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Updated: Tuesday 31 December 2013
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It is with much sadness that I have not blogged since the middle of November. Christmas has passed us by leaving some wonderful presents on the way. Amy and I noticed an increase in 'joint' presents this year, of which the majority of them were very thoughtful and gardening related. Thankyou everybody. Santa also brought me a new iPad so there is no excuse not to blog more frequently now.
You will probably remember the unfortunate news I posted about last time where our shed had been tipped over and our contents ruined, moved or stolen. Well due to the awful recent weather and localised flooding which affects the bottom part of the allotment site near to the river we still do not have a shed standing. Instead, each time we visit we are greeted with this rather depressing sight.
By the looks of things it will probably be February now before it is upstanding once again. There is no sign of the weather letting off and January is going to be a very busy month anyway.
At least the new year will give us chance to have another go on this plot. Some things didn't work so well this year from things like onions to even getting around the plot. We've reevaluated our plans and we are all set to go. It may even be worth thinking about sowing some seeds next month, chillies, peppers, tomatoes and the like. How exciting!! It is also a great relief that I dug over 2/3 of the plot at the end of November. This should give us a really useful head start next year and will save a lot of back ache in early March. I hope this early start will also give the couch grass a bit of a battering. As you can see in the next picture the paths surrounding the plot are all grass and that makes it easy for it to quickly spread through the plot.
I'm hoping to sort the rest of the plot out before I go back to work on the 8th of January. But of course that is going to be weather dependant. Any more rain and the plot could quickly turn into a lake.
Well, I sincerely hope the new year brings you bucket loads of joy and happiness even if it comes in the form of a trailer full of manure. Happy New Year, and a toast to happy gardening!!
Martin and Amy
We set off towards Gloucester, over the river Severn, and downwards, to our destination. We headed towards Newark Park, a National Trust property near Wotton-under-Edge. As usual on this holiday, the weather was glorious and the sun shone all day! We arrived at Newark Park at lunchtime, after a stop...
Speechless. Flower-love. Filed under: Home Tagged: floristry, flowers, home decor, macrophotography, nature, photography
Another lovely morning, another day trip! We packed the flask and the sandwiches and headed out towards south Herefordshire, for Goodich Castle, an English Heritage managed property. Off we went, passing through the Forest of Dean and Cinderford, again, until we hit the pretty B4234 road, which follows alongside the...
RIP Yarrow Hen, who died yesterday evening. She had a good life, well lived. With us she had had 18 months of freedom, after her 18 months in the cruel battery cages.
As those of you who have followed my blog since 2012 will know, Yarrow was a very special girl; even amongst hens who are ALL special to us, she was a little star. I am very sad to lose her and miss her hugely, already.
She had been "winding down" for a few months and I am so glad she had a really good last day in the sun; sitting on my lap and being cuddled and told how much I loved her; sitting on the ground in the sunshine soaking up the rays; being cuddled by her flock who all came and collapsed all around her as only hens can do.
Despite all this, and despite having a normal morning yesterday, by the afternoon Yarrow was obviously suffering (not able to walk around, deep purple coloured comb, gasping, not able to eat even the treat of unlimited mealworms).
I can normally dispatch chickens who are in distress or injured but this time I found myself unable to kill my pet hen Yarrow, for which I feel ashamed (as I should have been able to help her when she was suffering, but could not). So, I quickly took Yarrow down to Mike our Vet, who agreed her time had come, due to a combination of failing heart/old age, and who ended her suffering kindly and quickly.
Mike, who as a newly qualified Vet helped Yarrow to recover from a broken leg during his first few weeks at our local practice, has been such a help over the last 18 months. With all the issues the ex battery hens in my little flock have had, especially Yarrow, he has been such a help, for which I thank him so much. And I especially thank him for his kindness and understanding as to why I was crying over the death of what many people might dismiss as "just a hen". He was lovely, as are all the staff at our local Veterinary Surgery. We are very lucky with them.
We buried Yarrow hen in the wood today, in the place where many other feathery friends are also buried. She liked to furtle around in the wood and it seems a good place for her remains to be buried. I heard my first Skylark of 2013 as we were filling in the hole. Appropriate, I felt.
Fly high, little Yarrow hen and know you are missed and were very loved indeed.
I've been thinking about my "image" recently. Living where I do and doing what I do, I tend to live in jeans, t shirt, shirts, boots and fleeces. Normally I wear the same sort of thing day in, day out - I have a few plain, coloured t shirts and shirts in cotton, which I layer over jeans. If it is cold I put a cardi, sweater or fleece over the top. In summer I just wear the t shirts and trousers and leave off the top layers.
I have good versions - clean, tidy and no stains (!) and when they get tatty they get moved into "everyday garden wear" and finally "cleaning out the chickens" wear, until they end up as "rags/dusters/compost bin" fodder!
If I go out, I dress in slightly smarter trousers and tops but it is still just a variation on what I wear every day. I'm not very glamorous looking and I do sometimes feel I look a bit dull, certainly not the look I want to have, anyhow. I feel like I have got into a bit of a rut, clothes wise!
However, I have recently been invited to a number of events where it would be a good idea to wear some smarter clothes :-) I am still talking about trousers and tops, but at the pretty end rather than everyday wear. I need them to be suitable for travelling in and attending meetings and talks, as well being able to work in them (lecturing and demonstrating rather than digging compost). Fortunately I haven't got rid of anything recently which I now regret!
I do care about how I look and want to dress well, even if I am not one for a lot of makeup or glamour or fuss and my taste tends towards the casual :-) So, I have decided to buy a few, choice "new to me" items to build up a collection of clothes I can mix and match and layer, for different occasions. I also want to get some pattern in to my clothing as well, rather than just sticking to plain colours all the time.
I can't spend a lot of money, but I have been looking around at shops in Hereford and also on line. I couldn't find much in most of the usual places I shop, both charity or High Street, until I looked in New Look
New Look have some lovely clothes in stock at the moment (no, they are not just for the young and/or very skinny!) and I particularly liked their new line of tribal tops - especially this Owl top which is only available on line.
I think with a smart pair of dark linen trousers (New Look sell those also) a scarf and maybe a single colour linen long line jacket over the top (of which I have several, in different colours) these tops would look good on me and they are made of 100% cotton, which is helpful.
Maybe not for wearing to meetings, but I also saw some very fashionable ripped jeans in their on line store, which I loved the look of, but which I would need to lose a bit of weight to fit into I think. Oddly, I have a number of pairs of jeans just like them at home, so maybe I am not as frumpy as I thought and just need to give them a good wash, to be fashionable again?
Mine are patched have patchwork embellishments, though :-)
I also loved this Boho chic crochet top and it was a very reasonable price, but it is made of acrylic yarn so I think I might just have a go at making one myself out of cotton yarn.
I did however, really like this cotton version and may well buy it, as well as the tops and linen trousers I mentioned :-)
It did not take me long to find a few new items at New Look. They will mix and match with the existing things I already have at home, to make several "new looks" for me. A couple are on line exclusives; one can be bought in store as well but I will order it on line if I am placing an order.
I might even show you some photos of me, when I get some new clothes :-) or maybe not :-)
I tend to shop in New Look or M & S on the odd occasion I shop for new clothes in High Street shops, because Labour behind the Label rate them as some of the high street brands who are doing more to help workers than others. You can consult the latest Let’s Clean up Fashion report to see who is doing more and who is doing less on the high street.
I do need some new clothes and I shop in New Look anyway, which is why I accepted a paid link in this post. As always all the words and ideas are all my own - but I did copy the images of the items I want to buy from the New Look website.
I am a supporter of Labour behind the Label, and am always happy to mention the good work they do to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.
Oh dear! I have recently discovered this site, thanks to a fellow chicken keeper on a forum I regularly visit. It is very addictive. I think I will just have one go then I get so close I have to have another... and so on. You get the picture! Here's...
It seems to have a been a little while since I last posted. I have had a busy month at work and slap bang right in the middle of the lovely warm sunny weather I was hit by the vomiting and diarrhoea virus. This then swept like lightening through the rest of the family and has taken us all a little while to fully recover.
Our sunny days here in Hampshire were glorious and as you can see involved flower picking _ even though it was a dandelion and our lovely cat posed beautifully and patiently for us. We could almost see the thought bubbles above his head-"Lets hope this will be quick -I need to flop in the sun somewhere and catch the rays" Its amazing how much he will put up with for certain members of the family.
Daisy flowers were made into chains and ankles were decorated
Some people - much against their Mummy's advice turned a little pink in the sunshine.
And then the sunshine disappeared and my thoughts turned to cooking and a batch of plum chutney was prepared and made
Daughter made some coffee cupcakes:
The preserving obsession has begun to bite again and a batch of apple and chilli jam just had to be made:
This mouli device was a present from my sister some years ago. I wasn't very sure of it at first as I have a blender as well as a hand blender-I'm ashamed to say that I had even thought of getting rid of it but this has been so useful especially when making apple puree and most of all when making my apple and chilli jam!
I've been busy making more preserves but more about that later.
I still looking for my new chickens and have made a definite decision to get bantams . I'm just searching now about possible sources and hope to update you in due course. There seems to be a shortage of them and apparently they are in very high demand this year!
I'm sorry this is a short and sweet post but with the youngsters coming and going at home, time is short! Hoping to get back to you soon.............................
Welcome back to Hen Corner! As featured in Country Living Magazine We have discovered the perfect way to enjoy a bit of the countryside, and a well deserved treat, when you have a few days to escape from the city. We’ve just come back from a Feather Down Farm Holiday on Billingsmoor Farm in Devon […]
So we are finally fully installed in our little house. Who knew buying and renovating a house could be such work!? The boyf has worked his socks off and inside the house is stunning. We need to work on our green-ness but as we settle down it will get easier to remember the recycling regime, water saving ideas and composting. Here's a sneaky peak inside... Now that the sun is out and the exam classes are gone I am no longer hiding inside by the fire marking of an evening but racing out of school to get home and enjoy my beautiful garden. Unfortunately, spring has sprung and the garden has gone mad! The site of the garden last summer when we first viewed the house was terrifying but the boyf worked hard to clear the end garden (henceforth know as the orchard despite its teeny tiny size) so we can loll about in the evening and drink wine. This is where my greenhouse is (minus 2 panes of broken glass) and my raised veg beds will live, it also homes a huge, beautiful and very old apple tree which after a bit of pruning looks like it will be fruitful. The Orchard is separated from the rest of the garden but an ancient grape vine arch which was so overgrown we though it was dead. Clearing through here has revealed many treasures including a well established Clematis, roses and lilac tree. We have decided to develop the screen that the vine produces by adding an espalier conference pear and a plum- can't wait to get them in the ground! As the garden grows it is kicking up some amazing surprises. The neighbours warned us that a lot of money had been spent only the garden but it's been hard to see where in the last few months- although now it is clear. We keep finding little gems, from hellebores to peonies, roses to clematis. In the last week we have uncovered a magnolia tree (my favourite) 4 gooseberry bushes, 2 loganberries, a lilac tree, a dwarf peach, sweet Cicely, a bank of chives, roses, japanese quince, 3 clematis, raspberries and loads of other little bits and bobs. This garden is amazing! The front garden is becoming a jungle and I am hacking my way down the path in the morning to get to work. I kind of like it though as it's full of forget-me-nots and bees. The boyf spent an arduous afternoon cutting back the wisteria that was covering the front of the house and now there are flowers budding.... Life is rampant in the garden, it's such an exciting time! Now if only we can get rid of the less savoury resident...Rattigan the enormous bloody great rat! Ewww...
I have written before about Yarrow, my ex battery hen who was rescued from the cages at the end of 2011.
She had a broken leg when we collected her and for a time was very poorly indeed and had to be kept in hentensive care in the polytunnel. She lived in there, with Comfrey aka Flappy chicken - who had a broken wing - for several months.
When she finally joined the rest of the feathery gang, she rapidly took over the top hen spot and, despite being lame and a bit slow to run around, has maintained the top spot ever since. She lost her friend Comfrey in the great fox attack this time last year :-( but joined up with the other ex battery hen Marjoram and old girl Nutmeg to make a triumvirate of old Ginger Hens, all handbags at dawn and annoyed muttering at the antics of the "new hens" and the cats :-)
She has had a good year of freedom, creating mayhem, chasing Cassie Cat, invading the kitchen and generally having loads of fun and giving us so much joy watching her antics. But she has been slowly winding down the mischief over the last few months, there is nothing wrong with her that anyone can see - she is just getting old.
Yesterday she seemed very weary and when I let the Ginger Gang out to free range, she didn't want to walk very far out of the run, so I picked her up ( she has lost a lot of weight) and sat in the sunshine, cuddling her. She leaned into me and crooned a bit and nibbled on my hand. And I told her how much I loved her and what a good hen she was. I carried her into the barn and I offered her some mealworms and also some Garvo (which she adores) and she ate them up but only some very tiny beakfuls.
She still enjoys a dust bathe, eating mealworms, lying in the sunshine and pecking at the other hens to keep them in their place, but I am watching her for " the moment" when she can't do any of that any more.
But for now, she is still having fun, in the sunshine, even if it is at a slower pace than before.
Another lovely day, weatherwise, and following on from yesterday's jaunt into the Wye valley, we decided to head to Tintern Abbey for a proper visit. This time, we avoided most of the ugly Cinderford, and cut across the Forest via Coleford on the B4226, a far prettier route and better...
I have been asked quite a few times recently how I grow my tomato plants, a reminder that there is a "How to " guide on growing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines on the "How to..." tab up the top and I also talk about this subject on my YouTube channel.
But I realised I haven't discussed what I do with the plants once they have germinated so I thought I would do another "How to" guide, on pricking out and potting on Tomato plants.
Seed sown Feb 10th 2013, in porch in heated propagator at ~20 C
March 2nd 2013 - seeds germinated and seed leaves showing.
At the end of March the seedlings were pricked out into individual 2 inch pots, with the soil well up the stem so as to encourage aerial roots to grow.
April 14th 2013 Plants well grown and need moving from these 2 inch pots into next size (3 inch) pot.
If you click on the photo above, you can see the tiny hairs on the stem - these will form more soil roots if buried.
Again, the stem is covered with soil to encourage the aerial roots ( the tiny hairs) to turn into soil roots - this gives the plant a better root system and so it can take up more nutrients and water.
And so we come to today, where I potted some plants on again, this time into 4 inch pots. These are not the same plants as above ( they are now in 6 inch pots and have their first flower trusses) but I thought it would be useful to show how I do this.
I carefully took the plant out of the old pot. You can see from the photo below how much extra root system has been produced by earthing up the stem each time.
This is the way I re fill the pot around the plant.
I put the plant in the pot and tilt it away from me,
then gently pour growing medium into the pot on the side nearest to me.
I then tilt the pot towards me and pour growing medium into the pot on the side furthest away from me.
This puts the plant upright in the pot, and I add more growing medium until the soil level is up to the next pair of true leaves.
I do the same with peppers and aubergines, but do not bury them so deep. I am careful with all the plants not to overwater them, so as to avoid the soft stems rotting. Once the stems are harder (as they age) this is less of an issue.
I will probably pot the tomatoes into larger (6 inch) pots once more, before they go into their final places in the polytunnel, growing individually in builder's buckets standing in gravel trays.
This is what it looked like last year, at the start of July.
I only have 100 or so more plants to pot on, today!
Hope this helps you to understand how I grow them :-)
A quick musical interlude whilst I sort out some more holiday snaps! I saw this band on breakfast telly this morning, they were performing this song. The Band Perry I find it quite lovely and haunting (and just a little bit rock!), him indoors thinks they are great and got...
At the moment we are sleeping in a bedroom which has one large window, facing East. I recently noticed that I am being woken up, earlier than I want, by the early morning sun streaming in and hitting me in the face. We have lined curtains, but obviously not lined with thick enough material to block out sunlight.
Thinking about "covers for windows" and how well they work has become a higher priority for me because the Pink Bedroom, which Compostman is currently refurbishing, has not one but two large windows, one facing North and the other facing, yes you guessed it, East. So when we move into this room (soon!) we will have the same issue with early morning sunlight in our faces and an additional window letting in light. We can't turn our bed around, so we don't look at a window, as the shape of the room precludes that.
We always planned to move into this room when it was completed (only waited 16 years!) As we are now fast approaching the "choosing paint and fabric" stage of the works I need to find a solution to the problem now.
What I have done in other upstairs rooms is use blinds; to me they seem to block light without shutting it out altogether. Thinking about it, we actually have blinds in all the upstairs bedrooms except ours and the Pink Bedroom. Compostgirl has blinds and curtains in her (South facing) room and all the South and West facing windows downstairs have blinds. It is only the sitting room and dining room which have curtains.
So, problem solved - I will be getting some blinds for our new bedroom - so the question is, what sort and what size? We want to measure and fit them ourselves rather than have someone do it for us, so after a quick Google search for bedroom blinds, I had a look at Web-Blinds and found lots of helpful advice. I had no idea there were so many different sorts of blind!
The Web-Blinds site also has lots of useful information on how to measure for a blind and a wide selection of different patterns and colourways. I also found easy to understand fitting instructions for all the different types of blind :-) And if you would rather someone measured and fitted them for you there is a link to their sister company, Hillarys.
In the other rooms I have simple roller blinds but I think for our bedroom I would like Roman blinds - although I am very tempted to get some roller blinds made using one of my own images (they call it a Digital blind on the Web-Blinds website)
Maybe something like this, from when I went to Garden Organic last year?
The bee garden at Ryton.or this?
I think Compostman would prefer this, though!
Hmm. Maybe just a nice, lightly floral pattern, instead?
Disclaimer - I am looking around for ideas to decorate the newly refurbished Pink Bedroom (may need a new name as it may not be pink much longer) This post features a paid link to a company I would be happy to order from, in the future. As always, the words I write are my own and are my honest opinions.
We woke early, it's difficult to sleep in a strange bed, and I managed to take a photo at 6am of a lovely red sunrise We set off towards Wales, along the A4151 to Cinderford, then the A4136 towards Monmouth. Sorry to say both roads aren't pretty! I was expecting...
On Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday I spent a considerable amount of time basking in the sunshine, in order to offer composting and gardening advice and seed planting at the Blossomtime event in my area:-)
Both the days were both very hot and sunny and I got sunburn!
I had a prime pitch right for my composting stall, at the front of the Hall by the entrance, on Sunday next to a lovely lady called Gilly, from the ONE network of Cider and Perry growers.
and on Monday next to a lovely lady called Sophie, (this is her, above) from Pixley Berries who grow huge quantities of Blackcurrants near us, and make delicious cordials from them
I talked to lots of people about composting and gardening, sold lots of my plants , to raise funds for Garden Organic, did some seed planting with children and had a generally wonderful time at this local celebration of cider and perry making. Compostgirl was there with me on both days and she had a lovely time as well - mainly going around the event with a friend or tending to the animals Paul Hand had brought along :-)
We both enjoyed watching the Leominster Morris Men dance to greet the May
Some photos, in case the video doesn't work ;-)
I was too hot to join in, though !
Was a very tiring, but oh so worthwhile, two days of volunteering :-) Especially as I was part of the Compost Awareness Week activities across the UK and World.
Hello after a long break. I'm sorry.
Things have been a bit chaotic in Christian's world of late. Mainly work, illness, work, illness and antibiotics.
It all started when I fell out of bed in Budapest. (Wouldn't that be a cracking line to start a book)?? Reaching for my cigarettes whilst in bed with David Attenborough, (on my ipad before the tabloids get ideas), I misjudged where the edge was and fell out! Cue lower back pain (same place as always) and me reaching in a frantic panic for the pain killers. Off to Dublin the following day and that's when the pain really kicked in. Flew home and had to explain why I couldn't possibly go to Aberdeen and back.
I was even in too much pain to pick up Milo, so he spent another few days at Mum and Dad's. Through gritted teeth I whizzed around Sainburys to get essentials as the home cupboard was bare. Milk, bread, chocolate, nurofen, paracetamol, chocolate and some medicinal chocolate. Oh, and chocolate. Went to bed with a sore throat just to make things worse.
Next day, woke up, reached for the paracetamol and nurofen breakfast cocktail and realised I couldn't really swallow. Tonsillitis. Great. Now, my local Doctor's surgery is great. The longest I have waited for an appointment is 3 hours. The benefits of living out in the country. I called and was told the Doctor would call me to decide if I needed an appointment. Strange, I thought, but ok. Doctor called 3 hours later. Doctor Frobble. I kid you not. A 'Carry on Doctor', I'm convinced of it. In his opinion, it was a virus and did not warrant penicillin. I would be fine in 5 days.
It is at this point that I need to explain that I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to tonsils. Apparently, it's a Taurean thing. Weak throats (along with a weight problem, so spot on there). I have had it 12 times in 18 years, so think I know a tad more than a Locum doctor, with a silly name who hasn't read my notes.
3 days later with a more or less liquid diet, apart from the pain killers, a back that kept cramping, I started to lose it. I drove to Mum's and picked up Milo, just to give me something to do. It had the added benefit of getting me out of the house, as I had to walk him.
Time to call the doctor back as I was feeling worse. To cut a very long story short, (not doing very well at that so far), he agreed to give me penicillin there and then.
Offering to come down to the surgery and cough a tonsil up on his desk had nothing to do with it.
Within 2 days all was much better again and I cracked on with dog walking, pottering, garden and general stuff at Bramble Cottage.
Back to work and the throat started playing up again....tighter than before and lower down. A voice like the love child of Barry White and Bonnie Tyler. I made it through the last few days and went back to the Doctor.
Laryngitis. Cracking, just what I needed.
'Just rest your voice and drink plenty of fluids'.
Marvellous. For those of you that don't know me, I am a quiet little mouse who rarely speaks up. *cough* so not too much of a problem. (He lied). He did give me penicillin for emergencies as he noted on my file that I am prone to tonsillitis. Well done that man!
So here i am in Basel, Switzerland. Got here yesterday afternoon and am due back at the crack of sparrows tomorrow. I packed my gym gear on the off chance that a fit of madness would tempt me and it did. Once again, for those of you that don't know me, I hope I am conjuring up visions of a toned Adonis, with abs you could grate cheese on. Just go with that thought for now. A warm up, 30 minutes of running, cool down, water, Marlboro gold and some stretching and I hope I can walk in the morning.
You might have noticed that there aren't any pictures with this post. Let me explain. I bought an iPad and I love it. It is so much easier that lugging my MacBook around Europe. However, I haven't figured out how to add pictures to my posts......I am officially technologically retarded.
I will post pictures on my next blog, when I get home. Loads of great pics, namely of my new lunch box (not in any way connected with the title of this post). Bentos are all the rage in Japan and I am loving the shallow boxes that you pack really tightly to stop everything moving around! I am going to try and put a picture on now. No idea where it will end up on this page.......Nope, bugger. Not there....oh well, you'll have to wait a bit longer for that.
Elsbeth, my oldest hen sadly passed away at the weekend. She had been slowing down for a week or so and went to the coop in the sky on Saturday. She was the feisty one, who rugby tackled her way to the spinach and chard, and was respected by my little flock :0( My lovely neighbour found her and took her out of the run. Glad I didn't have to do it. She will be missed.
I really should get a couple more hens as Pru is 6 1/2, Agnes and Cornelia are 4 1/2. Just not looking forward to the introductions. Glad that I had an extra panel built when the walk in run was put up. I can now separate them for the first couple of weeks until they get used to each other. After that, my trusty broom will stop any chicken squabbles......
Time to have a soak in the bath to ease my weary (incredibly toned) muscles before the cramp sets in.
C x x x