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Monday, 17 February 2014

Chickens and some early flowers

After weeks and weeks of wet, windy and generally vile weather, this week's forecast is looking good. So somehow I'm going to have to juggle week 4's tasks of my course along with starting the apple and pear tree pruning. Mild weather is bringing forth flowers yet wet weather has meant I have done so little in the garden and then panic starts to set in. But at least I know I'm not alone and should be grateful I don't have a garden that's under several feet of water!

My hens, who don't often get a look in on my blog, were models for a photo shoot last week so I've taken dozens of photos of them. If chickens are not your thing then scroll down past them for some flowers!

The little red hens are difficult to photograph because as soon as I squat down at their level they come running up to me, but the two big girls tend to stand still and just stare at me. So they are much easier to photograph!

Marleen, my North Holland Blue.

See how wet it is and devoid of any vegetation apart from a new nettles?
The latter is their own fault for digging everything up!

I have to admit that of the two newest red hens I can't remember
which one is Carly and which one is Gaby!

This could be the other one or the same one as above! But they are both cute and lay well.

Here's Snowy, who is pretty ancient now at about 7.5 years old! She's a Light Sussex.

Marleen again. She's so huge and ugly but don't tell her I said so!

Flowers now. For various exercises (and due to wet weather) I've been shooting flowering houseplants indoors as well as the ones appearing outside.

African Violet - so nice to have houseplants flowering in the winter!

My orchid just keeps on coming back into flower
and these sprays of flowers last for months and months.

Outside the primroses are flowering including this pink one.

I have snowdrops galore and have started splitting some
clumps up and replanting, as whilst they are flowering
is the correct time to do it.

Hellebores are flowering away but this one was the first and now one of its
self seeded babies even has a flower bud on! Actually they self seed like weeds.

The same Hellebore, which I think is one of the Oriental hybrids.

A lucky shot where Bertie was just starting to leap off the planter.

I'm now feeding my rocket to the hens as the veg patch needs digging
and it has continued flowering all through the winter.

Guess what? I found a tiny caterpillar on one of my Primroses, but this was under my
Yucca and I got sopping wet knees as I had to half crawl under it to get a shot.
Taking bugs on manual settings without flash is something new to me!
This is the Drinker Moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria).

I've just totted up and have taken about 1,300 photos during the first half of my photography course!!


  1. This post needs more ducks.

    What do you do to get your orchids to bloom? I've had an orchid for about 8 years, and it has only bloomed once!


    1. Hi Rain - the ducks are too far away! Hard to get close to them, they are usually swimming around or on the far bank. I don't get duck eggs anymore as they don't come in at night and if they are laying I have no idea where!

      The orchid appears to thrive on neglect. :-) It was a gift about 4 years ago and I never expected it to flower again. But it keeps on flowering. I have never repotted it, hardly ever feed it and water it erratically. But it does get soft water which they like cos our tap water is soft. And it sits on a NW facing windowsill never with direct sun on it.

    2. Hrumph! My orchid is in an almost identical situation and it mocks me by doing nothing. It won't even die.

      So your ducks have gone feral? Maybe you will see ducklings this year :)

    3. Bloody hell I never thought about that (ducklings) - I hope not! It's not like they can fly away and go find a new home :-/ and no I don't intend to eat them (like I could catch them anyway). Yup they just sleep outside and live mostly on or around the lake and rarely wander round the garden any more. Way too timid and now I have 3 cats it's hopeless. I let the hens out into the garden the other day to see what would happen with the 'kittens'. Harry ignored them but Bertie stalked and chased them around lots!

      Sorry about your orchid. Maybe it comes with age. My mum always has wonderful flowering houseplants and I never did. Suddenly I have become my mother. ;-)

    4. Should have said - I do feed the ducks, just down by the pond now.

  2. Great to see the girls get a bit of a feature on the blog too :) I'm so surprised that you've got rocket in flower all winter and those dusky pink little primulas remind me of the old fashioned ones my granddad used to have in his garden.

    1. It was about time they got their pictures taken, Rosie! Winter has been so mild and rocket is pretty tough so it's just carried on flowering. When I moved here 99% of the primroses were the regular yellow ones but I transplanted a pale pink one I found in my woodland into one of my shady beds, and now it's self seeded around. It's nice to have a mix of colours. Thanks. :-)

  3. You naughty girl! You shouldn't feed poor old Marleen nor Snowy, Carley or Gaby rockets, Mandy! What if the safety pin gets loose and they explode? No more eggs :-(((( What's for breakfast then?
    You say Marleen is ugly, but I like her very much, think I'm gonna squeal. When I was (very) young a friend's parents just had hens just like her. Snowy look so respectable, aww.
    Thanks for the delicious flower shots, Mandy : a real orchid, snowdrop hellebore delight!
    And I see Bertie is taking up his rightful place again, love him, so give him a hug from me (if you wish you can take one yourself, I think I've got a spare somewhere lying around for you!)
    Happy studies , dear Mandy!

    1. Daft crazy Belgian! Not sure what you call it in Flemish but I already found out from Igor what it is called in Russian. Let's call it Roquette, which is the French. :-)

      I now feel guilty for calling Marleen ugly. Now three people have told me off about that!

      I've lots more in flower in the garden now but didn't have time to take photos of everything, plus some things like violets are so small and I can't get at them with my macro lens without stomping over other plants.

      Happy you like the photos and I'll give Bertie a hug and I'll gladly take one too!

      Head is buzzing/spinning this week already. Apparently we are fitting in one semester/term of work in just 6 weeks! Thanks very much for visiting Jan! :-)

    2. I did check the Notify box ;-)) About the "raketsla" (raket = rocket / sla = lettuce), it's also very well known over here by its Italian name "rucola" which sounds a lot fancier!
      Great starter or side dish (BBQ for instance) = rucola, extra vergine olive oil, fresh grated good Parmiggiano Reggiano, pine nuts and black pepper!

    3. I have a recipe which is absolutely divine using rocket and parmesan and grilled or griddled onions ......
      Yours sounds good but I am not keen on pine nuts! And thanks for telling me what rocket is called in your language, Jan! :-)

    4. Checked out the recipe link, they sure put you into hard labour manipulating those onions!
      Sorry to read you're not into pine nuts (I'm nuts about them), but other nuts like walnut and pecan could be used as well, would that be OK with you? On the same page the this one looks nice : Red Onion and Goat's Cheese Tart ! Had to be careful not to put a comma in the previous sentence let's say between cheese and tart, I would risk calling you names by accident! So it's TTFN, sweet Mandy ! (Oops, that sounds like desert!)

    5. Haha it's much easier doing the onions on a griddle, they always fall to pieces but it doesn't matter. In fact I think you could just caramelise them in a frying pan! Main thing is to keep nice fat juicy but browned rings.

      I love walnuts (I grow them, remember?!) so that would be a good option. And who are you calling a tart? ;-)

      Today I have seen my first butterfly of the year, gone outside, got drenched, now inside with wet jeans and the sun is out again - crazy stupid weather ...... so off to take some photos outside as half this week's assignment needs to be taken outdoors! Unless it pours down again.... lol. Have a good day/evening Jan! (and M-H if you should read this)

    6. Good evening from a (soon) flooded (again) Jonzac, it's raining cats and dogs right now :(((

    7. Yes, the walnuts! I helped you count them I remember! Didn't know for sure you like them, perhaps they were all for your OH! Wow, first butterfly so soon, did you manage to capture it in your wet jeans? Lucky in Belgium there's no flooding, only a mild rain today.
      PS well avoided nicely calling you a tart, didn't I? But if I would have by accident it would have been a deliciously sweet one!
      Have a wonderful evening at the Château, mon amie and warm greetz to every human an animal over there!

    8. Sorry M-H and Jan for late reply. This week on my course has been the most intense so far and I am putting in more hours in a day than if I was going out to work!

      Marie-Helene I really hope it didn't flood again and Jan glad to hear no flooding where you are. Not much here really, only after heavy rain and the streams around here flood a bit then after a day are back to normal. A few fields with standing water here and there but that's all, thankfully! I haven't seen a butterfly again and no I didn't go racing after it with my camera - I have enough butterfly photos from last year!
      Have a good weekend both of you. xx

    9. Sun is expected for tomorrow :-)
      Have a great Sunday, Mandy!

    10. :-) Ok it's Tuesday now, been too busy to reply! Thanks Marie-Helene and I hope you are having a great week!

  4. I love hens and flowers alike :-)
    Your Marleen is beautiful, I don't know why you call her ugly!
    Superb profile portraits of Snowy and Marleen :)

    Lovely flower pictures, I like your orchid composition cum bokeh, and the delightful snowdrops. But my favourites are the Hellebores, so elegant and with such exquisite colour!

    Beautiful light on the rocket (salad?) and last but not least, a very nice caterpillar!

    I wish I could find interesting flowers around here, all I have is pansies, I'm sick of them :(((

    Good luck with the remainder of your course, frankly I think you took wonderful pictures before so I wonder if I will notice a difference in the end result of those painstaking manual techniques :-))))

    Have a great day, mon amie :-)

    1. OK OK see what I wrote to Jan above about Marleen. I will go out and grovel and apologise to the poor hen after lunch ;-)

      Thanks very much mon amie - yes rocket is a salad leaf, you'll know it as roquette. I was surprised by the caterpillar and you will realise how busy I am that I have not offered an ID as no time to check to see if it is one I already have pics of!

      As for the course, well perhaps I'll be able to take in 2 minutes a shot that I took 5 secs over before, but I'll know I made it myself and not the camera! ;-) No seriously, already I see a huge difference and much less post processing needed as the light and contrast just look so much better. Plus I'm learning how to trick my camera and make things appear how I want them to appear not how the camera thinks it should appear.

      Back to the grindstone (apple pruning) after another morning studying. I tell you though, it's a lot more fun than taking French classes! :-))))

      I noticed in Feedly the other day that you'd posted more blog posts - I will catch up and visit you eventually but finding it hard right now. Thanks very much my friend!

    2. Salad is not rocket science :-)))
      Take your time to visit, I'm not doing much these days :-)

  5. How fortunate to have flowers! We are now 4 months without rain so flowers are going to be few and far between in the desert and because we're in a drought, I've been conserving water so my garden won't be as colorful but we typically take closeups anyway, right?

    Absolutely love your chickens. Great photos! I'm happy to have Gambel's Quail who I call "my chickens". I love seeing them run toward me when I open the door each morning. No eggs, though :-) I do risk putting their lives at risk by feeding them. There's a Cooper's Hawk nearby who swoops down and has snatched two doves this past week. I'm more careful to spread the seed under shrubs now!

    1. Cute looking little birds! Even here we have sparrowhawks who swoop around occasionally looking for small birds - exciting to see them but torn between them taking the birds yet knowing they need to eat and this is just nature (and no different from 'my' spiders grabbing 'my' bees or butterflies!).

      Sorry about the drought, Marianne. I'd heard California has a drought and Rain who posted above has also had a very dry winter in Washington. We are having the complete opposite. I did manage some weeding and tidying up yesterday after a violent hail storm which turned the garden white for a short time! And my OH has made a start on digging the veg patch thank goodness, progress at last! Can't believe it is past mid Feb already. Being on this course, time has gone by so quickly. No time for winter blues! :-)

  6. Love the Hens and the flowers, your photos look very good..great colour.

    1. Thanks very much Amanda! I need to get snapping at all the flowers that are opening up as spring seems to be arriving rather early with all the mild weather. I hope we don't get a really cold March!

  7. Slag the chickens all you like, they only understand French and food. I seem to be working my way backwards through posts. I've got the exif viewer working now (thanks) and I've been trying towork out what the lessons were for the various shots. Saw quite high ISOs for some shots - it's the setting I largely forget to adjust.

    Nice shots and good fun. bet you're glad it's over and you know exactly what you are doing now ;-)

    You've motivated me to take the camera out now.

    1. Blimey this all seems like a long time ago. :-) The orchids and snowdrops were from metering lessons (don't tell anyone but I've been firmly back on matrix since....) and the chickens were when I was trying to get the AI Servo and AI Focus (Canon continuous focussing) to work, which I could not! Also had to use continuous shooting mode hence high ISO for fast speed I think, as chickens move their heads a lot and are often blurs. Then I started taking portraits of my big girls as they just stood and stared at me. The rest are just pictures because they are flowers. I am not in Chrome right now so can't look at the exif data myself!

      Do I know exactly what I am doing now? haha! I haven't actually had enough time to take many photos but I have tried to use manual on my bridge camera which is different and I'll stick to using shutter priority for birds. The DSLR is stuck on manual exposure now as it seems quite natural. ISO is hugely important! It's what gives you more light to get faster speeds or more dof. I feel all naked now that you can see my photo details. ;-)