Thursday, 17 July 2008

Guess what's at the top of my Santa List this year?

I am probably deliciously naive in my thinking at this stage It’s the taking responsibility for it that’s firing me. I have just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which has been a real challenge for me to review my life style choices. Although I do have an allotment and buy my free range eggs from "Ron the Chicken Man" down the allotment road from me - I have always hankered to have chickens of my own. My Dad had them when I was a child - for eggs and table - mostly bantams and some silkies.

I have done some homework and have found a supplier close by who supplies live chicks and poulets @ £8 each (two weeks old). I would therefore not have to have the poor things posted to me. I shudder to think of the state they would arrive in even knowing that they can survive for three days without food.

I would like to have some heirloom breeds (to keep the breeds alive) - and this is where I would like some input from you all. I have chosen the breeds that I think I will be interested in are but any input of experiences would be appreciated:

Chickens for Eggs :

Large :
Sussex / New Hampshire Red / Cochin / Orpington / Scots Grey and Boven Marans (x breed which I believe lay well in the winter months - from the same supplier).

Bantams :
Orpington, Scots Grey, Plymouth Rock
I also like the Faverolles (which originate from France) and are also a good dual bird e.g. table and eggs. I am looking at dual as when the chickens start slowing down on the laying I would possibly look at harvesting them for the table. Sorry if I offend anyone in this thinking but I am trying to be practical. However, the jury is out on that one and I do not know if I would have the guts to actually kill them.

Turkey for Christmas :

The only kind he provides is Norfolk Bronze Turkey - anyone got any other breeds that are heirloom that they have tried and found better? I have already checked with my council and they say I could easily have chickens at home. The one problem I might have is a rooster. I want to get three females and a rooster so that I can start making my own little chickens. I am not sure if I will get large or bantam - can any one advise me on the size of the eggs which is the better option - as I do want the eggs mainly.

My allotment does allows us to keep chickens - but I only have 5 rods with three fruit trees so not much space there. Oh, decisions, decisions!! I am so tempted to jump in with both feet but just know that it is a big responsibility. Ideally I would like to attend a course but the only one I can find around these parts is Hugh Fernley W and he's expensive and a bit far away! Anyone know of something closer to Dorset/Hampshire that run decent courses?

I have seen a wonderful chicken house - see the picture above - (,43759.0.html) or see post at Allotments 4 All posted by IsleworthTW7 - returning to poultry) that I think is the kind that I would be prepared to put my chickens in. I wonder if I would be able to put chickens and a turkey in the same coop?

One guess what's on the top of my Christmas list to Santa this year!! Poor Santa - he almost definitely will not fit down the chimney this year.

Plants for Free

Week 30 – Thursday, 17th July 2008

As it was a leaf day on Tuesday I managed to get the last sowings of coriander, parsley, basil and various lettuces done. Also split the peace lily that I rescued from Karen’s dustbin and managed to cut it into four new baby plants. Have potted them up and placed them on the greenhouse staging to recover. I will give one or two of the plants to Jacquie and Mom for their new house. I think their downstairs toilet with the sky light will make a good place for one of them.
Also see that the begonia pieces that I rescued off Geraldine’s plant before sending it to plant heaven has started shooting roots and will need to be potted up in the next day or so. The plant stand that I have offered to give Jacquie will need to be sanded down and repainted to make it half decent for them to use in the entrance. Whilst I am doing this I might as well do the hat/scarf stand at the same time!

Our summer baskets have started filling up really nicely now and are looking grand. I was a bit worried when we made them up as we use mostly home sown plants and looked a bit ragged. I only bought in three trays of plants for the fillers. I must say that I was really chuffed with myself when I managed to walk out the nursery with only the three. It was hard – but I did it!!

Hopefully the weather will stay decent so that we can attend that Guided NightJar Tour at Sopley Common this evening at 9pm. I found out about this tour from someone who visited my website. Whilst I was nosing around on Snowgoosey and Tattyanne’s site I picked up the information and did a google and voila – I found a guided tour just around the corner from me. I am really looking forward to it as I do not know a lot about UK birds and wildlife and need to increase my knowledge. I have even got Mother to agree to come along. The guide says that we might even see glow worms. Fingers crossed – and I will really try and take along my camera and get some shots if I can. Mmmhh!! now where did I put my binoculars??

Weeds 1 - Me Nil!

Week 30 – Tuesday, 15th July 2008

Popped down to the lottie with Mom to water the greenhouse – the Peacevine and Brandywine tomatoes are doing very well and have very well formed, big fruits – still green but I can almost taste them! Got a couple more Sungold tomatoes off the bush – yummy! One of the Red Brandywine has started ripening so should be ready by the end of the week when I visit again. The chilli plants are not doing well this year and I have suffered loads of slug damage. None of the aubergines (inside or out) have any formed fruit yet but there is a flower or two – so fingers crossed I might even get some fruit this year. The melons have also all been munched by the slugs so I will be taking my last, precious plant down to the lottie on Friday to plant out and spread lots of organic slug pellets about to give it a fighting chance.

I also managed to get all the shallots harvested. It seems a bit early this year but all the plants had died down already and the slugs were starting to move in for the kill. So I pulled a decent harvest and have arranged them on racks in the lottie shed to dry out. I have two types of shallots this year – a small, golden type, which Dave from work gave me (not sure of the variety) - which I will use to make up some pickled onions and another one that I bought from the Potato Day in Whitchurch – also the name escapes me. On looking back on my earlier notes I did not seem to make a note of the name. Tsk! Tsk! I really need to get my labelling skills up to scratch.

The Sturon onions that I planted are not that great and only about 8 decent size. The rest seem small and undeveloped so I have decided to leave the smaller ones in for the time being and harvest later just in case they put on a final growth spurt. Their leaves are still green so fingers crossed!

The sweet pea wigwam is still flowering its socks off and for the last 6 weeks we have been picking large bunches of flowers at least twice a week. I will start slowing down by the end of August to allow the plant to set seed for next year. The colours and smell have really been heavenly and I really must try and remember to take my camera down so that I can post some pictures here.

When I went to feed the French beans, to my amazement I found that there were actually about a pound of beans once picked. I had not really seen any major flower action there and the plants do not seem as strong as last year but the beans lower down seem to have made it. I gave all the beans a good feed of seaweed and made a note the bean frame and its environs need a major weeding. I also harvested some lovely beetroot and once home managed to pickle 3 pounds of beetroot and blanched the French beans for the freezer. Just enough to either add to a stew or serve as a vegetable side dish. I am however sure that I will be adding to them shortly.

The Yellow Mange Tout that I planted also had a very slow start but is now really going wild. I think that I will stop harvesting now and allow the plant to set seed so that I have enough for next year.

As I have not been down to the lottie that often or for long periods I am afraid that the weeds are winning 1 – 0 at the moment. We will be moving Mom and Jacquie this week-end so do not think that I will manage a visit to the lottie as well. Will rally the troops together and set a definite date for the weekend of 26th/27th July to wage war on the weeds and whip the lottie back into shape. All the potatoes will also need lifting and the sweet potatoes need to be put in as well.