Monthly Archives: August 2017

Odds and sods from the Razor blade.

1 –     Chicken dynamics seems to be changing daily and the main problem is that there isn’t room for Clawd at present.  I don’t know what to do.

Jet, Yvette and Crow get on well

Jet and Mona get on well.

Big Brown and Big Black get on well with each other and are okay with Mona and Yvette.

Big Brown chases Jet.

Crow does not like Big Black and chases her from mealworms.

Everyone used to be wary of Mona but something has changed and she’s become much more subdued.  She doesn’t chase anyone now.  I’ve a feeling she’s wary of Big Brown, though I haven’t seen any shenanigans.

Yvette seems to be fine with everyone.  But the two Bigs chase Jet.

Big Brown used to be scared of everyone but since she started laying eggs, which she does daily, she’s gained a lot of confidence and can throw her considerable weight round.

They all go for Clawd.  So he’s in his own coop for now and I don’t know what to do.  Oh, I said that already.  But that’s how it is.

2  –    This week, we’re preparing the catalogue for the next sale and I’ve got a few more lots than I really want.  But the more ordinary lots came in sooner, the later ones are those I want.  I’ll let you know when the catalogue goes on the website, which probably will be in about a fortnight.

3 –    Alex and co came over today.  They’ve been off camping but it rained overnight, the last night, so they had to put the tent away wet.  So they wanted to put it up on our lawn to dry out.  It’s very impressive – a big living area and three small sleeping pods, each big enough for two sleeping bags – but it inflates!  Al uses a foot pump and it goes up in no time, then pegs and some uprights are added for stability.  They stayed for lunch and Squiffany, in particular, loved our bread and butter pickle, so I gave them a jar.  It really is splendid stuff and very easy to make, so I suspect she’ll take over pickling in their house.

4 –    Weeza and the children are coming over tomorrow, and photography and china-examining will take place.  I must either hide or wrap the children’s birthday presents – both have birthdays this week.  So does Eloise cat, who will be three on Friday, which is also Zerlina’s ninth birthday.  Eloise cat was born two days before Russell died.  I relive that summer every year and this seems to be especially difficult.  The well-known Z self-control is held by a thread.


Relaxing with Z

We mostly took a day off today.  Roses came through and we ate and drank and laughed and talked and it certainly did me good.  Letting go of things and relaxing is a kindness to the heart and the mind.

I did make a batch of tomato relish, from the same book – indeed, the same page – as we make our jalapeño relish, which I hope means it’ll be good.  It doesn’t have to be kept as long as chutney before being tried, I don’t think.  The other achievement of the day was setting up the new printer.  My old one isn’t very old, but it’s had great trouble staying connected to my computer since I got a new BT hub a few months ago.  I’ve spent hours on it, finally got it working, only to discover it had got lost again a few days later.  And then I accidentally, while meaning only to remove it from a list and replace it again, seemed to have deleted it entirely from the computer and the website was singularly unhelpful.  I got it back on again, had it apparently all ready to go and then it kept giving an error message – and I gave up and just bought a new and better one.  I do have a monochrome laser printer but i can’t really manage without a colour printer nor a scanner, so here we go.  I relied rather heavily on LT to set it up as I’ve been thoroughly discouraged, and I’m not trying to set up my phone nor use the scanner until tomorrow..

I’ve separated the big chickens and Crow the cock from the two little Seramas – I’m not sure that this is entirely the best thing for them, as they’d all been getting on pretty well, but something has to be done for Clawd.  So far, he’s quarrelling with Jet and Yvette, so I’ve shut him in his own coop for the night.  But they’re all three the same size and I don’t think they’ll squabble for long.

After all the eating and drinking of the day, we didn’t feel like having a substantial dinner tonight, so just had scrambled eggs.  They need to be eaten anyway – although none of them is the size of a hen’s egg, I’m finding between two and four a day.

Clawd and the pussy cat went to see…….

Clawd the young cockerel spent the night in a coop in the chickens’ greenhouse.  I went to let him out with the others in the morning but he was so busy having a dustbath that he didn’t notice the door was open.  So I shut it again and left him until later, I didn’t want to risk leaving him alone with much bigger chickens that might be aggressive.  In fact, when I did let him out, he cheerily thought he could share one of the big hen’s mealworms and she put him right indignantly, then Crow the established cock chased him, so I really don’t think I can leave him with them.  We’ll separate them out once the stapling has been done – the staples haven’t been delivered yet.

The interesting animal behaviour wasn’t among the chickens, though.  We haven’t seen RasPutin, the big tabby father of the barn cats, since we arrived home last weekend, until we heard angry cat noises while we were having coffee this morning, and I saw Rummy, Rose’s cat, and RasPutin fighting on the gravel.  I went out and told them to stop – Eloise cat came indoors, rolling her eyes – and they did, but Rummy followed RasPutin, evidently wanting to carry on the fight once my back was turned.  I told him no, firmly, and he just grumbled.  But later, when I was going to the henhouse, I saw RasPutin again and could see that he’s got quite thin.  I don’t know why, we’d have fed him any time, but he’s clearly not had enough to eat.  It wasn’t feeding time but I went and put down an extra tin of meat and stroked him while he started to eat.  I hope he’ll come back tomorrow, he wasn’t there when I went out to feed them this evening.

Having fed him (and his opportunist children, who got an extra meal) I went into the henhouse as described above and, while watching the chickens, I noted Rummy walking along with his back arched.  And then I spotted Zain, the tabby cat, who was squaring up to Rummy.  Zain isn’t an aggressive cat and he’s quite small, but he’s not timorous either.  He was at the corner of the greenhouse, which is just a few yards away from the Dutch barn where I feed the cats and where Zain’s father Rasputin was eating.

Rummy can be pugnacious.  And he hates the barn cats.  But Zain was not intimidated and just stood there and it was Rummy who, stiff-legged, turned and walked away.  I’m quite sure that Zain was defending his weakened father.  He sat at the corner of the greenhouse where he could see in each direction – where he didn’t look was up, because Rummy jumped up onto the greenhouse and walked along to look down on what was happening.

At this point, LT came along and the tableau was broken, which was just as well.

The hens are laying well – the young, big brown hen is laying every day; her eggs are distinctive.  And both Seramas have laid today and so has one of the others, but I’n not sure if it’s Mona, the remaining bantam, or the new big black one.  Four out of five is good, anyway.  Only a few weeks ago, they were all off lay, or too young, and I even had to buy eggs.

Chicks better scurry

I can’t remember how much I’ve said about the new chickens – the flock having been reduced to a single survivor by foxes earlier in the year, we picked up two little Serama bantam hens and a cock from blog friend Compostwoman to join her, as well as half a dozen fertile eggs, which we slipped under Rose’s broody bantam (herself one of my chicks from a couple of years ago)  The three  chicks we ended up with were growing well at about 10 weeks old when one of them was found dead one morning.  It had been perfectly well the night before.  Worse, another one died that night.  There wasn’t a mark on either of them, nor the survivor, who looked fine.  We were quite sure it wasn’t a predator or bird flu, nor anything else we could think of and it remains a mystery.

We hadn’t yet known whether they were boys or girls but were pretty sure they were all the same sex and were keeping our fingers crossed – however, Rose decided to bring the little remaining one into the house and a couple of days later he started to crow.  So, still sad and upset as we were, we reckoned that three extra cockerels would be a headache – as they were in Rose’s garden and she was looking after them, they’d rather become pets, more so than I’ve allowed them to become when I have chicks as sometimes it’s necessary to cull surplus cocks.  Upsetting as this is, it’s inevitable as they may well fight to the death sooner or later.

All this was about three weeks ago and he’s very pretty little cockerel with a charming nature.  However, she realises that he’d rather be with other poultry really, but her chickens chase him.

Back to my henhouse – my friend Lynn, on hearing about the death of our bantams, offered me a couple of her young pullets, which she’d hatched from eggs she’d been given.  So we went over to pick them up in June – at about four months old, it was apparent what sex most of the young ones were and she very kindly gave us two that were certainly female.  They are also big – the eggs were, she was told, bantam eggs but these hens are large!  They were also very nervous and my bantam gave them the runaround, especially the rather worried-looking brown one.  But the two newbies have started laying eggs now and have gained in confidence, with the result that one of the Seramas, a tiny black girl called Jet, is now bottom of the pecking order.

So that’s the situation at present and I don’t want it to continue.  Jet is a dear little hen and not easily distressed, but she’s being chased from the nicest food and she’s spending most of her time alone.  So I came up with the suggestion that the 40-foot long greenhouse that’s their main run should be split in half with net – it’s the green net that’s used for shading purposes, so it’s not very see-through – and the two big hens, the original bantam and the older Serama cock live in one part and the two Serama girls and the young cock, which Rose has named Clawd, in the other.  The bigger ones will also have access to the original hen house and I’ll bring through some nest boxes and make a sleeping area more enclosed for the little ones.  Rose’s three bantam hens and the cockerel will live in their run in her garden, of course.

LT and I talked it through and he suggested a couple of improvements on my plan and then I spoke to Rose who will miss Clawd in the house because he’s cute, but also appreciate not having to go round with paper towels all the time and not hear him crowing early in the morning.  He’s been staying here for a couple of days and he really is sweet, but at least he sleeps in the porch.  Wince the gardener was very pleased to hear we’d got a Plan – I love your Plans, he said – and set about implementing it at once.  Apart from the annoyance of finding that a lad I’d employed while Stevo had a broken collar bone had used all the staples in the staple gun and not bothered to let me know, all has gone well and there were enough staples there to put the net in place, and the job will be finished tomorrow.

Z is in a pickle. Or pickling, at any rate.

We picked a lot of damsons in LT’s garden, about 10 pounds of them, as I mentioned the other day.  Tim gave a couple of pounds to Weeza – I’ve no idea how grateful she was – to make damson gin or vodka, half of the rest we’ve made into jam and the rest we decided to turn into chutney, and that’s what has been done today.  We tried using a cherry stoner but it was going to take ages and, though we’ll keep that idea in mind, what we actually did was cook the damsons gently in their own juice, sieve them and then – Tim did this bit – pick out the stones from the rest.

\We also had ten days’ worth of cucumbers and a couple of pints of milk, so I also made yoghurt and some bread and butter pickles.  And it seems to have taken a lot of the day..  But the day was wet and dreary and we wouldn’t have been doing much else anyway.  We went out for lunch – which was superb, Yagnub is very well served for lunch places and we spread our custom round all of them, they’re all worth going to.  And we just bought a loaf of bread and I dropped off my newspaper vouchers into the newsagents and we congratulated ourselves that we didn’t need any more shopping.  Until I was measuring out the spices for the pickles and found that I was almost out of mustard seed, so had to go in after all.  Since it was already 6.30 in the evening, it’s just as well that supermarkets stay open late nowadays.  It’s all done now, potted up and ready for the store cupboard.

And I’m going to finish reading the paper and make conversation with LT.  Here we both are, each on our separate computer…..

In the meantime, another glass of wine, perhaps.

Another life in Z’s day

The day went smoothly, just not as planned.  I set off for the station on time, the train arrived and left on time, I got to the flat without any problems.  I unpacked my stuff, evaluated what I needed and set off for the supermarket.

What I was there to do was to paint the stairs; the actual treads.  Everything else has been done.  I was going to go tomorrow but I’ve got a cleaner booked and I thought the paint should have an extra day to dry, so I postponed my appointment here until Friday.  But the first change was when the agent phoned asking if I could drop off a key by quarter to one, because she’d got a couple who wanted to view at one o’clock.  So I said yes, all right, I can do my painting in the afternoon.

I’d been to Sainsbury’s and fetched the other things I needed and was on my way back when I had another call from the agent.  Another person wanted to view at five o’clock.  Hmm.  I explained about the staircase.  She said maybe it won’t matter, she’ll check it out when she comes at one.

And, as is well known, I’m a sensible Z.  The agents don’t think anyone will be put off at all by the stairs (from the downstairs passage up to the flat itself) looking a bit scuffed, especially when it’s explained that they will be painted before the new tenant moves in.  So I did the other jobs necessary – except one that proved to be not possible without help – and I’ve left everything ready for the cleaner who’s coming in on Thursday.

Meanwhile, LT was here at home dealing with a cow that had escaped from a field and got into our drive.  He dealt with it of course, helped by the fact that a passer by knew who owned her and was able to phone.

On the way back, I travelled from Angel tube station to Liverpool Street in a quarter of an hour – that’s down two long escalators (one of them is the longest in London) and down lengthy corridors, two stops to Moorgate, more long corridors and on to another train – which was sitting there with its doors open as I dashed onto the platform.  A young woman got out of my way so quickly that she lost a shoe.  Then one more stop, out through the barrier, onto the station, check the platform while I was scuttling along, the while getting out my phone and finding my eticket, showing it to the woman at the barrier and hurrying along to the waiting train.  As I got to the barrier, it was 2.58.  The kind guard was holding the train door open, so I thanked him in a few profuse words, got on and exchanged a few more relieved ones with the other passenger who’d been just in front of me, and we were still trailing through first class carriages when the train left at 3 o’clock.

Back here, Roses has left her pet cockerel Clawd with me as she’ll be away overnight.  He climbed on my shoulder, then on my head and trampled around for a while.  He’s in bed now, in a cage covered by a rug, in the (probably vain) hope that he won’t crow too early in the morning.  He is very young and makes a rather pathetic attempt so far.

LT made Salad Niçoise for dinner, using mostly produce from the garden, though not the olives.  And I’m likely to have an early night.  It seems to have been a long day.

Damsons in distress

I’ve caught up with things, except for opening the post.  And that will have to wait until tomorrow.

That is, I’ve caught up with clerical/business paperwork for the moment.  I’m going to have to do actual factual work over the next few weeks, which doesn’t come easily any more.  I always did prefer to be busy all the time – I had to be efficient or I fell behind.  I just don’t want that any more, but it does need more self-discipline and an awareness of the time needed to get things done in time.

Right now, or rather earlier today, there was also the pressing need to pick vegetables.  And, having picked LT’s crop of damsons in Reading, to make jam – though actually, we decided one batch of jam and one of chutney will fit the bill rather better.And we’ve made the former … if anyone has advice on the easiest way to deal with damson stones, I’d be glad to know it.  Rise to the top when the fruit is cooked, my left foot.  The last few did, once the jam was actually made, but I’m not at all confident that they all would have separated out, so we picked them out painstakingly after they were cooked and before adding the sugar.  Should we have left it right to the end?

I’ll be off to London again on Tuesday, and need to cancel an appointment here (or rather, postpone it) and book my train ticket.  And then, once I’ve done all that, I must turn my attention to china for the next auction.  I have it all booked in, so the catalogue must be dealt with.

Time for me and LT matters most overall, though.  I’m old enough to have learned what matters.  That is, I think I always did know, although occasionally the pressure of everyday life can get in the way.  Now I have more choice and people must always come before Stuff.


It’s quiet without the children here…

I’m home and all has gone very well.  The children had a good time, I hope, and were delightful. The weather was iffy, it must be said – the quite daunting heatwave in Southern Europe isn’t showing its face here – but they were keen to be at the beach and in the sea at every opportunity.  Gus only gave up and came out of the water when his lips turned an interesting shade of blue.

Towards the end of the first day, they’d been in the sea and were clambering over rocks, when Zerlina called me over, because a bee was on Gus’s back.  I climbed up as fast as I could but somehow, just as I reached them, she accidentally flapped her towel in his direction and the bee stung him.  I just caught a glimpse, it was neither a honey nor a bumble bee and I didn’t recognise the species, but bee it must have been as it left its sting behind.  Fortunately, LT had picked up an interesting shell and I was able to use its sharp edge to flick the sting out.  And Gus was hugely brave.  We headed back up to the road and LT went to the caravan to get anti-histamine cream while I bought ice creams all round.  The bee can’t have injected a full load of venom because it didn’t redden too badly and, after the first few moments of being, quite reasonably, upset, Gus pulled himself together and was incredibly stoical.  And by the next day, there was just a small red mark and he didn’t mention it.

Best throwaway remark of the week was also his.  I was wondering what we could have for lunch.  “Well,’ he said consideringly, “we could go to the pub…”  So we did.  In fact, we did so several times that week, it was our holiday too.  Olivia and Rhys, children of the same age as our two, were staying at the caravan next door so they were able to renew their friendship.

We were planning to visit other beaches but it was too windy on the day we tried one of LT’s favourites (actually, it was the local pub he particularly likes and we did have a very nice lunch) and we were going to check out another on the way back, but Gus said he liked our beach best, which pleased LT, who has always thought of it as his beach too.  If it had been more settled weather, we’d have spent time in Tenby, but we rather felt we needed to be within dashing distance of the caravan in case the weather changed again!

We also had a couple of days in Reading, went to the cinema and the local park, played hide and seek in Tim’s garden and did all the washing and drying of clothes and towels.  So Weeza and Phil will be immensely impressed – I think we managed four loads, though that included some things from home, such as a tablecloth of Tim’s.

And the return trip went well too – LT said the children were beautifully behaved in the car.  I’d done them each a bag of snacks, rice cakes, cheesy biscuits, a couple of sweet biscuits and some chocolate, with a bottle of water each, and they had their tablet computers and didn’t bother him at all.  And I met my four agents and after three I wondered how on earth I’d choose whom to go with, but by the time I’d seen all of them, I’d got a pretty good idea.  When I got home, I went through all the figures (all have different commission rates) and talked it through with Tim, explaining why I thought one had the edge.  It’s not the cheapest and three put down similar valuations, but I just feel they’re overall best.  He’s agreed that if they don’t get someone at the price suggested in a fortnight, I can give joint agency with another company.  So I’ve now got to write to all the others.  But it’s Saturday evening and it can wait until the morning.

And I arrived home to find that the two youngest chickens have started to lay.  There are two eggs that are an unusual, rather muddy greenish brown and another that is somewhat larger than any of the bantams normally lay.  And the Virginia creeper needs cutting back, it’s grown right over the drawing room window.