Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Dark and Delicious

Would you even recognise my rescued girls - clad in their chesnut plumage, they are quite beautiful

As soon as the In-Charge left for college this morning, I heaved a box load of oranges into the sink and left them soaking in a solution of cider vinegar while I went out to deal with the hens.
Poor hens.
My happy hens are not quite so happy as they used to be.
Their little paddock has turned into a marsh.

Lots of people's fields have turned into lakes - not just Somerset, where the In-Charge hails from, but many places in Ireland too - so I know we are luckier than some, but even so, there is something unbelievably depressing about walking through a paddock and sinking into swimming mud up to your ankles.
I would have knitted all the hens wellington boots - but with 20-something birds out there, all with different sized feet, it's not really an option.
Also, it's largely their own fault. They have trashed their little paddock - every inch of grass has been scratched up, and - even without the rain - mud prevails.


In fact, it's so bad that I've had to give in - perhaps not gracefully, but at least with resignation.
I've opened the gate and let them into the beautiful green expanse of the orchard.
They are now busily trashing that.
The Great Escapees are the worst of all. So overjoyed are they at being able to use their feet as nature intended, they never stop.If this weather carries on for another month (God forbid), we will need mud-sledges, or flat-bottomed boats, or adapted snow-shoes.

The TeenQueen and I look on

The dogs and I stood in the orchard for a few minutes this morning and watched the hens gleeful surge through the gate. You'd think it was the stairway to heaven.
They were so busy rootling around in the soil beneath my lovely intact grass, that they didn't even notice the dogs set off on their daily death-or-glory-chase. One or two did scatter as the dogs hurtled past, but the Escapees were oblivious. I watched in awe as my two winged hounds skirted past them, narrowly missing one who shot sideways at the last minute.

The TeenQueen solemnly regards Florence, Constance and the YahBird 3 of the Escapees

Who would have believed it? SuperModelTeenQueen, Scourge of the Poultry Yard, named and shamed as co-respondent in the tragic slaying of the Golden Princess; the Biter of Goldilock's Bottom, the Tormentor of Ms Sussex - caught in flagrante delicto no less - that very same hound paying no heed to loose chooks, flittering and fluttering on her own private race track! What a student! What a girl! What a star!

Warmed to my cockles, I immediately promised them both an outing.
But oranges first. As soon as I'd squashed them all into the huge preserving pan and turned the gas on, I donned as many clothes as I could lay my hands on, including scarf, gloves and my woolly hat, and we set off to the headland for a brief encounter with the elements.
Goodness, was I glad of the hat.

The woolly hat - a picture taken at Christmas

Whenever he sees me wearing it (regularly these days) the In-Charge enquires when the Arctic Expedition is setting off, but cold ears are Too Much to Bear, and although today isn't particularly cold, down at the headland it was - well, invigorating. The howling gales of last night have temporarily  abated, but the tide was high and rough, the rain was starting to spit, and the wind coming in off the Atlantic acted perfectly as high pressure sinus douche.

The In-Charge had warned me that the sea has wrought havoc and he was right. Part of the road has gone and tons of stones have been flung up from the shore. The fairway has been cleared, but it looks a bit like a battlefield, and a few chunks of the headland have disappeared forever. The poor Connemara ponies looked a bit like my hens - not very happy. I can't help feeling sorry for them, even though the In-Charge assures me he's seen the owner feeding them and he and other horse-wise friends tell me that these beautiful, tough creatures are bred for just such exposed, inhospitable conditions. There is no grass for them, and certainly no shelter, but at least they don't look thin, and several beady eyes other than mine are on the lookout for them.

Headland horses

It was good to be blown around for a short while. The TeenQueen went mad as soon as she felt the wind under her and tore around, desperate for someone to chase her. She even swung past the ponies in the hope that they'd take the lure, but they know her well and were having none of it - they know how fast she is. Model Dog wasn't taking the bait either, and she and I pottered along the sea-edge, looking at all the stuff the waves have washed up. Stones, seaweed, hundreds of shells, unedifying bits of rubbish.

On the way home, thinking of my oranges simmering on the stove, I wished that my lovely Frenchman, Hugo was here. We made the marmalade together last year, the endless chopping and mess relieved by company and chat. Sadly he's not, but it's good to have memories. As soon as I entered the kitchen, my reminiscent mood and the sharp, lovely tang of the boiling fruit brought back other, older memories - of  the oranges of my childhood. They used to dip them in the sea, in the West Indies, and eat them while swimming, the salt mixing with the rich sweetness of the juice. I don't think I'll add any salt to my marmalade, it will perform its dark and delicious magic without saline assistance - but it made me smile nostalgically nevertheless.
My gorgeous son is in the Caribbean at the moment - he's been working there all winter.
I wonder if he dips oranges in the sea before eating them?

The marmalade making is underway


  1. We are sodden here on the east coast. The last few storms have been particularly nerve-wrecking as we were worried that the dyke which keeps out the sea might burst. Fortunately it didn't, but not before a lot of moving of books, cushions, CDs, pots and pans to upstairs, and a sleepless night wondering if we'd waken to an indoor swimming pool.
    You're hens certainly look happy with their new pasture - hope they don't attack the lovely snowdrops.
    Everyone in blogland seems to be making marmalade these days. My Mum used to make it but I never acquired a taste so will skip that task.

  2. Your muddy pictures make me glad we are still midwinter here. The hens might not like the deep snow and cold, cold weather we've been having but I surely would rather walk through the snow than the mud that I know will be on it's way in another month!

  3. It was good to hear and see, that you have not so mucht affected by the storms. I saw a picture of a destroyed wall next the sea in Enniscrone, which I know well and it was hard to believe, that it was gone!!
    On Saturday we will be on our way to Tasmania and we'll sent you some warm late summer sunshine from there! Warm greetings!!!

  4. I loved your post today and all the pictures. I live on the east coast in America and while we've had a lot of rain, it hasn't been anything like your experience. I know you'll be happy when spring, warmer weather and drier days are there!

  5. Your hens look so well, you can be proud. I have renamed my garden The Quagmire, you are not alone. it is so sodden everywhere. As you know, our chicken roam free and have wrecked everything but I haven't the heart to give them away or fence them in.

  6. Always love to read your updates Lorely, but i need a quiet place to absorb them! Saving them all up for the weekend and a blanket!!

    1. Thank you for your compliment, way back in the mists of winter, Aoibhin, I'm afraid my computer has stopped notifying me when someone leaves a comment, and I didn't see this!

  7. Very good read from glenmore caingorm highlands scotland

  8. Very good read from glenmore caingorm highlands scotland

  9. You have taught your lurchers not to hunt chickens? What sort of magic is this?

    1. Yes, we always teach our lurchers not to hunt chickens. We have had to teach all of them, except ModelDog, who was angelic from the start. Top Dog and Under Dog had to be taught not to hunt cats, as well, even though we had them from puppies. It can be painstaking work, but it pays off in the end, and at least we can all live with peace of mind and no anxiety! Don't know about the magic, but it is perseverance and vigilance!


Ah, go on! Make my day - leave a comment!