Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

Eggs-citing times!

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So, what’s the difference between a chicken and any other pet? Answer, they pay you back for their breakfast and lodgings! To be honest, if you’re looking for eggs, pekin bantams are not the way to go. Bantam eggs are smaller for a start (see pictures above and below, in comparison to ordinary eggs). Sure, they are tasty, scrumptious even, but these dainty little nibbles are roughly half the size of a normal egg.

Then there is the frequency, or rather the infrequency. When I looked after my colleagues’ full-size hens, the four girls supplied three eggs every day, without fail. (One was slacking, but we’ll forgive her!) 😀

At most my miniature chickens provide one – sometimes two – a day, between the three of them. I suspect Florence is doing most of the hard work but it could just be a ruse. Maybe she takes the credit for someone else when she enters and exits the nest box at the inopportune moment and sings the ‘I’ve Laid an Egg, How Great Am I’ song (surely a number one hit in the future, especially when chortled proudly by Florence).

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When the girls first arrived, a white egg appeared on the first day. It did look like one Jemima might lay…. except it was Dottie singing the Egg Song. A week later, a second white egg was laid.

(Different breeds lay different colours. The Araucana from Chile lays a blue egg!)

And then nothing. Weeks passed. I emailed the Poultry farm, they told me they were bantams (roughly 150 eggs a year, maximum), it was nearly winter (they don’t lay so much then), and they were still only pullets, too young to lay regularly.

At least they were healthy. That was the main thing.

They were moulting as well. Losing their feathers means they don’t lay as chickens require the energy otherwise lost when laying an egg.

And then when I had forgotten about the eggs and saw the chickens merely as pets, a surprise. A petite light brown egg nestled amidst straw in the nest box. And Florence proclaiming her good news. And she was on a roll.

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Picture: I like this photo but it’s actually from a Picture Library, not from any of my hens. As indeed is the fried egg photo at the end of the article! 😀

And later, someone else joined in with another tan-coloured egg. At this time, Dottie, who had been moulting and looking a little miserable, was back to her feisty, look-at-me, bossy self.

Now in January, the number of eggs have decreased again but it’s winter, it’s cold, the workers are allowed to strike!

Light-sensitive cells in the hen’s brain control the egg laying process. When there is more light – for example, in the summer months – these cells send a message to the ovary and production of eggs starts. Generally, a hen needs 14 to 16 hours of light regularly to lay.

So most breeds will stop laying over winter unless there is artificial lighting (which I don’t have and have no interest in).

Any changes in a hen’s life will also affect the egg laying system as they much prefer routine in their lives.

On two occasions I found this peculiar rubbery object…

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I thought it was a smashed egg at first but there was no yolk running out, no fragments of broken shell. Just soft and a horrible rubbery texture.

I researched it and read that it was a soft-shelled egg. It has a membrane but no shell. They may be laid by young hens who have just started laying or it may be the last egg at the end of the laying period.

So maybe it’s because they are still young and new to the art of egg-laying.

If these strange eggs are laid on a regular basis or by a more mature hen, it’s suggested that it could be because of calcium deficiency. Just to be on the safe side, I scooped more grit onto their grit tray (below). Fingers crossed, I’ve only had the two and, touch wood, this will remain a rare occurrence.

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And most importantly, how do bantam eggs taste?

Lovely, the yolk seems bigger and brighter than a normal egg and the taste is richer. Give your hens the best life they can possibly have with you, and they’ll reward you (when they do lay!) with delightful eggs. Obviously, to keep hens in battery conditions is wrong on a moral level but the consumer who buys such eggs is really missing out on the real flavours of a free range egg.

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Many thanks to Chicken Breeds and Care by Frances Basso and The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens by Esther Verhof and And Rijs for extra information 

Posted in Fitness challenges

2018 Spring Challenges

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If thoughts were actions, I would most certainly be fit and healthy judging by the amount of time I spend dreaming about becoming fit and healthy. Alas, musing and imagining is not quite the same as actually going to the gym, taking part in the dreaded metafit (never again!) or even attempting to follow the Zumba instructor’s dance moves.

But planning, writing lists entitled ‘how to get trim and toned’ and day dreaming is so much more fun!

But sometimes in one’s life, a thought-provoking event or a particular milestone birthday arises, and then one thinks, ‘I never expected to get to this age.’ (Not quite sure what I was expecting. To get younger like Benjamin Button maybe?!) It’s a weird notion. At times I feel as if my 20-something era was just a couple of years ago and it is a shock to think, no, it was much much longer than that.

So maybe this is my ‘midlife crisis’ or maybe it is a natural response to the famous January Blues, whereby after the overindulgence of Christmas food and drink, many of us become wellbeing devotees.

Or maybe, this year, I am finally determined to do it. To lose those ‘spare tyres’ around my stomach which make my trousers increasingly and unflatteringly tight. To climb up steep hills without feeling as if I must have a rest and a mouthful of water. Every five minutes. To be able to lift things, without thinking, this is a task for the world’s strongest man (or woman), not I. Even when the item in question isn’t really all that heavy to begin with.

Yes, 2018 is it. The year.

Whatever the reason, I have set myself three spring challenges.

One is to climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. 🏔️

One is to swim the equivalent of 8 miles within four months – February to May – and hopefully raise money for the Donkey Sanctuary and Butterfly Conservation. 🏊

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The Donkey Sanctuary cares for donkeys here in the UK and abroad. It also has donkey assisted therapy for children with special needs.

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https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/our-mission

And Butterfly Conservation is an environmental charity which seeks to protect butterflies and moths and their habitats. Although butterflies tend to be loved and admired, much of their habitat is disappearing and some varieties are becoming increasingly rare.

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https://butterfly-conservation.org/

My third challenge is to walk 10,000 steps a day between March 12 to March 25 in aid of The Big Issue Foundation.

It’s frightening to think that it wouldn’t take much for many of us to go on that slippery slope towards homelessness. Early poverty, an unfortunate family upbringing, an unexpected tragedy, a broken relationship, unemployment…

What I like about The Big Issue Foundation is that it enables people to help themselves, giving them self respect and a hand up out of the vicious circle of poverty and homelessnes.🏃

https://www.bigissue.org.uk/about-us

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Hopefully, I’ll get fit and at the same time, these three charities which help people, animals and the wider environment will benefit. Win, win.

If you’d like to sponsor  for either of those events, I would be very grateful but there is no pressure.

The addresses are

The Donkey Sanctuary

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clare-kelly5

Butterfly Conservation

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clare-kelly6

The Big Issue Foundation

https://the-big-step-challenge-2018.everydayhero.com/uk/clare

What challenges have you set yourself, either in the past and/or for this year? Why not leave a comment and share your inspiring challenges ☺️

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

Trek Diary Part 2: January 2018

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Harris Museum, Preston

A city walk: Six miles

December was a lazy month so it was back to square one in January (actually make that square minus ten as I must have put on weight and become even more unfit and unhealthy during the Christmas season). To start the year off, a friend and I embarked upon a Suburb to City stroll, setting off three miles (approximately) from Preston city centre.

To those who don’t know Preston, it is a former industrial town in the North West of England. It’s not far from Blackpool, Manchester and Liverpool, and the beautiful Lake District is just over an hour’s drive away.

Originally called Priest Town (Priest’s Tun) in Anglo Saxon times, Preston has had a long and fascinating history. I haven’t time to mention it all here except the two key episodes on Preston’s timeline are the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution/cotton industry. Check out the Harris Museum for a proper glimpse into Preston’s past!

We walked along a busy road on the way into the city centre. The worst thing about this urban ramble is the traffic. On several occasions, one of us would say something and the other person would say, what? And that’s because Garstang Road is one of the main routes and the sound of cars is tremendous. And yet, even on this hectic thoroughfare, there are a few gems…

Amid the large detached houses which line this stretch of tarmac, is a patch of woodland called Highgate Wood. And further along Garstang Road, there is a massive allotment. It takes you into another world, where you feel you have entered into a secret rural haven and although I haven’t ventured into Highgate Wood, I imagine it must be a similar feeling.

 

Moor Park is a large park. The Preston Moor Common formed part of Henry III’s Royal Forest of Fulwood, which received a royal charter in 1235. Horse races were held between 1736 and 1833, and that was the year Moor Park was officially recognised as a municipal park. According to Preston Guild City’s website, a hundred acres of the common was enclosed and renamed Moor Park. In the 1860s, unemployed cotton workers landscaped the park. And it’s where Preston marathon walker Tom Benson – who held at least six world endurance titles – walked laps (about 314 miles) of Moor Park over five days and nights in 1976. Without stopping.

Talking of famous people, did you know Star Wars’ R2D2 was a Lancastrian? Or rather, Kenny Baker who played him was a resident of Preston?

 

In the city centre, we had an enjoyable lunch at Wings and Beers, a trendy looking American-style sports bar, down Cannon Street, also home of the quirky Mystery Tea House  (incredibly difficult to find but trust me, it really does exist on that street!)

I don’t love my home city. Money is wasted on silly traffic schemes and ugly carbuncles are lumped onto beautiful Victorian buildings (check out the train station’s new extension). Progress is the buzzword of the powers-that-be but sometimes at the expense of beauty. But it is also a city of hidden gems and fascinating history. If you go, I recommend the Harris Museum (stunning architecture) and Avenham Park, Halewood & Sons Book Shop, Mystery Tea Rooms and the art deco Bruccianis, Winckley Street and Winckley Square. Look for the beauty and quirkiness and, in any town or city, it is there…

Even the Grade II Brutalist 1969 bus station – believed to have once been the second largest bus station in Europe –  has its devoted fans in this city!

On our way home, we walked along Deepdale – home of the famous Preston North End stadium. Sir Tom Finney used to play here and his statue can be seen. When he died, thousands of residents lined the streets to pay their respects as his cortege passed the streets of Preston – and the stadium – before the service at Preston Minster.

 

Facts of the Day

1. Preston North End (also known as PNE, Lilywhites and The Invincibles) was founded in 1880. A founding member of the Football League.

2. They were unbeaten in the inaugural season and were crowned first league champions. They also won the FA Cup that season.

3. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, founded in Preston, was one of the earliest women’s football teams in England, playing from 1917 to 1965.

For the latest news and features in Preston and surrounding area, read the Lancashire Post (a daily read) and for those of you who live further afield – http://www.lep.co.uk

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

On the fence

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So what did the girls at Cosy Cottage get for Christmas?

Well, they received mealworms for being good hens and laying eggs, even though it is winter and so they had the perfect excuse not to work so hard. But they also got an extra surprise for new year.

When Santa (actually Simon) paid a visit to Cosy Cottage, he decided they would like a bigger run, actually why not give them the whole of the side garden? So Simon dug holes for  posts which we firmly secured with bricks and stones. Then with wood pallets, he sawed, measured and drilled the planks of wood to make two fences. One secured, one that can be lifted and moved as and when.

The girls check out their new territory…

 

Below, Dottie bravely peeps out of the new fence, Florence and Jemima await her verdict on what’s ‘Out There’.

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And below, Florence plays a game of Hide and Seek…

‘They’ll never find me,’ she thinks…

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So on a day when I am around, such as a weekend, they can potter about in the garden, nibbling sweet grass and digging for worms.

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