Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Oranges, Reds, Bugs and Seed Heads

I couldn’t resist getting out in to the garden today, which felt like a bit of a novelty given the year we’ve had so far.  The sun was shining and with that the garden was glowing with hues of red and brilliant orange.  As I looked through the window I could see the blood red leaves and berries of Viburnum opulus and the caramel shades of the Cercidiphyllum, which I knew all to well would also be producing the most wonderful candy floss/burnt sugar scent.  I had been summoned and who was I to resist.
To get anything other than an overgrown mess at this time of the year is all down to luck I guess, as I’ve not really spent a second in the garden.  What with starting my new business and the dreadful weather conspiring against me, the garden has had to look after itself as any good weather has resulted in quick dashes to the allotment to try and get a little work done.  But this is no bad thing really.  Yes, a few plants have romped away and others not done so well but no real harm has been done.  Well, nothing that a quick tidy up couldn’t fix.  The thuggish Miscanthus have practically enveloped most of the space and are prime for dividing come the spring, but they are also just coming in to their best, adorned with wonderful seed heads that nod and sway in the breeze. I leave these all winter and their stature and grace really adds to the garden.  
Today I found what was either a solitary bee or a hoverfly (I’m sure someone will clear this up) sunning itself on one of the mammoth Miscanthus clumps and I couldn’t resist getting a few pics.  The garden is quite the mini-beast haven right now and with the amount of drying grass, herbaceous perennial stems and other bits and bobs lying about, it should make for a great place for them to overwinter.  I’m just hoping that the cold snap is selective and targets those marauding molluscs that have thoroughly enjoyed the damp conditions.
The trees that I planted a couple of years back are just coming in to their own now and they’re set to provide a veritable feast for the birds and fuel them through the colder times ahead.  Originally I bought what I thought were two Crataegus persimillis ‘Prunifolia’, in their naked state of course, but it turns out that I picked up one of the aforementioned and another Hawthorn cultivar that doesn’t have a patch on it’s cousin – oh well, variety is the spice of life and all that.
What with the ever impending frost on it’s way, I thought I’d leave you with an image of one of the last flowers remaining in the garden and a reminder that if you’re planning to complete an Autumn tidy-up any time soon please spare a thought for the wildlife that call your garden home.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Ryan's Garden Competition: Win a Draper garden tool set!

Well, we haven't had a competition on the blog for a while and what with all the doom and gloom of late I thought it was about time we had a bit of fun.

The good people at Gardens Galore, a garden landscaping company based in Scotland, have kindly offered a Draper tools set comprising of  a carbon steel fork, spade, hand trowel and hand fork worth around £30.  Gardens Galore are a family company offering garden landscaping in Edinburgh.  Autumn is a perfect time to get planting, weeding and mulching and these tools are sure to come in handy.

To be in with a chance of winning just answer the question below:

'Gardens Galore recently completed a sensory garden project for which nursing home in Carnoustie?'

When you think you know the answer to the above question, leave a comment in the comments box at the bottom of this post.  You can gain an additional two entries to the competition by retweeting @ryansgarden promoting the competition on twitter or by sharing a link from the Ryan’s Garden Facebook page (you must like the page to share the link).  The number of entries will not increase if you retweet or share links more than once.

Good luck and don’t forget to subscribe to the Ryan’s Garden blog to ensure you don’t miss out on future competitions and posts.

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31.10.2012. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. If for any reason the particular prize is out of stock then an appropriate alternative will be sought.
 Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and your details being sent to the prize giving company.   By taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced here on the blog.  

Monday, 15 October 2012

The chicken’s in the fox and someone’s chopped up my railway sleepers

“Well, the chicken’s in the fox and someone’s chopped up my railway sleepers”.  That was my reply to one of my fellow allotment holders who had the untimely pleasure of asking me how things were going.  Not the usual reply of: “yeah, everything’s fine. Just getting the plot ready for Winter” or “well, the beans have been slow this year but my spuds have been pretty good”.  I guess on this occasion, my reply was a little less optimistic than most and it certainly acted as a conversation killer to say the least.

Although both issues have had me equally concerned, the latter of which has been resolved somewhat now, the issue of Chick was most alarming.  On Friday “Chick” came to an untimely end at the hands of Mrs Fox.  His swift, if not brutal death, was largely down to his cockerel-like bloody-mindedness and his want to explore and find tasty treats.

As usual, the chickens were let out of their run and into the larger area around the coop which is surrounded by the dead hedge, which is reinforced with brambles, blackthorn and holly making it a pretty good barrier.  This area is the chickens favourite place to scratch around as the woodchip houses a whole host of bugs and they get to peck at the handful of corn they get thrown each evening.  Rather than stay in the safety of this area in eyesight from where I was pottering, Chick decided to go off in to the wood and explore further, something that he’s never done before.

The wood isn’t as idyllic as it sounds and I think I should illustrate further.  Surrounding one side of the allotment, the wood is a strange old place, it’s more of a swamp than your typical wood with mud calf-deep in places and a good blanket of brambles and other obstacles to make slow any progress.

In the twenty minutes or so in which I tried to corrall Chick, he enjoyed scratching about in the drier areas adjoining the site paying not one bit of notice to me and my attempts to direct him back to the safety of the coop.  As I tried desperately to get near the soon to be takeaway dinner, I successfully collected a number of thorns, notably bramble and blackthorn - great, and covered myself with the rancid stagnant mud from the waterlogged wood.  In some pain and just when I thought I was starting to make progress, Chick turned and headed in the opposite direction to the coop - heading deeper in to the wood.  He was now a good 100 metres or so away from me and there was no way that I could negotiate my way through the undergrowth and thick mud with any efficiency to direct him back.

I opted for plan B – shake the corn tin and wait for his return.  In the past this technique has worked well for the rest of the flock as they know this means tasty food awaits and I make a point of doing this each evening so that they’re conditioned to come when needed.  Whilst sitting next to the coop with the rest of the girls enjoying their corn and bugs, a very loud and alarming honking could be heard.  Instantly I knew it was all over for him.  I ran over to look and caught sight of an incredibly muddy fox and one very dead Chick tangled up in a patch of brambles.  The fox quickly made good its escape and headed back in to the wood with her prized catch.  I had no idea what to do and I was helpless to intervene.

As beautiful as nature is it is also a savage beast and this was a lesson in just how quickly it can claim its victims.  Chick’s future was by no means certain, what with the main concern being his sex and the amount of noise he was likely to make, but that said I was really looking forward to how he would mature and how his personality would develop.  I was even hoping to breed from him at the start of next year to increase the size of the flock.

I’ve never owned a cockerel before and as he was the first Chick I ever hatched the “special” tag applied to him.  I guess it’s comforting to know that he will go on to support the fox and a whole range of other wildlife through winter, even if it does mean it deprives me in the process and removes a great addition to the flock.  Keeping chickens secure in a run is certainly one option but I do like them to have a little bit more room to roam when I’m there to keep an eye out as badgers and foxes live close by and can be seen most days.

The girls have always enjoyed a roam on my plot and around the hen house but I wonder if this is too big a risk, knowing just how quickly the predators act?

Over the winter months  I'll complete my plans to extend the chicken run although it is unfortunate that Chick can't be a part of it and the railway sleepers that were ear marked for the construction are no more.  Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Apples on sticks and a name for my cock

I was fortunate enough today to spend a bit of quality time with the chickens.  For those of you who don’t keep chickens I imagine it’s quite a strange concept, but really it’s just fascinating to watch them go about their business and see how they interact with one another.  Of course, I was also there to clean them out, collect their eggs and feed and water them but you cant help but lose track of what you’re doing.  In fact, I seem to do this everyday.

In an effort to keep them entertained amidst constant downpours, I chose to copy an idea that I read about this morning on Ruth’ blog - ‘Country Living Chick’.  I absolutely love this blog, in particular the posts about Audrey and Mabel.  Following Ruth’s lead, I went about staking a couple of apples with bamboo canes and leaving them for the flock to peck at.  At first they were totally bemused, if not a little scared, and they actively went out of their way to avoid the strange red globes.  I cut a section from one of the apples to show them just what these alien objects were and in an instant they switched from fear mode and immediately turned in to what can only be described as vultures of the Serengeti scavenging from a lion kill.  Within minutes the apples were no more.

It’s great to find new ways to keep the birds entertained as I can’t leave them free range when I’m not there in the day for fear of cats or foxes taking them, the populations of which must be fairly high as both can be seen wandering on daily basis.  I often tie up whole cabbages or bundles of comfrey and other green leaves for them to pick at and I also like to leave halved courgettes, the ones that you’ve forgotten about or have gone unnoticed under large leaves and have grown to resemble giant marrows.  If anyone has any other suggestions on how I can enrich the chicken coop and feed time I’d love to hear a few suggestions.  Just leave a comment below.  

In other poultry related news, “Chick”, the big white one in the photograph above, has very nearly completed his transition from scraggly little chicken to fabulous Ixworth cockerel and he’s really turning in to quite a strapping lad.  So far, he's not presenting as at all aggressive and he's also yet to crow.  He is however, taking some interest in the ladies, even if that does solely consist of him mounting Sophia La Hen, the Ancona hen that hatched and reared him.  Despite his uncertain future and going against convention, such is my nature, I have decided to name him as continuing to call him “Chick” just doesn’t feel right.  That’s why I’m looking for suggestions for names. I contemplated Boris for some time but it just doesn’t seem to fit and he’s far too likeable to be named after such a well-known pillock.  That's why I'm throwing this open to you and I'll gladly welcome any help you can offer, just leave your comment and I’ll have a gander.
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