the time we spend doing it.   It's not a chore. If it was, we'd stop.

Excluding the fat for lard,  some spare ribs,  bones for stock,  two trotters for gelatin,  and some skin and fat to make scratchings,  we produced:
1.5kg lean mince
3.0 kg diced pork (should have put more into mince really)
3x325g chops
3.0 kg for sausages (which will make more than 4.0 kg of sausages)
1kg back bacon
1kg streaky bacon
1x cured lonzino (unweighed)
1x2kg (bone out) ham
1x1.4Kg Belly joint
1x1.2Kg Belly joint
1x2.4Kg Hand joint
1x2.2Kg Shoulder joint
1x1.9Kg Shoulder joint
1x hockjoint (unweighed)

I don't eat roast loin or roast leg of pork (eating that as a child put me off pork for most of my life),  so most of those were used in the diced pork and mince.   I use diced pork a lot in things like curries, instead of chicken; and I use pork mince along with beef mince in bolognese, chillies and meatballs. 

 I like to use Jamie Oliver's slow roast pork recipe, and I use it for all our pork roasting joints.  It produces succulent, delicious pork;  which is great the next day cold and the day after that in fajitas or in chinese pancakes in the style of crispy duck;  and after that, if there is any left,  ground as ravioli filling or sweet and sour pork filling.   

Yum yum, bubble gum.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

More Vitamix experiments

Ocado had a twofer offer on mangoes, so I bought two in my delivery.  I decided to make a mango smoothie.  My previous excursions have resulted in something more akin to ice cream, and all I wanted was a drink (Like I used to make with my stick blender, only smoother).

I started with natural yoghurt and added some Keffir milk. Then some mango (without the peel, which I presume was a mistake really).  A quick blitz...it was OK, but not an adventure.  So, I added half a peeled orange,  half an unpeeled apple,  some spinach, some ice, and some ground flax.  I blitzed and tried it.  

Hmm. It didn't taste unpleasant, but it did taste a bit green and a bit gritty.  I remember reading on the Vitamix Lady's website that the grittiness is a result of people not blending for lon enough.  But I knew that blending generated heat, and heat needed counteracting with ice. But I didn't want an icy drink.

In the end, I added more ice cubes, blended again, and went and did something else for 30 seconds.  The result was much smoother textured drink. It wasn't quite  cold enough (more ice next time), and it was reasonably pleasant. I'd drink it again, but I wouldn't give it to my DH (who can sense green at 20 paces).  

I'm sure there was a hint of grass in there...must be the spinach.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Balancing Routine

The Littlees and the BGs (Big Girls) are managing to get along, free ranging together.  When I say together I mean not being physically kept apart. They are actually still wandering around in their separate groups.

The Littlees have been making themselves at home in the BGs walk in run. Yesterday, though, at 5pm they were back in their own run waiting for their usual bedtime snackerel.  Today was similar, so I decided to give the BGs their corn, and Littlees their Garvo, but to leave both run doors open.
I fondly imagine that the Littlees will wander into the BGs run when they've finished eating, and they'll all happily snuggle up together.
Of course that's not how it turned out. I've just had to rescue the Littlees from Milly, who has invaded their run and is gobbling all their food.  I've shut the Littlees in now. I'll open the door up again when they've finished eating.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Neglected Ducks get their first Swim

Came across this on Someone else's blog. It made me blub, so I thought I'd share it.

A group of ducks were rescued from a place where they were kept penned up with no access to (bathing) water.  This video shows what happened when they were first introduced to a pond after being rescued...

A Fretful Eye

This morning I made sure that there was a amal gap in the join between two lots of netting, and let everyone out.    Before long, the Littlees were in the Biggees area,  exploring the walk in run,  and the Biggees hadn't noticed.

A bit later, Roobarb was in the Littlees area, eating the remains of last night's treats.  And then Milly.  And then Florence (Australorp).   Custard tried to get through the gap a few times, but couldn't manage it,  which was a relief.  Tilda sat elsewhere watching proceedings.

The Big Girls are mostly ignoring the Littlees, which is rather easy. The garden is rather large and the chooks have lots and lots of places to explore and hide.  I keep checking up to find out who's where.

At one point, the Littlees were under the Pampas on the BIg Girls side, and 3 of the Big Girls were under the Pampas   on the Littlees side. 

I'm secretly hoping for a miracle...where they all toddle off to bed together without any hassle.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, I'm keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.

Baking, Butter and Burnt on Grease

Gorgeous Autumn day today: sunshine, blue skies, very windy.  Good weather makes a good mood, and I needed it as I have a lot to do today.

First up was to make 2 of Delia's Creole Cakes. I was late starting this year. Normally it wouldhave been made by 25th September, giving it three months to mellow and mature before Christmas.  The fruit has been soaking in alcohol in the fridge for the last two weeks. I had a minor mishap when heating the fruit and alcohol initially.... I managed to set fire to one lot, and effectively burned all the alcohol off.  It was rather spectacular.     I added extra alcohol, and I marked the jar in the fridge to make sure that we end up with that one.

Of course I didn't have any eggs.  All these hens, and not enough eggs.  I need 10 for the two cakes. On these occasions I normally make my way across town to a nursery where they keep free range hens and sell the eggs.  It's easy to see that the Girls are well looked after and are genuinely free range (rather than kept in huge barns with the alleged opportunity to free range).    I just couldn't face it, and I got my allegedly free range eggs from the local Co-Op in stead.   Now I've typed that, I wish I had made the effort and had gone to the nursery.

Anyway, I schlepped to the Co-Op and back, and got started. It didn't take long to get the cakes in the oven, and they are filling the kitchen with a gorgeous warm scent.  I had to stick a sticker on one of the tins so I know which one is for us.  I hope the label comes off again.

Next, it was buttermaking time.   I had had to go to Costco last week, so I decided to pick up cream for butter at the same time, saving me a journey in the next couple of weeks.   It's been sitting in the fridge, and I really needed to get on with it. 

I did try some in the Vitamix, as there was a recipe somewhere for it.   Sorry Vitamix,  on this occasion my KitchenAid beats you hands down.    It took a couple of hours to clean everything,  make the butter,  salt and beat the drained butter,  pot it, fridge it, and wash up.   After my last session I had bought various silicon moulds from Lakeland, as I invariably have more butter than pots.  They seem to have worked so far, I'll know how well (or not) once they've been frozen and turned out.

And then I needed to clean one of the ovens. I was going to use it for the cakes, but  I've mostly used this for roasting vegetables and potatoes and it smelt horrible.  I've covered everything with OvenMate and I'm waiting for it to Do It's Thing.

And in between I've been keeping a fretful eye on the chooks.....

Monday, 15 October 2012

Vitamix, continued

I placed my order with Lakeland.

The machine they offer (the Aspire) has a smaller jug supplied than standard, and only a 5 year guarantee instead of hte 7 year guarantee available on the next model up. Other than that, the spec looked the same.  I emailed Customer Services at Vitamix to check, and they confirmed this.

When the machine arrived, I left it in the box on the worktop: I wasn't sure I had done the right thing. (Mind you, I did the same with the Magimix, and that turned out to be a good investment).   Eventually, I unpacked it.  I read the recipe book that came with it.  

I felt foolish.

I started by making a smoothie with a couple of ripe nectarines. Just nectarines and a bit of ice.  Success!   Delicious.(Mind you, nectarines are delicious, so no surprise).

Cleaning the container really was as easy as suggested.

Making dinner and needing a chopped onion, I used the Vitamix.  If I'm only chopping one onion, I do it by hand as it's too much hassle cleaning the processor.   Very good, especially as I also used it to chop carrot and chop a courgette.

I thought I'd try the recipe book's "Vanilla Pudding", which looked like custard to me.  Disaster.
On a trip to Costco, I bought a bag of  frozen fuit (peaches etc).   I made a frozen fruit sorbet.   Very tasty, but gave me brain freeze.

Carrot soup... qualified success.  In the recipe book, they cook the carrot first.  I felt that if I did this, I wouldn't really be getting that much benefit from the Vitamix, so I tried it with raw carrot.  It worked reasonably well, but wasn't as smooth as I would like.  (I later discovered the Vitamix Lady's website,  and she explained a bit about bittiness and how to stop it).

Hot chocolate. Success! (Although I could have got equally good results by switching on the coffee machine and using the milk frother)

Fresh tomato sauce (Marinara Sauce).  Oh. My. God.  This tasted fantastic when I made it and it was cold. Really fresh, really bright.  Super Success!  It was remiscent of the best tomato we'd had for bruschetta at our local Italian restaurant.     Then I added it to meatballs and baked in the oven for 30 mins.  Qualified Success. It tasted OK, but it had lost a lot of its freshness.

Angel Delight. Success!   I hadn't eaten Angel Delight for years, then my step daughter mentioned it (we used to eat a packet between us when she was younger).   The blitzclean didn't entirely work on Angel Delight though, I had to use my fingers to loosen the stuff at the top of the conainer.  (And, to be fair, Angel Delight is so eay to whip up that I could have done it with a fork).

"Grated" cheese: Success!

Grated Parmesan - not so great.   Because the V. only chops, rather than grates, I ended up with little pieces of parmesan instead of fluffy gratings. Magimix (or hand grater) wins on that.

Yorkshire pudding batter: Success!  I blitzed the egg, milk, water, salt, pepper, for a few seconds,  and then added the (unsifted) flour.   I was hoping this would work because it would be slightly easier to clean up than using a bowl and whisk,   and if I could use unsifted flour that was an added advantage.  I left it to stand so it idn't have too much air in it.

And yesterday we had Roast Pork again, finishing our last pork joint before we collect the next half-pig on Friday.    It took about 5 seconds to do the gravy.  In fact, it was overly thick, more like soup (which, I suppose, it was).  Next time I'll use fewer vegetables in the processing, which has the added benefit of leaving more for me to eat with my dinner),  or I'll add more liquid.   I froze some of this to have as soup,  and some of it to use as a base for gravy next time we have something like Toad in the Hole.

Pureed Cauliflower - hmmm. Not a success, but I don't think the fault lies with the Vitamix.  It did a fnatastic job of puree-ing ny cauiflower and whipping it up to a silky consistency.  However, I didn't like the taste (and I love cauliflower), and the texture was just too weird.   

I've used the Vitamix more than once a day.   For the roast dinner I used it for three things.

There wasn't enough room on my main worktop for this AND the Magimix AND the Mixer.  I've moved the Magimix over to another worktop, so it's still accessible.   The Magimix won't be used for chopping or blending any more,  but it will still be used when I have lots of stuff to slice.

It's still too early to say whether it was a good investment, but I am pleased with it. I won't be making use of Lakeland's no quibble return facility.

First steps in integration

The Littlees are very happy to be allowed to roam in the Big Girls area.  The area is so large, and U shaped, htat it's easy for them to scratch around without the Big Girls realising they are there (or so the Big Girls can pretend they haven't realised, so they don't have to do anything about it). It's not so great the other way around.

When the Big Girls invade the Littlees area, there is nothing the Littlees can do.  Lotti (Exchequer Leghorn) did try and peck Milly (Vicious Old Bag, Cream Legbar) to get her away from the food, but Milly just pecked back and Lotti ran away.

I made a small gap in the fence (where two runs of netting meet) that was big enough to let the Littlees through, but small enought o hinder the Biggees going the other way.    That worked well. For a while.  

This morning, Lotti and Poppy were scratching around, in the Big Girls (BGs)  area, in sight of the BGs.  Everything was fine.    A little while later, the BGs had free ranged round to the Gap.  Roobarb decided she was going through.  She's not a small girl.  She squeezed and she squozed, and then she squoooozed, and eventually popped through.   Milly followed.  Custard, who is rather large and buxom,  tried and failed.  Later still, we saw that FLorence (Florence! She's huge, how did she get in there?!)  had joined them.  Custard tried again, and failed again.

Lotti and Poppy could see that their home had been invaded.  They couldn't work out how to get back.  I left everyone to it. Half an hour later, Lotti and POppy were still looking bothered, so I went and made a gap in a different part of the fence so they could get in. Then I kept an eye on things. 

3 Big Girls to 2 Littlees is still too much in favour of the BGs, but it's the best I can do without more manual interference.  I'll leave them like that for a while, until I have to go out.

I'd have preferred to have waited a couple more weeks tohave started this,  until the LIttlees were a bit more mature and Tilda wasn't mouting so much.   Trouble is I've no idea what the weather will bring, and I'd very much like to get them to the stage where they can all sleep together. 


My brother has had a Vitamix for years, and he goes on and on an on about how fantastic it is. 

Some years ago, I started to save the money to buy one for myself. I eventually saved enough, and planned to buy one at that year's Good Food Show (GFS). The Demo at the GFS was excellent... but I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much money on a...on a... on a blender.

In the intervening years, I've looked at them occasionally, and I've been very tempted. But it always comes down to how much?? for a blender??!!  and I couldn't do it.   I could absolutely see what a good machne it was,  and I was sure in the hierarchy of  kitchen appliances it was probably "worth" the money, but what it came down to in the end was a sneaking suspicion of would I really use it?

Besides, I have an excellent Mgimix food processor, which I use all the time. It sits on the worktop so it's within easy reach, and I use it for even small jobs like grating lots of cheese.  Would the Vtamix be any better than this?

A few months ago I was making very special gravy. This was superb gravy,  made with lots of vegetables that had sat under a pork joint for a long time. It was gravy which required the vegetabes to be pushed through a sieve or a mouli.  As usual, I used my hand mouli.   It occurred to me, as I was grinding away,  that this was the sort of thing which could be done well in a Vitamix.  The mouli stops the skins going through, the vitamix blitzes the skins as well.

Then Lakeland started to sell Vitamix.  This got me very interested, because of heir "No quibble guarantee", which meant that if I bought a Vitamix and didn't get on with it, I could take it back.  I still couldn't quite bring myself to spend the money, but I did find myself researchnig Vitamix prices, and looking at them on Ebay to see what they sell for.

Over the next month, each time I had a cooking task, I thought about whether it could be done quicker or better in a Vitamix.   Each time I used the Magimix, I took a moment to think about the Vitamix.    The area where the Vitamix looked like it would score over and over again, was the apparent ease of cleaning.   Not that the Magimix is difficult to clean,  but there are always several bots that need doing: the bowl, the lid, the pusher, the blade....   And I don't put it in the dishwasher because (in my experience) it makes the bowls brittle after a while.

Three weeks ago, I had another slow roast pork joint,  and another gravy session.   And that's when I decided to do it.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Allotment Babies

The Allotment Babies are also coming along well.   They are 14 weeks old, and are slower developing than the chicks from last year; I think that is partially to do with the lateness of hatching, and it's a good thing.

They are 14 weeks old. It's possible to tell that some are definitely cockerels, and some are definitely hens, but there are a lot where I'm just not sure.   It won't be long before it becomes obvious.

They've eaten all the grass, and so we are supplementing them with greens every day. There is a small amount of greenery in the cockerel pen, which is currently out of bounds to them. We have it ready so that we can separate the cockerels and hens before the hormones kick in.   I was expecting to have to do it this weekend, but it may be that we have a few more days before we need to separate them.  I don't want to accidentally put a girl in with the boys.

We'll probably open p the cockerel pen so that all the chicks can use it. Then we'll separate it again when necessary.  This means all of them will get the opportunity to eat the vegetation, and it'll mean the area won't be completely new to the cockerels when the time comes.

Yesterday when I went down to see them, one of the boys had got in with the Old Ladies.  I don't think it was anything hormonal, he was probably just looking to eat whatever they had to eat.   When I was poo picking, I realised (from the tiny pile of poo in the nest box) that he must have got stuck in there overnight, and he'd managed to go to bed in one of the nest boxes. Brave boy!

He isn't one of the ones which let me pick them up, so I couldn't catch him. He was also too stoopid to see the gap in the fence that I provided for him to get back.  What a palaver!  After 5 frustrating minutes,  I was tempted to leave him where he was. However,  I could see that the Old Ladies weren't too impressed with having someone new thrust upon them, so  I carried on trying to walk him out. Or catch him.   Eventually I had to open the fencing right up, and lobbed some corn in.  He came running up to near me, so I tried again. He went almost  to the gap, but then ran away.  We tried this a couple more times, and eventually he popped through the gap.

Yellow-Right-Ring is going to be stunning. Grey Ring is going to be gorgeous too, and has a pea comb.  I still think they are both boys , and we have room for only one.  Cross that bridge when we come to it.
I spent nearly a whole day last weekend cleaning and Poultry Shielding all the coops. Hopefully for the last time this year, unless we get a very sunny December day.

Where has the time gone?

Lotti (short for Borlotti, as her markings remind me of said beans) and Poppy are continuing to flourish.  They are getting bigger and heavier. It's not so noticeable with Lotti,who's a flyweight Exchequer Leghorn, but it is noticeable with Poppy who is an Australorp x Indian Game.   They've learned to fly up on to my outstretched arm, a la Falcon,  and I really notice it with Poppy.
They are both very vocal, but as they can only form parping sounds at the moment it's not a problem. Poppy is especially tame. Lotti pretends not to be: it has to be on her terms.

They continue to try and be part of the Big Girl flock at every opportunity.  When the netting separates the two flocks this works well. The Big Girls permit the Littlees to sit "next" to them, and generally pretend they can't see them.  The Littlees pretend the fence isn't there and they are all one happy flock - they have no real concept (yet) of trying to fight for  a place in the pecking order. 

The Littlees are 14 weeks old now, so we've started allowing more joint free ranging.  It generally goes OK, until the Big Girls decide to com and inspect the Littlees area.  The Big Girls come storming in, and the Littlees run away.   I've been trying to prevent that happening, by rearranging the two free range areas. This gives more joint fencing, and there are a couple of gaps in the fencing which are large enough for a Littlee to pop through but too small for the Big Girls.  I've also tried to shoo some of the big Girls out so the Littlees are only invaded by 1 or 2 hens at a time.

In preparation for the Next Big Step, the two free ranging areas are now set up so that I can open up the fruit cage to one or other or  both areas.  We'll be doing that shortly, opening it up to both sets, as it will be neutral ground on which they can meet. And there is lots to do,  and lots of places to shelter from being bullied. . Of course the concept of "neutral ground" is a bit lost on the Big Girls as they seem to think that everything belongs to them.

Tilda, my special-needs chicken, is moulting. She's not a happy bunny.  I've tried cheering her up with extra protein (out of sight of everyone else) in the form of fish flavoured cat food,  hard boiled eggs, tuna....   She is particularly aggressive when she encounters  Lotti or Poppy without a safety net.  I don't blame her: being bottom of 5 hens is bad enough,   being bottom of 7 would be worse. She has to try and assert herself.

Seeing the Littlees trying to join  up with the Big Girls makes me realise that I do need to let them integrate, even though I really want to keep them safe and happy.  Apart from anything else, they could do with extra feathered bodies in the coop to keep them warm as the nights get colder.
So, I'll enable more of the joint free ranging, and I'll aim to open up the fruit cage in a week or so.