Whilst I was away some of my Silver Dorking chicks hatched
In the end I only ended up with six eggs as the seller who I bought the second half a dozen from chickens stopped laying. When I candled the eggs at twelve days then five out of the six seemed to have chicks in so I was a little disappointed to only have two chicks hatch, especially as I never normally bother to candle eggs, but they are still very sweet.
I’ve spent the afternoon at the allotment, weeding, tidying and digging over and manuring empty beds.
I also did some harvesting, the last of the runner beans as the plants have some sort of rust on them which has halted new flower buds so they have now come up, beetroot and courgettes which seem to be picking up again.
There are a few changes happening at the allotment, our plots are right on the edge nearest the car park so we have very good access to our plots but not everyone has so we have agreed to give up the top two beds worth of our plots so as a track can be put through to the middle of the plot so as other people can have better access and be able to have things like manure delivered, in return we are getting almost one and a half plots extra at no extra cost. There is enough room for another ten beds on top of the four that we will be losing so a very good deal.
When I got home from the allotment I turned some of the produce into a tastie snack. Garlic courgette with cous-cous and grated beetroot.
Method (just in case anyone is interested): slice the courgette along with the garlic, I used half a bulbs worth off garlic but do like the taste. Add to a pan along with some butter, simmer until soft and then add the cous-cous and mix well. Grate the beetroot and mix that in too and all done.
The courgettes, garlic and beetroot were all home grown, the cous-cours and butter were not but the butter will be from next May.
Yesterday was the first day of the Fungus Weekend at The Dean Heritage Centre, I have been to the event once when I was younger and went on the walk, and then when I was working there I arranged the event but never got to go on the forary inspite of my best laid plans.
So this year it went on my ‘things to do and see’ list (along with seeing a Severn Bore) after I was made redundant from there.
The forary, and display, is arranged by the Dean Fungus Group*, who are a wonderful friendly group and all the members are very knowledgeable and willing to help in whatever way they can in passing on their knowledge of the subject.
The event is normally held later in the year, towards the end of the main fungus session, but this year it has been changed to be held at the start so as people who become interested have a chance to go out again before the end of the session, a very good idea but it’s down side is that it has been a very dry month, and so not many fungi out yet but still very worth while going.
Some of the things I learned on the two hour walk included:
There are more fungi than plants in the UK, and they all plants have some sort of fungus helping them in some way.
Puff balls have an eleven month growing cycle, they grow on tree stumps and their spores are spread on the wind but release from the fruit by rain drops
Truffles grow under Beech trees on the ‘wet side of valleys’, the fruit is found under leaf litter from two to twelve meters away from the main tree truck. They spread their spores by encouraging flys to lay their eggs in the fruit, the maggots then eat their way our from the fruit, including some spores, and spread the spores in their poo once they have turned into flys. They are very rare in the UK
Cauliflower fungi only grow on Scots Pines and have a taste like raw hazelnuts
There is no difference between mushrooms and toadstools and the UK is the only place in Europe that has two words meaning the same thing, it is possible that this is because toadstools were considered sacred by druids and so ‘must not be eaten’ outside of rituals
Chicken in the Wood mainly grow on Oak but also can be found on Sweet Chestnut, Ash and Yew. they should NEVER be eating if they are found growing on Yew as they absorb the trees toxins and will make you ill. They are a bracket fungus and will eventually kill the tree that they grow on although this will take upwards of thirty years
*the Dean Fungus Group do not appear to have their own website so I have linked to the Cotswold group who have contact details for the Dean Fungus Group and many others around the country
The night before I went away, I saw my first wild boar. Most of the excitement has worn off in the week that I have been away but when it happened it was very exciting.
There have been boar living wildly here since 2004 when a group ‘escaped’, and since then they have been spreading themselves across the Forest. No-one really knows how many there is of them living here now but as they don’t have any nature predators and the weather is mild enough for them to breed almost all through the year I would imagine that there is a lot.
It was dark when I saw it, the window by my bed is still open to let the cat in and out when he wants. I heard the sheep take off up the road in an alarmed way and looked out the window expecting to see a loose dog but it was a boar. Even though it was dark and I have never seen one before there was no mistaking it. It was large and alert, with its ear pricked up, stood on the bank of the green at the front of the house.
It was both a familiar, I have seen lots of pigs, and magical sight. Something so completely out of place where it stood, that a second look had to be taken but so unmistakable for what it was.
I have been away for the last week, me, middle-younger-sister and our boyfriends have spent it camping (in a very posh hire tent) in Brean, across the road from the beach. The week has been spent reading, swimming, eating out, BBQing, wandering around the local towns, racing down to the beach for high tide and of course relaxing.
I know I have been away a few times in the last year or so, but I haven’t been on holiday they have all been visits to people, or weddings, or work. It has been so nice to be able to not do anything, or have to plan anything, or make arrangements around someone elses timetable (other than the seas.)
It is odd, how even though the goats all live together, even the males, they form much ‘deeper’ relationships with in their own breed or type. We have three breeds of goat, Anglo Nubian, Golden Gursney and British (or maybe it’s pure?) Toggenburgs.
They seem to nature form families within their own breeds, even though some of the goats have known each other much longer than others or lived in the same house with others, whenever they are all living together for any amount of time they break of into their little units.
It is very sweet to watch, but can be mind-boggling if you spend much time thinking about why they behave like this.
Last Thursday we had two, or should that be three, new arrivals.
The first two we have been waiting for for about six weeks. Our new cows!
We now have a black Dexter heifer, who is in calf and due next May, and a steer to keep her company until her calf arrives. They seem so small and delicate up to our other cows, even our last Dexters. They are more nervous of people then any of our last cows, but they will settle down. When they arrived in the lorry the people got out and were amazed at the view as it is all flat where they are, so even our field, which is on a hill, is something completely new to them. They seem friendly though, and stand behind the thistles watching us to see what we are doing or if we have bought anything worth them being interested in.
The other new arrival was my spinning wheel. I have finally given in, and not given up but put on hold spinning with a drop spindle which is very slow, and am now the proud owner of a Louet S15. (thank you mother.) It took me a while to get the hang of spinning on it but, touch wood, it seems to be going ok. I have just ran out of wool now to spin!
It is much faster then using a drop spindle, and it seems much easier to get a more even thread.
Next years seed catalogues have started to arrive, including the potato one and even though our home grown potatoes were basically a waste of time and an even bigger waste of money this year, I am still planning on trying them again next year.
The difficulty is deciding what to grow, and being rational about it. Just from flicking through the catalogue I have found two collections or specials that I want, one of them being the Mimi that ended up growing really slowly and then got blight or drowned in grass so we didn’t get any at all of the verity.
And the ‘specials’ are on top of the first early, second early, early main and main verity that I feel I should grow, I have still not picked out verities but if I grow one from each then I can see which does best, sweet potato and pink fur apple.
I don’t want to grow to many, but I don’t want to grow to few… five Mimi tubers sounds far too few, but is twenty far too many? And I don’t know if to go for old verities like I did this year, or more modern ones that might do better. I like the idea of growing old verities but if they don’t do any thing then what is the point? Should I carry on trying to grow them in sacks or try them in the ground?
I think there is a lot of thinking, planning and reading to be done
This last week as been a very busy week, and very busy with things away from home.
At the start of the week I went on a work retreat, we stayed on a camp site not far from Swansea called Three Cliffs Bay, it was a beautiful camp site that look right out across the beach and sea. The weather wasn’t brilliant but we still spent most of our time on the beach with a fire, cooking meals or making tea, while we held our ‘meetings’ and planned.
Then for the rest of the week I have been working at a festival in Tewkesbury called Awaken Your Senses, we have been working on the Abby lawns making willow lanterns in the sunshine. On Saturday night we stayed until 8.30pm with the lanterns hung in the trees for people to come and see, and they did look magical hanging from the branches of a massive copper beech that stands in the ground.
I have enjoyed working at the festivals in Tewkesbury over the summer, but it is so far to travel. I know many people drive for an hour and often longer, to get to and from work but that amount of traveling time added onto the working day really wouldn’t work for this kind of life style. Still it is OK for the odd one off.
After growing up on a smallholding surrounded by ancient woodlands filled with beauty, adventure and the freedom roam as far as my little legs could carry me I am trying to creat a slice of the good life and a special place in the world that I can call my own... Without having to let go of any of the magic of childhood or join the Rat Race to get there