gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

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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Total Eclipse of the Coop

Last Friday morning here in our small damp little island and for just over an hour we all enjoyed a rare an unusual spectacle – the sun shone. Even rarer than that, we had a solar eclipse. It wasn’t a total eclipse, but at 95% it was still spectacular. We were all quietly enjoying a bright sunny morning.  Spring was in the air.

 

my beautiful Mother’s Day daffodils

  

naughty Lucas up on the table catching a few warm rays

  

the Gillybirds busy in the coop loving the brightness

Gradually the moon’s shadow moved over the sun and by 9.30 am the sky was still bright blue, but it was really dark.  The bird’s were singing their twilight song, it was most peculiar. How scarey it must have been for people centuries ago who didn’t know what was going on. It must have really freaked them out. Fortunately by around 10.30 the sky was back to normal and the moon had moved on.

We had all been well warned to not look directly at the sun during this event. Back in 1999 I observed our last eclipse through a pin hole made in a shoe box. For me, eclipse fashion hadn’t moved on much so I once more donned the shoe box on my head and it worked very well.  The youngest Gillyboy was provided with welding goggles in school. They also projected the sun’s image through a colander onto white paper to get multiple images. 

all the best dressed eclipse watchers wear shoe boxes!

I watched the hens closely to see if they would head off to bed due to the failing light, but they just carried on scratching and pecking as is their usual morning routine. Not fazed by the solar event at all. 

  

  If you want to check when an eclipse will be coming your way this NASA solar eclipse calendar is really helpful.Looks like Antarctica is the place to go if you want to make it a regular experience. 

Local BBC coverage has some great photos too. 

I didn’t capture any images worth sharing. Social media was a busy place to be on Friday morning and it was fun to watch the event as others were witnessing it (or not, if it was cloudy where they were).

I wonder what we will at be like when the solar eclipse next comes to these shores in 11 years time. Older and hopefully wiser. 

Gillyboy number 3 celebrates his 17th birthday today. Next time he will be 29! 

And my dear friend CC told me, in 11 years time she won’t even be as old as I am now.  That’s friends for you😛🌒

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Our little grey friend

This winter we have had a daily visitor to the coop, enjoying the wild bird food left for the garden birds who come to call regularly on the Gillybirds. 

The grey squirrel is perhaps one of the most commonly seen of British mammals being highly visible in parks, gardens and woods. Our squirrel is very entertaining, balancing precariously on slender branches, leaping fearlessly from tree to tree, dangling upside down grasping with those tiny little paws to catch hold of the pouches of seeds and nuts left hanging for our feathered visitors. A few years ago we had another regular squirrel we called Stumpy as he only had half of that wonderful twitchy fluffy squirrel tail. We often made up stories of how poor Stumpy lost his tail. 

Gabriel Hemery writes in his blog :

“Grey squirrels are a serious pest and the bane of woodland managers across Britain. They strip the bark of young trees, which can severely reduce their growth, increase susceptibility to disease, cause dieback of stems and branches (often a safety hazard in public spaces), and can kill trees; especially when the bark is stripped right around a stem.  They also eat song bird eggs and have driven out the red squirrel from its native range. The species, that some now regard as a ‘tree rat’, was introduced to Britain by the Victorians about 130 years ago.  It is more aggressive than Britain’s native red squirrel, which has been squeezed further and further north in the country.  Greys also carry squirrel parapoxivirus or ‘squirrel pox’, to which they seem resistant, but which is fatal to reds.  The IUCN has listed the Grey Squirrel in the top 100 globally worse invasive species. According to the Forestry Commission there are 2.5 million grey squirrels in Britain but only 140,000 surviving red squirrels. The Red Squirrel Survival Trust is working hard to promote the survival of the red squirrel by advocating targeted control of the grey squirrel, and has attracted a lot of support and media interest in its work.  If you live in Cumbria, Northumberland or other remaining strongholds of the red squirrel in Britain you can get involved in the RSST’s work in these areas.”

Jamie Oliver has caused a bit of a kerfuffle suggesting that we should help control grey squirrel numbers by making slow cooked squirrel pie. If you are vegetarian or think this is barbaric please just click away from my blog now! 

courtesy of luxphotodigital

If however you have no qualms about sampling a fine textured white meat that tastes more subtle than rabbit meat you can have it delivered oven ready to your door for £4.95 per squirrel. Or you can go all “Hunger Games” and try catch one for yourself. (Good luck) 

In Victorian times squirrels were customarily eaten in the UK, served in many forms and squirrel brains were a delicacy eaten in the USA until very recently when it was discovered squirrels are carriers of Creutzfeld Jakob disease. There are however a few restaurants in the UK which have begun serving this meat over the past few years.



Our little guy (or girl) would certainly be hard to catch even if we wanted to! I think we will leave him to a life of stealing nuts and performing acrobatics around our garden. As for our old friend Stumpy….well we haven’t seen him in quite a while. Oh dear. 

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Weather bombed!

Happily here on our damp green little island stories in the media relating to bombs are much less frequent than they used to be.
This week we were hit by a “weather bomb”, not a meteorological term I have ever heard before, but the sound of it was quite terrifying! Explosive cyclogenesis is the official term for a weather situation where a storm intensifies as air pressure drops at its core dramatically (over 24 millibars in 24 hours).
We had very high winds, hail, rain, sleet, black skies, very low temperatures and on the coast the waves were huge. This colourful picture shows the estimated wave height, the black area is the highest waves. Surfs up!

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This photo shows one of our favourite family holiday spots being completely battered by HUGE waves!
Here at the coop, it was business as usual thanks to our sturdy structure and covered area. Egg production is back on track, the girls are full feathered again and looking well.
Due to the low temperatures we’ve been having a hot breakfast to kick start the day

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The yard has been safely enclosed so on days where the weather is kind the Gillybirds get out for a rummage around the bins where there are always lots of critters to munch on

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Apollo is photo bombed by Colonel Saunders in this one!
We don’t much like bombs here, weather ones or any other type. But we’ve survived. There is snow in the air, and Christmas is coming.

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Hurricane Gonzalo brings an End to Autumn Glory

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

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

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

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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.

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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!

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Writing 101- finding my way

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something.
Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.
I walk every day. There are certain routes I have taken a thousand times. I have lived in this city all my life, but I’m always looking to find new places of interest or beauty.
Over the past few days I’ve been taking pictures of my walks using my humble phone camera. So today’s post is less about the words, more about what I’ve found under my feet.

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wild flowers by the wayside on my Parkrun on Saturday. So pretty

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Mr G and I had a romantic getaway for one night by the seaside. Lots of long walks along the shore. Finding many interesting colours of granite and filling my pockets with pebbles and shells

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yesterday I found myself spending about an hour in fascinating conversation with this local character known as Botanic Cyril. Homeless, with all his worldly goods (mostly books) on his bicycle, Cyril has the most intense blue eyes, and a power of recall on matters scientific and medical. You can read more about Botanic Cyril in this blog too.

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I can’t believe it is October 1st! Trees are arrayed in wonderful fiery colours lit by the warm sunshine. Bushes are bursting with berries. Apples are ready to be picked. Harvest is here.

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Living the Good Life

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

We are a small community of peace loving sisters. We have one purpose In life, a daily task to be fulfilled regardless of the weather, rising in the early dawn light and retiring as the sun’s last rays sink below the hills. What we produce is taken and used to improve the lives of others. This work takes a toll on our bodies, though had we been born in different circumstances, we may have spent our entire short life in cramped dark conditions and been disposed of once we had outlived our productivity.
We spend a considerable amount of our day eking out an existence from what nature and our generous benefactor provides. Our fare is plain and simple, mostly vegetarian. We drink nothing but water.
If any of us gets ideas above her station she is reprimanded with speed and severity. Strict order is observed at all times. Our conversation in general is quiet and respectful, our voices rising in a joyous song only when our task is completed.
A recent move finds us in much improved accommodation. Our boundaries have been extended, we have new territory to explore and navigate, rather than the limited area we occupied since we first joined the community. From the confines of our private space we enjoy watching the comings and goings of those around us, who often stop to encourage us with their chat. There is shelter from inclement weather, we are protected from those who would wish to harm us.
It is a good life here in the coop.

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Monday Morning Mayhem

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Enjoying the last official day of Summer 2014 Naughty Lucas got carried away off lead jumping through tall grass and splashing across a large stagnant pond.
A quick wash in the sink has left my laundry room in serious need of a wipe down and a trail of mucky paws across the kitchen floor.
Happy Monday!

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Northern Lights!

It has long been an ambition of mine to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, with my own two eyes.
The aftermath of a large solar storm last week is just reaching our small blue and green planet, giving rise to the promise of some spectacular aurora activity, visible even to us here in the north of Ireland.
And for once, these past few nights the sky has been relatively clear of clouds.
I’ve been checking Twitter for updates from all the weather and astronomical authorities, and running upstairs to hang out the attic window looking north with hope in my heart for a sighting.
This is Early September, I naively thought the aurora were only seen in winter time. It’s so exciting!
Tonight Mr G indulged me by driving out of the city, away from the light pollution and up into the dark hills above us. Down a narrow country road we drove, no street lights, no nearby houses, just blackness. We turned off the headlight and got out of the car. It was very, very dark. Gillyboy number 2 came with us and helpfully found north on his iPhone compass, so we all peeled our eyes hoping for a glimpse of green flares, or a red glow, or anything at all. Until we realised that the compass was affected by the magnetic catch on his phone case and we were looking the wrong way.
As our eyes grew accustomed to the blackness, shapes in the field next to us became apparent. We counted one, then two, then four ponies. Then as hill fog rolled creepily towards us, there was the sound of galloping hooves. I almost expected to see the headless horseman hurtling over the hill top. It was just another curious horse, wondering what three townies were doing out in the dark, and looking for a handful of verge grass.
After about ten minutes fruitless sky watching, and remembering Mr G is more than a little allergic to horses, we headed home.
(GB2 pointed out there were quite a few parked cars along the dark country roads. Im not sure the occupants were that interested in catching the Northern Lights, we drove quickly on….)
But the night is young. I’m getting very fit running up the stairs to peek at the horizon every so often. You just never know.
In the meantime here is a photo taken about 70 miles from our coop door last night which was published in our local paper.the Belfast Telegraph Sensational!

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If you live anywhere within the green ring on this image, I hope you managed to catch some of the light show!

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I long to see something like this. It’s from the Visit Finland website. Wow.

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Cocktail Hour

If I told you the hens have been drinking pink cocktails you would probably imagine something like this

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Whereas in reality it is more like this

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Not a high heel or false eyelash in sight.
And they aren’t necking it straight from the bottle, it is diluted in their water! The Gillybirds are classy girls.
Egg production is very low. For now the coop move is being blamed, but every morning there are quite a few feathers floating free, so moulting is happening too, which would also lead to poor laying.
So, as Grandma Gillybirds would say, the girls are getting a good tonic drink to perk them up.
The Poultry Drink contains “a selection of 5 minerals in a high energy sugar syrup base to support all round condition and health in Poultry”
The minerals are “iron, phosphorus,potassium, manganese and copper -this product is particularly of benefit to recovering birds” it turns the water a very pretty pink colour, with no need for a cherry or a paper umbrella. And they seem to like it.
They are also still enjoying the giant cabbage. I feel it may well put them off cabbage for life. I’m not sure I would like to eat cabbage every day for 5 days either.
The weather is fabulous. A real Indian Summer. The trees are turning. There is a nip in the air in the mornings. The Gillybirds are tucked up in bed by 8.30pm.
On Monday Mr G and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary.
An excuse for a few cocktails!

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Mr and Mrs Gillybirds- the Love Birds

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