Monday, 31 May 2010

Chick hatching update

Three Gold Partridge Orpingtons have hatched today although I didn't really think any would hatch until tomorrow - but they have, so I'm not complaining! I hope that more will hatch overnight and we'll have a count up in the morning; there were 12 eggs in that incubator, so we may have up to 9 more. The other incubator is warming the Brown Sussex eggs - and they are due tomorrow, but one has started to pip at the shell tonight, so again, there may be news to report there in the morning too! Excitement all round here at the prospect of hatching the Brown Sussex as they are SO rare....

Beans are in!

Yes - I felt like putting the flags up yesterday to celebrate - I have one whole veg bed full of dwarf beans. They are a variety called Tendercrop, so I hope that they grow well and taste good when they are grown. The weather yesterday was damp when we got up, but it dried off and the sun came out, but there was a gusty west wind most of the day. I still have the Ferrari dwarf beans to plant out, but there are slightly less of those, and I still have to weed and prepare a bed for those. Today's plan is to do that and prep a bed to put courgettes and lettuce for the summer. Yesterday also saw 6 cucumber plants being put into the soil in the greenhouse - I have 18 plants, of two varieties, so I planted 3 of each - Burpless and Telegraph. The other 12, well - I'm looking for homes for those! Around those plants, I put some lettuces so that they will come on slightly earlier than the ones I plan to put outside. Some of the tomato plants were brought out of the greenhouse and up under the verandah so that they can get used to cooler temperatures before actually going outside.

Today has dawned bright and clear again, but the wind is from the north east, so it is a little chillier, so I'll just have to wrap up warmer! There are more jobs to do outside as well as the gardening - the FH is making the troughs for the trellis, and I painted three for him yesterday. There are two more in the making today, and they will need to be done as well, although the YFG is after some pocket money for a day out on Thursday so she may ask for the job! Now that the FH has his driving license back, he is taking the YFG and her friend to Wicksteed Park in Kettering on Thursday - the EFG doesn't want to go so she and I will be having a day at home.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Spring rain

It has been raining on and off nearly all day today - and the garden really needs it, so I can't complain. The beans didn't get planted yesterday because I had to take the FH out on an errand which apparently couldn't wait, but I have potted most of the tomatoes up this afternoon - rain doesn't matter when I am in the greenhouse! There are lots of varieties and I am looking forward to seeing which are the best this year. The chickens aren't too happy with the showers after all the sunny days we have had but they will have to get used to it as I think that there is more rain forecast over the next few days.

Gym this morning, and we had a busy day with lots to do. We decided on the date for the holiday club week, and it is booked at the sports centre, so I can now plan our summer a little more, knowing when we are committed to being where!

When the YFG and I got home from gym this afternoon, the FH was holding a VERY important piece of paper - the letter from the DVLA saying he can DRIVE again!!!!!!!! Whoopee! You can't imagine how happy I am to have that letter at long last! And what a relief it is that he is mobile under his own steam again - thank you, DVLA!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Gosh - it's Thursday!!

Can't believe that I have been absent for nearly three days - time flies! What have we been up to?

Tuesday went by in a flash and all I really remember was that it was gymnastics in the late afternoon and evening. In the morning, though, the FH and I went to the timber yard and fetched the trellis and fence posts - that was a laugh, trying to get everything home on the roof of the Astra estate car - we managed it! We made some holes and got the Metposts lined up but not actually in the ground.

Wednesday was a busy one - the FH and UJ took 12 hens and 3 rabbits to the auction at Mildenhall; I needed to move some of the crossbreed hens on to new homes so that I can concentrate on the breeding groups. I did keep Goldenburg back as she has a special place here and we love her. We also loved Bubblegum the rabbit, but it made sense to find her a new home. Apparently, although we got less than £1 a rabbit, they all went for pets rather than to butchers, thank goodness. They were all pure Dutch rabbits, and are all very sociable, so some people got bargains! Whilst the FH was out, I went to town to meet two of the helpers to finalise their logbooks for their coaching exams. We spent nearly two hours drinking tea in Tesco's cafe but we just about got them done. I came home in time to pick up the YFG from school, then I needed a rest before trundling off to see my sister in the other town - she's had a operation on her foot - and pick up the EFG from Rounders club. Then (there's more!!) we had a lovely meal together with UJ before the YFG and I had to go to a meeting about the Gala in the summer when all the year 6 girls get to be the Gala Princesses. Cue painting and decorating a float in July....

It came as no surprise to find that I was exhausted today - so I went back to bed and slept most of the morning away once the girls were off to school. I made up for it once I rose again, though, as we have got the trellis up and finished, looking good! I have also been weeding the veg beds this evening in an attempt to get one or two ready for planting - the dwarf beans ARE going in tomorrow. I also need to finish another bed off for the lettuces, and then there are the tomatoes to pot up, and the FH had almost made troughs to go under the trellis to plant the runner beans in so that they grow up the trellis. Knowing that runners like deep soil, he has made the troughs extra deep.

I must put up the new-to-us recipes we have found lately - there's the rhubarb crunch cake with variations, the excellent carrot cake and the fudgey-wudgey chocolate cookies.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Heatwave indeed

The heat has been unseasonable this weekend and we are expecting a return to more normal temperatures for the time of year this week. The mercury in the greenhouse hit the top of the thermometer, and the tomatoes wilted a little. They are OK now, but a couple of the pepper seedlings didn't make it.

Sunday was a good day - the YFG and I went to church and then came home to the cool! The FH took the girls to a neighbour's BBQ at lunchtime, and I had a sleep in the reclining chair until the EFG came home, and went out again. The FH returned at about 3.30pm and had a snooze on the sofa but the YFG stayed, playing with her friends, until 6.30pm. My dad came over in the evening and we trawled the internet for a suitable holiday for him and MB to take, now that the insurance is going to be more tricky to access after the January event in Antigua! We found a P&O cruise around the UK, and a couple of specialist insurance companies for him to contact today, so fingers crossed that they are able to help him.

I have been spending again - there was the incubator, new glass for the verandah windows, a wireless strimmer for the grass around the garden beds (it drives me crazy!) and today some Metposts and water butts for the garden. We are going to put some trellis up, so the Metposts are to hold the fence posts for the trellis. The trellis will be purchased tomorrow, with the fence posts, from our friends, Roger and Kevan, who have a local cut-price timber yard. I have been thinking about buying the Wii fit system to add to the Wii games that we already have, but I think I will consider it a bit longer! I have found a good deal at Amazon, which is cheaper than Tesco, but perhaps there are still better deals out there...

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Doings in the Fens

Much has been going on! The verandah has been reclaimed from the ravages of the chickens over the winter months, and we now have a nice dining area again out there. It has taken a lot of hard work with mop and bucket, broom, shovel and cobweb brush - but it was far too hot today to do it during the day, so we started at about 7pm and finished at 10.10pm, tired and rather dusty - showers are in order before bed tonight.

The new incubator arrived yesterday and has been put to work tonight with 20 eggs. It turns them automatically, so that is one less job for me. On the egg front, I am disappointed to report that I caught one of the Brown Sussex hens eating an egg this morning. Apart from the fact that the eggs are wanted for the breeding programme, it is really bad to let them get away with eating the eggs, so I must try blowing one out and filling it with a mustard mixture to put her off.

The YFG didn't come to gym last night as she came out of school hot, bothered, crotchety and with a headache, so she stayed at home. I told her to rest and drink plenty, and stay in the lounge where it is refreshingly cool. What did she do? Went into the kitchen, where it is south facing and hot already, put the oven on and made some Fudgeywudgey chocolate cookies. They are enormous but seem to be very popular with the family and her friends, so no doubt that recipe will have to be added to our collection - it makes a very chewy cookie.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Goldfinches in the garden

The FH and I had a beautiful surprise this afternoon when we sat in the garden - two dainty little goldfinches came fluttering down and pecked at something in the grass for a few minutes, letting us have a good look at them, before flying away again. When we moved in here, six years ago, there was hardly any vegetation as it was a bare new plot, and most of the neighbours were the same, but now we are getting more established and the wildlife is moving in - there has been a hedgehog family here for a couple of years, and we are now getting more interesting bird species beyond the sparrow and the starling.

The FH's sister and her husband arrived at 10.30 this morning and stayed for a couple of hours. There was much reminiscing, in which I couldn't really take part, as they all grew up together in Northamptonshire and a generation or two ahead of me, so I knew little of which they were speaking. I made the coffee and listened. They kindly brought us three bottles of wine from their travels in France, and the FH enjoyed their company. No doubt he will see them again in December.

This afternoon, after I had picked the YFG up from school, we made a trip to town, as there were a couple of things I needed to do: I fetched some glass for the verandah windows from the glazier, some breeder's pellets for the chickens from the feedstore and I also put a couple of cheques in the bank. My mobile phone was in dire need of a top up, financially speaking, so I dealt with that as well.

I didn't out the next batch of eggs in the incubator the other evening as it wasn't hot enough, but it has reached a satisfactory temperature tonight, so it has been loaded up with 10 Gold Partridge Orpington eggs and 2 Silver laced Wyandotte eggs. I ordered a new Corti 25 automatic incubator on Tuesday, so I hope that it will come soon as I have quite a few Brown Sussex eggs ready to give it a go.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

In business

Thanks to a big prod from Susan, I have listed some books at Amazon!! Only a few to get started, but I am very pleased with myself as I do need a nudge to propel me into action sometimes. There is even a "shopfront" for the books, so I am thrilled!!

Today has been another day at home - I've made the rhubarb crunch cake from the recipe at the wonderful site in the sidebar called Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Can they ever!?! This cake has gone down a storm here and with some of the neighbours - I have got a lot of rhubarb and so I doubled the recipe and made two cakes, each in a 9 x 13 Swiss roll tin. There isn't a lot left. Have a look at the original recipe here although I didn't do it exactly like that. I didn't have any strawberry jello/jelly crystals, so I tossed the rhubarb in vanilla sugar as I had a sachet from Lidl's and wasn't sure what to do with it! The gang here would recommend you all to have a go at it.

I've also been busy in the garden, weeding the strawberry patch, but there is still more to do there. I've cut the back lawn, and given the cuttings to the chooks to have a good scratch around with, and I had to have a shower afterwards as I was covered in bits of grass and my feet were filthy.

Tomorrow the FH's sister and her husband are coming for a visit, so it is a good job that the carrot cake hasn't been touched yet. They live out in Norfolk about an hour away near Thetford, so we don't see them that often at all, probably twice a year. It will be good to catch up on all the family news from them.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Calm again

I got rather stressed last week with the pressures of life and driving everyone everywhere. Sunday morning I got up and told the family that everything was cancelled until Friday - no church, no band, no gym, no rounders, no art club - we are all effectively grounded until Friday! The relief is wonderful - the time to stay at home and just do stuff here is great.

Yesterday I ironed, spring cleaned, tidied, threw things out, put things away, etc. Today, I have done more of the same, with a bit of internet research thrown in and a friend round for a cuppa later on this afternoon. It was nice to take the time to reconnect with her and just relax.

Tonight, the YFG and I have baked; she has made some coffee flavoured cupcakes all on her own, right through to the icing. I have been chief washer-up and also made a carrot cake to a recipe I hadn't tried before. I made an online Asda order and that got delivered tonight so I have some sour cream to make a rhubarb crumble cake with tomorrow, and the Philadelphia cheese with which to frost the carrot cake. That's tomorrow's work.

Talking of work, we seem to have decided by mutual consent that our time as book delivery people is probably over. This has come at the right time, as there is so much to do at home that I don't really feel we have the time to continue anyway. Finding a way to replace the small amount of regular income it brought will be another matter, though. I do have about a tonne of books still in the garage from my time with Usborne, so I have made a business account on eBay and plan to sell them there. I took some to the post office this afternoon (when I picked the YFG up from school) to get them weighed for postage charges, and plan to list them tomorrow to see if this will work. I know I won't make the RRP but I am thinking that whatever I make is a bonus and better to have the money in the bank rather than sitting on the shelf.

The Brown Sussex chickens are still laying but they seem to have had a couple of off days and I have only 10 eggs to go into the incubator tonight, instead of the dozen or 14 I had been hoping to have acquired by now. I'm going to go ahead with that, but it is a little disappointing. The Gold Partridge Orps are still laying 3 a day (there are 4 of them) nearly every day, but I don't have any more incubator can see where this is going, I'm sure. I'm now considering buying a "proper" automatic incubator! This would save me the hassle of hand-turning the eggs, but it would also reduce the variables in the whole process and may make the hatch rate better. The breeder pellets I am going to pick up from the feed store on Saturday should also increase fertility a little, so I hope that they like the pellets!

The French beans have had two days outside in the sunshine and look very healthy. I am returning them to the greenhouse each night, as it is rather chilly to leave them out all night. The lettuces are looking good, too - and the tomato plants!! I am removing laterals from them already. The Gold Laced Orp chicks had their first night in the ark last night, and emerged rather timid and shy this morning, but have spent a happy day scratching about and enjoying the extra space which the ark affords them compared to the box they were in. The single Sebright chick spent the night with them, but when they came out this morning, it unfortunately didn't take them long to realise that he was not one of their number, and he had to be removed as they were starting to attack him. He is back in his box in the utility room tonight whilst I think of plan B for him.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Great things in the garden

The new chicken shed is up - not finished but the sides and back/front are in position and it has been stained with Cuprinol. The roof trusses are helping to hold it up, and there is light at the end of the tunnel on this project!

Lancelot and his harem are producing eggs and I now have almost enough to get another incubator fired up - I need about another four, so it should be in business on Tuesday night.

The chicks we hatched earlier are now off the heat lamp and spending their days in their boxes on the freezers under the verandah, enjoying the fresh air. Night times find them in the utility room, as bringing them back into the lounge meant that they were getting accustomed to the warmth again and we really need to be hardening them off. When the weather settles (ha!) into some sort of pattern for warmth, they will be in an ark outside permanently.

The YFG has had her SATS this week and survived without a wobble, so I am hoping that the EFG does as well in her exams this week. She just wants to get them over!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


The photos are stuck in two places - on the EFG's laptop and in the camera and I can't use them here from either place - they need to be on this computer! I either need to upload the software onto this computer or email them over here - and I haven't had time to do one or the other today.
Rest assured, they are there, looking beautiful and will be here soon! Lancelot and his ladies are doing fine, and I am really pleased with the way they are settling in - 3 eggs yesterday and another two today, so the eggs I have from them are going into the incubator tonight. I put a dozen Gold Partridge Orps in last night, so they will all hatch within a day or so and can brood together.

The Gold Laced Orp chicks went outside today for their first time: I just moved their box out onto the freezer under the verandah and they could enjoy what sunshine there was without being too cold. I brought them back in for the night, though, as it is not warm enough to leave them out.

The YFG is doing SATS tests at school this week - tomorrow is the final day for them. She seems unfazed by the exams themselves and is excited to get to school early each day at 8.15am to have breakfast with her classmates before school starts as a special treat. I'll be glad when this week is over, though, and we get back to 8.35am starts! I also had the form through to apply for her bus pass for September when she moves up to secondary school.

The EFG had a day at home today, as she had rather a temperature last night as well as a headache and a cold. She rested most of the day and is feeling better now, so she will be back in the fray tomorrow.

UJ was also here today and I made him a cake to take home - he was also supposed to take some ham and bacon which my sister had got from the cash and carry for him, but we forgot between us, so I will have to put them in my freezer for him until we see him again...

Monday, 10 May 2010


Lancelot has arrived with three females in his harem! He is an absolutely gorgeous Brown Sussex cockerel from Kent, fetched today with the three hens. I am so pleased with them - they are very rare, and the lady who sold them to us was keen to know that we will breed with them, as she wants to help to preserve the breed.

This is the first step in the Brussbar breeding programme - I now need the Barred Plymouth Rocks, and another strain of Brown Sussex. The lady also gave us five eggs that the girls have laid recently, so when I have a dozen, they will be going in the incubator.

I have 14 Gold partridge Orpington eggs ready to go into the incubator tomorrow if it has hit the right temperature by then.

Photos of Lancelot and his ladies to follow tomorrow! I think that the girls will have to be Gwnhyfyr, Morgan and Morgause. Lancelot's father was called Arthur, so that doesn't quite fit the legend, but we will have to keep with the Camelot theme!

Friday, 7 May 2010

All the world

I'm having one of those days today where I feel that all the world is against me - THAT neighbour caught me in the street tonight and complained about the smoke from the chimney again, a much nicer, much loved neighbour is moving away tomorrow, it rained so we couldn't finish concreting the base to the chicken house, I am tired and cranky and I still have to wash up! All that sort of thing, and I have had a long conversation with a fellow book delivery person, and it seems that some one has muddled up our territories, and actually, I have very little official territory, and most of my work is in his area, and so not really my work at all.

The FH is back to Papworth tomorrow and hasn't thought about packing his bag.

Gym again in the morning, and I am soooooooooo tired I can't contemplate what on earth I am going to teach 8 little two and three year olds........

But hey! Tomorrow is another day - I'll hassle the boss over the territory, I'll phone Environmental Health on Monday about the smoke and see if she has any grounds for an official complaint and I'll only worry if she has, and on Saturday night, sans FH, we can have a girly night in with a DVD and some popcorn. And the whole bed to myself!!!!!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Garden tidying at last

I had to go to town this morning, but when I returned, I went out in to the garden and really got stuck in. Runner beans were sown in the greenhouse in pots, as were some more heirloom seeds, Cherokee Trail of Tears climbing French beans - I have high hopes for those as I have heard so much about them, all good! Everything in the greenhouse was very well watered, and then I moved on to the chickens. Two chicken houses were re-sited on the rough grass at the side of the house, and another was just moved onto some fresh grass. Several of the chicken houses were cleaned out as well, so now they smell fresh and clean with the scent of the pine from the wood shavings which I have put on their floors. After all that, I was ready to do some weeding but the trowel broke, so that was that for today.

Lots of schools in the local area have received an email from me today with a new poster advertising the gymnastics classes we run. We have several vacancies in the class structure where classes are not quite full, so we have space for more new kids to join. I've also been emailing the Wonens' Development coach at Huntingdon for some info about competitions.

This evening, I was cooking the supper at the same time as making more lemon curd. Three double batches of the recipe have produced eight jars, so we have lots to share.

The lady who is selling me the Brown Sussex trio has been on the phone and would like the birds collected sooner rather than later, so we are trying to make arrangements to get them on Monday from her in Kent. Either I will go and get them, or we will ask a neighbour to take the FH and we will pay the petrol. Whatever happens, I need to sort out a house for them quick smart! They were hatched last year, and she says that they are quite fertile, so fingers crossed that we can get some chicks out of them this year.

The YFG's class is going to London at the very end of term to see the musical, "Wicked" which I have just found out is currently starring Lee Mead of Joseph fame - I am so jealous that she gets to go on this trip!! I paid for it today, so that is £38 out of the budget this week.

Must go to do the ironing now - I am not staying up to watch the election results come in as I've done my bit for women's rights by casting a vote so I'll just wait until the morning to see who is in charge now. I think that the Conservatives are probably going to be the ones this time, but I might be wrong....

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wednesday already...

The days are slipping away again and there is nothing out of the ordinary to say; I haven't had any time to take photographs, and I'm pretty tired!!

The greenhouse is almost fit to burst with tomato plants, dwarf bean plants and cucumbers. Those varieties are growing in abundance, and the others are doing fine too. I just wish I had time to get the veg beds in the garden ready to get the plants out soon, but there are rather too many weeds on them yet, and the heaps of compost from our compost bin which also need to get dug in. The weather hasn't been kind at all this week and it has been cold and damp, so I haven't ventured into the garden to do any of that.....I must!

The FH is presently engaged in building me a new chicken shed - it is quite large. He has put down the shuttering to make a concrete base and he has someone coming to help him with the concreting on Friday. He has made the panels for the shed and they are waiting to be put up, and then we just have to sort the roof out. This is meant to be a proper chicken breeding shed so that the various breeds can be separated properly. I am really looking forward to its completion sometime soon.

The FH has to go back to Papworth on Saturday for an overnight stay, so he wants to get the concreting done before he goes. My sister is also supposed to be borrowing the concrete mixer at the weekend so he has an added incentive to get it done. I am hoping for some good weather so that I can get out there and do some gardening too.

I have begun today to collect Gold Partridge Orpington eggs so that I can hatch them in the incubator; the girls laid three between them today, so I am hoping that they lay the same number each day for the next three days, and I'll soon get a dozen. I think a dozen is a good number, and they fit comfortably into the incubators. In about a month's time, there could be more chicks!! The Gold Laced Orps which hatched at the end of last month are doing well, and their first real feathers are just coming through - gorgeous.

I have realised that I have a difficult couple of months coming up financially - TV license, RAC membership, Volvo car tax - and the bill has just come in for the Volvo's new battery too. Roll on 2012 when the FH will turn 75 and we'll no longer have to pay for a TV license. Normally, I would have money in the second bank account put aside for these "extra" bills as they are regular and I do anticipate them, but I have challenged myself by putting more into the savings account and so we are going to have to come up with this money from May and June's income. It is doable, as it just means cutting back a little - and since I finished the Lent challenge, I have splurged a little too - so I have full freezers to work from already!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Wet weekend - must be a bank holiday!

The days are slipping past me and I am forgetting what I am up to!! Friday whizzed past in a blur of book deliveries in the morning, a brief rest and then off to gym for the rest of the day. When we come home from gym on a Friday, it really is a case of tea, bath and bed as we are too tired to do much more. Occasionally, I will be organised enough to fling a load of washing in the machine, but even that didn't happen this week.

Saturday morning, I was up just before dawn, at 4.30am in order to be organised enough to meet up with someone in Huntingdon at 7.30am, nip in to Tesco to get the YFG breakfast doughnuts as the reward for getting up so early, and then head off to gym again for a 9.30am start there. We are running a class now for Tots who will turn 3 this year - and it is fun! The Head Coach said he couldn't do it to save his life, but I am enjoying it. I was telling the kids on Saturday to imagine that a hoop was a big puddle and to imagine themselves jumping into it with both feet and making the biggest splash - and they were up for that. I haven't got a lot of imagination, but a little goes a long way, sometimes!

Today we have been to church, done some work in the greenhouse, some tidying, invited Dad and MB over to tea tomorrow, and the YFG has her friend T here to have a sleepover tonight, so they are watching You've Been Framed videos on the laptop at the moment. It was lovely at church this morning that we had a visitor - a young lady was staying at the B&B in the village as she is here from the University of East Anglia at Norwich, studying water voles - apparently we have some around here! She was from an Asian country - not sure which one - but she speaks excellent English and told us that she is a Presbyterian (I've been one of those when we went to the Church of Scotland for a few years) and she joined in well with the service. It seems to be an on-going project which she is involved with, so perhaps she will visit us again.

I have been so sad lately, reading about the very brief life and death of the son, Freddie, of some home-educating people we know who live not too far from us. Their blog is in my side-bar but I doubt that you will all be able to access it as some of the posts are password protected. The death of a child is so sad, and heartbreaking for the family - four young girls were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new baby brother or sister, and although the baby was born, it seems that visiting was restricted because he was so ill, so they may not have been able to see as much of him as they would have liked. Our hearts go out to the whole family. I can't imagine the turmoil which they have been through.

The EFG has been working on her stories again, and I am really impressed with the amount she has produced, as well as the quality of the work. She has ideas about the stories and their development so that there is still a lot to come! I am excited to see how they turn out - she is writing most days, although she seems to be able to flip from one story to the other - I don't think I could cope with two at once but she is doing really well and managing to do some really comprehensive research to ensure she gets the facts straight.