12th. July - 25th. July 2005
Although busy, it's been quiet, if that makes sense !
In the garden it's a story of success and failure. The failures are still carrots and other outdoor sowings. From my four sowings of carrots, at different times, in different places, from different seed packets, I've eight plants actually growing ! It's the first year I haven't sown them indoors, then planted out, but after my 'carrots from hell' (see gardening page ) I thought I'd do it properly this year.
Lettuces are the same, all sowings in the greenhouse are successful, but none have come up in the garden. Spring Onions are weak, broad beans are sparse etc.
It has to the late snow and frosts which cooled down the soil too much and has never really self healed itself.
However, the squash on the bonfire, courgettes, runner beans, second early poatoes and onions seemed to love it and are plentiful. I've noticed much more leaf on the courgette plants this year, but they taste OK.
In the greenhouse there are no problems and the tomatoes have taken over like something from a science fiction film. I believe there's about 30 growing and most are upwards of five feet tall now. Loads of tomatoes on them as well.
At least the chutney's looking good for autumn !
Leo and I went to Southampton to visit family for 5 days last week. A most enjoyable break with the exception of me having a wobbly tooth (one of the few left) which has obviously weakened the immune system for the usual variety of viruses on offer from the grandchildren.
Whilst there we visited a 'Theme Farm', something which I am in two minds about. It's good that kids see what animals are, but there's a lack of information (from the parents as well I suspect) that a cow is where your McDonalds Happy Meal comes from etc.
Also, to see the young ones chasing the chickens around the picnic area was not all that good to see.
Three weeks here and my new ex-battery hens are doing famously. Of all I've taken in, these must be the best ones to settle in with the old timers. Very few punch ups and all 17 sit around the gate eagerly awaiting my arrival in the morning.
In fact, this afternoon I thought I was one short and after counting them umpteen times (which isn't easy because they won't stand still in a straight line when you tell them to) I found that one of the new one's is growing her feathers so fast it must be a record.
Having new hens about has affected the egg yield though and I've only had about 4 eggs a day for the last two weeks. Up til then I was getting about 7 from 11.
The new one's are still staying up late. I go up to check on them just after dark and still see a shape floating over toward me. Can't work out the reason for this. I've shared the info with other ex-batt owners and they all have similar experiences for the first few weeks.
As for cricket, Kent, following one of our best ever victories over Surrey last week are still top of the championship table. It's strange how we do so well in the 4-day game but not well atall in the 1-Dayers. I've examined if I fold the towels in a different manner for different games, but they always look the same to me, so it can't be that.
That's what's worrying, they'll win a goodie and I'll examine everything I did that day to repeat for the next match !!
Had a great time today. Justin Kemp, our South African 'overseas' player practised hitting sixes from the middle wicket. Half an hour later and he'd taken off some tiles from the Pavilion, lost three balls in the gardens the other side of the pavilion and had one player fielding in the top tier of the grandstand. I tell you, it was a dangerous place to be !
The summer seems to be passing by too quickly and there's too much living to be done
28th. June - 12th. July 2005
A slightly late entry due to cricket and not getting home til after 10pm for the last three days.
A dark cloud has appeared down the lane. Ashford Borough Council have released a core strategy for development around us. Although the initial protests have to be in by the end of this August; by the time red tape has taken it's place, it would not be until 2007 that any of the 450 new homes would be built.
The back garden here would have about 40 meters waste land behind it before an access road.
Obviously local people are not taking this sitting down. My main objection is not so much new homes but the loss of more countryside.
There are many swans by the river and a number of badger sets etc., on the land - but I doubt if that would wear much upon the developers. Maybe organisations like the RSPB would have a biger weight to throw.
Various meetings are taking place.
Where I live is actually rented and the Landlord owns many more houses in rural places. In that sense it would be quite easy to 'escape' the bulldozers - but not yet though and I don't wish to appear having an attitude of 'bad luck home owners, we're OK' etc.
The Saturday before last I colected 5 more ex-battery hens from Diane at Brabourne. She is the Kent representative for Jane Howoths charity found at www.thehenshouse.co.uk.
The 5 new chickens had been with Diane for about 4 weeks, so they are certainly an improvement on how she first got them. Even so, they have hardly any feathers and it's quite an emotional sight seeing them all.
How on earth this terrible method of producing eggs can go on I just don't know.
See the 'LATEST VIDEO CLIP' on the left of this page.
You will see I finally got around to building the shed someone gave me 3 years ago. Up to last week it was a toss up between a chicken shed or a coal shed - but I guess it was no contest in the end !
Should anyone like to have some ex-battery hens you should email Jane, or if you email me at email@example.com I'll pass the information on to you.
After they have been with you a wee while, the feathers will grow back and they'll thank you for their new life by giving you not only eggs, but a great deal of pleasure as well.
A couple of days off last week allowed me to do a little up-dating to the web site and I've added a few new pictures to the Photo Galleries, got the cricket pages up to date and even altered the home page a bit as well. Still much to do though.
Every month at some stage I say I'll do a major overhaul, then every month something comes along and I don't get around to it.
My newly found second cousin Phoebe finds it quite amusing that I gave up the hussle bussle of a 'career' to live a quieter life and I'm always busy !
I must confess that things have caught up with me a little lately and for this reason Leo and I are going down to Southampton next week for a few days visiting my daughter Vicky and the Grandkids (although this could be the 'summer break from hell' if the usual virus's are abound) !
We now plan to visit the Lake District in the first week of September. The evening will be shorter, but there won't be so many people around and we can chill out nicely.
Inbetween, there are many things to keep me occupied.
In the garden, the onions, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, courgettes and runner beans are doing famously, but I'm holding my breath a bit over the sprouts, beetroot and carrots. Lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and broad beans are already well into being eaten.
I'm not trying to speed up summer, but I love squash soup !
13th - 28th. June 2005
So there I was sitting in the bath at 7.30pm today and I suddenly thought 'is the diary this week or next week'. So the answer is obvious and I'm one day late in posting !
It's 'twenty / 20' cricket time and with a game here and a game there plus the International on Thursday between Australia and Bangladesh, much time has been spent travelling around with a car full of towels, balls, radios, ice boxes and drinks etc.
No peace for the wicket. The Bangladesh team arrived today, a young but keen squad eager to get their country on the cricket map. Certainly, by beating the Aussies a couple of weeks ago, they're all national heroes now ! A nice bunch of guys.
Somehow though I am right up to scratch in the garden. The recent heatwave, with consistant watering, has worked wonders. The courgettes and squash are growing at an alarming rate. The broad beans are now beans, the runner beans are over the six feet mark. In the greenhouse tomatoes and lettuce are all thriving in the summer heat.
My fourth sowing of carots and beetroot seem to have germinated OK, but I'm keeping a watchful eye as I'm convinced some plant predator is lurking around the beds.
My 'month too late' sprouts have come through so I'm hoping these will catch up by autumn with the right conditions
Like all things in the garden, it's 50 / 50, either they do or they don't - simple as that !
I have found the Kent Co-ordinator for the Rescue Hen centre which is run by Jane Howarth in Devon. She was recently featured on a BBC Inside Out documentary and since then has become a registered charity and is saving thousands of battery hens (www.thehenshouse.co.uk)). The web site article on the BBC features this web site as a link, so that's nice.
Anyway, I phoned the Kent lady up and have arranged to take 5 ex-battery hens from her on Saturday. As I understand, they are a little worse for wear.
I hope to be able to take photos there in view of helping them by a page on this site. I will also be filming the poor things through their 'healing process'.
A junior school in Worcestershire has kindly taken to 'down the lane' and Year 4 are using the Poultry pages for discussion on factory farming and general chicken keeping. I'm corresponding with them by email and it's so encouraging to see young people showing genuine concern for the world we live in.
As I write, a huge thunderstorm is approaching. A severe weather warning earlier today gave me the urgency to spend 4 hours in the garden in which I cut all the lawns, strimmed the whole outer fence of the chicken run of its6 feet high nettles, clean the chicken shed and tie the broad beans in fear of them being flattened with the expected torrential rain.
I'm hoping all will be well in the morning.
I have a problem, well many ! The main one is that my brain thinks I'm only 18. Working in amongst young professional sportsmen tends to gee me up somewhat and I occasionally help out in training by retrieving balls etc. To shouts of 'quick dickie, throw in hard' etc. I've already damaged a tendon in the shoulder this year and last Sunday stubbed my index finger making a spectacular, but foolish, dive during my brothers Pubs cricket X1 match. It is now twice the size of the other one and I can hardly bend it.
Add these to knee problem following football match after the game at Maidstone and I'm a walking wreck !!
I must get my body and my brain to liase a bit more often ! I don't do bad though and even though I say it myself, I can keep up with much of it still.
Leo and I are unsure about going to the mountains in the Lake District in a few weeks now. We may settle for the end of August when things are a little quieter. Also, he's off to Italy in 4 weeks.
This will mean a few days off in mid July and time perhaps to visit family in Southampton.
Last Sunday was my Mothers 80th. birthday and we celebrated with a large family gathering at Nigels Pub in Scaynes Hill.
30th.May - 13th.June 2005
In the garden it's ups, downs, highs and lows.
After the third sowing of carrots and beetroots, I've only a few shown any sign of coming up. This has to be the late Winter snow and very irratic weather since I think.
The Sprouts haven't materialized atall, but this is down to one of the cats who thought it highly amusing to knock the seed tray containing 12 plants onto the floor of greenhouse. So they're not getting any little lumps of cheese treats til at least Autumn now !
I'm off to the Garden Centres this afternoon to try and get some baby plants, but I feel I'm too late.
The poatoes, runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, squash on the old bonfire etc. are all growing famously and no problems there.
I've manged a few days off since last Friday and worked a good few hours outside with weeding as the number one priority. I find that slugs love the creeping buttercups which seem to grow so well here. Luckily these are fairly easy to pull out.
I've obtained quite a lot of fairly decent wood from skips lately and am desperately thinking of something to build with it. My old pallet garden furniture is finally coming to an end after 6 years, so maybe a nice table and bench set. Whatever it is, it has to be built in less than two hours as that's about my concentration level for anything I do !
The chickens, after a little lull, have started laying well again and I'm getting up to 8 eggs a day. Considering they're ex-battery hens and most are over two years old now, I'm really proud of the little girls.
Last week I didn't go out much from Wednesday on and sold them at the gate. Regret to say that some youths found it entertaining to pinch a dozen, not the money, and chuck them around the Lane. I didn't see this. Last time this happened and caught them. I don't know if it's the same kids this time as I had threatened to destroy their manhood should they appear down here again.
Although it's a no through lane with no tarmac etc., it is a public footpath. Being semi-rural gives it the pleasure for those who want a 'country stroll', but also occasionally attracts those who just haven't got anything better to do than to find something to disfigure or destroy.
Gets up my nose a bit.
Our vistor 'Stubby', the ginger cat who seems to turn up every evening through summer and autumn, is now brave enough to stroll accross the kitchen floor to nick some of our cats food. Thje strange thing is they don't seem to mind. There are other cats who stroll around where World War 3 breaks out, but Stubby gets away with it. A real sweety who just sits around, then bangs on our back door to attract attention. Don't know where he comes from but seems well kept - a mystery.
The next two weeks is going to be quite hectic. Tomorrow I work at the Universities Cricket final at Canterbury. Next week I have Wednesday and Saturday in Beckenham with Kent, Sunday at Scaynes Hill at my brothers pub for my Mums 80th. Birthday (always said she'd outlive me ?), then the Australia v Bangladesh one day international at Canterbury.
Kent are on a roll at present with three wins and a draw after each other. It's good to work with them, theirs a new positive vibe about the dressing room and this is continuing on the pitch.
So all the more reason to have the rest of the day off I think. I've much to do at The Mill House, but the sun's out, the lounger looks unused and my knees hurt !
People who say that gardening is theraputic and relaxing are wrong. People who say it's hard work, makes your body sore but you eat well, sleep at night and gives you more satisfaction than a train being on time - are right.
16th May - 30th. May 2005
With the exception of one day, summer nearly appeared whilst Kent played cricket at Tunbridge Wells.
Day 2, 3 and 4 produced temperatures up into the high 20's and people were passing out with the heat all over the place. I'm sure there were more rhodedendrums in bloom at the end of the 5 days which made prrof of the ground being one of the mostbeautiful in the country.
Kent managed to 'come from behind' to force a draw against Surrey but had the most surprising defeat against Durham in the one-day game after appearing to have it all wrapped up with 5 overs to go.
I guess that's part of the magic of the game, but not if you are a Kent fan !
It's quite peculiar at this time of the year. You go away for 6 days and the whole garden and general scenery down the lane changes.
The trees seem much fuller this year, must be the rain we've had and everything is just shooting up after a sad dismal start to the growing season.
I've sown yet more carrots and beetroots as they don't seem to be doing much. If they all come up, there will be a stall at the end of the lane !
With the damp, the slugs have been having a good old go at everything and I've spent today (my only day at home in day hours for 16) putting soot around the newly planted out courgettes and runner beans. It should be noted that the soot has to be a year old to do this and you should avoid any going on the leaves as it'll burn them.
The potatoes have come through the soil after only two weeks, so they need to be earthed over from now on.
Got a feeling they're going to do well this year.
Some of you may remember that last summer and autumn a big ginger male cat suddenly turned up meowing on our doorstep. We used to feed him although you could never stroke him.
He vanished as quick as he came and we spent hours looking for him and asking around to find who he belonged to. We assumed he'd either gone home or died.
Well, he's suddenly turned up again. He sits outside the back door and meows away and he'll let you stroke him now.
The strange thing is that our two cats don't take any notice of him. Any others crossing their path and World War 3 starts up - but not with him. He just strolls past them without a care in the world.
So, we don't know how long he's here for, where he sleeps, if he has a proper home or what - but he's very welcome anyway.
The chickens all seem quite happy at the moment. The rats seem to have vanished into the fields for the time being, but come the harvesting of the dreaded reap they'll all come flooding back I have no doubt. The broody one stopped being broody and is back amongst the others although one of them seems to be breaking at least one egg a day at the moment. Just let me find out which one !
So, tomorrow I'm off to Canterbury for cricket raining then drive a few of my bits over to Maidstone in the afternoon where I shall be until Sunday. Unlike Tunbridge Wells I go by car everyday. It only takes about 25 minutes door to door and I have to pick up towels each morning from the launderette. The 'out grounds' are less work, but more hectic in so far as rushing around from here to there.
My new car got through the MOT with only a few minor things being done and it drives quite well. Although a bigger engine than the last car, it seems as good, or better, on the petrol consumpton.
I'm still planning to go to Ben Nevis in July. If not there, at least Wales or The Lakes again. So that will be the ultimate test !
All in all things are looking bright at the moment; the chickens are happy, the cats are happy and so am I. But tomorrow is another day......!