Free plum jam

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that its impossible to count them accurately.”             Oscar Wilde

As a kid I had two goldfish which I kept in a tank in my room.  One day I noticed hundreds of little eggs all through the tank.  My usually sensible {and fairly boring} goldfish had mated!  And there were literally hundreds of eggs.  You have to imagine my excitement and then multiply this by 10, because that is approximately how ecstatic I was.  It quickly occurred to me that my little tank on my desk in my bedroom could only realistically support two goldfish.  So, I did what any rational, level-headed kid would do: I started to ‘give’ the baby fishies away to my friends before they had hatched.

It wasn’t long before mummy fish and daddy fish started consuming the eggs in the tank, and in a panic, I started moving hundreds of eggs to my mum’s fruit salad bowl.  I had moved almost all the eggs by the time I realised it would have been quicker to transfer the two adult goldfish instead of moving all those eggs.  Slowly, over the next week or so, the little baby fish started to come out of the eggs, and swam around the fruit salad bowl.  By now everyone had been coerced into adopting a fish, it was just a matter of time before they would be getting their new pet.

You guessed it… one by one all those little fishies died, every single one of them, and I was left to explain to my friends that there would be no pet goldfish.  Years on, and I haven’t learned my lesson.  I still count {goldfish} before they’re hatched.

Recently I’ve been planning how I am going to transform our unproductive backyard into a kitchen garden; with fruit trees, veggies, herbs and chooks as well as an extensive composting system.  Typically, I’ve already got plans for all the future produce:  jams, pickles, salads, omlettes…

This was our yard (20m x 15m) before we built the chook pen.  I used an online Garden Planner software to draw it to scale.

On the left is the back of the house with the patio, in the middle is the Hills Hoist, and on the right is the shed.  We’ve finally finished building the chook pen, so the yard currently looks like this:

So… here’s what I’m planning for the rest of the yard…

A little over-ambitious perhaps?

Lemon, fig, orange and olive trees on the north-east fence (left of the chooks).  Grape vines growing over the chook pen fence and the shed.  Plum tree on the right, between the shed and composting system.  And a MASSIVE veggie/herb patch on the south-west fence.  I was planning on raising the veggie patch beds to help with drainage, so it will end up being bricked up about 12m x 2m x 0.5m (LxWxH).

Considering my track record with plants, comments and advice are appreciated!

And if we have an oversupply of plums one day, I’ll be giving away lots of free plum jam…


Day of the Chicken

Apparently the month of May is International Respect for Chickens month and the 4th is International Respect for Chickens day.  It is also Star Wars day, ‘May the fourth be with you’, but we will leave that topic for another time.  Anyway …  happy Chook Day?!

Little T was promised pet chooks instead of chocolate eggs for Easter (toddlers should come with instructions that say ‘do not feed chocolate, especially after midnight’).  So, in preparation for the four new additions to our family, we started to build a chook pen.  I approximated it would only take a couple of weekends of not-too-strenuous-labour, so we set about sourcing the fence and the hen-house.  I decided on an old wardrobe from the scrap yard with the back taken off for their house (the idea being that Little T could just open up the doors on the outside, and take the eggs out without needing to stomp about in chook-poo inside the pen.  HA!  more on that later…)

ANYWAY.  Amped and enthusiastic I grabbed the shovel and rammed it into the ground to start digging the first post in.  It barely went in 0.5cm.  I know maybe sometimes I exaggerate, just a teensy bit, but I am seriously not kidding this time.  Basically our yard is clay soil, so over the long hot (HOT) summer this year, the earth was kilned by the sun and became harder than concrete.  So we used a jackhammer.  I am serious, we actually ‘dug’ each and every post and trench using a jackhammer.  It makes a dggdggdggdggdggdggdgg noise/motion that reverberates through your arms and body and continues well beyond using the thing.

After much huffing and puffing and dggdggdggdggdggdggdgg we FINALLY finished building the chook pen just in time for Easter.  It only took us about five weekends.  So on Easter Saturday we bundled Little T into the car, grabbed a couple of cardboard boxes and headed off to the chicken farm.  This next bit is not funny, so without going on a rant, and in a nutshell, I have never been so appalled in my life as when I saw the miserable conditions that these poor animals must live in.  None of our chooks had feathers, one was literally raw and bleeding, and not one of them could walk properly when we first rescued them.  Maybe an International Respect for Chickens day is not such a ridiculous idea?

So a month on, and the chooks have very much made themselves at home.  They boldly go {and explore our yard}, where no chook has gone before.  And Little T just LOVES chasing them and ‘talking’ to them, and stomping about inside the pen in his wellies.  There’s no keeping him out of the chook pen, he is King of the Chickens.  He goes and collects the ‘ugg’ when they occasionally lay one, and he feeds them the stale bread (right after he’s stuffed as much of it into his mouth as will fit).

The first 8 eggs they layed in the first week…

I’ll finish this {rather long} post with pictures of our motley bunch.  Meet ‘Tikka Masala’ (she rules the roost), ‘Drumsticks’ (she’s headstrong and does her own thing), ‘Schnitzel’ (she has a dodgy wing, but manages ok), and ‘Nuggets’ (she’s a couple short of a six-pack, definitely not our smartest chook… but loveable!)