Monday, 24 August 2009


We have had a bit of a weekend with the girls again but (fingers crossed) it looks like things will be OK.

Over the last week or so someone had been laying very very big eggs with very thin rough shells (very difficult to tell which one of course) and then on Friday evening just as I was about to cook dinner M noticed that one of the hens was pecking at the others' bottom area a lot. We had a look and noticed blood pouring from her vent (where the eggs and poo comes out of, they only have one hole). We quickly picked her up and had a proper look and there was a nasty bloody prolapse (bit like piles for chickens). With very clean hands and dilute iodine we cleaned the area and then very gently pushed the prolapse back in. Over the weekend we have had to keep the hens separated as the healthy one just pecks at the others bum and they can kill doing this as eventually they pull out the others innards (sorry not nice but true). It could be that the prolapse was caused by the other hen pecking or that the prolapse occured and then the pecking started, they are carnivorous and some nice fresh blood might have been too much of a temptation. We have cleaned the affected area and having read up about this put pile cream around the vent 4 times a day (this is nice and cooling, has a mild topical anaesthetic and a mile antiseptic in it).

At night we blocked off one of the nest boxes and kept the sick one in there with a little food and water. Yesterday she really wasn't eating and we feared that we would have to start hand feeding today (with a syringe) and if that had happened I think we would have had to seriously think about culling her; from previous experience once they stop eating it is only a matter of time.

Well this morning M went to let them out and found healthy hen had laid an egg (this had been an issue too as she had been distressed with all the goings on and appeared to be eating her own eggs which can be another big issue). M rescued the egg and lured the healthy hen to another run (to keep them apart). He went to open up the blocked up nest box and sick hen pretty much leaped out. She is eating and drinking and is currently roaming the garden finding nice baby slugs and all sorts to eat. She is making little noises (had been very quiet for the last few days), is preening and scratching, so looks a lot better. We will still clean her and apply the cream for a few days and I am going to get some stuff to put around her bum to stop the other hen pecking her feathers out.

We are not quite out of the woods yet though as when she lays another egg the prolapse could recur so will need to keep and eye on this and for the time being will keep them separated so that if she does do it again she won't get attacked by the other hen.

Prolapse can occur particularly in hens who are the best layers and those who lay large eggs. I am not sure why she was laying eggs with such rough shells and there is a lot of discussion on forums about the use of oyster shell (or other forms of calcium). Chickens need this to form the egg shells and commercially produced layers mash or pellets (this is their feed) should contain all the things they need. Some people seem to feel that this is not enough and you should give them more, but then again other people say that giving them extra calcium if they don't need it can result in rough paper thin shells and can cause other problems including death, so not sure if somehow maybe she was getting too much. As there seems to be so much confusion on the subject I am going to talk to someone at work who has a large egg business so does all this commercially and I am sure she will know the answer.

The problem with keeping stock is that you really have to know what you are doing (of course) and there are courses for keeping most kinds of stock. A lot of people are now keeping hens thanks to TV Chef celebs and there is a lot of concern that people don't have the knowledge and experience to keep them in the right ways. I have seen people ask if hens need perches and nest boxes (which is actually quite fundamental). We learned from our friends who we lived with who had hens and read up on the subject widely before we got them, but even then the advice you can get can be confusing and conflicting. I would strongly recommend that anyone who wants to keep hens (or any stock for that matter) reads up on it and if possible go along to one of the many day workshops there are on the subject. Get the right information first and hopefully you will have fewer problems and if they do occur you will know how to manage them.

Hopefully our girl will make a full recovery but I do worry that it was something we did or didn't do that caused the problems, hopefully we will have learned something from all this and can make sure our girls are happy and healthy.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Show time - Part 3

So third Show done and what a show, so far my favorite but maybe that was because it was sunny and no mud.

Okehampton Showground maybe doesn't' quite have the position of the Woolsery Show but it nestles below Dartmoor and is a lovely spot. It also has a perimeter track running round the outside so even if it had been wet a lot of the access would have been dry. As it was we had had a bit of rain in the days preceding but the ground had dried out and setting up the stand on the Wednesday wasn't too much of a pain (although it was a misty foggy day and the Camleford show took which took place on the Wednesday apparently took place in thick cloud).

We got to the ground early and didn't get too bunged up in traffic this time and managed to do the final setting up bits in good time. Then the sun came out. Well we had thought we were well prepared, wellies, waterproofs, warm jumper (lessons learned from previous shows) and the forecast had been mixed so we didn't take sun cream; we wish we had, we all ended up with pink noses and pink cheeks and I think I got a bit of sunstroke as felt rather under the weather for a few days after. Next show we will take wet weather gear AND suncream, you just never know.

The Show ground is well laid out with a central ring for much of the entertainment involving horses and the trade stands mostly surrounded this ring. We had great views of the ring where the horses came in to wait for their slot and although we are not really horsey people it gave us something to look at in our quiet moments. It was quite fun seeing the noisy braying donkeys, (once one started they all started and made everyone laugh; the tiny sheltlands; the majestic and shiny hunters; the noble and beautiful Heavy Horses in all their regalia. There were also pie and skewbald gypsy horses which were really lovely. At the end of the day there were races which although we couldn't see the main event we could see the horses and riders going at break neck speed back into the holding ring after their race; it was something called barrel racing which apparently started in America (or so the commentator said) when the men were doing the rodeo riding the women set up their own fun and raced one by one round barrels, it was very fast and great fun to watch, not least because the commentator was enjoying himself and was entertainment on his own - rather think he might have had something to wet his throat before the races but he just might have been an enthusiastic type!

The rest of the trade stands were in rows (similar to the North Devon). Then at the top of the ground there were the cattle and sheep show rings. In a large field or enclosure on the east side of the show ground were the stock pens, so here were most of the cattle, sheep, piggies, poultry, rabbits, alpacas and there was also a sheering stand, doing sheering competitions and I suppose workshops. So the way the ground was set out, it meant that you could easily find things, I thought it was great. The show also seemed more agricultural than the other shows, I don't know why, maybe because of the way it was set out or maybe there were more stock here.

Some people complain about the trade stands and the fact that these shows have become more commercialised but sadly without them I am not sure the shows would survive, the stands help pay for the shows to take place.

We had a great day on the stand with lots of visitors and lots of enquiries. we almost ran out of price lists. Each show we do we learn something new and everytime they get better and better. We even had enquiries from other parts of the country some very far away indeed.

The only downside to the shows is catering really. There are plenty of food places and a food tent where you can buy local produce (not hot) but it was so busy that we really couldn't face queuing (also it wasn't fair to leave the others on the stand for too long) so ended up with lunch that was a bit disappointing, next show we will take our own I think. Also the biggest disappointment of the whole show was that the beer tent ran out of beer by about 3pm!!!! Shocking! I think they hadn't realised that so many people would come, (the last two years the show had been cancelled because of weather) but you would have thought they would have had a contingency plan. There was a sort of contingency in the end and the man on the tannoy announced that the beer tent had restocked. We always feel at the end of the show we deserve half a pint of something cold so went along only to find that all they had were warm cans of lager and beer, nothing cold. Even these stocks were pretty thin. Okehampton Show, next year, more beer!

So almost at the end now, one more to go this year (next week). Looking forward to it and slightly sad that it is at the end now, I have enjoyed them. They are hard work, long days and early mornings (which I am not good at at all, would be a rubbish farmer!). We calculate that for one show it takes at least 3 days out of the week with preparation, setting up and taking the stand down. Will see how next week goes and then I guess it will be time to start thinking about which ones to book in for for next year.

PS. Sorry few photos camera very much on last legs.
PPS. The heat wave forecast for today hasn't hit us here, cold, damp, cloudy and windy!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Minor panic

Had a bit of a panic last night. M and I had noticed that it seems to have gone a bit quiet here over the last couple of days. Up till then we had been woken most mornings by the House Sparrows who had been nesting in the roof just above our bedroom window (bless them!) but all is quiet now. Also since about Friday the noisy swallows seem to have gone quiet, surely it can't be the end of summer just yet.

No swallows at all this morning and the Sparrows have definitely got fed up with the rain and cold, but it isn't quite over yet. Have seen two Swallows today but the numbers are definitely depleted. I reckon that some of them may have already gone ahead to warmer climes but there are a few left. It only seems like yesterday they arrived and it is quite sad to think they will soon be gone, they have been so entertaining.

Have to say that we never really noticed this kind of the change in the seasons before, I suppose we wouldn't have done when we didn't have such summer tenants in our old house.

There is a definite early Autumn feel around though (and only mid August). Mr Robin has started singing loudly again, a sound which I always associate with Autumn and Winter. The crows are back too, instead of small black bodies clinging onto the telephone wires (the Swallows) we have large black bodies clinging to the telephone wires making harsh Autumn noises!

According to the forecast we might get a barbecue summer day on Wednesday but last time I looked it had changed to rain again, hey ho, here's to living in the West Country (and don't get me wrong, I wouldn't live anywhere else even with the rain).

Okehampton Show report on its way, camera is playing up, but will be posted soon.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Well it seems to be here (after a bit of a damp day yesterday). Gearing up for the show on Thursday and the forecast doesn't look brilliant but it depends which forecast you look at!

I have been out with the camera (which I am afraid seems to be on its last legs; it will be a real pain in the neck if it packs up now).

A couple of lovely ones.

Garden jewels: If you only ever grow one type of tomato, grow this one, Sungold, it is beautiful and tastes even better. Those red ones seem insipid compared to the burst of sunlight and warmth and summer time you get when you bite into one of these little golden globes.

The bog garden: Slowly, slowly licking it into shape (but still a lot of weeds and docks and there is only a little produce growing now as a lot have been eaten!!!!!!). This winter we will put down black plastic (old silage covers) where we want the plots to be and leave the grass paths between, might even manage a few more raised beds, but have to watch this as even though this is very wet plot the raised bed dries out quickly. The blue stuff is netting to keep the hens off the carrots I have just planted out (a little late!)

In our old garden we had a grape vine, something called strawberry grape. It goes mad and grows everywhere, the English winters don't bother it at all. The grapes are dark reddish in colour and have the most amazing berry flavour, sort of a mixture of strawberries, blackberries and other yummy fruits but are not 'grape like' at all. We took cuttings several years ago and gave them to friends who are growing them up a trellis in front of their oil tank (not sure the trellis will be able to cope eventually but we will cross that bridge!). This winter I took about 40 cuttings and have 37 plants growing. Our friend has a nice sheltered, well drained south facing, gently sloping field so is thinking about trying to grow them on a larger scale (he also took about 40 cuttings last year, so we have almost 80 plants!). They will take time to mature and produce fruit and maybe ultimately some wine! This picture shows the cuttings together with an odd selection of marigolds and other flowers (no idea what they are or why I planted the seeds). The marigolds are there because they have been watered and will go back shortly to sit with the tomatoes to help ward off nasty bugs (marigolds encourage nice bugs that eat the nasty bugs, clever eh?)

Finally this is one of the old apple trees that last year produced a total amount of nothing. I gave it some TLC over the winter and a decent hair cut and now we have apples; hooray. Just have to get the other one producing now.

Must go out and stop working and enjoy some of this rare break in the clouds before the weather turns again tomorrow!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

I've been tagged!

A very nice lady who reads my blog and posts nice comments too has tagged me (thank you Pattypan). I believe that this means I have to tell you 7 things about myself you may not know (and of course I am sure that there are a lot of people who read this who know very little about me at all, so in essence this should be relatively easy!!).

1. I have my Coastal Skipper sailing certificate and Yacht Master theory certificate.

2. I have skippered 40ft+ yachts twice in the Greek Islands for two wonderful bare boat holidays we had many years ago before certain members of the crew had babies!

3. I am a distant relative of Florence Nightingale (and George Elliot as there was a relationship here too between these two).

4. I made a record as a teenager singing as the contralto soloist in the School Choir. Have no idea what happened to the record think some of the singing (not mine of course) was pretty grim.

5. I trained for a while as an opera singer (but I was a student nurse at the time and it got a bit expensive).

6. I always wanted to be an actress and used to find it very difficult to go to the theatre cos I wanted to be on that stage.

7. I would love to sing again particularly local folk songs, but find it difficult to find how to start again and how to find a group to sing with. I do sing to the cattle (don't tell the farmer he thinks I am mad as it is). I used to sing to cattle as a little girl when Mum and Dad had a house in Herefordshire. They do seem to like it and as soon as I start the audience gathers I think I posted a picture somewhere on the blog of my 'appreciative audience'. Have to say though that the cats and the hens don't seem to like it.

Well think that's it really, not much more to say. Ah, just remembered another one (sorry I know it was only supposed to be 7). The year of Charles and Diana's wedding my Mum and Dad went to Buckingham Palace for a Garden Party and I went too. For various reasons we were to be presented to Prince Philip. The only thing I remember about it is that whilst we were waiting for the Prince to come down the line an equerry was talking to us and he asked me if I was still at School. I said no, I had just left and was going into nursing cos I wanted to meet lots of nice young Doctors. It turned out that this gentleman was actually one of the lesser Royals (I spotted him on the tele when the wedding was on). I was very embarrassed that I had told a member of the Royal family that I was going into nursing, not because of a vocation or a desire to help people but to meet young men!!!! Apparently according to my Dad I also spent some time telling naughty jokes to a Bishop! (he was one of the govenors of my School so I did sort of know him, but naughtly jokes to a Bishop, hopefully he wasn't too offended.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Show time - Part 2

So North Devon show yesterday - where to start - I suppose at the beginning. (By the way you can look at the pictures better by clicking on them and they should enlarge)

We were to be working a stand for a local company that M is doing some work with. We went to set up the stand on Tuesday in misty, damp, drizzly weather. We had an inkling that it would be muddy and we weren't wrong! We managed to get into the ground through the mire and eventually found our plot. Unfortunately the first car and trailer (there were cars and big long trailers) had driven past it, so you reverse back to it don't you if you have a lot of heavy items to move; no you don't (we found) not in that mud. There were plenty of tractors about dragging people out of muddy patches so we managed to find one to drag the car and trailer back into a better position and then proceeded to get very wet and muddy. When it was time to leave we almost managed to get out of the ground until the last 200 yards when both vehicles (now with empty trailers) got stuck (and both were big 4X4's!). 4 very tired, wet and extremely muddy people made their way home for dinner and an early bed.

Up early Wednesday morning to get to the ground before the show started and yours truly read the signs wrong and took us up a road full of show traffic going to car parks for the dog show bit and other areas but not where we were supposed to park. It took us an hour and a half to do a 30 minute journey! Luckily the boss went the right way and was there in time for the show opening. We finally got parked and picked our way through the mud to the stand (picking up some breakfast on the way).

There were lots of food stalls at the show selling all sorts of food (and a catering tent too). There was fish and chips, Chinese food, burgers, roast pork rolls, hot dogs, crepes, ice cream and lots more I probably never found. there was also a wonderful food tent with various local food and delicacies including sausages, pies, organic meat, olives (possibly not local), cider, pasties, cheese, chocolate and lots of other yummy things.

Other tents at the show included arts and crafts, poultry, rural skills, countryside skills, Womens Institute, Young Farmers (no idea what was in there, never made it!), scouts (including a visit by James May of Top Gear fame), flower competitions, horticulture, you name it. Then in terms of trade stands again you had all sorts, banks, solicitors (!), wood burning stoves, garden furniture, agricultural machinery, clothing, wellies (which were selling like hot cakes), surf gear, kites, headstones for graves (!) etc etc. I think there must have been about 500 stands there. There were also fairground rides including a big wheel and lots of bouncy castle type things.

In terms of entertainment I think there were about 4 or 5 rings. There were the usual live stock competitions and horse show activities including show jumping. There were people showing you how to cast properly for course and fly fishing and how to get your gun dog to pick up. There was pig racing and ferret racing (did see this before, not this time and it is great fun, just love ferrets but they can be smelly and have nice sharp teeth), missed the pig racing by 5 minutes (that's the problem with being on a stand you have to get back to work!. - the picture is of the ferret racing enclosure) There was someone with owls too and a falconry display. There was a dog show too.

I haven't been to the big county shows; I was supposed to go to the Royal Cornwall back in June but couldn't make it; and have only otherwise been to the smaller shows, Holsworthy and Woolsery, but I did enjoy the North Devon, it was big but not too big and probably enough to keep you entertained for the day. Initially I thought the price of entry was a bit steep but in fact comparing this to the other smaller shows I think you got good value for money at the North Devon. The only downside was the MUD!

As the day wore on the mud did start to dry up towards the lower part of the ground (in all it is about 50 odd acres on a slight south facing slope (the main tents are placed on the top of the hill and on the north side you have a fabulous view out over Clovelly and the Bristol Channel to Lundy. To the south there were great views of Dartmoor, it would be a lovely place for a house if a bit exposed. The mud at the top of the hill by the main tents did not dry up and they were still having to tow vehicles out at the end of the day, including some huge 52 seater coaches, even the tractors had fun with them.

I mentioned earlier that stands selling wellies did a roaring trade. I suppose we would think it is obvious to wear wellies to an agricultural show, especially after weeks of rain but maybe some people just don't realise and maybe the visitors to the area who hadn't been to a show and didn't know what to expect, but there were people turning up in flip flops, crocs, sandals, trainers and even one or two ladies in high heeled boots! Some people just gave up and walked around in bare feet and some went and invested in wellies. The weather looks good for the next week, but I will be taking my wellies with me to the Okehampton show just in case. Something else I would recommend when you go to a show is to buy a programme, there are lots of events but without a show guide you might miss something you would like to see. We didn't get one and I wish we had, I might not have missed the pig racing if I had had one.

We had a fairly busy day, for our type of stand we didn't expect to actually make a sale at the show but we did have quite a lot of interest and apparently some calls yesterday to place orders from people who had visited us at the show. It was hard work and really took 3 days out of the week to do it (possibly more with preparing flyers etc) and time will tell, but we think it was worth it. The boss was talking about the Royal Cornwall for next year but that is a 3 day show and very very big and will be very tiring (it is about an hour away by car and you have to get there by 8am and can't leave until about 6.30). We will see.

I would recommend anyone who can to visit an agricultural show, not only are they entertainment but they are part of our rural heritage and as we know the Royal Show which is held in the midlands each year has now closed because of a reduced amount of interest. We must keep these things going and we can do that by supporting the shows, either by exhibiting, or entering the competitions or just visiting.

Local accents

About a year ago I did a first level teacher training course and as part of it each 'student' had to do a short teaching session. The course was run in a college in Cornwall but most of the people on the course worked for the college but ultimately many came from other parts of the country, including Devon and counties further afield. One of the students did a session on 'How to speak proper' and by that he meant how to speak with a Devon accent and in Devon dialect. It was great, mostly because he got us incomers to practice using role plays and some folks hadn't got a clue what they were saying.

It is true to say that the Devon and Cornwall accents and dialects are still strong (especially in the rural and agricultural areas). We know several locals some of whom speak with such a broad accent it is very difficult to understand them (no idea if they understand us either!). Some locals though have very slight accents and I know a Cornish lady who I would have said was an incomer her accent is so slight.

I often think that I am a bit of an accent magpie in that wherever I go I pick up accents quite quickly, even so at the North Devon Show this week I was talking to a couple who had come to our stand (and were incomers like us) and they picked up straight away that I was 'not from round here'. I wonder if I went back home if friends would think I had picked up a burr.

I do think that local accents are so important and it saddens me sometimes when I talk to local friend's children who seem to have lost the accent altogether. I suppose it is because of the TV and radio where regional accents seem to have disappeared to be replaced by home counties or just a 'non' accent. I do hope that these beautiful voices aren't lost forever in the great melting pot that our country has become. I would have liked to have thought that if we had children that they would have picked up a local accent from school, but that just doesn't seem to happen anymore judging from children I know round here.

A few examples of local place names as they would be said by local people and confused the life out of us when we first came down here.

Launceston - Lanson
Holsworthy - Olsery
Bude - Boode

Here's to local accents, dialects and languages, lets hope we can keep this valuable and beautiful heritage going.