Sunday, 17 May 2015

Chicks!

What a difference a month makes!

No sooner had I written that none of my hens was showing any inclination of going broody, than the dwarf hen decided it was time to hatch some babies.

I tested her out for a few days first to ensure she really was broody, and not just sitting in the brood box for the sake of it.  When I was sure, I replaced her eggs with some Maran, Legbar, and Araucana eggs.  Eight in total, which I thought was a lot for such a tiny hen not yet a year old.

I marked my calander for 21 days and began the anxious wait.......

Sure enough, day 21 the first two chicks hatched.  Followed during the next 24hours by three more.  I waited another two days, but no more hatched, so removed the eggs and shells and cleaned up her brood box.  When I broke open two of the remaining eggs they had poorly developed chicks that had not gone past about week one.

So now I have three Maran, one Legbar and one Araucana chicks.  Super cute and all I want to do is spend time watching them.

The broody hen is doing a fabulous job and is extremely ferocious towards anyone (or thing!) that comes near.  She is resigned to the fact that my hands keep appearing and replacing food and water, but is not happy about it.  Equally resigned to the fact that I keep stealing her babies to cuddle and check over each day.  I want them to be reasonably tame, so daily handling and talking to is essential.

One of the Maran chicks was attacked by the rooster in its first day of life.  It is now short an eye, and part of its top beak has broken off.  So far, after nearly a week, it is still going strong and growing.  If it shows any signs of suffering or of not thriving it will have to go to chicken heaven, but till then it can grow and enjoy life.

I will have to share these chicks with my neighbour.  He was the owner of the Marans whose eggs my hen clutched.  That is fine.  For a first attempt we have done well in getting five chicks.  He would like a new rooster, so we are crossing fingers that we have one rooster and the rest hens.  Only time will tell.

The chicks above are (from left) a Legbar, Araucana X Legbar, and Maran.

Here is another photo just so you can squeee!



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Flowers.... finally

Spring is such a beautiful season here.  The sun shines - even if it is not really warm - and the birds start to return from their winter migration.  Bulbs poke green spikes through the still cold soil, and finally flowers start to appear.

The tulips are magnificent this year.  All the (hundreds) of bulbs that I have transplanted are starting to flower and the borders are a blaze of red and yellow.  There are still hundreds of tulip bulbes to be dug up and transplanted to a better position, but that will have to wait till after they finish flowering now.

This year I have hyacinths and anenomes in the borders also.  The hyacinths are so pretty and smell lovely.  I think the anenomes will be better next year.  A bit sparse and spindly this year.  I have a few different types of daffodils and jonquils now in the borders.  These ones are especially pretty with their apricot centres.

In the orchard the fruit trees are flowering and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of blossoms.  I love walking through the orchard and seeing all the blooms and knowing that we will have fruit again this year.  Although, in the case of the cherries, it is never a sure thing.  I have masses of blossom on the tree, but we need good weather and conditions to have fruit in may/june.  So far we have not had any fruit from this tree in teh three years we have lived here.  I am hoping we don't get storms, high winds or any other disasterous conditions in the next month or so.

My rhubarb has come back to life and is growing very fast.  Will need to start picking soon!  Yum!!!

We have a little visitor at present.  A young male cat came in very battered and unwell.  He is absolutely adorable and just wants to be loved.  I am looking for a home for him, as I simply can't keep him.  Three cats is enough! (Four and I am officially a crazy cat lady....) He follows me around begging to be picked up and cuddled.  I was trying to take photos in the garden, and he kept putting himself between me and the flowers.  So I took a few snaps of him too.
This is the "I am so cute you must stop what you are doing and cuddle me" pose.....

My girls are laying well and we have plenty of eggs to eat at present.  None of them seem to be interested in sitting on the eggs though, which is a nuisance.  Will have to get a Chinese silky hen to hatch my chicks I think.



Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring Eggs

Our araucanas  (Ginger and Marmalade, otherwise known as the velociraptor sisters) have reached maturity and winter has ended, all in the same week.

I have had two araucana eggs this week.  Lovely olivey green coloured shells. 

Also our dwarf hen has laid two eggs this week.  We are laughing because her name is Apricot Chicken, and she laid pale apricot/pinky coloured eggs.....

The legbar egg is full sized as they have been laying for a while now.  The araucanas should get bigger as they develop.  Am hoping that Apricot's eggs don't get any bigger as they are already huge in comparison to her tiny body!  She is smaller than a bantam, but her eggs are much bigger than bantam eggs.

We have had a glorious weekend of sunshine.  The lawns have had their first mow of the year, and everything has just sprung to life. 

I have bulbs forcing their way through the ground everywhere, and pink and white violets flowering under the trees in the orchard.  My daffodils are looking splendid in teh sunshine.  Bright and gorgeous and they scream "springtime".

Must get out and take some photos next week to capture it all.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Perce-neige

Well, at the risk of jinxing us all over here..... we haven't had much snow this season.  What snow we have had fell at the same time as the snowdrops started showing and continued till they were blooming.

I call that an aptly named flower!

They look so pretty as their foliage is really dark green and shows up beautifully against a white background.  The flowers themselves are laced with lime green, so you can see the delicate pattern nicely in comparison to the snow.

A bit hard to get a really good photo as had no inclination to lay on my front in the snow to get down to their level... sorry, some things I just do not do.

Since then we have continued to have cold weather, but no good snowfall.  A lot of neige fondu and ice, but not much else.

Our neighbour has been tidying up the hedgerows around the farm and carting huge tractor loads of branches back to the field behind his house.  Any wood that could be kept for heating the house was put aside, but there was still a huge alount of branches and "bits".  Today all the grandchildren were visiting, so we had a bonfire at dusk. 

There is something lovely about standing around a blazing fire when it is really cold.  A very primordial and primitive sense of peace and enjoyment.  Your front is hurting from the heat, and your back is aching from cold.  It is essential to turn around every now and then to allow the back to defrost before facing the flames once more.  The flames leap and soar higher and higher, before dying back to smouldering coals.

Staring glassy eyed into the flames is essential, as is holding your hands out closer - even though it is already too warm where you are standing.  The children occupied themselves throwing twigs and corn stalks onto the fire, while the adults just soaked up the warmth and ambience.  Chickens pecked at the ground at the limit of the heat.

All too soon it was over, and time to lock the chickens up as the sun set.

Life in the country is good.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

It's cold outside!

Well, whilst we haven't had much snow so far this season, we have had lots of ice and rain.

Sounds counter intuitive.  Ice and rain at the same time.  I can assure you it does happen, and it makes life interesting.

Most mornings have seen the terrain looking like it has been gilded in crystal.  Everything is frozen and glinting in the morning light.  Really beautiful.  Then it rains all day and everything turns soggy and grey.

Quite a few days we have had neige fondue (slushy snow) falling, which melts as soon as it hits a surface.  Leaving slushy, wet, boggy mud everywhere.  Really not nice to try and walk in.

The chickens spend most of their time roosting in their insulated hen house.  Sophie spends all day in her heated bed - venturing out only for food and calls of nature.  The boys, well they spend all day curled up in their baskets in front of the fire. .... What can I say, it is a tough life for the animals here.

I am itching to get in to the orchard and prune the apple trees, but need a few days with no rain, and temps above freezing.  Somehow I don't think I am going to get this for another few weeks.  May have to just bite the bullet and prune them anyway... then hope like crazy that they are ok.

With the weather being unsuitable to garden with, I have spent some time dreaming and browsing the seed catalogues.  Quite easy to pass hours in this fashion!  (Almost as addictive as Pinterest!!!!)  I have been working on bedding layouts and thinking what I will add to the borders this year.  I want a certain look, so do need to think about it and plan it out slightly.  Like with all things garden, it will evolve at its own pace and take a few years to get there, and there will be changes made as things do better than expected - or worse and need replacing.

My vision for the garden is lots of shades of green and grey foliage with shades of blues and pinks in the flowers.  So it should be a nice mix.  I love striking foliage, and have planted chardons (ornamental artichokes) last season.  They are doing well and have actually weathered the heavy frosts better than I thought they would.  My penstamons are also a lovely soft grey colour with pale purple flowers and complement the other bolder greens in the beds.

This season I intend to plant up troughs of herbs for the chickens as well as for our use.  Have been reading some very interesting information on beneficial herbs for chicken keeping, and trying out the dried herbs over winter on the flock.  They love it, and are super healthy.  In fact, I am getting an egg almost everyday, which is not normal.  My breeds normally don't lay in winter at all. 

You can see the girls - and Nougat the rooster -  above.  Waiting for breakfast.  Dinner is checking out the white platter, expecting it to have her warm drink....  When it is freezing (most mornings), I boil the kettle and give them a hot drink first thing.  By the time the boiling water thaws the bowls and plates, it is drinking temperature.  They love it!  Line up and all have a drink, then they take turns standing in the hot water warming their feet.  Very funny to watch.  Ginger and Apricot are standing on the tree root watching and waiting for me to stop taking photos and pour out their hot drink.  Neither of them misses anything that goes on.

Ginger is getting quite friendly and likes a back scratch and pat before bed.  Her sister, Marmalade, is getting comfortable with being touched, but prefers to be scratched under her wings.  Apricot hates being touched and is still super flighty.  Light Lunch is in lay, so she just wants to be left to sit and do her business in peace.  Nougat is a bossy, greedy little bully.  Instead of letting the girls eat first and looking after them, he spends his time chasing them away from treats and then chasing them to fulfill his teenage lusts..... Hopefully he will settle as he gets older.

They have a cut down fir tree to play and shelter in for winter.  We have so many birds of prey here that they need something to hide in if they fly over.  It is also a good spot for them to shelter and to search for bugs.

Window boxes and hanging baskets are on the agenda this year.  I had such good success with my trial ones last year, that I intend to do a few more this year.  Orders have been placed for the petunias, and work will commence end of march on this project.

I want to replace the pampus grass in the (huge!) pot beside the front door soon.  It is a little too cramped in the pot, so will put it in the ground.  Don't comment and tell me it will take over please.... it is too cold here and they do not get massive and encroach on the whole garden like in Australia.  My only problem then will be finding something equally dramatic to replace it in the pot.  Would love to fill it with lemongrass, but it does not tolerate the winter here, so will not grow as big and majestic.  Still thinking of a solution for that one.  Watch this space.....

Well, the cats are raising their noses and sniffing the air, and my mouth is watering from the aromas pouring from the kitchen.  Time to take the turkey out of the oven and feast.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Busy time of year.....

Wow!  It just seems like yesterday that I made my last post, and here it is two months later.

I had heaps of catching up to do after my recuperation, and have been so busy that time has just flown by.  In fact there are still things that I am behind on.

October saw the death of one of my chicks.  I had purchased two dwarf chickens (not bantams) as my "mother hens" for next year.  The sweetest of the two was still a bit too young to cope with being outside in the cold and unfortunately she died.  I was a bit sad as she was the one that liked to cuddle.  A lovely little personality and quite tame as well.

Two weeks later my rooster took ill.  He was quite often a bit "off colour" as he ate anything that he could fit in his beak.  Bees, rubbish, you name it.  If it could be swallowed - it was swallowed.  He developed sour crop and could not be saved.  Unfortunately he was very much a "don't touch me" kind of rooster, so by the time I could touch him, he was too weak and sick to survive.  A real shame as he was a superbe rooster and absolutely enormous.  I have a replacement, but he is just not quite as good as my original.  Nothing wrong with him, but the first one was a hard act to follow.

November saw heavy frosts starting to hit and everyone racing to get ready for winter.  The garden however was still in full flower, so I am still now - in december - doing my autumn pruning!  Another week should see it done for the year.

We spent a weekend weather proofing and insulating the hen house.  It really is a chicken palace now!  I use the deep litter method, so it is very cosy inside.  The mice think so too..... grrr.  They are so bold that they don't even move till you get right up to them.  Have been putting mint in the house which mice hate, but it only lasts a few days to a week and has to be redone.  I will get rid of them though!  If all else fails, I will lock Sophie in there overnight.....

The spare bedroom is now much better organised and more user friendly for my sewing projects.  Cannot wait to start making a few new outfits.  Same with the office.  I had a major sort out and reorganised a lot of things and now have a good work space for my craft projects as well as desk space for working.  Much nicer and easier to work there now.

Guy and Eric are loving our new heating.  The wood pellet fire is fabulous and they think it is just for them.  There is now a basket in front of it and they take turns curling up in it and basking in the warmth.  Think I might have to get a second basket so they can each have their own.  Sophie, meanwhile, has discovered the joys of a heated bed.  We have a heating pad in her bed in one of the outbuildings.  It is on a timer and turns on around 17h30 and off around 08h30.  Between those hours she is not to be found outside.  In fact, she demands dinner at 1700h and then goes to bed!  In the morning she stays in bed till it starts cooling off, and quite often is still in bed late in the morning.  Very funny when you go looking for her and call out for ages, only to go into the dependance and see a little furry head poking out of the cat bed all blinky and fuzzy eyed.

We planted a new apple tree this weekend, part of the plan of getting ready to replace a few fruit trees which are very old and not fruiting very well anymore.  It will bear fruit in about three years, so that will be just in time for the current old trees to be fading out.  Gradually over the next few years we will replace some of the older fruit trees and rejuvenate the orchard.  Will be nice to have eating apples as well as the current cooking and cider apples.

Our neighbour has been in hospital the past few weeks.  All ok now and he is back home, but his chickens have meantime moved out and decided they prefer to live chez nous.  I was feeding them whilst he was unwell, and combined with the fact that they have always wandered in when the gate is open and visited our terrain, they now think I am their owner.  They follow me around everywhere and if they hear my voice they come running (have you ever seen chickens run flat out?  Funniest thing you have ever seen!!!).  After the fruit tree planting saturday I was digging up the parsnips and the last of the carrots and beetroots with the assistance of his flock.  Really funny to have a flock of chickens poised attentively around you waiting for a juicy worm or bug to be unearthed.  Had to be careful not to tread on one of them if I stepped backwards!  Afterwards I was trying to put them back in their coop, but it was more like a Keystone Cops or Benny Hill episode than anything.  I am tempting them through the gate and closing it, to turn around and walk back to the house, only to find more chickens to herd towards the gate, shepherd through, close, turn, more chickens..... repeat repeat repeat.  The cheeky beggers were walking in the gate and along the fence a bit (till behind a tree and out of sight), then flying back over to my side again whilst I was busy getting their flock mates through the gate.  All in the freezing cold without my coat on.  I was not a happy bunny, but had to laugh as it was so ridiculas.

The photo above was taken by Wayne on his iphone.  Me wrangling the neighbours chickens with the assistance of Sophie.  She loves chickens, and always helps me feed, lock up etc every day.  Mind you, she is also quite fond of sampling any tidbits I throw out for them as well......

Anyway, Christmas is coming quickly and hopefully things will slow down a bit.  We are celebrating on Christmas Eve with our neighbours (French celebrate Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day) which will be lovely.  We are sharing the food preparation and it should be a great night.  The 25th we will be recovering quietly at home, and gathering strength for the Orphans Picnic on Boxing Day which we are hosting.  (Casual potluck for friends in our group who are not travelling to family for the fetes.)

Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and look forward to having more time in the New Year to blog more frequently.  Best wishes!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Back on track


Phew, what a month!

Surgery went well, and I have been recovering slowly but steadily.  Thank you for the lovely emails with get well wishes.

Not a lot of news to report.  Have spent my time resting and not being able to do anything, so the garden and house are a bit neglected and in need of some TLC.  Oh well, not the end of the world.  All will be back to normal soon.

I borrowed heaps of books from the library, thinking that would keep me occupied for the month.... then two days after coming home from hospital I passed out and gave myself a bad concussion...... so could not read, watch tv/dvd's or anything interesting.  Typical! lol

One thing I have been doing this past week is working on cross stitch designs for Christmas ornaments.  A piece of graph paper and a pencil is all you need.  Have started making some, and they are coming together nicely.  You can buy some of the ornaments and my jams, jellies and chutneys at the Chez Tante Mabel Christmas market which will be the last weekend in november.  Stay tuned for more details closer to the date.

I had grand plans of crocheting, stitching, reading and watching a few films on dvd over the past month.  All that has happened is that the cats have had lots of snuggle time and the dining table is still covered with everything I planned to occupy myself with. 

At least we have had some lovely sunny days, which has meant I could sit outside for half an hour each day and bask in the sunshine with Sophie.  She has been very happy to have me sit and stroke her and just spend time with her. 

It is starting to feel like autumn now.  The leaves are falling from the trees, the nights are cooler, and we have fog and mist in the mornings and a heavy dew.  We have actually run the heating a few times to take the chill off the air in the house! 

Our neighbours did the vendage this weekend.  I was very disappointed to not be able to join in.  Will have to wait till next year.  It is hard work, but very satisfying and it is lovely to be out in the vines at this time of year.

I love this part of the year when everything is starting to hunker down ready for winter.  The garden is lovely and the woods are bursting into gorgeous warm colours just as the temperature drops.  There is a special feel to the air that just makes you impatient for the cold weather to arrive so you can bundle up in jumpers and scarves and walk for miles enjoying it all.

The chickens are starting to get ready for the cold weather too.  Eating a lot more and heading in to bed earlier each night.  They start waiting at the gate to the chicken palace at about 7pm, and if I am not there by 7.30pm they take themselves to bed.  Very funny and cute.  Strawberries and tomatoes are their favourite foods, and I make sure I hand feed them something every day so they are happy to be approached and be near humans.  The rooster doesn't like to be patted, but the girls are ok with it.... well, I think they put up with it rather than like it to be honest.

This week sees the start of getting back into my usual routine, so I will have more interesting updates next time.

Thank you again for all the good wishes emails.