Archive for October, 2012

Baby Butternut Squash

All the cold and damp weather we have had in the UK this Summer has meant that my Butternut Squash plants are well behind where they should be for this time of year.  The frost we had a few days ago has killed off some of the leaves and the plants are dying back now.

Butternut squash plants dying off

However as the leaves die off they expose baby butternut squash.  The question is will these survive?  I have read that you can pick squash, bring them indoors and leave for 4 to 6 weeks to ripen.  But are mine just too small, or should I leave them on the plant for as long as possible?  If anyone has experience with these, please let me know what is best to do.

one of the baby butternut squash

The largest squash is about 6 inches long, but some are real baby ones only 3 to 4 inches long.  I wonder if they will ever be ripe enough for us to eat?

Another baby butternut squash

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British Legion Poppy Appeal

Here in the UK Sunday 11th November is Remembrance Sunday, when we remember all the fallen heroes of past wars, together with the injured from recent and current wars.  The Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading Service charity. It provides practical care, advice and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families. It does fantastic work supporting service personnel and their families and is an organisation that has been going for many years here.

The Poppy Appeal is the Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign and runs year-round. Lapel poppies are available to buy in shops, supermarkets, pubs and clubs from the last week of October until Remembrance Sunday, or 11th November, whichever is later in the calendar.

It takes 350,000 volunteers and staff to organise the Poppy Appeal each year.  More than 40 million Remembrance poppies, 500,000 poppies of other types, 5 million Remembrance petals, 100,000 wreaths and sprays, 750,000 Remembrance Crosses and other Remembrance items are made at the Poppy Factory each year.

The 2010 Poppy Appeal raised a staggering £36 million, smashing all previous records. This target for the 2011 Appeal (October 2011 to September 2012) is £40 million.  And we are doing our bit.

Today we went out selling poppies door to door.  Our round is a very rural round called Hare Lane in Buckland St Mary and Dommett.  There are quite a few farms down long tracks and the houses are sparse, so it took us 2 hours to do about 30 houses.

Me with our poppy box

This year we were given a sash to wear, but as you can see it kept slipping off my shoulder so I abandoned it pretty early on.  We shall be out again tomorrow doing the houses where no one was in this morning, and I am hoping we can raise more money than last year.

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Little chooks join the adults

Our two remaining little chooks as we call them are now 16 weeks old.  We decided it was time they joined the adult flock and were integrated into the proper run behind an electric fence.  They have grown so quickly, from newly hatched chicks into amost fully grown.  One is larger than the other, with a proper comb and lovely colouring, brown amongst the black.  The other is smaller with no comb at all!.  We are hoping they are both pullets ie female hens that will lay eggs as opposed to cockerels, but for the uninitiated it is still difficult to tell.  We will have to wait a few more weeks to see if they start crowing!!.

Our two 16 week old chicks

So last night at dusk when they had gone up into the hen house we picked them up one at a time and ringed them (so we could tell them apart from the other black rock hens) and cut their feathers on one side to stop them flying out, and then popped them in the other hen house with the adult hens.

This morning when I let them all out, these 2 were slightly reticent about coming out of the hen house, and as soon as they went near the food the others chased them away, and they hopped back into the hen house for cover.

We’ve just been down to prior to lunch to scatter some bread around for them and the larger one seems to have got the idea, but the smaller one is just running around clucking like mad.

It will take a couple of days for them to settle down and for the new pecking order to be established.  It will probably be another 8 weeks before they start laying eggs if they are pullets, so we will have to wait and see.

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Mouse attacks Subaru Impreza – shock horror!!!

We were going out in Neil’s Subaru and he found the windscreen washers wouldn’t work.  So when we were back home he filled the water reservoir up and thought no more of it.  Until we went out next time and it was empty again.  He decided we must have a leak but as the pipe to the windscreen washers wound round the side of the car and above the wheel and the car was still under warranty, Neil booked it in for a warranty repair.

Later that afternoon we got a phone call from the car repairers to say they had found the source of the leak, the pipe had been nibbled by a mouse!!  £58 later we got the car back all repaired.  Expensive mouse damage.  The car is always in the garage at night, so a happy little mouse had decided to creep under the bonnet, presuably attracted by the warmth of the engine when we had just come back home, and sat there munching away at the washer pipe.

mouse damage on the washer pipe

The pipe is painted white to show the damage.

So reluctantly we are going to have to put some mouse traps down in the garage……….  Life in the country!!!

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Taking down the runner beans

Over the weekend we had a couple of clear days so decided it was time to take down the runner bean plants.  The leaves had started dying back and there were no more viable beans to pick, so we started to untie the bean poles and pull up all the plants and add them to the compost heap.

old bean plants

I managed to pick a whole trug full of big beans that we will dry out for their bean seeds, which can then be planted next year.

Beans that will dry off for seeds

I also picked our sweetcorn, that hadn’t really riped well enough this year, just not enough sunshine.  I shall cook this up for the chickens, they will enjoy it.

immature corn

Having pulled up all the runner bean and sweetcorn plants we then had to weed the 2 vegetable beds that had contained them.  The soil was wet and claggy so not a nice job, but we got it done.  We then added horse poo to the beds, raked that in, covered them with newspaper and then black weed suppressant sheet, so they are bedded down for the winter.

over wintering vegetable beds

The beans we had picked were too tough to eat so they are drying in front of the woodburner so we can harvest the seeds.

Beans drying

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Walk round the country lanes in the Autumn

This afternoon we went for a walk round the country lanes near our house.  It’s lovely to see the changing colours of the leaves and all the leaves on the ground.

The top of the lane to our house

Turning left onto another lane

view from our back gate

view across the valley

some wrapped bales of hay in a field

It’s nice to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh country air, even when its not a sunny day.

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Carnival comes to Chard

October is the time for carnival down here in Somerset.  When we first moved here I thought it was a bit strange to hold carnival in October, as I am more used to carnivals being held in the Summer, but as soon as we went to one I realised why they are held when the evenings are dark. It is so the hundreds of lights on the floats really show up.  There are carnival clubs that fund raise all year round in order to put on the most magnificant floats, so brightly lit by a fairground generator that follows each float.  It’s an amazing site.  Here are just a few photos from Saturday evening.

Scarecrows

Something about Mary

Retirement

Star fella

Starlight express

Starlight express – 2

Artic attack

Moscow eclipse

There were also majorettes and people in fabulous costumes walking along.  All the money raised goes to charity.  We were all lucky the rain held off and we were able to enjoy an hour of great entertainment.

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Mayhem in the hen house

Yesterday evening it was dark by 10 to 7pm.  Neil went down to shut away the hens and came back in a tearing hurry shouting my name. “There’s a dog in the hen house and it’s killed one of our chicks” he cried out to me.  I couldn’t believe it.  How could a dog get into the hen house?

A couple of hours earlier I had seen our neighbour who has 4 dogs, ( a basset hound, 2 beagles and a great dane), and she was worried because she had lost her dogs.  She had let them off the lead in her garden and they had got out and she couldn’t find them straight away.   So over 2 hours had passed when Neil found one of her dogs, the 2 year old great dane, in our hen house.

This dog, although muzzled, had pulled at the wire mesh on the side of the run to the hen house and managed to actually get inside the run.  This was where we were keeping our 3 little chicks that we had hatched from eggs, separate from the rest of the adult hens.  We were thinking they were nice and safe in there, and we had separated them because they were smaller and on different food from the adult hens.

The wire mesh pulled away from the frame of the hen house

Neil had to go down there in the dark after dinner and make some running repairs to the hen run, other wise we would not be able to let the hens out in the morning.

Neil’s running repairs to the hen run

When Neil went down to the hens to shut the doors for the night, he could only see 2 of the 3 little hens and this great dane was still in the hen run and growling at him.  It’s a big dog to encounter in the dark, and he was shocked and surprised to find it there.

I managed to get hold of our neighbour on her mobile phone and she came round, but the dog had headed off leaving our 2 remaining chicks cowering in the nest box.  I was concerned they would die of shock.  The third chick, the little brown one was nowhere to be seen.  Neil searched all round for it, in case it had got out when the dog got in, but then he made a grim discovery.  Bits of chicken were trampled into the mud.  The third chicken had been savagely torn apart by the great dane.  Warning the next picture is a bit grim, but this was about all that was left of the chicken, 2 legs!!

Naturally we were horrified by this attack on a defenceless poor chick, and more so because these were the first chicks we had ever raised from eggs and we had nutured them and looked after them from day one, so to lose one in this way was very upsetting.  Our neighbour was more worried about her dog and said “its only a chicken”, which may well be the case, but it was one of our babies and we hated the thought of it being ripped apart by her dog.

A big dog like that which has not been to any obedience training classes, should not be let loose in a garden unless there is proper fencing to stop it getting out.  Luckily the other 2 babies have survived the shock, and although quiet today, have been eating.  The adult chickens were not harmed as they were behind an electric fence, but we had thought the little chicks were safe in their enclosed run, but we could not have foreseen this dog attack.

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Putting the vegetable beds to bed for the Winter

Autumn is the time for some serious weeding.  Once we have pulled the vegetable crops from the raised beds we then weed them clean, and want to keep them that way until the Spring.  So firstly we add some well rotted horse poo.

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This is then dug into the soil and evenly distributed.

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The soil is then covered with newspaper.  This acts as a deterent to weeds, but will rot down in time and saves the horse poo sticking to the black weed suppressant sheet that comes next.

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Lastly we place the black weed suppressant sheet on top and hold in place with large stones, of which we have plenty in the  Blackdown Hills.

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This process rests the vegetable beds for the Winter and means come the Spring when we want to plant out, we just remove the black membrane and we have a nice weed free vegetable bed to work with.  Of course some beds still have veggies in them and I have been weeding them madly aswell, but they can’t be covered up yet.  We have done 6 so far with a couple more to do on a sunny day.

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