Tag Archives: keets

Six!

At last. I love my job, but after six visits in six days you can have too much of a good thing.

As it happens, the 1st Calverton Guides have been here more than any other group, so it wasn’t a difficult day. Out to the chicks, on to the workshop (because I’m trying to sell the idea of coming out to build nest boxes) and into a technical session on eggs. It was their misfortune to be used as guinea pigs for my new presentation. They said it was fine, but the glazed expressions suggested I might need to do a bit more work on it. Fortunately Julia has just taken delivery of a box of egg resources, though I didn’t feel confident enough to open it and start using it without practice.

The goats got out twice, which provided some light relief, and England beat Australia 44-40 to mark what is probably a false dawn in English Rugby. It’s good, and it looks like a cracking game from the reports, but it won’t be the first time an English sports team has failed to build on success. That has nothing to do with the day really, but it felt good to write “England beat Australia”. having said that, after Thursday’s vote on leaving the EU I’d better start being nice to the Australians as we now need them for more than just bar work.

The afternoon cookery session was seeded cheese scones using rapeseed oil (or vegetable oil as the Bowdlerised version has it). It’s a recipe from the Home Grown Cereals Authority, based on the fact that we are self-sufficient in oilseed rape and that it is less fatty than butter. I like it because it’s easier than rubbing in butter.

They must have liked it because we are already discussing the next date – all I need to do is find another activity to do!

So, it looks like I managed to end on a high note, though that was mainly due to the chicks once more. Personal high point of the day was when they did the washing up for me – after six days of visits that was a big positive.

Now I’d better get working on next week’s visits and on cleaning the incubator.

 

On the second day

On the second day God created the sky: on my second day I supervised the making of 31 pizzas.

It’s quite clear from this that I’m slacking. On the other hand I do have arthritis, varicose veins and a tendency to need the toilet more than average, even for a man of my age. I’m well past my peak, and on a rapidly increasing downward slope which, like Gray’s paths of glory, lead but to the grave. Fortunately this middle-aged man bladder problem is cancelled out by standing with my back two feet away from four fan ovens blasting out air at 200 degrees C. It’s difficult to find any spare moisture when you are being desiccated.

But manage, I did, and the evidence was clear to see as splashes of sweat spotted the floor. I paint such a lovely picture of kitchen life don’t I?

By the end of the day I was reduced to opening the fridge door and standing next to it.

Here are some pictures, which are probably cute enough to drive my word picture from your mind. It was a great day with lots of sun and happy kids, and a great contrast to the pouring rain yesterday.

The dark stuff in the plastic tub is a sourdough starter – we looked at dried yeast, live yeast and sourdough starter (it was having a mild day, just a trifle vinegary, quite unlike some of the acetone/vinegar blasts you sometimes get). There were a few expressions of distaste, but nobody fainted. The yellow stuff in the other pot is home made butter.

Note the Florentine-type pizzas with nettles in place of spinach. I’m finally getting back to wild food.

It’s the first day of our marathon session – six days and six visits.

I did the shopping yesterday – enough for 100 pizzas plus various other bits. I then spent a couple of hours on the farm cutting veg for pizza toppings and set things out for two classes of 22.

It was a good thing I got a good start as we (a) got stuck in traffic for half an hour and (b) had to clean the corn mill, which had been brought back from the barn in a dreadful state.

By the time I had finished cleaning, the school arrived.

It all went well, apart from the second session, where I forgot to write the names on the baking parchment. Despite this,the kids managed to identify their pizzas and everyone went away happy. I could have shown you a picture of this, if only Julia hadn’t borrowed my camera and disappeared with it.

The pictures I’ve used show kids handling the keets, making butter and standing outside the shed. The featured image is kids looking at cabbages. On a rainy Monday it was the best we had.

The session wasn’t brilliant, and there was a definite lack of education, because 22 six-year-olds can be a bit to excitable for that sort of thing. I’m unhappy that it was a lightweight session, but I’m happy that everyone seemed to have fun and the teachers were positive about the day. After examining the factors that lead to complaints being made against me, I’m taking a new attitude and just letting things drift along. If they don’t want to listen, what does it matter? I’m getting paid anyway, unlike the days when they cancel at short notice and I don’t get paid.

So – pluses from today – good advance planning, a cheerful demeanour and cash in my pocket. We persuaded seven kids to have egg on their pizzas, everyone identified their pizzas and we now have seven Polish eggs for hatching. Alasdair , Vicki and Kirsty all provided valuable support (they were the only 3 here to today) and I was able to work nettles into the conversation.  I’m also working on a unit on the Columbian exchange as the theme on Friday is “Explorers”.

Negatives – the thought that I might have sold out, the lack of photos and the weather.

So all in all it’s been a good day.

It’s the same school visiting again tomorrow, but with only 30 children, then a group with learning difficulties, then a Brownie group for Thursday night, a school on Friday and a Guide Group on Saturday. I’m allowed a day off on Sunday.

I’m already seeing pizza every time I blink, so I don’t know what it will be like by Sunday!

Keets and curly sandwiches…

Having had quite a lot of sandwiches left over from yesterday’s high tea, I didn’t need to make too much effort for lunch. In fact all I had to do was peel back the cling film. They had started to dry out a little and curl at the edges, bit let’s face it, having eaten in a number of typical English cafes in the 60s and 70s, and enjoyed the legendary hospitality of British Rail, I’m no stranger to dry, dodgy sandwiches.

We have saved today’s eggs from the Polish bantams and will start to hatch them in a week or so – you can generally keep them a week without a problem.The main problem is making sure we get good quality eggs and making sure they don’t get put in with the eggs for sale. You know how it is round here…

It will probably take that long to strip down the machine and get it ready to use as I don’t think it was actually washed after being hauled out of the back of the barn.

We started the day with egg collection and brought the keets in to the centre so everyone could get a good look. After that it was salt dough (we need around 750 of them in the next couple of months) and musical accompaniment selected by Emma (I believe it was some popular modern female singer called Jess Glynne). I have, of course, never heard of her. As a middle-aged man I am freeing up large amounts of brain space by refusing to learn the names of modern singers, or listen to their music.

This afternoon we planted a variety of stuff out and set some late seeds. Also swore at the slugs who ate their way through the lettuces in one of the planters.

Let’s see, what else? Well, we found Edie running round with a lead on, and had to find the farmer to check we weren’t missing a dog-walker. It’s apparently part of her training programme to be left to “stay” as the farmer walks away. But she didn’t. I think this part of the training might need a bit more work.

I seem to have spent a fair amount of time making an ID badge for one of the group. (That means it took me longer than I was expecting and longer than I would like Julia to know.) Shame it relates to another group. Same goes for the rubber bands she’s been cadging off me all afternoon – seems she can’t garden but she can sort plant labels for another project and use my bands to bundle them up. I’m all for cooperation but I’m definitely having second thoughts about this. 😉

Alasdair and I have just filled the bird feeders again. The peanut feeder at the front had been knocked off again and the elastic band had slipped so most of the peanuts were gone.

I’m beginning to wonder if the jackdaws have an answer for everything.

Nearly got a good picture of a mint moth – they are flying when nothing else seems to be about – but can’t quite master the macro capability of the new camera.

Quick nature note from yesterday – Julia spotted goldfinches eating seeds from the bergenias (Elephant Ears). I always think of them as being dull plants for municipal planting (they were actually donated by a local park). However they are tough as old boots (which we need for our wind-blasted clay soil) and if they feed goldfinches I’m not going to hear a word against them.

That’s about it for the day – just some paperwork and a phone call to do. And a cup of tea.

Rainy Monday and a feeling of Doom

Well, the elastic bands sort of worked. Only one feeder was knocked off over the weekend, and it retained its contents. On another feeder the band had snapped and was lying in the water container. It makes refilling the feeders a bit more complicated but as it seems to have saved a feeder of Nyger seed it’s worth it.

We had a blue tit visit the feeder I stuck on the window. It announced its presence with an irritating irregular tapping sound, which tends to suggest it might be a bit of a mixed blessing.

Out in the cherry trees down the drive Alasdair spotted a green woodpecker. We’ve had a bit of a chequered history with the species, having some good sightings locally but none round the centre. We hear them all the time and sometimes see something in the distance that flies like one but we’ve not had a good sighting. Alasdair is usually very good on IDs like this, so I added it to the list. A bit later I saw it too, as it rose from the ground and flew down the drive just as Alasdair had reported. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.

As I write this there’s more irritating tapping on the window. Julia says it’s a blue tit but as soon as I moved it spooked and flew off.

The keets are all keeping well, as are the two chicks that are in with them. We’ve called it a day with the eggs in the incubator as they were showing no signs of life and were well overdue. That’s what happens when you put dirty eggs in a dirty incubator. I know there’s a skill to it too (It’s not like the monster incubators we used to have at work) but basic attention to detail goes a long way to ensure hatchability.

There are around 17,000 pores in an egg shell. That is 17,000 places for a pathogen to enter. As the egg cools the contents contract and air and is drawn into the shell.

If your egg is laid in a dirty nestbox, or on the floor, the cooling process will suck in germs, which will find the mix of nutrients and warmth in an egg a very good environment.

When I worked in a hatchery we used to candle the eggs at 18 days and transfer them to a hatcher, which had a different environment for the last three days. It was dark in there, it was cramped and , above all, it was 37 degrees C (about 99 degrees F).

Just to add to the excitement, an egg would would occasionally explode when you pulled a tray of eggs out of the rack. These “bangers” were eggs that had incubated a full load of pathogens and, on being disturbed, burst under the pressure. When that happened we used to grab a disinfectant spray and mist the incubator in an attempt to stop a build up of germs. They used to work continuously, so there was never a time when we could switch them off. In fact those machines only stopped three times in 30 years – once when we moved them to another building, once when we programmed a major maintenance programme and once when we switched them off for the final time.

Anyway, backed to the cramped darkness and the stench of a burst egg. It wasn’t pleasant, and it was bad for the other eggs. Sometimes you could see this when candling as you could see a central egg and a spreading ring of eggs around it where it had infected the others.

And so, as my wife gradually draws me back into dealing with poultry, and into incubating more eggs, you can see why the feeling of doom is creeping up on me.

Two of the pictures are from today – the wet one with wheelbarrow and the red one with keets under a heat lamp. The others with poultry are from last week – look how the goslings have grown! Look at the way one of the parents (probably the gander) is thinking of having a go at me. He is going to end up with a shiny jacket and a couple of hours in a low oven if he isn’t careful.

The goats, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth, are planning an escape. I know that because I had to spend 20 minutes getting them back in the pen later that afternoon.

Great days! 😉

 

 

 

 

Rescue!

Byron the farm apprentice was walking through the barn twenty minutes ago when he heard chirping coming from the large coop in the barn.

We don’t use it for much these days, having moved the last of the hens out a few weeks ago and moving most of the remaining guinea fowl out last week. (No, don’t look for logic, it was just one of the things the farm did to tidy up for Open Farm Sunday).

There are still a few guinea fowl left, indeed two of them provided a great deal of entertainment last night by chasing each other round and flying in and out of the barn to the accompaniment of much noise and posturing.

The chirping was coming from the roof of the coop, where the escapee guinea fowl often roost. There are always escapee guinea fowl. There have been since two days after Farmer David initiated the big guinea fowl round-up.  They are without doubt the escapingest birds I have ever met.

Anyway, to cut to the chase…

There were eight guinea fowl keets on the roof – one looking a bit shaky and one a bit wet. I’m pretty sure that the shaky one isn’t going to survive because it seems to have damage to the nervous system. The wet one is currently in the incubator as we rig up a heat lamp.

It’s probably best to avoid a discussion on Health and Safety here as I’m pretty sure that neither to rescuer nor the photographer were adhering to best practice.

There are also a couple of chirping eggs that we have put in the incubator.

Oh yes, there’s always a surprise if you work here!