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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Wooo, new chicks

Sorry, I'm a bit behind with the blog. It's been a strange week of ups and downs and I have not been in the right frame of mind. Nothing disastrous though, just enough to throw me off kilter.

We have had a few days of rain which is brilliant for the garden and much needed but on the other hand we have got used to dry weather. It means the chickens are more confined as the mud clings to their feet and the dogs are restricted from having free run of the plot as the three inches of mud they bring back in means a major clean up of dogs and floor, so charging around like lunatics is not encouraged too often. However, though if feels chilly, that is just the damp and really the weather is not bad for the garden and I am hoping for some more vigorous growth after the wetting it is getting. Already the lettuce, strawberries, garlic and onions are shooting ahead. Another rhubarb is showing itself and carrots left in the ground last year are shooting again. The Cornel (cornus with edible 'superfruit') is now bright yellow and smothered in hungry bees. The first daff has broken open, more violets and flowering weeds. Nothing in the chicken runs though, anything with the temerity to poke it's shoot above ground doesn't live long.

Cornus tree by the front gate

 Allium bed
 Rose shoots

While the weather has been dreary, Dave has been finishing a commission painting for a local person. Once that was done the kitchen cupboard had a new door put on to finish it off and a door made for the feed shed to keep the chickens out. I have also been busy with cards as the people who had one recently have ordered a bakers dozen more, a real confidence boost. We will be getting a bee hive and colony in May and Dave has fashioned a hat from a broken door fly screen and a rather expensive hat he has never worn, the hive will be going on the other side of the compost heaps, we think. The chap we are buying it from will advise us when he comes.

The bee hat, don't worry, the swats are just for effect!
And while in the sun, he has a new hobby....stone balancing sculptures. He has got uo to four so far, and it certainly keeps him quiet!

In the kitchen things are quiet, but I have managed to make a decent pat of salted butter. Someone on a facebook page mentioned that she froze the cream skimmed off the milk so that it didn't go off before there was enough to make it worth while. It is yummy and to be used for special treats only! So thank you that lady for pointing out what I stupidly didn't think of.

And of course this week was Shrove Tuesday, so an excuse to make pancakes. Dave doesn't like pancakes, but by the time they were smothered in tangy lemon syrup, made simply by adding sugar to lemon zest and juice and heating on the stove, he is a convert. They were delicious, if rather sweet.

 The first of March is Baba Marta Day, a celebration of the start of the growing season, proper explaination here.

Venka came round to give us our martinitsas and luckily we had bought some to give to them. We will hang them in a blossoming tree when they come out, or if we see a stork first.

The Monday after was also a holiday and when Dave went to town to pay the annual council tax and car tax the offices were closed. So many holdays, but only for places like these it seems. All done now though, paid for by the paintings.

 And so to the chickens

The ex-batt ladies have settled well. They are eating and eating, then eating some more and all are now laying. They have also found tey like worms since the rain has brought them to the surface. Their feathers are growing well and Milly and Molly are walking normally now. Mandy is the only one not walking too well, probably more to do with rough handling than anything. But she is laying now as well as the others, though her egg is a bit smaller than the others'. She had an odd one one day though, very thin and rough and the outer layer of shell seemed to be gathered at one end. But she is ok now.

On a sad note, we lost yet another of our original girls suddenly. I have been in touch with the chap who gave us them nearly a year ago and it seems he has been having a lot of trouble with the health of his flock and has culled a lot and got fresh blood in to try to rescue the situation. I still feel really bad about losing three of the five. So we only have Cagney bossy knickers and Chubba who lays soft eggs left of the originals. So sad.

The shumens have all been caught up and weighed for the chap we bought them from's records. That was an interesting excercise as a black hen is a black hen, and the youngster, Solo, is bigger than the original two but we had to look back at the photos we took of the old girls to identify who was who. All sorted now though and they are all decent weights. Solo now has a yellow zip tie on her leg so we know who is who. Still don't know if the other black one is male or female though, and Sevi doesn't seem to know either.

Three of the twelve maran eggs have hatched, a very disappointing result but maybe we were just too early getting them in. None of Cagney's hatched which is a good thing given what we now know, but the shumen eggs we put in when the Polands went in are all fertile, and nine of the Polands. Today we recieved twelve araucana eggs and they will go in the other incubator tomorrow with another twelve shumen.

Fisrt babies of the year

Today's delivery, they are bluer than they look in the photo

Finally, I would like to thank Margaret for putting me right about the wheat pudding, I knew something was not right about the 'rice' but couldn't put my finger on it or find anything on the internet....easy when you know!