Thursday, 22 March 2012

22nd March - Positive Brooding

The first chicken of the year has gone broody, a small lavender peakin bantam which is now sitting on a dozen of her own eggs. Having are hens which will go broody is as important to us as having chickens which will lay numerous eggs or produce good meat. Artificial incubation and brooding is an expensive business with the current price of electricity and besides the hens do the job so much better. I am currently trying to line breed my own type of tri- purpose chicken which will be good for all the qualities mentioned above, but more about that another time.

Dad and I went up to eco-build at the Excel centre in London Docklands yesterday. The venue was vast, far surpassing my imaginings and packed with renewable technologies for around the world. Despite everything I saw I would still settle for a few acres of chestnut coppiced and a solid fuel Rayburn to satisfy my energy needs in the future.

The four puppies are doing well, but not all the stock on the homestead is healthy. ChubChub and I had filthy colds, and make a distinctly snotty and sickly pair today whilst Em is out at work.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

20th March - Puppies

After a second night of broken sleep (M and I have been getting up at two hourly intervals to check on the expectant Treacle) we were woken at four this morning by the sound of a high-pitched mewling through the baby monitor. Not our son this time but treacle's firstborn captured by the receiver now positioned in the dog run. As it turned out there was no need to scramble out of bed and run into the darkness, for when we arrived treacle had the situation well in hand, the puppy was licked clean and already nestling under her feathered flank searching for her teats.

Trying to put the puppy in a box when treacle looked as if he was ready to have her second was pointless, as each time she promptly removed the shiny black puppy, so we left her to it, keeping a keen ear out for progress from the house. The sound of noisy licking heralded the second arrival and again everything was fine and so it has continued to this point. Treacle now has three black and one chocolate coloured puppies, all dogs (which is a shame from the perspective of keeping one for ourselves) and is looking rather too relaxed, so we fear that may be the sum of the. Still if they remain healthy we will have a lot to be grateful for. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

19 March - Cutting In -To Get Ahead!

Last Autumn's tomato cutting in green house

 My experiment of taking tomato cuttings last autumn and over wintering them appears to have been a success. A couple of weeks ago I took side shoots off the small plants and pushed them into compost. These new cuttings are beginning to root now whilst the overwintered parent plants are in the greenhouse bed putting on strong growth. In contrast my tomato seedlings are still feeble little things and it will be weeks until they are large enough to be planted out.
Tomato seedlings

Every warm day in this season stirs one to action, filling the soul with a restlessness which can only be subdued by a hard day's work in the garden. A few days ago I put queen excluders and supers on the bees discovering that eight out of my ten hives have survived the winter, which is not too bad at all. The surviving colonies are strong, producing brood and gathering pollen and nectar which extends the promise of a productive year ahead. My early sowing of salad crops in black tyres where last year courgettes grew, are up and away. The rotted down manure provides a perfect growing medium and the black rubber, combined with a piece of glass on top makes an ideal warm cloche. In the orchard at Green Lane the almond tree is in bloom and here the yearling peach is a spray of pink florets.
 Radish seedlings


Friday, 16 March 2012

16th March - I'm Back

I'm back! So tired am I reading e-mails from distraught fans of my blog that I’ve swung back into the literary saddle, with the intention of not falling off this time! Life seems very hectic at the moment, but I'm working on the principle that some blog is better than no blog so please to give bad grammar, short entries etc etc.

I can't possibly hope to fill in the gap since my last entry, but here are the essentials to bring you up to speed. Treacle, our cocker spaniel bitch is due to give birth on Sunday and the rabbit the following week. Spring has sprung - the verges are full of primroses, the plum orchard swathed in clouds of white blossom and my parent’s sheep have almost finished lambing. The first male death watch beetles have also started their rhythmic tapping from the oak frame of our cottage to attract mates -a sure sign of the changing season and a reminder that one day the house will probably fall down.

Yesterday was the perfect spring day and taking ChubChub (now crawling and scooting around in his walker like a mini delinquent) Em and I took a stroll to the plum orchard, admiring the blossom and the view which was hazy from the warmth of the day.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

27th January - Rough Shooting

Without the right frame of mind there is little point in going out shooting. It is meant to be a pleasurable pursuit, yet how many times in the past have I lost sight of that and spent days in the field frustrated with my bad shooting, worried that progress is too slow or angry with the dog. Something has changed, whether becoming a father has put things in context or whether it is simply a result of getting older, I have no idea, but I do know that I prefer it. I just feel more relaxed, happy for the day to take its course whether it leads to success or failure, more able to revel in the unpredictability of rough shooting which let's be honest, has never been changed by worry, anger or meticulous organisation anyway.

A light frost lingering in the cupped  leaves of autumn past, below a bright sun and blue skies is enough to make any mood light and Dad and I chatted as we walked the long row of gnarled poplars to the first pond. Drawing close I made my final approach where the waterside bank is highest, thus concealing my stalk and peered over the water cautiously. On the far side, in amongst a fallen tree black with damp and decay two tiny ducks sat apparently unaware of my presence. Getting down again, I signalled to dad to be ready and crept left aiming to drive them back towards him. Reaching my position I released the dog knowing that if she startled them and not me, oblivious to human presence there would be a better chance of them flying over one of our two guns. Trusty Treacle completely failed to notice the pair of teal and instead piled into a heap of brambles behind the water. Concluding that the element of surprise was lost after my shouting and whistling, I got to my feet which was enough to make the ducks leap into the air and take flight. At first they headed towards my father, gun at the ready, but then while still low, banked right and climbed, looping some way out past my position. Being too close together to take individual aim, I drew my bead on the pair, swung through and fired. The lead bird faltered and began to fall and for a moment I fancied the other was also coming down as it checked its flight but then recovering it’s senses beat hard with it’s wings and was gone. I have observed this phenomenon several times, when ducks in flight will stay with a shot bird momentarily, even diving with them sometimes before they realise that it is dead and not flying.

The rest of the farm yielded one shot for dad, which straight into the sun, he missed and we carried on to the block of land about cottage. On such a warm day the pheasants were bound to be out in the hedgerows, but a long walk around the perimeter produced nothing and although a fox, a woodcock and a pheasant issued from quarry wood, the bag still remained at one teal. The pear orchard, a favourite haunt of pheasants when there is still rotting fruit on the ground, held three birds.  Two flew out of gun shot but the third, a hen pheasant sped down a line of trees passing dad like a partridge. I didn't see him fire but heard the discharge and saw the dead hen when I eventually reached his position with the dog. The next wood was empty and whilst we chatted idly at the top of the ridge, Treacle bounded off along the hedgeline. Next thing we knew there was a whirring of wings and pheasants exploding in every direction. At least half a dozen must have flown back before two hens broke on our side heading low across the field. Dads cartridges were out, but mine were in the broken gun and snapping it shut I pulled on the nearest bird knocking it from the air with a puff of feathers.

After lunch we tried Release-pen Wood and Triangle Wood without success and ended the day with 20 minutes under some tall oaks shooting pigeons. The final tally for what was probably the best day's shooting of the season was one teal, two pheasants, four squirrels and three pigeons.

Friday, 27 January 2012

26th January -Where's Betsy?

Not a great deal to report.  I was on baby duty today and in between dealing with the fallout from an upset stomach which continues to dog him (well dog us really, he doesn't seem to be in any discomfort) I learnt music for forthcoming concerts. Youtube is an invaluable resource for getting to grips with new repertoire.  It's like having the Guildhall music library in my house, only without the difficulty of trying to recall the alphabet every time I want to find something. You think I'm joking but once a dyslexic always a dyslexic.

Whilst inside working on the computer I took the opportunity to research my forthcoming role as ' Betsy ' for the Morris. Essentially I get to dress up as a woman with the excuse that it’s a Morris dancing tradition. It certainly is traditional, that is confirmed numerous times on the internet and in various books but further information is hard to come by. So, in the true spirit of Morris I will have to devise my own way of being ridiculous.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

25th January - Early Blooms

Despite my complaining about being cold and wet yesterday, the weather is essentially mild for the time of year and everywhere flowers are creeping out of winter hiding. Crocuses and snowdrops are in full swing on the lawn, whilst in Cranbrook I noticed two large camellias, one pink and the other a crimson red, both in full bloom. Seeing those beauties served as some consolation for my visit’s purpose - a trip to the police station to surrender my driving licence. I didn't even manage to do anything exciting for my three points and £60, just drove across hashed white lines on a motorway exit - a middle-aged driving offence if ever there was one.

Work continues in the vegetable garden.  The mild weather has allowed couch grass to creep in a tangled rooting mat across the beds and its removal is proving to be a time-consuming occupation.

Pork chops with brussel sprouts, carrots, red cabbage casserole and apple sauce. I was so hungry when I came in from the garden that in my rush to prepare dinner I forgot any potatoes. Never mind, an hour’s Morris practice is much easier on a light supper!