Friday, 25 September 2009
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
After a day of frustrations at work & also feeling a little blue after telling my work colleagues about the last of the ducklings leaving home, I came home to find some Wardens from the Wildlife Trust stood looking out across the Reserve which is opposite our little field. I wound down my car window & asked them if there were any Mallards down on the reservoir & to my delight they told me that there is indeed a small group of young Mallards down there! So I went on to tell them the tale of the rescued Mallard ducklings. They were charmed by the story & agreed it was quite possible that it was 'my' youngsters that were on the water! Then they asked me if I would be interested in becoming a volunteer for the Reserve & getting involved in the whole project. Naturally I almost literally jumped up & down at the chance! So I was already buzzing with excitement when I pulled onto our drive & was met by middle son asking me if I had noticed that one of the Mallards was back in the field! I rushed up to see if it was true & sure enough, there, as large as life, was little Bobbity sat with Daisy & Seymour the Aylesbury ducks (no doubt having enjoyed some of their food) taking a little nap! Can you believe it?! She had been gone since Sunday. I experienced such a rush of emotion - I'm sure that in that moment I could have actually lifted off the ground! Here's a couple of pictures of her(?) strolling around as if she'd never been away:
Now I'm not kidding myself for one moment that she had returned to see me, but it does give me immense satisfaction to know that we created an environment pleasant enough for her to want to return to.
I galloped back up to the Trust people & introduced myself a little more formally & told them of the development & in return they chatted to me about how the Reserve was developing & attracting new wildlife. As well as the Mallards there are two Swans, Herons & a white Egret to be seen down on the water. Barn Owl numbers have picked up quite considerably due to an increase in the small mammal population now that the land isn't being farmed. Buzzards are quite a common sight here, but they have also spotted a Kite & told me how the fork in the Kite's tail is the way to tell them apart. They have witnessed the local Sparrowhawk terrorising the sparrows along the hedgerow & I told them how it had taken all of the Blue Tit chicks from my neighbour's garden last year. It will be a such a pleasure to be able to help in whatever way I can & of course it will have the added bonus of being able to see the Mallards regularly, if indeed they are our rescued ducklings on the water. I felt as if angels had truly smiled down on me.
That's not the end of my happy news for today! I candled the eggs in my incubator for the second time & each one has a developing chick inside! You can clearly see the dark mass of the chick & the blood vessels that are feeding it. I could make out the head & body & they reacted to the light being shone onto them. I'm sure I could actually make out the feathers on one or two, but maybe I'm being too fanciful. Being a novice at this, & after determining that each egg was fertile when I candled at day 7, it is a relief that I have managed to maintain the correct conditions in the incubator. So, without wishing to count our chickens before they hatch, it looks like we must get a move on with sorting out that brooder area this weekend as it appears our family is going to be growing yet again!
To top things off the farmer whose barn conversion we live in called by to ask if I would like some hay free of charge as one of his bales had burst & was of no use to him. Also, lovely Mary, my neighbour, let me use her long hosepipe to water the parched grass in our little field as hers reaches & ours doesn't. Hopefully this will encourage it to sprout greenery in time to provide the geese with enough grazing to see them through the Winter months.
So today has been one of many blessings. I have been moved to the core & feel full to the brim with joy & gratitude. Bobbity had flown away again by the time the light started to fade this evening, but this one visit will leave me with a warm feeling inside for many days to come & who knows it may even become a more regular occurrence. I'll keep you posted...
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Saturday, 12 September 2009
I have 6 Chamois Poland Frizzle, 6 Porcelain D'Uccle & 6 Blue Silkie eggs 'cooking' away at 37.5o'C with water in a little tray which is keeping the incubator at around 55% humidity. It is completely amazing to me that it will only take 19-21 days for the embryos which are hopefully growing inside the eggs to develop into fluffy chicks! Today is Day 2 of my incubation period & according to the chart in my 'Guide to Hatching & Rearing' the chick embryos have the beginnings of a digestive canal, spinal column, nervous system, head, eyes, heart & ears. Tomorrow their hearts will begin to beat!! How wondrous & miraculous is that?! My own heart flutters as I watch over the eggs & hope that they are fertilised & developing. At seven days I will be able to 'candle' the eggs (direct a beam of light into the egg) to see if I can see the tell tale spider-like shape of an embryo with blood vessels radiating outwards. How happy I will be if even a small ratio of these eggs make it!
My intention is to keep my bantams completely separate from the other hens in a secure area of our back garden. We have missed seeing feathered friends scratching about outside our kitchen window! Of, course, I have no idea how many of the eggs will hatch & how many will turn out to be cockerels, so this is a big adventure into the unknown. I will keep you posted!
Back to cockerels, it has become apparent now that in fact none of the eight young cross breed chickens we were given are cockerels. The hens have displayed some rather odd behaviour since Rodney passed away. Top of the pecking order, Chicken Tikka, who is most definitely a SHE, has been treading the other hens in the absence of a male!! I know some people find the sound of a cock crowing a noisy irritation but to me it is one of the most stirring, life affirming sounds of the countryside. Fortunately, my neighbours also seem to enjoy the sound! So I had in my mind that it would be wonderful to find a new cockerel for the girls. As well as blogging, I regularly 'Twitter' with a small circle of like-minded chicken loving individuals & it just seemed like fate that one of my most favourite fellow 'Twitterers' asked 'Twitterland' if anyone could give a loving home to some of his hatchlings that had turned out to be cockerels. Unfortunately, he is unable to keep cockerels at his home although he would dearly love to. You can read the truly heart warming tales of his chicken adventures (amongst other musings & rants!) in his blog by following this link http://spicycauldron.com/. So about the first week of December we are driving up to Yorkshire to collect two Copper Blue Maran cockerels & possibly one Welsummer cockerel too if he has not found a home by then. I am so looking forward to both collecting our boys & also meeting my Twitter pal! In the mean time, I know they couldn't be getting a better start in life :-D.
Above one of the Copper Blue cockerels & below, left of photo, the Welsummer cockerel
My last bit of news is that after a long wait our bedroom window has finally been knocked out & replaced by French Windows - yippee! It has made such a difference to the room already. The light just pours in when you open the curtains. Eventually we will be able to step out into a little arbor. In my imaginings I have romantic pictures of hens wandering in to join us, wild birds singing on the door step & bunny rabbits hopping around our feet. But in reality I'm sure it will be more a case of shouting at the dogs for bringing in muddy paw prints & hubby for muddy boot prints!
I am going to hang a crystal in the windows to bring rainbows into the room. Whatever horrible, scary things are happening in the wide world out there, my own little universe is a very peaceful, content & fulfilled place right now & I feel very lucky to have this little sanctuary away from the madness. I hope each & every one of you has a special place too, whether it be a favourite seat in which to read a book, or a garden to nurture or a favourite walk with the dog. We all need to be able to take time out & breathe in life, before time starts rushing us on again!
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Youngest son & my mum also have birthdays this week so we all got together at Mum & Dad's last Sunday. Family time is always treasured time! After Mum's yummy dinner, followed by even yummier steamed syrup sponge (heaven!) we got onto the subject of my recent chutney & jam experiments & Dad went & found my gran's copy of Mrs Beeton's cook book. When I opened it a recipe, on yellowing paper & carefully hand written in black ink, fell out. It was for 'A Scripture Christmas Cake Taken from The Bible'. It had no ingredients or method instructions just a list of Bible references. So youngest son & I, both with woefully little Bible knowledge, had a go at unravelling the code. It was good fun so here it is if you have a Bible & fancy a little challenge:
4 1/2 cups .........1st Kings............IV chapter ......22nd verse
1/2 lb....................Judges................V chapter.........25th verse
2 cups....................Jeremiah............VI chapter.........20th verse
2 cups....................Nahum...............III chapter.........12th verse
2 cups..................1st Samuel...........XXX chapter......12th verse
2 cups....................Numbers..............XVII chapter......8th verse
2 teaspoonfuls......1st Samuel..........XIV chapter.......25th verse
To taste..................2nd Chronicles...IX. chapter........9th verse
6...............................Jeremiah.............XVII chapter........11th verse
1 1/2 cups.............Judges..................IV chapter..........19th verse
2 teaspoonfuls.......Amos......................IV chapter..........5th verse
1 pinch....................Leviticus..............II chapter.............13th verse
DIRECTIONS .............PROVERBS............XXIII CHAPTER......14TH VERSE
Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
(Hint - leaven = Baking Powder)
Ibbity growing up
To update you on the story of our little rescued Mallard ducklings, Ibbity , the biggest & most developed of the four, had been taking small flights out of our little field but still seemed to be sticking around. However, three days have passed now with no sign of him(?), so it would appear that he has fully embraced his freedom & gone off to live wild just as Nature intended him to. We are lucky in that a good few acres of land across the lane & opposite our little field belongs to a Wildlife Trust & has a reservoir on it, so I am thinking he is possibly over there & not so far away. The Reserve is not open to the public so we cannot go down to see if we can spot him. However, lovely hubby has ordered some good binoculars so we can do a bit of 'twitching' & see if we can see any Mallards down on the water. So although I do miss him I feel happy in my heart that he has had a good start in life after a disastrous beginning. I hope angels will always fly with him & keep him safe.
Ibbity's new home?
His sisters(?) are flourishing & are starting to excercise their wings regularly, so I am making the most of whatever wonderful, precious time we may have left with them.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Now the results weren't perfect & I'm certainly no Domestic Goddess, but it really is worth having a go yourself if you haven't already. You'll find the Blackberry Jam recipe down the side of my blog under September's Favourite Recipe of the Month. If you do go hedgerow picking please do remember to leave plenty behind for the birds, mammals & insects that rely on Nature's bounty at this time of year.
Are you impressed with my jars of homemade booty? A jar of jam is a jar of jam - right? Thought so.....
Ooohhh! Now that feels better :-D