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12th - 24th December 2005
Well, suddenly the chickens have got a grip of themselves and started to lay. Not many, 14 eggs in the last 7 days, but enough for the return of thick yellow gold eggs worth every minute of the wait.
The carrots in the greenhouse are now being consumed, by us that is. I'm lifting them whilst they're still quite small as I don't wish the frost to penetrate the glass too much and find I can't have any of them. The same applies to the beetroot - these are being roasted for meals and the leaves eaten as salad, all healthy stuff.
The weather has been so mild and dry for the last few days I've even been able to cut the grass. At the house opposite this was a good opportunity to clear the remainder of Chestnut Tree leaves. A good size on the back soon clears up. Their compost heap is a bit too leafy now, so I've transported a load of chicken dropping and earth from my place to give it, as the TV Chefs say "A bit of texture".
It was really nice being outdoors so much this week. I've pottered around the garden here, cycled down town a few times and got on with things I was getting behind on. At present it's 10.45 on Christmas Eve morning and the thermometer outside shows 10 degrees (centigrade).
This is all well and good, but we haven't had the Sitting Room fire on for three days because of the weather. The heat from the Kitchen Rayburn has amply spread heat through.
Tomorrow morning I head off to Southampton to have Christmas and Boxing Day with the Grandkids, Leo and Vicky etc. I could go down tonight, but I've been working everyday this week on various projects, so have promised myself a day off today. The quietness of this evening will not last for long and I'll probably come back a nervous wreck. I have succeeded in being a miserable old git lately !!
The old health has been playing up for a while now. So much so that I actually visited the Doctor for the first time in 18 months. I've had 4 tests done (didn't have the guts to ask what they're for !!) and was supposed to get the results yesterday, but two are taking longer than expected, so I must hang on to next week to ensure that most of my body is doing what the brain is telling it to.
This year has had it's fair share of ups and downs. A bit like a book; it had a beginning, a middle bit to keep you interested and an ending. Most of the downs have been with family health, but these seem to be controlled or cured now.
One things still for certain though - I'd never ever go back ! Have a great Christmas and thanks so much for all your support this year.
26th November - 12th December 2005
The greenhouse I was building over the road is now complete and with the finely crafted hand made staging, it looks quite impressive though I say so myself. I have a feeling the owner will see it and want staging on the other side as well, so lots to look forward to !
Five weeks and still no eggs. The chickens really are on strike. They don't seem to realise that they are now Down the Lanes largest financial overhead !
Rats are certainly a nuisance, but as long as you don't allow the numbers to get out of control, they do seem to live with the chickens in a strange kind of harmony.
Ginger and mimi the cats are in full winter mode now - that means they spend about 22 hours a day sleeping, one hour begging for food and the other one just being a general nuisance !
This week I have two Cricket Club Christmas events; the Club Evening Meal and the following day, the Club Stewards Lunch. So, withing the space of 18 hours I shall be having two full scale meals. I can eat for England and I know I shall weigh the same afterwards. I haven't gained any weight atall since I was 18 !
This year my son Leo and myself will be spending Christmas at my daughter Vickies house in Southampton. I know we will have a lovely time, but I see poor old "Pop, where have your teeth gone" grandkids will give me a run for their money on the human wattage stakes !
I wont be back til the 28th, so I'll make a small entry on Christmas Eve, but more the norm onthe 31st; A wonderful look back at what has certainly been a year of ups and downs in all departments.
31st October - 13th November 2005
This week I've actually been able to get down to some serious work over the road and even dog sat for two days.
I also paid a visit to Canterbury to be informed (after I begged on one knee saying I think he's the best boss I've ever known) there may be some work for me shortly on the web site and something else early next year before pre-season training starts.
We also received the fixture list for next year which includes England 'A' vs Pakistan in June - busy times, great. Plus Elton John plays the cricket ground in June as well.
At home, the chickens haven't laid an egg in a fortnight. I've done some re-planning in the pen, so I guess this may have put them partly off lay. A couple are moulting their feathers everywhere and these points, with the recent strange weather seems to be the favourite reason.
I've been cycling quite a bit recently, mainly to save money (see the new'Oddballs Cycling Page) but also to try and keep a bit fitter this winter than I was last. It seemed I was forever catching colds, especially after visiting the Grandchildren !
The cycling is good and strangely I find it easier during the winter. Cycling in the summer just makes me too hot and the legs are about 50 yards behind me down the road. Going down town is up and down, so it's the same coming back - you get the hardest bit over first, then freewheel most of the way.
The garden is in fear of thinking it's Spring. The Acer plant in the front garden was turning quite brown a few weeks back, but is now a wonderful deep red.
17th - 31st October 2005
A couple of days early as I'm off to Southampton tomorrow for a few days rest. I doubt if the grandkids will see it that way though !
Today, I spent 6 hours building an extension to the chicken house, under cover and with a 'fast food' capability.
The chickens aren't laying atall well at the moment. I do wonder if it's the shorter days and the ex-battery hens are simply brainwashed with their 16 hour artificial sunlight days.
I got three days work altogether as a 'background artist' for the BBC comedy. I was 'bloke in social club', 'bloke in social club with woman', 'bloke in social club with another woman' and 'bloke in social club with two blokes'. Quite diverse roles I thought.
Again, it seems I haven't had a moments rest in the last two weeks. I've got a lot done with the decorating over the lane and I'm quite pleased with it.
In the garden I am pleasantly surprised with the cabbages. They were quite badly got at during September, but we've eaten two out of 8 and after taking the top few leaves off, they are perfect and taste good as well.
Overall I'm pretty pleased with the 'garden farm' now, the veggie garden is dug and looking good and the chickens are finally a lot more organised. There's enough wood in the shed to last til January, plus it's even quite tidy in there. It's been a hard slog though.
I haven't had the heating on for 2 weeks, it's been rather mild, even the nights. On Thursday the temperature outside the back was 21 degrees, a record for 27th. October apparently. Typically it was the day I was doing indoor work. On friday it chucked it down !!
19th September - 3rd October 2005
Autumn has been suddenly bestowed upon us down the lane and much has happened in the last two weeks.
The Rayburn fuel arrived on the same day as the Chimney Sweep came and the next day I was down in the woods gathering wood.
Before the Chimney Sweep arrived I got through a large pot of Fire Cement repairing the back of the Rayburn ! It's quite an old thing to say the least but serves its purpose well and I wouldn't change it for the world. The kind of musty smell of the Fuel mixed in with the branch wood is pleasure !
Leo and myself have paid our yearly visit to the dis-used orchard up the lane. Sadly, the wind has has destroyed most trees, but two remain and this was worth 4 Sainsburys bags of apples now dutifully stored in the shed. Just for interest, one double page spread of The Daily Telegraph does 4 apples!
Last Saturday saw the big bi-annual event of 'shed clearance'. The autumn clear up is always worse than Spring. Because of work in the summer, I tend to struggle for time to control those 'chuck it in the shed' moods and boy was there a build up.
I also managed to get to the Poultry Auction (I didn't buy anything), watched Kent play Sussex down at Hove for a day, had two cracking bonfires and attended the Staff end of season Buffet at the Cricket Club.
There has been much media interest of late relating to back garden chicken keeping and this has increased the number of visitors to the site considerably. I'm glad they're getting the publicity they deserve and it certainly shows the tendancy toward 'home grown' food and a more fulfilling lifestyle. It's like technology has supplied us with so much, but has left a gap - the gap of self reliance. Take away the TV, DVD, Playstation, PC and mobile phone and what have we got ? Not a lot sometimes.
On the web site front, I have added a few more pages. Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting John Marshall who's in Ashford visiting family. He comes from The Isle of Lewis and really has a story. With his permission, I am writing an article and it should be complete sometime this week. You'll find it in the 'downshifting' section by about Wednesday. Do have a read. Now uploaded - click here
I've also added a new page 'Your Page' (my word, I'm original ). If you would like to partake in this, please email me through the link supplied and I'll do the rest. You can add your web site if you wish (but I'd appreciate it not being used for 'commercial' advertising). So if you're a downshifter, chicken keeper, dowser or just enjoy the simpler life, please give it a go. You can see the page by clicking here. Once I have a couple, it'll 'go public' with links from other pages.
1st - 19th September 2005
Since the 29th. September I've achieved one day at home, so much has been neglected and now, with more time, a great catch up project is to take place.
Kent alas have not reached the dream of the Cricket County Championship and look like being either second or third.
I have had an offer of a 'Christmas' job in a Shop starting mid November which would help, but at present have quite a lot of catch up work to do over the Lane in the big house, plus a few other bits and bobs. I have also been asked once again to do a few things for the Kent CCC web site through winter. Add this to sorting the garden out for winter and some major changes to the web site, I'm never short of something going on.
I'm really pleased with the late summer produce. The tomatoes, late in ripening, have now all come on famously. We've paid for the vinegar and other bits to make the chutneys and relishes by selling the surplas and had some to spare. I reckon that the £3 we paid for the seeds will generate a profit of around £60 or so. Some of this though is used to barter back other items grown and made by other people.
Today I dug up some wild horseradish from around and about and will make some sauce over the next few days (see here).
Next week the chimney sweep comes, I repair / service the Rayburn and start adding to the wood pile. Beware the Skips of Ashford, no wood is safe !
Leo and myself enjoyed a good 7 day break in the Lakes where we achieved the mountain walks we set out to do.
So, in many ways it's my favourite time of the year, but is counterset by the fact I shall deeply miss all my colleagues, players and friends at cricket. I say it every year and I'm getting better at it - you mustn't wish any second of your life away. Next season will come when it comes and I really do believe that my life and health is somehow or other looked after by that.
22nd August - 1st September 2005
There are signs in the garden that summer is now struggling and is awaiting the autumn. The courgettes are almost no more (the freezer can breathe a sigh of relief !), the tomatoes are ripening at a nice pace, the cabbages are finally taking shape and the lettuce is starting to bolt !
The wasps nest I thought I'd got rid of re-apeared and it took the best part of an hour attacking them with just about everything known to mankind. I'm not conclusive, but I think they're gone !
On the chicken front, I regret to say that one of the new hens suddenly died a few days ago. Once again there was no reason; all seemed well, but suddenly you find one that hasn't made it.
Speaking of our new neighbours, they are a lovely couple. Darren runs an aromatherapy business close by and Christa's a social worker.
I've been reading'The Woodland House' by Ben Law. You may have seen the Channel 4 productions of 'Grand Designs'. The house was featured in the series.
I hope to start going to the Kent Dowsers Group again. It's a while since I've been and feel I could use it more than I do. I've reasonably well swotted up on it, but need to share a few projects and views to re-kindle the uses it has.
Autumn and winter are nearly upon us and I'm now quite busy getting things prepared. As soon as I get back from my holiday and the final cricket match is over, I shall be back to wood hunting, chimney sweeping and garden digging.
The holiday and the final cricket matches take me up to September 25th. I must also look for a part time job this winter. The last one was quite a difficult one (under-statement) and it was by luck and and a kind offer that I started at Canterbury in late January. I can't see that happening this year, so will look around the shops down town for 20 hours or so.
Life has a habit of throwing surprises and after last winter, I'm ready/ Whether or not my Bank Manager is, is another matter !!
In the meantime I will enjoy the moment. A hopefully nice break and a hopefully happy end to the Kent cricket season.
9th - 22nd August 2005
So here we are again, two weeks on and one tooth out ! I'm afraid there was no saving it. I went to Southampton to visit family and daughter Vicky could not stand the sight any longer and off I went to her Dentist. Being a front one it was long. Even grandson Thomas didn't want it under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy - so he lost a couple of quid out of it !
My battle with the slugs has been quite successful, the sprouts and cabbages are once again taking shape.
We've just agreed another twelve months down the lane with our Landlord, so I can now start planning for next year.
The constant challenge of the garden is quite fascinating. You 'cure' one thing and something else starts. The farmer has just harvested the fields around us and this has meant an influx of rats.
Also yesterday, we put a few courgettes and runner beans outside. We may have only got £1 at the end of the day, but that pays for the seeds and the freezer is full.
Kent CCC continue the continuous push to win the Championship for the first time in 30 years. We have four matches remaining to stamp our mark. The weather is worrying though. It can be pouring hard in Canterbury when we've a chance of a win, but sunny in Nottinghamshire with the same result scenario.
Son Leo and myself are getting excited about our camping holiday at Wasdale in Cumbria. It's a beautiful site right under The Great Gable and Scafel Pike - like heaven ! We went there last year, so know what we have and haven't done plus know where everything is etc., so it should be great.
25th July - 9th August 2005
I write this during a period of massive defence construction in the garden. Although I barricaded my young sprouts and cabbages with soot, the slugs are obviously either digging tunnels or pole vaulting over it.
Although we've not had loads, the potato crop has produced some really tasty meals. They seem to be twice the density of supermarket spuds.
The 5 new ex-battery hens are going from strength to strength. Their feathers are a little slower to grow back than some I've known, but all appear healthy and they're thanking me with 3 eggs a day !
Cricket is getting somewhat tense. Kent are sitting at the top of the Championship table with two other teams chasing. Five more games to go.
I'm going to Southampton again tomorrow for 4 days. Kent are playing Hampshire at The Rose Bowl which is only 3 miles away from my daughter Vickies home, so I can visit the family and watch cricket at the same time. What a good life.
I'm busy doing triple somersaults into skips at the moment looking for firewood and anything else I can put in the shed and forget about for the next two years. Got a couple of nice big terracota pots the other day and also found some shelving which I can use.
My ailments of a broken finger and torn tendon this year has now been added to with a wobbly front tooth, but I'm not parting with any money for it to come out. Getting old !
A few more improvements (I hope) to the web site. I've paid a little extra to remove advertising etc. from the forum which makes it a little more friendly; also tidied up a few more pages as well.