A quick visit to Chard Reservoir

Being a sunny but cold morning we took ourselves down to Chard Reservoir for a walk, which is a nature reserve.

You walk from the car park through a wooded area and play area for children before reaching the water’s edge.

Unfortunately the hides were closed due to Covid so we didn’t get to see any birds up close.

There was a biting wind coming off the water, so although the sun was out, it was a chilly walk.

We think we will go back later in the season when its warmer and the hides are open.

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A knitted floral Happy Easter from Combe St Nicholas

The locals in our neighbouring village Combe St Nicholas have been busy knitting and crocheting flowers, bees and bunnies to put on an amazing display outside the church for Easter. There are several panels of flowers as well as 2 crosses on the gates. It’s really lovely and welcoming.

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Chitting the potatoes in the UK

Now is the time in the UK to be chitting the seed potatoes for growing this Summer. We have bought some 2nd earlies and some maincrop potatoes and these are on the window sill chitting.

Chitting is when the little sprouts appear on the seed potatoes and thus they become prepared for planting.

In the nursery where we bought the seed potatoes, there was a very helpful banner showing when to plant which type of potatoes in the UK, although this does depend upon whether you are in the South or the North of the country and what the weather and therefore the soil is like.

Some people say you should plant the first potatoes on Good Friday, but that date varies each year and this year it is early April so I think we will have to see what the weather is like. We have a couple of vegetable beds all ready for planting.

Last year we had a good crop of potatoes and many of them I cut up and made into Roast Potatoes or Cajun, or Bombay or even Mash and froze them away in 2 person portion sized plastic pots. We are still eating these now.

There is nothing like a home grown spud!. You know what’s gone into it, no nasty chemicals and they taste good too.

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4 new girls join the flock

Yesterday we lost a hen to a fox attack and recently we have lost a couple of hens who have literally just fallen off the perch. So today we went to our local breeders Blackdown Poultry and purchased 4 new birds.

The first is a Speckeldy, really beautiful markings.

The next one is a Bluebell, lovely and grey.

Then two Road Rocks, the first having golden plumage on her chest

And the second being black with a hint of blue.

We put them all in the hen house where there is pellet food for them to eat and gradually they will be brave and make their way out to the outside. Although the hens area is not grassy anymore, because having to keep them covered and in a smaller area than normal it is now just mud. Can’t wait for Defra to lift this restriction and the hens can return to the wider enclosure where there is grass.

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Using Lavender from the garden

We have lavender bushes all along the path in the front garden.

At this time of year I have to cut back the lavender flowers, and then dry them to be able to use them.

I cut the stalks and then patiently cut the flower heads off and put them in a paper bag to dry.

When completely dry I can use them to make lovely little lavender bags to sell or for gifts.

Or I use them to include in my therapeutic wheat and lavender bags that you heat in the microwave and place on whichever part of the body ails. These I sell for £5.00 each. contact me at kathy.arnold@gmx.co.uk if you would like one.

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Walk at Castle Neroche

Sunday was a bright cold day so a morning walk was in order. Castle Neroche is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle on the site of an earlier hill fort in the parish of Curland, near Staple Fitzpaine, Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The land is owned by the Forestry Commission and there are stunning walks with breathtaking views over the Quantock Hills and Exmoor.

I particularly liked the dragons that were carved into some old tree trunks along one of the paths

The paths take you through beautiful woodland with a steep drop to one side. It’s quite a popular place to walk and there were lots of people with their dogs or children out on Sunday.

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Bees that have swarmed

Bees have been keeping Neil busy today.  He was called out to a large swarm, he described as a prime cast, meaning the initial swarm from a hive.  This swarm was hanging in a fir tree and we were told it had been there for 3 days, so Neil was anxious to get there and get the swarm before they headed off elsewhere.DSC04041

Firstly he placed a new hive on his workmate, under the branches of the tree where they hung, and then smoked the swarm,  cutting off various branches of the tree to clear the way to the bees.  He then cut the branches with them on and shook them down into the hive.  Most of the bees went in but some flew around and about.  DSC04042

Hopefully the queen was in the middle of the swarm and was successfully knocked into the hive.  We put on the crown board and the lid and wrapped the hive in a sheet and placed into the boot of the car.  Driving back home we must have looked funny in our bee suits that we still wore in case any bees were flying around in the car.

Once home Neil transferred the hive to one of his bee stands and opened the door bar a little so they could come and go.  It’s a waiting game now to see if they stay put, but why wouldn’t they, now they have a safe hive with brood frames to build upon?DSC04044

Neil then got a call from a friend Dave, to say he had been contacted about another swarm on a fence post in a farmer’s field.  They both went to investigate and wow was it a large swarm on this post? 20200714_171950

Dave put a skep over the top to encourage them to move into the dark space as they like dark spaces. This is Dave below.20200714_172016

Neil set his workmate up again and put another hive right next to the post, and lured it with lemongrass oil to encourage them to go into the hive.20200714_172412

This will be a waiting game to see if they like the hive.  It was too difficult to brush them down into a hive as they were wrapped around the post and there is always the  danger of losing the queen when you do this.  Dave and Neil will go back tomorrow to see if the bees have moved.

What a busy day with the bees!!

 

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Gooseberry and Elderflower Cakes

I’ve been finding things to do with gooseberries as we have such an abundant crop this year.  Apart from stewing them up for crumbles and pies (and popping the stewed fruit in the freezer) I have found other recipes and here is one.

You use fresh gooseberries just top and tail them first.

Ingredients:

150g self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

40 golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons milk

75ml elderflower cordial

50g melted butter, slightly cooled

225g gooseberries

1 tablespoon of demerara sugar

Method:

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark 6

Put 12 cake cases into a cake tray

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl

In another bowl whisk the egg, sugar, milk, elderflower cordial and melted butter.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones quickly (ie about 15 seconds)

Fold in the gooseberries whole,  (reserving 12 smaller ones), no stirring, the mixture will look lumpy

Divide the mixture between the cake cases (I made 12)

Lightly press 2 smaller gooseberries into the top of each cake

Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown

Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool

Store in a airtight tin – these will keep for 2 or 3 days – delicious

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Little baby swallow

We  have a swallow’s nest in the stables.  It is right up in the roof top timbers and we have seen the mother bird flying in and out and heard the cheeping of little baby birds.

The other day Neil opened the stable door and there on the ground was one of the tiny birds.  He quickly fetched a tall ladder and put on some latex gloves so when he touched the birdie it wouldn’t get his human smell.

He picked the baby bird up and put it in a bucket so he could climb the ladder safely whilst holding onto the baby swallow.  I passed the bucket up to him and he picked up the birdie and popped it back in the nest.DSC04016

A little while later we saw the mother bird flying into the stables again, so all was well.

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Rat Attack!!

There’s been a naughty rat who has munched his way through the wood into the hen house.

Neil went down to check the hens were all in the hen house the other evening and found a rat in the hen house helping himself to the hen food. He had gnawed his way through the wood above the door, quite a bit hole to let himself in.20200615_103739

He soon scarpared when he saw Neil.20200615_103731

The next day Neil screwed a large piece of pallet wood across where the rat had gnawed his way through.  He checked last night and it had done the trick for now, no more rats.20200615_104639

We have had to put down some rat poison too to try and dissuade the rats from trying to get in the hen house.

Time for a new hen house we think.

 

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