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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Home grown lettuce for the girls

I decided to give the girls a lettuce from our mixed leaves patch in the veg plot. The girls are used to having spinach leaves and spring green leaves so I was surprised to see that they viewed the lettuce with some caution at first.

Speckles called the little girls to the lettuce

As usual Freckles and Rusty are first to investigate.

Emerald joined in

Cinnamon is having a peck at the lettuce.

Apricot investigates

Eventually they realised it was just a different shaped type of green and all greens are good.

By the afternoon there wasn’t much left of the lettuce

Freckles has a last peck at the stalk

I think I can safely say they enjoyed our home grown lettuce.

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The bedtime routine

The bedtime routine has been unchanged for a long time and works like clockwork with no aggravation. My girls are such creatures of habit.

The bigger girls have always perched at the back of the shed. When we got Rusty and Freckles we installed a slightly lower perch on the left side of the shed. We used a broom handle so it was narrower. I had read that this is a comfortable size for the seramas smaller feet. They soon got used to their own perch.

When we added the three amigos to the flock I felt certain that Rusty and Freckles would not share their perch as they gave the new girls such a hard time to start with. We decided to install another perch on the right side of the shed. This is left and right as I face the shed.

I put the new girls on their perch, on the first night sleeping together, after the other girls were in. They stayed put. I watched them the next night and as good as gold they went to their own perch. The beauty of this system is that I knew they were far away enough from each other not be pecked and that’s why there is no aggravation.

After a few weeks I was surprised to see that Cinnamon was perching on the end of the back, bigger girl’s, perch. I worried that she would be lonely and lifted her on to the perch with Dandelion and Apricot. After a week of doing this I decided that Cinnamon obviously wanted to perch there and I have left her to it ever since. She is actually always the first one in so this is her chosen spot.

I think she likes this perch because it is higher and because she has the biggest feet of the seramas she seems comfortable on the wider perch. When I check the girls each night I always know exactly where they will be.

The bedtime positions

You can see why I thought that cinnamon would be lonely.

Speckles and Emerald at the back and Rusty and Freckles at the front

Cinnamon at the back and Dandelion and Apricot at the front

The bedtime routine is the easiest it has ever been. I am well aware though, that if we add new girls, there will probably be chaos. I don’t know where new girls would sleep. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

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Radishes for the girls

I Planted some mixed leaves in the veg plot, with the girls in mind. Some have now turned out to be radishes. I dug up half the radishes and was disappointed to find that they had been nibbled by slugs. I decided to give them to the girls.

I first googled to make sure it was okay to give the girls radishes as I hadn’t done so before. It said that all root veg is good for chickens except for onions and potatoes which are part of the deadly nightshade family and have no nutritional value for chickens anyway. I already knew this but thought I would mention it for anyone new to chickens. It said the radishes may need to be chopped for the chickens to be able to manage them.

I decided to try them as they were first.

The mixed leaves we planted turned out to include radishes

I lifted half the radishes and was disappointed to find the slugs had got them first

As always top girl checks them out first while the little girls stay close to “mother hen”

The bigger girls check first while little girls look on

Rusty and Freckles are always the boldest of the little girls

Rusty and Freckles decided the leaves are good

At the end of the day the girls had pecked at the radishes but found them too hard. They ate all the leaves though. When I dig up the other half I will chop the radishes and give them the leaves with the chopped radishes and see if they eat them all.

Beetroot and beetroot leaves are also fine for the girls but expect pink poop after they eat them.

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A new umbrella

Our patio umbrella was  looking distinctly grotty. We were reluctant to replace it while it still worked though, so we said that once it had stopped functioning, we would then get a new one.

We were forecast high winds overnight so we put the umbrella down to protect it. In the morning when we tried to put it up again the string snapped and we couldn’t open the umbrella. We are not complaining because it is a small price to pay compared to the recent hurricane in America and we are aware how lucky we are.

We went to our local garden centre to see if we could find a replacement. Their umbrellas were a hundred and sixty pounds! What! They must be having a laugh! We were stunned.

We decided to try our local Homebase store. Their umbrellas were forty pounds for tiny ones and a hundred and twenty pounds for large ones. We couldn’t understand the big leap up in price. We didn’t like any of the colours either.

We were going to try B&Q and then a bigger garden centre but decided to try the new Dunelm first which is next to Homebase. I didn’t hold out much hope but on the way out of the store I spotted some garden furniture and umbrellas in their end of season sale.

They only had one large umbrella left but it was reduced from forty pounds to thirty pounds. We couldn’t believe our luck. It was navy blue and while we usually have a green colour to look more natural, beggars can’t be choosers! We grabbed it and thanked our lucky stars.

Dead umbrella

New umbrella

A bargain and a great improvement

We are chuffed to bits with our lucky umbrella!

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Giving the girls a change half way through worming

I decided to give the girls a change from mash mixed with the worming powder, flubenvet.  I chopped some grapes into the four little dishes then added the powder and gave it a mix.

The grapes went quickly so I think the girls liked the change.

Chopped grapes with flubenvet

All the girls get a share

“Mother hen”, Speckles, is taking bits of grape from the dish and dropping them in front of the little girls. She did get her share once she had made sure that all the little girls had had some.

For the rest of the week I will continue to mix the flubenvet with mash as it is less messy. The powder mixed with grape juice settles at the bottom of the dishes and gets flicked onto the patio area. It is much cleaner using mash as the powder stays mixed with it.

I thought it would give the girls a change as they are half way through worming. I have found no worms so it seems that they are clear, which is good, but it will act as a preventative measure. The girls are happy enough to get a little dish of mash each day.

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