Archive for the ‘allotment’ Category

If the chickens are laying, Spring must be here

22102008271

February 1st our chickens produced their first egg – we’re not actually sure which one did it – and there is still some confusion over who is a chicken and who is not – we had some Welsummer crosses which we raised from young chicks and we also had 6 birds from Curly Boy’s school. Every year they have an incubator with eggs, to show the children how chickens hatch and grow. Last year they asked us if we would like the chicks once they had served their time in the school – so we inherited 4 brown hens and 2 white cocks. One of those cocks has been donated as a pet to a friend’s grandson and the other as it turns out, is doing very well at what cockerels should do – crowing, seeing to the girls etc. All in all we have 13 birds at the allotment now, we think 8 girls and 5 boys – could be 7 girls and 6 boys – only time will tell. We are supposed to dispatch the boys and eat them, but they are so beautiful we’re not sure we can! Not so very self-sufficient as yet. Today I went up – Wednesday being my writing day, therefore I tend to do anything but writing – just to make sure the water was ice free and see how they are doing and there were two more eggs for me. So that’s 7 since Feb 1st.

So if the chickens are laying after the long dormant Winter months, I think I should start producing too, writing that is – I shall turn my back on the laundry, the dishes, the piles of stuff to go upstairs and the piles of stuff to go downstairs, the piles of stuff to be sorted, or posted, or put away – and I shall write. I won’t even have lunch in front of the telly – which was my old habit on a Wednesday. Trouble with that is that I end up watching Loose Women and they make me shout at them – not conducive to a productive afternoon.

Advertisements

Is it a battle?

Many thanks to all of you who have sent comments about yesterday’s post. We are still reeling from what happened to the poor birds. His bee hive also got kicked over – but the bees seem to have survived. I’ve just been up to the allotment to see for myself and walk around – I must say the soul has gone out of the place for me – no noisy greeting as I arrived, nobody to talk to, or squabbles to sort out, no-one to feed out of my hand – just feathers everywhere. Laurie and Charlie (our allotment neighbour) did their best to clear as much as possible but those birds lost a lot of feathers. The police seem to consider that this was carried out by youths on drugs – most of the crime in these parts at the moment is due to the effects of drug taking and the need to get money for the next hit. I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that the violence we have been affected by was suffered by our birds and not our family members – but Laurie and I sat there last night very tempted to pack our bags for some foreign place where we could escape this kind of occurrence – Daily Mail phrases flashing through our heads. I realise how much violence I have absorbed from TV and movies as I imagine what acts I would carry out, faced with those responsible – me the fair minded liberal.

The local news last night had an item about a young man who has been jailed for stabbing another man at a bus stop. He had been seen on CCTV cycling through the streets, on the pavement, through the shopping centre (covered pedestrian centre) and out the other side. Just as he approached a bus stop, a man stepped backwards to read the bus timetable more clearly and they collided – the bus stop man shouted at the young cyclist, who promptly pulled a knife (£2 from Tesco Metro) and stabbed him to death. When asked why he had been carrying a kitchen knife he said that he was afraid of being attacked and carried it for his protection. Each morning I drive Curly Boy to school, then park the car at the bottom of the hill where I meet Al and we walk into work – I take the same route as the cyclist, through the estate where he lives, across the road, through the same shopping centre – Al and I often have to pull up short for hooded lads on push bikes and neither she nor I are afraid if pointing out our displeasure at almost being knocked down – so the man at the bus stop could very well be me, or her, or any of the people I know who go about their business day to day. We’re not playing by the same rule book anymore, codes of conduct no longer apply. This morning’s news is of ‘internal trafficking’ of girls as young as ten (the trafficking of British girls within the UK for prostitution).  

Our allotment is a small space for us to escape all of the stuff that goes on outside, but now I wonder how we will feel if the buildings get trashed, or burned, or Curly Boy’s summer house damaged, or the trees we have planted uprooted. Laurie is determined that we will carry on regardless and replace the chickens – put a lock on the enclosure gate and a padlock on the hen-house door (he and Charlie have already put 6″ nails across the top of the entrance gates to prevent someone from climbing over that way) – but I am still not sure. How can we know they won’t come back again? Did they come to bother the chickens? Did they come to steal? Did they know the chickens were there or was it a spur of the moment thing? If I could fathom the ‘why’ I might be able to know how to carry on with it all, but I don’t think there is a why in this case.

The joy of an allotment is that it is a piece of land right in the heart of a city, but unlike privately owned land, the very nature of it draws attention of the worst kind. There will always be moochers and thieves and vandals where there are allotments, greenhouses will always be smashed and sheds broken into. So why bother? Laurie says we must bother so that ‘they’ don’t win. But I don’t think it’s a battle, they just do it because it’s there.

and then there were none

Somebody broke into our allotment on Sunday night (we think) and broke the necks of our ten chickens and our one remaining cockerel. I’m so upset and angry that I can’t tell anybody, so I thought I’d tell you lot. Poor Laurie went up there today to check their water and food to find them strewn about the place. Those poor battery babies had only a brief spell of freedom and the cockerel had only just plucked up the courage to boss the girls around. Mummy hen and her original chicks have been with me for nearly four years.

And then there was one…

sarah-os-place.jpgPerhaps

Sarah O sent me this lovely picture today – it is the view from her back door in Australia – a far cry from my cold wintery day. I’ve tried to persuade her to blog – that way I could keep up with what she’s doing better. Shame she’s not in England very often – but some friends are all the better for absence – then we have a concentrated spell of each other when we are close by.  

Back in wintry Nottingham – I headed up to the allotment this morning only to discover many feathers outside the chicken run and one cockerel missing. Laurie had mentioned that a couple of times when he checked the chickens, one of the boys had managed to get out (probably by flapping from floor to roof of house, to roof of adjacent building) – I can only presume that this chap had been caught outside the run by a fox – the feathers were right next to the door – perhaps he had been running to get back in. Trouble is once the fox has had a feed he’ll be back. Coops and runs are never completely fox proof and we kept meaning to roof the whole area in netting to keep the foxes out and the chickens in – now I feel guilty as hell that we haven’t done it – seems like bolting the door after etc etc.

My next stop was at the garage to get two new front tyres for the car- I’ve been ‘meaning to do’ that too – and the result of not doing that might be a little more extreme than losing a chicken. Now to get some other jobs done that have been on the invisible list for far too long.

A cock that crows.

p1000139-wince.jpg

Look how our boys have grown and this morning I heard them try to crow – at least the most dominant one was trying. Photographs don’t do justice to the colours of his feathers either – it’s no wonder women used to crave hats with feathers – his tail is the darkest greeny black you have ever seen with dappled grey at the base.

I dropped Curly Boy at school this morning and then nipped up to the allotment for a good forty minutes just gazing at my feathered boys as they strutted round. The lone hen is beautiful too, her chest has a rosy hue to it. The battery chickens are shabby as ever, but great company (nice but dim I suppose). Our original hens seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they have to share their quarters with this new bunch. Each faction keeps to their own space – and have the odd peck at each other when I feed them. I would love to stay up there all day but it’s just too cold at the moment.

One of the Sarahs came to stay for a few days last week ( I have many Sarahs: Sarah B (aslo known as Bakes), Sexy Sarah, Sarah from Crete and Sarah O (from Oz), then there’s Westy – there have been others too – must have been the most popular girl’s name for the early 60s although O is older). This was a visit from Bakes – her favourite part of the visit was our allotment. She lives in an old town house in Kensington  and they have a home in Devon too, a cottage with a view of the sea from the garden and a well in the sitting room – and yet she envies our poor old allotment. Funny how we are all striving for a litle piece of countryside – each accrding to our pocket.

She and her husband and their neighbours have just bought two cows in calf (one of the cows is named Sarah peculiarly!)  and intend to supply themselves with beef from now on courtesy of the calves. The neighbours have a large field to house them in. We are trying to persuade her to keep bees too – which she could do in London or Devon really. We have managed to harvest some of our honey but still have a load to do (slow going without the proper equipment) and it tastes wonderful. It’s such a full time occupation keeping on top of it all, work and bees and chickens and house and sanity. I might give in on the sanity for a while, then none of it will matter so much!

Some days I wish I had lovely plumage

allotment-005-wince.jpg

Ah! Inset days! What are they all about? So today – did I write anything at all? It is Wednesday after all – my designated writing day. Of course not! Today was an Inset Day at Lovely J and Tall Boy’s school – he had a friend to stay the night before – so he was happy (they planned a cinema trip for today). Lovely J and I took Curly Boy to his school and then called in to see how the chicks were doing at the allotment. The boys get more beautiful by the day. Then we spent the day trying to find a coat that would fulfil a particular remit – that is to be suitable for school, black, no logos or markings, warm, fashionable, able to fit over a blazer and within budget – a coat that would satisfy a 14 year old school girl, her mother and the Dread Deputy Head (a stickler for correct uniform). “In my day,” I found myself telling Lovely J for the sixth time, “a uniform was just that – uniform – no choice – one style – like it or lump it.” The budget lost in the end, something had to give and well, it’s only money, plenty more where that came from – who needs to MOT the car? (Ah yes I do! Note to self, tyres, windscreen wiper blades.)

School’s been on my mind a fair bit due to the reunion – emails still coming in about lunch arrangements and evening arrangements. ‘What are you going to wear?’ I keep being asked. Nothing special obviously – I’ll just throw on any old outift, casual yet stylish – same as any other day (yeah right). Which brings me to my hair. I have no problem with ageing, I’ve gone a bit grey, I’ve kept a bit of the weight since having Curly Boy (all of it), but I don’t care – I’m happy with who I am. Besides these are girls I spent my formative years with, it doesn’t matter how I look now, we’ll all just be so thrilled to see one another, won’t we? It’s just that when I last had my hair cut I decided I wasn’t going to dye it anymore, so I currently have 4″ roots – I thought I’d grow it all out to the same colour and see how it looked now it has streaks of grey in it. ‘I’ll pay for you to get your hair done’ Laurie offered a few weeks ago. “Why? There’s nothing wrong with it.” I replied. (He wants to wash the car for me too, can’t think why.) So there I was in Wilkos with Lovely J, hovering around the shampoo aisle whilst she chose between tea tree and mint or raspberry and ylang ylang, my eye fell on the ‘wash-in-wash-out’ sachets. Rich mahogany sounded good, besides if it looks awful it’ll wash out won’t it? Just for the roots really, just to give me an even colour. Here I sit, typing for you with rich mahogany lights in my hair  – but those of you who have a rudimentary understanding of colour and dyeing (hair or other wise) will have guessed, my roots are still just that, visible roots! Sometimes I wish I was a chicken.

Chickens and carrots and Curly Boy’s house

Today we put the playhouse we were gifted via Freecycle back together. We’ve put it on the far allotment which is becoming the ‘kids bit’. Now I’ve seen it rebuilt I can’t believe I ever managed to drive the car with it on top. Curly Boy can’t wait to invite his friends to play in it (although it does need a bit of remedial care, a few missing planks, new roof felt, that kind of thing.)

A new home too for the chickens. We brought the chicks up last weekend and first thing this morning I took the hens to join them. I do hope they’ll be happy up there – but the garden needs to recover from having nine of them scratching around and I intend to put the poor old battery hens (when they arrive) at the house with us so I can keep an eye on them until they are fit enough to be moved in with the rest. It’s going to be strange not having the girls outside the front door rushing towards me in the hope I’ve got some more food for them and I’ll miss tripping over them.

It felt like a winter day, crisp and sunny and Middle Sis proudly dug up some carrots (which were very carrot shaped for home grown), another sign of the change in season – no more courgettes and tomatoes, it’s all spuds and carrots from here on in!

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens…

chickens-002-wince.jpg                       chickens-001-wince.jpg

I must admit our hens aren’t looking their finest at the moment – Daughter Hen (above right) isn’t too bad, but Mummy Hen (above left) and Lucky are a bit shabby. We don’t really name our hens, but we had a mummy and five chicks. The fox got some of the chicks when they were still quite young. I was so upset (foxes come at any time of day, which doesn’t seem fair!) I’d heard the commotion and run out into the garden to see him bounding over the 6ft fence. I counted up the remaining chicks to discover we had mummy and two left. I could only find one dead chick and presumed he must have carried off two. An hour or so later, back in the garden I counted again – and there were three chicks close to their mother. One of them was  bedraggled and had clearly been in the fox’s mouth at some point. I didn’t think she’d live for long but she’s still with us three years later, a bit skinnier than the rest and her feathers have never been so bright – so we call her Lucky.

Last night I had a look at The Battery Hen Welfare Trust web site. They have some pictures of chickens which make mine look positively pedigree. We had intended to get some more chickens for the allotment in the spring, but when I saw the condition of these hens I emailed straight away to offer a home to some. They are rescuing 175 this weekend but have managed to place them all.. Their next rescue in my part of the world is at the beginning of November when they will rescue 500 birds – so I’m down for 10 or 12 of those.

As with any adopted or rescued animal, you take them on warts and all, they will be vaccinated, wormed and sprayed for mites but some live only a matter of weeks, others years. They take a few weeks to adapt to their new life in the open air, but according to Mollie (one of the co-ordinators for W. Midlands) they soon plump up and start to behave like regular chickens. I can’t wait. If anyone else is interested, I’ve put a link to the web site for you to take a look for yourself.

And now… I’m off to Tall Boy’s school for a meeting with Head of Maths, Mr S (maths teacher) and Tall Boy. Mr S is a sacrcastic, bullying teacher who has systematically stripped the confidence from every pupil he has had the privelage to teach! If it was just my two (yes the Lovely J had problems too) I might not take him on but when I mention ‘trouble with maths’ to any parent who has children at the school, they roll their eyes and say, ‘Oh no! They don’t have Mr S do they?’ I’m told his results are great – well that’s alright then! Never mind that he strips the confidence from his pupils as long as the results look good in the league tables! Wish me luck. I’d rather be with me chickens.

She’ll be towing a 16 footer when she comes…

boots-and-boy-and-dog-001-wince.jpg

Well that was a first! We hired a 16ft trailer at the weekend and I towed it to Coventry where we loaded up Laurie’s dismantled shed (sorry, studio) and towed it back to Nottingham. All went well – towing’s a doddle just don’t ask me to do too much reversing – until we arrived at the allotments.  I got through the gate alright, and even past the chap who had parked a great big van half way up the lane – however, due to the loss of speed getting past his van my poor old car ground to a halt. Laurie tried giving a push which helped but then I ground to a halt again. So we hitched my car to Middles Sis’s Big Blue Van and she-towed-me-towing-trailer. On up to the car park we drove, where I managed a bit of spectacular reversing and drove back down the hill and swept into our small lane and to the door of our allotment.

Sunday we had more removals to do – this time – courtesy of Freecycle – a two storey wendy house – most of which had to go on my roof rack – that was fun – driving through the streets with a huge house strapped to the top of my car.

I think we have enough work on our hands now – well Laurie does – two piles of timber, two sheds to put together. I shall have to hang up my work boots for a week and get back to housewifey stuff like ironing and supermarket shopping, not to mention paid work and , writing more words! The trouble is, shifting sheds and reversing trailers is much more fun than all the other stuff.

I am paying for my weekend of freedom from household chores – those immortal phrases, ‘is there anything to eat?’ and  ‘where’s my blazer,’ can be heard from my two eldest. They spent the weekend at their father’s house. It was his 50th birthday on Saturday – Happy Birthday Ex! Did I buy him a present? Not directly – I didn’t even say, ‘ he never got me anything, even when we were married,’ just thought it – but I did get stuff for the kids as my lovely J was stressing about what to get him. She loves to give a good birthday. It seems even when you’re not married anymore you’re still married somedays.

full line of washing

writing-007-wince.jpg

I was up early this morning -for a Saturday – and had done two loads of washing before I was due to head off to Coventry in Middle Sis’s Big Blue van. Not a bad start to the day, sadly I get pleasure from seeing a line of washing (sheets are best). I know I’m not alone in this – my dear friend Sarah O agrees. Can’t be doing with a whirley drier. I know that Big Sis is a devotee of the washing line (see her blog June 10th) but Middle Sis sticks hers on the umbrella type contraption where smalls hang lifeless. My washing waves and billows, dances in the air and absorbs that clean smell from the atmosphere that Proctor & Gamble, Lever et al would kill to formulate.

Prompt as usual, Middle Sis arrived in her Big Blue van, curly boy and I climbed up and off we went. Laurie has spent the last two days dismantling his studio/shed from his back garden and the plan was to load it onto Wayne-from-over-the-road’s brother’s truck and drive it up here to Nottingham. Poor old van failed the MOT on Wednesday so we decided to dismantle anyway and bring up smaller stuff in Big Blue. Small stuff like four plan chests.

Laurie’s garden looks like a building site now, with piles of old wood stacked all around awaiting removal. His studio had originally been an MA installation from Nottingham Trent Uni (NTU) – no buyers for the 16x12ft shed with black interior and no windows (it had something to do with sound and sensory deprivation I seem to remember). The windows he set in it were huge glass panels etched with the words ‘some days I just can’t bear to be alive‘ which he had salvaged from Coventry Uni skips (another abandoned degree show installation).

We are all very excited because the shed will be reassembled on our allotment – about half an acre of land we have in the centre if the city, rented from the council allotment committee. ‘Our’ allotments are reputed to be the oldest in Europe and were set up by John Players (the cigarette people) as gardens for their workers. Originally each one had  a tiny brick built house, complete with fire grate and shuttered windows – a real retreat from the factory and the terraced houses.

Each allotment has a high hedge around it and inside feels like The Secret Garden. We have five in all, joined together – an orchard, hard core veg, country garden and my favourte a lawned, meadow like area where we sit and drink tea and chat. It is here that Laurie will rebuild his studio ‘but better’ and I will come every Wednesday and write and write and write without a telephone, or laundry or dishes to distract me.