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,  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!) 🐔🐔🐔

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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,  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 Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Waterfalls in Teesdale

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Last year Simon and I enjoyed a visit to the historic market town of Richmond, Yorkshire. One of our adventures can be seen here: Muker and the highest pub in Britain (528m/1732ft)

We liked Richmond so much that this year we decided to spend Simon’s birthday weekend in the same town again. We had booked our b&b a month earlier; the weather was the last thing on our minds. But one month on and the UK had already suffered from the tantrum of Storm Ciara – and now Storm Dennis was due on our Richmond weekend.

Hmmm. I wondered if we hadn’t already booked our accommodation, would we have called the weekend off?

The roads going to and back from Richmond were fine, but one could see many of the fields were flooded.

On the Sunday of our stay, we took a trip to see Low and High Force Waterfalls in Upper Teesdale, County Durham. They’re located within a National Nature Reserve.

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However, we had to take two detours as one road had a sign warning motorists to go no further because it was closed due to flooding.

And another road was open but a massive puddle flooded it. A large 4×4 could get through but a small Skoda?

Maybe not.

We didn’t take the risk anyway.

So instead of going through Barnard Castle (which is a small town with, you’ve guessed it, a castle), we went through the village of Middleton instead. On our way back we enjoyed a hot drink and warming tomato soup at a little cafe called Rumours.

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There is a car park where we nearly parked last year. On that occasion, we hoped to have a quick walk before heading on our way back to our respective homes. But there was a charge that had to be paid by a certain number of minutes – or else a lovely fine would come through the door.

And they had CCTV to check.

You also had to pay extra to actually see the falls.

So after a quick exit, hoping that we hadn’t been in the car park for more than 10 minutes, we had the luck of spotting a lay-by where cars could park for free and you could walk for free to see the falls.

That time we didn’t see High Force, but we still had a pleasant walk along the river, enjoying the calmer sight of Low Force.

One year later, we parked in the lay-by again. Evidence of Ciara and Dennis (the rain of which we endured the evening before) could be seen in the muddy paths. Thankfully I was wearing good walking boots!

We walked along a single-person bridge over the River Tees. A sign which is often ignored considering the numbers of people on it that afternoon. When I strolled across, three people were behind me!

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The first bridge was built in 1741 and, according to the sign at the site, ‘was the earliest known suspension bridge in Europe ‘. Tragically, three men fell in the river in 1802 after one of the chains snapped. One of the men died. The current bridge was built in 1830.

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Low Force was just as scenic as I remembered. It drops over the Whin Sill, a layer comprising a hard rock called dolerite. Locally, it’s known as whinstone.

As we followed the muddy path towards High Force, we admired artistic carvings along the walls.

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Juniper trees seemed bigger than I’d seen before – but unfortunately a sign declared that a disease was killing them in the area.

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There were boot wash facilities en route but whether walkers took this precaution is another matter.

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High Force is a dramatic scene. As I mentioned, we had just had two storms in a fortnight and bystanders could see the amazing effect of this on the waterfall. The power of the River Tees gushing down the 70ft cliff edge is highly impressive. With the heavy rainfall, it formed two falls but I have heard that, in exceptional conditions, the level of the river could even reach and flow down the middle section of rock.

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It looked rather intimidating too, but thankfully we were safe at our viewing point!

Despite appearances, High Force is not quite the highest waterfall in England, according to Wikipedia. It seems Cautley Spout in Cumbria is nearly 590ft (180m) high! But the Wikipedia entry also says High Force ‘does have the largest volume of water falling over an unbroken drop when in full spate’.

It’s an amazing sight to see.

Fact of the Day

The word ‘Force’ comes from ‘Foss’, an Old Norse word for waterfall. The word came with Viking settlers more than 1,000 years ago.

(Information from a sign at the High Force site).

 

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 Blogging, Writing

Real Neat Award

Real Neat Blog Award

I received the Real Neat Blog Award by Dear Kitty last year. Kitty writes a very interesting and varied blog about politics, animals, peace, war, arts and many other topics.

Here’s what she says about the award: “Late in 2014, I made this Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I wanted to try to do something about that.

“It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging, but my computer drawing had become rusty. So, I made the award with this logo then.

“It is good to see that this award, which later came back to me, has gone to many places of the blogosphere. And that some people have made new logos for it, like the one at the top of this blog post.”

The rules of this award are:

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  • Nominate any number of people linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.
  • Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

Kitty’s seven questions for me are:

1. Who is your favourite visual artist?

There has been a lot of beautiful art over the years which I love to look at but I don’t have a favourite artist. I love beautiful landscapes, Pre-Raphaelite scenes and art which tells a story – or makes me think and ponder.

2. Which is your favourite bird species?

Kingfishers have stunning colours and I always feel as if robins are curious to see what I’m doing but my favourite will have to be the chicken (I have to say this or my hens won’t forgive me!) My bantams are fascinating, complex little creatures and I feel that every day is a learning curve watching them.

3. Which is your favourite mammal species?

My favourite mammal species has to be the dog simply because the dogs I’ve known and loved provide a comfort and friendship. They may be untrustworthy scoundrels when it comes to food (yes, Teddy, I’m talking about you!) but they are always very lovable. 🙂

4. What is your favourite insect?

Butterflies are very beautiful although I wish they would stay in one spot so I could photograph them more easily! I do have a lot of respect for the hard-working bee as well. I read a novel called The Bees which gives a fascinating insight into the life of a honey bee. It’s fictional but the way the hive in the novel is constructed is based on real bee colonies.

5. What is your favourite plant?

I love all plants but the weeping willow is especially romantic in my view.

6. Where do most visits to your blog come from?

From the UK and the USA.

7. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?

Not sure about this one, none seem very appealing in terms of atmosphere! I would be very curious though. Maybe Mars as it’s the nearest.

I’m going to stick with the same questions and nominate YOU. I’d love to hear your answers… 🙂

Real Neat Blog Award

Posted in Blogging, Charity, Environment, Writing

Butterflies and Blogs

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

To celebrate my second blog anniversary last year, I set up a page to promote other blogs. Each time someone promotes their or someone else’s blog, I will donate £1 to Butterfly Conservation (£2 for the first 25). So far, I have raised a grand total of £14! Hopefully, this will increase as time goes by 🙂

I thought I would promote a few of the posts from the page every so often and so here’s February’s offering:

Inspiration for Wellness is a blog focused on health, beauty and natural living. She’s a registered nurse with a passion for holistic health and her inspiring blog covers essential oils, nutrition, exercise, health supplements and more…

Here’s an example of a post –

Why I Love Essential Oils

Inspiration for Wellness has a similar post to mine called Networking for Bloggers. Here you can meet more bloggers and introduce yourself…

Networking for Bloggers

Mental Health From The Other Side – who is a retired mental health nurse – has an unsettling personal story to tell. It’s a stark and important reminder that mental illness can affect anyone and everyone.

My journey through a psychotic depression – part I

If you’re looking for craft and DIY inspiration, Michelle’s blog is a lovely one to find inspiration.

One example is the DIY Shabby Chic Lamp – https://www.blessingsbyme.com/2019/03/13/diy-shabby-chic-lamp-2

These great blogs aren’t the only ones mentioned on My Favourite Blogs page (the others will get a call-out next time) so why not head there to take a look? Or promote your own blog or someone else’s?

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Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com

For information on Butterfly Conservation, a UK nature charity, visit https://butterfly-conservation.org

If you would like to promote your or someone else’s blog or blog post, please drop a comment on to https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/about/your-favourite-blog-posts/

 

Posted in Fitness challenges

Fitness Challenge: 2019

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Photo by Mnz on Pexels.com

Oh dear, the last time I wrote my Fitness Challenge diary it was last July. Now it’s February, the following year!

Here’s a quick review of the last six months, what went well, what went wrong and what I’ve learnt.

July to December 

I started having personal training sessions in June and this continued until the second week of November. A total of five months of consecutive weight-based exercise twice a week.

Now commitment to exercise has always been a problem for me. I get bored, I start wishing I was sitting with a good novel and a lovely cup of tea, I start dreaming of cake…

But this actually worked… For a while.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The sessions were held at 8am, Tuesday and Thursday, at my local gym. They weren’t extortionate but not cheap either, so I wanted to make it worthwhile going. Paying for the 45-minute sessions and having to meet the personal trainer twice a week did made me feel accountable.  Although I did cancel a couple of times, it wasn’t as easy as just deciding “I can’t be bothered going to the gym”. I felt as if I had to have a good reason. Which is good for motivation!

So twice a week, apart from the odd time I cancelled, I headed to the training sessions. I did lunges, sit-ups, press-ups, squats, arm and leg weight exercises among others. The variety stopped me from getting bored.

During the week, I took myself down to the gym for cardio exercises.

K, the personal trainer, suggested a weight loss app and a calorie intake of 1,300 calories a day. Now, my aim was to be fitter and fit into my clothes again. But counting calories wasn’t really something I was too interested in. I still wanted to eat cake! But I did want to become a healthy and fit woman.

So I tried. For a while.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And it worked. My weight dropped nearly a stone, my too-tight clothes started to fit again and people started to notice I was losing weight.

In all my months of fitness challenges, this was the first time this happened!

But the summer months turned into the autumn months of October and November. 6am was once a bright and light time to wake up and an apt time to let the hens out before getting fit. How constructive a morning for me and the chickens!

But by October, the hens were still fast asleep at 7.45am, never mind 6am (quite sensible too). But I felt more and more sluggish waking up at such an unearthly hour. And although it felt worthwhile after the session, beforehand I felt like I’d lost my motivation.

And of course, Christmas was coming soon, together with all its edible treats. Did I really want to continue paying for a trainer and counting calories when I would want to be eating Christmas pudding and the like?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So I stopped, for now. I did find a personal trainer a fantastic motivation but, personally, I would prefer to tie that in with a challenge to aim for. Working with K was good in the beginning but by the fifth month, I needed a new goal as I started to feel aimless.

That’s no reflection on the trainer. As I said, it worked and I saw and felt the physical and mental effects. But motivation becomes an issue for me, especially during the winter months.

So this year I thought if I tie in personal challenges during the year with, possibly, a personal trainer for a month or so for the bigger challenges, this might work. Maybe.

Ironically, while I focused on personal training, my walk challenge didn’t do so well. I aimed for 1,000 miles by the end of the year. Instead, I walked 817. That means an extra 200 on top of my 1,000 target this year!

So my first challenge is Fitness February, with an attempt to try to do some type of exercise every day.

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

Merry Christmas from Cosy Cottage

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Merry Christmas to everyone from all the residents at Cosy Cottage. We hope you all have the Christmas you most want – whether peaceful or fun, lively or relaxing. I can’t believe a new decade starts next year! I was hoping to publish a few extra posts this month but time has once again escaped me. I will be taking a little break until January but hope to catch up with your blogs in the meantime 🙂

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All the best for 2020 🙂

 

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 Writing

Proofreading service

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I am working on a personal project which requires a case study. I would like to offer my proofreading services for free in return for some feedback. It can be creative writing or something non-fiction, a complete work or part of something else. The word limit is 2,000 words but this can be negotiated. If you’re interested, please email clarekelly2002@yahoo.co.uk

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