Monthly Archives: February 2016

Chicks are a fortnight old

These eleven little chicks are dear little things but I’m trying not to get attached to them.  For one thing, they become less appealing once they’re in that awkward in-between stage, half grown and a bit rowdy.  For another, I know a number of them will be cocks and I can’t spare them.  For another, I’ve got more chickens than I want already.  And yet there are at least a couple of them that I can’t help hoping are girls, so I can keep them.  One has a striped back like a partridge chick, whilst being yellow otherwise and another is, as its feathers (rather than baby down) emerge, charmingly tweedy speckles.  Others seem to have black spots, which is rather sweet.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I can’t let them range free again – the flock, that is – because I found looking after several coopsful of chicks and their mothers was a miserable experience last summer and I don’t want it to happen again.

I’m quite torn, I have to confess.  I’m fond of the chickens but they’re something of a burden.  So are the tortoises.  I honestly don’t want to keep them – the tortoises, that is – but I can’t let them go to just anyone.  I know I’m doing a good job with the Tots – they’re not that hard to look after, but it’s very easy to get it wrong and the first few years of their life is crucial for their long-term health.  I suspect I have too strong an inclination to feel responsible for things I don’t need to.  It’s a nuisance.

I’ve remembered a possible anecdote about my mother’s young life (if you remember, some years ago I wrote a series of posts about my family ‘history’) – I have a feeling I haven’t mentioned this – I say possible because I might have.  I must look back to see if I’ve ever mentioned raspberry jam.  In connection with cocoa.

Sunday post

Annually, Weeza’s boss, who has a rather lovely Queen Anne house and a large, informal garden surrounded by woodland, opens the grounds to benefit a couple of local charities.  They serve soup, hot dogs and wine – it’s a nice, relaxed occasion and we went along to it today.  Weeza and Phil, as well as being friends with the boss and his wife (they were friends before she worked for him), have some other mutual friends, first having met because their children were all the same age.

It was Bubbles’ 8th birthday today, so the children of that age went off for the birthday jolly and Lovely Tim and I took Gus and Jess off after lunch.  We had shopping to do, then went back to Weeza and Phil’s place and then, in due course, drove the children back to McDo’s where the birthday party was having tea.  We were highly entertained by the conversation of the two little ones in the back of the car.  They’re great friends and had been wonderfully good (and needed no looking after) all afternoon.  When their conversation dropped for a few minutes, Jess started singing to her teddy bear: I’m a little teddy bear short and stout.  Here’s my arm, here’s my ear.  And then, I’m a little teddy bear upside down…  It was delightful.

Zerlina and Gus are staying with us for a couple of days, as it’s half-term.  By the time we got home, it was bed time, and they went straight up without demur.  I suspect I’ll be making pancakes for breakfast tomorrow, with Nutella.  Actually, we’re rather relying on it.  I can’t remember what we had for dinner last Tuesday, but we were too full for pancakes afterwards, so deferred the treat.  Ours will have lemon and sugar, though.  Except that LT should try a Nutella pancake at least once, as it’s gorgeous.  I don’t want to eat it more than once in about five years, but at that moment it’s absurdly delicious.

Z’s afternoon on the tiles

I was reluctantly starting again on the clear-out in the study yesterday at about noon (I hardly know what to do next) when my friend Graham arrived on his tractor.  So I went outside to help instead.  There were several hundred roof tiles that had been stacked against one of the barns, but which I wanted to move.  Most of them had been put on pallets, but some were just on sheets of corrugated tin.  Graham had brought some extra pallets.  So I showed him where they were to go and he took the first load on his fork-lift.

The tiles had been stacked too high to move safely, so I removed half from each lot on to another pallet, then scurried round to the barn to restack them, so as not to waste space.  It was a heavy job.  I’ve ended up with seven pallets, each with between 70 and 100 tiles (at a guess) and I shifted half of them twice.  Graham also moved some concrete kerbs left from when we resurfaced the drive and extended its width, a few years ago.

Still some way to go, but the tidying up of this place is progressing again.  I have no idea why Russell wanted it to look like a particularly scruffy reclamation yard, but it was impossible to change his ways. Yet I know that he would have been pleased to see it looking good again.  All a mystery to me.  Anyway, I’m not quite on track because of the septic tank problem, which has to take precedence, but I’ll get there.

The mills of Z grind slowly

I’m marginally better with the clarinet, but it’s still audibly hard work.  I looked up the date when I said I was going to take lessons again – it was January 2007.  Well, I am.  I get things done, it just sometimes takes a while.

The phone rang, sometime after 10 this morning and when LT was just getting ready to leave for his other home (and mine, of course).  It was the Rector, wondering if I’d be free to play for the Ash Wednesday service?  “You mean today?” I asked, intelligently (well, I thought so, he didn’t say as much).  And yes, he meant at noon today.

I didn’t need more notice, not really, so I said yes, it’d be a pleasure, and turned up half an hour early to tinkle the ivories, as I hadn’t played the organ for about three months.  It was fine.  There were die-hard churchgoers there, they hardly needed accompaniment.  I baulked at the smearing of ash on the forehead, though.  I just can’t.  It’s not the ash, it’s the whole religious ritual thing.  When i was at a Roman Catholic school, it was one of the weird things the Catholics did, not the sensible Anglicans.  And I grit my teeth and smile at lighting candles in someone’s memory, if it’s the thing to do, but greasy ash just isn’t possible.  Fortunately, I was interviewing later so I had an easy and true excuse.

One of the latest clutch of chicks has the cutest stripes, I do hope it turns out to be a girl.  The back is almost like that of a partridge chick, though the wings and breast are yellow and bantam chick-like.  Of the five half-grown bantams, I’m reasonably sure that two are girls, but I’ve a feeling the others aren’t, which is a pity.  I can’t keep more surplus cocks.

I have a few fairly clear days, in terms of my diary, so must get on with things.  I’m immensely looking forward to having Zerlina and Gus for a few days over half term.  LT will be back here by then too, so it’ll be absolutely brilliant.  Until then, it just has to be productive, one way or another.

Some jolly chit-chat from a post of mine on Facebook this evening.  Almost like blogging in the old days, when comments took on a life of their own.  But we’re still here, at least.  And now I’ll catch up on Scrabble and so on, as I’ve got a bit of time on my hands.  And reading blogs, of course.

Z gets down and dirty

Honestly, Saturday could have been more fun than it was.  I’ve taken two days off just to get over it.

It all started a week earlier when Roses noticed that … oh dear, the delicacy required here … some of that which she thought had been flushed away for good was reappearing outside her window.  So my Best and Most Wonderful Friend came round with some drain rods.  I’m going to draw a heavy tarpaulin around the next couple of hours but it turned out that the septic tank was a bit full, which it shouldn’t have been.  And my septic tank was too, which was only emptied last summer and should have lasted for years.

Saturday was to be the day to sort it.  BMWF thought that the annexe septic tank drained into the house one, which I was fairly sure it didn’t, but we both agreed that mine needed sorting first, in case.  And a lot of bucketing of water happened.  This was not unpleasant water, the bacteria do a good job in breaking down and purifying – however, it’s not great fun, especially once we realised that the septic tank guy had left about 18 inches of sludge in the bottom and BMWF couldn’t find the outlet to rod it out.  At this time I wanted to get in touch with a different septic tank guy (I’d not been going to use the same one in any case, I reckoned he’d well overcharged me) and get the tanks emptied before going further, but I was overruled.  We bucketed out, um, sediment.  Not actually sewage, as I said, but it was sludgy, as the rabbits in the warren we tipped it into will have discovered.

Fast forward a few hours and we found the outlet pipe and it was thoroughly blocked with earth.  So BMWF got to work with a spade for an hour or so and it was discovered that a section of pipe has dropped and broken, a foot or so underground.  It’s clay pipe, no point in trying to insert a section, so I’ll have to have a trench dug, it be removed and replaced.  It’s around 20 yards long at a guess.

I lay in a bathful of scented water with just my nose sticking out for a while.  I was tired, stiff and achy.  And I wasn’t even doing much of the work.  LT has discovered rather more than he expected about life in the country.  He really didn’t expect to be barrowing the contents of a cesspit.

Oh for the wing of a Z…

LT has been initiated into village life, dear patient man that he is.  We’ve been to a meeting of the Village Festival committee.  I explained from the outset that he was there because he was interested, but that he’s not in a position to join the committee at this time (I’m sure he was desperately grateful for that, though it’s just occurred to me that, next year, he could take my place on the committee) and he was welcomed.  And then we came home for wild boar casserole.

It turned out that I didn’t have any recipes for wild boar casserole.  I had recipes for the meat but as chops or a joint.  I sort of thought juniper berries and was going to wing it, though I could have found a recipe online of course, but remembered a lovely hare casserole in a Sophie Grigson book and thought that would translate, and so it did.  Except that LT thought that a few more juniper berries (4 in the marinade, 6 in the casserole, crushed in each case) would be in order, and I decided on port in the marinade rather than red wine.

I’ve practised the clarinet twice today, which is going rather better, though I found myself breathless as well as flabby of lip after a while.  I sight-read several of the pieces, which entailed a certain amount of cussing and chuckling when I got it wrong or, worse, didn’t remember how to play a note.  It doesn’t matter, it’s fun to wing it and, as you know, I love to have fun.

They call the wind Mary. Oh.

A second clarinet lesson this evening – I’d been finding practice a bit of an effort, but Cheryll has, quite rightly, decided that I need to find this fun and so has downloaded and printed a number of pieces, from Summertime via The Entertainer to The Flight of the Bumblebee which she thinks I’ll enjoy having a go at.  And half an hour’s lesson is still quite enough for me, as I run out of breath and embouchure by the end of it, but it’ll get better.  LT says it will, so it clearly will.

A problem with the drains, or rather the septic tanks’ outlet.  This is a fairly yucky job but, as LT is discovering, life in the country has its smellier side.  It’ll get sorted out tomorrow, but not by me, I’m afraid.  I have a meeting.

In other news, Wink has jetted off to New York for a few days, just for fun.  Thank goodness Henry has moved on.  Has anyone else noticed that it seems to be windier more regularly, now that we give them names?  I think we’ve encouraged them.  I looked them up a few weeks ago, I was really hoping that M, when it comes along, would be Maria.  Someone missed a trick there, then.

Z rants half-heartedly

I’m not unusual (really, surely?) in getting a good many emails, many of them quite unwelcome.  Over the holiday period, I got quite cross when, on Christmas Day,. I had a number of advertising emails.  You’d think they could leave us alone for once in a while.

You’d think I’d simply unsubscribe or mark them as spam – trouble is that firms I use are as much nuisance as those I don’t.  John Lewis, for example, sends frequent advertisements, often to boast that they’re matching a competitor’s prices (which I thought they were supposed to do all the time) – and I buy from them sometimes, just not what they advertise.  And then I had an email complaining that I haven’t been buying what they advertise.  I wasn’t too pleased.  And last year I bought seeds from two companies, both of which send ‘updates’ at least once a week.  Liz Earle, whose face cleanser is the best I’ve ever used, is a pain in the arse with its constant ads.

And while I’m on the subject, I do get quite irritated by the language they use.  “Hurry,” for example.  “Last chance!” – which it never is, of course.  “When  it’s gone, it’s gone” is probably the cream of the crop for annoyance value.  “We miss you,” they sometimes whine.  ‘Just for you.”  Though yesterday, Boots suggested I might enjoy a free NHS Eye Health check.  I have my eyes tested every year and I’ve never enjoyed it yet.

Anyway, when I got home after my various Yuletide visits, I went to the computer to mark all these things as spam, thinking that they’d then be diverted to the spam folder rather than the inbox, but that I could retrieve them if I wanted to.  But it wasn’t as simple as that, it wanted to stop them coming … oh, the ins and outs are boring and I can’t bother you with them – nor me, actually – and in the end I succumbed to downloading the gmail app.  And so the advertising emails go into the designated folder and I simply don’t look at them (occasionally at the subject line, just to be sure there’s nothing I actually do want to read).  There are several hundred of them.  I feel rather more free than I did.  But I’m still a bit annoyed at having to download google.

It’s evidently been a quiet day at the Zeddary – or anyway, it was.  LT is here now and all is gaiety and hahahaha.

Z is a bit down

I meant to finish the study today but it didn’t happen.  I ran out of verve or even determination. I dealt with another batch of papers, keeping a couple of folders-full and burning the rest, toddled off to the supermarket for provisions and then I sat down with a cup of tea and the paper.  Eloise sat on my lap, firmly making it clear that I wasn’t to read.  After a few minutes, I sneaked a look at the other paper, and she moved onto that.  So I accepted the rightness of her judgement and we snuggled down together and went to sleep.

Later, I went out to feed the chickens, who were shut up today because it’s so windy – I knew they’d moistly just huddle under the hedge.  And there was one of the black bantams, pecking away at some spilt corn, surrounded by newly-hatched chicks.  I was utterly dismayed.  I didn’t say so because I was too upset but a fox got a few chickens the other week – I thought three, but evidently two, one of them had gone away to sit.  I still have a coop in the greenhouse so I gathered up the chicks in a pail and the mother under my arm – there are eleven chicks.  Eleven!  I’ve still got five half-grown ones, whose mother has now been returned to the flock and I don’t yet know what sex they are.  Twenty full-grown bantams, including the cock.  I went into town and bought chick crumbs and mother was very pleased with herself as she settled down with her brood.

I think I’m going to have to make a bigger run and not let the chickens be free-range any more.  I’m really sad about this, they love to have the freedom of the garden and I like to see them, but I can’t have this any more.  Even if I have the cockerel killed, which seems so mean, they’ll lay away and hide their eggs.  I can’t take it any more, last summer defeated me.

Edweena was moving about in her hibernation spot this afternoon.  I think I’d better tidy up the indoor run in case she wakes up in the next few days.

On the other hand, Eloise is being adorably cuddly at present.  And Tim is coming back home (where he lives is also home, of course) tomorrow, so we’ll be happy again.  Bit of housework to do first though, all that paper burning made a lot of dust, even by my casual standards.  I’ll just shut the door on the study for a day or two.