Sunday, February 01, 2009

Chicken/garden update

Again, as promised.

For those who don't already know, two of my original three chickens were killed last November, I suspect by marauding dogs - the people a couple of doors away have two large dogs that have escaped before and caused enormous damage, not that they either appeared to care or offered to make recompense. But I had no evidence that the deaths were due to dead-eyed woman and her ever-barking nuisances, so I couldn't really do anything except bury Dilly and Sybil, nurse Milly back to health in the kitchen, and decided what to do next. The options were to rehome Milly with someone who kept chickens, or get new chickens, because they are sociable creatures and it isn't fair to keep them by themselves. I ended up getting two new ones - Columbian Blacktails ("posh chickens" as the man who sold them to me called them) at Point of Lay. Introducing the three of them was a bit tricky - Milly bullied them like crazy for the first couple of weeks, not letting them near the food hoppers, so I had to set up three feeding stations to give the new ones (named Ethel and Edith) chance to get at some grain. However, they all seem to get on well enough now, and Ethel and Edith started laying at New Year. Here they are, out in the snow this afternoon:

Edith is the one with a bit more black in her tail feathers.

They are incredibly inquisitive, even more so than the Amber Stars. As soon as I get the fork or spade out, they run over to see what's going on.

That also means it's really hard to take their picture, because as I crouch down with a camera, they come over to investigate. I've been pecked a few times so far - mainly they seem to like pecking my wellies or my trousers, but they've had a go at my fingers too. Doesn't hurt though.

The garden is a source of frustration at the moment - there's so much to do, I really want to get going with digging some new beds to expand the space for vegetables, but the weather has been so wet that the ground is far too boggy. Still, I managed to get the rhubarb crowns split, and also invested in some new raspberry canes and a blackcurrant bush yesterday, so with any luck we should be OK for fruit this summer, with the blackberries, blueberrries, gooseberries and strawberries that are already in situ.

Since it started snowing this afternoon, rather than dig, I dealt with some of the chilli crop, now nicely dried.

Here's an illustration of the results - sweet chilli dipping sauce, chilli oil, harissa paste and chilli jam; recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Pam Corbin, and my own invention. Zingy to varying degrees, and some tender bits of me now know why washing your hands after handling chillis is really REALLY important!


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