Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer bounty preparations

Phew, I think I'm just about there now!
All the summer crops are planted up and the garden is beginning to look plentiful. We even had surplus from the seeds this year so I was able to give some courgette plants to family and friends and we even sold a few plants alongside the eggs that we sell at the front gate, enough to buy more seed for next year.

 We have chard and cucumber growing in the shallow bed alongside three strawberry plants which were unable to fit into the strawberry bench planter I made.

My herb garden is looking good. Lots of comfrey and various mints, lovage, lemon balm, hyssop. Some bergamot, rosemary, marshmallow, sage and lots of lavender. I will use them for various teas and for cooking as well as for herbal balms over the summer if I get the time to make some up.
I think there's room to squeeze in a couple more plants here don't you?


Tomatoes in the greenhouse! I probably shouldn't be, but I'm highly optimistic that we'll have RED tomatoes this year. LMB eats tomatoes like other children eat apples or bananas so it'll be nice to be able to encourage her habit with our own homegrown ones rather than having to make jars and jars of green tomato chutney; something I've become quite a dab hand at over the years!

 We have potatoes, broad beans, runner beans and french beans growing in these plots this year. We also have four healthy looking rhubarb plants, albeit only one is last year's, so we don't have much to utilise this year.
The orchard is looking strong too this year, a far cry from the baby plants of last year. I don't think we'll benefit anything from them this year as they're still quite young, but I'm pleased with the developments.

Talking of growth and development, the chicks...of course. The five chicks that hatched seem to be doing well. Mama Chicken is a fantastic teacher and mother to those babies. She's been teaching them to peck and drink and today she was demonstrating dust bathing when I went in. I have to say, it was quite alarming to see the sawdust flying up with quite the ferocity it was, and if I were a 10cm chick I think I'd be pretty scared, however, her audience seemed as fascinated as I was, so that lesson can be ticked off the check list.  
They'll be a week old on Sunday and, if the weather improves over half term, I have got hold of a dog pen that I will set up outside so that they can have a few hours on the grass getting used to life outdoors. 
They'll stay with mama in the broody coop until they're around 6 weeks and then they'll be moved, along with her, to the kindergarten, although, she may well have decided they're ready to live without her by then, so she'll be gradually reintroduced back in with her fellow hens and the fledglings will be moved out to the nursery that I cobbled together this afternoon. 
I have built a small penned off area within the main chicken coop so that they are able to be seen by the other hens, but not touched. I'm hoping that this will make integration easier when the time comes. I have a small adapted cat box that will be used to shut them in at night time, but during the day they'll be able to be outside.
With any luck they'll be able to go in with the rest of the troop by around 14 - 16 weeks I hope, but I will observe how things go.

This is the kindy, built from the leftover run from the main coop that we took off when we decided to build them a huge area of around 30 - 40 sq feet. I've then just put in some posts and attached galvanised wire to it in order to prevent escapees. I'm not making it too high at the moment, however, if the old school girls decide that they want to hop over, then I may have to build it up a little more.

This is my nosey visitor who loves to come and see what I'm up to even if I'm making a massive din with a hammer. She is so docile and I'd recommend these hybrids to anyone starting out. She will just sit on the tree stump beside me and cluck away telling me what to do! I suppose it's giving me a taste of my own medicine!!

 The others try to hide from the camera in the undergrowth.

Finally, you can never have too many pictures of fluffy chicks in the Springtime.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Domino effect

Today mama chicken taught her little chicks how to eat and drink from their feeders. When I went in to see her this morning, she came out of the nest box and walked over to the feeder to eat. She began to make some really bizarre noises, she then turned, walked back into the box, turned and came back out again.
She kept up this same routine for the next five minutes with it dawning on me that she was trying to encourage her babies to follow her out of the nest box for the first time and copy her.
By the time I returned to her this afternoon around 5pm all five of the chicks were out of the nest box and pecking at the food and one was even brave enough to drink the water. Bravo mama hen!! It just goes to show that you leave well alone if things are going normally and nature just sorts itself out!

In my life, however, things haven't gone quite so easily today. It began this morning with Master Beehive the elder frantically running around trying to print off his homework as we were due to run out of the door, missing the concept of printing it off the night before AND saving it in case you lose the printed copy entirely. He took it to mean he could save it and then there was no need to worry about losing the printed copy as he just wouldn't print one off until it was too late. You'd think in the day and age of memory sticks and virtual learning platforms, he would  have figured out an easier way to do this...All this from gadget-kid who knows the inner workings of anything with buttons and an app! So, we had to hot foot it to the next bus stop en route to his school knowing darned well the bus would have left his original stop. I am sure *whisper* I may have done a little bit of amber gambling and possibly shooting past the man before the traffic lights, only to slam my brakes on him a mile further up the road, probably caused a little bit of stress in his day too, so I apologise for that.

Talking of knock on effects, it's amazing really quite how much influence over other people's lives a small action somewhere else, miles away in the world, can have. Today, somewhere, thousands of miles away, across two continents in fact, someone didn't attend the interview they were lined up to attend. The reason is no matter, however, this then caused the interviewer to have to rearrange the interview for the following day. This then meant there was no suitable flight home that day, so he had to stay another day, returning to his family a full 24 hours later than planned, creating a whole big mess of problems and childcare issues. It is no big deal of course, but if one thing remains with you today, then make it the thought about how what we do has affect and consequence. How, what we say, may be longer lasting than we think, something insignificant to us, may have longer lasting effects on others and, even change the way they think/act/are.
Watching mama hen, her actions will affect the way her chicks behave, the way she teaches them and the way she clucks and bocks at them will create their behaviours and mannerisms. So in both good ways and negative ways we are all very significant. A true domino effect!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Say hello to...

What a lovely surprise this morning! Not one, not two, not even three, we have four...possibly five baby chicks from our six araucuna eggs!

Aren't they lovely! Not your traditional yellow easter egg chicks, but this divine grey/blue which is the colour they will become when they grow.

The peep-peeping from under mummy alerted me yesterday to the fact that we must have had one hatchling, but imagine the surprise when I popped my head around the door this morning to see these little ones.

We have to ensure now that they have plenty of chick crumb and fresh water and grit (without shell) for the next few weeks and hopefully mummy will live up to her current reputation and teach them to peck and drink. We are cobbling together a temporary home in the playshed using an old outdoor guinea pig cage/run so they can get a bit of sunshine once they're a little bigger. For now they'll live in the shed with mum. Eventually they'll graduate into a kindergarten that will be within the big girl coop, so they can be seen by the others but not actually touched and then finally when we think they're ready, they'll go in with the other birds. 

It's really felt like summer this weekend. We've put our hanging baskets out and decorated the new deck a, in true British spirit, let's watch it rain ;-) 

And finally, I noticed this yesterday. Is this a bleeding heart? I think it might be. In which case this is the one and only from the seeds I grew last year! If it is then it has an immensely tragic name for such a beautiful flower with it's hanging bells,  if it isn''s still really pretty

Friday, May 25, 2012

Quilts and Chickens

It's been a long three weeks but we have been patient. Changing the water each day and supplying fresh food for our broody. I have been chatting to her (yes...I know!) and this evening she rewarded my witterings with allowing me to see what is going on under her wing.

We have a teeny tiny beak!

One egg has lost a tiny piece of shell and there is a little beak poking through the membrane.

Just the one at the moment, and I am totally hands off - after all, I am a midwife in training and there is no need a the moment to intervene - however, I do have my SCBCU (yes there is an extra letter in there - Special Care Baby Chick Unit) ready scrubbed and set up just in case! Of course, in chicken-midwifery one reason to be completely hands off (alongside the fact that there is no need to fiddle with nature) is in order for her not to then reject or eat the eggs because they smell of human and it scares her. From day 18, you need to not touch or pick her up at all - really hard to resist when you just want to have a wee peek...but it's a great learning curve for the future, waiting is rewarding.
Clinic in operation

Incubation and heating lamps

So I will keep you updated with the progress of baby one and mummy over the weekend as we hope that by Sunday we may have one new member of the clan, if not more?

So far as life has been speeding by, I've been working a lot this week so it seems that my feet have hit the ground running as Mr Beehive has been away in Istanbul for the week too.
This weekend I'm not working, so am looking forward to the sunshine that has been predicted and probably the usual shenanigans of British Barbecues and sunburned skin!

My friend Emma's son, Arthur, turns one in July, so I have been busy at the quilting again. It turns out it's pretty addictive. I've made him a small quilt in some very jolly and almost aboriginal colours and patterns. I'm calling it Uluru! Hopefully he'll like it...okay, so scrap that, I'd prefer Em to like it because I honestly suspect Arthur won't give a flying fig!

Finally we're still doing renovations to the house. This week we had someone around to strip the lintels as we're having double glazing put in. Of course, in a house this old, one job is never just that. One job, it would seem leads to a plethora of other jobs - rather like a Russian doll...or the magic porridge pot. We have bowing lintels, the worst of which is under LMB's room (do you remember the tree that nearly hit her room when it fell down in CT? - it would seem she is jinxed!).

Obviously we need to repair this, for her landing on our laps in the living room on a Friday night would seriously upset our evening ;-)

Oh and she's lost another tooth, so we're raining in spit and lisps this weekend too - poor lovey, but she does look cute!
Theee, I've lotht two teeth!

Have an Eggciting weekend, I hope we will !

Sunday, May 13, 2012


What is it with teeth?
No, rephrase that, what is it with hanging off teeth that just cling on by a thread?
No, rephrase that even; what is it with hanging off teeth that just cling on by a thread, owned by a seven years old who loves to push it forward with her tongue?
Childbirth I can do, watching suturing I can do, blood I can do, teeth...I cannot!

I do think though that some of the eugh factor comes from the fact that LMB actually enjoys making me squirm! That one is for the stage if ever I saw it.

This afternoon we had lost Master Beehive the younger to cub camp and we headed off to a Jazz afternoon in the park with a picnic. We went with a full mouth of teeth but came back one less after she insisted on pulling it out so she could eat cucumber!

Of course we were stoically British, eating our picnics under a grey, cloudy sky with smidgens of sunshine every half hour, and a bitterly cold wind. We Brits will not let anything destroy our desire for cucumber sandwiches, sausage rolls, hard boiled eggs and warm lemonade in plastic cups.

When it is really cold, even two people can get in a poncho!

That said, the bar set for British picnic food has seriously gone up in the world these days!
A cucumber sandwich eaten with a flask of luke warm tea on a plaid picnic blanket will no longer pass for a decent fare when having a picnic - oh no sireee! Today the spread around us (not ours I hasten to add) consisted of quiches, salads (in bowls with servers!), olives, pinwheel wraps, sushi (!!!), individual cheesecakes, bottles of wine, bottles of beer. There were barely any picnic blankets - we were obviously the lower class of picnic goer, instead people brought tables - fair enough - and chairs - fair enough again, although I'm not sure there was quite the necessity for Cath Kidstonesque matching picnic chairs with wine holders (but perhaps I just don't understand the need yet?) - tablecloths, (which blow away unless...being a seasoned picnicker you will have brought your table clips), condiments, and vases of flowers!!!!!!!! Really? Perhaps we need a new name for this sport, after all, posh camping is known as glamping, perhaps the new trend we are setting ourselves is Spiffnicking?
Maybe, in my desire to be cynical, there is actually an in-born hardiness to all these Spiffnickers that us lesser picknickers don't appreciate? By tempting yourself outside to sit in the bitter cold with sunglasses and a woolly hat, there is some need for exotic goodies to entice oneself. Maybe the draw with the cucumber sani just isn't there otherwise?

I also wanted to show you the quilt I made yesterday on the course I went on. I'm chuffed to bits with it - a really useful quilt....lovely and warm... just big enough to wrap around yourself....when going on a picnic...if you remember to take it *sigh*!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Bank Holiday at The Beehive

It's finished! My dad has been here again this weekend and he and Mr Beehive have managed to secure one day of sunshine to finish the deck, just in time for bank holiday tomorrow and more forecasted rain! However, sun will come and sit on my deck with a nice cool drink I will! I think it'll look rather lovely with my hammock on there!

 Do you see what we'll have in full beautiful blue glory in a few days time?... Our own bluebell field.
The previous owners of this house put a lot of time into thinking through the planting of bulbs seasonally. From January through to early summer, this particular bed is just a mass of colour from aconites and snowdrops through to these beautiful bluebells and later on, aquilega. We've done a lot with this bed to try to remove the hideous couch grass that took over whilst we had tenants in for a year and finally this year we may get to appreciate it once again.

 And this is the new temporary home for our broody. We have tried all sorts to get her out of her funk, but after at least 2 weeks of trying, we have decided that the kinder thing would be for nature to take its course. I have no idea how this will turn out, but with the help of some useful websites ( and some more experienced friends, we now have her in her own space sitting on six aracauna eggs. We have no idea if these are fertile as they come with no guarantee and/if they'll hatch or she'll mother them. We have our indoor guinea pig cage and an infra red light on stand by just in case she decides that she's not cut out for motherhood after all, but fingers crossed she will be.
Oh ho, look greenhouse! That's a much better image for you.

So, a change for plans for my strawberries this year. Last year we planted out a plot of around 10 plants. The yield was around 10 strawberries! (That may well be an exaggeration!) The chickens decided in the autumn that the plants tasted rather nice, so we ended up with no more plants, no big deal really. They're truly more trouble than they're worth. Yes, it is nice to eat a homegrown fresh from the plant, however, after you've taken second dibbings to the slugs and the birds, it's hardly worth it. On a visit to the Edinburgh botanical gardens a couple of years ago I remembered a slightly more novel way in which they'd planted a few strawberries. So today using left over decking wood and other bits lying around, I cobbled together this frame for a growbag encased in hessian sacking. I now have 10 plants in a fraction of the space that was used on the ground and the slugs are in for a hard time if they're getting up there. The birds are still laughing, but once I get my fruit cage installed, hopefully it'll be egg on their faces!

Finally these two girlies have enjoyed the rare bit of early May sunshine today, a run in the fields this morning and then some cute nose rubbing with the guinea pigs in their run on the grass this afternoon, coupled with some chewing of wood cut offs from the decking - it's a fait accompli if you're a dog!

Have a lovely bank holiday whatever you're doing.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


Why, hello grey skies and rain again!
May and we are still midst a drought and hosepipe ban and yet the rain pours. It is the wrong type of rain! Of course, you didn't know there was a right type did you?
Just two images taken by reporters from The Guardian this week:

Apparently, if this rain had fallen during the winter months, it would have filled the reservoirs, however, as it is falling now, during spring, all the lush vegetation is greedily using it up! I'm sure that the farmers and families whose land and homes are flooded right now are agreeing wholeheartedly with this concept *sigh* !

The British and their weather, no wonder we all understand irony!

However, I am happy for one thing, well, for three really; firstly my greenhouse was installed on Tuesday, so I don't much mind about the rain as it's not going to stop me getting out there to grow things now. I actually frighten myself at times how I am turning into the epitome of the person I never thought I'd be when I was a teenager. How on earth can a greenhouse fill me with so much excitement and love, but it does! As soon as I get my tomato plants from my mum I will take a few photos.

Secondly I had an unexpected day off yesterday. Of course, I could have been dutiful and used it scrap that, I did! I jumped on a train with my camera in tow and went to Camden Lock for the day. To be fair, not much photography took place as I spent so much time wandering and looking and people watching (and a wee bit of buying *guilt*) that the camera stayed in my bag! I must have walked around 10 miles round and around the market at the lock. I ate Lebanese sheshwara for lunch and drank Arabic coffee at one of the vendor's stalls and bought some lovely little gifts and clothing - my soul was truly refreshed.

Oh and the third thing...I nearly forgot; breakfast!
At breakfast this morning I was awarded a double yolker to go with my spinach and oatcakes - Obviously my girls don't mind the rain too much.

Today I'm back to the grindstone - next essay - off we go!