What came first- the chickens or the blog?

    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

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You are radiant with charm

Were you ever aware of the Victorian language of flowers? Lilies symbolised beauty. Roses represented love. If your suitor gave you red roses you knew he was mad about you, if they were pink you could be assured of his affection, if yellow roses arrived he was only interested in friendship. And black or dark roses – well, make sure you put your affairs in order as someone wanted you dead. Flowers were used to say what could not be said in those more formal times. A bouquet given to you upright sent a positive message, and beware if you were given flowers facing the opposite direction. Mind you nowadays if you get a bunch of Bonnie Jeans from the garage from your gentleman caller I would maybe encourage him to try a little harder!

Anyway, while on a recent holiday in France I was entranced by these beautiful flowers in a restaurant.


These are ranculus asiaticus, a cousin of our buttercup. A Victorian maiden would blush with pleasure at being told, without words, that she was “radiant with charm” should she have been presented with these. Whereas Mrs G headed straight for and ordered a delivery of ranunculus asiaticus bulbs in an attempt to cultivate these very special pretty paper-like blooms in time for the summer.

When the bulbs arrived they looked anything but charming 

Actually they reminded me of the hens favourite snack of meal worms. They had to be planted with these little “fingers” pointing down. I worked very hard, filling pots with soil,  planting bulbs and watering.  Only to discover that Naughty Lucas had jumped into a big pot and dug out and scattered its entire contents when I was tidying up the tools.  The Victorians would suggest he should give me a purple hyacinth to ask for forgiveness.

For now, here’s hoping by the summer I will be posting pictures like this 

there are no words for such beauty 

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Hurricane Gonzalo brings an End to Autumn Glory

It has been a most glorious autumn. Dry, bright, sunny, warm, long golden days. The trees have really been showing off.

We’ve had beautiful walks kicking through piles of pretty leaves

And making long shadows in the early mornings. Long legs, small dog!

All my spring bulbs are planted and our new garden has had a few extra weeks to get established before winter sets in for real.
Harvest was celebrated. This year I followed a rainbow theme on the Communion Table running the spectrum of red to purple in fruit, vegetables and flowers. It was only during the worship service I realised I had forgotten to cut open the water melon for the reddest of reds! Oops.


All the golden glorious-ness however came to a very abrupt halt with the stormy arrival of the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo which created such havoc in Bermuda. The heavy rain and wind cleared our avenue of trees of their leaves in a couple of hours.
Now the clocks have turned back. British Summer Time is over.
The hens rise after 7am in the murky dawn and tootle off to bed around 5.30pm.
Days are getting shorter. It’s less than 9 weeks to Christmas!


Giant Green Cabbage


It isn’t every Sunday morning I come home from church with a giant green cabbage. But today I did.
And what a whopper! Those are my favourite pair of summer shoes (UK size 6) beside this beauty, grown by “Pip” who gave us a talk on having faith the size of a mustard (or in this case cabbage) seed.
We will be enjoying the heart of the cabbage, the Gillybirds are tucking into the first few outer leaves, which came complete with a dessert of slugs.




I hope the Gillyboys eat their cabbage with as much enthusiasm as the hens did!



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Men at Work

Busy, busy! Sadly after all our own work constructing a home for the Gillybirds in the old shed turned out to be only temporary.
The shed was too old and rotting quite rapidly, so it was quickly cleared away, only to reveal a large frog, a bird skeleton, a very old disused rat nest and a spider of EPIC proportions.
I will spare you any photos of these delights.
But as a wee teaser here are a few snaps of the new coop under construction.



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Beach Babes

The garden work is now well into week 4 and coop construction has begun! So excited!
The lawn area has been sanded in anticipation of turf laying, so while their home is being built, the girls spent two days “at the beach” on the fresh sand which they appeared to enjoy, especially an unobstructed view of all the chaos going on round them.


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Times they are a’changing

Here at Gillybirds Manor we are one week into a major building project which will hopefully put an end to our considerable flooding issues in the garden. If you check back to the start of this Gillybirds blog here is evidence of the Gillyboys actually swimming on the lawn two summers ago.
This work has meant considerable disruption for us, for our (mostly) patient neighbours, for the dogs and most particularly for the Gillybirds themselves.

Initially we moved them, with considerable effort from the back garden round to the front garden, placing them directly under our bedroom window. I realised how early they start singing their sunrise song!
It has been two years since we built the Eglu coop, and trying to remember how to deconstruct it was quite a challenge. However it all worked out well and we are able to rebuild it quickly and they appeared to enjoy a change of scenery, although seemed to miss the activity of the back of the house. Lucas the pup missed them too. (He is not allowed round the front of the property given his tendency to run away.)

None of us likes change, it is unsettling, unnerving, can take away your confidence, and your ability and desire to lay eggs – however they settled very quickly, surrounded and soothed by our rather overgrown lavender plants, though I felt bad knowing this was a very temporary interim move, as their new location was directly in the path of where the heavy machinery was to manoeuvre for the next few weeks.
More to follow……

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Hen Friends

How lovely it is to visit an old friend and get acquainted with her very pretty hens who roam free around a large garden. Mr Rooster, a fine beastie, even keeps the family dog in check. On a fairly rare sunny day we enjoyed fresh scones in the garden and our feathered friends were there to peck up the crumbs when we finished. Back when we first met in the late 1990’s our chat would have been of small children, potty training and learning to read, now our own little chicks are grown up we talk of university, gap years, egg production and scaley leg mite and had a tour of the abundant vegetable garden.

Mr Rooster is the fine silvery grey bird just left of centre.
PS you can follow me on Instagram as Mrs Gillybirds.

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Neighbourhood Watch


One of the main issues with Naughty Lucas the Tibetan Terrier is that he likes to run away from us. When he was still a little pup Mr Gillybirds and I spent a wet Saturday afternoon securing the perimeter of our garden with fence posts and meters of wire mesh. We were just about finished when I glanced up and there looking full of mischief was Naughty Lucas grinning at us from the other side of the new fence.
Since then for the most part he has been allowed out under close supervision or on a long long running wire system giving him access to visit most parts of the garden and spend time up by his beloved hens. And getting very tangled in the bushes, although he usually reserves is for when it is tipping with rain and I have no shoes on.
However, sometimes he makes a break for freedom and we spend an anxious time trying to find him. On Christmas morning he did his Houdini act, I was too busy to chase after him and he eventually returned with a huge bone Father Christmas must have left for some other local dog and which was now property of our wandering pup.
We have met some neighbours who now know whose dog he is and are happy to return him with his tail literally between his legs.
But there is a new development in this shaggy tale….
With the sunny dry weather the hens have been spending more time roaming loose around the garden. And, you can probably guess, the girls have found some of the escape routes used by the dog. And shaking a box of dog treats or grabbing a handful of fur and pulling it back through a hedge isn’t going to work for our feathered ladies. They have no concept of the “recall” which works on most dogs (not ours obviously)
In the past few days I have tiptoed through our neighbours’ beautifully manicured freshly planted flower beds, making a grab for a wandering hen blissfully scratching her way amongst this year’s bedding plants, subtle garden lighting and well manicured lawns. It’s been a nightmare.
So for now they are confined to barracks. Plans are underway for an extended run. While clambering through a large rhododendron I found the remains of the Gillyboy’s tire swing, which I put into the hen run and filled with leaves, grasses etc to give them a new feature for a bit of hentertainment.


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A Golden Season


Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my dad’s leaf blower, clearing up the last of the leaves to fall on our property and getting tidied up for the arrival of winter. It is hard to believe that Sunday is December 1st! The Gillybirds have had a lovely mild, bright and mostly dry autumn. We have moved the coop, but on sunny days when they are free ranging they head back to their old favourite spots in the sun for a pleasant time of dust bathing. The dogs and I have enjoyed pretty walks along paths strewn with golden leaves, and only in the last week with the arrival of a light dusting of snow have we had to get our thick coats and mittens on.
As other friends have been clearing their gardens the hens have scratched their way through piles of nasturtium leaves- thank you to W and S for those. Colonel Saunders has molted a little, and egg production is on average two daily rather than three, but sometimes only one. Most days the girls are let out at 7am, it is still dark and they grumble a little, but the past two Sunday mornings they have taken their revenge by making a spectacular riot before 6.30am. I am not amused, and I suspect, neither are our neighbours. But at the other end of the day they are tucked up safe and warm by 4.45pm. It’s a short day when your body clock is regulated by sunlight. Thankfully, with all there is to be done in anticipation of the Festive Season, we can switch on the lights and keep going until a much later bedtime.
Bright sunshine and low winds in Ireland this year have combined to produce one of the most spectacular autumns in years. In September, the weather was drier than normal and temperatures reached a high of almost 24 degrees Celsius. In October, temperatures were above average. Hours of sunshine were also above average.
Writing for the Irish Times, expert horticulturist Eileen Murphy, from Teagasc Horticultural College at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, said that when autumn begins, the shortening days and lengthening nights trigger a reaction in deciduous trees. A protective barrier forms between the tree and each of its leaves, so that when the leaves fall the tree is not exposed to disease. “That happens every autumn and it has happened this autumn,” Ms Murphy said.
Inside the leaf during the day, the process of photosynthesis using water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and green chlorophyll creates sugars, and those sugars are normally transported to other parts of the tree. But when the tree has already created its protective barrier, the sugar tends to be trapped in the leaf. Daytime sunlight and cool nights cause the leaf to turn the sugars into a red pigment, anthocyanin.
“Normally in Ireland we get dark autumn days so there isn’t an awful lot of sugar produced and there isn’t a lot available to make the red pigment,” Ms Murphy said. “But this year we’ve got a very good, prolonged period when it is sunny enough for sugar to be produced and it’s trapped in the leaves and it is producing the red pigment.”
The visibility of autumn colour can also be shortened by high winds and stormy weather, but conditions this year mean trees have managed to hold on to their leaves much longer. And I have tried to capture some of this beauty on camera.





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