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Monday, 1 June 2015

It's a long one

This video should have been further down. All will become clear. Suffice to say Bonnie is not quite sure what is going on. It's only a couple of seconds

Well, I will get the bad news out of the way first. We lost one of the yellow chicks. We have no idea why, it just suddenly went downhill and Dave had to do the decent thing. As a precaution a bedside lamp has been put in the pen just in case it was cold, but none of the others are showing any sign of problems.

In fact they seem very robust. Dave put a low barrier across the door of the chicken house so they could have a runabout while he was out there sorting out the gate, but the hens could still get in to lay. While his back was turned they hopped over the barrier and were sitting in the sun with the hens! It always amazes me that the hens, especially new ones who have never seen chicks, are so accepting. But things are complicated for other reasons this year. For one, we have a cat! He won't go into the hen house, but I should imagine the chicks would be in danger if he was mouse hunting and they came out. Also we have a large pair of snakes (more later) in the wall, and also there is a magpie in one of the trees close to the run with a nest of chicks. So it is a bit of an anxious time until they put on more size.

Little ducky has had a growth spurt and is getting it's adult shape. It is more confident and independent by the day and I don't think there will be a problem integrating it into the duck house once the females have stopped chasing it off. It is a happy soul with a lovely smiley looking face.

Happy with duck or chicken

The ducks have slowed down the laying a bit, we are still getting three eggs most days, but they are laying a bit later so often in the pen. If we are not totally positive it is fresh then it is dumped if we find one in the weeds. They are inclined to just drop them as they walk.

Dave had strengthened the gates in the pen and cleared out the goat shed ready for the new arrivals later this month. The hay is ordered and electric fencing upgrade is on the cards....need to keep them off the veggie patch. They will be sharing with the ducks and chickens during the day but we want to keep them off the path while letting the chickens in to lay. In theory. In winter it will be all change as they will need access to their shed at all times.
The goat shed. We are told they like a platform to lie on so they have one

While he was being creative I got a new shelf for the outside sink

Update. Dave has moved the wire from across the hole half way up the wall in the dust barn and Sevi decided it was a good place for a rest. Went out later to find one of the ex-batts there with him. Later still found an egg with a hole pecked in it. I have a feeling Sevi has taken a liking to a warm egg for breakfast and this will explain why he usually sits with Chubba when she lays as her eggs are so soft she usually breaks them getting up, being a rather clumsy soul. Oh dear.
Sevi checking out the hole in the wall

Getting a wary look from one of the latest chickens. She wasn't here when they started using the hole before it was blocked up

Hole in the egg in the hole in the wall...naughty chook, whoever did it. One of the strongest eggs too!

The garden is looking better and smelling stronger (of perfume) all the time. The nicotiana, stock, roses and sweet peas all seem to be at their strongest at different times which is great. The antirrhinums are flowering now, the dahlias will be any day and the scented peony, which I have been meaning to trim down a bit, has suddenly formed a second batch of flowers, even though they are smaller they are very welcome, it hasn't done this before. We have a few conundrums. The echinacea are suddenly looking rough. There are plenty of new, self seeded plants coming on for next year but I have no idea why two have curled up and one has streaky leaves. Inspection of the underground if they die might show something up. Everything else is growing really well.
This flower bud is on a cutting taken from a single carnation given to me on  International Women's Day

Nicotianas of lots of colours

The stocks smell great but are not the type on the packet

Curled up echinacea

The thuggish hydrangea

In the veggie garden the beans are really getting going. The climbers are being pinched out at around seven feet and the amount of flowers is amazing. The shorter borlotti, with their pretty mauve flowers ar already setting and have mini beanlets. The second lot of broad beans, which I thought looked really weedy and are only two feet high if that, have produced  a crazy amount of flowers and there are now small beans on them too. The second lot of peas are a bit of a dead loss, the cat and Bella tend to use that area as a playground and dspite re-seeding they look really sparse. The red onions next to them have been battered too, with many breaking off so there won't be many of them. Must try harder next year! But I have taken a chance and sown three more rows of peas and they will be protected as soon as they show. The potatoes up that end are looking great, but the septic tank is being emptied later so some will get trampled. The Colorado beetle is being controlled by neem spray and Dave going round and picking off any larva he sees. The rain last week has done them the world of good. (The potatoes that is) The ones we have eaten are lovely, tasty earthy orbs, great with butter and chives. Yum. The cucumber are producing well and the first tomatoes have got two trusses developing well. It's a constant round of nipping out suckers and tying in now. And weeding. We can hoe one day and the weeds are back with a vengeance the next. (Note to Lindsey....there are plenty of weeds haha) We are not getting chance to hand weed amongst the plants. Brassicas are doing fine, we will be able to start on the kale soon. We have bought some cauli plants as we have no success with them at all and they are looking OK. They come bare rooted in a bunch with an elastic band around them so take a couple of days to recover. Everything else down the bottom end is coming along too.
Climbing beans, borlotti, beets and carrots

Borlotti beanlats

Beefsteak tomatoes growing nicely

A marigold from the tomato patch.....

.....with a tiny crab spider I didn't see when I took the photo

Short and dumpy cucumber, the ideal size for two

Tuscan kale looking good

There are nasturtiums everywhere, vibrant colours

Huge courgette flowers, will have to stuff some


Outside sown butternut

Sweetcorn, three feet high

Cantaloup melon

Masses of flower on the cucumber
The other day we were stopped in our weeding by Venka and handed a bowl ful of mekitsi, fried dough which puffs up and hollows in the middle, eaten with a dusting of sugar, or cheese, or jam or honey. We had our's with some of my soft set strawberry jam shoved in the middle, yummy, but then back to work!

Hard to be tidy.....but who cares?
In the top end, the onions are still trying to flower but a lot of them are bulking up so I'm glad I didnt pull them all up after all. The garlic looks great, I have been using the weedier ones but pulled up a normal one today and It's a great size.
One I missed!

Taters looking great...but they might get flattened

Self sown sunflowers, left for the birds

One decent pea plant

Small but flowery broad bean

Hopefully the pes will grow under the apricot tree where it is a little cooler

My poor red onions, couldn't withstand the beasties playing tag

Among the potatoes, harlequin ladybirds

And things

Ace spider
The sweet potatoes are looking good. I had a load more slips growing so potted them up for our fried with the nursery who didn't get round to starting any for himself. We are in competition as he is planting his in his polytunnel where mine are outside. I have a head start but that's only fair, so we'll see who does best, if anyone!

In the fruit line we are still getting one or two strawberries (having a re-think for next year) and the raspberries have taken over. Yum. The summer pear which we bottle some of as they are small and juicy, are doing OK and Jordan will have most of them for rakia. The wild plums are not good this year but our purple plum seems OK. Apricots are having a year off though the tree is looking extremely healthy (and the cat loves it) and the walnut is also looking great...sigh of relief after last year! There are so many flowers on the grape vine we asked Jordan if we should cut some off....he was horrified! I hope they fruit well this year as he will be having the grapes for rakia. I suppose as they are old vines they will support plenty of fruit. The bees are doing a good job on the flowers, very busy. Our Bramley apple tree which the geese ring barked last year has snapped off but there is a lot of new growth below the ring so maybe a re-train is in order. We are thinking of making that area, by the neighbour's barn, a shrubbery for wildlife as it's no good for anything else. First in will be one of the hydrangeas, a shrub grown enormously since breaking off the parent and which I find a lot of my bugs on. We will still have the parent plant by the gate which has to be cut back regularly and down to the ground in winter. It comes back like a triffid and flowers forever!
Mini summer pear

Blackcurrants blacking..I have a picture of black ones but can't find it!


and a couple of strawberries with ice cream

Back to wildlife, apart from the bees, both bumble and honey, being very busy, we have had lots of other interesting bugs as well as the familiar. And there are lots of butterflies, mostly white but others too. I actually managed a couple of photos of white ones, but they are too fast for my camera and usually end up a blur!
Bees on the grape vine
Can't remember what this plant is but all the insects love it
Mammoth wasp, huge and beautiful

A huge bronze ground beetle, at least an inch. Stunning

Not sure what this is, a beetle I suppose. I find it hard to ID anything on Google

At last, a butterfly!

Not sure if this is the same one (they all look alike) But it has been around this plant, whose name I have forgotten, for an hour. All the insects love it but it's hard to get a decent pic as the sun bleaches the blue

We found a couple of rather beautiful toads hiding under a stone that Splash was interested in. We haven't seen that many as we haven't had the really wet weather of last year, but I did hear frogs calling one day. Unfortunately I couldn't find where the sound was coming from and I'm not sure Dave believes me as he didn't hear them! We have had visits from the pine martens, making their horrible noise and making me worry about the little cat who spends so much time outside.

But the main excitement was finding the snake is still living in the wall. Dave spotted it one day then when he went out with his camera saw a movement out of the side of his eye and managed a few seconds of two large caspian whip snakes in a mating dance! Wow, and I missed it! They must have left an interesting smell as the cat came out later and sat for hours staring at where they had been. It's a good job they weren't still about, as they are feisty natured even though they are not venomous and would take on any animal, though with small heads they won't cause too much damage. They are good mousers it seems so that's a good reason to put up with them. I just hope they don't come in the house...or worse, in the chick's pen. We had a lot of losses with our free ranging chicks last year and with the weeds being so high due to not being able to get onto the wet land there was lots of cover. So maybe.... This is why the neighbours are obsessive about keeping the grass short.
Dave has just finished his first ever abstract painting! He doesn't pretend to understand them but a friend asked him if he could do a large abstract, in yellow, orange and red, on three canvasses (which had to be specially ordered) Well, he got onto the computer and jiggled about with this and that and as a joke sent a picture through to our friend. She liked it. He was shocked. She liked it even more when he explained it was the last flight of the honey bee and the streaks represented GM crops (I'm sure he explained better than me!!!) But the painting was based on this sketch and delivered and she loves it. By the time he had finished painting it he loved it too and wanted to keep it. Unfortunately I can't find where the photo is so I will have to show it another time, he's not here

 In the kitchen I have been trying new things. Someone gave me a recipe ages ago for fruity brown sauce and I have put off trying it as it is something I am not familiar with and don't really fancy. But I had got hold of some bottles so I thought I'd give it a go. It looks OK and Dave says it tastes OK so took some to the car boot sale. I await the verdict of those who bought some.
We have been indulging in loads of small veg from the garden and even Dave is enthusiastic. We have had lots of courgettes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, beetroots, leafy veg, carrots, peas and beans And now the potatoes are usable. Lovely.
Round, cylindrical and long baby beets

Some of the onions are a good size after all
And the garlic looks (and tastes) good
Multi coloured baby carrots

Put with our own ruby chard with garlic, new potatoes, chives and mint for suce to go with Dave's lamb (Not home produced!) and bought salmon

Some random pics from the garden

Another nasturtium

Penstemon sour grapes
A very pale lavender

This is (maybe) my favourite rose of the year. It just keeps giving and is the most lovely clour, ranging from intense orange buds and fading to a pale pinky orange with age. Lovely


  1. thanks for another great post, I dont often post but always read. x I am in awe of all your produce. x

    1. Thank you for posting this time. We are lucky to have early springs

  2. What a lot going on! It's so good to see your garden so green and colourful and bursting with produce. Wonderful that you have veggies to eat so early in the year. You are miles ahead of here, yet I too have a few blackcurrants turning black!

    I can tell you what a couple of your critters are. The 'ace spider' looked to me like a Lynx spider, I've never seen one as there are very few species in northern Europe, but look at Oxyopes lineatus - that looks exactly like it, and it's present in Bulgaria. The interesting beetle is a Bee Beetle - I think the most attractive beetle there is! I have seen a few in my garden.

    Annoyingly I can't view the video on my Kindle so will look when I'm on my proper computer. Kind of good to know about the snakes (from a wildlife point of view), so long as the chicks don't get eaten. And I'm still in love with duckie. :-)

    1. Bee beetle, brilliant! I got two of them mating today but haven't looked to see if they are recognisable (I think the septic tank emptying man thinks I'm weird, don't know why) Shall look up the spider too. I don't know why I can't find these things. Thanks Mandy.

      I'm starting on the kale today, just love my veg. And I have an overgrown courgette already but it's grown fast so is still firm and juicy. We are lucky here, but the peas have been so poor in yield (BG variety) I have risked sowing some more under the apricot tree. Nothing to lose

      I haven't seen the snakes since, but every so often there is a huge commotion in the poultry pen which is just outside where I am sitting so they are about I think. Need to find out where they are likely to lay eggs.

  3. Your enormous wasp looks like a scoliid wasp, we get them here, only the females have a sting (as you would expect) but they rarely use it unless threatened. They come with all sorts of coloured dotty patterns on their backs and also plain black. So envy you your veg. We have very little by comparison, but we are working on it. Amazing insect life - hopefully most of it doesn't eat your veg!

    1. I have no idea where this bug fascination came from. But we do have a few that are a nuisance. Mole crickets (and other crickets eating strawberries) Colorado beetle, flea beetle, whitefly and surpisingly only a small cabbage white problem. Most I ignore, Colorado larva make me cringe.

  4. It all looks so beautiful and productive, very inspiring.

    1. Thank you. It's better every day. I hope it all survives the up coming heat wave.

  5. Looking forward to the early springs when we move. You have lots of great colourful flowers, good idea about the shrubbery. Going back to one of your earlier posts showing Dave with the Bee hive, did you have one back in England or did he learn whilst in BG. We are thinking of having one when we move over, maybe do a course before we move? Interesting about the snakes, beware of the long grass eh. Rosemary

    1. Hi Rosemary. Dave didn't do a course on beekeeping, but the chap we got the hive and nucleus from came over from time to time to see how things were doing. If there was a problem he rang his daughter in Toronto to translate! Now we have a very good friend who keeps bees (50 hives) and who helps us out if stuck. They are running some informal courses for ex-pats who are interested in starting with bees. There is no reason why you shouldn't do a course before coming here, but you will find things a bit more rough and ready here. At least you will understand what is being said. And You Tube is quite informative.

      As for the snakes, having read up on these particular creatures it seems they are as likely to be found on open ground or in a tree as in grass. And they are quite bolshy. I worry about all three animals sticking their noses in the holes in the wall!