Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Yesterday we went to our allotment after a week of unsettled rainy weather.
We thought the weeds would be knee high, but no. They hadn't really started after the near drought.


The beans however had started to take off, both  Borlotti and runner, so we had a nice picking from them. The beans are so pretty. white flowers on the Borlotti and red on the runners. I believe they were originally used as ornamental garden plants as were tomatoes or 'love apples'.

 The carrots had cheered up from their limp distressed state and were getting fat and juicy. We have done a lot better with carrots this year. The last two years they have not done well at all.         


The cabbages had also grown quite a bit. We took home a bag of main crop potatoes, 3 cabbages, sweet corn, beans, spinach, lettuce, mange tout peas and a load of weeds for the rabbits and chickens, very little wasted on our plot.

The sweet corn, although the plants are small has actually produced some nice cobs. This was the last year of growing sweet corn unless it actually produced something. The last three years it has been a waste of growing space. So a reprieve for another year.

We have noticed that after three years of rotavating, the docks and dandelions are very much fewer, mostly growing where the paths are by the compost bins. The weeds this year are annual grasses, Chickweed, Fat Hen, Sun Spurge and Shepherd's Purse. The only perennial weed still a nuisance is Couch Grass, but even that we are getting under control. Couch Grass is not useless, it is a good herb for urinary infections and soothes inflammation.

Most weeds have medicinal propeties, Dock is a purgative and the root can be used to obtain a yellow dye. Dandelion is a diuretic, hence it's common name of wet-the-bed, it is also useful in spring as a tonic and blanched leaves can be used as a salad leaf. Chickweed is full of iron and is often given to budgies, it also is a cooling and soothing herb that relieves itching, promotes healing and has anti-rheumatic properties. Fat Hen can be used as a vegetable as can Nettles. Shepherd's Purse can be used to stop bleeding. Sun Spurge however is toxic although the milky sap is said to be a wound healer.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Change of seasons

The nights are drawing in, dark at 8.45p.m. Soon winter will be here, the season of Crafts, .

During the day, while the rain pours down outside, I can knit on one of my many machines, or make some patchwork using a vintage treadle or hand crank.

I have never been a winter person, I like hot days and summer sunshine, but since I have lived in a small village in Leicestershire, I have grown to love the change of seasons, each with it's own occupation.

Crafts in the winter, snuggled indoors against the cold, sitting knitting or crocheting by the fire, drinking tea from porcelain cups. Hand quilting while watching TV. Hearty stews and soups to warm you up.

Planning the vegetables for the allotment and greenhouse in early spring, frantic planting of seeds in the greenhouse and watching them shoot up, back breaking work down the allotment to get everything in in time, if the soil is dry enough to dig.

Then the slower pace of summer, hoeing and hand weeding, picking the first harvests of lettuce, radishes, baby carrots and rocket. The first taste of new potatoes fresh dug and brought straight home and into the pot. The glut of runner beans and courgettes, sweet corn if the weather has been sunny enough, you can't beat the taste of a raw cob picked from the plant and eaten straight away. Raspberries and strawberries picked and eaten there and then, full of juice and flavour.

Autumn, the final preparations to bed down the allotment for winter, clear out the greenhouses and batten the hatches for the long dark nights with rain, gales, snow and frost. Getting the rabbit and chicken sheds draughtproofed so the animals stay snug and warm in the worst of the winter cold. Last year we didn't have chickens and the sheds we have will need an extra layer of either bubble wrap for warmth or plywood to keep out the draughts. Fortunately chickens are hot creatures and huddle together for warmth.

Time also to make  preserves, elderberry syrup for winter coughs, wine to drink next year, jams and jellies for my son-in-law for Christmas. Maybe even to try my hand at cider making. Soap making for the winter orders in the posh shop in London.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Yet more chickens

Well,  a lot has happened since I last blogged. We have 2 new chickens. Last week, a huge cockerel was found wandering in someone's garden just down the road. Ours is only a small village, about 55 houses and most people have been here quite a while. We have been here 15 years in November. I digress, the lad in whose garden the cockerel was found thought it belonged next door so put it in their garden. Jacob found it in his garden trying to fight with his cockerel. He tried to find it's owner, it can't have come far as it can't fly. No-one owned up to it so he was going to wring it's neck. We heard about it from our neighbour and said we would keep it for a few days and see if the owner could be found (ha ha).

This is him, and a very handsome chap he is. We have identified him as a Cochin, one of the largest and gentlest chicken breeds. Not sure what colour he is, but all the people on the Chicken forums I belong to agree he is worth keeping as he is gorgeous.

We kept him in one of our rabbit sheds with his bed in an indoor cage base for several days. No owner coming forward we decided to keep him. We also decided he needed a lady friend, so I did a lot of online research and the nearest I could find breeding Cochins was near Lincoln. I spoke to the breeder and he said mature hens would cost us £25 each so we decided to have a think about that. By the time we had paid for fuel it would work out quite expensive. Then we spoke to a local farmer we know in the next village and he knew of this lad in Bitteswell which is about 4 miles from us. We went to have a look and he has got Cochins. We agreed to have a black one and a white one.

Because they are farm chickens, they haven't been that well looked after and the white one we picked up on Sunday (Duchess) was a bit battered from an Orpington cockerels attentions. She had been kept in a shed with 4 other hens and a cockerel. She had pooh in large lumps stuck on her claws, making it difficult for her to walk, it was so hard we had to cut it off with wire cutters. She also had it stuck on her foot feathers so we had to get it off them. then her bottom was dirty so we had to clean that up. She is a lovely girl though, very gentle, Windsor (named after Windsor Davies because he is a lovely boy) thinks she is fine. He sidled round her a few times and then jumped on her. She put up with it all as hens do, then wandered off up the garden.

Phil had been making a shed for them out of a large rabbit hutch which we got from our neighbour. It was intended for the chicks but we have others.  I cleared and levelled the piece of ground at the end of the garden where we intended putting them, then Phil started on a run, very makeshift but it will do for now. Most of our 'do for nows' last indefinitely, I think the same can be said for a lot of back yard chicken keepers.

Shed and run done, we put them in and left them to it. The fence wasn't very high as they can't fly and we figured he wouldn't be able to jump very far, wrong! He is an escape artist. We put a shed side on the lowest side of the run as he was just jumping on the next run roof and then out. Then Phil put chicken wire on the top of the side of the run. The shed itself was high enough so he couldn't get over that. He still got out. We had let the ex-batts and Nankins out because we thought he was securely penned in and I was upstairs when I heard a fearful commotion. I shouted for Phil and we hot footed it into the garden and found Windsor and Del boy fighting, both covered in blood.

We separated them and I grabbed Del while Phil grabbed Windsor. Widnsor was put back in his run and Phil held Del while I went ofr Tea Tree water, cotton wool and towels. Del was a real mess, he had puncture wounds in his comb and wattles, I don't know how long they had been fighting, but the blood was starting to clot. I cleaned it all up and dried him off then we dumped him in the cage Windsor slept in the first two nights. He was not at all amused.  Then we started on Windsor. Because he is so heavy, Phil had to hold him while I cleaned him up. I didn't find any damage on him, I think all the blood was Del's. Although Del is a stroppy little so and so, Windsor has a height and weight advantage. We put Windsor back in his run and he seemed very shocked and never attempted to get out again. We put Del back in with his ladies later that night, once the blood had clotted. It didn't seem a good idea to be putting a bleeding chicken in with others. They go mad at the sight of blood. While I was cleaning Del up, they started grabbing the bloody cotton wool and running off trying to eat it.

This morning all is peace and calm. Del and Windsor don't seem any the worse for their set to. Dell still looks bruised and bloody, but he is crowing like a good un. Windsor has the garden to himself this morning.  We still haven't worked out how he is escaping, but we have blocked off the gap underneath the shed in case he is getting out there. We shall see!

Duchess seems to be a home body, she likes to be in her shed, sitting about. She loves having a supply of clean fresh water, the bucket they had in their shed on the farm was green, yuk, the floor was covered in pooh, no shavings or straw. I told her she'd get a lot better treatment in our house. She is so gentle, she's not keen on Windsor's attentions, so she tends to hide from him. I found her yesterday behind a piece of Novolux roofing sheet which had been removed from one run while we made theirs. I will take some pics of her and post them tomorrow.

She has a very battered back and sides, her back feathers are all broken, she has scuff marks on her sides just under her wings where the cockerels claws have scraped her, so I have decided to make her a chicken saddle or apron. This is the sort of thing I mean -
                                            You can also get butterfly saddles which may be the way to go as Duchess has damage to her wings as well. You can buy them from this website -

Apart from that, life has been quite quiet!  I am off to North Devon next Monday to stay with my daughter Sarah for a week. It's been 3 1/2 months since I've seen her and Casie and  Rowan. I got a bargain from National Express, I heard it on the car radio when we were down the fishing lakes last week, go anywhere in the UK for £9 single journey. Going down to Devon costs about £60 return. I checked when I got home and sure enough it was true. I hadn't decided when I was going to Devon, it just had to be before the 25th August when my ex-husband was coming home and would be at Sarah's for an indefinite time period. I phoned her to tell her the good news and we decided I would go down on 8th August and return on 16th. I went online to book it and whwn I put in I was over 60, the fare that came up was £4.50. I couldn't beliwve it. Devon and back for £9. I rang Sara and told her I was booked it, but the fare wasn't £9, it was half that.

It's unfortunate that Phil can't come down this time and leave me there, but we didn't have £100 to spare for fuel there and back and my return fare. We will go down in the car and take all the stuff we need to take in a couple of months when David has gone back to America.

Poor Phil will be carrying the can looking after all the animals while I am away. I know he has done it before, but we have 28 chickens now in 5 pens. We have to sort out the chicks and remove them from their Mm's this week. Ginger's are already away from her because she was pecking them badly. Her chicks fight with Zinny the bantam/Araucana cross, so we will put Marje's chick with Zinny in one of the big indoor cages for a couple of days, then add one of Ginger's and do it that way. Bessie's aren't due to leave her for another week. That means that Ginger, Babs and Marje will all be back in with Rocky while I am away, and the chicks will be in the chickery in 2 separate lots.

That's enough for today I think.