Sunshine and Flowers

It has been a beautiful day here in Cornwall! The sun has shone all day and you could almost imagine that summer might be drawing near… if it weren’t for that chilly wind that just will not desist! Ashley and I started our day in the front garden; Ashley potting on his beloved Foxglove plants and myself clearing debris from plant pots and checking my seedlings.

Ashley reminded me this morning that we used to take many photographs, almost daily, with our DSLR camera, but these days photo’s often get taken on mobile phones which then stay there and don’t get viewed as part of our photo collection. Today, we have both picked up the ‘proper’ camera again and have thoroughly enjoyed it! Cameras on phones are so good these days, but there’s a depth of field and quality that you get with a DSLR that just isn’t the same on a mobile phone. And of course, you can change settings, use specific ‘modes’ or go completely manual with a DSLR camera. I hope that we continue to use the camera more again and develop (ha! I’m so funny!) our photography skills.

Saturday 30th April 20161The sun was bringing out the vibrant colours in the garden today. It’s been such a pleasure to sit out and enjoy the garden.

I should be able to fill more of the garden with flowers soon, as there are now no chickens to destroy everything. That’s right, Blue and Penny have gone to their new home to enjoy an endless supply of fresh grass and bugs, make new friends (hopefully) and maybe even meet a man! We have been a little undecided about getting rid of them this week as we do enjoy their daily goings on and adore the fresh eggs. But ultimately, it just didn’t sit well with us that they didn’t have free space to roam and were, at times, clearly bored. So off they’ve gone! We hope to buy fresh eggs from the friends that have taken the girls and we know that they will be well looked after there.

After dropping the chickens off at their new abode, we headed to the allotment this afternoon. I FINALLY planted some onions and garlic, we did some weeding and tidying. The potatoes aren’t showing yet (I was quite late getting those in too), but the rhubarb is romping away! Saturday 30th April 20162It was much later than we had planned when we got to the allotment, so we didn’t get as much done as we’d hoped.  I did manage to get a few snaps of the rhubarb in all it’s glory – I hadn’t noticed the pink edges to the leaves before. That’s something I really love about taking photo’s; noticing the details and seeing things from a new perspective. Tomorrow we will head back and get some carrot seeds in, amongst others, do some more weeding and clear away the brassica’s that aren’t being productive any more. I also plan to sow some poppy and other flower seeds.

I now have to go and supervise Ashley – he has grand plans of a rather large shed going where the chickens used to be in the garden! Without intervention, I fear I will end up with more shed than garden!

Thanks for visiting! Hope you all see some sunshine this bank holiday weekend!

Meet Penny!

This is Penny, the newest addition to the garden! She’s a pretty thing, isn’t she?! Unfortunately, ‘Red’ passed away a few weeks ago but soon after, this little lady was offered to us. She’s fairly young and had just started laying before we got her. Penny has been friendly from the start and will follow us everywhere! ‘Blue’ took a few days to tolerate Penny, then a week or so to really relax in her presence. We were lucky to never experience any real fighting between the two, and the worst Penny got from Blue was a few pecks. Now, they cuddle up together at night and stay pretty close all day so I think their bickering days are behind them! 

A day with the chickens

As you may have seen, we have two chickens that we keep at home in our garden. I thought I’d take you through what we do with the chickens on a daily basis.

During the summer months, we don’t tend to shut the chicken house up at night. This is to help with ventilation and to avoid having to get up at stupid-o’clock in the morning to let them out. They have been pretty noisy early in the morning until we’ve let them out before and as we live in a mid terraced house, I didn’t want the neighbours to have issue with us keeping chickens. So when it starts getting light very early and the nights are nice and warm, we have found that the ‘girls’ are happy to come out early and just potter around until 6:30-7:30am when we go out and feed them.

We use a ‘layers mix’ pellet feed that we buy from a local farm supplies store. It’s only about £3.50-£4 a bag and a bag generally lasts about a month so certainly doesn’t break the bank! The girls get a cup of food in the morning, we sprinkle it around their ‘scratching bed’ (unless it’s very wet) so that it takes longer for them to eat it and is more interesting for them to have to ‘find’ the food.

We then clean the poo from the house and anything on the path. We used to put this straight in the compost bin but found it seemed to be slowing the rate of the composting process so now we are storing it in a seperated bucket and allowing it to dry out with the intention of using it down the allotment.

The girls rarely lay first thing in the morning, so cleaning the house out first thing helps to keep the eggs nice and clean. Their water is topped up daily and about once a week the water bowl is washed out thoroughly. Occasionally we add a few drops of Apple cider vinegar which is supposed to help stop the water getting a build up of algae and is supposed to be good for the chickens too. They seem to like the taste which is another plus! Later in the morning, if I’m home, I will go and look for eggs and often find some weeds, snails or surplus veg leaves (beetroot is a favourite) to give the chickens.

The aftenoon is generally when we let them out to roam the garden. We only have a small garden but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to find bugs, worms and vegetation to pick at and scratch about. Whenever I sweep up piles of leaves and soil, I tend to leave most of it in a corner somewhere, then the next time the girls are out they have something new to scratch at and there’s always plenty of bugs to find!

 Blue has recently discovered how to get to my strawberry plants! She is very pleased with herself when she manages to get a nice juicy red strawberry!

All it takes to get them back in their run is a small amount of feed in a cup (they seem to recognise the cup we use now and will follow it anywhere!) and a call of ‘ chook chook chook!’.

Citrus cleaner

I mainly use my citrus cleaner in the chicken house as it is all natural and shouldn’t harm the chickens. I read about it first in a chicken keeping magazine that we purchased when we first got the girls. I spray the onside of the chicken house, give it a good scrub then rinse it off. It is simply storing lemon and orange peels in a jar filled with white vinegar for a few weeks. citrus peel cleanerThen strain off the liquid, dilute with water and voilà! After several weeks in the jar, the vinegary smell is overpowered by the citrus. I have nearly run out of my original batch so have started another. With recent batches of jam and elderflower cordial made, I’ve had plenty of lemon peel so that has made up the majority of this batch. It’s a great way to use citrus peel that might otherwise be thrown away and too much in the compost bin at once isn’t great.

Perfect poachers

perfect poached eggsThese 2 eggs were laid just this morning by our chickens and they seemed the perfect thing to have for lunch! I love poached eggs, but used to have terrible trouble stopping the eggs from disintegrating in the pan. I tried swirling the water, vinegar in the water, both, and anything else anyone suggested. If nothing else, it felt so wasteful having half the egg white splitting off and floating around in the pan. Then we got our chickens and I realised just how ‘not fresh’ supermarket eggs are! Even when I stopped buying supermarket eggs and bought them from a local farm through our village shop, these were still probably sitting around for quite a few days before being sold. REALLY fresh eggs hold together perfectly in the pan, as you can see! I think I’ll forever be a ‘chicken keeper’ now, as I don’t think I can go back to supermarket eggs!

Fresh eggs

When we first talked about getting a couple of chickens for the purpose of getting eggs from them, I was a bit put off at the thought of having to scrub chicken poo off of them before use. As you can see from these beauties (collected today), that’s not always the case! In fact, it’s hardly ever an issue for us. Maybe with larger groups of chooks it’s more of a problem, but with just the two it’s rare that we get heavily soiled eggs. I haven’t done anything to the eggs in the photo and they’re just as clean on the other side. And fresh eggs from your own chickens are just about the tastiest things in the world!