Saturday, 25 September 2010

My worst day as a smallholder yet.

I know I know I promised wonderful things and I haven't delivered. I fully intended to blog today, to talk about the hens and the new additions, baby stuff and pictures of pretty views and beach's. And to say thank you for the comments and messages about the baby (thank you x)
Butbloodshed put the stoppers on that.

Last night a mink got into my big main hen house, My hubby went over to let them out this morning, so thankfully I didn't have to deal with the carnage in the house ( he said it was like something from a tarentino film). Somehow it had squeezed in through a gap between the door and after its killing spree got it self caught in the rat trap. When hubby came and woke me to tell me what had happened he couldn't tell me exactly how many hens had been killed or who they were as there was blood and feathers and bits lying everywhere. But he had a rough idea who was missing when he let them all out into the paddock.

He went back over to clear up the mess and deal with the mink (that he described as the most evilest looking creature he'd ever seen thrashing about in the cage) giving it the full blast of a 12 bore.

I went over there expecting the worse as hubs bless em can only recognise a few by name but they few he'd told me that were missing were the ones I was dreading. And sure enough that F-ing mink took most of my favourite girls and one of my boys.

Its so quite and empty over there, Its missing a funny sounding crow, a couple of banshee like screech's.
If you've read my posts about my hens who'll recognise a few names :

Holly my gorgeous silkie cockerel, who I've nursed through sour crop, mycoplasmia, injured leg and wings, he was a little fighter he always pulled through and came back stronger, and he always pulled this funny face when he crowed bending his neck at an almost 90degree angle.
2 young sweet bluebell pullets who had just started laying on this week,
Boo my beautiful bossy buff sussex who was always the first to see me when I enter the field and would shout to all the others and run towards me flapping her wings trying to be the first to get at what ever food I was bringing,
Honey an ex batt who would never lay in the nest box in her house but always find a way to get into the other paddock and use the bantams hen house.
Wonky, my lovely sweet wonky with her lopsided wing and a lopsided leg who was the most friendly hen I've ever had she was also the most greedy, she would also wobble about chattering to self in her own little strange world and try and jump up on to my knee whenever I sat down.

But whats feels the hardest is that it took 2 of my original ever girls Tallulah who was beautiful and sweet and always looked after any new hens that got put in with them. When I put Boo in with them all the others really picked on her and wouldn't let her perch but tallulah would snuggle up next to her. She loved being picked up and cuddled. And margo my squawky glamourous boss hen, she has laid an egg everyday except 8, since I got her she was grumpy, stroppy and loud, but I loved her.

It really strange atmosphere over there even the other group in the other hen house are acting quietly. I've checked over the remaining girls and they all seem fine not bites and already I can see new groups and friendships forming. Ben the cockerel is very quiet, he has bite marks and bald patches on his legs where I'd like to think he gave the mink a good kicking trying to save his girls, margo and boo were his main girls, everynight he'd perch with them too either side of him. And holly was his little sparring partner, When I moved all the flock about holly and his girl isabel were left without a run and a home so I put my sweet little chap and isabel in with ben knowing I was taking a gamble introducing two dominant cockerels together, straightaway holly went for ben (even though holly was 3 times smaller than ben)ben gave as good as he got and holly ended up on his back and ben just muttered at him and walked away to dust bathe, since then they've got on fine like to old geezers sat in a pub drinking ale together and avoiding the wives.

I have a lot of hens there and I'm lucky it only got 8, but it hurts that it took them. There are some new additions there, still nameless, a few exbatts, some young lightsussex Hens that I would have been sad to lose but even though I've had them for a few months I didn't have a bond with them like Boo and wonky and tallulah. I know if you have animals you shouldn't care more for some than others, but its inevitable you'll build a relationship with some. I know to some people they are just chickens, just livestock, things we use to get eggs and chicken nuggets and there are far worse things happening in the world, but as sad as it may sound to some people they were like my little friends and I miss them already, its so heartbreaking that some evil vermin just broke in there and destroyed them.
I don't even want to go over there, I just feel so sad. There is a saucepan full of cooked up veg peelings, potatoes and pasta I made up last night for their lunch today, I added extra potatoes because wonky being wonky and slower than the others always misses out on potatoes bless her little heart and right now I can face not seeing her face waiting and calling to me.

If I wasn't preggers right now I think I'd get drunk.

jess x

P.S I got ill for a few days a couple of weeks ago and didn't get out to feed sidney always missing him and seeing him swimming far down the river. So he decided I'd stopped loving him and has gone (I hope he's found some friends) but I did manage to remove the string from his leg.

P.P.S on a happy note the baby seems to be doing really well and regularly dances about in my tummy and gives me the odd roundhouse kick, I have high hopes of a riverdancing kung fu master.

P.P.P.S I will return with a new look blog and happier regular posts soon..............promise.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Times they are a-changing

I'm still here (just about). I've been wanting to blog for the last 2 weeks but, haven't found the time and when I have I've felt bleugh.

The reason, I've been absent, feeling ill, feeling uninspired, allowed my beautiful well planned well tended garden to turn into a hugely overgrown unkempt jungle/waste land, forgotten to take photos of my little chicks and a whole heap of other things that have gone to pot is.

I'm having a baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm almost 16 weeks now and am feeling much much better, the sickness has gone the tiredness is getting less and I'm generally feeling less yucky.
Me and hubby are so excited I can't describe it.

As well as a little tiddler on the way, I also have a few other things happening, the first being the fact that as of the end of September, the day after my next scan we shall be taking delivery of a bunch of Gloucester old spot pigs, which will be a bit tricky if I'm still sick at the thought of eating anything pork related.

So with all the changes going on I want to revamp my blog. When I first started this blog I wanted to have 2, my garden/smallholding blog and a general blog where I ramble on about randomness, music, films, my art and craftyness, clothes, thrifting and cooking. Now I've had trouble keeping 1 blog consistent let alone starting another , I've wanted to blog about stuff but felt it was out of context with chickens and flowers. So I'm going to combine this blog with the plans for my original other blog. Sometimes all I feel I do is (although I've been taking it a bit easily lately, major understatement!)is water plants and feed chickens and as much as I love that there is a lot more to me.

So I hope my small collection of blogland friends stick with me and follow my exciting journeys ahead.
Sssssh they might be some brand new poultry on the cards as well.

Jess xx

P.S I'll be changing the name of the blog but keeping the same url.

P.P.S I'm so sorry if I've worried you john x

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Woe is me

I'm feeling ill again.
Feeling ill is rubbish, I hate it!!!

I'll post some pictures up before the weekend of some of the adventures I've had in the last few weeks (on the days I haven't felt poorly) including the wonderful Belstone village fete that John was asking for (but I didn't take that many) and some photos of the baby chicks who are growing up so fast.

I'm off to retire to the sofa to drink apple juice and wait for Midsommer murders to come on TV.

Jess x

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Breaking news

Gwenny fairfaxs 4 eggs have all hatched.

Photos tomorrow as right now I really need to water the garden.

Jess x

P.S tomorrow is also my favourite summer village fete

Monday, 5 July 2010

Little weekend miracle

On Saturday whilst checking on the gang before going out to (a really rubbish) village fete Isabel came stalking out of her little box shrieking and growling like a mini monster. So (taking my life in hands) I had a peak in the nest and saw one of the eggs had a little crack in it, my first thought was that Isabel had stood in it and broken it, I carefully picked it up and heard it pipping so I popped it back in and left Isabel to it. This was what I was greeted with yesterday morning when I opened the box up.

This is the first set of chicks that I've (you know what I mean) hatched out and I've found the whole thing so incredibly amazing. Sorry to all those that this is old hat to but its mind blowing.
I put three eggs under her as she's so tiny so 2 out of 3 isn't bad. Ben's the daddy but I'm not sure who's eggs I picked out, I can rule out the 2 Welsummers and Maran, Tallulah the bluebell and wonky (her eggs are of a curious shape). I think I tried to avoid picking the 2 Light Sussex's (but can't be 100%) so in theory that leaves Boo the buff Sussex, margo, and sugar and honey the warrens. Hmm will have to wait and see.

Gwenny Fairfax's (the Cornish/Indian game) eggs are due this coming weekend, I put her and Isabel on eggs at the same time but after 6 days Gwenny had somehow got out of her little run and in with the chicks she may have been in there all morning for all I know so I ditched the eggs and replaced them with some fresh ones. She is being really sweet and docile which is very unlike her usual feral nature. I hope it may long continue and that she is as lovely to her babies as Isabel is.

Jess x

Friday, 2 July 2010

Roll on November

One of my mates emailed this to me last night

I've watched it like a million times since (ok so that's an exaggeration but you know what I mean) and every time I get goosebumps.

I'm so glad they're doing it in 2 parts and I really hope its as good as the book.
When I read the book at the end of the first chapter I slammed it shut in shock and cried. Oh how I'd have loved to have been a kid when these books came out.

Jess x

P.S if you want to see it not sliced in half (as my blog seems to have done) here you go

Thursday, 1 July 2010


I am still here, just.
I've had a few things going on that have made me want to retreat into my own little world for a bit then I've been ill, then the broadband went down for a few days and now hubbys on holiday so we've been busy fixing fences and henhouses and gading about the countryside. Yesterday we went to Paignton Zoo I didn't like the crocodiles and walked round clutching hubbys t-shirt with my eyes shut (what a baby) but feel in love with these little fellas what a fabulous mustache.

I shall return next week with news of isabel and her trio of eggs (due saturday) my three new hens I bought over the weekend and the 4 ex, exbatts that I'm picking up tomorrow evening, my garden that I have been neglecting and stories of the village fetes I'll be going to at the weekend.

Right I must go and wake up the Mr, its our 2nd wedding anniversary today so I plan on taking him out somewhere, where he can buy me something pretty.

Jess x

Friday, 4 June 2010

catching up

So it feels like a while since I've talked about the chickens (and quail and ducks)
I'm planning a few changes and shake ups over in my field. So my flock of layers ruled over by gorgeous Ben the light Sussex are all laying like mad and enjoying dust bathing in the sunshine. My star layers are wonky, Margo and pixie. Over the weekend I'm going to introduce the little quartet of bluebells to their paddock. The bluebells are about 16 weeks old now and getting quite big. I expect ructions from cloud (my delinquent welsummer) and general superiority from Margo and pixie. I haven't given them names yet as I'm still unsure if I'll sell a couple of them or not. The little one who suffered quite badly from having her tail feathers pecked out and her vent damaged has come on great guns but I'm still worried about whether or not she;ll be able to get an egg out. A few times over the last couple of months when she's look uncomfortable passing droppings I've thought about dispatching her but we'll see what happens when she comes into lay.

The bluebells are currently living with the two adorable black silkie boys who are tiny but have suddenly become men, crowing (which sound so cute) and doing the little 'well hello there ladies' dance and trying to mount the blues (who are 3 time their size) up until yestrerady I've been umming and ahhing about keeping them to increase the gene pool when I finally get some Silkie hens to breed from. However yesterday these little balls of fluffy cuteness crossed the line. i let them all out in the morning and straight away they started hassling the bells so being as I was standing in their run I intervened and gave them a stern talking to about chivalry and how it was the decent thing to let the girls grab a bite to eat before trying to sexually assault them when the little monsters turned on me. Which would have been hilarious If I wasn't wearing shorts and very inappaortiate footwear. I was lucky to escape with my life. I almost fell over the electric fencing fleeing from the little devils and have some nice scratches on my ankles and a peck on my shin. So they are now officially on the market ( They are still adorable and my hubby laughed so much when I told him about it he got the hiccups)

The little gang of chicks are all growing up fast. There is definitely 2 cockerels there a light Sussex and a splash Andalusian (I finally figured out what he is) The other 5 Sussex's all look to be hens, and some of these I plan on selling when they're a bit bigger. My little auracana is such a poppet when I'm in with them she comes running over to me and stands by my foot cheeping waiting fro a cuddle. I crouch down and she'll hop up onto my knee then my arm and chatter away to me.
For this reason I think shes a she, not having any experience with the breed I can't tell by looking at her but shes small and dainty with no signs of any comb or wattles. She also very placid unlike the two little cockerels so I'm really hopeful. I'm also hopeful my Buff Orpington is a female too. To begin with I thought a boy as its wattles grew over night but so far its comb is still tiny and neck and tail feathers haven't grown longer. If this is the case it Will mean out of ten chicks 80% are girls which will be amazing. They are so funny as well acting proper childish, always being noisy and always being the last to go to bed. I'm sure I've seen Margo tutting at their naughty behaviour.

I'm planning on getting rid of Sawyer my welsummer cockerel, originally I planned on breeding welsummers for selling but I'm going to set up a group of rare breed chickens when I decide on what breed to get. Sawyers lovely but he's very much a big fish in a tiny pond and doesn't have the suave smooth romantic attitude to his ladies Ben has. It doesn't help that his ladies are all small and very fast, so his advances are easily escaped from. Also they have gone broody.
Primrose my little Indian game x wyandotte has been broody for a week siting clamped down in the nest box and sounding like a velocaraptor when ever I move her. I've been adding china eggs to her nest to see how many eggs she could comfortably sit on (about 5) as shes a tiny yet buxom little maid. Gwenny Fairfax the Indian game is playing at being broody and lays eggs in the same nest box, Primrose is also still laying too. Isabel the silkie cross bantam has gone broody too and every morning she's been escaping from her run and abandoning Jim Morrison (holly golightly) my big chief silkie to squish in next to primrose and fluff herself up. Tomorrow I'll finish the twin broody coops and select some eggs from big Bens run for them to sit on and fingers crossed will soon have some light Sussex and light Sussex x wels/marran/buff Sussex babies.

Sadly on Sunday morning sweet little violet, primroses daintier prettier sister died. I'd noticed on Friday afternoon she wasn't eating much but drinking a lot. I managed to catch her which was strange in itself as her and primrose are almost feral and hate being picked up and her crop felt full and squishy. I gave a a little olive oil and gently massaged her crop and could feel a hard little lump in there, I managed to break it up a little and popped her in a box with some water and yoghurt over night. Next morning her crop had got bigger and squishier so I gave her some liquid paraffin and some live maggots (from the fishing tackle shop) she ate these but it was blatantly obvious she was in a bad way. She gotten that tail down eyes half closed pose. So to avoid the stress of being on her own I caught sawyer and relocated him (much to his annoyance) and popped her back in the run with her freinds. She showed no signs of improvement in the evening so I tucked her up in the nest box all nice and cosy in a thick bed of straw. When I opened up the house in the morning poor little lass had died. Which in a funny way I was relieved about, because if she been the same in the morning Hubby would have dispatched her in the evening. She was tiny and very flighty and like my little silkie I lost last year to sour crop didn't have the constitution to regain her strenght, so at least her demise and exit was swift.

In happier news the quail are nearly all laying, only one more to go. Yesterday another laid her first egg and you know how tiny hens eggs can be when they lay their first well this new egg was half the size of the others I weighed it and it didn't register on the scales.
As for the ducks well thats another story in it self that I'll save for later as I've rambled on for ages now and I'm watching alfie out of the corner of my eye trying to catch a mouse thats scutterling about under the tv and better try and catch it before chaos breaks out. Or it runs over by bare feet and I start screaming like, was going to say girl but that makes no sense lol.

Jess x

P.S quail make really strange almost whistling sounds when they're laying. A world away from the shricks and caterwalling the chickens make.

P.P.S The bullocks are now trying to eat the leaves off the cherry tree.

Friday, 28 May 2010


So first it was the naughty puppy chewing plants, then the chickens destroying the lawn and up rooting shrubs, then ducklings squashing and flattening flowers and now I have these hooligans.

Please pray for the integrity of my fence.

jess x

Thursdays favourite plant

Late on parade again.

This weeks favourite plant is courtesy of my naughty puppy under gardener. One sunny day last spring when he was but a wee little bundle of fluff I was on the phone to my mum chatting away,after a few minutes I realised Alfie wasn't sat sleeping on the sofa

This was him then, you'd think butter wouldn't melt

I put my head round the kitchen door to see him destroying a willow tripod thingy (made by my fair hands)I rushed out to yell at the little tyke and saw the horror and devestion one small pup with small Sharp teeth had done. The little ratbag had chewed through a clematis right down the base. Needless to say it never flowered last year and I was not a happy bunny.

However that little monkey actually did me and the clematis a favour, as this year its flowering its socks off from the ground right up to the dizzying heights of my climbing rose.

Clematis 'Ruby Glow'

There are two more clematis in the garden that are making my heart sing right now (as well as two montanas but these are at the top of the garden on the fence being nibbled by some cheeky young bullocks in the field, buts that's another story).

I have no idea what this one is, I picked it up at the end of march as a pot with a half dead looking twig at the village hardware store for 50p.

And the beautiful Guernsey Cream

Which I also picked up at the plant graveyard section of a local nursery. Everyone has space somewhere in their garden for a clematis. I've planted about 4 or 5 where ruby glow is, all beautifully tangled around the bare bottom of my old climbing rose. Remember to always plant them deeper than they are in the pot, you want to bury the first set of shoots. This will encourage great roots and will cut down the risk of the plant getting clematis wilt Clematis like their roots in the shade and their heads in the sun so cover the area where the roots are with a thick mulch or some piled up stones. One more thing some clematis flowers are prone to fading in bright full sun like the pink and white candy striped 'Nelly Moser' Plant them somewhere on the shadier side to keep the colours truer. One more thing clematis flowers aren't actually petals but modified sepals.

Jess x

P.S Since Monday I've been trying to compose a post about my day out last week but blogger has been acting up and taking ages to upload photos (one took so long that I was able to make a cup of tea, open a packet of biscuits make a phone call, then drink my tea and it still wasn't uploaded yet), so I gave up. However I think I've figured out what its problem is. So I'll try again later. Right now I need to shout and wave my arms about at the young bullocks

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thursdays favourite plant

I think I did this one this time last year but what the heck its a stunner

If you want to read the old post its here I don't think I can say much more about these beautiful little flowers. If you can, get yourself out in the woods this weekend, because a woodland floor covered in bluebells is one of the most beautiful sights in the english countryside.

Jess x

P.S I'm very excited, tomorrow I'm off to the devon county show which kicks off my season of shows, fetes and village fairs. Can't wait to have a look round the poultry tent.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

At last

One of my little quail has laid her first egg.

Now I need to cut some really small soldiers.

jess x

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Duckling tales

Well these little bandits are far to big for their little pen, so they've been given run of some of the garden certain areas have been crudely fenced off with bits of chicken wire, compost bags, buckets and anything else I can lay my hands on.
Saturday they shall be carried over one by one to a duck playground adjoining the chickens. I still have no idea what they are or if they are girls or boys. They're starting to quack now but having no experience I can't tell if its a girly quack or a boy quack. Hmmm time will tell.
There is something about the sound of a duck quacking that just makes you smile, it sounds a bit like they're laughing, and these lot have definitely been laughing at me. Right after they trampled the sweet williams and tulips.

Jess x

P.S in other duck related news poor old Sid is not a happy camper, The cows and calfs have been given run of Sids field, crossing the river mid morning and evening to munch on the long grass. These are Sids visiting hours. Saturday evening 4 times they charged him and if he couldn't fly before he can now. So I've taken to waiting to the cow have crossed the river and have gone far enough away into the other fields and sneaking down to the river and calling Sid whilst rattling a feed scoup. As much as I love the old rogue I'm not walking through a field full of protective mums. This has also peeved the puppy as he can only have short runs in that field when the coast is clear, to which he spends most of it dining on cowpats.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

New toy

Yesterday I got a new digital camera, it was an end of stock line at the supermarket and with some necter points it came to less than £20, bargain.
Its not to fancy, but not to shabby either, and it has a nifty little video bit on it so I can now bring you stuff like this.......

Please excuse the dodgy volume and shaking, this is the camera's first outing and I was very excited and of course I haven't read the de-strutions yet.

jess x

P.S yes I'm sorry I am one of those people with a tendency to talk to my dog in a baby voice sometimes

P.P.S so this is also the first video I've uploaded so if it doesn't play click on the youtube icon, you can tell I'm a rustic country girl with little grasp on technology can't you lol.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Thursdays favourite plant

(I know, its Saturday)

Lilac Syringa
image via flickr

I'd love one of these in my garden, but alas I have no room for one, instead I've been enjoying my neighbours tree. He's gone away for a week and left me in charge of watering his greenhouse and hanging baskets, this have given me a perfect opportunity to wander round his beautiful garden (he used to open for the ngs)and stand below his lilac tree and take deep breaths of its heavenly perfume. It over hangs his fence too so in the evening when I walk past it to go to the field to shut the chickens in for the night the scent is incredible.

Lilac trees have the most beautiful scent and the flowers are so pretty, tiny little star shaped blooms, grouped together in large panacles or cone like spikes that festoon the tree about now. There are different coloured varieties as well as the lilac lilac I love the white 'Madame lemoine', the dark pink 'red prince' and the beautiful 'sensation' which has purple flowers with a white edge to them.

I say lilac's a tree but its actually a shrub, my neighbour has grown his into a tree by allowing it to develop one main stem that has become a trunk. They grow to about 5/8 metres high so are well suited to smaller gardens. They like full sun and grow on most soil types but like it slightly on the alkaline side. Like all spring flowering plants they flower on last years wood so prune them after they've flowered. To increase the flowers and to keep the shape in check, prune out about a third of the branches each year after flowering. Or you can remove all the branch's at ground level bar one strong healthy one to encourage it to grow into a tree shape. Lilacs throw up suckers like no bodies business, and if you remove these carefully with some roots attached you can propagate lots more little plants. As most lilacs are grafted onto rootstock you might find the suckers are a different variety.

Jess xx

P.S thanks for all the wonky love, she really is a character and is loving being spoilt rotten, I even caught my husband sat with her on his lap feeding her corn from his hand.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Always a sucker for an underdog

A month ago I bought some hens from the local auction (no surprise there). I bought 3 little brown hens who looked a little rough around the edges but out of all the sad and sorry looking ex-free range layers or exbatts this 3 were the best looking of the bunch and I may be a hopeless sucker for a hopeless case but commonsense tells me to sadly avoid the really sorry looking ones. So I got my 3 home and put them in a quarantine pen for a week (If you ever get birds from markets/auctions you really need to do this as you never now what the may bring into the flock) Good job I did as they had worms and lice after an extended stay in isolation, I introduced them to the flock, expecting trouble, but they were good as gold. Ok there were a few scuffles from Margo and pixie (anything less would have been out of character) and big Ben had a go. But within 2 days they were laying in the nest boxes, perching at night and going to bed (slightly after the rest) on there own. I was expecting them to be flighty and feisty towards me but the are lovely (in fact they could teach some of my other hens a thing or too about showing me some respect) very friendly and wonderfully easy to handle.

Now I hate to say I have favourites but some chickens I have a little more fondness for than others (That's not to say I don't love them all) and I have a special place in my heart for this little lady

This is wonky, an unfortunate name I know I had planned on calling here Clementine or cinnamon but well wonky kind of stuck.
She is not the most prettiest of hen, she's very scruffy, had an outrageous lice infestation, her beak had been trimmed badly and was overhanging like a broken nail, she limps slightly and is lopsided (hence the name). But after a couple of days beauty therapy treatment, some dusting, a beak and claw trim and a bath she looked a lot better. she started laying eggs again with a week and bless her has laid everyday since. Now it wasn't her sorry looking condition that has made fall in love with her its her character. She is the sweetest of hens, she is a little bit simple and slow and gets picked on by cloud (my delinquent welsummer who was at the bottom of the pecking order) but she just bumbles along unfazed by pecks on the head. She has difficultly pecking at the grass (so I tear her little bits of and hand feed her), has a little bit of difficulty climbing the ramp to the house (so I often give her a hand). She follows me everywhere snuggles into my arms when I pick her up and makes the cutest little noises (unlike cloud whose vocals would scare a banshee).
I love little wonky she is truly a poppet. Her two sisters sugar and honey are also little sweeties too. I'm so glad I bought them and given them a happy home.

Jess x

P.S cloud my delinquent welsummer also has a special place in my heart for her feistiness, she shrieks like something possessed all the time. she has a habit of escaping and she has a piecring sidewards sneaky peering look. she hates being picked up yet is quite happy having a cuddle when you catch her but she will try and peck me and pulls my hair. I'm wondering if she is picking on wonky because she's worried shes no longer the apple of my eye.

P.P.S that's enough blogging for today I have tons to do outside and the ducklings are waiting for their bath.

Free plants (well sort of), softwood cuttings

I love this time of year all the garden centres and nurseries are awash with bedding plants. This year I've toned down my bedding plant buying and have sown a lot of seeds and the plants I have bought have been from small local family run nurseries. I've decided to stop buying plants from big garden centres, I want to support the smaller places and not give my money to the big boys. So I'm avoiding the garden centres and stocking up at nurseries, gate side stalls and village fetes. I'm very lucky to have the amazing Hill house nursery close by and they sell the most amazing selection of everything all grown on site. Anyway I've veering of point.

So bedding plants, about now they would have put on a lot of growth, if you want really lush, full plants instead of long leggy thin plants, cutting them back with encourage lots of side shoots and lots of good growth. It may seem drastic to hack back your newly bought plants (especially if they have flowers on them) but trust me, you'll be glad you were brave in a months time when you hanging baskets look gorgeous.
Now this is the really cool part turning you little plant in lots of little plants.

Softwood cutting tutorial

Lots of people find propagating plants a bit of a mystery, something only old men in green houses do (I was always a bit daunted by it when I started gardening) but it's really easy.

So Here is a lovely little cherry red million bells, lots of nice growth perfect for taking cuttings from.

So you need to cut the plant near the side shoots (this will encourage the little side shoots to grow on the plant, giving you lots more flowers)

so this is what you have to work with.

Trim the bottom of the stem to just below the two side shoots, this is where there roots with grow from. Remove the leaves

Its a good idea to remove the top shoot, this will help the cutting put its energy into forming roots instead of top growth,

Then its a case of filling a pot with nice damp soft free draining compost (add some grit to prevent the compost getting waterlogged and the cuttings rotting) and making a little hole using a plant label of chopstick or knitting needle (something long and thin) and inserting your cutting, don't just push the cutting into the compost as its quite delicate and you can damage the base. I rarely use hormone rooting powder, but you can, it contains fungicide to help prevent the cutting rotting.

if you put the cuttings around the side of the pot they stand a better chance of the roots striking, as the roots hit the side of the pot they will branch out and grow stronger. Also you can fit quite a few in a pot and save on space. Try to avoid the cutting touching each other.

If you have a lot of large leaves on your cuttings (like with these mint cuttings) cut the leaves in half. This will cut down on water loss from the leaves (OK science bit coming up.... the cells in the leaves put a pressure on the roots to suck up water, respiration. buy reducing the surface area you reduce the force of the pressure.)

You need to keep your cuttings moist until the have formed roots (to check gently turn the pot upside down and you'll see little roots poking out the bottom) They need humidity to keep the leaves moist (look out more science.... the leaves in plants are surrounded by an invisible film of moisture, when this film is lost they put pressure on the roots to replace it and your little cuttings haven't any roots yet so it will be curtains for them) mine are in my little greenhouse or you could put a clear plastic bag over the pot kept secure with an elastic bag, make sure the cuttings don't touch it.

So heres my little collection which hopefully in a few weeks will be ready to be planted out.

I even used the mint leaves I removed on the cuttings to make a cup of tea
which was lovely except for the bits of compost floating about in it.

Jess x

Me and my Quail

I love my little Japanese quail, they are such cute little things.

I was planning on having them in the field with the chickens in a little coop but I've decided to keep them in the garden for a two reasons, security and the fact that since all the chickens have moved to the field its quiet in the garden.

The quail live in a rabbit hutch ark with an attached run on my patio with a nice deep layer of wood chips. I feed them layers pellets and canary seed mixed with some grit and oyster shell. I've tried hanging up some greens in there for them but they don't bother with it so I tear up bits of grass and dandelion for them. I also pop a little seed tray with compost in for them as they love dust bathing. Had I have put them over in the field I would have fixed some mesh or chicken wire to the bottom of the run to stop rats digging under and getting them. Being so tiny they are particularly vulnerable to predators. As they are so good at flying vertically they need to be kept in a covered run. Their little wings are sort of triangular shaped, perfect for soarng upwards and gliding.

I really thought they would be really flighty little things but they are actually really calm and chilled out, they kind of shuffle about with the occasional leap and they make the loveliest noises, like little frogs a sort of gentle murmurings ribbet ribbet noise. They look and sound like they've just stepped out of a Studio Ghibli film.

Mine are all female, as I'm not to looking to breed them getting a cock was pointless also I'd heard that the fellas have large sexual appetites for there tiny size and can hassle the so much that they lay less eggs. I've also heard they make rubbish broody mums. They lay an egg a day through spring to late autumn but as the daylight hours shorten they stop unless light is provided for them. They reach POL between 6 and 8 weeks old (so the breeder told me), mine are now 8 and 1/2 weeks old and haven't laid anything yet. One of them looks like she may be thinking about it but as they are very hard to tell apart I have no idea if the one I think is thinking about it is the same one (if you know what I mean). I'm going to get them little tiny coloured leg rings.

One last thing, I think they are slightly nocturnal. They avoid being outside in the middle of the day, they all poke their little heads outs of the house half asleep. At dusk they are much more active I'm sure they would happily stay out all night but for my own piece of mind I pop them all in the house and shut them up till morning.

They such sweet little poppets I would definitely recommend keeping them, but John if your thinking about getting yourself some for your field, reinforce the run to within an inch or keep them in the garden, I'm sure you'd be equally charmed by them.

Jess x

P.S my little ducklings are getting so big, but I wish someone had told me just how messy they are, I reckon they are all drakes too well they're bound to be..

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Thursdays favourite plant

Its a miserable wet day, and I have no excuse to avoid housework, thankfully the last two days have been gloriously sunny and I've managed to get a lot done (including taking lots of cuttings, more about that later). My little ray of sunshine today is the beautiful

Tulip Ballerina

This is probably my favourite of all tulips, dainty lily shaped flowers that open up wide in the full spring sunshine. I always plant tulips on November the 5Th, 3 times the depth of the size with a handful of grit at the bottom of the planting hole.

Other favourite tulips include negrita the gorgeous little species tulip tarda and the beautiful spring green I have a thing for green flowered plants and dark almost black plants, however I'm so over queen of the night don't get me wrong there are truly beautiful but after growing them for the last few years I pulled them all out last year. I found the colour to oppressive for spring, they looked almost matt black and cold amongst my purples and oranges. So for the moment I'm sticking with bright spring colours, definitely important on a day like this.

Jess x

P.S I'll be back later with quail stories

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A happy ending.

I promise I will blog properly soon but with all the rain we've had in the last few days my garden has gone mad and even though I have been more organised this year and have lots of seed sown and plans of where things are going and weeds under control I suddenly have that overwhelming feeling that I have lots to do and won't be able to keep on top of things. But anyway what I wanted to say was.

Yesterday I rehomed Boris and Ivan

and a lovely young maran cockerel ( I say lovely, he was lovely looking very friendly to me but was hassleing 2 of my hens and startng to challenge Ben for superemicy).
They have gone to live with 100 exbatts, a couple of turkeys, and a pair of geese at a school farm for troubled and expelled teens. I am so happy they've found a home espesicaly as the Maran was becoming a real pain and hubby had given him bank holiday monday as a (quite literlly) deadline to be gone.

Now Big ben is king of the castle.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

someone stick the kettle on, I need a cup of tea

I'm sorry about my absence but I've been so rushed of my feet with all of this,

And some of this

And there was this

And if all that wasn't enough to keep a girl busy this came along

And finally there is this

Yes they are in my bathtub and yes they were throughly dried off with my best hand-towels before snuggling up under a heat lamp.

And if all that wasn't enough fun for me to handle I met up with the gorgeous sara from Completely Quackers who came down to see me for a good old chin wag about chickens and other animals and to take 4 of my bantam hens to join her flock of mad bantam boys. This left me with a vacancy for some more hens, who are currently in quarenteen quarters for the moment, oh and did I mention the little bluebell pullets.

I shall tell all about everything and everyone later, right now the glorious sunshine is beckoning back outside.

Jess x

P.S Bonus points will be awarded to anyone who can identify the chicks in the 2nd 3rd and 4th pictures, I know what they except the little grey one on the right of the 3rd picture. Extra double cherry on top points to anyone wanting to have a stab at telling me the sex.

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