2015

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More rain, some sun and big greedy chicks

We have had torrents of rain, courgettes munched to nothing by greedy slugs and greedy chicks who love munching through the greedy slugs.

Everything is growing faster than ever. The runner beans creep inches up their supports daily and a few red flowers are starting to poke out. The broad beans are now heavy with pods, the first of which made for a delicious homegrown omelette. The 26 tomato plants all seem happy and robust and they too are full of flowers. Even the courgettes are flowering as we watch the fruit swell in eager anticipation.

The rose garden is bursting with fluffy pink and apricot blooms and the white peony is an explosion of cloudy white frills. Daisy hang lazily over the path in the orchard and hot orange and red geums waft near the chickens. The only disappointment is the sad wet poppies who have fallen under the weight of the rain and are flopping everywhere looking sorry for themselves.

The chicks on the other hand are growing for strength to strength and look like proper chickens now.

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Wet and miserable

The title just about sums up this week of non stop rain. The drive has been a river and a large pool swelled up outside the front door where the drain blocked. Johnsey reluctantly braved the outdoors to prod it a bit which helped! In fact only exciting thing that has happened is a merry row of plump radishes which we have been steadily munching through and a few little yellow tomatoes flowers popping out.

The chicks are growing at super speed and dart towards us now and feeding from our hands and jumping on our arms. They are adorable and thankfully all still with us.

Today I braved the bog and went up to the rose garden to see the first roses of the summer, their heads bowed against the rain. They look and smell beautiful and the hundreds of tightly shut buds look promising. Among the roses was a lovely peach one lying snapped on the floor. It and some equally battering grannies bonnets are now bringing a bit of summer inside and looking much happier.

Not much to report apart from soggy chickens, gardeners and plants and thousands of slugs!

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Chick chick chickens!

We arrived back from Cornwall full of excitement for the arrival of our chicks. We hurried up to the chickens as soon as we arrived home to see Marina sat staring at us beadily. No sign of chicks so disappointed we headed to the greenhouse which thankfully was still green and happy. Fiddling around with the watering system before we left had paid off.

The next day we nipped up to check every hour or so and about 11am spotted a tiny ball of fluff poking out from beneath Marina, followed by a sleepy looking head! EKS! The incubated chicks Keith had hatched for us were already two days old so we hurried to fetch them to add them to Marina’s brood. Four of the six incubated eggs had hatched and arrived the a little cardboard box scurrying around frantically! We cautiously prodded them towards Marina who look shocked by the busy little chicks who dived head first under her.

By Sunday we were watching as Marina shuffled them all outside and began teaching them to scratch, eat and drink. We have one odd chick which is clearly not the same breed. Maybe an egg got mixed up, maybe a Pablo egg snuck in. This little chick is yellow with little fluffy legs. We are waiting with excited to see what breed it is and hoping it’s a girl!

The chicks are now dashing about like naughty toddlers, digging up and devouring and fighting over worms and jumping on and off Marina’s back!

In other garden news the veg patch is coming along nicely. We have planted out the runner beans and the potatoes are looking healthy. We are already eating lots of delicious salad and our own radishes.

The bluebells in the wood have blanketed the ground in blue and Grannies bonnets have shot up everywhere. Over the past two days the rhododendrons have flowered towering over the drive with clouds of purples and pinks. Spring has definitely sprung and summer wafts in the air after bonfires and a long hot weekend. It looks set to be a busy couple of weeks in the garden!

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A busy week

Since we were going to Cornwall for a week today the last few days have been busy sorting out the garden. With last weeks rain and a sunny bank holiday the greenhouse has exploded. Tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and beans all needed potting on and it has been a bit of a squeeze fitting them all under the watering system. After a few adjustments and a bit of experimenting (getting wet), all the plants are safe for the next few days. John R is also popping down daily on chicken duty and has promised to open the greenhouse windows and check on the plants.

We have planted out the second batch of broad beans who have attracted a few slugs, but fortunately most of them ended up floating drunk in the beer traps. The broad beans seem strong and sturdy and have almost caught the first batch up already.

After a bit of sweet pea confusion we think we have planted the right colours together in big pots by the Italian garden and in a similar mishap have no idea which tomatoes are which. Somebody was a bit too eager and enthusiastic during the potting on process!

We have even planted out some cosmos, although with the rainy weather forecast are fearful of major slug attacks after John R assured us hundreds hid under the rhododendrons. Oh dear! Finger crossed!

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Marina and the Babes

Marina is a broody hen. Last summer she was broody when we went to visit Emma and Johnsey in Cornwall. Every day Emma would have to shoo her out of the hen house and shut the door behind her. Marina would emerge hot and ruffled and then see the water, have a grateful drink and calm down. In the colder climes of Yorkshire this maternal drive took a backseat. She was our star layer, producing a large egg every day. Then the coming of spring brought on the urge to sit.

 

We were nearly at the end of our stint of chicken minding, while Emma and Johnsey were in India. We were about to clean the henhouse out for the penultimate time. John took the roof off and there was Marina in the corner by the door, fluffed up so big that I though she was one of the black cats that frequent the garden. She sat her ground despite the roof being off and made low complaining noises as John lifted her off a clutch of eggs, belonging to herself and her companions. He placed her on the ground and she immediately ran off and shoulder charged Pablo, chuntering at him in a “ what you going to do about it?” sort of manner. He tossed his wattles and affected disinterest. We waited till she had calmed down, had a drink and a peck about before leaving them to it. When we went up later to check on them Marina was back inside sitting in her corner, despite the lack of eggs to sit on. This became a daily pattern, though after the first few days she gave up on Pablo as being a dead loss and would just run around complaining with her tail feathers all spread like a turkey. One day John lifted her up and she hung on to a couple of eggs, resulting in one falling to a sticky end. When John was busy I had to lift the roof off and pick her out. She felt lovely and soft all fluffed up as she was and despite the warning noises she never tried to peck either of us.

 

Convinced she was heading straight back inside once our back was turned we took to closing the door during the day. This meant we had to remember to go up and open the door in the evening, before the small flock was ready to roost. At the sound of the door opening Marina would turn into stealth chicken and creep round casting sidelong glances, shadowing us in the manner of a Raymond Chandler detective before making a dash for the open coop. All went well until one evening after Emma and Johnsey had returned. We forgot to reopen the door. So did they. They were up with Johnsey’s Mum and Dad for the evening. By the time we realised there might be a problem darkness had fallen. John sent a text to Emma asking if they had opened the door on their way out. I took a torch and set off up to the chicken enclosure. There they all were huddled together on top of the small covered run Johnsey had made to shelter them from the rain. I could see the glow of Pablo’s white back in the torchlight. As I came close he regarded me, but made no stir. I pressed the button and opened the door, hoping the noise would encourage them to head inside. The motor sound finished and all was still. I knew John would follow me up and thought I ought to make a start moving them, before they woke up too much. Logic said Pablo had to be first, make or break.

 

I balanced the torch on top of the house, pointing at the sleeping hens and watchful rooster. Taking a big breath I seized Pablo firmly and ducked him into the hen house. Thankfully he stayed inside and made croodling noises to encourage the girls, as I had hoped he might. They took not a blind bit of notice. I picked them off one by one, Marina going in last, just as John arrived. We shut the door with relief and a certain feeling of triumph on my part.

 

Shortly after this Emma and Johnsey decided to let Marina try to hatch some eggs. Johnsey made a nesting box to go into the small enclosure. Granddad Keith, who is not related to any of us, bought them some fertile eggs from a breed called Lace Orpingtons, big hens and rather handsome ones. They set the box up in the enclosure with a feed tray and water dispenser. We hoped Marina would go into it once we chucked her out of the main house. First Pablo went in and had a look around and then each hen in turn explored the new box. All that is except Marina. At the end of the day she snuck back into the henhouse as soon as the door opened. Next morning we all went up with a plan to put her in the box together with a couple of the warm eggs, she had spent the night on. All the rest of the flock were out pecking around, Marina was in the henhouse alone. Johnsey lifted her to the sound of normal protests, but there were no eggs underneath her. In a different corner was a single egg of epic proportion. Baffled we went to put her in the nesting box. There was clutch of five eggs. Every other chicken had been in to lay its egg there. In desperation Marina must have laid her own huge egg alone in the main house, but not had the energy to move it. We took all but two eggs and shut her in the small enclosure with the box. Tough love said Emma. Later that day we went up and Marina was in the box on the eggs. Carefully Emma reached in and swapped our two eggs for the fertile Orpington ones. Marina has been sitting happily on them ever since.

 

They are due to hatch either tomorrow or the day after. We really hope all goes well.

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Home Thoughts from Abroad

This gallery contains 12 photos.

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