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4TH - 16TH. MAY 2005
A fortnight full of work, pleasure and surpises. It's been good.
The Sunday before last I was clearing some waste area for a new compost heap when I saw a family the other side of the stinging nettles.
Anyway, it was an absolute pleasure to meet them, Abigail and Michael introduced themselves to the chickens and the chickens were pleased to have company. A very fine experience indeed.
The next really nice thing to happen is a colleague at work gave me his old car ! With only half the mileage of my old Nissan, 4 years younger and very clean, it was a bargain for the 12 eggs I gave him. Well actually I haven't yet as the chickens are a little quiet at the moment.
Sometimes I certainly land on my feet, but am surrounded by many nice people who are truly nice to know.
A fine cricket match against Hampshire took place but ended in a draw with Kent just hanging on at the end. I don't know who writes the scripts for some of our games, but whoever it is must have shares in Valium !
So I've re-sown carrots, beetroots and lettuce and hope this weather of rain, sunshine and late frosts will shortly come to an end. During the cricket match they were playing in only 9 degrees !
Next week I'm in a Hotel for 6 days at Tunbridge Wells for cricket. It's my favourite venue outside of Canterbury. The ground is surrounded with Rhodedendrun bushes which, with luck, should just about be blooming when we are there.
I've noticed today that I have a broody hen. This can be quite a pain and you have to watch that they get outside the hen house or they're sitting on the eggs the whole time.
So, all good positive stuff going on down the lane. What does the next fortnight bring ?!
18th. April - 4th. May 2005
Sun and rain seems the order for the last two weeks and the garden, especially the grass, has gone into overdrive. I've found myself trudging the lawn mower around twice in only 6 days.
Something's eaten all my baby spring onions. By the way the cats are hanging around the vegetable patch I can only think it's mice or voles etc. I've promised them an extra sachet of Sainsburys Cat food if they clear them for me, but my requests seem to go on stoney ground and they just turn over on the sofa and go back to sleep.
Other than that, everything is springing up; broad beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions etc. I have to strim over the old bonfire area for the Squash to go into. They seem to thrive on terrible soil so, without wishing summer away, I look forward to roasted squash soup in the Autumn.
On the cricket scene, Kent have started the season quite well but results hard to come by because of the weather.
2005 is not proving to be a lucky one so far down in Southampton. First Thomas developing rhumatoid artiritis, then a week ago getting the chicken pox.
It is, when these 'emergancies' hit us, that the reason for downshifting becomes more real. I read an article which explained that through a survey, the largest of people downshifting did it for more quality time with their families and have more control on their time.
During the summer months I'm trying to put together a DVD of pages out of the web site, plus a few extras. As a forerunner to this, I have done a 30 minute DVD of events during late winter and early Spring, plus the 3 minute clip from the Meridian TV programme I was in last October, a short piece on battery hens and the epic 5 minute version of 'The Great Escape'.
So, back to reality and a good clean of the chicken shed. For the first time on Sunday I got 11 eggs from 11 chickens ! Who said that ex-battery hens are no good !
5th - 18th. April 2005
Oh dear, I'm going to struggle for things to say - 13 days at the Cricket Club since my last entry with one day off !
The pro's are that there's money going into the Bank (this may cause an decrease in the national lending rate, so beware) and I haven't a lot of time to spend it !
It is odd how the body and mind work though. Today I'm off and gladly going about the business of cleaning the windows, doing some strimming and clearing out the shed.
The Cricketers have a new Exercise Bike in the Dressing Room and it has a Pulse rate 'thingy' on it. You attach it to your ear (I thought they were winding me up first of all). I 'cycled' 3 miles the other day at 15mph and only had a pulse rate of 90. Either I'm incredibly fit or I'm already dead and this is my after life !!
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we were playing a friendly against Cardiff University and only got 4 hours play out of the 3 days ! Although enabling me to do a few other bits for the Club, it means that as soon as the Umpires call it a day, the players have a game of touch rugby and I end up going home at exactly the same time as if they'd played !
I woke up in the night on Saturday and heard the foxes about. Now is the time where you inspect your defences around the chicken house and pen. I've added some of that plastic 'road work' type fencing around the perimeter fence, hanging down the side and ensured all the jagged chicken wire around the top is jagged.
I've nothing against foxes. In fact I think they're beautiful creatures, but I don't think that so much when I fing 8 or so dead chickens at 7am in the morning !
My neighbours are moving to France shortly and are giving me yet another greenhouse. This will make three; two 8' x 6' and one 12' x 8'.
Other than that, the slugs are back, so it's out with the two year old soot and surround the beds. But not all 'returnees' are unwanted. How nice it is to see the busy bees humming round the flowers, frogs in the bath (the garden one that is). Watching nature to a background music of bird song, lawn mowers and cricket balls is about as perfect as it can be, for me anyway !
22nd.March - 5th. April 2005
My cunning plan for protecting the cats from using the newly dug vegetable patch as a luxury toilet has come to fruition. A few broken bread containers from a Skip has solved it (see left) !
So hopefully my 110 onions will get a free run and provide plentiful provision for chutney making at the end of summer.
The other main ingredients are also under way. Tomatoes are growing on the south facing window shelf (even this meant building an extra shelf because the cats would knock them over), cucumbers are sown, as are a few peppers etc.
My second early potatoes are on the north facing window sill chitting away happily. I've also sown some spring onions, beetroot and lettuce.
The annoying thing is I'm hardly ever at home when the time comes to eat everything as I'm being amply fed at the Cricket Club !
The chickens are enjoying pre-season training. All the left overs from the kitchen duly arrive in my little room and I sort out what they would like before getting thrown away. They are somewhat partial to jacket potatoes, rice, bacon sandwiches and the occasional bit of fruit cake !
It's good to get the cricket season under way again, although it is harder work than previously due to some extra bits and bobs of work coming my way. With that plus some other work for the Club after I get home, I'm becoming 'Mr Kent himself' I think !!
To cap it all I was really pleased that one of the Kent Team is thinking of having some chickens shortly and asked my opinion. It appears he has also seen the 'River Cottage' series !
There's a short piece about me on the Kent Web Site - go to 'Latest News' on www.kentccc.com and look for 'Dressing Room (and Attendant) wakes up'.
Last weekend Leo and myself went to Southampton and although I only had six virus's to select from my Grandchildren, I was only allowed one and have yet another cold. I'm almost buying the throat tablets before I go down there so they're ready for me on my return !
I'm now on a stint of working non-stop until the 27th.April. The only two days I have off cricket are being spent doing a decorating job for someone. So no peace for the wicked and I'm plodding along.
Oh what joy ! It's that time of the year which is over run with pleasurable things to do, but not enough time to do them in.
8th - 22nd March 2005
Panic has crept into Bramley Cottage. With all the snow I didn't think much about the garden and last Saturday, when the temperature was 18 degrees !, I looked up my calendars from previous years and saw the things I was sowing at that time.
Somehow I managed to get it all done and the soil is all ready for sowing quite a lot over Easter.
I'm now Monday - Fridays plus a few weekends at cricket til early May, so Easter is about the only time I have spare for three weeks.
The first few days of pre-season training entails the issuing of new kits and this keeps me somewhat busy. But, loads of empty plastic bags, pins and boxes to bring home which I shall find some use for.
Strange that, outside of family, my two favourite things - garden farming and cricket happen in exactly the same 6 / 7 months of the year. I need the winter to get myself back to some form of normality, if that's possible !
The chickens are still doing me proud with 5 to 7 eggs a day. I am wary that the fox is about and will soon be having extra mouths to feed. Always a problem time of the year.
I tell you, there's a few rats about ! See the movie clip on the left. It's a bit like a McDonalds Drive Thru ! They've formed little one way lanes accross the grass. I'm sure there's one the other side of the fence taking orders.
I fixed up a combined DVD / Video player for a neighbour the other day and they kindly gave me their old VHS Player. Nothing wrong with it, stereo etc. In fact they only used it a couple of times because they lost the zapper.
I've been filming quite a lot lately with my video camera and am making a kind of try out DVD of Down the Lane.
So, Spring has sprung and another summer to look forward to. A combination of leather against willow, trowel against soil and clucks from the henhouse. It's looking good !