After Rocky’s departure the hens have been getting used to their new normal. Immediately I could see Popcorn’s feathers fluff back up, it seemed she was trying to make herself smaller to avoid his libido.
We thought for a long time that the hens weren’t laying at all. Then my husband went to cut back the hydrangea bushes that are on the outskirts of the potager and he found a treasure trove of eggs. About twenty!
Then we’d find the odd one in the coop, but they seemed to have stopped laying after Rocky’s departure. I had seen Popcorn fly up to the wall that separates our home from the next door neighbours garden. There is wooden fencing against the shorter end of the wall, and she was walking behind the fencing to avoid Rocky. I thought this had all stopped now, but my visit to the chicken coop this morning showed me I was very much mistaken.
As I got near the coop I could see Popcorn anxious to get out. I was a little late, around 10am, and instead of staying to eat the corn she dashed straight past me. I was coming out after feeding the others when I saw a fluffy, white bum poking out through the fence panels, I could see she was nestling down. I crept forward trying not to disturb her and she was definitely nesting. Something caught me eye – between the slats of the panel were eggs!
I called my husband and kiddos over and we all had a good look. Popcorn got down, and Belle flew up into her spot! When she was done the girls and I managed to get out 12 eggs, and another 3 broke as we tried to extricate them.
During the week hubby and I will be patching up the gaps and trying to coax them back into their nesting boxes.
Added to that we replaced Rickey with two younger chickens. We have to keep them separate from the other hens for now because of the brutal pecking order and possible viruses. The girls are loving them, and I’m trying to get them out holding them at each once a day so they get used to being held. They’ve called them ladybug and cat noir from the Miraculous tv show. As they’re red and black the names suit them, even though they’re a mouthful.
I thought I’d give you a little update on our latest chicken. For those of you who follow the blog you may remember that they were bought as little more than a chic from the local market. Previously I’d only bought fully grown hens, and it hadn’t occurred to me to check their sex. Being townies and buying all our meat wrapped in plastic it isn’t part of my consciousness of buying a live bird to later kill for eat. You can read our post here about our growing awareness that our latest chicken may in fact be a cockerel.
Pretty soon Rocky, as we came to call him, was crowing loudly at first light. Not just the dawn either, if we accidentally left the downstairs light on he’d crow. Throughout the day he’d crow. If it was windy he’d crow. My youngest daughter started to say “shut up” frequently and I was appalled. Why would she use that kind of language? Where would she hear the English? Not in our house surely? Then Rocky crowed as I went to the garage near the coop; “Shut up Rockie!” Ahh, that’s where.
He could be a little aggressive, but a couple of set tos between us, me with a broom, sorted that out. Not that that helped our poor hens, who were being frequently mounted. Even poor, blind in one eye Apple. They didn’t seem to like it at all and I expected to have a Me Too movement on our hands any day.
The girls started to hide to lay their eggs, as they didn’t want to be around him in their delicate position (How Jane Austen was that?).
The one thing he was good for was protecting the hens. Bertie, who had killed poor Lady Jane, would no longer go anywhere near the coop as Rocky had grown considerably bigger than him.
Eventually we came to the decision that that benefit and Rocky’s handsome self was not enough for us to want to keep him. I asked the boiler man if he knew anyone who’d want a cockerel. – No. – Wed bought him by mistake you see….(insert pathetic townie look)
As with the ducks I was met with a puzzled, albeit kind, expression. “Eat him?” Again I trotted out my embarrassed explanation – we only eat meat that’s been wrapped in plastic from the supermarket. Our kind boilerman responded “but they taste so much better this way”.
They probably do.
We started to discuss it because the early mornings and constant noise were driving my husband nuts. I suggested maybe having someone do the deed for us. But however much Rocky was aggravating him, he just couldn’t see himself tucking into him. Our daughter though has gone full French; not only does she ask for Camembert on this side with a bacon sandwich, her response to the thought of eating Rocky was “I wonder if he’d taste nice”.
Eventually I was so desperate I contacted the Parish priest. Did he know someone who would take Rocky, but not eat him? I went to mass and there was a lovely lady who had a farm and chickens who volunteered to take him under her wing (see what I did there?).
She turned up with her friend and a small box. I was convinced it was way to small and they’d never be able to catch him, let alone get him in there. They went in the coop and within a minute he was caught and hanging upside down by the legs. They trussed up his legs, then his wings. I went to find a bigger box, but when I got back he was already inside! I couldn’t believe it.
They kept asking me – don’t you eat chicken? Obviously flummoxed by my reticence to eat him. She assured me that he’d have a good home.
The house is quieter now. The chickens are a lot happier and I’ve promised the girls that we can get another one to make up for Rocky.
Anyone who has followed the blog over the last year will know the attempts I’ve made to become more self sufficient – starting with constructing a potagère and leading to buying some chickens as well as other fowl. The final purchase were two Rouen ducks which grew to an enormous size and had to be seperated from the chickens into the wider potagère, which they subsequently wrecked by trampling down the blooming veggies and breaking the stone walls.
There were losses if our feathered friends during that time, with the final one being only recent. My husband had forgotten to lock the gate of the chicken area and my daughter had let the dog in there. Our beautiful Lady Jane is with us no more.
As de-confinement started and the markets opened up the girls and I went to get a new chicken. There weren’t very many full grown ones, so we had to buy a bigger chic. They were covered in fluff but bigger than a yellow chic that you see on an Easter card.
We bought two, one each for the girls, but it became apparent very quickly that the grey one was ill. It died shortly after we’d taken them home.
I was gradually rebuilding the beds and trying to get the area in some kind of order. However it soon became apparent that I hadn’t the time to divide between the potagère and the kitchen work, so I’ve accepted that I’ll leave this project until Autumn when I’ll start to prepare for the next growing year.
In the meantime I’ve used the rubble from the fireplace to make paths around the reformed beds to keep weeds down.
Unfortunately our desire to be more self sufficient has led to a new dilemma. My buying the chics had me unprepared to ask questions that I don’t need to think of for my normal, poultry purchase. Boy or girl.
As time has gone on our little Rosie seemed to have big feet. Her wattle seems to be bigger then her fellow birds. She seems to be head and shoulders above the rest, with a bud barrel chest. And even though she’s not yet fully grown the feathers at the bad of neck seem to be taking on a different hue and she seems more aggressive than the others. Finally, just during the past week, her tail feathers seem to be getting suspiciously like that of a coq.
In short, we think Rosie is a Rockie.
So we have to come to a decision; should we rehome Rosie/Rockie or should we keep her/him?
Our daughters are all for keeping him. We’ve explained how roosters fertilise the eggs and they’re excited by the prospect of chics. This has inevitably opened up the discussion to what do we do with those chics when they’re grown. We only have so much space – we can’t support an indefinite amount of hens.
The obvious thing to do would be to rear the hens not just for their eggs, but for their meat too. Yet, as I’ve said before, we’re city folk and the idea of eating meat not prepackaged in plastic is (hypocritically) horrific to us. But there’s something wrong with that isn’t there? Isn’t this why there is so much food wasted in the West? We no longer see the value of food, just the price on the packet. And when the price is low we value it accordingly.
So I’ve been talking to the children openly about farming practices, about where their food comes from and what it would mean to rear our own chickens to eat.
My oldest has decided that killing and eating our own chickens, instead of buying them from the supermarket, is worth it if we can keep Rosie/Rockie and get to have little chics. Obviously thinking and experiencing are different. Nevertheless I’m left wondering should we do this, even for a season, just so the girls have this deeper understanding of the value of food? They live in a world where they have so much. They break something and they think it will be replaced. They want something and they never doubt it will be provided.
There’s a lot to mull over. I’ve made my case about keeping our bird and the subsequent chickens to my husband (he’s not convinced) and tried to be honest to the girls. However it would be a financial, emotional and time commitment and as such we need to think about it some more. I’ll keep you posted.
I told you all about my saga with the chickens, ducks that were really geese and the duck ducks didn’t I? Well, the story hasn’t ended there.
Gradually over time our brown ducks changed colour over the summer. One started to develop a very white chest, the other just a stripe of white around the neck, then one day we saw a glimmer of green on one of their heads. The green spread from around their eye, to their head and then all over. its beautiful, iridescent and similar to the shades of a Peacock. I’d finally found my Mallard ducks, no?
Then they grew. And grew. And grew. Honestly, at one point I thought I was in some kind of fairy tale the rate it was going. I think they’re bigger than our small dog now. My dad kept commenting on our massive ducks. We’re obviously very interesting people in our family, because over the summer we had so many conversations about them that eventually Pops decided he was going to do a bit of research; this is how we found out they were Rouen ducks.
They have colouring identical to Mallard ducks; males have green heads, white collars, black tail coverts and dark, ashy brown tail feathers, a gray body, and a deep claret breast. The female are a consistent shade of mahogany brown, with a brown crown and tan eye-stripes extending from bill to the back of the eyes. It was the eye stripes that had me thinking she was female before her mate’s head started turning green. Both have blue iridescent feathers on the tips of their wings. When you get a flash of it it’s wonderful.
The difference is size; hence our massive ducks. Adult Rouen ducks are significantly larger than Mallards. They can weigh between 6–8 lbs (2.7–3.6 kg) and 9–12 lb (4.1–5.4 kg) depending on how they’re bred. No wonder Bertie is afraid of them.
They originate here in France, and were refined in England in the 19th century. Well the French and English are cousins, so our ties are strong. The exhibition-type Rouen was eventually bred and used as a roasting bird. It does lay eggs, between 35 to 125 eggs a year, however as other breeds are more reliable and prolific egg-layers its size meant its meat was more desirable to eat. In 1861, the famous cook Mrs. Beeton said of it:
The Rouen, or Rhone duck, is a large and handsome variety, of French extraction. The plumage of the Rouen duck is somewhat sombre; its flesh is also much darker, and, though of higher flavour, not near so delicate as that of our own Aylesbury.
She doesn’t sound overly impressed does she?
When they arrived in England, they were variously called Rhône, after the region in southwest-central France, Rohan, after the cardinal of that name, Roan, for the mixture of colours, and Rouen after the northern French town; Rouen was eventually adopted in England and France.
If you’re reading this blog in the States the first Rouen came to you in 1850 via D. W. Lincoln of Worcester, Massachusetts. They were included in the Standard of Perfection of the American Poultry Association in 1874 and since then have won many titles, often having the most entries in the heavyweight class and doing well in competition with other breeds.
All good so far; except that it’s not actually all good.
Do you remember the warning my friend gave me about the goose; great eggs, big doo doo? Well, its the same with these large birds. The thing is with water fowl is their poo is, erm, splatty. The amount of water in the poo makes it decidedly runny so when they go it has a wide reach, believe me. Eventually I had to move them out of the enclosure with the chickens this summer because their poop was all over the hens’ feet and wasn’t nice.
So they went into the wider potagere. I bought them a duck house with a sliding tray to clean easily and they settled. They regularly sit next to the fence where the hens are and quack at them, but they had a lot more space. So problem solved we thought.
Then they bashed down all the dry stone walls I’d constructed in the potagère and ate all the veg I’d been growing. It’s why I haven’t been updating you on the potagere. It’s pretty much been destroyed.
I actually started to move the veg beds elsewhere in the garden and we were thinking of putting a pond in there for them and just having that area for poultry. But that poo.
The potagere backs onto the garage where we keep the car and it was a bit tricky to walk there as it was either yuck, or I’d just cleaned it all down and it was wet. But you only have a short window even after you’ve cleaned it all down with these messy birds.
They’re so big and more and more I look at them thinking; are we being fair? They obviously want to be in with the chickens, but there isn’t the space for them to be with them as the same dirt problems would start again. So we’ve eventually come to the conclusion that it may be best if we get them a new home. More about that later.
In the meantime here’s a some photos of our lovely birds as they are now.
After my last, sad post I thought I’d update you on some more cheerful potagère news. The weather has turned very warm here so, rather than contain them for the extra week advised by their seller, I’ve let the ducks go out into the poultry enclosure.
They of course had their friend the gosling to keep them company. The trio are forever together and sometimes it looks like the little goose is their surrogate mum. After the loss of the other gosling this makes me so happy to see the little chap have companionship.
Their first night outside I had shown them the old, plastic dog kennel that I’d filled with grass cuttings. It was like a soft warm bed that I kept catching them up and placing them in. Of course the others would be running around and at first this made whichever member of the foul family I had in there waddle out asap. Eventually I managed to get them all in and they seemed to like it.
The produce in the potagère is growing well. My surplus of lettuce is being shredded and fed to the poultry and I’m going to pot some up and take some to the neighbours tomorrow. The beds are kind of crowded you see and reading my month by month veg grower book I’ve started,to think about planting others things that will come to fruition later in the year.
This week we had our first meal with our own grown veggies; lettuce and peas. I waited until my daughters came home to pick them as I thought they’d be excited to do so. I was right. They chatted away as we selected leaves from still growing lettuce, leaving their stems to continue on their merry way. My youngest, seeing me shred leaves that had been nibbled by insects and throw them in with the chickens thought that was the point and was happily grabbing handfuls to give them, eek!
So we moved on to the peas, squeezing the pods to see if they were firm and plucking some that were from the stems. We had them in a salad and I’ve never seen my eldest eat so much green.
I’m still trying to figure out how and when to harvest them; do I just keep them on the vine until ready to eat, or collect and store them? I do know that to store them I have to leave their little ‘hats’ on.
I’ve already spoken of how carrots can be left in the ground even after a frost, but I thought I’d show you how they are popping up from the ground. Yesterday I could only see one group, but I swear that after today’s intense heat lots more seemed to have shown themselves.
The beets have at least one plant that are the size of a golf or tennis ball and others are growing well.
The spring onions have grown so well that I’ll definitely have to harvest some tomorrow. The bulbs on some of them are just lying outside of the earth on the ground.
The red cabbages aren’t ready, but I’m finding how they grow fascinating. You can gradually see the shape form, with the central leaves closing in on themselves and the outer ones spread out.
As I can make space in the beds I’m thinking of broccoli, leeks, more parsnips maybe and carrots too if I can get them (they can stay in the ground so long so can be used in the autumn and winter), as well as Brussel sprouts -maybe even some pumpkins?
The markets here don’t just sell good food, you can buy veggies and some fruit ready to put in the ground to continue growing. I’m going to go with the girls and choose some more things to go in.
To hear the birds sing as you tend to, select and eat your own grown food. Yes, this is life pre fall in Eden. I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with this, but I’m so grateful. To think this was God’s plan for all of us. It still is when His Kingdom comes.
Last Wednesday I took my little ones to the market. They sell calves, veggies for your potagere and poultry for your backyard and table. There were lots of discussion; would this one just be good for laying or can you eat it as well? For a city dweller’s ears it was a revelation. The girls, of course, thought it was all wonderful and were especially keen to go and look at the various types of chickens and ducks on display.
I was tempted but by the time I came back to give in to the temptation he’d sold out of the ducks that I’d wanted. He told me he’d be at another maket Saturday with more. Perhaps I’d had a lucky escape?
Nah! As Saturday morning rolled around I had the girls in the car and off we went to hunt some ducks down – metaphorically speaking of course. I asked the man for the ducks that were ‘collar vert’ which are Mallard ducks. In they went into a box and we set off for home.
On the way we stopped at my parents place to show them our ducks. They duly ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’, the ducks went back in the box and home we went again. Here are our ducks after we’d put them in the enclosure with the chickens. The chickens seemed quite scared of them at first; running away, clucking loudly and simply refusing to come in at night. This was the case even though the little ducks were in a cat box that I’d put them in to make sure they were safe from the larger birds over night.
I contacted my hubby in America. It’s safe to say he wasn’t too happy about the additional birds in our coop. I swore to him -these would definitely be the last ones.
We set up a paddling pool and put rocks on one side so they could climb in and out themselves. They made a lovely little cheeping sound whenever you were nearby and followed you around like you’re their mum. Adorable.
On Friday a French friend Sophie came around. She told me ‘that’s not a duck it’s a bird’. I told her that I’d specifically asked for a Mallard, collar vert, and that’s what he gave me. She kind of agreed. Kind of.
That night the ducks didn’t want to go in the coop and evaded me for a good twenty minutes as I chased them round the coop. In the end I thought to myself that they’d evidently been accepted by the chickens so they be ok and find somewhere to nest.
On Saturday morning the girls had to go grocery shopping and we were going to let the girls out on our way. I looked inside and saw one of our ducklings next to the other one; the latter was lying with its feet showing behind the dog kennel that I thought would be their duck hose, in between it and the wall. It was lifeless – my heart broke as it’s pair chirped next to it, staying with him as if for company.
I moved my way inside, ushering my daughters to get back and not come in. I hoped it would move as I got closer. Had it been pecked by the chickens? Was I completely wrong about their acceptance? I expected to find a battered and scarred duckling.
As I looked closer there were no markings. Silly of me, but I wondered if I picked it up if it would move like Apple the hen did after Bertie grabbed her. She didn’t of course.
I searched again for signs of beak marks, wondering if she’d just got trapped between the wall and the kennel. But I couldn’t see how that would kill the little thing.
That’s when I noticed the true extent of how horrible it was. Her head was missing.
She’d obviously popped it out of some hole in the coop and it had been bitten of by a predator.
It’s bizarre. When I was younger my first career was as a police officer. I’ve dealt with numerous dead bodies in various states of decay and coped. Yet this little duck really upset me. Later on as I was driving round trying to sort things out I found myself having to pull over to the side of the road to be physically sick! I don’t know what my girls thought.
Panicking and disconcerted by the memory of the solitary duck next to its dead friend I decided that I had to get another one. I went to the same market and found the same stall open and asked the man for another duck, pointing to similar birds I’d bought before. The man said « they’re not ducks, they’re birds » using the same word, oiseau, Sophie had used.
My mind raced. What did he mean they weren’t ducks? I’d asked him for collar vert canards last time and he’d given me ones just like them.
He was looking at me strangely and I said again « collar vert mallards » and he said « oui » and pointed at a completely different set of birds. I started to panic even more and he was looking at me like I was a little insane so I just asked for two. He was still looking at me strangely (unsurprising really) as he told me I’d need to keep them inside for another fortnight and mentioned a heat lamp. I was asking him if I could just keep them inside and he said yes…..but I’m really not so sure. As the encounter went on it was evident that I didn’t understand what was happening as I struggled with the language and shock (it was shortly after this I was sick), but there I had two little duck in a box in the car, with my girls in the back seat and I was driving to pick up provisions for the new little lives I had suddenly acquired.
After a trip to the garden centre I had a wire cage with plastic trays, straw, appropriate feed and new chicken wire.
As I arrived home my mind was still racing. What is the animal I have? What is a bird with webbed feet but isn’t a duck”? I racked my brains, called my mum who hadn’t a clue and was increasingly confused. Eventually an Internet search of « baby bird with webbed feet, not duck » brought up this image….
Yep. I had a goose, or a gosling to be exact. And on the same page….
Yep. I had Mallard ducklings too. That couldn’t be let out. They went in the cage.
I managed to speak with my hubby about it all and I think my still evident distress helped him be sympathetic to the two new little birds under our roof.
So for the rest of the day I hammered chicken wire all around the base of the coop with four layers going on the inside too. I think they’re safe.
I was bringing the gosling in with the ducks with the cage’s metal divider between them, as I didn’t want the little thing to be lonely.
Ducks poop a lot! I have to clean them out about twice a day and they want lots of water. So yesterday I let them out in the chicken coop as it was lovely and warm out. I gave them a little bowl of water which one immediately jumped in and splashed around.
It was so sweet; the little gosling ran straight over and was so excited when he saw them. The three were inseparable all day. Last night for the first time I took the grill out and they all snuggled up together.
If I’m worried that they may not be warm enough at night I turn the kitchen heater on.
So. Four chickens, two ducklings and one gosling. It’s crazy town.
I’ve been out gardening today and I thought I’d share how it and the potagère is coming on.
Firstly I want to post some pictures of our beautiful roses. Their perfume is gorgeous!
I’ve been putting some herbs in pots outside the window where the kitchen will be. The left hand one is a lemon tree and the right hand is a cherry tree, but it shouldn’t grown more than 2ms. I don’t think it will stay in that pot, we’re going to be doing some rearranging in the garden come autumn. I’ll update you later.
By the back door is a wisteria that I planted last year and it’s already growing significantly.
A lot of things, but not everything, is growing well in the potagère too. In the below series of pictures you can see that the potatoes, sugar snap peas and peppers are all growing well. So are the weeds around the pots, ha, but they got scooped up after and fed to the chickens who love them.
In the following you can see the central bed with spring onions, red cabbage, beetroots and parsnips all growing well. The red cabbage keeps getting eaten by slugs though. There are also sweet potatoes there that are growing more slowly, but I think that’s normal.
The right hand rectangular bed has celery, which is growing well, and red onions that are too.
The left hand rectangular bed has the carrots, red lettuce, and more red onions which are all coming along nicely.
This is the bed with beans and cucumber in. The cucumber doesn’t seem to be doing well at all and the beans are struggling. I have cucumber in other places too, so it’s not the bed – though evidently I didn’t clear this one out enough as it’s got lots growing in there. Oh well, I said that this was a trial year.
On this side all the lettuce is growing because of the shade. Most of them are getting a lot bigger, although you can see where the shade from the rhodedendrum bush and shed hit as those are a lot smaller. I learnt something about leaf lettuce this week that’s made me realise that I’ve definitely over planted these – but I can always share them with the neighbours.
This bed has the tomatoes and courgettes in. The latter are certainly doing a lot better than the cucumbers! I chose this wall because of the amount of sun it gets and that seems to be paying off. You can see the courgettes are blooming.
When I took the photos the potagère was full of weeds and the girls and I came and grabbed handfuls the day afterwards to give to the chickens who love them. They all stand at the fence now waiting to see what we’re bringing them.
On average now we get three eggs a day. Apple still is in shock I think from the Bertie attack, although she can definitely see out of one eye and her other one is half open. I believe she can see out of that too, but I can’t be certain.
I’ve just done their coop and the lawns whilst my hubby is away and used up all the grass cuttings on the floor of it. They love it, as well as when I use it to line their nesting box. It’s free too -so another bonus!
Although I regularly find poor little Lady Jane in the nesting box sat on an egg. I think she really wants a baby 😞. I was trying to explain to my 7 year old that unless we have a cockerel than she won’t be able to have one. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere huh?
As Belle likes to fly over the top of the enclosure, but wisely never goes out of the potagere where Bertie is, I let all the girls out to roam occasionally – which they seem to love.
We’ve just gone to take them back in for the night and my youngest ran to sit on the rock that’s in their area. I’ve had to train her to hold my hand and not run around like a mad thing trying to grab hold of them.
I pick one of them up and give them to her as she sits there and she hugs and kisses them (😦). I try and stop her doing the latter, but at least her holding them is better than the former.
Tonight it was Apple’s turn and Lilly kept pointing out ‘eyes’, ‘’ertie’. She remembers.
We had a good look around and they’re excited by what’s growing. Nevertheless I realised that I didn’t know when to pick the produce. So I’ve done a little research and this is what I’ve found out.
You can apparently eat the green tops of beetroots when you’re thinning out the rows. I didn’t plant mine in rows, and I don’t know if I’m meant to be thinning things out 🤷♀️. So, that’s going to need a little extra looking into. However I have found out that the size are really a matter of taste and they’re ready any time after you see the shoulders protruding at the soil line. I think there’s long way to go yet.
I’ve read the cabbage head will feel solid when gently squeezed and need to be harvested when they reach maturity or they’ll continue to grow and split open. It seems other veggies are able to stay in the ground a little longer
Carrots are apparently hard to judge – as a novice gardener that’s sending me straight to YouTube. What did people do before?
The tops of the carrots show at the soil line and you’re meant to gauge when the diameter looks right according to your variety. Unfortunately i didn’t know any of this and I don’t think I kept the card to know the variety 🤦♀️.
I think it will be necessary to pull one out when we’re on target. Luckily, unlike cabbages, they can be left in the ground once mature, so I don’t need to worry about spoiling them if I wait to long. Even a light frost is meant to improve and sweeten the carrot’s flavor, so I’m thinking of using them as and when I need rather than harvesting them in one, massive lot.
Cucumbers and Courgettes
My cucumbers are definitely not doing well as they’re described as ‘racing to the harvest’. I can’t even detect the leaves on mine.
However the same is meant to be true of courgettes or zucchini. The advice is to check daily and take then out quickly when they’re firm and smooth.
I got all leaf lettuce, which you treat differently to head lettuce. With these you need to let it grow to about 4 inches in height and then harvest the outer leaves, leaving the younger, inner leaves to grow. They can go on like this for most of the summer. Like I said – it’s obvious now I’ve overdone it!
If you look at the pictures above two seem ready to go. My pops is coming over on the weekend and I’ll ask his advice then.
With onions I’m looking for the tops to fall over, which looks something like this….
The greenery needs to go a bit yellow too. Then I need to allow them to dry in the sun, before storing them.
Parsnips, like carrots, are said to taste better if left in the ground until after a frost or two. This is great news as I like them and carrots roasted with a Sunday lunch or in wintry stews.
I’ve read if I mulch them I can leave them in the ground over the winter and harvest in spring. I love roasted parsnips though, and unlike the lettuce I only got a couple of plants. They’re not going to l’as The that long!
Next year I’ll be buying more and harvesting throughout the winter.
Peas are said to be sweeter if harvested before fully plumped and they need to be tasted to determine if they are sweet enough. So that will be a job for the girls then
I ran out of room with my potatoes and I think I only planted new ones. So I’m looking for the tops of the plants starting to flower which is when I can harvest them.
Next year when I have more beds I intend to plant more and store them.
My daughter is especially looking forward to the tomatoes, which are her favourite. We were out tying them back tonight and smelling our hands afterwards as that lovely, tomato scent remained.
I can’t wait until they’re red, slightly soft and you can pull them easily from the vine.
I’m so disconnected from the earth that I didn’t know that bell peppers are often from the same plant, just left to ripen longer.
I’m not a fan of green peppers, so I’ll be waiting for them to turn. If the hubby is in disagreement I can tell him that not only are they sweeter they have increased vitamin C content as well. Being a mega cook he probably knows that though.
The advice is to make a clean cut with a knife or secateurs, being careful not to topple or otherwise disturb the plant in order not to knock off any fruits that are still developing.
I’d read it was important to blanch celery to stop it going bitter, but didn’t know what that was. I found this helpful video online and I’ve embedded it here.
My celery is just starting to show it’s top, so that’s a job for the next few days.
I’m loving it. I can’t tell you how much joy it’s giving me. Walking round our little patch, discussing the growing plants with the girls, their excitement evident. Heaven.
In my last potagère post I spoke about speaking to my pops about where to plant the veg I’d bought – being a newbie I had no idea. I started planting on his advice and then I looked around; evidently I’d bought too much! I looked into extending the growing space but realised that there was no way this would help. Yikes!
I came up with a two pronged solution; extending the planting area and looking into complimentary planting. You can do this based to make the most of your space and on enable your plants to grow better. I quickly got confused by it all. However these are some of the sites I found helpful in trying to work out a planting plan.
This was one of my favourites; a good sized list of veggie soup in a basic format. I found it really helpful as I’d bought a large selection and this meant I could get quite a bit of information quickly.
We have a seperate, pre existing herb garden, but eventually I want to move them into the main potagère. With its focus on herbs I’ve bookmarked this for future reference.
After the research this is what I came up with.
On the far bed I’m growing red lettuce as it’s a little shadier there. As the lettuce grows mainly above ground I’ve added carrots – which grow predominantly below ground and are good companions – as well as onions, which grown below ground too but seem to grow at different times and at take up a different space below ground. I kept double checking whether onions were ok to grow with these two as they can, apparently, affect what grows around them.
The middle bed was interesting to lay out. I’ve mixed red cabbage in with beetroots – one grows above ground and at a different time than the other. Additionally parsnips and sweet potatoes (towards the front of the picture – I’m hoping I’ve spread them out enough 😟) and spring onions are intermixed throughout.
Planting onions was the most difficult thing in terms of planning. I bought three trays; red, yellow and spring. They don’t look like anything much, but actually the growing distances really spread them out so it takes some thinking through. Particularly when added to the fact that they affect other plants.
This one has celery interspersed with red onions – largely based on the fact that celery can grow with onions. This is an afternoon shot, but it’s actually one of the sunnier beds.
I’ve put these pots all along the wall – eventually I’m going to do another dry stone wall. We have to have a door put in an internal wall which will result in sufficient stone, perhaps towards the end of the summer it will get done. In the meantime there are cucumbers with potatoes (these grow we’ll together) and mange tous. I was originally going to put onions with the mange tous, but they’re not a good match.
Above are some beans and cucumbers too.
All down the side where some bed’s that had had hydrangea that needed digging out, the sides of which weren’t very high. In addition further along was the area where many of these rocks came from (you can see all the befores here) and I so wasn’t looking forward to this as my body was achingly from all the work. Then Pops came up with the genius idea of just laying bags of compost there.
Not the best photo, as my hand is in the way. You can see where I’ve grown plants that need deep roots (tomatoes and courgettes) I’ve used two bags. I cut a hole in the top of one, then in the bottom of another before placing that over the other. Then I cut holes in the top bag and planted.
The other bags, which have lettuce in them, are only one deep.
This saved so much time and if I have enough rocks post doorway I’m just going to build up the sides and use the dirt here rather than digging out again.
I bought waaaaaay too much and ended up giving some veggies to my Pops. In fact I’ve planted hardly any potatoes due to space and so I’m going to put the rest in the cool larder in the garage. Perhaps when I have the bigger beds next year I can plant more, but I’m already thinking of removing some more of the hydraenga to make some more room in the exterior beds.
My cucumber plants seem to have died already ( 😞). I’ll see how they go, but this is just going to be a learning year I think.
What’s exciting is that we are now getting about three eggs a day! We had to stop Lilly going in and picking up Lady Jane Grey as she’d stopped laying. But the only one not laying now is Apple, who I think is suffering from PTSD after the dog attack 😧. She’s doing a lot better though.
Yesterday the girls and I took four eggs each to our neighbours who seemed thrilled and were really excited we have chickens, which is sweet. One of our neighbours was asking about the porch and saying how lovely it was. When she asked where I got it from and I told her leboncoin she was really impressed; apparently they’re very expensive. It’s nice to know we’ve had a bargain!
I’m off to water the tress at the front now, God bless!
The potagère project has been a far bigger task than I first thought; that added to some disasters we’ve had along the way has resulted in my lack of blogging.
Let me see, first there was Apple’s injury. In my last post I explained how the concrete post crumbled when I shut les poules inside, leading to a week of desperately fixing things to try and make a safe place for the girls.
Well, I made it fox safe. However, I failed to make it Lilly safe. I didn’t even think of the need for Lilly safe to be honest. So, when I was in the kitchen doing the dishes and the girls where outside playing I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
The hubby and I had put up a fenced area for the feathered girls to peck around in and we were due to sort out a gate for them. We were alternating between the hens and the dog being outside. We’d just done a changeover and Bertie our Tebitan Spaniel was out having fun.
Suddenly I heard this mad clucking and I knew something was wrong. I raced outside to see Lilly with the chicken shed door open and Bertie excited over something. Embarrassingly I was screaming, using language like a sailor to be quite frank, as I tried to get them both away.
Lilly was saying “Arrête” over and over again to Bertie, but evidently not fully understanding what was happening. On the floor was Apple. I got Lilly out of the way and grabbed Bertie, calling for Toby to come and get him. As I carried him off Apple seemed to be lifeless on the ground.
I went back to pick her up and I was dreading what I’d find. Picking her up she came back to life, but the poor little thing had great globs of blood dripping from her head.
I got her in the kitchen and cleaned her wounds. I didn’t know what to do from there, so I put her back in the chicken shed and made her comfortable, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.
I kept checking on her that night and then the next day I got up early so if it was bad news I could find out before my little ones did. But there was Apple, in a corner and alive at least. She’s now been given antibiotics and can definitely see from one eye, but the other is recovering so we wait and see.
Hubby and I have now put up two fences – one as a barrier to the potagère and one as a pen surrounding the chicken shed so my feathered girls can have some time outside in safety. Both gates have locks so Lilly can’t open them.
I’ve also been planting in the Potagère and I’ll share more about that later. Just one point – who knew growing some veg was this complicated!
One more thing. I think I’m going a bit mad. I’ve bought another chicken. A little grey Bantam who is so pretty I couldn’t resist. I’ve called her Lady Jane Grey, she’s gorgeous. I’m gradually introducing her to Popcorn and Apple; I hope I haven’t made a huge mistake!
In my last post I spoke about my joy at having completed some of the huge stone beds in our potagère and how, in celebration, we’d bought some chickens. Wowee! That opened up a can of worms, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The girls were so excited when we went to Jardiland on our way home to pick them out; I’d spoken of a surprise all day. As we went in the shop Lilly was eager to see the chickens in the enclosure there. She always loves to go and look at them; just a year ago she would scream blue murder whenever I had to eventually haul her away. She’d literally stop the shop! She’s growing up so much as, although she was happy to see them, she wasn’t behaving, well, manically, around them.
However, when the woman came over to get them and Lilly realised something different was happening she became so ecstatic. She was literally jumping up and down on the spot. She couldn’t get any more words out except for ‘This, this, this’.
As I took the trolly to the cash register everyone in the vicinity was laughing, delighted at her delight. She was climbing on the bars of the trolly to take a look in the boxes, in little girl heaven.
We managed to get them home and I had to sort out the food, water, nesting box etc before putting the cluck clucks in the coop. Here’s a video of their introduction….
Then as I shut the door to the coop disaster struck. The uprights holding the gate and wire fencing are made of concrete, but they were evidently too old as when I closed it one broke. I couldn’t believe it. Two chickens in a broken coop!
I managed to temporarily fix it and we all went in, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t sleep at all that night. Fear of the cluck clucks being taken by some fox in the middle of the night gripped me. How would I explain that to the kids? Ruby’s set of Role Dahl books with their fantastic Mister Fox took on a whole new, sinister meaning.
I’d been praying all night for an idea to mend the coop when I found myself wandering into the spare room. There was an unused iron bed base and I realised it was the size of the door space.
For the next three days I lugged that bed base between the coop and the shed, trying to work out how to use it as a secure gate. There were many trips to the bricomarché I can tell you.
Each night, desperate to keep the chickens safe and for some sleep, I had to move the chickens from the weakened coop to the bathroom in the studio apartment we have next to our house.
During our first such transportation Ruby watched me pick up the chickens to take them inside. She was fascinated by my holding them and after some time she plucked up the courage – maybe she would try holding them too? Just as I handed her to her Lilly let out one of her excited squeals and the chicken, frightened, flapped her wings.
The opportunity was gone. Ruby had decided, no, holding a chicken was not for her. “Maybe, Mummy, when I’m your age I’ll hold a chicken.”
Closing the door on the chickens in the bathroom I couldn’t help but remember the stories of my grandfather’s set of chickens, given to him by an old lady on his milk round. They lived in the bathroom too, and their feet had grown deformed from clinging onto the side of the bath.
Was history repeating itself? Would I too psychologically damage my children for life serving up their favourite chicken for Sunday lunch one week?
“I want a leg Dad.”
“I want a leg too Dad.”
“There’s only one leg.”
Ours are layers, not cookers.
As the days wore on and I dragged the bed base around the garden some more, my body becoming more and more tired, along with the same process each night. Pick the kids up from school. Walk them home. Get them dinner. Go into the garden to get the chickens in. Chasing round the garden to grab the dog, to keep him away from the chickens. Being surprised by the reappearance of the dog, let out by Lilly, as I held a chicken in my arms. Trying to get the dog back away from the other chicken with my feet, original chicken still in my arms.
I won’t tell you how chickens express fear. You can guess.
Then, on another half hour drive away to Bricomarché, I came across another dog. A Yorkshire terrier was in the road, obviously lost and tired. I’m English, I couldn’t leave her there. So I had to chase her down and as the Maire was closed she joined the circus that had become my life.
Finally the dog was given to the Maire, the coop was completed, the chickens were permanently placed inside and I managed to sleep.
Ruby’s talking about a black chicken now. And some ducks. I need a drink.