Monday, June 26, 2006

Fighting the good fight - but it is a tough battle against all the pests and elements

After sorting out the bantams first thing, I just couldn’t sit still for long and did my usual trip to see the Norfolk lasses and collect the eggs.

Today there was just one – and a half eaten egg.

The picture is a bit blurred I am afraid. I put it outside their area to photo it and it was raining and my hand was shaking - in temper? No!
I just don’t know why this is happening. They free range when I am up there, and you know how many hours I spend up there each day. They have plenty of room in their extended run, have the best layers mash ‘on tap’ every day and I always make sure that they have enough for six rather than three hens. They have oyster shell mixed in with it too, and are on a grassy meadow, so can scratch for more grit in the soil. Not very grateful are they for all the care and attention I lavish on them.

I thought that I would move their run again. It gets moved every other day, but it has never been facing the way it is, so perhaps they do not like the view. (Joke).

As the rain had stopped I decided to take some photos first and walk around my little ‘estate’.

The view that greets me when I open my car door - my neighbours plot - and his dog had left a visiting card on my lawn - even I can tell the difference between rabbit dropping and a dog's LOL

Still it is better than last year at the moment - live and let live hey?

I took a few photos of the track end of the allotment so that you could see my tidy and nettle free shed end. This is after four hours work - if you had see it before!

We have a permanent fight with nettles and allsorts of weeds encroaching our plot, but I just have to get on with it - and cut and chop - it is a never ending battle.

I will no longer get stung when I go to get water from my tank at the side of it. One of the water butts on top of the pallets has water in, and with a tap on the bottom it is just the right height for me to fill up the buckets and watering cans. (I wonder if Pat can be persuaded to refill it for me next time he is up there). No chance I reckon.

The butts will be repositioned over the winter and next spring I will put a couple of cold frames on the pallets so that I have a 'green house' to grow things in.

The rain has certainly freshened up the plot, and it smelt wonderful.

This is my last ditch effort to protect my squashes and climbing beans from rabbits, and pests, and a terrier who will not name and shame as it isn't her fault that she is a tearaway!

Hopefully squashes will be racing away after this.

Here are ones further down the plot.

They have been somewhat distressed in the hot arid weather, and my pathetic watering is not a patch on a good downpour.

The plastic bell is there for protection – the Atlantic Giant, got chewed by the rabbits and now has a lot to do to live up to it’s name.

Within minutes of taking off the bell, a bee appeared and pollinated the single flower – which means that I should at least get one pumpkin – with luck.

After almost three years in the waiting, here is a photo of my first crop of Jostaberries. I have three bushes all from cuttings, and they are just about to ripen by the look of them.

They look like a gooseberry when they are green and like a blackcurrant now they are ripening. I tasted one and it is too early as they are still hard. I would dearly love to make Jostaberry jam!

Another little marvel in the tiny blackberry I bought in the autumn. There was only a couple of inches of stalk on it in spring, so I protected it with a wooden bottomless pot, and it has grown.

It is thornless, but the label does not have the named variety – just says Blackberry £5.

I am taking a chance now that it is bigger and removing the protection so that it can ‘go mad’ if it wishes. I never watered it once, since the initial one when planted, but it had a very good helping of rotted manure around it so that seems to have done the trick.

It too has some flowers on it, so I may get some berries – about 10 – but with all the birds about they might get this years ones before me – but not next year – it will be netted!

Looking into the net tent, I spied some lovely mange tout ready to be picked, and once inside I discovered there were lots.

So I picked 1 ¼lb and we had them steamed for 6 minutes and they were fantastic. You really should grow them if you haven’t done so before. I also gathered up some sorrel and steamed that for two minutes and they looked really pretty on the plate. There were a few new potatoes left from yesterday, so I dry roasted them with a sprinkle of garlic and chives on top, and added some of last years tomatoes that I froze whole. I popped them in the same dish and the potatoes and cooked them from frozen – and it worked a treat. They were not all water and no taste – but were as if I had just picked them and roasted them – a real surprise that! The meal was completed with a breast of chicken baked in a parcel with fresh tarragon and oregano from the garden – a pretty little feast!

But I have leaped forward quite a few hours!

I took a walk up the track to look at the other plots, from afar, not walking on them you understand – it wouldn’t seem right to do that if the person wasn’t there.

The other two new comers whose plots were ploughed, and then later deep cultivated looked a real treat and without a weed in sight a couple of months ago. I had high hopes when a new shed appeared on one of them too – very posh.

The one next to the ‘posh shed’ who was named ‘The Scientist’ not in jest but because the person who called him that thinks that he really is, has been a bit of a let down. I was so looking forward to seeing all the plans that he had come to fruition – but it hasn’t happened yet. His plot and ‘posh shed’s, looked like they had been sown with the ‘clover’ that he mentioned using, that would ‘suppress all the weeds, and you just plant through it’. I really looked forward to seeing it happen, and the beds ‘like mine’ with grassed paths, and different fruits and vegetables.

There was a sea of white, which only I noticed, as no-one else has, they just think it has been left and is full of weeds! Whilst the clover if that what it is, is now going to seed, the usual red seeded stems of dock weed rise above it, so too some parsnip seed heads that appear every year, and others are appearing too. I really and truly hoped it would be wonderful and that I could learn a lot and put it into practice. So I am feeling a bit disappointed.

‘The Scientist’ and his wife, haven’t even cleared out the debris in the shed, nor the brambles and weeds at the track end of the plot. In winter, it was bare, with just a hint of brambles, but now they have gone rampant. They will have a nice crop of berries on them, for the birds though, as they will be the only ones able to reach them without being stung by nettles.

‘Posh Shed’ which is shared by two brothers and their wives. (I have only seen them a couple of times a while ago, and no one knows their names, so I will have to call them ‘Posh Shed’.

They didn’t appear until late spring, and did a lot of looking and talking one day – I waved – but didn’t get a wave back at the time, they were deep in conversation over a roll up. The weeds were starting to appear at the time. They made a start and put down slabs for the shed. Banged in bits of wood and put lines along for the rows of potatoes, which they duly planted. Then no-one saw them again. Someone erected the gorgeous shed – but no-one saw it happen. I did see them putting up some canes for runner beans – and Mike, next to me saw one of the chaps a couple of weeks ago, who said that the rabbits had eaten his runner beans – and they haven’t been back since. And the weeds are growing, and it will soon be hard to find the crops!

I hope that the people are all right – it has a bit of a ‘Marie Celeste’ feeling about it at times. I had visions of people up there at weekends or evenings – all working companionably alongside in their own allotments. Perhaps a cheery wave and a greeting and maybe a bit of a chat and encouragement etc.

If this is the first time you have seem my blog - perhaps at this stage I had better tell you that it is 330 feet long and 33 feet wide - in the middle of nowhere with not facilities!

But I do love it so - even though I sometimes feel that I am the only one on the planet!


  1. Oh, please don't blame your ladies. It looks like a rat is getting at your eggs. They gnaw a hole in the shell and suck out the contents. Sometimes after the rats have sucked the contents the hens will eat the rest of the shell but it's very rare for well-nourished hens to eat raw egg.

  2. Your garden is beautiful. I am not doing one anymore. I only have some green beans in this year. I have a herb garden that produces pretty much year round as well as raspberries and a few strawberries, which the robins love.
    The leaves on your blackberry very much resemble the Evergreen blackberry here, which has horrid thorns.
    So sorry about your eggs being eaten. I have heard of rats doing that as well as weasels.

  3. Lottie I wonder if you fill an empty blown egg (or maybe a few) with something that has a bitter taste that might deter the culprit from tasting another egg.

  4. You probably have some vermin sucking your eggs. if the egg gets broke the chickens will eat it. you also have people around you who might break eggs just for the fun of it. remember the boy and the dog. i have not told you but you said twice you got 4 eggs in one day. the chicken only lays one egg a day. someone is putting a extra egg in your pen,to pull you leg. maybe they have a computer and think it is great fun to see you tell everybody your
    3 chickens laid 4 eggs in one day. no chicken lays over 1 egg a day, take it from and old ar. hilly billy. i think as soon as you are able you need to bring your chickens back to the house. i am glad you got rain. the guy with the experment just has a weed patch. growing a garden is hard work and some people are not inclined to do hard work.planting the clover works like this, you plow and sow clover then when it matures you have to turn it under with a plow or a spade and then you plant your crops. they call this green manure the clover puts nitergon in the ground and help enrich the soil but weeds wont work and that guy has weeds. you really have a nice garden keep up the good work.

  5. Bit new to this, but found myself becoming addicted to your allotment doings. I have half a plot for since last summer and am always on the look out for hints and tips and will let you know my findings. Only regret my site does not allow chickens. Do you have any hints on ways of spicing up broad beans as keep steaming them, but children are getting board with them now!!!

  6. Have you thought also that it might be magpies doing the egg eating? We used to suffer with that a lot. Ours were out in the open field. If it had been a covered-in run they wouldn't have got them.
    When yours were at home the I believe you had a covered run didn't you? You didn't get it there.

  7. Hello Molly and Mountian Mama - thanks for commenting - great to hear from you.

    The egg pecking is a conundrum, I admit, but I can't see any way that any rodent apart from a mouse, might get into the run and Eglu house.

    The run is fox proof and I have put tent pegs on it to keep it tight to the ground, I looked but could not see any sign of anything burrowing under it. Which they would have to do to get into the nesting box and there is no entry to it other than through the front door which is inside the run (which is the bit that is pegged down,) or through the egg port door on the side - which is how I get to the eggs without entering the run - would need to be on hands and knees to do it the other way!

  8. Patsy - I agree that it takes 22 hours to lay an egg - that is what all the books say - so I was baffled about the four eggs in a day, but they were not consectutive days I don't think. I have read on some forums where people wrote that it has occassionally happened to them. But I am baffled about that.

    Hi Lily m - yes I did and do have a covered run at home as well - I had two sets - and moved one whole set up the allotment meadow. They are locked in their run which is now extended so that it is a lot longer, and I let them out to free range in their meadow whilst I am up there, and lock them in again when I go.

    I find the eggs when I go to let them out.

    I sadly feel that it is Ginger or Ginger and KoKKo. Maybe there shells are thinner than Adelaide's lately. They never break Adelaide's egg. Perhaps I should investigate that angle. Whatever the reason, they will live a long and happy life and will not be dispatched because the eat eggs - but it would be nice if they didn't.

    Today there was a broken egg in the run and none in the nesting box when I went up there. I picked it up and put it outside the other side of the fence where I put yesterdays. As soon as I let the girls out - Ginger ran hell for leather out of the door and straight to where the egg shells were, stuck her head through the wire and started pecking at them. She could not have seen me do it - as the run is facing the other way. Adelaide, lays dark brown eggs and laid one later, which are very hard. Ginger and KoKKo lay lighter ones. The ones that keep getting pecked are light ones, very light, almost white and they seem to be thinner shelled. - So that might explain it?

    As you the green manure and clover etc, thanks for you comment, I really do appreciate your knowlege and input. I use green manure myself, and do just as you say - sow it on bare ground and dig it in before it goes to seed. I thought that this 'white' clover which does not look like conventional clover, so it might be something different, has flowered and is going to seed. I was just really interested if it worked as it would be revolutionary and would save me hours of work.

    Thanks everyone for your encouragement - I am keeping going as long as I can.

  9. Right around the summer solstice it is not at all uncommon for hens to lay twice a day. Not all of them do,just the breeds that have been developed to be top-notch layers, and they sometimes will skip a day after their double day. The 22 hours is just an average. Otherwise the poor dears would lay in the middle of the night.
    A rat needs only an opening the size of a pound-coin to squeeze through. But if the shells are thin they may be breaking on their own and this has happened with some of my "egg-laying fools" as I call my occasional super-producer, even when I provide oyster shell grit. When the ladies got into my garden shed one year and tore into a bag of bone meal I began to wonder if maybe there's just no way to give good laying hens all the calcium they need. The bone meal did seem to make a difference, though.

  10. Anonymous4:11 pm

    Hens will eat their own eggs if they are not receiving enough calcium, which is why they will eat them. Give them more calcium in their feed. One way to do this is to crush up egg shells into small bits, so small that they cannot tell that it is an egg shell or it will encourage them to eat more of their eggs.

  11. Anonymous - thanks for your comment - I do know about the need to give them a high calcium diet - hence me saying that they get oyster shell daily, layers mash and pellets which contain a balanced diet for laying hens, they free range on average four hours a day on my allotment and have 250 feet x 40 feet to forage in for food and grit on top of what I give them.

    You should not give them crushed up eggs shells unless they have been cooked and dried in an oven then crushed, but thankyou for your interest and comments. Nice of you to take the time and trouble. Much appreciated.

    Molly - thanks - I never knew about the summer solstice. The shells of the eggs were thin and I summised that they probably dented or cracked - hence them eating them - well Ginger is the culprit.

    Adelaide's eggs are brown and strong and they do not get eaten - and with oyster shell, grit, - and a bit of bonemeal added, they should soon toughen up again. I agree with you - being bred as they are these days to lay lots of eggs, and churning them out day in and day out, you must expect a few to go awry. Just don't want Ginger to get into a habit.

    Have checked the welded mesh and it is thinner than a pound coin - thanks for that tip


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