Wednesday 30 March 2016

Cats and Street Performers

It seems cats and street performers have a lot in common .... put a bag down for a minute and you'll come out of the room to find it's already occupied.  Ginger just sat there peeking out for ages, then he decided he had better things to do, jumped out of the bag and went downstairs.

 I think it was his stillness that reminded me of this photo I had taken with my phone last time I was in Reading, Berkshire with Lovely Hubby, a couple of weeks ago.

It took me a while to work out how they did this seemingly astonishing feat of balance.  They were there for all the time it took us to have our lunch, go for a coffee and get some shopping.  Barely moving a muscle save for the stretching of their fingers every now and then and blinking and smiling as the crowd took photos and dropped pound coins in their collection bucket.

There was visible space between the head and bottom of each person ... can you figure out how they did it?

Sue xx

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Lambs and Moles

The little lamb I posted about yesterday is now safely with his or her new Mum and they both seem much more settled.  

He's lost his extra little sheepskin coat now and is startlingly white wearing just his own new born lamb fleece.  The field got another delivery at dusk last night as another mama ewe and her baby were delivered by trailer, and then mooched their way across the field to join the others.

The dogs have just about got used to the occasional baa, baa, baa-ing as the lambs call for their mothers and the mums answer them on a regular basis and have stopped barking each time they hear them.

In other news ... Mr Mole has been busy making a whole labyrinth of tunnels under the edge of Chicken World and into our grass at the side of the house, as well as the other mole hills already made by his neighbour in the paddock.  

Never one to miss an opportunity I am out and about with the wheelbarrow and various pots most days to claim back my soil.  It's lovely and sifted and ideal for use in pots as I replant some of the herbs near the house.  I will save the next barrowful for the tin bath which really does need re-invigorating for this year.

Sue xx

Monday 28 March 2016

Bank Holiday Monday

Well we braved the high winds and rain in Llandudno for an early morning walk with the dogs ..... they were not overly impressed and just dashed for the house when we got back.  

We have fought with the computer all morning after installing Windows 10 on it last night.  I'm not impressed at the moment, apart from looking like a very basic, whiter than white, crisper version of our old Windows XP Professional it's just made it harder than ever to get to places I want to get to, find things I use regularly and has slowed our computer down so much I'm sat here tapping my fingers more than I am typing with them.  I will persevere and no doubt get used to it,  I'm not good at moving forward with things ... I like what I know and know what I like !!

Across the road now that the sun is briefly out is a typically Welsh Easter scene.  A field with ewes and their lambs baa-ing in the sunshine and rushing to feed when the urge takes them.  Thomas who owns the field opposite us is using it as a nursery field and every day there is a new set of mama and babies delivered  to the field, delighting in their new home.  

Saturday's new arrival was a ewe who had lost her lamb at birth and a lamb whose mother had died at birth.  The little orphan lamb was wearing the fleece of the stillborn lamb (over it's own of course) and spent the day walking away from the ewe who was desperate to nurse it.  Thomas persevered in heavy rain to try keep the two together and in the end left them to it.

Yesterday the lamb was staggering around with the fleece waving in the wind looking like a sheepskin cape, but today I think it has all been worth it and little lamb is staying with his mama and all seems well ... can you tell we've been keeping a very watchful eye on developments ;-)

Sue xx

Saturday 26 March 2016

Bank Holiday Weekend

It's a UK Bank Holiday weekend which of course means that sunshine is usually the last thing we see, so when the weatherman said it would be sunny on Friday of the weekend and on no other day we made plans to get lots of jobs done.

Luckily we had a very able-bodied guest staying for a couple of days, my eldest son Simon, and he is always only too happy to muck in a get jobs done, he really earns his keep.  He cut ALL the grass, both in and around the new Chicken Land, which Lovely Hubby was busy finishing the fencing of, and also around the house and driveway too.  When we first got up in the morning the grass was a bit too wet to cut so he washed three cars while the grass dried up a bit.  He had soapy water over from washing the cars so he washed all the windows, frames and sills on the downstairs of the house.

Once he had finished all this he asked what else he could do  ... so he joined in with Lovely Hubby and sieved more top soil from our soil mountain to fill up the last beds of the net tunnel, then they leveled the floor and filled behind the beds with the sifted out stones to make a good weed free drainage area.

While they were doing all this I managed to get last of the copper tape around the net tunnel beds and watered in the Nematodes to hopefully finally combat our slug problem.  The I uncovered, turned over the soil and planted my chitted potatoes in this and one other bed in the Veggie Patch.

Watched over by a certain little madam, who with the other dogs had a lovely day in the sunshine watching the humans work.

Today just as the weather people forecast it is raining, so after waving off our guest on his travels to visit other family members ... who don't make him work anywhere near as hard as we do ... we are taking it easier and after running a few errands we are sitting down to do a bit of television watching ..... a glass or two of wine may be consumed  ;-)

Sue xx 

Thursday 24 March 2016

My Girl Rosy

My girl Rosy.

Rosy appears in lots of my posts, in the background, snuffling around in Chicken World while I clean out the henhouse and photographing the chickens as I did on the last post.  If I'm in the polytunnel she's out and about round the Veggie Patch or on a rabbit chase in the woodland.  If Lovely Hubby gets ready to go out in his truck she's there eager and waiting to take her place in the front seat next to him, watching the world go by from the side window.  She's our constant companion and loyal little girl.  Well she's not so little now she'll be seven years old in May of this year. 

She came into our lives during the Summer of our first year living this country life,  when she was just eight weeks old, and was taught 'chicken manners' by the hens that loomed over her, she tried to grab one by the tail and got such a telling off from it that she never attempted it again.  She learnt good manners and all things 'dog' from Sophie, our Border Collie that she absolutely hero worshipped from day one with us.

Why the sudden blog post about Rosy?

Well the night before last the smoke detector started beeping at me, you know that annoying 'cheep, cheep, cheep' that signifies the battery is running out.  When did it start this ..... why about ten minutes after I fell asleep just before midnight.  I think someone programmes them to do this just to be as annoying as possible!!

I staggered downstairs took took the offending battery out and left it, and the casing on the ledge in the hall to remind me to go out and buy a replacement the next day.  I went back to bed and slept soundly .... because I have a little back up smoke detector in my gorgeous girl.

The kitchen door was opened a jar, so the dogs would know to stay in their own beds and I went back to bed, knowing that if by any chance a fire broke out my little black and white clever girl would be by my side letting me know.

Because Rosy is super sensitive to the smell of burning, she has never been trained to be so but she cottoned on very early in her life to the fact that burning smells trigger smoke detectors .... and she hates, hates, hates the sound they make.  So at any whiff of slightly burnt toast or if an ember falls from the fire onto the rug she comes and sits closely by mine or Lovely Hubbies side pressing her whole body against your leg trembling from head to foot.

I felt guilty putting in the replacement battery this morning because of course I had to press the test button to make sure it was working.  It was .... and Rosy was by my side before I had even stepped off the chair.

She's a good girl :-)

With this skill she would have been a perfect little assistance dog for a deaf person, she picks up things so quickly she would have been very trainable for all other sorts of tasks and she sometimes seems to speak English and completely understand things we have never ever taught her!!

One occasion we found this out was when our darling little Charley was hit and badly injured by a car.  In a complete state of shock and fuelled by adrenaline she took off up our hillside deep into the woods.  Lovely Hubby and the driver of the car were hunting for her for half an hour before I returned home.  I immediately pulled on my wellies and started to join the search.  

Seeing and hearing nothing I called for Rosy and said 'Rosy find Charley', she set off up the hill on her mission and reappeared after five minutes with little Charley slowly following her. Rosy shot out through the undergrowth to my side but Charley with her badly injured leg and hip could not find a way through the dense mass of brambles and branches, and in her fear and pain doubled back out of view again.  We couldn't reach her at all.

Once again I called Rosy back to me and said 'Rosy find Charley, she's stuck .... SHOW HER'.  Rosy vanished from sight and returned almost immediately with Charley behind her, step by step, inch by inch she led Charley down through the brambles, checking behind her every few steps and using her body to make the opening in the dense brambles bigger for Charley to pass through.

She had never been taught any this, she had never been instructed with these words and yet she knew what I wanted from her.  And sadly, as most of you know, Charley was too badly hurt to survive her injuries and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep.  Rosy grieved for weeks and even now if we mention Charleys name there is a flash of sadness in Rosy's eyes.  She has lost three of her playmates, Sophie, Archie and then little Charley and she misses and remembers them all.   I guess the downside to intelligence is the ability to make true friends and lose them during your lifetime.

But .... before we get all maudlin and tearful, we have to remember the upside to intelligence is the ability to cause mischief and to know that you are causing it ..... and enjoy it all the more.  The naughty snatching of your sisters toys because you want to kill the squeak that lives inside them, the burying of your bone under Mum's freshly dug flower bed because the soil there is easier to turn over and hide your prescious treasure, and then adding your sisters bones to the stash ... just in case you get peckish later.

The upside to intelligence is knowing that you are loved and playing on it, sneaking quietly to Dad's side just before he puts the last tasty morsel into his mouth knowing that with a quick tap with your paw on his leg you can announce your presence and hint with your eyes at the starvation you are suffering and your absolute need for that tasty titbit.

She lives a lovely life our little Rosy and she makes our lives even rosier with her presence, which is exactly how she got her name.  We were driving back from picking her up, on a lovely sunny August day in 2009, she was a tiny trusting pup sat in a blanket on my knee not knowing what life had in store for her, and we were so looking forward to introducing her to Sophie, our Border Collie and I simply said 'isn't life rosy at the moment'.  We turned and looked at each other and said 'that's her name'.

So she is Rosy, not Rosie as in the name, but Rosy in the way she makes our lives just that little bit better by being part of our family.  All our animals have their own back stories as to how and why we got them and how they got their names..... this is Rosy's.

Sue xx

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Chicken Stocktake

Every year I try to do a Chicken Stocktake, just to get down on the blog the chicken numbers and types we have and the names of the chooks in residence, so here is this years.

1 Lavender Pekin Bantam Cockerel - Jack

2 Lavender Pekin Bantams - Poppy and Daisy

1 Light Sussex - Harriet

On the left representing the 2 Skylines - Dolly, we also have Enid
On the right representing the 4 Rhode Rocks - one of 'The Welsh Girls

On the left representing the 3 Black Marans - one of 'The Gang'

On the right 1 Bluebell - Belle

In the nesting box where she pretty much likes to be all the time 1 Hyline hen - Mother Goose 

 1 Black Maran Bantam - Tiny

1 Black Pekin Bantam - Ebony

And finally, as usual bustling about in Chicken World, she never seems to sit still except to lay an egg - another Lavender Pekin Bantam - Jill (Jacks sister).

So a total of  18 Chickens
17 girls and 1 boy


... a Jack Russell Terrier  ;-)

Sue xx

Monday 21 March 2016

Ooops .......

Most definitely an 'Oops'  moment!!

I left my potatoes chitting .... in the dark ... in the cupboard under the stairs and forgot all about them, I think they have most definitely chitted  ;-)

They have been rescued by having the extra long chits removed and are now sitting in the light of the conservatory still in this bag.  The chits are now happily firming up and turning slightly green ... phew!!

I have planted three of them in large pots in the polytunnel to give me a head start with some potatoes, but the rest of them can wait another week or two until the soil outside in the Veggie Patch has warmed up a bit.  Two of the raised beds are covered with membrane so they can go in those as they will be the driest and warmest, and so hopefully will give our spuds a good start.

That is of course if they will survive their abandonment in the cupboard and survive to give us a decent crop of homegrown potatoes.

Sue xx

Sunday 20 March 2016

The House on the Hill

We did it, in under an hour ... well we've had lots of practise, this is the fourth time we've put one of these together  :-)

This is the Maggies 24 henhouse from Flyte So Fancy, and our absolute favourite type of henhouse.  They are easy to get inside for cleaning, perfectly designed for the chickens and hold 24 of our kind of birds perfectly well, as we have a mix of full sized birds and bantams.  

I say this because when we were registered free range egg sellers (we decided to register when our birds numbers got near to 50 at our first farm) the Inspector came out and did all the measurements of land available for the hens, space in the house and the number of nest boxes to ensure we met all the requirements and these houses came in at being 'official' for 22 full sized birds to live in and the four nesting boxes meant they were suitable for 40 birds to lay in.  I remember at the time imagining the queue of ten birds for each nesting box!!

We decided to get this additional henhouse and to make a new Chicken World on the hillside so that after the wet winter we have just come through we can rest and reconfigure our usual Chicken World to make it more suitable for the birds and safer for us in any future wet Welsh winters ... and I'm sure we're going to have some ;-)  

This second living area has already been nicknamed Chicken Land although this may change in future when the fruit trees are a bit bigger to simply The Orchard, at the moment with the trees being so young it just doesn't feel like an Orchard.

Lovely Hubby is currently still out there putting the wire on the fence posts and making the whole area safer for the birds.  This second chicken world will be used whenever we need to rest the other one and can also be pulled into use if we need to segregate birds for any reason, for example if we have cockerels in future that we needed to grow on ready for meat use, and they were getting to an age where they started picking on little Jack.  Hatching out your own chicks does mean that you end up with boys as well as girls and I am of the opinion that boys deserve a happy life as well as the girls, even if it is shorter.

Not for me the practice of mincing day old chicks just because they are boys .... once you've seen that video clip you really can't get it out of your head can you  :-(

Sue xx

Saturday 19 March 2016

Split Personality?

I had to clear all the surfaces last week as the electrician needed access to the fuse box, which is rather handily in the roof space over the kitchen, just above this worktop.  Don't ask ... there is nothing ordinary about the work done to this house by the previous owners.  The meter reader used to snigger every time he came, now thankfully the meter has been relocated to the outside although the fusebox is still here.   

Anyway with the worktop nice and clear I stepped back to admire it and just had to take a photo .... I love it like this.

 I also love my shelves on the opposite side of the kitchen, full to bursting with jars of food, utensils and various knick knacks, that doesn't look right but spellcheck is no help on this one.

I'm starting to think I have a split personality.

 The question I'm asking myself is which do I really prefer .... space or clutter, or maybe minimal clutter (if there is such a thing).  Do I want things handy for use or behind closed doors, OR not even behind closed doors, just not there at all !!

I'm off to sow some more seeds and help with building the new henhouse for Chicken Land ... I'm thinking that I'm over-thinking  ;-)

Have a good weekend.

Sue xx

Thursday 17 March 2016

Signs of Spring

All the signs of Spring are here.  There is blossom on both the Almond trees in Nut Wood.

Ginger joining in all the doggy walks, he just loves the sunshine.

Jack the cockerel is extremely frisky in the mornings ... with all the hens ;-)

And Mother Goose is once again broody.  It's almost time to pop a few eggs under her to get this years babies.

And of course the sun is shining, the daffodils are in full bloom and it's seed planting time.  

Yep ... all the signs of Spring.

Sue xx

Wednesday 16 March 2016

The Sty's the Limit by Simon Dawson

I've just finished reading this book by Simon Dawson, it's sort of billed as the follow on to his other book Pigs in Clover, which I really enjoyed.

This book I didn't enjoy anywhere near as much, it seems to be more the story of his mid-life crisis rather than anything different about their small holding .... and if I want to watch someone have a mid-life crisis I'll just sit back and watch my Lovely Hubby  ;-)

I gave it a very generous, in my opinion 5/10 over on my reading list on the other blog.

Personally I think he rushed through it, in order to bring it out in time to cash in on the interest shown in them and their animals after the television programme Ben Fogle's - Lives in the Wild UK.  Which might have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Have you read it ... did you enjoy it?

Sue xx

Tuesday 15 March 2016

A Grand Day Out

I went over the border into England and headed down South at the end of last week, to spend the weekend with Lovely Hubby at his digs in Newbury.  The reason ... we were going to the Edible Garden Show and Good Life Live on the Saturday and it was closer to him than it was to home.

We had a great time, reconnecting with our love of Large Black pigs, the sort that we will be back breeding in the not too distant future.  One of the reasons we chose this property was the woodland that they will be able to live in.

And while we were there we fell in love with Golden Guernsey goats and got the details of breeders of these relatively rare goats.  Goats, pigs and chickens seems like a good mix of animals to both of us.

We also gave ourselves the day off from our 'no spend year', and purchased a few things.  
A couple of Cucamelons for just £3.

Some copper tape and Nematodes for slug control in the polytunnel so I don't have to resort to chemicals.  The slugs have overwintered extremely well in amongst the plants in the relative warmth of the polytunnel.  I have sore fingertips today as I have just managed to get it all the beds in the polytunnel done, it gives you little cuts like paper cuts if you are not careful :-(  

But one tunnel done and one to go so it's not too bad.  Once my fingers have healed I will do the net tunnel and on a couple of the outdoor beds if I have enough tape.

Two little tops that turn drinking bottles into fine waterers for young plants and a judges guides, to give me standards to aim for ready for this years country shows and vegetable competitions.

A little treat for the dogs .... because we are soft like that  ;-)

And a big treat for us, supporting a small business and buying some delicious oils to use on our homegrown salads.

And finally we bought a couple of new Rhubarb plants.  A 'Pink Champagne' and a 'Raspberry Red'.  I don't know what the rhubarb is that we have got in the rhubarb patch at the moment but both of the plants seem to stay green and not turn that lovely shade of red that makes rhubarb look so much more delicious.

I spent an hour yesterday planting these two and moving the strawberry plants that were in the bed. We never got to eat any of them last year as the birds pinched them as soon as they turned red, and I didn't want to net them as we have the bird bath there and I didn't want any birds to get entangled in the netting, so now the problem is solved and we will have much more rhubarb later in the year.

We sat and listened to a talk by Pippa Greenwood, well I listened and Lovely Hubby snoozed, all about the pests and bugs in the garden and what to do if you have them, she advised copper tape and Nematodes for slug control .... I smiled  :-)

There were lots of magazine stands at the show and one of them was The Simple Things, the guy approached me as I walked past so I told him that I already have a subscription and that I have every copy since the very first edition .... he grinned, said 'well done', and gave me a little scented candle for my loyalty.

We had a really good day, spent more money than we have spent all year, but as you can see it was all on very useful or very necessary things so it was nice to have a day off, an amnesty from our 'no spend year'.

Sue xx 

Monday 14 March 2016

In the Polytunnel Today

A quick glimpse into the polytunnel as it is this morning.

Still lots to eat -

Mixed Leaves

A few Spring Onions but not quite big enough to pick yet, and I've just pulled up the last Kohlrabi!!

The big colander is full of stuff for the chickens, all the nibbled at leaves and off-cuts and the smaller one for bringing into the house.  I feel a fresh pan full of soup will be in the making soon.

I just need to do a tidy up now, harvest the last of the carrots and generally make some space to get ready for new vegetables to go in the beds.  Lovely Hubby drilled the raised bed edges and made holes for the water pipe hoops to sit in.  These will form support for a vital additional layer of warmth when covered with the fleece for all the seedlings in their unheated propagators ..... the ones I am about to sow.

Sue xx