Saturday, 30 August 2014

Seven Days - Holidays, Hounds, Harebells and Glaciers

So as always inspired by Jacqui, The Barefoot Crofter - here's the last seven days. As we got ourselves ready to set off on our holidays, the hounds packed up and left to visit their lovely Aunty C. Not only a chef extraordinaire probably the lady with the biggest heart I've ever met. I hear whilst Peedie left his bag (he's famous having been sponsored by a leading dog company before mind on.......) I know they've settled in well. Although life down south is proving to be a bit fragrant for Aunty C as the water change affects Peedies innards someat awful. So we went off on an adventure. As well as being a Rock God, TRG is a mountainer, I certainly know how to pick them eh? 
We headed for the alps and all things alpine. A revisit for TRG to his much loved mountains of holiday of his childhood. The mountains were indeed impressive we reached the 'Top of Europe' with its glaciers spilling over the mountain tops and alpine choughs eating out of your hands. On the top of one we even found a botanic garden with 600 species shrouded in mist. It seems mist happens a,lot in the high mountains, they seem to like their clouds close to hand rather than up in the air. 

I have to say I've never really been a fan of mountains, they're impressive and all that but they hurt my legs when I climb them. These mountains however were ingenious, they had trains and cable cars going up them. I certainly approve of that. They also have good fun names like Schynige Platte, which of course I instantly turned into 'Sniggle piggle'. My German is coming along quite nicely let me tell you.  Next time I'll pop in some photos of the actual mountains once I borrow them from TRG. I came home, as always from holidays with not much aside photos of flowers. But, I guess you'd expect that of me.
Campanula alpestris 
So we walked on ridges and around alpine lakes looking out to the Eiger. And, like the true flower person I claim to be I took photos of wee flowers like this bonnie alpine campanula.
Lobelia at Schyngge Platte. A great way to display a wee beauty in a small space or on a table outdoors.
And we took time to look bonnie lobelia's in jars at the cafe on top of the mountain. Lets be fair here just cos we're mountaineering, doesn't mean standards slip.
And just cos you might think we could have taken all these photos in a garden centre heres a shot from half way down the mountain in a train. A most sensible way to climb up very large Alps, I'd say. So we took our trusty cup for tea home to Scotland. Remembering all the fun train rides, glacier looking and flower spotting when away.
Home to lots of eggs and visitors looking after the hens. Lots of eggs and visitors can only mean one thing.
Of course it had to be a pavlova. So when TRG has given me access to the 'proper' alpine photos, I'll let you have a neb (look) at those. Until then, there's plenty pavlova left, grab a plate. Just don't mention it to the hounds, they're not back yet. Our little secret, right. And, its time for breakfast, perhaps a wee bit just to help get it finished!

Friday, 29 August 2014

I am not an organic gardener

Hello and how are you, I'm just back from my holidays and this is NOT the post I was going to write today. But, I'll delight you with all things Alpine later. I've had to 'hud me weeisht' today (keep quiet) on the subject of using herbicides, in order not to offend. The cars not even unpacked and I'm finding myself none too pleased with a few folks around me.  I was accused of being 'one of those organic types' today, I'm not, but I'm not a fan of taming the natural world either. Neither do I mind being labelled organic.  Whilst I am not an organic gardener (a hearty hello to all of you organic or not, its a personal choice after all), I don't especially regard sploshing the countryside and natural world outside my own garden with chemicals just to keep it tidy. So you'll excuse the enshewing midders, girns and pleeps (moans and groans) from me today.

When first in my company a few things might come as a surprise. I'm short, not quite microscopic but its apparent I'll not filling the top shelves in my cupboards anytime soon. I think in Scots and I speak in English, we moved around a lot as kids (father in forces) so that's just how it is. I'm also not a vegetarian, my passion for a sustainable life is fiery, tempered with a love for the environment, but my choice is to eat meat. I don't make my choices lightly but neither do I preach to others.  I'm also not an organic gardener. 

The latter generally predisposes furrowed brows from some folks and downright outrage from others. You love nature they cry. I do dear heart I reply. You should be organic they shout. I'm not, I say. I'm a natural gardener, I'm not organic and I use the right methods in my garden to suit my needs at any given time. As a last resort I'll use a chemical (fertilisers, weedkillers, anti-fungals etc), but its a last resort, its a tool and not one to be used lightly in my opinion. Yes I'm one of 'those' gardeners, the kind that are careful but know when things need done a certain way.  No, I'm not organic. I've chickens to eat slugs rather than pellets, that's my choice. For me its still a method but its more natural. My choice.

Normally I temper my views to suit any situation. Normally. Like most folks I'm blessed with a large large mouth and opinions to boot, but I'm mindful and kind, manners cost nothing after all. However, whilst I'm not an organic gardener, I see no circumstances in which nature should be tamed, combed and 'tidied' unless necessary. Our 'wild' spaces between the nooks and crannies of life, of food production, silage fields, towns, villages, and human life are very few and far between. How many 'natural' places around you are there, around me, not many I have to say. But, we (or them if we'd like to take a side) seem to be constantly trying to 'tidy' the wild bits. Just like the unnecessary mowing of verges, which also gets me insanely mad. One day a frenzy of colours and butterflies, bees and life. The next a short mown green desert.  Wild spaces and the general natural world, are not gardens.  What a futile waste of energy taming nature really is. Nature normally wins. Where it doesn't, lifes never the same again.

Weedkillers, like all chemicals I think have their place. Mostly I like them on the shelves of the DIY store, untouched by human hand until absolutely necessary. I have no issue using them if needed. And, the 'if' in question is in neon lights, bold, prefixed with a large warning and flashing, just for effect. So why am I spouting. Several occasions lately I've come across blatant mindless spraying of herbicides on bits of the landscape around me just to keep things 'tidy'.  It makes me cross. I've been banded as one of those 'organic types', well I respect folks choices but I'm not an 'organic type' I'm a natural type. I like nature, I love my garden. The two are not the same thing.

I've yet to see an argument to keep 'nature' under control that's really worth listening too and all in the name of 'gardening'. I'm vexed because someone's cleared the lane of 'nature', you know that nasty stuff that grows 'untidily', makes a 'mess' by just 'being there' and you know 'living'. Of course it had to be tamed and sorted. Someone had to do SOMETHING about it all, after all it was, you know, messy. Imagine wild plants jostling about in a lane, growing away quite nicely. I mean what were they thinking. So it got 'tidied up' and is now nicely brown and sludgy in a post-herbicide fug.

These kind of practices not only get my goat up (yes there were some lovely seedlings in among the 'untidy sprawl' of that lane, I'd hoped to save) they also give us mindful non-organic types a bad name. And, never mind the fact that the bees and butterflies were having a wee party each day on the plants growing away and minding their own business. Aside the loss of food sources and brown dreary mess that's left behind, the only thing achieved by trying to tame wild bits of countryside outside others gardens, is an empty pocket for the fool who's sprayed it bare.

Maybe I'm vexed because I'd been idly spying at the lane at the end of my garden to pop the chickens in there for a while or too in their mobile netting, to scoff the lot and clear it back for the winter.

Maybe I'm vexed for the butterflies and bees who've had their food robbed potentially forever.

Maybe I'm vexed for the frogs and toads I knew hung out there, who I hope got out safe before the sprayers wand worked its 'magic'.

Maybe I'm vexed for the misspent energy used to spray the lane could have been used to plant a tree or two, grow a cabbage or plant a flower.

Maybe I'm vexed for the wee poppy seed head which once had so much hope in saved seeds for next year which is sodden and blemished and contaminated.

Maybe I'm vexed despite the public communal space we share, others take it upon themselves to tame something beautiful and innocuous, without asking first. Without giving others the chance to voice a different point of view. So not cool, man, so not cool.

I'm not an organic gardener, never will be, but I'm mindful of my interaction with the land and its other occupants. There are several good arguments for practicing organic gardening, and as many for using a mindful, sensible approach too which will occasionally lead to using chemicals. I've no issue with that, as long as its informed choices. 

Next time I see the spraying suit come out in our neighbourhood, I might send in the chickens for a first attack, before the tanks filled. I have no issue with the right tool for the job, but not every job requires such a heavy hand.

And, whilst I may not be organic, I've a grand shovel arm if required. I don't mind a wee dunt on the heid to get some sense knocked into folks now and again.

So if you'll excuse me I'm off to the lane to start my own peace camp, before the next invasion of 'nature smoother-outer'ers' arrive.  The chickens have assured they'll assist.

Wild spaces aren't gardens, we all should remember that.


And that's all I have to say about that. For once, Greta's in agreement. Send in the chickens.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Guard chicken?

I have this friend who has a guard chicken in the porch of his house. (Its true.) With the impending arrival of Pandas and the attention from the paparatzi we were considering our security options. Greta seems to be keen on the post and had a wee 'foray' on to the terrace. Sadly I don't think she might have the skills for the job. She got distracted on her way to her first watch by dog food. Tasty as it is I'm not sure she has the required focus for a guard chicken position.

Either way, as they stare from the kitchen door, the hounds remain unimpressed. Too scared of greta to object though. Perhaps an attack chicken is more likely, as soon as she finished eating, she chased the hounds away from their own food.

I hope she doesn't take a fancy to bamboo.....

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The pandas are coming

So I've heard the exciting news that the pandas in Edinburgh zoo are expecting. In anticipation of their needing a quiet place to gestate, I cleaned out the bamboo patch. After all the sunny east neuk is the perfect retreat for them to enjoy some peace. I hear the zoo keepers are packing up their suitcases as we speak. Obviously until they return the enclosure is closed. I'd ask you to respect our privacy at this delicate time.
In the mean time the hounds and I are off to practise our panda skills and mandarin.

Huanying Mr and Mrs Panda.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Omlet netting, far too easy to put up. Never listen to a hen.

Extended hen run with omlet netting.
Well, as we've had nearly 600 page views yesterday, I'm assured whilst few comments land, someone [other than me and my mum] is reading, so here's yesterdays' installment of garden antics. Its very chicken focussed, as I've hardly anything left to chop down. So we extended the chicken run. I'd been thinking of letting them move into the next area for a while. But they are a tad impatient to get on with it.

So, yesterday, they, those pesky chooks, took over the second quarter of the veg patch. Quite spectacularly, in less than half an hour, they staged a break out.  I fear it was actually planned that way, chickens are sneaky.
Omlet* chicken netting, quick and easy to assemble.
Dear hearts I fear, I was, however, a bit more than an accomplice to their chicken will. Persuasive things chickens. They made me buy them this, on the premise that I'm shockingly bad at instructions, I agreed. [It would never make it up, my skills with instructions are, lets say, limited.] However I gave it a go. They'll have less internet shopping privileges in future. Let me tell you.
Omlet net laid out. It came with pretty red ribbons too. Aww.
They even sent in 'Greta' to supervise. The instructions were not in Swedish, but she was very helpful nevertheless.
Omlet fencing gate post. 
Of course they watched too, voyeurs these chooks are. Watching my every calamity experiment in the garden. [NB other brands of mobile netting with suitable silly egg-tastic names are available too.] THEY thought this one was funny given how many eggs I've dropped/they've stood on.
Tracey Island
They wanted to invade Tracey Island. Home to the thunder birds and various slugs. A rowan acts as HQ for the slug master 'Dr Slime'. Inbetween here and their 'old home' is the second quarter of the veg patch. So really, they told me, by linking them up to clear both, they'd be doing me a favour. Hard to actually argue with a chickens logic.
Fun stuff for chooks to allow slugs to hide under. Cunning eh.
They also asked for 'fun stuff' which I'm sure is code for climbing and escaping material. So I left them some logs and various things to 'climb and perch on'. I have to say ex-commercial farm rescue chickens seem to have many opinons. Maybe its the close quarters they lived in before, too much chat, not enough action.
Scheming hens.
They also demanded a chair, ropes and scissors. Now, we all know not to give hens scissors they get unbalanced using them. [Or rope, for obvious reasons, they do a lot of knitting, its just not suitable, but they never listen, although I've told them they might enjoy macrame.] I gave in and left the old chair. I'm sure they'll be using it soon for an escape launch pad.
Then they demanded a drink, don't be surprised to hear Scots hens don't drink just water. They're gin lovers** pure and simple. Given how enraged they get without any, I gave in.  Of course they don't drink whisky, that's for dragons and ducks.
By the time I'd got it up and finished due to FAR TOO EASY instructions. [Curses]. Haggis turned up to see how easy it was to get at the chooks grub (and gin, he loves gin). Not easy at all if its put up right and thanks to stupidly easy instructions, it was up in less than 15 minutes. Blast.
Happy lasses in their new extended run.
They seem pretty pleased with themselves. Tracey Island invaded. So they demanded an audience with the master, Dr Slime. I couldn't refuse. Seven hungry chickens can be very persuasive.
So that's the next phase of the chickens taking over the garden. They've cleared the first quarter of the veg patch in record time, scoffed a goodly amount of slugs, so it only seemed fair. Less grass to mow, more for them to eat.

Dr Slime's companions have been seen retreating to the Grey Shed looking for a Fushia to hide under.

Next time slugs, next time. [We will eradicate you in a kind and natural fashion, unless you leave the premises.]

Of course the hens were happy with their new home. They left me a present to say thanks on the roof peak. Cheers lasses.
Egg production peaking? Who said chickens can't climb? Buggers the lot of them.
These hens came from Wing and a Prayer rescue in Central Scotland.  British Hen Welfare Trust has more information on rehoming birds for other areas of the UK. Have a think if you can. For Scarlet and all the others who are 'let go' very early in their laying careers.
Scarlet, rescue hen, happily rehomed. Feathers returning day by day.
*no posts on here are sponsored, my opinions are entirley my own and there's no advertising. Just gud stuff, I did my research. Other brands are available.
**no hens were fed gin or cairns either in this household. Twas just a jest before you get me in bother. We all know they prefer tequila in the summer.