Monday, 29 September 2008

Some good news

I've been able to start harvesting more produce from the allotment. Even the biggish pumpkin that was hammered by the hailstorm has continued to grow, and although it still shows the scars, we may just have something for hallowe'en. I had a really good crop of climbing french beans, so many that I've got plenty in the freezer to see me through the winter. The remaining beans I'm leaving to go to seed and I intend to save some for planting next year as well as having a go at drying them to add to soups and stews.

On Sunday we harvested beautiful carrots, baby turnips, a cabbage and a lettuce, oh yes, and just a few beans.

I had some thrilling news last week. Becci, my youngest daughter (the one with the chickens) had told me a couple of weeks previously that she'd been nominated for "something" but didn't know what it was. She found out last Thursday that she'd been nominated for the Student Midwife of the Year Award! How wonderful is that! But - it gets better. She's been shortlisted as a finalist and will find out the final results at an award ceremony on October 9th in Birmingham. I'm so proud of her, her determination and commitment in everything she does, whether it was studying when the children were tiny so that she'd have the required "A" levels to get into University, bringing up 3 little girls (though at 14, 13 and 9 they're not so little now), coping with 2 dogs, one of which has epilepsy, and caring for 6 ex-battery chickens. It's been really tough for her, and still is as she's only just coming to the end of her 2nd year of her training. All my children make me feel really blessed.

This weekend, Adrian told me he was taking me out for the day. I've been through a bout of manic depression and he felt I needed a bit of "me" time, time to relax a bit and get things into perspective again. We set off from Stafford at 11am and went down the M6 and M5 towards Evesham, then towards Oxford, then Banbury. At 1pm (or thereabouts!) we arrived at Cotswold Chickens. I was flabbergasted! He told me we'd come to choose my birthday present, even though it's a bit early. Oh the beautiful pullets they had there, it really was difficult to choose. Anyway, we came away with 2 Black Star and 2 Bluebelle who I've named Marigold and Honeysuckle (Black Star) and Bluebell and Pansy. They're so cute, haven't grown their combs and wattles yet. They're 17 weeks old so it'll be a few weeks yet before they start laying any eggs.

This is Pansy on the left, and Marigold below.

Honeysuckle on the left peering out at this strange new world.
As you can see, they seem to be not too phased by their new home. Bluebell did a very good impression of Houdini just before bedtime, she managed to fly over the fence and joined the other flock quite happily. She did want to get back in to her enclosure though when it was time to go to bed. I let all the chooks out just before 7 this morning - isn't it getting dark early and not getting light till late now? When I opened the converted hutch door, 4 pairs of bleary eyes looked and me and blinked. Honeysuckle was the first to venture out, followed a little later by Marigold. Pansy put in an appearance about 8.30, but Bluebell didn't appear till after 10am. I didn't want to push them, I want them to do their own thing and get used to where "home" is before taking the next step of integrating them with the other 8 girls.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

September? Feels more like winter to me!!!

Since my last post, I've been busy in the garden and on the allotment.

I've harvested loads and loads of french beans, there's so many packets of them in the freezer I certainly won't be short of a veg to go with dinner :). The peas are coming along too, lovely and sweet, though the pods don't look very inviting, they seem a bit mildewy. I tried one of the purple cauliflowers and I must admit I'm not that taken with it. It tasted ok raw, very strong flavour, but cooking it - well!! I made the mistake of putting it in boiling water to blanch it for freezing. It went a sort of bluey-grey colour, not a feast for the eyes at all. The water turned bright blue too. Wonder if it'd make a good dye? Might try that one day when I've nothing better to do.

September 2nd saw the most awful hailstorm I've ever experienced. It lasted a good 15 minutes, and the hailstones were almost the size of a 1p piece.

The chickens all hid under the laurel hedge while it was going on, but once the hail turned to rain, they all came out to investigate all this white stuff!

The weekend of 5th, 6th and 7th September saw Adrian and I at Whiteley Village Outlet Centre near Gosport where we were selling our jewellery. It wasn't a bad weekend sales-wise, weather-wise rain, rain and more rain interspersed with showers. I didn't take my fleece off all the time we were there! The B&B we stayed at though was wonderful, I can highly recommend it. A thirties house restored as close as it could be to the period, perfectly cooked breakfasts, and really comfortable rooms. The Art Deco style gave Adrian lots of inspiration for more jewellery designs, one of which was a piece of Whitby Jet with fine silver bands inlaid into it - sold within half an hour of it being finished! Steve and Angela Macauley are the owners of Milvil Corner in Lee on the Solent.

Beccy phoned me on the Saturday to tell me some sad news. Petunia, my hop-a-long chicken had died. She was soooooooooooo loving, always the last one in to bed, always waiting at the gate for me to pick her up and give her a goodnight cuddle. I've buried her in the garden near Rose. I'm getting paranoid now! Every time I go to the chicken run, I'm counting them all and if there's 1 not visible I steel myself to look in the coop hoping that I won't find another one has gone to chicken heaven. I know it's bound to happen to them all sooner or later, they've had a really stressful life before coming to retire with me, but I love them all dearly - even Hyacinth when she pecks at a thin shelled egg to try and steal the contents.

I didn't go to the allotment today. Instead I started clearing a pile of composty rubbish in the corner of the front garden to make into a flower bed. Got loads of small plants that have been ready to be planted out for ages. After shifting 3 wheelbarrow loads of soil and compost from the front to the veggie patch at the back, I was exhausted! Anyway, it's all been spread over one of the raised beds, then a good thick layer of compost from the "dalek" before I covered it all with weed-suppressant membrane. I've planted lots of my strawberry plants through holes cut into the membrane and hopefully, slugs and snails permitting, I'll get a good crop of strawberries next year.

I've thinned out and potted on some Kale and some of the Ailsa Craig onions. They're looking quite sturdy little seedlings, but they're not going out into the allotment until I've got some fleece or something to give them some protection from critters and the elements.

Right then, think that's all for now - till next time :)