Thursday, 30 April 2015

Life goes on

At the Allotment, life goes on.

It wasn't our day to do the Girls today, but I popped down anyway.  I wanted to bring back the eggs from the breeding group, and I wanted to give everyone - especially those in the breeding area - some greens.  I shaed out some lettuces, plus some savoy cabbage and cauliflower.  I also hung up a pecking block, which may or may not turn out to be a good idea.

Everyone looked surprisingly well and calm.  There were 6 eggs today from the 7 girls. 

  I guess we'll be aimig for a full incubator, what with us having some vacancies now.

A little gift

Poppy has been sitting under the shrubs.  Its eerily silent, and I'm absolutely sure that she knows she is the only hen in the garden.  She's not hunched up, but she is sitting very small.  I fed her some fish, which she ate, and some pellets, which she didn't.  

She needs company, but she also needs to be fit enough to meet (or re-meet as it will technically be) a new friend. Saturday, maybe.  Don't want to rush.

I decided I'd clean out underneath the Cube, as I could keep an eye on her from there and she might feel a bitless..alone.  I did the job quite quickly. I suspect I had temporarily detatched my mind, so I didn't have to think about it too much.

When that was done, I decided to empty the Cube. That way it would all be done and finished.  I pushed back the roof of the Cube. In the nest box,  an egg from Lotti.

I cried.  I carried on clearing up, getting cross with myself for the blubbing because it won't bring them back. It subsided eventually.

Later, I had to go out so I moved Poppy back into the Go run.  On my return, she was right at the back and wouldn't come out. So I lay on the grass to chat to her, and we shared a bunch of grapes.

She's dozing quite a lot.  It's warm where she is, and I guess she must be in a bit of pain.  The Vet didn't want to prescribe painkillers for her,  but I'll see how she goes.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Poppy update

Poppy spent some time hunched up, in shock, in the dog crate.  She accepted some Nutridrops,  drank water from a syringe, ate some corn and a little bit of posh-cat-food fish.  She stayed hunched up.

A little later I offered her some yoghurt, which she ate. More water.

Much later, she did an almighty, stinky, runny, poo.  I took her out of the crate, and cleaned and disinfected everything.   She was suddenly very awake, and was marching up and down by the back door, pecking on the glass.  I popped her back in the crate but it was obvious she wasn't happy there. I guessed she wanted to go and sit in the nest box of the Cube - she had been on the verge of going broody yesterday.

It was raining outside.   We moved the Go so that we could see it from the kitchen and she could see us. We put an old cube cover on it, and put her in there. I put a proper drinker, with Avi-pro-laced water in,  and some pellets.  She went upstairs and stayed there.

Later, I went to check on her and found that she'd laid an egg.  I took her out of the Go and put her o the garden table so I could inspect her.  I found teeth marks on her back, and she had lost a lot of feathering.  I couldn't see any blood or lumps out of her, but  I called the Vet to ask for antibiotics.  We got an appointment for late this afternoon.

I found a small, all, box, and we took her to the Vet.   He examined her all over, and confirmed that the bite marks on either side of her back were where the fox had tried to grab her.  There were no puncture wounds, and, because of this,  he said he would prefer not to give her antibiotics as they can cause problems in themselves. 

He warned me that the shock might bring on pneumonia, in which case she would need antibiotics, but he agreed that I wouldn't need to bring her in again if that was the case.

Back home, I popped her back in the Go run with some cucumber, grapes, fish cat food, and water. She drank a lot. 

After a while, I opened the run door so she could wander around the garden.  She went straight to the corner of the Pampas grass where the Girls liked to congregate in the afternoon while waiting for their evening corn.

Meanwhile I swept the main run.  It was full of feathers, and I'd rather get them cleared now than have to face it in a day or two.  I couldn't get to the Cube run though, we really need to detach the Cube and  I just can't be doing with that right now.

Finally, I scrambled an egg for her. She ate most of it, very quickly.

She's currently still by the Pampas.  I'll put her in the Go Run in about half an hour,  and then we'll bring her inside the house later on.    I don't want her outside overnight, partly in case the fox comes back.  He wouldn't be able to get to her, but he might scare her to death. Literally.

I'd like to bring one of her sisters, Gorgeous, back from the allotment.  I can imagine that might cause her  more stress than being on her own at the moment., so I'll have to play that by ear. Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Or so.

My lovely little girl.

Florence, RIP

We hatched our Australorp Florence on 27.05.2010 from eggs bought from Castle Farm.  We'd been to buy two Welsh Black hens, Rose and Ruby,  and I bought a couple of Australorp fertile eggs while I was there. She was the only one of the two eggs which hatched.

She was ENORMOUS, but had no concept of just how big she was.  When under pressure from another chook she would run away shrieking, with the ground trembling under her feet.

She was black, with the most gorgeous purple sheen. She had the most wonderful dark eyes.


Along with her sisters, she endured the tyranny Milly.    Florence didn't particularly like to be handled,  but in the last few months she was happy to eat out of my hand and to be stroked.

She surprised us by coming back in to lay this Spring. 

She was a lovely, gentle giant.

Roobarb, RIP

Roobarb was a bonus.

We bought two Welsh Black hens, Rose and Ruby,  from Castle Farm. On the way home, one of them laid an egg.  As we were incubating anyway (and I had bought a couple of Australorp eggs), we popped the egg into the Incubator.

The resulting hen was absolutely stunning, with absolutely amazing green legs (which stayed green throughout her life).

Every year she would moult, and her regrowth grew more coppery each year.    She made the strangest of noises,  would NOT be caught, and was reluctant to eat from my hand.  She was, however, a calm and kindly girl.   She had some rooster tendencies,  digging up treats and gurgling for the others to come and take a look.

She even tried to crow occasionally.

Custard RIP

Custard, and her sister Tilda, were part of a hatch of chooks destined for the table. They were incubated and hatched along with Florence and Roobarb.

Tilda was a particularly tame and friendly little girl,with a habit of tilting her head on one side and listening while we talked.  I decided to keep her at home, and Custard (along with Roobarb) was going to join the breeding flock at the allotment.   In the end I decided to keep Roobarb at home too, and I couldn't introduce just 1 hen to the existing Allotmenteers,  so Custard joined our Garden Girls too.

Custard was big bully of a chicken. Grumpy, bad tempered, and really horrible to any subsequent hens.  She led many attacks on Tilda, and so she was a hard chicken to like.  

Over the last few months she had become a bit less nasty.

Like Florence, Custard became much more hand-happy over recent weeks.  She fed, gently, from my hand, and would pop out of the Pampas when I called her.  She even let me stroke her and, once, pick her up and put her on my lap.

In fact she was slowing down considerably, dozing a lot,  and we could see that this was probably going to be her last year.   Ironic then that she should still be alive after the fox attack.  Her injuries were so severe that we had to cull her.

Custard (R) and Florence.

Custard (R) and Roobarb

Custard (R) and Roobarb

Custard (R) and Florence

Custard (R), with Roobarb 9C) and Tilda

Lotti, RIP

Lotti was an Exchequer Leghorn,  and was hatched (along with Poppy and the current harem) in 2012.

She damaged her foot early on, and we weren't sure how well she would do.  She didn't let the disability hinder her, and she was destined to join the Garden Girls as soon as we knew she was female.

She was flighty, loopy, and very vocal.  She was botton of the pecking order, and her floppy comb and wattles made her an easy target. 

She was very tame, flew on tgo my arm as soon as I outstreteched it, and was happy for me to pick her up and cuddle her.   She was absolutely lovely.

I named her Lotti, short for Borlotti, because of her markings.  She had a very definite personality, would run around screaming if aany of the other birds looked at her.   She insisted on having the entire nestbox area (not just the nestbox) to herself, and would shriek continuously until she got what she wanted.  She liked to build her own nests, and two years running built nests in the Pampas grass.

Inseparable from Poppy,  together I called them Poppylicious and Lottipops.

She was absolutely loopy, mad as a box of frogs.


I can't believe she's gone.


Foxed this morning :-(

The Girls raised the alarm at 5.15am, just before foxy got in to their run. We were out there by 5.17, but s/he'd already killed 3 chickens and mortally wounded another. Her injuries were too severe to be treated, so DH had to cull her.
We have one survivor, my most favourite Girl, who is currently in a dog crate in the kitchen.

Cube was not in any way at fault. We have it attached to a walk in run, and the walk in run has an automatic pop hole opener. Ironically, if the girls had been out in the garden they would have had a much better chance of surviving - they could have scattered, flown up high, had more hiding places.

I know that foxes are always a risk. I debated whether or not to watch the garden cam footage as I expected to see Fox sitting waiting for the opener to open. In the end I decided it was better to know what happened, and it wasn't like that, which is a relief. (I don't know why I should feel relief at that, I just do).

It was so quick, less than 2 minutes between fox entering the run and leaving it because we got to the back door. He didn't manage to take any of them away.

My poor, lovely girls. I'm mourning the loss of each one of them,their quirky individual characters. They were such poppets and were so very loved.

Poppy, the survivor, has had some fish and a bit of corn, and is drinking AviPro-laced water from a syringe. I've given her a quick look over and can't see any obvious wounds.

I'll inspect her more thoroughly a bit later.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Separation anxiety

Yesterday we ran a fence to divide one of the paddocks, leaving an entrance way so the chooks could still come and go freely.  We also set up an additional feeder.

Today we encouraged selected chickens to go into it, including Henry, and we closed the gap in an attempt to contain them.

We ended up with Norman, NotNorman and their sister Siouxsie.  Siouxsie, who sleeps i a separate coop to her sisters,  was pacing up and down outside the paddock where her two sisters were ensconced.  I ended up putting her in there too, I have no idea if that is a good thing.

Both Nora and Batty went in as well, instead of just one of them.

And two Welsh Black girls.  I picked the one with a saddle who is, or used to be, Henry's favourite.  And, after a bit of an inspection,  LightPink went in as well.   DarkPink is a bit pecky;  Gorgeous did a runny poo so I didn't think it was a good idea to put her in;  NoRing had gone broody; and Blue was quicker at getting out of my way than LightPink.

Henry was tricked into entering as well.   No one looked too bothered at first but, by the time we left,  the captives started to realise that they were captive.

I feel a little anxious.   I feel anxious that Norman and her sister Notnorman will have had their home invaded by bigger, meaner, Girls.   I feel anxious that Henry (the cockerel) will be fretting that he can't get to the rest of his harem;  I feel anxious that the Harem may get a bit narky without Henry to keep them in check; I feel anxious that removing some of the harem girls will have affected their position in the pecking order.

I also feel anxious because most girls use the Grey Coop to lay their eggs in. Even those that sleep elsewhere. I don't want to stress them.

The area has an old, roofless, coop on as well plus two separate shelters;  there is also room under the Grey Coop.     There are places for the smaller girls to get away from the bigger girls, and for them to hide from Henry if they need to (which I know defeats the object).

I know its for the best.  I know it's only for a few days.  But I don't like it.

I'm going to have to go down after dark to check they are all OK, and I will be surprised if  I find them all still where they are supposed to be.

Here's an old pic of Grey Coop.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


As a result of a chat with DSD, I decided to make something to send to my youngest DGD.  I had some fabric squares with a Frozen theme, turns out she still likes said film, and she'd missed out on having anything made for her birthday as I wasn't making things for other people back then.

I was pleased with my first attempt, although I decided that I should have done it with the fabrics the other way round (swapping the lining with the outer).  The second attempt was great, but when  was wrapping it, I spotted some dodgy stitching, I presume I hadn't quite lined it up properly. 

So, my 3rd attempt. My last few pieces.
It looked fine. Ididn't have any suitably coloured ribbon, so I made little loops from an offcut of fabric. .

  I decided to have a go at embroidering her name on the inside piece. this has to be done before anything else, and I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out.  I played safe and did it in a colour that blended in to the background, just in case.
 No more Frozen fabric left!

I Spy

The time for collecting eggs to hatch is almost upon us.

Once again we have decided that we will put Henry and a specific group of hens in a separate pen for a few days, so we know whose eggs we are collecting.   We had planned this meticulously last year, only to have our plans scuppered by DH having to go parent sitting, Norman going broody, and the timing going out of the window.

We started a rather circular discussion with "where are we going to put them".   My view was that we should take Tilda's now unused Go down to the allotment for a few days. This means that no one needs to be ejected from their chosen coop. Well, apart from the Girls we want to breed from.

DH wanted to use one of the existing coops, but I didn't want to stress anyone out by stopping their access to their chosen coop and forcing them to try and bed down elsewhere.  I knew from the poo piles that all the coops were in use, and I had a reasonable idea of how many were using each coop.

We then went round the "who were you thinking of", "where were you thinking of", "how many were you thinking of" loop, arriving full circle because it all kinda depends.

We would very much like to breed from Norman. She and her two sisters (Siouxsie Sioux and Not Norman) are our oldest hens, and are completely unrelated to the rest of the flock.  They are lovely, tiny, birds.  Norman, however, is possibly not fertile.  At least one of the three of them is definitely laying eggs (they are small and distinctive), but we don't know who it is.    So, we'd better include one of Norman's sisters as well.   Now, if they produce girls, we'll keep them (the girls I mean. Of course we're keeping Norman and her sisters). If the resulting chicks are boys they will have to be for the table.   And there might not be any at all.

We also want to breed from Nora or Batty.  These sisters are also unrelated to Henry, our cockerel. They are a year younger than Norman.  Resulting Girls might be kept,  boys will be for the table.   It's good to keep the different bloodline in play before we lose it.

And we want to produce table birds from the Welsh Blacks.   These are Henry's sisters so any chicks, irrespective of gender, will be for the table.  In my mind I was only going to breed from one ("Gorgeous", who is the spitting image of Poppy one of my Garden Girls),  DH was thinking of more.  The girls from last year's hatch are all too young.

We'd need to have quite a few eggs, just in case.   Last year we had only a 50% fertility rate,  but that was because Henry has far too many wives to manage from a breeding point of view.  Separating him so he has access to only a few girls should give the best chance of fertility.

The Go would be big enough to accommodate Henry, Norman, Batty and Gorgeous for a few nights.  If we were adding at least one more Welsh Black and one of Norman's sisters, it wouldn't be.

In the end I decided I'd have to go down at night and see who was sleeping where, then we could see who  would be displaced in whatever scenario.   No time like the present, so I waited for sunset last night, and set off.

I was a little surprised at what I found.

I started with Mrs' rickety old coop.  We had planned to take this one out when we built a new coop,  but Mrs liked this one, she was ancient, and we didn't want to disturb her. After she died we could see that it was still being used by 2 girls (although we had no idea who).

No one was sleeping in the nest box.  Inside, at opposite ends of the perch,  was DarkPinkRing (Welsh Black), and Siouxsie.   Siouxsie wasn't a surprise, but DarkPinkRing was.  I had expected her to be in the Shed along with Henry and the rest of his main harem.

Next was the 'new' coop, the one DH built.  Nora, who has been broody for days,  was in one of the nest boxes on one side.  Norman was in one of the nestboxes on the other side.  Inside the coop was NotNorman, and one of the youngsters!   That was an even bigger surprise than finding DarkPink  in Mrs' coop.

In the Cube, no surprises - the remaining 4 youngsters.

Just to make sure I hadn't missed anyone (they could have been sleeping outside), I checked the shed.  Henry, his 5 other sisters, and Batty were dozing on their perches.

It was definitely an exercise worth doing.  We'll use the new coop.  Norman and NotNorman are already there;  the youngster will have to sleep with her hatch-mates;  and Nora is bossy enough to push her way into one of the other coops.

So now we just need to section it off,  finally agree on who's going to be in there, and put the plan into action.  

And hope that Norman and Batty don't go broody in the meantime.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Cop this

I've posted off DGD's card, present and hanging thing. It seems like months ago that I made them. She;s the last April birthday so, in an attempt to keep on track, I looked at May.

The other day one of the big embroidery designs retailers had a fantastic sale. While I was on the website, I did actually search - unsuccessfully -  for a couple of things for upcoming birthdays.   I eventually found something suitable on another site, so I was ready.

It's DH's BIL's birthday in early May. He's been learning to fly a helicopter, so I had sought out a 'copter design.   There were more than I expected, including some very realistic ones. I have no idea what the model of helicopter is,  so I decided to play safe and go for something a bit more 'toony. 

It was a low stitch count, so I decided to try it straight on to the card.

Hopefully he'll appreciate the thought and effort, even if he thinks the pic is naff.

My back is playing up today, so no more sewing for a bit.  I'm going to do a bit of fabric research for a Happy Birthday banner instead.

Bathroom continues

Yesterday was Diamond Club Day at B&Q where old farts, who have registered, get 10% off their purchases.   We've done quite a bit since one of us (not me) was eligible and registered, and the 10% discount has been really useful.  It does mean that we tend to "save" any B&Q shopping to Wednesdays.

Last week DH went to buy the hardboard for under the new floor. The cutting machine was broken, so he didn't buy any.  We waited until yesterday to go back and try again. .  (Such discipline was previously unknown!)

We had other errands to run, including doing the allotment chooks.  It had been 3 days since we last did them (OC, Other Chap, did them on Monday and Tuesday), and they were very excited to see us.  SSpecifically, they were very excited to see the Grape Lady.   They were disappointed.

We got back home to find that the bathroom supplier had phoned to see if we would be in to take delivery of our sink and vanity unit (tap hadn't arrived yet), as they were delivering to our village anyway.  It turned out they had popped it on their van just in case, but we weren't in when they tried.

Luckily for us they were due back in the village today, and at 8am they delivered two enormous boxes.  The unit was fully assembled and really well packed.  The basin was packed to withstand being thrown from a height!        DH even managed to unpack and put the polystyrene in the bin before the bin men came.

Very exciting.

Yesterday, we discussed the floor.  DH favoured straight.  I favoured the more laborious angled.   We both concurred that straight horizontal was out, and angled -45 degrees was out. The Karndean site has a helpful interactive viewer, but it's not the same as seeing it in your own bathroom.  They do have an app for that, but it is an i-app so no use to us.

DH laid out some of the pieces so we could (try to) agree.   We could only lay where the existing harboard was, and we had to overlap some of the planks to get them to fit in (no cutting until we were laying for real).

I took photos so I could review later.  When I reviewed the photos this morning, and compared them to Karndean's, I got similar feelings about both sets.

First, +45 degrees.
 Here's the Karndean version...
Karndean's photo
+45 degrees - a direct line to the loo

 It looked OK, but it meant that the "planks" were acting as a corridor from the door across to the toilet

 Next, angled the other way -45 degrees.
Karndean -45 degrees
-45 degrees. Better than expected

 I didn't hate it. I quite liked it.

Karndean Straight

 Hmm. No. It was really...dull.

Finally, we tried straight 90 degrees (which is the way the original floorboards ran).

Karndean - straight horizontal

Straight +/-90 degrees
  Unexpectedly,  I quite liked it.Of course it was different depending on whether I was standing at the doorway or actually standing in the bathroom.

By the time we'd done all 4, I couldn't tell what I liked.  I'm glad I have the photos to look at.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


We're very fortunate to live in an area which has many many acres (hectares) of parkland and woodland open to the public. Some of them require membership (or payment on the day), but many are free.

We've been visited Langley Parka couple of weeks ago. Many many years ago, I used to keep my horse very close to Langley Park and ride there every week, but I  haven't been back since we moved the horses so we could ride in Windsor Great Park instead.    It was fascinating to see how much was different and how much was the same,  walking around trying to find spots where particular happenings occurred.

I found the place where I fell off and my horse walked himself home;   and thep place where a stupid woman let her dogs of the leash and they were snapping and nipping around the horses feet.  One of the horses kicked out, and the woman screamed blue murder at us.  I can understand why she was upset, but we did try to explain that the horses were stressed by the nipping.

On foot, the park seemed huge.  On horseback, it seemed much smaller.


This week we went for a quick walk in the Valley Gardens, near Virginia Water.  It was wonderful.  Peaceful, pretty,  vast.  So pleasant to stroll.

We'd missed the sea of daffodills, but the blossom was out.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Before - with old cushion cover in place
 I've done both chairs now!

For the second, more difficult chair, I used the same principles as I'd learned doing the other one, plus a bit of messing about.

Instead of a wooden frame and Velcro, like the modern Poangs, it has a fabric back, and the back has to slide over it.

Before - without cushion
I had to use a scrap of fabric, some pins, and my phone (acting as the chair cushion) to work out what order I needed to sew things in, so that the end of the cover that slipped over the back was over the cover that came up from the bottom.  (Sew the one you want to be dominant, first).

And I wanted to add extra strength so I used double fabric on that bit, and I couldn't work out which way to fold it to double it.

I expect one day that this will become second nature,

Here is it (on the right of the two chairs).I've cunningly photographed it to hide the base of the chair, which protrudes slightly.  This is the same colour as the original cover, so isn't particularly noticeable then.

It's a bit of an eyesore on the new one, so I expect I shall sew something to cover it up (and stick it to the chair base with Velcro or something)  DH isn't keen, so I'll have to wait til he's not looking.

I haven't rounded the corners on this one, as the cushion has squarer corners.

Here's the set.

I did a little Dance of Victory  after taking it.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Bish bosh

This morning I decided to get on and do the stool.

My fabric offcut wasn't quite long enough.

I considered waiting for the fabric for DH's chair to arrive.  And then I decided that I would use the side bits cut from my chair's cover, to extend the piece I had.
I carefully, painfully,  pattern matched and pinned.  The fabric was right side to right side but, as I have limited spatial awareness, I could not turn it round in my mind's eye to work out where I had to sew to ensure it would work. I had to do some tests on some scraps to get it right, and then apply that to the real fabric.

Whatever I did, it worked BEAUTIFULLY.    Very pleased.  Wish I'd taken a pic.

I then managed to get the seat cushion covered fairly quickly, without any instructions.  Bish  Bosh.  Well, ish.

I didn't pin it all in one go.  I pinned a but, then sewed, then checked, then pinned another bit.   This gave me a bit of a problem when it came to sewing the second (and third and fourth) bits,  but it was relatively quick and painless.  

I applied some of my learnings from the chair, and was pleased with the result.

Just the horrible chair to go.

Got it covered!

I am soooooo excited.

The finished chair
I've managed to re-cover an Ikea Poang chair for the summerhouse..

Admittedly, it wasn't exactly complex, but I've never done anything like this before . So, for me, it mas a bit of a major achievement.

Even the flapover bit at the top worked beautifully.

Izzy Helping
I broadly followed the instructions on this lady's blog:

I can see the flaws, the "could have done it better" bits. But a blind man on a galloping horse wouldn't notice.

There are a couple of things I would do differently if I did it again. Plus I wouldn't take so long faffing around measuring and re-measuring, afraid to use the scissors.

I'd also really like to have sewn lines down it, like the original has. But I didn't/don't have confidence in my ability to sew that straight.

 I had enough fabric left to cover the stool,  and I ordered more fabric so I can attempt to cover DH's chair. Also a Poang, but an ancient version - and much harder to cover.