Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas blues.

This is one Christmas we will not forget, but not for any good reasons. On Christmas eve we had to have our lovely dog Shannon put to sleep, she had contracted Leishmania whilst we lived in Spain but thanks to the latest treatment that was available survived a further six years, and she had a good six years, but the day before Christmas Eve she suffered a heart attack, the next day she was clearly in pain so a lovely newly qualified vet came out to her and put her to sleep. She was always a good dog with no bad habits and will be missed for a long time.
 So Christmas day was a very subdued day for us and not helped by the fact that we also knew we only had a couple of days left before we would lose a very precious cat, Jason, a beautiful ginger boy, unlike Shannon who was twelve, Jason was only six, he had many health problems and had spent the week before Christmas in the veterinary hospital , we knew when he came home that he had just a short time left with us, the only thing that could have saved him would have been a kidney transplant, today he left us. He will always be a special boy to us, a cat that will never be forgotten.
Christmas day Sunset.

Yesterday we went to friends for a nice afternoon and a feast of Christmas cold meats, including turkey which we decided to give a miss on this year. Turkey is definitely back on the menu for next year. We also met our friends sister and brother -in -law and four delightful children, who were there for the Christmas period, it was lovely to be in company of children who were happy to play or read by themselves and not to be making constant demands for attention. These children come from a home where TV is strictly monitored and Mum cooks real food from scratch. No ready meals and no junk food, I am certain that it is because of the good diet and restricted TV that these children were such a delight , they clearly had a very good and close relationship to both their parents and Aunt and Uncle, a real family, in every sense of the word.
Thank you all for such a nice afternoon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seasons Greetings.

                                                    Seasons Greetings to every one.
Seasonal cake, marzipan, no icing.

 We awoke to bright sunshine and not a hint of frost, today has continued to be warm with a couple of showers and temperatures up to 54f - 12c not quite the weather you expect in Ireland at Christmas.
The last six weeks have been full of Christmas, it has been impossible to get away from it, the local radio station has appeared to have wall to wall Christmas records, normally this station has a good mix of music but they were determined to make sure no one missed a single record that has ever been made for Christmas. Many of these records should have been allowed to sink into oblivion. Today it is back to normal thank goodness.
Today we took time to recall childhood Christmases, of how simple they were. Decorations were always home made, paper chains, sprayed twigs, paper lanterns that we made ourselves, there was always a real tree, but one that had roots on it so it could be planted and have a chance of growing. Snow on the tree was made from teased out cotton wool, and on reflection, horrors , clip on candle holders with the small cake candles in them which were lit on Christmas day, what a combination for a fire hazard. Neither of us can recall a fire arising from this hazard but I'm sure there must have been. Decorations never went up before Christmas eve, and were always removed on twelfth night, the sixth of January, the 'Feast of the Kings', making the twelve days of Christmas.
Christmas presents were normally home made, a wooden toy, knitted toys or a set of new cloths for a favourite doll. Wrapping paper was always removed with care and folded up by the adults for use the next year, same with string, everyone would have had a string box where every piece was carefully stored.
Turkey was unheard of, chicken was a luxury preserved for Christmas and Easter, it would normally be a capon collected from the farm, vegetables were what was growing in the garden, Christmas cake and puddings were always home made. Every one stirring the pudding and making a wish on stir up Sunday. this was always the build up to Christmas.
You knew when it was almost Christmas as the Salvation Army would appear in the high streets playing Christmas carols, it was then the Christmas rush would start, no more than two weeks before the big event. Those times were magic, it was a time of sharing but not of excess.
I think I might have taken things a little too far this year as Christmas morning saw me hastily wrapping presents, I had also left decorating the cake until the 23rd, but everything that we are doing has been done, the veg are picked and waiting to be cooked, the pudding is steaming away and the bird is in the oven. The tree went up last night and will come down on the 6th.
Tomorrow we have been invited to friends and the coming weekend we have friends coming for a couple of days, so we have not skipped Christmas, just kept it as simple as possible.
Double yolker quail egg.

The quail are now laying well and we even had some to give to a friend and his wife, we also had a large one laid which we used to brush the mince pies with, it was a double yolker,   quite unusual for a quail egg.
Bright and fresh with the personal touch .
 I eventually finished decorating the hallway, all 42 feet of it, with hand done stencilling the full length both sides. it did take a long time but we are both pleased with the result.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Magpies Nil, Us four.

I had intended taking a photo of our offending Magpies but apparently they have left home!  No a sign of them today, and for two days running we have eggs again from the main house. They had clearly tried to remove the rubber eggs yesterday and had even managed to get one off it's string but it was left behind.  Today there is no sign of these birds, I have an image in my mind of several very annoyed magpies sitting in the forest behind us, nursing sore beaks, (the rubber eggs had been pecked,) I do hope so. We did find the mustard eggs that they had clearly had a go at but left, I hope their mouths are still burning. So we have a respite from the saga of the missing eggs, I wonder how long it will be before it starts again.

Just one day to go to the longest night and we can then look forward to spring. So far the weather has been pretty mild and I have noticed that the buds are now swelling on the willows, the behaviour of our cockerels has also changed and they are now having a go at each other through the various fences, clearly they think that the breeding season is just around the corner.
 Christmas decorations are still growing in the hedgerows, we will pick some holly and ivy on Sunday ready to make some effort on Christmas eve and I must make some more marzipan just to decorate the cake, we don't ice as neither of us like it, but we love home-made marzipan, our excuse for making a cake.

It's nice to know that supermarket bosses can take on board comments from customers, a few weeks ago one of our supper markets were selling Organic bacon joints which they were convinced were Irish,  now we read labels very carefully and knew that this bacon was in fact from pigs produced in Denmark and processed in Ireland, we pointed this out to one of the under managers, today we hoped that they might be in stock for Christmas so asked one of the men, oh, you mean the Danish Organic joints, so our comment did not fall on deaf ears, although they don't have any at the moment.

We did have very vague plans of maybe doing a couple of lambs for our own use, however a friend of ours has just done three and has also done his costings, each lamb cost him 134 euro to produce with slaughtering etc taken into account, this is without the cost of fencing, which is a long term pay back. We asked our butcher how much a whole lamb would cost us ,ready for the freezer, his answer between 130 and 140 euro so I don't think we will bother with that idea especially as we would have to completely sheep fence an acre field, so we will stick to poultry which give us a good return and savings on shop prices. But it would have been nice to have sheep again, they are quite fun things even though they can be suicidal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thieving magpies and the end of the world.

We have a magpie problem, they are stealing the eggs. This first started late  summer so Simon made proper pop holes for the hens in the larger houses,  they had just been using the main door, an open invitation for the magpies, this worked well for a few weeks then the magpie discovered the pop hole and the eggs started going again. Now we can't be sure if it is the same bird each time but watching it from the kitchen I suspect it is, it has a fixed routine and route. So how to either get rid of the birds or protect the eggs, getting rid of the birds I think would involve a thing called a Larson trap, but you first have to catch a bird, place it in the trap to get the others to follow it, then when you have caught your birds, drive them many miles away to release them, and let someone else have the problem of disappearing eggs.
 We discovered some very realistic rubber eggs, they look like the real thing and even weigh the same as a hens egg so we bought a couple, working on the theory that once the magpie had discovered it's mistake it would give up and leave our eggs alone. Well, we were wrong, and in fact the damn bird stole both of the rubber eggs, no sign of them anywhere. Plan B. Mustard eggs, this works with hens if they are eating their eggs, we know it works as we have done it, so does it work with magpies? No, it does not, once again both eggs disappeared completely and this was within ten minutes of the eggs being put into the nest boxes. Clearly the magpie was not too keen on the taste  as we saw it within minutes drinking some yoghurt we had put out for the dogs . So will this experience put it off, I rather doubt it .
The rubber egg.
 We have bought four more rubber eggs, this time they have been fixed with screws and strings to the nest boxes, Simon's theory being that the bird will become either frustrated at not being able to remove it or it will discover that rubber is not nice to eat. We will see.
The quail that we bought a few days back have now started to lay so I guess they have settled into their new home OK. They are very cheerful little birds and highly active, come January we will incubated our first lot of eggs from them before we need the incubator for hens eggs.
The first quail egg.
It appears from news reports that many people are anticipating the end of the world this Friday , according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, Nasa has reported many phone calls and emails from people who want to know if they should kill their animals to save them suffering, and hundreds of people in China have been arrested for spreading the Domesday rumour.
Things are changing, and things have to change but I'm sure not in the way that these people believe.
Many people have become aware that we can not continue consuming in the way we have become accustomed. There are more people who are trying to live a more simple life, produce some, if not all of their own food and be less reliant a consumer society. However it is not made easy for people to do this with so much state intervention. Many of the age old practices and remedies are now either banned or unobtainable, many blame the EU, and in some instances this is true, but member states seem to make up their own rules as they go along.
I recently tried to buy Feverfew tablets and was told that they were no longer available due to the EU ban on herbal medicines, this is not true, Ireland have not approved them. This week I tried to buy a well known herbal cough linctus  , once again I was told it was not available here as it had not been approved for use in Ireland, yet this linctus has been on the market for as long as I can remember and the active ingredient has been used for over three hundred years without harm, yet you can walk into any supermarket or chemist shop and buy such things as Lemsip and Benylin and Paracetamol which have over a doz possible side effects with no questions asked. I try to take responsibility for my health, I don't want to depend on Doctors, and I certainly don't want to depend on pharmaceutical companies who's main responsibility is to their shareholders. We try to shop local and we try to buy Irish, but more and more I find that I have to buy on line.
I'm sure it is the same in many counties, with stupid rules and regulations, and people not longer say Hey! This is not right, we are people not sheeple, we can take responsibility for the way we live. Change will come, but only when we stand up for what we believe in, not what we are told is good for us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chrismas Hype.

One thing we miss about Spain is the lack of Christmas Hype, when we first moved there nothing was apparent until a week before Christmas, no over the top and energy wasting lights and no big panic in the shops, this gradually changed unfortunately and by the time we left eight years later it was almost as bad there as in the UK or Ireland. Of course in Spain the main day is the 6th January, The festival of the Kings and most towns and villages would have a parade with the Three Kings riding through the towns throwing sweets for the children. I'm not too sure where this idea of the Three Kings originate from, as there is no mention of how many wise men there were only of the gifts they brought. This is the day that gifts are exchanged. Christmas day itself was low key, no roast turkey, turkey if the Spanish had it would normally come jointed and then cooked as a type of stew. Fish is another thing that many Spanish family's would have on the day.
Here Christmas starts in Oct, with TV adds telling you to spend, spend, spend . The adverts for food show tables laden and groaning under the weight of all the food that you 'must have' for Christmas Even in this time of recession the councils can find the money to have Christmas lights blazing away from mid Nov, and we have even seen houses with the Christmas lights on in Nov. I think it just takes away any magic that should come for the little ones.

 The last few days have been quite cold and wet so not much work is being done outside, the hens don't seem to mind it too much but they probably have a good old moan about it, us humans do so why should animals be any different?

Our older la Bresse cock now has his favourite girl, as there is only the two of them they are allowed full freedom to range, we had moved all the runs and could not incorporate another run for them, but he keeps a very watchful eye on her and there is normally a dog out on patrol, we would have preferred them to have been in a run but that will have to wait until the paddocks are rearranged again.
The Quail quad.

 We now have four Quail to add to our  collection of poultry, three hens and a cock who we intend to breed from. It rather feels as though we have come full circle, when we first started farming we had quail which we produced commercially and ducks that we also had a good market for,  we don't intend doing anything on a big scale, we aim to produce just for ourselves but we will probably have a surplus of quail eggs,  and fortunately one of our shops that we used to supply with organic eggs have said they would be interested  in trying them out.

Quite big.
Our carrots have done very well for us, even if they are a little on the big side, some of them are weighing in at just under 1lb in weight, but the average size is about half a lb just right for one meal.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and man.

Future Forests
Future Forest head quarters in Bantry, Cork.
At last our long awaited order of trees and bushes has arrived, we had hoped that they would come before the soil cooled down but the nursery waits for the leaves to fall,which this year  has been very late.
 We had prepared the new beds for the raspberries by covering the soil with cardboard and then six inches of compost, the idea had been to make a hole through the  cardboard and compost  and just pop the raspberry canes into the holes, good plan, or so we thought until the order arrived, the canes have big roots and no way were they just going to pop into a hole made by a crowbar, so plan B, dig out a trench through the cardboard and plant them, this would have been fine had it not been for the large rocks, by large I mean 2.5 ft long 1.5 ft wide and 5inches deep, there were also plenty of smaller rocks, but only building size, clearly at one time there had been a building there, exactly where the raspberries were to be planted. I do however have a plan for the large rock, providing we can find some way of moving it. Anyway, Simon succeeded in planting all of the canes, twenty five of them, some Autumn fruiting and some summer ones. Next is the new fruit trees, hopefully over the weekend, there are eight of those, apples, plum, pears, damsons and quince, plus a peach tree which has been planted into a very large container and will live in the sun-room.
Not quite labby Rock, but big enough for what I want it for.
The real Labby Rock, Co. Sligo.

We still manage to get the odd day out and always head for the coast, Tuesday was a beautiful warm sunny day so we headed to the Sligo coast where we saw another beautiful sunset.
Sunset over Sligo bay.

                                                            Full moon rising.
Handsome but unwelcome visitor, hooded crow, feeling the cold?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stir up Sunday.

Every year we go through the 'Shall we skip Christmas ' scrip, and each year there seems to be a good reason why we can't, this years excuse is that one of our past helpers will be visiting us for a couple of days at the end of the month.
 So we will be having Christmas, just not on the 25th.
Today, being 'Stir Up Sunday' saw a flurry of activity in the kitchen, this used to be my domain, however Simon loves making cakes and Christmas puddings so he has taken over, I let him get on with it and make my self scarce, today was no exception, I am redecorating the hall way, a lengthy job, it is a very long hallway.
 So the cake is in the range cooking, it takes four hours to cook, and the two Christmas puddings are made and waiting to have their first boiling of six hours.
This completes our preparation for Christmas, the ducks are  in the  freezer and the chickens, the veg is in the garden , the decorations are still growing in the hedgerows, holly and ivy, I am pleased to say it will be very lean pickings for the shops from us.
Looking for the green grass.
This is a nice titbit.
The weather is decidedly wintry , the last three mornings have greeted us with very heavy frosts, it almost looks as though snow has landed, the  hens were very confused, no green grass, but it still does not put them off from doing their normal things.
 Our La Bresse cock has taken to wandering down our drive way with HIS girl, she is a jersey Giant that we hatched the same time as him, they are inseparable, him finding nice things and calling her over, she has just started to lay, with her first egg weighing in at 52g, just 1g short of a medium egg.
The Jersey Giants first egg.
Jersey Giant pullet.
Uneasy truce.
The cats are far from impressed with the weather, three of them after having breakfast head straight back to bed for the day , two of the others lay on top of the range to take advantage of the previous days heat. These two hate each other, but are prepared to tolerate each other in search of heat.

An Artists palette

   With the cold weather we are getting the most wonderful sunsets, incredible colours that range from pink to orange, I love to see beautiful sunset.

And now for the pink.
Shower of golden light.
Farewell to another day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Green Tomato Chutney and Pate`

5lb of mixed tomatoes.
The green tomatoes have been picked,  not all of them but Simon braved the weather and came in with 5lbs of tomatoes, once I had sorted and  de-stalked them I found that we had 1 lb of ripe tomatoes, not bad for the 13th of November, and just over 4lbs of green ones.
These have now been turned into Green Tomato Chutney. Chutney is just about the easiest thing to make as a winter preserve, and is a lovely accompaniment to cold meats or cheese. The 4lbs of tomatoes resulted in seven jars of chutney. Chutney can be made from a variety of things, one of my favourites was plum and fig when we had our own fig trees.
                                              To make Green Tomato Chutney.

2kg tomatoes, washed, there is no need to peel them.
500g onion, finely chopped.
500g cooking apples, finely chopped.
500-750 g brown sugar, depending on how sweet you like your pickle.
3/4lt vinegar , I use malt vinegar but any vinegar can be used.
500g Sultanas.
1 sachet (13g) of pickling spice, some people put these in a bag and then remove them, I leave them in.
Salt according to taste and fresh milled black pepper.

Green Tomato Chutney
Wash the tomatoes and put them into a heavy bottomed preserving pan, add the chopped onions, cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook at the lowest temperature possible for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally , make sure they don't burn. Mash them a little with a potato masher and then add the chopped apples, cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to the boil and maintain the heat until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened, stirring all the time. Be careful the boiling jam doesn't splash up and burn you, IT HURTS!

When reduced, pour into hot sterilised jars, place a ring of grease proof paper under the lid and tighten up the jars fully.
This chutney will improve with age, so try to keep some jars back to eat at Christmas.

4lb +of green tomatoes 1lb of ripe ones.

When we slaughter our poultry we always keep the livers back. We both love chicken or duck liver pate`.

I used to go to great lengths making Pate`, following various recipes religiously, many of them called for a Bain Maire and the addition of spirits of some type. I like to experiment when I cook, I don't generally like recipe books, making it up as you go along is fun, and you can adjust your recipe as you go along.

The latest Pate` is very simple and delicious.
Two chicken or duck livers.
 One small onion.
 2 Rashers of streaky bacon,
 Fresh thyme and sage leaves.
Salt, pepper.
2ozs of butter.
Finely chop all the ingredients.
Fresh home-made bread and Pate`
 Melt the butter, add the chopped ingredients, and sweat, don't allow to brown. This takes about 6 minutes.
Remove the cooked ingredient into a food processor and blitz them , you can make this as fine or coarse as you like.
Return to the pan, gently cook for a further couple of minutes , then put the mixture into a ramekin dish, push the mixture down firmly. Allow to cool completely, then melt 1 oz of butter and pour over the top, this will form a seal and the Pate` will keep for two weeks in the fridge, ( if you don't eat it all before hand.)
Serve with toast or fresh bread, with a slice of lemon.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last of the summer veg.

It has been a good year for our tomatoes, far too many for us to eat, so a good many of them have been bottled, I had to try out one bottle just to make sure they were good, they are! I doubt we will have enough to last until next year, but we wont be far short. There are still a lot of green ones waiting to be picked, (note to self pick the remaining tomatoes) I will make chutney from them so they wont be wasted.

The carrots that we had been so disappointed in have now come into their own, initially we had thought them tasteless, but now they have had a few frosts on them they are sweet and succulent, they are called flyaway, and are supposed to be carrot root fly resistant, we can't really judge as we had them under crop cover,  just to make sure, they have produced a good crop for us, and large roots as well, one carrot goes a long way when it weighs in at 6ozs, as we have plenty I will be able to make our favourite cake, carrot cake!

The weather continues to be mixed, today was beautiful, we even got the washing dry. We took advantage of such a lovely day to go to a poultry sale in Mayo, we didn't buy anything as we now have all the stock we need for next years breeding, our latest acquisition being two very young La Bresse birds, one cock and one pullet, from a different line from the ones that we already have. The gene pool of these birds is very small in Ireland so we hope to strengthen it, the new cock will be for our existing pullets and the new pullet is for our existing cock. They really are lovely birds, blue legs, white feathers and a brilliant red comb, they are also very nice natured birds.

The new kids on the block, about eight weeks old.
Our original cock in full flight, 24 weeks old.
Of course a trip to Mayo for us means more abbeys and Dolmens , today we visited Moyne Abbey, which unfortunately you can't get too close to it as you have to cross a field which contains a bull! We also saw a bronze age Dolmen.
                           To end, a couple of photos of wonderful sunsets and Autumn colour.


Saturday, November 3, 2012


Winter is officially here. According to Pagan beliefs and the Celtic calendar the first of November marks the start of winter, a time when animals were moved down to winter grazing from the hill sides, a time to take stock of both animals and food supplies for the winter months. Keeping up the tradition, our own produced meats supplies are now in the freezer, and plans are being made for next years crops.
It has been an interesting year regarding production of poultry for the table, specifically the ducks. Ducks that we reared ourselves as opposed to those reared by mum were larger, with more fat on them. The ones that the duck reared had a far larger ranging area then our own brooded ones, but that run was also shared by six full grown ducks, we always make sure that there is plenty of feed, and there would always be some left when it came to supper time so I don't think it was a case of the youngsters not getting enough to eat but more a case of using up their energy following mum. Next year we will take over the brooding even if the mums do the hatching, and keep the ducklings in a more confined run.
With the start of winter the weather has also changed, it is now very chilly with several frosts, quite windy and rain, the hens don't like it one bit, but they all have nice warm dry houses and the pullets also have lighting which comes on for them at 4am, it would be a shame, now they have started laying to disrupt them and hens do need 13-14 hours of light to keep laying.
Fruit of the Sea Buckthorne.
Dunguaire Castle

We had a trip to the Galway coast  earlier this week to the very pretty fishing village of Kinvara, it has an interesting restored castle there, Dunguaire Castle, which dates back to 1520. There are also many traditional thatched cottages in the area.

Traditional West of Ireland Thatched Cottage
We also discovered Sea Buckthorn growing by the coast, something I had not seen before, we took cuttings which may or may not strike, depending on which web site you are looking at, we also collected some of the fruit which requires three months in the fridge before planting. Hopefully we will get some success and any plants we manage to grow will be planted in our wind break/ bird feeding hedgerow. The leaves look very much like willow, and is also deciduous and is very thorny.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


chickenplaque.jpg  I recently joined a GIY forum, (Grow It Yourself}, hoping to find many more like minded people, I was surprised, to find that still only 2% of the population grow their own veg.The site receives very few posts although it is well set. It not a case that people don't know about it, it has been well publicised on local radio and in the press. There seems to be no reason why more people don't grow there own here, after all Ireland is land rich, and has a very high unemployment rate so time is not the reason. I suspect it is the brain washing from TV commercials where even if a super market is running the ad. it is always for pre packaged food and veg.
People have come to believe that this is where food comes from and they have a wide choice. Is this really a fact , the wide choice?  Certainly there are many brands, but it is all the same things, rarely will you find an artisan produced food, and when it comes to meat you have two choices, Organic or meat that says nothing. You will seldom find anything labelled 'Free Range' apart from eggs or chicken and if you look at the regulations for 'Free Range' it is meaningless. Other silly labels, Farm Fresh, Country Fresh, Freedom Food ( this gives the very basic welfare standards allowed without being prosecuted for cruelty). The only way that you can buy meat products or eggs that are GMO free is by buying Organic, and again in the case of eggs or poultry, apart from the feed, once again the term is largely meaningless.
In California in a few days time they are having the chance to vote as to whether they want their food labelled GM  or not. Proposition 37, Sadly I think the yes vote will be defeated due to the vast amount of money that Monsanto and other's of their ilk have thrown at the advertising campaign for a no vote. Three reasons 'THEY' have put forward against labelling food is that it will cost more to produce the labels, the consumer will become confused ( really?) and it might scare people. OK I will give them the last one, it might, and rightly so.
 Americans seem to think that we in the EU have our food labelled, well we don't. Meat and eggs are mainly produced here using GMO ingredients and they are not labelled.
 We recently came across packets of pop corn in a well know German super market chain, on looking at the label carefully we found that the maize had come from either the US or Spain, both countrys are contaminated by GMOs  so it is highly doubtful that this Pop Corn is GM Free, but there is no label to tell the consumer this fact.
On the GIY site there is a young farmer wanting ideas of how to feed his pigs not using soya because of the GMO status , he has a market for his pork providing he can source non GM protein. Apart from going Organic, his choices are limited.
Apart from producing your own food there is little you can do to avoid GMs, herbicides and pesticides. Which is why we chose to do it, we have plenty to chose from veg wise plus the rabbits, chickens, ducks and eggs, and now we have mushrooms. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The tomatoes keep coming.

For us it has been a bumper year for the tomatoes, and they still keep coming. I have given up weighing them, but we will have plenty of bottled ones to last us through winter. I can't even claim that I had given them much TLC, if anything they got rather neglected, but I did resist planting every one of the side shoots that I removed, I replanted just three of them. This is such an easy way to increase the number of plants that you grow, but the danger is you will be taken over by tomato plants. I ended up with nine vines, all of which have and still are producing well.
I had expected to lose the Sweet Peas when the first frosts arrived, but I am still picking them and they are still full of perfume.

The Sarpo Mira potatoes produced well for us, some of the tubers are huge, this one weighed in  at 1lb 4oz.
We also have a very good crop of Brussel sprouts  this year. This is a crop that we normally have a problem with, and it has rather surprised us  at how well they have done. They prefer a heavy slightly clay soil, or so they say. Our soil is the complete opposite.

 Over the last couple of weeks we had a lack of eggs coming from the pullets house, more correctly we had no eggs coming from the pullets house. These are all young birds who have only been in lay for a couple of months, they are all fit and healthy, no sign of mites or lice, so where were the eggs? I was looking out of the window a couple of days ago and spotted a Magpie, she landed on the roof of the house, jumped down onto the door, peering into the house. It got me wondering, was this the culprit. Admittedly I didn't see it go in, nor have we found any empty eggs shells  but it was clear that it was well used to having a look inside. So I suggested to Simon that it might be a good idea to make a pop hole as the hens entrance, rather than them using the big door, it was only half an hours work to do this and today we have eggs again. I rather think this has proved who the thief was.

 He also made a pop hole in the original house, this had not been done before as the house is made of plastic sheeting, it was one we had brought over with us from Spain and in which we had stored all our furniture whilst waiting for the big move. We had always planned for it to double up as a hen house as soon as we arrived. We don't like bought eggs, even the so called Organic ones, knowing that the birds who produce these eggs are merely called Organic due to the feed. So once again we are flooded with eggs. time to make more Ice Cream I think.

The veg garden has now been put to bed. The raised beds have had a good mulch of compost and then covered with black plastic, with the exception of the bed reserved for the carrots and parsnips. The raised bed for the new strawberries has also been covered with the woven ground cover, this allows the rain to get through but keeps the weeds at bay. The new plants are due sometime in Nov. The area for next years potatoes has also been covered with black plastic, this is a new area of ground and by covering it this way will make it far easier to dig over come the spring.

This has been one of the most colourful Autumns we can remember. Vivid yellow and reds, rusts golden browns. These are Sycamores on the edge of our land. Hopefully next year we will also have lots of colour from the trees that we have planted.