Green and Purple leaves

I am gradually harvesting the leaves from the veg plot for the girls. I thought I would give them a mix of green and purple leaves and see if they had any preference.

Some green and purple leaves for the girls

What amused me is that the girls, in turn, seem to need to get a bit higher up before they descended on the leaves.

Freckles on the block

Apricot on the log

Dandelion on the log

Enjoying both colour leaves

When I returned a little later all the purple leaves were gone. I think they are softer so disappeared quicker. I gave the girls the last purple leaves from the veg plot.

You are on the wrong side of the wire Apricot!

Apricot was having a, dumb chicken, moment and could’t seem to work out why she couldn’t get to the purple leaves.

Apricot on the newest perch

She decided she, once more, had to go a bit higher to get the right amount of inspiration.

It wasn’t long before all the leaves disappeared. There are two more green lettuce in the veg plot for the girls and then we are all out of home grown leaves.

I am ripening the last of the tomatoes indoors and then all that is left on the veg plot is the courgettes. They have slowed right down but so far are still going and we still one had roasted with Sunday lunch.

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Baby slow worm

On Sunday we saw another baby slow worm on the patio. It was lucky it didn’t get trodden on. We last saw a baby one on the path about a month ago. We always see the big ones in the undergrowth but the babies on the path or patio so we think perhaps they are warming up in the sun.

Baby slow worm

Showing the baby’s size

I thought I would give some facts about them in case anyone is interested to know more.

They are actually a legless lizard with the ability to shed their tail if they are seized. A new tail regenerates after a couple of weeks.

They hibernate in October and emerge from hibernation in March. They will mate annually or once every two years. The female gives birth to an average of eight live young between mid August and mid September. It takes between six and eight years for the slow worm to become fully grown. The female becomes sexually mature at between four and five years of age. This species is relatively long lived and one specimen has been known to live for fifty four years. That was in captivity but it is thought that they live to about thirty years in the wild.

That surprised me. I thought I knew a lot about slow worms, having been used to them in my gardens from childhood onwards, but I didn’t realise they could live for so long.

Their skin is shed at intervals throughout their life. They can grow up to fifty centimeters which is eighteen inches. That also surprised me because the biggest ones I have seen have been twelve inches.

They feed on slugs, snails, worms and any slow moving garden pests.

We definitely have a breeding colony in our garden because every summer we see them in all sizes from tiny babies to small, medium and large sized ones. I photographed one last year against this same ruler and it was long as the ruler which is twelve inches.

We saw a baby one a month ago and then another baby this weekend so baring in mind that they only breed once a year or once every two years our babies must come from different female slow worms. That fact, added to the amount of sightings and different sizes, suggests that we have quite a good number in our garden.

We are happy to have these creatures breeding and thriving in our garden,

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Group huddle

There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that chickens are flock animals. I often see our girls together in a tight group and it always makes me smile. It’s not always easy to get a photo as when I go through the gate one or two of the girls will break away and come to see if I have any treats on offer.

Group huddle

A bit of snoozing together

I managed to get the shot because they were dozing. Rusty is missing as she was in the nest box laying her egg which was a shame but I still thought it too sweet to miss photographing.

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A busy week

We have two annual events which are big numbers. Afternoon tea on our vintage crockery for a hundred and sixty, for a school speech day, and jazz supper for a hundred and thirty. They don’t usually fall on the same week though. This year however the Jazz supper is a week earlier than usual so we had the afternoon tea on Thursday and the jazz supper on Saturday.

This makes for a lot of work in one week especially as we already had a full week of corporate lunches booked too. It has been non stop.

We have a hundred and sixty nine trios. The trios are only a part of the washing up. There are cakes stands, sandwich plates, tea pots and coffee pots, sugar bowls, milk jugs and all the silver ware. The trios are my department as they need sorting back into their sets and then storing in plastic boxes.

First I match them in their sets on our dining table. There are some large sets, some small sets and some single trios. I store them so that the sets are split between each box. Each box has twenty one different trios (and one box has twenty two) and I number the boxes from one to eight with my favourite ones in box one and working down to my least favourite in box eight.

This means we can pull out one box for a small function and as many boxes as we need to make up bigger functions. This annual function means we pull out all the boxes and do a stock take. This is our fourth year of doing this function.

Washing up and sorting the trios

What a lot of crockery! Throughout the year as we have some breakages we replace the pieces from local antique shops to keep the numbers about the same for this function. It is the largest function we do on our vintage crockery. It is fun collecting the pieces, slightly less fun washing it up though!

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The garden has a halloween sort of look

This time of year there are spider webs all over the garden. The ones I like the least are the ones that I break with my face when I go up to the chickens first thing in the morning. Not a pleasant feeling.

With the morning dew on the webs that are on the planting there is a sort of halloween look to the garden first thing in the morning.

The rosemary bush looks dressed for halloween

A slightly closer look

The sedum has a similar treatment

I love the contrast between the vibrant colour of the sedum and the layer of web. I am not a great fan of spiders but I accept their place in the garden and the fact that they eat flies has to be a good thing. I do, though, admire their webs although I would just prefer not to break them with my face first thing in the morning. It’s definitely that time of year again!

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Slow worm

We have had slow worms breeding in our garden for many years now. We know they are breeding here because we have spotted really, tiny, baby, ones and medium sized ones and some that are the optimum size that they grow too.

Last month when next door’s tree was being cut back, one of the guys found a baby one on our path. I took a photo but it came out blurred. Yesterday I saw a much bigger one in the greenery at the side of the path. I wonder if it is one of the baby ones, now grown up, or another one entirely.

Slow worm

And it’s off

I love having these beautiful creatures in our garden.

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Purple leaves for the girls

I decided to try the girls with the dark purple leaves from the veg plot. I know in the past that they didn’t like some dark leaves so I put some spring greens in with them.

Dark leaves from the veg plot

As usual Speckles is first to investigate followed by Emerald.

Emerald tossing the dark leaves

By the end of the day only the stalk was left

Clearly they do like these dark leaves. It’s good to have the girls enjoying the produce from our veg plot.

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The second half of our home grown radishes

This time I finely chopped the radishes and put the chopped radishes and the radish tops on the girl’s patio for them. This time they wasted no time at all eating the radishes.

All the girls go straight to the radishes

They definitely like the radishes now that they are chopped

They go from the chopped radishes to the radish tops

By the end of the day the radishes and the radish tops had all gone. I think we can safely say they enjoyed them.

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Rusty’s first egg after her prolapse

Rusty hadn’t laid an egg for five weeks after her prolapse. I was happy for her to take as long a break as possible to give her time to heal.

Yesterday she started looking in the nest box and I could tell she was getting ready to lay again. Her comb was a lovely red colour but I was nervous about her laying her first egg since the prolapse.

Rusty is in the nest box

Rusty settled in the nest box and I waited anxiously. There was nothing I could do but wait and see as she inevitably would have to start laying again at some stage.

later in the afternoon she was back out in the run. I checked the nest box and there was her egg.

Rusty’s first egg after a five week break

Rusty went straight to the melon and greens.

Rusty still has a lovely fluffy bottom

I took the opportunity to check out her bottom. From there she went straight to a dust bath.

Rusty has a dust bath

Rusty is looking great

What a relief. We have the first egg out of the way and Rusty is fine. I am so pleased.

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Growing and cooking our courgettes

This year has been our very best year ever for courgettes. For the past couple of years our courgettes would start growing then would rot before they were big enough to pick.

According to the  information I could find this is like blight on tomatoes and is due to hot dry weather followed by wet weather or visa versa. Therefore I assumed this good year was down to the weather. We had a dry sunny start to the year followed by lots of showers later in the summer.

Then our neighbours opposite us and some friends of ours both said their courgettes were rotting so it can’t be just due to the weather. Our neighbours opposite said their courgette plants were long and rambling and their courgettes were rotting.  We realised that our courgette plants in recent years had also been long and rambling but this year our plants were more compact and bush like. Could this be why our courgette crop has been so much better?

We will make sure that next year we look for plants that say that they are compact. Last year I picked off the rotting courgettes and dropped them on the veg plot. They must have self seeded and we have a few plants. I didn’t really think they would come to much but one has grown long and rambling. It has tiny courgettes on it but I don’t know if they will reach full size. It will be interesting to see if they rot.

This year’s courgette plant

The second of this year’s courgette plants

The self seeded, rambling, courgette plant

Picking courgettes four at a time

We have been eating courgettes several times a week and with every Sunday dinner since they started producing.

I have courgettes in the freezer as ratatouille, smokey sausage and courgette stew, spicy pork and courgette stew and cooked courgette and tomatoes to add to future dishes. I have now hit on a new, favourite way, of cooking and freezing courgettes.

I saute chopped courgettes in margarine until slightly softened, the same way as I would cook mushrooms. I divide the cooked courgette into oven proof dishes or tinfoil containers. I then top with cheese sauce. I then freeze them and when I want to use it I defrost a portion and put it in the oven for half an hour. I cover it in foil and remove the foil for the last ten minutes to colour the sauce a little.

Doing it this way it tastes exactly the same as cooking from fresh and has now become the way I like them best. I should have a supply in the freezer for Sunday dinners all the way through the winter.

Cooking the courgettes in margarine

I dish up the cooked courgettes

I top them with cheese sauce

We had one for Sunday dinner and the other two went into the freezer.

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