A brief pause between deluges

With some hope of a dry few hours, I popped to the allotment this morning to try and clean out the chickens. It’s been a job that I have intended to do for the last 4 weeks however, the weather has had other ideas. I arrived on site to find the usual selection of faces all busy prepping for the upcoming season. One glance at my perpetually flooded plot revealed that today was yet another day I wouldn’t be digging it over.

First, I coaxed Leia and Rey out into the small run outside the greenhouse. I try to do this when cleaning them out so they don’t get stressed by all the noise. Clearing the old sawdust took some time as the rain had got into one corner and turned the now dry sawdust into something approximating concrete. Utilising the scraper, I managed to remove most of it before sweeping out the rest. The perks of owning chickens, aside from the eggs, is that their old bedding and droppings make for wonderful compost when fully rotted. I proceeded to dump two large bags full of old bedding onto the compost heap before lugging the sawdust bale into the greenhouse. It took some time to sort out the new bedding but it looks significantly better and judging from the happy clucks from both girls, it meets with their approval.

Next, I walked down to the main coop determined to fully clean it before the weather invariably closed in. For a change, we are predicted to have the 5th storm in as many weeks hit later this evening. Oh joy. I hadn’t been going long when I heard an odd noise. It sounded like a hot air balloon when the hot gas is being released into the balloon envelope. Looking up for several minutes, I failed to locate anything like a hot air balloon. Casting around lower altitudes, I spotted Andy busy with something that looked like a highly efficient flame thrower. I walked across to find him wielding this impressive tool, burning away weeds. Simply put, this is surely the most therapeutic way of weeding imaginable – burn the blighters to Kingdom come! It was mesmerising to watch, knowing that even the seemingly indestructible bind weed would die permanently using this technique.

After a quick natter with Tracy, I pottered back to the coop to finish off the cleaning. I removed all the old sawdust from the large nest box and took out the middle boards. After scraping them clean and putting in the perches to soak, I lifted up the base boards of the nest box. What I found there surprised me greatly. In a previous year, I found in the base of the nest box, a small ball of discarded feathers that made a beautiful and fragile mouse nest. Today, I found something similar but this time it was made with sawdust as well as old feathers. Carefully, I bent down and looked inside. Four small wriggly bald things were in the middle of the nest. With no sign of a parent, who was presumably off finding food, I spent a couple of minutes watching them in their nest. I didn’t have the heart to disturb the nest, so I quickly and quietly replaced the bottom boards and left them to it. It’s been a hard winter and I am pleased that they have had somewhere safe and warm to stay.

With the weather quickly closing in, I quickly washed down the boards and perches. As they dried, I refilled the nest boxes with a generous amount of sawdust in the hope it will encourage the girls to lay more eggs. Egg production has picked up a little but it isn’t saying much when it’s been zero for weeks! Boards dried and back in, I fed the girls some sunflower seeds before heading off for a well deserved shower.

Tomorrow, assuming we don’t have another month’s worth of rain in less than 12 hours, I will attempt to spread out the soil removed from the coop onto the lowest parts of the plot. If there is more rain which seems inevitable, I will start ordering rice seeds because there is no other crop which will survive underwater.

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