January 2010

When we got the new chooks last autumn they were point of lay but not yet laying, and the original crew (of 2) had stopped laying, probably due to moulting. Last year it seemed a very short amount of time they stopped laying but this year I think they took offence at the addition of 3 newcomers and have been sulking ever since.  So it had been a pretty barren winter for eggs until all that snow thawed when Ethel, one of our originals and always the best layer of enormous eggs, started laying again! She it Queen of the pecking order so I suppose it is to be expected she would be first. That was about a week ago, then, Saturday morning, there were TWO eggs!! Not only that, but one is a distinctly darker shade of terracota than we’ve seen before – conclusion: one of the new chooks is laying. Very excited household starts mad internet search to find out what colours might relate to what type of chicken. Apart from finding out that egg colour is genetically linked to earlobe colour (the darker the earlobe, the darker the eggshell… I think) I struggled to find a comprehensive list of breeds and their eggshell colour. The new hens are all different, a Black Rock,  Bluebell and a Sussex Star and without doing anything remotely logical (like inspecting their earlobes) I’ve concluded its my Courtney the Black Rock that has started. But, I reserve the right to amend that judgement based on future observations! Maybe by next weekend, another will started laying…


Back in the autumn I was planning on making sloe gin – we did have a beautiful looking crop of sloes coming along. Unfortunately, when the morning sickness kicked I lost all interest in the idea and by the time I was thinking I could stomach it, the birds had run off with the sloes. Luckily, Andy was quicker off the mark with picking the damsons and we have had an enormous bag sat in the freezer awaiting my attention. So, today I finally decided it was time to get them steeping…

 I hunted around on the internet and found a variety of recipes, of which some even recommend freezing the damsons first! Having read all the recipes, I resorted to making it up as I went along.  I started off with a clean jar and added:

500g frozen damsons
150g white granulated sugar
70cl gin (courtesy of a birthday present which arrived after I found out I was pregnant and could no longer be quite so indulgent)

The jar didn’t look very full so I then sloshed in about another 30cl of gin from an open bottle, another couple of handfuls of damsons and another couple of tablespoons of sugar. Obviously not exactly a scientific approach and won’t find out the results for quite some time. All the recipes say shake every day for a couple of weeks until all the sugars dissolved, then leave to mature for 3-4 months before straining and decanting and possibly leaving another 6 months before consumption… I hope its worth the wait!

I have been very naughty, starting a blog then completely failing to keep it up to date. Still no apologies, was busy doing other things.

And, it has been a busy year although trying to sum up our successes I find I can’t remember anything, although that could just be my presnt conditions, more on that in a minute. In terms of produce we didn’t get perhaps as much as we would have liked but did pretty well with:

broccoli, kale, cabbages, onions, garlic, courgettes, parsnips, plums, damsons, redcurrants, gooseberries, apples (although not nearly as many as last year), some strawberries and a few runner beans.

Actually, thats not a bad list for our first year. It is overshadowed by a potato crop completely devastated by slugs, the little tiny buggers burrowed their way in and left a hollow shell. There was a lot of swearing involved in digging them up. Lesson for next year is to plant smaller amounts more regularly and dig them up quick before they get a  chance to become infested. The other disappointment was the tomatoes. I know they are supposed to be easy but we never seem to have much success. They never seem to ripen in time and I think they got blighted this year as well.

Still, major success at our first village show in July – prize winning biscuits, chutney and courgettes, the only classes we entered! Particularly pleased with the courgettes as they beat the local prize winning veg grower who won every other class of veg. The was much silliness and merriment, dancing with morrismen and entering a bidding war for our own biscuits!!

The other major development over the summer was the Amish-style erection of the new chicken shed and the arrival of 3 new chickens in October. May I present: Nora the Explorer, Jemima Puddlechicken and Courtney Clucks who join a less than impressed Gilbert, Ethel and Vera.

The late part of the summer and autumn was overshadowed for me by the affliction that is morning sickness. Yes, number 3 is on the way, due the end of April, and did put an abrupt halt on my gardening efforts. Luckily it passed in good time for Christmas and I have enjoyed way too many mince pies and consequently look imminently ready to pop rather than only midway through. Nevermind, will deal with that later.

So, on with the show. Well at least hopefully at some point, it has all stalled due to ridiculous amounts of snow and now completely waterlogged soil but we’ll see how things look next weekend – we are aiming for a trip to the garden centre for some rhubarb and a pear tree or two…