Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two hens a-laying

A bantam is laying too, so our nourishment is assured. So is theirs – I have bought three bags of feed for them, although I had a whole bag left unopened. It’s the only panic buying I’ve done.

I’ve also been speaking to friends and family online and on the phone and have sent a few presents because they’re the ways to stay connected right now. I don’t think I can spend several months without seeing my children and grandchildren, so we’ll work out the best way. And I’ve suggested to Wink that, if we’re all holing up at home, she might as well do it here with us. She has an appointment at the beginning of April that, unless it’s cancelled, she doesn’t want to miss, and she’s shopping for a friend at present who’s recovering from an operation, but after that she’s free as a bird. As are we.

I didn’t get around to asking Wink about food – my puzzle is, we had a lot of meat in the house when I was a child. And I know my mother made shepherd’s pie and casseroles from the leftovers, but somehow I feel there must have been more that wasn’t used.

Her friend Jane was kept quite short of money by her husband, which is a story in itself. He had a girlfriend and, though it can’t be known if he spent money on her, Jane looked after his elderly mother and his Down’s Syndrome sister and had paying guests too, and he had a very easy ride – but that’s not the point and I shouldn’t digress. I remember once, my parents and sister were out and Auntie Jane came to spend the evening with me. We looked in the fridge and there was a small remnant of roast pork. It wasn’t enough to feed two – until Auntie Jane got her hands on it. It was sliced and cooked with onion, apple and gravy and it was plenty, as well as delicious. I remember being astonished and impressed – and I’d do the same myself now, I learned a lesson that night. And my mother was in her teens when the war broke out, so was well used – being motherless and her father’s housekeeper – to using every scrap of food. But she’d put that behind her afterwards, with much relief. All the same, being wasteful was not possible, I’m sure. So what happened to the leftovers? Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe the dogs came in handy.

Z needs to search the garden

I didn’t let the chickens out yesterday as the weather was miserable. About six in the evening, I went to shut them in their shed and one of the black girls was the only one who hadn’t gone to roost. She tried to skip past me out of the door. I stopped her, picked her up and put her to bed. She hadn’t laid an egg by this morning, but I suspect she, and probably others, have been laying away.

There are two big black hens and one big brown one, and she actually did lay an egg – I know because it’s a distinctive khaki colour. Then there are Rose’s two bantams, and then the rest of the young ones, hatched last year. I think that they are actually off lay, but I don’t trust the rest of them. And I don’t want to have to search, fail and then have a clutch of chicks to cope with, not right now.

Having said that, I don’t feel the need to stock up unnecessarily, but I do think I’ll get some more chicken feed tomorrow. I’ve got a bag still, but I’ll be flummoxed if I run out and can’t get out to the shop.

I’ve been thinking about food; specifically the food my mother provided when I was a child. There seemed to be an awful lot of it and I wonder what happened to the leftovers. I think another blog post is coming on. But I may have to ask my sister first.

When I went out this evening, it had just stopped raining. But the chill has left the air. It’s still raining, but it’s spring rain, not winter rain. There may be cold weather ahead but the tide has turned.

Z’s de-fence

The old wire and angle iron fence has been removed. I did take photos, but the best angle was into the setting sun, so they’re not very good. I’ll take some more in the morning, if I remember. There’s nothing to see, of course, because it isn’t there. The hardwood gate is ludicrously expensive compared to a softwood one, but I’m biting the bullet. I want something that looks good and will be really durable and it’s the only time I’ll have to buy it, after all. I don’t like to think how much I’ve spent here in the last five years, but the old fence had been there for nearly forty years and it wasn’t secure any more. And the septic tank drainage and the fencing round the field and so on and so on…never mind. If we’re living here, we have to look after the dear old place. It’s been in the family since 1928 and maybe we’ll keep it long enough to make the century.

Tomorrow, the Calor gas guys are coming to upgrade the system. Apparently, it doesn’t allow enough gas through or something – they came to check it out a year or two back, said the job needed doing and would be scheduled, but I’ve had to hurry them up because Rose’s annexe needs a new boiler and the boiler guy says he can’t test it properly unless the supply is correct. Calor gas has been very good, I must say. The man on the phone and the one who came round were helpful and efficient and, when they couldn’t manage the original date they were going to do it, they juggled jobs and brought it forward, so as not to inconvenience the heating chap.

I have lunch with women friends once a month; it’s a club that’s been running for over thirty years. My mother took me in the first place and I was the youngest then and I’m still the youngest. We’ve all grown old together. The person who makes all the arrangements and I have had a couple of phone calls, wondering if we should go ahead next week. So I emailed round to the two thirds of our members who use email to ask. Some of them phoned back, some emailed. We’ll decide tomorrow. I suspect that there may be about a dozen willing to turn out. Several of us are in their nineties, everyone else but me seventies and up, so we’re all “vulnerable” and many have health issues. We meet in a private room in a small hotel, there have been no cases in Norfolk and so, at present, the risk is modest. My dear friends mostly live alone and their social life really matters to them, but so does staying well. Isn’t it sad?

Z feels productive

It feels as if it’s been quite a productive day, though I’ve not actually done all that much myself. It’s finally getting warmer, so I’ve moved the chicken and chick to the bigger run outside and they seem quite happy there. Foster spent the first ten minutes shifting all the bedding outside. They’ve got plenty of grass to scratch in and eat, so I hope she won’t wreck the food in the dishes any more. The chick is very perky, too early to tell whether it’s a girl or boy. None of the chickens has laid an egg for the last week, little buggers.

I phoned a friend who had to spend nearly a week in hospital because of heart trouble. She’s feeling all right now, but rather unnerved because she’s rarely unwell and this is a new problem. I also wanted to check on another friend, who had a cancer operation last month – they were able to do keyhole surgery, so she’s recovered much quicker than expected from the op. I’ve sent her flowers on behalf of a group of us, so that’s the next job done if you can call clicking a keyboard a job.

The chap who’s putting the new fence in down the drive called round and that’ll happen in the next couple of weeks. We’re having a new oak gate rather than the softwood field gate that’s there now, but he’s going to move it by the black cowshed, to make a way through to that part of the garden. Then I can have a load of muck delivered and it’ll be easy to barrow it through to the kitchen garden.

I went to the blood donor clinic and I’ve ordered new roller towels for the cloakroom, and LT is cooking dinner.

And I’ve lent glasses to the church – I’ve got lots of small ones and they aren’t using the chalice at present. It was quite jolly on Sunday, we each had our own glass and, whilst one normally takes a polite tiny sip of port (Communion wine has to be fortified or it’s horrid and the bottle doesn’t keep, and I pushed for decent port because – well, obvs. I do buy it though), there was enough for two swigs, so everyone was cheerful. Apparently, a lot of shops are running out of toilet paper, but not the local co-op, which is fine for stocks. Just the cheap brands have sold out. On the other hand, LT was in Waitrose the other day and they only had the cheap own-brand soap left. The expensive ones had all gone.

And now I’ve blogged too. No wonder I feel accomplished. No justification, but anything to raise the spirits. Six o’clock and still light, which is another reason to be cheerful. And I’m 200 pages into the new Hilary Mantel, which is yet another.

Z feels the cold

We’re edging towards the second half of June for the blog party, though I think the first weekend in July is also a possibility. I’ll put the likelihoods up on the header – if anyone has a date they would like to set or to avoid, just let me know.

I suspect the reason I don’t write here much at present is because LT and I talk over dinner. I used to blog, now I talk it through with him. I don’t tend to repeat myself – unless it’s an anecdote I’ve told many times before, of course, which people are too polite to tell me about. I really should write earlier in the day, though I suppose that would leave me without topics of conversation at dinnertime.

The one remaining chick is doing well, though I’m sorry for her and for her foster mother. Foster is desperate to be out with the other hens. She does look after the chick, but she paces up and down and digs a lot, usually scraping the earth into the drinker, so I have to take it out and swish it clean. I’m sure it would be a lot better if she were in the bigger run outside, but it’s far too cold. Just impossible at present. We’ve had wind and rain and chilliness for weeks and, a lot of the time, I’ve had to keep the chickens indoors because of it. They have plenty of room and they tend to just hunker down and, really, they wouldn’t do much else if the door were open. They’d hunker down in the Dutch barn and intimidate the cats instead.

Talking of cats – feral ones, that is – Betty Kitten has me just where she wants me. Both the mother and the friendly tabby have found new homes, I’m convinced. They were both streetwise and feisty; albeit gentle and affectionate and I don’t think they’re dead. But the three remaining ones – two black boys and a black girl with white chest and paws – are not open for adoption. They’re not at all unfriendly and I can stroke them briefly without frightening them, but that’s as far as it goes. I give them GoCat dry food and supermarket tinned cat food, but they much prefer Eloise cat’s pouches of wet food. They know about it because I give them her leftovers. Betty Kitten won’t touch the supermarket stuff and so I tend to give her most of Eloise’s expensive food. But, though she’s actually the bravest of the three, she is pushed aside by her brothers, so I make sure she gets her share. She’s twigged this and now she appears at my side, without them noticing, in the hope I have a spare pouch of food to give her…and well, she’s very sweet and her audacity appeals to me…

As I said, it’s been all about wind and rain and general depressing weather. We’ve moved the dustbins to the passageway outside the back door so we don’t have to lug everything out into the cold and wet. I mentioned to Rose that we’d done that, in case she thought the bins had blown away, and I see they’ve done the same thing. Further to lug them across the gravel, but it’s only once a fortnight.

I’ve been thinking about food of the sixties, Z’s parents style. I’m not sure if I’ve written about what I’m thinking of already, however, so I’m going to have to check back. In the meantime, back to the Sunday papers. Travel supplements are going straight in the bin at present, of course. Who’d risk being stuck in a hotel because there’s a Covid-19 case in the vicinity?

What does Z care how much it may storm?

We’ll refine blog party dates in a day or two, several have been eliminated. I ask on Facebook as well as on here, so a number of replies come in.

I haven’t updated you on the chicks, mostly because it’s been quite sad. We just have one left. The weather was very mild until a couple of days after they hatched, which encouraged me to think they’d be all right in outdoor coops. More fool me, it’s been awful for weeks now. Wind, rain, cold – no snow, but everything else. The chicks, with their inexperienced mother and foster mother, couldn’t cope. So now Foster Mother and her one chick are in a coop in the greenhouse and she’s quite fed up. She really wants to come out and scratch around, but she can’t. But the chick is all right and is being cared for. Slapper rejoined the others once her chicks died and seems quite all right. I just hope the chick is a girl, which will make all the worry worthwhile. Not that I need more hens but that another cockerel will be yet another problem.

It so often feels that a step forward is matched by one backwards, which makes it hard to keep my spirits up. I do try, very hard, but there seems to be so much to discourage. Still, blessings are counted and appreciated and the rest is just trivial detail, if I can put it in context. It seems, however, from a book recently published, that one becomes happier from the age of 58 to 82. I’ll report back, in the unlikely event that I get there. No one in my family even lived to 80, so I think I should aim for peak happiness on a daily basis for the rest of my life.

Hearty oak

If you have visited us here, you will probably have noticed a fine oak tree in the drive, just before it forks. There used to be three of them, but one died quite a long time ago and we left the branchless stump, reckoning it would be good for wildlife. About ten and a half years ago – exactly, now I think of it, because it happened on Zerlina’s first birthday – it quietly fell over into the drive, in between the Sage driving into Yagnub for the Sunday papers and driving back ten minutes later. The second one has lost all its big branches and is now a healthy but pollarded old tree, not much to look at but we’re glad it’s still there. The third is still beautiful.

About eight or ten years ago – I could look it up here and find out exactly when – one of the big boughs fell into the field. It was very sad and quite a shock. But the rest of the tree has been all right ever since. However, I’ve been aware for some time that a lot of the weight is on one side, with a big bough coming out almost horizontally over the drive, then splitting – I’ve felt that the jagged piece where the branch broke should be looked at, and the heaviest sideways branches cut back sympathetically. I was anxious not to spoil the shape of the tree any more than can be helped, though. I don’t know any tree surgeons and it’s hard to know how to choose one. But I was talking to a friend recently and she happened to mention that a neighbour of hers, recently bereaved, had had a lot of remedial work done to trees in his garden. His late partner couldn’t bear to think of trees being cut down while he himself was slowly dying, so the work was put off until there was, sadly, no longer that obstacle. My friend praised the tree surgeon, saying how much he loved and knew trees and so I asked for his details.

So he called round on Friday and I’ve booked him to come and do the work. I do appreciate watching someone looking at a job and summing it up – do you know what I mean? I could see his eyes travel along, observing the stresses on the branches and what to do about them. He explained what he’d recommend, which was much what i had thought; not that I’d know how it should be done. He won’t do more than he has to, as cutting too much off an old tree in one go is quite a shock, and he says the jagged part, though it does have signs of “chicken of the woods” and there’s a hollow area, is quite stable and there will be a lot of birds and insects taking advantage of it and it’s best left. It won’t be possible to do the work by climbing, or off a ladder – which I can see is the case – so he’s hiring a cherrypicker. The price he’s quoting is less than I’d expected (actually, I’d have thought it would have been at least that much plus the cherrypicker) so, knowing he’s qualified, insured and capable, I’m happy to go ahead and relieved the tree will be looked after.

I asked how old he thought it was, expecting him to say about 250 years. He reckons 450-500 years, which would make it about the same age as the house. It makes it all the more precious to me.

Z Grannies (as a verb)

We went to Norwich today to meet Weeza and the children at the Castle Museum. This is always a pleasure, it’s a thoroughly nice little museum, though I do not forgive it for having removed nearly all of their fabulous collection of Lowestoft china, including my favourite piece, and putting it in storage, to make room for lesser stuff.

There were various events for children for half term and it was all very enjoyable. We have discovered, through a chat with one of the staff, that a big revamp is going on, which is why the room with two other of my favourite objects has been emptied and why the Norwich silver has been removed from display. That’s okay, it’s fine as there’s a reason for it, though a sign or two to explain would have been good.

The cafeteria is exceptionally good, actually, We had coffee to start with and later we had lunch – the very reasonable quiche and salad, soup and bread and sausage rolls were freshly cooked and delicious and, as a Friend, I got 10% off as well, which made £26.20 for five of us for the lunch, including a beer and a splendid soft drink plus two cakes, exceptional value.

I had been severely disappointed this morning. Yesterday evening we went out to the pantomime in the next village – which is another story, if I get round to blogging it – and we had scrambled eggs on toast before we went. That left us short of bread, but I remembered that I had, expansively, ordered croissants from the milkman for this morning. I peered out excitedly from the bedroom window – a pint of milk, half a pound of butter and … a small piece of paper. Gutted, darlings, figuratively gutted. Unforeseen circumstances, they non-explained. Anyway, I was not disemboweled for long and I bought croissants from Marks and Spencer, so we’ll have them tomorrow . Hah.

I have made overtures to Rufus and Gus and they may, soon, come to Granny for a sleepover. Hooray! It’s been an awfully long time since any of the little ones came to stay.

Blog party 2020

Having checked our diaries, we have nothing planned yet at the weekends any time between mid-May and late July (that doesn’t mean we’re not open to offers, of course). So it’s over to our lovely guests. Here are the options, which will be altered as would-be guests tell us they aren’t free. As ever, it can be Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday in one case. The first ever blog party was early May bank holiday Monday, when the weather was so awful that it unnerved me forever. So, while theoretically possible, I’d rather not.

16th/17th May

23rd/24th/25th May

30th/31st May

6th/7th June

13th/14th June

20th/21st June

27th/28th June

4th/5th July

11th/12th July

18th/19th July

25th/26th July

It’s not that we can’t do August but that people tend to be too busy sunbathing and passing the Pimms.

As always, it’ll be lunchtime and you are very welcome to stay over, the night before, afterwards or both. In the unlikely event we run out of rooms, camp beds can be provided, maybe even a tent if I talk to the more gung-ho members of my family. You are all most welcome, whether or not you’ve met me or anyone else here and friendships have been made but are not obligatory. Food preferences are catered for with much pleasure, just let us know.

Z doesn’t like Saturday

Last night, when I went out to shut up the chickens and feed the feral cats, I heard cheeping. I didn’t realise the significance, but thought it was rather silly of tits to build nests where there was a possibility of cats getting to them. I wasn’t being very bright, of course.

I told you – twice, I’m afraid – about the young hen that went missing and was caught by a fox. Well, I saw her again this morning. I didn’t realise at first, I thought it was her sister, but I did see her alarm at being spotted and where she went to hide. I fed the cats and let out the hens and, when I turned round, saw the chicken again, eating from the feeder. But was it? At a second look it was her sister.

I left it for an hour and went back. And, on checking the hiding place, I spotted a chick. I felt pretty stupid. The pullet that went missing was barely over five months old, but evidently she had laid her eggs and brooded her chicks and I’d fed the cats ten feet away and not noticed her. I came indoors and asked Tim for help. We moved the bigger coop and I went and fetched the chicks into a bucket Tim was holding, and carried the hen as well to the new coop; which I’d furnished with chick crumbs (thanks again, Tim), corn, grit and water. I named the very young mother Slapper.

Slapper would not care for her chicks, but just stood there, while they were getting cold and despairing. I left them for ten minutes so that she could calm down, but came back to find one chick floppy and cold. I put her in my bra while I panicked. I did have alternatives, which were to find foster mothers or borrow an incubator, but the latter seemed too worrying for a first-timer and, luckily, Canasta’s daughters are all broody at present. So, with Boy’s help, I put two under one girl and three under another, shut the henhouse door and left them for a while. In the meantime, LT and I set up two more coops (the first one is really better for bigger fowl) and then went to have some lunch.

I’ll fast forward to later in the day; not least because I don’t want to relive the anxiety of it all. All chicks stayed where they were for a few hours so I opened the door because I didn’t want any chickens to be put off coming home to roost. But then, I found two chicks following Slapper. I put them in a coop. I checked on the rest. One had died, I’m sorry to say. The other two were under their aunt, whom I’ve called Foster. I put the three of them in another coop. Slapper was fussing about her two babies, so I opened the coop and she jumped in.

When I last checked, at dusk, the two chickens were each settled down, each with two babies. Fingers crossed there. I came in for a very long, hot, relaxing, healing, destressing bath. And I’ve warned LT, there may be no limit to the wine I drink tonight. But only “may” because I really could do with a good night’s sleep.

Later, I practised the hymns for tomorrow’s church service. There was no sign of the fourth hymn in the book. I had already mentioned that I didn’t know it, but any competent person can learn a hymn in fairly short order, so I wasn’t too concerned – but if the congregation doesn’t have the words and the musician doesn’t have the tune, confusion is rather on the cards. So I rang the Rector, who said he’d look into it…a phone call five minutes later – he’d thought the name of the hymn was line three rather than line one. And I knew the hymn after all. So, all in all, I’m mostly glad that I checked in advance and didn’t try to wing it on Sunday morning.

Darlings, that was my Saturday, in which nothing at all went as I thought it would. Much as I appreciate random and unpredictable, this was egregious. I’m surprisingly cheerful about it all, however, and certainly deeply appreciative of LT for doing housework while I was otherwise engaged.