Saturday, 31 July 2010
Just popping by to post a link to pic of new arrvials Snuzzle & Jessie :0) Florence pekin has decided that Peek & Boo are more than enough for her, so these 2 are being hand reared. So I'm a surrogate Momma Hen again - it's a hard life ;)
Another chick hatched overnight,it's the smallest wee thing I've ever seen. It's grey & yellow & I think one of my little Barbu d'Uccles must be the daddy. This chick will be staying with Nutmeg, who is busy mothering it whilst still brooding the remainings eggs she's been sat on. She's an amazing little girl!
Also, I have 14 eggs cooking away in the incubator at Gas Mark Egg. These are Scots Dumpy eggs that I'm hatching out on behalf of Caithness Rare Breeds . I'll tell you all about my work with this wonderful charity in my next post.
Until next time I wish you bright blessing in harmony with all that is
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
A couple of days ago I peered in at the broody ladies & could hear tiny cheeps coming from underneath one of them. Then the tiniest, CUTEST little black Pekin chick popped it's head out from underneath Florence's feather petticoats! After 7 years of poultry keeping I was finally able to celebrate my first natural hatching - BIG FAT YAY!
Middle Son & I carefully carried Florence & chick down to the garden & popped them into an old rabbit hutch where they would have peace & quiet & be safe from the cockerels. Want to see? Here is proud Momma Florence with little Boo:
The following day another, almost identical chick popped out from underneath Nutmeg!! As Nutmeg still had eggs under her I took the new arrival down to the garden & popped it in with Florence & Boo. Florence gave no 2 chick a bit of a peck at first, but undeterred little Peek wriggled underneath her new Momma & from then on became one of the family unit.
Florence has been a perfect Momma Hen, fussing & clucking away at her babies. It really is a joy to watch. Here she is teaching Boo (or is it Peek?!) to feed:
Now Snow White, another silkie cross, has joined the fearsome egg sitters so I'm hoping that some more chicks will hatch very soon. Then Nutmeg can be a Momma Hen too after her hours of dedicated broodiness.
Although I feel slightly redundant after being used to playing the Momma Hen role myself there is nothing quite as beautiful as watching a natural mother with her babies. The hatching was certainly a lot less stressful! No endless checking of an incubator & the worries & responsibilites artificial hatching brings. Just managed perfectly and simply by Mother Nature. Another of life's truly wonderful miracles.
So, Jess, if you read this, this must make you an honorary Aunty at the very least :0)
Saturday, 10 July 2010
I will continue the update of my la-la-land of feathered creatures shortly, but I am in philosophical mood so I thought I’d share a thought with you.
I believe we are all born with a vibration inside us, a longing, a wildness. To achieve inner peace & true contentment we search for things that resonate with us. Some of us try to resonate with artificial stimulants e.g. wealth, material possessions, power, gambling, drink, drugs, pornography. We find they excite our inner wildness maybe. But they do not bring peace.
I believe that in order to find our Zen, that perfect balance of resonance, we need to connect to the natural world around us. To look at a sunset with fresh eyes. To wander barefoot & truly feel the heartbeat of Mother Earth beneath our toes. To take in the majesty of wild creatures around us. To appreciate the fragile beauty of rose petals or a butterfly’s wings
Only when we open our eyes again, childlike, do we find that the resonance we need is all around us. Waiting, forever there should we just reach out & touch it.
Be it the wildness of stormy waves crashing against a pebble beach, the haunting cry of an eagle soaring high on mystic thermals, the bright treasure of the colours in a rainbow or the serene peace of a deserted walk across untouched wilderness. Whatever your inner wild, there is a place for you that you can call home. You just need to take that walk with Mother Earth.
Bright blessings to you in harmony with all that is,
Sunday, 4 July 2010
So what’s been happening in Sara’s la-la-land of critters?……………
Well, first of all Daffy, Dougie, Pip, Orville and Scrummy all grew up big & strong. They spent some time in our back garden ……
…..then soon they were big enough to introduce to the rest of the birds in our little field…..
So now they are fully fledged members of our gang, but still so tame & friendly that if you sit on the grass for any length of time you have to be prepared to be climbed on & tickled all over by them. They will also regularly check & double check that your fingers, toes & ear lobes are not removable! Needless to say they are adored! Happily Pip, Eve, Scrummy & Orville are females so they will be our forever friends. Sadly both Dougie & Daffy, the black Cayugas, have turned out to be drakes so with an incredibly heavy heart I have had to make the decision to rehome one of them. I don’t know which one will go yet, but luckily wonderful Stephen of the charity I’ve been supporting, Caithness Rare Breeds, has offered one of the guys a forever home with him up in Scotland, where I know they will be loved & cared for as much as they would be here with me.
Knowing that I have to part with one of my ducks after hand rearing them & developing that ever so special bond with them has made me come to my senses & admit that I am not cut out to be a poultry breeder. There is no way I could have sold either Dougie of Daffy to a stranger & not know for sure kind of home they were going to. I am just completely unable to treat my creatures as commodities. As soon as they join us each one has a place in my heart & the love I feel for them is very strong motherly love. Instantly my role is to nurture & protect them. Knowing they are well cared for & happy makes me feel content inside & the thought of sending them somewhere where they may not be treated with the same love & respect just doesn’t sit easy with me at all. So my new rule is ‘what hatches here stays here’! As we have a fair number of drakes & cockerels this probably means no more hatching for me for some time yet, but so be it.
Now there is one exception to my new rule, but I’ll get on to that a bit later……
So the first set of ducklings were all grown up & settled in our little field. You may remember that when I last blogged (yes, I know it was AGES ago!) in the incubator I had 6 duck eggs kindly given to me by my lovely Twitter friend Jeni (@seren9), replacement Frizzle Pekin eggs from my other wonderful Twitter friend Victoria (@scrummycupcake) & 6 rare breed black Croad Langshan eggs. Well sadly none of the Pekin eggs were any good again & the Croad Langshan eggs were disappointing too, but what did hatch was one lonely little Croad chick followed by 4 adorable ducklings!
Poor little Croad chick, named Sooty, had to wait a whole week to have friends to share the brooder with, but he loved the little ducklings straight away! Although they quickly grew bigger than him the fabulous 5 maintained a funny little relationship with the ducklings (Hope, Peace, Charity & Nibbler) forever following their funny little Croad friend around!
Sooty is a little rooster, but I’m not sure of the sex of the not so little ducklings yet. They are still living happily together & are now out in our back garden.
The ducklings have such sweet natures & love our company. Whenever they hear our voices they come running over to see us, little webbed feet slip slapping on the ground. They have even learnt to climb the four steps to our garden gate to say ‘hello’! Wherever the ducklings go poor confused Sooty goes too. Apart from sensibly realising water was not for him I’m convinced the little chap thinks he’s a duck!
In amongst all the excitement of hatching eggs along came 4 ex battery hens to join us at our retirement home full only of love & tender care. No more small cages & miserbale lives, but hello grass,fresh air & sunshine. Rescuing ex battery hens is always very emotional for me. I always cry when I first see the state they are in, then cry fresh tears of happiness when they arrive home with us & experience freedom for the first time.
Named Polly, Queenie, Ruby & Sally the 4 ladies amazed me by settling calmly & confidently with none of the fighting & mishaps I had experienced with the first lot we took on (remember how poor Jess was injured?). So before long it was time to tentatively sneak them into the big henhouse under cover of dark & hope they would be accepted by the other chickens. Again I’m happy to say there were no problems whatsoever & you really would find it hard to pick out which are the new batch & which the old batch of ex battery ladies now. Well, that is apart from Ruby. Ruby is particularly special.
Ruby had the least feathers& was the smallest of the 4 when they came to us. Ruby loves us with every breathe in her body. If she could live as a house chicken she would. She follows us around everywhere, singing her happy song of freedom as she goes. She loves cuddles, she loves any kind of closeness with us. She is one very special little lady & I hope she has along & happy retirement with us. She reminds me each & every day of how horrible battery farming is & that no animal deserves to be treated in such a way. To my mind there is absolutely no excuse or justification in today’s society for the terrible conditions that not just chickens but other farm & game animals have to endure. End of. If anyone has any doubt in their mind that it is worth spending an extra few pennies on higher welfare, free range eggs & meat then come & meet Ruby. She will forever change your mind.
Well, my eyes have filled with tears & I think I need to take a little break dear Blog, but I will continue soon with the story of more hatchings, dear favourites such as my mad Polands & yet more arrivals!
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Saturday, 24 April 2010
Now I love my chicklets to pieces. I've loved them since they were tiny balls of fluff & I love them even more now that they're grown up, beautiful, on-the-soppy-side-of-friendly birds. But, in terms of baby birds, there is nothing quite like ducklings!! Alongside lambs, ducklings have to be my all time favourite Spring babies. I'm sure they hatch smiling & each & every day they seek out new adventures & pleasures in life. They are playful, exuberant & joyous! To be in the company of ducklings is to grin from ear to ear & feel your heart swell with love for them.
Daffy, Dougie, Pip, Eve, Orville & Scrummycupcake melt my heart completely. I treasure time spent with them. I can't wait to get home from a day in the office to connect with them again. Because they're hand reared they love being cuddled, & cuddled they certainly are, at any given opportunity! They grow at such a rate that you could almost swear you could see it happen! But each & every day they grow sweeter & cuter as their little personalities develop. They have lovely rounded bellies now, but are so tame that you can indulge that impulse to turn them upside down & blow delicious raspberries into that rounded fluffiness & they don't mind one little bit! It's heavenly!
When you hand rear ducklings it is very important to remember that although they are natural water babies they do not have a Mother Duck to transfer oils to their fluff & waterproof them, so when they are ready to be introduced to water it must at first be shallow & they must be supervised at all times. Their duckling fluff can become waterlogged & it is possible for them to drown in just couple of centimetres of water. So after week one, I decided to let them have their first paddle & hubby bought them a couple of paint roller tray which are absolutely ideal for the job. Can you imagine how excited they were? Well multiply that three-fold & that is just how happy they were to be able to splash about! They had a marvellous time! After their bath time I carefully dried them in a towel & made sure they were warm & cosy. Ducklings can easily chill when they're young. Now, just a few days later, they have out grown their paint trays, so last night I filled our shower tray with just a few centimetres of water for them to play about it. That was just the ticket! But they amused me no end by nosing about in my basket of bathroom products as if to say can we have some conditioner now please mum, oh & some talc would make us lovely & dry! Bless their buttons.
The new chicken ark has arrived for the chicklets & bantams, so this weekend they will be moved from the back garden up to their new enclosure in our little field. I have very mixed emotions about this! It has been so lovely to be able to look out of the kitchen window & see them happily bobbing about. However, it has been impossible to grown anything out there & my poor raised beds have been devoid of the delights of home grown vegetables for a couple of years now. So it does make sense to move them, & of course, I will have the ducklings out there shortly until they are big enough to join the rest of the ducks. Oh & then there will hopefully be some Croad Langshan chicks out there for a while if the eggs in my incubator hatch in a week's time. Then a second lot of ducklings, so lot’s to keep me busy & I guess I'm just being a big baby about it really!
After my Croad Langshan eggs & second batch of duck eggs hatch I have offered to hatch out some Scots Grey & Dumpy chickens on behalf of Caithness Rare Breeds charity which works to preserve native livestock & wildlife of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland. This came about after Stephen from the charity asked via Twitter if anyone knew where to source these poultry breeds. I knew where you could get hold of some hatching eggs, but he didn’t have the means to incubate them, hence my offer. Stephen is just trying to source a good poultry courier now so that we can go ahead. (If you know of one, do please let me know – thank you)
Croad Langshan chickens are sadly on the critical list of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust so I hope to be able to establish my own small breeding flock of these big, docile birds. I’m very excited about this little project, so wish me luck with my first hatching!
In other news, I was pleased to hear from Compassion in World Farming that Morrisons supermarkets had decided that all of it's own brand eggs should become free-range. Encouraging news that will hopefully prompt other supermarkets to follow. CIWF encouraged it's supporters to write to Morrisons to applaud the move, which I did but asked when they would extend this free range policy to all chicken meat it sells & also to it's own brand chilled & frozen ready meals. I was pleasantly surprised to get this response back the next day.
‘Good Afternoon Mrs Burton,
Thank you for contacting us regarding your concerns about the care and welfare of chickens. Please be assured that we take animal welfare extremely seriously.
We offer an own-brand range of RSPCA Freedom Food accredited chicken. The Freedom Food mark ensures that the chicken has been reared on a farm that meets higher welfare standards set by the RSPCA.
Freedom Food and Morrison’s have worked together for years to deliver the widest range of RSPCA Freedom Food accredited chicken and we currently offer the smallest price difference between this range and our regular own brand range, making it affordable for everyone.
All of our own brand fresh and frozen chicken is British and sourced from reputable suppliers who produce to recognised standards.
We are committed to providing our customers with a wide choice of poultry which is produced to nationally recognised standards, each standard having an animal welfare aspect embedded within it. Our product range includes Organic chicken which meets the Soil Association standards and is identified on pack by the Soil Association logo and RSPCA Freedom Food chicken which meets RSPCA standards and is identified on pack by their logo. Throughout our wide product offering we can competitively deliver on freshness, variety, quality and price.
We are currently working with suppliers to further extend our range of RSPCA Freedom Food poultry products (further information on Freedom Food poultry can be found at: www.supportchickennow.co.uk/freedomfood).
In addition to selling Freedom Food fresh chicken, 100% of our fresh duck range is free range and is RSPCA Freedom Food accredited, we also sell Freedom Food organic salmon and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accredited fresh fish.
Our premium range, ‘The Best’, contains only free range eggs in its ingredients as do some other own label products, for example fresh egg noodles. We are currently investigating the feasibility of extending this policy to other own brand products.
I trust this addresses the points you raise and we thank you for sharing your views with us.
Customer Services Department
WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC’
I really hope that in the not to distant future battery farming of any animal, not just chickens, is a thing of the past.
To celebrate Earth Day on 22 April I joined the Greenpeace Airplot campaign to try & prevent the expansion of Heathrow Airport. I’m now, along with thousands of others, a beneficial owner of the plot of land Greenpeace own on the proposed site for the third runway. Just click on the link in the side bar of my blog if you want to join in or find out more about it.
Well, the sun is shining & I have lovely plants to put into my front garden, so I will love & leave you for now & hope that wherever you are you are enjoying the sunshine & able to enjoy the wonders of Nature’s Spring time babies.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Personally I've been on a bit of a journey recently. I 'found' Paganism & embarked upon a solitary hedgewitch path. This has brought such peace & beauty to my life & yet at the same time lots of questions & learning to be done. It has awaken the old activist side of me! I used to be quite heavily into animal rights when I was younger, but having my own children kind of buried all those feelings as the kids became the centre of my Universe. Now my soul has a home in Paganism I seem to feel keenly again all the hurt & unjustness in the world, especially where that relates to Nature & in particular animals. I have been an on / off vegetarian since my early teens but now I have become committed to a meat & dairy free diet, eating only my own free range eggs now by way of an animal product. I have strengthened my resolve to become as green as possible in all that I do. My lovely mum recently bought me some laundry products made by Ecozone that have really helped me on my way. You can read about just how much they reduce the environmental damage caused by washing & drying laundry by following this link - Ecozone - & I can personally vouch that they do really work!
I also found out just how much I love my children! Eldest Son contacted me from Uni to let me know that he had been mugged! Now fortunately he wasn't hurt & all that was taken was his mobile phone but clearly this would shake anyone up. Then it transpired that he was having health issues due to stress & anxiety caused by the pressure of his degree course & the fact that he wasn't sleeping at all well due to sharing with noisy, late night partying house mates. He was having some quite scary symptoms like nose bleeds & heart palpitations & his blood pressure was very high. Now he was dealing with all of those things very sensibly & had been to see the Welfare Dept at Uni about getting one of his work deadlines extended & had registered with a local Dr to get his physical symptoms dealt with, but I cannot tell you how much it broke my heart. I was OK when he told me as I was being strong & giving out sympathy & mum's advice, but the next day at work I just could not stop crying. I would have done anything to take the stress & illness away from him & to have erased his nasty mugging experience. The pain in my heart was more intense than anything I had experienced through troubles of my own. I just wanted to be able to fix everything for him! He's going to be just fine now I think. He's on medication to reduce his high blood pressure & he's at home for Easter at the moment enjoying some time out, some good sleep & of course, shed loads of TLC. Just his exams to get through & then it will be the long Summer break. He had already decided to part company from his current housemates & has a new house lined up for his final year with a new & hopefully much nicer, quieter crowd. The current year of his degree course is known to be the most intense so hopefully next year won't be quite so stressful for him. I know that no matter how old & grown up he is I love him right through to the very core of me & that come what may I will always be there for him, as I will be for my other 2 lads.
In animal news, lots has been happening! George & Mildred turkey are thriving and have totally wormed their way into my heart. Mildred has just come into lay & George has started 'displaying'. Now some people say turkeys are ugly, but if you get to know them they are really quite beautiful! They have the biggest, brown, soulful eyes for a start. When George displays he fan out his tail feathers like peacock, drops his snood down over his beak, puffs out his chest & stands proudly as much to say 'look at me, aren't I just so magnificent?'! He really is quite a sight to behold.
The 2 Silkies that my friend Andy collected both turned out to be cockerels can you believe it?! Silkies are such a hard breed to sex accurately! So Andy came down to visit again with another of my Twitter friends Jo (@amethysdragon) who is just such a lovely lady with an immensely warm heart & I was so glad to have met her. We had a wonderful afternoon together nattering & exchanging chook news & stories. Andy got to see how his cockerels Spicy, Snapdragon, Mr Dorking & Mulder were doing & Jo got to meet my infamous mad chicklets! Time passed all too quickly & soon it was time to exchange Amy & Patsy #1 (who are now named Patrick & Charlie!) with Amy & Patsy #2, my remaining confirmed Silkie girls.
So this left a huge dilemma with my beloved chicklets. I now had Teddy, Patrick & Charlie - Silkie cockerels. Alfie & Heathcliffe - D'Uccle cockerels. Bonkers & Big Bird - Polish cockerels. And not forgetting Rumpelstiltskin the Crele Pekin bantam that I had bought in a weak moment. With my lovely, lovely boys I only had my 3 Polish chicklet hens Conkers, Tiny & Cassie left & the other hens I had bought in - 3 Pekin girls Florence, Tilly & Tabby, my Buff Orpington bantam Clover & Barnevelder bantam Minnie. YIKES!! 8 cockerels with only 8 hens! As Patrick & Charlie had been happily co-existing at Andy's I decided to house them with Daisy & Seymour the Aylesbury ducks & George & Mildred turkey. This seems to have worked. Daisy duck loves the boys & can often be seen sat beside them in a maternal posture - very sweet! The boys were initially wary of the huge, scary looking turkeys but soon realised they were gentle & harmless. Some of my big hens hop over the divide from the main enclosure to admire & flirt with Charlie & Patrick so there are girls available to the boys if they can pluck up enough courage to woe them! However, they both seem content with their own company. They have a very strange relationship. Patrick is much bigger than Charlie & by far the more dominant of the two. Charlie is almost hen-like in his behaviour, although definitely a cockerel. So, due to this charming relationship, this housing arrangement is working a treat.
So that left 6 bantam cockerels with 8 bantam girls down in the back garden! Tensions were starting to show between the cockerels & although they weren't hurting each other skirmishes were breaking out more & more frequently. Fortunately, Jess over at the lovely Lavender & Thyme blog had very kindly offered me 3 Silkie cross hens. Phew! I really didn't want to part with any of my bantam boys, especially my chicklet boys. As a bonus it provided another opportunity to meet up with another virtual friend! So hubs & I tootled off down to Jess's place last Saturday to collect the new girls. What a treat it was to meet Jess. I can honestly say she is absolutely as lovely as she comes across in her blog & I really hope we get to meet up again. I could chat away to her for hours & hours & hours about all things chook! And it was all I could do to stop from stealing her gorgeous dog Alfie (the under gardener!) away with me! I even got to meet Syd the Muscovy duck that regularly visits the field opposite for his afternoon feed. He's a darling character! After tea & cake (yummy homemade carrot cake!) it was time to pop up to Jess's field, meet all her chickens & collect the Silkie cross hens. Jess had such a generous surprise waiting for me! Not just 3 Silkie cross hens, but 4 with my name on!! I was so grateful & they were such pretty looking things that I instantly fell in love with them. Seeing Jess's cockerels made me realise that my young cockerels (from Andy) still have a bit of growing to do. Jess has the most gorgeous & humongous Light Sussex sussex cockerel named Ben! Now he really is a magnificent boy!
So here's a little peek at the new girls on the block Snow White, Ginger, Cinnamon & Nutmeg. They have settled in very well & instantly the atmosphere between the back garden boys has become calmer! They all swooned over the new girls. So a 2:1 cockerel to hen ratio is much better, but I still really need another 6 bantam hens to ensure that the peace remains. It's a hard life! ;-)
As Spring arrived the incubator that had been stashed carefully way in the loft started calling to me. How could I resist? 6 Cayuga duck hatching eggs caught my eye on Ebay & arrived in the post before I could stop them! It seemed only proper to pop in a few of our own duck's eggs with them. 2 of the Cayuga eggs turned out to be infertile but I patiently waited for 4 Cayuga eggs, 1 Daisy & Seymour Aylesbury egg & 3 unknown duckzilla crosses to hatch. And I waited..... and I waited..... Day 28, hatch day, came along. Nothing. So I waited & waited, not so patiently! The tension was unbearable, but finally some of the eggs started to rock & I could hear ducklings tapping away on the inside of their shells. Then came cheeping! After lots of time spent on my hands & knees cheeping encouragement at the incubator, finally on Day 33, 2 tiny black Cayuga ducklings hatched! I think ducklings are one of Mother Nature's sweetest Spring babies along with lambs. Right from when they hatch they are delightful! They are inquisitive & full of the joy of life beginning. What struck me straight away was the difference between these ducklings from domesticated breeds & the little wild Mallard ducklings we rescued last Summer. The ducklings that hatched were instantly trusting & calm, something that moved me to tears & made me vow to be the best Mother Duck I could be to them. A further 3 agonisingly slow days later another 3 ducklings hatched, 2 of our own duckzillas which I suspect are Cherry Valley / Muscovy crosses & another duckling broke free from what was supposedly another Cayuga egg. But it was immediately apparent that this little duckling was definitely NOT a Cayuga. It's colouring & markings were so different. After contacting the breeder it turns out that he must have mistakenly sent me a Silver Appleyard egg in my half dozen! I wasn't complaining - Silver Appleyards are very beautiful ducks. Unfortunately at this stage I had to discard the 4th Cayuga egg & also our Aylesbury egg as they showed no sign of life. So one egg remained. It had externally pipped but was making slow progress & the humidity in the incubator was proving difficult to maintain. So eventually I gave this last little duckling a bit of a gentle helping hand by moistening the shell membranes that had stuck to it like glue & removing a small piece of shell to assist it's immense battle to fight it's way out into this world. Finally on Day 38, our last duckzilla duckling hatched! This one I'm not at all sure about in terms of it's parentage. I don't think it's a Muscovy cross as it's much smaller & darker than the other 2 duckzillas. I think it will be a case of wait & see as it grows. Whatever it's breeding it's incredibly pretty& very sweet natured. All 6 of the little munchkins are doing very well. They are as bright as buttons & full of exuberance. They crave our company & recognise my whistle from the hours I spent cheeping at them in the egg & quite literally throw themselves against the wire sides of their brooder to see me. They love being cuddled, which has meant a very special bond has grown not only between me & the ducklings, but also between those little cuties & my lads & hubs. We are all sharing in their incredible journey!
What else has happened? Well........
As well as being lucky enough to meet up with Andy, Jo & Jess I also had the opportunity to meet another 2 animal loving Twitter friends Rebecca (@vegebexy) & Jeni (@seren9) last week at Rebecca's invite. Mum has also joined the World of Twitter & came along with hubs & I. I was in heaven at Rebecca's place. I adore pigs! I would love to have a couple one day when we have a little more room, but for now just enjoy patting our neighbour's pigs through the fence. Bex has about 70 of them!! Mostly rescued pigs & all different shapes & sizes. Many were roaming free & everywhere you looked a happy piggy face was to be seen! I think that maybe I squealed more than the pigs that afternoon. It was just a fab day. The sun shone, we were in beautiful surroundings, in great company & chatter & laughter flowed freely. Bex & Jeni are both the loveliest of people & I'm sure we will be meeting up again. It is so thrilling when you get to meet someone in person with lots of hopes & expectations & you are not one bit disappointed! Oh, & Jeni & I swapped duck hatching eggs before we left!
So I have the social media of Blogland & Twitterverse to thank for bringing Andy, David, Jo, Jess, Rebecca & Jeni firmly into my life, along with friendships that I am sure will last forever. I think I've said this before, but if you feel a particular affinity with someone you meet online it might just be worth being brave & meeting up with them in real life. Just do it with safety in mind. Of course, you don't have to meet someone in the flesh to develop a meaningful friendship with them online. One of my favourite ladies to Tweet with is @scrummycupcake. She loves chooks & totally understands how daft I get with over my chicklets. We get on famously! When I had my last fibromyalgia flare she so very kindly sent me a set of aromatherapy oils which she had blended herself! It was such a thoughtful gesture & really touched me. The oils were gorgeous too & I burnt lots of the relaxing blend when I was waiting for those naughty ducklings to hatch! When she bought a 3 egg incubator of her own she sent me & Jeni some much cosseted Pekin Frizzle hatching eggs out of 6 she had bought, & some from from her own hens just after her beloved Crele Pekin Dave had sadly died, in the hope that we could hatch a mini Dave between us. Unfortunately my eggs didn't make it as I had to put them in makeshift incubator made out of a converted plant propagator because I didn't want to disturb the duck eggs. It was such a shame. But then shortly afterwards she sent me 6 replacement Frizzle eggs that the breeder had offered as compensation for what had been an overall low fertility rate of the original eggs. She's truly one of life's angels! The friendship she has shown me has been a bright light in my life recently & I treasure her kindness & online companionship enormously.
So in my incubator now are the 6 replacement Frizzle Pekin eggs from @scrummycupcake, 6 duck eggs from Jeni & also 6 Croad Langhan hatching eggs that I bought. I have chosen black Croad Langshan chickens as a bit of a breeding enterprise. They are a rare breed & I love the fact that they are big, yet docile birds. Due to the late hatching of my ducklings the Pekin & Croad Langshan eggs had to be stored much longer that I would have liked, so I'm keeping everything crossed that they will still be fertile & viable.
And that Dear Blog, just about brings me up to date. I promise to bring more cute duckling pictures soon & I leave you with the thought that is keeping me warm inside .....
As much as my heart feels the pain of the Goddess at the harm that mankind is doing to the planet & the suffering that is caused to animals, I also feel hope that things are beginning to change for the better because there are so many people who really do care & want to make a difference. As I make my pledge to make a difference I know lots of other people across the globe are doing so too, including those with a lot more power & influence than me. Let's hope the tide is turning!
Friday, 9 April 2010
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Sunday, 14 February 2010
First of all we had a new arrival. Sadly for my friend Andy, Mulder, the cockerel he was desperately hoping to keep, started crowing very loudly at all hours of the day, sadly not acceptable where he lives, so I offered him a home with his 'brothers'. Mulder is a special bird, not just because of the touching relationship he formed with Andy, but because of the unusual way that he grew. You can read about it on Andy's blog. It doesn't matter one jot to me - he's just a much-loved member of my wonderful chicken family. He's certainly a character, that I can tell you! When Andy & his partner David brought Mulder down to us it was also time to say goodbye to two of the Silkie chicklet girls as I had promised them by way of a thank you for the gorgeous cockerels. This affected more than I expected it to. So, although it was just fantastic to meet up with Andy & David again & for Andy to see how well his other boys were doing & where they were living, it was a bitter sweet day for both of us - Andy being parted from his beloved Mulder & me waving goodbye to my babies.
Because of the exceptional, close & cosseted relationship Mulder had with Andy I knew that winning him over would be a challenge, as I thought reintroducing him to his 'brothers' after such a long parting would be. This first point I was correct about, but after a week or two of constant attention, praise & admittedly bribery with all manner of good things to eat, Mulder decided that, although I wasn't Andy, I'd do! The second point I needn't have worried about one jot, because amazingly Snapdragon, Spicy & Merlin seemed to remember Mulder! It was really moving to see this in cockerels, who can be quite fearsome when introducing a new male to a flock. They showed no aggression to him whatsoever & I was able to integrate Mulder from day one.
So, after Mr Dorking's recovery from illness & the successful introduction of Mulder, I was in heaven watching the boys grow more & more handsome each day. Then, suddenly & unexpectedly, 3 weeks after Mr Dorking's illness Merlin fell sick with the same symptoms. I wasn't too concerned as I had caught him while he was still relatively strong, eating & drinking & on his feet, but I brought him indoors in the warm & gave him the same TLC as I had Mr D. He fell sick on a Sunday, but I felt sure he would be fine until I could get him some antibiotics from the vet the next day. The only thing I didn't do, as he seemed a lot less sick than Mr Dorking had been, was leave our central heating on for him overnight. It was, therefore, an awful shock when I found him dead the next morning! I was devastated! I cradled him in my arms as though I could warm his body & bring him back to me, but he was long gone. I cannot tell you how sad I am that his life was so short. He was the first of Andy's cockerels to befriend me & he was such a vibrant, zesty character that it does not seem fair that he's no longer crowing his heart out or busily run around our little field. I miss him terribly.
At the same time, poor Andy had hen troubles of his own with an egg-bound girl & a girl with a nasty abscess . He was quite exhausted with nursing them, so I just felt that I couldn't break the bad news to him at the time. It wouldn't have been fair.
Now, in the meanwhile, young Katherine chicklet dismayed me by crowing! So Katherine was quickly renamed Alfie, but it became apparent that we had a chicklet problem with 6 roosters & only 5 pullets. My original intention in hatching the chicklet eggs was to sell any excess roosters & then buy in unrelated hens so that I could begin to sell my own hatching eggs. So after much agonising I made the sensible decision to part with one of my Silkie roosters, Alfie & one of my Poland roosters. To soften the blow of parting with them I successfully bid on a gorgeous trio of Crele Pekin bantams in an online poultry auction that I could also sell hatching eggs from. Everything was planned. It all made sense. But I should have listened more carefully to my heart. The tears I shed over parting with my 2 Silkie chicklets even though they were going to a wonderful home with Andy should have told me this was never going to work in practice. One afternoon, hubby found me sitting with my chicklets with tears in my eyes & gently said to me that he thought it would be a shame to part with any of the birds we had hand reared. He suggested we could section off an area of our little field for them. He is also fond of the chicklets you see, but more than that he knows how much they mean to me and he's a wonderful hubby.
I put a message out on Twitter explaining that I needed more hens to keep my chicklet boys happy & lovely blogger Jess very kindly offered me 3 Silkie x girls! How lucky was I? That's so very sweet of her. I also discovered a local chicken breeder with bantams for sale so on the following Saturday we went & picked up 3 new bantam girls to begin to even out the boy:girl ratio. They are Minnie, a Barnevelder, Clover, a Buff Orpington & Florence a black Pekin with a pretty gold 'necklace'. The new girls are adorable & settled in straight away.
It was then that Merlin's illness hit & the excitement of having the new girls quickly turned to sorrow at losing him. I think having the new girls to watch over was certainly some comfort in the days after his death. Seeing Mr Dorking starting to blossom again was also good medicine. When the time came to tell Andy of Merlin's death because his hens were thankfully well on the road to recovery he was, of course, very sad. But he was very kind to me & this was also a great comfort.
I watched Mulder & my other chickens like a hawk for any signs of illness in the days to follow. After Merlin's death I had telephoned my Vet for advice as I wondered if I should give all my birds a course of antibiotics. She strongly advised against this course of action as none of the other birds were showing any symptoms. Fortunately Mulder remained healthy & strong over the next few days & I allowed myself a sigh of relief. In fact, all of the birds looked incredibly healthy despite the awful weather & the extremely late moult of some of my hens.
Something exciting then happened - I found some turkeys for sale very cheaply at a farm quite close to us. Hubby & I have always wanted turkeys & in a very weak moment I put us down for one! And, of course, there was still the Crele Pekin trio to collect (although after deciding to keep all the chicklets this clearly had not been a very good purchase after all!). Then Eldest son asked to come home from Uni for the weekend, so we travelled up to Leicester to collect the Pekins, down to Birmingham to pick up eldest son & then homeward with a detour to collect the turkey. Now I had been mithering as to whether it was fair to keep just one turkey, even with ducks for company & a telephone conversation with their breeder confirmed that it would be better to have a pair. Fortunately hubby was in agreement so 1 son, 3 Pekins & 2 turkeys came home with us! It was a wonderful weekend.
Typing all this out I realise how mad it all was! And how understanding my hubby is! And that maybe I have a poultry addiction! Hmmmmmmm.
Anyway, to bring everything up to date, we now have 4 cockerels and 22 hens up in our little field with the ducks & geese. We have George & Mildred the Bronze turkeys in with Daisy & Seymour, who seem quite taken with their new companions. And last, but by no means least, we have an assortment of 17 chicklets & bantams in the back garden. All are doing just fine and dandy. That's going to be it now for a while. Oh, except that we still need to increase our hen numbers in the back garden to keep the little roosters happy ;-)
Friday, 29 January 2010
So, my favourite song is............... Push the Little Daisies by Ween. Not heard of it? Well, I must admit not many people have when I mention it. I first heard it on Radio 1 years agon when my lads were little & it was one of those songs that just grabbed me instantly & I knew I just had to have a copy of it! It was very hard to get hold of but I remember, after trudging round lots of music stores, finally finding it in HMV in Birmingham somewhere.
There aren't any soppy, sentimental reasons for me loving this song (I know that's unusual for me!), except it does remind me of fun times when my lads were toddlers. It's just the one song that always puts a huge smile on my face & I just have to turn it up LOUD> LOUD>LOUD & whirl around the room to it! It's a happy, hippy kinda song with an enchanting childlike quality to it. You'll either love it or hate it! Here it is:
Now I tag John at Going Gently, Jess at Lavender & Thyme, Jane at Aromatic & my brother Bruce at New(ish) Life in Scotland.
Sorry guys - this one's tough!
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Since opening my heart to a Pagan path my life has instantly become more beautiful. All the thoughts & senses that I have suppressed & hidden inside are now free. It's as though all my life I have contained my soul, my inner being, within a box & I've kept it controlled & done it harm. I have never before had the self confidence to open that box, but now that I have sunshine is pouring into my being! Things have changed in my life. I have a warmth inside me that brings me comfort & strength even at times of stress or sorrow. I understand with humility my place in this Universe & my duty to the Goddess / Mother Earth. I feel more connected than ever to the elements of Earth, Water, Air & Fire, to Nature, to the Moon & the tides & to the turning of the Seasons. I rejoice in all that has been revealed to me & I have a passion to learn & follow this path I have been shown to the full.
I am questioning lots about myself, or more correctly my life choices. After years of on / off vegetarianism I have now committed myself to a vegetarian diet, with the intention of also dropping dairy products & only eating my own free range eggs as an animal product. I am not against eating meat as such, but modern farming methods deeply trouble me & the cruelty many farm animals are subjected to upsets me immensely. I also know that I personally couldn't kill an animal for food, especially as I don't need to to live a healthy life.
In studying my life under a magnifying glass I can see how badly I have fallen into the traps of modern consumerism. I thought I was relatively eco-friendly as I recycle, compost, grow my own veg, monitor & reduce our energy usage, etc., etc. But I look at all the things I have bought from the supermarket recently & the potential harm the products are doing to Mother Nature & the planet scream out at me. When I was younger I was heavily into animal rights - so why now is my bathroom full of shampoos, soaps & chemicals that at best I'm not sure are tested an animals & at worst I know full well are tested in this way. It's not just toiletries & cleaning products either. I do buy Fairtrade when I see the label, organic sometimes if it's not too expensive, but shamefully a look in my food cupboard reveals items that have probably caused damage to the environment either through dirty air or road miles or in the chemicals & pesticides used to produce them. Clearly I have lost my way here! I'm not pretending for one minute that from this moment on I'm going to be a saint, but I'm certainly going to take a closer look at what I put into my shopping basket & try to make sure it's contents reflect more positively my desire to protect & respect the environment, Nature, the animals & plants that share this planet with us & humankind itself.
Other things have happened to me. A greater ability to reach out to others, to find kind words, to chide myself for unkind thoughts, a heightened psychic awareness, a new positivity in my life & a surge of creativity. I want to learn to crochet, get out my pencils & paints again, write, cook - anything to express the whirling, beautiful, passionate joy & exuberance in my heart.
Here's one of my first efforts - lovely homemade marmalade. Pop over to Herne Garden's inspiring blog for the recipe. I used demerera sugar for mine, & reserved all the pith & pips removed by hand juicing the oranges & tied it all up in muslin. I popped this parcel in with the rest of the ingredients during the soaking & simmering stages, then removed it before boiling the marmalade. Making the marmalade was a joyful experience! I gave thanks to the God & Goddess for the fruit & breathed the gorgeous citrus scents right deep down into my lungs. I just beamed when the finished pots sat in a row in my kitchen & I planned who to share them with. I am, of course, completely biased but it is the most delicious marmalade I have ever tasted!
There - I've shared it with you. All my joy, my hopes & my plans. Whatever you have planned or enjoyed I hope you have found sunshine during this cold month of January.