Friday, 26 August 2011

Camping not Glamping....

We three went to Welsh Wales, Shell Island to be precise: 450 acres of coastal camping with dunes and rock pools and sand. Old fashioned camping where you pitch where you like, light your own fire and survive. Hubby stayed home, to mind the house, chicks and cats.... not keen on camping that one.

We three loved it and we did survive, purely because the 8yo and I pitched the tent very, very well. Therefore it didn't take off in the 5 days of sporadic gale-force winds and driving rain. In fact our tent was really very toasty and as a billy-bonus we are all really good at card games now!

The 6yo wasn't really a happy camper when there was work to be done...

On the way home I asked the babes to write a list of the Good bits about our holiday and the Bad bits. The 6yo wrote on the Bad side:
  1. The Tent. 
  2. Home
  3. DSi
  4. The Showers
I asked him to explain what he'd written. Turns out he hated pitching the tent, (even though he didn't even help - just walked around with a tent peg in his hand!)
Home was similar, he didn't enjoy packing up the tent to go home!! (Me either, it was pouring with rain and blowing a Hooley. In the end I actually had a little weep.)
The DSi issue was because I rationed it for night-time so it didn't run out of charge.
The Showers because he felt he'd got clean enough in the need for shower nonsense surely? 

The 8yo was more measured; her bad list only featured the weather.

The good news is they both had ten or twelve Good things on the positive side of their lists. The 6yo listed as the best bit of the holiday - my new friend Levi. A lovely boy from the tent next to ours. The 8yo loved crabbing, marshmallows, our new bucket bbq, the beach, fish and chips, playing cards and sleeping close to Mummy... ahhhh...

I didn't physically write a list but in my head I didn't nominate the weather or the showers or even the effort involved in pitching or packing up the tent. I'm sad to say that my bad list would feature some of the other campers. My children were treated to some of the worst language I have heard in a long time and some of that language spilled from the mouths of youths. Potty mouths! Also we were treated to a firework display on the Saturday night, lit by some alcohol fueled twits who refused to adhere to the premise that explosive devises shot into the sky will eventually return to earth, ....... no doubt setting fire to the nearest tent!

Fireworks are a big no no on this site and site security ejected the perpetrators from Shell Island the next morning.

Anyhoo both the sprogs were mega happy with the crabbing and ocean activity, regardless of the weather, and Shell Island really does live up to its name with hundreds of shells washed up on the beach...

One day we took a trip to the mountains to the Snowdonia National Park where a lot of mining has taken place over the years - mostly for slate. We went down a mine with an unpronounceable name Llechwedd Slate Caverns [Llech (similar to 'loch') - wedd (the 'dd' is soft).]

As we were sat on the little train descending into the depths of the earth, sexy hard hats perched on our heads, I suddenly remembered being ten years old and being with my parents in the exact same mine. The mine tours began in 1976 and as I peered into the darkness at the dimly lit caverns we passed, it was clear the staging hadn't changed since my last visit. Ladies-wear store mannequins masquerading as miners, posed with flat caps and shovels. False beards looked really strange on their feminine features. My silly humour kicked in and when our butch miner-guide asked if we had any questions, it was all I could do not to ask just how many transvestite miners there were in the 1800s.

Original pic from mine beginning 1860
I held back.

Wales is beautiful, even in the rain, especially if you have your family with you..... and how nice was it to get home to Hubby on the Sunday afternoon. He dried us off, re-pitched the tent to allow it to dry and fed us well. Home sweet home.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Beginning: A summer review...

I love these late summer mornings; rising early, just after Hubby leaves for work, means I get some precious time on my own, before a sleepy sproglet emerges demanding attention. After Spring, this is my favourite time of year, there is still a warmth to the sun but you can feel the allure of the cool Autumn in the gentle breeze.

Last night we finally had rain on the hills after a two week heat wave, offering welcome respite from trekking heavy watering cans to the new 30m long hedge we've planted. All the laurel plants home grown I'm proud to say.

Over the past six weeks life seems to have been all about the living and less about recording our achievements or failures. I've written my daily words in my little black book fairly consistently but I've fallen into bed at the end of a day without translating my thoughts or deeds to blog-land. Sorry, I aim to start catching you up starting today.

We've had plenty of success in the smallholder department this year: The new allotment gave up almost 150kg of potatoes but dragging them from virgin soil was a very painful exercise. The bonus is that they taste amazing and we are in no need of a gym. We planted Charlotte, Desiree, Nicola and Lady Christl. For my money the Nicola potatoes were most productive followed by Charlotte, Desiree and last Lady Christl. They have supplied us with food for months at a cost of approximately £12 for new seed potatoes. We made up the difference by planting the remainder of last years potatoes.

The flock numbers continue to fluctuate...flocktuate..geddit? God I'm funny! Not! Anyhoo, yesterday there was a big-hen death; a cough a wheeze and wham-bam she was on her back, legs to the sky. No idea what that was about. The 8yo was relieved that the hen dispatched herself, she really doesn't like it when I have to do the pully-neck thing. I'm not so keen either and I'm pretty sure the hens are against it too.

Today we have 10 bantams, made up of one white mum and 9 chicks of various shades. 5 girls, who have just come into lay and 4 boys. All of them are pretty annoying to be honest, being tiny enough to nip through the gate or nimble enough to fly over the stone defences into my preciously guarded walled garden! The 4 boys are now destined for market in a couple of weeks time as I've had enough of their cock fighting. Also they've taken to jumping their sisters and their mother [absolutely revolting] so, together with the squeeky attempts at cock-a-doodle-doing and the fact that they really piss off our main rooster, they're outta here!

We've still got Rooster obviously and his girls number just 9 now, which is why we decided to allow Archie to go broody, to see if we could increase our production of eggs. Archie hatched out 8 healthy chicks and all are doing well to date. Unfortunately 5 or 6 look like being boys and judging by their legs - huge boys! Yet more for the market! If I make any money at the sale I think I'll just buy some more big girls. I need more big eggs.

The bantam eggs are cute but tiny and finding them is a bit of a challenge too. The latest nest is in the middle of my strawberry patch. Every day is an Easter egg hunt day here at The Larches. Such fun, such fun! .... warped smile...

Well it's lunch time now and I've been in and out all morning working in the garden and down the fields picking blackberries. Can you believe it is that season already? Little by little I've updated this post when I've popped in for coffee but I've just noticed that the damsons are ripe for the picking so I'm off to denude the trees now while it's fine. I'll write more later in the week, no doubt with purple fingers.... Love and a kiss..

BTW If the video of the chicks doesn't appear on your email, click on the title of the post to see the blog post on the web. See ya!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Archie: Sex change Chicken......

Do you remember Archie? He was born on the weekend of our Bonfire Party last year and came from an egg donated by our neighbour. His adopted mummy was Snow White and out of a clutch of 6 eggs, he was the only one to hatch, tiny and pitch black. The rest of the [very explosive] eggs weren't fertilized, I later found to my cost!

Not being terribly experienced with chickens in November last year, we'd somehow decided Archie was a rooster. When he was about five months old he laid his first egg and we revised our thinking, sadly by then she was stuck with her name...!

Archie is now almost 9 months old and is the most beautiful natured hen with shimmering green and black feathers. Last month she went broody and we moved her to the quiet coop in the walled garden. Thanks to a donation of 9 eggs from our neighbour again, (to avoid mixed breeding at The Larches) Archie was very happy to sit and indulge her desire to be a mummy. We waited for the confinement of 21 days to see if any of the eggs were viable.

On Saturday the chicks started hatching. First a little striped brown chap, then another similar one. Soon we had 4 striped chicks followed by a yellow. On checking the coop later we found that Archie had rolled one cracked egg away, its contents leaked out; runny smelly unfertilized goo, yuk.

Late on Sunday and three more eggs remained, two with holes where tiny beaks peeped their hellos. But now Archie was much more interested in her 5 live chicks and wouldn't sit on her eggs.

On Monday my mummy instincts took over and I decided to interfere with nature (might work, might not but without interference I'm sure these eggs had no chance.) I gently peeled some of the shell and a tiny bit of membrane from the first egg and, so as to ensure I wasn't mistaken for Mummy, I closed the coop with Archie and all chicks. They seemed to assume the darkness meant night time and everyone settled down warm and snugly under Archie alongside the eggs.

On Tuesday morning we had another two chicks, a yellow and a grey. The little grey was duly named Gritty with the surname Happy Feet. It suits him/her perfectly.

The last egg remained and by now it too had a hole and a peeping chick. Archie was super busy explaining the intricacies of chick crumbs and water drinking technique to a brood of 7 and really didn't have any intention of warming one lone egg!

Again Lou intervened, peeling and manipulating daylight! By the time my brood and I were due out the door for a lunch and a play date mid-morning Tuesday, we had another yellow chick, (albeit a very wobbly and weak one.) We've called her Hope for obvious reasons.

So here's hoping all 8 survive, though I'm not convinced about Hope. Fingers crossed everyone.

I've attached the videos of our new chicks in the post, if you are reading this as an email and you are unable to see the video footage, click the title of the blog post to view the post online.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon