Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Eggs hatching

I am holding my breath with the anticipation! The eggs in the very cheap ebay incubator are beginning to hatch! Before I get too excited, all I mean by that is that tonight I have seen that two of the ten eggs are cracked - one has a definite peck-shaped crack, and the other has more of a linear crack - but they are cracking!!!!! There must be chicks in there........can't wait for morning!

I am so chuffed with this, as this is our very first attempt with an incubator. I was very tempted to pay a fortune for a "proper" Brinsea incubator, about £99, until I came across someone on ebay selling these "home-made" incubators for £24.99.....yes, £24.99! It is just a polystyrene box, with a thermostat, a halogen bulb and a tiny fan, into which you pop a thermometer. It would hold about a dozen hen's eggs, and it is absolutely great for the garden chicken keeper like me.

I'll be back with an update tomorrow - and I must sort the camera out!!!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Getting hot, hot, hot!

The heat is really on here this week - temperatures of over 28 degrees are making life challenging as we are trying to keep all the poultry and animals hydrated and in as much shade as possible.

All the tomato plants are out in the new troughs, and the garden is looking good!

The YFG has gone to an Inter-village Athletics tournament this afternoon, which is worrying me a little, in this heat, but she has a hat, plenty of water and some factor 50+ suncream so I am hoping that she will be fine. It is also school sports day here tomorrow so she will be out in it all again then. I know one girl in her class who has been reported as having sunstroke/heatstroke on the village grapevine, so we have to be very careful. Trouble is that we are just not used to these temperatures!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Quiet weekend

Yesterday the YFG's class went on their trip to the Raptor Foundation near St Ives, and I went along to help out with the children. We had a good morning, dissecting pellets and trying to identify the bones then moving outside for a tour of the aviaries and drawing the birds. There was a lively Indian Eagle Owl called Indie and a gorgeous barn owl named Sybil amongst the stars of the show. There was also a flying display which the children loved especially at the end when those that wanted to got the chance to hold a barn owl on their glove. The weather was glorious until about 2pm when the heavens opened just as we wanted to load the children back onto the bus. We all got more than a little damp!

After gym last night, the YFG went home with her friend P, to stay the night, so we all had a quiet night here - the FH and I had a glass of wine each and then I watched Hotel Babylon with the EFG. Can't say I recommend it; she has some interesting TV viewing habits, but last night I was so tired that I just sat and vegetated in front of the TV whilst it was on.

This morning has been more showers and very humid weather, so the girls at gymnastics were struggling for fresh air, and we worked them hard so they drank a lot! The washing hasn't dried today because of the humidity too.

Tomorrow morning we are taking part in a village yard sale treasure hunt organised by the WI; we are holding a yard sale here, as are others around the village and the WI are selling treasure maps of all the yard sales, so that potential customers do the rounds and pick up clues to win a prize. We have been scouting around the house and yard tonight considering what we might sell!

The eggs in the incubator are due to hatch on 1st July so tonight is the last turning.......can't wait to see how many hatch, and we are just praying that some chicks do hatch after all this time and effort!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Tomatoes are go!

The new tomato troughs finally got made today. We bought two old pallet boxes for £3.50 each and we recycled them into four lovely new tomato troughs. The FH made them this morning and then I painted them with Cuprinol this afternoon (and got a bit surnburned in the process) so they are ready to get the tomatoes planted in them at last. I would have got that done tonight, but my dad came to visit. We already have 13 plants out from last weekend's gardening, and I put four tumbling plants into a hanging basket yesterday evening.

The peas and bean plants are doing well although the lack of rain means that watering is a major job each day. Got to keep at it! I will be able to put some photos up here this weekend as we have unearthed the camera charger, so it is busy tonight charging the battery - there will be photos of the chicks for sure. Long overdue, too!

Tomorrow I am going on a school trip to a bird of prey centre with the YFG's class, and then it will be gym, so there will not be time to check in tomorrow - I'll be back with the piccies at the weekend.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

RIP Socks

The rabbit didn't make it and died today. Despite the medications, he got worse and died this afternoon, so we have buried him alongside his "brother" (from another litter of the same parents) George, also much loved. Socks was a lovely rabbit, the spitting image of his father, and a very gentle natured rabbit. He fathered Champagne and Martini, and perhaps another litter that is yet to be born. The EFG and FH were both in tears this afternoon as he was buried.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ups and downs

I am still on a high from the exam pass yesterday and can't quite believe it, but then I have had two niggly things happen today which have not been so pleasant. One is a complaint about something I sold on ebay, so I am going to have to refund the person and also refund her postage to send it back, which is the right thing to do but the item was in tip-top condition when it left here so I am interested to see what it looks like when it gets back. The other thing is me taking offence where none is meant, but it still niggles me:

A neighbour on the estate was talking to the FH about tomato plants and where to buy them and me having 50 odd here, I took her three as a gift. As a surprise thank-you, she brought a cake round yesterday whilst I was out. The FH, girls and my uncle polished it off over supper last night, and I sent the YFG back with the plate after school this afternoon. I asked her to say thanks very much for the cake and that "Dad" had enjoyed it so could we have the recipe please? The YFG came back and said that she had said, no, it was a secret family recipe. To me, that is just plain silly. I'll give anybody a recipe anytime, as I am happy for them to get the enjoyment out of making something for themselves if they have liked the cake/biscuit or whatever when I have made it for them. How does sharing the recipe diminish her family's enjoyment in any way? Does another family eating that cake mean that when they eat it, it tastes any the less delicious? I am puzzled - if you don't share recipes, help me understand why?

The weekend really took the stuffing out of me and I have had two naps today - about four hours sleep in addition to a good night last night. I am still tired and may have another snooze tomorrow. I have done a few jobs in the garden in between - planted some tomato plants out in the troughs in the sunniest part of the garden, strimmed round a couple of the raised beds, and pottered in general. Inside the house, I have still got a little ironing to fix, and there will be washing to do tomorrow as the machine is now fixed - £45 for a nice chap to come and take some coins, hairgrips and nails out of the pipe.......still, I had thought that the pump had failed and that would have been £49 for the part alone, so I shall have to check pockets more thoroughly - lesson learned.

One of the rabbits is sick - he seems to have snuffles, which we had a rabbit die from the other year, so we are dosing him with some antibiotic and keeping him inside. Its highly contagious so we have to be very careful with hygiene between touching him and the other rabbits outside. He has not gone downhill as fast as the last one which had it, so we are hoping that the meds are helping and that he may make it.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Exam result

HUGE sigh of relief - I passed the practical part of the exam today. The logbook was also passed and so all I have to do now is wait for the theory results to come in.........I hope they don't take long. The YFG and I are both exhausted from a long day, so I'll leave it there for tonight as I still have to iron the uniforms for the morning, but I am so pleased and relieved!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Still here

Only just! Head so full of gym stuff that I can't really think about much else. Garden doing well, huge weeding session will be needed next week, tomatoes need potting up, picked another cucumber yesterday, peppers forming on the plants, courgettes just days away! All exciting stuff for the gardening fraternity. Chicks getting cuter by the day, and I am still turning the eggs in the incubator religiously, so fingers crossed that it will all be worth it.

Will be back after the weekend!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Aiming high already

The girls are both doing well this week: the EFG has come home with some excellent exam results, excellent because they show that she is making good progress and is exceeding her current targets. The YFG is sitting on the kitchen floor doing practice papers for Y6 SATS, although she is only Y5 at the moment. She is making a few mistakes, but she has the jist of it, and is doing OK so I hope that by the end of Y6, she'll be doing better. I'm proud of the pair of them.

As for me, I am getting the jitters over this exam on Sunday. I am already an Assistant Coach, and this next exam is to be a Coach. It is quite a bit harder, and the way that the exams are being re-written this year means that I can't defer the exam until I feel more ready for it, so if I don't do the exam because I don't think I am ready, I will have to do the whole course again, and if I give it a go and fail, well, hey, I'll have to do the whole course again - so I may as well give it a go and just do my best. If I do pass, well, what a bonus that will be. I have to say that I am aiming to pass, and I hope I do!!! I have nothing to lose! I still have some lesson plans to write for the logbook, so I'm not done yet. I have sent my apologies for the school board meeting tomorrow night as I really need to be at home, reading up and revising stuff for this.

We picked a pound of strawberries yesterday afternoon - and ate them all for tea. I am so pleased to have our own strawberry patch, and we are loving the fruit - so much nicer fresh off the plant than from a shop somewhere. The variety is called Cambridge Favourite, I think. The hens are laying less eggs as more of them are going broody but I just don't have enough coops to put them all in to let them have chicks so they are just going to have to go off the idea smartish. It means that at the moment, about 24 hens are only producing between 6 and 8 eggs a day which is pathetic, really!

The eggs are in the incubator, and I just keep turning them every eight hours, and counting the days on the calendar. They should hatch at the end of the month so we are quite excited about that. A man came today to sort out a problem with the oil boiler, and he saw some of the quail eggs in the utility room so we got chatting and it turns out that he has incubators as well - but his biggest one is full of 1300 pheasant eggs which he rears for the local estate's shoot! 1300 puts my measly 10 eggs in the shade!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Swept away

The last few days have literally been swept away - the time has flown past and we have been busy. The gymnastics exam is now exactly a week away, so I am putting as much time as I can into reading, preparing and worrying! The garden is also needing a lot of time, as there are strawberries to pick, beans to encourage to grow upwards, sweet peas to pot up and put outside, chicks to watch and feed often, the grass needs mowing, etc. It goes on.....but I love it all. Inside the house, I am looking forward to watching some TV tonight (Kingdom because it is filmed in Norfolk, and then Hope Springs, because it is filmed and set in Scotland - both favoured places) whilst I do some ironing.

The FH has taken the girls to Wicksteed park in Kettering today for an outing and to give me some peaceful time to work on the gym stuff. They love Wicksteed and always have a great time there. The FH and EFG went to church first and the YFG and I packed them all a picnic so they went as soon as church was finished. The FH was all for missing church and getting there earlier but the EFG has a friend who is moving to Devon this week so she wanted to go to church so that she could say goodbye to her properly.

They'll be home for tea by 7pm, so I am cooking a roast for then - it will be cooler by then - we are having another scorching day here today.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Just catching my breath!

Yesterday was just one of those days! We went up to near Long Sutton to fetch the Light Sussex eggs to put into the incubator, and then we had some other bits and pieces to pick up on the way home. There is a good shop called "Else's" near Wisbech which sells all sorts of things at very reasonable prices - from furniture, mattresses, dining tables etc, through to timber and felt as well as garden items like slate for landscaping, seeds, plant pots, and hose connectors, for example, and then there is a load of other stuff - wallpaper, DIY, kitchen items - there can't be much they don't sell. Anyway, the FH picked up some lovely lengths of wood, and I spent a little on garden items like wallflower seeds, pea nets, twine, etc and a few freezer boxes for freezing portions of food. We don't go there often, thank goodness. We also called in at Tesco on the way home for some icing sugar and squash. Eventually we got home, grabbed some late lunch, unloaded the car, discovered we had sold something on ebay so packed that and took it to the post office, and then I had to get changed, pick up the YFG and head off to gymnastics.........and then a friend had the cheek to say I looked shattered when I got there. She wasn't far wrong.

Today has been a bit slower, thankfully. I have pottered in the garden, picked some more lovely strawberries, spent more than a few minutes watching my adorable chicks, been out and sold some books, and then got home to entertain visitors for a few hours. Tea was leftover from last night, so that wasn't hard to make, and then I have been doing some gym paperwork ready for a meeting with the Head Coach tomorrow. I have to produce a logbook for this exam, so there is quite a lot to get ready.

I have set the eggs in the incubator tonight. They will be turned three times a day at 10pm, 6am and 2pm. There are 10 of them in there - unfortunately two of them turned out to be cracked when I looked at them carefully last night and I can't be sure that they weren't cracked by us on the way home. The chap didn't give us a suitable egg box as he gave us one that only holds 10 eggs, so the lid was open and two were loose in the lid - needless to say, those are the two that are now cracked. The FH ate those for his breakfast scramble, but they were exceedingly expensive scrambled eggs!

Monday, 8 June 2009

A bountiful garden is a blessing

Tonight I have taken delivery of a big carrier bag of potatoes, another holding four cabbages and a large tray holding several pounds (maybe as much as 8 or 10) of strawberries - all from my uncle's garden. What with the broad beans from our own garden and those cabbages, we're set for greens for this week, and all those strawberries! Well, some will just get eaten, and some will get frozen for later. We just can't eat that many all at once, and we don't like strawberry jam for some reason, which maybe that we find it a little too sweet - we do like strawberry and gooseberry together, but I don't have any goosegogs at the moment. I can still do that later, by defrosting and mixing them together when I do get some of the little green, hairy bullets!!

The hens which are laying have settled into producing about a dozen a day, which I can cope with, thank goodness. We have more cucumbers ripening, more beans coming on, some spring greens of our own which will soon be ready, and there are loads of lettuces to savour - the FH loves a cheese and lettuce sandwich at bedtime - I think that the sedative effect of the lettuce counteracts the cheese and so it doesn't keep him awake. The runner beans and dwarf beans are also looking a lot better after the soaking the rain gave them last night.

The mama hens brought out their babies later this afternoon, when it was warmer, and we have a successful count of 10 - brings our total poultry count to 43 if we include the turkey. Good job I already have the DEFRA registration as if the next lot of eggs hatch successfully, I will be back over the 50 mark again!!!

More chicks here

The three hens who have been patiently sitting on the Orpington eggs have been rewarded with chicks. One has at least 5, one has two that we have seen and we have seen three with the third hen, so that makes a total of 10 definite hatchlings. There may be more as we didn't poke around under the hens, so we will have to wait until later today or tomorrow when they bring them out properly to feed and drink in the runs. There were 24 eggs to begin with, but I know that a few got broken to start with when the hens were settling onto the eggs, so I think we have about a 50% success rate with these. We are pleased, anyway - 10 more chicks on the "farm" is a success in itself.

So, in total at the moment, there are the 10 described above, three six-week-old Buff Orpington chicks and the two month-old Silver Wyandotte bantam chicks - who are getting their grown-up plumage now and are so gorgeous!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Twiddling knobs!

The incubator has been running since last night, and I have to keep adjusting the thermostat knob! I am trying to get the internal temperature to 37 degrees as recommended in the instructions. You might well ask why I don't turn the dial directly to the mark that says 37?!? Well, the short answer is that there isn't one. No, this is a "cheap and cheerful" incubator and there is a lack of refinements like that. However, we have a thermometer in the box and when it hits 37 and stays there, we will have the knob in the right place...the eggs are coming Tuesday so I hope we get there soon!

Picked a load of lovely broad beans from the garden late this afternoon, and we had half a pound of strawberries yesterday - we had them for tea last night.

Gymnastics this morning - wore the contacts today from 8.45 to about 3.30 so that was good going for me. They certainly do the trick and save my face from attack, but today the YFG kicked my left hand rather badly; sadly I don't think there's anything I can do about that. Exactly 2 weeks to go to the exam now and I am getting a little worried!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Incubator is here

Yes, the postman brought the parcel this morning. We opened it and checked that it was all there, and we have read the instructions. It is now set up in the spare bedroom, turned on with a thermometer inside it to get it set to the right temperature. If if holds that temperature, we're in business, so to speak. I have arranged to get a dozen Light Sussex large fowl eggs on Tuesday next week and we will have a go with them.

Today has been a No Spend Day - good! And I am aiming for many more. I have already fetched tomorrow's dinner in from the freezer, and I noticed that there is no more bread, so I think I will make some tomorrow, partly inspired by GTM's post about baking bread and partly because I have about 7 bags of bread flour!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

More thoughts

I have been to the shop today to have a look at the fresh veggies and fruit. Today they had carrots, leeks, potatoes, onions, apples, bananas, peaches, and oranges of some kind. I bought some carrots for tomorrow's dinner - 4 decent sized ones cost me 39p, so that's not too bad. The stuff is all loose and you just buy what you want, so that is another good point - there are pros and cons like there are to most things! I have also been "shopping" in the freezer for tomorrow's dinner, some bread and some buns for lunchboxes. There is definitely a surplus in the freezers so it will be good to run them down a little. Perhaps this plan can work after all.....

Purchasing thoughts

This month is a designated storecupboard month in this house. I wondered whether I could take it a step further and just buy the oddments that we run out of from the village shop - but I don't think I can. I would be prepared to cope with the increase in prices compared to the supermarkets, for the convenience and lack of other temptation, but the lack of fresh fruit and veggies is going to be our problem. We eat loads of fruit, especially grapes (easy for lunchboxes), apples and satsumas/clementines. The shop is OK for picking up the odd few carrots or potatoes, but I think we will struggle with the fruit.

The other option is to think about the fruit and maybe change some of our ideas. When my uncle was here at the weekend, the conversation at the BBQ got round to him buying fruit and veg - and he just doesn't. When pressed, "What, never?" as one of the girls said, he thought that he probably bought a few oranges around Christmastime each year, but that was it. He eats plenty though - apples, plums, rhubarb, gooseberries, red/blackcurrants, raspberries, pears - all homegrown and preserved by freezing, careful storage of the apples in a cold place, and bottling in the case of the pears - and he is a 69 year old man, and he does it all himself; his bottling is better than mine as his pears are always lovely (we beg for odd jars now and again!) whereas the last lot I did went bad! He is the same with vegetables - he eats what he grows. He does have a very much larger garden than ours, with the added benefit of an orchard, established over 40 years ago - my grandmother had that house built in about 1965, and they planted the garden themselves. This would be the scenario I would like to achieve, but I am realistic in seeing that I don't have the land here to be able to be as self-sufficient as that. I can move closer towards it, though! They used to keep chickens too when I was a child, and much of what I know about chickens is what I learned from my grandmother.

I can't go to his level of production and live off it all this month - that would be impossible. What I can do, though, is use the fruit I have in the freezer in different ways, so that we get our fruit allocation for the day without me buying grapes, oranges, etc. Small hiccup there will be the YFG's inability to eat cooked soft fruits - she just can't. For her, though, I will manage as I have some tinned pineapple and peaches, which she does like.

We'll give it a go and see how we get on.

Other exciting news! Quite a lot actually: we have bought an incubator from ebay so that we can hatch chicks off when we want to, rather than waiting for a hen to go broody - and we'll try to hatch some quail as well. Can't wait for that to get here. Then there are the five rabbits born this morning - the mum is a floppy-eared white rabbit and the dad is a Dutch, so we're hoping they will be well and healthy. And I have just picked the first cucumber in the greenhouse - it's a plant which will produce a lot of little cucumbers rather than big ones, so it is only about 6inches long - we'll be trying that later.

The weather is cooler today so I am hoping that my bean plants will perk up - they have wilted rather in the heat, although they have had copious amounts of water. Perhaps a couple of cooler days will do the trick - fingers crossed.

Better go and hang some washing out.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Happy days

On Saturday evening, the YFG invited a friend to come and stay for the night, which meant that they were twittering away in their room until quite late! On Sunday morning, the EFG and the FH went to church whilst I pootled around here and kept an eye on the girls - they were busy on the trampoline in their pjs most of the morning.

More gardening, more washing and ironing, the same stuff that I have been doing for days - I just did more. It is lovely to see the garden full of growing produce and looking so neat and healthy, and the pleasure I get from a heap of beautifully ironed clothes ready to be put away is just plain silly!

My uncle came over for a late supper BBQ at 7.30 and we ate outside. I fired up the BBQ and set the pork slices and sausages alight, but all in all it was a good meal - lettuce from the garden too.

Today we have had a bit of a hiccup in that I had to fetch the EFG home from school shortly after 10 this morning - she had had a nosebleed for about 90 minutes so I felt that the best place for her was at home on the sofa, with her feet up, plenty to drink and getting some rest - not charging about a PE field in 25 degree heat. She had already missed her Spanish exam, so there wasn't a lot to stay for today. She has been doing some Science workbooks for revision most of the day.

After school, the YFG and I went to the optician. She just had an eye test and I got the all-clear to carry on with the contacts, so I have ordered a pack of 30 pairs (£22) which should be in at the end of the week. This evening, I have been watering the garden as there has been no rain for days, and there is none forecast over the rest of the working week, so the ground here is very dry and my poor plants are suffering. I do not liberally hose everywhere, but I fetch the water by the watering- can-ful and apply it directly to the base of the plants - it takes forever, but it is worth it.

I must do some work on the gymnastics paperwork tomorrow - even if it means going down and sitting in the motorhome away from all the distractions in the house!