Monthly Archives: June 2019

Z needs advice

Darlings, I have done some research but nothing beats friends’ experiences. I am thinking of buying a polytunnel.

The problem is the chickens. While I only had bantams, they were quite gentle on the land. When there were thirty of them, they had rather a go at the lawn, but the veg garden didn’t suffer very much. However, the bigger hens are a lot more destructive. For example, my Swiss chard and spinach had always overwintered unscathed, until these girls ate it all. This spring, I’ve had to net everything and it’s been quite a nuisance.

As I said, we went to the open garden day at the next village, and a couple of people had polytunnels as well as greenhouses, and they’d got some impressive produce in there. Runner beans already with set fruit, early potatoes nearly all dug up, lots of stuff. Tim said that I could do with one of those, and I need little encouragement. But what I do need is advice.

It’s absurd, of course, It’ll cost hundreds of pounds to grow vegetables that I could buy from the greengrocer. The chickens are a very expensive way of getting eggs in a glut followed by a scarcity. But let’s leave that out of it. I’m prepared to do it because it’s the way I do things. I like keeping chickens, I like growing vegetables, I am a fair-weather gardener nowadays, I don’t mind throwing a bit of money at it.

First, has anyone any advice on brands to recommend or (probably not specified in a public place) avoid? It’ll probably be around 25-30 feet long and 10 feet wide. Is it worth buying automatic irrigation? I’m sure I will need a door at each end, but any more advice? Will it simply get too hot in the summer? It will run north to south, therefore the long sides will face east and west. There will be a concrete path in the middle and two four foot wide beds. Would it be feasible for two people to put up, or else how many? Am I an idiot … well, yes, obvs, but never mind about that. Anyhoo, any advice would be welcomed and taken on board.

Thank you, as ever.

Z the midwife

When I went down to check on Canasta yesterday, she was off the nest and strutting around with six fluffy chicks. Of the remaining eggs, which were all cold, three were chipped, so the chicks inside had tried and failed to get out. One had chipped enough for me to see the beak of the baby bird.

Rose and Boy helped me to move the coop, to give them a clean area with short grass. Then I took the eggs back to the house, lined a bowl with a cloth and put the eggs on top of the Aga. I’d heard a faint cheeping from the most chipped egg and thought it was worth the attempt to save them. If the eggshell is very hard, the chick’s “egg tooth” wears down and it can’t scrape its way out. I fetched tweezers and, taking each egg in turn, broke away a little shell, leaving the membrane and, as they warmed up, all three of the chicks started to move and cheep. It’s a nerve-wracking job and needs a steady hand. It’s easy to damage the baby. I got about halfway through each job and took a break for breakfast, it being about 10 o’clock by then, and Rose came through to see how things were going, took over and got the first chick out. Half an hour later, all three were in the bowl, cheeping but fragile.

I’ll cut to the chase. I didn’t think we’d be so lucky, but they’ve all survived. On Compostwoman’s advice, I put them all back under Canasta, when she was snuggled down with the other six – I’d been afraid she’d reject them and would have put them there after dark, but I bribed her with a few mealworms and tucked the chicks under her while she was distracted. I’d given them all a drink of water, and she’d teach them to peck food. And later, they were all staggering about, looking a bit bedraggled, but today they’re all fluffy and strong and I can’t tell which hatched by themselves and which were helped. I’m so pleased.

It’s been a sociable few days. After my book club supper on Thursday, I met Ronan for lunch on Friday and went to the winery in the evening and, yesterday, a friend called on Rose and they swept us up to take us to a local pub for dinner. Today, we went to the next village for their Open Gardens day. We didn’t get round all 17 gardens, but we managed a fair few, as we say in Norfolk, and included a substantial lunch and tea as we went. The planned casserole for this evening will wait. We’re not quite ready to do it justice.

Disregard what Z said

I’m glad to say I was wrong. It was not too late for the eggs to hatch out. I went down to check on Canasta this afternoon, having forgotten to do so this morning (this didn’t matter as she had food, water and was safe) and expected to find a grumpy chicken, but she was very pleased to be nestling with a fluffy chick. And, when I investigated – at this point, she was quite grumpy – I found that there were four of them, so far. Three came out, sat on my hand and ate chick crumbs, so the old cracky heart found itself doing the happy love thing again, as it still catches me out with.

I did nothing about the floordrobe or the ironing, but at least I sorted out the greenhouse, tying up tomatoes and pinching out sideshoots. I took Eloise cat out for several walks too. She has become much more agile and energetic in the last couple of days, so is evidently recovering well. It’s only another week and a half before she can have the freedom of the house, which she will love. She’s really fed up with being confined.

I spent a couple of hours at the vineyard/brewery social tonight, and enjoyed it very much. It was a lovely sunny evening, I sat and chatted with friends and seemed to pack away rather a lot of pizza. As well as a couple of glasses of excellent Flint Bacchus.

I’d been less successful than usual with my loaf of bread today, and don’t quite understand what has gone wrong. I’d pretty well perfected the recipe, but last week, my scales were playing up and randomly altering readings. So we put in a new battery and assumed that was the reason the bread wasn’t up to standard. Today, all seemed to be fine – I weighed the flours, yeast, salt, black treacle and water and mixed them, kneaded with the dough hook, measured the seeds, added them, then left them for a few minutes while I finished unpacking the dishwasher. When I went back to roll the dough in a little oil and cover it to prove, it was no longer a neat ball but was a thick batter. This was just what happened last week. I have no idea what’s gone wrong. I sorted it out as best I could, and the resultant loaf isn’t as well risen as it should be, but it tastes the same, albeit slightly heavier in texture. All I can think is that I left it kneading too long after adding the seeds, because it was fine when I was actually adding them. I’ll make another loaf tomorrow and see if I can get it right this time. I’m just really puzzled.

Tomorrow, Lovely Tim is returning home. I’ve planned a nice lunch. And dinner. And, of course, the newest members of the family will be here to greet him.

The rain it raineth on the Z

I’ve just got home at 10.30, so I either read today’s paper or I blog. I’ll take the paper to bed with me, but I’ll fall asleep before I read it.

LT is down in Reading for a couple of days and I went to Norwich to have lunch with Ronan today. The main reason was that Rufus’s jacket had been left in the car when we went out to lunch on Monday.

I should backtrack a bit. It was Rufus’s 3rd birthday on Sunday. They were very lucky because they’d arranged a barbecue in their garden, and the weather on Saturday was dreadful. The forecast hadn’t been good for the whole weekend, but Sunday was hot and fine. We went over on Monday and it rained then, so we drove to the cafe for lunch, though it wasn’t very far. It was cold, as well as wet. We’ve had a lot of rain recently and there’s been flooding in various places … including in the house, a bit, but no great problem. The water coming through Rose’s roof was rather more of an issue, though. So I phoned my builder friend and he and his daughter, who’s his business partner, came on over this morning, bless them. It turned out to be a few cracked tiles, but in three separate places. Fortunately, Boy had kindly gone up into the attic and put buckets under each leak.

The roof is made of pantiles which, of course, hook onto each other. Once in a while, one is nailed on to the batten (it is not unknown for a strong wind to whip the whole lot off, otherwise) and there was the problem. The builder had not used galvanised nails, so they’d rusted and cracked the tiles. I had spare tiles so Lucy went up onto the roof while Terry stood on the ladder and handed her the tiles.

Canasta Bantam has been sitting for over three weeks now, and it’s becoming unlikely that any eggs will hatch. The bantams have always been pretty reliable at three weeks, and none of the eggs shows any sign of cracking. She’s very protective and it would upset her to have a good look, but if none have hatched by the weekend, I don’t think there’s much hope. It’s a pity, but maybe she’ll go broody again later and we can have another try. Because there’s been so much rain, I’ve kept my chickens in this week, which at least means they’ve started laying in the nest box again. I forgot to put the anti-rat bucket under the (non) rat proof feeder the other night and there was no dip in the centre of the corn, so evidently there is no rat visiting at present that remembers jiggling the lever to get food. I still put the bucket under, there’s no need to give them a chance to relearn it.

Ronan suggested meeting at a Norwich pub, where you can take in your own food. There’s a fish and chippie right opposite and apparently they deliver – you give your order, go and get your drinks and a few minutes later, your food is brought in. We went to the falafel bar a few yards away this time though. I’m not sure how the pub keeps in business, really, but there was a nice atmosphere and I guess it’s pretty busy at night. Afterwards, I set off to Marks and Spencer – my book group supper tonight was a bring and share affair and I said I’d bring canap├ęs. I wasn’t going to have time to do much, so I thought I’d do smoked salmon and blinis. Bought blinis because I was being lazy. But I couldn’t find anything and I only had a few minutes in hand before my car park time was up. Unlike a supermarket where the various areas are fairly clear, M&S food hall organisation is a bit obscure. I gave up and drove out to Waitrose instead, which is not too far out of the way, but even there I searched for quite a long time for the blinis. For future reference, they’re right next to the smoked salmon. Ho hum.

Once I got home, so I’m nearly back to where I started here, I gave Eloise cat a walk round the house on her lead, when Boy came in, looking rather anxious. Had I seen Jenga and Polly? I had, but that was at half past six. Only Scrabble had come back to the chicken run. Rose had gone to London for the day and wasn’t back yet. So we went out to search. I started in the obvious place, which was their old coop, which is in the kitchen garden waiting for the anticipated chicks. They’d presumably sheltered from the rain there and decided to make a night of it. So I just shut the door and they’ll be safe there overnight. We were just in time, because Rose drove up as we were going back to the house, so we didn’t have to worry her.

Tomorrow, I’m not sure of my plans. I might tackle the toppling ironing pile and the floordrobe. Or I might not. In the evening, it’s quite possible I’ll head for the local winery/brewery, where they’re having their summer monthly open evening. As well as their own wine and beer, there will be fish and chips or pizza. Sounds good.

A little less limping, a little more action

After dinner, I am usually too tired to make it to the computer. I should blog earlier in the day.

Rose is bearing up as well as possible. There’s so much for an executor to do, which is harder when there are a number of beneficiaries.

Let’s go for the good news – we took Eloise cat back to Ipswich to have a check-up with the specialist vet who operated on her. He is very pleased and says that she is doing as well as she possibly can. We should expect her to limp a bit for the next few weeks, it all feels secure and in place. Keep her caged except under supervision for the next fortnight and then let her have freedom in the house (he hasn’t seen the house, I think we’ll close off parts of it). After 8 weeks, get her checked at the local vets and if all is well, she can go outside and resume her normal life, This is a great relief, it’s been pretty difficult and time-consuming, but our time is willingly devoted to her. All the same, it’s awfully boring to stand or sit while she potters about, then lies down in an inconvenient place for half an hour, then moves a yard or two, etc etc. It’s a good test of patience

Dave

The funeral went very well, warm words spoken about Dave, and Rose and his family coped. The flowers were not as worrying as I’d thought they would be – I had a plan and it wasn’t so difficult after all. His favourite flowers were sunflowers and gerberas, which I’d bought, and I added deep purple irises, white and pale purple lupins, cream and pale yellow roses, white and purple sweet peas, wild marguerites, wheat stalks and seeding wild grasses, with some trailing Virginia creeper and some foliage from the florist which name I didn’t catch. It was all tied, on top of the firmly knotted string, with raffia. The florist had warned me to leave it as long as possible before I took the flowers out of water, so I did it all in about half an hour, with not too many mistakes, once I’d worked out what I was doing. My main concern was that the whole thing would fall apart, as it had to be moved several times, but it was okay. It didn’t look professional, but it was never going to and that wasn’t the plan.

It’s been the main focus of the day, of course, and we left home at 11.30 and didn’t get back until 9, so I’m quite tired. I’m sure Rose is more so, but she was very touched by all the kindness shown. Some fellow bloggers were there too, which shows the warmth of our community – even though they’re actually ex-bloggers, the friendship remains.

Carrying on

Not much is different, which never used to stop me blogging. Eloise cat and I spent well over two hours outdoors this morning, with me carrying my chair whenever she moved. LT kindly brought me out some lunch – shared with Eloise of course – rather than see me dismally hungry.

It’s Dave’s funeral tomorrow. Rose asked me to arrange flowers for his coffin, which I acknowledged was rather outside my experience, but of course I’ll do as she asks. I’ve got flowers and foliage in buckets ready for the morning. I’ve got a plan in mind, but I know that it’ll be trickier than my mind’s eye says it will.

When I went to feed Canasta this morning, i found that three of the eggs were exposed, not underneath her warm body. I don’t know how long that had been for and tucked them back under her, but their chances aren’t as good now. I think that the eggs should hatch early next week, perhaps Monday. Fingers crossed.

Sunshine

We’ve had a fairly relaxing weekend, which was much wanted. Eloise cat has been quite fractious when I haven’t been prepared to follow all her wishes, but amenable when I have. I’m doing my best but it’s not easy.

I’m hoping to visit dear Mike this week, and will phone Ann tomorrow. He’s home and their daughter has been with them until today. It sounds as if he’s doing really well and I really want to see them and give a hug. Dave’s funeral is on Thursday and that’s very much on our minds.

But we take each day for itself and the weather has been lovely, sunny and warm but not too hot. I spent most of the morning on the lawn, just relaxing with the paper. I tried having Eloise with me but she wasn’t at all happy, she wanted to lie a few yards away with me standing there in the sun, being meek. If I wouldn’t, she’d have a strop. Indeed, at one point she hissed at me, which has never happened before. But all is tranquil now. Once the heat of the day was over, I followed her into the long grass and sat on a chair for over an hour while she settled herself, moving a short way once in a while, grooming herself and enjoying the evening air.

Nothing has been done with the chillies yet. It’s too hot to do much cooking. I make no complaint. I love sunshine.