Monday, 10 September 2012

RIP Hoppy!

Hoppy was a very different looking chicken. Such a shame
that she never got to get her legs working properly
It has been a sad week as we decided that Hoppy's quality of life was deteriorating as the cooler days draw in and for some inexplicable reason she seemed to spend most of her days with her crooked leg stuck through the wire mesh. Hoppy, unfortunately never did learn to hop on what was her good leg, even that gave up. She was always first out of the box in the morning though and would dive underneath the others to get to the food. The others didn't pick on her, in fact they just totally ignored her and acted as if she wasn't there, with dire consequences for Hoppy as she squeaked her protests at being stood on. As I said with the cooler days drawing in, it was going to be increasingly uncomfortable for a bird that couldn't raise itself up off the floor and so we decided the kindest thing to do was to dispatch her and bury her in the garden. We hope at some point to put a quince tree over the top of her, although I did think that maybe I could put some lemon balm in that place - a restful, peaceful herb. A decision for later anyway. Hoppy wasn't the only chicken we dispatched this week, there was one of the broiler chickens. It wasn't as big as it looked and obviously we need to look at feeding again, if we are to raise chickens for meat. Still it was an okay size and made a good chicken pie.

Amazingly those clouds didn't actually
produce much rain, but there were plenty
more where they came from that did.
We have been trying to make other decisions too this week. One of them is whether to move out of the apartment we are in now and sell it then build a house out on the land. We are debating whether to just have a house that we could live in in Spring, Summer and Autumn when the nights are late, or whether to have a house that we can live in all the year round. We think we have picked the perfect spot, a piece of land that is only good at growing dandelions at the moment and yet it has a lovely panoramic view that overlooks the majority of our land. Well the jury is still out on that one as it would of course demand a substantial investment. We know what our hearts tell us but our minds are backwards and forwards over the pros and cons.
The weather's not been all bad. The last few
days have been gloriously autumnal, just a
shame we haven't had more of those for the
sake of the garden.

Our rather nude looking tomatoes, just a
shame that removing the leaves wasn't
enough and they all needed pulling up
We had to admit defeat and dig up our tomatoes. Blight won the day again in the big greenhouse, where airflow versus warmth has been a difficult balancing act this year. Our small greenhouse which is constantly open but faces a different direction hasn't been as badly affected, but then again the yield on the tomatoes is lower too. You win some, you lose some. We also got the beans and peas in from our field plot and I even managed to harvest a few squash this week. We have all of 9, and we have eaten another two already as they were in danger of rotting. I have seen some folks with enormous squash plants as normal, but I think it was all to do with timing. I think I actually started mine off too early for the cold weather we had and so by the time they were due to go out they were struggling in the pots they were in. We have been pleasantly surprised with the corn though this year. The cobs on them looked so unpromising and we felt sure the crop this year was a failure but when I have opened some up, the surprise was that there was actually something on them worth eating - maybe not as big as last year but tasty anyway. As for the oats, they were a disaster, we were so close to getting something in, but it just kept right on raining and a beautiful field of green oats turned to nothing as they succumbed first of all to rust and fell over and even what was left appeared to have been eaten, probably by deer.
Sorry the picture quality is not great on my
phone for this kind of photo, but there are 143
 blackcurrant cuttings that have shown signs of
life from the cuttings that were dumped in a
bucket of water. Not bad going from a total of
10 plants that we bought originally, we already
have around 40 plants that produced
blackcurrants this year. So who's up for
blackcurrant and strawberry with black pepper
cordial next year?

The left side has been sculpted, unfortunately there are lots
of deep ruts by the barn to fill with water, but at
least in the future Ian can now get in with the tractor and
clear snow if need be
Ian has been doing a marvellous job with the back hoe and tractor, re-sculpting the land around the barn area and moving bucket loads of soil to areas around the pond and near our orchard plot that needed building up. He's getting rather good with that back hoe, I have to admit, and it looks rather neat - well the bits he's finished anyway. Unfortunately he didn't quite get finished before hitting a problem, part of the back hoe broke. A good friend of ours came to have a look and he decided it was possible to weld it back together and he came back with his welder, unfortunately our generator wasn't powerful enough for the welder to work properly. A phone call to our neighbour wasn't answered, but that was normal and so Ian and our friend decide that the only thing to do was to go up to our neighbour's farm and ask if they could use their electric, complete with tractor and welder. I guess they didn't have much option to say no, but they are good friend's of ours and we've helped them out a few times when they've been stuck and so we don't feel too bad about that. That's what neighbours are for, right?

A rather neat job on the right, just using the
back hoe.
Wish we could say the microwave could be fixed as easily as hopefully the back hoe was. We had a quote back for the replacement part ........ £250!!!!! The stupid thing is that it is only a couple of micro-switches that don't work, the rest is perfectly functional. Surely replacement micro-switches should not come to £250. We have better news from Stanley flasks though. One of Ian's Stanley flasks stopped working properly and the top part of it on the outside started getting hot, it would appear that the vacuum was breached but how and why, we have no idea. It's not as if it was dropped recently and they are sold as tough flasks that survive a lot of hammer. Ian wrote to the company to explain the problem and they have agreed to send a replacement, so far, so good. Now it appears to be in the hands of the Latvian distributor and so we will see what happens next. It is a shame that the flask stopped working as it has outlasted other flasks and when working is far superior to the other brands as it really does stay hot for a very long time, which when working in -20C is a necessity, not a luxury.


  1. sorry about hoppy. everything looks sooooo green. the rain may be a problem in some ways but it all looks so lush !

  2. Oh yes water is not a problem. I guess it does look rather different to the drier areas of Europe

  3. Hello Joanna,
    What do you do with the blackcurrant you pick from all those plants? Sell it or perhaps preserve? I have just two plants and it already seems too much! :) I freeze the berries which aren't consumed right from the plant and use them later for baking cakes.

  4. Hi Petra I recommend you get a steamer, it makes dealing with berries very easy. This year I put layers of blackcurrants and strawberries with sugar and black pepper and let it steam for an hour. The juice that comes out was then syphoned off straight into sterilised bottles. The great thing about the steamer is that you don't have to worry about stalks and that sort of thing, just pick out any bad berries and that is all. After I have steamed it, I then put the steamed pulp through a vegetable strainer that takes out the stalks and seeds and I make jam with it. The recipe for the blackcurrant, strawberry and black pepper cordial is on this page (you have to scroll down a bit)
    I also have just made juice with no sugar with the steamer too and that works well

  5. Joanna, thanks for the tip. I should definitely try something like this next year!

  6. It sure saves hours. Let me know how you get on, it will be nice to know what recipes you use too.


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