Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Four and twenty black birds

Well, not actually all black birds and not baked in a pie. Our next batch of eggs to go into the incubator have arrived today and are now resting after their journey by post and in the morning they will be set into the new incubator that my daughter bought for us. So on 29th June we can expect our next brood of chicks to hatch.
We've bought a dozen eggs of white Jersey Giants (the same breed as Little White) and a dozen Australorp eggs. Australorps were bred in Australia as dual purpose birds, equally good for their eggs as the meat. They are friendly, hardy birds and ours should have rich black feathers. So we should be able to easily identify which chicks are which breed as they will be very different colours when they hatch. You can read a bit more about Australorp chickens here.

Big Red and Little White are now settled in their henhouse out in the chicken field. The older girls showed some curiosity when they first went into their nursery house and run, but since then seem to have ignored them most of the time. The cockerel occasionally throws a mini tantrum at them, but apart from that, they all seem to be rubbing along together. I may be saying something different in three weeks time when they are put into the big henhouse to sleep with the older ones and join the flock properly!

I've agreed with my friend Helen (Valerie Chicken) that she will have the cockerel in two or three weeks, when the little ones are ready to join the flock. She is looking for a cockerel to join the girls in her flock. The eggs in our incubator will be about to hatch and once the chicks are out of it, I can give it a clean and refill it with fertile eggs from our girls and the cockerel will have done his job here. The eggs will, of course, be hybrid chicks and will be purely meat birds that hopefully will supply us with food for the autumn. I am really not looking forward to the process of dispatching the chickens, but I am looking forward to a supply of organic meat that I know has had a good life.

The last three days have continued to be recovery days, I seem to be taking a long time to get over the two evenings out that we had the week before last. I have slept for periods each day and even when I've been out in the garden, I have taken it a bit more gently than usual (which is pretty gentle by most peoples' standards). Mr J remembered that last time I was this wobbly I was deficient in a vitamin or mineral, but neither of us can remember which one. To be on the safe side, yesterday he purchased some more of a variety of supplements that I have been taking for the last nine months and had either run out of them or were getting to the end of the bottles. Hopefully I will pick up again very soon, there is far too much going on in the garden to feel under the weather and I want to enjoy as much of it as I can from outside rather than looking through the windows.
Having said all of that, I'm not sitting around doing nothing all of the time. Over the last couple of days, I have planted some courgettes and herbs, together with some companion flowers. I am very keen to have plenty of flowering plants in the garden particularly because our neighbours took delivery of a swarm of bees about a fortnight ago and I want to support their foraging. The previous owners of our house planted some very lovely plants in the garden and I particularly like this corner by the front gate, the shades of purple tone really well together.
I've also turned the compost heap, from the left hand compost bay to the one on the right of it. I don't think I will have 3 week compost this time, but maybe that is because I haven't watered it as much. I have also added to the heap as I turned it, so there are now more grass clippings and more wood shavings in the heap than there were before. I've watered it once more and covered it and will leave it for a couple more weeks or so before inspecting it again.
We've started our first batch of homemade wine. I used to make a lot of wine, but haven't done so for well over a decade and I've never made elderflower wine, so that seemed a good place to start. I made up a sugar solution and added the other ingredients as per the recipe I've found.
I felt almost giddy with the scent of the flowers, it's a heady fragrance when you spend an hour or so pulling the little flowers off the stalks. The five gallon container is now sitting in the airing cupboard keeping warm to start the yeasts doing their magic. I'm a little concerned that it doesn't seem to be doing anything yet and tomorrow I will decide whether to add more (different) yeast or not. If all goes according to plan, we should have some nice elderflower wine ready for Christmas.
I had wanted to get the roofing felt onto the shed roof panels today, but that may have to wait until tomorrow. We are trying to get the roof onto the shed before the weather breaks and it's due to rain in light showers from late Wednesday night onwards, so no matter what, we will need to have that done by then or risk the inside of the shed getting very wet.
Perhaps I will feel up to stapling on roofing felt after a cuppa!

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