Chicken in a Bucket

chickens dust bathing Ok, it’s actually chickens in a garden trug, not a bucket. I just couldn’t resist the blog title. The muddy young pullets taking a dust bath are the chicks my broody ex battery hen adopted in June. Oh how they have grown. They are Lohmann Browns, a sex link hybrid commonly found in commercial egg farms (all types of management ie caged, barn and free range) for their high egg production.

brown chickenFirst up we have Binky, she appears to be the boss of the group and started laying super early at 15 weeks old. She’s a deep glossy brown and very vocal. Oh and she likes her food. Greedy she is.

garden trugBinky and her ‘sisters’ broke out of their shells in a hatchery supplying pullets to caged farm systems, at 2 days old they came home with me in a tatty shoe box and I tucked them up safe and warm in the soft feathers of a broody hen.

Pictured below is Cheska, the blonde bombshell of the group. She’s a light buff colour that I’ve seen only once before in ex battery hens I re-home. She’s quite stocky with a shorter neck and smaller head than her sisters, not quite Buff Orpington stature but similarities are there.

garden trugMillie is laying too, her big head-gear an indication. She’s heavily patterned across her back and quite leggy ( anyone spot the name theme going on here yet?).

garden trugLast up we have Phoebe-Lettice, I just call her Phoebe. She’s very fond of my shoulder or the top of my head and hitches a ride every morning as I drink my morning tea.

garden henNow that they’re all grown up their mum doesn’t wish to roam with or raise them anymore, she prefers her own company as she did before going broody. I’m grateful for the experience of watching the chicks learn from her; how to eat crumb, scratch the ground, bathe in the dirt and catch flying insects mid-air. How she called them when she sensed danger and how they disappeared in lightning speed into her feathers for safety, their little faces peeking through her feathers to see if it was safe to come out. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

hen and chicksPumpkin did a fantastic job of raising them, I could see how much she enjoyed the role of being a mother. I’m happy she had the opportunity to fulfil yet more of her natural instincts, strong buried instincts denied to her throughout her time as a caged laying hen.

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

butternut squash soup

A thick, rustic soup, bursting with autumn goodness! Perfect for a quick light lunch or warming snack, this recipe is super easy to make, particularly if you’ve never made soup before.

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped

200g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped into small chunks (150g if you prefer a thinner soup)

1/4 pint of vegetable stock (use chicken stock if you prefer)

2 tbsp milk

Black pepper, freshly ground to season

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish

butternut squash macro

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chopped butternut squash and fry for two minutes. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender. Add the milk to the pan and season with black pepper, set aside and allow to cool slightly. Using a food processor or hand blender, blend the butternut squash mixture (for a rustic soup small lumps are fine!). Warm through when required and pour into a warm bowl, garnish with coriander and serve with a chunky slice of bread.

Bugs and Bees

ladybird

My allotment plot and garden welcome many species of beneficial wildlife, such as hoverflies, lacewings, bees, ladybirds, butterflies (yes, butterflies are very welcome on my plot!) and lovely little mason bees. I grow plenty of flowers throughout the year to attract them, and my organic approach to gardening ensures there will always be food in the form of juicy aphids.

ladybird in a bug box

Providing bee and bug boxes in your garden helps to attract the good guys too, these safe hidey places are essential for surviving cold winters and reproduction with certain species.

bee on salvia flower

Lacewing

Mason bees visit my plot to use the bee boxes as nests to reproduce, I find it fascinating to watch females carrying mud to seal the entrance to a nesting tube. In turn, they pollinate my fruit bushes and most probably my plot neighbours too.

Comma butterfly

Some of my boxes were purchased or gifted, and some were made using scraps of wood nailed together to form a box and filled with hollowed out bamboo canes. Online gardening shops and garden centres sell bee or bug boxes, I recently picked up a couple of nice examples from Waitrose and Poundstretcher stores.

bee and bug box

I re-painted the Waitrose bee box (pictured above right) using a tester pot by Cuprinol Garden Shades (country cream).

bee and bug boxes collage

I’m planning to make a bug ‘hotel’ using stacked pallets and other materials inserted into the gaps between each pallet. Now is a great time to provide some shelter for our helpful beasties, they’ll repay your favour by munching on the bugs you really don’t want on your veg. And, if you’re really lucky, you might just see mason bees nesting in your boxes from late April onwards.

Allotment Shed Bunting

vintage bunting, bunting

The bunting I sourced for my very loved allotment shed has arrived, and I’m really pleased with it. The bunting images are prints of vintage seed packets, I chose particular vegetable images to complement the colour that will eventually go on the inside of my shed.

allotment bunting, shed bunting

There were many lovely images to choose from, and, quite honestly, I could have gone completely overboard with my selection. However, I had to make sure the bunting would fit easily inside my little shed so I stopped at 7 pennants.

I got my bunting here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KettleOfFishDesigns from Kettle of Fish.

October Allotment Photos

allotment

I spent a lovely afternoon at the allotment yesterday. A dull and chilly day but I didn’t feel the chill working on the plot. It was a day of weeding, harvesting (carrots, potatoes and a few pumpkins) and generally mooching around in the shed, tidying up and sipping hot tea.

allotment, allotment shed, pretty allotment

allotment flowers, blue allotment shed

We’re almost half way into October and the plot still offers plenty of Cosmos for wildlife and picking, the flowers just keep going and going until a hard frost arrives.

allotment, raised beds

I have a couple of rows of potatoes still to lift and I’ll get that done before the ground freezes.

harvest potatoes

I’m very pleased with my carrots, they’re a lovely size with straight roots and the best I’ve ever grown. Putting rabbit fencing around the plot certainly helped matters. As much as I enjoy the comedy value of pulling misshapen carrots (you do get some strange and wonderful shapes), I was determined to grow some decent carrots this year. And I did, yay!

sunflower seedhead

Sunflowers hang their heads, ripe with seeds, I’ll cut the heads soon and lay them flat for birds to help themselves.

pumpkin october 14 0945 BLOG

This lovely pumpkin will be used for carving at the end of the month for Halloween! I finished painting the inside of the shed door before I left for home, I’m so pleased with the colour, it looks stunning against the colour of the Cosmos and pumpkins don’t you think? I’ve decided to paint the inside of my shed ‘Country Cream'(Cuprinol) and add a few finishing touches, some of which I sourced from artisans including lovely bunting which I just can’t wait to put up. I just need the paint and away I go!

More Reasons To Visit My Allotment

allotment tea collage resized My dad cleared out items of his old fishing equipment recently, he doesn’t go anymore and his shed needed a sort out. He gave me his little gas camping stove to use at my allotment, I let out an excited squeal because I was all set to buy one. You can buy these gas stoves easily enough but mine is old (works perfectly), which I love. camping kettle So far I’ve used my gas stove with my camping kettle to make a mug of my favourite Mao Feng green tea when I feel the need, it’s really refreshing and warms me up when I’m feeling a bit cold or achy. Dad informs me he cooked quite a few hot meals and snacks on the stove, I’m looking forward to trying out a bit of allotment cooking now that chilly weather is upon us.

Hen and Hammock Fertilizer T Bag

hen and hammock

I was kindly sent a fertilizer T bag by Hen and Hammock to try.

The T bag is a natural hessian bag with nettles inside, to use it simply immerse in a water butt and leave it there (using the string and stick to make it easy to retrieve), or tie the string to the handle of a watering can to make a nitrogen-rich nettle feed for the garden or allotment to invigorate your plants or veg. Keep in place for 6 weeks in a water butt and change the T bag after about 4 weeks continuous use in a watering can. It works just like making a cup of tea, all the lovely goodness seeps out of the T bag and stays in the water.

hen and hammock

Another great thing is the T bag is biodegradable (including the packaging, except the staples), so after you’re done just throw it on your compost heap. It seems really simple to use and an alternative to making your own nettle tea, which of course is simple to do too.  I’ll certainly use my T bag on my allotment next year to see how it performs.

Hen and Hammock offer a choice of two fillings; a nitrogen T bag (nettle) great for flowering plants, shrubs and salad crops and a potash T bag (sheep manure) ideal for tomatoes, beans and root crops. They’d make perfect gifts for eco-friendly gardeners!

 

Royal Horticultural Society, RHS The Garden Anthology Book Release and Blog Giveaway

RHS the garden anthology book cover

I’m excited to reveal the following book release, published 2nd October 2014 by Frances Lincoln (www.franceslincoln.com | @Frances_Lincoln), priced £16.99. Read on to find out how you could WIN a copy!

RHS The Garden Anthology presents more than 100 years of the best writing in The Garden magazine, the respected journal of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Edited by Ursula Buchan, this collection features the work of 80 of the world’s most celebrated gardeners, from Gertrude Jekyll and E A Bowles in the early 20th century to the contemporary commentators James Wong, Nigel Slater, John Brookes and Tim Richardson.

This anthology paints a rich and intriguing picture of what gardening means today, revealing key moments in a time of intense change. The writers tell of plant-hunting and new gardening practises, fashion and growing food, whilst shedding light on the inner landscape of the thoughtful gardener.

From announcing the first news of Gregor Mendel’s experiments on genetics in 1900, to a report on the memorial garden at Ground Zero in Manhattan in 2011, Ursula Buchan selects the most important and atmospheric pieces to inspire, inform and sometimes amuse. This anthology provides the perfect literary companion for garden lovers and gardeners alike.

With thanks to Frances Lincoln publishers you could win a copy! To enter the book giveaway simply leave a comment on this post, one lucky reader will have their name drawn at random on Tuesday 14th October and I will contact the winner so please make sure you leave a valid email address with your comment.

The giveaway is open to UK residents only – sorry!

The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

 

Hello Autumn

autumn footwear Summer has truly packed up and left today. It sure is chilly outside. Crispy leaves desperately clinging for dear life to trees blow around everywhere, sticking to wet windows. The rain hammered it down for hours. I love this time of year, the switch from summer to autumn really is spectacular. After the rain stopped I ventured outside to welcome autumn. Finally.

Shed Painting

shed paint

I painted the allotment shed today. I fancied a change of colour.

The new paint is called Mediterranean Glaze by Cuprinol, I’ve admired this colour for a long while now and got the exact shade I wanted mixed in-store for me at our local Homebase. I’m really happy with the result, it’s just how I pictured it in my head and my shed will be a fantastic backdrop against spring and summer flowers next year. My creative and design juices are flowing with colour combinations whirling around in my head, one plant I must have growing near the shed next year is Salvia, for slender spires of intense violet-blue flowers. I grow Salvia in old wooden wine crates topped with pea shingle at home, which looks fantastic on the patio.

The weather turned out lovely after a frosty start to the morning, last night was cold and typical of October weather, we’ve been a bit spoilt with unseasonably mild weather for so long.

aqua shed

My shed is now ready for autumn and winter with its bright aqua armour. Because my shed is blue underneath, it’ll look interesting when the paint starts to weather.

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