Well... it’s official: we have a new ‘Hooligan’ in our midst! Or maybe I should say ‘Diva’ because Helga (the Explorer) prefers to wander about on her own, away from the rest of the flock

We have a new ‘Hooligan’!
August 2020

Only problem is she has no sense of time and stays out so late that she gets locked out of her coop! One night I checked the hens and sure enough one was missing. Helga. Strange, I thought, so I walked around a little bit to see if I could see her. And there she was, just sitting there in the tall grass, without a care in the world. She seemed pleased to see me and squatted down so I could lift her up and carry her off to bed! The following night Helga was once again missing from the coop, but this time she walked straight up to me as if to  say:”Time to carry me off to bed again!” and she was right. I did just that. Well, I don’t want her to be found by a fox, do I? And I’m sure she doesn’t want that either! On the third night the same thing happened, and on the fourth night but on the fifth night at around 10.15pm I was standing in the field next to our home in my night gown trying to coax Helga to climb through the gate - the only way in and out of the coop. It must have looked very comical, me (the mother hen) trying to get her baby to follow her. And she did... eventually! She followed me right up to the gate, but stubbornly refused to go through it no matter how hard I tried. Exasperated, I finally had to pick her up and once again tuck her up in bed. She was quite sweet, looking up at me and saying:”I don’t know, mummy, you stepped over it, but I can’t!” I wanted to yell at her:”No, you have to squat down under it, you silly bird!” But I didn’t.

The rest of the hens are sweet little things too. They don’t really misbehave and know how to get back to their bed without being carried!  Although I can’t get Hannah or Hetty to perch, they still prefer to sleep on the floor. Each to their own, I suppose.

Can you believe it? We’re into August already! And harvesting season is now in full swing. Throughout July, my husband and I were busy picking kilos of red and black currants, strawberries, cherries, courgettes, French beans and more. The strawberries are still doing well, but nothing like the 20kg we had last year, so it is unlikely I can sell any surplus strawberries in the shop this year. I need them for making jam and wine for ourselves... sorry!

Last year, the cherries were decimated by wasps, but for some reason there are not that many wasps around this year, so we have a massive crop. Mind you, I am writing this while there is a gale blowing outside, so maybe all my cherries will have been scattered by the wind when I get back home tonight. Thankfully that didn’t happen! We have that many cherries, that I’ve started feeding the bad ones to the hedgehog that visits us at night.

I filmed it drinking from the new, wee pond we built! That new pond is very popular with the local wildlife. For my 40th birthday a few years back, I got a wildlife camera and since then I’ve captured birds bathing in the pond, a mouse using the stones as a viewing point and magpies trying to trash the camera! I’ve edited together some footage of the local wildlife I’ve filmed and made a short video, which can be viewed on Youtube.

Remember last time I told you that - at long last - I had managed to grow a single pumpkin this season? Well, I’ve actually managed to grow two (maybe even three)! I am so pleased with myself!  And they are both ripening too!

I also sowed black poppy seeds as an experiment and at the same time I also planted some beetroot and carrots next to them. And, well, um... they have utterly disappeared beneath the poppy plants which are massive! They have completely taken over the vegetable bed. They are very pretty though, and the bumblebees love them, so at least that is something and who knows, maybe the beetroot and carrots will grow once I harvest the poppy seed heads later on.

I was reading a book (‘The Garden Jungle’ by Dave Goulson, should anyone be interested) about nature and gardening and in it, it states that the yield of a conventional farm is 8 tonnes per hectare, but that allotments can grow between 32 and 40 tonnes per hectare! So, because weighing all my produce last year became a bit of an obsession for me, I was able to work out what my yield would have been per hectare. And guess what? I harvested around 185 kg in 2019, which would equal 23 tonnes per hectare. Not bad for an exposed hill site location in Scotland!

Did anyone else notice a massive increase in the number of small tortoiseshell butterflies this year? We have loads in our garden and they particularly attracted to the hyssop and cat mint plants. I once counted 10 on one plant! So, if you want to encourage butterflies to visit your garden, try planting hyssop (or buddleia)!

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