As the last few days of 2020 draw to a close, I’m sure you’ll agree - what a dreadful year it has been for everyone! Scotland started the year off with heavy rainfall and localised flooding in February, followed closely by that virus.

Watching Helga, Hester and Hank
January 2021

In August the mother of all thunderstorms swept over parts of central Scotland, and in October we felt several small earthquakes where we live. From mid December our chickens had to stay in lockdown (a bit like us!) because of a bout of Avian flu. The first snow came very late this year too - the first week of December, it usually starts in November with the first sleet falling at the end of October (plenty of the white stuff the now!). Not only has it been late this year it hasn’t been as heavy as it usually is. Not sure if this is a good thing or not!

Latest update: last night we had another couple of inches of snow on top and the main road was just passable!

Because of the current outbreak of bird flu all poultry (even if you have just one or two), have to stay in ‘quarantine’ until further notice. This means our chickens and the neighbours’ chickens (and ducks) are ‘confined to quarters’! As you can imagine the yard is eerily quiet now. Actually, because our indoor run is very small, we have our lot in an enclosed outdoor run during the day. The days aren’t very long now since we celebrated the shortest day of the year on 21st December. On the very first day of being locked in, however, Helga (being The Explorer’) promptly escaped into the back garden - a place the chickens are normally not allowed - and the rest followed her! So they had the time of their lives tearing up the place and chasing the cat. Good job it’s winter and there aren’t as many plants for them to destroy! I’m glad I grew some oats, rye and wheat last year for the hens to enjoy should we get snowed in again. I’ve hung some up for them, just out of reach, forcing them to jump up to get at them. It keeps them occupied and entertained and eating grains also helps them to keep warm. We find it entertaining too, watching Helga, Hester and Hank try to get to the grains, jumping and bouncing around, while Hetty and Hannah wait patiently for some grains to fall to the ground so they can quickly hoover them up! Lazy little buggers eh?!

If the government website says that if there were any birds found dead from bird flu within 30 miles or so from us, we will have to move the chickens again - this time into the greenhouse. And after checking the site yesterday, we discovered that some had been found dead in Clackmannanshire this week and the chickens have now taken up residence in the greenhouse, which they are very excited about. And why is that? Because now they can run amok and create havoc in a brand new location!

Up until now, the closest case of bird flu reported was near St. Andrews, so I didn’t feel too anxious about it. Even though this case is closer to home, I’m still trying not to panic. Besides we don’t normally get large, migrating birds in the fields and hardly any fly over us, either.

There is a simple recipe near the bottom of this newsletter for ‘Bird Cake’ - ideal for feeding the wild birds in your garden this winter. It also might help keep any children occupied (by making them) and our feathered friends happy (by eating them) during lockdown.

I also took a note of the amount of fruit and vegetables we grew in 2020 so I can compare it with last year. Not surprisingly this year has not been as good as 2019 - we definitely had a bumper crop that year! Still, we harvested a good 178 kilograms of fruit and vegetables (74kg of which were tatties) compared to 182 kilograms in 2019. It is interesting to see how the amount of vegetables and fruit varies from year to year. For example, we had a pathetic 360g of cherries last year, but this year we had a whopping 13kg!  In contrast; we had no kale this year versus 2.6kg last year. Go figure!

Anyway, as with everything in life: we just don’t know what’s ahead of us; we just have to keep on moving and learn to adapt.

And finally... don’t forgot the last weekend is also the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch where members of the public are invited to spend one hour in the garden counting birds and then report what they see (or didn’t see, which is just as important!) to the RSPB. I wonder with all the snow I still have, will I see more or fewer birds than last year? I have been feeding them every day, so I have a funny feeling I will see more of them this year. Let me know what types of birds you’ve seen!

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