Sunday, 28 December 2008

Bruces Tree and Christmas



The picture is the tree we planted earlier this year in memory of our dearest old friend Bruce Watts who tragically died last year, too soon, too early and too young. While the boys were here for Christmas we managed to move an enormous great heavy whinstone boulder that had been taken from the heart of our house when it was being renovated and we felt it was just the right thing for the little plaque we had made to mark Bruce's tree. It was a laugh a minute moving the rock but like the Stonehenge Druids or the Egyptian Pyramid builders we managed to get it into position with levers, rollers and lots of cursing, we made a video of the proceedings which is both funny and entertaining but fails to qualify for You've Been Framed as amazingly, nobody ended up with a crushed foot or toe, of course had Bruce been here he would have had both!

Because Roly was away for Christmas we have been able to let the hen girls out to free range, they have loved it and even laid an egg in a bush by the backdoor for us yesterday.

The new doves have settled in well and do a lot of flapping and cooing and even a bit of kissing, we could yet get babies for the spring.

Sam never got back for Christmas, in fact on Christmas Day he was to be found testing metal panels in a narrow pipe ten feet into the water under an oil rig, he was both terrified and exhilarated and says it counts as his most unusual location for spending Christmas Day yet. As the rig was Danish they had Christmas dinner on Xmas Eve and he said the spread was wonderful, when he hit the sack later on the company had put a card and a box of chocolates on each of their pillows. He is now in Denmark onshore and flies back to Aberdeen tomorrow to have another Christmas with us.

The floor in the byre was laid in time for the party on the 23rd and looks fabulous, a few finishing touches to do but it passes muster and was tested when some blonde bird slopped Vintage Bolly on it and it never left a mark at all.

Happy New Year to you all from all at the Farm.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

New Doos ....again

This is one of my new doos. They arrived on Tuesday and have settled in well, meet Ben and Jerry and Holly and Ivy. They are about five months old so a lot older and wiser than the others when they arrived. On the first night they seemed a bit reluctant to go into the warm and cosy nesting holes but by last night all had found a place and this morning they are sunning themselves on the ground under the dove cote.

It is quite amazing that they are so settled, as less than 24 hours after arriving the bloody Hound of the MoonzieMills from next door bounded in and launched himself at the wire netting in an excited frenzy. One of the doos got a bit tangled in the wire and damaged a wing but apart from a bit of blood seems to have got over it. The dog was duly reprimanded and given a taste of his shock collar by the owner, whether it will work remains to be seen.

Since they have arrived we have had terrifically high winds but they are all safe and secure and will remain inside until April. So that I do not cause undue upset by going in to feed we have invented a feeding tube from a funnel and a pipe and I decant the feed into the feed bowl from outside the homing cage. It works very well and causes less stress than me going into the run twice daily. I can also fill the water containers with a watering can from the outside too.

On deciding on names for them I wanted something a bit seasonal and Holly and Ivy for the girls seemed ideal, however the boys names were harder, Noel might have been OK but I loathe Noel Edmonds and Wencleslas, Balthazar and Melchior were all a bit of a mouthful. Mind you Caspar would have been nice but as I was consuming a whole tub of Ben and Jerrys Chubby Hubby (Fudge-Covered Peanut Butter-Filled pretzels in vanilla Malt Ice Cream Rippled with Fudge & Peanut Butter) at the time it just struck me as to how right the choice would be. Anyway Rudolph hardly seemed to fit a little white doo. And as I only ever eat a whole tub of ice cream at a time at Christmas ( it is good for stress) I decided that the names were most appropriate.

I eventually got round to planting my daffodil bulbs, they had been bought in September and the net bag put into the shed by the back door. Every time I went to get a beer or some spuds I felt very guilty as they were actually sprouting quite nicely through the net and growing to a fair size. As I did not fancy having a nice spring display in the cupboard I relented and planted them today. Still have to get the garlics in too but as they were only due in last month feel less guilty about them, as it is such a brilliant day weather wise I will plant them after lunch.

We are all geared up to getting the floor laid in the byre, Herb has used the time the byre has been out of action to repaint Jousters boom in it and inflate and check his dinghy, however they are getting the boot today in preparation for the lovely oak floor due any day now, well Tuesday but we have hopes it could arrive as early as tomorrow. Pictures to follow.

Off to cook some more of Nigellas wonderful treats although in my case I will not be wearing a low slung cashmere jumper and oozing scrummy, yummy mummy over the top gush while I fondle my little pearly orbs ( silverskin onions to you and I)

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Freezing weather

Things have been a bit quiet down at the farm for the last week or so, no more mink appearing and after I spent near enough £20 on a special trap, but we have caught 3 rats and 5 mice in more traditional traps.

The doves are nicely settled inside the homing cage and will stay put until the winter is over. I hope to get some new doves before Christmas so they can well and truly home before release day. It seems a shame to trap the doves inside and not allow them to fly at all but they do a fair bit of flapping and wing stretching and get up and down to the ground most days.

The chickens soldier on, still no eggs at all from Trinny and Susannah or The Miserable Veras but the other four are doing great, Poppy will be three in January soon so we will be planning a chicken birthday party for her in the New Year! Yes I am completely potty! I guess in human years she must be coming up for 30, a real old spinster.

Christmas is coming soon, from looking like we would have all three boys home it now looks like Murray will have to be the sole lad to be spoiled, pampered and generally fussed over. Sam goes offshore on the 20th and Stu has at last got his first Saturation Diving job starting next week in Denmark. He could just get home in time, hope that he is not still speaking like Donald Duck, a strange phenomenon from breathing helium. The first time he called me from the Sat Chamber when he was training I thought it was some pervert!

UPDATE on the flooded byre. Our new wooden floor is being laid on the 23rd of December! So all being well we will be back in the room on Christmas Eve, in case you have forgotten the flood was on August 13th and it has taken this long for the insurance company to sort it, still it should be lovely when it is done!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Snowing at last!




It was lovely to wake to crisp white snow this morning. The chickens have viewed it with mixed feelings, some with suspicion as Trinny and Susannah refused to come out onto it while Ronnie, Roxy and Peggy all ran around thinking it was lots of lovely food! The Two Veras just looked on with their usual aloof look on their faces, they are a couple of miserable hens!
Yesterday I saw that Lily had something attached to her undercarriage, it was an egg shell and it I caught her , carefully removed it and discovered it was somewhat smelly, I think she had sat on an egg that had cracked after it had gone off. I threw the other three week old egg out but she is now sitting on at least one more egg. Once I get the china eggs we should sort the problem until spring time....I hope!
They seem to have settled down well in the enclosure and I am a lot happier knowing that they are not going to get eaten by the hawk. As the new enclosure had extra nest boxes I will restock as soon as I can.
Off out to build a snowman before curling up on the sofa in front of the fire with a good book and more hot chocolate.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fort Knox Mk 2







Herb got the new winter enclosure done, the theory being that if the hawk does not get her meal here she may move away, so far since the big plastic owl went up we have not seen her but I am assured by Malcolm up the track, that she is still around.


The doves moving into the new enclosure was planned with some precision, the outer frame went up one day and then we gave then 24 hours to get used to it like that before very quickly putting on the chicken wire. At dusk Lily settled in onto the eggs and Huffy went into the vacant next hole next door. Sam swiftly blocked both holes with bits of timber and we deftly tossed the net over the roof, stapled it down and Bob's your uncle, two doves trapped safely inside.timber removed and two curious doves poked their heads out to see what ahd been going on.


This morning there was no movement from either nest hole but around 11am Lily appeared, she seemed a bit flummoxed but came down to feed and have a drink. A little while later Herb heard a lot of scraping and Lily was 'rearranging nesting material in the spare box. She then sat on the landing shelf and promptly laid an egg! I was lucky enough to capture the whole event on my new video camera and with a bit of luck and a visit from my very own Cyber expert I will post it on here. I guess that I will have to remove the two unhatched eggs again in a few days. I am hoping my new found pigeon expert ,Harry, will advise me on my next course of action.


They should settle in fine in the new enclosure and at least will be safe from predators during the lean winter months.


The mink killed another rat and this time left it with its guts hanging out and hits head bitten off on the back door mat. Thank goodness I had my shoes on when I stepped outside. Last night I set three traps and the tally this morning was one rat and one wee mouse. Tonight I am laying poison and traps and intend to do my best to get rid of the varmints for good. I think the mink will be too wily to be caught in a trap but I have left the Nooski Trap in situ anyway. The first night it was out a wee mouse had carefully avoided the spring catch, crept in, eaten all the peanut butter covered bacon and left after pooping on the way out. So two fingers from a mouse to modern foolproof technology.


The chickens are all fine, only getting 4 or 5 eggs a day at the moment. The Two Veras may well have stopped for the winter but I was assured that Trinny and Susannah would lay all winter as they come from Chile .

Saturday, 15 November 2008

All calm at the farm

SPARROWHAWK (NOT MY WEE DOO)
This is what a sparrowhawk looks like once it has grabbed one of your pet doves. May be a lovely looking thing but it is a nasty vicious predator that needs to be sorted somehow.

So far my remaining two birds are OK, the new winter aviary is nearly ready and we will move them in a few days, they are still on the eggs but should lay lots more even if these do not hatch and I have now been advised that it is highly unlikely due to the temperatures. Although yesterday we had 15C up here, almost unheard of for November, some days in the summer we are lucky to get that.

The mink has also been conspicuous by its absence despite me shelling out for a special mink trap. After I had bought it and had it delivered, Stu found another internet site where the same trap was £10 cheaper! It pays to spend a long time surfing for the best buy, a good lesson, expensively learned.

The chickens seem to have reacted not too badly to the mink in the run, we had some 'softies' for a day or two but all has gone back to normal. ( 'Softies', soft shelled eggs, are laid when the chicken has a terrible fright or is out of sorts in some way) Trinny and Susannah are not laying and still moulting like crazy, they really do look like they have done ten rounds with a mink each morning as there are feathers everywhere, still not sure if it was an initial mink attack or if this is just how they will moult.

I have had some comments that mink are nice furry wee things. They are not. They are vermin, they kill our native wildlife, they do not belong here and need to be exterminated from our lovely countryside. Following the release by so called 'animal lovers' from fur farms they are now encroaching on towns and villages and kill pet rabbits and cats and there has been a recent documented account of an attack by four mink on an angler at night. Mink are only acceptable as coats and hats.

Enough of my soap box for now!

Found this on the web and I think it is lovely http://www.dashpoemmovie.com

Somebody recently said that I was getting seriously 'sad' writing a blog, well, if you don't like it, don't read it. Easy enough. I enjoy putting down in words what is going on around me and I know for sure that I have many friends who really do enjoy reading it.

Peace, love and hippy stuff.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Bloody Mink Now!

I have solved the mystery of the rat with it's head bitten off, it was not a sparrowhawk but a mink. Yesterday Herb heard a commotion in the run and went out in time to see a sleek black mink helping itself to the chicken food and generally causing some consternation amongst the girls. He told me and I grabbed my new video camera and was able to get some shots of it as it made it's escape down the burn. The mink might also explain the huge pile of feathers I found in the chicken run last week when I thought that Trinny was moulting, I think now that she had a close encounter with a mink. So not only do I have to relocate the hawk, I also have to do the same to the mink who given a chance will take the heads off the chickens and not even bother to eat them. One lady in Dunblane recently lost of 8 of her 15 chickens to a mink .

Mink while looking interesting are in fact a bloody nuisance, they are not native to UK and are responsible for the devastation of the water vole population in UK and cause havoc to nesting ducks and birds as well as the inevitable losses to us backyard hen people. The mink we have are either descendants of escapees from mink farm or are some of the ones liberated by those so called animal rights idiots. What about the rights of the native Vole! Trapping may be easy enough but it is illegal in Scotland to relocate then live after capture anywhere and it is also illegal to drown them in the trap, shooting is the only answer. 'Now just stand still Mr Mink while I aim a shot at your skull, oops, sorry, I don't have a gun!' I am hoping that the local Countryside Ranger may help out, I already have the promise of a mink trap I just need the means to get rid of the mink once it is is it.

I got a great video of the little darling and once I work out how to add it will add it to my blog. So now I am spending my time checking on the bloody 'Spar' at the front of the house, the mink at the rear and hoping that Herb soon gets the winter aviary finished while I still have doos to put in it. The big plastic eagle looks very grand in the garden and a neighbour gave me a smaller long eared owl too, the trees look decorated for Christmas with strings of twirling cd's and the doos are watching it all with great interest.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

HAWK ATTACK!

Yesterday was not a good day if you were a wee Moonzie Doo. Luckily I was in the sitting room and saw a glimpse of white and a flurry outside and was horrified to see Lily in the grips of a female sparrowhawk, tumbling to the ground, feathers were flying everywhere. I moved quicker than I have for a long time and got to the door in time to see Lily and the hawk on the ground, I yelled some obscenity and the hawk departed one way and after a few seconds Lily the other. She flew around for a while and eventually settled on the chimney pot.

So now I have proof of who has taken Bully and Hindoo and I am going to do my damnedest to prevent it happening again. After looking at lots of advice sites and getting onto a pigeon forum I have decided the best thing to do is to make a winter aviary/loft for them and hope that while they are there the raptor can be 'relocated 'by some means. By removing the Moonzie MacDoonalds it may persuade the hawk to look for another easier dining room. Sparrowhawks are of course protected as at one time they were an endangered species, however the pendulum has swung the other way now and while the Hawk is on the RSPB 'green list' ( doing well and lots about) the Stock dove is on the 'amber list' ( endangered as stocks are low). Crazy that the prey is in danger and the predator doing just fine and dandy( eating all the endangered species) and it is still illegal to kill them while you can shoot as many wood pigeons and doves as you like, amber list or not. No wonder the Gamekeepers take the law into their own hands sometimes, now I understand.

Herb has taken on board my worries and anxieties and has decided to make a winter loft for me as a temporary measure. Even now he is B&Q buying up lengths of 'fourbetwo' and other joinery type things. It will be easy enough to transfer the doos as both now sleep in the doocote at night, Lily on the eggs and Huffy in the spare nest hole, apparently they will not fly at night and can easily be lifted out and placed in safer quarters. I don't know how Lily will take to the eggs being moved but as they probably were not going to hatch it probably does not matter.

Other options to scare away Madam S. Hawk or 'spars' as the pigeon people call them is to place large plastic long eared owls around the garden, string garlands of shiny Cd's from strings, tether 30 foot reflective balloons above the cote and place mirrors on roofs. You can also play the sound of an eagle owl into the garden or find some other way of relocating the bloody hawk. So if anyone has a Cd of Owl Sounds or any spare balloons suitable for floating at 30 feet please pass them this way.

My day is destined to be 'gofer' for Herb the joiner when he gets back with the wood and after that I will be sitting near the window prepared to run and beat the bloody 'spar' around the head should it come near me and my doos again. This is war.

On a plus side if I have a secure aviary I will be able to get my new doos earlier than planned, 'home'them over the winter and then let them fly free in the spring ready to look gorgeous again. Hopefully the 'spar' will be long gone.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

I don't think I can take much more!

Lily is sitting on another egg! Luckily I had ordered some nest felts from eBay so I have popped one in under the lovely warm egg and hope that she does not mind too much my rearranging her living accommodation. I am still not convinced that this egg will hatch, it is November in a few days but the breeder seems to think it is still fine and he is the expert and me the mere novice. I have just watched Huffy eyeing the new nesting arrangements with great suspicion, it took him half a dozen goes before he would enter the cote but hopefully he will appreciate the new upgraded bedding. So now I have another 20 days of waiting and watching to see if we are to have babies this year or not. A second egg should be laid within a day or two and the countdown begins at that point.

Luckily the weather although cold is very dry and not overly windy so that should be a plus. On a negative note is the fact that a Peregrine Falcon has been lurking in the area and was seen yesterday swooping through the garden and right past the doo cote. Also a Buzzard had the audacity to perch on our fence post ignoring all of our neighbours suggestions that it leave!

We could yet have baby doos in residence for Christmas!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

GURKHA JUSTICE CAMPAIGN

If you have not already done so can I ask all my friends to take a look at the Gurkha website and sign the petition PLEASE www.gurkhajustice.org.uk

Many thanks Jill xx

Friday, 24 October 2008

No baby doos.

A few days ago the doves stopped sitting on the eggs and today Sam has removed the eggs and done a 'post mortem'. Both eggs had perfectly formed but very dead chicks in them so am not sure what went wrong or when. It is nice to see two doves out and about together again as after Hindoo left whoever was not babysitting was quite lonely. No more sightings of the bloody hawk so maybe, just maybe, Lily and Huffy will make it through the winter and have another go at making babies in the spring now we know they are fertile and seem to know what to do. We have had some wild weather and really cold nights so perhaps the doos knew that it was far too late in the season to be bringing up youngsters.

Everything else in the garden is rosy and the new girls continue to entertain at every opportunity. They are all laying every day, not very big eggs yet but lovely dark shelled orange yolked beauties. They seem convinced that Sam and I are roosters as every time we go into the run they crouch awaiting our attentions!

More gales expected tonight so I really have to get out and harvest the apples before they all fall off and get wasted. Just seen the weather for tomorrow and it appears it will be marginally worse than today, Oh Joy! The clocks change on Saturday night/Sunday morning, I wonder if anyone will tell the chickens

Monday, 20 October 2008

Doom and gloom and Bloody awful weather

Well, the eggs have not hatched although Lily and Huffy are still taking turns at sitting on them. I will give it till the end of the week and then remove the eggs before they rot. On a sadder note, it looks like Hindoo may also have gone the way of Bully, the hawk has been in the area for the past few days and now Hindoo is not around. Perhaps she has just gone away and got a bit disorientated in the very high winds and squally showers we are having but I think not. I suppose it was always a risk getting white doves while living in the countryside as we do. So no baby doos and no Hindoo.

The hens are coming along great though which is good news. Only got four of the eight laying regularly but pretty soon will be getting enough eggs to start selling, I am never going to make a profit but it is nice to get a few quid to go towards the feed.

If anyone wants to get me a really useful Christmas present I will be accepting 'Doo Vouchers' very gratefully, they are Blue/Purple in colour and are worth about £20! I will wait until the spring and after I persuade Herb to either build me a mini loft in a shed or a Fort Knox Mark 2 to home them in I will restock my flock.

I have actually started my Christmas shopping, trouble is the last time I did it so early I had either eaten, worn or played with all the presents and had to repeat the whole thing over at great cost!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

No news

I was hoping to be adding pictures of newly hatched baby doves but so far nothing at all. Lily is still on the nest and Huffy is taking his turn but it looks like they may be on infertile eggs, I have been trying to get a good look in but Lily remains firmly stuck over the top of the eggs.

I had the great fortune to win on the Lottery last week, not the main draw but on an online game and for a few days had £500 burning a hole in my pocket, I have bought a small HD camcorder with some of the cash and if and when we get baby doos I will attempt to add in a video of them.

I have yet to start picking the apples , they look great though and I think the Bramleys in particular are going to store very well. Not been foraging much of late either so no more blackberries or elderberries picked as yet. The weather has turned very autumnal with chilly mornings but nice bright skies, lots of berries on all the shrubs for the birds and if a harsh winter is hailed because of holly berries then batten down the hatches for the harshest of the harsh as the tree is laden.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Apples, chickens and Sparrows

No change here, the doves are still doing a text book incubation and changing over at 10 and 4.30. I think Lily gets to do the long night shift. Hindoo is still grey but getting gradually lighter as the days go by. No sign of Bully despite me walking the fields and putting up notices for the neighbours to keep an eye open for feathers. I spoke to the dove breeder who thinks that the doos should hatch no bother at all and he does not anticipate any problems at all. Any time after the 12th is our best estimate for hatching so fingers crossed.

We had our first ground frost of the year two days ago, I need to find some cloche covers to put over the Charlotte Potatoes I put in so that we can have new spuds at Christmas. I have also sown perpetual spinach and and about to plant some garlics that should be ready around June next year. Time to harvest the apples, the Bramleys are brilliant this year, about double the quantity we had last year and all good sizes and nearly blemish free. I cooked up an Apple Crumble to see if they were good and they were great!

The new hen integration has been a total success with no blood drawn and everyone very contented. Getting only two eggs a day at the moment so they are all being wormed for a week to try and up the production rate. Big Vera is moulting quite dramatically though which may account for her lack of eggs. The new girls are not yet laying, I think they may have bee younger than the farmer said they were. they are comical and fearless though and act like teenagers! Climbing on to the hen house roof, flying off and chasing butterflies and sparrows. The other day the three of them saw a sparrow swoop into the run so they ran after it heads looking upwards and all three ran right into the wire fence and ended up in a heap, it would have made a brilliant You've Been Framed Video and well worth £250.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

No news but some hope


Just been reading a web site where a garden dove got scared by a hawk and came home SIX months later. The hawk is still around and last night just as dusk was falling I saw him going for Huffy, a rapid flight chase ensued and somehow Huffy escaped. Herb also saw the hawk in the bushes some time later but he flew off again. As hawks are protected there is nothing we can do to get rid of it but we can just hope that he moves on soon. I was contemplating getting some balloons that scare hawks but strangely not doves? The web site also said that we need to search for a mile out from the doo cote in every direction, maybe a walk too far for one person I think.
Lily is still sitting on the nest and seems to be sharing the chore with Huffy so maybe he is the Daddy and maybe Bully left in a huff!
Lily is on two eggs!!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Intruder alert

This morning at 8am I spied a sparrowhawk in the rowan tree about 6 feet from the doo cote. No doubt eyeing up lunch. I ran out like a whirling dervish and shouted suitable obscenities at it and he left, but no doubt the new McDoonalds has its appeal to one hungry hawk. Lily is still on the nest.
Took a walk this afternoon to see if I could spot any trace of Bully , found a few wood pigeon remains but nothing of Bully so the mystery remains just that.
The new hens seem to have settled in well and apart from Trinny taking on the attributes of a velociraptor from time to time it is all quite peaceful out there.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bully has gone

Our lovely big, bold Bully Doo has not come home. Lily is sitting on her nest alone, she comes out to feed now and again but I am not sure that incubation is going to be very successful with half the team missing. I don't think that Bully went down the chimney , there were no feathers in the chimney like last time and no noises either. I have shone a light up as far as I can and have heard or seen nothing to evidence the fact that he too might have fallen into the dark abyss. It may be that a cat or hawk has had him but as he never goes far from the house and is only ever on the ground in the front garden that too seems a bit strange. I will take a walk around the fields today and see if I can see any tell tale white feathers, easy enough to spot on the newly ploughed ground.

While I was out scanning the fields earlier today I did spot a roe deer with her much smaller fawn, it was a lovely sight. There are less deer too now that the landowner and his shooters have been out culling them but it looks like at least two have been missed, I just hope we have enough left to allow breeding to take place again.

Young Potter, the young hare is often in the garden and has discovered the delights of feeding below the doo cote. Strangely we have not seen either of his parents since the bonkathon in May.

I think I will let the new girls out into the big chicken run today, if all goes like our last few introductions there will be a lot of posturing and squawking but very little actual damage, it has to be done sooner or later to get the pecking order re-established. Trinny and Susannah will be quite happy if they come out of it not so low in the ratings. Egg production is low at the moment with Trinny, Susannah and Little Poppy doing all the work and the Veras doing nothing, I have added in limestone flour to their feed and also upped the rate of Chicken Spice they get as a supplement.One of the Veras is moulting so that might be the answer, also being a pure breed they tend not to lay as well in winter but the end of September is hardly winter. Poppy soldiers on, a common or garden £4.75 hybrid hen that has hardly missed a day in nearly three years!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

FIRST EGG!

Lily is sitting on an egg on a very crudely constructed nest. Nest in fact is a bit of an over statement as the nest hole in the doo cote just has a few well placed twigs and bits of tobacco stalk strewn around. I bought the tobacco stalks as they are said to release oils that repel lice and mites. It is very exciting but what is a worry is that dad has disappeared, I have been shouting up the chimney but there is no sign or sound that he is in the flue this time. Lily will sit on the egg for about 17 t0 18 days, in fact she will do the long night shift and Bully the day shift from 10 until 4, according to the book, although I am not sure the Moonzie Doos know anything of proper doo procedures! She should lay a second egg after 24 hours so I will keep an eye on things and see if we get the full clutch. I am hoping that Hindoo will also produce an egg, she and her mate have not started nesting but have become very cosy over the last few days. I am not sure if the eggs will even hatch, the weather is not that warm any more and apparently hours of sunlight and warmth have a lot to do with viability of the eggs and chicks, known as squabs and squeakers. So if all goes to plan Baby Doo Day is on or around 12th or 13th October.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Nesting

Hindoo is still grey but has been accepted back into the flock, Bully bonked her as a welcome home present! Lily and Huffy are madly building what they think might pass for a nest in the upper floor of the doo cote. It consists of a few miserable twigs and the odd leaf. I don't know when or if they will lay an egg but there is enough rumpy pumpy going on so I hope we will get at least one egg. I have ordered some tobacco stalks which is , I believe, the order of the day for pigeon nests, it keep the lice and mites at bay apparently. The courtship rtuals are very interesting, the males puff up their chests and strut around looking very important and the girl doos just ignore them, then is a bit of kissing goes on and the odd peck and then the female squats down, raises her rear and it is all over in about twenty seconds, after that they both fly off and wobble a bit on the power cables. Quite funny to see expecially as the favoured bonking place is on top of the finial post on top of the doo cote!

The new hens seem happy enough, very calm and handleable, the others are ignoring them totally. They are still apart and will remain so for a couple of weeks but right now I anticipate no problems at all with the integration.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

New Girls

Got three new hens yesterday, Bovans Goldlines, a Dutch Hybrid that lays lots and lots of big brown eggs. The old flock are slacking a bit, Poppy is in mourning for Daisy, Big Vera is moulting and Little Vera chooses to lay an egg only if she feels like it. Trinny and Susannah are still very productive and should be the best layers over the winter seeing as they come from Chile and they like the cold, apparently. The new girls are Peggy, Ronnie and Roxie as the are 'faaarmily'!
They are in the Little Hilton Chicken House and will stay apart for a good few weeks, they are only 19 weeks and a bit young to be out playing with the old girls as yet. They might get bullied but if they stay apart awhile things should go OK. As we have the new plush updated accommodation it is a lot better than the old packing case that was the intro home for Trinny and Susannah.

Hindoo is gradually losing some of the soot from her feathers but after 48 hours in the chimney it is going to take a while. I put a shallow tray of water with a few drops of Dove Shower gel in it, not shower gel for doves of course but the stuff that makes us all look lovely whatever colour and however old we are. Hindoo had a good splash in it and hopefully it will help to get some of the soot off in time.

There is still a bit of bullying going on, whether Hindoo smells or looks wrong I don't know but she is certainly getting the cold shoulder from the other three. I am sure time will be a great healer.

Herb has put up a covered area for the hens as they have had a lot of soakings this year already and I am not convinced it is going to get any better.

On the garden front, it is time again to harvest the apples and go looking for hedgerow things to make interesting jellies and jams. The bramble and elderberry jelly from last year was brilliant so that is first on the list, after that thyme, mint and sage jellies and who knows what else.

Friday, 19 September 2008

UPDATE FRIDAY 10.30am



The chimney sweep arrived two hours early, used his soft brush and brought down a very grubby, grey Hindoo. He says he thinks she would just have sat on the ledge until she died of dehydration so thank goodness she is down and safe. I washed her eyes and beak and after half an hour put her into the doo cote, she is now perched on the TV aerial looking very bedraggled, I wonder if Huffy will still love her!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

More drama than the Bristol Old Vic!

Yesterday after breakfast I only spotted 3 doves in the garden and as the day wore on began to worry that someone had gone.Anyway I eventually convinced myself that as it was Hindoo, she had gone to build a nest after her marathon bonking session. She never came down for tea and I did begin to worry , this morning as I was getting ready to leave for court I heard a strange noise coming from the sitting room fireplace. A few white feathers fluttered down and I realized now that Hindoo had not gone but in fact was nearer than ever, up the chimney!

I could hear fluttering and in fact it made me think that yesterday I had heard a similar noise but thought it was a wood pigeon that was flapping at the dining room window in a demented fashion.

I called the SSPCA after looking at various " How to get doves out of a fireplace" websites and was very impressed when a lovely man appeared on my doorstep within 30 minutes. He advised me that doves will only fly down again and not up and as the flue consists of a series of ledges and steps we will have to play the waiting game. I have shone a light up the chimney in the hope of luring her down and have netted the front of the fireplace just in case she gets down and decides to spread soot liberally over the carpet, who decided on a cream carpet I have no idea. He said it can take two to three days or as long as two weeks for them to reappear.

I am doubtful about how alive she would be after two weeks as all the dove books say that doves must have fresh water every day or dire things happen. Meanwhile it is a case of watch and wait. It is a horrible feeling knowing that your lovely pristine white dove is now a grotty shade of grey and is most likely terrified and pretty pissed off to boot. Fingers crossed for a quick and happy resolution.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Baby Doos???

Well, for once the Doo Blog starts with news of doos. The picture shows them being very bold and foraging around on the grass a fair way from the cote but even more exciting have been the goings on in the cote. When I got back from France I saw for the first time that the doves had started using the top floor of the cote, they were in and out and checking the available nest holes and a few days later I discovered why. I was out filling the feed container when Huffy and Hindoo, bold as brass started bonking on top of the doo cote! There had been a lot of amorous goings on for a while but now they are at it like rabbits. I think it may be too soon for them to lay eggs and also too cold but as there are not too many books on the subject we are waiting to see what transpires. This morning I was quite worried as when I went to feed them, only Bully and Lily came to feed and it was not until nearly lunchtime that the other two appeared. They all seem to have settled down now but I don't know where the other two have been, maybe just off for a bit of peace and quiet and privacy!

Herb has got on really well with the log store and it is almost finished, he got the last line of pantiles on this morning and it looks really good, you will see from one of the attached pictures why Sam thinks it should be an outdoor bar. It is the Leuchars Air Show this weekend so the Moonzie Millers are having a combined Beer Tasting Festival and Air Show Bash up by the big trees, we get a great view of the aerobatics and all from the comfort of a cosy marquee with lots of food and drink to keep us happy.

The hens have settled down after the demise of Daisy, Poppy still seems a bit anxious but we will be getting her some youngsters to boss around as soon as I can source them and she can again be Top of the Red Hen Gang!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Back from France

I got the news that Daisy had died the after I landed in France, however the sun and pool and copious quantities of great food and lovely wine helped me with the bereavement and pretty soon I was relaxed to the point of stupor! Jacki and Chris are great hosts and I had a splendid holiday. I was met by Chris at Nice and arriving with the temperature still in the high twenties, was handed a flask of ice cold Singapore Sling to drink on the drive back to Valescure. My holiday was marred only by the fact that one morning in St Tropez after breakfasting at La Senequier, I almost entered one of the million pound yachts uninvited and head first after failing to negotiate a small green bollard on the quay side. My bruised ankle though is worthy of mention and has a designer green and purple hue about it. We had cruised to St Tropez in glorious sunshine that morning and had hoped to snap a few 'names', although we never spotted any celebs we could actually name, some of the outlandish outfits could only have been donned by the likes of Paris Hilton or VB ( as we call her). It was good to get away from the noise and doom and gloom at Moonzie but while I was away things have improved and we no longer have the QE2 engine room going in the background. We have dried out well and are just awaiting the carpet cleaners to arrive and then will be getting quotes for a new floor, the byre should be back in a usable state again by the end of next month, Inshallah.

Herb has been very busy with the new woodshed and pretty soon we will be having opening drinks in it, well, we open everything else here with a drink so why not a woodshed when it is going to be so magnificent. Sam is so taken with it he thinks it should be a bar anyway with inside seating for two and a smoking area to the outside!

I have only been away a week but with our monsoon rains the weeds have made an overwhelming attack on my raised beds, the mice have continued to chew my newly planted brassicas and the whole place needs a good sort out. The tomatoes despite having virtually no sun this summer continue to produce masses of trusses of tomatoes of every colour.

The doos seem fine, in fact too well, there is certainly romance in the air and Huffy is courting Hindoo like mad even on the finial of the doo cote, no mean feat. The hens are fine, Poppy seems to be missing Daisy, Herb said she is clucking round his legs when he has been going in egg collecting and is desperate to follow him out. When I went in today to say hello she was right up to me and crouched down so she got a cuddle! I will get a couple of new hens when some are available, probably two little red hens but who knows, the hybrids though are the best layers, less nervy and great pets.

Back to auld claes and mince as they say up here, after the excesses of the South of France. I did manage at last to spot a celeb on my way out of France, Cheryl Cole was flying out to Heathrow and I saw her as she queued to board. Got a wedding to go to tomorrow but after that have no plans for a few weeks at least. This summer has been pretty hectic and it is time to relax before the apple harvest and the manic Bramble Jeely Boil Up!

Lest I get more rude comments from Stupot, I should mention him, he is still at sea fighting with Giant Squid , tussling with mermaids and earning an honest bob. No doubt after ten weeks away is by now sporting a huge unruly red beard looking more like a character from Blackadder than any son of mine.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The new woodshed and other stuff




It has been a couple of weeks since I last blogged but we have been very busy with the drying out and also took the chance to go to the West Coast to see how Jouster had fared after all the rain we had . On the Friday when we arrived the weather was lovely and we took a leisurely sail down the Loch to a spot just short of Crinan where we had a picnic at anchor while gazing at the Paps of Jura in the bright sunshine. On our way back to the marina we were passed by a lovely old Clyde Puffer belching black smoke everywhere. Jouster was fine but the weather was not kind after that and we spent only two days at Ardfern, the heavens opened once again on Saturday, combined with Force Eight winds and we ran away bravely back to Fife on Sunday morning in time to see the Grand Prix on TV.


The byre sitting room is drying out gradually but it is still like living with the worlds largest and noisiest air conditioner in your sitting room. The only plus side I can see from being flooded is that our lovely neighbours have brought chocolates, flowers and wine to dull the impact of the chaos!


Herb has made a start to the wood shed in the cattle court, it is going to be a truly magnificent structure complete with a reclaimed pantiled roof.


The doves have started being much more adventurous and a great deal more amorous too. They are spending longer and longer on the doocote which is nice and also a fair bit of time on the ground, bathing in the shallow pan of water I placed for them. Young Potter the baby hare joins them most days foraging under the cote. The doves are flying in ever widening circles and the other day performed some great aerobatics for Diane and Paula up the track.


The chickens now have another new house, named the Little Hilton. It has an integral covered run so will be brilliant for the worst of the winter weather and will keep the girls dry if I shut them in. Sadly today it is being used as the Hospice Hut for Daisy. When we got back on Sunday we noticed Daisy was looking very poorly indeed, she was very hunched, her legs were splayed well apart and she just sat with her head hanging low. Her behind looked all dirty too so yesterday I bathed her rear end in Tea Tree shampoo and saw that she has a huge saggy and very swollen underbelly. Through the skin it is a very strange colour and looks like she has a lump the size of a melon in there. After looking at the Omelet Forum I think she has Peritonitis. She has not laid an egg for months as far as I am aware and I think that the Peritonitis may have been around for a while. When she had the dreadful louse infestation it was suggested that to get so bad she maybe had an underlying problem as well. Peritonitis occurs where the yolk fluid remains in the abdomen and slowly starts accumulating. Peritonitis can be caused by a number of things, most often by yolks missing the "funnel" and falling directly from her ovary into her abdomen. Other types of infections and sometimes cancer can also cause peritonitis. Whatever is the cause she is an extremely poorly hen . Last night I put her into the nest box in the Little Hilton and this morning she has not moved at all, her wattles have turned a horrible shade of bluey gray and I think the kindest thing we can do is let her go gently. When I stroked her head this morning her eyes closed and she never moved. She was a great chicken, we have had her nearly three years now and she was a lovely character, always in the thick of things and being the boss.


Sad times then for the chicken family.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Update on the flood damage

Just a quick note, the damage in the byre was far greater than we first thought. The drying out team sent by the insurers were brilliant and ripped out all of Herbs perfectly laid floor in three hours. The water was under the full length of the floor, the soaked carpet is currently being blown dry by a huge noisy machine that will be in situ for the next two to four weeks along with a big industrial dehumidifier. The carpets should dry out and not be too damaged. We are awaiting the arrival of the insurance assessor to see how much they will be giving us to redo the floor. Luckily it was not sewage or really dirty water, they called it black water.

On a brighter note, the council have given us some pick up your own sandbags so we have blocked the barn door and helped the neighbours to make their house a bit more watertight, they too had water in on Wednesday night. We are forecast for more of the same this weekend

The bridge is fine and withstood a second submerge in three days! Yesterday evening some lovely neighbours came down with a bottle or two to help us drown our sorrows.

It's only water, it is going to dry, but meanwhile the byre stinks, the machines are noisy and the house looks a tip with furniture and stuff everywhere.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Rain, rain and more rain


After all the fun of the birthday celebrations we have come down to earth with a bump, overnight on Saturday we had in excess of 35 mm of rain and last night even more. We awoke to find the burn had overflowed yet again, this time taking in the fire pit, tables and chairs and making a move on the hen run and raised beds. Upon checking round the house we also found that water had come up through the floor and into the byre at the fireplace end of the room. The large and expensive Persian carpet is soaked and the laminate wood flooring has become somewhat spongy. At present I am awaiting the arrival of the Drying Out firm appointed by the insurers plus an assessor to gauge what damage has been done to the floor itself.

The bridge has withstood the floods even though after the first night of the Great Floods of 2008 a large tree trunk had been deposited on it making a wonderful white water rapid effect over it. Today we have yet to see if the bridge is still there but are hopeful it will remain when the water recedes.

The chickens don't seem to mind a bit of rain though and are happy enough fishing for worms. The doves are totally unperturbed by it all and remain tucked up by the electricity supply quite happily waiting for it all to subside.

Yesterday before the rain I was able to plant some Charlotte Potatoes for Christmas eating and also four varieties of broccoli and kale for the winter. This morning some bugger had eaten half of the broccoli. It is all now covered on fleece and I will hunt out the cloches to protect it further when the rain stops.

The Wattson is having the desired effect and we now turn everything off religiously, at this rate it will have paid for itself in a couple of weeks. Herb loves it, I hate it, especially when I am told every ten minutes how much it costs to watch a soap!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The Harvesting Begins

As you can see from the picture I tipped the first of the tub grown spuds today. They were the variety 'Orla' planted back on the 6th of April. From 3 seed potatoes I got just over 3.5 kilos of wonderful looking spuds. We will be eating some tonight to see how they taste, but they are blemish free and look brilliant. I have also started tearing out the strawberries, the ones we had were really tasty but not really a big enough crop to warrant the space they have taken up in the raised bed. I harvested the shallots today too, they look really good and are laid out to dry in the barn prior to storing. They went in at the end of March and have done really well as have the Red Baron Onions. I have taken some out of the ground as they seemed to want to come out themselves but have put them in to the barn to dry off for storage, I think they would just rot if I left them on the top of the soil as advised. Still picking masses of courgettes in three colours, and have today made courgette pickle as sold in a famous San Fransisco Burger Bar!

I checked the hens yesterday and all the lice have gone, they all got another session with the louse powder and the house got another deep clean. After a week on extra protein feeds and liquid poultry tonic drink they all look better and Daisy is back to her previous form. She is single handedly ensuring that Trinny and Susannah never get any good treats, except when I sneak some in for them. This will all calm down soon, it is just good to see Daisy back to her usual bossy self.

The doves are spending longer and longer in and around the cote, it is lovely to see them looking so relaxed. Lily is still a home bird and after she has fed gets into the comfortable surroundings of the cote and sleeps! I had been wondering where they spent the night and discovered that they roost at the gable end of the house away from the weather just under the eaves on the electricity apparatus and wires.

Other than that all quiet here, Sam gets back from the Dunlin Field Oil Rig on Monday, the rig is some 150 miles North of Orkney. He rang the other day to say that as he was swinging on a rope high above the sea, two enormous whales swam by. Next weekend is someones 60th birthday so as we have friends coming from Germany I may not be blogging. What to get a 60 year old who claims he has everything? Well don't tell him but I have got him a Wattson!

A Wattson is a wonderful device, as stylish as an iPod and as useful as a, well as a jolly useful thing. It recently won an award in Stuff Magazine Top Ten Cool Stuff of the Year. It is a state of the art device for telling you how much power you are using and how much it is costing, it even lights up red if you are using too much but stays a nice gentle blue if things are OK. It claims to be able to reduce bills by 25% as you begin to get obsessive about switching things off, my Ganga would have loved one. I have an awful feeling that I am going to be sitting watching TV when the Wattson appears to tell me just how much it is costing to watch rubbish. Perhaps a bad move on my part but socks did not seem to cut the mustard for this particular birthday!

No rain today and after the deluge yesterday when we had 10mm in 15 minutes that is a blessing, off to do more digging!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Lousy news

The summer house new bed is looking a treat now, all the sweet peas have climbed almost to the top of the obelisk and the lavenders are in full bloom. I am regretting putting in the large leaved Inula now but will haul them out at the end of the season and replace with something more fitting in blue or pink, must have been having a blonde day when I thought Inula Giganticas in orange would fit in well with lavenders and pinks.

Daisy has been off colour for a while now and has stopped laying eggs and so I decided to take a close look at her with my glasses on. She may have stopped laying eggs but some buggers had not and she was infested with Poultry Biting Lice and their eggs. It was positively foul ( excuse the pun ) seeing her crawling with parasites. It is all a bit like when the kids used to come home with 'little visitors', nothing to be ashamed about and I have heard that Poultry Lice only like clean feathers. Ha Ha! Anyway I right away inspected the rest, that was no easy matter. Poppy was fine and Trinny and Susannah calm down nicely when caught but the Veras revert to Hezbollah and Hammas mode when cornered. In the end Trinny had a few, none on Susannah and a few on Poppy and none on the Veras, would they dare! Well, like when one of the boys got nits in the long distant past, one gets treated so do the rest. This has consisted of all of them being liberally doused in louse powder, the house being deep cleaned and then all the hens being sprayed with mite and louse spray. I was told that the easiest way to delouse a chicken was to fill an old pillowcase with said powder, put the hen in up to its neck and then hold it tight around its neck while massaging all its bits with powder. Easier said than done again! I chose to do Daisy first as she was definitely the worst affected but by the end I was covered in louse powder as the weave on the pillow case allowed a lot of leakage and worse I had crawlers on me to and in my hair, having just shelled out £89 to have my highlights and a cut I was none too happy at having to wash all the hours of professional blow drying out but like a trooper I did. It was a little later that I read on the Omlet Forum that these lice are host specific and would have got bored with me after a while and dropped off. Better safe than sorry I say. I decided to take another tack with the rest of the flock and I caught them one at a time and deposited them into a sand pit which contained about 50/50 sand and louse powder, it was much easier to massage it into the right bits and some of them seemed to enjoy it. Not either of the Veras though who protested long and hard, I am surprised none of the neighbours called the SSPCA. After the girls were done it was time to deep clean the house, this was scrubbed, pressure washed and liberally doused with something called Poultry Shield which kills all known bugs, creepy crawlies and other nasties. Then I sprayed the house with another type of louse killer for good measure.

This morning as the girls got up and left the house I could be seen at the door of the hen house spray in hand, giving each of them ,as the exited another spray for good measure. I will repeat all the aforementioned next weekend again and hopefully we will have rid ourselves of them for the time being.

The doves are being very well behaved and I have no idea if they have lice or not , I can get to the doocote when they are on it to replenish their feed and water but handling them is some way off yet. For good measure the cote got a spray of poultry shield and light dusting of mite powder, can't be too careful.

Now Herb has built a bridge he is starting on a wonderful lean to shed of mammoth proportions in the cattle court. It will be for storing logs and straw and may even contain a manger or two. It is going to be magnificent.

Everything else in the garden is rosy. We sat on our new bridge one sunny evening and christened it the Five O'clock Bridge with a glass of bubbly or two, or three but certainly no binge drinking.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

IT ALL WENT WELL!

After a week we decided that the new girls should get acquainted more intimately with their new hen coop mates so we took the dividing wire down and let them in and at each other. Anyone expecting a fight would have been very disappointed, there were a few minor skirmishes but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly nothing like when the Veras met Poppy and Daisy for the first time. The first night we put the Auracanas into the temporary house but the next night they all went in together in the new house and last night when it came time to shoo them into bed they were all already in. In fact five of the six were squashed into the nesting box for two!

There are still a few well aimed pecks but Trinny and Susannah are adept at swerving to avoid the worst of them , all in all it has been very successful. They still seem to troop around in matching pairs but they do all look good together, like a palette of hens.

The doves have been spending more and more time on the coop and are now venturing father away on their all too infrequent flying trips. Hindoo and Bully are doing a lot of kissing and cooing and bowing down at each other. Could romance be in the air?

Hairy Potter and Hairy Mary obviously had romance on their minds a couple of months ago as we now have one of his offspring in the garden eating all the heads off the daisies and clearing up any grain spilled from the bird feeders. He is a tiny wee fellow but not being a hare expert have no idea when they leave their mums for the first time.

Herb has almost finished the new bridge over the stream, this one should withstand all the floods and other environmental catastrophes ( Dicky) that are bound to come our way! It is going to be a great place to sit and dangle your legs as the sun goes down, watch this space for the Pooh Sticks Competition results.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

All I need to know


All I Need To Know In Life I Learned From My Chickens
by Michaele Oleson

Wake up early, stay busy

Rest when you need to, but always stay alert

Visit your favourite places every day

Scratch out a living

Routine is good Plump is good

Don't ponder your purpose in life - your brain is too small

Accept the pecking order and know your enemies

Weed your garden

Look after your children

- Sit on them if necessary-

Take them for walks, show them the little things and talk constantly

Make a nice nest - share it with friends

Brag on your accomplishments

Protect your nest egg

Test your wings once in a while

Squawk when necessary

As you age, demand respect

Leave a little something for those who care about you

Chase butterflies

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The new girls are here!

After deciding to get two more hens now we have new and upgraded housing I was pleased to see an ad in the local paper for hens of the very breed I was after. We collected the two Lavender Auracanas from a local breeder and brought them home to a hastily erected temporary home. The reason I wanted this particular type is that they lay wonderful blue eggs, they taste the same as any egg but look beautiful, if looking at eggs is what you like to do!

We put them into the little run on getting back and all too soon World War Three broke out with the Veras launching themselves at the wire and Poppy and Daisy clucking and bokking in a threatening manner. There was a lot of heads down eye contact being made and thank goodness the wire was in the way otherwise I am sure we would have had bloodshed if not a fatality or two. After a while things settled down with the two new girls retiring to bed early and the other strutting around looking bewildered! We decided to call the newest additions Trinny and Susannah as they are quite stylish in a strange sort of way. They did their duty overnight and next day we had our first blue egg. I am not sure how old they are but as they have just come into lay I can guess they are between 18 and 24 weeks.

The doves have at last and quite suddenly, realized that the doocote is where they are supposed to be, not the roof of the house. They have been spending more and more time in, on and around the cote and today have spent the whole day on it, we even have Lily back in the nest box which is where she spent her first 7 weeks at Moonzie. It is great to see them adorning the cote which is what I had envisaged when they first were released. They are getting very brave and no longer fly off when I venture out to replenish the feed hoppers.

The garden is producing some wonderful vegetables and tonight we are eating some more Cauliflower, some roast Courgettes and Patty Pan Squashes, fresh green peas and for pudding, our very own strawberries and ice cream. Yesterday we had the first of the tomatoes and a cucumber.

We plan to let the hens in and at each other at the weekend, I know it is going to be messy and noisy but hopefully they will soon all settle in and be one happy flock. No guessing who is going to be top of the pecking order. Miss Daisy can puff herself up bigger and broader than any of them so I think she will win. Watch this space for further developments and see which of the hen family is the first to get an ASBO.



Saturday, 12 July 2008

Rain Rain and more rain

I would have added some pictures to my blog this week but every time I went outside to do so it rained! The garden is really benefitting from it but other than that it is awful, the track has turned into a small river yet again and the chickens are wading knee deep in mud. They don't seem to mind at all.

The doves have remained settled all week, they are so settled sometimes I think they are unconscious. They spend about 23 hours a day sitting on the roof of the house, about ten minutes flying and the rest of the time eating. They are having to contend with many other birds coming to the feeding table below the cote now, it is getting ridiculous. This week we had 7 chaffinch at one time plus numerous collared doves and wood pigeons as well as a seagull. A blackbird even had the cheek to sit in the cote sheltering from the torrential rain while the doves sat around the chimney getting soaked.

Having sold the Eglu and moved the hens into the larger old fashioned wooden house I have ordered my two new girls to be picked up on Sunday. They are Lavender Auracanas, a hen from Chile that lays blue/green eggs. I was possibly a bit quick in selling the Eglu as I now have had to make a temporary pen and coop for the new girls so that the others don't bully them until they have settled in. Some degree of pecking and chasing is inevitable until the pecking order is established and it is kinder to keep them apart for a week or so to let the dust, or in this case mud, settle. The temporary coop is a bit of a Heath Robinson affair but it should work well enough for the time it is needed .

The man that made my dove cote has added me as a link on his website so if you want to take a look at his marvellous dove cotes his web site address is http://www.marksdovecotes.co.uk/
His dovecotes are of exceptional quality and very good value. The aftercare is also worth mentioning and without Marks help and advice I would have been lost.

Sam is away to T in the Park this weekend, luckily with his new found wealth he has gone well equipped with wellies, waterproofs and a very good tent. Herb has had a weeks sailing around Mull in the sunshine, who says we never have good weather in Scotland?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Home Sweet Home


The doves have settled well into freedom and although still not doing very much it is great to see them on their occasional training flights in formation over the house. 4pm seems to be a good time to fly and they usually do a couple of circuits, and the odd touch and go before landing back on the roof.

Herb took the rest of the homing cage frame down and mowed under and around the cote, I am sure the grass will eventually recover from the piles of guano under the cote! He put up new perches and we started using the new feeders. After the frame was away the doves seems a little unsettled and seemed not to recognize the doo cote, they stayed away for 24 hours so that time I removed the new fouling proof feeder and replaced it with the bowl that I had originally used. This seemed to do the trick and they are now back feeding as before. They are also using the trees a lot more for perching although all seem to like to be together on the same branch often with comical consequences when the branch bends too far and they all topple off, much flapping and some feather loss before they all go and settle on another branch together or perform balancing acts on the telephone wires. There are two large wood pigeons who have also joined in lunching with us and despite my best efforts with a large stick and some choice words they seem undeterred. Maybe an air gun shot might deter them.

We had a sad day here this week, White Eye our three year old friendly blackbird with the white spot around his eye funnily enough, got into the house and flew into a plate glass window. Herb was in the house at the time and took White Eye outside but he had been fatally injured and died on the grass a few minutes later with a shudder. White Eye had appeared three summers ago with another female back bird that we called Chuffer, she had us well trained and for two years was able to attract our attention by jumping on the door handle or outside windowsill and making chuffing noises until we fed her. She also used to step into the kitchen and wait on the kitchen table for crumbs, last year she failed to appear one day and we surmised that she must have died, but this week, a few days before White Eye was killed she reappeared. It could be no other bird than Chuffer as she immediately started with the same attention getting antics, onto the milk churn by the back door then a quick hop to the door handle and once the door was open, onto the kitchen table.

We have also had another visitor the garden, we had seen evidence of him or her but had not actually seen him until a few days ago when we spotted a very large fat hedgehog ambling through the garden. He thoughtfully posed for a few snaps before heading away again. The hare is still a nightly visitor and enjoys a good wash and brush up under the willow tree before sitting and watching the world go by for an hour or so each evening.

The chickens had a welcome taste of freedom yesterday, the neighbours dog was away so we took the chance to allow them a days free ranging. It was great to see them out and so obviously enjoying being liberated. The dog is away in kennels for 3 weeks next week so I will be letting the girls out every day, much better for them and an even better egg yolk colour with all the natural weeds and stuff they can eat. The new house is very popular and at hen bedtime I no longer have to walk around the run wielding a large stick persuading them to go to bed. With all the extra space the new house has they just enjoy going in, I also shut them in at night and wake at 6.30 to let them out, that way we all get a good nights rest. Hen squabbling at first light when first light was 3am was no fun for a light sleeper like me.

At the risk of being boring I will just say that I think my vegetables could win prizes.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Home and Dry!



I am thrilled to say that the homing process has worked. From day one the Doos were returning home at dusk and settling back onto the cote. Lily still goes straight into the nest hole and remains there while the other three prefer to sit on the wooden homing run surround. This is going to be removed today but Herb is going to put up another perching area for them as they seem to like to perch.

During the day they spend most of the time just sitting about on the roof of the house, they should really be called Doo Nothings not Doos! More accurately I should say they spend their time in the roof guttering as can be seen in the picture. They venture to the ground now and again and enjoy foraging with the wood pigeons and collared doves who have discovered rich pickings around the base of the dove cote.

It really is lovely to watch them, I had real worries that this was not all going to work but at last I have my white doves dotted around the place, they are relaxing and beautiful to look at and all the worry has been worth it.

A couple of days ago Sam and I were amazed to see Huffy and Hindoo, strutting around, bowing and necking like the amorous wood pigeons, hopefully this is a good sign that we have at least one pair for breeding though knowing my luck they could be gay! They should not mature until around 6 to 10 months so watch this space.

This week we have had guests from Germany, America, Canada and New Zealand via Turkey. They all loved the livestock and I have even been almost persuaded that I should have some ducks around the place. We had ducks here 20 years ago and they were no bother so may well consider that, If we get some they are already named as Heinz and Barb in honour of our recent visitors!

Last week my new wooden hen house arrived, Sam built it and the girls love it, so much more space for them. I am hoping to sell the Eglu to retrospectively finance the new upgraded living quarters. There is enough room in the new house for four more birds and I am toying with getting a few more pretty hens to add to the family. I quite fancy the sort that lay the blue eggs so will be looking out for some Auraucanas for sale. Either that or a couple of Black Rock hens that are reputed to 'dreep eggs' according to Wully Duncan.

The veg plot continues to grow and still not a blemish or a slug on the brassicas, we have harvested the first of the calabrese and it was delicious, the courgettes are also ready and the Italian Mixed Lettuce leaves are delicious.

Today is a lovely sunny day and after the hectic time we have had all week with visitors plan to sit in the summer house and do little or nothing at all, just like the doos do.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Eagles Have Landed

Just a quick update. The doves spent a lot of yesterday sitting in trees or on the roof but eventually after a few practise flights they seemed to get the hang of this flying lark and were even able to land quite well. By yesterday evening all had returned to the dove cote where they stayed until after breakfast this morning and today has been a mixture of formation flying or sitting around the chimney stack looking bored. I have to admit I have breathed a huge sigh of relief, after the earlier disaster I had visions of letting them out and then never seeing them again, but not so.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

FREEDOM!!



Hopefully not too much freedom. At last release day arrived, we had delayed it by a day due to the impending noise from two simultaneous Moonzie Do's, however the Midsummer Monsoon put paid to one and drenched the other into a tactical withdrawal into the byre. After having six dry weeks it was sods law that the heavens should open on the night of the longest day and the day we had decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice.




We have just been away on holiday for a week on the West Coast where the weather was also in the main dry and sunny and it gave Herb a good chance to get out on the boat with old mates and me to get a paintbrush into my hand and do some serious ( ly bad ) painting. We got back to a garden in which everything had grown huge. It looks like I am going to have at least a thousand tomatoes and a similar number of courgettes! The brassicas are looking even more amazing an still not a slug, cabbage white or thrip in sight.




Anyway back to Doo Release Day. In an operation planned with some precision, we carefully loosened the netting and once the doves were settled again slowly lifted it off the cote. We had been advised to release one dove at a time but this was impossible due to our set up but in the end they did that themselves as some were a little reluctant to leave the safety of what had been home for 7 weeks.




The first to leave was Bully , followed by Hindoo. They both made ever widening circles over the house and garden and Bully is now sitting in a large tree about 200 yards from home. Hindoo flew to the power lines and stayed another for half an hour but has now flown off someplace else. Huffy flew out and off and has not been seen since! Lily took a long time to pluck up the courage to leave and was alone in the cote for about half an hour, she eventually ventured to the finial on top of the cote and sat and posed while Sam took some nice pictures. She then flew to the roof and after a couple of aborted landing approaches is still there now.




I have every confidence that they will all be back for tea. I have counted them out and fully intend to count them back in again. Did I mention my middle name is Optimist?


Monday, 9 June 2008

My Magnificent Brassicas



We are at last over the hump and on the run down to Doo Release day, there has been an awful lot of flapping, hovering and wing stretching and I think the Clan are now ready to fly for real. There is going to be a slight delay on release day as the planned day coincides with a party next door for a whole years worth of excitable St Leonards girls ( think Scottish St Trinians!) plus a band for the night. We have also decided to hold our Summer Solstice Barbecue on the same night to benefit from the music gently wafting in our direction, hopefully we will be able to call it that!




We could have hosted Springwatch here this year. Each evening we have been privy to watching the ablutions and evening antics of Harey Potter plus his mate Harey Mary. They arrive around 8pm and usually stay for at least an hour. Young Potter is quite large and is completely at ease with the situation. He cleans himself assiduously, not missing one area including licking between his toes!




The Blue Tits in the box have fledged, I went to Dundee on Friday when I returned , found they had left, at least the seeds in the seed container don't go in a day anymore. It was comical to see them flying directly from the nest box to the seeds and back again. There would be frantic activity for a couple of hours and then a lull before it all took off again. We had a curious starling trying to get into the box one day but the intervention of a fist on the window shooed it away. Not very Springwatch I know,but having lost one batch of babies I was not prepared to sit and see another brood go the same way.




One of the Robins nesting in the barn died, we found it on the barn floor , no apparent injuries. Luckily for us Robins are fed by both parents and it was reassuring to see the other Robin in the barn feeding the babies, who are in an inaccessible hole in the barn wall.




The Swallows are still on the eggs in the barn, getting quite vocal when we go in and out. Last year they raised two clutches so we are hoping for the same again this year. We do seem to have far fewer swallows, as in previous years we would have at least 3 pairs in the barn.




The doves have started to coo, it sounds more like a burble through a glass of water at present but I think it shows how settled they are. I am still talking to them as often as I can and was lucky recently when Mum , Eric and Mary were here as they do did their bit at the socialising of the Clan.




The new veg garden is coming on a treat and we recently feasted on magnificent Ice Candle White Radishes and a mixed leaf salad, Rocket, Radicchio and Misticanza Leaves with egg mayonnaise all from my own plot. I was recently compliments on the quality of my Brassicas, hence the snap at the top of the blog. Not a Cabbage White in sight. This eating free from the land is great fun and I am looking to expand my menagerie. I am fairly keen to get a pig now but some people in the household are not so sure. The chickens are all laying although we still have one hen not pulling her weight, yesterday an egg was laid without a yoke. I have had to resort to shutting the hens in at night as with it getting light by 4am they seem to think that this is an acceptable time to get up and cluck, very loudly, for breakfast. It has not gone down too well and as an emergency measure Poppy and Daisy go into the temporary house alone otherwise there are some almighty squabbles in the night.
So now we are the countdown to the day the White Doves fly free, my friend Rosemary has a son Guy, getting married that day so we are going to make it a symbolic release for the wedding, the fact that the wedding is in the Deep South and we are in the Far North matters not a jot. It's the thought that counts and I will send her the video!
I have been looking at the history of Homing pigeons and came across this little article:
Homing Pigeons
Homing pigeons owe their name to the ability to return home from distant, unfamiliar release points in some cases, even if they've been transported, anaesthetised and deprived of all information about the journey. They were used to carry messages in both ancient Greece and China, and by the 16th century were being used in formal postal services. In 1860, Paul Reuter employed a fleet of 45 to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen. Only in 2002 did India's police force retire its pigeon messenger service, when it was made redundant by e-mail. Homing pigeons have proved especially useful during times of war. One bird, "Cher Ami", was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his heroic service during the First World War in delivering 12 important messages, despite sustaining a bullet wound. Equally amazing, but for different reasons, is the unfortunate bird that set off from Pembrokeshire in June 1953. It returned, dead, in a box postmarked "Brazil", 11 years later.




Friday, 30 May 2008

Three Weeks Four Days

The Doos have now been in residence for almost four weeks, they have been madly flapping their wings and having a go at impersonating Harrier Jump Jets. Apparently all this is in preparation for the time that they will be flying, nearly there, release date is set to be June 20th so fingers crossed that they fly free but come home for tea. I am hoping to make a video of the liberation. As you can see from the picture the weather has been really great and Grandma and I have been making the most of it. Hardly any rain so the raised beds have been getting hosed but everything is growing really well.



Have had a lot of visitors this week so the doos have been getting used to lots of new faces and voices, we talk to them every time we pass the fortress to get them used to us so that they will in time become hand tame. Mary and Eric were particularly fine at cooing or maybe it was just Mary trying to talk after sampling yet another bottle of Rose/Red/White wine.



There has been some funny business in the cote this week. A fair bit of pecking and bullying with at least some blood being drawn. This sorting out of the pecking order is not a pretty sight but we weathered it with the chickens so am sure we will again with the doos. We have also had some very amorous going on and for ten week old babies it seems a little precocious! However I guess in human years they must equate to being about ten so perhaps they are dooing OK. Not that I would throw my ten year old out of a window in a few weeks time and expect it to come back again.



Thought that we had lost Poppy Hen again the other day as she started making some very odd noises and the bare bit on her neck looked sore and inflamed. Herb was poised to do the deed and send her to the great hen coop in the sky but she must have heard us and decided to get better. However it has settled down again and she seems happy, amazing what Savlon and Tea Tree Oil can do for a Sick Chick.



No more news for now, off to look at the latest blood bath in the OK Corrall.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Two weeks down, four to go!


The new birds have been with us now for over two weeks, they are getting used to life in the cage, it is not ideal but then it is not for ever. This week I provided them with a splash pool by managing to get a shallow bath of water into the run, they love it when it is warm and splash around and then lay about on the grass dripping dry. I have tried to photograph them in the pool but they are having none of it, preferring to bathe in private. It is also quite difficult getting shots of them, not at them but Hindoo posed nicely this afternoon and here it is.
All the birds are enjoying the fine dry weather, the chickens have been making good use of the Chicken Spa and its use seems to be dominated by the Two Veras. Now I have opened up the newly seeded area of the run the chickens are having a great time and laying some enormous eggs. The Veras and Daisy have taken to roosting on top of the Eglu run at night and at dusk I had been shooing them back in to the Eglu but as soon as I was in the house they were on the roof again so I have decided to leave them to it.
My newly built raised beds are fairly blossoming, everything is coming along well, I think all the purloined chicken manure that we spread into the bases have done them a world of good. I just hope someone likes Jerusalem Artichokes after all this for they are growing bigger and faster than anything else.
Herb is busy building us ( me) a fire pit down by the stream, it is a bit like a mini Stonehenge . It is going to be multi purpose it that we can cook on it Jamie Oliver style and then have a roaring fire in it afterwards. It is going to be great. Nice to see him getting good use of his shiny yellow cement mixer.
Next job for me is to think of a next job for Herb!



Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Moonzie renamed the Killing Fields


The Doos are fine, However the baby Blue Tits appear to have been eaten by an unknown assailant. Got back from shopping to find the above remains on the path outside the lounge window. I have no idea what has had them, they were in the nest and being fed by the parents yesterday. Whatever it was it did not like feet or wings.

On a brighter note I was sitting by the stream in the sunshine yesterday and I caught a glimpse of a Kingfisher as it whizzed by, bright turquoise and orange, it is a lovely sight, but all too rare.

The new Doo Clan have settled in very well and fly to the ground on occasion to sun themselves and to peck at the grit and seeds that have fallen to the ground. They have lasted a week and a day and still no sign of the dog in the garden again. Only five more weeks in captivity.

Saw a strange sight two days ago, I heard the normal Buzzard noise and looked out to see at least a dozen circling high over head, we have often seen four or five but this was amazing.

Yesterday we had the Robin in the kitchen feeding from crumbs on the table and later in the day discovered it must have had a quick look around the house too as was evident by stragically placed droppings on the bannisters.

We found the dead swallow in amongst the logs on the wood pile. So sad after it getting back all the way from Africa to come and die at Moonzie.