Sunday, 29 March 2009

Rescue day for our new hens....

Yesterday was the rescue day for our four new hens. We had to be at the collection point between the hours of 2pm and 4pm so we planned to drive to the town of Maldon (home of the superb Sea Salt for cooking) and to have a little picnic by the water, take a few photos and then pootle slowly along to collect our girls.

The weather had other ideas and Saturday dawned cold, wet and pretty miserable. So the picnic plan was abandoned for another, sunnier and warmer day. By the time we arrived at the collection point, the weather had deteriorated even further! Ugh, what a day to have to collect poor, frightened little hens. It was raining so hard that the hens had had to be kept in the horse boxes they'd been stacked into when they were removed from their battery cages. Here's one of the good volunteers lifting them out ready for those of us who were there to collect them and bring them home.

Here the hens are being placed into open pens so that they are easily lifted out and placed into the new owners assorted boxes or crates. They look a pretty motley crew but in fact are in excellent condition by and large for ex-battery hens. It was raining so the plastic you can see piled up is to cover the hens in case it really started to belt down. They have never been outside in their lives before this.

Two more wonderful volunteers from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust - they are holding the girls up as the hens' claws have to be clipped before they leave the collection point. The hens have always lived in their cages so their claws grow long - no scratching at the grass or ground you see.

It's all done very quickly and efficiently; the hens are fine afterwards. Not too much off the claws but just enough to help them walk on the ground.

Then back into their little pens to await their new owners.

When they arrived home with us, we popped them into their new but temporary accommodation. Our existing girls are pretty strong and hens being territorial little things, we want the new hens to have a chance to regain some confidence and strength before being allowed to mingle with the others. In the photo below, you can see Madge and Ginger inspecting the new arrivals.

Once again, we were lucky with the girls we were allocated and all are pretty well feathered. Just very pale and quite stunned at all that happened to them over the course of the day!

If we had not collected them, if the Battery Hen Welfare Trust had not organised to collect and pay the farmers for these hens, then today they would all be at the slaughter yard. A quick end by either electrocution or gassing and then they would have become either dog food or good old Chicken Nuggets. Yes, you read correctly... Chicken Nuggets. It's so easy to blame the farmers but we have to look a little closer to home I'm afraid. We are the ones who demand cheap eggs, cheap chicken and egg products so this is the result. If I buy a cheap cake from the supermarket then I can bet my bottom dollar that it will have been made with battery farm eggs. Poor little hens.

She'll be OK with lots of new, good food and fresh water and fresh air. In a day or so, when they have settled a bit from their stressful day yesterday, we'll move them onto a larger area where they can roam a bit more. Hopefully, we'll be able to introduce them to the others in a few weeks.

Two have names already.... Ellen and Betty... but the other two are currently anonymous so if anyone has some nice ideas for a couple names, please do send them through!

Warm wishes to you and I hope you are enjoying your weekend! Vxx

Monday, 23 March 2009

How on earth............??

Look what we found in my car this morning! We cannot begin to imagine just how this little guy jumped up into my Jeep but jump he obviously did.

Posted by Picasa

My husband had given the vehicle a thorough clean out yesterday so the doors were open for a few hours whilst he vacuumed a zillion yellow labrador dog hairs out from the carpet... and sometime or another this little mouse decided to hitch a ride. I imagine he had a pretty disconcerting overnight stay - he certainly did not look on top form when we found him.... he has now been removed to greener pastures and hopefully he won't be returning in a hurry.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Hens, havoc and I must be crazy...

hens fighting over the dustbath

I must be crazy... there's no other excuse. Here you can see the kind of havoc my dear little rescue hens have made around one of the walnut trees in the garden. There used to be bulbs here. Lots and lots of bulbs. Now all I have is the dessicated remains of some lemon balm/melissa and lots of dust baths. You may even be able to see the original levels to the soil surrounding the walnut tree. The hens have excavated, fluffed their feathers and enjoyed many, many dust baths here. As you can see.

They've had a wonderful time (times) fighting over the prime spots. Even though these images were only taken about 3 weeks or so ago, now the craters are so deep that the hens can actually disappear from sight if they want to.

hens creating havoc

But make no mistake, I love them dearly and just grit my teeth whilst I sweep the path yet again.

However, back to the crazy part. I've just committed (hmmm, that's an appropriate word...) to take on FOUR MORE rescue ex-battery hens. They should be ready for collection on Saturday 28th March... So that's 40% more destruction in my garden. Crazy but I can hardly wait... stay tuned!

Warm wishes to you Vxx

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunday, Sunshine and Spring...

Isn't it amazing how our spirits lift when the sun shines! Yesterday was a beautifully sunny day here, and today looks as though it's going to be at least as good. The first of our daffodils have begun to open their blooms so it really does appear as though Spring has begun in earnest. It's been a difficult week as dear old Bear has not been so well. Yesterday however, she was able to lie in the sunshine and that seemed to perk her up quite a bit.

Finally the ground seems to be drying out from all the rains and snow. The mud is almost gone - hooray! So it's time to get out into the garden and sort a few things out before we are inundated with all the new growth. The gardening day started with the planting of a new section of Yew hedge along the road side of the property. This is the second hedge we've planted here - the first was a Pyracantha hedge which died back after a few years or so. But first things first... barrow loads of horse manure needed to be dug in to enrich the soil.

After a long day in the garden, we headed to one of our local pubs for a bite to eat. It's a beautiful old country pub which sadly is not located here in our village (or maybe that's a good thing!) but it's less than 5 minutes by car so we still take advantage of its proximity to our home.

When we made the reservation on Friday night, we had thought the pub would be pretty much empty, but on arrival we found it was busy with locals. Of course, everyone had enjoyed the first real day of Spring and so wanted to continue their day and weekend for as long as possible! We decided on a Beef Rogan Josh curry for me and my husband chose a pizza for his meal. A glass of chilled white wine for me and a pint of beer for him. It was delicious!

Here a couple of images of the little room we chose to eat our meal in... it has a fireplace and it was warm in there. The day might have been sunny and warm but the night air brought a chill to it. However the main reason we chose this room was because I could take some decent images - too many people in the other rooms to be able to do so... after all, who wants to have their photo taken on a Sunday evening when all you want to do is relax and be comfortable! The pub is called The Queen's Head - nothing at all to do with the stuffed boar's head on the wall though!

Here's a photo of that all important fire... the pub has another fireplace which is wonderfully impressive but it's very much a prime location and had a crowd gathered in front of it. Perhaps I'll be able to get an image for you on another occasion... ah, the lengths I'm prepared to go to for my blogging friends....

I hope you have all enjoyed your weekend and the coming week is good to you.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Banana Bread and a Spot of Bother

I would have not only baked the cake, but I would have blogged about it too... but for some reason I couldn't upload the images I took... Surely you all heard the explosion from over this way?? Or maybe saw the 'blue air' floating your way? No? Well, that certainly surprises me! Perhaps this cake or more accurately, bread, was never meant for public consumption because right from the word 'Go' it was troublesome.

I love Jane Grigson's Fruit Cookbook - my dear cousin gave it to me many moons ago and it is well used. In particular, I love Mrs Grigson's recipe for Banana and Walnut Bread. So on Saturday, I assembled the ingredients and arranged them to photograph. Took the shots. And then realised that - shock! horror! - there were no walnuts in the house. Which is pretty weird given we have two walnut trees in the garden.

It was a tad too late in the day to rectify the situation, so Sunday morning I headed off to dear (and you can use that word in many ways...) old Waitrose, one of our local supermarkets. Whilst I was there, I noticed that they had their current food magazine in stock so of course, one came home with me... here it is on the hall table...

I have an obsession with recipe books, food magazines and I have carted several hundred around the world with me. I won't embarrass myself by showing you photos of all these just now, but the next image shows you about one third of all the cook books (excluding the magazine numbers ) I have at home...

However, here is the recipe for the Banana and Walnut Bread with some introductory text from Mrs Grigson.

"There are many recipes around these days for banana bread, with more or less bits and pieces added to the basic mixture. This simple recipe is my favourite, because it needs no butter when it is newly made, and for a day has a crust that is crisp and buttery golden brown. Put it in a box and the softens.

  • 125g/4oz butter
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2-3 large bananas (500g or 1lb approx)
  • 60-90g/2-3oz walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 250g/8oz self-raising flour
  • 1/2 level teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 level teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, and add the eggs, beating them in well. Peel and mash the bananas with a fork: do not use a blender or processor or the bananas become too liquid. Add them to the mixutre, with the walnuts. Stir together the dry ingredients and fold them in using a metal spoon.

Line a 23 cm (9inch) loaf tin with baking paper (Veronica says - I just grease a non-stick pan well) and brush it with melted butter. Spoon in the mixture, levelling it out. Bake at gas 4, 180 C, 350 F, for an hour. Test with warm skewer and give it longer if the skewer does not come out clean. Leave the cake in the tine for 15 minutes when it comes out of the oven and then turn it onto a wire rack to cool. When the cake becomes too dry to eat with pleasure on its own, spread the slices with brandy butter." Note from me - it's never lasted long enough to get to the brandy butter stage!

Friday, 6 March 2009

St. Petronilla's...

March, July and November of every year I wander up the hill to our little church, St Petronilla's. There I join Lesley to help her clean the church. This is not an onerous task given the tiny size of the congregation, so it's generally a simple matter of dusting the pews etc, sweeping the floor and vacuuming the carpeted areas. It usually only takes about 45 minutes, every Friday morning of those months. I started doing this as a way of participating in the day to day activities of our little village. Apart from that, I rarely set foot in the church, just attending local funeral services, the annual Christmas Carols by Candlelight service and perhaps a couple of other services or fundraising events that may be going on there.

It's a really lovely sunny day here today although I guess it's also typical March weather - namely it's also jolly cold outside! So some of these photos have some camera shake but given that I was shaking from the cold, it's hardly surprising...

Here's the view from the car park looking over the 'new' graveyard and across to one part of our little village...

And this is the gate into the churchyard itself with some the old gravestones to be seen. Most of them are in a pretty precarious state and only on a very few can you actually read the inscriptions... a shame really because I enjoy reading old inscriptions. Some can be amusing, others downright vitriolic!

Inside the church, the stained glass windows are stunning...

These are all different in each of the window bays...

But my absolute favourite is the window above the loft where the bell ringers sit. You will just have to imagine the magnificence of this window as the sun had not moved sufficiently to show its true glory...

Here's part of the door leading into church, showing some detail to the carvings...

And finally, a photo of the church, showing the path leading into it... shame the rose isn't in bloom because it really is superb with the most beautiful perfume to it...

Over the years I've been meeting Lesley here to do our little bit, I've grown very fond of the church and I enjoy the peace and quiet here. Mind you, Lesley and I tend to put the world to rights as we chat away (teeth chattering too through the cold inside the church!) and we share many giggles about this and that. All in all, I think I'm the lucky one who receives far more from this 'chore' than I ever expected to. What a bargain!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Sunday afternoon...

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm feeling a little jaded... we went to a 60th birthday party last night and Maggie (the birthday girl) and her husband, Mike put on a great party for us all with lovely food and even a disco afterwards. So having danced the night away, I'm still feeling a little 'weary' today. I'm supposed to be studying for final exams tomorrow so I'm trying to motivate myself - it's not working too well ... sigh.

All I really want to do is just lie on the sofa in the Snug and snooze quietly. With lots of cushions and warm, snuggly throws it's a good place to be on a rather grey, misty day.

My husband has brought in loads of firewood and has lit the woodburning stove so it would be perfect to snuggle down in front of it.... The dogs know that it's a great idea and have claimed their rightful places in the prime positions. Troy is a little miffed because she really prefers to be in the spot that Chelsea has claimed.... and Chelsea is wondering if perhaps there might be any toast and honey for tea...? No, they don't get that kind of food but it's the sort of thing that would be most appreciated right now. Well, it's what I'm thinking of anyway.

There's still room for my husband if he would like to join us ... just have to convince Troy that she needs to move so that he can actually have somewhere to put his feet.

The Snug is where we mostly hibernate for the colder months of the year - although it's not as light as the sitting room, it does have a really cosy ambience with all the beams and the fire. Lots of lamps placed around add more warm light to the atmosphere. We tend to shut the other end of the house down during the colder months. Gosh, doesn't that sound grand! It's not I promise you, but it is a practical solution to a much cooler part of the home.

Anyway, I hope you've all enjoyed your weekend as much as we have so far. But for now, I'm going to stretch out and shut my eyes for a quick nap. Hopefully I'll be able to then convince myself to get back to the books!

Warm wishes to you all! V xx