Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The race is on..


Almost 2 weeks in to our latest chicken keeping venture and we still haven't had an egg. As you may remember we recently purchased 3 POL (point of lay) hybrid hens from Cotswold Chickens near Stratford Upon Avon.
We have no idea exactly how old Clarice, Clarabelle and Clara are but point of lay suggests anything from 15 weeks - 6 months old. From my previous experience with poultry I would guess that they are all around 18 weeks old. 

Despite currently being eggless there are promising signs from both Clarice (White Star) and Clarabelle (Speckledy) that eggs are not too far off. Clarice's comb has doubled in size this week and it seems to be getting a darker shade of red every single day. Clarabelle's comb although small is bright red and in the last couple of days she has started 'crouching' when you approach her. Normally hens begin to do this at maturity and it is a signal to the cockerel that they are ready to mate. We don't have a cockerel, but anything tall enough to hover above them is easily mistaken for a potential mate!


So the race is on, who will lay first? Will it be a brown egg from Clarabelle? Or a white egg from Clarice?  I guess I've jinxed it now and it will be a blue egg from Clara, but she's showing no sign of wanting to lay at all! Clara is an Aracauna cross and Aracaunas are known for taking a lot longer to get in to the wing of things than other breeds.

As I write this Clarabelle is sat in the next box...

Have a great day!

Martin

Transplanting Leeks


In my post on Tuesday, I said that in order to get us up and running I was willing to buy a couple of plug plant packs from the local garden centre. In addition to the lettuce plugs that I mentioned the other day I also bought some 'Longbow' leek plants.
I absolutely love growing leeks, they are a true staple for allotment gardeners and even though we are currently plotless I just could not imagine a growing season (or winter harvest) without them.

The first thing to do when transplanting leeks is to use a dibber (the handle of a trowel will do) to make a hole about 5'' deep. The leeks don't need to be planted too far apart, a distance of about 6'' between them will more than suffice.
After making the holes it is time to seperate the leeks out. Remove the leeks from the container you have been growing them in up until now and then you need to pull them apart. Try and ensure you keep as much of the root system in tact as possible. Some people say that you need to cut 1/3 of the leaves off and also 1/3 of the roots. I have never done this but I have always had a bountiful harvest of leeks in the past.
Once separated they should look like this...
You then need to simply place the leek plants in the holes you have made. After filling all of the holes with your leek plants you then need to 'puddle them' in. You should NEVER back fill the holes with soil or compost because the grit from the soil will get stuck in between the leaves of your leeks and they will not be pleasant to eat at harvest time.
Just put your thumb over the end of a watering can and allow water to dribble in to each hole. The objective of this is to allow the small amount of soil around the side of the hole to fall on to the roots and effectively cover them. The hole will be filled out over time by growth of the leek and by rain water causing compost/soil to fall in to the hole.

The whole reason we use this method rather than simply planting the leeks at soil level is to ensure that the white part of the leek is larger than the green leaves. If young leek plants were planted at soil level there would be lots of leaf growth but overall this has quite a bitter taste compared to the sweeter white part.
I can't wait to harvest these beauties and I hope they grow as well as leeks I have grown in previous years. I'm going back in to the garden now to sow some radish seeds in between the leek plants. The radishes will be harvested way before the leeks require all of that extra space.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

Martin

Where we are today...

Thank you to everyone who has left kind comments after our posts and to everybody who has given us a warm welcome back to blogging.
For those of you who have been reading you have probably ascertained that Paddington House has already begun its transformation in to a 21st century version of 'The Good Life'. We were without broadband from when we moved in on 27th March and it has only just been installed in the past week.
Therefore the raised bed has been standing and full of plants and seeds for over 5 weeks already despite one of our latest posts only just showing it having been erected. 
So today I will attempt to bring you up to where we are today. 
The first thing we planted when we had finished building the raised bed were some lettuce plants we bought from our local garden centre. They were tiny little plugs when they went in, but now they are almost ready for harvesting. These are 'Little Gem'..

I normally detest buying veg plants from garden centres, but this year I said I would buy a couple of plug packs if necessary. It cost me £1.50 for 12 plants, but I know in some of the 'high end' garden centres they charge around £4 for the same quantity. Rest assured, I have already planted some more lettuce seeds and the plants can be transplanted in to the raised beds after this current batch has been consumed.
Alongside the lettuce is some 'French Breakfast' radish. I absolutely detest shop bought radish, but I could eat the fresh homegrown stuff straight out of the ground. The stuff in the shops always tastes very woody and does not have a nice texture to it. These roots appear to be swelling up quite nicely, it shouldn't be long before they are ready to eat...

The raised bed is up against the shed and in order to maximise growing space I have attached some trellis to the shed and I have sowed some 'Blauhilde' purple podded climbing beans along the edge of the raised bed closest to the shed. I have grown these before on the allotment and they are absolutely delicious, they are fantastic roasted with other Mediterranean vegetables. The plants are just starting to take hold and should be climbing away in no time.. I was hoping to paint the shed before they emerged but they appear to have beaten me on this occasion.

Our raised bed also has beetroot and Swiss chard growing in it. The seedlings have just appeared and are making good progress. I can't wait to taste fresh homegrown produce once again, it surely can't be long to wait now.

Thanks for reading,

Martin



Sunday, 17 May 2015

Weekend Walks

I thought I'd share a picture of this charming herd of cows who were intent on watching us as we walked around the beautiful village of Haselor...



I hope you are enjoying your weekend too.

Martin

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A new home was ALWAYS going to mean new chickens

It was always inevitable. A new home was always going to mean new chickens!

We managed to buy a pink eglu for £35. It was in a pretty bad state. The bolts had rusted and were not budging so the run was stuck to the eglu. After days of WD40, penetrating fluids etc. we finally managed to get a little bit of movement from the rusted bolts. Admittedly all 4 bolts did snap, but due to this we were able to drill them out. A few new bolts later, a can of green spray paint to respray the run and a couple of new bits from Omlet, we finally had an eglu which was in pretty good condition.

We visited Cotswold Chickens in Kineton, near Stratford Upon Avon. We chose chickens based on the eggs they would lay rather than considering any other factor.

We decided to go for their own blue egg laying hybrid creation which is Aracauna x Leghorn, they call it a 'Blue Angel' and we called her Clara!

Our next hen is Clarice, she is a traditional white star. She is already number 1 in the pecking order without a doubt. She is very flighty around us at the moment, but this is completely normal for the breed. She will lay beautiful, big, white eggs, perhaps in excess of 330 of them in her first year. Very exciting!

Our final choice was a beautiful Speckeldy, I have always wanted one not only for their big brown eggs but also for their pleasing appearance. Clarabelle is absolutely adorable, she appears to be very sweet natured. I thought she might have been number one in the pecking order based on first impressions, but she seems happy to sit back and let Clarice rule the roost.


(LtR - Clarice, Clarabelle, Clara)



We actually have some bigger plans for this space, maybe a walk in run eventually, but I will definitely be getting them off the grass and on to a wood chip area in the very near future.

Thanks for reading,

Martin