Saturday, 31 March 2018

Baskets

I love baskets.....



When my friend Caroline first started me thinking about baskets a couple of weeks ago, I had not given the topic much thought.  However most days since I have had little snippets come back to me.

It is most probable that my love for 'woven' things dates back to my childhood.  In the heat of the afternoon, the coolest places to sit and read or chat would be on the shady verandas on rattan chairs.  The older aunties and uncles we visited who had the old colonial style houses had wonderful lounger style mahogany chairs with finely woven cane work seats.  I remember one very old chair which had pull out leg rests and slots to hold drinks in the arms.  Almost everyone had them.  All hand made in small workshops and almost all different.  Visiting people was the main activity and many homes around the Island hosted get togethers where whole families would gather together, and I always was interested in the furnishings.  Floors too had woven mats in places.

In Rodrigues and Mauritius the hand made softer palm leaf basket was the standard.  We had little baskets with lids made from this soft material  in which we took our packed lunches to school. These kept the contents cool and kept the flies away, the sandwiches wrapped in a cotton serviette.   This was before the days of plastic and clingfilm.  A leather satchel for the books and 'panier tiffin' for lunch.  Every school girl and boy had one.  Larger ones were used for shopping and would double up to hold all the beach necessities. 

Some of my baskets hang from a rail in the utility room.  The middle square basket is well over 35 years old now and bought from a willow weaver in Totnes who had his shop just outside the old Castle Walls.  We were on holiday in the area, and my son who was just a little boy was amazed when the weaver jumped on the basket just to prove how strong it was!  As well as being used for harvesting fruit, and shopping...it has been used several times every week to convey wet washing to the line and then bring back the washing when it is dry.  To keep them nicely tight from time to time I leave then in light rain for an hour or so.  Then bring them back in to air dry.  The weaver wherever he is should breath safely the basket has outlived its 25 years guarantee! 

I've been planning a replacement at least for the washing role of the basket and have my eye on a similar one made from white willow.  I spied a lovely one during our visit to Coates Willow and Wetland Center, made from white Willow.

I've been hankering after a carpet beater for years......


Last time I had something to beat...I think it was just a rug, I used my tennis racket!  I just popped into the Wells Trading Post which sadly is closing down and bought this yesterday.  They had very little left and this one had my name on it!

Even the eggs are kept in a little basket...Happy Easter everyone.



Earliest Strawberry Jam

We are both self confessed preserve lovers.  Maybe we have different tastes...he loves Strawberry and Blackcurrant the most, I like all others....I particularly love chutneys and pickles, and have even set up another blog to talk about them.  

Mr S has had to revert to shop bought strawberry and blackcurrant preserves and has admitted that even my least successful batches are way better than the best we have bought.  When I walked into our local supermarket yesterday I was taken by a 1Kg 'crate' of strawberries.  They were the large imported ones but very fresh and in perfect condition.  Last year I made some successful batches using locally grown strawberries...but needs must.


Just in case you want to read what in on the Little Heart that my friend Jayne gave me it is

Happiness is time spent in the Kitchen...

Of course I also love to read, garden, spend time with friends, gallivant etc etc...

Monday, 26 March 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Sun and shade

A plant what does well in the shade, and another one that does well in the sun. are together in my little vase.  I love a little shade in the garden, and am planning to create some shade in order to grow some of my favourite shade loving plants.  I was going to use three stems of wild plum which my little Grand daughter had picked yesterday, however the blooms are a little worse for their long journey in the boot box in the car.

The three stems of Corydalis solida Beth Evans is the mainstay of the small arrangement. This is one of two corydalis I bought at the Bishops's Palace.  I like to see them in flower, and this one was a good pink colour.  The name Corydalis comes from korydalis, meaning crested lark in Greek– on account of the shape of the flowers. 



I love the foliage of corydalis but have not cut any leaves as they are needed to feed up the bulb.  This past week I have been reading The Knot by Jane Borodale.  The Knot alludes to the knot garden being planted by Henry Lyte of Lytes Cary Manor.

"The Honeysuckle is offering up tiers of new greyish-purple leaves along its stem."

When I read this last weekend, I picked my way through th snow to the honeysuckle and indeed it had just started to shoot.  This Monday the purple leaves are already unfurling after two days of sunny weather.

Cathy who hosts this meme is 'testing' us with ideas coming thick and fast.  Do go over to her post then if you have a vase why not join in too.

As a' postscript' here is one of the Corydalis for foliage:  Blue Heron first seen in Alison's Garden last autumn where just the leaves were sufficient for me to stop and admire it.  This is number one on my list.

                                 
I am hoping that Alison will feature its blooms soon as they are the most magnificent blue.....

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Morville Year by Katherine Swift

A couple of year ago my gardening friend Liz lent me a lovely book.  It was The Book of Hours by Katherine Swift.  I was going to order myself a copy,  but ended up buying her other book:  The Morville Year.  Its been unopened on my shelf for nearly two years.  It was only when I was holed up during the dire weather over the last couple of months, that I searched the shelves.




I am reading it in sequence, and read an entry or two most days.  I laugh and empathise, write notes in the margin, and go back and reread beautifully crafted descriptions of weather, plants, friends etc.  I look up plants she mentions, and make notes...and dream...but my little patch is far too small to accommodate all my wishes.  Before the garden springs into growth, there is time to read and dream of possibilities.

Crocus Spring Beauty

At the Bishop's Palace Rare Plant Fair I found a little pot of real beauties.  They were tightly in bud when I first saw them, with the long dark plum outer petals, lilac on the inside, are striped and edged with a creamy white,  giving a feathery look similar to some tulips.


The inner three petals are a pale lilac.  The fine green leaves have a white central stripe.
The deep golden anthers contrast well.  The flowers last two or three days and each corn appears to be yielding several blooms in succession.


It certainly lives up to its name!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sunflower Sourdough twice

Having completed in principle one tour through all the sourdough recipes in Jane Mason's book: Perfecting Sourdough, we are now baking different recipes suggested up by members of the Facebook group.

I last baked and posted about the Sourdough Sunflower breads last July when it was particularly hot.  Today its been snowing, and since we were not venturing from home, this weekend has been one of baking, reading, research etc.

I set the sunflower seeds to soak, and the mother sourdough to prove overnight with a feed as per the recipe.  We have been discussing how to get a much tighter loaf, and various ways of getting a better shape on our loaves.  I also discussed bread making with my friend Marie-Claire whom I initially taught how to make bread.  Now with her many self taught bread making skills, we like to chat over the phone about bread matters.  We discussed the very helpful shaping techniques on u tube and I found Bake with Jack which she recommended as being fun to watch and follow.

I was not quite on the ball on Friday...weighed twice the amount of sunflower seeds, was busy moving plants around to more protected zones in anticipation of the snow...and forgot to reduce the temperature after the initial hot blast at 230 C.  I only moved the loaves round, but I managed to whip the loaves out after 25 minutes.  The crust is lovely dark and very tasty and because there is such a high hydration, the bread is not at all dry.

 As usual I like to bake two smaller loaves.

The same recipe was followed today...but I tried the loaf baked in my stainless steel roasting dish.  This technique works really well for me....It gives a really good and even rise and colour...I heat the roasting tin in the oven, and follow all the same temperatures, but remove the lid or rather the base, since I use the tin upside down, for the final 15 minutes baking.  I have even seen an old pyrex dish used to bake bread in.  Next time I am going to try using my stainless steel mixing bowl as the covering dome.  My shelves can only accommodate one covered dish on one level with another shelf with just the oven tray.  I think the oval loaf is my best sourdough so far.

The freezer is now well stocked up with bread...sofor the next week or so when the weather improves I shall have bread, and with weather improving time to go out and tackle the garden and continue with gloss painting!

Masala Buns





Yesterday's bun baking jamboree in the snow included Masala Buns from the Book of Buns.  This recipe was amongst the last ones set in February 2017...and just over a year later I'm finally baking it.  Mr S really thought the smell of the filling was wonderful.  With spices and chilli, lunch with a bun each and other tasty morsels will help warm us up...well the house is rather cosy, but a nice hot spicy bun is just the ticket!


Isn't it a coincidence that both the recipes have a mixture of black and white sesame seeds. I chose half wholemeal and half white wheat flour.  Now that I have followed the recipe exactly, next time, I shall allow my inspiration to make little tweeks: maybe nigella seeds on the top, and fresh coriander in the filling, perhaps pumkin instead of potato in the filling.  There are other recipes in the Book such as Khara Buns and Kahvalti with nigella and feta...all rather delicious savoury buns which on rebaking I have fused the ingredients and come up with many permutations.

Bun Muska and Snow

Having one or two new bakers join the Facebook page baking through Jane Mason's Book of Buns, and displaying their bakes is a good way of inspiring me, so out came  one of my favourite baking books.

It was rather cold yesterday and starting to snow.  I had planned to walk up to Wells Market and buy my usual dozen eggs, but put off the outing.  With just four eggs left after breakfast, I went through the book and chose Bun Muska to bake again, and took out some left over frozen egg wash from the freezer to thaw.  

It was March 2016 when I last baked these.  I wish I had read that post first...then I would have been reminded to coat the bottoms with seeds too!



Looking out on a snowy scene this morning, what nicer than fresh coffee  Bun Muska warmed in the oven, and recently made rhubarb jam, for breakfast.


As usual six went into the freezer yesterday evening, with two reserved for breakfast this morning.


Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Knot by Jane Borodale

Having visited Lytes Cary Manor a lovely National Trust Property not far away, and loving historical novels, I put this book on my long list of reserves at the Library.  It finally came in this week.   I've only read up to page 74, and already I am completely enthralled by Jane Borodale's style and the amount of research is evident right from the start.

Being a keen gardener and enjoying the many aspects of the process of setting out a new garden, choosing and collecting plants, Henry Lyte's research for his book, and his relationship with his gardener, the buying of seed, and visit to Wells to pick up rooted cuttings of gillyflowers from Mistress Shaw, is so touchingly described.

The novel has a great sense of place, and feeling for the area, with a variety of interesting characters such the blind basket maker Widow Hodges weaving the local withies into baskets.  I want to read and reread passages.....there is suspense too.



I shall want to revisit Lytes Cary Manor very soon, and read Jane Borodale's first book too....

Monday, 12 March 2018

New Back Garden

It a frustrating time for me...I would like to be planting, but we have a lot more earth moving, planning and laying out to do.   Plants which I brought are in pots or were temporarily positioned in the first quarter of the garden prepared early last year.








These was very little in the garden but at the end a clump of Mahonia, which when in flower buzzes with bees.  It will be just a few weeks till then.


Meanwhile the bulbs which I plant under shrubs in tubs are coming out with the sun.



And its hard to resist spending pocket money on pretty primulas.



I have had this little primrose for many years and it has moved with me to its sixth garden.  I found the first plant in the bottom of a hedgerow growing alongside standard wild primroses in South Marston where I had an allotment and made friends with a farmer close by.  It performs right at the start of spring and makes a delightful addition beneath shrubs.



A couple of years ago I noticed growing in another part of the garden a similar one but with a bit of a variation.  The leaves were more rolled and behind the primrose flower petals, a larger calyx somewhat separate from the petals is more prominent and ruffled.  We had lots of ants and gravel areas in the garden, where they may have dropped seeds, which then germinated and new plants flourished.  I was pleased to see that this variation was amongst the ones I brought down to Somerset.


If any readers would like to contribute more explanations, please do leave your comments on this change.



In a Vase on Monday - Not at all

Its not at all right, but I feel in so many ways that this is a metaphor for where I am just now.  Not really at home but hanging on there......

I was in the strangest of moods yesterday.  I had had a lovely morning visiting the Rare Plants Fair at the Bishop's Palace  where I acquired a few gems for the garden, and visiting the Rocky Mountain Nursery for my climbing Iceberg rose, and a few other items.  On my return home a heavy and immovable malaise of spirit fell upon me......I could find no reason, no explanation....

Waking up this morning I did feel a little better, but was not going to post anything.  I am not going to listen to the news, I shall metaphorically wrap myself up in moss.  Garden, read, knit and commune with nature, all those activities which sooth the soul.

I looked across at the Crassula growing out of its little moss egg.  This Kokedama was brought over by Sandra when she and Alison came over for a Sunday of Snowdrops.



It may not be all right...there is no vase, it is not my creation, except for the staging on some of my stone collection. 

However thinking back on the lovely day with friends made through In a Vase on Monday, it has made me count my blessings.....

Spring is still under wraps with Kathy..and she has captured that feeling beautifully with her arrangement...Do go and see how she has captured the spirit of the day.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Dwarf Forsythia

Last week for the Vase on Monday post, the little sprig of Forsythia attracted a few comments.  Here is the plant which is growing in the same pot since 2013.  Photographed yesterday when the sun came out briefly which opened the little crocuses at its base.  Later in the summer and into autumn the leaves have a purplish tinge.  


In 2015 it had really established itself well and was flowering very nicely on my previous patio.  This year I shall be repotting it or moving it into the new garden.



I bought the plant in either 2012 or 2013 from our Kenilworth in Bloom plant sale.  Janet was propagating wonderful plants which were in her garden, and this raised funds for us to plough into all the troughs and fund the summer competition and Autumn Prize presentation evenings. Each year I would look out for several ones to try out in the garden, and often they were ones which were hard to source from local nurseries.

We had bees and large bumble bees flying around the garden and visiting these early blooming plants.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Exhibition of fossils discovered in Street

A  Gardening Club friend had posted a link to the exhibition of 'Sea Dragons of Street' on Facebook.  I veer towards being an old fossil these days, and in an effort to combat this, I am trying to expand my interest and skills such as getting a grip with Facebook and websites.

I only joined a local gardening club a few months ago,  and it won't be a surprise to my friends that within a couple of months of joining the Henton and District Gardening Club, I had chatted about my previous club inputs and was soon invited to help out with my suggestions of a web presence.

 Being the friendly sort they are, a group of us met within days to discuss and then build the website. This was made possible with the technical, and practical help from the partner of a member, since made an Honorary Member, of course.  Since then I have learnt to manage the site and upload pictures and articles etc, and I also set up the Facebook Page which only members of the club may access and input to.

Through the exhibition I learnt that a large range of fossils had been discovered in Street when it was being developed by the Clark family for their shoe business.  As land was being cleared for housing and quarrying for stone took place, fossils were being uncovered.  They do rival those found around Lyme Bay where the same Jurassic stone is also found.

Here are a few of my pictures from the exhibition...











The Ichthyosaur fossils were amazing.  There were two massive one not under glass but in large fragments on tables open to view.

Perhaps my favourite fossils was this one where the lustrous shine on the shells was still vibrant, with several colours catching my eye.  I even liked the old labels, and I wonder when they were written.  The collection was gathered together by Alfred Gillect, and collection notes give an interesting description of how this collection formed the basis of geological museum set up in Crispin Hall, Street in 1887.


This got me back to thinking about Tracy Chevalier's Book Remarkable Creatures, which was such a enjoyable read a few years back, the many visits to the Natural History Museum when I was little,  my Open University Degree Modules on Geology, and my dusting book shelves and reading my Father's old copy of Darwin's The Origin of Species when I was about twelve years old.  The thread of fossils goes back a long way....

Butterflies are emerging less that five days after the snows have melted

Sitting down in the conservatory yesterday, having just finished our lunch, we had a few moments of the sweetest pleasure: we watched butterflies on the wing.  A couple of large yellow butterflies were slowly flying in the garden around the edge of the densely leaved evergreen Holm oak which grows on the other side of our garden wall.  They are so distinctive with their shape and colour, and early flights.

I have made the link to Butterfly Conservation .The male  brimstones  had just emerged from hybernation.  They seemed sometimes almost suspended in the air and then they suddenly darted off.  For perhaps two minutes we were captivated.  They are a real harbinger of Spring, and I read that the word butterfly may well owe its origin to the buttery colour of the Brimstone, and then Brimstone is also the name for sulphur which is yellow.  Yellow butterflies certainly stand out against the green and silver leaf canopy.

This siting is about five weeks earlier than the last time in  mid April 2013 when I last wrote about Pulmanarias in the my old garden, when I made a note about first seeing Brimstone butterflies.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Rosemary Sourdough Bread - Perfecting sourdough by Jane Mason

This is the last of the recipes in 'Perfecting Sourdough' in the long list set for the Facebook Page.  I have baked almost all of them, those I missed out were because we were moving or had the house totally upside down.  I kept this recipe to be the last one as I love the association of herbs and plants and Rosemary is for Remembrance, and the picture of this loaf is also repeated at the end of the book.

Both my wheat and rye sourdough starters are really reliable.  I refresh them every three weeks or so, and often use them to top up other standard yeast bakes I may be making.  This was one of the tips my fellow moderator Nigel.  Another trick I have tried at last with this loaf, was baking in a closed roasting tin...similar to using a dutch oven.

I have also learnt and understand how the dough feels when it has been sufficiently kneaded, seen how folding at intervals really does help the dough to stand up.  What I still feel lacking in confidence is the turning out and slashing.  Some times I feel confident and go ahead, if not, I just use baking tins...the bread tastes equally good.

I started the refreshment part of the starter mid morning, when I also set the raisins to soak in the remaining water together with the chopped rosemary from the garden.  This meant the water had taken on some of the sweetness of the raisins and the rosemary. 

By 6 pm the starter was bouncy and ready to go.  Before dinner I set to kneading the dough.  Not quite according to the instructions, but following Jane's technique from the book of buns, the fat was added after the initial 10 minutes, and then I folded the raisins and rosemary, before the bulk fermentation.

Last thing I divided the dough into two and set them in cloth lined bannetons, covered them with their 'shower caps', and left them in the cool kitchen.  By six the next morning, I had a peep and were they more or less ready...but I wasn't, so they went into the fridge.

As soon as I was properly awake and the oven hot enough, out came the first loaf from the fridge, it was very light and airy, and I was concerned that it may have been just a little too far gone. So I just brushed it with egg and didn't score it.  I'm pleased I used the Bannetons with their cloth liners as that made them easier to turn out.

I watched it rise, and decided to try the technique of baking the second loaf in a closed container.  I have an oval stainless steel roasting dish with a lid which I used.  I am so pleased that Jane Mason recently gave guidance on turning out the loaf onto a large sheet of baking parchment, then using the paper to manoeuvre it into the tin. 

Not actually being able to peer at the loaf rising through the window in the oven seemed disconcerting at first, so I was totally relieved when it was time to take off the lid for the final fifteen minutes of baking.  The loaf look marvelous, and felt really light when it was ready to be turned out and left to cool.  It felt lighter than the loaf baked on the baking sheet, even though it was bigger.  I put them on the scales and it was actually heavier but felt ligther and spongier in the hand.




We don't usually eat anything in-between meals, but I could not resist a slice when it was time for coffee, and Mr S definitely did not want to left out.  The aroma, taste and mouth feel were bliss.


Perfect with goat's cheese and grapes.  Lunch was just soup and fruit....


Some of the recipes I have now baked many times, as they are so easy.  My favourites are Do Good Loaf, Mixed grain Sourdough and all the ones based on Rye Starters particularly Finnish Rye.  The 100% wholewheat is amazing, and whenever I buy craft Stoneground flour, bought on my visits to mills, this is the one I use to really get the full flavour of the wheat.  Often I scale up the recipe to yield two or three loaves, which are either shared with friends or frozen.  With options within the recipes for different flours, sweeteners and fat, there are even several variations of most to be tried.

From starting in May 2016 I feel that my sourdough technique has really Improved...not perfect, I just 'knead to keep at it'!


Monday, 5 March 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Making the most of small offerings

Cathy has posted her vase within the snow..with some lovely winter offerings.  I am sure other contributors in difficulties will have made the effort, and then we have friends in warmer climates who will have beautiful selections of flowers and plants from their gardens, so do join their links from Cathy's page.

Until Sunday we have been housebound, except of a slow walk along the icy pavements.  We just had to get out and feel the air and listen to the bird song.  Luckily whilst the lock down lasted we have had much to entertain us in the way of tasks, reading and watching the birds, and getting on with jobs inside.

When we got to our local supermarket we were surprised to find it open, and managed to get a carton of our special milk, and a little fruit.  Virtually all the fresh produce had been sold and the supermarket was more empty that late on Christmas Eve!  We are being patient and understand that it will be several days before supplies get back to normal.

On Sunday when the snow started to melt and temperatures rise, I didn't hesitate to get out into the garden.  For one, pots had to be moved around:  precious plants had been moved from the front of the house into the garage, from the shed to the utility, and from the conservatory to the house, and they were all shuffled back to their usual overwintering positions.

A little peer over the little of the garden that is planted out, and the pots gave me very meager but non the less pretty offerings for my vase.


The twig is a piece of the Dwarf Forsythia which I had from my Kenilworth Plantwoman friend Janet.  This shrub has the loveliest of forms with branches that swoop and curve, and is less than 25cm high and in still in its pot into which it was first planted, along with species crocus and Ophoopogon planicsapus Nigrescens. I'm not sure of its particular name.

The delightful textured leaf with purple wash on its mid leaf vein and ruffled edges is Teucrium scorodonia 'crispum marginatum', which also is known as curly wood sage.  This plant came from Alsion C and the gift is being cherished.  It is a very tough little plant but cutting this shoot which grew slowly over the winter will ensure that the many smaller shoots will be encouraged to spring up as soon as the temperatures warm up.  At the Bishop's Palace a large round urn in the centre of formal garden is planted up with a mixture of curly wood sage and succulents, and when Alison C and I were admiring this plant last year, she offered me a little plant from her 'mother plant'.

The Primula stem has been saved from the hoard of slugs who are sure to emerge very hungry from their temporary freeze.  The plant was chosen for me from a selection of old Primulas at The Vyne by my little Grandaughter, several years ago.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Easily identified garden birds and some others

When you are sitting having your lunch there is always a cheeky robin who is ever so grateful for fresh water just after the snow melt.


It is still so cold but the sun is shining and there's time for even more washes


Even the Fieldfare is happy that more chopped apples have been put out.


But then we see an unusual shape in the distance and have to get out the binoculars.

Any ideas what this bird is?


We have pheasants strutting around as well as pigeons.  It caught a pigeon on the floor, flew off then came back to its view point.  Any suggestions please....

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Keeping Hens

Today on Facebook I was reminded by a childhood friend about my first memory of keeping Chickens.  Her father a hard working doctor just loved chickens and at one time had a pen of them in their garden.  Of course I was quite young then.  During the periods the family were away, I remember being on chicken duty, and having to see to water and grain each day.

I do remember clearly the incident  when a very large and strong cockerel went for a scab on my knee, and blood spurted out.  However this did not put me off and the next day, I went in with a bandaged knee, and one of our gardeners armed with a yard brush to steer Rico away.  There were other hens too but the image of Rico a large and beautifully feathered cockerel remained with me.

When my son was young I was looking for 'pet ideas' and settled on hens.   I realise that the urge to keep hens was for myself and started way back when I used to look after Uncle George's chickens.
I used to have an allotment in South Marston, and it is from there I became friends with a local farming family.  I learnt to look after hens etc...however, in the end I bought lovely Maran Eggs from Corinne each week, and we ended up with a dog instead!  If you know about Marans then you will know that they lay the darkest of darkest brown eggs...think chocolate!

Many years later, when I was looking for an interest when I was very busy working, it was suggested that I join The Cotswold Pheasant and Rare Breed Club.  I ended up choosing to keep a few Bantam Hens. 

I loved sitting in the garden early in the morning watching the hens, and would often have my morning cuppa very early before setting off for work.  The hens even recognised the sound of my car, even though there was a similar car further down the close.  David would shout out to me: "For goodness sake go and say hello to the hens, they are waiting by the back door for you".



The keeping of hens period was  back before the times I started this blog...and looking back over the old pictures,  found one shrub that I have to find room for in the new garden:  Rosa Canary Bird:  Such a pretty Spring Show....


We planned for the hens, and traveled around looking for arks, none have all the features we wanted, Mr S designed and built the hens a 'bespoke' dwelling.  It had two floors, with perches and nest box accessible from the outside, and easy to clean.  During the day when we were not at home the hens were kept in their house as we backed onto woods where Mr Renard could have sulked.  Yes that is one thing I learnt from the club, not to use the f word...but Mr Renard!


My first hens were a trio of Buff Rocks, and I named the Cockerel Rico after the one who pecked my knee.  Rico is short for cockorico..which is what french speaking Cockerels call instead of Cockadodledoo!  One of the hens was called Amber.  Mr S was worried about what the neighbours would say, and Rico had to go back to the breeders after the first weekend.  I wrote a letter of apology to all the neighbours with an explanation that Rico was being returned.  Despite their saying they liked the crowing, Mr S insisted he went back...it was still Spring and he did not think their tempers would last long once the days drew out.  Bantams despite their small size pack a mighty loud crow.

In exhange for Rico and quite an large additional sum I acquired an extra two black Australop hens.  Now this breed is meant not to go broody...but Jet, so maned on account of her more pointy tail, must have been the exception.  The other was named Ebony.  

One season I bought a mixed assortment of fertilized eggs for Jet to sit on.  Mr S built a seperate box, and true to her previous broody nature Jet made an excellent mother hen.



She was really patient waiting for remaining eggs to hatch...but I think they were barren.


Always corralling her chicks within hours she introduced them to different areas of the garden


One of their favourite patches was where the golden marjoram grew.


Even as the grew they had their own separate dust bath area


They loved roosting high up.  As it drew towards midsummer it became a game of hunt the hens before shutting them up each night.  For a few nights we gave up totally...but found them again the next morning very early at their feeders.  We did find out where they roosted...up on the stretchers of our large garden umbrella which we left open to offer shade to the junior's nest box.


The rest of the hens are in ecstasy here in their own dust bath area.


Neighbours and friends children loved to be amongst the very small hens, and we were on the afternoon walk paths of many locals who used to peer through the fence.  This was a little before the big back garden hen keeping revival and the development of plastic eglus, and many children had never seen hens and chicks.


Here are the hens coming to sit on my lap...you have to have them tame and used to being handled to show them.  Its a very good way to check them out.


All good things come to an end.  We did find a very home for them all, including the house, all the feed, oyster shells, feeders etc.  Its been great reminiscing with Mr S about this period in our lives.