Who’s a chicken?

For more than two months now UK poultry have had to be confined to keep them separate from wild birds because of the risk of avian ‘flu’. Originally it was suggested that they should be housed 24/7, but when it was realised that is was not possible, netted areas with water and feed kept under a solid cover was deemed to be acceptable. The end to this restriction is in sight: after the end of February birds will be allowed to range once again as long as various mitigation measures are in place.

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Approved disinfectant and Self-assessment form

The situation varies a little across the UK, but here in Wales all poultry keepers are required to complete a self-assessment form which they must have available if they are inspected. This outlines the actions that they are taking to minimise contact between wild birds and stock (e.g. use of bird scarers) and the biosecurity measures being implemented (e.g. hosing down and disinfecting concrete paths, disinfecting boots after accessing poultry).

For the duration of the restrictions, the hens Chez Snail have been happily foraging in the fruit cage, which has been connected to their small run and house by a netted corridor. Their small run always has a ‘roof’ over it to give them somewhere to shelter from the rain, so their feeder has been in there. Now they are going to be allowed to range free round their half of the garden, however, a different sort of feeder seemed like a good idea. So, I bought a rodent-proof, wildbird-proof feeder…

The hen stands on the pedal,the lid opens and there’s the food. It can only be activated by something weighing more than 500g, so garden birds and most rodents won’t even be able to open the lid. We can keep this out on their range without fear of attracting wild birds.

The only issue now, is training them to use it. Yesterday, we put it into the fruit cage propped the lid open and there was some interest…

Today, even with the lid propped open, they very carefully avoided it… hens really are chicken when it comes to new things. So, Mr Snail has been out there showing them the ropes… with some success:

I hope they get the hang of it soon – or at least before the end of the month!

Three Things Thursday: 16 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

First, a little bit of snow. On Saturday it snowed in Birmingham – it was lovely to open my curtains and see a dusting of white. I find snow a bit stressful if I have places to drive, but since I just had a short walk from my hotel to the meeting venue, I really enjoyed the sight. In fact it didn’t last long, but it was beautiful whilst it was there.

Morning snow

Morning snow

Second, a good night’s sleep. I’m always a bit concerned about the comfort of a strange bed. At home we sleep on a natural latex and wool mattress, so normal sprung mattresses feel a bit odd in comparison. However, I need not have feared: the hotel I chose for the weekend had lovely comfy beds… and snailvaark and Iolanthe agreed…

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Third, coming home. It’s enjoyable to have a trip away, but it’s always good to be back home. After two consecutive weekends on my travels, it was lovely to return home to Mr Snail and the pups.

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

ScrapHappy February

This month’s ScrapHappy make is another blanket for Sixty Million Trebles.

All the yarn, except that in the border, was left over from knitting socks. This means that this entire project was worked in scrap 4-ply yarn… so it took a lot of hours and amounts to 19,812 crochet stitches (i.e. “trebles”). I wanted to frame the square nicely, so I used some wool out of my stash that was unwanted.

Originally this yarn was destined for my beekeeper’s quilt, but I got bored with that, so I’m going to convert the completed hexagons into a “beekeepers garden bench cushion” and pretty much all the rest of the scrap yarn collection went into this blanket.

This is the third of my charity blankets for this year.

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) Scrap Happy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) Scrap Happy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

Mending

I’ve just got back from a weekend away, meeting up with a whole bunch of people involved in permaculture. In the whole of the event, the only pictures I took were these:

Before and after shots of a mend I managed on a poncho belonging to one of the other attendees. Perhaps the metaphor is enough… let’s all try to mend the world one little hole at a time.

Three Things Thursday: 9 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

Before I get started, though, I have to say that I could probably have listed thirty things this week, but here is just a tiny selection.

First, a mend by Alfred. One of the things we don’t have skills for Chez Snail is metalwork. However, we know a man who does. So, on Saturday, whilst I was crocheting, Alfred, who I was staying with, mended our Kelly Kettle. This much-mended item had finally got to a point where we could do no more – the rivets had failed so that water poured out and the anchor for the chain that allows you to tilt the kettle without getting burnt was detached completely. Cue, Alfred, who braised it for me and now it’s back in use.

In days gone-by this is the sort of thing tinkers did – travelling round the country mending pots and pans – now that’s a profession that could do with resurrecting.

Second, germination. Only tomatoes so far, but what a delight it is to see the first shoots emerging from the soil. Plus the potatoes are starting to sprout.

Third, the kindness of people. I know that I wrote a whole post on the get-together in Manchester over the weekend, but I’m still smiling about the fact that 31 people came together to craft for charity – between them, they covered all the costs and raised some money too. They laughed, they chatted and they created. And then they went home and shared the love on social media.

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crafting a better world

 

So, those are 3 things making me smile this week – what about you?

A little bit of toast

I like toast; I eat it regularly… with eggs, with beans, with jam, with cheese and just with butter. It’s great for lunch and it’s something that I crave when I have been deprived of it for a while. I like it made out of 3-day-old homemade bread and I don’t like it burnt. Making it, however, has been rather energy inefficient recently. Our old toaster was rubbish – very small and unreliable in terms of the amount of toasting achieved – so I’ve been using the grill. This is ok when I’m making lots of toast, but is highly inefficient for a single piece when I’m home alone.

So, I decided we needed a new toaster and my heart sank when I thought about all the research and trying to make the most ethical decision. BUT I very quickly came across Dualit, who make toasters in the UK that are designed to last and for which you can easily buy spares, and that come in a variety of different sizes and which allow you to select how many pieces of toast you are making so that only the necessary elements are heated each time. And I thought to myself… why isn’t it always this  straightforward to find a company who do not subscribe to designed obsolescence?

And today, when it arrived, it was packed in cardboard and paper… the only tiny bits of plastic present enclosed the delivery note and took the form of the small seals to keep the box closed. So, hurrah for Dualit and here’s to many years of happy toasting.

Hooking up

Knitting and crochet are often considered rather solitary pastimes – we sit at home with our hooks and needles, creating lovely things… alone. With the recent popularity of ‘knit and natter’-type groups, things have become somewhat more sociable. Public crafting, however, is still relatively rare, so it was a delight to have the chance to spend Saturday at The Make-it Shop in Manchester crocheting and publicising the 60 Million Trebles project.

I made a weekend of it so that I could be there for the whole day and help my friend Danielle to host the event. The shop is a collection point for blankets for the project, so Saturday provided an opportunity for people to drop off completed work, plus we worked on our wips* and squares for a group blanket during the day.

We set up in the morning and wondered whether many people would come… and to begin with there were just a few of us and I managed to sit down…

the early birds

the early birds

… and then more people started arriving and bringing blankets and we realised that we were going to disappear under blankets and that we didn’t have enough chairs! These two problems were quickly solved by stuffing my car full of the completed blankets and borrowing extra chairs from the café next door! Plus, I mostly stopped sitting down…

What a lovely day it was. I got to meet up with friends old and new and by the end of the day 30 people had participated, we’d made a whole pile of blue and white squares for our communal creation and collected in 45 complete blankets:

All this amazing creative work is being undertaken by kind people from all over the world who are covering all the costs and simultaneously raising money for various charities. Every blanket will be donated to a charity and we may even break a world record!

If you’d like to join in, you can donate money via this Just Giving page or you can donate yarn or squares or make whole blankets… check out this Facebook group or this web page  or @Sixtymilliontre on Twitter to make contact.

-oOo-

* wip = work in progress

Three Things Thursday: 2 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

First, adventures in pie-making. My latest trip to the library yielded two interesting cookery books, both pie-focused; and, as you can see, I’ve already tested out one recipe (Scotch egg pie).

Library books and a rather untidy pie

Library books and a rather untidy pie

Second, a knitted fish. This arrived in the post from Nana Cathy, along with a lovely letter and three crochet squares to add to one of my charity blankets.

something fishy!

something fishy!

I love this fish so much, that I’m going to gently remove it from the card it’s on and do some freeform crochet round it so that I can incorporate it into my next friendship blanket (a long term and very slow project).

Third, my store cupboard. Last week we ran out of sweet chilli sauce – disaster since it’s the condiment of choice with lots of meals (omelette, roast veg, fishcakes, Scotch egg pie). However, it turned out, that I had all the ingredients to make a new batch in my stores, including homemade passata, my own bottled apples and frozen whole home-grown chillies. The sauce is good, and will be better in a couple of weeks… and making it was so satisfying.

hot hot hot

hot hot hot

So, those are 3 things making me smile this week – what about you?

A little vaarkery

The world has been feeling rather bleak recently, so today I decided to do something frivolous.

Arnoldo has been feeling rather down-in-the-nose recently:

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oh no

So, this morning he had surgery, including temporary storage of his inners in a jug (eek!)

I’m delighted to say that insertion of some garden wire has perked him right up and he’s already been showing off his newly prehensile nose to his friends:

There is so much fun to be had with an old sock, some rice and a few random craft supplies.

If you want to make your own vaark, like Arnoldo, the pattern is in a book by my friend Danielle, which you can buy and download here.

 

17 for 2017 – January Update

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see- very geeky!

As we are coming to the end of the month, I thought I’d give you a 17 for 2017 progress update. I’ve got quite geeky about it all and made myself a spreadsheet with hyperlinks to pictures and (in one case) a second spreadsheet, meaning that I should be able to see how I’m getting on at a glance… if I remember to actually update the spreadsheet as I do things! Anyway, in less than I month, this is what I’ve done:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I haven’t finished any yet, but I’m working on quite a big creation to send as a surprise gift.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. This was under-ambitious for the year – I’ve already made five batches!

Fifteen… cheeses.  I’m not sure whether I should count one or two here – I made a tomme-style cheese, and then I made ricotta with the whey. I’ve only entered this as one cheese on my spreadsheet, because it was only one cheese-making day.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Good progress here: two pairs completed and another six pairs cut out and ready for sewing.

Thirteen… mends. Two done: some boro mending on the knee of a pair of jeans belonging to Mr Snail and a tear in a cotton tunic repaired using my overlocker.

Twelve… letters to friends. In a flurry of activity on a dull and wet day, I wrote five letters!

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. None yet (although one pattern is now listed, but that’s lower down this list)

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – it’s too early in the season.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we’ve got a bit carried away with watching The Blacklist on dvd to the exclusion of playing games.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, because neither of us fancy kale omelette!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One visit to blogging friend Katy the Night Owl.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. Yarn and new pattern at the ready, but none started yet.

Five… book chapters written. None, although I’m planning a talk on ecology that will form the skeleton of one of the chapters.

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. Two completed – one for Knit for Peace, one for Sixty Million Trebles, and two on my hooks.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None – it’s too cold to venture up there yet!

Two… patterns published and on sale. Bird Roost pattern finished and available as a digital download from my etsy shop.

One… denim gardening apron. Not yet – I’ve been dithering about the fabric!

If you have 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

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