The second arch is in place

When you read the title it sounds so easy. I can assure you it wasn’t!

We thought that after the first arch was done it would get easier but the second one proved to be much more difficult than the first one. There were several difficulties. One is the fact that the path is sloped so when making the uprights to the ladder part of the arch one leg of the ladder needs to be longer than the other to take in the slope but the horizontal parts still need to line up accurately.

The other thing is that we were working in amongst a tangle of growth some of which is the rose and therefore very prickly. This arch had a much more heavy amount of growth on it. The whole process was really difficult with the ladder parts coming apart many times while we were trying to get it positioned. The weight of the growth really didn’t help matters.

We struggled all afternoon with it and had to clamp the horizonatal parts and leave it overnight to set. It was glued and nailed.

The next morning I didn’t have any lunches to deliver so I set about getting the growth secured to the new arch. This was also much more difficult. This arch was so overgrown that the growth had joined up between this arch and the first one (yet to do) and had made a tunnel effect. We had always intended to keep the growth to each separate arch but this wasn’t the case in this part as it had grown out of control.

The growth needed to be pushed back to the wooden struts but with the rose from the first arch entangled in with it, I would have been ripped to shreds handling it. The only thing to do was to painstakingly cut the rose to separate the two arches. Once I had cut back the rose I created a gap between the two arches.

I was then able to push the growth (honeysuckle and clematis) back to the wooden arch and tie it in. It took me several hours to get the job done. I was really pleased with it once it was done. We should now be able to keep each arch contained. It has also let in a lot more light to the path, the patio area and through the cabin windows.

We think that this was the most difficult one to tackle so we are hoping that the rest won’t be as bad to do. My husband did say that if we had done this one first he may have given up on the job. Tempers were rather frayed during this process and we both have rose scratches to show for it.

Work begins on the second arch

The second arch is completed

The growth on this arch is now separated from the next one

The two arches from the other direction

We will be very glad when all four arches are completed but we think that it will all be worth it in the end.

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Apricot’s turn to go broody

I think ourselves lucky that at the moment we are only having one girl go broody at a time but it does seem to be working it’s way through the little girls.

The little girls lay, on average, every other day. Apricot has now laid ten eggs in twenty two days. The last egg that she laid, she stayed sitting on. I took her out of the nest box and she kept returning. At bedtime she was still in there and I moved her to the chicken shed and closed the nest boxes.

The next day she was in the nest box every time I went out to the girls and I just kept removing her. This seems to break them out of it after about three days. She is docile and easy to handle but the tell tail sign (excuse the pun) is that when I open up the nest box her tail goes up. I now know that this is the sign of a broody serama.

Broody Apricot

She does look so cute though, with her tail up over her back.

I kept taking her out of the nest box every time I went into the run and it only took two days before she was staying out of the nest box. It was good to see her having a good time in a dust bath once more.

As this was short lived I would imagine she would start laying again in about a week. I wonder who will be next to go broody!

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Hydrangea and rambling rose

Our next door neighbours, and good friends, have a beautiful hydrangea in their front garden. They inherited it from previous people living there as it has been there from before we moved here and our neighbours moved in after us.

At the weekend we were having friends to lunch. I usually pick a small vase of flowers from our garden but as the hydrangea was hanging over our garden wall I picked a few blooms. I knew our neighbours wouldn’t mind.

Our neighbour’s hydrangea

I love the pink and blue centres

It is so beautiful hanging over our wall

Hydrangea blooms in a vase

I think our neighbours would be happy to share it with us as they say they enjoy having our roses peeping over their back fence. We have a climbing rose with tiny pink blossoms that overhangs their fence.

Rambling rose that we share with our neighbour

Close up

We also inherited this rose when we moved in and it is so delicate and pretty. It is good to be able to share some of the pretty things in our gardens.

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Another project

We put the metal arches in, up our garden path, to hold our roses, honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine, when we first moved here, ten years ago. We bought the metal arches because they were the cheapest option at the time and we needed four of them.

They did the job because the climbing plants we had put in were just getting started. Ten years on the roses have become heavy and the metal arches are no longer up to the job. They had began to buckle and break. It was time for something more sturdy.

After looking at options we could buy it soon became clear that everything was going to be really expensive and it would be difficult to find something the right shape and size for the job.

My husband decided that the only option was to buy some wood and make something himself. Buying the materials we needed would be a fraction of the price of anything ready made and he could make them to fit.

This weekend he made a start on the worst one. We decided that we would tackle the job one arch at a time starting with the most broken ones first.

He decided to start fitting the new arches and then break out the metal ones. He made them higher than before so that we could raise the rose up giving us more space underneath. My job was to cut loose all the wire and then retie everything once we had finished.

The old metal arches

Making a start on the first wooden arch

The first arch is finished

The arch from the other direction

We are both really pleased with the end result. It fits in so much better with everything else in the garden. It looks rustic, it’s really sturdy and it gives us more space underneath. It will make it much more manageable to keep the planting where we want it.

Only three more to go! We will probably try to do one each weekend until we get the job done. I think it’s going to look really good when it’s finished.

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Rose and veg plot

The rose at the top of the garden is much more manageable, since we gave it a hard prune in spring, ready for the new fence. I think it actually shows the blooms off better. The fence has gradually all but disappeared and we are achieving a hedge of shrubs in front of the fence.

The fence has almost disappeared

The rose is much more manageable

Close up of the blooms

The veg plot has matured

The broad beans are coming along nicely

Courgettes are coming too

I think we may be eating some produce by next weekend. I am looking forward to some home grown veggies.

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Moulting

Emerald has been moulting heavily for the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure about Speckles though as she was still growing some feathers from where she had been plucked but for the last few days she didn’t look happy.

She was sitting in the run looking miserable. I had thought that if I didn’t know better I would think she was moulting. I started to worry something was wrong with her and then I found some of her feathers in the run. I felt relieved, she is just moulting.

Speckles always looks miserable when she moults. I checked back to last year and she started to moult in July and Emerald started to moult after her. It’s all a little early this year.

I think Emerald is moulting earlier because she continued to lay eggs three weeks longer than usual and then had a brief, broody moment, for the first time ever. I think this triggered the moult.

I think Speckles having been plucked and growing new feathers may have triggered her early moult. Since she started growing back her feathers she has only laid two eggs but they were both whoppers!

The little girls are all laying, on average, every other day so they are keeping us supplied with enough eggs for our needs even though we eat the eggs, two or three each, at a time. It will be great if they continue like this through the winter.

Speckles looks sad

Emerald has one tiny tail feather left

Two scruffy girls together

It will be quite good to get the moulting over and done with, both at once. The little girls just moult a few feathers each day, all year round, which means that they should continue to lay all year round. This also means that I only have to pick up loads of feathers from the two bigger girls. It is a different experience for me this year.

It will be interesting to see if the little girls really do lay all winter. It will be great if they do as it would mean we would have a constant supply of eggs and I wouldn’t need to buy any.

They do take a break from laying each time they go broody but if they continue to do this one at a time there will still be enough girls laying to keep us supplied.

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Apple tree in the chicken run

The apple tree in the chicken run was still surviving, much to my surprise. Below are the three amigos showcasing the apple tree.

Apricot and the apple tree

Cinnamon and the apple tree

Dandelion and the apple tree

You can see that there have been a few nibbles at the leaves. My husband saw Cinnamon pecking at it and I saw Freckles pecking at it. They didn’t continue to eat it though.

It seemed odd because the big girls from my past flock used to fly up into the tree and nibble the leaves.

After it was cut down it used to get pecked to stalks every time it sprouted. This time it has grown  back with only an occasion nibble. I was perplexed as to why it was surviving.

I decided to do some research and googled a question asking if apple tree leaves were edible. I was horrified to find that they are not. Apple tree leaves and apple seeds contain a chemical that is metabolized into cyanide during digestion.

I knew this was true of apple pips but I didn’t know it was the same with apple leaves. I have read in the past that as chickens swallow the pips whole, without being able to crunch them, that the chemical isn’t released and therefore wouldn’t harm them but despite this I still remove the pips from their apples as I prefer to err on the safe side.

I have also read that chickens know what is poisonous to them and won’t eat it, unless they were starving and desperate for food, which of course our girls wouldn’t be. Even so once again I would rather err on the side of safety.

I am relieved that our girls have proved that they are clever enough to know that they shouldn’t eat the apple leaves but I could no longer be happy with the tree staying in the run with the leaves at low level. With this new bit of information I felt that the tree must go. I cut all the growth as low as I could and heaped soil over the remains leaving just the stump showing.

The apple tree is no more

I am so glad that I decided to research this. There are plenty of other shrubs in the run and I could not be comfortable with taking a risk of leaving  something in the run that could be harmful to my girls. It also shows that it is good to question our girl’s behaviour. Sometimes it turns out that they are smarter than we think they are.

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Self seeded foxgloves

Every year our foxgloves self seed around the garden. Some of them turn up in the veg plot and I transplant them around the garden. Most of them are a dark pink colour but just a couple of this years are a lovely delicate pale pink. This one is in a shady spot so didn’t reach the height of the rest but I think that just adds to it’s delicacy.

Foxglove

Foxglove

I know these two photos look very similar but I was experimenting with taking them in different lights and then I couldn’t decide which one I liked best.

This is my favourite colour of foxglove.

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An even hotter day

Today was even hotter than yesterday. It is now the hottest June day for forty years. It’s as hot as the memorable summer of 1976. I remember it well as it was the year I did my exams.

It was 95 degrees f (34.5 degrees c). My husband took a photo of the temperature gauge in his van.

Today’s temperature

Mid morning Emerald was sitting in the shade where it was still damp from me soaking it last night. That gave me an idea and I took several watering cans full of water and soaked all the areas in the shade. I also soaked the inside and outside of the wooden shelter and the patio area.

I thought this would keep all Emerald’s favourite, shady, areas damp and cool.

The girls all gathered in the first corner that I dampened

The girls in the foreground are busy preening

The girls gather in another dampened corner

Emerald has pins above her missing tail feathers

They have all taken turns in the damp shelter

In the afternoon I gave them a dish of peas in cold water again. Emerald had her beak open once more and came straight to the dish of peas. She picked out some ice granules as well as the peas which must have helped to cool her down.

Tomorrow it is forecast to cool down a bit. I like the sun but this is too hot even for me. I think we will all be glad when it cools down a bit.

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It’s very hot here

The last few days have been 90 degrees f (32 degrees c) which is unusually hot for us. It’s the hottest June for twenty years and the hottest days of the year so far.

The one thing I have learned recently is that seramas don’t mind the heat at all. They originate from Malaysia so are a breed that have been used to heat. I worried when they would sit in the sun in the middle of the day with their beaks open. “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” so the expression goes and I can now add seramas to that.

I am not going to worry about them any more as it is their choice to sit in the sun. Emerald and Speckles have been spending their days in the shade while the seramas continue to go about their business in the sun completely unfazed.

Shade in the chicken run

Luckily the run is in a good position for hot weather. The chicken shed is shaded by the huge trees at the back of our property so it never has any sun on it.

The left side of the run is shaded above the roof by trees and below the roof by shrubs so there is always shade on half of the run. Emerald and Speckles sit in the shade here.

Emerald and Speckles sit in the shade

Shade giving shrubs in the chicken run

Rusty found a new place to perch

I gave the girls some peas in the afternoon to cool them a bit and this time I left them in the dish.

Peas are now acceptable from a dish

The girls have the peas from a dish

Emerald has her beak open

By the end of the day Emerald was perched with her beak open. Her black feathers don’t reflect the sun as much as the other girls and she seems to feel the heat the most.

I took in a watering can and soaked all the perches, the wooden blocks, the metal table and the patio area. I hoped this would help to cool things a little.

At bedtime the little girls went in but Emerald and Speckles stayed out on the perch at the end of the run. I don’t want them down there at night where possible predators would be able to see them. Although we have made our run predator proof I don’t want to leave the girls where they could be seen at night and tempt a predator to test the run.

I lifted them from the perch and put them in the shed but I left the shed door half open and I tipped another can of water over the patio area.  I hoped this would let in cool air to make them more comfortable.

By lunch time today Emerald had her beak open once more. I decided to try the frozen peas in a dish of cold water once more and see if that would help cool her down.

Peas in a dish of cold water

The girls are now willing to take the peas from the cold water. I hope this helps hydrate them at the same time as cooling them.

Emerald is moulting heavily and has now lost her middle tail feather as you can see the photo above.

The girls gather around the dish of cold water and peas

They will now take the peas from the water

I will continue with this regime while the temperature stays at 90. I hope it won’t be for too many days. It’s forecast to drop a bit after midweek.

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