Posted in Gardens, Self-sufficiency

Herbs for the Kitchen

 

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I bought these little herb pots in December and, now I’m living at a time when home and garden life has become more important, it seems like the ideal time to sow these seeds. I have planted parsley seeds before with mixed success, but if it works, I and the guinea pigs will be very happy!

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There are three lovely little china planters sitting on a tray, 10 compost pellets, basil, chive and parsley seeds.

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First, I placed the compost pellets in a container and poured 450ml of lukewarm water.

I left it to stand for about 45 minutes. After this time, I mixed the compost.

I then filled each pot two thirds full with the compost and scattered a sparse layer of seeds – parsley, chives and basil – in a pot each. I then covered each pot with a thin layer of compost.

It now takes pride of place on my kitchen window – a warm, well lit area as suggested by the instructions on the box.

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According to the instructions, it says ‘keep compost moist at all times ‘ and ‘after a few weeks, harvest with scissors as required ‘.

I haven’t used up all the seeds or compost so I’ll put both in a convenient place and re-seed when ready.

Hopefully I will have some herbs for both myself and the guinea pigs in a few weeks!

 

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Down at the allotment

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This is an earlier post I wrote, back in September 2017. I feel like I have learnt a lot about chickens since then!

March 2020

By August 2017, Cosy Cottage’s garden was as chicken-ready as it was ever going to be. Drainage (whether it works or not, we will have to wait and see this winter) set in place; a proper compost heap permanently sited, ready for that delightful manure which would work wonders for the plants; a pond dug, planted (finally) and decorated with cobbles; stone borders transformed into flower beds; the side garden becoming home to a potted floral arena… And of course, the notorious coop taking centre place, proudly standing, no longer an eyesore but a prestigious abode, ready for its lady lodgers.

There was one thing bugging me though.

I didn’t have any practical experience of hens. I didn’t think I was scared of them, but I had never been in close proximity with chickens. What if they pecked? Or drew blood? Attacked me in my bright red dressing gown (apparently they are attracted to the colour red)? What if I, for some bizarre reason, was unable to lift and hold them? Was nervous of them?

This line of thinking was preposterous. I loved my family’s Jack Russells Molly and Teddy, had zero fear of rodents, and was more concerned of accidentally hurting a spider’s leg (although I do hate touching slugs, which I have done by mistake. Sorry slugs).

And yet…

I had tried to enrol on a course but didn’t get very far. I must have read all the chicken books available but what I really wanted was some practical experience… Then a colleague came to the rescue.

J got chickens a year before, six months after he first started working on a coop. In fact, I modelled my coop roughly on his. Except he had a proper plan and I didn’t. Anyway, it took him months to build – which should have warned me that if someone says on a website it takes a ‘weekend’ they are, Β ever so slightly, exaggerating (unless Superman or Wonder Woman is building it).

Eventually, his hard work paid off and he had a fine looking coop – waiting for some inhabitants to fill it. Luckily for J, a fellow allotment-holder had four hens he no longer wanted and, once J had his coop up and running, the ladies moved into their new home.

So it was by good fortune that, when J went away, he asked if I could look after them for a week.

Sure, I said, it would be great experience.

And I would get free eggs!

Sweet Caroline, Lucy Muffin, Britney Starr and Lily Sparkles were a bluebell, marans and a white Sussex. Someone unkindly said they had names like strippers – actually it was J, but don’t blame him, it was his daughters who named them!

(The hens were moulting around the bottom area so calling them strippers wasn’t too far off the mark, wear some more feathers in public, girls please!) πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

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To say I had a hundred fears (again!) is an understatement. What if they escaped? What if they died (J said to put them in a bin bag and into a bin if this occurred as they weren’t allowed to bury them on the allotment)? A fellow colleague said, how could he say that? How morbid!

But I was glad it was addressed. You know, just in case.

Thank the heavens, it was straightforward. The ladies enjoyed going out into the run when I opened the door (and no one escaped!) And were happy to wander back in when they realised I had lettuce or cabbage, or, a naughty, Β very seldom treat, a slice of bread. Britney and Co were hard working and supplied three eggs each day (one wasn’t pulling their weight, I’m not pointing any fingers, Lucy… Just joking, Lucy!)

No one died or got ill. Thank you very much girls.

The coop was fox-proof, so I didn’t need to visit twice a day. It was merely a case of checking they had enough food and water each day.

Of all my fears, finding a hen dead, the four running free and wild over the allotments…

There were actually three real concerns and none really related to the hens.

J showed me the hens one lunchtime at work. The next time me and my parents visited. But could we find the right allotment? Traipsing through other allotments, attracting vegetable growers’ raised eyebrows and suspicious attention, eventually I spotted the landmark sunflower at the front of the coop. Phew!

Second, the keys which appeared to go on strike when it came to opening the shed door for the hens’ feed and corn. I visualised having to go to the Superpet Warehouse for chicken feed. Thankfully my dad came with me the next time and figured out which key to use first. (There were two keys).

Phew!

My last concern was leaving the keys in a safe but clear place for the next helper. I worried I had placed them somewhere too obvious for thieves or conversely, somewhere too obscure for the hen carer.

But when I went back to work a week on Monday, my fears were relieved. I had done a great job, J said, and yes the next helper had found the keys. Everything and everyone was well.

Phew!

I passed the practical test. Now I could get my own hens. 🐀🐀🐀

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Facts of the Day

1. Hybrids are commercial crossbreeds, developed for the battery egg industry in the 1950s.

2. Hybrids include black rock, white star, bluebelle, calder ranger, warrens, isa browns and hy-lines.

3. Popular pure breeds – which are light or heavy, bantam or full-size – include the Buff Orpington (the Queen Mum’s favourite), Sussex and Rhode Island Red.

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets

Chickens and Compost

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Apart from a deluxe dust bath, there’s nothing like a good rummage through freshly turned over compost. One never knows what one might find – worms, grubs… There’s a whole treasure trove in the compost, waiting to be discovered and devoured.

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Unfortunately, as my dad was digging out the compost, he spotted two rats, feasting themselves. So when we put the bin back in place, we placed some wire netting underneath to deter these intruders. Fingers crossed, this will work!

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Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets

A spa day for the hens

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Mabel, Jemima and Dottie enjoy a dust bath

Over the last couple of months, the hens have sometimes looked as if they are moping around, complaining about the rain, wind and cold. The soil is too compacted for them to dig into properly (even though I keep forking and digging it). They cluster together under the pear tree, moaning about the season of winter and wishing for spring – their favourite time – to arrive.

And then, one day, it was as if Santa had arrived (this was before Christmas) with a big bag of goodies. It was actually Simon with woodchip, but when this simple substance was scattered on top of the damp, slightly sticky earth, the ladies came over curiously, with mounting excitement.

This needs investigating, they pondered.

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Ava and Florence investigate the wood shavings

Then Jemima revealed all.

‘It’s a day at the spa!’ she proclaimed.

At that, the hens got stuck in, quite literally. Rubbing and rolling themselves into the woodchip, having a luxurious dust bath.

They often have these baths in spring and summer, when the earth is dry, but don’t have this opportunity so much in the winter.

For some reason, Dottie kept appearing under Jemima, which caused her friend and pecking order leader some frustration, understandably.

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Ava wonders just what exactly is Dottie doing?

All in all, it was the height of luxury and this day at the spa was just what they needed to cheer themselves up during the cold, dark winter months.

In one of my chicken books, there is guidance on making a permanent dust bath for hens which I think would be much appreciated by Jemima and co.

Fact of the Day

Dustbathing helps to keep chickens free of parasites.

 

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Pets, Self-sufficiency

A chicken’s guide to keeping warm

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The Cosy Cottage citizens are lucky in that we live in a relatively temperate climate (usually), even in the winter. But life can still get very chilly, especially for these chickens who live out in the garden coop. Thankfully, they have a lovely fluffy thick plumage so that helps. But the more heating aids, the better…

Every morning these days I scatter porridge on the ground. It used to be leftovers from the pot but the stickiness was not pleasing to my hands or the ladies’ beaks! So now I buy porridge that’s reasonably priced and scatter it from the packet. The foraging helps stop them getting bored too.

Corn is given in the afternoon, a couple of hours before bedtime (although these days, bedtime seems to be about 3pm and getting earlier and earlier). To avoid rats, it is given in the coop when the girls go in for the night.

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Plenty of straw is always needed for bedtime. Although I’m sure half of it seems to get kicked ‘downstairs’ when the ladies get ready for bed.

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Keeping an eye on the water supply is always vital. No one can drink frozen water after all!

Making adjustments to the coop to make it warmer is useful to do during these cold months.

And lastly, a tip from the ladies themselves – early bed and snuggling together helps fight against Jack Frost.

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Posted in Gardens

The hebe jeebies…

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A few weeks ago, after a visit to a garden centre, I came back with this delightful plant – a purple shamrock hebe. I like the colour purple, shamrocks and hebes so what’s not to like? And even better, my garden co-sharers love hebes too.

Who do I share my garden with? Well, a whole host of birds, butterflies, bees, other insects….

So here’s a few facts I have learnt about my new container plant, thanks to the very informative label which came with it.

1. It’s compact and hardy with variegated leaves.

2. It was discovered by Doug Thomson in Ireland. (I imagine that’s where the name ‘shamrock’ comes from). This variety may be from Ireland, but most hebes originally come from New Zealand.

3. In summer, there are occasional blue flowers.

4. In winter, the evergreen foliage turns purple.

5. It likes moist, well-drained soil.

According to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle, the hebe is popular with ‘bees and butterflies seeking nectar’. So a good choice for wildlife-friendly gardens. πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹

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