Shadow and Sugar

The chicks are growing up. They are around five months old now. They are transitioning from their chick cheeping to a more grown up sound.

Shadow and Sugar are growing up

They are beautiful girls and very friendly.

One of the things that is happening at the moment is that the little girls are not always getting in the chicken shed before the automatic door closes. The three bigger girls are always in in time. The little girls leave it until the last minute and sometimes get shut out.

I go in at dusk each evening to put in any that are shut out. If Shadow and Sugar are shut out they both fly to my back as soon as I go through the gate.

Sometimes Shadow is in and Sugar is out and then Sugar flies to my back. I think that Sugar is out most often because she is the more bold of the two and leaves it until later. Salmon and Spangle are often out too as they also leave it late and occasionally all of the little girls are shut out. It is fortunate that they have me to put them in.

Last night my lovely husband took a photo of Sugar on my back. It is blurred because the flash on my camera has stopped working and without the flash the photos come out blurred at low light but it gives the gist.

Sugar on my shoulder

It is endearing but it isn’t very easy to move her from here. I have to reach my fingers under her feet and then bring her down to the perch. Sometimes she flies back again and I think she would be happy to perch on me all night!

Sometimes Sugar flies on to my head which is actually easier for me to lift her down from. It’s a good job these girls are so small. I think she thinks I am her mum and her safe place. Sometimes if I am collecting the other girls and putting them on the perch Sugar will jump on my arms several times. I try to get her feet to the perch while she is trying to get back up my arms.

This has become our bedtime ritual at the moment. It’s hard not find it quite endearing though. They are funny little girls.

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Marmite has lost her tail

Marmite looks worse during her moult than any of the other girls. I wonder if it’s because she is last to moult so it’s happened much more quickly.

Yesterday Marmite had one remaining tail feather
Today Marmite has no tail

As I walked through the gate I saw Marmite’s tail feather on the patio. She looks such a funny little thing with no tail and pins on her head.

Get feathered soon Marmite!

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Marmite is moulting

One by one the little girls have been moulting. Now it is Marmite’s turn and she is dropping feathers everywhere and looking rather tatty.

Marmite is looking tatty
Marmite has pins on her head
And missing head feathers

Marmite only laid one egg this month with it’s usual soft shell and I am pleased that she has now stopped laying.

In other news Smoke has just started laying again after her moult. She has laid three eggs in the last four days. Only Flame and Smoke are laying and with three nest boxes available they both want the same one.

Smoke and Flame share a nest box

Oh well, nothing changes!

Marmite the next day

The next day Marmite looks even more tatty. She is the last girl to moult so they should all be looking good again soon.

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The jigsaw I gave up on

I have done a lot of jigsaw puzzles since the beginning of lock-down. Some I have really enjoyed and found quite addictive. Some have been really difficult and I struggled but didn’t give up. These were the ones with lots of sea or sky or both. I had to sort the puzzle pieces by shape rather than colour. They were lent to us so not of our choosing.

The best ones have lots of detail and colour and sometimes I can’t resist fitting a piece each time I pass by. A jigsaw usually takes me between one and two weeks to complete.

Having run out of jigsaws I bought two when our local charity shop opened up again and have been saving them for when the weather isn’t good enough to be outside.

I have now learned a lesson about choosing jigsaws. Don’t choose jigsaws that are of paintings. They need to be either photographs or drawings such as the humorous cartoon ones we did earlier in the year.

For the first time I have had to give up on a jigsaw and I don’t give up easily. This one was out on the table for two weeks and I just couldn’t get going anywhere with it.

This was as far as I could get
This was the picture

I thought it was pretty. I realise now that it is so hard to do because it is so fuzzy. I completed the outside on the first day and after two weeks The few bits inside were all I managed to fit together. I just could not get started anywhere and had to admit defeat and put it back in the box.

I have now started the jigsaw that I bought at the same time as this one. Unfortunately it is also of a painting. It isn’t as fuzzy as this one but it still has a lot of subtle changes in colour and has no hard lines.

I have been doing it for three days and after starting quite well I have now ground to a halt. I feel I probably could complete it but I am not sure that I want to.

Can I get further than this!
This is the picture

I will leave it on the table for a few more days but if I can’t get going with it I will give up again. Jigsaws should be fun and enjoyable not an endurance test.

I will never ever buy a jigsaw of a painting again. It has been a lesson learned.

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Three groups of chickens

Although all of the girls mix happily together they can often be found in three separate groups.

The original four seramas like to congregate on top of the wooden shelter. They can often be found there either having a group preening session or just hanging out.

The chicks can be found anywhere in the run perching together but quite often are inside the wooden shelter.

The three bigger girl’s favourite place to perch together is the branch perch above the ladder.

Yesterday the four seramas were again on top of the wooden shelter while the chicks were inside the shelter just below them.

I just missed the three bigger girls on the branch perch as after I had taken the first couple of photos they jumped down to see what I was doing. There is always the possibility of treats!

The four original seramas on top of the wooden shelter
The chicks inside the wooden shelter

Sometimes Shadow and Sugar use the perch in the shelter and sometimes they like to use the plank at the back. Either way they seem to really like the shelter. They are such a sweet pair.

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Perching and a new tail

Shadow and sugar love to perch and they have managed to find every single perch in the chicken run. The least used perch is the branch perch behind the hatch. The other two branch perches have the ladders leading up to them.

However the chicks have even found this perch.

Look how high we can perch
These girls can fly straight upwards
A close up to show Shadow and sugar’s feathering

After I had taken the photos of the chicks perching Speckles posed for me on top of the small shelter.

Speckles now has a full tail after her moult

Speckles was the first of the girls to moult and she is now the only one looking pristine and with a full tail. Salmon still looks a bit tatty and Spangle has only one remaining tail feather.

It will be good to get all the girls completely feathered up before winter.

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Autumn in the garden

There is now the colour of autumn in the garden as well as the chill in the air and the shortening of the days.

The berries look stunning
The sedums always give an autumnal splash of colour

Shadow and Sugar continue to be a tight pair. They have settled in really well and now mingle with the rest of the flock more than they used to. They have also come to enjoy all the treats.

The chicks peck at a bit of apple
Always together

I am very happy with the way these two lovely girls have fitted right in with the flock.

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We are now retired

Before lock-down happened we were slowing down towards eventual retirement.

Fairly soon into lock-down we made the decision that we wouldn’t resume corporate lunches but would just continue with afternoon teas and vintage crockery hire once things returned to normal if they ever do!

Then a couple of months ago my lovely husband was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration of the eyes. At this point he decided that he wouldn’t return to doing afternoon teas either but maybe we would just do the vintage crockery hire.

Another month later at his monthly check up his eyes had worsened and he had to have the first of three monthly injections in his eye. At this point we made the decision that we would be fully retired.

The positive thing is that he won’t go completely blind as he will still retain peripheral vision. The condition means a loss of the central vision. There is a dry type and wet type. The wet is caused by blood vessels leaking and can cause lasting damage. The injection turns it back to the dry type. There is nothing else that can be done.

It can worsen slowly or quickly and the scary thing is that it has been quick. This has been a shock.

My lovely eldest son is helping us with ways to move forward. He has ordered us both a new phone so that we can learn to use it together and eventually learn to voice activate it. He has sent us a Google Home which is voice activated and a Google Chromecast which will connect to the television and we will get a bigger television eventually.

We are lucky that we don’t have to worry about money. Our mortgage is paid. Because of his age my husband has his pension, he is eight years older than me, but I won’t get mine for another six years however we are now spending much less because of the current situation.

I sold most of our catering equipment on eBay before lock-down. I then put it on hold. Now that I have run out of stock my eldest son suggested I look for free stuff on Facebook Market Place. I have picked up three free lots and am selling the items on eBay. This has become my job now. I will also sell the vintage crockery but I can’t bring myself to do that just yet as it is too sad.

This has been a difficult time of adjustment for us. I feel that as I have my small group of regular followers who I consider friends that it would be good to be honest and explain our current situation. We are trying to stay positive.

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Sugar and Shadow

Sugar and Shadow are growing up so quickly and their feathering is changing slightly. Sugar has some very fine, biscuit colour brown, in amongst her white feathers now. That’s okay as she can be white sugar with a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Shadow has the grey in more of a patch pattern than a block pattern. Both girls are very pretty. It’s difficult to show the brown among the white on Sugar’s feathers as her white colour gives off a glare in the light but I managed to get some close ups while the pair were perching.

Sugar and Shadow look so sweet perched together
Close up to show how their feathering is changing
Shadow has new spiky head feathers

They are such an adorable pair of girls.

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Our home grown chillies and pickles

Three weeks ago I put our chillies on a rack to dry out. This was the photo of them back then.

Chillies drying out on a rack

To my surprise they have changed colour. This is the photo of the chillies today.

Most of the chillies have gone red

I think they look quite beautiful. As they can be used as they are or ground to a powder I am going to leave them longer to see if they dry out some more.

An update on our pickles. The gherkins which we pickled in a mixture of brine and vinegar have turned out really well and are very similar to shop bought ones.

The runner beans have been a work in progress. I cheated and used pickling vinegar for them which can be used cold and so seemed a more simple method. When we tried them about three weeks later they were lovely and crunchy but so sour and acidic that we just couldn’t eat them.

I will never use pickling vinegar again. I googled and followed instructions for if your product is too sour. I drained off the vinegar and added quite a good amount of sugar and left it for a few days to dissolve. I then added it back to the beans and we tried them. They were still so sour that they were inedible.

Next I drained them again and poured over them the vinegar from a used jar of pickled onions. I thought that this would mean that the vinegar would be right.

The only thing is, that now, the beans taste just like pickled onions. They have the same crunch and with your eyes closed you wouldn’t know you were not eating a pickled onion.

Pickled beans mark three

It isn’t really what I would call a success as I am not sure of the benefit of beans that taste like pickled onions but I guess it has been a learning curve. Drying chillies and pickling are a first for us so it’s all experimental really.

I have learned a few lessons about vinegar and I think that is the part that we need to get right. It’s a shame about the beans as we have two jars of them and I think they will take a very long time for us to eat. There again there was such an abundance of beans that it wouldn’t really matter if we didn’t eat them

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