Monday, 30 March 2009

Mice or pigeons?

When I went to my allotment last week, I was pleased to see the first broad bean shoots emerging from the soil.  When I went back today all the shoots seemed to have disappeared.  There were leaves lying on the surface and beans that appeared to have been nibbled.

Some plants seem to have been uprooted and then left on the surface completely untouched - why?

Who is the culprit? I've come across differing opinions, could it be mice or pigeons? If it is pigeons, a few pea sticks covering the row might stop them but wouldn't make any difference if it was mice.

Although I've always sown broad beans directly into the soil, I'm going to grow on a few in pots on a windowsill, if they are a bit bigger when they go into the ground they might have a better chance of survival.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Earth hour and summer time

Another year, another Earth Hour, time seems to be flying past at the moment.  Oldest son was out and my husband wanted to watch television so it was just me and younger son who turned the lights out.  We retreated to a bedroom and each wrapped in a blanket, we ate chocolate by the light of my solar lamp and chatted.  Time with my teenagers seems so precious when I realise that within two years they might both be living away from home and it was a lovely quiet hour to chat without any of the usual electronic distractions.

With British Summer Time starting today it seemed extremely early when the alarm clock went off and I got up to take eldest son to work for an early shift - not as early as it felt for him though after his late night out!

I grabbed my camera as I left because the sun was just rising and the sky was a lovely mixture of pinks and purples.  By the time, I had taken him to work the sun was higher in the sky and the colours were fading but I managed to get a couple of early morning shots.

It was very peaceful, alone in the countryside around 7 am this morning - a good start to summer time.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A woodland walk

I seem to be falling out of the habit of blogging recently.  Its not that I've been particularly busy, just that there always seems to be something else to be done.

I have been spending more time outdoors, enjoying the sunny weather (although we had rain today) and these are a few photos from the weekend.

I had a lovely walk through the local bluebell wood.  Too early for the bluebells yet but plenty of leaves and I did see this bud - won't be long now.

Before there are any leaves on the trees the woodland is very bright and airy, so different from the cool dim light in midsummer.

Most woodland flowers bloom around now at the start of the season making use of the light before the canopy develops and leaves them in shade.

I saw wood sorrel which has edible leaves.  They have a lemony flavour but should only be eaten in small quantities as they have high levels of oxalic acid.

The wood anemones were also in flower.

Finally I took this photo of fungi growing on a fallen branch and surrounded by fresh new bluebell leaves.  The cycle of new growth, older plant growth and decay all together - isn't nature wonderful.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Its officially Spring now and we've been having glorious spring weather. With days of sunshine and warm temperatures all the plants seem to be racing to bloom and grow.

We spent a day in London yesterday.  Younger son was looking round a University Fair but we all went, taking advantage of the cheap group-save rail fares, four for the price of two!

At mid-day we ate our packed lunch in the sunshine, sitting on the steps of the Albert Memorial and watching the world go by.

Although I'm definitely a country person, I do enjoy visiting London occasionally. Yesterday in particular the whole place seemed to be full of energy, people cycling, running, skating and power walking in the spring sunshine.  We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering through the parks.  I had forgotten how tame the squirrels are in towns, this little fellow was balancing on top of the railings watching us watching him.

Wandering through Kensington we came upon the Wholefoods Market and we wandered in to have a look.  We didn't buy anything but it all looked beautifully arranged. I particularly liked the displays of dried beans. They were packed in small transparent plastic punnets which is not the most environmentally friendly way to pack them but they did look nice stacked together in all their different colours.

The shop prices were high and I will always wonder at anyone paying £1.29 for a small pack of alfalfa sprouts when the same quantity can be sprouted in a jam jar at home for about 5p, as my father would say "more money then sense!"

Saturday, 14 March 2009

A day in my life

Its the 14th March and I am continuing with my "day in my life" posts.  Todays post will be a record of a very ordinary Saturday.

My bedroom window faces east and this is the sky I woke up to this morning.  It is lovely that the mornings are so much lighter now, I am ready to get up around six o'clock - something that never happens during the dark winter months.

The day started with routine tasks, putting a load of washing in the machine, starting to make the bread and putting the batch of chick peas that I soaked overnight in the slow cooker.  I prepare dried beans in batches, soaking enough for three or four meals then cooking them in the crockpot the next day. I freeze the ones I don't need straight away in meal size portions. That way I always have beans ready to add to casseroles etc without having to remember to soak them the night before.

Next a cup of coffee while catching up on with some blog reading.

When I went into the garden to hang out the washing I spent some time with the chickens. Here is Sage 

and Onion,

The division of the garden into chicken and non-chicken areas seems to be working well.  Sage and Onion now seem quite happy in their half of the garden and there have been no more escape attempts.  Its not quite two weeks since I put up this fence and already the non- chicken grass is showing signs of recovery.  I am hopeful that I will be able to grow a few salads in my part of the garden this summer.

This afternoon I combined picking my son up after his match with a quick trip to Waitrose.  I got home in the late afternoon and it was still such a nice day I went for a walk.  Spring seems to be making up for lost time now and the hedges, particularly the hawthorn are beginning to green up.

Some of the hedges looked less attractive though.  The one in the photo below had been recently trimmed. I am sure that the hedge-cutting machines that the council uses are very efficient but the poor hedge looks so ugly and scarred after it has been slashed by the machines. 

By the time I got back it was time to start cooking dinner, todays was curry. Rereading last months "day in my life" post I see we had curry then as well, we don't eat it every Saturday but it does appear quite frequently. This week it was seafood curry with rice.

Now its time to have a cup of Red bush tea and read the paper - a very ordinary Saturday.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The start of spring

Many of the fields surrounding the village have been recently ploughed. Walking through the countryside, yesterday, on a cloudy grey day there wasn't much sign of life or growth in those fields.

It was in the hedgerows and banks at the sides of the farmed land that plants were beginning to bloom. Amongst the seed heads still standing from the autumn,  

there were wonderful clumps of primroses.

Each time this year when I have thought that spring is arriving we have had snow, floods or cold weather but now that it is March and the primroses are out I hope that spring is here to stay.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The garden and the chickens

My garden is looking a bit of a mess at the moment.  These pictures were taken two summers ago before the arrival of our two hens, Sage and Onion.

They have a coop and run which is suitable for 3/4 hens so they should have plenty of room but I wanted them to have more freedom and space and so they have had the run of the garden for most of the day. When we made this decision I had no idea just how much destruction two hens could do.

Now eighteen months later, the patio is permanently covered with soil and stones, all the plants in pots have disappeared

and parts of my lawn look like this.....

At the end of last winter the grass looked very sparse and it did not fully recover during the summer.  This year it looks worse.

Another disadvantage of having hens in the garden is that unless I keep the back door closed I have hens in my kitchen, which is quite sweet but not very practical.

Do I sound fed up?  We like having the chickens and they are very friendly, sitting on the bench beside us when we take our cups of tea outside and rushing up to meet me each day when I go out to hang the washing on the line, but I also like my garden.

Hopefully we have found a solution,  we are going to share the garden, half for the chickens and half for me to actually grow a few plants in.  You can just see the netting fence in the photo dividing the garden into two.

The trouble is, the chickens are not happy with the fence.  They peck at it, they poke their heads through the holes in the netting, they paw at it with their feet and they moan. So now of course I feel guilty about restricting them to the bottom of the garden.

I am hoping that after a few days they will have got used to the fence and will be contented chickens once more.  Does anyone know if chickens have long memories or will they soon forget they once ruled over the whole garden?