the cockerel has a new harem




Hen numbers have dwindled during the winter so that since Christmas, Nickel Arse the cockerel had only one little wife to run along beside him. With spring just around the corner and news that a local farm was clearing out a batch of their free range hens, it seemed an ideal time to boost numbers so five new hens were brought home and smuggled into the hen house while the others were out.

In late afternoon the wanderers returned to find the new hens hanging around by the feeder. The guinea fowl stuck their heads in the pop hole, saw the new hens and ran off. Eventually they plucked up enough courage to dash into the hen house and fly straight up to the rafters where they could keep an eye on everything. Nickel Arse strutted in, did a double take and promptly jumped over the barrier to safety. Peering back over, he flapped his wings and puffed his chest. Several times. The new hens stared in amazement and if the old hen had eyebrows, I’m sure she would have raised them skywards, muttering “men” under her breath.


new hen

I think I’ll stay put thanks.


Next morning they were still segregated either side of the barrier but they were all alive and the new hens had even laid eggs. The new girls stayed in the run for a couple of days but then I decided that the cockerel may as well take his new harem to explore the garden. Three of the new hens stayed in the hen house, the old hen busied herself scratching under a bush on her own for the day while Nickel Arse strutted off with two new girls in his wake.

In the evening Nickel Arse returned with only one new girl and left the other one sitting in the undergrowth at the end of the garden. We tried to persuade her in but she was having none of it, so we left her out for the night. Naturally, we haven’t seen her since which means she’s either hiding or been eaten by a fox or jumped the fence and ended up perplexed on the dual carriageway. Any of the three are likely but I suspect the fox found her.




Meanwhile, the ducks remain non plussed by the whole situation. So long as the hens don’t eat their food, they take no notice of them.


guinea fowl jumping fence


guinea fowl flying over fence

And the guinea fowl continue to do what guinea fowl do. Why would you walk through an open gateway when you can jump onto the wall next to it and then fly over the fence atop the wall? As you can see from the wire, this is their regular point of entry into the hen run.

the garden in August


This is the time of year when the garden is at its most productive. There’s plenty to harvest, successional sowing means the next flush is coming up behind and plants for winter are established and full of promise.

ladder in orchard

The cherry plums have been eaten, the Czar plums are just starting to ripen and every day I squeeze the greengages to see if they’re ready. The autumn fruiting raspberries are so prolific at the moment that Beth is picking them for her Raspberry Gin and we still have enough to eat at breakfast layered with oats and yoghurt and to make a fresh batch of raspberry vinegar.

There’s a ready supply of peas, beans, carrots, salad leaves and beetroot, though the carrot germination wasn’t good this year.  We have a steady trickle of tomatoes, though I suspect that we will reach glut proportions in a week or two.

leeks in garden August

Looking ahead, the leeks have been transplanted into their winter beds and are growing well.

leek dibber with spade and fork

On the left of the photo is the dibber to make the holes for the leeks. Constructed from scaffold pipe, it makes a monotonous job easier and saves a good deal of bending over.

guinea fowl in the garden

I’d hoped to have Brussels Sprouts again this winter. There’s always a dispute about whether to plant them or not; I like them because it’s handy to have a vegetable that’s easy to pick in the middle of winter but Bill thinks they take up too much room and look a mess. I got my way this year and the plants were growing well until the guinea fowl decided that the sprout bed was the best place on the entire farm to take a dust bath. They uprooted some of the plants and the remaining ones look pretty sickly. I noticed that Bill shouted at the guineas when they were eyeing up the carrot bed for their dust bath but has remained very quiet since they discovered the sprouts.

yellow courgettes

The courgettes are running amok and I have no idea why we have grown five plants when two would have been more than enough. I suppose the answer is that last year only one seed germinated and this year all of them did. The yellow courgettes are producing like there’s no tomorrow and are pressed on anyone who happens to pass by, though the green ones have hardly started yet.

pickled spiced courgette

This week I made pickled courgette, which we will (possibly) eat with cold meats in the autumn. Of course, it may languish on the pantry shelf for months, gradually disappearing behind the more attractive Spiced Crab Apples or chutneys. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I have a batch of courgette cakes in the oven, which goes to show how desperate I am to use them up and am trying to convince Beth that Courgette Gin would be a winner.


You may also be interested in:

Slamseys Raspberry Gin

Raspberry Vinegar Recipe

How to deal with a glut of tomatoes





shades of grey

The colour of January this year.
Shades of grey.


A grey sky over Gardeners Field brings to mind the saying

Mackerel sky, mackerel sky
Never long wet, never long dry

Very true that day.

The grey guinea fowl congregate on fences or sit alone silhouetted on the top of the barns calling to their mates, too stupid to fly down to find them.

Even the little figurine for the galette des Rois had shades of grey.

The rain saturated fields have small ponds forming in low lying areas and the footpaths that were pounded by hundreds of Christmas walkers have deteriorated into a slippery muddy mess with dingy grey puddles.

But come the evening, I can light the fire and sit with a glass of hot, spiced cider with blackberry gin and bring a little colour to the day. And as I flick through the internet, I’m thankful that we haven’t been affected by the dark swirling waters that have flooded homes and marooned isolated farms and communities in some parts of the UK or that I’m not with Cecilia at The Kitchen’s Garden,  grappling with the cold icy snow of America or with Fiona at Cattle, Kids and Chaos in the hot, dry dust of drought affected Australia.


Sometimes, grey is okay.

an update

A short update on Tuesday’s post when I went walking … and met a fox.

On Wednesday I went walking … and met a fox. It may have been the fox I saw the day before or it may have been a different one. It was mooching along the track towards me, not really concentrating. I stopped. The fox carried on walking, then suddenly saw or smelt me and turned tail and ran off. Morris the fox terrier was in the ditch looking for rabbits so completely missed the episode.

Nigel the Guinea Fowl

Nigel the Guinea Fowl

On Thursday I went walking … and didn’t meet a fox. However, in the afternoon Nigel the guinea fowl started making a terrible noise. If you’ve ever lived near guinea fowl, you’ll know that they’re noisy birds, but this was rather more insistent than usual and he didn’t sound like he was going to stop. When I heard the hens squawking too, I rushed out to the garden to find a fox just outside the back door with a hen in its mouth. The fox dropped the hen and the hen ran off, chased by the fox while I ran behind screaming at the fox and waving my arms like some demented being at which point Morris the fox terrier joined in too. When the hen ran into a corner the fox gave up and disappeared down the chase, with Morris in hot pursuit.

There was quite a heap of feathers and no sign of the hen for a while, but then I found her hiding her head behind a stone trough. The rest of her body was on full view, but she obviously thought nothing could see her if she couldn’t see them.

I’m pleased to report that the hen seems recovered this morning and even laid an egg.

Another update – this morning, I peeked in at one of the sitting ducks and saw a duckling sitting next to her. I hope it survives as ducks seem very careless mothers.

And the final update. It’s raining. Well, it is Wimbledon fortnight, so what do you expect.