Here goes nothing…

Today I got down to the allotment a little earlier than usual. I said hello to everyone as I ambled down to the main coop. Georgie and Hattie ran to greet me and demand their loyalty be rewarded with treats. Opening up the food bins, I grabbed a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds and threw them out. Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to hand feed the girls to get them tamer. I will never be able to tame chickens like Cliff who has them walking to heel like a dog, or Geoff who has a lap chicken. But tame enough to eat out of my hand will be good enough for me. Pop, Snap, Hattie and Georgie are now happy to jostle for access to my hand when full of treats. Polly and Molly are still very wary. Millie is something else. I refuse to hand feed that chicken. She comes barrelling up, knocking the other girls out of the way and tries to hog all the seeds, destroying my hand in the process!

I collected three eggs, filled up their food and water bowls and pottered off to check on Leia and Rey. They were both enjoying the sunshine and had managed not to fill their water bowl with dirt. Maybe we are making progress? I doubt it but it was a nice surprise. A solitary egg from Leia and that was it. I told Rey to buck up her ideas and left her to it.

As I walked back towards the shed, I saw that Phil and Steve were busy on Phil’s plot. They had moved (somehow!) the nest box out of the run and had put it at the back. This allows the chickens inside much more room to move around. It also helps Phil access the nest box for cleaning purposes more easily without worrying about the cockerel taking exception to his being there. Hilariously, the cockerel hates Steve and always attacks him. No one else. Just Steve. I stopped to admire Steve’s latest invention, an automatic feeder. He has designed his own based on one that Andy bought which will take a full 25kg bag of layers pellets and dispense them in a small tray at the bottom. It’s very impressive. Phil asked for my help in checking over the coop wire and attaching new cable ties to put some wind breaks into place. With the recent fox attack in everyone’s mind, we fixed a few smaller gaps in the fencing to ensure his chickens were safe. If I were a fox, I wouldn’t want to come face to face with that cockerel! Mind you, he is fine with everyone else, including me. Steve has clearly deeply offended him somehow!

As I chatted with Geoff, Cliff came up with some sad news. One of his bird boxes had been chosen and nested in by some blue tits. Unfortunately, the little ones had hatched but hadn’t survived. There was one tiny white egg with brown speckles which hadn’t hatched. Cliff went off to bury the little ones and put the nest box back. The nest itself is intricately made, mainly of moss with a few feathers. Here’s hoping another set of birds use it to successfully raise a clutch of chicks.

Grabbing a bucket for weeds and my gloves I settled myself up by the strawberry bed. It was going to be cleared of weeds today. As I made a start, I received a message from my husband saying a parcel had arrived for me. I suspected I knew what it was and I rushed to finish the bed. It looks considerably better than before but it still requires some more time to get the smaller weeds out.

I dashed home to open up the parcel. There it was, the final piece of my plan. After lunch, I got a message from Sarah saying Liz was popping down and was I still at the allotment. I replied in the negative but grabbed my tools and parcel and ran down to meet her. Over the past week, I have been receiving parcels in the post for my new project. With everything bar the cleat arriving, I made a start!

Initially it was Andy’s idea but I added my own twist to it. In the summer, especially during a sunny day, there is no shade to be found on site. You can retreat to the shed but it’s always boiling and stuffy in there. Andy suggested a canopy to provide shade so that I could enjoying sitting on the bench by the shed in the shade. Instead of buying a canopy, I decided a dinghy sail would be better. All I would need is three rigging eyes, three shackles, a singly pulley block, halyard rope and a wooden post. Simple! I screwed in the rigging eye to the wooden tree stake and attached the pulley to it using a shackle. Next I screwed the remaining two rigging eyes to the top of the shed. It was here I hit a snag.

The small shackles I had bought were not long enough to go through the sail eyelet and the rigging eye. I managed to force one through and after several minutes of wrestling, got it into place. The second one was a complete non starter. Instead, I cut the end off the halyard rope and used it to tie the sail to the rigging eye with a bowline knot as a temporary fix. I told myself to order better shackles as soon as I got home. The post also proved a challenge. It took several attempts to get it the correct distance from the shed and several more attempts to get the post solid enough to hoist the end of the sail. Eventually I got it up but it definitely needs more work tomorrow to keep it in place. To stop the middle of the sail sagging along the length of the shed, I added two screws and fixed the sail through two small eyelets. It’s not perfect but sitting on the bench outside the shed underneath the sail, it was shady and cool.

I spent a while enjoying the calm of the evening. I remembered that I needed to email Lower Moss Wood Hospital to check how Jack was doing. Bradley and I are very keen to have him back if he is unable to go back into the wild. We could easily enough build a special enclosure for him on site. It may be a few days until we hear back but I hope Jack is doing well.

Before I left, I put my new planter on the veranda. An absolute bargain for a fiver, I will put my strawberry plants in tomorrow. As well as finishing off the sail, we will put in the remaining plants and work out where we will put the raised bed Bradley gave us.

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