Saturday, 30 May 2015

And while this was going on

DH decided to order a Grainfather.

We've talked a couple of times about having a go at brewing beer from scratch.  We did it once at a micro brewery, a long time ago.

Then a few days ago I read on one of my online-friend's blogs about a thing called a Grainfather and some super helpful software called Beersmith. (

It sounded really interesting, so I forwarded it on to DH to see what he thought.  We had a brief discussion about it,  that it might be worth doing as a summer project. It's a considerable investment, but if it produces proper quality beer it would be worth it. I also imagine that the second-hand value, should it turn out not to suit us, will also be reasonable.

We didn't talk about it after that because DGS-H happened,  and when Hayden happens very little else does -DH and I haven't really talked about anything over the last few days.

Yesterday evening, in passing, DH mentioned that he'd ordered a Grainfather.

So it looks like our summer project is on.

Thank you to John Norman for the info!

...and then maybe another

Day 3
DGD-H's last morning with us.

We made a Batman slider for a hair band on the embroidery machine.

More sewing, this time learning how to join to pieces of fabric.  He made a couple of pieces of bunting, but wasn't very accurate with his stitching.

I printed off a wonderful set of practise sheet from  I'd seen them mentioned on a sewing forum, and it seemed like a good idea.

I got him to practise sewing.  We had to have biscuity rewards for some of  them, and he got bored after 3.   I let him play with the machine, just stitching scraps together, trying out the different stitches.

Finally, time to help Grandad plane some wood for skirting.. and suddenly it was time to go and meet Mummy.

I had to go and see to the allotment chooks, so DH took him home.  As soon as the car got on the motorway, DGS-H was fast asleep, and he didn't wake up until they pulled in to the meeting place.

It's lovely to have time to think, and to catch up on the 101 things I haven't had time to do.

But I love having him here. He's just so interested in everything. Genuinely interested.   He's an excellent communicator,  easy to talk with,  says what he's thinking and doesn't faff about being "shy". He's also a mine of information - he loves to relate what he's learnt from the TV, from the internet, from other people.

If we're lucky, we might be able to have him stay in the summer hols as well.  But all the children are in great demand, so we'll have to see.

...and then another one..

Day 2. He had a lay in, having gone to bed rather late.   Once he was up and breakfasted,  he was ready to make the apron. We decided which fabric was going to be apron, and which pocket.  I got him to look through the threads and find two threads to use.  He chose some chickeny fabric for the background, and some dinosaur fabric for the pocket.

I had an old child's apron, an Ebay purchase from long ago, which was about the right size, and which we used as a template.

We went through the tedious stuff like cutting out, and ironing seams.  I showed him the old apron, and how & why the seams were double folded. I pointed out how even they were, and said that that was what we were going to try and do.  I made him help me fold and pin.

He practised sewing on some scraps, and then he sewed the straight seams, including the first sewing in of the tapes.  We checked, checked, checked at every step.  I sewed the curves for him, and he did the top and  bottom.

It looked good so far.

We did a fitting to adjust the neck tapes and the waist tapes, and agreed that we'd g for long waist tapes  he could do like chefs do, cross over at the back and tie at the front/side.  We then discussed the size and position of the pocket.  There were two dinos in particular that he wanted included, so we had to work out how much of them we could get in to the space available.    I cut the fabric, and got him to iron the hems.  He then sewed the hems down - a little wonky, but not bad - and then I pinned the pocket to the apron, and he sewed it to the apron.   Again some of the stitching was a little wonky,  so I asked him what he thought we could do to disguise it.  He suggested adding some decorative stitching,  so he tried a few and then picked a decorative stitch to sew- - in a coordinating colour.

I reinforced the tapes for him, and the pocket corners.   I also put Velcro on the neck tapes.

I then suggested he might like to embroider his initials on it.  We looked through the fonts I had,  and he picked one he liked.  I showed him the sizes, and then we did stitched them out on the embroidery machine,  so he could see what they looked like.   This also meant we could use the scrap to accurately decide where to position them on the apron.  We then hooped up the apron, and did them for real.

The finished item is really impressive!  He's done a great job.

He still wasn't finished. Did we have time to make ginger biscuits?   We whipped up a batch, and used the fabulous Oxo Cookie Press.   Then dinner.   Then a bit of robotics with grandad.  Then 1 hour's TV, during which time we discussed Sherlock Holmes's characteristics and Johnny Lee Millers portrayal in particular.  And then bed.   I was shattered, so I went too!

Take a deep breath....

It's been a busy week.

I can't remember what was going on on Monday or Tuesday, but Wednesday DH had to drive to Wales to do some stuff with his parents.    Picked up one of the Grandchildren on Wednesday, traffic was horrendous.

I have barely sat down since Wednesday night.  Darling Grandson H is an amazing little ball of energy.  He loves to learn - learn anything and is really bright. He picks things up, thinks them through, and is very articulate.

We made fairy cakes.   We had a discussion about different types of mixing, and why you beat  part of the mixture, but fold another part.  We went out to play with the chicks.

I showed him how to use the embroidery machine,  and after one go he was able to thread it, put the bobbin in, pick up the bobbin thread, put stabiliser in the hoop, fit the hoop, load a design,  stitch the design and change threads.    We made hair clips for his sister.

Darling Great Niece arrived with my Aunt (her grandmother), and we played with the chickens, ate the cakes plus some gorgeous Cornish Fairings made by my aunt.  We sat in the summerhouse and played cards. We sat outside and played cards.  We gave DGN and Aunt a lift home, and then went to see to the allotment chickens.

This resulted in a discussion about what happens to cockerels; and why do we bother to get the chicks used to being handled if they are only going to be dinner. I explained that we wanted to make the process as stress free as possible for the chooks, and that if they weren't used to being handled, it made their last day too stressful.   He asked me how we culled them when the time came.  I hesitated, and asked him if he really wanted to know.  So I described the process, factually and carefully,  - from picking up the chicken and talking to it, to the calming effect of the upside down bit, through to the broomstick and the pull.  I explained that it was instant  He seemed fine.

We talked about Henry and the girls.  He suddenly said "Does that mean the eggs from the allotment might be fertile, do they have a chick in them?"  I explained that fertile eggs didn't have chicks in, that incubation needed to trigger a fertile egg to start the development process.   I could see him thinking about this.  Later, he asked about temperatures (Would it start if we out the egg in the oven? Why not?   What about if I held it? etc).   We have a couple of broody hens, so I encouraged him to put his hand under one, to see how warm it has to be.

Despite chatting non stop, his brain was obviously whirring away.  On the way home, he asked me how people could have a broken neck and not die. We then had a discussion about neck thicknesses, and whether you could kill someone by chopping them on the neck somewhere.

At home, as soon as we got in the house, he wanted to sew.  I showed him how to thread up the sewing machine - slightly different to the embroidery machine - and he had a go at sewing some lines.  

We made dinner.  We did more embroidery.  We then went and looked at all the fabric I had available, so he could choose some for an apron. Somehow we agreed that wed do an apron with a different pocket.  He had a good eye for colour, but was really torn because there were so many fabrics that he liked.  We went through an elimination process which involved modelling in front of a mirror.

In the end we chose 2, but didn't make a decision on which way round - I suggested we sleep on it, and he could have a look again in the morning.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Chicks away

Four little babies have hatched so far today.  1 yellow "Big Bird", and 3 "Welsh Blacks".

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Talented people

My parents dog, Bonnie, died recently.

I found a photo of her last week and, on impulse, I asked the very talented Lesley Ann to create an A4 sized painting from it.

She did a fantastic job =,

My parents loved it.

Friday, 15 May 2015

RIP Norman

Norman was an absolutely amazing little girl.

Her mother went broody, 2 weeks after we had collected eggs from that group of girls for incubation.  We decided to let nature take it's course.

Unfortunately, the mother's mothering instincts were lacking, and Norman was hatched and abandoned.  OC (other Chap) saw it happen, and took the poor soggy chick home to his airing cupboard. We collected the chick and, seeing no alternative, put it in the brooder along with it's 2-weeks-older 'siblings'.

She was christened Norman (as in "Norman no-mates") by my brother, and the name stuck.

She was tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny in comparison to them.
 Of course she had no idea that she was younger than them, she did the same as they did.
She was super-agile

When she grew up, she was very blonde compared to all the others.  
She had cockerel tendencies. The chicks moved back to the Allotment when Norm was about 8 weeks old, and she started to imitate her dad's stance. Even at that age, she would would often face-off against us. 

We believed her to be a boy, right up until the day she laid an egg. In fact, we separated her off, just to make sure it really was her who was laying.

She was no trouble, a real pleasure to have around.  She was 6 years old, but looked and acted like a 2 year old.  She continued to lay really good quality, hard shelled, eggs.

She was killed by a fox (or other predator) because some mindless thugs broke into our chicken shed and let the chickens out.  

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


The human kind.

A number of shed break-ins on the allotment,  including ours. Our chicken shed.

They didn't take the chooks, but they did damage the electric fencing that was protecting them. They did leave everything open so the chooks got out.

And so we lost our oldest home-hatched girl, Norman.

Pile of feathers is all that is left of her.

It could have been much worse, I know that.

I can't believe Normy has gone, and  like that.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Not now, Cato!

Really early on, Poppy and Lotti (and Gorgeous, actually) learned to fly up on to my oustretched arm for a reward of corn.

As they got older,  and I didn't practice it, they all got out of the habit.

I revived it a while ago.  Lotti re-learned very quickly,  but  Poppy refused to remember what she had to do.  I didn't try it again with Gorgeous, as she was an allotment chook by then.

Over the last few days, I have been attempting to get Poppy (and Gorgeous Gloria) to do it, for the reqard of mealworms.   Eventually Poppy did it and was rewarded.  Upon seeing Poppy's success and reward, Gloria immediately learned what to do.

It's always amazed me what selective learning capabilites chooks have.

I practised today, with both Girld getting very excited and having no difficulty in doing what was was asked.

Much later, I went out to adjust the netting (Poppy is flying over again). 

Gloria jumped, literally, at the opportunity to fly on to my arm.

Unfortunately, I wasn't actually aware that we were doing it, and I moved before she landed.

I can see that she is going to be jumping up at me at every opportunity, like Cato trying to attack Clouseau.

Not now Cato!

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I saw these designs some time ago and put them on my "to buy" list.  I got some 50mm snap clips, and then finally bought the clip designs.

I've only stitched out two designs, but they are really lovely.
I've made some for two of my granddaughters. 

Not really expecting them to like them that much, lol.

Saturday, 9 May 2015


Not much change to report.

Gloria is still going out of her way to peck Poppy. Poppy is now sporting a bald patch on the side of her head, thanks to Glorias beakiwork.

In spite of this, Poppy seems OK though, so I'm  leaving them together.

Gloria (L) and Poppy

Poppy (L) and Gloria

Gloria (L) and Poppy, showing her Glorias beakiwork bald patch.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The 6th morning

Not much change really.  Just when I think they are getting along, Gloria does something horrible, like jumping on Poppy's back.

I think we're close to the end of the window of opportunity for me to return Gloria to the allotment.  I've also  no guarantee that bringing home another subordinate chicken is going to come out any better.

Poppy looks a lot brighter.   Colour has returned ot her comb. I've seen her digging (maybe an escape tunnel though?),  she's eating (grass, at least.).

On a side note - because she has lived completely free range on the allotment, Gloria doesn't understand concepts like "going into the run when corn is thrown in there" (so I can shut them in because I am going out).  All our garden girls have been raised on this process, so it's a little tiresome.

I've eaten a family sized bag of Galaxy Counters while I consider what to do.

I still haven't decided, and now I just feel choc-sick. I think I preferred them when they came in little white bags and had only a few in. Percy the Pelican, etc.

I've also ordered another sewing machine.  I could blame it on the stress, but that wold be a complete fabrication.

I'm getting ready to do the cutting out for a very long string of bunting letters.

Deep breath.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The fourth morning

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed that Gloria's assertions were becoming much more. They involved sharp pecks to poor Poppy's back (doubly unfair as she is bare there and must be aching like mad from the fox bite). It involved chasing.  Poppy makes no retaliation.

I had a word with Gloria to make sure that she knows it isn't too late for me to take her back to the allotment.  I meant it. I mean it.  What's stopping me is that I know, I know, I KNOW it's only the normal course of events;  and I don't really want to put Poppy through dealing with a different new hen, even if the one I have in mind is bottom of the pecking order where she is. Being bottom there doesn't necessarily mean she'll stay that way here.

On the plus side, I did see that they were sitting sort of near each other;  I have seen Poppy eating grass, and I saw her having a drink. I haven't seen her eat pellets. I believe it's getting better. She's getting better.

We were woken at dawn by the godawful noise that Gloria makes.  I'd never heard her voice at the allotment.  She must from the same line as Roobarb, because Roob used to make the same noise - thankfully mostly in the afternoon.

I got up to check for foxes.   An hour later, DH was woken up by it, and he got up to check for foxes as well.   The pop hole is closed at the moment, so we know that foxes can't get in. 

It's still a worry.

They are continuing to stay in the same general part of the garden,  but not next to each other. Well, next to each other but with a decorous gap in between, so that no one mistakes them for chums.

Monday, 4 May 2015


There was a lot of work to do at the allotment today.

DH had to take down the electric fencing and strim all round the outside, and also strim the overgrown bit of the allotment which our chickens don't have access to.  I did the daily and weekly chores - egg collecting,  feeder topping up,  scrub and refill drinkers,  muck out, dist with Diatom, etc.  

I also mowed the grass outside the allotment.  Most of the chooks came streaming back out when I had finished, eager to nibble on the succulent, newly trimmed, grass. 

I was very surprised to see Norman nibbling grass right next to Henry.  Their joint incaceration has obviously made them get on together.  DH saw Henry jump Norman a few minutes later,   so hopefully we have some fertile Normy eggs in the incubator.
Norman (rear left, Henry, rear Middle)
Sometime later, I was equally surprised to see Norman  beak to beak with Nora.  Again, their joint incaceration has, presumably, made them more tolerant of each other.
Norrman (R) and Nora

It will be interesting to see how long the entente cordiale keeps up.

The third morning.

The reptile place was only marginally cheaper than PetsAtHome.

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, I snuck some mealworms to Poppy whilst feeding fish cat food to Gloria.  The Allotment hens rarely get treats (which may be why they are so healthy), so Gloria was quite happy. I did feel a bit mean with the deception.

Last night,  Gloria took herself to bed at about 7pm, and Poppy fretted and fretted, taking about an hour to get the courage to go up the ladder and in to the Cube.   I hope this gets sorted out soon, it's stressful enough to watch, I can't imagine how stressful it myst be for Poppy.

This morning, they were both inthe same part of the run,  Gloria has found her voice, making the mock-cockerel noises that Roobarb used to make;  Poppy was calling at about 5.30am: first time she's foound her voice since Wednesday, so I leapt out of bed and rushed outside just in case.

We went to the Allotment at 10, so they were shut in together. Got back at 2pm, and they seemed OK.

Hard to tell if there's been any progress.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

In stitches

Two more May birthday cards done today.  The first was a fishing related one and I didn't take a photo before I stuck and stamped the envelope.  The other was a very detailed design, 41000 stitches (not sure why, when the pattern said 39000), it required two and a quarter hours of stitching time, plus the time to do the thread changes, about 3 hours in all. 

Fortunately the recipient doesn't read my blog, so I can post a pic here.

I had to wait until a new thread set (120 colours in Simthread) arrived from the lovely Doris Darby at  They reached her on Wednesday, were dispatched on Thursday, and arrived on Saturday
I can't believe I'm interested in thread! 

When did that happen?

The second morning

Yesterday afternoon, Gloria decided she was going to be the dominant hen.

Poppy let her.

Gloria hasn't done anything horrible, but she is in the pecking and chasing stage of establishing her domination.  I'm beginning to wish I'd brought back one of the submissive youngsters instead, so that Poppy had a chance of being Top Chook.  

I realise, however, that if poor old Princess (who would have been the submissive girl I would have brought back) was getting beaten up by Poppy I'd be wishing I'd brought back Gloria.

I'm clinging on to the fact that thgis is just a transition phase and that we might still end up with 2 inseparable friends at the end of it.

And, in all honesty,  Gloria is the top chook.  She's not called Gorgeous for nothing,  she's inquisitive,  calm,  and I don't think she's got a mean streak. They may be hatch mates, and are definitely both beauties,  but Gloria has the Indian Game bird genes and upright stance, whereas Poppy has inherited the Australorp ones.

Poppy isn't eating much.  She rejected fish and cat food and corn and cucumber.   She ate some pasta - I cooked some funny tiny pasta especially - but, whilst I was relieved she was eating something, I don't want her to eat only pasta.

The mealworms I ordered won't be here til Thursday (I managed, somehow, to choose next Thursday as a delivery date instead of last Friday).   I was at Pets at Home at their opening time this morning to buy some live mealworms (what a rip off! £2.50 for 60 grammes!),  and the two girls polished those off in one sitting.

I'm off to buy more mealworms shortly.  There is a little reptile place (little place, rather than little reptiles) open this afternoon, o I can get some more to last today and tomorrow.

I have seen Poppy preening though, and I'm taking that as a good sign.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

And in the morning...

Poppy was sitting in the dustbath, and Gloria was sitting in the Cube.

I went out with some fish to (a) make sure Poppy eats something, and (b) to tempt Gloria out.  It worked.

They ate the fish, carefully avoiding eye contact with each other.  I sprinkled corn to give them something to rook for, and exited. 

Our walk in run is T shaped.  Poppy stayed in the across piece;  Gloria stayed in the down piece, with the Cube at the end. 

A few minutes later, Gloria was back in the Cube.

I went out again, tempted her out with some pellets, but she came out, had a look, and went back upstairs.  Ir's obviously very overwhelming for her,

I left them to it for a bit.

In a while, I'll let them out to free range.

Gorgeous Gloria

We've introduced a new friend for Poppy.

Yesterday lunchtime, DH went to the allotment to collect hatching eggs and to bring back Gorgeous.  She's one of Poppy's hatch mates from 2012 and would have joined Poppy as a Garden Girl if Lotti (exchequer leghorn) had turned out to be a boy.   Well, Lotti was a girl, and so Gorgeous went off to the allotment along with the others.  She was the only one of that group that was 'properly' named, the others are known by the colour of their rings (Lightpink, Darkpink, Blue, Noring, and NoringSaddle).  She was the obvious choice - from my point of view - to bring back to be Poppy's new friend.

DH popped her into the garden straightaway.  She and Poppy saw each other and then carefully avoided and stepped round each other.   They both free ranged all afternoon,  giving each other a wide berth with minimal (preferably zero) eye contact or aggression if their paths crossed.  

During the afternoon I introduced Gorgeous to the Cube. She was unimpressed

Early evening, we shut them up in the big run together.  Plenty of corn, some cat food. Plenty of room,  2 feeders, 2 drinkers, spaced apart. Plenty of hiding places in case war broke out.

Same behaviour.

At near-bedtime, Poppy sat in the dustbath.  Not dustbathing, just sitting, quietly.

Gloria (as she will, I think, become) was testing out everything above the floor as a possible perch.  At the allotment, in her shed coop, they have roosting poles well above the ground, and she was obviously looking for something similar here.  She tried the arm of the big wooden garden chair, the back of the garden chair,  and finally settled on one of the perches fairly high up the side.

Nothing much happened.

I wondered if it might be a case of "the first to go in loses".

I picked up Gloria, carried her round to the egg port, and posted her into the Cube.  Then I collected Poppy, and put he into the Cube too.   Gloria came out and went back to her perch. Poppy came out and went back to the dust bath.

We decided to wait until the light was fading before trying anything else.

Time passed.  Poppy took herself to bed. I found her sitting in one side of the nestbox (we have a divider to split the Cube's enormous nestbox into 2).   I collected Gloria, and posted her into the other nestbox.  She walked through and stood on the roosting bars.

I was tempted to shut the pop hole, but I wanted to leave an escape route in case there was any aggression. Frankly, this didn't seem likely. Neither Girl is showing any dominating tendencies so far, but you just never know.

And I left them to it. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Bear faced cheek

I saw this on the Going Gently blog and it made me laugh out loud