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Friday, 29 August 2014

End of summer? And kitten.........

Well. there's not a huge amount of news from our patch. Things are steadily moving towards autumn with clearing tha land, sorting fences and harvesting  the last of the summer veg. We are starting to use leeks, the sprouting broccoli is still producing sweet shoots, caulies are thinking about swelling and cabbages are continuing to heart up. Unfortunately the very heavy infestation of flea beetle has decimated my two kale plants which I was carefully using sparingly. Everything has had a dusting of diotomaceous earth which seems to have helped get rid of them, but I fear those two plants will not recover. Of course, it needs doing again. We never get wind here...unless it is inconvenient. The last two days' wind had blown all the DE off!

Lovely leeks, I think these are a shorter variety than the usual four foot ones grown locally

My poor kale

Little buggers!!!


Cabbages hearting despite the flea beetle
The parsnips have been uncovered as Dave chopped down the sunflowers from around the tank. There are not that many of them but they are looking quite healthy so we might have enough if the mole crickets have left them alone. Also pulled out the ornamental squash but with them going in so late there were not many of edible size, but enough to have a taste as research tells me they are very nice to eat. We'll see
Goldfinch filling his face before the sunflowers disappear. We hope to leave these ones in longer...if Dave can bear to leave them there.


Our small squash, with a couple from next door
Our peppers are doing OK now, but we can't convince the neighbours, another bucket and a block of cooked and frozen peppers arrived today

Toms still going

We have started to eat the leeks, mainly because some had to be pulled up to make a path for the pipe from the septic tank emptier. Despite the hot weather continuing, I made a veggie stew with our garden veg (Dave had a bit of the chicken we bought for the cat!) and we had it in Yorkshire puds. Winter fare made lighter. It was delicious!

All we are buying at the market at the moment are potatoes, so Dave left me with the car on the main road and dashed in to get some. It's a bit hair raising watching what goes on. People 'abandon' their cars sort of on the side of the road, go in for sacks of melons/peppers/tomatoes/cucumbers or whatever, open the side door to load the car, totally ignoring the cars/delivery vans/horse drawn carts/lorries all trying to get past while dodging people crossing the road or loading their (often scarily derelect) cars, or even chatting in the road. The stress levels rose just sitting watching!

Venka is busy doing her 'end of season' pickles and lutinitsa (mixed veg sauce) so the shelf dedicated to the bottles she sends over, her own shelf as we are not always sure what things are and all my stuff is labelled. The mixed veg bottles are carefully filled and are a work of art, with cucumber, tomatoes, teeny cherry tomatoes in red and pear shaped yellow, herbs, garlic and anything else about the place. I have strict instructions to leave them for three months!

After the Yorkies there had to be something light, so the last of the peaches, one of our sweet little melons and some raspberries, and because it was to hand, some honey still warm from the hive. We only have two melons left (if you don't count the ones still coming from the neighbours) but the raspberries are still producing plump berries which we have to fight Tansy (hen) for, she has decided there are rich pickings in the garden, spending a lot of time amongst the fig undergrowth.

Straining the honey from the wax

Yum, three small jars from one frame
Which is fine, but she chatters away to herself which attracts the attention of the others, so although one hen in the garden is OK, ten is far too many, especially with small kitten about. So another length of fencing has gone up along the wall. Poor Tansy, she nearly brained herself trying to fly over it. I feel she is cured! Now to move the geraniums to the wall, they will cheer it up a bit and the chickens can't get to them to scratch in the pots. We had three in a small trough the other day. (Update...hen not cured, has gone over the gate!)

All the chickens are looking a bit rough at the moment, some moulting more than others. We are still getting eggs and I hope they will continue longer this year. Last year we only had eggs from one Shumen and Chubba (who eats her's) through winter. I just don't enjoy bought eggs any more but am reluctant to push them into laying if they want a break. We will see what the ex-batts do, though they are a bit erratic in their laying.anyway.I am giving a vitamin and mineral supplement for layers as we have no idea if the food is well balanced.

The geese are looking well. We (Dave) is looking into changeing to general purpose.ducks next year. We really feel we do not have the space for geese, and though they are doing well as they are, with a largeish area, two pools and the bee area to mess about in, the ground is so dry that there is not much grass...which will be why people keep them on the lanes at the mercy of dogs.

And so, those who dislike cats may stop reading as we now have kitten overload. I am generally not into cats so do understand.

But he is so very cute. We eventually got him to the vet who has given us a wormer for him. Research on the internet shows that he was between three and four weeks old when he decided to live here so as he is looking well and there are no instructions on the tablet (just one tablet, no packet) and we were just told to give him a quarter, we have decided to wait a week.

We are now getting a beautifully formed poo every morning. He is getting goat's milk on demand and seems to be doing well on it. Next week I will start to water it down just a little, and as today we had a major breakthrough with lapping, he can start to lap the mix between meals. He still gets a little confused and raises his head to suck or bites the edge of the saucer, and occasionally you can hear him sucking his chicken/softened cat food instead of picking it up. But the sucking on skin or Bella has lessened to those times when he is over tired and needs some comfort.
At last....lappage!

But he still tries to chew the saucer

Of course he is a character. All kittens are. He is bold, looking at new noises and experiences as interesting. He mercilessly pushes the dogs around and using teeth and claws in play. His teeth, which were very tiny a few days ago, are growing and his bite is getting stronger....I know! But we are gently letting him know that rough play is for animals not people. One day no doubt Bella will object, but at the moment she is putting up with Splash hanging from her face, just moving away when it gets too much. She tends to accidentally stand on his tail as he is forever under her feet, (he can't half yell!) and he had a lucky escape when I went through the door and touched his leg before realising he was there. It doesn't bear thinking about what would happen if I really trod on him. It is a reminder that having a minute animal in the house will totally change your ways. I will be more careful.

Attack the broom

Catch the shadow

Put the melon in it's place



On a mission

...round and round and round........fascinating

Splash is eating well, chicken mixed with soaked kitten kibble...he doesn't like cat food from a pouch. The food, like the litter tray, is in an upturned plastic crate with a hole in the side (keeps the dogs out) . The litter tray is indoors at the moment, but not for long. It is a long way for little legs to reach the border on his own. Also, having the litter tray means we can keep an eye on what is coming out the other end. It seems his diet must agree with him as all is well. And he is getting a shine on his coat now that it is not staring and his eyes are clean. The ridge of white hair along his spine stands up in play. I hope he doesn't end up fierce like a Rhodesian Ridgeback lion hunting dog! (Actually one of my favourite breeds)

Picture overload of our three gorgeous pets.
zzzzzzzzzzzz Bella worn out too



Bonnie is not at all sure that she wants the boy to stay


Climbing practice


Not sure I would snooze here, the tinned dog food doesn't really suit Bonnie...........

Seems to have pinched my seat...again! Bonnie needs me there for cuddles
Bella taking protection from Dave...can you spot the cat?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Thinking about autumn...and a new addition

It is still stiflingly warm here in BG, but autumn will arrive one day, probably when you least expect it. We have heard strange bird sounds in the garden and there have been many bee-eaters passing over. The orioles have gone quiet, though are still around and our swallows have deserted the garden, though we are not sure if they have left yet as we have not seen the gatherings we saw last year. But then again we don't go out as often as we did.

In the garden the flowers are looking tired, with the exception of the morning glory which gets better and better, despite being pruned by goats if it dares to creep through the wall. So I have started to cut things back. The dahlias are more or less finished, though if we have a wet spell some might pick up.

The tomatoes are nearly done with just a few of the large pink ones and lots of cherry toms. The aubergines have a new lease of life since the Colorado beetles have finished. We have had a few of the yellow peppers and squats, but with buckets full arriving from both sides we have had far too many to cope with. There are plenty char grilled and frozen and I made some chutney with some and tomatoes and chillies. A bucket full was exchanged for a load of figs. The squash are looking all burnished and will soon be collected and put in a sunny spot to ripen so that we can clear the land. The coloured ones by the septic tank, according to Google, are particularly fine to eat but don't keep so well. We are not putting potatoes in as it is still so hot and mostly dry, but when the onion patch has been turned over  the chard will be moved and spinach, lettuce, land cress and maybe carrots will go in. The beetroot are just about finished and land cress, which has done so well, has gone rather strong and tough. What a great plant though. So as soon as all these things are collected and moved we will protect the chillis and open that half of the garden to the geese and chickens and they can start to clear and fertilise.
So many peppers, and real beauties

The chillies are still green, very mild too

Weedy pepper plants in our garden, no wonder Venka thinks we need more! But we have plenty....really.

Lots of figs

The brassicas are suddenly doing well again, despite a huge infestation of flea beetle. We are hoping Jordan doesn't notice and attack with his poison spray.. The broccoli has started to throw out proper flowering sprouts now, though a couple of plants still have blind ones, and they are a lot sweeter and more tender. We don't yet have a bad infestation of caterpillars though I have seen the odd one, but I am picking the larger leaves from the plants for the chickens so maybe the eggs were laid on them. There have certainly been a lot of cabbage white butterflies about. I was worried that the sprouts were forming on the Brussels too early but they seem to be OK, looking healthy and not growing the sprouts any bigger. We really don't want them until it gets cooler, sprouts are not good in boiling hot weather!

In the fruit line we are still picking raspberries and have plenty for the annual sherry trifle stashed in the freezer. The rest have gone into raspberry and apple jam. There is another small batch of rhubarb (strictly speaking, a vegetable) in the freezer. The peaches have been picked and eaten, the ones on the resurrected tree being yellow fleshed and larger. And the figs will be picked and dried soon. The watermelons are still arriving from neighbours front and back and we are still picking our own minis. All the sad grape harvest are dried and ready for cakes and mincemeat. They are not the same as commercially dried fruit, but they are our's and that matters.
The last of our peaches, the smaller ones the delicious white fleashed variety, the bigger ones are yellow fleshed.

Baba Danke sent us a few figs one day too, and with already having a jar of fig jam given by the lady who had the cockerels, I made a very yummy fig and almond tart, with jam on the bottom, almond sponge then halved figs and sliced almonds on top. As Venka and family were round to fix their well pump I sent her back with half, still warm. It seems it went down really well and she made it do five portions, three of which went to the daughter in VT. We had our's with some good vanilla ice cream, lovely.

Yesterday we were presented with half a bucket of small figs by a British friend so I have a bowl full steeping in sugar ready for fig and ginger jam, a couple of trays in the dehydrator and the chooks and geese had the squashed ones. I quite liked the jam we were given, but would not eat it regularly on bread, but with ginger and lemon added it should have more bite, I do like a bit of sharpness in jam.

And so with the garden covered we come to the livestock, who seem to be doing OK. Egg production seems quite good at the moment despite a few of the hens moulting. The chicks are doing well and are roosting like grown ups, growing really fast. The geese are the geese, noisy rabble and enjoying having two ponds. Frogs and toads have taken up residence in and around the water and the 'natural' pond seems to hold water well considering it was just dug out. It must be because of the soil, when wet it is like slippery clay.

Boy chick (yes, another!) looking all grown up.......

..............until you see him next to Chubba, then he looks tiny.

We have, as the title suggests, a new addition to the holding. Dave was sorting out the well the other day, cutting a hole in the lid to put the hose through. As Venka's pump went back down after being fixed (been down ten years so good going, manufactured in 1978!) as their well is not deep enough, we have to be careful to keep to our sides so that our hose doesn't get tangled again. It needs a winch to get their's out as it is attached to a very heavy metal pipe, big job.

I digress. As Dave was fiddling about he heard what he thought was a bird piping, but it got stronger so on investigating the lane he found a kitten shouting for mum. He came to tell me about it and said it was this big...holding his hands nearly a foot apart. Took the camera and came back with a picture of a ginger kitten with gummy eyes. We have managed to avoid taking in any pets as it could be a problem if ever we had to go back to the UK and find a rented house. It would be so easy to take in some of the desperate creatures. Anyway, all went quiet so we went to see what was going on. But as Dave opened the gate this little scrap who had settled there tumbled into the garden and determinedly made it's way down the steep steps. It is minute...and sick by the looks of it. More five inches less tail! As it wrapped it's tiny body around my feet I couldn't move as I had a long skirt on and couldn't see the thing. Of course that was it, we couldn't turf it out. We could not have lived with ourselves if it had been found dead on the lane. It seemed to be used to humans and handling and it seems it wanted to live here! Dave went out to ask neighbours if it belonged to anyone but no-one admitted to it.
When Dave saw him first, a pathetic scrap

So tiny, but with a big voice

So Splash, so named because of a splash of white on his back, seems to be part of our family. He is very young, maybe four weeks, can eat chicken but can't lap milk or water so has to be fed with an eye dropper. Not too many fleas and his eyes are much better for a clean up. So a dash over to the friend who we got the geese from, twenty minutes away, for goat's milk, better for babies than cow's milk, he has a voracious appetite but we are worried that he has not had a poo since he decided to live here two days ago. He wees OK, goes out to the flower border to perform, so we are hoping it's because he was so empty and skinny when he first arrived that his system is slow to work. But he is very lively so we are trying not to worry just yet.
Will you be my new mummy?

OK...come and have a wash then

Eyes cleaned and looking a bit healthier....and still loud!

It's exhausting finding a new family

It's exhausting looking after a new baby

Of course, Bella is besotted as she is with all baby animals. But she is big and Splash in tiny so he tends to get pushed around a lot. Splash has decided that Bella will make a great buddy and follows her, climbs on her and invites her to play. Bonnie, like me, can take or leave cats, she just accepts anything new with a sniff and that's it.
Sorry if there is telly noise, I can't hear it on my notebook.

And more!


One besotted Bella
But he is cute and fingers crossed he will soon start the bodily function which turns my stomach and gets dogs licking their lips. Dave is putting into practice all the stimulating practices he used when rearing baby zoo animals so hopefully it will work eventually. Of course, he was supposed to be an outside cat...but you can't leave such a little scrap out to the mercy of rats and martens.................