Friday, 17 October 2008

Chicken Run

Every morning when I go out to feed the animals the chickens are waiting to be let out of their pen. I usually drop some feed outside the pen so that the five small ones can come out and peck around without being bullied by the bigger ones - most especially the cockerel who really rules the roost with a charging peck. I've given up putting the feed in the feeder on dry days. I just scatter it around for them and they form groups - again, this avoids the cockerel beating them all up!

For the past couple of months we've been a little disappointed that we've only been "given" one egg per day. We are eagerly awaiting the adolescents reaching egg laying age (not long now) but in the meantime we still have the two original hens who should still be laying. Being novices we assumed (hate that word!) that either they were laying every other day or that one of them was no longer laying at all. It never occurred to us to look elsewhere for the reason.

This morning as we were walking back I absent-mindedly kicked a half an egg shell - rather like kicking stones on the path. Two strides later I realised what I had done so Max went on the hunt. Two minutes later he called me over and we found a wonderful pile of eggs - there must have been forty or more but the ones at the bottom of the pile had broken (yuck!) and soaked into the ground leaving 33 still in one piece.

Working on the basis that some of them must still be ok so we gathered up 30 of them and I put them all in a bowl of cold water to see if any of them would float. None of them floated to the top and only one or two looked as if they'd be floating in a day or two. I got rid of the latter, cleaned and dried the rest and then put a pen mark on them so that we use them first and only in things like cakes or omelettes where they are broken first. This way we'll know if I've missed any bad ones.

The chooks were already out of the pen by this time but for the next couple of weeks we're going to leave them in until lunchtime to see if we can get whichever hen it is to start laying inside again. The hen house is inside a large enclosure so they still have plenty of room to run around and to feed so they won't be deprived too much!

Omelette for supper and carrot cake for tea...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Spinning Around...

So I went spinning and guess what I caught the bug...the spinning bug so not too bad.

Klara started me off on a spindle which is a good way to learn to draw the fibres from the roving (so many new words - thank heavens she prefers to teach in English!) whilst twisting it into yarn. Within minutes I had a piece of yarn - although nothing anyone would want to use! Gradually I was able to produce more even thread and after a short break I was allowed to move onto a wheel - yeah!

At this point it all became much more complicated. For a start Klara doesn't have a wheel; she has seven and they are all different and used for different things. I quickly learnt that spinning wheels have different set ups: Scotch Tension, double something and something else. Some wheels pull more than others. One wheel is perfect for spinning silk and other very fine yarns; another is good for chunky yarn; another is an all rounder and good, thank goodness, for beginners!

Spinning on a wheel is a lot more complicated than a spindle. You have to keep your foot going to turn the wheel as slowly as possible - in the right direction - and at the same time draw the fibres towards the orifice (horrid word) and onto the bobbin. Back to chunky, lumpy yarn!

By mid-afternoon my mind was reeling and I simply couldn't take in any more. But I had caught the bug. I came back with a spindle and some fibre to spin and, needless to say, a yearning to get a wheel. Oh dear!

My, haven't you grown!

Oh that really annoyed me as a child! I was tall for my age and known, amongst other things, as Runner Bean due to long legs and constant running around.

Anyway, these two boys have certainly grown. Can you imagine that back in the summer they used to BOTH get into their drinking tub?!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Weighing the Pigs

The dreaded day of dispatch is fast approaching. Last week I called a "debiteur" and it is he who will come to the house and do the dreaded dead. One of the questions he asked me (naturally enough) was how much do the pigs weigh?

Well, I had no idea. If this sounds amateur remember this is the first time we have kept pigs and every day contributes to the learning process. And anyway, how do you weigh a pig if you please? He's hardly going to stand still on the bathroom scales.

I did vaguely remember the lady who sold them to us mention a formula and for any other first time pig keepers I have managed to track it down. All you need is a fabric tape measure and a pen/paper. A calculator greatly speeds things up back in the house. Please note: All measurements should be in centimetres and the result is the live weight.

OK. First of all measure the girth of the pig. ie. Put the tape measure around the pig just behind the front legs. Make a note.
Next measure the length of the pig from the base of its tail to just behind its ears.

Now do the following simple maths: Square the girth measurement
Multiply the result by the length
Multiply the result by 69.3

So as an example: The Girth of your pig is 101cms and the Length 108cms

1.01 x 1.01 = 1.0201 (Girth squared)
1.0201 x 1.08 = 1.101708 (result multiplied by Length)
1.101708 x 69.3 = 76.34ks

This is meant to be fairly accurate but whatever its accuracy it's a lot better than trying to get him onto the scales!