Semi-sweet home

Eloise cat had her first night free in the house, and she made the most of it. Mostly, she jumped on and off our bed, wanted to be stroked, decided to drink out of every glass, etc. This was a pleasure for us, though it did mean rather a lack of sleep; at least on my part. It’s lovely to see her stretched out and relaxed now, we’re so relieved that the care we’ve taken, after a successful operation, has paid off.

It’s been mostly about housework today, which may be satisfying once done, but is not particularly interesting to do or read about. But the floordrobe is eliminated, the ironing has been done, the cat cage has been removed and the hoovering has been hoovered. And, too, the chick run has been moved to fresh grass and a new waterer has been installed. So it’s been a quiet but not useless day. The rest of this week will mostly be devoted to things that have been neglected in favour of cat walking, come to that.

Before all this cat stuff happened, we’d had plans for the summer. We each wanted to show the other where we grew up. So we were going to visit Weymouth and Bournemouth, and also were wanting to visit Cornwall because … oh, I can’t remember. But anyway, it isn’t really feasible. Visits to Tim’s house and the caravan are in the pipeline, in due course, but at present we can’t really even have a full day out. Just as well we like it here.

Chick photos

It’s 11 days since the first chicks hatched – the rest hatched overnight or were helped out by me the next day – and, although most of the photos are rather fuzzy, for which I apologise (I suspect I was too close to the subject), it’s interesting – to me, at any rate – to see how much they’ve developed in a week and a half.

The system for uploading photos has completely changed since the last time I did it. I’m not at all sure how this will turn out and I don’t seem to be able to move things around any more, to put an explanation of each photo. But it’s probably clear enough. Here we go, anyway.

The last picture, taken today, shows that the wing feathers are getting bigger than they were a couple of days ago and the little tails are starting to grow. Still fluffy chicks, but they’ve changed a lot. Canasta is starting to feel the strain of motherhood, she paces up and down rather a lot. She’ll have to put up with them for a while yet, though, they’re too little not to have their mummy’s warmth at night.

Out on parole

Today was, finally, the day when Eloise cat was let out of her cage without a lead. She wasn’t hugely impressed, frankly, but wanted to leave the room and didn’t seem to appreciate the freedom offered. Later, however, she cheered up. Tim took her for a walk and we opened up the passageway and the kitchen – and then were very alarmed when she managed to open the door through to the back door (with a cat flap) and the bungalow (with two cat flaps). We spent quite a long time searching for her outdoors until I found her in Rose’s place, not actually hiding but out of sight. She’s been much more settled since, though, and we’ll let her upstairs in the next day or two.

I haven’t much else to talk about. The chicks are fine and eat out of a multi-hole chick feeder, which doesn’t impress Canasta at all. She likes to busy herself scratching so that they’ll run in and forage at her feet, so an enclosed feeder is no fun. Tomorrow, their new drinker will arrive and she will be really sullen. I always buy a new drinker for chicks, for hygiene reasons, but I have never found a really good design. The sort where you fill it, put on the bottom upside-down and then turn it over is fine in theory but, if the ground isn’t completely level, the water tends to run out. And the translucent dome means it goes green really quickly and needs frequent scrubbing. Also, they kick dirt into the water. But never mind, I check them several times a day anyway, so can replenish supplies.

Rose was away for the weekend, so I was looking after her bantams as well as my own girls and they decided to bunk in together. Polly didn’t, the first night, so I shut her in her coop by herself – she has been quite anxious to be with the others since then. I have to shut the chickens away, if only into their greenhouse and not their coop, before feeding the barn cats, or else the chooks steal the cat food. Cat claws aren’t a patch on chicken claws, it’s the moggies who back off.

I just went to update plugins to the boffinish sort of stuff behind the scenes, and it seems that the ability to subscribe to comments might have been lost (fatal error seems so overdramatic, doesn’t it?). Could someone please check for me? If that’s the case, I’ll ask Ronan to look into it.

Fresh coops and pastures new

i’ve been spending the last ten minutes or so looking for a past post. I didn’t find it, but the search words I put in lead me to some lovely exchanges from friends, some of whom I’ve lost touch with. It’s so often said that comments make a blog, and that’s true and I don’t get that many comments any more and, I know (because I’ve just been reading old posts) I don’t write as engagingly as I used to. Damn.

Anyway. On I go, regardless. The baby chickens have not yet outgrown their coop, but they will soon, and they’re still small enough to be easy to catch. So I asked LT to help me move them today. First we moved the bigger coop itself, because it’s been in place for a fortnight and the grass has grown considerably, and then we tackled the babies. It quickly became apparent that Mummy Canasta was in the way, so I picked her up and put her in the bigger coop. Then, having blocked off the way from the enclosed sleeping area to the bigger outdoor space, I grabbed chicks and, with LT’s help, popped them in a high-sided box. It was simples, darling, it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. The big coop had a roof, in three sections but with none of them open to fresh air. So Tim removed one of the areas and replaced it with chicken wire. It’s noticeable that this space is where they spend most of their time. All is well, they’re happy.

Eloise cat is protesting more each day about being kept in. But on Monday, she will start to taste freedom. Thank goodness! We’ve all done really well, it’s not been easy for any of us; but it’s worth it for a full recovery. Tim says, you can’t explain to a cat. Remembering back to my hip replacements, I was frustrated but knew that my limitations were for good reason and that they’d end. Poor little Eloise’s life has changed for the worse and she doesn’t know why and she doesn’t know that she’ll regain her freedom soon. I hope freedom will be sweet when it comes.

Dyscalculia and its opposite

I picked up my friends Jo and Lilian today to take them to our lunch club in Norwich. I was roped into this by my mother, thirty years ago – not picking up J & L, but the club; I was the youngest member then and I’m the youngest member now. Jo is 94, with another birthday this summer, and Lilian is her younger sister at 90, also with a summer birthday to come.

They are about to move house. They live in a townhouse on three floors, the living accommodation on the first floor, bedrooms on the second, and a utility room and guest bedroom on the ground floor. Jo has used crutches for many years, since a hospital-administered antibiotic destroyed her balance. They’ve decided that they need to live in a house with the sitting room etc on the ground floor, but were very anxious to stay near all their friends, and found something suitable down the road, near the river. It has a small garden, something they’ve hugely missed since moving from their big house eight years ago.

They are due to get the keys tomorrow and will move over the summer, once they’ve had some decorating done and a new kitchen put in. But the point of me telling you all this is to come.

The asking price was £300,000, they offered £260,000 and finally settled at £275,000. Recently, their solicitor visited them to bring the contract for them to sign. Lilian observed that the price was £257,000 and pointed out the mistake. The solicitor assured them that this was the price quoted in all the documentation. They signed. Presumably, the other party signed too. No one else has noticed, it seems.

I suppose that, if that’s the figure on the document, that’s all they owe. But it’s quite a mistake to have been made. When the vendors, who presumably didn’t read the contract before signing it, realise, they are not going to be very happy at all. I wonder where the mistake was made? If it was from the estate agent, then it isn’t the vendors’ solicitor’s fault. If it was the solicitor, it wasn’t the estate agent’s. Jo and Lilian’s solicitor didn’t draw up the contract, so it wasn’t his fault, nor was it theirs. I feel that the ultimate responsibility is the vendors’, as they should have read the paperwork, but the person who drew it up or gave wrong info is at fault, arguably, too. I’ll find out what has happened in due course and am quite intrigued. Jo and Lilian are totally honest and I suspect they’ll do the decent thing, possibly with a bit of haggling for a discount, because they dearly love a bargain too. But it’s remarkable that the only person who noticed is a 90-year-old.

Not a lot else to report, darlings. Chicks’ wing feathers are growing rapidly, Rose’s chooks are roosting with mine for the weekend while she’s away, Wince hoed the gravel, from which I’d pulled a barrowload of weeds yesterday. My eldest grandson has won a prestigious award for computer programming – that’s a throwaway remark of course, we’re pretending to be modest but, actually, it’s a huge achievement and we’re extremely proud. He’s pretty pleased himself, it’s been 8 months work and he did it all and then gave a presentation to hundreds of experts. He’s a clever and focussed young man.

Z doesn’t do tricky stuff

We went to Norwich today and parked at the Assembly House. We knew the car park had a pay and display system, but we were going to be two hours, almost to the minute, so that was all right. However.

I was driving and Tim had change, so he volunteered to get the ticket. After a few minutes, I went to see why there was a delay. There were two men in front of him, struggling to understand how the machine worked. Eventually, Tim advised them and it worked and they apologised charmingly for keeping people waiting. And then we kept people waiting.

It is one of those car parks that makes you put in your car registration number, presumably so that you can’t pass on a part-used ticket to someone else. But, once you’ve done it, you’re offered an hour’s parking. If you need two hours, which is allowed, it is unclear how to key that in. The instructions are singularly unhelpful. I’ve used car parks that ask for my numberplate before, of course, and never had any problem, but this one was totes ridic, darlings, absolutely totes. I keyed in my numberplate three times and had to cancel because the thing was wrong. The instructions were wrong, or at least not right.

Anyway, finally managed it and wandered away, feeling old. Except it was assuredly people younger than us who devised a really stupid system. I am a very old dog but I am capable of learning. Just not tricks.

Anyway, it was a very good lecture, on Charles Rennie Mackintosh. And it was just as well that it took an extra few minutes to work out how to use the machine, because the lecture overran slightly and we got back to the car with one minute to spare. Hah. That’s efficient, and I do appreciate efficiency.

Z walks the cat

We are so looking forward to Eloise cat being free again. Just another week and she can start to have the run of the house. I plan to extend her free area over two or three days, so she can have the fun of a new freedom daily. Then, another two weeks and she can go outside again and her ordeal can be over. And ours, though that’s much less, of course. She’s coping well, on the whole, though it’s no fun for any of us.

It was a warm and muggy day, with thunder forecast. That didn’t happen, though it did rain. At least Tim and I had done some weeding, so the rain has gone where it needed to. Walking the cat is so time-consuming though. In a couple of hours, she may have walked a few yards, in various circles and rambles, stopping to contemplate or wash herself in between, never where I could do anything useful. It’s a fair test of patience, especially when she chooses to go out in the rain.

I can’t find the bottom part of the small feeder, so the chick crumbs have been put in a plastic saucer, of the sort you put a plant pot in. Last night, because I’d had to refill it several times during the day, I added a china dish so that they had more available food. This morning, I discovered the plastic dish out in the wired run, where Canasta had pulled it. It still had plenty of food in it, she hadn’t spilled it, clever chicken. They’re still all adorable balls of fluff and don’t vanish under their mummy when I approach now. It’ll change, of course, but we appreciate the loveliness while it lasts.

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.