Monthly Archives: May 2018

Z stocks up

I took Ro and family to the airport this morning – first holiday with young Rufus, who was excited at the prospect of flying – and went to the street fair on the way home.  It had rained first thing, but had dried up by the time I was there and was pleasant, neither warm nor cool.

Because the weather was so cold in the spring, I never did get around to sowing the seeds I normally do.  I put in a few tomatoes, but no other indoor stuff – and when i finally sowed those, it was just before an unseasonable heatwave, and it was too hot for some seeds to germinate.  So I’ve got about six tomatoes, rather small, of two varieties.  No aubergines nor peppers.

The growers at the market had problems too, as some regulars weren’t there and others didn’t have the range of stuff they usually do.  I found one stall with four aubergine plants, rather small, and bought two of them; another with some good tomatoes and another again with cheaper but much smaller tomato seedlings and the latter was the only one with any pepper plants.  I bought other stuff too and carried it back to the car when I’d got all I could carry.  There was one other stall, but I just couldn’t manage any more bags.  I did want the lovely deep red dahlias they had though (and quite a lot else, when it came to it) so set off again.  And saw a woman struggling with her purchases.  She had a bag of plants, a large terracotta pot and three iron ornaments, which were poles, about five feet long with, at one end, something decorative – I think they might have been poppy heads.  I offered to help carry them and she demurred but eventually accepted and she clearly couldn’t manage it all.  She was with two other friends but their hands were full too.  “They’re really heavy,” she said, and so they were.  It was only bravado that stopped me from swapping hands half way.  But we all made it to their car and I went back to buy the rest of the stuff.

I’ve potted it all up, so felt cheered.  And I had a nap this afternoon because I’m lazy and also couldn’t sleep last night, for no good reason.  And this evening, I’ve accidentally thrown away a new contact lens and I’m feeling quite cross with myself.  Only about that, though.  Fairly cheery otherwise.

Polly-wolly-doodle all the day

Rose called me over to listen to her hen Polly.  “She’s trying to crow!” she said.  Polly puffed herself up, sitting on the fence, but she wouldn’t crow again.  But Canasta did, a couple of weeks ago.  I heard that.  She made a decent fist of it too, if that isn’t too dodgy an expression.

There are just three hens and one cock, and Jenga the cock has been very interested in the three black Newbies recently (from outside their greenhouse), so maybe Polly, Scrabble and Canasta have felt neglected.  I’d never come across hens trying to crow before, I don’t know how common it is.  There’s no sex change – even more unlikely – as Polly and Scrabble are laying and Canasta has become broody.

I finally got around to planting out vegetables today.  I’ve grown very little this year so far.  The weather was against me and this is supposed to be a hobby.  Tomorrow, it’s the street fair: I’ve spoken about them before.  There are three every year, the May one being gardening, the July one is antiques and the December fair is Christmas.  The street is closed and there are lots of stalls.  It’s all good fun and they’ve been going for many years – the Christmas one started it off, some 35 years ago.  Then, it was an evening do, but eventually it changed to all-day, and the others were added too.

I’ve got a few tomato seedlings, but otherwise no greenhouse veggies at all, so hope to get a few plants.  And otherwise, whatever catches our eyes.  First, I’m going to Norwich to take Ro and Dora and young Rufus to the local airport, because they’re going on holiday.  So I’m not playing the organ tomorrow, which is no loss to anyone at all.

Z mourns localism

While Tim is away, I usually manage to catch up on a few items of paperwork that are too boring to waste time on when we’re together – and, since the deadline is Tuesday and I posted that particular one last night, I feel I’m ahead of the game and sorted.

The last bank in town closed yesterday, and we’re all very resentful.  The next town, six miles away, is twice the size but has All The Banks and two or three building societies too.  The bastards haven’t even left behind their cash point.  They are, as a great concession, sending a mobile bank for a couple of hours twice a week.

They say there aren’t enough regular customers to be viable, but of course they manipulate the figures.  For one thing, they only count those people who go every single week.  For another, they’ve spent several years sending their customers elsewhere.  When Russell died, there were still three banks in Yagnub; HSBC having closed down a long time previously.  He had accounts at all of them and I was obliged to go to a branch in a different town for each.  None of them would make appointments in Yagnub to deal with any business at all, you could only pay in cheques or pay in or withdraw cash; very little else.  It didn’t matter if you were bereaved or old with limited mobility.  They wanted an excuse to close the branch, so wouldn’t let you do your business there.

I really wish I could cock a snook at them all, but it is more trouble than the principle is worth.  I have accounts with two banks, because I won’t give all my custom to one, and there are standing orders and direct debits in and out, I can’t quite face it.

Still.  There we go.  It isn’t good for me to be angry.

Yesterday, I went to Ippy Hospital to visit a friend who’s had a horse riding accident.  She’s a good and competent rider, but Joey was startled when a gust of wind made her shirt billow – it was tucked in and didn’t blow around, but he heard it and he bolted.  She clung on and readied herself for him jumping the gate he was galloping up to ….. and he stopped dead and she fell off.  She has broken her pelvis, her sacrum and her hip socket on the right side.  Awfully unlucky, but at least she didn’t land on her head or break her back.  Her instructor, who owns the horse, was filming her, until Joey bolted, then you just got jolted grass and sky, as she ran to help.  “Oh shit!” and she ran and there were just voices.  One caught the horse and calmed him, another went to Lottie and spoke to her gently, another phoned for an ambulance, and they all did the right thing.  I cried when I saw it.

I was her first visitor, and I’ll go again next week – it’s not an easy journey for most of her friends and her daughter is in Italy, and Lottie played it all down so that she didn’t feel she should come home.  She won’t be able to manage at home for a while, and will have to go to a cottage hospital for daily physiotherapy after she leaves hospital.  There are a few of them about still, fortunately, though most of them have been shut down.

Z is puzzled by a toothbrush

LT has gone on one of his regular trips to his house – it hadn’t originally been planned for this week, so it left me with a couple of spare days, I thought.  But so far, they’re turning out to be busier than expected.  I’ve found myself running several times, not to waste time in more leisurely ambulation.

This doesn’t suggest I’ve been working especially hard, and some of the reason for hurrying was the couple of hours spent at a local pub/restaurant having a chatty lunch with Rose, but the only parts that had been planned originally were the bread making and the laundry, and no gardening has been done unless you count grabbing a few handfuls of grass and weeds to give the chickens.

A friend of mine is in hospital with a broken pelvis, having been thrown by her horse, which was spooked by something – her instructor was videoing her, because it’s a good way of discussing technique afterwards, and she sent me the video.  It was quite upsetting: she was cantering along and rounding a corner when the horse started to dance sideways; next thing was a gasp and “oh shit!” from the instructor and then there was the sound of people running to her, catching and reassuring the horse, reassuring Charlotte, phoning for an ambulance and so on.  No one filmed her as she lay, which would have been awfully intrusive – it was just the phone in the instructor’s hand which hadn’t been switched off and filmed the grass and whatever it aimed at as she ran.  Anyway, Charlotte is in a lot of pain and became dizzy when she tried to stand today.  I’m not sure how long she’ll be in hospital, but it’s all going to be awkward as she lives in an upstairs flat, out in the country, and she’ll be out of action for a couple of months.  I’m going to visit her tomorrow.

For the past few nights, I’ve been puzzled by my electric toothbrush.  Easily confused, you will think, and I can hardly deny it – but the toothbrush didn’t feel right.  And it didn’t quite look right either.  It needed a new head, so I changed that, but it still wasn’t right and I couldn’t think why. And then it started to go slower and sounded tired.  It dawned on me that it wasn’t my toothbrush at all, not was it LT’s, so it must be Wink’s.  When she came to stay, she put hers next to mine and she picked up the wrong one.

About a minute after realising that, it died altogether, so I took it to the charger.  I have three chargers; two for toothbrushes and one for an inter-dental spray gizmo.  This fits none of them.  So Wink and I both have useless toothbrushes for the next few weeks.  I went and bought a new  toothbrush.  Then, asking Charlotte if there was anything she needed, she asked if I could bring her a toothbrush and toothpaste.  So I went back into Boots, rather hoping I wasn’t served by the same assistant – who probably wouldn’t have noticed that I’d been in twice in an afternoon to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, now I think about it.

While Tim is away, I’ll mostly be eating eggs.  And asparagus and strawberries, of course.  But mostly eggs.  First, I’m going out to see if the chickens all go into the shed together tonight.

Z enjoys summer in springtime

Today was even hotter than yesterday, around 25ºC, which was very enjoyable.  It’s due to cool down for the rest of the week, so I should get some gardening done.  Last night, we put the chickens in with the newbies after dark, and this evening they went in of their own accord, all except the old bantam.  She returned to the coop, and I fetched her after she’d gone to roost.  She’d looked quite discomfited to be the only one, so I hope she’ll join them all tomorrow night. It’s all gone very smoothly, I’m glad I took it slowly.  I’m very fond of my girls and didn’t want them stressed.  We’re going to put wire round the shed, though, the rats are biting at the door already and I have to put a slab of concrete where they’ve gnawed.

I really wish I enjoyed reading on a Kindle.  I’ve got a number of books downloaded – this is the app on phone or iPad, I don’t have an actual Kindle because it’d be a waste – but a book has to be one I’ve read before and don’t have to concentrate on fully, or else something quite light, because it doesn’t engage me like a real book does.  My sister has gone over mostly to Kindle books though, as have some other friends and it’s certainly easiest on holiday if you’re limited by space or weight.  I was invited to join a book group nearly two years ago – this was something I’d always thought wasn’t me at all, but it’s a small group of lovely friends, and we’re limited to eight as that’s the most that someone can get round her dining table – and it’s very enjoyable.  Last month, we talked over dinner about books versus Kindle, and we were pretty well equally divided.  Neither faction rejected the other’s preference, though, it was just a matter of convenience and enjoyment, of course.

I just sneezed.  Four times over a few minutes.  Five, dammit.  I hate sneezing.  My ears are ringing now.  They were big sneezes and there’s no reason for it.  Dammit.

Darlings, it’s nearly ten o’clock and I’m such a lightweight nowadays, I’ll be off to bed soon.  I’m catching up on blogs tomorrow though.  I seem to have time  either to read or to write but not both – I don’t like the phone app of any feed reader and don’t get to the computer for more than half an hour or so at a time – but I do miss you.


Z continues to loaf…

Weeza and co and Ro and family came over for the day and, as the forecast was so fine, we risked a barbecue.  It went well and the children played outside very happily.  I’d decided to make it easy by buying cakes from the local deli, but I decided at the last minute to try my hand at pitta bread, which meant I did spend an appreciable time in the kitchen this morning after all.  We also decided to fry onions, which take ages to cook, of course, so the kitchen was quite hot…

The pitta bread recipe is almost exactly the same as naan bread, which I make regularly and usually have in the freezer.  The main difference is that naan is made with milk (and sometimes yoghurt) whilst pitta has water.  I usually make brown bread – a mixture of white and wholemeal flour – so all white dough is a doddle to work with.

It has to be said, the price charged for “artisan” bread is not that easy to justify.  There’s a regular baker’s in the town and also a specialist baker’s (which is sited in Alex’s old shop; they did a lot of renovation, turned his upstairs store room into a café and seem to be doing very well).  The specialist bread is very good, but I’m not sure how they can charge £3.50 – £4 for a loaf that is not even sourdough.  I know that smaller quantities are made, not least because the dough is risen more slowly, but doubling the price of the other baker’s bread is quite a lot.  It costs less than £2 for 1.5k of flour from the wholefood shop, £1.24 for 125g of yeast and I add some seeds, a bit of oil or butter and so on, but it costs well under £1 for a loaf using 500g of flour and takes little actual working time.

Having said that, I do think that better bread is a very good thing.  I don’t hesitate to buy the good stuff if I haven’t got around to making bread – and it does make one more aware of quality.

We’re about to have some bread and cheese for supper, in fact.  Tim has got it all ready – so Eloise cat came to sit on my lap, just in time to prevent me going to eat it.  I’ll make it clear I love having her here.  That’ll soon shift her.

Chickens again – a mystery

It was hot and sunny again and I went down to the greenhouse to spray some water around – plants usually don’t mind being hot as long as they aren’t too dry – and a cock and a chicken were ambling around the kitchen garden, which isn’t unusual as Rose’s lot are let out in the day: but I did a double-take.  It wasn’t any of her chickens, it was my Seramas; Crow the cock and Yvette the little female.  They were perfectly happy and composed, so I shot over to the chicken greenhouse and could see hens through the netting … and I could also see Rose’s cockerel, Jenga in there.

None of us has any idea how this happened.  All my other chickens were in their greenhouse and Rose’s girls were out in the garden.  Even if there had been a gap big enough for Crow and Yvette, but not the others, to get out, that doesn’t explain how Jenga got in.  It’s possible, I suppose, and the only explanation I can think of, that I’d not fastened the door properly, my two escaped, Jenga went in and then the breeze blew the door shut again, but that seems pretty unlikely.  However *all quote Sherlock Holmes* …

I went to fetch Rose and I must have looked anxious because she was instantly worried.  But it was fine.  My two had decided they’d like to go home, so Rose went and invited Jenga out into the garden by the door at one end, and I opened the door at the other, and it’s all back to normal.  But it made me check the greenhouse thoroughly and then we did a job we’ve meant to do for a while – we’ve got some fairly dense mesh that I think was originally for a poly tunnel frame; but shading rather than polythene, which never got put up.  I’ve got sections of the chicken greenhouse covered in this already but I wanted some more.  It’s an awkward job, but LT and I managed it between us.  And this evening after dark, unless we can’t be bothered, we’ll go out and put the chickens in the coop into the shed.

Otherwise, we’ve mostly lounged around.  Because it’s a holiday weekend and we’re in the mood for enjoying the sunshine.

Possibly the last chicken post for a while

It was interesting to watch the chickens last week.  The biggest hen kept out of the way whilst the smallest stood up to the head newbie, while safely the other side of the wire.  But yesterday, I decided to put them all together.  I felt that it would be all right not to remove the head newbie, though Tim and I were on hand, just in case.

I let the old guard out first, went to feed the cats, came back and let the others out.  And, rather as I expected, nothing much happened for  a few minutes.  They pretended not to notice each other, whilst sizing up the situation.  After a few minutes, it was Mona, the elderly bantam, who asserted herself.  She and the head newbie went at it, for a few minutes.  Crow the cock joined in on Mona’s side and it all petered out – but then Yvette the tiny Serama went on the attack.  She’d have needed a box to do much good, but she had a go.  And Crow was at her side as well. And then they all went off in a huff and they’ve been a bit careful about territory since.

The big brown hen feels comfortable with the newbies, maybe because they’re much of a size.  Last night, she went in the shed to sleep with them, though she’s chosen the coop with the others tonight.  I’m leaving it another day, then I’ll go out after dark and put the ones in the coop into the shed.

I spent an hour clearing out the old hen house, raking up old straw and hay and generally tidying up, and also powdering against red mite, as I have in the new shed. I’m going to let the chickens go through the tunnel into the henhouse, it’ll be more space and cooler for them in the summer.  The greenhouse is airy, because I’ve replaced quite a lot of the glass with netting, and have also painted the glass on the south side with Coolglass, but it does still get very warm.

It’s been fabulous weather today.  I timed an hour for the cleaning out – and put on a facemask and rubber gloves, because it was dusty in there – and finished a few minutes before the timer went off.  Having done the work, I felt totally justified in having beer before lunch and then relaxing on the lawn afterwards.  This weekend might be all of summer, after all.  i wouldn’t want to think that I’d let it go, unappreciated.

LT barbecued fish tonight, a highly expensive but very fine turbot.  And the family is coming on Monday and we’re having another barbecue.  I went to the deli and bought cake.  Coffee, chocolate fudge, Bakewell tart and treacle tart.  And ice cream.  With the usual suspects for the main course.

I’m glad I didn’t put the chickens together for a few days, I think it went easier as a result.  It could be that I was overcautious, but I’d rather that than blood being drawn.  They’re still learning to live with each other and there’s still the occasional skirmish, but they’re all laying eggs in the same nestboxes, so they can’t be too unhappy.

Back to three dozen eggs, though.  Maybe I can palm some off on the kids.

Springtime at the Zedary

There’s a small patch of grass just outside the side door which I have always left for wild flowers.  It’s looking so pretty at present.  I do have some bulbs in there and the tulips are looking lovely among the buttercups and bluebells.  Later, there will be marguerites and then it’ll have to be cut back, once the grass has seeded, but it gives us pleasure every time we go outside for now.

The old meadow by the drive, known as the Ups and Downs, is also exceptionally pretty at this time of year.  Ten young bullocks graze it and the next field, and it’s covered with wildflowers, mostly buttercups and saxifrage.  I know there’s lady’s bedstraw and all sorts of other, less colourful wild plants there too, with mosses and lichens and liverworts on the bits where it’s almost too dry for any grass.  It’s down on the maps as Saxon and, apart from some small-scale gravel extraction, there’s no reason to think it’s ever been dug up, and this ancient grassland, worthless in monetary terms, is the most valuable part of this property, to me.  I just love it.

Z is a bit obsessed with chickens

Things are getting better in chicken land.  The newbies are still perfectly happy and all are laying most days – I’m giving away eggs, it’s all a bit much, which makes it remarkable that I want some chicks from Rose’s bantams …but there is a reason for that,

Bad things have happened and I’ll just say what’s the current situation.  I have the last of the original bantams, one Serama hen and one cock, and one other hen, the big brown one.  The rest are dead.  I am frantically trying to get rid of vermin that kill my chickens, it’s making me overreact perhaps.

Watching them, over the past few days, has been interesting.  The old guard are still in the coop.  The big brown hen is mostly in the sleeping quarters, as is the final bantam, Mona.  But the cockerel, Crow, and the Serama hen, Yvette, are out in the open part.  Crow hops on to the drinker, presumably to make himself look as big as possible to the newbies (the three new black  hens) and I’ve also seen him *having it away* with Yvette, which I’ve only previously seen once in the year he’s been living here.

Yvette is tiny.  She probably weighs about a pound, whereas the Newbies must weigh about 4 pounds each.  But she is being assertive with the chief newbie – they mimic each other, with the wire cage in between them.  They both scratch in the earth and seem not to notice the other, then square up, puffing up their breasts and posturing, then go back to scratching.  When they finally get together, Yvette will run away, no question, but she’s being braver than her bigger cousins right now.

The old guard are in a wooden-framed coop with a sleeping area and a wired area.  Rats are nibbling away at the wood and I’ve had to protect it with bricks.  They’re getting so bold that they are out in the day – Rose’s cat Rummy has caught a few of them, but not enough.  I can put up with them eating the food left over – I always pick up the dishes at the end of the day, but there’s some scattered on the ground – but I’m scared of smaller rodents getting in and attacking a hen, because it’s happened already.  So I set traps last night, and caught rats, and will have to carry on with it.

Anyway, on a brighter note, the reason I want some chicks is not that I really need more chickens, though there is a bit of that: – its that we’ve had the churchyard chickens for over 30 years and I don’t want the strain to die out.  Mona doesn’t lay eggs any longer, she must be quite old.  But Roses still has three of them, and an unrelated bantam cock, so a few more would carry on a strain of lovely, healthy, long-lived bantams that are a link to good times gone by.