Tuesday 30 April 2013

Making hay

The solar PV panels are performing even better than predicted, mainly because we opted to have micro inverters (one for each panel) rather than one overall inverter.  

I've been trying to get organised so that I do power-hungry things during the day, especially if the sun is shining.   Some things aren't too difficult to organise, like the washing... although I am finding that if it isn't sunny I delay putting the washing on,  and if it's brilliant sunshine and we don't have anything else running, I'll put on even a small load.   Fortunately I'm using some soapnuts liquid, which means that I can run on a quickwash successfully as the last rinse isn't necessary.

The hardest thing to get used to is using the dishwasher.  For as many years as we've had one, 9 times out of 10 we put it on at night and then empty it in the morning.  Now we're trying to organise it so we put it on before breakfast (or after, if there is still space for the brekkie things), and then unload at some point during the day.   It's better from an energy and cost point of view, as we're using electricity that we've generated ourselves rather than paying an electric company for it.... but it does mean we end up with dirty plates piling up on the side as the morning goes on.   Still, it's a small inconvenience.  

Thinking about it, if we get a good summer I can use the timer so it starts at 5.30 or 6am. There will be enough sunshine to power it (or most of it) by then,  and it'll be finished soon after breakfast.

I'm still addicted to the graphs. Every day I take a peek.  I'm sure that won't last.



Sunday 28 April 2013


We've set the hatching eggs today. We'll know in a week or so how many of the 17 fertile, and in three weeks, fingers crossed, we'll have this year's chicks hatching.


Saturday 27 April 2013


The two spiteful bullies, Milly and Custard,  are put away in the green Cube at night;  Roobarb and Florence, and the two youngsters Lotti and Poppy have the orange Cube.   I watch on the camera every so often, and I can see that Florence and Roobarb make it as awkwards as possible for Lotti and Poppy to get into the Cube in the evening.  I had hoped that the youngsters would get more pushy as they got older, but not so.

When I was deep cleaning the cubes the other day, I realised that part of the problem - only part - is that Lotti has a deformed foot. Her deformed foot doesn't grip or anything.   This makes it difficult for her to make that last jump from the ladder into the inside of the Cube. Not a problem if the entrance is clear, but an extra problem if there is a big fat smug chook in the way.

What she needed was a tiny bit of extra ladder to help. Just at the top.

For the green cube, which we use for chicks as soon as they can go outside,  last year DH made a wooden ladder which goes from the floor to the top rung, with the rungs having a smaller spacing than is standard for the Cube.  This makes it easier for chicky legs to run up and down it. 

LottiLadder - rungs to entrance
Today DH built me a Lotti Ladder.  It goes right to the top, way above the original ladder. It also extends below it, but that's not necessary because the Girls tend to fly part way up anyway. We tested it with Lotti and the spacing makes it easy for her to hop from rung to rung.

Chicks - floor to top rung-close spaced
Here's DH's chick ladder for comparison. We didn't bother taking it off when we parked the Cube for the Autumn, because at that point we didn't know that (a) Tilda was going to need her own run and (b) that we would be separating out the bullies at night.

One of the ladies on the Omlet forum posted a pic of a mezzanine they had built for their ladies,  and we're going to do that too.  However, I want to wait for a week.  If we put the mezzanine in too soon, then the youngsters will probably sleep out there because it's easier than battling to get in.

Click on photos for larger version.

Fingers crossed for this evening's performance.

Made the postman jump

Housewifery this morning.   I popped out to the Ru to top up the Girls' feeders and, as I was closing the gate, Poppy flew on to my arm. Nothing unusual about that.  I carried her, Hawk Style, into the house to get her some corn as a reward, nothing unusual about that.  I didn't have any corn in the little converted milk carton scoop that I use, so I carried her into the Utility room to scoop some corn out of the corn bin. Nothing too unusual about that, she's been in there on my arm before.

As we were coming out of the Utility room, the doorbell rang. 

After a split second consideration, I decided I didn't have time to take Poppy back out,  I didn't want to put her on the floor, so I thought I'd risk  answering it.

The Postie was there with a parcel which was too big for the letterbox.

He gave it to me with his usual cheery smile,  I took it with my left hand, smiled back, and shut the door.  I didn't mention or look at Poppy . He caught sight of the large black bird sitting on my right arm, just as the door closed.

Not quite sure what he made of it. 

Wonder if he'll say anything next time?

Friday 26 April 2013

What goes on?

Tilda has been outside all day today, sitting in some shribs down the side of the house.  I've been out a few times to see if she would prefer to come in, but she doesn't want to.

Outside the back door we have a wicker sided planter, which currently hasn't been planted up.  It's divided into two compartments.  One has soil which has been rooked through (I think by the cat, but possibly by Tilda as she has been up on it before), and the other has compacted soil.  

I thought she might like a little rook, or a dust bathe, so I popped her on the loose side. She started to investigate with her head. I watched her for a moment, and then realised that the compacted side wouldbe more likely to have insects and grubs in,  so I swapped her over.

She stood motionless for about seven minutes. Nothing.

I went back outside and swapped her back into thefirst half.  Immediately she started burrowing and investigating.

Daft chook. She could easily have stepped back into it if she had wanted. Why did she wait 7 minutes for me to move her?!
 By the time I'd fetched my camera, she'd made a little nest to sit in.

Egg collecting

It's time to collect eggs for incubating.

We've decided that, working on 75% hatch rate, 12 eggs will be enough.  If all 12 hatch, it's not too many to deal with.

DH brought 4 home yesterday.  Hopefully by tomorrow we'll have enough to start incubating. If we get more than 12 by tomorrow, we'll put them all in.

I hope that Henry is fertile.  He's such a lovely chap, apparently without any aggression - so I do wonder.

I guess we'll know soon enough.

Making hay

Yesterday was the day earmarked for the first proper Cube deep clean of the spring.

Everything went well. The sun was hot so it driied things quickly.  I put the removable bits on to the terrace to jet wash them. The terrace, sadly, was covered in green stuff, algae,  from the winter.  I tried to jet wash a bit clean so that I could stand the items and wash them, but in the end I realised that I would need to jet wash the terrace completely.

So, I stopped doing the Cubes and did that.  It took ages.  It looks smart now, I wish I'd taken a "before" picture.
 (By the way, I refer to this area as the "terrace" because it is slightly raised,  and it differentiates is from the "patio" which is attached to the house).

I then jet washed the removable bits from both cubes, plus the spare roosting bars which hadn't been jet washed when they were swapped out. 

When everything was clean, and dryish, I sprayed Poultry Shield.

While this was drying, I looked at the pressure washer,  looked at the sunshine, and decided to make  hay.

I got the benches out of the Girls' run, and jet washed them.

Then I did the roof of the run.

And the path down the side.

And the path at the back.

And the run covers.

And my recycing box.

And my wheelie bin, which had just been emptied by the dustmen.

And the Girls' drinkers.

By this time, everything else was dry.  I rebuilt the Cubes,  dusted all the crevices with Diatom,  and put fresh Aubiose in the nest boxes and in the poo trays.

Then I topped up the Girls' dust bath with wood ash, play sand, and added some Stalosan (disinfectant powder), some Diatom,  and a sprinkling of lice powder (I love that smell).

I'd had enough by this point, so I put everything away and sat down with a glass of fizzy water (Soda Streamed) with a slice of cucumber.   The nutritionist who did my last colonic suggested that Cucumber works well as an alternative to lemon, and she was right, I've been drinking this for some months now.

Eventually I realised that my trousers were caked in carp,  so I shuffled off to have a shower.  And then I was back out there in the sunshine again.

I've just realised that the patio is also covered in algae.     Maybe when I do the Cubes again, in a month or so.

Egg eating

Yesterday morning there was a racket from Lotti, which I guessed (correctly) was her distress that she wasn't being allowed in the nest box.

I opened the egg port to find Florence occupying one nest box.  Her beak was covered in egg, and at her feet were 3 eggs. Or rather,  one unharmed egg covered in egg yolk splatter,  one egg with a peck mark in the shell,  and the remains of third.

I imagine that the first egg could have smashed accidentally, but the peck mark on the second egg was worrying.  Maybe Florence hit it by accident when attempting to eat the eggy mess from the smashed egg?

I hoiked her out of the nestbox anyway, and cleaned up the mess so that Lotti could lay.

We will have to keep a close eye on this to see if it was a one-off or not.

Kitten v dog

What a good natured dog!

Tuesday 23 April 2013


Henry, our cockerel, and his 6 ladies were having a communal dustbathe in a dusty part of the allotment...
It was lovely to see them relaxing together like this, and especially lovely to see Henry taking some time off.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Getting Old

I'm clearly getting old.

Yesterday I took advantage of the good weather and went to the Allotment to clean and disinfect/treat the coops.  There is a largeish shed, and two large coops,  and it took ages. It's not really the POuktry Shielding which takes the time, it's clearing everything out. 

While the houses were drying, I scrubbed and treated the roosting bars and the shed nest boxes which are not attached to the shed.

And while they were drying I did the poo trays,  and I disinfected all the drinkers while I was at it.

When each house was dry enough, I sprinkled Stalosan (a poultry safe disinfectant) and Diatom,  put everything back in and refilled the nest boxes with Aubiose, and put Aubiose in the poo trays and on the floor.  Economically I winced at putting fresh Aubiose in the poo trays: - in the weekly cleans I usually put Aubiose from the nest box in the poo trays, and then put fresh Aubiose in the nest boxes.  However, when I'm doing a deep clean, there is no sense in keepin any of the old bedding - just in case there is a mite problem. 

The whole thing took nearly 5 hours.   Two of the Welsh Black youngsters, who are broody,  had got quite annoyed that they had no nest box in their shed.  As soon as thenestbox was back in place, both of them occupied it. Daft birds.  There are three nestboxes in the shed,giving a capacity for four hens to lay, in comfort, at any one time.  But no, they wanted to squeeze in together into one space.

The nest boxes which are attached to the other coops are a bit of a nuisance.  I've got some ideas on how DH could maybe adapt the floor of them to make them easier to empty, which would save probably half an hour in total on the cleaning front,  plus they would be quicker to dry.

Anyway. I got home, had a shower, and then sat in the sun in the garden.  I ached.  I can't believe I ache quite as much as I do.  I went to bed at 8.30pm!

I had to get up at 6am to let the Girls out. They were starting to make a noise and I don't want the neighbours to complain.   Unusually, I got back into bed and I didn't get up until 9.30.  

I am feeling old.

Friday 19 April 2013


Wash had a very small puncture wound on his foot, between two of his toes.  Coulcn't tell ifhe'd trodden on something sharp, or whether he'd been bitten - but as there was no swelling we are assuming the former.

Antibiotic jab,  painkiller jab, and antiobiotics for the next few days. House arrest until Sunday.

Got home, let Isobel out.  She had obviously been storing things up, and had a bit of a problem.  It took ages to catch her as she was running round the house like she was being chased. Actually it was a bit of #2 that had got stuck.   DH managed to catch her (luckily for me) and sorted her out.

Wash refuses to do a number Two in the litter tray, and is getting a bit worked up.

We decided to let both cats out now, and we'll shut them in early this afternoon.

A few seconds later, Isobel dashed to the catflap, did an emergency stop on the ltter tray (which is right by the cat flap) and "did her business".  It was rather scary and she ran out of the catflap in panic.

Fortunately the litter tray is near the downstairs toilet.

Least said, soonest forgotten.

Paws for thought

Washburn, our ginger cat, appeared in the living room yesterday evening just before kitty supper time; he hobbled in holding up his front paw.

We hurriedly checked him over, and couldn't find anything. It didn't seem to be broken, we couldn't find a wound... we assumed that he had probably landed awkwardly.  We agreed that it wasn't an emergency, so we would take him to the Vet in the morning.

Meanwhile we blocked up the cat flap, and put out a litter tray.  Our cat flap has a lock so we can prevent cats from going out.  We've had something on previous cat flaps, which just don't work on a determined individual.   Years ago, Wash was trying to get out of a "locked" cat flap, and he managed to get a paw stuck in the corner. Not pleasant.     

Even if that hadn't happened, I want the cats to be able to trust that the flap will open when they want it to.  And so we've always blocked access to the flap completely.   Usually the bin which contains the chicken feed (which is a semicircle shape) gets dragged in front.  We happened to have some discarded bits of worktop by the cat flap, so we used those.

Wash slept in the study behind a computer.  He came in to see us this morning, and spent an hour having a cuddle.

He still can't put any weight on his front paw, but he is managing to get around on 3 paws very well.

Wash hates using the litter tray.  He keeps begging to go out, scratching and scratching at the kitchen door. Normally we get up and let him out, but we've been ignoring his pleas.

Poor lad.

I phoned the Vet at 8.30, as soon as it was open.  Got an appointment for this morning.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Going Bananas

I have a lot of frozen half-bananas in the freezer.

Invariably, they ripen faster than I can eat them, so I peel them, cut them in half, and then stick them in a freezer bag.  The idea is that when I make a smoothie, I can pop in one or two half bananas, still frozen. Because they are very ripe at the point of freezing, they are full of banana-ey flavour.

The idea is sound. The reality - not so much.  I've had very few smoothies, the weather just hasn't been conducive to it.   Knowing that I had a small banana stash in the freezer somehow affected my ability to eat the last bunch of bananas at all, so my small stash became something of a mountain. 

I stopped buying bananas.  I stopped opening that  drawer of the freezer, which wasn't difficult as that drawer contains packets of puff pastry, some frozen homemade lollies (with home grown fruit) and various other bits and pieces.  It rarely gets opened. 

However, I opened it the other day, trying to find somewhere to store a large shop-bought bag of ice which is needed for tomorrow (Friday).   I looked at the sad little bananas, and decided that I was going to use them. Some of them, at least, This week.

So today I decide to make banana bread.   Marguerite Patten helpfully provides the weight of bananas including their skins.   I looked at my frozen objects, and decided that I would use 3/4 of the quantity specified.  I weighed them out and left them in a bowl to defrost.

Of course they turned to mush. Mush and brown water.   I was undeterred. The recipe said that the bananas needed to be mashed to a smooth paste.   So, I carried on.

The loaf should have taken 50 mins.  It wasn't ready - nowhere near - so I added 10 mins.  Then  5 mins.  Then 5 mins.   Eventually, the skewer came out clean.

I left it in the tin to cool, and then cut a slice while it was still warm.

It's rather squidgy. But rather delicious.

And its squidginess means it will be perfect to have with some home made custard.  Rather conveniently, I need egg whites for tomorrow and so it's a great excuse to make custard today. I love home made custard.   It means a slight adjustment to tonight's menu, which was originally going to be souffled omelettes.   I don't think even I can eat omelettes followed by custard.   Well, actually, I probably could - but I don't think it's a good idea.

The challenge will be leaving that warm, sticky banana loaf unmolested until this evening.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Lip service

Yesterday I was leaning over the netting into the Girls' free range area when Florence crouched for me.  I stroked her, she sat there. On impulse, I picked her up and brought her in to the house, gave her some corn, and then returned her to free range.

This afternoon, a similar thing occurred. This time I took Florence over to our swing and sat with her on my lap. I gave her the corn thing every so often, and she sat quietly, quite relaxed, on my legs.  In fact, she didn't look like she had any intention of getting off.

She looked at me. I looked at her, thinking how pleasant this was, and how unlike Florence to be so calm.

Then she lunged at my face and pecked my lip.

Ow. Bloody Ow.

Monday 15 April 2013

Sticky wicket

I decided to get some additional syrups and stuff for my cocktail making.  My friend Y is coming over on Friday, and we're going to spend the afternoon making cocktails,  so I placed online orders on Friday.

One of the orders was for some additional Monin syrups.  I already have plain syrup and vanilla syrup, but I wanted to get a few more.  The company I was ordering from was doing a special offer if I bought 6, and it wasn't too difficult to find 6.   I'm not really sure about Monin syrups, but they aren't that expensive, and I', sure the kids will like them on ice creams etc.

Delivery was superfast, arrived today. I signed for it, then picked the box up from the step and turned to go in the house.

I was three steps into the hall when I realised that the bottom of the box was very, very wet, and very, very sticky.  I shouted for the driver not to drive off, and told him that my package was damaged.  Actually the box wasn't damaged at all, but we could all see the dark stain on the bottom and the liquid oozing out.   In the end, we agreed that we would write "damaged" on his electronic delivery thing.

I left the box outside while I attempted to clean the syrup off the hall floor.  Then I got some newspaper, put it under the box, and carried it into the house to the kitchen sink.  By this time, syrup was leaking out all along one side of the box.  I slit open the tape, and found another stout box inside. This was really well packaged, so i was surprised that there was damagage.  I slit that open, and started to remove the bottles one by one.  I rinsed them under the tap as I did so, getting syrup all over the sink in the process.

Bottle number 4, Butterscotch, was shattered. By this time, the syrup was everywhere.   I got a bin liner, and put the entire box-within-a-box in the bin liner.  I picked up the newspaper and stuffed that in, and I took the whole lot out to the dustbin.

Despite my precautions, I had managed to get more syrup all over the floor, all the way from the front door to the kitchen sink.  I mopped again. I cleaned the sink. I realised that I had syrup on my sleeves.   I took my jumper off and put it on the floor of the utility room (next to the washing machine, not just for the hell of it).  I sat down to phone the company and, while I was on the phone, I realised that I had syrup on my jeans.

Who knew that the stuff could be so pervasive?

The house smells of sickly butterscotch mixed with vinegar (I used vinegar solution to mop up with).

Thank goodness it isn't hot, or I'd be besieged by ants and flies.

Roll on Friday.

Saturday 13 April 2013


Not the cocktail sort. It's been about a week since I last made a cocktail.

We've been meaning to make pickled eggs for a while now.  Trouble is that fresh eggs don't make good hard boiled eggs, the whites don't solidify properly.  We haven't had enough older eggs to make it worthwhile. 

DH bought a dozen eggs home from the allotment yesterday. Some of them were a week old, and I had a few on my Egg Skelter which were as old or older.  In the end I managed to get together 11 eggs to try.

I have two recipes. One is for pickling quails eggs and, whilst it tells me I need 48 Qualis eggs and 700ml white wine or cider vinegar,  it doesn't tell me what sized jars to use.  The other is for pickling hens eggs, and tells me how much vinegar I need per 6 eggs.

So, I estimate that I can fit 6 eggs into a 500ml Le Parfait jar. I could probably fit in more, but I want to allow room to cover and room around.   I decided to make two lots of pickling vinegar, with the same additives in both but one with a base of white wine vinegar and one with a base of cider vinegar.  That way we can decide what vinegar we prefer, and then we can experiment with the additives in future batches. Of course I didn't have quite the right amount of vinegar, so I've had to adapt the recipe.   I've made notes though and, if it's a success, I'll post it.

So.  The vinegar mixes have been boiled and are cooling and steeping.  The eggs have been hard boiled, plunged into cold water immediately, then cooled rapidly in running water  and the shells cracked - this is to prevent that horrible black ring appearing around the yolk.

And now I'm waiting for the vinegar to steep and cool so I can pot up.  And then I have to wait 6 weeks.

The house smells of vinegar.

Not going out

Not today, thank you.

She wouldn't go out until she'd had her mealworms, which was fair enough.  Then she wanted yoghurt (and yes, I do know this for a fact. She started scraping herbeak inside her empty yoghurt cup).  And then she wanted a fresh bit of Garvo.

When she'd finally run out of delays, I picked her up and stood her by the open back door. She stood with her beak outside, doing nothing.  I unpacked the shopping, which had helpfully arrived early, while I was in the shower.

When the shopping was away, I tried to encourage Tilda to jump outside. She did her surprisingly nimble shimmy, and wedged herself underneath one of the breakfast bar stools.

I'll take that as a no then. Well, I'll take it as a "not just now, thank you".

Friday 12 April 2013

Risking it

Tilda wasn't sure about going out this morning. She hesitated on the step, presumably trying to make up her mind. It was raining a bit, and she had lots to do.  In truth, it wasn't raining much, and I needed to clean out her pen, so I made the decision for her.

She started off by sitting next to the Girls, albeit on this side of the netting.  The Girls drifted off and drifted back, As the  morning wore on they travelled a bit round their area, and Tilda followed them along the fence line.  By lunchtime, she was sitting by the gate.

Reluctantly, I put her in with the Girls, and she made a dash for the run.  Custard started after her, so I intervened and shut the run door with Tilda inside and everyone else outside.   I got on with some housewifely stuff, and came out half an hour later to let Tilda out.  The Girls crowded round, naturally associating my arrival with something tasty.  I couldn't leave Tilda in there, so I put her back outside the fence.

After another half hour of housewifely stuff, I looked out to see Tilda standing with her bbeak pointing in to the gate.  I walked outside, not looking at the Girls, trying to look as though I was walking elsewhere in the garden. At the last moment I veered in, scooped Tilda up and popped her over the fence.   She ambled off into the Run again.

I left her outside, trying to keep an eye on her.   She appeared under the Pampas at one point, standing right next to everyone else.  Everyone was together, which was unusual - even without Tilda, it's unusual to have all of them sitting quietly together.  That lasted until the scaffolders arrived to remove the scaffolding.    The others disappeared to the Run, leaving Tilda under the Pampas on her own.

Time for her to come in, I think.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Beak out of joint

I've been spoiling Tilda a bit with the Mealworms.  She has them for breakfast and she has them for dinner. Every day.  (She also has layers pellets, garvo, oystershell & grit, natural yoghurt, and cucumber).   

Occasionally, the Grden Girls get mealworms, the odd treat.  Once a week, sometimes twice, the Allotment crowd get mealworms as a treat. 

I buy 1kg of mealworms from Wiggly Wigglers, divide them up into my 3 differently-sized and superduper bait boxes.  The largest box goes in the salad drawer. The other two sit on different shelves in the fridge.  Evry few days, I take the boxes out of the fridge, add some grated carrot, and leave them out for a couple of hours so that the mealworms can come out of hibernation and have smething to eat.  Then they go back in the fridge.

This week Tilda has been outside a few times, sometimes for a whole day at a time.  She doesn't do anything while she's out there, but she looks fairly content.   Her tail and head are good barometers of how she is feeling.

This morning she was enthusiasticaly helping me get the mealworms out on to the floor for breakfast, and we accidentally ended up with a slightly larger heap than intended.   To my surprise Tilda didn't eat them all.

My mealworm phobia has almost completely evaporated, so the sight of a small pile of mealworms didn't worry me too much.  A frew minutes later and the sight of mealworms travelling away from the pile  in different directions did bother me a bit.   My Great Niece is coming, and she might be a bit distressed.

Tilda was having a post-breakfast doze, and wasn't interested in helping me clear them up.  So, I went outside, held out my arm, and brought in a very happy Poppy.  I put her on the floor and she hoovered up the escapees with gusto.  Tilda was most upset.  She did a sort of chickeny growl.  She came out of her pen to defend her mealworms.   This was not a good move as Poppy, oblivious to the tension, saw an empty pen and lots of interesting coop cups.   Fortunately I saw her heading in there and stopped her.

Tilda got back into her pen and started eating her Garvo very loudly.  There was a lot of burbling, presumably she was muttering under her breath as she stabbed into the food.

At last!

Our system was commissioned yesterday (Wednesday), and we had the joy of watching the meter dial going backwards.

I knew this might happen, someone had mentioned it on a solar PV discussion board. And there is a question about it on the Tariff form.

It's dull and overcast today, so we're only generating enough to run half an old fashioned lighbulb...or a couple of low energy ones.  

I'm seeing my Aunt J and my Great Niece T this morning.  Cakes might be called for I think.

Last Week - three days ago.

After much investigation, which included a lot of pulling out of furniture, socket testing, and  emptying a particularly full bookcase to get behind it,  the problem was isolated.
The Vphase thingummy was hooked up with no issues.

We couldn't get the solar PV commissioned until Wednesday, as we had a long standing date with two of the Grandchildren, and we hadn't seen them for some months.

The furniture was put back. The bookcase decluttered and refilled.  

Still no satellite signal due to the scaffolding, and Sky Go does not have all the channels.  I couldn't face watching Game of Thrones live,  the short segments and frequent adverts really spoil the programme for me,  so we prefer to record it and the FF through the ads.  And who knew that it meant we wouldn't be able to watch stuff we had recorded?! How rubbish is that, Sky?

Luckily Sky repeats things, so we can watch GoT later in the week.

Last week - Thursday..

I started to write this post when work on the solar installation started...

I know it is only for  couple of days. I know  it will be worth it when it's done.  I know it can't be helped, omelettes/eggs, that sort of thing.  But I still find it wearing.

It wasn't too bad yesterday.  It's not really that bad today, except that today we have no electricity.  It's too cold to go and do something outside.  I've already been out and cleaned out the chooks,  cleaned and redone their waterers etc. 
I've decluttered a wardrobe.  I've sorted out stuff for the charity shop.  It's not worth cleaning.  I'm unable to settle with a book.   I'm stuck at home at least until DH gets back from doing the allotment chickens.

The scaffolding means that we don't get satellite, and the satellite isn't recording.  Sky Go means that we can watch some programmes live (without live pause or fast forwarding through the adverts,  reminded me why we record everything and start watching it 15 mins late).  Except Sky Go is only a subset of sky channels. No Castle!
I haven't felt this trapped for ages!

I didn't post it because I realised I was being a bit pathetic.   So, why have I posted it now?

Well.  The solar PV installation went swimmingly, despite the freezing temperatures. The guys were great, very neat and tidy.  

We had decided to have a voltage regulator thingummy installed at the same time.  Most of the installation went well, but it did uncover a problem somewhere in the house with the wiring. 

Long/short: delay in commissioning the solar PV

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Over exertion

One set of grandchildren live about an hour and a half away.  Not too far, but far enough that we don't get to see them as often as we should like, and should.  Day to day life for us and for their parents just gets in the way.

It was their birthdays recently, and DIL2 (their mum) suggested we might like to take them out somewhere for the day.    I had the bright idea of taking them to Go Ape,  as a new junior course had opened up about an hour from them.

So. Up early this morning so the chooks could have a run around before we left.  Chooks away, along with several peckablocks,  a couple  of cauliflowers which were quartered and hung with string from places in their run, a quartered lettuce, a squash, a swede, and some tomatoes.  I think the lettuce and tomatoes were eaten before I'd even got back into the house.

Hour and a half there, no real holdups, so that was better than expected. Cup of tea, chat, then we left. Hour ish to Go Ape.   Couple of times round that (once round it in my case. Not my thing at all, heaven knows why I thought it would be a good idea).  Then off to nearby castle to have lunch, which involved a very long walk to get there.  Negotiations about lunch, which I'm not used to, and attempts at manipulation, which I am.   Questions about "WHat would mummy say if you asked her?" were very helpful. And the Girls were accidentally very amusing.   

After lunch, they wanted some sweets. Fair enough, they'd been good, hadn't played up at all, hadn't asked for anything silly.   I gave them a £5 note to go and buy a tub of sweets (for £2.10).   A few minutes later, one came back just to check whether I had meant one tub to share, or one tub each, as there was enough money for one each.    "One to share". The disappointed messenger went back into the shop.    A long time passed, and they eventually came back with a tub.   They then earnestly explained that GD1 had wanted x and GD2 had wanted y and they couldn't fund a tub with both in, so they bought a tub of z instead.  I pointed out that this meant that neither of them got what they really wanted,  and they agreed, explaining that this way it was fair.  I kept a straight face, and pocketed the change.

A play in the fort (children, not us) followed, by which time it was starting to get very cold.   We had a"ferry" ride across the lake followed by a train ride back to the Gift Shop.   DIL2's mum had given them money to spend, and they were determined to spend it.  They failed, only spending about half of the money available despite trying very hard not to listen to my "you don't have to spend it today, you can save it for something when you get home" speech.

Hour drive back to their house, and then we had to leave immediately to try and avoid the traffic.  Bit more than an hour and a half home, but again we were really lucky.

I'm now shattered.  I'm getting old.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Make hay

Sunny today...and warm!   Three loads of washing done and hanging outside!.

I've also raked most of the Girls' free range area, it looks much better now.  I'm wondering whether to water the grass.  We've got lots of water in the water butts and the water tank. The grass needs it,  but if temperatures drop then I might do more harm than good.


Saturday 6 April 2013

Back home

My nerves might not have survived Tilda's adventure, but Tilda did.

I've been in and out like the proverbial fiddlers elbow,  checking that she is safe and unmolested.  She moved hiding places numerous times. At one point she was actually standing, unprotected and unhidden, close to the others. 

She's just come in, and I've checked her over for wounds. None, today.   That has to be the first time for a long time.

Adventuring is obviously hungry work, she's tucking in to a heap of mealworms as I type.

Will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. Forecast isn't great, so today's little sojourn might be a one-off.

Kamikaze Chicken

Tilda has resisted going outside for several days now.  I don't blame her, it's been bitterly cold and we even had snowon Wednesday.

This morning she did her now regular routine of running round and through my legs when I tried to suggest she went out.   I left her in the kitchen while I went out to see the Allotment chooks.  

When I came back the weather was a bit warmer, so I picked Tilda up and put her outside.  I gave everyone, Tilda included, some pasta.  Tilda wandered along and sat next to the Garden Girls, albeit on the other side of the netting.    A bit later, she was at the gate, pointing determindly inwards.  I tried to dissuade her, but she resisted. So, I opened the gate and she ran in to the Girls free range area.  She headed straight for a shrub, but was intercepted by Custard.  Tilda ran off and sat under some spikey shrub,

I stood outside for some time, until the 6 Garden Girls got bored and wandered off.  I've been sitting in the kitchen working, whilst making sure that I can see all 6 of them (so no one is anyone near Tilda).

I'm not sure this is going to end well.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Bring me sunshine

About 5 years ago, DH installed a solar water heating system for us.  A plumber friend helped to connect it all up, but DH did the rest himself.  It's been fantastic,  a huge saving overall, and we encouraged our friends (especially those doing renovations) to think about doing this.

We wanted to do solar PV at the same time, but could not justify the cost of getting it installed. Self installation was a possibility, but still expensive, and we wouldn't get the grid tie in.

DH played around with some smaller 80w panels.   This worked OK, but wasn't particularly efficient.   We kept putting off the decision to go ahead with full solar PV.  Installation was too expensive, and the thechnology was still improving.

Two years ago we decided we would do it.  Component prices were coming down, electricity prices were going up.  DH was busy working, and couldn't free up the time needed to do it.

This year, we decided to bite the bullet and get it in installed by someone else.  When we got the three quotes we were surprised to see that the total cost, including fitting, was less than the component costs had been just a couple of years ago.  (In fact the total cost  was only about 2.5 times as much as our original test 80w panels cost!).   

It was difficult  deciding which of the dozens and dozens of fairly local installers to get to come and quote.   We looked at the websites of the first 30 or so, and got a long list of about 12, and we then got this down to 3.

All 3 were great.  They were all different.  It was tough to choose.  We dropped one because he was so busy, we could see that it would be some time before we could get done. He was a lovely chap.

In the end,  the decision was almost made for us.  One of the two had provided a comparative quotations for a single inverter and for micro inverters.    We researched micro inverters in more detail and decided that's what we wanted.  We asked the other chap about them, and he wasn't keen on them.  Fair enough, lots of people don't like them.    We talked about it, did a bit more research, and concluded that we definitely wanted to go with micro inverters.  So we went ahead with the chap who had quoted for them.

Installation is this week!

Monday 1 April 2013

Tilda reaches the hallway

Tilda, our house chicken, doesn't move around very much. She likes to come out of her pen,  wander around part of the kitchen, then sit on the floor for a while.  Sometimes she sits under the bar stools. More often than not, she likes to sit in walkways, or in front of the fridge.

During the course of the day, assuming she's rejected my attempt to get her to go outside and play, she gradually moves into the main part of the kitchen.  She then sits in front of the dishwasher, the sink, the pan drawer.  Sometimes she sits right in the middle of the floor, like a booby trap.     She's a gingery coloured chicken, and our floor is brown and ginger, so she camouflages well.

She sits, watching us.  Her tail is up, she burbles away.    Sometimes she reminds me of  Doctor Who's Weeping Angels. If you take your eye off her she moves. Just a bit.  At least you're sure she must have moved, because 5 minutes ago she'd been sitting in front of the part of the kitchen where the coffee machine is sited, and now she's in front of the cooker.

Over the last few days, her travels have taken her in a very large L shape, and she has reached the cat food bowls.  She hasn't attempted to eat the cat food, but she has had some fun sitting in front of the bowls. The cats, not surprisingly, aren't too happy about this.

This morning she reached the cat food bowls by about noon, something of a record.   I was sitting using my laptop in the living room. The kitchen door, with the cat food bowls, is right behind me.  Tilda sat there, watching me.    I wondered whether she might try and come into the living room.  I;m not too keen on that really, but we have a solid floor in here as well, and I guess it won't be much of a hardship adding that to my daily disinfect.

She didn't come into the living room.  One minute she was settled, watching me.  The next minute I head DH in the hallway saying "Hello Chicken, you've decided to come in here have you?".

The hallway, too, has a solid floor.  And she won't be able to get up the stairs.  She might manage to hide herself amongst the bikes underneath the stairs I suppose.

At the moment she is staring at the door stop.

She posed for the camera, and waited while I went to get a fresh battery,