Last Saturday we drove half-an-hour to Letwell, just on the other side of Rotherham, to collect 6 new additions to the family.
The British Hen Welfare Trust rescues around 50,000 hens a year and around 300 of them were coming to South Yorkshire. These are caged hens coming to the end of their commercial viability who would otherwise be heading for slaughter.
We’d already decided we wanted some chickens, and if we could rescue any, all the better. So we researched it and we bought a small hen house (houses up to 12 chickens).
We live on a free-range farm that has had chickens previously, so we knew that so long as we keep them safe from foxes, they’d hopefully enjoy a long and happy life with us.
The house was sited in a sheltered part of the front garden, with the stable to one side, a hill behind, a big tree overhead and a shed on the other side (soon to include a greenhouse). We’re gated in and there is fencing all around, mostly to contain the dog.
There are only 2 chickens left on the main farm at the moment, thanks to the fox. But there are 5 guinea fowl, 4 peacocks, 3 geese, 2 horses, a few hundred sheep and some cows.
Living in the countryside immediately around us are pheasants, badgers, woodpeckers, mallards, owls, kingfishers.
We have a fast-running section of the River Don where the poet goes fly-fishing. And ramblers regularly use the public footpaths that cut through the land. It really is idyllic.
And so we thought the chickens would settle in nicely and enjoy their new surroundings.
We found an animal feed specialist just down the road where we can not only get our chicken supplies from, but the garden bird food is considerably cheaper too. So we have chicken food, chicken grit, straw, sawdust, a feeder, a water hopper. The extra we’re spending on the chicken supplies, we’re more than saving on the garden bird food.
On the first day, Saturday, we just got the girls home and settled them into the hen house, where we left them overnight. Monkey Dust had a gig on the evening, so we just had to make sure the house was secure in case a fox wandered by while we were out.
They were still all present and correct (and safe!) when we got home. 🙂
On Sunday morning, still in his dressing gown, the poet went out to see them. They’d laid 5 eggs, which we were very happy about. We didn’t really get them for the eggs, we got them to rescue them. But the occasional egg is a nice thank-you gift from them.
When I got up, we went out and we let them out for the first time. They were nervous and cautious and not at all sure what to do. So we encouraged them outside in the sunshine. And that was when I found the sixth egg.
The peacocks, the guinea fowl and “Madge”, one of the farm chickens, came up to have a look at what was going on, and to scrounge the bit of food we scattered on the ground. At first they tried to bully the new arrivals, and we decided not to put food outside again until the new chickens have properly settled in.
By day 2, by the way, the biggest of our chickens was giving as much as she got with the other birds and making sure they all knew which was her territory. They still try to bully them, but if I come out or if our “big” chicken sees them, they start to back off again.
We didn’t leave them out for very long on Sunday as it was new to them and we also want them to get used to going into the house at night.
When we go camping in the summer at weekends, we will have a fox-proof enclosure up – that’s next Easter’s bank holiday weekend project. But for as long as we’re home and can shut them in at night, that’s not really a priority.
As the week progressed, laying went down to just 2 eggs a day, with a possible third being eaten by them for the shell. Today, for the first time since last Sunday, we had 3 eggs. And tomorrow they get their first clean-out.
They’re all settling in very well, exploring their new surroundings, establishing a pecking order. And by yesterday (Friday), they were running to me every time they saw me, pecking at my wellies, and mostly going into their house at night by themselves.
Just now when I went out to see them, at noon, one of them pecked at the empty water dish and then glared at me. Then she waited while I went to clean and re-fill the water hopper, having a massive drink when I put it back. Naughty Diane!
One bird in particular is straight out of the coop as soon as we open it, with another 2 following soon after. Two more tend to take their time and one of them definitely prefers to stay indoors. We’re calling that one Aggie the Agoraphobic.
We also have one that is very, very bald, and while I call her Baldy when I’m talking about her, to her face, or when she can hear, she’s Gail. We also have a Lara Croft – she’s the adventurous one.
We hope their feathers will grow again and that their plumage improves, and we will continue to be grateful for every egg they leave for us. I hope you enjoyed the pictures – perhaps as we take more, we’ll all see an improvement. They’re already looking chubbier.
If you are able to rescue any chickens, the BHWT have collections all over the country.
Our chickens came from a farm in Chesterfield, and the re-homing centre we collected them from rescued around 250 chickens that day, and over 2,500 chickens in the time they’ve been volunteering.
You have to register first and then, if there isn’t a waiting list, you could be collecting your first chickens within days. We bought our hen house from Egg Shell Online, but you can do an online search or the BHWT will point you in the right direction. They’re not the only re-homing charity in the country, either. So do your research and find the right fit for you.
We made a donation of £5 per bird, but this is completely down to the discretion of the re-homer(s). Other charities ask for a donation of just £1 per bird, but again, I think it really is up to you.
Yes, it’s been a while. The last time I posted was 22 August … the following day wasn’t a great one in our world. We’ve had a lot going on since then too, along with more shocks (more information can be found on Words Worth Writing, so I shan’t bore anyone over here with the details again), but hopefully, once again, perhaps things will finally settle for us now.
We’ve not really been out. We’ve not really done much in the kitchen. We’ve not really had chance to do anything substantial to the garden.
A few loaves of bread have been made, along with a few pots of jam. We have more foraging to do. Our garden is resplendent with apples, plums, rhubarb, but we want to go and get some blackberries, some sloe berries and some elderberries from our old lane. There are more jams to be made, and chutneys, and ketchups, and sauces … It is, after all, that time of year.
I’ve been very busy re-publishing books. (Again, more information can be found over on the writing blog.) I’ve picked up a couple of old writing courses to complete, on top of the fiction writing course I’m already studying. I have more books to write, along with a few short stories. And I have several client books to edit too.
So I am very, very busy. And if I disappear again, you’ll know why.
I was going to give Baggins Bottom a bit of a sabbatical, but I realised that as soon as I do that, I’ll suddenly have lots to write about again. Therefore, please forgive and excuse any randomness or unreliability meanwhile. Ta. 🙂
… do sometimes work!
There was nothing planned for this weekend, so because we’ve been so busy recently, we decided we’d batten down the hatches and not do anything outside of the home for the whole weekend.
On Friday, the poet came home from work but left the gate open as we were having a takeaway/delivery for tea. (Friday is takeout night.)
Once our tea was delivered, the gate was closed and we didn’t open it again until the poet went to work this morning. We didn’t do a lot else Friday night, other than chill and watch telly. Oh, but the poet did make a start on the garden pond …
On Saturday, he ventured into the garden and continued to empty the old pond. It had been neglected for a long time and he needed to see (a) what was in it, and (b) what the lining was like.
While he did that, I did some baking. I made a Swiss Roll, with no fat and reduced-sugar jam, and a dozen sultana buns, with reduced sugar.
He picked me some rhubarb from the garden, so I made a rhubarb crumble too, but that did have sugar in as we weren’t sure how tart the rhubarb was. (It was quite tart.)
When he’d had enough in the garden – dodging heavy showers and wading in up to his knees – the poet came in and whipped up a couple of brown loaves – in the oven, not in the bread machine. (He’s getting very good at the “real” bread.)
There wasn’t a lot on telly we wanted to watch, so I suggested he have a look at 24. He’d never seen it and I quite fancied watching it again, and it was available on Sky’s box sets, series 1 – 9.
On Sunday, we started to tackle the boxes … emptying 7 in total. One box hasn’t survived, but we folded the others down in case we need them again.
It was nice to see all of our stuff again, but we unpacked more of the later-packed ones as those contained more of the stuff we actually use. But it meant another load of stuff went into the bins. At least we emptied one car as well, though.
Then we busied ourselves putting things away. The poet hung some pictures and a mirror. I tidied my writing books and the other books I use for reference. I think there are some in another box, but we’ll be needing another bookcase for all of the novels. We put crocks and ornaments in places we thought might be nice or useful.
And we had both dinner and tea outside, in the garden. The hot sunshine was filtered by the leaves of the trees, so we didn’t need to put the parasol up.
Finally, we finished with another few episodes of 24. And for the first time in AGES, we felt as though we’d had a proper weekend.
The world finally stopped spinning for us this week and we were able to step off, have a moment, smell the roses. Both of us were hit almost immediately with … something, but it didn’t last long. We’ve had quite an idle week, though, considering how busy we’ve been recently.
The poet painted a garden bench and cut the grass. I managed to empty one very small bag and take another upstairs. Oh, and we did some shopping. And that’s it.
Aside from work, of course. We both had a nice short week and today is a nice short day. But this weekend is the first one in an age that we haven’t got to do anything. We don’t have to be anywhere, see anyone, do anything. And, boy, are we going to enjoy it.
Today I had planned on posting pictures from last Sunday’s day out to Alrewas. But they’re not on the portable hard drive, although I know they’ve been done. As any other events we attended were all as far back as May, you’re getting a bit of a waffle-post instead. 🙂
I’ve delivered a book this week, and will invoice for that later today. I’ve transferred an old novel over onto Scrivener. I’ve started to build a new novel on Scrivener. I’ve transferred more of CATCH THE RAINBOW onto Scrivener. And just this second I received an email with the latest requirements from fave short story market, so I’ll have a look at that then read a few copies of the magazine to see what they’re using at the moment.
Over the weekend we’re emptying more boxes and no doubt weeding out yet more clutter.
What are you up to this weekend?
Today’s picture is for illustration.
Finally, after several very long weeks, we are done. We have moved everything from one house to the other and handed back the keys for the old house. For the first time in more than a month, we don’t have to go out this evening to take or collect stuff. It is done, it is over.
Saying that, I’m convinced we’ve left some cooking pans in the bottom of a cupboard – at least 3 roasting dishes and some loaf tin liners. But hey, if we have, and if we need them, we’ll just have to buy some more. If we have and we don’t miss them, then it’s less clutter. And if we haven’t, then that’s great.
It was a very, very busy weekend, though.
On Friday the first job we had was to drop my car off for its MOT. Then we collected a self-drive van so that we could take stuff from the garden and from the garage to the new house, and any other stuff that wouldn’t fit in one of the cars very well. We made 2 full trips in all before going back to collect my car. (It failed, but only a little bit.)
The following morning, Saturday, we filled the van for a run to the tip … but when we got to the tip they wouldn’t let us on. Long-wheel-base vehicles aren’t permitted, apparently. I thought they were, but you had to pay a tenner.
The van had to be back by 10am, so we went back to the van hire place, explained the situation, and the owner very kindly let us empty the van into the car so we could try again at the tip. We made 2 trips back to the tip in the end. And in the afternoon we did the weekly shopping and went back to the new house for tea/the evening.
On Sunday, at 9am, we headed off to Birmingham to take my dad to Alrewas for the National Service Memorial Day at the National Memorial Arboretum. The weather was a bit breezy but it stayed kind to us. And Dad had a nice time. Pictures will follow. When we got home, we had a pork dinner, having left a pork joint in the slow cooker.
Monday morning we had to go back to the old house to hand the keys over. But it was great to come back and not have to go anywhere for the rest of the day. It was a nice day, though, so the poet busied himself tidying the stable and the shed, doing a bit of petrol-strimming, and painting a fence. He also baked a loaf of bread – in the oven, not the bread machine.
I also did some bits and bobs. I’d had a hospital appointment, which I cancelled in the end. It wasn’t important and we needed some time out. I tried baking some sugar-free blueberry muffins, but the mix was too dry and they went in the bin. Instead I fell back on an old standard – individual buns or fairy cakes, making them with milk chocolate chunks.
This morning, the poet went back to work, and so did I. But we’re quite excited about not having to go anywhere this evening when he comes home. I may take the dog for a walk to post a letter – the nearest letter box is quite a walk away – but apart from that I think we’ll be emptying boxes. Deep joy.
I went AWOL again, didn’t I? Sorry about that. All is well, we’ve just been moving house again, and I had a lot to do before the internet was switched off at the old house, and then they went and switched it off a day early. By the time it came back up, I had another lot to do. But now I think I might be catching up a little.
We’re spread between 2 houses at the moment. We thought it might be a good idea to keep both properties on at the same time and move in gradually. But now I’m not so sure that was the best thing. It seems to be dragging out the process rather than getting it all done in one go.
The first priority, as ever, was to get my office up and running. So even before we had the keys we had to go and choose office furniture. The office has been in action for almost 2 weeks now. We just need to fetch some curtains over to finish it off. I’m on the ground floor again, quite close to the front door, with a beautiful view across the garden to the farm we’ll be living on.
My old office furniture has gone into the poet’s new studio and his computer followed. We still have to bring the studio/music equipment over and that may be happening this evening. Then we had to get his computer connected to the internet as well, and that’s what we did last week.
We moved the spare bed over (in pieces) so we could sleep over if we needed to, but the fridge-freezer is still at the old place and when we came to use the cooker at the new place, the thermostat wasn’t working. Result – burnt dinner and a melted tray (it was a shop-bought lasagne). So last Friday we also went out and bought a new cooker and hob …
… are we ready for a mini rant?
So we were in Curry’s, looking at ceramic hobs and the assistant asked if we had any questions. I asked if our lovely copper-bottom stainless-steel practically brand new Prestige pan set would work on the ceramic hob. She not only said that yes it would, but then went on to talk us into buying an induction hob instead.
We arrived home with our brand new cooker and hob, which the poet fitted (he’s also an electrician). But when we came to test the hob, OUR PANS DIDN’T WORK.
I did a bit of a Google and discovered that induction hobs really don’t like the copper bottoms, and it was a well-known issue amongst induction-hob-owners the world over.
To say I was a bit livid is putting it mildly, and had I NOT asked the question in the first place, I would have kicked myself. But I DID ask, and I WAS told that YES, my pans would work on all of their hobs.
On Saturday, then, we had to go out and buy a complete set of new pans. We had to be back at the new place by 1pm, though, as Sky was coming to fit our new telly. We were going from Sky HD+ to Sky Q …
… and guess what … I have another mini rant!
<mini rant #2>
When I was talking to Sky on the phone, the one question I asked was “will we still be able to watch our recorded problems when we have Sky Q?” The answer was not only a resounding “Yes!”, but we were also talked out of having another mini Q box fitted at this time with the discount included because our old box would still work.
Now this discount is worth about sixty quid. So we discussed it and decided we’d pay the full installation amount if we found we needed the extra box in the future, i.e. after we’d finished watching everything on our old box.
When the engineers arrived, they offered to take our box back so we’d get a further £10 discount. But we said we were going to keep it and use it alongside our new Q.
“Er, no you’re not,” said one. “You have a new Sky dish. There’s no connection for the old box …”
Diane (politely but icily): “Excuse me?”
He repeated himself and I’m afraid I had to leave the room. I mean, I’d ASKED again!
</mini rant #2>
It really is me, isn’t it?
Anyway, we now have Sky Q working beautifully at the new house and Sky HD working at the old house, and we’re frantically watching what we can before this Saturday, when everything moves to the new house.
But I tested the oven yesterday with some old staples, and very successfully baked a dozen cherry buns and a dozen white choc chip cookies (the poet said they even tasted like cookies …). Then the poet tested the hob yesterday evening and made a chicken dinner, frying the chicken breasts in one of the new frying pans as we didn’t have any foil to bake it in at the new house.
We settled down to watch a film on the telly too, and he was delighted to find that the new Q links to his YouTube account so he can now watch his subscribed videos on the big telly instead of on his mobile phone.
So all is well, but we still have a lot to do. We move the big stuff over this Saturday, and then we have a week to bring over anything that’s left and to give the old house a good clean.
If I disappear again, you know why. 🙂
*<mini rant> and </mini rant> nicked quite blatantly from Twitter, Facebook and NaNoWriMo mate Steven Chapman.