Rehome Hens – Free Range Farmer Forced to Close – Laying Hens Available

Save From Slaughter – Laying Chickens Hens For Sale

The deadline is March 1st. Please give these girls a home and save them from slaughter.

I’m feeling a bit stressed – oh, there’s a surprise!

Wow. Sunshine. Quite a lot of it. Am I actually in England? Yes, I think so. And I reckon Spring has arrived.

On the way to work, I manage to catch a glimpse of spring lambs gallavanting around the fields. I see buds everywhere. I’ve already seen a multitude of bees, butterflies and nesting birds. Yep, definitely spring.

I’ve been busy again. Very busy in my Smallest Smallholding. We’ve almost finished cutting all the hedges, clearing out some of the borders (although there’s still a lot of nettle removal to do…mehh!), cutting back and digging up brambles, bindweed, ivy and a runaway honeysuckle, and even managed a preliminary grass cut. All looks a little bit neater and I feel like I’m actually making some progress so far this year.

I also managed to get my Charlotte potatoes in, using the last of the compost from our what-was-gargantuan compost heap. My tent cloche has been put up on one end, just in case we have frosts. I’ve heard that we’re expecting colder weather again next week, so at least half of my crop will be protected…unless I can dig out some thermal horticultural fleece from the depths of the shed.

And, shock horror! I managed to get down to the allotment this weekend too! Another small plot dug out, another ten tonnes of twitch removed, and the red onions are in. I hoed around the leeks and autumn onions (which are pretty small and don’t look like they’re going to seed anytime soon), and marvelled at the fact that we’ve made it over the halfway mark in clearing the allotment. Mum was down there earlier this week and had a friendly visitor in a blue boiler suit. One of the “old boys” came over for a chat (and some advice…”you wants to get them there’s onions out before they go to seed!”) and informed mum that “old Bill”, our allotment’s previous tenant, used to continually rotivate the twitch to get rid of it. Which explains why a large portion of our plot is now like an underground spaghetti junction. Thanks, Bill!

So what’s up with me? Well I’m still contracting full time, and I’m learning a heck of a lot on this job. Which is great. I am struggling to make ends meet though, and am having to take on freelance work in the evenings. It’s really hard. I feel constantly “on” and I can’t just come home and switch off. And it doesn’t help that Maureen has been diagnosed with kidney disease, and is now only interested in eating round lettuce and grapes. Nothing else really. So we don’t expect that she’ll be with us for too much longer. She had a good day on Friday, beetling around and generally looking ok. But this weekend she’s been very quiet, nodding off quite often and generally keeping herself to herself.

Yoko is also proving difficult. Whilst, in herself, she seems to be getting more and more investigative and loud – almost going back to her ‘old’ self – she’s started internally laying again. Yoko has to be seen to be believed. She’s massive underneath. So we’re at a bit of a crossroads with her. We’ve heard about hormone therapy to stop her laying (Suprelorin, for those of you that are interested), but that doesn’t solve or even attempt to solve the problem of her big mass. Her walking isn’t great, and she is very warm. She wouldn’t cope in hot weather. So what do we do – allow her to go on, pretty content with things as she is, and then say goodbye when she just can’t cope with it anymore, or attempt to do something now in the way of surgery (draining), and risk her life…because she’ll probably die anyway. It’s making my head explode. Almost literally. We have a lot of difficult decisions coming.

With work, extra freelance work, family things, sick chickens…I’m literally sitting here with fizzy arms and major tension headaches. At least that’s what I hope they are. When I get stressed, I get pains, aches, and funny symptoms. And then I think there’s everything in the world wrong with me, which stresses me out even more. It’s a stupid Catch-22 situation. Those of you that read this blog will realise I’m a pretty anxious person, and right now I feel like I really, really need a break and a holiday. It’s not possible at the moment though.

OK, so I’m a lucky girl in many respects, and I understand that. I’m thankful for a lot of the things in my life, because I’ve had it pretty damned good compared to a lot of people. But I seem to have had this constant stress in my life since about 2005, and I just want to feel a bit carefree and ‘normal’ again. Not be worrying about the fact that I have a pain in my head/neck/chest/back/arm, or that I don’t know how I’m going to claw my way out of constant debt, or worry about my relative’s illnesses and conditions, or worry about my perpetually ill chickens, or worrying about family issues that I have no control over…I’m still reeling a bit from losing Nannie last year, and all the impact it’s had on me. Like I said, it tends to manfest itself in concerns about my own health. I am going to start a bit of grief counselling soon I think. I have a referral, so I think it’s something that I need to do to help me get back to a healthy state of mind. And I could also do with a weekly massage – hmmm, bit of a pipe dream (unless I can persuade Rich!). I thought I would feel ashamed about admitting about going for counselling on the blogosphere, but you know…it’s just the way it is. I had stress. It was intense, and I just need to work through making sense of it. No shame in that, I don’t think. I think my main goal is to break out of this cycle of being used to worrying and stressing about things in my life that I can’t necessarily control. To reach the end of 2009 having achieved that would be a massive step for me.

I also didn’t realise when I took on the ex-batts how attached I would get, and how much illness I would be dealing with. I guess with their health, it’s just pot luck, in a way.  There are many people that have ex-batts that are relatively unproblematic. Others that lose their hens within days of rescuing them. I’m SO glad I got my girls, and I’m glad I could give them a life they wouldn’t have known otherwise. But it’s been a struggle at times (a lot of times!), and just because of the person that I am, it’s been stressful to feel out of control when they’re ill and there’s nothing I can do to ‘fix’ them. Which begs the question, why am I planning on having more in the future? Well, because I feel a responsibility to give them a home, and a retirement they deserve.  In some ways, I wish I didn’t have to. I wish there wasn’t a battery system. I wish they weren’t seen as a kind of ‘machine’ that can be produced, used, and spent as if pretty worthless.

If my remaining girls go within a short time of each other, we’ll have a break from keeping hens for a while.  That I know. That I need. It’s been a hard decision to come to, as keeping my ex-batties has become a huge part of who I feel I am, and how my life has changed into this attempt at the ‘good life’ over the past two or three years. I’ll feel strange without them, but I just think if things go a certain way, I’ll need some time to just take a breather from it.

But if Maureen goes before Yoko, and Yoko looks set to go on (and blow me, being the stubborn bird that she is, she probably will), then we’ll have to get a couple more because Yoko goes beserk whenever Maureen is out of range.

It’s just a waiting game at the moment. And I’m trying to relax and be philosophical about it. Trying!

But I’ll tell you what. Sunshine has magical, medicinal and spiritual properties. A few narcissi that I shoved in the ground a few weeks ago have popped up and are in bloom. That was a nice surprise. And my Oxalis that I planted in my mini woodland garden are flourishing. Mr Bee is very happy. And I’m glad that inbetween work, freelance work and stressing, I’ve been able to either disappear in the world of Harry Potter, or escape outside.

Bugger. I think I have an ear infection.

See?

Anyway – personal rant aside – I think I am starting to get set to do some sowing next week. I’ve almost had to bully poor Rich into making some of my greenhouse staging, so I have somewhere to put the seed trays. And when payday arrives, I’m off down the plant nursery via the glass shop, where I’m finally going to replace the missing rood panels in my greenhouse.

Despite how things are at the moment, I have to keep in mind that there are so many things to look forward to. That, I know.

I’ve Been Busy…

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

HOW TIRED AM I?

I am now an almost-fully fledged member of the Rat Race, and am contracting initially for three months. 8:30AM – 5:00PM are my working hours. Commuting is a major headache that I would rather not deal with twice a day. But, the work is good. The people are nice. I’m learning new skills. I guess I just wish it was closer to home and that I didn’t end each day with a pain in my neck (literally) and a sore back.

And I wish I didn’t miss my Smallest Smallholding so much.

I get home about 5:40PM, which at the moment means that if it’s not too overcast, I can catch the hens for just a couple of minutes before they go to bed. I miss my hens. I miss my cats. I miss my bunnies. I miss pottering about my Smallest Smallholding if the fancy takes me. I miss the fresh air. I miss the sounds of wild birds and hens. I miss the gentle busy-ness of it, compared to the ‘stressed busy’ of commuting and being amongst crowds of people that are living their lives according to the same timetable as me.

But freelancing in this current economic climate has been pretty tenuous to say the least. And I needed some security for the next few months. So I suppose that means having to make compromises. I just hope my back behaves itself and holds out.

Lots has been happening in the past couple of weeks. Our rabbit Snoopy stopped eating and went into GI Stasis (also known as ileus). This is basically where his digestive system slows down or stops, and he fills with gas which causes pain. This stops him eating what little he might have been eating, which makes the GI stasis worse. Rabbits are designed to eat pretty much throughout the day, so you can imagine how dangerous this is. Snoopy was in the veterinary hospital for 5 nights, chewed through numerous drips, had an x-ray and had spurs removed from his back molars. All to the tune of £400. But Snoopy is oh so very worth it.

So if that wasn’t enough to contend with, we also had a problem with Maureen our hen. She started drinking excessively, just as Pattie had last summer. So off to the vets we went. Maureen had blood tests that showed slightly high levels of uric acid. This probably indicates that she’s starting to have problems with her kidneys – sadly, not unusual for an ex-battery hen. So all we can do now is monitor her, and try to avoid foods that will cause her kidneys to work hard. We think that means avoiding calcium-rich foods (not so much a problem now she’s not really laying) and keeping her foods lower in phosporus. She seems to have stopped drinking for a while and is eating again – we just want to try and maintain her weight and keep her happy for as long as she has.

Which begs the question, do we get any more ex-battery hens now? As I said before don’t want to be left with one on her own.

I’m hoping to catch up this weekend outside. Firstly, that means finishing clearing up after Rich’s next hedge cutting venture. We started last weekend and managed to tackle the most difficult first, but boy are there a lot of cuttings to deal with. Our chipper doesn’t like handling green stuff (it prefers branches, twigs and dried bits), so I reckon there’s a few ‘green waste’ tip-runs on the cards.

I also want to get the greenhouse cleared out and ready for when I start putting out my seedlings. Not that I’ve sown anything yet. That’s something else I want to get started with, especially since the rabbits have shown a taste for various herbs (cheap feed). I think it’s also time to start sowing the peppers and chillis. Heck, I’ve got so many seed packets to go through that I’m sure there’s loads more I can be getting on with this weekend.

After a week in the office, I’m really going to savour it. Especially since spring is on its way. The crocuses say so.