Wild flowers and broccoli stalks

We are still harvesting so much bounty from the allotment plots. I never expected the raspberries to produce for so long and we are all three sharers still picking them.

The plot below us was dug over at the beginning of the year and then abandoned. It hasn’t been fenced. Our wild flower seeds from our plot have seeded a huge swaithe of purple flowers on the empty plot. I decided to help myself to some and shared them with our next door neighbour too.

Allotment wild flowers

We have just had a letter saying that our first plot has won “best plot” for the second year running. We were really surprised to win it again and very happy with that.

With chickens nothing gets wasted. We gave the girls two of the spent broccoli stalks yesterday. They kept the girls occupied all day and by the end of the day the stalks were pecked clean.

Broccoli stalks for the girls
The girls pecking at the broccoli leaves
At the end of the day the stalks are pecked clean

With chickens nothing gets wasted and not only am I not buying any veg for us but I am also not buying any greens for the girls. There is plenty for the girls to enjoy.

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Corn on the cob

We had a patch of corn on the cob on our first allotment plot and we also randomly planted six in our garden. I had visions of it growing tall enough to make it’s way above the surrounding plants.

It didn’t happen like that. The corn on the allotment plot grew huge and our corn in the garden never made it above the surrounding plants. It was stunted and small and pathetic.

Last weekend we visited the allotment just as T and C were checking out the corn. Some corn cobs looked good, some had not filled out to the end of the cob and a lot had dried up kernels. I think with hind sight we should have picked some of them sooner.

T and C were checking the cobs and sorted them in to good and bad piles. I said that I would take all the dry ones for the chooks so they wouldn’t be wasted. They divided the good ones into three lots so each of the three of us sharing the allotment plots would have some.

The chooks love the corn and will peck on it throughout the day. I took a couple of photos of them pecking the corn then decided to see what our garden corn was like.

I have never seen such tiny corn cobs. It had tried but not made it. I photographed them in my hand then added them to chicken run. They may be rubbish but the chooks still liked them.

Salmon and Marmite at the corn
Marmite pecking the corn
Our pathetic garden corn
Salmon and Spangle with Salmon pecking at our mini corn

The corn that hadn’t made it to the end of the cob was the most tender which coupled with the ones that were completely dried out made me think that we should have picked them sooner. A lesson for the future. The chooks loved them though and they don’t care what condition they are in.

One success in the garden, or at least in the pots, are our chilli plants. Our huge chillies are now turning red.

Our chillies are turning red

These are really hot and with two plants having loads of chillies I think they will have to go in the freezer. We won’t need to buy chillies for a very long time.

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Allotment flowers

We went to the allotment this morning to pick some produce. There is so much of everything at the moment.

T and C were already picking produce and T picked a small posy for me from his allotment flower bed which was so sweet. He had planted dahlias around the edge of his wild flower bed.

Sweet flowers

We picked plenty of produce because we share with our next door neighbours each weekend.

We picked enough raspberries for our dessert at lunch time today and they were delicious. We also picked sweetcorn, red cabbage, carrot, beetroot, red and white potatoes, red and white onions, pumpkin, courgettes, kale, chard, tomatoes and NO beans.

C had taken beans a few days earlier and they have slowed down now. We were pleased because we have been over run with them over the last few weeks. There are plenty of flowers on the beans so more to come later and we will enjoy them again when they are growing more slowly.

My lovely husband made coleslaw with some of the red cabbage and carrot and we will have a variety of veg for Sunday dinner tomorrow. Some of the chard will go to the chooks.

Only a few sweetcorn had ripened so we shared them out between the three of us allotment sharers and all the ones that had only got a little bit of corn in them T gave me for the chooks so they are going to be in for a treat.

We have had so much more produce this year than last year. It is so good not to need to buy any veg at all and flowers in doors are an added bonus.

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Allotment evolving as the year goes on

At last the tomatoes have started to ripen and they are going to be the next thing that we will be deluged with.

Huge tomato
Tomatoes ripening
Pumpkin getting bigger
Butternut squash
Passion flower

T wanted some pretty things on our second plot and this is very pretty.

We are getting loads of potatoes now too and onions and the raspberries are still plentiful and so good. So far it has been a very good year for the allotment plots.

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Speckles dust bathing

Speckles is definitely showing her age but she is still well and happy which is so good as she is our oldest girl yet.

Speckles still really enjoys a dust bath and it’s always so good to see. She is moulting at the moment and always leaves behind a few feathers in her dust bath.

Speckles enjoying a dust bath

We love this old girl.

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Making pickles

We have never made pickles before. We have lots of gherkins from the allotment and of course an abundance of runner beans.

We decided to try pickling the gherkins and the runner beans. We googled how best to do this. There seemed to be lots of different ways of pickling gherkins. Pickled vegetables seemed more straight forward.

Our pickles

We had been saving pickled onion and gherkin jars and also coffee jars for this purpose.

The method we followed for the gherkins was to salt them overnight which is supposed to make them end up crunchy. We sprinkled them with salt and the next day poured off the water that had come out of them. We decided to use the brine we had saved from our bought gherkins and added a bit of vinegar and a little sugar. We added, our home grown, chopped chillies.

Our chillies

We cut the gherkins length ways to fit two jars. We bought the mixture to the boil and poured over the gherkins to cover. They need about three weeks before they are ready.

For the runner beans we cheated a little and bought some pickling vinegar. This made it really simple as it already has all the correct ingredients and spices and doesn’t need boiling.

I prepared the beans in the usual way and cooked them for just five minutes. I ran them under a cold tap until completely cold and filled a coffee jar with them. Then it’s just a simple matter of pouring the vinegar over them until they are covered and putting on the lid. Again leave them for three weeks.

We have no idea how well these will turn out but it is an experiment and will either be repeated or not according to the results.

We are looking forward to trying them out in a few weeks time.

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We can tell that Speckles is really feeling her age these days although I am pleased to say that she remains well. I was also pleased that while Ebony and Flame were feeling the recent heat Speckles didn’t actually didn’t seem bothered by it. Maybe because she is less active.

Speckles Spends a lot of time sitting. Sometimes she will perch with the other two bigger girls and sometimes she will just sit on the ground. Speckles also likes to sit in the shelters or on top of the big shelter in the shade of the hypericum. She is often joined there by the little girls.

Speckles sitting in the shelter
Speckles sitting on top of the shelter surrounded by her girls

Another sign of her age is that Speckles is easily anxious. If both Ebony and flame are in the nest boxes at the same time Speckles shouts the whole time until one of them is out again. This was another reason to break Ebony from being broody.

It’s only occasionally that they would normally be laying at the same time but with Ebony in the nest box all the time it would happen regularly. We have also seen Speckles spook herself. I would be pottering in the run when Speckles would cry out as if being attacked and run to the patio although there would be nothing to be seen.

Speckles is our longest lived girl and we call her our creaking gate. I know that we have to be ready to lose her one day but at the moment we are making the most of her and she seems a very happy retired girl.

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Helping the girls to stay cool

We have been experiencing a heat wave this week. Ebony and Flame have been feeling the heat and were panting with beaks open.

I gave the girls dishes of mash in plenty of cold water and some frozen spinach.

I have tried putting trays of cold water in the run in the past for them to stand in to cool off but chickens don’t really want to stand in water.

I then had a brain wave. I poured watering cans of water in various shady areas in the run. The girls immediately went to scratch in the damp dirt. I thought this would cool their feet. The girls seem to really like this.

Speckles standing in the damp soil
Flame scratching and pecking
Smoke scratching
Salmon joins Speckles and Ebony scratches in another patch behind them
Marmite joins in

I will be doing this every afternoon while it’s hot. Last night at dusk I checked on the girls in the chicken shed. It was still hot and Ebony was standing on the perch with her wings held aloft.

I decided to prop the chicken shed door open as our run is very secure and the open shed door is hidden behind solid fence panels. I also poured a watering can of water over the patio area outside the open door to help it cool a bit more.

I will keep the chicken shed door propped open until this heat wave breaks. I hope it will cool down a bit soon.

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Allotment Plots

Both our allotment plots are growing madly at the moment. Both plots are quite different.

The first plot is more functional but T wanted the second plot to be more of a relaxing space. He had seeded a large wild flower bed and put in a seating area and barbeque. He also planted two passion plants to climb the back of the seating area and a grape vine to climb the outside, side, of the seating area.

The second plot has the advantage of a row of mature raspberry canes. We have a row of raspberry canes on the first plot but we only planted them last year so they are not producing yet. We have already, all of us, picked loads from the second plot and have some in the freezer. They have slowed down now but I still managed to pick a small ice cream container full a few days ago.

T also wants to win the giant pumpkin competition. Last year his pumpkin plant was huge but had no pumpkins on it and he was disappointed. This year he has been feeding his pumpkin plant with seaweed twice a week and he has huge pumpkins.

Wildflower bed
Both plots
first plot
Second plot

As for the produce I am not needing to buy any salad items or veg. We have lettuce, cucumber, gherkins and tomatoes for salads. We have onions, garlic and chillies for cooking and potatoes.

For veg we have courgettes and runner beans by the bucket full. We have had some broad beans although they didn’t do so well as the black fly effected them. We have some broccoli but that isn’t as fast growing. We have kale and chard which comes back as fast as we pick it. I have been giving the chooks chard every day for their daily greens.

Still to come are sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, beetroot and by winter brussel sprouts and leeks. There is also rhubarb which unfortunately I don’t like and of course the raspberries still coming.

I don’t think we will be buying any veg for the rest of the year. We are also supplying all our neighbours. It is lovely, but picking and watering, in this heat is the difficult part. We could do with some respite from the weather at the moment.

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An update

I thought that I should do an update on Marmite in case anyone hasn’t been following the comments.

It was four days ago that Marmite laid the weird shaped egg after looking miserable all morning. She then bounced back but the next day looked really poorly again. She then did a poop on the patio which had a rolled up bit of egg shell in it.

I always worry that she may not expel all of the egg or egg shell. Marmite bounced back again and then looked really poorly again. She would perk up and eat something and seem better for a while and then look really miserable again.

We wondered if this was going to be the time that we would lose her. She was standing in the run with her eyes closed.

Marmite looking really poorly

The next morning Marmite laid a soft shelled egg in the chicken shed first thing in the morning. Before the weird egg she hadn’t laid for a week so it seems that she had been looking so poorly because she had another soft shelled egg coming a few days after the weird egg.

After the soft shelled egg Marmite bounced back to normal again.

Marmite looking much better again
Marmite in the nest box

As so often happens after an early morning soft shelled egg Marmite didn’t seem to realise that she had laid it and she went to sit in the nest box.

This is usual for Marmite and so I feel much happier about her at the moment. It looks like she has bounced back again, thank goodness.

The other thing that I have realised with these girls is how much they have become used to being handled.

In the post before the one about Marmite’s weird egg I put on a photo of Smoke puffing herself up when she is broody and another girl comes near to her. In the comments my mum asked if I could pick her up.

The answer is that I do pick her up all the time when she is broody and she accepts me picking her up. It is only the other girls that she takes out her aggression on.

I have been trying to break both Smoke and Ebony out of their broody spell over the last few days. I realised that I also pick Ebony up all the time to move her out of the nest box or to lift her off of another girl’s egg. Ebony is a thug with the other girls and can be quite brutal with them but she also accepts me picking her up.

I remembered back to when I first had Ebony and Flame and they would peck me if I tried to lift them when they were broody and I had to wear gardening gloves to lift them.

Now I pick all the girls up and they never peck me, thank goodness. I realised that it is just that they have simply got used to me handling them. I think they probably accept me as top girl and they make no attempt to peck me even when I am moving them from the place where they want to be.

The good news is that after four days Smoke came out of being broody and after five days Ebony has come through being broody too. I had been closing the nest boxes and blocking the chicken shed and putting buckets on top of the nest boxes to stop Ebony sitting there.

When another girl wanted to lay I opened one nest box and closed it after they had laid. Finally Ebony has given up. Hurrah!

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