Tag Archives: ducks

A tour of the garden in July

I managed to get out and take a few pictures in-between rain storms today. I thought you might like a look.

The borders are looking full and green. The roses, lavender and cosmos are flowering well.

The orchard is recovering after a hard winter. We were unsure whether the grass would come back. The chickens and ducks are enjoying the growth and if you look carefully you can see that it was actually long enough to mow a path down the middle.

Lots of change in the veg patch. That scarecrow is in desperate need of a makeover.

The spinach is already going to flower, the potatoes are cropping well and the courgettes are huge! The only thing not looking great is my runner beans.

Do you remember that I am trying to grow my runner beans along side my sweet peas? Well, so far, neither look great. They are about 50cm high and still have a long way to climb up those poles we put in! You can just see the purple sprouting broccoli plant down the middle. They are doing really well.

We have a new addition to the garden – a rather handsome rhubarb forcer.

Here’s hoping the sun shines…

Her x

How many chickens and ducks should we keep to provide eggs for a family of five?

We currently have 11 chickens and three ducks – they are lovely characters and have become family pets. Unlike most pets they are also useful as they provide us with a supply of lovely fresh eggs.

I often wonder if we have too many birds?

How many would be the perfect number to provide eggs for our family of five?

My hubby complains we don’t have enough and he would love to add more varieties to our collection.

An important consideration is how much space you have. Our chickens live in the orchard and share two houses. We try to keep the chickens and ducks separate at night but they will often tuck up together. In fact, the chickens love going to bed with the duck – maybe he is seen as a replacement cockerel?

The chickens and ducks live on grass and if we have too many we lose the grass and end with a mud bath. Fewer birds would ensure we always keep the grass.

Regular readers will know that I am always trying to use up eggs. We have a noticeable lack over winter and a huge glut in summer. We are not keen on pickled eggs so they all tend to get eaten fresh, baked or given away. I do sometimes sell a few at work.

I wonder if it makes economic sense to have all these extra eggs that I am trying to use, give away or sell. I make a little money but I don’t think I cover the cost of keeping them.

So, from our birds we are collecting between 8-10 eggs a day at the moment. We are eating lots but I could easily manage on less than this. As we lose hens we replace a few at a time to ensure we always have a mixed age range. This helps keep up the supply of eggs. I am wondering about not replacing any for a while so they naturally reduce their numbers.

I think 4-6 eggs a day would be more than enough. That’s 28-42 a week! I could still provide some for family and friends but at a more manageable level.

So less birds would mean fewer eggs, less cost of keeping them, less mess, less wear and tear on the garden and less cleaning out!

I think I just have to persuade the Hubby!

Her x

My top ten ways to use up extra eggs

There are times in the year when we seem to be drowning in eggs. As we are currently collecting approx. 70 eggs a week, I have had to be creative in how I deal with them.  Over winter we hardly eat eggs as I am not keen on buying them and it gives us an egg-free break! Also, our eggs are just so lovely, the shop-bought ones just don’t match up.

I hope this list may supply some ideas if you are also in the same situation. I would love to hear any further tips that you have.

1. Take some into your place of work and offer them for sale.

I sell mine for £1 for six. People are always keen to buy them as they are much better than shop-bought eggs.  I ask people to save egg boxes for me but have been known to give people eggs in an Easter egg box, old Lego boxes and carrier bags.

2. Give them as gifts.

They make a great give if you pop round to a friend’s house for coffee. They look great in an ordinary cardboard box tied up with a piece of ribbon. They are always gratefully received. I have even donated eggs to the school pledge auction – they sold really well!

3. Supply friends & family.

Ask friends and family members if they would like a regular supply of eggs. As we don’t always have eggs over winter, I find family are always understanding that you can’t supply regularly. My mother enjoys collecting her own eggs every week when she comes round to look after the children.

4. Plan eggs into the weekly menu.

Try to have at least one egg based main meal during the week. This could be tortilla, quiche or omelette.  This is economical as we have eggs in already, a great way to use up leftovers (anything can go in a tortilla!), and saves on shopping.

5. Encourage the children to eat more eggs.

In our house the littlest member is currently proclaiming that she only likes the white of eggs. I still give her eggs. She has hard-boiled egg white and the others eat her yolk. She does like egg when the yolk and white are mixed together. Eggy bread is a massive hit along with cheese quiche and cheese or chorizo omelette.

6. Make eggs a breakfast option.

We usually have eggs for weekend family breakfasts. This will usually take the form of eggy bread or poached eggs on toast – little girl has poached egg white on toast!

7. Bake cakes.

I usually bake every week. I like a bit hearty sponge as it uses lots of eggs!I find varying the after school snack option keeps the children interested. A piece of fruit and a slice of cake usually keep them going until tea time! All family celebration cakes are homemade. I have even baked cakes for fundraisers and as prizes for fundraising raffles.

Meringues are a great favourite. Easy to make and experiment with. A meringue making session is a wonderful activity for children.

8. Add eggs to salads.

Hubby often takes a salad to work.  This is currently made up of salad from our garden, leftovers from dinner and a hard-boiled egg! It adds protein and keeps you fuller for longer. I boil up a batch of hard-boiled eggs and keep them ready in the fridge. I try to use the older eggs for boiling as it’s really tricky to peel boiled fresh eggs.

9. Buy an egg slicer.

These are funny little gadgets, I picked mine up at a vintage fair. It’s from the 1970s, made from melamine and is bright orange. It hs multiple pieces of cheese wire that slice the eggs into about 10 neat slices. This greatly improves presentation and thus the chances of family members eating more eggs. It also is a great way to only provide the littlest family member with just egg white!

10. Offer hard-boiled eggs as a side order with  meals.

It may not make up the main meal but a side order of hard-boiled egg is usually offered alongside baked potatoes, pesto pasta, tomato pasta, salads, sandwiches and pittas.

I hope someone finds this useful!

Her x

Chocolate jubilee birthday cake

I made a cake this weekend for my brother-in-law’s birthday. He loves chocolate so the flavour was sorted, I just had to decide how to decorate it. I felt inspired my the recent jubilee celebrations and decided to go for a Union Jack. Some red, white and blue M&M’s on offer at the local supermarket sealed the deal.

I had two little helpers (both the girls) and we were all really pleased with the result.

 

 

The peanut M&M’s are stuck on nicely with chocolate ganache (150ml double cream heated with 150g of chocolate). The ganache makes a good (and tasty) coating for the cake. The cake is edged with Cadbury’s chocolate fingers and finished with some red ribbon.

The children enjoyed copying a picture of the Union Jack – a bit like painting by numbers! I would recommend this method of cake decorating.

 

 

The cake itself is a duck egg sponge. I am always looking for ways to use up my eggs and making huge sponge cakes can easily take 6-8 eggs.

In fact I will be posting more about my egg mountain later this week.

Her x

Nothing is safe from the chickens if they can reach it!

I caught my naughty chickens stripping the leaves off the autumn raspberry bushes this week. They stick there heads right through the fence and tear off the leaves.

Some of the bushes are stripped bare. I just need the warm weather to make the raspberries grow faster than the chickens can eat the leaves.

I have tried putting things along the bottom of the fence to stop them but they are crafty little things and can jump very well. They can’t jump into the veggie patch as we clipped their wings to stop them eating everything we grow!

I will keep a close eye on this!

Her x

Pros and cons of cutting grass in the dark

We’ve been away for the weekend and have come back to the garden looking like a miniature jungle. It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been gone for 48 hours; the grass is about six inches longer in places, and the dandelions are in full bloom, ready to spread their nasty little seeds all over the veg patch.

So, having survived the Monday in the office after a tiring weekend, read to the girls, waited for the boy to come back from cubs, and finally persuaded the little one that it’s OK to go to sleep, even when it’s still light, I headed out into the garden.

Now, from previous pictures, you will have noticed that we have quite a bit of grass in our garden. The chickens and ducks do their best to keep the grass short in their area, but even that needs a going-over, even if it’s just to vacuum up their messes. In all, I reckon I can get the grass cut in about an hour, maybe a little more. Which, when you’re starting out at 8.30 or there abouts, doesn’t really leave much light. So, here are my pros and cons to help all future mowers in the dark.

Pros:

  • After eight hours in meetings, it’s great to get outdoors and achieve something useful
  • It’s great to know that, come the weekend, the lawn will be done and I’ll be free to do more interesting jobs in the garden
  • The kids will be able to play in the garden tomorrow and we’ll know that there won’t be any incidents with dog poo that is hidden in the long grass.

Cons:

  • After eight hours in meetings, no matter how good the idea seems at first, it’s bloody tiring getting outdoors and trying to achieve something
  • It’s impossible to see when you’re going wonky or missing tufts of grass. I never have ‘Wembley stripes’ in the lawn, but I could easily end up spending time fixing ‘messes’ over the weekend.
  • It is impossible to see dog poo that is hidden in the long grass in the near dark. It smells particularly bad when ‘strimmed’
  • Risk of serious injury due to operator error enhanced significantly. My toe hurts.
  • Ducks are irrationally excited by presence of grass clippings in their area before bedtime. They needed chasing to get them into their house.

It’s dark now, so this post is going to have to wait until tomorrow for a picture – only then will I know whether I’ve managed to achieve something like a Wembley turf, or a wonky stubble patch instead.

Him

PS. here’s the result….

Not quite Wembley

Not quite Wembley

When the garden gate is left open…the chickens will feast!

My seven year old son left the gate open to the vegetable garden this week. It was a mistake that was discovered about six hours later, unfortunately,  after the chickens and ducks had been on a veggie visit…

The veggie patch was beginning to take shape and I was pleased with the progress; the tiny plants were beginning to peak through the soil.  They are no more. The chickens and ducks had a wonderful afternoon scratching, digging, pecking and dust-bathing.

The baby salad leaves that were peaking through have gone, the broad bean seedlings have gone, and my spinach and lettuce plants protected by the bottle cloches just did not have enough protection against the mighty chickens.

All that was left was a bare patch…

They all looked very pleased with themselves as I looked at their afternoon’s work. The scratching and soil-turning skills that I had been delighted with when they were helping clear a patch of land for flowers had been deployed on my beautiful veggie garden.

At least the greenhouse door was shut! That devestation would of probably made me cry.

There was nothing for it but to lecture the kids (again) on keeping the gate shut, fix the damage in the veggie patch and look forward to the eggs that the chickens and ducks would be laying following their nutritious feast.

A few plants were past saving. My only surviving purple sprouting broccoli plant for one.  I will be surprised if it manages to put on enough growth to give me another picking. It was looking so good.

At least it was early in the seaon. The lesson has hopefully been learned over the loss of a few plants rather than a whole season’s growth – like last year!

Her x

😦