Poor Jemima! All summer she had the broody affliction which meant she didn’t want to leave her nest box in case her invisible (actually non-existent) eggs hatched. And when she finally snapped out of that, she started losing her feathers and became bedraggled and tatty looking. A poor specimen of her former, proud, snow-white plumage-covered glory.
And then Florence started copying off her, losing her thick, soft plumage and becoming scrawny in appearance.
(If you remember, Florence copied Jemima when she started brooding in the summer too. Is Jemima Florence’s role model?)
But panic not. It’s all part of the normal annual moulting process.
It’s in late summer/early autumn when birds begin to shed their feathers and grow new ones. Dottie went through her moult earlier this year, in September. Jemima and Florence are shedding their feathers in November. I don’t know when Mabel and Ava will go through the process for their first time.
For all hens, no eggs (or certainly very few) will be laid during this time – even from good layers such as hybrids.
The advice for hen keepers is to make sure they have plenty of food as they will need good nutrition and protein to enable them to grow new feathers for the cold months ahead.
I pour a little apple cider vinegar into their water as a pick-me-up tonic as I saw it suggested in a book.
Thankfully, nature has kindly given hens a helping hand during this process – the feathers are replaced slowly and this means chickens won’t lose too many feathers at once. A handy thing as it means they will still be able to fly out of danger (unless they’re a bantam, in which case it might be more a case of run out of danger!)
Facts of the Day
1. Young birds moult twice during their first six months of life.
2. A partial moult sometimes also occurs in the early part of the year, often just affecting the neck.
3. A young hen will take around 6 weeks to finish the process, it may be double that for older birds.
From Choosing & Raising Chickens, Jeremy Hobs on & Celia Lewis
Have you heard of Alexander Von Humboldt? I hadn’t until I read Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Homboldt, The Lost Hero of Science. Long subtitle aside, the biography opened my eyes to this scientist who really was born before his time.
How did I never hear of him despite all the places, plants and animals named after him – the Humboldt Glacier, Humboldt penguin, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…?
Or the fact that he influenced notable scientists and thinkers of the day including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir…?
Or that his many travels – including climbing Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador – experiments, learning, studying and immense memory brought so much information about the environment to us.
Or his view of nature, combining poetry and emotion with science, focused on the interconnectedness of the world.
His vision was called Naturgemalde, a ‘painting of nature’, which illustrates nature as being interconnected. When Humboldt learnt a new fact – and he discovered many during his lifetime – he connected it with other aspects of the natural world.
”Individual phenomena were only important ‘in their relation to the whole” for Humboldt.
Temperature, climate, humidity, atmosphere, animals, plants… instead of focusing on one topic, Humboldt would look at them all. Instead of studying one mountain and that’s it, Humboldt would link any information gained to other mountains across the world. His interdisciplinary scientific logic partnered with an artistic, poetical view of nature, resulting in engravings and artwork to accompany scientific findings.
Born in 1769 into a wealthy Prussian family, he lived at a fascinating time in history, of revolutions, war and turmoil. He met most of the most famous people of the time, such as Simon Bolivar and American presidents, and travelled extensively to Russia, South America, Europe and the US. He also managed to fit in writing several influential books.
Despite all this, what I found most impressive about this German scientist was his insight into the ecosystem and how humans were affecting it.
Wulf writes: ‘Humboldt was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate: the trees’ ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect…He also talked about the impact of trees on the climate through their release of oxygen’.
‘The effects of the human species’intervention were already ‘incalculable’ and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world so ‘brutally”.
As Wulf says later on, ‘Humboldt’s views sound alarmingly prophetic’.
A man ahead of his time indeed.
The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf
Family dogs Teddy and Molly are regular visitors to Cosy Cottage and always have a lot to talk about. They were recently interviewed by excellent K9 interviewer and blogger Doodlepip and here’s what they had to say for themselves! 🐶🐶 Doodlepip is also looking for other dog interviewees so if you know of any who would like to take part, here’s the link…
I hadn’t done any yoga for a few years. I sprained my ankle two weeks prior. My fitness levels had dropped alarmingly (and because of said ankle, I couldn’t get back to fitness again) and I was going on my own for an activity weekend with a group of people who I had never met before.
Hmmm, was this Yoga-hiking weekend a good idea?
Originally, I had the idea of walking up Ben Nevis in September this year, this was to mark a ‘special’ birthday, but I did Scafell Pike instead and, through one reason or another, Ben Nevis fell through. But I still wanted a fitness challenge to aim for and I came across Yoga Hikes.
I enjoy hiking and keep meaning to go back to yoga so this seemed like ideal motivation and the fact I would be staying at Victoria ‘opium poet’ Thomas De Quincey’s 1700s cottage, overlooking Rydal Water, a heavenly place if ever there was one… Yes, I decided, four months beforehand, I would go for it.
The cottage and its location was as old, cosy and idyllic as I hoped for. A main road separated the cottage from the Lake, but otherwise, it was perfectly located, half way between Ambleside and Grasmere.
My single bedroom was snug, the floor a little creaky but that’s what you would expect from a historic building.
Bedroom at Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage
Bedroom at Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage
When I first arrived, I had a moment of panic thinking I was the only one arriving on my own, especially as it sounded as if most people had come with others. Would I be seen as ‘Miss No-Mates’ (high school emotions coming to the fore!)?
But this feeling of insecurity was quickly allayed when the guests started arriving.
Four of us were on our own. The others had come with friends, family or a partner. In any case, it didn’t matter, no one was cliquey and the general friendliness meant there was always someone to chat to on walks.
Guests started arriving from 4pm onwards and we enjoyed tea and homemade cake in the sitting room. (This was a healthy balanced yoga break, lots of healthy activities but cake was definitely allowed, and so it should be!)
Yoga was on at 6pm in the evenings. We had five sessions altogether, two in the mornings at 7.30am (such a healthy start to the day made me feel very good!), one on the evening we arrived and two after our walks. There were breathing techniques and physical yoga, sometimes using props.
Despite my sprained ankle (which was nearly better at this point), the yoga techniques were flexible enough that there was a posture for all abilities. Sun salutation, cat, cow… We could go as far as we could. Yen, the yoga teacher, was sensitive to guests and didn’t push anyone beyond their limits.
All food was vegetarian/vegan. One evening there was a vegetarian buffet of peppers, falafel, pitta bread, hummus and so on. The second meal was stuffed mushroom. We were pleased that dessert was still on the menu on this yoga retreat! Breakfast, which was straight after yoga, was a choice of cereal or porridge, toast, egg, beans. On the Sunday we had the option of an enjoyable veggie burger with our breakfast.
Our walk on Saturday took us from the cottage to Easedale Tarn via Loughrigg Terrace and Grasmere. We hiked upwards beside a tumbling stream to our breathtaking spot for lunch (which was provided by Yoga Hikes), Easedale Tarn.
Our 10-mile (or so) ramble back took us to the gingerbread shop in Grasmere (established in the 1600s) where we had a 15-minute stop in case anyone wanted to buy the famous gingerbread. Also on the way was poet William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage.
Sunday’s walk took us to Loughrigg Tarn. Another moderate but hilly walk of about 10 miles. This time we went the other direction away from Grasmere. Our picnic break was again at a picturesque area, this time Loughrigg Tarn.
Our weekend was so packed with walks and yoga that there wasn’t much spare time, but for a couple of hours after Saturday’s walk, we were left to our own devices. I had a rest in my room, reading a book I had brought, but some people took advantage of the hot tub available.
There was a variety of abilities. One lady found the first walk to Easedale Tarn difficult and the next day went on a more gentle stroll to Ambleside with another guest who also opted out because of tiredness.
If anyone found the yoga or walks too difficult, there was the opt-out option and no one would judge you.
By the time came to say our goodbyes, I found that I had really enjoyed the weekend, despite my initial misgivings about going on my own. Now all I have to do is start practising yoga again!
A few weeks ago, I visited Nottingham, a city connected with Robin Hood and his adversary, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Alas, the castle was closed for renovations until 2020 so the exterior wall was all I saw of the castle. 2020 is the year to go to Nottingham!
But I did meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men, larking about outside the ancient dwelling.
If you do venture to Nottingham, in the East Midlands of England, there is a hostelry that is, in my view, an absolute must for lovers of history, geology, atmosphere, nooks and crannies, intrigue and potential ghosts. This ancient inn is called Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and is actually set in the walls of the castle.
Many venues boast of ‘being the oldest pub’ or ‘most haunted’, but once I crossed the threshold of Ye Olde Trip, I felt both claims may well have an element of truth (if ghosts actually exist in the first place of course!)
Unlike today’s open plan pubs, which focuses more on convenience than atmosphere, this inn is full of nooks and crannies, one small, cosy room leading to another. Artefacts, such as swords, old photos and information was displayed on the ancient walls.
The roof above our heads.
Halloween was around the corner, so there was a spooky theme, admittedly, but the ‘Haunted Snug’ needed no eerie skeleton or witch embellishments. The info plaque explained how it was always warm, even though there were no radiators or other heating. (Usually I associate ghosts with a cold atmosphere, but perhaps this spook was a kindly soul who liked catering for guests). There was also a portrait of an old-fashioned lady, whose eyes (according to the information board) followed you around. It’s a funny trick of the mind, but it really did seem to be the case.
After going to this room, I visited the courtyard toilet and, filled with ghostly ideas, being in this space by myself started to give me the creeps! Once I washed my hands, I quickly walked back into the busier bar area!
Upstairs, there was a spooky looking model of a ship which I assumed was a deliberate Halloween display. I only found out the actual, grisly story behind it later when researching the pub’s background.
Here are five fascinating facts about The Olde Trip …
* It was build into the rocks that Nottingham Castle is built on.
* There is a network of sandstone caves beneath the building, it is thought that these were originally used as a brewery for the castle and dates from the construction of the castle (1068AD). Cellar tours are available.
* The Cursed Galleon, as photographed earlier, is a small wooden model of a ship – covered in grime and dirt – and resides in a glass container. On the Greene King website, it is claimed that people who have cleaned it over the years have met with a mysterious death and now landlords refuse to let anyone clean it. True story or urban legend?
*It is believed the inn was established in 1189. Richard the Lionheart became King in that year, which was also the year the Pope called for a Third Crusade to the Holy Land. (There is, unfortunately, no documented evidence of the date of the inn). A ‘Trip’ in the Middle Ages was actually a place to rest. Legend says the Crusaders would have stopped off at the inn for a rest and refreshments before their journey to Jerusalem.
*The oldest parts of the building were constructed in the 1650s.
Here’s an obvious fact – the more exercise you do, the fitter you will feel. But if you stop exercising for a four-month period, that fitness level will drop. And the delight at finding Scafell Pike not quite as hard as first thought because there had been a swim/walk campaign in the three months beforehand… Well, that joy will be non-existent when walking up Skiddaw with no fitness plan in place prior to the walk. Scafell Pike was a hike. Skiddaw – and Little Man, a cruel juxtaposition if ever I saw one – was a trudge.
If you look at the photos of me doing it, I appear to be taking my clothes off (well, my coat and jumper, it got increasingly hot), then at the top putting them back on again! On, off, on, off…
We set off from Keswick, where we were staying for a weekend. A walk out from town, bypassing the Pencil Museum, took us on a upward path where we met quite a few walkers. Further up, it turned out there was a car park – so we could have got away without this gruelling hill to begin with!
But that was only a little stroll up a staircase in comparison of what was to come.
At the car park, there was obviously an event going on. From earlier signs in the town centre, I suspect it was a race for fell runners. A group of people I much admire but could never belong to! Oddly we didn’t encounter any up the hill, but I think their course went a different route. Enticingly, amid the army tents, a tea and cake stall greeted us. But we ignored this most pleasant venue and carried on to our date with Little Man.
Little Man. Ha! As apt a name as Liverpool’s famous and fabulous ‘Little Boy’ (he’s actually a puppet giant), Little Man is also a giant in these hills. My lack of fitness levels was becoming increasingly apparent to me, why had I stopped swimming once I reached my target? Why was Scafell Pike an easier climb when it was actually higher? Lesson to self: you really do feel the benefits of consistent exercise.
Funnily, although the weather wasn’t terrible at that time, there was hardly a walker to be seen. The greatest majority of people were mountain bikers, speeding up or down the scree.
Ah, yes, the scree. I’ll get back to that later.
The problem with Little Man is there is no consideration for those who wish to visit him. No rest spots of delightful flatness. Just a steep slope uphill. You’d think if you were visiting a Little Man he would offer you a nice rest for weary legs, but no.
There were a few times when I pondered ‘are we there yet?’, after reaching a cairn. And then another cairn… And another.
Eventually we reached the top of Little Man and the weather was getting tough. Mist and rain and wind. Should we carry on to Skiddaw or go back? We approached a couple who showed us where we were on the map and we trudged on.
Ever the troopers.
The wind and fog got worse. And there were so many fake cairns mimicking the summit – although later, I realised they actually were very helpful as they guided walkers back down the hill. When the top was finally reached, there was no splendid view to be seen, just a grey-white sky.
On the way down, I was nervous of the scree and scattered stones, of which there were many. Especially on the steeper than normal sections. We passed a group of mountain bikers who also made it to the top. How they managed, I’ve no idea. It took me all my time to edge down carefully.
We walked back via Carl Side, another hill, although I was past caring at that point. I wanted warmth and a cup of tea.
And everything went okay until Ouch!!!
(Ironically we weren’t that far from the bottom at this point).
Cue swear words (I don’t generally swear unless I am very p….off, which I was then!) as I fell and landed on my left ankle. To fall on a bottom is embarrassing but fairly painless but an ankle?
It was painful. Thankfully, I was able to stand, delicately picking myself back up. And walk. But not as easily as before.
Thankfully I had my walking poles with me to help and we headed back into Keswick where we enjoyed a much-needed caffeinated drink and a warm shower, and then our evening meal in a local pub.
It took nearly two weeks for my ankle to heal properly.
Afterwards I turned to my trusty guide Wainwright, expecting him to agree that Skiddaw is a long, tiring, difficult mountain to climb.
Instead he writes in his Northern Fells Pictorial Guide: ‘It has been derided as a route for grandmothers and babies, rather unfairly: the truth is that this is an ascent all members of the family can enjoy. It is not so much a climb as a mountain walk to a grand, airy summit’.
Was Wainwright talking about the same mountain?! ⛰️⛰️⛰️
(To be fair, if it wasn’t for the scree, lack of fitness, blustery weather and sprained ankle, I’d have liked Skiddaw and Little Man more). 🏔️🏔️🏔️
Facts of the Day
1. Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in the Lake District.
2. Skiddaw Little Man is one mile away from Skiddaw. It is classed as a ‘subsidiary summit of Skiddaw’.
3. Skiddaw is mentioned in the fourth book of John Keats’ poem Endymion.
On paper, Catbells should be a fairly straightforward and easy-ish walk. At 451m it is no Scafell Pike. And true, whereas on Skiddaw we barely saw a walker (surely a bad sign?!), on Catbells, there were many older ramblers, families, day-trippers and holidaymakers. But I didn’t get the impression of there being many hardened mountain walkers. And Wainwright himself says:”Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together”.
But I had a sprained ankle (yes, yes, I know I should have laid in bed and drank copious amounts of tea but it wasn’t too bad a sprain) and although it wasn’t broken, merely bruised, it did mean that this hill climb would be a little harder than it ought to be.
We thought there might be a long and tedious road walk before the climb itself, but a helpful lady at the tourist information centre told us there was a short walk along the road which led into a pleasant wander through woodland – or we could take a boat trip. That sounded rather appealing to me, feeling rather lazy, but we took the scenic wooded route anyway.
So walking through Keswick town centre, we passed a bridge over the River Greta (on the way back, we witnessed a heron and a guillemot at the river) and saw the pencil museum across the road. Then turned left, onto the Cumbria Way, past the village of Portinscale towards the Lingholm Estate. We greeted alpacas chewing sweet grass in a field and carried on via the woodland, where we came across this unusual fungi on tree.
And here are a few views of our walk up Catbells… And the scenes from the hill itself, looking down to Derwentwater.
If you are looking for a hill climb to do with your family – whether children, teens, middle-aged or retired and fit parents, this is a brilliant walk. Lovely scenery and wonderful views, not much scrambling and not too steep or strenuous. It is still a hill, still a challenge, but if you’re moderately fit, you can do this. It makes a great ‘first’ hill climb or, if you’re a lover of peak bagging, your first of 214 Wainwright’s! Not one for lovers of solitude though as it’s a popular climb, probably for the reasons I’ve given.
I got confused at the top as it looked as if we hadn’t reach the summit. Where was the cairn for me to take a photo saying ‘I did it?!’
But there is no cairn and there wasn’t one in Wainwright’s day either. The ridge continues to Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Handsworth and Robinson which can provide a horseshoe walk if you’re in the mood and have the time.
But we didn’t so we climbed back down the same way, tracing back our steps through the woodland – where waterproofs were quickly donned during a fierce downpour – and headed into Keswick, ready for a warming cup of tea and a bite to eat at an American-style diner.
Facts of the Day
1. Catbells could be a corruption of Cat Bields (the shelter of the wild cat) – but this isn’t certain.
2. Catbells overlooks Derwentwater, and its nearest town is Keswick (you can walk from Keswick to it).
3. There is a memorial stone to Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948). He founded the Co-operative Holidays Association and the Holiday Fellowship and was a pioneer for outdoor holidays for working people.
So it took two weeks for Mabel and Ava to meet and greet Florence, Jemima and Dottie through the fencing, first of their coop, then of the small run.
The first time Florence set eyes on the two new girls peering curiously out of the wire mesh, she launched herself aggressively onto their coop, flapping her wings.
Not what I expected from the once docile, sweet Flo.
Jemima did the same.
Not what I expected from the lazy, often broody Jemima.
And Dottie? Who was bossy and used to peck Florence when she was a youngster?
She ignored them.
To be fair, most of the time everyone ignored each other. There were curious glances but otherwise both groups of chickens got used to the other gang being in the vicinity. As long as they were kept apart from fencing, that is.
Dottie and Florence meet Mabel and Ava
Jemima meets the new girls, Mabel and Ava
After a week of ‘quarantine’, where Mabel and Ava got used to their new surroundings, they were allowed out in the small run. The older hens roamed free in the outer garden. I worried that the youngsters would try and sneak through the flimsy netting and (typical of my worst fears) get pecked and eaten by a three-strong gang of tough pekin bantams.
Well, maybe just the pecking although I have heard of cannibalism in chickens…
It went smoothly but, because of my concerns, I continued to keep close watch while they were out.
They were often in full sight of the other chickens.
Then it was deemed time for them to wander the full length of the Hen Garden. I closed the other chickens in, and Dad and I cleared the garden of anything that could possibly be a danger. We also closed off any potential small areas of escape. I worried they would fly away, squeeze under a tiny hole or eat something they shouldn’t.
None of these things happened. They loved their new-found freedom.
Then it was Meet and Greet Day. One by one, in the comfort of my living room, Ava and Mabel met Jemima, Florence and Dottie. All went well except Florence pecked Ava (where was the nice Flo?) and oddly, Mabel pecked Dottie.
Originally, they were all going to be introduced that night as I heard bedtime was the best time to introduce chickens. But after the two pecking incidents, I, well, ‘chickened out’ (!) Instead, every day for the next fortnight, all the chickens went out in their designated Hen Garden but slept in their respective coops at night.
At first, there was chasing by Jemima (well, at least it woke her from broodiness) and Florence. No harm done but it did make Mabel and Ava wary of the mean girls.
There also seemed to be segregation, with one group at the top and the other at the bottom of their garden. And vice versa.
But gradually, over the fortnight, Mabel and Ava creeped over towards the group, little by little, step by step. Still a little chasing went on, usually by Jemima, and I caught Dottie peck Mabel (was this revenge?) but generally, they slowly, surely, accepted the two youngsters.
When Mabel and Ava wandered over to the older hens’ coop and pottered around, eating grain, there was an air of acceptance.
I was nervous when the big moving in day arrived. At 5pm, when it was twilight, not dark for us humans but bedtime for chickens, Dad and I took out Ava and Mabel from their perches and placed them on the perch in their new home.
A couple of times I sneaked towards the coop, hovering by the door, waiting in anticipation for any noises.
All quiet on the chicken front.
The next morning, they were all as one. A little bit of bickering went on about corn (well, if you can’t argue about corn, what can you argue about?) but otherwise…
I left them in their coop, to their own devices, while I went for a walk. When I got back, I found Florence had laid an egg (good girl, Flo!) and she had been followed into the bedroom by Jemima, Dottie, Mabel and Ava.
Over the last week, the once segregated groups have integrated into one, bigger group. It took patience, anti-pecking spray and nerves – and a few weeks – but it looks like Ava and Mabel have made themselves at home and made new friends at the same time.
Most importantly, they also learnt very quickly where they could beg for mealworms!
As regular readers will know, there are three feathered inhabitants of Cosy Cottage – Jemima, Florence and Dottie.
That is, until now.
When I first got the hens, I had been thinking of adopting between three and five but, out of caution, I ended up with three bantams. This was fine until Jemima and Florence both ended up being broody and Dottie was left out, looking as if she was Dottie-no-mates. Which she probably felt as well. At that point I started thinking, would it be a good idea to get another two?
Then Dottie became ill and I contemplated the horrid possibility of losing her. Then there would just be two and if anything happened to one of them, there would be a sole bantam wandering the garden, looking and feeling glum, no doubt.
There is a joke among chicken keepers called Chicken Maths where…