What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Hen sitting thanks

At the end of the summer I should pay online tribute to my hen sitters while we have taken some holiday time away. Special thanks for their early morning coop opening, treat providers, egg collection, health and well-being monitoring, coop closing and being all round good neighbours and friends to P and L, Grandma Gillybirds and to Miss CC (no stranger to mentions on this blog) and also to our neighbour L’s mum who came especially to visit the hens over the course of one of the weeks we were away as she had grown up on a farm and was eager to see hens up close for the first time in years 🙂 awww
Our garden builders who carried on working in our absence also gave them lots of attention and probably too much of their own lunches, and finished their awesome looking very secure huge coop.


All our hensitters heartily enjoyed their responsibilities (together with a long list of instructions from yours truely) and despite not being blessed with an abundance of eggs they loved spending time getting to know our feathered ladies better.
Thanks one and all!
There is actually a chicken hotel in England you can book your hens into check this out- but ssshh, don’t tell the Gillybirds!

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Business as Usual





<a School holidays are over. Our days of living to no one else's timetable but our own have come to an end. And here at Gillybirds Manor birthday season has passed too.
The Girls have been laying very well, enjoying the wonderfully dry weather, their feathers have grown back, they look great. Very much business as usual.
Just as well as I have had so many birthday cakes to bake over the past couple of months. Summer is birthday season. In our house alone there has been a 20th, an 11th and a 19th, together with Auntie K who turned 40. Each cake takes 4 eggs, from my faithful Nigella recipe. Sometimes I make a simple vanilla sponge, other times I add cocoa.
The decor depends on the recipient. And how classy they want it to be, or how chocolatey. Or how Pokemon-esque.
Also this summer Miss A turned up with 36 bananas urgently needing to be used up, so the freezer is stacked with plenty of banana bread to keep us going for a while.
One of these days my mother will be making noises about getting all the dried fruit organised for Christmas cake. Only 4 months to go! Those Girls better keep on laying.

Colonel Saunders is very glad she isn’t a turkey!

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Holidays are good for you. It’s official!

Day six of our holiday. Two books read, 100 lengths a day in the pool, many hours spent in the pursuit of 100% on the Pop Stars game app (thanks Grandma for the recommendation). Even Candy Crush seems too much like hard work. On the tanning colour chart my skin is somewhere between “oven ready cookie” and “weak tea”. After a particularly warm day yesterday (35 degrees) and with all the Wimbledon Tennis Final excitement, last night the Gillyboys and I cooled off by swimming under the stars, it was awesome with the pool’s underwater lights on, like bathing in a heated glow stick. Throwing open the windows every morning to yet another glorious day seems all the sweeter knowing that this time next week we will be back to grey skies and and strong chance of rain.
Mr G has spent most of his days walking, reading and consolidating his thinking as he calls it. The boys spend so much time in the pool I need to start checking if they have sprouted fins and gills. Mr G and the 15 year old are having a World Series table tennis tournament the ultimate outcome of which is anybody’s guess.
It is rest, it is re-creation
A recent scientific study showed that holidays are good for us. Not only do getaways make you feel better, they help you to manage stress, improve sleep patterns, reduce blood pressure, strengthen relationships, live longer.The results of the research, a collaboration between the long-haul travel specialist Kuoni, and experts in psychotherapy and health care, tests carried out by Christine Webber, a psychotherapist, showed that those who went away for two weeks experienced significant upswings in mood and energy levels and returned feeling more relaxed and clearer in their life goals. Their blood pressure dropped on average by six per cent, sleep quality improved by 17 per cent and resilience to stress improved by 29 per cent. Those who stayed at home recorded on average a two per cent increase in blood pressure, a 14 per cent deterioration in sleep quality and a 71 per cent reduction in the ability to cope with stress.
To put this into perspective, these were couples who were either spent a fortnight for example being tourists in Thailand, working as volunteers on an environmental project on the Amazon river. Two couples stayed at home. They were all then given various physical and mental tests.
Mind you as I sit in the shade with a cup of tea blogging in peace I have been reflecting myself on how much easier it is to
A) travel with only two children instead of four
B) older children need a lot less luggage ie nappies, buggies, special food, buckets and spades
C) holiday with children who can feed themselves and will eat most things (including goose neck barnacles)
D) swim with children who are strong swimmers themselves
E) enjoy hours of quiet reading with children capable of entertaining themselves by either reading or playing on their own digital devices. Mind you, where cases once held beach toys, they are now full of chargers and digital tablets. And panic sets in if there is no Internet access.
It is rest. It is re-creation.
We have been here on holiday many times. So there is no pressure to see and do “tourist” things. So far the dreaded trip to the soulless shade free water park has not been mentioned. Being Grandma’s house it is home from home, quiet and relaxed, no need to be up before dawn to reserve seats by the pool, no need to dress for dinner and make small talk with strangers. No need to tidy up before the maid comes to do the daily cleaning (surely I’m not the only one to do that on holidays) And we can swim and splash any hour, day or night without spoiling someone else’s vacation.
It is rest. It is re-creation.
Bet you didn’t know that for some creatures, there is a summer equivalent of hibernation, known as aestivation. Prolonged sleeping during the hot dry summer months is necessary to protect the survival of some snails, toads, reptiles and a sweet little mammal known as the Malagasy Fat Tailed Dwarf Lemur.
I find myself dropping asleep quite regularly during the heat of the day. It’s bliss. I know just how our little friend feels.



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More Souv-hen-iers


No matter where you go in the world on vacation, there are always shops selling the most unbelievable tat which your children (armed with foreign currency supplied by well-meaning grandparents) will insist on buying. Now I’m not adverse to bringing home a tangible memento or two, and, as on our recent trip to Scotland, I am now on the look out for hen-based tat (of the more superior kind of course).
I was only sorry this lovely tin sign was in English not French.
I am going to make a template out of this wee wooden chickie for card making.
I loved finding hen references- this Parisian beer, and this free range egg box from our local Carrefour.





And to celebrate our return and to use up the huge egg and the many others we are staying In Holiday mode with French toast and crepes!

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Keeping our heads above water

It’s the last day of the school year today, so lots of good byes and thank yous before we break up for the summer. Our small damp corner of the globe has been even damper this week, we’ve had serious flooding as a city, including our own garden which was so bad my scamps of sons were actually swimming in it on Wednesday evening. When weather throws a curve ball at you, you’ve got to go with the flow (literally), laugh and take photos. Mind you if it was coming in my front door and flooding the house like some people in the city I would not be laughing at all.
And my poor wee feathered ladies are sitting just above the water line, covered in muck, pecking about in the “glar”. We did have to rescue them on Wednesday evening moving the coop to the highest part of the garden. The dog was going mad, barking and splashing through our new water feature, I suddenly realised that in the rapid moving of the coop the cage had split and a hen had escaped. To my horror she was now beak to nose with the dog, they were eyeball to eyeball. Before either could react I grabbed her up and yelled for help to get the dog inside, and keep the other hens from escaping to certain peril either by drowning or becoming dog’s dinner. It was quite a moment!
This week we passed the fifty egg mark! Someone laid the teensiest little egg which I used to make a most delicious dark chocolate and raspberry brownie cake for our biggest son, who is 19 today. (I did add other eggs as well.) We ate it warm from the oven last night as today is the beginning of summer adventures, the next night we will all be under this roof again is 22nd July. It’s hard to keep track of who will be where and ensuring that appropriate clothes are washed and dried . Biggest boy is off to Spain (sun protection and light clothes), two boys are off camping locally (serious wet weather gear, possibly life jackets if the flooding continues) and Mr Gillybirds big bike hike – the length of England and Scotland starts next Friday (Lycra shorts and muscle rub). Smallest boy and I are mostly staying here at Base Camp, if the grass doesn’t dry out soon I may consider planting a paddy field of rice, or building an ark, or both.






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