Friday, March 31, 2006

Busy day again up the lottie and at home.

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 342 Day:149

KoKKo 114 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 115 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 113 Personal best egg weight 80grms 27.03.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 20 Day:18

Dilly 7 Personal best egg weight 36grm 27.03.2006
Freckles 8 Personal best egg weight 37grms 28.03.2006
Pumpkin 5 Personal best egg weight 31 grms 27.03.06

Another four hours hard labour up the allotment in high winds but dry weather and even a some sunshine. Pat says that I have a red face from being in the sun. I have the typical fair skin English Rose complexion, so I will have to start using sun block to stop me getting burnt.

Firstly six eggs from the girls today, but for some reason the biggies have been chasing the little ones around and the little ones keep diving into the hedge. No plucked feathers or loss of blood or anything,just a lot of squawking. I went up the allotment and left them to it - I fret otherwise. Fast forward to late this afternoon. I cleaned out the Eglus, and decided to put the banties in the extended run meant for the big girls. I put in a log, a perch, a hide, food, water, a cage of greens and a ripe tomato, and put them in and shut the door. Came in for an ice cream and a rest, and you should have heard the commotion they kicked up. All three of them squawking at the tops of their voices - just because they were locked in. The run is almost half the size of the pen, and is meant for five or six big hens. After half an hour Pat said I ought to let them out, because of the racket - and not wanting to upset the neighbours. So I did. Another bit of argy bargy again, big ones chasing little ones, little ones diving into the hedge. Pat said that studying them it seems to be the food and hedge problem.

So after spending all that time sorting out the two runs, etc. it was back to square one.

I took out all the food containers, as they had eaten their quota for the day anyway. The cabbages and broccoli I left as they were almost finished. I removed the hedge completely and hidey hole which had a bantam egg in it, and left them to it.

Peace. Norfolk Lasses scratching the ground where the hedge had been, London Ladies scratching where the Norfolk Lasses had been. Peace. I threw in their evening's ration of corn mix, sprinkled all over and they ate side by side. And they are still out there peacefully scratching in their littel groups.

So tomorrow I am going to put their breakfasts in when I get up, not put in is ready overnight. So that they will all be pre-occupied with eating and drinking first thing. Then I will remove the food and let them out. Goodness knows why there was the kerfuffle today. Still, I probably would never had known if I was out at work.

So up the allotment - and again plans had to be changed.

I got out my big rotorvator 5.5hp and it started first time - yippee - so off I went to do go over the manured bed which I had double dug over winter. It looks a treat now, and I also did around the fruit bushes and raspberries but still need to take out some grass by fork near the bushes themselves.

Having done that I put it away, as didn't want to over do things and got out my little 4 stroke one - but the pull cord was stuck - I have only just got them all serviced too, so I was not best pleased, so I did not get to rotorvate down the end flower bed to move the remaining chrysanths.

Still undeterred, I did a bit of weeding, then shifted 12 barrow loads of pig muck to fill up to the top my four bean trenches, which have had kitchen waste added to them over the winter.

I was so weary by then, that I picked a sack full of broccolli plants and leaves for the chooks and headed off home - to do the cleaning out of the chickens as Pat was still not back from golf.

The girls had laid 3 big eggs - which I was counting on after freezing all the eggs last night bar one. So we had our weekly dose of eggs and home made wedges, and some rare breed slices of bacon - bliss.

Will upload the photos later on in the morning and the blog has been playing up.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Trip to the lottie is wild weather! Thursday - got to add the photos yet

Despite the iffy weather I decided to take a gamble and spend some time up the allotment this morning and early afternoon as it transpired. About four hours in all, after which I could just about drive home.

Funny how you get a plan in your brain on what you will do and then it all goes out of the window when you get there.

Firstly there were no dead/shot rabbits on my plot, so either T didn't pop any or else he took them away.

The first thing I noticed was the bad winds had played mischief with the plots and there were bits of cardboard, plastic, and other odds and ends littered about up the track.

Since we were up there yesterday, my plastic cloches had been almost blown out of the ground - a couple had actually taken flight and others were bent and buckled and just clinging on.

So my first job ended up being forced to taking off all the cloches at the beginning of my plot which were covering the chrysamthemums in a vain attempt to keep the rabbits from eating them again. These chrysanths I had to move - well some of them, as I did not end up with enough time to move more than 30.

I had to fill a wheel barrow with well rotted pig muck, gather all my tools, dig up the chrysanthemums and put them in a trug, and take them all down the end - well the bottom third where I have my flower beds.

The next job was to pick some sites to put them. I took up the membrane where the lavender cuttings, now bushes, had been, and dug in the barrow full of muck. As the first lot of chrysanths grow six feet tall I could only put eight in, as I needed to leave plenty of space between them. The next spot I chose was in front of the 8 feet tall rudbeckia against a fence, so once again I pulled up the membrane, went and got another barrow full of muck and dug that in. This time I planted Yellow Cricket, which should look nice in front of the rudbeckia. Mind you, I won't be a bit surprised if they are not yellow as I might have got some of them muddled up in the trug.

At this point I needed to create another flower bed for the remainder in the trug. I had a big long flower bed about 20 feet, with room, where the Sweet Williams had been last year, and some annuals, but I want to rotorvate that bit as it is a bit too much for me to dig. Actually I had done too much already, but I had to get the rest of them in.

So another 600 foot return walk to the pig muck and back. Then I intended to dig out a long bed by the fence to Mike's plot. But I got sidetracked. I realised that the fence that side at the end where the little meadow is, could be jumped by the rabbits, so did another long walk up to the top end to get a roll of chicken wire, then spent an hour or so attaching that to the top of the existing fence. This was not easy and took ages and involved a lot of bale string, sticks and improvisation. But I got there in the end. I broke every nail on my fingers except on the little fingers, and pick up a few scratches! I had planted willow cuttings with the intention to make a willow hedge but forgot that the fence was low as the willow was tied in in loops along it. I won't if any has taken until a bit longer, but if it has it will turn into a lovely living fence.

Anyhow, once that was done, I was ready to go home, but just had to finish what I started. So I dug in another barrow of muck, put down the membrane that I took up from the other beds and planted the chyrsanthemums. I do so hope that the fence keeps the rabbits out - I do not want the shoots eaten again.

A number of plants and cabbages had gone missing around the meadow, but I noticed that some roses, buddelia, and other cuttings are budding and/or coming into leaf.

I love it when little bits of stick that I have salvaged take root and grow. I still fing it amazing that you can cut off a bit of something, in this case the wasted bottom bits of stems from roses that I used in a flower arrangement, stick them in the ground in Autumn, and some of them take root, and grow leaves the next year, and the following year flower! Isn't nature magical?

It took me quite a while to clear up and pack up all my things after stopping work that bottom end of the plot. I stopped to take a few photos - which are not very interesting, but will give you an idea of the 'before' look in the spring and the 'after' look in the summer - if you hang around that long to see the summer ones that is!

Across each section is a piece of corrougated iron that I slide across to use as a gate. They are pretty awkward and heavy but the only guaranteed method that I know of to keep the rabbits out. Or if they get to one section they can't get to the next easily. Beneath the 'gates' I dug out a trench and sunk a piece of thick wood - 4x4 inches so that when they start to burrow they give up. I have four of these gates and it must be a bit like prison officers when I got through each one, slide it across, and wedge it with a piece of heavy wood, or metal to stop the wind from blowing down. The thought that it would be nice to have steel doors and just keys to keep them in place often occurs to me as I drag the things across!

The middle section had four big flower beds that will be a riot of colour and texture later in the year. The nibbles flag irises are recovering, but some of the early new leaves on a dainty yellow flower - which I do not know the name of - with spikey leaves like the iris, but they are soft and fleshy, have been burnt brown by the freezing conditions we have had.

There are lots of things poking through though.

More cloches here had taken flight and some bent over backwards - the power of the wind is fearsome in the open fields without any cover. I had to battle the wind for ownership of those cloches too, and it was a real struggle to keep hold of them and get them up to the pig shed at the top out of the wind.

There are leaves of rhubarb now poking through the ground and one that I was forcing is getting a little taller but does not really like the tall metal bucket over its head, but it is an experiment for an early crop for that Christmas present I want to make.

The gooseberry bushes are looking really fine decked out now in their bright green little crinkly leaves. The hours I spent mulching this area with horse manure looks like it is paying off.

The strawberries look at bit sad - even though they did have cloches on some of them. I think that I might have lost a few over winter, but some are making leaf. I have one or two spares here and there to fill some of the gaps.

The saga of the poor poor broad beans continues. They have been pecked to shreds by pheasants, nibbled by rabbits, burnt by frosts, but some of them have put on new growth. I will have to put in another row or fill in the gaps with more if I can get them.

I slid the gate on that section, and stopped to check out the summer raspberries and which are just showing bud. In front of them are my wonderful Jostaberries that I am so hopeful of getting my first crop of fruit. These were three inch cuttings taken three years ago, the same way that I did the ones earlier, and now I have three or four fine bushes and have given two away as presents. The early deep red buds have now burst revealing white buds, which will be the leaves. I am so excited about these fruit bushes, as I grew them when they were not available in the UK or if they were you could not find them. Now they are just being advertised in some places - but it is much more exciting growing my own. You feel a great sense of achievement and I can't wait to eat the first fruit.

I have autumn fruiting raspberries in this section too - taken from root cuttings from a friend. They fruited for the first time last year, so I am expecting big things of them this year. I have also got blackcurrant bushes, again from my own cuttings. I bought two currant bushes and planted the prunings, and now have quite a number. Enough I hope to get fruit for blackcurrant jams for presents.

Next there is a vacant area where I grew peas last year, I dug in lots of manure last season and this year it will have potatoes I think. The brassica cage is next, rather battered but holding on just - and still not sprouting bits of purple broccoli, I will be pretty fed up if they do not sprout after all my hours of saving them from pigeons, rabbits, cabbage white butterflies, and almost daily trips to pick off caterpillars - in heatwave temperatures and on my hands and knees.

Another large area covered with black plastic, awaiting the pig muck is next - The onion and carrot beds were here. I spotted a few feathery leaves which I recognised as carrots. Some wind blown seeds last year had set in the grass so I dug up quite a few lovely ones. What a nice surprise when you are so worn out - an unexpected gift from the ground to lift your spirits.

I dug up some more parsnips which have to come up anyway as it all will be rotorvated, and I pulled up three more January King cabbages too, as they are in the way. If I get time I will take soem photos of the root veggies as there are some funny shapes due to the high percentage of flints in the soil.

Adrian had been and topped up the bins, with fresh horse manure gently steaming in the cool air. Just one more gate to slide across and pushing a heavy wheel barrow laden with all my tools, cloches being tugged at by the wind, and now overflowing trug of root vegetables, weighting them down, and other bits and bobs.

I was so pleased to get to the top where my pig shed and car was. I had another pile of cloches to flatten that I had tucked under to car to save them from the wind, and lots of things to pack away pack away, before I could load up and drive wearily home!

Just a few shots of some of the fish in our pond

The fish came up for a feed this afternoon - it was overcast so made the pond look dark.

If you look to the right of this picture, there is a horizontal dark fish and just above that with food pellets around it you can just pick out one of the big black carp coming up vertically to get the pellets. He has just broken surface and is just about to eat a mouthful.

We had a really gusty rainstorm last night and there is flotsom and jetsom on the pond. And lots of leaves around the garden!

This is just one end of the pond, there are lots of fish up the other end. I just had to poke my camera in a hole in the netting and take pot luck.

If you look closely you can see the dark shadows of the three black carp.

They are not too keen on this blustery weather, but curiosity got the better of them and they soon gobbled up pellets. I love how they open their mouths and just suck them in as children suck and slurp spaggetti!

Pretty darn damp

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 339 Day:148

KoKKo 113 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 114 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 112 Personal best egg weight 80grms 27.03.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 17 Day:17

Dilly 6 Personal best egg weight 36grm 27.03.2006
Freckles 7 Personal best egg weight 37grms 28.03.2006
Pumpkin 4 Personal best egg weight 31 grms 27.03.06

Got up to a bit of disappointment today as we have had yet more torrential rain, and it was supposed to be a nice day. Still, on the positive side, if the sun comes out, I will still be going up my allotment and shovelling pig muck and horse manure and digging up the root veggies - if I have any energy left.

If it rains that I will be seed sowing.

I was out in my lean to at 7am transplanting lettuce seedlings. I let the chooks out and straight away they excitedly started sratching in the wood chips to reveal the earth beneath and the goodies that lie therein.

The banties will have dirty feet feathers no doubt - hardly worth washing them as they will do it all again.

I apent half an hour trying to get my computer working - and finally fixed it. The wretched thing loses my broadband link every time it automatically upgrades itself with the anti virus software - which is a number of times a day. I really must get my son to sort it out for me, it drives me crazy. Sometimes it is straight forward and I just have to reboot it - even though it has rebooted itself, but mostly I have to keep rebooting it and turning off the network box or whatever it is called, several times and in conjunction with the re-boot.

Off for breakfast - no eggs this early in the morning. The girls like a liesurely breakfast first and a serious play before they get down to doing any egg laying.

Update 4pm

To say that I am worn out is an understatment - been up the allotment over 3 hours - will do that in a seperate posting.

Four eggs so far today, Ginger, Adelaide, Dilly and Pumpkin. Off to let the big girls out again.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A restful sort of day

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 337 Day:147

KoKKo 113 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 113 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 111 Personal best egg weight 80grms 27.03.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 15 Day:16

Dilly 5 Personal best egg weight 36grm 27.03.2006
Freckles 7 Personal best egg weight 37grms 28.03.2006***
Pumpkin 3 Personal best egg weight 31 grms 27.03.06

Had a bit of a restful day today – just for a change.

First thing was the visit to physio, then whilst I was in town I got some plant labels – lots as I have lots of seed to sow, and need to prick some out. But I didn’t get around to doing that today.

Blustery day with sunshine and showers, so I popped up the allotment to pick some broccoli leaves for the chooks, and picked this romanesco head for out lunch either tomorrow or the next day.

Whilst up there just pottering – not doing anything to write about – T came past in his 4x4 and came over for a chat. Hadn’t seen him for a while, so it was nice to have a bit of chicken talk – he keeps his on the allotment up the end.

I was right about the pen of cockerels they did end up in the freezer but were a bit tough so he reckons he left them too long. He reckons a rat got 5 of his bantams – Seabrights – I wouldn’t have thought a rat could take batams, but there you go, he also thought that it had bitten a leg of one of his other chickens. He has quite a lot. They are not treated as pets like mine are – but I was very sad to hear about the banties as I had asked after them and where he got them.

The main reason that he stopped was to ask if he could come on my plot to shoot some rabbits. He has shot a lot this past week apparently – so I said that he could. I hope that he takes the corpses away – mind you they will compost o.k. right down the end next to the field in that big compost bin.

The chooks just loved the green stuff and have been eating it all afternoon on and off – anyone would think that they never get fed!

You have seen quite a few photos of KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger tearing a broccoli 'tree' to shreds, so I thought you might like to see the banties jumping up and down to reach the bits the girls left which they had a breather!

After lunch I went out and spent a deal of time watching them, messing about in their pen, raking the wood chips so that they could have a good scratch and a dig at the damp earth underneath which kept them and me entertained for a long time – so much so I had to leave them to it!

I potted up some lavender bushes in to tubs, and as the sun was shining again, I went out and about around my gardens and took a few photos – I hope that you like them.

The daffs literally opened as I was out there over a period of an hour.

The pink and I also have red and white hellebores opened too today for the first time.

This ornamental grass is the same colour as my hair in the sunshine! And those primroses - really gladden the heart in the sunshine.

Wonderful fresh pink growth that will turn a deep shiny maroon red in the summer.

I spent a few hours typing up a blog page for the Omlet web site – announcing belatedly the arrival of the bantams and their first day – which I will follow up with their progress on the coming weeks. Just one post a week as I have so much else going on.

Only three eggs today – 1 from Freckles, KoKKo and Adelaide – but as I have a glut that was fine by me. I took a box of 4 to my physio, I try and take her some every time that I go, and she does appreciate them. She had a look at my hip, bless her, and said that it was a problem with my muscle not the joint – brilliant – so I am going to have a go up the allotment tomorrow, if it is not raining – not too much to start with. I’ll probably spread some muck and manure around before it is rotorvated, and I have to dig up the rest of the parsnips, leeks, cabbages, but I will hang on longer as I still live in hope that the purple sprouting broccoli will actually sprout. If not it will make good chicken fodder.

Take a walk around my garden with me this afternoon

A clump of anenomes almost opening before my eyes

Red Cornus - I should have cleaned the stems to make them shine - but the green in a nice contrast.

The sun shining through the fresh new sword-like leaves of the Day Lily - please no more frost to burn them again.

Daffodils outside the patio door - the totally wrong place, but I will not move them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Early morning routine - 6 eggs again today

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 335 Day:146

KoKKo 112 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 112 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 111 Personal best egg weight 80grms 27.03.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 14 Day:15

Dilly 5 Personal best egg weight 36grm 27.03.2006
Freckles 6 Personal best egg weight 37grms 28.03.2006***
Pumpkin 3 Personal best egg weight 31 grms 27.03.06

The early morning routine is never a chore and I can't wait to get out of bed and see what the weather is like and head off out into the garden to say hello to my little flock of chooks.

Firstly they breakfast on organic layers pellets and mash - a feed that I buy by the sackful, and contains all the nutients that they need if they are egg layers. Because their personal runs are covered closed at night, it enables me to put it out fresh when they are roosting ready for the morning, so now that we are having brighter days, they don't have to wait for me to feed them if they get up at 5am in the morning.

By the time I go out to them around 7am now that the clocks have gone forward - but it would have been 6am, it is bright and today, dry.

I let the banties out and fill up their caged feeder and hang it on the big girls run.

Today it is fresh cauliflower, and as you can see, it is the best if both worlds for all of them. The little ones feed from the pen side, and the big girls feed from their side - that way they all get first pick.

They all change places pushing over and under each other. As I watch them it reminds me of a jugglers hands with coloured balls - continually moving around ready to be up in the air again. The chooks are like the handful of balls. Sometimes they drop to the ground looking for dropped pieces, sometimes they reach up on tippy toes to get a bit at the top. Over and under, sideways and frontways. It also reminds me of plaiting.

Fascinating keeping chickens and learning their behaviour patterns.

I leave them to it for a hour or so depending on what I am doing indoors the later when I go to collect the eggs I let the KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger out, then they all run free in the pen.

I look for things for them to do, so often put in a flower pot that has weeds in the top and let them scrabble about in or on that. I'll hang up a cd on a piece of string attach it to a garden cane and they peck at that. Mostly they just like to scratch about and dig for England - making deep holes in the endevour to trip me up in the dark at night when I lock them in their respective runs.

No eggs early this morning - but that is because the clocks have gone forward for an hour - they all like to have a good breakfast inside them before they do any serious work - a bit like us really.

So I am off for mine. Updates will appear later

9.45am update eggs - Norfolk lasses 1 London Ladies 1 a new pb from Freckles wow

1.30pm another egg from KoKKo this time - I think that Adelaide might have laid an egg in the hedge hide as she has just appeared - off to look then lunch.

Chicken drum sticks really large organic ones covered in garlic powder and dried herbs to coat, home made potato wedges - and this is where I hang my head in shame, a tin of baked beans because Pat really fancied them. Tish junk food! Nice now and again though - but all that sugar and salt!

Well I have had another 6 eggs today - had better make some pasta again and dry it!

Just been out to give the girls their even winter warmer of corn and wheat mix. It is really blustery and windy and cold, but they don't seem to mind and are all tucking in together.

I am already daydreaming about more bantams - and maybe if my bantams turn broody I might get some fertilised eggs and let one of them sit on them.

If you read the comments - you will see that Patsy is tempting me beyond belief to do that.

I will have to look into that though as if it needs more housing and seperate living quarters I do not think that I will be able to do it!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Rainy Windy Monday - and another 3 record breakers

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 332Day:145

KoKKo 111 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 111 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 110 Personal best egg weight 80grms 27.03.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 11 Day:14

Dilly 4 Personal best egg weight 36grm 27.03.2006
Freckles 5 Personal best egg weight 36grms 20.03.2006
Pumpkin 2 Personal best egg weight 31 grms 27.03.06

I am aching for England, but have had such a lovely weekend I really don't care. I intended to prick out all the seedlings in the window propagator to make room for some more and perhaps so some trays of seeds too. But I don't think that I am up to it today, so a resting day for me (if I can sit still for long enough!)

The flock have got into a happy routine and they all rub along nicely now. There is a always a bit of competition over extra food and especailly treats, but they all get them.

First thing in the morning I let Freckles, Dilly and Pumpkin out to have freerange of the run undisturbed. I put up the fresh greens on the side of the Norfolk Lasses run, so both groups get to eat it at the same time.

This morning there was a queue for the bantam babes nest box, Dilly had poll position and didn't even come out for fresh greens and a pot of newly grown parsley! Pumpkin was walking up and down looking rather worried and muttering to Dilly to get a move on. She went inside and muttered some more, so I felt under Dilly and there was not an egg laid, so left them to it. Freckles took advantage of the situation and stuffed her little self with lots and lots of the broccoli greens, a bit of chickweed I pulled on my walk around the garden and a nibble of parsley. They were all up before me and out in their respective runs so had aleady eaten breakfast.

Later I went out again, and Pumpkin and Dilly had laid eggs. Pumpkin 31grms and Dilly 36grms - Freckles has yet to produce but she is often later. I can only think that it must be because they eat their greens!

Three eggs from Adelaide, KoKKo and Ginger and Ginger managed a new personal best of 80grms too.

I let the Norfolk Lasses out on my egg collection visit, then leave them to it until later in the afternoon when I give them some extra corn or apple or similar.

Dilly is still pushing her luck by going into the 'Lions Den' and stealing their food, but she keeps getting caught and goes rushing back into the hedge and pops out again like a Jack in the Box. One day I let the banties out all day in the pen on their own, and they still liked staying in the hedge a great deal of the time, just scratching about and chattering - and there I was thinking that they were hiding out of fear!

I am glad that they are all settled and the fact that all of them are laying eggs mush surely mean that they are happy.

On the garden front, in the past couple of mild days, the plants have really got a spurt on - almost growing in front of my eyes. The daffodils ar enow tall and look as though they will bloom in the next few days. Lots more plants have pushed their way up through the ground and the crocus are looking wonderful.

I hope that I am not speaking too soon, but so far the birds have not eaten them as they often do.

I fed the fish for the first time yesterday as it was mild and they were up.....

They are a bit difficult to photograph. At last count I had about 50. I have just honed in on some of them. The pond is protected by a frame and net to keep the herons from stealing them! Which they do in these parts.

Please excuse any typing errors - I am feeling a bit jet lagged and too tired to proof read.

Have a good Monday


Still torrential rain. As you can imagine, it is very hard for me to sit still - so I went into the village and got another animal box and a few things from the village shop.

Back home I have put some peppers on to dry - two trays, and three trays of white grapes. Aren't the pepper wonderfully colourful. Just imagine how it will be drying shades of red and yellow and green - and chillies too.

For lunch I cooked rainbow trout each, stuffed with thyme out of the garden, and with flaked almonds in slits in the sides. To go with it I fried in a littel oil chopped red tomatoes, a sliced green pepper, and lots of black pepper. When cooked I added a few tablespoonsful of home made yoghurt (I made quite a lot for the weekend and we never got through it) and warmed it through. I took up the colour of the tomatoes and was really tasty with a bit of a zing to it. Light and refreshing.

Off for chocolate orange cake and a mug of milk - I might get by book to read, that will keep me rooted to the seat for an hour with a bit of luck!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A snuggly, cuddly, grandmother Saturday and great new record a double hat trick

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 327 Day:143

KoKKo 109 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 109 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 109 Personal best egg weight 78grms 22.02.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 8 Day:12

Dilly 3 Personal best egg weight 33grm 20.03.2006
Freckles 4 Personal best egg weight 36grms 20.03.2006
Pumpkin 1 Personal best egg weight 26 grms 25.03.06

I was up at 6am as my little family had to leave at 8am to go to Bedfordshire as they are house hunting. Mo my youngest son, has been looking at houses for them, ones that they have chosen that are sdvertised on the various agency sites on the web. A couple took their fancy so they are off viewing. Bedfordshire ia couple of hours from here - depending which part of the county you are looking at of course. So it was sensible to go there today rather than make 5 hour trips from Newcastle upon Tyne.

It has stopped raining when I went out to see to the chooks, but we had has so much overnight. KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger were up and eating breakfast, but Dilly, Pumpkin and Freckles were still in bed as they hadn't managed to push their door open - they were making an almighty racket - they are tiny birds but make a louder noise than the hybrids.

They came barging out - straight past the fresh food and water, and checked out what the day was like. They made a bee line for the broccoli basket that had one remaining leaf in left over from yesterday, so I took it down and restocked it and they spent at good half hour eating their greens.

Freckles went back to bed, she had the serious business of laying an egg - but she resurfaced an hour later. I was right about her eggs, they are slightly more pointed at one end and todays effort was a very commendable 36 grms. She is doing so well, and it is such a surprise.

It was surprisingly noisy this morning at that time. Apart from the dawn chorus from the birds which is wonderful to hear as there are lots of birds that visit around our garden as we have some tall trees. There were also many screeches from pheasants, which had been disturbed in the field just the other side of our neighbours garden. This was followed by the neighing of horses out of their early morning gallop which is on the perimeter of the field - it was obviously they who frightened the pheasants. I could hear a cacophony of ducks, they would be in the road behind us, and the chickens from the poultry farm further up the road. Wonderful sounds of nature, so much nicer than those of the cities.

I stayed outside about half an hour just soaking up any sounds I could hear, the lovely fresh smell after the rain, and walke around studying the new growth coming through on the flower beds. Some of which are very deep beds and in the summer are crammed with flowers, so much so you can't see the bare earth.

Day lily leaves are no six inches above ground, spathes of bright fleshly lime green, standing out against the dark mulch. There are a number of clumps of those dotted around. The bright red tightly curled new leaves bursting with energy, and anxious to get a move on, on the roses. The honeysuckle that climbs up the pergola is making tentative efforts to start, but on showing a few worried leaves, perhaps remembering that last May they got burnt from a late frost.

The bulbs I planted in pots all are now showing signs of confidence in the milder weather - hopefully - and even a lot of the fish were on the surface - their golden bodies looking like surfacing submarines slowly gliding from one end of the pond to the other.

I came in to see Haruko with Luke in the conservatory, so happily took over snuggly, cuddly, just awake smiley, granny duties whilst they got themselves ready.

They will be back abour 2pm so it gives me time to make a Mother's Day card from Luke, and to get their lamb shanks dinner slowly cooking in red wine and yummy things for when they come back.

Better get my skates on then hadn't I?


Whilst the family were out I made braised steak for Pat and me, in red wine, garlic, herbs from the garden and leeks. We fancied veggeis and mash to go with it - and it was melt in the mouth.

I messed about with the chickens and they had a spell on the lawn seperately. Dilly, Freckles and Pumpkin made such a racket - the only time they stopped was when they were eating, so after an hour or so I put them back in the pen and put the big girls in there - who didn't make a squeak.

I was thrilled to find that KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger had all laid lovely big eggs, and Freckles egg was 36grm, Dilly had laid one when I checked after putting them on the lawn, and then when I put the big girls back in after their time out I looked and Pumpkin had acutally laid an egg 26grs - just a tiny one - but 6 eggs in one day - what about that - isn't it brilliant. They must like the fresh broccoli every day perhaps, or the apple and pear cores. I am thrilled that Pumpkin is no longer too posh to push!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just another day - with not enough hours in it.

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 321 Day:141

KoKKo 107 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 107 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 107 Personal best egg weight 78grms 22.02.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 3 Day:10

Dilly 1 Personal best egg weight 31grm 20.03.2006
Freckles 3 Personal best egg weight 36grms 20.03.2006
Pumpkin 0 Still too posh to push

I was out with the chickens at six o'clock and they were up and out already. All running up and down in their respective runs when they saw me, excited at the prospect of breakfast.

The water was frozen as there was thick frost in the pen, but not in the shelter of their covered runs. First stop was warm water for them, and then breakfast. I let Freckles, Dilly and Pumpkin out and they had a lovely run and wing flapping session, then a drink, then a scratch about and a walk around their estate.

Ginger, Adelaide and KoKKo have their breakfast in their run, and are devouring that, so I will let them out later after I had mine.

The yoghurt is being strained as I speak, the food dryer is on the go again, I am just off to start the bread off then a batch of scones, or it might be the other way around. Then if I get time before Pat gets up for breakfast, I will run the duster over everywhere and prepare the spare bedroom.

I have to go to the ex-Lowestoft fisherman's farm to get some fish as I only have one trout left in the freezer. I just love that sea smell when I go into their cold store to see what is fresh in. On my list is salmon, tuna, rainbow trout - and I will see what else catches my eye.

Best get a move on - no early morning eggs yet.

Will be back later.

Before nine o'clock I had baked plain scones and cheese and mustard ones and used Freckles egg to baste them before they went into the oven.

Spot the difference - but not as much as you would imagine considering the one on the left weighed 31grms and the one on the right 76grms. I have enough left over from the bantam egg to baste the loaf of bread.

Dilly's out first hotly followed by Pumpkin having an early morning scratch about (6.30am). The flower pot was from one of their hides - three hides were too many as they never ventured out. it was full of straw but they all scratched it out.

See what I mean - the truth will out!

The bread is rising nicely in the ensuite, and I have strained the yoghurt and potted it up plain - ready to add the goodies later before serving.

I decided to try out the bargain yoghurt maker I got at the charity shop the other week. A Morphy Richards one complete with individual glass jars. It was tested and works perfectly - but lacking in instructions. I sterilised all the jars and caps, and I made up a jug of milk and a couple of tablespoonsful of yoghurt from the batch that I just made to start it off then poured some in each jar. It should not take as long as doing it in one big pot - I will let you now how I get on.

For £2.95 is was a bargain, but then to be told that it was half price day and to get it for £1.45 was amazing. A large carton of organic yoghurt costs almost as much.

I am going to do all different flavours. Fresh fruit, semi-dried grapes, honey, apricots, strawberries and raspberries out of the freezer, meusli - all sorts.

Two nice warm eggs from Adelaide and Ginger when I went out there just now. I should be able to give G & H a dozen to take home with them at this rate.

Off to give the bread it's second bash then into the tins a for prove whilst I am out getting the fish.

The sun is now shining too - just wonderful to be alive and kicking and to live where we do. I count my blessings every day.

I just had to show you this. I big pointy egg from probably Freckles - anyway I am going to allocate it to her as she spent longer indoors than the other two this morning. I weighs in at a 'massive' 36grms LOL what a big increase!

I have just been out to give them some pear pips, chopped up tomato and the seeds that fell off the loaves I have just taken out of the oven - you just can't beat that smell can you. Dilly, Freckles and Pumpkin were sunbathing in the hedge and KoKKo Adeliade and Ginger were sunbathing up the other end behind the banties house.

In the hedge hidey hole nest, KoKKo had a laid a big brown speckledy egg. I thought it was the banties at first as I hadn't checked their nest in the Eglu.

Been to the farm and bought some gorgeous whole salmon, which I got Dickie to cut into portions for me. I have bagged them up and sealed them in 2 portion packs. I got some amazing quality Atlantic cod - haven't had cod for a couple of years, which have had the same treatment and are in the freezer, also a couple of sea bream, and some bass. Yummy. I am going to do salmon for lunch tomorrow for the four of us.

Off for a quite sit down before I make lunch - chicken breasts - don't know what I will do with them - waiting for inspiration.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Food and Flowers Page

I have been really busy (just for a change) and apart from the usual chores, I have spent the afternoon baking.

Chocolate chip cookies ready to go in the oven - made with pieces of broken plain chocolate, chopped mixed nuts and dessicated coconut.

Here are some of them when they came out of the oven

I also made a double batch of flapjacks - ready for cooking

15 minutes later they looked like this - ready for cutting before they cooled

I added flaked almonds, raisins, and some chopped up apricots to these - and they taste rather good - so too the cookies - even if I do say so myself - and Pat did of course.

And lastly for today - an Orange and Chocolate Cake - the size of a bread loaf!

This is a variation of my famous banana chocolate cake. This one has my whisky marmalade added and a few drops of pure orange oil, and one and a half bars on plain dark continental chocolate. If you could smell what I can hmmmmmm chocolate oranges.

I have also got some yoghurt on the go - will have to go and strain it in a minute, and also four trays of grapes (courtesy of the animal box - they were perfect so I washed them thoroughly and they are drying. The chooks got the ones that caught the cold) and one tray of orange slices - again courtesy of the animal box. It is criminal to waste perfect food. The chooks have got a bag or perfect brussels sprouts and there is an onion loaf of bread, but I think the wild birds will get that. I don't want fat unhealthy chickens and there will be salt in the bread too which is not good for them.

Lastly a photo of the flower arrangement that I won - in situ in my lounge.

I think that's all tonight folks - I have to finish the yoghurt, keep checking the food dryer, and I reckon I deserve a sit down - don't you?

By george they've got it!

Norfolk Lasses Eggs Total to Date: 318 Day:140

KoKKo 106 Personal best egg weight 86grms 29.11.2005
Adelaide 106 Personal best egg weight 80grms 26.02.2006
Ginger 106 Personal best egg weight 78grms 22.02.2006

London Ladies Bantam Eggs Total to date: 3 Day:10

Dilly 1 Personal best egg weight 31grm 20.03.2006
Freckles 2 Personal best egg weight 32grms 20.03.2006
Pumpkin 0 Still too posh to push

Just before 7am the sun was shining with a lovely white frost on the ground when I went to see the chooks and clean them out.

I got a nice surprise as the London Ladies were in their run - they had let themselves out too. I never expected for one minute that when I closed their Eglu door (but didn't lock it) that they would have either the sense or strength to push it open, but they did. Clever little things.

When you have tiny bantams and huge hybrids, you tend to think that the little ones are babies - when of course they are not! And I should have known that city chicks would be as bright as a button shouldn't I?

Out for their early morning stroll, whilst the big girls are in their run eating.

It was a pleasure cleaning them out when it wasn't either snowing or raining on me. It only takes a few minutes, and now that I keep the big girls locked in whilst I do it, it is so much easier and quicker than chasing them about, off, and out, of the way.

And with a flock of six it was better that they were not under my feet, or it would be mayhem I should imagine.

There were lovely warm eggs from Ginger and Adelaide which was nice, as I am going to use a lot today baking, as baby Luke and his entourage are coming tomorrow for a long weekend and I am so excited. They are a joy to have visit.

Best be off and make a start - back later

* I forgot to mention that I have added a link to John's Poultry site - a plethera of information if you are thinking about getting chickens.

Evening Update

The flock has had a brilliant day today - they finally seem to have clicked. They stay in their respective groups, and so long as the food is right away from each group they happily eat in peace. No squawks or much chasing today. Just a bit of wing flapping here and there.

Dilly acts so 'not bovvered' now, and if the big girls do flap their wings at her for being cheeky, she just trots away without a sound, goes around the back of whichever Eglu is nearest and comes back again. Or else she goes through one end of the covered dust bath and out the other. She has me in hysterics.

Lovely little Freckles - bottom of the pecking order.

Dilly has been a bit naughty though as she has been harassing poor lovely Freckles and pecked her comb even though Freckles crouched. I don't know if she was like that before. I picked Freckles up and snuggled her into my cardigan and made a big fuss of her. She seems to be the noisiest and flightiest and the most submissive of them all. Pumpkin does her own thing - she is really swanky.

Over all the London Lassies and Norfolk Girls have mixed side by side in their groups - but not at the feeding stations. When I went in with the dried corn mix tonight I made sure to throw it first up one end for the Norfolk Girls, then the other for the London Lasses then in the middle for them both.

Old mother hen delivers a takeaway - washed tinned sweetcorn away from the biggies

They were roosting in their respective Eglus when I went to lock them in a few minutes ago. The three little banties do look a bit lost in the big Eglu, I have to admit. Maybe they could do with a couple more friends in there to keep them warm - but not yet, they need to settle in properly first.

Nearly forgot to mention, another bantam egg today 30grms and so pale it was almost white - I don't have a clue who laid it but I suspect it was Freckles as she spent the most time in the Eglu.

I don't think that Pumpkin is into laying, her comb is not as dark as the other two. She just acts like a girl about town, who can't be doing with any responsibility . Settling down and laying eggs is so NOT her thing at the moment!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

At last a bit of allotment speak and photos

You thought I would never mention it again didn't you. Well I just have not been able to get on the land.

I spent almost all day working in my garden, of which there is quite a bit. I have mostly raised beds. 2 x 3 railway sleepers long, 1 x one railway sleeper long, 1x one and a half sleepers long and one triangluar one made of sleepers. They take quite a bit of time to do but at last they are shipshape.

Whilst out in the garden I was working in bitterly cold conditions, with a number of snow flurries, and a wind that made the wind chill factor almost unbearable. All this work culmulated in an estate car full of dead and pruned foliage to get rid of up the allotment, so I managed to persuade Pat to help out with the heavy lifting.

After a lunch of red snapper and half of the last garage stored pumpkin (the rest are in the freezer) we loaded up the car and set off.

If I thought here was cold - then I was in for a shock up in the open fields. Rather ususually the tractor boys were up there today - I have never seen so many people up there - well there are not many of us, but you know what I mean. There were two sets of old fathers and their grown up sons, mainly all talking and another couple of men - talking.

I took some photos so you can see how it is going - or not as the case may be. But it looks so neat up there for a change. The first time I have ever seen it looking like that. Mainly because the plots up my end have now been ploughed. Nothing in them, but they look neat. You can follow their progress over the year with me!

Here is the view from near the bottom end of my allotment across to those next to mine.

As I mentioned the men often go up there for a just a yarn and that's it, or to twiddle with their various machines. We just went up there to dump the compost and foliage, but we didn't hang around to long!

My broad beans that survived an assault by rabbits, then once I had managed to keep those out, the pheasants had a go at them, then once I put up scarers and kept the pheasants away - look - the freezing temperatures, snow, thick frost, and minus 8 degrees at night have burnt some of the leaves, and turned them brown. This time last year it was so mild that the daffs were out, all my potatoes and peas were planted too.

Look at the soil - now frozen hard again and dry. Crazy weather indeed.

Some bulbs that I planted last year are making a brave entrance. See how stony the ground is - Norfolk is well known for its flints. They are a nightmare!

A sedum just forcing its way through the soil - bet it wished it hadn't in this weather.

A flag iris putting on growth albeit slowly, and that is despite a rabbit taking a bite out of it. You have to be tough to survive on my allotment I can tell you.

Surprisingly this Phormium from tropical climes, has grown from a small cutting I took last year and survived the winter! Amazing - so why can't the broad beans!

I went to pick some broccoli leaves for the chooks and found that the wind had knocked down one of the inner netting supports and the pesky pigeons have stripped the leaves off a whole row of broccoli - it makes you want to scream. The hours I spent on my hands and knees in the summer each day picking off caterpillars! Still they only got the ones on either side, there are some in the middle they couldn't reach - yet!

And lastly - I have been forcing some rhubarb to make Schnapps for Christmas presents - but even that has refused to be forced in this weather.

Ah well - that is the fun and challenge of living in our wonderful country and what makes us hardy huh?