Monthly Archives: March 2014

Just let me start planting . . . please

hensdigging

 

My chickens have this crazy idea that I have digging the vegetable bed in their very large pen purely for their benefit. I accept I am animal mad, and I do do wacky things at times, but I wouldn’t do that.  I wouldn’t sacrifice worms for the sake of keeping my hens happy. On second thoughts . . .

The chickens have a pen approximately one third of an acre which is almost entirely their own. I say, almost, because there is a large vegetable bed at one end, with soil that is well drained and loamy, and it has proven perfect for growing potatoes. Once the plants are established, the chickens leave them alone, making them an ideal chicken companion! The problem is getting them into the ground in the first place.

Here’s what happened.

As soon as I pass through the gate, they run towards me. If I don’t stay ahead of them, some of the hens will get in front on me, blocking my way forward and preventing my movement. So I have to be quick, and trot to the vegetable bed. The hens run along behind. It is quite a sight. I feel like the Pied Piper.

The girls recognise my garden fork, and even before I start, the excitement is building. They’ve seen it all before and know what’s coming; they cluck and peck, asserting dominance and striving for prime position. They have one thing on their mind, worms!

My intention was to dig four trenches, add the potatoes, water them, and cover them up, first with soil and then with a fleece cover. It wasn’t so easy.

I make my first hole but the hens block my view of the soil; I am digging blind, and know from the excited cries, that the first worms have been taken. As a distraction, I move further along the row and continue digging. Despite my very slow progress, partly because I had to be careful with the fork so as not to stab a chicken, I reach the end of the row.

Wanting to assess my work, I step back and wait for the girls to drift away. They have filled in the trench! Would you believe it? All my hard work for nothing! All I have done is help the girls find breakfast! A new plan was needed. I decide the only way I was going to manage it was to dig a hole, plant a potato, cover it up, and so on.

Despite the kafuffle, it worked. Job done.

One question remains. Have I planted the potatoes evenly and in straight rows? I doubt it, since I couldn’t really tell what I was doing. If anyone asks, I do not have a drinking problem, nor do I need my eyes tested. I simply had chickens to contend with . . . chickens with greedy appetites and bulging crops!

 

My legs with a mind of their own

My days are spent working, exercising and socialising. It is a good mix, and most of the time, by the time bedtime approaches I’m relaxed and already starting to dose. Yet the instant I climb into bed, I cannot sleep. Why? Because of my damned legs. I cannot keep them still!

I am an occasional sufferer of Restless Legs Syndrome. This condition causes an uncomfortable feeling in the sufferer’s legs. It’s like a crawling sensation under the skin, or a deep ache, and it will not go away. The urge to move is irresistible. Walk a little and the discomfort disappears; stay still for long periods and it returns.

During the day, it is something I can ignore for the majority of the time, but at night . . . I WANT TO SCREAM!!

Why is it when I want to sleep, my legs feel like they want to run a marathon! Given I am an arthritis sufferer, I am used to dealing with pain, and I can focus on controlling my urges to kick out, but it is not enough. Within an hour of slipping into a slumber, the nagging ache returns, waking me up. My feet and legs twitch and shooting pains rush up and down my legs. It’s not especially painful, but it is very, very annoying.

I’ve tried painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, but they don’t work. So I have to suffer, night after night.

There is one solution. Walk around!

Even if the pain is extreme, the instant I get out of bed I feel relief. Isn’t that bizarre? Why should it be so immediate, and why won’t the ache go away whilst I am horizontal?

I don’t want to walk around the house once an hour during the night. I don’t want to do stretching exercises, and I don’t want to train for a marathon! What part of my brain refuses to listen? I just want to sleep.

Zzzzzzz . . . 

In Memory Of Keats

Blake and Keats

As a self-confessed softie, I found losing my grey tabby cat a very traumatic experience, but despite what I went through, even knowing the outcome, I would go through it again. Life is about the enjoying new experiences, whether they are good or bad. I think we should cherish both equally, since one accentuates the other.

I’d had Keats, affectionately known as Keaty Pie, since he was just 7 weeks old. He disappeared a month after his second birthday, on the day it had been announced the world was to end. It was a curious choice on his part.

I acquired him and his brother, Blake, from a rescue centre having suffered the loss of two other cats. Two weeks before, I’d lost Tingle, the love of my life, having brought him back from hell. (His moving story is told in my novel ‘Shackled’) His replacement was Tennyson. Within 5 days of his arrival, he was hit by a car and killed. Despite being inconsolable (as I said I’m a softie) and announcing I didn’t want any more cats, ever, my husband, Doug, knew better. One day, he handed me two delightful and precious bundles of joy.

And so Keats and Blake arrived. They were so tiny that they fed from the same dish; they slept together with their legs entwined, and they played and chased, rolling around and squeaking until they fell into a sleepy heap.

They were beautiful. I appreciated their presence in my life every single day, and watched with amusement their new adventures. They would race around the garden, one chasing the other; they would climb to the top of a tree and cling to a slender branch wondering how on earth they got there; they would observe the chickens, not understanding those strange-looking feathered creatures or their purpose.

They were a pair, and did everything together. Gradually, though, over those two years, Keats became more and more aloof. He needed less attention from his brother and from us. He was growing up, and to our regret, he had become a brilliant hunter. It was May 2011. The swallows had just arrived, having just survived a difficult journey from South Africa, and were perched in the barn on low beams. Exhausted and hungry, they were easy prey.

Keats brought one into the kitchen, still alive but barely. Doug was furious with him, and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and shook him in a rage. You might say Keats was just being a cat. That’s what Keats thought too. He disappeared days later, never to be seen again.

I was devastated and searched the streets and roads for weeks and months. He was never found. I like to think he is living with a nice family somewhere, although I also fear he could have been killed by a fox since I have reason to believe my big ginger moggy recently survived an attack. It’s something I will never have the answer to, and perhaps in this instance, it is the preferred option.

Losing a pet is a fact of life, and despite the hurt he unwittingly caused, I would still go through it again. Without the negative periods in our life, we’ll never learn how to appreciate the positives. And those two years were a positive, amongst the best in my life. I tell myself I shouldn’t be too greedy.

God Bless Keats.

A Chicken With Viral Arthritis

sylviefootbath

There’s always something going on in my chicken flock. This is Sylvie, a Speckled Grey hen with leg problems. Basically, she can’t stand for longer than a few seconds. That’s tough when she is a free-range bird who should be spending her days scratching around for grubs and enjoying the fresh country air.

Her troubles started last September. I noticed she rested in the grass for longer periods than the other birds, but since she ate and drank as she should, I paid her little attention. However, gradually, over the last few months she has gotten a lot worse. Aside from never venturing very far, she lies down to eat.

Evidently, she is in a lot of pain and I feel so sorry for her.

The other day, I was digging the vegetable beds preparing for the new season when I was joined by the hens. It’s always fun watching them. As soon as I lift the soil they dive into the earth, snatching worm after worm. They are opportunists, but they are also greedy and had barely swallowed one when another was stretched away from the apparent safety of the ground.

All the time this was going on, poor Sylvie was resting her sore legs just outside the hen house. I decided then that I had to do something, and after spending some time researching, I reached the conclusion she has viral arthritis. Apparently, it’s a condition that’s common in chickens and turkeys, and there is no treatment. That’s never stopped me before. I never give up. (It’s the budding novelist in me!)

Since I have arthritis, I can sympathise with how she feels. The pain is wretched, and aside from making the joints ache, it slows down other bodily functions making the sufferer feel lethargic and very sluggish. It’s hardly any wonder that Sylvie has lost all of her desires.

So, I’ve brought her indoors, and for the moment she is living in a large box in an unheated room. The warmth will help her feel better, as, I hope, will her remaining treatment. On top of what she can manage of her regular food, I’m giving her an egg, which is great for inflammation, and a little flax oil, ginger and garlic. She is also on a course of aspirin, just a few grains, which I hope will help her deal with the pain. Then, she’s having her Epsom salt baths. Twice a day she rests in a tub of warm water and gently clucks.

Talk about spoilt!

Since it’s a virus, I believe there’s every chance she may improve and one day will return to her flock. Either way, at least I will have tried. Some of you may think I should just take the easy option and take her to an early death, but that’s not my way. I’ve never done that before, and I have had some amazing and completely unexpected successes.

There’s always a chance she’ll recover. It may be small, but it’s a chance I’ll take.

As I said, I never give up.

Until later . . .