Archive for January, 2011

Save Our Forests!

Lots of stuff in the news recently about government plans to sell off woodland currently managed by the Forestry Commission.  I suspect some of it is scare-mongering, given specific rights of way would be preserved even if land passed into the private sector.  Nonetheless, there is a principle at stake – for a relatively small saving, the government is proposing selling off what, in theory, should belong to us all. 

There are lots of campaigns starting up to oppose the scheme, but please take a look at the Woodland Trust site and read about what they are trying to do.  See for more details.


The new potato bed is finished at last! 

Can’t wait for next month when the first earlies can go in!


So, our hens are all normal Warrens – you know, the ones which just look like…well….chickens.  At the yard where we keep our ponies, there’s a much larger flock of hens, of varying types.  My hens always take a great interest in my gardening and talk to me lots as they bob about doing the weeding.  Similarly, yesterday the hens at the yard came to watch me shovelling the lovely rotted manure from last year’s muck heap into bags, and they chatted away.  The Warrens amongst them clucked in just the same way as ours – rather like anxious middle-aged black country women (“awww – cluck”), but the others clucked in a much softer way.  Presumably, just like any other birds, different types of hen have a different call…..I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but somehow it’s harder to imagine with hens. 

Does this mean different types of cow (as opposed to different cows!) moo in different “accents”?!  Or pigs or sheep? 

Maybe I should stop spending so much time with the hens….!


One of my new hens (well I assume it’s one of the new ones!) has laid the most incredible egg!  Here’s a photo of it, next to one of the usual sized ones – and a ruler, and a 20p piece just so you really get the idea!!

Good job I don’t make my own cakes – can you imagine what that would do to the recipies?!!


Got a new bike for Christmas.  Haven’t had a new bike since I was a teenager.  Feel a bit like a teenager again when I’m on it! 

Top present – not only will it (hopefully!) help me to get a bit fitter, but it’s good for my pocket (I almost daren’t look at the cost of petrol now) and for the planet too!  So far I’ve only ventured on little jaunts round the village, or to the shop or to town, but by the summer, I’m hoping to use it as a main form of transport for local journeys.

Hopefully by then all the muscles in my thighs won’t be protesting quite as loudly as they do now!


Two new hens joined our flock yesterday (apparently “flock” is only one of the collective nouns for hens – you could also say “brood” or, my personal favourite, “peep”!).  They’ve come from a free-range flock of 11,000 hens – a proper commercial set-up, obviously.  There, the hens provide 18 months worth of laying, after which point it is assumed that their output will have dropped off and they are sent for slaughter (for cat food or similar rather than for human consumption).  In our experience though, they continue laying quite happily for long afterwards, so we’ve saved two from the chop.

The two new arrivals seem a bit stunned – understandably.  After much thought (see earlier post “What Price Freedom”) we’ve come to the conclusion that the hens are allowed to roam freely in the whole garden when someone is around the house and garden to keep an eye on them, but they are only let out into the run if they are to be unsupervised. This morning, as I was doing a bit in the garden, and I know they like to help, I opened the run gate.  Our ebullient four home hens rushed out to see what I was up to, but the newbies couldn’t be tempted.  Still, I’m sure they’ll settle in soon enough and start adding to our egg production as we currently can’t keep up with demand!

The hens helping me with the weeding

Of course, having two new additions means hen housing is becoming an issue.  OK, that fabulous £3000 gypsy caravan is still out of the question, but it’s certainly time to think about a larger house and run for our expanding “peep”!

Dis the Discard!

I’m not a huge fish fan, but I absolutely hate waste, so I’m fully behind Hugh F-W’s latest campaign to stop fishermen in the North Sea being oblidged by EU law to throw dead fish back into the sea…  Go to to find out more and sign the petition.

Keep up the good work, Hugh!

On one of the self-sufficiency type programmes on telly the other day, I noticed they had a fab chicken house in the shape of a gypsy caravan.  Well, I knew it would be silly money, but I thought I’d google it just to look…and…well, suffice it to say, we won’t be getting one unless we have a lottery win. 

But on the same site (see link below), they were having a sale of other items, so I ordered a gorgeous Victorian style airer – which came on Friday and which we put up today.  The simplicity of the idea is just so great: hot air rises – stick the washing up high to maximise its drying power.  No need for the evil energy guzzling tumble dryer! 

And it looks lovely!  Useful and beautiful – William Morris would approve!

The recent bad weather seems to have exacerbated the annual rubbish-collection-whinging which seems to have become a traditional part of the festive aftermath!  People don’t like to see their rubbish mounting up – it’s unsightly and smelly.  It attracts vermin.  And it’s an unpleasant reminder that we civilised human beings still create a hell of a lot of waste.  But perhaps we should take it as a reminder of just how useful it is that someone else sorts out our rubbish for us.  Imagine if (shock horror) we had to find a way of disposing of it ourselves!

Maybe if we did have to deal with our own waste, we’d make less of it.  Certainly less would end up in a big hole in the ground somewhere far, far away. 

I know of a few businesses who’ve pledged zero to landfill in the near future, but I’m not sure if it’s really possible – nor if it’s possible in the home.  We (like most other homes I imagine) try to do our bit.  Our chickens will eat most waste food, and uncooked vegetable matter can go on our compost heap. Unwanted clothing and household goods can go to charity shops.  The council will collect paper, cardboard, cans/tins and glass. It also collects some plastic – mainly empty milk cartons and drinks bottles and such like.  We chuck in other plastic packaging but we’re not always really sure if we’re meant to, which leaves us wondering what to do with it.  I’ve consulted a few websites, and the general consensus appears to be that burning plastic is worse than chucking it in landfill. 

So presumably, if zero-to-landfill is our goal, our focus needs to be on bringing less plastic into the home in the first place – tricky when so much of what we buy these days comes in layers of protective packaging.  Or alternatively, finding other uses for the plastic we want to get rid of.  I’ve started cutting the tops and bottoms off old plastic bottles to collecting the middle sections to use as protection for young plants in the spring and summer.  But the best thing I’ve seen so far is a whole greenhouse made of plastic bottles (see link below) – the only problem being, you need about 1500 bottles….  It’ll take me years to get that many!!  😉

Mmmm….Fat Balls!

So, the other night on the telly I saw someone making their own fat balls (for the birds!) and thought I’d do the same, using up two huge bags of red currants which have been taking up a whole drawer in the freezer since I picked them in the summer.

It looked like a cute sort of thing to do – but I’d not taken into account the rather unpleasant smell of lard coupled with the fact of it being New Years Day and the whole having been out celebrating last night thang….  Well, suffice it to say, the process rather turned my stomach.  Plus, given all the juice from the red currants, the kitchen does look like a homicidal maniac has been let loose in it!  But still, I now have two trays of – rather festive – fat balls for the birds.  All I can say is they’d better blooming appreciate my efforts! 😉