Postcard Competition

I will start with a warning that this is a long post. I have written it over a month, adding to it, as it goes along.

One of the blogs I follow is “Going Gently” by John Gray. Sometimes he has a competition. He had one on pictures made from fruit and veg (a year or two ago) and I entered my jelly fish made with satsumas and my husband’s apple bird.

He is now running a postcard competition, it’s purely for fun. We are to send the postcards to him with an appropriate stamp and the competition runs from 16th January to 16th February. I am writing this post as it goes along, ready to put it out, after judging day.

The postcards should be standard size but can be bought or homemade and we can send as many as we like and for as many categories as we like. John is judge and will send a prize for each category.

The categories are:

Best animal – Best gay – Best country of origin – Best retro – Best saucy – Funniest – Most beautiful – Best scotch egg – Best not in any category and Best message on card.

John Gray is famed for his love of scotch eggs! He is also an animal lover and has dogs and a cat and has had assorted other animals in the past.

When I started to think of what card I could send my husband suggested that I send him our book of boring postcards. We bought it about ten years ago from an antique shop and have had lots of fun showing friends and family the book.

I thought it was a great idea and agreed it was time to send it to a new home. I thought that it would be the sort of thing that John would like.

We don’t have postcards on sale in our area, it’s probably not considered interesting enough, so all my postcards were home made.

I decided to choose one of the most boring post cards from the book as my first one. I put another postcard inside the book to write a gift message on as I didn’t want to write on the book.

Boring postcard book

It has boring postcards such as these

My first card

I just cannot imagine why this would have been made into a postcard or why anyone would want to buy it. I suggested on the card that John should add a, most boring postcard, category.

There was a comment on John’s blog saying “That nursing home had me laugh out loud!” referring to my card above.

I wish now that I had thought to take a photo of each card but it didn’t occur to me at the time. The one inside the book was a Christmas card cut down to postcard size of some sheep in the snow at Stonehenge.

The third card I sent was also cut down from a Christmas card and was a scene of a pretty cove with boats which was painted by an artist friend of ours. Every year her Christmas cards feature one of her paintings.

My fourth card

This was a greeting card that I again cut down to postcard size. I thought John would like this one.

My fifth card

John is photographing the cards each day on his blog and at this point, out of well over a hundred cards, there hasn’t been a scotch egg card. I made this one myself and am hopeful of it standing a chance in the scotch egg category. I was rather pleased with this one.

John has now received my card above. He titled his post – SCOTCH EGGS (AT LAST). He said that he has received 281 so far. My card was the first on this post and was captioned – The First Scotch Egg Postcard!

My scotch egg postcard got the most comments so far. Comments on this post included:

“Glad you got your scotch egg card. Patience is a virtue!”

“Glad you are only looking at scotch eggs on a PC rather than eating them!! x”

“Do you know how hard it is to find a postcard with scotch eggs on it? Bravo to the sender!!!!!”

“When a scotch egg is cut in half, it’s like two monstrous yellow eyes are looking back at you. The stuff of nightmares!”

“You just love those scotch eggs!”

“Are scotch eggs crispy or soft? Do you eat them hot or cold?”

In answer John replied –  “The ideal scotch egg has a breadcrumb coating and is deep fried. It’s not crispy. It can be eaten hot or cold”

“I wouldn’t have believed there was such a thing as a scotch egg postcard, but there is! That is amazing.”

“My card was supposed to be a scotch egg card. It was the answer to the crossword”

“John – eat the scotch eggs to keep warm”

People seem to have lost sight of the fact that we can make our own postcards. I am saying nothing in answer as I think it’s more fun not to give away who sends the cards.

I can’t believe how many comments the scotch egg postcard got. That’s more than any other card and I’ll take that as my claim to fame!

John originates from Sheffield but now lives in Wales. John said that anyone giving their address would receive a return postcard from him. That’s going to be a lot of postcards for him to send!

I received my return postcard with a thank you message and John’s postcard of his home town of Sheffield could also have gone into the boring postcard category but I was touched to receive it.

John’s return postcard

I decided to send one final card. This one was cut down from one of my husband’s birthday cards.

Card number six

I am happy that I have done my bit to take part and will now await the results. This has been a really fun competition.

John has now received over three hundred post cards and has just received a second scotch egg card! Just when I thought I was in with a chance of winning this category I may have been scuppered.

It is a hand drawn card of a scotch egg with a drooling dog beside it, simply drawn, in black with the only colour being a yellow centre to the half scotch egg. It’s the last week of the competition too. I so nearly made it. Oh well, it is only fun and we shouldn’t try to be too competitive I suppose. 🙁

I have just checked today’s postcards and there is another scotch egg card drawn by the same artist. This time both halves of the scotch egg in colour with a black knife and fork either side and below them a dog’s ears and paws. I am definitely beaten now! I know this artist as I read her blog but I am not naming names … yet!

Okay, I didn’t realise that I had a competitive streak! I decided that I would make another postcard. John has welsh terriers, a bulldog and a black cat. I decided to make a collage of these combined with scotch eggs.

The things that John loves

I must admit that I was really pleased with this one. I told my husband that I was captioning it “The things that John loves” and he said  – As well as “The Walking Dead” and he hasn’t had one of those either. Uh oh! I couldn’t resist.

The Walking Dead postcard

I decided to be the first to send a “Walking Dead” postcard too. It’s also a favourite of mine and returns for the second half of the final series at the weekend so this seemed fitting. So this is card number eight from me. These two cards are definitely my final entrants.

Much to my surprise I received a second post card from John thanking me for my entries. It was a photo of his garden back in Sheffield. I wondered if he had forgotten that he had already sent me one. I am feeling very honoured.

John’s second postcard to me

My latest two postcards haven’t arrived yet but in John’s latest batch of cards is another scotch egg one. This is a different take on it. It’s a picture of a drunk chicken clutching a bottle of whiskey. In the background some chickens are chatting and the speech bubble says – “Yeah, But She Lays A Mean Scotch Egg”.

Quite a few comments are saying that they love this card and I do too. A few comments are saying this is the best batch yet. The competition is hotting up. John reminds us there is only a week to go!

Okay – this is the very last card. Card number nine.

Snowdrops postcard

I took this photograph of the water droplets on the snowdrops in the garden after a rain shower. I was pleased with how well it came out. As John had sent me a postcard of his Sheffield garden I thought that I would send this one to him in return.

This is definitely my final postcard as time is running out now. I have enjoyed sending the cards and checking John’s blog each day to see if they have arrived. This has been a fun competition.

And then disaster struck! John put out the photographs of the day’s postcards. My “Walking Dead” postcard was first.  He wrote underneath it – The first homemade WALKING DEAD postcard! We now know one prize winner.

There was a comment saying “I should have thought about The Walking Dead! Great card”.

Second was my “Things John Loves” postcard but half the photos had come off in the post. The right hand portion of the card was missing. The bulldog, scotch egg and two welsh terrier photos were gone and part of the flowery background of the greetings card I had stuck the photos to was revealed making it look ridiculous.

I was gutted as I thought this was my best card so far. I e-mailed John and explained what had happened and attached the photograph that I had taken of it before I posted it. I asked if he could show it even if it doesn’t go in to the competition.

He e-mailed straight back and said the photo would appear on the blog the next day. What a sweetie! In the morning he e-mailed again to say the photograph was on the blog. It appeared between the “Walking Dead” card and the card with a part missing.

John has said all the postcards may go on his office wall and he will photograph them for us to see on his blog. Because of this I decided to make a replacement card just for him to put on his wall.

The problem had been that I used a greeting card as the card’s base and stuck the photos to the shiny, picture, surface, as I needed the white background to form the side of the card that gets written on. Lesson learned! This time I stuck plain paper over the picture part of the card and then stuck the photos to the paper.

I couldn’t find all the exact same photos again so I just made it as similar as possible.

John’s replacement card

This is my tenth and final, final, card. John says he has now received over 450 cards so far.

Two days to go and John has now received 471 cards so far. Today’s first card is another scotch egg card. It is two halves of a scotch egg which look three dimensional, as if the halves are just sat on a postcard. The caption underneath the egg halves is “Just For John”.

John is judging on Friday and posting the results on Saturday.

Today my remade card appeared on John’s latest batch of cards, very sweet of him to include it. He says that he has now received over 500 and no duplicates which is amazing!

One more day to go and a total of 515 before the final day.

Among the last day’s postcards was another scotch egg card. It is a scotch egg planet with mini scotch eggs circling it. The total is now 552 received and winners to be announced later today.

The results are in and I am chuffed to bits. Five of my cards appear on the short lists and I have one winner and one special mention.

My scotch egg card appears amongst six in the first short list along with both the hand drawn ones, the planets one, the chicken drinking scotch whiskey and the three dimensional looking one.

The three dimensional looking one captioned “Just For John” is the worthy winner.

I won the most boring postcard with my very first entrant of the, convalescent home, chairs from the boring postcard book, hurrah!

There were four finalists for best hand made cards and I was surprised that my snowdrops appeared as well as the card that I re made of “The Things John Loves” as the first one fell apart in the post.

Finally I got a special mention for my “Walking Dead” card which wasn’t actually one of the categories so I am well chuffed with that.

The comments have starting coming in and one said ” Carol’s, most boring card, winner was totally fabulous. Well done to all who participated and those that won a category”

John replied “Nicely put”.

I commented how chuffed I was to be in several short lists and to win a category and said how much fun it had been and John replied “And you dear Carol seem to be the champion of champions x”.

Fame at last! I am chuffed to bits!

This has been so much fun and I have loved taking part and am on cloud nine with how many of my cards appeared in the final and the comments received. I am a little sad that it’s all over. It’s been amazing!

In two weeks time John is going to award another winner for the best late entry. I will update again then.

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Marmite is broody

The day before yesterday we had our first, five egg, day of the year. Jasmine actually went to the nest box to lay her egg this time. It is her fourth egg and is a week after her last one. Spangle, Ebony, Marmite and Smoke also laid. That is all our current laying girls on one day.

The next day Marmite started to behave like a broody. She was raising her tail and was settled in the nest box at bedtime. I had to lift her to the bedtime perch. She didn’t lay that day. It’s typical that we have just got Smoke laying again in time for the next girl to go broody. I suspect we won’t have another, five egg, day for a while.

Today Marmite went to the nest box after the morning sunflower seeds. I lifted her out a couple of times. At one point she was sitting on Smoke’s egg.

A bit later she actually laid her own egg. Smoke was the same and laid a few more eggs after starting the broody behaviour.

Broody Marmite

A fully fanned tail

Out of the nest box

I am now so familiar with broody seramas that I recognise the fanned tail as a signal of a broody. When Freckles first went broody I thought there was something wrong with her!

Both Smoke and now Marmite have plucked out some breast feathers. I found a little heap of her feathers in the nest box. They sometimes do this by instinct to get their warm skin against an egg. It is a shame to see her feathers in the nest box and this is the first time I have come across this myself although I had read about it.

At bedtime tonight Marmite was in the nest box again and once more I moved her to the perch in the chicken shed. The good thing is that she doesn’t peck me and is easy to handle.

I am now resigned to the fact that if I have seramas I have to just get used to having broodies. It is all part of serama keeping and keeps me on my toes. At least now with a bigger flock there will always be enough eggs even with some broody girls.

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A yogurt treat for the girls

What I love about giving the girls this sort of treat is that I can get a few photos of the entire flock together.

Yogurt for the girls

Plenty of yogurt beaks

I love their enthusiasm and their little yogurt beaks and I love seeing them all together like this. They do love a yogurt treat and at the end of the day the dishes looked as if they had been licked clean!

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Valentines Day

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentines Day. We started the day exchanging gifts and cards.

Valentine gifts and cards

We are quite traditional with our exchanges. We always get each other a card and my husband always buys me red roses and chocolates and I always buy him a D.V.D. and chocolates.

Red roses are my favourite and I think the most romantic so although he buys me other flowers at other times it is always red roses for Valentines. We both love chocolates so that gives us something to share for lunchtime desserts and we both enjoy films so that gives us something to watch together in the evening.

We always have our Valentines dinner at home. We both feel that going out on Valentines Day means overpriced set menus and quickly turned couples tables and if distance is involved a taxi too.

We take turns at making something special at home.

I decided to go for a seafood theme. I found these frozen langoustines at Tesco which I hadn’t seen before. I had never cooked them before but it said to defrost them then cook in boiling water for five minutes.

I also bought a pot of luxury crab meat and some gravadlax smoked salmon with a mustard and dill dressing. My purchases were paid for with one of my fifteen pound Tesco vouchers so it is a free meal making it even better.

I decided to serve it with Marie Rose sauce, mixed leaf salad and crusts off brown bread and butter. I also got some chocolate mouse desserts which were on offer at four for a pound.

Langoustines before I cooked them

Langoustines after they were cooked and shelled

I was amazed how small they were after cooking and shelling. They looked lost on this plate so I decided to serve them like this.

Langoustines in individual dishes

I decided to serve the cab meat in the same way

Gravadlax smoked salmon and a mustard and dill sauce

Salad leaves

Brown bread and butter and Marie Rose sauce topped with a sprinkle of paprika.

With my voucher it hasn’t cost anything and with only five minutes cooking the langoustines it has also been an easy meal.

We also had a bottle of fizz left over from Christmas and New Year which we decided to save for Valentines so it has been really low cost this year.

Valentine table

I don’t usually take photos of food but Valentines is an exception. A perfect table for two at home.

And … it was delicious. We are not big eaters these days but we ate every bit.  It was the perfect meal for us. A very enjoyable Valentines indeed.

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Up to date photos of the girls

There isn’t much news in the chicken run at the moment which is never a bad thing! So I thought that I would take some up to date photos.

Speckles

Although Speckles had virtually finished her moult at the end of the summer she has been dropping single tail feathers for a while to reveal her new tail feathers underneath. She has just one tail feather left to drop, longer than the others a little loose.

Ebony

Ebony’s feathers have changed slightly and developed pale tips. I think they may be the oldest feathers and will be moulted next year. Ebony doesn’t have the most attractive of chicken faces. She always looks quite fierce.

Flame back view

I struggled to get a photo of flame’s face as she kept turning away at the moment that I clicked.

Flame close up

But I managed to catch her here. She has an attractive face and beautiful plumage.

Dandelion

Dandelion is all feathered up again apart from a few pins on her head. She looks like a little ball.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is also feathered up apart from a few pins on her head.

Sienna

Jasmine

Silky girls

It was more difficult taking separate photos of these girls as they are always together. All the girls have round eyes except Jasmine whose eyes are quite narrow. It sometimes makes her look a bit unhappy.

Smoke

Smoke also has a few pins on her head. Smoke has quite a v in her comb compared to the other girls and her legs match her feather colour. Smoke is the best serama layer so far.

Vanilla

Vanilla has a red comb and face and looks like she should be laying but has shown no interest in the nest box so far. I had expected her to be among the first to lay and yet she is the last of the amigos to start.

Marmite

Marmite is the second best serama layer, very close behind Smoke.

Spangle

Spangle has the most magnificent tail of all the girls. She is third best serama layer.

Spangle front on

Spangle is so friendly and I couldn’t resist including this front on photo.

Salmon

Salmon is so pretty. She laid one tiny egg, mid January, and hasn’t laid since or shown any interest in the nest box.

Salmon front on

Salmon is also a friendly girl.

I think the current flock is the most varied and pretty flock that we have had yet and they all get on really well. I have also been surprised by what good egg layers some of them are.

It will be interesting to see what the nest box antics will be like this summer with them all laying and also to see how many broody girls we have. I am looking forward to an interesting summer.

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Sunday breakfast eggs

Sunday breakfast eggs before cooking.

Sunday breakfast eggs

Marmite’s recent tiny egg is on the right.

Sunday breakfast eggs in the pan

Marmite’s tiny egg had a really hard shell. I struggled to crack it and so ended up breaking the yolk which is why it looks oval in shape. Her tiny egg was mostly yolk. They are all lovely eggs whatever size they are.

Yesterday for breakfast we had Jasmine’s egg and the shell was thin so I think both it’s size and thin shell were what made it difficult for her to lay. I have never seen her go to the grit and oyster shell. She has, so far, only laid her eggs two weeks apart so perhaps as she lays more often she will start going to the grit.

Yesterday Smoke laid her first egg since she took a two week break after going broody. Smoke’s egg on the right is white and Spangle’s egg on the left is beige. This is one of the reasons I can still tell the girls’ eggs apart at the moment, coupled with spotting them in the nest box, or missing from the run.

Smoke’s first egg after her broody break

Smoke’s first egg, after her break, is a bit smaller than she usually lays but I would expect them to get bigger over the coming days. It is good to have our best laying serama back in action.

It is lovely having plenty of eggs over the winter and all the eggs, big and small, are perfect!

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Saturday snowdrops

These larger snowdrops are much later opening up than the smaller, frillier, ones that I have photographed recently.

Larger snowdrops

They are just opening up at last.

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Jasmine had a problem

Jasmine didn’t look happy yesterday afternoon and I thought that maybe she had an egg problem. I wondered if she was about to lay a soft shelled egg. At bedtime she was perched in her usual spot but looked odd with her tail raised. I hoped she would lay an egg first thing in the morning and bounce back.

Jasmine didn’t lay this morning and still didn’t look at all happy. After the morning sunflower seeds she went to her bedtime spot in the chicken shed. Although she was on her bedtime perch rather than in a nest box I recognised this from when she laid her last egg.

Jasmine is not happy

Jasmine laid her first tiny egg on 18th January. She laid it early in the morning from her roost spot. A week later I felt she was about to lay her next egg but she kept going to this same bedtime spot from where she had laid her first egg.

I lifted her down and put her in the nest box where she stayed put. Later she laid another egg which was bigger than her first tiny egg but still smaller than the usual serama sized egg.

Today I lifted her down again and put her in the nest box but she didn’t stay and went to perch on the ladder where there was some sun. She sat dozing in the sun.

Jasmine dozing in the sun

At this point I was torn as to whether it was an egg problem or was mycoplasma. It seemed more likely to be an egg problem but sometimes the symptoms can be the same. Freckles would doze in this position when she had myco. I decided to wait and see if she laid today before making the decision to treat with tylan again.

Since the freezing temperatures at the weekend I had seen Dandelion with a bubble in her eye on one occasion for the first time this winter. She soon blinked it away and I decided to just keep an eye on her. Today Dandelion was on the perch above Jasmine and I noticed she had a slight crust over her right eyelid. This was something that used to happen last winter.

When I next checked Dandelion had scratched the crust away. This added to me being unsure if it was an egg problem with Jasmine or myco. I decided to treat with tylan tomorrow if Jasmine didn’t lay but at that point she went to the nest box.

Dandelion has a crust over her right eye

Jasmine in the nest box

To my relief when I next checked Jasmine was back out in the run looking her usual self again. There was an egg in the nest box of a bigger size than her previous egg. I think she had been struggling to lay a bigger egg but it had a good shell.

Today’s eggs

On the right is Ebony’s large egg and next is Spangle’s egg which is always a beige colour like Ebony’s. Next is Marmite’s pale egg and on the left is Jasmine’s, bigger and rounder, pale egg. This is probably why she was having difficulty getting it laid.

It is a week and a half since her last egg so she is obviously getting started slowly. Hopefully she will soon get the hang of it. Another crises has passed and hopefully all is back to normal once more.

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The snowdrops today

Yesterday and today the weather couldn’t be more different than it was on Sunday when we walked to the allotment. Sunday was very cold but with the sunshine and a clear blue sky it was a lovely day. Yesterday and today have been milder but have been dark and wet and gloomy starting with some fog this morning.

The good thing is that it has cleared all the snow and it has stayed above freezing overnight. This means I don’t have to worry about the chickens’ water freezing.

On the way up to the girls with the bedtime corn I noticed that the snowdrops had water droplets on them. It looked like ice and although I knew it wasn’t I couldn’t resist touching a water droplet with my finger. It was odd how the droplets were just on the snowdrops and not on any of the other plants.

Snowdrops with water droplets

The snowdrops looked quite beautiful.

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Allotment plot in the snow

Yesterday we decided to take a walk to the allotment to see how long it takes. We had walked before but we were pushing our little grandson on his trike so it wasn’t a true test of how long it takes to walk.

From our door to our plot it took forty minutes of brisk walking. We haven’t been able to do anything more with the plot because of the weather.

Allotment plot in the snow

And from the other end

Despite frozen, crunchy snow, it was a lovely day. Cold but sunny with clear blue sky. It was good to get out for a walk.

Back home I thought I would take another photo of our snowdrops this time in the snow.

Snowdrops in the snow

The snow is gradually going. These snowdrops were completely buried and have gradually been revealed again. They look fragile but are so resilient.

I will be glad to see the back of the snow as it feels like enough now.

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