Sunday, 14 October 2012

First Frost

Sunday 14th October 2012
The First Frost
"Come on! It's freezing.
Budge over, there's room for all of us in here."
What a day we had today! I had my first slightly crunchy stroll down to the chickens this morning, my wellies leaving a line of melted footprints in the lightly frosted grass. Elvis's chicks weren't particularly impressed by this, so they went back to cuddling into mum. But it didn't take them long to get back into adventurous mode. These chicks are absolutely delightful, jumping all over my hands when I feed them and regularly wandering away from mum into unexplored areas. They really know no fear.

The chicks have discovered how to feed from the grown-ups' feeders.

Meanwhile, the guinea family
goes from strength to strength

Not forgetting this character

A new auction
After dropping the pigs off in the morning, we paid a visit to an auction which has just opened up just down the road. Yesterday I spent more than I wanted on an axe, so what should I find sitting in a cardboard box about to be sold for next-to-nothing? Yes, three lovely old axes, wooden handles and full of character. Just typical! We did, however, buy a little veg stall for gate sales. Very cheap and saves me a job.

Back to that axe.

Hatch, Catch and DispatchSqueamish readers may want to fast forward now. For I have to admit we have been struggling with dispatching the chickens. Breaking their necks is not as easy as it sounds, particularly with the cockerels. It requires a knack which we clearly don't have. Then there's the fact that it's very difficult to tell when the deed is done. We always knew that they continued to flap and run around, but are they really supposed to keep blinking their eyes??

So we decided that beheading would be more efficient, better for the chooks and for us. Hence the axe. So today our French Copper Marans cockerel put its head on the chopping block, quite literally. It was quick and efficient and we were both happy with the way it went. This is the way forward for us.
We were also relieved to see that yes, even with the head severed, the chicken still kept blinking. And it was weird, even though we expected it, to literally see a headless chicken running around.

35 lbs of Green Tomatoes
It was still relatively early in the day, so I decided to tackle the tomatoes. We've managed to eat about half a dozen juicy, ripe tomatoes this year, from a total of about a hundred seedlings! That's not good. It all started with disastrous germination, then poor growing weather. Then we couldn't get the polytunnel up in time, so all the tomatoes went into the open ground.
The good news is that, had we not had the delays, I reckon we would still have got quite a lot of tomatoes as many of the plants were covered in flowers and small, green fruits.
The bad news is that halfway through October the fruits are just not going to develop any more. Add to that the fact that blight has now begun to bite them as I was loathe to remove the leaves while the fruits still needed every ounce of energy to develop.
So today I decided to pull the lot up, disposing of any fruits from plants with withering leaves and keeping only the most perfect of fruits, green as they all were.

I still ended up with 35lbs of green tomatoes. Sue has already started processing them with a large maslin pan full of ginger and green tomato jam.

Seven Bramblings and a Tree Sparrow
It wasn't too late in the day for a birding highlight either.
When I came in for a late afternoon break a sparrow coming down to the pond to drink caught my eye. It was a tree sparrow, the first of the winter. These delightful birds were regular at the feeders during our first winter here but have been scarce since. Let's hope this is the forerunner of more.

But then, in the branch just above the sparrow, a superb male Brambling sat bold as brass. And above him two females. Quite possibly one of these was the bird we heard drop in with chaffinches yesterday.
The local goldfinch flock were coming down to the pond too, absolutely delightful to watch, and I wondered whether the bramblings might have joined the finch flock which spend most of the day commuting between the safety of the ash trees and the recently harrowed neighbouring field.
So I crossed the dyke and aimed my telescope at the feeding finch flock. As the field has been worked perfectly flat I had stunning views of every goldfinch and chaffinch, along with SEVEN bramblings, including two handsome males.
I would be very pleased to see this many brambling feeding with finches on any day out birdwatching in Britain, but on my own doorstep was outstanding. Only problem is that these birds are most definitely a harbinger of winter, as were the forty or so Redwings which flew across the garden earlier in the day.

Tomorrow I tackle the pumpkin patch.

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