gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Well it’s been a while

many eggs have been laid and consumed since I last blogged. Life goes on doesn’t it… the world is a changed place since we last heard tales from the coop. Yet day to day not much has changed here in our still small still damp and green corner of the island.

The Gillybirds still scratch and peck and lay eggs. Mr Buttons and Naughty Lucas still  lie in wait daily for the postman. There are still two of our four Gillyboys living under our roof. Bigger, hungrier, older. Well, we are all a little older. Mr G and I have progressed into another decade. (How did that happen?) CC has become a rescue cat fosterer and changed career to an animal nurse.

Truth is I don’t know how I ever found time to blog for as long as I did! And there were annoying glitches with the WordPress so I just got out of the habit of blogging. But today I thought I’d drop by and say hello y’all. We are still here, taking life one day at a time and thankful for every day.

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Sleeping through the Performance

To say I’m devastated would be an understatement.  Last night, while I lay sleeping, the light show of the decade took place in the heavens above our own little coop. And I slept though it.

Those of you who follow my blog will know of my long standing desire to see the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. I even blogged about it in my post “Northern Lights” several years ago. They don’t often appear in their glory above our damp little island, but last night they put on the show of a lifetime.  Greens, purples, Reds, light columns, the full works. The first thing I knew about it was when I looked at everyone else’s Facebook posts and photos this morning. 

I’m so disappointed. But enjoying all the stunning photos nevertheless.  I feel like I didn’t get an invitation to a party that I wasn’t even aware was happening in my own home. Gutted.

In other news however Mr G and I got up close with a true star last week when the wonderful Adele started her 104 date world tour here in our city! We stood with all the young folks right at the very front and were rewarded with being so very close and witnessing her superb voice and wonderful soulful songs in person. 

So instead of the Northern Lights tonight ladies and gentlemen I give you my photos of Adele…. 

    
 

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Happy New Year from the Coop

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This was possibly my best Christmas gift from my brother. Even the hens and the dogs are included (in a way) in our family

All is well in the coop. It’s been a very wet winter so far so the coop itself floods regularly so our mummy lets us run round the yard and scratch in her plant and herb pots. We are laying lots and lots of lovely eggs.

 

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Summer Reading 3

  

Most of you will at least have seen or heard of the Oscar winning movie The Color Purple, or even read the book it was based on. As a hen keeper I find friends will give me hen related gifts ( for which I thank you kindly) and this book  “the Chicken Chronicles” was a lovely gift from KA, long time friend and fellow hen keeper.

This is the account of the novelist herself and her hen keeping experiences. Having kept hens as a child, she decided to start keeping them again in her later years. The best thing about this book were the names she gave to her hens (Gertrude Stein, Agnes of God, Hortensia to name but a few), her excellent observations of quirky hen behaviour, and her personalisation of their individual characters but unfortunately I just didn’t warm to the voice of Alice herself. Those of you who read a great deal will hopefully know just what I mean.

The best paragraph, which was sweet and sad, was when she recounts how one of her hens may have been feeling after its hen friend has disappeared, presumably taken by a predator:

The hardest part was watching Gertrude Stein day after day, wait for, and look for Bobbie who had been her special friend. They had napped side by side in the heat of the day, their bodies half- buried in dirt and straw. They had hunted insects together under the wood chips in the garden; they had roosted side by side each night on the roosting post. Gertrude’s face was wistful, sad, waiting. I wondered if she had witnessed Bobbie’s disappearance; if so, it must have shocked and frightened her. I wondered if she was still pondering “death”, as she had seen it, the unexpected nature of this encounter we must all experience, the incredible mystery.

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Summer Reading 2

Last year I blogged about “These is my Words” written by Nancy E Turner. 

I have finally got round to reading “Sarah’s Quilt”, the second instalment of the life of Sarah Agnes Prine, mother, farmer, rancher, widow, all round tough cookie of a woman living back in 1906 in the Arizona Territories who is actually the great grandmother of the author. 

Written in diary style, recounting the San Fransciso earthquake and fire, drought, a bit of romance, if you enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie, True Grit and like a strong spirited fiesty female character you will hopefully enjoy this book as much as I did, though not as much as I enjoyed the first book.

  

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    Summer Reading 1

  

 

Mr G and I spent a week in Washington DC in early February and were stunned at the lack of shopping areas in the city. We found a fancy pet shop, a chemist and Kramerbooks. A book store. A fabulous bookstore. And of course I headed for my two favourite sections – craft and urban hen keeping. And found this great book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter. 

Written in friendly, blog like style, Novella starts her urban farm in a inner city ghetto with hens, ducks and turkeys, fruit trees and vegetables and ends up rearing her own pigs for food. She experiments for a month by only eating what she grows herself. This book is funny, informative, gritty, moving and makes you think more about urban wastelan and its potential.

To this day Novella keeps us up to date with her adventures at http://www.novellcarpenter.com

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Still broody! And it’s catching

So  here we are five weeks on and Queen Mary is still hoping to be a momma. And now Queen Isabella has joined her on the Royal Nest too. So that means two hens not laying, not taking proper care of themselves, and generally being very grumpy girls if I try to move them. The weather has been warm and sunny, I’m not sure if this triggers broodiness or if it’s just a hormone thing!  

Also very popular these days are “double yoked” eggs, which look enormous beside ordinary eggs, and have two deliciously golden yolks perfect for frying and being a dip for fried potatoes!

  


 Please excuse lack of photo editing- since a WordPress update recently I have had trouble in uploading photos to this site. 

 

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Feeling Broody

  

Summer is finally here and Mary Queen of Scots has decided she wants to be a mamma hen. Yes, she’s gone broody. My dad says down the country she would be referred to as a “”clocking hen”! Apparently this is a common occurrence with her breed – marans. Sadly, since we don’t have a rooster she is sitting all day all in the nesting box on top of eggs laid by the other ladies, ruffling her feathers and making a funny growling sound if disturbed. Like all mothers she is aggressive if she thinks she is being taken away from her potential babies. For now, she is a slave to her maternal instinct and it takes courage and patience to persuade her to neglect her mothering duties. 

There are plenty of remedies suggested for broody hens – bathing their undercarriages in cold water, keeping them in an anti broody cage for a few days, blocking up the nesting box.  I tried the latter, only to find that poor mamma hen in her desperation had knocked over the board and was sitting  all squashed up underneath it, ignoring all discomfort and carrying on with her task. If I didn’t lift her out several times a day she wouldn’t eat or drink, or poop, just carrying on sitting keeping those (un) fertilised eggs at a just the right temperature, for about three weeks until they would be due to hatch. Sorry Mary, this isn’t going to happen. Only in your dreams. I’m sorry. 

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And whatever you do, don’t look the ducks directly in the eye

  

It’s not every Saturday you get to enjoy a punt on the River Cherwell and champagne and strawberries in the sunshine at an Oxford college.

The alarm clock exploded at 5am. Both the dog and the hens looked in bleary eyed disbelief that the two legged beings were dressed up and heading for the airport at such an early hour. Believe it or not, Gillyboy number 2 is coming to the end of his second year in college at Oxford, it doesn’t seem that long since I wrote about him leaving home. Proud parents are invited for a second year garden party- how very English! And prior to the party Number 2 treated us to a trip on a punt along the river Cherwell. 

A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a very long pole. A punt differs from a gondola, which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole, is found in Venice and costs romantic souls a small fortune to hire for an hour!

Gillyboy number 2 took charge, bringing a huge punnet of strawberries, Pimms and lemonade, glasses and crisps, and announced several rules, sit still, don’t rock the punt’ watch out for low branches, the most important of which was “never look the ducks directly in the eye. They will board the punt. They will quack until you feed them. Then they will spit out the food and start quacking for more. They will not leave you alone. You have been warned” . So well warned and to be honest feeling a little terrified, I hauled my less-than-flat bottom into the flat bottomed punt, which teetered and rocked quite dramatically as we all boarded and away we sailed or punted or whatever. It’s a lovely way to travel, watching someone else do all the hard work, lying back as the trees cast dappled shadows on the quiet flowing water. 
  
We did come across a lovely flotilla of geese, but were kept relatively duck free until we stopped for our Pimms and strawberries.  

 

As you can see Mr Drake adopted us, chasing away any other ducks who arrived by lowering his head and running hard at them. All this effort was to ensure that Mrs Duck got as many. strawberries as she could gobble down, which stained her beak quite red.  As long as we kept feeding her we ourselves came to no harm. 

In the end when we wanted to get back in the boat, smallest Gillyboy chased them away, in a technique borrowed from his feathered duck friend. So no killer ducks today. We could rest easy.

 

As for me, I enjoyed the punt back down the river, catching a few sun’s rays and admiring my pretty new shoes. 

my new Rocket Dog Daisy sneakers


There are of course other rules for punting – 

  

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Lucas stands guard

The Gillybirds were already in residence when Lucas arrived as a puppy nearly three years ago,so hens have always been a constant in his life. He did cry with confusion when Apollo and Darling disappeared only to be replaced by these exotic looking newcomers. He is very curious about the hens, but would never bark at them, unlike Mr Buttons whose deep bark sends them running for safety at the very back of the coop. It’s enough to put anyone off laying!

They have all got used to each other’s presence very quickly and he is always out having a chat in the yard with the new girls, and patrolling on fox/cat alert too!  

   

Lucas and Mary deep in conversation  

Lucas checking everyone is getting enough fluids. 

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