Wednesday, 18 February 2015


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.