Thursday, 19 December 2013

In control

Matilda had a few days where she refused to go out. Sometimes, I couldn't blame her - the weather has been a bit variable.  Other times, I've been surprised at her reluctance.  She's been exploring the kitchen a bit more,  even reaching the door to the living room at one stage. DH put her back in her pied-a-terre  (p-a-t)at that point.

Today was cold but bright and dry, and I decided she really MUST go out.   Fortunately for both of ud, Tilda did choose to go out.  She didn't go over to the netting that divides the "garden" from the "chicken paddock" though,  she went and sat near some shrubs in a different part.    That was unusual, and I think must reflect her uncertainty about her flockmates.

She seemed quite content sitting out there, so I left her to it.

Later - much later - I came into the kitchen. A few seconds later, I had a chicken standing outside the kitchen door,  beak apparently resting on the glass.  She'd obviously decided she'd had enough of outside, thank you.

She came straight in when I opened the door, and shuffled into her P-a-T.

She's sitting there now, tail up, eyes bright, and watching me.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Let them eat cake!

I finished my Christmas cakes.  I 'only made a few this year, which meant there was less pressure.

I'm pleased with the iced cakes...

The Creole cakes look lovely. I couldn't find the bag of pecan nuts, so I had to use toasted almonds instead.  I'm thinking I should probably have skinned the almonds first, but it's too late now.

This is my own cake, so I'll be able to tell first hand if the almonds cause a problem:

Fits and starts

Another Izzy fit this morning. 

I woke up and realised something had actually woken me. Rushed out of bed and could hear a noise. It was Izzy's feet, hitting the ashpan and the ashpan hitting the wall, which had disturbed me.

I'm actually pleased that the ash pan was there, as I might not have heard her otherwise.

It was partially caught on camera.

Later, as she was moving away from the food dish, her front right leg was rigid.  At first we thought she must have hurt it in the fit, but I had seen her walk from the hall to the food and her leg had been OK.   Izzy could not understand why she couldn't move her leg.

A few seconds later, it was OK.

The food diary we've been keeping since her last fit, 3 weeks ago, hasn't shown anything. 

If the previous fit patterns are repeated, she'll have more fits over the next couple of days.

She's sparko on the rug at the moment.

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Our neighbours were burgled yesterday.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Not today, thank you.

Since yesterday, having run out of any special food,  and having rejected the Dodson and Horrel Layers Mash, Tilda is forced to eat normal layers pellets.  Her diet has been layers pellets,  once-a-day mealworms,  and some yoghurt.  

She's not too happy about this. Whenever I go past, she rooks through her food cup shucking out the pellets looking for something more interesting.  I've explained to her that I have ordered some alternative mash (having failed to find any to buy locally), and that it'll be here on Monday.   She doesn't understand.

This morning, as I came the stairs, she was in the middle of the kitchen floor bokking loudly.  The cats were in the hallway, refusing to go into the kitchen without an armed escort. 

After her mealworms, I showed Tilda the open back door.  She did her occasional trick of scooshing through my legs back into the kitchen.     II tried again later, this time she ran back to the sanctity of her pied-a-terre.  I realised that there was an expectation that  reaching "home" meant I couldn't pick her up and put her out manually.

I have no idea why. It's cold out, but it's a sunny morning.  She's looking very perky.  

Maybe she senses that her time indoors is coming to an end and is trying to string it out?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Yesterday morning - before the Christmas card business and the house hen food business - was taken up with buttermaking.

8 litres of double cream,  all churned, washed, chilled, salted, made into blocks,  chilled and frozen.  2 loaves of buttermilk bread made. Much of it has already been eaten, but I've dried some to make breadcrumbs.  I know it's crazy to make bread to make breadcrumbs, but I've run out. We're mainly eating rye sourdoughs,  and the crumbs from those just aren't right for breadcrumbs.

Lots of portions of buttermilk measured out into yorkshire-pudding sized amounts and frozen.I've still got a jug of buttermilk in the fridge.

Then, the final Creole cake was made, using the fruit that I've ben soaking for the past couple of weeks. This one is a "thank you" for my cousin and his wife.

I didn't get round to marzipanning the to-be-iced cakes yesterday,  and I didn't get around to it today either.

I will definitely do them tomorrow.

Just realised I didn't make any dough for piadines for tonights dinner, either. Bother! bother!! bother!!!   Never mind, the pork will be fine until tomorrow.

I have, however, written all the cards and addressed the envelopes. 


We're nearly out of the Garvo stuff that Tilda has been eating.  I don't want to get another bag because (a) she only eats part of it, (b) even Lotty and Poppy - who hoover up what Tilda leaves - don't eat the pellety bits and (c) there isn't anywhere local that stocks it.

I thought maybe some layers mash/crumb might work. Tilda could pick out the bits she wanted, and there wouldn't be any pellets for her to leave.

My usual stockist doesn't stock it, but would be able to get some.     Pets at Home, alledgedly, stock Ex Bat stuff and Smallholder range,   so I popped over there at 7pm to see if I could get a small back.  No.  I did manage to pick up a 5kg bag of Dodson and Horell layers mash - but it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  Instead of little pieces of food, it was a bag of dust.   Tilda stuck her beak in the pot, but rejected it very quickly.

Not much more I could do at the time, so I made a start on the Christmas cards. 

I know it's less and less fashionable to send cards.  I don't send many myself now,  usually (but not exclusively) I send them to people I haven't seen and won't see for ages,  just to say hello and that I'm thinking of them.

I found the box of blanks, and the bag with last year's received cards in, and I spent what seemed like forever cutting out the ones that were suitable for re-use, pairing them with some backing paper and a card.   I went through several Pritt sticks.  IN the end, I gave up with the sticking and concentrated on the cutting and matching.

This morning, I let my finger do some walking,  looking for layers mash/crumb.  And then I drove to a few places.      Nothing doing.   Eventually I found a place which stocked Marriages crumb, but I could feel through the bag that it was also very fine.

I came home, and resumed the card making.  When I got to the point of wishing I'd just bought cards instead, I stopped.    This year, I decided to print inserts and use scanned signatures (in different colours), rather than hand writing a "Merry Christmas" blah blah message in each one.   I cur paper to the reuquired sizes and printed off the required number. They they look quite effective, and the "to" bit will still be written by hand (by me).  My worktop is now covered in cards waiting to be assigned to people, a task I'll do this evening.

It would, of course, be a darned sight easier (and cheaper) just to buy cards. Or to not send cards at all  and to make a charity donation. 

I'm very happy to receive shop bought cards, and I'm equally happy if people don't send cards. I was trying to work out why I don't just do that anyway now. 

I think it's a combination of things:  I like the end result of my efforts -   I'm not a natural card maker,  and I am fully aware that they all look amateurish.  I llike that each card has taken some effort and a lot of thought, and don't mind at all that the recipients probably don't give them a thought.  The pleasure for me is in the achievement,  and in the occasional achievement of making that  special match between the cards I'm making and the intended recipient.   A cat one for my cat loving Auntie;  a cat one (in fact, the one they sent me last year) to particular friends;  that sort of thing.  

And I do like the fact that last year's cards get an extra year's life rather than just acting as kindling.

Will I do it next year?

Well, I've made those templates for the inserts now, so probably.

We'll see.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Senior moments

I was just putting the pitatoes in the oven to bake for dinner, when I had a flashback. 

I couldn't remember turning on the electric fence.

I realised that I probably had turned it on when I left the chooks, but I just wasn't sure. I couldn't risk leaving it, as I'd be mortified if we got there tomorrow and found the Girls foxed.

So I had to drive over there.

The fence was on, of course.

I did take the opportunity to peek at who was sleeping with whom.   Henry and his 6 wives were in the shed.  No suprise there, although I had wondered if Nora, Batty and Coffee might be in there too as they are now part of Henry's flock.

In the number 1 coop,  Nora, Batty and Coffee were on the roosting bars.  Mrs was in the nestbox. And to my surprise, one of the Small Hens was in with her. I couldn't tell whether it was Siouxsie of NotNorman, and I didn't want to lift her up to check.

Norman and the other Small Girl were in adjacent nestboxes in the Number 2 coop.

Everyone was well spaced out, so no need to worry about the weather at the moment.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Pig of a day

Picked up another half pig from Shirley today.  I think this is the 6th one we've had?

We wanted to have a go at Salami this time,  as well as some "midweek hams", so the cutting was very slightly different to previous times.

We ended up with:

Lean Diced Pork, bagged in 250g and 450g bags = total 1.5kg
Lean Minced Pork, bagged in 250g bags, total 1.2kg
Pork for sausages - not yet weighed. There was a lot of this, I know I put stuff in here that probably should have gone into "lean mince"
Lean pork for Salami: 1.3kg

Joints: (currently in the fast-freeze compartment -, I'll update the weights when I move them)
1 x Belly
1 x spare rib roasting joint (shoulder)
1 x shoulder

For Hams:
1 x 3.1kg (inc bone) for gammon ham
2 x small bacon joints (687g and 826g)

For Bacon:
2 x Belly (one for smoked, one for unsmoked) total 1.3Kg
1 x loin 1.276 kG

Spare ribs for dinner tonight
2 x trotters, for trotter stock (pork pie jelly) - unweighed
2 x hocks, 808g and 543g
Fat for lard (2 good sized jars made)
Hard back fat for salami - unweighed

Head - for friends who want to use it
Kidney - unweighed

Waste: unweighed
It went well.  The bacon and midweek joints are in their curing mix.   We still have to make sausages, and to start the salami.   The huge gammon leg still needs boning before we start that a-curing.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Dinner, B&B

Tilda stayed out all day.  In fact, she was permitted into the group of hens as they sheltered from the wind.

Even mealworms didn't cause too many problems.  I'd ordered some when I realised Tilda would be in for a couple of days; they are a good source of protein, and it's been ages since the Girls have had some.

Shutting in time did not go so well.   6 bowls of porridge, and Tilda wasn't allowed any.  She sat off to the side, waiting.   Eventually she crept, bit by bit, to a bowl and started to have a nibble.  All was OK until Custard spotted her.  Custard raced across the run to peck Tilda very hard on the head. Tilda rushed away, and wedged her hed down by the side of the dust bath  - safe from any attacker.

I saw this happen, so I went out. I opened the run door to see if Tilda wanted to come out.  I stroked her, until her head lifted. Then I moved away, opened the door, and called her.  For a second or two, she didn't move.   I got ready to shut the door, then she suddenly stood up and hopped over the threshold and waddled towards the house.

I wasn't actually ready for her in the house. I've been cleaning the kitchen all day, and I'd emptied out her pied-a-terre.  I quickly set it up, and she walked in and started eating her dinner.

I think we'll have a couple of days with her outside in the day, and in overnight.

Let's see how that goes.

Call of the wild

Tilda was up and about when I came downstairs this morning.

Today's Tildy-bombs were much bigger than yesterday's, although still small for a well chicken. Happily there were only two.  

I've had to put moisturing handwash (instead of scented) in the downstairs cloakroom, as my hands are suffering a bit from the constant thorough washing.   The toilet roll and Dettox are permanent fixtures on top of her cage.

After Tilda had some breakfast, I opened the back door.  There is a fierce and cold wind gusting outside, and no sensible chicken would want to be out in it. The other Girls were sheltering under a shrub.   Still, I tried.

As usual, I walked Tilda towards the door, one of my legs either side of her body.  When we got to the doorway she stuck her neck out and stood for ages.  I pushed a bit, and waited for her to turn round and run through my open legs.  She didn't. She stayed put. And then - plop! She jumped out of the door.

It was like watching a cartoon, as she waddled, feathers streaming, round to the side of the planter out of the wind.  I called her, but she ignored me.  I left the door open (in case she changed her mind), and put the coffee machine on.

And then I watched her crossing the path, feathers streaming, trying to reach the hen pen.  When she got to the netting, I went outside and lifted her over - the other side of the Pampas to where the bullies were sheltering.

I hope she's going to be OK.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The next day

Got up early (early for me) as the Tea Man was due.  I got downstairs to feed the cats, and Tildawas chatting away to me.  I'd partially shut her door last night, and I think she was objecting to being confined.

I opened the door and she waddled out, chattering away.  She is definitely too well to be an indoor hen.

I gave her some food, made tea for myself and DH.  I opened the back door and shuffled Tilda towards it.  As soon as I moved forward to encourage her over the threshold, she turned round and pushed between my legs to get back in to the kitchen. 

I've been here before. 

I went upstairs to get showered and dressed. A little later, I tried again.  Tilda was still not having any of it.  This time she actually toddled back in the safety of the pied-a-terre. I could see I was going to have to physically force her outside.

I had to go out. I didn't want to put her outside while I was out, as I wanted to keep an eye on her interactions with the Mob.

When I came back, she was sitting tidily on the flor, tail up, watching outside.   It was raining ice, so I decided to let her stay in the kitchen for the moment.

DH is saying nothing.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Not so happy henniversary

One year ago today, Tilda collapsed and "died" in the garden, but we managed to revive her (more by luck than anything else). She had been attacked by the b*tch chicken.

She had a small dog crate in the kitchen where she was comfortable and could spend her last couple of hours before crossing the rainbow bridge.

The couple of hours turned into several months and, more susrprising still, Tilda eventually decided she wanted to go back outside with the others.

A year ago today.

For the last week or so, she's been looking like she's feeling the weather.  She's been eating, and she's been coming out of the run and going back in each day, bit she loooks a little fluffed up. I mentioned to DH the other day that she might have to come inside again. He wasn't amused.


This afternoon followed it's normal-ish pattern.  At 3pm, I opened the gate from the Girl's free range area so they could  have half an hour pecking round the bit of garden that is normally off limits.  I lifted Tilda over the netting to save her walking around.

There was a nip in the air, so I decided I'd make them some pellet porridge.  While it was soaking, I started weighing out ingredeients for bread.  As I walked to the cupboard where the flour was, I saw Tilda prostrate on the ground, with Florence pecking at her head, and Custard watching.

I ran outside, scooped her up, and brought her inside.  She looked OK.  I put her on the floor and gave her something to eat.   I wasn't sure what I'd just seen, so I wasn't sure what to do for the best.  When I told DH, he gave me one of those looks, the visual equivalent of saying "You're just looking for an excuse".

Maybe I was?

I wanted to look at the CCTV footage to see what actually happened.  I decided that if she had been attacked, then she'd better stay in the house for a day or two, otherwise I'd put her in the coop once the others had gone to bed.

It wasn't pleasant viewing.

It started off OK, with Tilda standing on one spot and the other girls ignoring her - walking past, running past, but ignoring her.

Then there was this rather unpleasant bit.  Florence and Custard walked past he, ignoring her, back to the covered run.  At the top of the path, they stopped and turned round.  Custard walked back towards Tilda, and Florence went off at an angle, between them making a triangle shape.  Custard reached Tilda, and jumped at her.  Tilda ran off into the path of Florence, who chased her back.

Tilda ran between them before stopping in the middle under the tree. And then the two of them moved in and started giving her the chicken equivalent of "a good kicking" (a good pecking, I suppose).

And then immediately I was there picking her up.

So, I know that they had only just started to lay into her when I saw them.

And I know that they did it in (what appears to be) a rather nasty and calculated way.

I understand the reasons why they do it.  A poorly hen is a risk to the flock, and it's for that reason that hens are so good at hiding illness.

But it's really not pleasant.

So, I went and retrieved the folding crate, and set up a pied-a-terre for Tilda.  This time though, she's on basic rations.

Unlike a year ago, where she was very close to death, Tilda looks full of life. Well, relatively speaking.  I'll let her overnight tonight (or maybe until after the forthcoming cold snap), and then see about putting her back outside again.

One caecal poo though, and she'll be out faster than that.