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.

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