A Birthday Treat

Today is my Birthday, and besides lots of lovely presents, Mr Bumbleandme, me and Bee took to the road and explored the Pembrokeshire coastline.  We were hunting for St Govan’s chapel.

St Govan’s Chapel is reputed to have been built in the thirteenth century in honour of a hermit and Saint who lived at the site. It is nestled on the side of a cliff, looking down on a small rocky cove.  St Govan lived there in the sixth century and there are many myths and legends surrounding him and the chapel.  Legend has it that Govan hid in a small fissure in the rocks to evade pirates. The crevice closed up to protect him and opened once the Pirates had gone.  Afterwards he decided to build a small cell near the fissure and protected the locals from Pirates that troubled them.  Govan died in 586 and is said to have been buried under the stone alter inside the chapel. 

Legend also tells of a bell that was given to Govan, which was stolen by pirates.  After praying for it’s return, Angels recovered the bell and hid it in a large rock nearby for safe keeping.  When Govan tapped the bell rock the sound was one thousand times louder that it was originally. 

Another legend says one of King Arthur’s knight, Sir Gawain lies buried at the stone alter, having retired there to live out his days as a hermit after Arthur’s death.  This could be where the stories of St Govan and Sir Gawain become blurred.

There are two wells on the site, which have long since dried up, but it was at one time fashionable to take a pilgrimage there and drink from the wells to cure rheumatism, and eye problems.  

 

a bewitching site for a chapel
 
It’s a magical place and the waves make a dramatic noise as they crash against the rocks below.  

 

waves crashing against the rocks

 
dramatic scenery
  

more dramatic scenery
looking up at the chaoel from the cove
the alter where St Govan is said to be buried
the view from a window in the chapel

After climbing the stairs back up to the clifftops, which I should mention legend has it that you’ll never count the same number of steps up and down, we walked a short way along the coastal path. At St Govan’s head you look the you’ve walked and you can just see the chapel in the distance, nestled in the cliffs.

the chapel is situated in the cove with the big shadow
Pembrokeshire coastline

On our way home we stopped off for some lunch in a quaint little cafe, which was someone’s front garden in Bosherton. It’s a pretty little village famed for its lilly ponds, which we didn’t visit. We’ve saved that for another day, as I’m certain we’ll be back at St Govan’s chapel.

the nearby fifteenth century church at Bosherton

It’s all go in the veggie patch!

It’s been a very productive weekend on the veggie patch.

With the polytunnel up and running, I’ve been busy sowing seeds. I like to sow Heritage/Heirloom seeds where I can, as it makes me feel like I’m doing my bit for conservation and sometimes they’re a bit weird and wonderful. Tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chillies are just some of the vegetables I’ve planted.

just some of the seeds in the polytunnel

I’ve had some potatoes chitting for a few weeks in the store room and they were ready to go in, so Mr Bumbleandme very kindly took the grass off an area for me and I dug and raked it, then popped the tatties in and covered them up!

tatties are in the ground!

Mr Bumbleandme also gladly made me compost bins out of pallets that have been littering the drive for months! And with the final pallet, he made me a fabulous potting bench! He’s so ingenious and very resourceful! 

 

compost bins – the chicken will love these

  

the fantastic potting bench! such a clever idea

  

the veggie patch is coming together

  

With one very productive weekend, it’s beginning to look like a veggie patch! I’ve still got more beds to dig, but I’ve got a few weeks while the seeds germinate. I’d also like to dig a bed for some annual flowers.  I’ve always wanted a cutting garden, and this year I might just get my wish! Well, if I get a move on! 

 

These strawberries have survived the move to Wales and a year in pots! They seem to appreciate the move into earth, as they’re flowering their socks off! I’ll have to make sure the chickens don’t get these!

Elsewhere in the garden, things are growing fast, the White garden has survived the winter and is coming up nicely.  I planted some white daffs in the autumn, and they’ve not disappointed! 

the white birder is emerging nicely

I’m in love with these daffs!

The wood is also a mass of colour.  The snowdrops swept through the wood earlier in the year and now the wild garlic and bluebells are emerging.  The bluebells are coming up where they haven’t been before.  It’s encouraging that the little work we’ve done in wood is allowing more light in and letting the lower canopy establish.  We’ve got umbels coming up and lots of red campion in the wood,  we don’t recall seeing much more than ferns and brambles last year, so this is great.  I’m hoping to grow some white foxgloves from seed and plant them in the wood to naturalise too, I think they will look beautiful.

The weather has been glorious the last few weeks and I think we’ve achieved a great deal.  The rain is set to arrive later this week and the newly planted veg will greatly appreciate it.

Happy gardening everyone! 

New adventures in grow your own

We’ve had a very busy few weeks here.  I used to have a small corner of my old garden as a vegetable patch.  It was lined by hawthorn and blackthorn hedges, had a few raised beds and a small greenhouse.  I used to love the greenhouse and was always pottering away in there.  I would grow tomatoes, peppers, and my annual seeds in there, and at this time of year it was positively bursting with plants.  Last year was torture not having one and I’d decided it would be great if I could go one step further and invest in a polytunnel. This would enable us to grow more things and extend the growing season. 

As is becoming the norm around here, we managed to stumble upon someone who was wanting to get rid of there polytunnel and they were happy to help us move it.  Bingo! We had great fun, the four of us trying to move the frame, still assembled down a hill, through a young wood, over fences and through gates, and finally down our lane into the paddock. Luckily the only traffic we met was the postman who happily waited at our house, laughing away at the sight of a polytunnel frame being walked down the lane! 

 And so the polytunnel stood in the paddock for a few weeks, Being moved slightly from time to time to make sure it was in the right position.  I managed to order a new cover and some doors for it and we waited eagerly for them to arrive.  Unfortunately, they too sat waiting for a while as the weather wasn’t great and I knew with just two of us it would take a few days to get it all finished.  I decided to make a start on digging the trenches around the base in an effort to save time when we came to put the cover on. Not such a great idea in hindsight, as it meant we had to trample all over it during construction! Another bright idea which turned out to be a mistake was that I thought it would be good to ensure the trench was as large a possible to make sure the wind didn’t take the cover away!  Well, it took all my effort and strength to dig two of the trenches – it transpires they were about three times wider than they needed to be! No wonder it was such hard work!

the chickens feasting on the worms I’d dug up

Easter weekend arrived and the weather looked fine, perfect chance for a spot of polytunnel building! In all it took four days to get the doors and frames on, the cover, the mypex flooring and replace the earth back into the trenches.  

the door frame and doors are on

 

 

the mypex is down

  

the cover going on
  
almost there

  

and relax! finished. well almost………

There were several debates about how best to go about certain tasks, some of which we could have done differently in hindsight, but it’s up and currently withstanding the unusual gusty southerly wind we’re experiencing today. 

The whole weekend was glorious sunshine and very warm, which was perfect for ensuring the polythene went on nice and tight. We we’re booth completely pooped at the end of the weekend, but it’ll be worth the effort when we are enjoying the fruits of our labour.

I’ve been busy this weekend moving staging, pots and bits and bobs inside to get it all set up, and I can’t wait to get planting some more seeds.

I now need to concentrate on the outside of the patch and I’m planning to make a couple of beds now for potatoes and strawberries, but the rest I shall dig over and prepare in the autumn, ready for next year.  I like the idea of letting it evolve slowly, so I shall just dig beds as I need them.  I’ve also been reading about no dig gardening which I love the idea of, so I might cover a couple of areas with cardboard and mypex.  If I leave them till the autumn or maybe next year, I should (apparently) have lovely beds ready for planting! I love the sound of that! I’ll give it a go and see what happens.  I’ve also been reading about growing veg in bales of straw, so if I can get hold of a bale, I might give that a go.  Watch this space!

What to do with all those eggs?

The chickens have been getting used to their new home and surroundings.  We’ve had them one month now and they seem to be very happy.



The chicken coop can be seen in the distance, at the bottom of the hill.  I’m not sure the coop is a particularly good one, but it’s certainly adequate for now.  

One of the Welsummers has taken the post of ‘chief’ and keeps everyone in check. She likes to sit on the gate and enjoys going for a wander around the outside of the duck enclosure.  This morning I thought we’d lost her.  When I came down to feed them, she was wandering around outside the enclosure.  I called her as I went in to feed the flock.  She however, decided to go for an adventure – into the willow field!

This is an acre field, owned by us, that was once a beautiful green oasis, where cows would chew the cud in the warm Welsh sunshine……. However, it is now sadly very overgrown,  the apple trees at the top of the field have been lost to a bramble jungle.  It took two of us an hour to walk down to the stream at the bottom of the field last year, wielding loppers, secatures and gloves! We are hoping to get some pigs to help us clear it, but this is definately a long term project.

I digress, sorry. So this little lady decided to hop up the bank and disappeared into the jungle that is the willow field. The kittens followed her. All I could hear was squawking and flapping.  I managed to get the kittens to come back to me, but the ‘chief’ was nowhere to be seen.  I caught sight of her and tried to lure her back with food, but the kittens came running over to feast on the chicken food and she disappeared into the thicket.

After about ten minutes of coaxing her, I decided to leave her to her own devices, and hope she found her own way back.  Thankfully, when I returned home a couple of hours later she was safe and sound in the enclosure wondering what all the fuss was.  A valuable lesson learnt by me today – leave the chickens to it, they will find there way home.



Later in the day, whilst I was cleaning the duck house out, the other Welsummer decided to help me out.  She made a nest in the corner where we’ve found eggs before, and she sat quietly watching me on my hands and knees cleaning the dirty sawdust out. 





After about five minutes she got up and jumped out, leaving behind a beautiful warm egg, nestled in the sawdust.





What makes this even more exciting, is that Mr Bumbleandme had uncovered five ducks and a chicken egg from the duck house just before I started cleaning it out.

So, what do you do with all those eggs? Make a chocolate Victoria sponge of course! 



The ducks are enjoying the company too, I would have taken some photo’s of them too, but they were too busy playing in the pond! 

We’ve Survived the First Year

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of our awfully big adventure. The memories of the move are still vivid and slightly traumatic. I remember driving to Wales with my car full of cleaning bits, the Hoover, the dog and the cat. Four and half hours it took to drive to our new house. I was terrified.  “What are we doing” was all I could think. 

The first night in the cottage was awful. It was so damp and cold, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to make it home. It was so cold, so so cold. The two wood burners that heated the house, didn’t do a good job. We only had some left over coal and damp logs for fuel. I remember making a mental note never, ever to look at a ‘project’ like this I the summer when it’s warm and dry and everything looks cosy and lovely.  





Thankfully over the last twelve months Mr Bumbleandme have most definately made this our forever home. We’ve worked like Trojans to get where we are now. With both of us working full time, we’ve only had the weekends and evenings to do things. Resting and days off have almost become a thing of the past. But, with a little bit of determination and lots of love we’re making headway. 

In the last twelve months our lives have changes immeasurably – for the better I think.  Mr Bumbleandme is now an expert log chopper, quad bike rider, poultry housing builder, duck pond builder, sheep herder, bramble crusader, and so much more. I am now kindling collector extraordinaire, chief French drain clearer, and I can finally light a jolly nice fire. 

We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s encouraging to know we’ve survived the first twelve months! 



Hopefully, the next twelve months will see the installs of the vegetable garden, some renovation to the internal walls and decorating, renovation of the summerhouse and the introduction of some more animals. 



It’s funny how a little thought that pops into your head one day becomes a reality without too much effort to make it happen.  If you really want something, you really can achieve it – it just takes a bit of courage. 

The chickens are out!

I was planning to clean the chickens out this morning, then make them a small enclosure within the duck enclosure, so the chickens and ducks could slowly get used to each other. However, Mr Bumbleandme had other, as usual slightly more realistic ideas! He just opened the door and let them out!

They were reluctant at first, but one of the Welsummer’s (who we think is boss) was poking her head out and then she gingerly stepped down the ramp and onto the grass. The others slowly followed.

It’s been snowing on and off here most of the morning, but they don’t seem bothered by it. They’ve been happily pecking away at the ground and getting used to their new surroundings. They’ve found the duck house, which they seem to love and when I left them, three of them were firmly making themselves at home in there! I’d managed to bribe one of Silkies out on a promise for some broccoli. Although she didn’t have it she ventured back over to the duck feed for some pellets and then had a wander around.

Austin the cat came to the fence to meet the chicken. There was a staring match and then the chicken just wandered off. No-one seemed very bothered. Austin wanted to go inside as he doesn’t like wet weather, and he’d been meowing at me for the last 20 minutes.

The big question is whether we’ll be able to get them back in their coop later or not. I’ve tried offering them food from my hand, but they are not interested. I guess I’ll just keep trying. We’d like to get them tamer than the ducks are. The ducks won’t come closer than about three feet. We made the mistake of not being around them much when they were little I think. They’re fine with us being in the enclosure and often come to nosey at what we’re doing, but if you walk towards they run off in the other direction. We’re determined not to let that be the case with chooks.

Any how’s, here are some photo’s I took this morning:

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They are very lovely little things – I think we’re going to get quite fond of them.

Branching out in the Poultry World

Every last Saturday of the month is the Ffairfach Poultry Auction in llandeilo. This is where we bought the Khaki family back in the summer.

We’ve been talking about chickens for a while now. Initially we’d thought about allowing them to roam free in the wood, which sounded lovely and romantic. They could rummage around in their natural environment. How lovely. Then we soon realised, Mr Fox would be very pleased with this. Dinner on a plate… We decided it would be better to put them in with the ducks, where it is safe and there is plenty of space in there for them.

So, we had a look on the good old inter web for a hen house, which we found for a reasonable price. We know it’s not ideal, but it’s a perfect starter coop which cost so little it really doesn’t matter if it only lasts for six months.

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Mr Bumbleandme, a lovely visitor and myself set about building the coop. The weather has been atrocious so we decided to build it indoors and bring it outside to paint (yes we measured the door before starting to build!). As usual, the instructions were very vague, but we managed to get it built relatively easily and without much trouble.

We’ve painted it the same dark grey as the duck house. It was painted in the garage and then left to dry.

So Saturday morning arrived and we set off to the auction. We’d planned to be a little more restrained this time. We wanted some Indian Runner ducks if we could get some and then a maximum of four chickens.

We’d read up that Welsummers were good layers as were Warrens. Of course, as soon as we arrived and started looking at the birds we forgot all the practical bits about if they’re good layers etc. and concentrated on the pretty ones. We spotted some beautiful chocolate Indian Runners and a very pretty fawn and white Indian Runner on her own, looking particularly scared. The chickens were a little harder to pin down, but we narrowed our choices down to around five lots, including some pretty Bluebells.

When the auction started it was so exciting, all the bustle and hustle and the auctioneer talking so fast, you can’t hear what they’re saying. It was all going so quickly I could hardly keep up. I was very relived at one point when someone stopped the auction to ask which lot we were on! I had to do it myself on one occasion (slightly embarrassing). It didn’t help as the catalogue and the lots didn’t match up (that’s my get out clause!). Anyway, the auctioneer reached the Indian Runners, the pretty fawn and white one didn’t sell as it didn’t meet the reserve. Next up were the chocolate Runners. Mr Bumbleandme put his hand up when no-one was interested and with a small amount of haggling we outbid the others. They were ours! Beautiful little things. We were so happy. 

It took an age for the auctioneer to get to the chickens, but he finally did. There were several lots which we thought were ok, but as soon as they went above £9, we stopped as they weren’t ‘that’ nice. In amongst several lots of Warrens there two pretty little chickens which were obviously different from the warrens, but we weren’t sure what they were. When no-one was bidding on them, Mr Bumbleandme put his hand up, then someone else bid. It was all over in a flash and Mr Bumbleandme was flashing his bidding card at the auctioneer! He’d bought them! I have to confess I initially thought they were Warrens, which was fine, but on closer inspection we could see they weren’t. They are very pretty. We think they’re Welsummer crosses.

 It all got a bit boring from then on – I’m not good with crowds and after a couple of hours I’d had enough of the jostling down the aisles trying to keep up with the auctioneer. Mr Bumbleandme was in it for the long haul however. He’d spotted some pretty little speckled chickens and he stuck his hand up and won them on a maiden bid! They were described as Silkie crosses, which we’ve since read are not the best layers! Oops.

We’d purchase six birds in one auction! Our menagerie had gone from nine to 15! Oh my word! 

 The next thing to do was to get them in a dog crate we’d luckily remembered to bring with us! It wasn’t a little dog crate, no we don’t do sensible things like bring a small crate with us, we bring an enormous dog crate with us that will only just fit down the aisles!! Luckily we managed to get them all in without much trouble at all. It was quite uneventful, thankfully!

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Once home, we settled the chickens into the coop – which may be a little small, but I guess for the winter they’ll be cosy. They seemed very happy and were cooing away, drinking water and eating the pellets we left them. We decided to be brave with the ducks and just put them in with the Khaki’s. They too seemed very happy and the Khaki’s didn’t seem bothered. After a lot of peeking and checking they were ok, we finally decided to leave them alone – it was hailing, windy and very cold! 

 Of course I woke up very early this morning, eager to let the ducks out and check on the chickens. It had been snowing and hailing in the night, so there was a pretty dusting on the ground this morning as we ventured down to duck enclosure. We could hear the usual banter going on inside the duck house and as usual when we opened the door there was a frantic rush, flying of feathers as they raced down to the pond. Only this time they were followed by two beautiful chocolate Runners!  All seemed well, the Khaki’s seemed happy with their new friends, so we moved our attention to the chickens. 

 We’d been advised to keep the chickens in the coop for a couple of days before letting them out, so we decided to keep them in for today. We lifted the lid and found them cuddled up in the nesting boxes, looking happy. We topped up there water and gave them some more food, which they happily started eating. This mornings offerings were broccoli and cabbage which they enjoyed (so did the ducks!).

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We’ve been checking on them throughout the day. The chickens seem fine, if a little cooped up. We’re debating whether to just let them out tomorrow with the ducks, or keep them separate for a few days with a little fenced off area. We’re not too sure what to do yet.

The ducks are ok, there is a bit of pecking going on, but nothing that looks too serious. I guess it’s to be expected, after all the khaki’s are all related and have never known other ducks. We’ll keep a close eye on them, but I think they will be fine. They have been following the Khaki’s around and they are funny when they walk, like penguins! They walk so tall and upright!the Runners have been having lots of fun in the pond, their little tails have wagging away and they’ve been flapping their wings. Lots of preening has also been going on.

Getting the ducks in tonight was fun. We accidentally managed to separate one of the runners and it took us an age to convince her she would be better off in the coop. Poor thing, she just didn’t know where to go and I think we may have rushed her a little. I ended up having to catch her and out her in myself. Such soft feathers. They’ll soon get used to it.

Unfortunately I’ve not got very good photo’s, but as we all get used to each other, I’ll post some more. Watch this space……. and please feel free to leave advice. Thanks as always for reading, it’s great to know people are interested in our little adventures!