Sunday, 30 August 2009

The saga of the eggs

Well Friday evening big mama came leaping out of the broody coop so I had a peek inside to be confronted by a truly evil smelling broken egg. So whilst trying valiantly not to throw up I cleared up the mess (even the dog ran away from the stench) and she went back in. So the eggs have been removed I double and triple checked by giving them a little shake (horrible glooby rattle) and candling them. At the moment she's sitting in the box but with the door open, so today I'll be trying to break her broodiness and over the next few days trying to re-integrate her back with the others.

I'm disappointed but these things happen. I'll try again next spring (even more reason for getting a couple of silkies) and I'll be better prepared and organized.

Wish me luck with Ethel, I have a feeling this may not be easy.......

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thursdays favourite plant

Rosemary(Rosmarinus officinalis)

This is one herb I could never be without. If I was only allowed one herb no scratch that if i was only allowed one herb there would be a mutiny and I'd find a way of sneaking more in.
So Rosemary, I find the scent of rosemary so comforting and warm, there was always a huge bush of it in my mums old garden and I used to lie on the grass hidden by it reading Watership down and Narnia, so the smell reminds me of home. Its supposed to grow in the gardens where the women wears the trousers or if your rosemary grows rampant your daughters will never marry (not true well not in my case anyway) or something (I'll have to dig out my book on old wives tales) Its also considered a lucky plant to grow by your garden gate. Its also supposed to be really good for you drunk as a tea but as much I love the smell of it I've never fancied Drinking it.

I use Rosemary more in autumn and winter cooking, roast potatoes, stews, tomato pasta sauces, pumpkin soup etc. Its a very robust flavour that lends itself better towards the colder months than summer. Saying that though I keep a jar of sugar with a sprig of rosemary in the larder for baking, and I make a mean rosemary and honey cake with the little flowers sprinkled over the icing, that I only ever bake in summer. Just remember a little bit goes a long way.

Rosemary couldn't be easier to grow, just remember being a Mediterranean plant it needs really really good drainage. If you grow them in pots you want about 50/50 mix of compost and grit/sand. If it looks far to sandy then its about right. If you have it in the ground dig in plenty of sand/grit to the planting hole. If your soil is heavy and holds moisture or clay than I'd play it safe and grow them in pots. They can grow quite huge in the ground if they're happy. Ohh and never ever over water them.

There is more info here

One last thing watch out for Rosemary beetle. Why do all the nasty bugs look so pretty with the exception of beautiful beneficial ladybirds or the evil Vine weevil that looks quite harmless and dull.

Don't count your chickens.........

Well my eggs are now 2 days over due, my little superstar Ethel has been sat snugly on them for 24 days with only a short snack break each day. I'm beginning to think that they're not going to hatch at all. I'm a bit disappointed but I always thought of this as a bit of an experiment and if we got some babies that would be a lovely bonus (sometimes I tend to veer towards the pessimistic) but I'm not sure what to do with her or when to throw in the towel. She'll need to be re-integrated back in with the big girls and her broodiness gently broken. I think I'll give it until the weekend to see if anything happens before I give up on the eggs.
What do you think? If anyone with experience of hatching eggs has any advice for me, please let me know.
I wonder if poor Ethel will upset at her lack of babies.

The little girls are doing really well. They are now living in a converted two storey rabbit hutch with a small run tagged on (the bright side of no babies will be extra chicken wire to make their playground bigger. They've learnt to walk up a ramp and roost on a little perch when its bedtime, which is earlier than the big girls. They've stopped being scared of Alfie when he goes to see them, one of them even pecked him through the wire (as much as he behaves himself loose with the girls, he has a healthy respect after being chased and pecked by Pixie and Margo, I'd never let him get too close to the little ones). They are still as yet unnamed although I think the adorable little buff sussex will end up sticking with the name Boo. I must really get round to naming the other two soon.
Another thing that need a name is my smallholding, Hubby has fixed up the hen sheds and fenced of a nice little area so hopefully next weeked he'll be bidding for some birds at the auctions. We are going to start off with birds for the table, now I know I'll find this difficult, but we eat a lot of (free range) chicken here so it makes sense to have a go at rearing are own. I reckon I'll be a total wuss with this side so hubby will be in charge and when I start stocking up with layers (and all the other birds I'd like for all my plans) we've agreed (well I shouted, had a tantrum and shed a few girly tears) to keep them seperate from each other.
I just hope there are more silkies at next week auctions as some so and so outbid me on a pair last time, if not I might happened to bid for a few ducks when the mr isn't looking, unless my little eggs hatch......

The photo of Tom and Barbara is included because, well why not.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

All I want for christmas is.........

I really really want a few of these

and some of these

this would be nice

and this

I wouldn't mind a couple of these

and I think I definitely would like some of these

and maybe a few

these would be lovely

and I'd love love love a little gang of these

Oh and my Mr wouldn't mind one of these

(photos from the devon county show, way way back in may)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thursdays favourite plant

Acidanthera (abyssinnan gladiolus or peacock flower)

These are so gorgeous.

I planted 20 of these bulbs and only 1 has flowered but I think its because I planted them too early and didn't put them in a sunny enough spot. According to this article they are best planted in may or june and lifted in the autumn like dahlias. I think next year I'll plant them in pots and sink them into the ground (which makes them easier to lift out). Even though I only have one bloom that's ok as it's stunning. Added bonus is that its highly fragrant, smelling a bit like a gardenia.

I love bulbs, absolutely love them. I've had 3 bulb catalogues through the post this last week and I'm compiling a long wish list. Ohhh I can smell the scent of paperwhite Narcissus's and hyacinths now. Also those damn chickens have decided to dig up the huge drifts of daffs in their half of the garden, so I'm going to have to replant and fence a section of with chicken wire.
I'm getting really anxious for the middle of September (I know, I know wishing the summer away) so I can begin the major re-arrange of everything and dust of my bulb planter. But until then I have bulb shopping lists to make, lists and plans to draw up, design books to pour over and chicken babies to play with.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

All bases covered.

I came across this article of the best 100 plants yesterday via Help save bees on twitter. I love the fact that it covers all the seasons, as during the autumn and winter my patch seems to fall short of interest.

Hmmm I can see a shopping list coming on......

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

My new venture

The other day I mentioned something about an exciting project that I've got in the pipeline......


One of my neighbours has this field and he's renting it to me so.......

I can start my own smallholding.

Here's a picture

Isn't it beautiful, ok so its a bit overgrown (this photo was taken in may, the grass is beyond waist height now) its a bit of a mix of woodland, meadow and marshy meadow, there's a very overgrown pond and a stream. You can see some stables hidden behind the grass (husband was all worried that I'd be all can I have a pony, can I have a pony pleasssssseeee) but my neighbour is using them for storage, however there are two chicken houses.
So that is where I shall begin. I'm going to keep chickens for eggs and raise chicks for selling. I'd like to breed tradional and or rare breeds, and show them. I'm also very keen to get ducks too (did I mention the pond) but I'll start with hen's first.

Hubby's cleared some ground behind the stables (waist height in nettles) and put up fencing and fixed the houses up. So we're almost ready to get started.
The three little chicks will be going there in about 4 weeks, I want them to get bigger and more confident first, So I've built a chick-ery in the garden as a sort of halfway house for little'uns before they move into the field.

There is also a huge veg patch there but its overgrown with docks and nettles and ash tree saplings, so I'll have fun clearing that over winter.

One of the best things though is the abundance of wildlife there. There's deer (fallow and roe) which will cause problems with eating crops and fencing but hey ho, Dormice and the rare yellow necked mouse. Hundreds of different wild flowers and grasses and tons and tons of different butterflies and moths. It really is a beautiful spot and I'm so excited about it all. I'd like to eventually (few years down the line) keep sheep, goats, pigs, turkeys, alpacac's but one thing at a time.

I'm off to another auction on saturday so I may well come back with a few more little ones.
The chicks are all doing really well, perching and dust bathing eating all my swiss chard and trying to catch flies. They are still sort of un-named as I'm not sure if one of the welsummers is a boy or a girl as it's bigger and darker than the other (who's definatly a girl). But the little buff sussex who's adorable like a fluffy powder puff goes by the names of boo, buffy or buttercup sometimes. I really hope she's a she ( I think she is), this ones all cute and fluffy looking but a real cheeky little trouble maker.
Ethel is still happliy sat on her nest with only about 6 days to go so fingers crossed this time next week She'll have some babies.
I'll post some ore pics of the soon.

Anyway got to go as I have a million and one things to do

jess x

Ohh if anyone has any tips or advice please drop me a comment or send me an email.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Thursdays favourite plant

Scented geraniums

I currently have 2 of these fragrant delights but after browsing about on the interweb I've decided I want to start a collection (even though I have no room).
I have Attar of Roses and Prince of Orange which smell funnily enough like rose's and oranges.
There are so many different types ranging from mint to apricot. I've been told the Attar of roses has the best rose scent to it, I love picking of a leaf and giving it a scrunch. I use the leaves for drying and cooking, you can add the a couple of leaves when making rice pudding, ice cream, chessecake, pannacotta by infusing them in the milk/cream before mixing everything together. This is important: only use a scant few leaves as they can be quite overpowering.
I recently made some strawberry jam and added some leaves (rose) to the simmering juice and berries, taking them out before boiling. The jam has a very delicate hint of rose about it yum.

Scented geraniums are tender short lived perennials. They need protection over winter, I bring mine inside and put them on the window ledges. If I had a conservatory or greenhouse ohh I could fill it with them. They also are great plants to take cuttings from either mid spring or late summer. I nearly killed my Attar of roses earlier this year by putting it outside on a nice sunny day in march but forgetting to bring it back in that night . It got frosted and went black and looked awful, two days before I'd cut it back (to encourage healthy new growth) and luckily I'd stuck some of the stems I'd cut in a jar of water. So I potted these up and now have two lovely bushy plants and a smaller tied looking mother plant (never quite recovered.

Next spring when I go to Hill house nursery next spring I stock up on a few more (ssssh don't tell the husband).

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Birds with peoples names and courgettes a go-go

I thought you might like to see the view from my lounge window (there is a road in front of the field but its not very pretty to include) and this is the view I get to look at when I'm doing the dishes.
if you click on the picture you can get a better view of Tommy (all buzzards are now know as Tommy in my house, all male pheasants are called charlie).

Now as promised ages ago here are some before and after pics of my veg plot.

Before (taken about the end of April)

After (taken Sunday morning)

I've spoken briefly before about the slice of ground my mum gave my when she moved cottages earlier this year. Digging it over was a nightmare as it had a huge rigid swimming pool sat on it (on top of 5 layers or weed membrane, 5 inches of sand and paving slabs) the husband worked out that there was about 100 tonnes of water pressing down on it!! So after back breaking digging and lots of bags of muck and manure I'm really pleased with it. Ok now the observant of you might note the explosion of courgette plants and indeed that is far too many plants to put in a space that size but what the heck. When I got the chance to sow seeds and plant it up I went a bit crazy. Next year will be planned with military precision I'm already sketching plans and browsing seed catalogues.

So what have a got well the Red duke of york potatoes have been lifted and replaced with a green manure the late board beans did ok and will be replaced with some spring cabbage (when I sow it) there's a block of celeriac, a row of leeks. A block of sweetcorn a tiny row of dill, a row of kale and swiss chard and 4 courgette plants, a marrow a mini pumpkin, a summer squash and a butternut squash that popped up from the compost. None of my runner beans or french beans germinated but that's no loss as there was no space for them and I'm bartering eggs for beans with a few friends and my next door neighbour.

Thursdays fave will have to wait till tomorrow as I have a courgette that needs to be turned into a chocolate cake but not until I've had a cup of tea and watched the baby birds (still unnamed but now known collectively as the cheepy cheepies) playing on the lawn and being gorgeously adorable.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Chicken babies

Well was very good at the auction I kept my hand firmly down and avoided eye contact with the auctioneer..... but when husband wasn't looking somehow I seemed to end up buying these

Aren't they cute. Anyway must dash they're cheeping and peeping and I must go check on them in case they are doing something unbelievaby cute

Friday, 7 August 2009

My lovely ladies.

Its occurred to me that I haven't featured my hens here yet. So let me introduce the girls to you.

This is Pixie (please note the slightly deranged look in her eye)
Pixie is a light sussex with a bad attitude. When we first got the girls Pixie was an absolute little poppet so sweet natured and gentle and she was the easiest to handle. But.... that sweet little girl has grown into a monster. She's bad tempered feisty and the pull no punches lieutenant of Margo. If I go near her she shouts and bawls, unless I've got food and then she might be a bit more pleasant. When she went broody a few months ago I literally took my life in my hands trying to turf her off the nest box. Her favourite things to do are to wind up and chase Alfie, seek and destroy slow worms and frogs, and peck my wellies. Seeing her in a strop you can really see the link between birds and dinosaurs.

This is Margo
She a glamorous maran x, in fact I'm not sure what she is I think I bought her as a maran koovey (sp) (if anyone can tell, please do)
She is queen bee of the bunch although she hates to get her beak dirty so sends in Pixie to do her dirty work. She was the first to start laying last Autumn and hasn't missed an egg since. She likes to strut about the garden looking beautiful. Pretty as she may be though she has a mouth like a fisherwomen. She's always shouting. If Alfie is up to no-good and I tell him off Margo is like an echo. If I shout into the house for a cup of tea, Margo shouts too. If I over sleep or the corn runs dry Margo lets me Know. Whatever room I'm in I'll hear her. She also likes to lead the others on expeditions to areas that are out of bounds, like the rose border and organise the digging up off daffodil bulbs.

This little angel is Tallulah.
She's a bluebelle or blue maran and don't tell the others but I think she might be my favourite. She is such a gentle little soul always pleased to see me, never prone to fits of rage or torrents of abuse and likes to perch on the bench day-dreaming. My husband laughs at me because I often have little murmuring and clucking conversations with Lu-Lu, I'll cluck and she'll cluck back. The only time she raises her voice is to announce to the world that she's laid an egg, and then you could probably hear her half way across Devon. She likes sneaking down the steps to the flower garden when the others aren't looking. She'll peak around the rose's at me then run back up to the hen house and look all Innocent.

Finally we have Ethel (Margo was getting annoyed that she wasn't being centre of attention so snuck into Ethel photo)
She's Pixies sister and she's the chalk to her cheese. Ethel is a really lovely chicken. She's polite, well mannered and very friendly. She seems to have the most common sense, and level headed-ness of them all. She's quite a laid back little lady although occasionally if Pixie is being particularly bossy she'll give her a peck on the bum and a stern talking to. She likes to gossip under the cherry tree with Tallulah, and she loves rolling around in the dirt. I actually seen her do somersaults.

Ethel is very special at the moment because hopefully in a few weeks she'll be a mummy. She's siting on some fertile eggs I got from the Devonshire traditional breed centre. My lovely husband took me there on Monday to window shop for chickens, I really really want a silkie but they didn't have any. So I bought a few eggs because Ethel's broody. Also I have this huge exciting project that I'm embarking on (more about that later).
Anyway if they hatch (fingers crossed) I'll have a Silver Dorking a Cochin and 2 Cream Legbars. Ethel has of course taken this all in her stride even the fact that because this was spur of the moment I haven't build (yet) a proper broody coop, so she's sitting in a cardboard box in a recycling bin in a dog cage under under my standard rose. So wish her luck and wish husband luck for tomorrow, as We're off to a poultry auction.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Thursdays favourite Plant

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

This is one of my favourite herbs. I have a huge pot of it my the kitchen door and I love rubbing the leaves to get a hit of that yummy lemon scent. It just smells so summery and makes you feel all happy. In aromatherapy and herbal medicine its used to help ease stress, and reduce anxiety and create a feeling of calmness. It also is supposed to help improve your memory. I love to make a tea from a few leaves crushed and steeped in boiling water. I also add a few leaves when I make lemonade to give it and additional lemony kick.

Lemon balm is in the same family as mint and is as easy to grow. Its happy grown in a container (add lots of gravel/grit for drainage) or in the ground. Lemon balm is a really good plant to grow for bees as they love the delicate little white flowers. I prefer it to lemon verbena that I also grow as I find the lemon verbena has a bit of a sugary sherbet taste to it and lemon verbena doesn't like the cold and can be vulnerable to frost damage whereas lemon balm is fully hardy and comes back year after year.

Step away from the spade

This is not my garden but if it was I could live with it.(Image via google images)

I love this time of year, you know being a stone through away from autumn, I don't even really mind the fact that our summer seems to be over and done with. What I don't like about this time of year is the fact my garden looks rubbish.
Late summer gardens can look stunning and there is still lots of beautiful plants yet to shine, but mine just looks a mess.
All my planting mistakes in spring show up and I think "why did I plant that there?" or "I didn't stake that well enough" or "that's a lot bigger than I thought it would be".
It doesn't help that my little patch is bordered by wild countryside and even though this year I thought i was more on the ball with keeping back the wilds I'm having battles with brambles and bracken taking over my hedges and fences and my bank that separates the chickens from the flower garden is over run with brambles and field maple saplings, tansy and bracken. It looks amazing in the spring with bluebells, primroses and violets.

I really think I'm more of a spring gardener than a summer/autumn gardener. I was so pleased with how everything looked a few months ago but now it looks shaggy and over grown. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself but I always seem to be a bit lack-lustre in the garden after July. The problem is I'm itching to get started on dividing,moving,and planting. I'm trying to plan a overhaul and now is a really good time to take stock of what doesn't work or look right. I really have so much work to do and I'm dying to get started but I need to wait at least until the asters and chrysanth's have had there turn.

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