Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mysterys of hatching

Today is the 27th May, our chicks are due to hatch tomorrow, the incubator is constant at 37.5 .
The first chicks, two Jersey Giants arrived on the evening of the 26th, just 18 days incubation.
At 8am this morning five more had hatched, 2 La Bresse, 2 Light Sussex and one more J.G. a further La Bresse has hatched with with a further seven pipped.
To me this is a mystery.
Chicks are incubated for 21 days, not counting the day you set the eggs. So why should some eggs hatch earlier than others? Admittedly I can't be too sure of the age of the La Bresse eggs, they were a gift in exchange for a dish washer that we inherited when we moved here,( I don't like the things and would never have used it,) but the other set eggs were from our own birds and would have been no older than two days. It rather looks as though the hatch will take place over three days.

No matter how many times I watch eggs hatch, it is still, to me , a miracle.

All the other birds that we have hatched are doing well, the birds destined for Sunday lunch have their diet supplemented by sprouted grains, including Organic soya beans, the birds love this and are putting on weight well, we expect to be eating the first one in a couple of weeks time, along with veg straight from the garden.

The potatoes have recovered well from being frosted, not once but twice and have had their first earthing up, the celery has had a bashing from the slugs, I never thought that slugs would attack it, we have made collars for them now out of cat tins, we try not to buy any plastic bottles although they do have their uses, and Simon refuses to let me go scavenging for them in rubbish bins, so the cat tins have to suffice. The spinach was doing very well but before we had time to harvest any the young rabbits had a break out and enjoyed some of it, then came the sun, the past week has been hotter than Spain and we have been without rain for some time, the effect on the spinach is not good and it has started to bolt. Everything else is fine, so far! although we are getting rather fed up with strawberries and mange tout peas.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Our young rabbits are growing well, and the time has come to separate the males from the females, some people find sexing easy, others, like us need a book in one hand and a rabbit in the other. However we think we have got it right. and have five males and seven females.
As with all young things there are always favourites, ones that will never end up in the freezer, and these get named, once named we know we will never eat them. This time it is a little black male, he survived against all odds, he was less than half the size of his siblings when born and has remained small, and cute! We are also keeping a female, called Goldie, we have never seen a rabbit of this colour before so she will also stay. Quite what we will do with these two has yet to be decided, maybe Blackie will find a good home as a pet, we will probably have to find mate for Goldie .
Rabbits, as we found out in Spain make the ideal small holding animal, they are easy to keep, apart from a couple of break outs when they ate our spinach, they can be fed on straight grains, plus they keep the grass both cut and fertilised. They are also very clean animals, using just one corner of the run as their toilet, so easy to gather up for the compost, as their manure is not particularly hot it can be used directly for some crops such as potatoes and maize. We feed all of our weeds to them, and any green waste from the kitchen with the exception of onions and potato peel, they repay us with ready made compost.
Definitely the ultimate re-cycling machines.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lesotho Video - How to Make a Keyhole Garden - African style

I had never heard of this concept in gardening until yesterday.
Apart from the initial work in building one I can only see advantages to this idea, no matter where you live. My thoughts immediately turned to dear friends we left behind in Galicia, two couples in particular who each year struggle against lack of water for their veg, plus the constant battle of mice, mole crickets and other pests who devour their lovingly tended crops. I just feel that this idea can be adapted to where ever you live. They look easy to maintain, no more aching backs, and the fact that the compost is part and parcel of the design means they are self feeding. They also look so nice. Hopefully we will get time to build one in the next few weeks, however we have veg that needs to be planted out now. The celery is bursting out of the pots, we have fifty of these to plant out, it's a veg we use a lot. The runner beans will need to be planted out in the next week so a trench for them is being prepared, more spinach needs to be planted, also Swiss chard. The French beans will be planted in the tunnel, that is when I have finished clearing a bed of last years perpetual spinach, I have always found they do better under cover no matter where we have lived. All of the fruit trees we planted are looking good, we will even have some blackcurrants from the cuttings we planted last year. The only thing that is struggling a bit are the raspberries which is a bit strange given the fact that there are wild ones around here. So for this year I will have to use frozen raspberries to make our favourite jam. Lidl have them on offer at two euro for half a kilo.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ducks and strawberries.

We were getting somewhat worried about our ducks as we had had no eggs from them, some silly person on a poultry site I've joined even sugested that we had drakes and not ducks, well if we don't know the difference between the sexes after keeping poultry for nearly thirty years, I guess we never will. Anyway I decided that we needed a couple more ducks so off we went to look at some. This guy had some of the most beautiful birds we have seen and we both fell for a lavender duck and the chocolate ones that he had. Instead of coming home with two ducks we bought three. The existing ducks and drakes were very interested in the new comers but were not too keen in allowing them to share their house. This lasted just a day, they quickly became one big flock and within a week we had our first duck egg, laid by one of our original girls, so not only are we swamped with hens eggs, we now have duck eggs as well.

The weather is still strange, last Thursday we had temperatures of 20c now we are back to just 10c. The nights are cold, and tonight it looks as though we might have a frost again, so far the fruit trees have not been affected, I hope I have not spoken too soon. Despite the chilly nights we have picked our first strawberries and I am hopeful of finding some mange tout peas ready for Sunday lunch.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Household Charge

Several months ago our government announced that they were introducing a household charge. This charge was not well received and when it came into force at the end of March less than half the population registered to pay it. Several reasons were given for this charge, the IMF was demanding it, many people said it would be going straight to Germany? Why they thought this we have not worked out. It was needed for local services and amenities.

We live in a fairly isolated area, quite close to a lovely lake , seldom used either for fishing or just for a nice walk. The nearest village is about half a mile from the lake. The powers that be decided that an amenity was needed, well there are already a couple of amenities near the lake, and both close to the village, however this new one has been placed, well, slap bang in the middle of nowhere! Half a mile from the nearest cottage, four miles from the village and eight miles from the nearest town. What you might ask is this new amenity? Well it consists of a paved concrete pad, with two tables and benches, nothing as sensible as a covered area so you can take cover if you are having a picnic and the heavens open, and three large lumps of metal exercise equipment. Each has a big warning sign that children are not allowed on this equipment, given that the average age of people around here is a hundred plus, we are just wondering A. where these children are coming from that are not allowed to use this equipment, and B. given the aged population around here, just who is going to use it. Of course, if the council had tried a little harder they could have found an even more remote place to put this, possible in the middle of a turf bog. We are so pleased to feel that the people who have paid their 100 euro household charge are getting their monies worth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

La Bresse Gaulois

For a long time we have tried to find a good bird to raise for the table, we are at the moment experimenting with our own breeds, crossing them to get a good table weight, but it will be a few weeks before we can come to any conclusion. We wanted something that is slow growing, not like the poor Cobbs who are ready for the table in about forty days, still chicks at that age. However, today, we were offered some hatching eggs from La Bresse Gaulois, I must confess I had never heard of this breed, however a quick search on Google told me everything I needed to know and it would seem that this breed is indeed the answer to a good table bird. Not only are they good to eat but they also lay a good number of eggs, they mature young, by that I mean they start laying eggs as early as sixteen weeks, and at sixteen weeks should have a carcass weight of 2.5 kg. They are white feathered and good in a free range system.
So come Saturday we will be setting these eggs, along with some Jersey Giant and Light Sussex eggs in the incubator. I hope we have a good hatch, as these La Bresse Gaulois are considered a rare breed.

We have had a few cold nights over the last couple of weeks and the frost has done some damage to the veg but they should all recover with luck, hopefully that will be the last of the frosts especially as the fruit trees are now in bloom.

The local woodlands are full of wild flowers, bluebells, primroses and garlic ramsons, plus of course the beautiful gold of the celandine, and the birds are busy nest building. The Swallows have also arrived, so summer is here.
Just twenty feet away from our favourite bluebell wood there is further forestry, this is unfortunately planted with Sitka spruce, the same land as the deciduous forest but in this part nothing grows, not a blade of grass not even a weed, even lichen struggles here, maybe there are some squirrels living there, although we could see no sign of them.