chickens


This weekend in the garden, we got at the berryfull but overgrown elder.As the photo shows, the apples are dropping too.

 Elderberries are very potent vitamin C containers, have a lot of vitamin A, and some research suggests they have strong antiviral properties.

We make juice. The berry recipe:

  • Lots of elderberries
  • Cloves
  • Star anise
  • Cinnamon

Cover with water, boil and reduce to a thickish liquor.

Strain, add sugar/honey to taste…  Simmer again. 

We’re probably going to keep this one liquid (in stoppered bottles), but quite like the idea of procuring some gelatine (beef/veggie), and jelly baby moulds, to make winter sweeties with the next batch.

The elder bush is in the chicken run, and they greatly enjoyed the offcuts.

Currently considering a more appropriate title for what I was calling ‘Sunday in the garden’, mostly because it sounds hopelessly boring and twee. Anyway, the point is the content, of course, and over the summer the content of the garden has changed enormously.

I mean, ‘enormous’ is often used glibly in such a context, but srsly, this garden has changed, man. Veg end went from this:

To this:

Eh? EH? Note the petunias. And at the other end, we introduced hens.

Chooks love green leaves and scratching about, so the girls got stuck right into the plants here. It’s now a twig-and-soil Mad Max-ish hen zone. Every day throws up some new excavated surprise – decades-old crisp bags, neolithic pottery shards, mouse burial complexes aligned with Mus Major in 10,500 BC… they are quite the archaeologists. 

I mean, this was August, so they’ve really gone at it even since this pic.  The troupe is Settled Right In. This is they having a dust bath ‘neath an acer.

So, yeah! Tending the fowl, weeding, holiday, toddlers… blog updates have been fairly low down the pecking order this summer.

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Work began on the fence, with the entrance being the first section. My dad lent a pair of hands, and a pair of spirit levels, to help create what appears, without fencey context, to be a Fringe-style portal to a parallel universe over by the hedge. ‘Tis a world much like our own, only sunny in summer time.

Some precision measuring, and less precise grunting spade-and-trowel work, took a couple of hours out of the morning. It’s over that side to take advantage of the paved path, mainly.

Note the partially-tidied privet hedge (left of pic), another fathers day tick list item, which had to be abandoned owing to short extension lead issues and on account of the June skies dulling once more. Solstice sunrise and full moon seem unlikely to be visible if the weather continues in its current sogginess. Got the lawns done, at least, so the grass is enjoying the showers.

June’s persistently dour sky cracked a grin twice today, which was all the time needed to dig in the legs of the platform base and heave the henhouse into place.

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Pallet screwed to four posts to raise it up for a little shady area, henhouse fixed on top of that. The base’s legs are dug-in about a foot, and the exploratory spadework for that revealed several areas where a former ornamental pebble garden has been submerged with topsoil. Not at all easy to dig through, and prompting a rethink of the positioning for the fence posts.

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These are eight feet in length, so  need about two feet of foundation. Can you dig it? I hummed, Mock Turtlishly. We need to fence in the fowl, to avoid any unfortunate incidents with the local cats who use this section of the garden as a cut-through, and of course to keep out urban foxes.  I’m fairly sure it’s only that one corner that’s pebbled, but the perimeter may end up taking an odd line if I unearth any other obstructions. Still hoping for a buried priceless classic car, obviously, although further discarded bags of cement that have become solid pillows of immovable matter seem more likely:

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Sleeping on’t, he dreamed of chickens ascending and descending a small wooden staircase, illumin’d by crepuscular rays.

So, yes, fence next.

Following a short hiatus for…well, I don’t know what one might call it without sounding like a ginormous ass: de-rutting, groove reclamation, headspace refurbishment (“Hey, I like what you’ve done in here…”)… a comfort break… The Mortal Bath resumes refilled, topped up, nice and bubbly.

It was half term holidays this week just gone, and some sort of physical distraction from the scholastic toil was required. The stated aim had been to build a henhouse. This is the second time I’ve built one, and it was much easier going now I have more than the barest notion of carpentry I did the first time. I’m still fairly cack-handed, but it seemed to fit together less troublesomely.

So, I’m pleased to record, this evening, as the sun shone over the garden (which it has failed signally to do the entire rest of the leaden-skied week, by the let’s-emigrate-to-the-Mediterranean-immediately way), the coop was completed:

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We cracked a can of Amstel to toast its wooden goodness, and as a libation for the future roosting joy and eggy successes of its inhabitants. (Clunk of cans, distant approving cluck of hens…)

Hottest day of the year so far, and some quality time in various zones of the outside space.

Sitting admiring the lawn, which you may recall has Elton John plugs, in this image from just after the washing line. When we moved in, the paving on the left was buried, and the top end of the garden was enjoying the aftermath of a particularly large pallet/miscellany fire. The turf transplant appears to be taking, and the rest of it, reseeded, was enjoying the light.

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Buoyed by this success, and mindful of the poor state of affairs in the neglected veg-patch-to-be, I have started grafting bits from there into the area where the chickens will be.

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Given the fondness of poultry for destroying grass, this might seem a bit like just making more work for myself, but it all makes a difference. The dense foliage to the left and rear will probably keep them busy for a bit too, although I’m a little uneasy it’ll turn out to be something deeply unpleasant for chickens.

“Yeah, that’s Fowl’s Blight, mate.”
“I knew that was going to happen.”

Which I will of course be double checking on before installing any actual hens.

Finally on the garden agenda today, getting rid of piles of nicely dried branches in a satisfyingly long-lasting inferno.

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No notebooks today, but I did consign a list of minor grievances to the blaze. So therapeutic! The fire brings forgiveness and forgetting with its destructive vigour.

Next week: How not to make dandelion wine.

Project Returning Hen, phase one, complete.

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