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Friday, 13 February 2015

Looking forward

Ten days since my last entry. Things are pretty quiet here, but we are looking forward.
We've had a few sprinklings of snow this last week
But also some brilliant sunshine for the animals to bask in

I have pricked the first of the tomatoes and the aubergines into their own vending machine cups. It is early, I know, but I have only done two of the six varieties, the early cherry and large pink types of tomato, and if they should fail it's not the end of the world. I have been very restrained and only kept ten of the pink ones and ten aubergines, which means I have had to throw many come a pinch of seed grows so many plants, but a pack of something expensive yields just a couple? I was going to wait until the nights warmed up, but it's going to be a while so I went ahead. Dave has put the garden table in the corridor upstairs where they will have all the available light from the door and window. Until I put things up there I didn't realise just how light it is. They are moved away from the window onto the freezer when it's dark, the small heat from the motor keeping them from chilling. The worst of the cold is hopefully gone now so we will get more seeds on the go. When the sun is out there is certainly enough light.
Two types of tomatoes and aubergines

The only surviving pelargoniums have come out of the garage

All the wizened chillis need removing. This plant will be enough for us

The last of the squash. A few didn't make it and a lot given away

The seedlings in the cold frame are doing OK, not growing much but not dying either

Things are changeing in the garden too. Chickweed is growing, much to the delight of the chooks and ducks. The tulips, snowdrops and daffs are growing like mad, we have several types of snowdrop/snowflake and they have a long season because of this. The tiny ones in the lawn you would miss unless you were looking at them, but the next size are now showing beautifully. The cornel by the gate is bursting it's buds showing little yellow flowers. The tree will grow slowly yellower, the first blowsy show of spring. it will soon be time to prune roses and any perennial plants which need it, as well as trees and fact the fruit trees need doing asap.
The larger snowdops coming out

You can just make out the yellow of cornus bursting out. Another photo affected by the sun. giving a whole new meaning to point and shoot....blind!

In the veggie garden the lettuce have shrivelled in the frost again, but will come alive with a couple of days of above freezing temperatures. Nothing else, just the onions and garlic growing well. The ducks are digging away looking for bugs (hopefully) and worms (we can spare a few to repay them) while the chooks spend more time close to home, getting fed up of huge clods of mud on their feet. The ducks just have baths when they get too bad. They have been on the lawn too, 'mowing' the weeds, with Dave and Bella keeping an eye and making sure they don't see the lettuce.

Farmer Dave on watch

The ducks are continuing to lay well. They are very keen to get out in the mornings, well before it is light enough to send the martens to bed they are bashing on the doors and yelling to be let out. I don't think it helps that Sevi starts crowing at 3.30am...and yes, I know because I am awake and often downstairs. Many people seem to like ducks more than chickens, and they certainly seem to be nicer to each other generally. But I reserve judgement. They are mucky, costantly muckying the chooks' water bowls, no matter how many there are, and noisy. They have yet to win me over, though I can see they can be quite pretty. Dave thinks they're great, much better than my chickens who he can't tell apart. And to be fair, the ducks are laying better than the hens with all this cold weather. The original white female is trying to get into the small nest boxes (she is far too big!) so maybe she will lay too one day. Spot and Spotty desperately follow the big group hoping to be part of it, but remain just on the fringes.

Clever duckies

Not even properly light, but an early morning (very cold) bath is a must

Spot and Spotty have to wait their turn. I like these two

Looking on in horror....
I am experimenting with the eggs. They are a lot thicker than hens' eggs and the yolk is much bigger so they do give different results. I have found that a mix is better for Yorkshire puds, but duck eggs make a lovely, rich yellow, moist cake and great custard for Portuguese tarts. Also nice rich coloured pasta and quiche. But quite a few have gone to people who want to try them and of course, to our neighbours, who had expressed doubt that they would even lay.

Cheese and onion and meaty little quiche

Lemon drizzle buns...they cool quicker than a cake for hungry husband

Winter warmer, toad in the hole with mash, veg and thick onion gravy

Cheat's donuts

 While in the kitchen, I have to mention the beans. I think I have told of the small beetles which rose to the top when I soaked the beans Venka gave us. In an old life I would have chucked the beans out, but the new me doesn't like waste. So when I saw one of these this morning I had to go all through the soaked beans to find the affected ones...and enjoyed a beany ratatuille with the rest. It seems you can only see them in the beans when soaked...who knew? Haha

Bonnie's nasty lesions seem to have dried up at last. She seems happier in herself but whether that is the reason or just that spring is in the air I don't know. She seems to be finding the stairs a bit easier and even tried to jump up this morning, something she has never made a habit of. Bella is Bella, a bit put out that she is no longer allowed to take up half the bed, still playing with the cat and getting clawed for her trouble. The cat has not calmed down yet, but having more bed to sleep on seems to have stopped him moving around so much. He has started to try to follow Dave and the dogs on their morning walk if he manages to get out, a worry with the ever expanding pack of feral dogs in the village, but he seems to take no chances. The feral dogs are being very noisy all night, something we are not used to, possibly as the bitches are coming in to season. I am not sure the villagers will be as tolerant of them when they are outside more and have their windows open at night.
Bella....wanna play....

....come ON......(bite, chew) then
I had a bit of a fright one night. Dave was out and the cat came in from hunting and settled by the fire. Suddenly he sat up on his haunches like a meerkat, trying to see through the door. I thought Dave had come back, but no. He sat very tense for ages, even Bella wanting to play couldn't distract him. I put the outside light on and looked out, but decided to leave well alone and the cat relaxed after about 15 minutes.

Play cat, c'mon....Wassat???

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And finally to a frustration. I have mentioned before that, though my camera takes quite nice pictures even on auto, the screen is impossible to see in sunlight and there is no view finder. This is so annoying and today was one of those times when the woodpeckers were frolicking in the walnut tree but with sideways brilliant sun I couldn't see anything. So here are the 'best of the really bad photos......oh dear oh dear.
Can you see it? Just taking off...behind a forest of twigs......

....and this one? Bottom right, that really was a woodpecker posing nicely haha Rubbish!


  1. In spite of the cold, spring must be in the air, great wild life! We also have increased bird activity at the moment but impossible to catch them on film. They can hear the camera switch on and I swear they know what it is and they only pose when they hear it switch off again! I love your ducks, we would like ducks but we don't have a pond, I see you don't have a pond either... is the tray of water enough? We could certainly do that.

    1. Our tray is half of a car roof box someone gave us when we had the geese. With the ducks being so mucky it is easy to empty and refill every day with well water. Some recommend the children's sandpits. I wouldn't recommend so many ducks to start with, I was happy with two haha. But yes, as long as they have some water a shallowish tray is ideal as it's easy to clean.

      I know what you mean about the birds. We have jays coming down to pinch maize and ex-batts chasing them off, but they are very shy.unfortunately and the available window is old, wavy glass

  2. OK I promise I will not mention woodpecker photos..... :-)

    So changing the subject and talking of duck eggs (and yummy to all that lovely food), I found that I didn't like them as scrambled eggs at all, but liked them fried and they baked in cakes really well. We liked them best as frittata/tortilla, better than hen eggs for that. But alas I don't get any now the ducks have gone wild.

    Is that chilli still alive? I tried to overwinter one once but it just died. Glad Bonnie is improving and I would have chucked those beans out! I have heard that if you put them in the freezer it kills off the eggs that turn into the grubs. I've been there with dried beans and ending up chucking the lot so don't bother any more! :-)

    1. Haha, i shouldn't be worrying about the photos, we have plenty stored away somewhere, greater, lesser. syrian and green. But I always think there might be a better one.....

      I find I am always trying to find ways of using eggs in cooking rather than a meal as such, though Dave likes them any way. I used to enjoy a boiled egg before Sevi was put with my girls but don't bother any more. I didn't think we would get so many from the ducks this early, but if it continues I will take some to car boot sales from next month. They do make great, moist cakes though

      Yes, the chilli is still alive and the little buds are starting to swell. It obviously thrives on neglect.

      I didn't know about the grubs in beans, they only seem to be in the white beans, there was no sign in the borlotti. I think I might just freeze the borlotti next year though, I found it handy to not having to think about soaking the few I put in last year. I will cook what's left for the chooks.

  3. those quiches look yummy as do everything else that you make...........

    1. It makes me look as if I am always making masses of food, and believe me I don't need it! But I only use stuff that I have to, and try to use as much of our own stuff as possible. The duck eggs just keep coming and do make a good quiche.....