Thursday, 9 October 2014

High jinks in the hen house

We have two new chickens. The old girls are getting a little lazy in the laying department, and with winter coming, we want to ensure a steady supply of eggs. The old girls are over two years old, and lay 8-10 eggs a week. They used to lay every day, and as we supply Dad with eggs, this just isn't enough, especially if I bake at the weekends.

So off we went to Surrey Poultry, armed with the old cat box, to catch ourselves a couple of point-of-lay chickens, around 18 weeks old. We hadn't realised just how small they were next to the older hens. We were warned about the pecking order and monitored the introductions. The new girls seemed very happy, eating and drinking, although watching out for the old girls, with their large, fierce-looking red waffles and combs.

The days are fine, amicable. Every hen gets enough to eat and drink. The old girls are showing the young ones how it is done with respect to egg-laying. I don't think it will be long before Bluebelle lays her first egg.

Bluebelle exploring her new home
Speckled Maran
Old girls, Specky and Ginger - plotting

The Boxer dogs have been intrigued by the new arrivals, perhaps a little too interested for my liking. Nevertheless, it is mostly harmless. We call it 'two new channels of Boxer dog TV'.

Roosting time is a different story, however. The roosting instinct is strong, even in domestic chickens. Come sundown, the hens form an orderly queue, up the ladder into the hen house. So far, so good. Then, the large speckled Maran starts to peck the young ones. First Bluebelle, then the Copper Black come flying back out the house. Bluebelle had a close encounter with two Boxer dogs on the first night, and now stands her ground. Blackie has taken to leaping/flying up to the roof of the house, even with clipped wings. Of course, it is safe there, but hardly warm or dry. She has also been on the receiving end of curious Boxer dog noses, but still seems to prefer to take her chances rather than sleep in the hen house with Specky. 

So we now have an evening ritual. The big dog barks to let me know that the black chicken is on the roof. I throw a towel over her, and gently put her back in the house. I reprimand Specky when she tries to peck Blacky. I close the door, making it dark. All is quiet, until first light.

I'm hoping that things will settle down, although it is almost two weeks since the new arrivals, and it is exhausting being on chicken duty at dusk and dawn. Any tips, chicken-people?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Wild dog Wednesday

Friday, 29 August 2014

Whatever happened to community?

We used to live in Farncombe, sandwiched between Guildford and Godalming in the beautiful Surrey Hills. Farncombe is euphemistically described as a 'village' but it is actually a commuter hub, serving those who zip up and down the Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo South West Trains line. Some stop at Guildford, some at Haslemere, most go all the way. Almost all the commuters leave Farncombe for the day, returning after dark. They don't shop, bank or use the Post Office in Farncombe. The Indian restaurant and take-aways are popular. They certainly don't consider themselves to be part of the community of Farncombe. 

Last week, I did a quick shop in the Co-Op in Farncombe. It is a lovely shop, recently refurbished, with a good selection of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as quality meat and bakery products. The staff are friendly and familiar, even though we moved away eight years ago. I also popped into the Post Office, dropped off repairs for Mr B at the tailor, got the Boxers' chewy worming tablets at the vet, picked up a prescription at the pharmacy. Then because it was a lovely day, I browsed in the Debra shop.

My Dad still lives in Farncombe, and on that sunny Wednesday, it seemed as though only people over 70 live there. It was very quiet. There was no hustle and bustle. The streets are lined with parked cars, which I presume belong to commuters. There are boarded up shops - some have been unoccupied for at least 10 years. Farncombe seems to have been forgotten by development and investment. I admire those businesses which remain - I wish I could support them all, but I fear it will take more than my support alone to keep them all solvent.

Three months ago, I wrote to the Godalming and Farncombe Neighbourhood Planning (GOFARNP) forum. My ideas were mainly focused on the role of the Farncombe Day Centre in the community, but there is no doubt that more work needs to be done to bring together businesses and residents, visitors, church-goers and commuters, to better understand their needs, how they can help each other and support the future of the Farncombe community.

Councillor Steve Cosser, you have been very supportive of initiatives in Farncombe and of the Farncombe Day Centre. The Staycation Family Fete in August was fantastic. Please help to stop the rot in Farncombe. Please help to bring back independent businesses in Farncombe. Please help to foster community spirit in Farncombe, for future generations.

I have written about Farncombe, because I care about it, but I'm sure that Farncombe is not alone in being neglected. Bring back community.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

I agree with Kate Bush

Enjoy the moment. Just because you didn't take a photo or video, it doesn't mean it didn't happen. On our recent trip to South Africa, we were privileged to see the glorious wildlife in the animals' natural surroundings. Sometimes, we were so close we could hear the cheetah purring, the lions farting and zebras' tummies rumbling. Yes, the photographs were amazing, but just being there, in the moment, at one with the animals, was incredible.

Some of our fellow travellers were quite frustrated that the ranger didn't get closer, or on the right side of the animal, for that perfect photograph. The ranger explained that he didn't want to disturb the animals, or their young, or damage the environment. Nonetheless, you could hear the shutters going, sometimes up to 50 times for one shot. 

One evening, on our way back to camp, the spotlight on the vehicle picked up a pair of eyes in the darkness. We sat, transfixed, watching a very pregnant hyena tear apart her prey - a wildebeest. Photos were impossible, although we did get a short video. Instead, we watched, and listened in the darkness. Incredible.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Furry dog mother

Every dog should have one. The Boxers don't know they have one, but it makes it much easier for us to go away, knowing that the boarding kennels have someone to turn to, if for some reason, the dogs need to leave kennels, or if we are delayed on our return.

My Dad acts as their 'next of kin'. Our will stipulates an allowance for the dogs' upkeep and rehoming, but there is something reassuring about asking a good friend to be their furry dog mother. We hope she is never needed.

What arrangements have you made for your pets while you are away this summer? Do you find it difficult to leave your furry 'babies' at home?

Monday, 4 August 2014

A love affair

I have recently started a love affair. For one glorious week in June, Mr B and I were ensconced in the most romantic hotel in the south of France. We loved it, and we loved each other. The weather, the beach, the food, the play, the rest, the languid pace of life. After 22 years of marriage, it felt like a new beginning, a love affair with each other, and a new love affair with the south of France.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Dog dramas

We seem to have our fair share of drama. Not for nothing that Boxers are known as the clowns of the dog world. Drama Queens more like. And like any good story, dramas come in three's.

1. Ooof! The collar broke. Now that was inconvenient, especially as Brin was at full pull towards a lovely young lady in the woods. Snap, and the collar came off. Ooof, down I went, still holding the lead, into the undergrowth. Slightly winded, a bit embarrassed, I got up, tied Zozi to a tree and went to retrieve my 40kg Boxer dog. Luckily, the young lady was very sensible and was standing very patiently shaking his paw and patting his head. Phew! Dogs collected, I showed her how good Boxer dogs should behave and had them sit for a treat. Impressive!

2. The one where Zozi gets her foot caught in the lead. No, no, it was much more dramatic than that. You know the soft bit of a dog's paw, between the toes? Now, pinch it with the metal clip of the lead. I don't know how it happened but when the dog wouldn't jump out of the car, I knew something was wrong. Of course, Mr B was over at the neighbour, helping her put the roof box on! They were both most surprised when I drove the 4x4 at high speed towards them, Brin looking most alarmed in the front seat, where I had strapped in him rather than upset Zozi in the back. Mr B, the doctor, had it sorted in seconds. I really shouldn't have to deal with dramas like this.

3. I knew I should have brought a tissue with me. I'm sure none of you will admit to this, and maybe it has never happened to you, but the Boxers are dab hands at getting a bit of poo stuck. I'm sure its because they eat stuff they shouldn't. Every now and again, a routine squat in the woods will become a mad, frantic, bottom-rubbing frenzy. And the only way I can save the walk and stop the other dog going mental too, is to grab the offending stuck poo and swiftly pull it out. Now you see why a tissue is handy.

Dog dramas! What dog dramas?