Chicken Thistle Farm

I’m a little concerned – I really getting into a new podcast and I think this whole farming malarkey is getting into my bones.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to audio books as I go about my life.  On long journeys I can just get lost in a good audio book and the time flies by.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised that the Harry Potter series have been firm favourites for the whole family for years.  We  have all the paperbacks and all the audiobooks – it’s rather addictive!

Anyway, this love of listening to the spoken word has taken me into the world of podcasts.  The ones I subscribe to range from tech news to BBC programmes and an old favourite by Wiggly Wigglers.  Wiggly Wigglers is a fantastic company who have grown their business enormously over the years, aided by some great social media and a brilliant podcast.  The podcasts centred on Heather – who runs the business and her husband Phil who runs the farm and provides many of the products.  The also had an antagonist, Richard who was great at winding up farmer Phil and really challenging their beliefs.  Unfortunately, the guys have got too busy to keep doing the podcasts and so I’ve been missing out on my regular slice of the countryside.

So a little search of the Podcast store gave me a few chicken/farm based podcasts.  I found a slow burner in Chicken Thistle Farm.  Again a husband and wife team but this time they have ‘regular’ jobs (their words) and have a farm on the side.  I’m not quite sure how they find the hours in the day to manage chickens, produce eggs, breed pigs and run a veg box scheme but it’s all interesting stuff and so realistic.  They talk about everything – the ups, the downs, the funny tales and the practical gruesome details of chicken prep day.

If you know of any other good podcasts or blogs, do let me know but in the meantime scoot by Chicken Thistle Farm (www.chickenthistlefarm.com)

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Back at home…

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting you – actually I’ve been neglecting everything to do with home.  I was working in London for the Olympics – how fantastic was that!  Amazing experiences and what a buzz around the place.  So one month later and I’m back on home turf and enjoying some catching up with my wonderful family and our creatures.
I’ll have a few catch up posts and then should get back to current news and stories as they happen.

 

My husband and daughter looked after the chickens and garden whilst I was away and they did a fantastic job.  I’m even worried that the chickens are now my husbands and not mine – he seems to have spoilt them rotten.  The main reason I think this is there are two worn paths on the lawn – both from where the chickens have paced constantly backwards and forwards waiting for the tantalising treats he’s been bringing out!

The garden looks much brighter than in July – there are more colours but it’s definitely not as lush as normal.  I certainly don’t think if this is due to the ministrations of my husband but rather the season.  Our sunflowers (and our neighbours, phew!) are only about 6 ft tall which is well under normal height for this time.  The tomatoes are only just reaching the top of the greenhouse and there aren’t that many fruit on them.  Lastly, our French beans haven’t made it to the top of the canes, although we are getting the odd handful of produce.  All in all, it’s not been a great season but I have a feeling it’s fairly universal in the UK so I just have to accept it and plan big for next year.

I have to say that the care of the garden has not just been down to my husband and daughter – my mother-in-law was also recruited to keep on top of the general upkeep.  As someone who lives in a flat, she’s thoroughly enjoyed looking after the garden and I do really appreciate her help and support.  I just haven’t found a way that she could do it when I’m here – is it just me or do we all get a little proprietorial about our gardens?

Coop moving again

I’m not sure if this is interesting to you but it is part of the fun of having chickens – keeping one step ahead of the grass destruction and working out the best way to house your girls happy whilst keeping sane!

I reconfigured the coop netting yesterday morning, moving it back over to the other side of the garden and once more including a small section of the border.  The chickens had been fine with just lawn last week but I do feel that the border adds that extra bit of interest for them, and with Cho being the new girl on the block I wanted Ginny and Luna as distracted as possible.  unfortunately, by including a small section of border you effectively sacrifice any small plants living there.  Plants that survived the general meanderings are totally demolished with a week of full attention.

It’s quite a challenging finding bits of a suburban garden’s borders to hand over to chickens – and then place the netting.  I have some reasonably large shrubs in the border and so try to wind the netting around them.  As the netting is only supported by upright supports, the soft earth of the borders does struggle to hold the supports up straight.  Thankfully the chickens have, so far, respected the barrier and not undergone a concerted escape campaign so for now I’ll keep doing this.  What I tend to do is find a section of border and then change the accompanying grass at the weekend – effectively giving the border two weeks of hell but the chickens too weeks of fun.

As the plants are finally growing well the borders are getting full and I’m less inclined to sacrifice Nicotiana, Cosmos, Aliums and the like.  For now I can keep finding a small section of border to add to the run but I’m beginning to think that the coop and run will rest towards the back of the garden where I’m unable to grow annuals and so have tougher plants.  Time will tell – and watch my words.  You already know how I’m liable to U turns with these lovely chickens!

A business first!

Well, today I did a presentation to around 40 local business people.  It was all about Investing in Exhibiting – my other role in life is as an event organiser with a particular focus on helping people exhibit cost effectively.  Anyway, for the first time ever – I managed to get the girls into my presentation.

I used them as an example of different personalities that you come across at an event and how you need to come up with different ways to engage them.  I hope Luna, Ginny and Tonks enjoyed their moment of fame!

I also hope my audience appreciated the slightly off topic introduction to my girls!

Versatile Blogger Award Nominations

A week after being nominated for an award, I’ve finally got around to looking up what a Versatile Blogger Award is.

It’s always exciting to get awards and know that people are reading your blog – in fact getting followers and comments is a little bit addictive.  Strangely it’s not the people who know me that comment but those that don’t!  I guess I need to do a bit more blog training 😉

It’s really interesting to see who’s reading your blog – many of my readers are from the US and it’s great to see what they’re up to and how annoyingly warm their weather is right now.

So back to the awards.  This seems to me a lovely thing set up to encourage all us bloggers to check out a few more sites and promote our favourites.  So, to follow the rules:

Thank you to Willow Cottage Garden for the nomination.  This is a great UK blog which covers lots of my favourite things: photography, cooking, gardening and chickens.

I’m not sure I have 15 favourite blogs at the moment – being quite new to this I’m still scouring the blogosphere for content and information.  However, here’s a start:

  1. Hens Gardens and Me – a lovely insight into growing veg and keeping chickens here in the UK.  We should just commiserate about this awful weather!
  2. Aquaponic Family – lovely pics and tales of their new chicks and really interesting ways of growing their veggies.
  3. Soulsby Farm – a US touch this time with this professional blog that has guest bloggers covering areas such as GMOs.
  4. Middle Class Values – a good blog to make you think about saving money, not about being cheap but about getting value for money.
  5. Ferndale Chickens – a blog with one aim “A hen in every yard”  What more do I need to say?
  6. Clares Eggs Blog – a short, but hopefully developing blog from someone who’s raising ex-battery hens.
  7. Jimmy Cracked Corn – more blogging on vegetable growing and how to be sustainable.

That’s really all I can come up with at the moment but I will add to it as I get more and more into blogging and widening my net.

Meantime, here’s 7 things about me that I haven’t told you yet:

  1. I love swimming, especially open water (when it’s not too cold)
  2. My favourite vegetable is Purple Sprouting Brocolli
  3. My favourite brunch is Eggs Florentine (but I’m really just after the egg and the Hollandaise!)
  4. I love making pancakes on a Sunday morning
  5. I hate Jerusalem Artichokes – and it’s not just the affect on your body
  6. I can do a forward somersault on a trampoline
  7. I love composting, especially with worms (but maybe I’ve told you that one!)

So, thanks for reading – back to the more normal ramblings next time.

Sunflower Competition

I need your advice! For the past few years we’ve had a street sunflower competition.  Much to my annoyance I’ve come second every time – our lovely neighbours have pipped me to the post with their giant sunflowers.  For the past few years we’ve all thought that I’d managed to win but the figures proved our estimations wrong and I slipped back into second.

So this year I really must do some research and work harder at coming first.

When we started the competition our sunflowers were randomly growing in the scrappiest bit of soil we had.  It was at one end of the border, next to the patio and was pretty shallow and full of stones.  I really was surprised when our sunflowers shot up past 6 ft.  They did seem to like the area – probably as the patio is such a sun trap.  I wasn’t sure how they could grow well with such a low quality soil and when we pulled them out the had the smallest rootballs.  How such tall plants manage to stay upright in our coastal winds with such small rootballs, I have no idea but we’ve never had one fall over yet.

A few year’s later we built the veg patch up, and as part of this I used some left over sleepers to create a small border where the sunflowers grew.  Filled with lovely fresh compost I really thought I had it cracked that year…no such luck!

Our neighbours have been growing there sunflowers in some old chimney pots and they very generously let us a couple last year.  This surely evened out the competition and with the warmth on their roots I’d be able to push our sunflowers up to the skies.  Guess what – it didn’t work, I still came second.

So come on – what seeds should I sow this year and how can I make them as tall as tall can be?  That is of course, assuming I can keep the chickens off the small patch as they settle in!

We’ve got chickens!

So it was back to the trusty old web to find somewhere that had Point of Lay chickens in stock.

I needed Point of Lay as I was ready (i.e. impatient) to get going.  A lot of my friends thought I’d get small chicks and raise them but I realised that would involve more investment, both in time and money.  Plus of course, I’d have to wait longer for eggs.

I also needed small to medium sized hens.  The coop I had wasn’t huge and so I couldn’t cope with the larger breeds such as Orpingtons.  I’d also learnt that hybrid hens have more of a tendency to go broody.  This is fantastic if you have a cockerel and want to breed chicks but that was definitely not in my plans, so having a chicken sitting on the nest for weeks on end was not a good option.  So I was aiming for hybrids.

I did wonder about getting Battery hens – it seemed like a great caring option.  However, it also seemed riskier – they’d need more care and attention and I just wasn’t sure I was ready for that.  Maybe next time.

So we called two local poultry farms and found that they both had a small selection.  It’s a bit too early in the season for much choice.  I was very tempted by some from the Rare Breed farm but my husband had spoken to Shelley at Race Farm Poultry and she was so helpful that I headed in that direction.

Despite the cold and wind Shelley took the time to show us around all her hens.  They were gorgeous – from fluffy Silkies to large Orpingtons we wanted to take them all home!  Unfortunately, the only two available were Amberlinks (White) and Gingernut Ranger (Ginger!).  So after a little running about the pens, Shelly managed to get us one of each.

We had hens!  Meet Ginny (Ginger) and Luna (White)…