Monday 29 February 2016

Very Blurry Photo of a Magical Moment

I stood transfixed early this morning at the office window watching a beautiful Barn Owl swooping over and over across the field opposite looking for some breakfast, or supper I guess since they are usually active at night.  I reached for the binoculars which usually live on the office window sill but they weren't there.

So I got my camera and tried to zoom in but it was a fast moving target and I was lucky to get this shot.  It dived behind the hedge over and over no doubt, spying things running for safety but seemed to fly away empty handed.  

It was back again a few minutes later and spent a futile ten minutes or so sweeping low over the field, landing and resting every so often but then taking back to the air to see what it could see.  It seemed from the distance I was at to be quite a young bird, as it was nowhere near as big as the other Barn Owls I have had the good fortune to be closer too.

In Oxfordshire one flew ahead of me as I made my way up our drive (one and a half miles of track) using the headlights of the car to hunt by, sweeping majestically away from the beam of light as I passed the barn.  It took all of my concentration to keep the car on the track and not go over into the ditches while I tried not to be too transfixed by the bird.  Then weeks later I saw possibly the same bird sat in our barn, it was on the beam just over my head and just in front of it's nesting box, rather stupidly I spoke to it and broke the spell ... it flew away.  Well it seemed rude not to say 'hello'.

Image result for barn owl

If I had been quicker this time, and maybe had an all singing all dancing camera .... and more patience than I have ever had in my entire life ...  I could have got a shot like this one.

They are beautiful birds.

But I've got my blurry photograph and now this blog post to remind me of a magical morning moment.

Sue xx

Blurry photo all my own work .... other 'proper photos' courtesy of Google Images ;-)

Saturday 27 February 2016

Soggy Suky

"I'm not looking into the camera ..... just look at what Dad's done to me, I'm all soggy.

I know ... I'll rub myself all over the bed to get dry ...

... I don't think Rosy is very happy with me rubbing myself on the last dry bed, well she should have a word with Mum ..... fancy putting all the others in the washing whirly thing at the same time!!

Ooh that's nice, Mavis can lick me dry ...

... or I can shake.

ooops ... now I'm all dizzy.

I'm still not looking at you Mum!!

Will anybody out there help me they gave me a bath .... I don't like baths"   :-(

Suky xx

Friday 26 February 2016

Beauty in the Mess

Everywhere looks it's worst at this time of year.  

Trees, bushes and lots of other plants have lost their leaves leaving gaping holes in flower beds. The hedges are sparse and through them you can catch glimpses of what is usually well hidden and highlighting the work that lies waiting to be done. It's not just us, driving along the main road it is that time of the year that allows you from the elevated driving position of the truck to have a sneaky nosy into other people's gardens and see things that will be hidden from view in just a couple of months.

Above is the view from the back of Chicken World that shows our bonfire area.  The long snaking thing is the inner liner from the old small wood burner flue that was in the house when we moved in, and that will soon be called back into use to heat the workshop, ready for the days when Lovely Hubby will have to time to potter in there making things to sell and doing all those jobs that men find to do in the confines of 'man sheds'.  

I think it adds a certain ornamental charm to an area that is now full of Snowdrops ... and it is most certainly home to a small creature or two going by Gingers reaction and intent on sitting at one end of it for hours at a time and walking from end to end as he listens to the progress of little feet inside.

On this side of the fence in Chicken World there are daffodils coming through as well as the snowdrops. They struggle to flower here as the girls think it great sport to pull them up at first signs of shooting and peck off the flower heads as they appear. 

 I've rescued lots of the small shooting bulbs that appear tossed nonchalantly by a bored chicken onto the surface of the soil, and replanted them into tubs nearer the house.  

The ones I rescued in this way last year are flowering magnificently this, and hopefully this years little rescuees will join them next year. The few that do manage to survive, add their colourful beauty to the mess that has suddenly been exposed in the corners of our temporarily barren Welsh hillside.

Have a good weekend.

Sue xx

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Bad Timings and Blue Skies

Well I got my timings totally wrong this morning.  It was very cold but fresh first thing, the sun was just coming out and it looked like it was about to be a splendid morning, so after doggy breakfast and a lap of the paddock we piled into the car and drove to West Shore in Llandudno for a doggy walk along the front.

Just as I drove through Deganwy the rain started falling, wipers on and teeth gritted I drove on.  We got there piled out of the car and head down walked into the bitterly cold wind and rain.  I always prefer to do it this way then when you are heading back to the car at least the wind is behind you and not in your face. We walked from one end to the other, sniffing benches and lamp-posts all the way ... the dogs that is not me, I was just sniffing with the cold  ;-)

We headed towards the shelter where there is a row of benches. I had plans to stand for a while and warm my hands in my pockets while the dogs had a sniff around.  No sooner were we under cover than the rain stopped so we set off again for the walk back to the car and in a flash it started raining again and then to make matters even worse it started hail stoning.

Once back at the car I gave the dogs a perfunctory wipe over with their towel and chucked them onto the back seat ..... then the sun came out!!

It's sod's law isn't it, now we are back home, I still have the sniffles and the view from the office window is the one above. blue skies, white fluffy clouds and sunshine.  The washing will be on the line in half an hour, the damp dogs are sleeping off their soggy walk in wet Llandudno, and I'm sat at the computer .... still sniffing..

I was looking back over previous February's photographs on the computer to compare weather, which turned out to be pretty similar to this months actually, and came across this photo of Mavis, one of my favourites.

I also came across this one.  I was baffled at first by the tape grid system in the paddock ....

 ... and then I realised it was us laying out the plan for the Veggie Patch, I remember Suky hurdling over the tapes as she ran down the hill.

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 February 2016

The Whole30

I'm currently reading this book.

 I've had it on the kitchen shelf for a while but decided to save reading it until after our usual, although slighter than previous years, Christmas excess and my wander back into eating foods I should know by now are not good for me.  I have noticed that once you fall back into old eating habits it is a hard slippery climb back to get yourself eating properly and healthily again, and of course we have had to eat up all the bad things that were lurking in the cupboards ... haven't we!!  ;-)

I was just wondering if anyone out there has read this book and done the 30 day programme and if it worked for them?  

I am thinking of doing it myself as a kick start to getting me back to good habits, healthier eating, and even more importantly to me feeling good.  It seems very Harcombe like and that suits me.   So I have put a big ring around the 1st March on the calendar as it seemed a really good time to start.  The first of March is on a Tuesday so the Monday would be my day zero, a chance to menu plan, examine all the foods we have in store that would be suitable, and thank goodness, there is a lot in the freezer and cupboards that will be, but possibly more importantly this week I am going to see what we have in that might tempt me back to the 'dark side'  ... I don't think there's too much.  We don't buy processed junk foods, sugary drinks or cakes, but I do know there are a few things that I like that are really classed as processed food so it would make sense to add them to this weeks menu plan and thereby remove them from temptation for the coming month.

I have just printed out and gone through the pescetarian/vegetarian/vegan shopping list and there is such an abundance of food that I can eat and that we do already have in store that it should be no problem to do this even with our current 'Year of Without'.  The things I have crossed out with my marker pen were just things that I don't like or can't eat due to allergies.

If you would like more information on The Whole30 click HERE.  I haven't read much of this yet but it looks interesting.

Sue xx

Sunday 21 February 2016

The Log Store

One of our many aims in our quest to be as self sufficient as we possibly can be, is to successfully manage our woodland to give us enough wood to see us through the colder months of the year.  This year with the long damp period and now this sudden, although very welcome cold spell, we have almost used up our supply of our own cut seasoned logs.  

Knowing that any wood cut now would be much too wet to burn well and give off any heat we have bitten the bullet and bought in a supply of logs to replenish the log store and see us through these last few weeks of cold weather, and of course what we don't burn now will give us a head start in our gathering together of next Winters wood.

Kindling we have lots of  ... as Lovely Hubby has a mammoth chopping spell every month or so and fills up a large builders bag of  wood chopped from the many pallets and scrap wood we have gathered. We also have buckets of twigs and smaller bits of wood that I collect when I'm out and about, especially after windy nights.  A few days in the log store and these dry out wonderfully and can be used to start the fire each night.

One tick of the list of self-sufficiency .... if you manage your woodland well .... which is what we intend to do now that we are almost at the end of sorting out the house and land around the house and we will finally have more time.

Sue xx

Saturday 20 February 2016

Signs of Spring, Chickens and Eggs

 Pekin egg, Skyline egg, Light Sussex egg.

One of the surest signs for me that Spring is truly on the way is the first Pekin egg of the year.

Poppy and Daisy

My Lavender Pekin bantams Poppy, Daisy, (and hopefully this year Jill) and Back Pekin bantam Ebony only lay their eggs during Spring and into Summer,  it's natures way of ensuring the chicks hatched from any fertilised eggs would stand a good chance of survival, and they stop laying towards the end of Summer when the tiny chicks they produce would suffer from colder weather.  

So in their opinion twenty one days from last Tuesday which would be 9th March would be the ideal time for a baby bird to be hatched.  Spring is almost here.

Pekin egg and Light Sussex eggs for size comparison purposes

Of course I could also go by the snowdrops that are nearing the end of their blooming or the many daffodils that have sprung up all around our land and along the roadside between here and Llandudno ... but they have all been tricked by the un-seasonally warm weather we have been having ... you can't trick a chicken whose laying patterns (when not artificially altered by electric lights and being kept indoors) are purely triggered by the length of the days they live through.

Ebony, with her last little brood of chicks.

Sue xx

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Over in Chicken World Today

Chicken World is looking a bit grey and dreary at the moment, it's the time of year, but at least yesterday is was less slippery underfoot, so I took the chance to fill up feeders and drinkers and generally have a good check around things.

The top photo shows the Rainy Day Shelter, designed by me and built by Lovely Hubby, it made good use of lots of parts of the old henhouse.  You can see at the righthand side a large bowl, this catches rainwater off the roof and means the chickens have always got fresh water to drink.

Every day during the wet weather ... which would be since last October then, I have thrown a handful or two of the mornings corn ration into the shelter to keep it dry while they eat it and to encourage the birds to make good use of the shelter.

But typically .... like children when you buy them a big toy and they prefer to play in the box ... the chickens prefer to shelter under the rest of the old henhouse which is still leaning against the fence!!

Of course whenever I am in Chicken World for any length of time I have company other than the chickens,  Ginger is often on the prowl in there and likes to check what I'm up to.  He's no threat to the chickens and they are well used to him being around.

If I'm pottering around there are always those who sit silently keeping an eye on me ... this is Daisy, the Lavender Pekin bantam and Harriet, the Light Sussex.

While Titch, the Black Maran bantam helps herself to a drink of water from the water butt that is always full ... despite not being connected to any guttering .... that's how much rain we get!

Someone thinks I've spent far too long taking photos and we should be getting back to the house.  Rosy comes in every day to see what titbits I'm throwing down for the chickens, if it's anything faintly edible in her eyes, she joins in with them at the trough until all the tastiest bits are gone.

It would appear Chicken World is not just for chickens  :-)

Sue xx

Monday 15 February 2016

Shhh .... It's NOT Raining

It didn't rain yesterday, it looked like this from the living room window.   Yes the field opposite finally is free of water!!

  We took the dogs for a long walk along the prom at Llandudno.  Although the wind was bitterley cold and the sea really rough, it was invigorating and really woke us up from the heavy fog that sits in your brain throughout the mind numbingly boring days of rain and more rain.

Those days when it's a slog to layer up to do the most pressing jobs outdoors and then peel off wet layers and throw them straight into the washing machine when you get back inside again.  I'd much rather the tingling feeling as circulation is restored after a dash outside in the cold than the slow steaming as you sit drying yourself by the Aga with a hot drink cradled in your hands feeling damp to your very core.

Then this morning the sun came out bright and strong, and for the first time since the Boxing Day floods there is movement on the train line opposite the house. The dogs went wild as this yellow monster crept past the house, nothing escapes Rosy!   This line is still shut while repair works are ongoing to make all the damaged areas safe again, but seeing this test vehicle and the guys walking alongside throws hope that it is shortly to re-open.  No doubt a huge relief for all the folk usually use this line that are currently having to use other means of transport to get to work.

To the right of this picture the sheep are back grazing in the fields that run alongside the river, after their swift round up of last week, as torrential rains brought the river once again to cover the land.  Watching them in their hundreds stream across the road under the watchful eyes of their shepherds on quads, and with sheepdogs running to gather together stragglers was a sight worth pausing for.   And although the traffic held up while waiting for the torrent of sheep to cross over to higher land must have been wondering what was going on, the ones at the front of the queue must have enjoyed the woolly spectacle.

It's lovely and sunny, but as you can see from the snow topped distant hills of the Carneddau it is cold, very cold.  But if you stand in the right place with the sun on your face for a moment you can  almost imagine that it's time to begin planting the seedlings that will grow into our food for the coming year.  But I am holding fire, although the days might be showing signs of a returning warmth the night time plummet in temperature is enough to kill off any brave seedlings that push their heads above the soil.

The dogs have the right idea, this is Suky and Mavis tucked up together after this mornings laps of the paddock, no doubt feeling the circulation returning to their little paws .....

.. and Rosy claimed the cushion on the sofa to watch Mum do the workout that brought circulation back to my extremities.

I have my fingers firmly crossed the sun will still be shining tomorrow, the washing line is full already,  towels and jeans blowing in the cold breeze but starting to feel the benefit of the sunshine, and I have lots more to put out tomorrow if a certain yellow body continues to grace us with her presence.

Hope your day is sunny and dry too.

Sue xx

Sunday 14 February 2016

Valentines Day - Your Way

It would seem that Valentine's Day is a hot topic in Blogland ... some are all for it and some deadly against .... I say just do it your own way !!  

If that is dashing out to the shops for a huge cuddly teddy bear, a dozen red roses and a card in a padded envelope go for it and enjoy the spending, the giving and the receiving of all the above mentioned red goodies.  If you like homemade and simple go for that too and if you like to do nothing at all  .... that's just fine by me  :-)

Us, well we keep it simple, the only commercial spend has been a little card given to each other, the gifts we gave each other were something tasty and something useful.  The 'tasty' was a cake made by me yesterday with the heart simply made by making and placing a paper template on the cake before the icing sugar was sprinkled on top.

The 'useful' were my little newly repainted green shelves put up in the spare bedroom, the mirror moved over and a row of hooks for our guests to hang their things up were finally attached to a piece of stained wood and put up ready for use.

We bought these hooks when we stayed for a long weekend in Beaumaris in September 2013 ..... yes I've been waiting a while for them to be put up, but it took Lovely Hubby a while to find the perfect piece of leftover fencing   ;-)

Image result for asking a man to do a job once every six months cartoon

But they are up now and I'm very happy with my completed spare room.

And we've both been very happy with a few slices of homemade cake with our cups of coffee over the weekend.  Filled with homemade Blackberry jam made in 2010 with blackberries we picked from the hedgerows when we lived at Jointers Farm.   I like it when things you eat and things around the house are full of happy memories.  Now that's what's made this Valentine's Day special for me.

Hope yours is a good day wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Sue xx

Friday 12 February 2016

Not Much Going On .... or is there?

There's not much going on here at the moment, well that's how it seems.  The solar electricians are still here doing the final 'things' to the battery back up system but from any minute now everything will be finished and we will be running on solar energy virtually 24/7 with back up if needed from the National Grid .... but not if I can help it ... it's time to be even more careful with our electric and start earning some money to pay for the system as soon as possible  ;-)

So I decided to look back at this time last year and see what was going on then ... that's the beauty of blogging you have information and pictures to refresh your memory.  

It seems it was much colder with many more frosty mornings, a water drinker inside the henhouse to keep it from freezing so the girls would always have a drinkable supply. 

Frozen feeders not quite so much of a problem but I did always check they had a good supply as  chickens appetites increase as the weather gets colder to keep them warm enough.

The re-roofed conservatory was all finished, although around the house we still had loose slate on the ground as the tarmac was laid right at the end of the month.

But inside was all finished and looking good.

Away from the house work was yet to properly get underway on the drive, garage and workshop, although the polytunnel and net tunnels hoops were in place.

Then deliveries started, these are the concrete rings that form part of our soakaway system.

In the house it was warm and cosy and I blogged about our books, showing all the various shelves and stacks of books around the house.  The collection grew even more over the course of the year, but will not be added to at all this year, for the duration of the Challenge.

And in the spare room Ginger had found a cosy nook to call his own  :-)

We've come a long way this year and looking at these photos and others I've been looking at it shows how much has been going on to set up our future way of life.  Now the set up is almost complete it's time to actually live the life we have planned for so long,  and this year will all be about continuing to put more and more of  our plans into action.

So there may not seem to me to be much going on, but I guess in the overall scheme of things there actually is.

Have a good weekend, and let's hope the weather is a bit kinder to us all.

Sue xx