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Peter S

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About Peter S

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    Chicken Eggspert
  1. What have you got growing through the winter?

    Cauliflower, Romanesco cauliflower, spring cabbage, round cabbage and kohl rabi all planted in July and doing well - have already harvested several kohl rabi, a round cabbage and a cauli. Some other cauliflower, PSB, calabrese and cabbage planted in September are doing well and should be ready for spring. Have a few Jerusalem artichoke plants still growing (just), and also some borlotti beans trying to catch the last few rays of sun to finish ripening. Cavalo Nero kale is doing very well, and will last for some months yet. The perpetual spinach and the various chards look to be on their last legs,and will probably be gone by the end of the year. The fennel is looking great and the stems are starting to swell. Leeks, on the other hand, are taking ages! Still have some beetroot iand a few turnips in the ground, but not much. Have also planted up some autumn onions, garlics and shallots, all of which are growing at a steady rate. Strangely, my allotment still seems to be full of veg, yet the ones around me are empty! Peter
  2. Yes, you are right - I am assuming the cause of death, but it could have been anything. I also wouldn't feed meat to the dog that I wouldn't eat myself. Such a waste, but that's the reality of rearing your own birds, I guess. Just have to increase my numbers next time, so the loss of one bird does not make such an (economic) impact! Thanks all, Peter
  3. Thanks all - I had a horrible feeling that would be the answer. Oh well, just have to chalk it up to experience. Peter
  4. Hi All, When I let the birds out this morning, one of my meat birds (Cotswold Gold) had died in the night - it appeared that it had regurgitated some feed and had choked, as its beak was full of feed. Very disappointed, as this is obviously a very sad and traumatic way to go, and I was going to dispatch the bird in the next few days in any case, as it had reached a good weight. My question is, will the bird still be good to eat? The cold weather has helped to keep the bird fresh, but as it was not dispatched the usual way (broomstick), the blood did not drain and when I finished plucking, the meat looks to be distinctly red. It would be an awful waste to simply throw the bird away, although I'm not sure whether the meat will actually taste good. The bird has dressed out at 5.5 lbs and was about 25 weeks old, so we're talking a fair investment...! So, what do you think I should do? Thanks, Peter
  5. Try putting a few golf balls in the nest - the hens get a shock when they try to crack it open! Worked for me for a while, although we also seem to have a broken eggs (or at least mucky straw) in the nest every day...
  6. softie every day

    We seem to be getting more than our fair share of softies too. At the moment, we have 4 laying hens, but also have three table birds, two of which are female. We meant to dispatch the meat birds before they got to the laying age, but our freezer is full to bursting, what with all the alloment produce! Anyhow, we are now getting more eggs than we have hens! Yesterday, we collected three "proper" eggs, two intact softies and there were also two broken softies in the nest...! On other occasions we have collected five "proper" eggs and two softies. The hens do not appear to be particularly bothered by this, and there is plenty of oyster shell, etc for them. However, it seems strange that we are getting so many eggs - it is possible for a hen to lay more than one softie a day?! Peter
  7. My biggest worry would be that, if a fox came along and saw the rat hole, it would simply start digging to make that hole larger and eventually (over the course of the night) dig its way into the run. In my view, killing the rat won't work - yes, you will get rid of that particular rat, but there are plenty of others to take its place. The only thing that will get rid of rats is to remove the reason they are coming in the first place. I suggest removing food from the run overnight (possibly even the water), along with any treats the girls have not eaten. The rats will therefore have no reason to dig into the run, as there is nothing there for them. Another thing that might work is to place some gravel boards or similar lengths of wood down the length of the run, dug in. Then, when the rat tries to dig under the run, it will hit the wood - will slow it down (not defeat it entirely). What will probably happen then is the rat will simply dig underneath the house itself. Personally, I think some form of wire mesh covering the floor of the run and extending under the house is the best option - also prevents foxes digging into the run if you get a strong enough mesh. Peter PS - it's not just rats that will dig in - we had a huge problem with a squirrel doing exactly the same thing, only with a bigger hole. P PS - what's the difference between a squirrel and a rat? Good PR...
  8. eating beetroot leaves

    You can most certainly eat beetroot leaves - young, tender leaves can be eaten raw as a salad, and older, tougher leaves wilt down excellently if treated like spinach. I tend to destalk the leaves first - chop the stalks and saute in butter for a few minutes, then add the ripped leaves with a little water (the water clinging to the leaves after rinsing is fine), a little salt and pepper, and perhaps a grating of nutmeg. Wilt down, and then squeeze out excess liquid. Finish with butter. Serve with, for instance, a nice piece of fried halibut and some fondant potatoes. Sorry - got carried away, there!
  9. Raised beds over the winter?

    I tend to sow green manures, for a number of reasons: 1) They can be nitrogen fixers / nitrogen lifters, so increase the availability of nitrogen in the soil 2) They surpress weed growth 3) They can be dug back into the soil a few weeks before planting, and will break down and provide nutrients for whatever follows next More importantly, though, is the school of thought that holds covering an area with plastic/carpet/cardboard/etc actually INCREASES the slug burden, as it provides a nice, damp, warm place out of reach of the birds for the slugs to live and breed. I read somewhere that 90% of the slug population lives in the soil, rather than the few we see on top of it! I, for one, have enough of a problem with slugs without making life nice and cosy for them!!! Overall, I'd recommend green manures. You do need to think about what you are going to plant in the bed next year, and use the green manure in rotation with your other plants. For instance, don't use fodder radish in a bed that you intend using for brassicas, don't use tares in a bed that you will be planting with beans. The organic gardening catalogue http://www.organiccatalogue.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=21_51&osCsid=d815cc208bb44d7d71bfa19071b5eaf0 has a nice section explaining about the different types of green manures. Peter
  10. What have you picked today?

    Three more green courgettes and four more yellow courgettes - all since Saturday! Some fine beans, three cucumbers and a little gem. We also had the first of the sweetcorn, including one that was half eaten by a cheeky mouse, and a couple of squash. Our strawberries are still fruiting, but then they were new plants this year and we didn't expect to get anything. I think I read that I shouldn't let them fruit in the first year, to allow them to establish themselves better, but there are just too many fruits!
  11. Anyone else already planning for next year?

    Have already got white (Radar) and red (Electric Red) onions in the ground for next year, and have some garlic and shallots (can't remember the variety) due to go in sometime in October. I'll also be sowing some broad beans to catch an early crop - Aquadulce, I think. Also recently planted a load of caulies, cabbages, calabrese and purple sprouting that should be ready for next year. And, given that my leeks are unlikely to be ready this year, I shall pretend that I was super-organised and that they were always meant for next year... Have also just received a load of seeds from the Organic Gardening Catalogue - mainly squash/pumpkins and various beans, with the potatoes on order to make sure I get my favourites! My lesson from this year is that I need to start things off much, much earlier, hence the reason I've already bought most of my seeds. I've even put them into a little box, in order of sowing, so I know what to sow when! I won't be bothering with tomatoes, as we got an abysmal yield, or aubergines, as they have still not set fruit despite being covered in flowers. And I think I shall limit the number of courgette plants to one yellow and two green, to avoid the plague - sorry, glut - that we have suffered - sorry, enjoyed - this year
  12. I was on the 12 noon slot, although we didn't finish until 3...
  13. I thought the course was great, although I was one of those responsible for my group overrunning - it took me ages to bone my chicken, but it was a thing of beauty in the end! We had the bird last night, with the mini fillets wrapped in parma ham and everything spread with a parsley pesto and stuffed with pecans and apricots. Whole things placed into a loaf tin with some white wine and baked for an hour or so, then served with spuds, sauted turnips and a ratattouille, all from the allotment. Delicious, and there is more than half of it left! Now to deal with the other bird, which is currently hanging in the shed...
  14. What have you picked today?

    A couple of pounds of runner beans, a few little gem lettuces, some beetroot, a few turnips, some more green and yellow courgettes, and loads of rhubarb chard. Calabrese all bolted, so have cut off the heads in the hope that smaller florets may grow. Still picking strawberries and cherry tomatoes (none of which makes it off the allotment )
  15. Russian Eggs???

    Feel a bit of a cheat making it on to the large egg leader board, as it really was two eggs! But feel really honoured to get an entry into the dictionary!