Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Autumnal scribbles

Cotoneaster laden with autumn berries
Summer theoretically arrived as a large moist patch over the UK and then promptly left. Autumn has been a heatwave and only now in mid November are the temperatures slowly heading to where they should be. It has been until the last week amazingly mild. Saying that I have just come in from walking the dogs and although no jacket was required gloves were and there was a distinct hint of chill in the air. Wonderful, I need some realistic seasonality.

There is an incredible amount of berries festooning all the bushes this year and the colour of the leaves has been truly one of the best years I can ever recall. However not quite cold enough yet to see any winter thrushes to take advantage of the bounteous berry harvest.

Summer has also not been best either with a continuing battle with my spondyloarthropathy/gouty arthritis and uveitis. Once one seems okay, another kicks off so some of the projects I had planned have been shelved and work at the allotment again has suffered.

Tallulah
Despite this the chickens have gone through the normal cycles of chickendom. We had a very odd period of almost eight weeks with no visible eggs. As the girls had the run of the garden during the summer and early autumn they had access to lay in a nestbox in the garden shed however nothing in the shed and nothing in their normal chicken house? I did think at one stage the eggs were being stolen by some wild creature as Tallulah (she of the thin eggshells) was most definitely laying somewhere. However a good clean out seemed to reveal the problem - the eggs were being broken in the nestboxes. The lump that Tallulah has underneath her has grown, she seems very happy as ever and apart from the lump and an occasional mucky bum she looks in wonderful condition (she is now familiar with the hosepipe and hair dryer for that quick chicken makeover) however I do think that whatever that lump is it does affect the way she produces eggs. The last couple of eggs that have been laid by Tallulah that haven't been already broken are so fragile that they normal break when you pick them up. So much for trying to aid her with added calcium in the diet. At the moment we will leave her but as soon as she looks the slightest bit uncomfortable then down to the vets I think.

Anyway Harriet to the rescue as she is now laying her regular 5 eggs a week. Nothing from the Sussex girls as both are going through a major moult at the moment.

Good to see Stella
In October we went and spent a week in Cheshire and took a visit to the lovely Sue and her Mum at Victoria's Poultry. As ever they were incredibly busy and doing a major overhaul of their waterfowl area. We even got to see Stella, the Buff Orpington we hatched took back to Sue. Needless to say we came away after a great morning with dreams of all the new chickens that we wanted! Max and Millie our naughty dogs came along and actually I was quite amazed at how well behaved they were.

So its now dark when I leave for work in the morning and dark in the evening when I get home. The winter run is now in its fourth? year so no more garden time for the chickens however they do have their luxury winter home. Super skylon, nestbox in the sky has been reinstated this year along with "The Terrace" a row of three outdoor nestboxes so that should stop any squabbles over laying space!

Harriet happy in Skylon
And finally - a bit of sad news. After eight years of happily keeping our goldfish in the pond we had a raid from a heron who has wiped out most of the fish - they are in shell shock at the moment and hiding at the bottom of the pond but but I think we have lost 10 out of 15 including Mr Swishy our original fish - 9 years was not a bad inning for him.

Okay folks - Christmas ahead, brace yourselves for 6 weeks of marketing hell and just to let you know I have already seen a Christmas tree and lights in the window of a house in our street and its not even "Stir Up Sunday" yet.






Happy Christmas (just teasing, hopefully a blog before then!)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Weekend Chickens and the joys of a weather "app"

Forest Hill's noisiest chicken - Tallulah!
Sometimes I bloody dislike those chickens! Right I'm the first one not to have a lie-in but seriously, 7am on a Sunday morning and you are not going to be best popular with husband or neighbours when all the girls start screeching.

Not an alarm call, just that really annoying noisy clucking cum half strangled squawk that got me out of bed to both see what the matter was and stop the wretched din. And the problem causing this poultry furore? That would be Harriet using the nestbox that Tallulah wanted to be in. For goodness sake you would have thought that Tallulah could have at least used the nestbox next door but no, she stood there screeching at the top of her voice, Nigella joining in just because she could and Harriet answering them back. Letting them into the garden solved the problem however after all that din we only got one egg. 
As I said, bloody chickens.



By odd coincidence I took some video of the girls feeding off a corn cob stuck on a skewer and dangling from a wire. A bend in the skewer has been a new addition as it twirls the corn around and keeps the girls amused for considerably longer than previous. It's alway good to do at this time of year as corn is so cheap however I do realize it's not doing anything for the girls egg laying abilities and girths. Oddly looking back it was almost a year to the day since I last videoed them doing this very thing.

video
Chasing the corn


RainAlarm failed to tell me about this
Much can be said of the Great British summer, for I remember it well and sadly finished in June. The past week has been the normal cycle of rain, sunshine, heavy rain, glimpse of sun, very heavy rain, vague daylight, monsoon. 
In a moment of apparent or indeed abject stupidity I downloaded an app for the iPod called RainAlarm - what a wonderful waste of time.
Firstly due to the constantly inclement weather it doesn't stop pinging and telling me that there is precipitation 4.3km away, 4.2km, away, etc. Of course what it's not telling me is that I am soaked to the skin while cleaning the chickens out and it doesn't seem to realise that the heavens have actually opened up over me! Why no monsoon warning for SE23?

Still, we can but cherish the moments of sunshine and warmth and rejoice in the fact that at least all the slugs and snails that are reproducing rampantly in these moist climes are providing a veritable feast for the girls. Lets hope it provides the edible stimulus for laying more eggs!
Harriet - all she wanted to do was lay the egg.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Three years of chickens and Hens in the City

Goodness me - how time flies when you are having fun/keeping chickens.

It's now three years since Harriet arrived in our lives, closely followed by Ruby which means that its also three years since I started this blog - heavens, that's longer that a Katie Price marriage!
The one and only Ms Harriet Princess Ping Pong McEllis
In some ways it really doesn't seem that long ago since we got the chicken run shortly followed by the Silkies, Harriet and Lottie, the first occupants however they were followed the very next day by the Sussex bantams Ruby, Cybil and Margot. I recall with great trepidation the first time that we let them out into the garden.

A rare photo of Ruby NOT moulting
I have no idea why we ever thought we had to worry. After three years we have gone through the process of hatching and loss, arrivals and departures. The garden has developed into an area of plants that can generally withstand the girls once they are established though the lawn does need areas re-turfing each year. 


The girls do an excellent job at demolishing slugs and snails though this year they did wipe out the lettuce faster than the aforesaid molluscs! 


There is no doubt that the greatest joys of the chickens are the eggs. Glorious in taste, there is absolutely no comparison to shop bought eggs to the eggy joys the girls produce. Although they are bantams and therefor bantam eggs we have found that the yolks (as well as being the most amazingly bright orangey yellow)are larger that those of a normal sized egg which could well account for the fantastic flavour. It really doesn't take long to get the hang of working out recipes with bantam eggs instead of the normal "recipes are based on large eggs" scenario. I wonder if the slug and snail diet makes the eggs tastier?  
Tallulah - her of the saggy bum 
Nigella - beware dogs and actually everything!


Poor Lottie passed away at a fairly early age. Cybil and Margot departed for a new life in rural Bedfordshire due to the fact that noisy early morning bloody chickens in the city do not go down well with the neighbours (and no, rural Bedfordshire is not a synonym for "in the oven")


So onwards to the next two lovelies that arrived. One is a partridge colour Silkie (I think she's a partridge colour? Do correct me if I'm wrong)called Tallulah. To say she was shabby when she arrived is an understatement however she moulted out into a lovely bird. She does have something of a dropped undercarriage and all the old poultry keeping books suggest that she should be straight into the pot however she's a happy hen and not a bad layer though she does turn out some very thinly shelled eggs. And of course Nigella the Destroyer. A silver Sussex (as was Cybil whom we had to move on) Nigella is full of attitude. On the positive side she takes no nonsense from the dogs and will quite happily chase Max. Unfortunately Max thinks that Nigella is playing so he takes his ball over to her so she can throw it! I have to say that I do love the Sussex bantam as a breed.


So still very happy with our "girls" and we are forever indebted to our lovely neighbours who are always more than happy to chicken sit when we are away. It was also lovely to meet Alan and Sarah in the park the other day, more fellow chicken keepers in our road. Hopefully at some stage I might get to upload some pics of their girls.


Despite the oddness of the weather and blight attacking lots of people outdoor tomatoes we are doing good, harvesting lots of fruit and veg. Tomatoes and outdoor ridge cucumbers are doing well, just planted out kale, calvo nero and celeriac at the allotment for winter crops and also just had our first chilli of the year - yup it was a right hot little bugger even though it was still green. Courgettes haven't overwhelmed us yet - you can always tell when there are too many as its straight to the glut crop recipe pages! We also have some really good squash coming on for later in the year. Just trying to fit in a last crop of Florence fennel as the first lot got too hot and bolted but think I'm too late.


So three years just went that'er way. Thank you for reading and your comments and all of those of you who contact me via facebook about the chickens (and don't forget the read the latest Max and Millie
Ruby after being severely "app'd" by my hubbie



Sunday, 14 August 2011

Celebrations - any excuse for a glass of fizz

A bit of a celebratory blog this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly it's now two years since my lovely husband and I got "married". It seriously doesn't seem to be that long ago and it's been a wonderful two years.
Me and my man
Secondly its a year since Millicent Hermione Oprah McEllis arrived into our lives. From the frightened little smelly black dog she has now grown into a very beautiful young lady with a huge appetite, wiggly bum and the most lovely demeanour as long as she can't see another dog!

Being licked to death by a very happy Millie
The joy of chickens - how I love to see them wandering around the garden, scratching through the lawn, trashing the dahlias, getting into the pots and rooting everything out, eating lettuce so loving grown. How I would love to see them all in a nice chicken casserole!

Seriously for a moment, the garden has passed the point of being established for the summer. All the delicate young shoots are now healthy plants and strong enough to usually survive an onslaught of the chickens so as they pass through the borders chomping snails and bugs as they go all is normally well. This year Miss Harriet has had the devil in her. Every pot is fair game and despite my continued optimism that the damage is never that bad the sight of a white silkie surrounded by the devastation of what was a collection of lovingly grown plants. Silkies can thank their lucky stars that their blue skin stops me from throwing them in the roasting pan.

Naughty chickens - Harriet, Ruby and Nigella waiting for a treat
Saying that, egg production, while not going to make us millionaires, is doing okay with a couple of eggs each day which is more than enough for our needs.

For some reason a couple of the chickens (Miss Harriet and Nigella shall remain nameless) seem to get mucky bottoms. Why this should be I can offer no answer, especially as Ruby has never ever had a problem. It just means that once a month there is a rather undignified bum washing ceremony however the girls do look especially lovely after the event and they always get a treat to counteract the indignity.
Thanks to all who baked and commented on the plum clafouti recipe. I’m glad that you enjoyed it. Saying that I am still loving this huge harvest of blackberries and can hardly stop myself picking more every time we go out to walk the dogs. Our dear friends Tim and Katt came over for Sunday lunch with their lovely son, Finn so decided to cook another clafouti recipe I found which was even more delicious. Here it is

Blackberry and raspberry almond clafouti

Heat the oven to 190c/gas 5. Lightly butter a 23cm flan dish or tin (again not loose bottomed or it all dribbles out)

To make the batter mix together 50gm ground almonds, 2 tbsp plain flour, 100gm golden caster sugar 2 bantam eggs and 3 bantam egg yolks. Beat this up with 250ml of double cream.

Scatter 400gm mixed blackberries and raspberries in the buttered dish

Pour over the batter

Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until well risen and golden.

Best served warm as opposed to really hot, and with lots of cream

So the end of another week, here's hoping that summer returns soon, I need some sunshine! As ever, don't for get to also check out Max and Millie's blog - link in the sidebar.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

July ramblings

True to say that a week was going to be far to optimistic in doing a follow up blog however I think that in current times five weeks is not bad going for me.

Enjoying a French evening
Summer as described in the prior update has now fizzled out, the scorching temperatures of earlier months has now returned to the norm of grey, moist and humid days, the occasional glimpse of sunshine equated with torrential rains. Needless to say it plays havoc with your tomatoes if you are growing them outside.

At the end of June we went out to Limousin to visit my sister and her partner who have very happily settled into the French way of life. While we were in the lovely little town of Le Dorat it really was exceptionally hot but glorious, the downside being that for a couple of nights sleep eluded everybody due to the heat and a bloody black redstart that insisted on calling at 4am for about an hour! All of our adventures are in husband's excellent blog, just click on the Max and Millie link opposite.


What I wanted to mention was how lovely and completely unspoiled the entire area is, for me it recalled country lanes in the Cheshire of my youth and a pace of life that somehow I think I want to embrace. Needless to say its not a fast process however I do feel that we shall be spending more time in Limousin.

While we were there we did visit a very large country market which not only had the most amazing selection of goods from stunning pre 1970's nylon leisurewear to mattresses, tripe sausages (which we accidentally bought and manfully tried to devour but failed miserably) but lots of stuff for the garden from plants to mini-tractors and livestock. You literally could by anything from a horse to a hen.

On the practical side of it husband wasn't overly happy with the way ducks, geese and chickens were dealt with, crammed into cages then boxes, dignity and welfare out of the window. It's a farming community with little time for compassion, in real terms it looked worse than it was in reality. Once you left the utility area however there was a good selection of fancy poultry, silkies seemed very popular, and lots of other odd pets. If you wanted to buy a chocolate labrador well you were in luck along with a good selection of ferrets, budgies and indeed all manner of creatures that were not going to end up on the table.

All in all it was a very interesting and fun experience though despite my general happiness at eating most things apart from celery I very much doubt I will be having andouillette (tripe sausage) again.


Recipe with eggs as promised in last blog is as follows and not only is highly seasonal but of course uses eggs. My sister made this for us (the cherry version) and it was delicious (and apparently from the Limousin anyway)
Cherry (or in this case, plum) clafouti
Firstly bear in mind that this is a kind of sweet Yorkshire pudding and secondly make sure your baking dish is big enough as if the batter is too deep it gets stodgy in the middle (not a bad thing but the idea is summer and not stodge)
You need a 22cm dish in which you put 2 tsp vegetable oil and get it into a hot gas 7 oven
In a big bowl mix 75g plain flour and 50g caster sugar (or more if the plums aren't ripe) then whisk in 5 bantam eggs (or 4 normal sized ones I guess) along with 250ml milk (full or semi-skimmed).
Stone and chop 400g plums, small plums got chopped into quarters so take it from there. You do need them cooked after all.
Once the oiled dish has hit the required temp quickly mix plums into batter then whip dish out of oven, pour in plummy batter mix then get back into oven asap!
Cook for approx 30 minutes - don't peek!
After the prescribed time you will have a lovely golden puffed clafouti which will collapse within 5 minutes but no matter as it tastes better after waiting around for 10 minutes.
Dust with some icing sugar and serve with cold cream - delicious

Needless to say you can use cherries. It also tastes great cold


Nigella
 The chickens have of course been feeling the seasonal desire to go broody. Harriet as reported, did eventually finish her spell only to be followed by Tallulah who I managed to persuade to finish slightly early, Ruby who got finished off within two weeks so hopefully all have now had a broody attack which will see them over the summer. All have gone into a huge moult apart from Nigella so the garden looks as if it is suffering the remains of a major pillow fight. We did have a most odd week when there were no eggs at all. At one stage I thought that maybe the eggs were being taken but no, laying resumed this week. It's odd not having any eggs!

Small snippets of information. Winter always causes a problem with trying to provide the birds with some greenery or forage. I know that they will do well on just pellets with the occasional scattering of mixed corn but I do like to keep the girls as happy as possible. I have just been reading about feeding them nettles in the winter. I know on various poultry forums there is always debate on nettles, some people say their chickens eat fresh nettles others say that the chickens never touch them. I have been looking into using nettles as enrichment fodder for giraffes of all creatures. Once the nettles have dried the stinging mechanism in nettles is deactivated and giraffes LOVE the stuff. A little research has revealed that if you go and collect your nettles (without getting stung of course), dry them out and bundle them up they can be used to great effect with your chickens and if you have the room and place to keep the nettle bundles dry you could store some for the months when greenery is at a premium. I am going to trial some but not sure quite yet how I am going to make some extra space in the already packed shed in the garden.
Ruby

Allotment is doing okay - of course failed on erecting the polytunnel again this year but with what I think is going to be another disaster with tomatoes I have to promise myself that it will go up this winter! Harvesting is early this year on various crops and we have in mid July already had some bumper crops of blackberries and plums. Have made two batches of bramble jelly so far and jolly delicious it is as well. The most amazing thing is that the jam actually set!

Okay - enough for now. Hopefully I will manage to do another update before Christmas.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Back to blogging and the start of summer

My darling Mum
Your most unreliable blogger strikes again. It's literally months since I wrote however I do have lots of partial writings in the draft section, they just never made it to being posted. One of the major reasons for starting the blog was as an update for my dear Mum. Not only did she enjoy reading about the chickens and the garden, it also made her use the laptop. It was a major reason for keeping the blog updated, that and of course a phone call from Mother asking when the next posting was due!

It's been six months now since Mum died. There is still a big hole in all our lives and there is not a single day that goes by when I don't think about her. Not a single day when I don't think of something that we would talk about:
"What's the recipe for bun loaf?"
"What else can I try to stop Tallulah laying thin shelled eggs?"
"I think I've found a Jerusalem artichoke recipe that won't have you farting all night"
"Have your dahlia's started flowering yet?"
"Can you make me some green bean chutney if you get any spare beans?"

Sadly they are all now conversations in my head however I do still need a bun loaf recipe, I think I have tried everything with Tallulah, the eggs are okay at the moment but she has only just started laying again, Mum never needs to eat Jerusalem artichokes again, there will never be a competition to see who's dahlias flowered first and the green bean chutney will go down in culinary history as a memorial to Mum's as she made the very best.

Anyway as well as for Mum it's back to more regular updates about chickens, gardens and life in general in South London. Actually the life in South London and the pups is fully covered in The Marvellous Adventures of Max and Millie (click on the link in the sidebar).


Nigella eyeballing the camera
Hen wise we are just about back to all four laying, at last. Silkies I have to say are THE most stubborn broodies. Yes, before anybody comments that being broody is their forte, I know but can you get them out of broody mode until they have done their requisite time? No!
Fortunately the Sussex are fairly easy to get out of it - I can usually get them back out again in 7-10 days if not faster. Saying that both Nigella and Ruby do seem very susceptible to an attack of scaly leg after a broody period. Poor Ruby does get it both very quickly and badly, most topical treatments have never worked however Ivomectin works extremely well so both girls have recently been "spotted". Also after her recent broodiness Nigella was getting a bit mucky behind so she also indignantly suffered the chicken horrors of having a bum wash in the shower! Still, she is looking gorgeous as ever now.

Product Details I do enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of other chicken keepers and even more reading about good food so what a find Five Fat Hens was. The author Tim Halket has some great recipes and also has a wonderful approach to life, one I fully endorse and agree with (like how crap and overblown New Year is). Well worth a read and cooking a few dishes from.
Ruby attempting broodiness

With the amazing weather this spring the allotment and garden really have had a flying start. Allotment wise there has been lots going on - in fact the weeds have been giving us a good run for our money trying to outgrow the veggies. Still we have broad beans, peas, french beans, onions, shallots, pumpkins, squash, courgettes and both artichokes all on the go at the moment.
Garlic failed (no idea why) and the giant french banana shallots also failed to grow but that's about all we have had fail so far.
Scratching about
Oh the strawberries were early and mostly got stolen by the local wildlife as were all the cherries that disappeared and not even ripe! Next year that tree is getting a net over it!
At home we have been cropping all the usual stuff such as salad leaves and radish as well as growing tomatoes, cucumber, melon and have a few trays of kale and celeriac ready to plant out later in the year for some winter crops. God, that sounds as if we spend all our lives gardening, I promise we don't but it makes us sound very busy!
The good thing is that the chickens get lots of veggie clippings and thinnings and they still relish every slug and snail they can get. I wonder if all those scraps and garden molluscs make our eggs so tasty?
So hopefully back to more regular updates, next time I shall endeavour to include an egg recipe, until then have a good week.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

March arrives....and we depart

One for the galanthrophiles



I can never remember how the old country saying goes about March - "In like a lion, out like a lamb" or the other way around. You get the idea. Well now that March has arrived it seems more like "In like an ice-cube, hopefully out a warm mug of tea".


The plants really have been going mad over the past week, damp and gloomy warmth suits them as it does the frog. Our fish pond has become an orgy swamp for these amphibians and now lumps of wobbling translucent eggs adorn the bases of the iris, merely the product of the wild and noisy copulations of frogs in the pond.


Saying that, everything, including us, got a shock with a good old blast of arctic wind chilling the place out though the night still disturbed with the croaking of frogs and screeching of foxes as the vixens start to come into season. Stay safe little chickens.

Miss Ruby and Nigella on a worm hunt
With one silkie (she who shall not be named - Harriet!) broody it has slowed the other girls right up. As soon as poor Tallulah lays an egg they Harriet has to jump on it and start incubation. The fragility of Tallulah's eggs are just not up to it so they all get broken. As for the Sussex, they have just given up laying for the moment.
"I shall incubate, whatever!"

Harriet continues to be the bane of my life really. She is more stubborn than a stubborn thing. I even constructed a open-bottomed nestbox to put her in but then I went all forgiving (or nesh as they say in Cheshire) as I thought it was a bit cold to put her in there! Revenge would be to give her an ostrich egg to incubate.......

So, slow world for chickens, slowing down for the garden as cold grips and nothing from SE23 for the next couple of weeks are we are away to warmer climes for a holiday. The chickens, dogs, house, fish, plants and frog eggs are all being cared for by Angela, what a brave woman. Stay warm and we'll be thinking of you, beer in hand watching hummingbirds whizz by in sunshine (remember that?)
"Why can't we come with you on holiday?"

Thursday, 24 February 2011

TBC

TBC - That Bloody Chicken!

Am I also now starting to think that we have had the worst that winter can throw at us and spring is truly on the way? It's somewhat wet and mild, today in London the grey clouds cleared and we had a beautiful sunny day.

It all sounds lovely and of course with all the girls in full egg production TBC Harriet aka Princess Ping Pong has decided upon broodiness.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.........we need eggs - those girls don't get pellets, corn, lettuce, sweetcorn, mealworms and treats galore just to sit on their backsides!

Harriet trying to look coy and cute but it won't work this time.
Harriet being broody then triggers Tallulah, which in turn means Ruby who has only just got over her long moult since her last broody spell. Saturday and we start an anti broodiness campaign. We can normally, with work, get the other girls out of it but Harriet? She is the queen of sitting on her hennish bum and sticking it out.

I know we are not going to win but watch this space...................

Monday, 21 February 2011

Eggs and junior chicken wranglers

Cyclamen coum
Such great promise this weekend with lots and lots of jobs planned but Saturday just rained, rained and rained - so you get the feeling we were somewhat damp. Sunday was somewhat better so managed to get lots of tidying up done, did some major repotting of our three Actinidia deliciosa okay, kiwi fruit (I was just trying to be flash) and got some celeriac seeds sown. I do feel that we need a major weekends work at the allotment but if it's wet all you do is get covered in clay and come home again without having done anything apart from make a paddy field. You do look a bit trendy with clay leg weights stuck to your wellies I guess.

Loads of lovely eggs
We have had quite a few comments on which cockerel to get - Reginald seems to be an outright winner at the moment. We have had two days this week when all 4 girls laid, they really are getting the idea that spring is on the way. Tallulah, despite all our efforts is still laying such thin shelled eggs that one occasionally breaks in the nest as they all decide to lay in the same nestbox. Indeed the eggs are so fragile that sometimes they can get a dent in just by gently picking them up. All the other girls lay incredibly stout shelled eggs and in truth the diet has all the correct elements, they wade through mountains of oystershell and the amount of snails they eat with accompanying shells should be more than enough so I think its just Tallulah.

Chicken handler of the year
A few other updates which might be of interest. To the left is a photo of our godson Ferdie having a "chicken" experience out in the Philippines. The good thing about having adventuring parents and a mother who is a world renown marine biologist is that you get to visit some very funky places, you know most aquatic species by the age of 2 and your godfathers and grandparents make sure you know all the domestic ones.  Our god-daughter JJ manages to do all this and wear glitter as well - we are so very proud of both of them.

I know that Christmas has now gone and I must say that due to events it really does seem to have been a blur however I have for a few weeks been meaning to mention a wonderful gift we received from our lovely neighbours and occasional chicken sitters, Rob and Isobel. We got a chicken, but not a chicken in SE23 but a chicken bought for an abandoned disabled child in Thailand. The chicken is for a brand new project called Eden Farm which will bring in finance for the abandoned children and also teach them vocational skills. It's a fantastic project so why not log onto www.4lifethailand.org and click on the Current Fundraising section. You can help the project by purchasing a range of items as simple as seeds, to of course chickens and even pig huts and you know your money is going to help some very disadvantaged kids and giving them an opportunity of a better life.

That's about it for this week. As ever, any feedback is always welcome.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cock or not - that is the question

Spring has seemingly sprung. If you read this blog you will know I think this is a false spring, I'm expecting another arctic blast before winter is over - however miserable git old me, I hope I'm wrong. Still Mother Nature is enjoying these relatively mild temperatures and lots of rain, with buds, bulbs and shoots aplenty though after a good delve into some protected pots we have lost some prized dahlia tubers and we await to see if the bananas managed to survive the big freeze.

As I said the girls are now in fine fettle, laying well and looking great apart of course from Harriet who continues to believe she is a rare Lewisham Mud Silkie, indeed a rare subspecies!

I'm also keen to have some chicks again this spring we do have a couple of routes to follow. My aim would be coronation Sussex bantams but not sure how realistic that will be merely because of their scarcity. Option two is getting in a cock silkie!! Eek I hear you cry, a cockerel in the city.........well. There are several spare boys at work which we could have on a short loan.

Questions to be raised

  • How noisy are silkie cocks?
  • How would the neighbours cope? (even if it is only for a short period)
  • What is the secret of keeping your cockerel quiet in the early hours? (I know, there isn't an answer but worth asking)

And finally who should we go for..........if that's what we decide to get one.

 Reginald


Stan(ley)

I look forward to comments and suggestions - maybe even set up a voting panel!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

PS..........

A quick note from the update yesterday.

Don't they look fantastic!

Firstly a couple of pictures from Ros who purchased Sebastian (now Boris) and Doris the speckled Sussex bantams we hatched in 2009 - they are now stunning birds as you can see from the photo. Also very jealous as she has chicks already. Thanks Ros for the update.

Chocolate Orpington and silkie chicks as hatched by Ros - I'm so envious

Secondly as a non-proficient user of this blogging medium I just found several comments posted by kindly folk, some just commenting how they like the blog but others with questions. My apologies for not responding however I found your comments by accident in a spam folder? I have now clicked various links and the comments are now attached to the relevant blog entries.

Thank you for taking the time to add to the blog especially Tammy (and I hope you got the response), Mr John Gray who I hope is still doing well with his chickens and allotment (truly John, you can't be more behind than we are this year!) and Lou, did you get your chickens?? Now I have hopefully sorted this, please comment away.

A grey and wet morning here in South London, the girls are staying in the run today - me thinks that Harriet would be straight out there for a mud bath.

Have a happy Thursday folks, the weekend isn't far away at all.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

2011 and as the song goes "Things can only get better"

Firstly thank you one and all for your messages regarding Mum and her passing, they were greatly appreciated. It seemed fitting that after such a hard winter on the day of her ceremony the weather reciprocated and it was almost spring like and the first snowdrops were pushing through.

Snowdrops for Mum

Somehow winter seems to have been in the right time frame this year - Christmas in Cheshire was classic and white, lots of cold and snow. January was wet and now into early February all is mild-ish (a couple of chill nights have been no problem).

The tree ferns survived the winter but that garden needs a good tidy and sort out

No doubt there is a price to pay and we will have more cold weather but at the moment the very start of spring is already here with lots of bulbs up. The daffodils are flowering (I admit they are a very early flowering variety), hellebores and cyclamen all in flower and the girls fully moulted and laying up a storm - heading for mid-February and we are currently collecting three eggs a day.

Miss Ruby enjoying some winter sun

Of course the girls get every opportunity to go out into the garden, the positive points being that any stupid slug or snail even vaguely tempted out into the late winter warmth is instantly eaten, the downside is that any bulbs or budding plants are trashed in search of such gastropods. There is also such a huge temptation to get into any available pot and have a dust/damp soil bath!

Do you think if I planted Tallulah we could grow some chickens?

On a final note and to those of you that actually read my New Year resolutions

1. Doing very well on using everything we buy with a few exceptions which are more down to my storage methods (or actually remembering where I put food). Failures included half a swede that reverted to a throbbing green state and has gone to the great compost heap and two lots of tomatoes that ended up being shrivelled treats for the chickens and they loved them! Portion sizes are still to large though hence the size of my bearish tum.

2. Not bought ANY cookery magazines

Proof indeed of the early flowering South London daffodil


Here's hoping for continued sunshine, eggs and remember that Spring really isn't too far away

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Gone but never forgotten

Joyce Ellis
My gorgeous Mum
28th August 1937 - 9th January 2011


God saw you getting tired,
And a cure was not to be,
So He put His arms around you
And whispered “Come to Me”.
With tearful eyes we watched you,
and saw you pass away.
Although we loved you dearly,
We could not make you stay.
A Golden Heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands to rest,
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2011 - Happy New Year

Ah, the arrival of another year with all that it will bring.

For us it was a quiet transition from 2010 to 2011 mainly as I has a stinking cold so was in bed with a raging temperature at 22:00.

The chickens spent the day ranging around the garden and enjoying a fresh corn cob in celebration. Even bigger news is that Harriet has now become bored with broodiness - she is THE most stubborn broody in the world and despite everything we do she will just stay as broody as she wants as long as she wants. This time she has been broody for almost 8 weeks!

Harriet now OFF the nest

Throughout the extreme cold and snowy weather eggs have been very scarce indeed with only Tallulah laying the occasional very thin shelled eggs. The end of year brought a thaw and now that temperatures have reached a more seasonal norm Nigella has started laying as well! It's good to have a few home produced eggs again - although it's been noted many times, our eggs are on a completely different level to those bought from shops in both taste and colour and just SO yummy.

They always say that never make any resolutions until after the celebrations of the New Year so you clearly know what you are saying. Well worry not, I'm not a person to make any such rash promises however I do think that there is so much more that we as a family and me as a person can utilise even though we think we are fairly good. I also don't think that we make enough of what we already have SO this year we are going to have a concerted effort at:
  • not buying more than we are going to eat
  • eat everything that we grow on the allotment and if we can't eat if fresh use it in a different way (chilli and tomato jam I made last year for example)
  • using left-overs
and finally
  • not buying any cookery magazines for an entire year as I have so many cookbooks anyway so I'm going to use them more
So let's see how we do over the next 12 months

Nigella and Tallulah in a winter garden

So from Hens in the City we wish you a very wonderful 2011 and hope that at least one of your dreams comes true in the forthcoming year.