Saturday, February 27, 2016

All was not lost.

Earlier this month when we lost all our Marans to a mink attack we were lucky enough to have a dozen of their eggs so we set them in the incubator. Although it's quite early in the season to start setting eggs we figured we had nothing to lose,
I'm glad we took the chance as ten of the eggs were fertile and last weekend we had eight chicks hatch,
Little bundles of fluff, so cute.
so all was not lost and we will have Maran birds running around again. I just hope the mink does not return. The three attacks that we have had since moving here have always been when it's been raining very heavily and the river bursts it's bank, we suspect that this is where the mink have come from, when the river is at it's normal level we don't seem to get the problem.
It might still be February but spring seems to be here,
daffodils are out everywhere, at least a month ahead,
even the rhubarb has made a very early appearance and we had our first picking earlier this week.
One surprise today was finding a Calendula out in bloom, at least three months ahead of itself.
The garden has lots of colour for so early in the year,
it's still cold at night  but we are getting some nice sunny days with real warmth in it.
We seem to be up to date with planting all the early seeds, cauliflower, parsnip, spinach, Brussel sprouts, leaks and onion seed have all been sown into trays or modules. Next month, subject to weather conditions the first early potatoes will be sown, the first of the peas and French beans, I will also get the Sweetpeas and tomatoes sown. It will soon be summer.
Spring time, painted in water colours.
I have kept myself amused during the wet winter with an assortment of crafts,
                                           mainly glass painting,
Working out what works and what doesn't.
I have also tried doing Faberge type eggs from some goose eggs kindly donated to me by a friend, not the easiest thing to do but I'm sure by the time our goose starts laying I will have a better idea of how to do them.
Just to remind us what the sun looks like we took a photo of the beautiful sunset this evening,
everything was bathed in a glow of gold.
Susie looking wistfully out the window.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Planting season is here again.

It might still feel like winter outside but the planting season is with us again.
Garlic looking good.
The garlic and onions were planted before Christmas in the tunnel and are doing well,
Broad beans in the tunnel.
the broad bean seeds were planted in modules last month, they have grown well and have now been planted, some in the tunnel and the rest outside, we have found that overwintering broad beans gives us no advantage, they don't crop any better or earlier than seeds planted in January. This weekend spinach and leek seeds will be sown in modules, parsnips will be sown directly into the ground the end of next week. We are following the advice given in the 'Planting by the Moon' book, it will be interesting to see if it does make much difference. We have also planted a dozen 'Charlotte' seed potatoes in one of the beds in the tunnel, hopefully they will give us an early crop of new potatoes.
There are all sorts of things coming into flower in the garden, Tete- a-Tete,
  dwarf daffodils, plus the larger daffs, so very early this year,
todays surprise were the Anemone Blanda, I had quite forgotten that I had planted them,
and at last the snowdrops are out. The tulips are up three inches so it wont be long before they start flowering.
Early primroses.
There are even primroses out in the countryside banks.
The weather really has been so mild, I just wish it would stop raining.
We even had a bumble bee visiting earlier this week, sunning itself on one of the rare sunny days that we have.
Three of the seven rabbit kits.
The rabbit kits that were born just before Christmas have all grown well and today were removed from mum into their own quarters, we haven't sexed them yet, hopefully we will find time next week to do this.
It will soon be time to get our table birds ordered, possible the end of next month, depending on the weather, we will also be buying in day old ducklings rather than rearing our own, cost wise it makes very little difference.
I still need to tidy it up a bit.
I don't seem to have done much this winter, I knitted one jumper and have made a couple of baskets,
Freddy helping me on the second basket.
plus I made a couple of papier-mâché bowls, it was something I never did as a kid for some reason, it's quite fun and relaxing. I think I have actually gone into a semi hibernation state, waking up to grey skies is not exactly inspiring. Real spring will happen, I just wish it would hurry up.
View to the Arigna mountains.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Unwelcome visitor.

Once again we have had an unwelcome visit from a mink, this time however it  made a thorough job of it's killing spree and completely wiped out our main house which housed our lovely Copper Marans and our Cuckoo Marans, twelve birds in all which should have been my breeding stock for this year. Mink might be small, but they are deadly and strong. This house is a very solid wooden shed with a strong door, however with all the wet weather we have been having the door had very slightly warped leaving a half inch gap at the bottom, this was sufficient for the mink to get it's paws in and force it's way into the house. These birds were all pure bred, to replace them would cost a considerable amount of money, even assuming I could get good stock, so we have gone back to Hybrid birds,
six Copper Stars and six Speckled Marans, they are quite nice birds and far cheaper than the  pure breeds, plus they should lay all year round. As we have a few regular customers for our eggs it was rather a case of having to replace the birds  with something and it's the wrong time of year to obtain pure breeds.
The door has now been doubly secured, with a bolt top and bottom, and we are hopeful that Meg, our young Jack Russell has dispatched the mink as she went missing for over five hours after confronting the mink in a burrow, she couldn't quite get it but as there has been no further sign of it and no mink has taken the fish from the trap we are reasonably sure that this mink has gone, one way or another. Meg is not a dog that roams, the fact that she was gone so long indicates that she was after something. It is so hard to protect birds from mink or Pine Marten, they seem immune to electric fencing unlike foxes, which are simple to control by comparison. The amount of damage that mink have done to the countryside is incalculable, lakes where there should be Coots and Moorhens are devoid of them, they have devastated most of the ground nesting birds, thanks to the release into the wild by animal liberationists, and owners of mink farms, who released these predators when the bottom fell out of the market of the fur trade.
So far this winter we have had nine bad storms, maybe we have noticed them more as some clever person thought it would be a good idea to name them,
the last one was Henry so we decided to take a trip to the coast to see the waves.
They were spectacular, the waves were the biggest we have ever seen,
according to reports they were ten to twelve metres high,
I certainly would not have wanted to be on a ship, quite scary, but very beautiful.
The river at Easkey, Co Sligo
Some of the dwarf daffodils. 
 It is still mild, way above the normal temperatures for this time of year, the garden is totally out of sync,
daffodils are blooming yet snowdrops are still only in bud.
Buds are swelling on lots of the trees and bushes including the Ribes sanguineum, several shrubs have kept their leafs throughout the winter although not evergreen.
This was our first ever Hellebore, it came as a seedling from friends in Spain.
The Hellebores are looking quite spectacular,
I hadn't realised how many different varieties we have,
I love this double white.
I will have to look and see if any of them have self-seeded as according to several other blogs this is something they do quite frequently,
it would be nice to fill up empty spaces with yet more Hellebores without buying them.