Thursday, 31 July 2008

Chick Update 1

I'm pleased to say that the little chick is still alive and cheeping away in a box in my study. For the first day he didn't use his leg at all but I was able to feel it and there wasn't anything obviously wrong, but I'm no vet and neither am I an expert in chickens. When I massaged the leg I thought I saw a little movement in the foot but wasn't sure.

Today I took the chick out onto the lawn, put it down and it hobbled about a bit in order to get some grass and it was obvious that although it was using the good leg primarily, it was using the bad leg too and moving the toes that had previously been limp. It also gave its wings a really good preen too so I think it is feeling a lot happier and I'm more hopeful that it will make a full recovery.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Wheat Harvest

The last three weeks has also seen my wheat being harvested and it’s been a very poor crop. The wheat itself is excellent but there wasn’t much of it. I’d not sprayed the field with herbicides and relied on turning the soil and also used an organic fertiliser. My yield is about a fifth to a seventh what I think it should have been with a high level of other matter in it. There was a very high germination of last years sunflower crop, helped by the mild weather earlier this year resulting in the field being generally yellow rather than golden at harvest time and as can be seen from the photograph the wheat was quite sparse and stunted. I’m wondering if the winter and spring deluges washed the fertiliser from the field before it had time to do its job.

So I now need to think very carefully about what to grow next and whether I can afford to keep with the organic/permaculture idea or whether I will have to grow the cereal conventionally as I will be making a loss on this harvest, the question is how big a loss.

Endless Days that Pass to Fast

The last three weeks has had some long hot summer days that feel endless but at the same time the three weeks that my daughter spent here have passed in the blink of an eye. We had a wonderful time and I can’t wait for her return.
My elder son is here with his girlfriend for another 5 weeks which sounds ages now but I guess will pass far too quickly as well.

As well as days out to places like Rocamadour – my daughter needed to get some more of the room spray that she got there last year! We had time for a visit to the Gouffre de Padirac, which I love, that provided a lovely cool interlude to a hot day– there were frequent shopping trips with a very successful clothing trip to Sarlat market. We’ve also got nearly one field of posts in. The heat has not only made it very difficult for us to be out in the field for long periods but has also made the clay/soil too hard to ram in successfully so we need a decent shower of rain to wet the ground again.

Another highlight of her stay was the water pump failing again leaving us without water for a week. The probable cause of the failure was the pump being partially submerged every time it deluged with rain. Over the next few weeks, while it’s still dry, I have to figure a way to raise the pump; the hose from the well stops about 15 cm (6 inches) above ground level and the pump house is a tight fit around the pressure vessel with the pump situated near the back, requiring anyone trying to work on the pump to be a contortionist. So the hunt is now on for suitable above ground, drinking water grade, rainwater tanks here in France. The below ground ones are easy to find but not the above ground ones of reasonable size – I’m thinking of around 15 000 – 20 000 litres split between 2 or 3 tanks. The lack of water had one positive benefit as it meant a trip to the local swimming lake happened, we meant to do it last year but never got round to it and as well as a small monitored beach and snack bar there were also showers.

The latest batch of chicks has not been very successful with only one chick remaining from the 8 eggs. The two broody hens fought over the eggs and I think that resulted in eggs being left uncovered as well as one of the eggs being crushed and one of the chicks being squashed. I tried separating the hens, there is a divider in the hen house, once I realised they were stealing the eggs from each others nest and also both trying to nest in the same place but the hen that was moved abandoned her eggs and spent all her time trying to get back to the other nest site. Next time I’ll move the hen as soon as one gets broody.

The first set of chicks are doing well and now about half the size of mum and are now out and about with mum leading them round the garden. Two of them are the same size while the third is noticeably smaller. I’ve seen the two larger ones chest up against each other so I guess that they are likely to be males (chicken dinner) while the smaller one may be female. Whist the silver laced Wyandottes are very pretty I’m not so convinced about their egg production, I’ve had no eggs for around 5 weeks now. Mum number one was my best layer so I’m hoping she will start again soon and then the next two to go broody were my intermittent layers. The remaining hen doesn’t lay at all so I think I will have to get some different hens, but not the bare necked variety, in order to ensure a good egg supply.

Edit: When I went up to feed the hens the remaining chick could barely walk and I thought it had a broken leg. The poor thing was being trodden on by it's two mums, which left me with the dilemma - do I take it away from the other chickens and risk it dying because it hasn't got other hens around it or do I leave it and risk it being killed by the hens. One of them was taking the occasionally peck at the chick if it was in the way. In the end I've brought it into the house and have rigged up a small box with a light over it for warmth, and am hoping it will survive the night.