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Friday, 23 August 2013

The self-sufficientish stuff

The egg mountain of spring has diminished and we have barely enough for ourselves, let alone selling to my neighbour! Sadly we had to put down Rusty, one of the red hens, which was a shame as she was still laying occasionally despite getting on in years. Something happened to one of her legs and she could not walk on it and was lying around not eating or drinking, occasionally trying to hop, balancing by putting her wing down and then falling over. Her joint was hot and I couldn't find any swelling so I don't think it was broken, but really what can you do other than the inevitable.

Thinking ahead to winter and next year I decided to get in some new layers now, who will hopefully provide us with eggs this winter. The hybrids are bred to lay practically daily for about two years and then they peter out. I've found it a good mix in the past to have breeds mixed with red hybrids as the breeds will usually lay for more years but not during the winter. Now though, I am fed up with prima donnas and neurotic hens and prefer the docile friendly temperament of the red hybrids! I ordered two from a lady with a van who comes around our local agricultural store every week - sad to see they have had their beaks clipped though and I imagine they are raised en masse and sold to battery farms and the like, as well as to the general public.

It's funny how my two really old chickens, Freddy the cockerel and Snowy the Light Sussex, are so blase about new hens they have barely noticed them. However the youngest two are having a great time as they were the newbies who were picked on last time, so they are making a heck of a racket complaining about these two! The newbies seem quite content though and are rather sweet. And one laid an egg on the first day!  

Carly and Gaby, the new red hens.

The ducks have been so traumatised by Hallie that they won't come up to their shed anymore and won't even come up the garden to get any food! For about 5 days they didn't budge from a small spot by the far end of the pond and I had to take food all the way down to them as they were starving. Now they have returned to the beach area but I'm still having to feed them down there. Neither of the young girls are laying and they are all in various stages of moult anyway. Obviously if you want ducks that lay lots you need to buy the white mixed breed ones like Freckles below, as the pure breeds seem to lay mostly in spring and that's it.

Ducks - even harder than chickens to photograph.
Also Dirk and Doris look practically identical in colouring right now!

The juvenile moorhen is growing up fast and enjoying the ducks being fed by the pond!
Nothing to do with being self-sufficientish but just for fun.

Fruit and veg - August and September are busy months harvest wise and the months where we buy not a single vegetable, which is a real delight. I am still buying fruit as I really enjoy summer fruit like peaches and nectarines, and they are only available during the season so I make the most of it! We still have a few strawberries to eat and the autumn raspberries started ripening as soon as the summer ones finished, but I'm not picking tons like I was. I have loads of raspberries in the freezer to turn into jam and to eat during winter. Now the blackberries have started to ripen and they are nice and juicy, unlike last year - this is also the first year for a long time that the wild blackberries are fat and juicy too - many years they are small and hard, which is why I decided to grow the thornless cultivated ones!

My cultivated thornless blackberries are ripening.
Lots of bramble jelly to give to our families when we visit England!

Unfortunately it's been over two weeks since any rain of note so I am back to watering for about two hours every evening which is tiring and frustrating as it seems like such a waste of time! As soon as I have worked my way around the entire garden with the hosepipe I have to start all over again. We use watering cans for the veggies and all the plants in pots using our stored rain water, but that water is half used already and the warm to hot sunny weather looks set to continue.

I was a bit late sowing my winter brassicas but couldn't get motivated during
the hot spell in July - but already I am on caterpillar squidging patrol.
It didn't take long for the Small Whites to find my baby brassicas in the cold frame.

11th August - leeks newly transplanted and various wildflower meadows in the background.

Still struggling to get through last year's pickled beetroot!
So made this lot into chocolate beetroot brownies. :-)

This was late July and these are supposed to be spring onions....
found seed for the red ones in England, which I had never seen before. They grow big!

'Sweet 100'. This was two weeks ago and now
they and the bigger tomatoes are ripening very fast and already
I have bags full of tomatoes in the freezer to make sauce from later.

Courge Musquée d'Hiver de Provence. One fruit broke off and there are only these
two remaining but they are getting bigger and bigger.

Dug up more spuds -
all these from just six plants of a variety called 'Mandola'.

Bless my OH - this was supposed to be Salade Nicoise only I forgot to hard boil some eggs -
so he opened a tin of red salmon instead of tuna and plated up all prettily -
despite some strange flavour mixes such as earthy beetroot with gherkins and olives
(not home grown) it was a very pleasant meal and all home grown veggies!

Yet another Pollinator Meadow from last year's saved seed.

Whilst this photo was taken through the living room window,
this same little Warbler is also hanging about my veggie patch
catching my pollinating insects!
Here I saw it dart into my lavender and catch a moth.
It may be a Chiffchaff but I'm not sure.

Yesterday. Just sitting surveying my domain after sowing more rocket and radish seeds.

Blogging may go a bit quiet as I have family coming to stay next week.


  1. Your veggies, fruit and flowers look fantastic Mandy. I'm sure your family will enjoy some lovely meals from your garden.

    Philippa x

    1. Aww thanks Philippa! I'm sure they will and when I ever next get a chance to see you I'll be giving you some of my jam and chutneys! :-) xx

  2. I would have suggested October but I think you are away? We love your jams and chutneys.
    Philippa xx

    1. Yes, haven't booked anything yet but planning on last couple of weeks in October which will probably coincide with your half term. It'll have to be next spring then - not going anywhere next spring I don't think.

  3. That all looks fabulous Mandy, worth all the watering - and a moorhen picture. Tomatoes trusses look huge.

    Coming your way(ish) next week. Going to try and find some climbing around Mortain for a few days and do some cycling too. Trying to find a bit of sun and warmth before autumn finally sets in properly up here. Fingers crossed for good weather although that means more watering for you. :-)

    1. Thanks Nick - cherry toms always have large trusses and all this sunshine has been great for the toms and not even any signs of blight (nor have I heard of anyone with any on the grapevine). I do envy you your being able to go off travelling though - I am torn between my 'good life' with the menagerie, and being able to have a camper van and just go off into the wild blue yonder and not have to worry about the garden.... You can keep the tandem though, far too much like hard work. ;-) Hope you have a great time!

  4. If we had to rely on our northern garden for food then we would have starved years ago - so no option there. Thought about chickens, there is enough room, but weighed it up against freedom and . . .

    1. Haha don't blame you! When we move again/downsize/whatever I won't be keeping any, but whilst the garden is tying in itself then I may as well have some!

  5. Such a fun read, Mandy! And illustrated beautifully, as always :-) Interesting about the ducks. My experience is with geese who would terrorize cats and dogs :-)

    My trip is nearing an end and I am already going through fungi withdrawal. I had a few first sightings making this trip especially memorable. Blog post coming soon.

    1. Hi Marianne! Looking forward to hearing about and seeing all that you have found on your trip. :-)

      One of my previous cats got into the chicken run and was attacked by the hens so she never did that again, but Hallie is a little terror! Right now it's a good thing as I need the empty duckshed as I've got the newbie hens in there - one got pecked on the face, and she's all puffed up with a closed eye..... aaarrgh, it never rains but it pours!