Archive for April, 2009

Testing out my new phone

On Thursday, I upgraded my phone and consequently left Nokia for the first time in about six years. Instead, I got a Sony Ericsson C905 which has an incredible camera: 8.1 megapixels, the option to take panoramic photos, “best shot” (where it takes 7 photos in a very fast burst and you get to pick the best ones), and a whole other host of features that make it seem like a camera that also allows you to text and talk, rather than the other way round! In fact, as I said to B and Jennie when I chose it, it’s better than my proper camera which someone stole a few years ago. The only thing that’s missing is a video camera, which I didn’t think to ask about at the time, but I can live with that!

Oh, and the best thing? It was a free upgrade!

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been taking plenty of photos as I try the phone out so you’ll have to bear with me as I blog some of the results!

Snipe - 18 April 2009

Snipe chilling out in the pig ark

Curly and Pinky - 18 April 2009

Curly and Pinky asleep in the ark. Please note that Curly is actually in my lap!

Perky - 18 April 2009

Perky sleeps as the sun shines onto the straw

Fergie - 18 April 2009

Fergie tucks into her tea

I did take a panoramic shot of the farm, which involves taking three photos and the phone puts them together to make one extra wide shot, but I failed to line everything up. I’ll try again and blog the results when I get it right. As Jennie said, if (when!) I get the right shot, it’ll make a perfect header for the blog! (Talking of which, I’ve changed it again to a photo I took this time last year: Tia and the weaners’ papa, Bob, in one of Mum’s fields with the chickens. They were 100% free-range, which is why we lost three-quarters of them to the fox. This is why I now keep them behind the electric netting. They’re hardly “free” inside a hungry fox’s belly!!)

Words simply are not enough…

… to describe how I’m feeling at the moment.

On Thursday, I left the farm and drove back to the house, leaving the dogs with an assortment of chews to entertain themselves while B and I walked into Cardiff, where we met up with Jennie and her boys for a few hours of meandering round the shops, drinking coffee, eating cake and generally enjoying ourselves.

I upgraded my phone, got a better contract, bought a book on vegetable gardening with a book token I was given at Christmas, bought B’s borthday present, and treated myself to some new games and some accessories for my Nintendo DS. All in all, it was a lovely day and I was mentally writing a blog post on the subject when B and I arrived back at the house.

Only to discover that someone had driven into the back of my car!

Apparently some idiot was speeding down the street and overtook a van. He claims that some kids ran out in front of him so he braked and swerved, crashing into one car that was parked behind mine. I assume he then span round and careered into the back of mine.

It’s a 4×4 so is higher than your average car and I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say the back door has been pushed in (my insurance company struggled to grasp what I meant and kept talking about the “boot” – but more on them later) and the window exploded everywhere. The vehicle also moved forward about a car’s length, maybe more, which is quite amazing considering how damn good that handbrake is.

The police were called, statements were taken, and everything was cleared up by the time we got home.

What a lovely surprise that was!

I’ll have to do another post about my insurance company and how utterly useless they are as I don’t want to think about such things at this hour of the morning.

Let’s just say that come renewal day, I’m switching, even if I have to pay more elsewhere.

As for the car, it looked quite positive as there didn’t seem to be much damage, but the garage rang me last night to say that the floor has also been damage and is buckled and the estimate for repairs is three thousand pounds…!

So, I may or may not get the car back, depending on whether the insurance company decide that the cost of repairing the vehicle is less than they’ll have to pay me if it’s written off.

I know I shouldn’t, but I keep mulling over the What Ifs.

What If … I’d looked up at the blue sky on Thursday morning and rung B and Jennie to cancel, opting to enjoy the sunny country outdoors instead?

What If … I’d parked somewhere else? A taxi was parked outside my front door. I’d I’d parked in front of him instead of behind the other car, mine would have been fine.

What If … What If … What If …

It really doesn’t help.

I’ve got the driver’s phone number. Boy, am I having to resist ringing him up with every moral fibre in my being.

GRRRRRRRRRRRR!

This could get expensive!

I’ve been in denial for a few weeks but yesterday afternoon, I was forced to concede that my wellies are officially dead. They started cracking but since we’re now in spring, I thought they’d easily last until winter. Actually, I thought they’d last a LOT longer than that, as I’ve only had them since early January (a birthday present from Jennie) but it seems that your average wellies cannot cope with being worn every day for four months and the right boot now sports various cracks and a huge split in the sole. Which I discovered when I stood in some standing water in the field!

So the hunt is on for a new pair, though I might be optimistic and see if I can track down some wellie shoes or Muckers for the immediate future (being a lot less hot and stinky than full on wellies) and leave the Real Thing until autumn.

The thought of having killed my second pair of wellies in less than a year got me thinking about the rest of my wardrobe that’s also given up the ghost. I’ve worked out that since moving down to south Wales in August, I’ve had to replace (or get a lovely, kind, generous friend to mend) the following:

  • wellie boots x 2
  • waterproof trousers x 2
  • leather boots
  • jeans x 2
  • trousers
  • t-shirt
  • socks (too many pairs to count)
  • sweat shirt
  • coat pockets (I have various items rattling about the lining, from a tape measure to spare socks to string)
  • numerous pairs of gloves

That’s quite a list for just eight months.

Eeeep!

Bo Obama

I’ve been pondering the politics of the Obamas’ choice of dog and one thing that strikes me is this: we’re talking about his kids’ dog, so why is it suddenly political?

Secondly, there’s the issue of why they’ve chosen a Portuguese Water Dog.

I don’t believe that there is such a thing a “hypoallergenic” breed of dog, but I do see the logic that dogs (and cats) who don’t shed hair, present far less of a problem than dogs who shed enough hair to cover another dog every time they move (Snipe, cough cough, Midge…).

So when you’ve got a child who is allergic to animals, like ten year old Malia, getting a dog which doesn’t shed is an excellent idea.

The main problem (for those who having nothing better to moan about) is that Obama stated that the “First Puppy” would come from an animal shelter.

However, as I understand it, they were unable to find the right breed of puppy in any shelters, which is why they gratefully accepted the gift of “Bo” from Senator Edward Kennedy.

Unfortunately, the general public, who are presumably Lemmings posing as voting adults, have completely lost their minds and have all decided en masse that they too wish to own a Portuguese Water Dog. Which is fine until they realise that dogs are not fashion accessories, that they poo, pee and chew and need lots and lots of exercise.

This is the issue that’s got a lot of dog lovers hot under the collar, and they’re right.

But surely the answer is not to condemn the Obamas for getting Bo, but rather to campaign to raise awareness of the plight of dogs in rescue homes, and to educate the public about the responsibility of dog ownership and the restrictions that your canine companion inevitably puts on your life.

And for crying out loud, leave Bo and the Obama girls alone. They’re kids, he’s a puppy. When all’s said and done, nothing is more special than that.

4 + 2 – 1 = CHAOS!

Driving to the farm on Easter Sunday, I slowed down as B and I passed the two pig arks by the fence. Pinky and Curly were out and about in their enclosure, enjoying the sunshine, but further down the field, there was no sign of Tia and Bailey. I laughed and explained that those two are the laziest pigs on the planet and that I could count the number of times they were awake before breakfast on one hand.

Once we’d parked, the first thing we did was peer through the fence to see if Fergie and Perky had plucked up the courage to sleep in the pig ark with the adults, or if they were still relegated to their temporary home, the pig trailer.

I saw Brini in her usual place at the entrance of the ark and saw a creamy coloured pig behind her, leading me to get excited in the belief that Perky had slept the night with her adult companions.

However, I was slightly confused when I opened the field gate. The water bucket was on its side, the dogs’ water bowl was turned over (and cracked, grrrrr), and the cardboard that I use to keep the worst of the mud by the “shed” at bay was ripped up and spread around. My brain was trying to make sense of all this when I saw that the electric fence for the 4 pigs was down in several places…

Uh oh!

Who was missing?

I popped my head in the trailer and was relieved to see Fergie and Perky, both fast asleep and unaware of my presence.

Um, hang on. Perky?

So who is the cream pig in the ark?

Erm….

BAILEY!!!

As I swore in surprise, Brini woke up, as did their companion… Tia!

There was no sign of Scrumpy so leaving the three grunting pigs in the ark, I ran back across the enclosure, hastily put the fence back up as B tried to stop Perky and Fergie leaving the trailer and then shot off down the field towards Tia and Bailey’s enclosure to see if I could find my missing pig there.

Nope, no sign of her.

My heart in my mouth, I ran towards Pinky and Curly’s enclosure. Remembering just in time that their electric fence was switched on, I headed to the far side of their pen, where I found an upset Scrumpy who couldn’t have been more pleased to see me if I’d turned up with a whole box of bananas just for her. She’d clearly been evicted from her pen by either Bailey or Tia (probably the former given my previous disastrous attempts to match make) and had tried to get in with the pair of weaners, whose current ark and enclosure is on the site where Scrumpy lived before moving in with Perky and Fergie. In other words, having been beaten up in the middle of the night, she tried to go “home” but couldn’t get in thanks to the electric fence. There’s a large holly bush by the enclosure and I could see a shallow scrape under the bush where shed slept the night. Why she didn’t just go in the trailer with Perky and Fergie, who were presumably left undisturbed the whole night, is beyond me!

Anyway, she was so distressed by the whole thing that she happily trotted behind me as I led her back across the field, even though I had nothing but gentle cajoling to entice her.

That’s when the fun started.

By the time I got back with Scrumpy, Perky and Fergie had pushed past B and had left the safety of the trailer (it only later occurred to us that we could have just put the ramp up!!). Brini was overjoyed to have her man back and strayed no more than two inches from his side. Bailey was thrilled at having doubled his harem but was not pleased to see Scrumpy and proceeded to chase her about. Her squeals set off the two weaners, who then got chased by Tia, who neither knew nor cared that the pair are her daughters.

Leaving B to keep the peace (well, stop Fergie being trampled, anyway) I chucked the pigs’ breakfasts together and we set about attempting to separate them into their proper groups.

Scrumpy kept offering to leave the enclosure and had to be shooed back in. Tia was tempted out but Bailey wasn’t so keen. When I finally managed to get him out, he was accompanied by Perky and Brini. In the confusion to get them back in, Tia managed to slip through as well. All six pigs were shrieking at the top of their lungs, which set Pinky and Curly off at their side of the field…

Finally, ear drums bleeding, we managed to get Tia and Bailey out and I rattled their bowls and set off back across the field. Thanks to all that noise, they’d worked up an appetite and followed me happily enough. While they were eating, I quickly put their fence back up and scooted back to B and the four pigs who had screamed themselves hoarse and had resorted to glaring at her instead.

We fed them and I stayed on Fergie duty while B fed the chickens and checked for any eggs. Once they’d finished, I went back across the field (again!) to feed Pinky and Curly, who really didn’t understand what the delay was all about and told me so in no uncertain terms. Loudly.

Animals fed and watered, I gathered up my gardening gloves, hedge loppers, the spare battery and the energiser and we made our way to Bailey and Tia’s enclosure, determined that the previous night’s wandering would not be repeated. We were a little late as we met Bailey en route!

I’m not sure how, but we turned him round and I managed to return him to Tia, using a combination of methods such as pushing him from behind and darting to either side of him to steer. We were both panting by the time we arrived, though he came off worse as he made a break for freedom… right into the deepest mud in the field! His grunts of indignation as he sank to his belly provided some much needed comic relief and we were able to enjoy the time it took to cut back the brambles and rearrange the electric fence in such a way that it could be safely switched on (which is why they were able to make their break for freedom in the first place. Oops.) to prevent any more escapades.

Bailey tried to get out once more as we were there, so once I’d finished, we made sure to connect the energiser in the same spot. As soon as it was switched on, he knew something was up and snorted suspiciously at the fence. He moved to a different spot and then inched his way forward, stopping to snort as though he was challenging the fence to come and have a go. Even though he obviously knew that something was going to happen, temptation eventually won through and he got zapped right on the tip of his nose.

He squealed like a, well, zapped pig, and rushed to the middle of the enclosure, snorting and protesting at the insult. Once he’d calmed down, he glared at B and I and thought about trying the fence elsewhere. This time, however, caution won through, and in the past few days, he is yet to venture closer than six inches to the fence. Tia, who was not the instigator of the breakouts, got zapped accidentally that evening, which is no bad thing.

As for the four pigs, Brini spent the day in a slump, depressed because I’d taken away her man. Again. She’s over it now, thankfully. Scrumpy, however, is still in shock over her rude eviction, and huffs and puffs to herself. She’s also spending a lot of time asleep, but as she’s fine and dandy when there’s food about, I’m not too worried.

How was your Easter Sunday?!

An egg-sellent Easter

B and I had a bit of a piggy-surprise when we arrived at the farm yesterday, but I’ll blog about that later.

When B went to check feed the chickens and collect any eggs, she came back with a puzzled expression on her face and one by one produced the eggs she’d found. A double-yolker, two standard sized eggs and a teeny weeny egg, about the size of a quail’s egg!

By the end of the day, all six laying hens had popped one out, the two exceptions being Mama Silkie, who has got chicks, and Dolly, who is broody.

Home laid eggs on Easter Sunday - 12 April 2009

Home laid eggs on Easter Sunday - 12 April 2009


Left to right: a double-yolker by either Speckle or Dawn, Irene’s egg, Dawn or Speckle’s egg, Buffy or Willow’s egg, Silly Silkie’s egg, the mini-egg by either Willow or Buffy.

The mini-egg didn’t have a yolk, just the white, but we used the four big eggs (including the double yolker, yum yum) to make scrambled eggs, which we had with Sosage de Harold (hmm, another blog post I need to write). A delicious, home grown meal!

Judging by the colour, the mini was definitely laid by either Willow or Buffy, but thanks to the piggy events of the morning, we never got a chance to egg-watch to find out once and for all who is laying which eggs. Typical, really, as all five bigger chooks laid. Ah well, better luck next time!

Making friends… slowly

It’s been over a week since I put separated Pinky and Curly from Perky and Fergie, and put Brini and Scrumpy in with Fergs and Perks and things have finally started to calm down.

Pinky is slowly forgetting about her sister and best bud and no longer stands at the fence screaming and wailing, which is great for my nerves. Poor thing, she was miserable for a while, but seems quite happy now. And Curly’s thrilled to bits that he’s only got one sister beating him up, not two, so clearly believes he’s on to a Good Thing and is relishing the extra fuss that being one pig in a pen of two, not four, brings. Shame it’s got to end, but time is ticking for the pair!

Brini is also relishing her new status. For the first time ever, she’s climbed the social ladder and never wastes an opportunity to reinforce her new standing over Perky and Fergie. Unfortunately, this also includes the ark, so the two wee uns are still sleeping in the trailer. Hopefully, she’ll thaw a bit this week and once or twice, I’ve caught Perky and Fergie catching an afternoon snooze in the ark, even with her in there. It’s all calm and peaceful … until Brini wakes up and promptly lets rip at the cheek of the pair for sneaking in while she’s asleep! The reason I’m optimistic is that she just screams and charges, but no longer tries to bite.

As for Scrumpy, well she’s always been a bit of a bully, and coming on heat really didn’t help matters, but she’s really started to accept the pair. Well, Perky more than Fergie, but she rarely beats them up now, and then only at meal times, and then it’s more of a gesture than a proper pounding.

She’s taken a liking to the trailer, which worried me at first, but as you can see from the photos I took the other day, it’s actually not that bad:

Scrumpy and Perky - 9 April 2009

Scrumpy and Perky

Scrumpy, Fergie and Perky - 9 April 2009

Fergie feels left out

Scrumpy, Fergie and Perky - 9 April 2009

Well shove over then!

Scrumpy, Fergie and Perky - 9 April 2009

That's better!

Scrumpy, Fergie and Perky - 9 April 2009

Mmmm, night night everyone

I was sitting in the straw at the back of the trailer while all this was going on but stopped being so charmed by the peaceful scene when Scrumpy let rip with a vile sounding (and smelling) fart… so I was forced to interrupt their beauty sleep as I made a very hasty departure!

Soft-shelled eggs

For a while now, at least one of the hens has been laying very soft-shelled eggs, not that many, maybe once a week. Sometimes, the shell is missing altogether, so the egg is just in its membrane. Whoever lays these eggs rarely does so in the nest box, preferring the roosting bars in the Cube!

Last week, I decided to take action and removed the chickens’ corn feeder, leaving them with just layers’ pellets, as well as some grit. The pellets and the grit contain all the minerals and vitamins the hens need to keep them healthy and happy, as well as providing the necessary calcium to keep the egg shells nice and hard.

I thought this had done the trick, as the week went by with not a soft shell in sight, leading me to think that whoever had been laying the soft shells had just been lazy, stuffing themselves on corn, which tastes nice but doesn’t do much for them, leaving no room for the pellets.

I didn’t clean the Eglu and Cube out on Thursday but when I did it yesterday, I found not one but two soft shelled eggs! One was wobbling like jelly in its membrane on the roosting bars but the other one was cracked open in the tray, presumably laid the day before as the yolk was practically glued to the poop tray!

So I’ve given them back their corn, which the others were thrilled about, and am now scratching my head as to what to do next. Trouble is, I’m not sure who the culprit is. If it’s one of the two young hens, it’s not a problem as new layers take a while to get to grips with laying and things like soft shells and double yolk eggs are common problems. Not that I view double yolkers as a problem, but you get what I mean!

However, I don’t think the pullets are the problem when it comes to soft shells, especially as the double yolkers are becoming increasingly rare. And it’s not Irene. Which means it’s either Willow or Buffy. My money has always been on Buffy but I’m not so sure now. Buffy’s been an extremely sporadic layer recently, but yesterday afternoon, after I’d discovered the broken eggs, I caught her in the nest box, looking as though she wanted to lay. She hadn’t and although I’ve just realised that I forgot to check when I shut them up, I don’t think she laid anything at all. Which means that Willow is the most likely suspect. Which is not good, as she’s been looking a bit ropey recently, but since she was laying nice eggs without any problems, I thought she was ok. But if she’s laying the soft eggs, then maybe there’s a problem after all.

Hmmmmm.

In other chookin news, Dolly Parton, our Pekin bantam hen, has gone broody and nothing seems to be putting her off, even dunking her bum in a bucket of cold water! I’ve given up and just make sure I turf her off her nest two or three times a day so she gets some food, water and a chance to scratch around. She’s got a long, long wait for any eggs to hatch: (a) Mama Silkie and her three chicks are in the broody ark so Dolly’s got nowhere to go; (b) I don’t want any more bantam chicks; and (c) I haven’t got a cockerel to fertilise the big chicken eggs. Well, there’s Flint the other Pekin bantam cockerel, but I think he’s a bit weeny to do the job!

EU egg labelling law under threat!

As you’re munching your way through your Easter eggs this weekend, take a moment to consider the needs of battery hens.

According to Compassion in World Farming, the EU might scrap laws that force egg producers to state whether the eggs are from free-range, barn or caged hens:

The EU Commission is discussing the possibility of scrapping compulsory labelling of egg packs in favour of a voluntary scheme. Compulsory labelling by method of production has been an important contributing factor in the decline in demand for battery eggs, meaning that fewer hens in the EU endure a life of confinement.

Read more here and then please, please take a moment to send an email to Mariann Fischer Boel at the EU’s Commissioner for Agriculture.

And remember to base your email on the template or write your own completely. If you use the template as-is, it lessens the impact.

Time is of the essence!

Hat-tip: @gdnsmallholder

Facing eviction for keeping chickens!

I’ve only just heard about this story but think that Action needs to be taken!

A couple living in Gateshead are facing eviction for the “crime” of keeping a couple of chickens in their back garden. According to Gateshead Housing Company, tenants are prohibited from keeping livestock on the premises but the couple and supportive campaigners are making the point that two chickens can hardly constitute livestock – and this chicken keeper agrees!

Read more about the story here and here, and then sign the petition!

We believe that people should be encouraged to become self-sufficient as possible. Properly kept, domestic hens pose no nuisance to anyone.

The keeping of cockerels is not included as a right in this proposal

There’s also a Facebook group you can join.

News is a bit outdated though. The couple had until the end of March and we’re now well into April…