Sunday, 21 August 2016

How far do I go to get a cuppa?

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my morning routine as it has changed considerably during the last year. Today should be a fairly typical day, nothing special is planned, the torrential rain and howling gale have stopped and it promises to be not too bad a day (not great for August, but it is what it is).

I don't use an alarm clock, I don't need to, I have the boys outside informing me quite eloquently if I have slept too late for their liking! But regardless of them, I usually wake around five and stumble around finding my dressing gown and make my way downstairs. We have a door at the bottom of the stairs which I close carefully to try to minimise the noise that travels upstairs. Just because I don't sleep so well doesn't mean that Mr J should be woken at silly o'clock too. This morning I woke at 5.15 and lay in bed for a few minutes contemplating the weather, no I couldn't hear rain, good, no I couldn't hear the wind rattling the solar panels, marvelous, the sun wasn't streaming through the curtains, it was too early for that yet. I couldn't lie there any longer, I needed to get moving. 

I am very stiff when I sit or lie around for a while, so each morning my back and legs seem to take a lot longer to wake up than the rest of me. Hobbling downstairs is inelegant, but once I've been moving around for about ten minutes I am fine again. I visited the bathroom, took my tablets and put the kettle on.

Then I headed outside to sort out the animals. First stop, the piggeries to collect their food and then out to the chicken field. I opened the chicken shed and said good morning to four bleary-eyed chickens who are only just getting used to having a darker shed (I blocked out the second shed window just before the storm arrived so that if debris hit the window, it wouldn't break onto the chickens). Big Red had been singing his morning song since he'd heard me open the gate, he's getting loud, really loud and he has a very deep voice. I put out their food and then went to house and run of 'The Four Horsemen'. 

They are seven and a half weeks old and I am looking forward to putting them into the chicken shed later in the week. I put their food into their run, let them out of their house, opened up the run so that they have full access to the field, checked and refreshed their water. That was them sorted for a while.

Going into the next part of the chicken field means untying a fiddly gate arrangement or just climbing over the flexible netting, which is almost always the first choice. So this morning I climbed over the netting and was reminded that it had been raining heavily for the best part of twenty-four hours. There's nothing quite like a jolly cold splash of water between the thighs to help wake one up! I opened the hen house of the Cream Legbars and said good morning to each of them as they came rushing out. It's not so much that I say hello, but I check the birds to make sure that there are no signs of illness or discomfort. It seems to make sense to know the birds well enough to be able to spot problems before they become too big to treat. Anyway they all looked fine, so I refreshed their water and headed to the duck enclosure.

Luckily I had topped up the duck's water as they went to bed last night, so only had one bucket of water to lug around to replace the one that they drank from and washed in before going to bed. A quick chat to them, who are much less pleased to see me in the mornings than the chickens and I headed into the vegetable garden. I walked up and down the rows of brassicas doing my twice (or three times) daily ritual of picking off caterpillars and slugs. I also checked to see how much damage the high winds had done to vegetables and fruit. I straightened a few canes that were leaning at a jaunty angle and took up the mangetout and pea plants that are now over. They have both produced a good crop, but the peas were drying out and looking very sad and the mangetout were both crispy and soggy simultaneously (a clever trick). 

There were a few peas and mangetouts that had grown very fat in their pods so as I put the plants onto the compost heap, I took them out of their pods and threw them to the ducks, who suddenly and miraculously were now my best friends. Cupboard love is not a wonderful thing, but if that's all those ducks are offering in terms of spending time with me, I'll take it.

I noticed that the pumpkins are coming along well and the squashes which up to now have failed, are starting to look like they may just provide us with some small fruits. I found one patty pan that would be a suitable size to have with breakfast and then got side-tracked again and lifted a couple of carrots to see how those are doing for size.

Then I headed to the old stable to check on the chicks and ducklings. They have been confined to barracks for the last couple of days and weren't terribly impressed at not being allowed to go outside. I filled a bucket with about thirty litres of water and put a cat litter tray into the ducks pen, transferred the water into it and watched as the ducklings ran and jumped into the water in sheer delight. I could lose hours watching these little creatures, they display their pleasure so readily and dive under the water, scaring the other one as they bob back up, the both leap out of the tray and then run back into it again. This is repeated over and over again until they get tired and just sit quietly in the water. As I didn't want them to get too cold I removed the cat litter tray filled with water after about ten minutes and turned my attention to the chicks.

'The Dirty Dozen', like the ducklings, are now three and half weeks old and are almost ready to move to their outside accommodation. Once the Four Horsemen have moved into the shed with Jack, Diesel, Big Red and Little White, I can clean that hen house thoroughly and move the twelve chicks into it. Because the chicks still have some of their baby fluff, it's quite easy to tell them apart, although they are often just a bit of a blur as they race around their pen. As they get all their feathers it will become more difficult to tell them apart as eight of them will be plain black. I opened their pen and put in the cat basket, as they are now used to it, they came rushing over to it ready to go outside and inevitably as soon as I started to pick them up to put into the basket, they all decided to run around the pen and not be picked up. They are such contrary little creatures! So after a few moments of being bent over almost double try to scoop up small birds and transfer them into the basket (with one trying to fly out of it each and every time I opened the lid), I took them outside. I moved the run that they were going to go into to a fresh patch of grass and made it secure, then had the reverse proceedure of getting them into the basket. All wanting to come out at the same time, but none of them wanting to be picked up! 

Eleven went into the run easily and one made a bid for freedom. And here's the dilema, do I spend the minute that is needed to tie the end panel on their run to make the eleven safe or do I race around the garden trying to catch the one that's got away? I compromised and made a makeshift security gate on the run and then using my super-stealth powers, I sneaked up on the escapee and caught it at the first attempt. With all twelve safely in the run, I returned to the stable to get their water and food bowl to put in the pen with them.

I had started rumbling and I was getting rather hungry, but there was still the ducklings to get outside, so I moved their outdoor house and run to fresh grass, actually I carefully chose an area with less grass and more clover as the ducklings seem to love it. And them it was back to the stable with the cat basket to repeat the catch a small bird routine. The ducklings were delighted to be outside again and I returned to the stable to get their water, food and some straw to put at the end of their run for them to rest on. One more trip back to the stable to get a couple of old cotton rugs that we are using to drape over the runs to offer some wind protection to both the chicks and ducklings and that was them sorted out for a while.

On the way to the kitchen I opened the greenhouse door, which I had closed before the storm arrived on Friday. While I was there I 'just' watered the tomato plants, refilled the large water bin and checked for ripe tomatoes. Then I went back to the stable to pick up the squash and carrots that I'd collected earlier on and headed inside.

Two and a half hours and the best part of a mile since I first put the kettle on, I finally made that much wanted cuppa!

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