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Blackbirds, Chickens, Bunnies and Bees

As the world goes from insane to 'you've got to be kidding' I have been busy making for the festive period. I am all stocked up on robins, Wool Drafties, wreaths and Herby Birdies and so can afford a week in the garden. The resent storms have been a nightmare but at least I got lots of Stuff made!

We finally got our chickens!

It had been a right mess with the wretched lockdown but eventually we got the call from the British Hen Welfare Trust to say our 6 ex battery hens were ready for rescuing. Chickens are the greatest things ever, they are so loving, curious and affectionate.

We spent nearly 3 hours a day with them during their first week and now they run over to see us and sit on laps for cuddles. If you've ever thought of having chickens, put in a little extra effort with them as the rewards are pure delight. We have several places to sit inside their run to watch them scratch about. Digging up some of their soil for plants is a real task as they get in the hole picking off grubs. You'll never say 'I'll just quickly go do the chickens' !!

The blackbirds are back!

I spend a lot of time in the garden and the wildlife has become so tame. Last year we had blackbirds that came when we rattled the mealworm tub. This year the pair bought their daughter to see us. It was incredible as the fledgling was so tame, she would sit under my chair and I nearly trod on her a few times. The blackbirds disappear every summer after they have raised their young. We think they go off on a bit of a holiday and then come back to start nest making again. The female worked so hard this summer, it was nice to feed her knowing you were making her day a little lighter! The tame baby has returned this Autumn and she has a partner. It would be amazing if she brings her babies, (the 3rd generation) to see us in Spring!

(above left to right: dad, mum and baby!)

We do a lot for the birds and with the garden being kiddie and pet free, some varieties of bird have become really tame. We feed them everyday at the same time and provide nesting material. Their baths and water bowls are topped up daily, sometimes twice if it's hot! All the old garden string gets tied near the bird feeders and you see them tugging away and flying off with long string threads to make nests with!

Throughout the year, the blackbirds made their nest and bought up 3 chicks. The photo on the left is the one that was always within arms length. We spent hours watching them. The blackbirds are quite tough and they often had sparrow friends to protect from the robbing starlings. The starlings drove us nuts, as the youngsters are absolute hooligans, crash landing through fragile plants and fighting with each other. It was good to see our baby robin from last year (photo below) with his distinctive 'V' on his chest!

We are lucky that the back garden backs onto a meadow which is full of pheasants and partridges who all visit in winter and spring. They get into the garden no problem, but have really trouble getting out again...every time! Perhaps not the brightest of birds, 'use your wings bird, fly over the low gate!' It's lovely to see them though, just a few feet away outside of the kitchen window. One of the male pheasants got pally with Paul when he was using a sander in the shed. The pheasant thought Paul was calling to him and would call back at the sander!

Our deer still call by, again from the meadow. I noticed a lot of my sunflowers had no leaves on the bottom 3 foot of their stalks and it turns out the deer are

having a snack on their way through! The little mouse we were feeding got so fat he had trouble going in and out of his hole. Each morning we fed the birds we put a bit of seed into the mousehole in the soil. He was like a golf ball with legs, but I figured if he got fed he wouldn't go robbing my plants and seeds! He too got very tame but one of the main things we have learnt is that looking after your own wildlife saves your raspberries...I never net my raspberries as I don't want to trap birds and hang Tibetan prayer flags instead. My raspberries lasted 5 weeks this summer and hardly any got pinched by the birds! (I won't mention the gooseberries.. the birds stripped them clean bare before the fruit even ripened! It's alright though as I'm not as passionate about the gooseberries!)

We have honey!

Pauls' bees have been amazing considering he only got them them this Spring. He has taken 30, 8oz jars from them and probably no more this year. They need a reserve of honey to feed from over the winter so it is always best to leave them plenty.

They are very calm bees and their honey is quite sensational. The hive is in the fruit orchard next door and as farmers no longer have to lay fields away to rapeseed, the honey is very pure, sweet and a taste of it's own. We use a lot of honey as we have honey and lemon every night but we hope to be selling it through Etsy next year, in a gift box and all pretty with hot wax seals on organza ribbon and little wooden slices of tree branch threaded with jute twine with the legal information hand written on them.

Having badly hurt my knee five weeks ago I haven't been in the garden much which gave me the time to make lots of Stuff. Tomorrow I shall start the 2nd stage of landscaping, moving plants into the front bed once I have dug over the soil and added chicken soil. I have hundreds of jobs to do in the garden and can't decide where to start. There's next years annuals to sow, kale and apples to harvest, new beds to be dug, and seeds to harvest. I think I will start with a cup of tea!

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