Thursday, 29 April 2010

A week to go

yes, politics! A week to go to the election and the last of the televised debates takes place in just over an hour. Gordon Brown caused controversy yesterday by calling a woman "bigoted" and then trying to apologise. The Conservatives have a big supporting base in this area as our last MP was one, and now they are fielding a new candidate, he seems to have just inherited the support regardless. To be honest, driving along the roads around here, there are no banners out for any other party; the YFG observed the other day that "everyone round here will be voting for the blue team!" and I tried to explain that not everyone plastered their political views on the gateposts! Those that do, though, are blue here.

We were doing well in the garden clear up and poultry shed building project today - I got one hen house moved out of the way of progress, cleaned out and re-sited, and now I have my fingers crossed that the chickens will use it tonight...even though it is is another spot. I pricked out more lettuce plants today, too, when I had to retreat to the greenhouse in an absolute downpour. The April showers are here at last - in the very last days of the month!! I am hoping that they don't knock all my beautiful apple blossom off the trees now that it has come out. The plum blossom is finished, the pear is waning and now we have the apples - lovely white flowers tinged with pink.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A pottering about kind of day

My UJ has been here today to be the driver for the FH. They went out this morning on errands, came home at 11am for a quick coffee before nipping off to the lunch club. They spent most of the afternoon digesting the lunch, before taking the trailer and going off to buy a tonne of washed ballast (mixed gravel and sand to the rest of us). Then it was time for tea and now they are out again at a Historical society talk about the floods of 1947. I expect they will turn up again soon!!

I have been doing things around the house and garden, tidying and catching up on a few things. The chicks have all been cleaned out and given fresh newspaper, for example. I've also been out in the garden and cut the front lawn as well as potting up some tomato plants - I have at least six kinds, I have realised - Gardener's Delight, Moneymaker, Garden Pearl, Sungold, Sweet Million and a kind I bought from Lidl which have a German name.....not sure, but they are growing! I was delighted to find that the second set of courgette seeds (Tristan) are through, as are the butternut squash seedlings. I also managed to fit in a little baking - chocolate buns with choc chips, for teatime.

I've managed to track down a 1988 copy of the British Poultry Standards from a secondhand bookshop in Nottinghamshire via at just £20 which is a bargain - new editions are going for over £57 on eBay, so I'm avoiding them.

The most exciting news of the day is that I have found someone in Kent, near Faversham, who breeds Brown Sussex poultry and she has agreed to sell me a trio for £100. Now I just have to arrange to go and get them - it's a three hour drive, so I am not sure when I will be able to fit it in, but the sooner the better. Now I'll have to sort out their accommodation...

Monday, 26 April 2010


I must have one of those personalities that people know that they can trust me! I now have three secrets to keep - some to do with friends, another to do with an organisation. I don't know how people who have to keep things confidential all the time manage as I love to discuss things with other people over a cup of tea and get their take on what is going on - but I can't in these cases, and it means that I am going to be glad when the times come for each of them to be secrets no more!!

Apart from my agony aunt work these past few days, I have been busy in the wash house - lots and lots of laundry has been out on the line in this wonderful weather we are still enjoying. We had a little blip in the record on Sunday when there was a little shower or two, but that was perfect for all the people running in the London Marathon as it freshened the air for them and made it more comfortable for running.

The veggie seedlings in the greenhouse are doing well - more tomatoes are through as well as the peppers, and there are more courgettes coming through as well. My free seeds from the BBC's Dig-In campaign arrived this morning - carrot, beans, courgette, basil and salad leaves, so I may plant some of those soon - probably not the courgette though as I am sure that the five plants I have already and the four more coming through are going to be plenty.

There was rather an embarassing moment in church on Sunday when my mobile phone went off in the middle of a prayer and I had to scurry off outside to turn it off - when I was turning it off before we went to chapel, I can't have held the "off" button down long enough! I think that next time it will be left in the car so that although we'll have it with us, it won't be in the chapel. One of my fellow members of the congregation is still taking the mickey out of me every time he sees me!! However, it would have been useful if the phone had been playing hymn tunes on Sunday morning as we had some challenges with the music for the hymns which the preacher wanted to play - the other worship leader and I have decided that we have to sort the music out once and for all!! Tis going to take quite some sorting as we have midi discs which are inserted into a keyboard to play the music and they are becoming old-fashioned these days, added to which we don't have a comprehensive index to tell us exactly what we do have and it is a recipe for disaster!

I'm off now to read some more of the latest Mma Ramotswe mystery from Botswana - The Double Comfort Safari Club. I do enjoy these very genteel tales from Alexander McCall Smith.

Hatch over

The hatch of the Gold-laced Orpingtons is over - we have four live birds.
This is rather disappointing and makes them expensive, but that is the chance you have to take.

We started off with 24 eggs, and one exploded last week. One hatched on Wednesday and the other three made it out of the shells between Thursday and Friday. Another started to come out of the shell this morning, five days after the first. That one didn't make it, I'm afraid.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Sebright chick update photos

Here is the cheeky chappy which hatched on the 1st April. We think it might be a cockerel as he has a lovely little tail - although I would be pleased to be wrong about that!

The wing feathers came through first and now the smaller ones are filling in the gaps and covering the downy feathers up.

The tail feathers are clearly visible above.

The Sebright gold-laced feathers look beautiful on "him" already.
We are going to have to develop a care plan for this chap soon: we need to decide how to keep him until he might be big enough to put with other birds. He will certainly need a bigger box this week!

Hatch news

One chick is completely out of its shell already! It was out by 8.45am and is beginning to dry out a little whilst it waits for company. Hopefully I'll be able to get some photos later.

Another hatch about to start

The Gold-laced Orpington eggs have been in the incubator nearly all their allotted time, and now there are noises coming from the incubators - something is beginning to happen!! It's a really exciting time as we have 24 of these eggs, and really want a successful hatch, so we have everything crossed that at least half the eggs do the business.

I've got to go out this morning but I'll be keeping an eye on the incubators to see what is going on when I am home this afternoon - luckily, each incubator does have a viewing window so I am able to watch!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Glorious sunny days

The plants in the greenhouse are taking the opportunity to grow fantastically well in this lovely weather. I have now got cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, French beans (a LOT of these!), sweet peas, courgettes, and butternut squash in there, with more to come. There are several kinds of tomatoes, lettuces and courgettes as I wanted to do a little comparison planting to see which had the best yields and resistance to problems. Unfortunately the grass seeds haven't started to sprout yet, so I think more watering is on the cards.

I found a wonderful organisation called The Real Seed Company which sells heirloom/heritage seeds - so I ordered some! Two kinds of dwarf French beans, a climbing French bean, one kind of tomato and one of kale. I'm really excited about these and will be sowing them soon! You can find their website and order through that. It is a membership club - cost of joining 1p - to get round not being allowed to sell this kind of seed to the "public".

Yesterday we resumed gymnastics, I had a budgeting meeting at school, and then helped the FH with some things. I hit the hay at 10.45 and slept!! Today I have been out with him this morning doing some deliveries, and dropped him off at the lunch club. I'll be going back for him at 1.30pm, then collecting the YFG from school at 3pm, the EFG from her school after 4.30pm when she has finished rounders club and then a Governors meeting tonight from 6.30pm. In between the trips here and there, I am going to make shepherd's pie for tea, as I have been looking forward to that for a few days.

I'm going to fold some laundry now, and then put my feet up for 10 minutes!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Driving, driving, driving!

It's in my blood: my dad worked as a driver and manager of a coach company, my mum drove minibuses, and I do enjoy driving, but it has become a chore now that I would gladly give up for a while.

Since the FH can't drive at the moment, I have to - to band, to school, to the shops, to work, to the post office, to the doctor's, to the hospital, to the art club, the lunch club, to get the picture. No longer can I say, "Could you just take so and so there?" or "Can you pick up the EFG from the after-school club?" because I know before I ask that he can't. End of. It means that I don't get odd half-hours to myself whilst everyone is out, because they can't all go out without me, and whatever needs doing/fetching/taking, it is me who has to do it.

I am finding myself getting rather anxious about it all, and wondering what could "give" at the moment to give me some space? Whatever I think, it would all affect somebody, so there isn't a lot I can do about it all at the moment, apart from pray that the 9th May sees the doctor say that the CPAP is working well enough that they can make the recommendation that the FH is fit to drive again.

84 eggs later....

I have made 8 crustless quiches, each with 8 eggs = 64 eggs

They came out of the oven after half an hour and they smelled wonderful!! They are now all tucked into the freezer, to be pulled out for meals and picnics etc.

That's what 84 eggs worth of shell looks like. I have a plan to dry them out in a low oven and then use them to keep slugs away from the lettuce plants.

You might be wondering what I used the other 20 eggs for? Another dozen went into lemon curd, so I have six more jars of that put up on the pantry shelves, and then I just hard boiled the last 8 and they are in the fridge for breakfasts, quick snacks and lunches. They'll be gone soon!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Eco-shopping again

Going back to here I am continuing with our take on Lock's Challenges. We are up to 13 now.

Challenge 13: Does recycled toilet roll pass the test? No, it's not what it sounds like - it is used paper recycled to make toilet roll, OK!?! I think that Nouvelle is excellent value and soft enough. The YFG complains about it and asks regularly for softer stuff. Occasionally I give in. Not too often!

Challenge 14: Can a girl live without clingfilm?
Absolutely. No question. Hate the stuff!

Challenge 15: Staying lovely without chemicals. Mmm - I still use some Olay products, some Avon soap pumps, bubble bath - all full of chemicals. Lock "face-tests" three products, one of them a recommended Udder cream for cows, but of which she says, "I did like it, once I'd got my head around the fact that it was designed to be massaged into cows' dangly bits." She notes that it was unperfumed and that smell is an important consideration for her. I don't think I'd go so far as to try that particular cream, but there are others around which do not use parabens, and perhaps I should look for them. The girls and I have recently switched to roll-on deodorants with no aluminium so that is a start in the right direction.

Challenge 16: Can you make your own skincare stuff at home? Lock investigated this at great length, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to go on emulsifying courses or to grate beeswax. I'll go back to Challenge 15 and try to find some ready made simple versions. I don't use a lot of chemicals at all, anyway, so I don't need a lot!

Challenge 17: Do natural deodorants really work? Lock concludes that some of them do, but I am happy with my new roll-on, so I'll use that for now and look into PitRok, which she tried successfully, for next time.

Challenge 18: Sunscreens - what's the safety factor?
Well, the FH gets Factor 50 Australian stuff so we all tend to use that. I thought that was the right thing to do, but apparently there may be dangers in using sunscreens because of the nanoparticles. Yes, nanoparticles. No, I hadn't heard of them either. There is a concern that these tiny particles may be able to penetrate the skin and accumulate in the body in potentially dodgy areas, like the lungs. Then there's the aluminium question again. She recommends a couple of parabens-free sunscreens, but in general, she says that her new strategy is: "I take a short walk without suncream before 11am when the sun's not too high or too hot. I lurk indoors from midday to 3pm, after which, if I go out, I apply my sunscreen." The walk is to get some sun for the Vitamin D benefits. I think that I shall adopt a slightly different regime - my usual - wear a light covering of clothes, keep my arms and legs covered as well as the rest of me, wear a hat, and some sunscreen on the bits I can't cover. I shall look into the sunscreens she recommends, but they don't look mainstream so I am not sure how easy they are to get hold of.

Challenge 19: Girl talk - the gory details on sanitary protection.
No, I am not brave enough to try the Mooncup, nor the re-usable pads. At the moment.

Challenge 20: Does Fairtrade tea make the best brew?
It might, but I buy whatever's on special offer - sometimes Tetley, sometimes PG.

Challenge 21: Does ethical coffee hit the spot?
Don't need to worry about that one - I don't drink coffee.

Challenge 22: Does organic booze beat the hangover?
I don't drink to the state at which I would get a hangover, so this one is not a problem for us - we don't drink much at all.

Challenge 23: Juicy fruit - juicing your own.
We don't have a juicer so we don't do this, and I would worry about the amount of sugar the girls were having if we did. A friend had one, and I used to watch all the apple pulp having to be removed and marvelling at the waste of all that good fibre. I'd rather encourage them to drink water and eat the fruit.

Challenge 24: Water - what's the best?
Here, there is nothing wrong with the tap water and so we drink it by the glassful. We only buy the odd bottle of water, and we are usually buying it for the bottle, rather than for the water!!

Challenge 25: Do real nappies do the business?
They did, and I tried, but Oh, the relief at being past all that!!!!!!!!!

Challenge 26: Mother's milk or formula?
Boob juice all the way! I fed the EFG for 26 months - yes, she had teeth - and the YFG for 10 months.

Challenge 27: Which toys pass the toddler test?
The issues here are of cheap plastic tat, and the carbon footprint raised by importing said tat from China. The sad demise of the traditional English wooden toy.

I think that is enough for tonight. The EFG is back to school tomorrow so I am up early to get her off at 7.55am. Good night!

Another egg recipe

Today's offering for using up the glut of eggs is a recipe for baked egg custard.

I've had this recipe in an old notebook for some time and I have no idea where it came from, but it works well, and I use it now and again. It certainly does the job for the eggs...

Baked Egg Custard

Mix together 8 eggs with 4 cups of skimmed milk and 1 cup of sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Put all these into a saucepan and whisk them together - I use a big balloon whisk, but any kind would do. Don't let the mixture boil but just get it hot, then pour into a large, buttered dish and cook in the oven for 45 - 50 minutes at 150C. I sprinkle grated nutmeg over ours before I cook it, but that is a matter of choice.

Tomorrow, I should get some quiches made as I went to the village shop today where I saw that they had some tinfoil deep pie dishes, so I am going to use those so that I can freeze the quiches. I'm going to do some cheese and broccoli and some cheese and bacon. I'll let you know how I get on later!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Nanny McPhee and lemon curd

Today has been one of those days where everything seemed to happen! The FH and my UJ went out at about 11, and then I set to making lemon curd. My friend D came around for a chat, with her son, and stayed about an hour - during which I continued to make the lemon curd whilst we were chatting. Then they left and we had to scurry around and get ready to leave at 1pm to get to Huntingdon for the 1.50pm screening of Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. It is an excellent film, set during WW2, and it was hilarious! Highly recommended.

After that, we came straight home, dropped the YFG off at her friend's house for a sleepover tonight and came home to resume the lemon curd marathon. Eventually the FH phoned to say that he and UJ were on their way home, and so I started to cook the dinner. We had a good meal with UJ and he left at about 9.30pm.

I made lots of lemon curd - I have about 6 jars left and I have given D and UJ a big jar each and another smaller jar to Jean. It is the most simple recipe and works like a dream. Here is the recipe just as I recieved it from the FH's sister in an email:

"I have a very good lemon curd recipe which I set out below - it usually keeps in a cool cupboard until opened and then I keep in the fridge, do not know how long it keeps though as we like it so much it is soon eaten.

100g (4oz) butter (I use unsalted)
3 eggs
225g (8oz) caster sugar
grated rind and juice of 3 lemons

In a medium sized bowl, heat the butter MICROWAVE HIGH for 2 minutes.
Beat together the rest of the ingredients and stir into the melted butter.
Cook uncovered MICROWAVE HIGH for 5 minutes, stirring well each minute. When cooked, the curd should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Pour into sterilized jars, seal and cover.

As you will note this is made in the microwave and I can say that it is the easiest, quickest and best lemon curd I have ever made."

I totally agree - it is a doddle to make, even for someone like me who has never made lemon curd before! I have more lemons and lots more eggs, so I will be making another couple of batches tomorrow, and then I will be moving on to other egg-based products which I can freeze - cakes and quiches are the first things which spring to mind, although the FH has asked for egg custard as well - the lovely kind with the nutmeg sprinkled on the top.

It is strangely quiet without the YFG here tonight...

Last bit of news for the night - the Gold Partridge Orpington pen has produced two more eggs on consecutive days AND the Silver Laced Wyandotte hen has laid her first egg today!! We are making progress in the breeding programme at last.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Ash clouds from Iceland

The volcano which has been erupting in Iceland has caused havoc for the airport/plane industry this past couple of days, with no flights in this country yesterday and most of today as well. Just as well, then, that my neighbour's lovely mother, Jean, flew in from Cyprus on Wednesday evening for a visit. It was an amazing surprise to see her out with her grandson in the street yesterday and I rushed over to give her a big hug.

Yesterday I was in the garden most of the day again! And today, for some of it, too. I dug over the vegetable bed on which I had put most of the garden compost - it turned in surprisingly easily so a job I had been putting off for days as I was afraid it was going to be too much like hard work, I actually accomplished in about half an hour. I was definitely glowing when I had finished!

Tomorrow the FH is going out with my uncle for the day so I am going to take the girls and a friend to the cinema - we are going to see Nanny MacPhee's next film. I think Emma Thompson is a great actress so I am pleased that this is the film that they have chosen to watch.

Lots more washing has been done today and it is all dry. I couldn't face ironing tonight so I have just folded it and sorted it into each person's heap. I had a big tidy up in my room one morning this week so it is no surprise that mine is the largest heap.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Chicken milestones

One of the Gold Partridge Orpington girls had laid an egg this morning when I went to let them out. I was so excited!! This is the first any of that group has laid, so it means that they ARE now old enough to start laying and we can expect them to get up to speed in the next few weeks.

I feel like I have achieved a lot today - I got up earlier so I have had more "day" to do it in, I suppose, so that helps...

I sowed some grass seed on the bare patches of back lawn on Monday and watered it well then with the watering can, quite a few canfuls. It dried out quite quickly so I have done it again today, and I will probably do it each day now as there is no rain forecast for some days. I hung some more washing out as the sun was shining and there was a brisk breeze to get the towels dry. I do love to see washing flapping on a sunny day. I've been in the greenhouse and potted up the 18 cucumber seedlings that had come through; we are going to be inundated with cucumbers if they are all productive. Some are a variety called "Burpless" and the others are "Telegraph" - supposed to be long and straight like telegraph poles, I think. I also potted up 15 tomato plants of a variety called Sweet Million, which is a cherry tomato. I then sowed more seeds: melon, two kinds of pepper and two more kinds of tomato - Sungold and Moneymaker. The gooseberry plants also got potted up this morning as the ground where I want to put them is not yet ready. They look fine in blue-glazed terracotta pots, in the sun, in front of the verandah. People will just have to watch when they walk past Invicta and not get too close as she is rather fiercely prickled!

This afternoon we had our six monthly check ups at the dentist in town. The EFG and the FH have to go back for fillings and I need a scale and polish so we are booked to return in June. Then we headed to the bank and WHSmith and Boots. I left a prescription there which I will have to pick up another day for the FH - we forgot all about it! After that, we went to Wisbech, because we wanted to have a look at shoes in Brantano's shop there. The YFG needed new school shoes, and I had a browse round and found some for myself too so that was a successful time. We also nipped into other shops as we don't go to Wisbech at all often so we had a bit of a poke around whilst we were there.

Since the FH can't drive, UJ came over this morning to help the FH to fetch some pallets for firewood and then they went to the Wednesday lunch as well - and the YFG went along too. Liver and bacon, lots of veg and mash and then jam sponge pudding - they all came home stuffed! The FH is finding it rather a struggle not being able to drive and asked if we could go for a ride out somewhere this week, so we came home from Wisbech by a very scenic route and he was happier!

Photocall for Hedgie

Here's the hedgehog - first sighting of the spring last night.
I have some canned cat food which the cat doesn't like, so I may see if Hedgie fancies it tonight.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I took Confessions of an Eco-Shopper by Kate Lock out from the library one day last week, and it has been very interesting to read, as well as very amusing! She uses the subtitle, "The true story of one woman's mission to go green" which gives us all a good grasp of what it is all about.

Lock tackles the issues as 37 Challenges, and I thought it would be good for my eco soul, such as it is, to consider how we are measuring up to them and what we could do to improve our carbon footprint.

Challenge 1: Can you do without supermarkets?
No, I've been here before. I live in the middle of nowhere and I can manage to go to a good butcher in Upwell, there are veg and fruit on the market in town BUT there is nowhere else to buy the groceries like sugar, flour and margerine, the loo roll and the washing up liquid. I fail on that one.

Challenge 2: The veg box.
No, I'm not going there either. There are loads of veg that we or UJ grow ourselves, and we are reasonable traditional (you can read "boring" there if you want to!) in our choices but we don't go too much for the fancy stuff. There are orchards in the Wisbech area, around Elm, where I buy fruit if I want a lot to preserve, and otherwise I get it from the shop or the market, and I am happy to choose what I want myself.

Challenge 3: Organic and local
My budget doesn't run to Organic in anything other than cucumbers, because they taste so much better - and I have a load of seedling cucumbers in the propagator so we won't be buying many this year. Local - I am all for local - grow your own, barter with neighbours, receive gratefully from friends and family who have excess produce, I do Local OK!

Challenge 4: Does Organic taste better?
Cucumbers do. Can't tell you about anything else. I would say, though, that my homegrown stuff is as good as organic as we don't put anything on it. That tastes pretty good!

Challenge 5: Can you grow your own?
YES! I Can and I do! And I want to grow more.....and I "grow" my own chicken meat and eggs too.

Challenge 6: Ready meals vs proper dinners
She seems to mean bought, pop-it-in-the-microwave dinners as ready meals, whereas our version of a ready meal is what I made last week as leftovers and froze. We do those, but I don't think I have ever bought a proper microwave dinner.....Real food here.

Challenge 7: Make your own
Yogurt? I can and have but there is little demand for it here so I don't at the moment.
Ice cream? HM Lollies I can do, and the FH has a method for making ice cream with tinned cream/milk but it goes very hard!! Not sure we pass that test.
Soup? Used to. Haven't done for ages - should try again.
Bread? Can do - make a popular French stick, and use the breadmachines sometimes too.
Cakes? Most definitely - size of backside attests to that!
Preserves? Jam, apple butter, basic marmalade. Haven't made chutney for ages, but want to make lemon curd this week - bought the lemons!

Challenge 8: The milkman
Used one when we first moved here, but the kids and FH didn't drink enough milk to make it worth while. He did deliver beautiful English apple juice, though. We use UHT milk now.

Challenge 9: Going veggie - a one week challenge
The EFG was veggie for 6 months, but we have never all been veggie for a week. Good idea.

Challenge 10: Cod and ethical fish
Salmon is often tinned from Alaska, tuna is usually dolphin-friendly. Other fish is frozen. Will have to look into this situation and report back later.

Challenge 11: Cleaning without chemicals
No, I use chemicals and I know I could do better on this one. I do use Stardrops diluted a lot of the time, and I use washing soda in the washing powder mixture I make, but I could make much more use of vinegar and bicarb. Will get some info from Rhonda-Jean's archives and have a go.

Challenge 12: Green washing
I use the 30C wash, even for whites. I do line-dry as we don't have a tumble drier. She talks about soap nuts and eco balls, but I don't use anything like that.

My EFG suggests that 12 challenges is enough for tonight and I should resume later in the week.

The hedgehog has returned and was seen eating the cat's biscuits tonight - wonderful to know that he has made it through the winter.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Black Gold

These are a couple of the hens in the top run; the mud is drying out so the pallets aren't really necessary any more but they do like to perch on them. The YFG cut the front lawn today and made a really good job of it. We gave the clippings to the hens as they love to scratch through them and eat some bugs that they find, as well as eating some of the grass.

The FH and I emptied some of the compost bin this evening and the YFG helped to spread the lovely compost onto a couple of the garden beds. The compost is lovely and rich - it has broken down really well and I was thrilled to have managed to produce such wonderful stuff with which to enrich the garden. It really is "Black Gold".

As well as all that in the actual garden, the girls and I went to the garden centre today and bought some fruit bushes. I got 10 canes each of Autumn Bliss and Malling Jewel raspberries, one Invicta gooseberry bush and one Whinham's Industry, which produces a red gooseberry. I love to make gooseberry jam so I am hoping that they both turn out to be productive. All those are currently enjoying a long drink in buckets of water and will be planted tomorrow.

The seeds which were sown earlier in the week are beginning to show some shoots - there are some Webb's Wonderful lettuces through, some cucumbers, cress and some tomato seedlings, so I am well pleased with that.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Thetford Forest

Climbing to the very top of the activity net

Two girls on the wing of the Woodlark in a strange pose!

On the rabbit

Under the beady gaze of the Woodlark

The giant pyramid slide - much fun was had here and we had to return for a second session

Climbing wall - on the way up

It's a long way up!

"Race you??!"

The climbing wall - all on a trailer

The clearing in the forest at High Lodge - perfect for picnics! Beautifully sunny at lunchtime.

We have had a lovely day today at Thetford Forest, just on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. We got held up a little in Brandon and arrived at about 12.00. Just in time to set ourselves up on the grass for a picnic in the sun. The weather was great, and the girls had a lovely time. We went with D and her daughter, T. T and the YFG are in the same class at school and get on really well. The EFG mooched along with D and I, sat and read whilst the others were on the climbing wall, and generally had a good laugh. The wall took up nearly an hour by the time we had queued, had the safety instruction and then they actually climbed. They both went up and down multiple times and had a really good go at it.

After that, we took the picnic kit back to the car and went for a walk in the woods. The walk was interspersed with the various creature-orientated climbing activities which I photographed - the rabbit, the woodlark, the Pyramid (without a creature!) and the zip wire. Eventually we made our way back to the base and they had an icecream courtesy of D, and then it was time to head home. The YFG had a snooze in the car which didn't surprise me at all as she was totally immersed in the activities all day and hardly sat down at all - it was go, go, go with her all day!

We'll be back to the Forest in the summer holidays, I think, as they all enjoyed the fresh air, exercise and activities so much, and it is only an hour away - far enough to feel you have been out, but not far enough to be tedious.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Back outside again today

High pressure has settled over us and we are promised fine and dry weather for today and three more days - hurray! The sun was out when I drew back the curtains this morning and so I hurried outside to let the chooks out to enjoy the weather too.

The Gold Partridge Orpingtons seem to be settling into their new, segregated home. The EFG and I had a hilarious half hour last night watching them from the kitchen window whilst we were doing the dishes. They were thinking about going to roost, then they came out again, looked around and went inside again: we began to imagine what they might be "saying" to each other..."what's it like in there, girls?" "not sure I want to go to bed yet, there might just be another morsel of food if I have a scratch around!" "move over, girls, I'm coming in!" "come on in, it's quite nice in here!" and then eventually they were all in for the night.

Today I have done another couple of loads of washing,and sown some Dwarf French beans in pots in the greenhouse. They are a variety called Ferrari so I am expecting them to grow fast!! The temperature in the greenhouse was over 40C this afternoon about 2pm when I was planting them so it was Warm in there.

Later on this afternoon the girls and I went to town for a couple of hours. I had a 20% off voucher for WHSmith so they got a book each, some laminating pouches, and I got a copy of Practical Poultry magazine as I hadn't had one for months. I'm going to be scanning all the breeders adverts but more about that later. We also had to get some medicine for the FH, put a cheque in the bank, and get some bread rolls for a picnic tomorrow as we are going to Thetford Forest for a walk/play/picnic with my friend D and her daughter. We can all fit in my car, so we'll be off at about 10.30am. It's only about an hour from here, so we'll be there in time for lunch, a walk and a play and then come home by about 6pm.

The Volvo has been taken off to the garage this afternoon so I am waiting to hear what the damage is going to be. Hopefully it won't be too bad - a new battery would be a good place to finish. More expensive "surgery" will be avoided if we are lucky!!

The poultry breeding. I spent ages here last night investigating and reading all about critical breeds and rare ones, and came to the conclusion that I would like a challenge - to breed some Brussbar chickens. These are on the Critical list and I can't find anyone offering any for sale at all via the internet. They are bred from the Barred Plymouth Rock and the Brown Sussex, and then the next generation females are crossed with a Light Sussex cockerel and then the resulting females are crossed with a Brussbar cockerel (from the first cross) and then the end product is the Brussbar. You can then take the Golden Brussbar cockerel and cross that with Rhode Island Red hens and end up with a's going to be a project of five or six years' undertaking but it will be interesting and challenging. I may not have the right information about producing the breed yet, so I am going to keep looking and investigating! To document it properly, I think I will start another blog which I will use to keep all the information together. I have ordered the Breeds Standard Book from the Poultry Club from the library this afternoon so that I can find out exactly what the breeds are supposed to look like to help me choose good specimens of each breed. Would you believe that there is not a copy in any of the county's libraries and the lady said that they would have to ask inter-county loan to find me one - and she had no idea how long that would take!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

More of an indoor day!

This evening has passed quietly as I have been studying the internet for some hours, fascinated with the many breeds of chickens, especially the rare breeds.

The FH finished the butchering of the chickens this morning and they are all tucked away in the freezer now. He went out for lunch although I had to take him: there is the fact that he's not allowed to drive, but his Volvo died as well - we are waiting for Chris from the garage to tow it away to be investigated and repaired. I cooked homemade chicken nuggets and wedges for the girls, and sweet and sour chicken for myself.

This afternoon there was a visit from my friend D so everything stopped whilst we put the kettle on and generally put the world to rights. We had a good natter and she borrowed some more Katie Fforde books - I've got her started now and she is enjoying them too! I collected the eggs in this afternoon - only 16 today, but three old Sasso hens were culled so that is 3 less to lay at the moment. I miscounted yesterday as there were actually 20 eggs laid - AND I found an extra 8 in a cache in the hen run when I went to tidy it up yesterday. I have tested them for freshness and they were all fine, so 6 of them went into a couple of fruit cakes I made this evening.

The gang have fended for themselves tonight; I think that they have had sandwiches for their supper, and I had a small baked potato. I should have been ironing tonight but my legs ache from the digging yesterday so I didn't get to the ironing yet.....

We have decided to have "No Screens on" before lunch during the holidays so I am not turning the computer on until at least 2pm, sometimes later, and the girls are not watching TV either. It means that we are getting more done and they are helping with the chores. "What do you want me to do today?" they say each morning. About time too!!

I am reading Sybil's story (look at her blog in the blogroll on the sidebar) and the EFG is also writing a story - I am waiting for the latest chapter to be emailed to me now. Wish I could write like they do but I just don't have the imagination! Got to go to email the FH's sister about the lemon curd now, so see you tomorrow - weather is supposed to be good so hoping to get more done in the garden.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

An outdoor kind of day

Today the weather has been glorious - just right for spring.

I have washed and line dried five loads of washing, dug over another garden bed and cultivated the other two (ie smashed up the large clods of earth to make a finer tilth), moved the Gold Partridge Orpingtons into their own pen, collected 19 eggs (19 - that's the record for this season - have to start making lemon curd, perhaps!), top-dressed and weeded the soil around the fruit trees in their pots on the back driveway - they are all in bud and I am hoping for more fruit than last year! I generally pottered about out there all day, coming in for an hour for a lunchbreak and otherwise only to reboot the washing machine and use the loo! The FH has been out there too - six chickens have been plucked today ready for the freezer, and he has done some woodwork too. I have done some tidying up in one of the hen runs as well so that they have more scratching areas and a perch.

The CPAP machine is not something he is going to get used to in a hurry. He manages about 5 or 6 hours a night so far, but then has to give up and take it off. He slept from 5am till 9am today without it, so he is almost sleeping as much without it as he is with it. I hope he will be able to keep it on for longer periods of time the more practise he has with it.

The chick is doing well and beginning to get feathers on the wings now - must take another photo tomorrow.

This evening, after we ate, the girls and I went to Tesco. It has been horrible to go during the day last week as people were buying like mad in the run-up to Easter, so it was refreshing to be able to walk the aisles tonight without being hindered.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Easter!

He is risen! Hallelujah!

I am up, but the FH has had a bad night with the CPAP machine. I just leapt out of bed and said, "Come on, we'll be late for church," to which he replied that his chest hurts and he feels full of air from the machine, and he's going nowhere. I know he had to take it off at about 5am, so I think I'll have to phone the ward at the hospital and get some advice today.

Anyway, I am hoping to get myself and the girls to church by 9.30am, so I had better go and start on the morning chores. Have already turned the eggs in the incubators, and the chick looks fine, I'm pleased to report. It was very vocal last night, so we gave it a small soft-toy duck for company!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Welcome home

The FH is home, and very tired!!

A night in a hospital bed is never a very restful one, and sharing a room with two other men didn't help either. He seems to have spent a lot of time chatting with a farmer, and being disturbed by the third man's monitors' alarms going off. The FH and the farmer were only in there for the CPAP machine initiation, whereas the third man was seriously ill, and apparently turned blue in the night and had to have quite some suction to his airways on several occasions.

We will have to try the machine tonight at home and hopefully we will get used to it. The doctor has told the FH that he MUST persevere with it, whatever the difficulties, because his problem is so bad.

The second chick is beginning to show normal chick behaviours now, which is reassuring. It is pecking at the food, drinking from the water bowl and preening a little too. It will probably survive now. There are now 24 Gold-laced Orpington eggs in the two incubators.

Weather report - not as bad as was forecast! Some sun, so I am heading out now to pootle in the greenhouse for a while. The FH is watching the Oxford/Cambridge boat race on the Thames. We're rooting for Cambridge!

Friday, 2 April 2010

RIP chick

Yes, the weaker little chick died about half an hour ago. The other is still struggling on, but all we can do is watch and hope for it to survive. I'm not over the moon about having another "only" chick again, though.

The FH is at the hospital - we dropped him off and came home. UJ has come to tea and enjoyed fish and chips (HM of course) with the girls, I had chicken and chips. He is now watching the TV and I am about to join him, with a cuppa. Good night, all!

Wobbles in the hatchery

These chicks are both very weak this morning. The second, unphotographed chick has still not made it onto its feet, and indeed, its toes have not splayed out so that it can stand on them. We are beginning to wonder about the viability of this chick and whether it is deformed. Sad but real, I'm afraid.

The second chick is moving around, but not showing much of the normal chick behaviours yet, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for that one. I have given them both water this morning from a pipette and I have dipped their beaks into the water bowl in the box, so that might encourage them a little.

Apart from that, the FH is having a bath and getting his bag packed for the hospital. I have telephoned as instructed, to make sure that there is a bed available for him, so it is all systems go on that front.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Meet a chick

I'm not sure whether this is a Mack or a Mabel, but it is cute anyway. I've cropped the picture as the other chick was on its back in a rather undignified position, so I thought I'd preserve its dignity a little and just show you all this one.

Hospitals and things

The FH has been suffering from excessive tiredness for some time now, months, indeed. I have engineered him to get a referral from the GP to a sleep clinic, as I suspected he was stopping breathing when he slept. I was right: he went to Papworth Sleep Clinic on Tuesday to fetch an oxygen monitor which he had to have clipped to his finger all night. We went to Papworth to see the doctor yesterday, and the print out from the monitor revealed that his breathing is stopping up to FORTY TIMES AN HOUR! Oh, my word! That was a bit of a shock - I thought it was maybe once or twice each night, nowhere near as bad as that. So, he has to go tomorrow overnight to be supplied with a CPAP machine which, I think, will supply a fixed pressure of air into his windpipe whilst he sleeps so that it can't collapse and stop him breathing. The first night is done under supervision in the hospital, and we were very lucky that they let him go in this week - the receptionist said it would be any time in the next six weeks, but then I said we would accept a cancellation spot and wanted it done asap, and she said, "Well, is this Friday too soon?" to which I replied that it most certainly was not! He is not allowed to drive until the treatment starts to work, so we have to inform the DVLA, which I should do tomorrow. I have to take him back to the hospital tomorrow for 1.30pm and then pick him up again on Saturday morning, with his machine. I'm looking forward to having a more alert husband back soon!

Today has been a whirlwind - I took the EFG to a different hospital to see a pediatrician about some growth issues, then called in on my sister to pick up her Easter gifts for the girls, dropped off a leotard to another friend in the town, headed off north to the other town to a menswear shop to buy the FH some PJs for his hospital stay and then picked up the YFG from school before finally making it home at about 3.10pm. It was a long day in the car!

When we got home, the two chicks hadn't made it out of the eggshells properly, so we gave them a little helping hand and they are both OK now. One has made it onto its feet, but the other is still rolling around on its back as its legs haven't really gained their strength yet. Both have loud cheeps, and we are hearing them all over the house. I am going to sort out the box and the light for them before I go to bed and maybe move them over later on, but I might leave it until the morning, depending on how they seem at about 10pm.

So Excited!

Got up a little while ago to find that the Sebright eggs (2) are beginning to hatch. I sat here at the computer last night and was sure I heard a cheep but looked at the eggs and decided that no, they weren't "due" until Friday so I must have been imagining things! This morning as I sat here, I heard it again, and rushed to look - one egg is moving a little and the other has a big hole in it where I can see a chick's foot and that chick is the one cheeping!! Hatch one day early......more news later.