Sunday, 26 April 2009

Celebrations and sorrow

We have now been here for 1 year exactly. When we first took on this house we said we would rent for 6 months and then buy something but we are still here and to be honest it will be some time before we find anything, we are so spoilt here, with wonderful views and 50 acres to wander about in. So that's the celebration.

The sorrow is that after 11 months of having chickens we lost our favorite hen to Mr Fox on Thursday. She was the one with the most spirit who pecked at us when we first got them; the one who started the wellie pecking and the one that M rescued from the hedge just after we first got them and she had got lost down the lane. We thought then that we had lost her to the fox and if M hadn't found her in the hedge that night (and it was getting very dark when he found her) we probably would have done.

We both knew that this is a dangerous time of year, the cubs are young and hungry and hungry foxes will do whatever they can for food, even if that means coming near to the house at 11am in the morning. To be honest we had thought that she wasn't well for a while, we used to get 4 eggs a day but in the last few months have only had 4 once a week, we weren't absolutely sure she was the one not laying but she often had a bit of a stagger and seemed heavy in the undercarriage. We had checked for her being egg bound but never found anything. Last weekend she laid an egg in the grass down the side of the veggie patch (an odd place for a hen to lay an egg as they normally like dark private places). It was unformed and soft and she started to eat it. M saw her do it and said she looked like she was in trouble. On the day she was killed she was down by the big field, where they don't often go and we think she might have been trying to lay again. We think Mr Fox was being opportunist and found her in the grass and killed her. Thankfully the other 3 weren't hurt and thankfully Mr Fox was disturbed so didn't get his dinner. Interestingly, since we lost her we have 100% egg production, so that also strengthens the belief that she was the one not laying.

It is sad and I was to start will less upset than I thought, but the next day I felt dreadful about it. The other hens are now closely watched and locked up most of the day which they hate, but they are only chickens (I am afraid to say). We also don't really have enough room for a proper run, so things are a bit temporary at the moment. It has been a big lesson for us not to be complacent about Mr Fox, and also that we need to harden ourselves a bit if we are going to continue to keep livestock (which chickens are really, not pets). One day we hope to keep pigs, what on earth will I be like when they have to go to the abattoir if I get upset over one hen!

With these lessons learnt, hopefully we can do our best to keep the others safe, but Mr Fox knows they are here now so we must not get lulled into a false sense of security, but we also must accept that if we want our hens to be as free range as we would like then we are going to run the risk of loosing one or two now and then. I know many people who keep hens who loose the odd one or two and it is a fact of life.

Now we must look forward to our next year here in our old farmhouse and maybe we will find our own place in the not too distant future.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Summer has come

Saw my first Swallow today sitting, looking rather lonely and chirping like crazy on one of the electricity cables between the barns. I think he got here first and was waiting for his friends. M said later that he had seen several of them 'playing' together. I love them, they always make you feel happy because they look so happy. I bet they were so excited at having made their journey and meeting up again.

Actually M did say that he thought he had seen one a few weeks ago but we never saw it again so maybe it wasn't. They are definitely here now.

Monday, 13 April 2009

A bit of a rant

I don't normally use this blog for a rant about anything but feel rather moved to do so today.

On Friday afternoon we went to the pub at on the North Cornish coast, we hadn't been for a while and it one of our favorites. Whilst we were sitting in the sun enjoying our beer we saw a rescue helicopter come over the cliffs from Bude and down towards us and then down towards the sea. We thought it was a practice, but found out later that a 20 year old man had lost his life lost having got stuck up the cliffs after being cut off by the tide (his friend was saved).

Now this is terrible and I feel quite strange knowing that someone was in deep danger only a short distance away from where we were enjoying ourselves. However, I am also angry at this accident that could so easily have been prevented. Why don't people check when they are going to the beach and particularly if they plan to walk from one beach to another especially along a rocky coastline what time high water is and the tide height, you should also check that you know where you can get off the shoreline if you need too. These rocky coastlines have few places where you can get up the cliffs. I have no idea where these two got onto the shore and whether they were on holiday or locals but that should make no difference. It should be common sense and common practice to check for high water times particularly.

My rant then is to say to people, please please please be careful when you go to the beach and particularly a rocky coastline, know the tide times and heights and know how you can get off the shore if you need to.

Right, rant over.

Edited on 14 April 09.

Just as I was cleaning out the woodburner I found a piece in the local paper from end March about two teachers and their pupils who were on a school climbing trip to Hartland Quay (a local beauty spot with very dramatic cliffs and rock formations). This group were from a local school and they got cut off too. All were rescued after the teaching assistant scaled the rocks to raise the alarm (which had already been done by some walkers). This is almost even more terrible in the fact that this was a local group who were familiar with the area, and who climb there regularly; they in particular should have been fully aware of the tide times and in this case the real problem which was the tide height!!!

March to April

Been very remiss and not updated this for ages so very busy.

I have just started a new job, one day a week at a local college. Trying to fit in the one day with all the other work I have right now is going to be a challenge but exciting (I hope). I really shouldn't complain with other people loosing their jobs all over the country and I have managed to get a new one.

Been busy too on the wine making front with the gorse wine just gone on the ferment. Dandelion will be started after St Georges day (as this is traditionally the day for picking Dandelions for wine making). Elderberry and Runner bean bottled today, a lovely colour but very very dry. I am very naughty in my wine making, I always forget to take the OG so have no idea how strong it is but it tastes strong and the final SG was 995 so shows how dry it is. The other wines are still in demijohns but the blackberry, marrow and the apple will be bottled next weekend. The tea (very sweet still so restarted) and the peach (very thin) and the banana (very interesting!) still have a while to go. Once the oak leaves start coming out that will be another one on the list. I have also sowed a lot of courgette seeds as the marrow is really nice so will want to make more later this year.

Speaking of the veggie patch, M made a great raised bed (only one as we have run out of our free timber) which has at least solved the bog garden problem for the salad stuff. The spuds are in, as are the following; runner beans (coming up), french beans (not coming up yet), peas, courgettes, beetroot, radishes, garlic (up), rocket, lettuce, carrots, hot mix (coming up), spring onions (coming up), shallots (up and doing well if the chickens don't manage to dig them up). M's tomatoes and chillis are doing well too.
The garden (and the hedgerows) are also full of flowers, daffs, primroses (hundreds of them), grape hyacinths and lots and lots of celandine's. It really is very beautiful. I can't wait until the foxgloves come out, they were fantastic last year.The farmers are also busy round here as you would imagine, there are plenty of lambs about but it seems that our local sheep farmer is still lambing (bit late really, think it should finish soon). Some farmers have put their cattle out but the farmer who rents the fields that belong to this house hasn't yet. He has been busy though fertilising the fields and rolling them. Now this just goes to show what a townie I was (still am!). When I saw fields like this I used to think they had been mowed - of course they hadn't (not at this time of year) they were rolling them. At least I know now. Mind you it does look like an enormous cricket pitch.

I also decided to have a go at making 'hobnob' type biscuits (I have never made any kind of biscuits before). I rather forgot about the effects of self raising flour and so they rather 'merged' on the baking tray. Have to say though that they were very good and M ate two in one go. Next time I might try putting chocolate on top!!!!!