Early Summer in the Garden

According to good gardening wisdom, one should wait a full year in a new garden before doing anything to it.  I am not sure that this advice extends to avoiding weeding, but so far my erratic health and the dreary weather have created a sense of inertia that has meant the poor garden has had to thrive in spite of my neglect thus far.  I am glad to report though, that it has mostly managed to do so, and is putting on a rather lovely summer showing just now.

This is a favourite vista from near the chicken yard, by the pond rockery.

The bees are ALL over this lovely little pink shrub.  I have no idea what it is (such a gardening novice…guess I will learn eventually) but it is right outside the end window in the lounge – which enhances the view no end.

I don’t think I had ever seen Honesty at this stage of it’s growth, having only ever encountered it in hideous 80’s dried flower arrangements.  I rather love the greeny-purple nature of this incarnation.

This is apparently (forgive me if I am wrong) Orange Hawkweed – which is noxious in some places, as it is an amazing alpine self-seeder.  It has rather taken over the rockery, but I think I kinda like it – though I do think that perhaps a little more thought to colour scheme could have gone into this garden, it has been a rather haphazard lurching from one shade of the spectrum to another – which does not appeal to the minialmist in me.

There is a certain wildness to the garden – which is not entirely due to my leaving it to it’s own devices.  Little yellow poppies have appeared everwhere, not always to the Doctor’s liking, but I have been cheered by their sturdy delicacy.  I suppose I should probably nip them in the bud at this stage to limit their spread for next year.

Another alpine that is doing remarkably well is the Alpine Strawberry which I discovered quite by accident this past weekend.  Kaz was very keen to munch them all up, they made a tiny little treat for his afternoon tea.

Whilst we made a bit of a slow start in planting our vege garden this year (and thus may have missed out with some things), there is some evidence of growth – especially with the Elephant Garlic we planted at the outset of our gardening endeavours.

We discovered last year that many things we might have grown well in other places we have lived, will not survive the cool damp climate of Fife.  But the ever-reliable poatato does extremely well here.  We tried no-dig potatoes this year and they did not eventuate, but we love the lusciousness of our potato grow bags by the shed and are looking forward to harvesting them next month.

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May Highlights

It seems that the weekends have flown by this month.   Summer is not really making much of an appearance.  Though from last year, we are not expecting too much!  But we have managed the odd outing, including a trip to the bird reserve with friends (which involved some batman antics on the beach and lots of fun for our budding little birders), and a stroll on the beach with Claire when she came to visit. This month also heralded the advent of ‘Super Lightning Man’ who makes a regular appearance in our weekly life.

There was also plenty of opportunity for indoor play with puzzles, trains, lego and cars – largely due to the often inclement weather.  We are still holding out for the rain to disappear and for more outdoorsy weekend activities.

Easter Antics

Easter is a magical time for me.  Just like Christmas, I took quite a bit of pleasure in introducing Kaz to the wonderful delights of  poking about in the garden looking for chocolatey treats from the Easter Rabbit, eating toasty hot cross buns (this year I made them myself for the first time) and popping down the road to the National Trust house at the Hill of Tarvit to try out our dyed eggs in an Egg Roll.  We boiled those eggs so well that ours bounced down the hill several times before it got a bit ‘icky’ and we headed off to poke about in the grounds for the Easter Egg Hunt clues for yet another chocolate treat.  A happy kind of festival.

Springing Again

Lately I have been making a habit of taking an  early morning stroll over the hill to the nearest town and this little fellow often kept me company on my way through the woods:

Since then, we have spent more and more time outdoors as the chill that had settled over the winter began to dissipate so we broke out the garlic bulbs and began our first garden in the new house.  It was lovely to show the wee guy how to start off the garlic plants and so we look forward to helping him see them pop out of the ground in the summer.

As hoped last month, the weather has started to improve, and we  have spent some lovely afternoons running on the beach…

and having our first outdoor picnic on the Loch…

Mother’s day necessitated a raspberry tea cake…

…and a picnic on the patio – albeit Scottish-style with sunglasses and coats!

Unseasonable springy sunniness.

Whiling Away the Winter Days

The winter days are lengthening finally.  We no longer leave for work and drive home in the dark.  But there is an icy grip on the land still, and whilst darling little buds are appearing in the garden (pinch me, I have a garden, with buds in it!) we are still cosying up for the final weeks of winter.  And the light has been low enough to warrant some mellow afternoons with candle power…and trains in the living room…and the toasty glow of the gas fire…and the eeiriness of a little iPad entertainment…

Wintry afternoons also call for a little home baking with Mama – and the wee one and I have tried our hand at gingerbread, choc-chip-cranberry-oatmeal cookies, muffins and shortbread – rolling and cutting out is the best part (apart from the gobbling down later).

There have been wonderful arty outbursts – wads of paper and oodles of ink later…

…and on the rainiest of days we have gathered together all the birdy friends in the living room for impromptu picnics…

…it seems that Pukeko are particularly partial to carrots…

…and of course, when the cars are out, sometimes they just need organising into a massive convoy…

So we are whiling away the winter days indoors, but also heading out into the chilly gardens and parks in anticpation of everything thawing out soon.  It has been the mildest of winters, so we have been lucky enough to spend much more time outside than previous winters – but the short days must also give way to warmth and hours of daylight to venture out after work and those days cannot come too soon!

Christmas Countdown

Only eight more sleeps to go…This year I really wanted to initiate Kazuo into the counting down to Christmas that was such a cherished part of my childhood.  He is still acquiring the capacity to deal with delayed gratification, so this has been an interesting lesson.  I did feel that having a tiny treat each day might just help to pass the time and fend off any attempt to try opening the presents under the tree, or raid ‘the secret place’ upstairs where the unwrapped gifts were being stored away.

But I didn’t want to just pick up some over-commercialised, once-only cardboard calendar (though I realise that would have done the trick admirably).  In the spirit of establishing a tradition, I made a Christmas Countdown…  Out with some stamps, some garden pegs, some leftover fabric from my bridesmaids’ skirts and Kazuo’s birdy blanket, a little ribbon and twenty-four tiny little treasures and hey presto:

When we presented it to Kaz on 1 December and mounted it on the wall, we explained that each day there was something to eat, something to do or something to wear.  [This year this translates as Chocolate Penguins, stickers, tree decorations, bubble blowers and some cutsey little badges]. He has been quite excited about opening the Countdown-Thingy each day and we have made a little ritual out of it.

Last weekend we collected our Caring Christmas Tree and decorated the house for the festive season.  This year Kaz was not so phased by the spiky needles, and was keen to help put up decorations, though he did have a charming propensity to put them ALL on the same branch at his height…but with a little help from mama and dada they are now evenly re-distributed.  He was VERY pleased with himself afterwards.

This past week has  been full of wintery tummy bugs.  First Kazuo (all week – he is on the mend today, but it was a long week for him I think) and now Mama.  We are now hoping that we are not having to quarantine ourselves for the festive season, and hope to have the door open to you if you care to drop by and celebrate with us.  Happy holidays.  Hope you enjoy the rest of the countdown!

Finally At Home

It has been a rather lengthy hiatus of painting, re-insulating, packing, unpacking, getting a hundred colds and flus and trying to juggle the minutiae of daily life with the desire to prettify and make homely…but I can finally report that we have made ourselves well and truly At Home.  I mentioned some months back (in another long winded apology for my absence) that we were looking for a house.  After a protracted round-the-houses search, we finally settled on the very first place we looked at, in the charming village that had initally caught our eye.  So now we are slowly settling into village life.

Our Scottish village is a little unusual in that it has all the essentials of an English village.  It boasts a village green, a charming kirk, a couple of pubs, an art gallery, a pottery, an antique shop,  a village shop, a butcher, a post office, a school and – to the little one’s delight – a playground.

One thing that I am particularly glad about is the abundance of footpaths and walking routes.  A year of being somewhat stranded at the house without any way to go walkabout has taken its toll on me and I am itching to get out and about exploring.  But for now, we moved in just as the winter weather crept in and we are gathering gloom on our way to the shortest day, so exploring will have to wait a little longer…

The house was a cottage that has had a little extension done to it.  We were grateful to find a home that had room for everyone, and a garden for the chooks who have settled in happily and seem to be thriving.  The doctor even found a pond in the garden, so we should have some hoppity friends in the summer.  There are still little homely tasks to complete, but we have managed to make ourselves comfy enough to welcome one lot of visitors and now we are cosying up for Christmas.

The little one settled in pretty well, he seems to love racing down the hallway, and pottering about in his new room – ‘working’ at his ‘office’ or building towers or constructing train tracks in the lounge.  I even managed to unpack the sewing machine and cobble together a hasty Bob outfit for his first day at nursery after the move (a little more warning for next year’s Halloween costume would be handy!)

So we are at home for the holidays and hoping that new space and more organisation might just mean I pop in and out of here a little more often.  Finger’s crossed!

Henny Hen Hen…

After the Fearsome Mr Fox encounter a few weeks ago, we really had to find the enduring little Naynaynay Number Four some company.  By all accounts, chickens do not fare so well alone, being social creatures.  Nay was looking a little nervy (well, a little more than her usual nervy self) and was tucking herself away in the coop alone each night in a forlorn manner.  So we contacted a local breeder, since the next hen rescue seemed to be some months away. 

Two weeks ago we finally welcomed two rather spectacular blacky-green Australorps to our little patch.   Kaz was as pleased to see them as he was to welcome the last lot, especially since he has discovered just how much he loves the chickens…

They are only a few months old, so they are not yet ready to lay.  We were assured that they would be mild mannered and easy going, though possibly a  little intimidated by our bossy older hen.  We kinda smirked at the suggestion that timid, permanently pecked little Nay could ever be bossy. But it is a classic textbook case of the-bullied-turns-bully… She spent most of the first few days fixing the poor youngsters with her one remaining evil eye and rushing at them for a little peck every chance she got.  And though they do keep each other warm at night, she seemed to waver between needing to take charge of the territory and asserting her space in the coop – so bedtime was a little fraught to begin with.

We have a month to help them settle in together.  The little 6x4ft run seemed a bit tiny when the rather grand sized young birds were there on their own…and so the weekend we got the new girls, the doctors honed their man-skills to construct a larger pen by cobbling together materials found in the copse.  But the next day we got home to find that the athletic Australorps had escaped Naynaynay’s brutish behaviour and the pen in one nifty hop over the coop…so we are back to taking the risk with Mr Fox and hoping that a broader area to roam about in may enable them to establish their pecking order with a minimum of feathers flying.  They all seem to be sticking relatively close to home…so fingers crossed! 

The first real test was three nights alone this last weekend – we went on holiday!  The girls all survived, and we found them here under the hedge on our return:

It is wonderful to have such beautiful young birds in our garden.  For the time being we are trying to make friends with the very wary newcomers and shall reserve their naming ceremony until we have had a better chance to get to know them.  Let’s hope they fare much better than the last little flock!

We’re Have I Been All This Time…

Longest break I’ve taken in a while…somehow, at the end of a week at the keyboard, it is kinda hard to make time to pop in here.  Silly me.

Weekends have taken on a new measure of quality family life now that our time all together is really limited to breakfast and dinner/bath/stories/bed.  We ALL look forward to those weekends.  Since I last checked in we have had a few adventures.

April was our Scottish Summer this year I think.  So one weekend we took advantage of the delightful weather and strolled along the Fife Coastal Path

with our new friends Tomandsuzie (not to be confused with Tomandclaire) and our wee tots to the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem.

Then we made some essential modifications to the chicken coop so that the girls could get up and go to bed without our help (esp helpful now that it is light around 4.30am and dark at 10.45pm)…and so that a helpful undergrad could come in and feed them whilst we made our first UK road trip to visit Tomandclaire in Manchester.  During this balmy weekend we managed an outing to the local RSPB reserve…

…and HeatonPark which had the added bonus of a tiny farm and a playground.

The following weekend was the Royal Wedding – and though none of us are particularly royalist in persuasion…there is something kinda lovely about a wedding…so I managed to make a cuppa and turn on the TV for some of the proceedings – though I did have a lot of interference from the easily distractable male members of the family.  We followed up the festivity with our first BBQ of the season – though the weather was not so great then, and has not really picked up since.  Sigh…

Later on we even managed a spot of garden planting.  As per usual, the little herbies are doing great.  But after an unseasonably warm April, May has been so cold that not much else has survived the transfer to the cold little garden patch .  Apart from the fabulous radishes we harvested this week.

The big news of the month was QPR (the Doctor’s football love) were promoted to the Premier League.  Whilst sport is still really something I do not understand…this was an event worth celebrating – with chocolate cake and bubbles!

And the other big news was the big-boy bed.  We took the sides off the cot…and Kaz has pretty much settled into a rhythm of sleeping in his own little space.  We have to lie down by him now to get to sleep…but that usually happens pretty quickly.  He has fallen out several times, and one night I stepped on him in the dark (oops) and another night he fell over all his toys trying to get out the door in the dark…but slowly we have made adaptations and sleep IS happening.  Now onto potty training…

Our final news is the galvanising into action on the house-hunting front.  We have been out most weekends looking for a permanent home.  A frightening and enlightening process.  We think we have narrowed down the area we would like to live in…and this charming village has caught our eye…

…Kaz has so far loved going to see houses, esp when we come across a playground en route

…but it will probably take us most of the summer to find something we are sure about…so no move imminent yet!

So…a big update.  Sorry it was so long…and I was absent for so long…hope to mitigate that in future.  It all got a bit hectic there for a while.  Happiness to you and thanks to those of you who kept popping in to see how we are doing.  I will try to be back here more often in future!

How Are Those Chickens Getting On?

Eleven weeks ago we brought our little brood of rescued battery chickens home to roost in our yard.  Since then they have thrived in ways I never imagined – though we did hope, from the British Hen Welfare Trust paraphernalia that we had read that they would eventually do so.  Akira is faithfully waking earlier and earlier to let them out to roam about as close to dawn as possible, and they linger about either in the house or nearby at dusk so that we can shut up shop for the night.

The girls spend their days scratching, pecking, dust bathing, pooping and sunbathing about the yard.  After a couple of weeks of keeping them in or near the coop, we let them roam free just before I started work at the University.  Pretty soon they found the outer limits of the property – and can often be found somewhere on the driveway scratching around as we come home from work in the early evening.

We feed them a high-protein ex-bats feed that has enabled them to feather up rather remarkably, and they all look luscious and feathery (apart from bossy Mrs Cluck, who is only now sprouting new neck feathers).  There was a brief hiatus of moulting in February, and they went off the lay a little.  But now they each lay an egg daily…so we are having to find alternative means of distributing the excess!

At first they were not so clever in the adverse weather, but it was pouring with rain yesterday morning and they had all taken cover under the hedge by the time we left for work.


It took a few weeks to establish the pecking order, but we think they have it sorted now.  Being able to free range means the lower order chooks don’t get pecked at much, and Mrs Cluck (who is definitely in charge) gets first choice of food, and calls the alarm when things look scarey, but otherwise seems to do little to assert her power these days.  One of Mrs Cluck’s recent funny habits is coming to the front door in the evening, triggering the sensor light in the dusk, and hanging out enjoying a little extended ‘daylight’.  Today she killed and ate an ENTIRE shrew…so she will either be in a bad way in the morning, or she is truly the most omnivorous one!


Feathery Frou Frou keeps a bit of a low profile.  She drifts about with Mrs Cluck and Floppy Comb most of the day and has feathered up rather beautifully.  her comb is also a lovely vibrant red.  Secretly, I think she may have been the egg-freeloader for a while, but she seems to just follow the crowd most of the time and is also a little more wary of us.


Floppy Comb is probably our favourite.  She is a gorgeous gingery-golden colour and has an inquisitive and very cheeky nature.  Floppy is the most likely to take risks and try new things.  She comes running whenever we appear outdoors and even jumps up on the living room windowsill to say ‘Hi’ if she spies us in the lounge.


Little Naynaynay Number Four is looking pretty and feathery (apart from a wee bald patch on her head – probably the permanent result of endless battery-induced pecking) and although she has a funny habit of facing the world with her blind eye – and thus never really knowing what is going on – she seems to get by in her own chickeny little way.  We were not sure she would make it, but she has been the most consistent layer, and seems to love having enough space in which to thrive.


We cleaned their house out a few weeks ago, and now that they spend all their daylight hours outdoors, the whole set up seems to be rather low maintenance and quite a happy addition to our little rural hideaway.


Our big challenge now is to find chicken minders for any holidays we plan to take this year.  An advert in the student job shop has yielded a few interested parties – so I am feeling hopeful that having chickens will still mean the best of all possible worlds.

The best part of this endeavour has been that Kazuo is devoted to the chickens.  He finds them hilarious, charming and a little funny.  He is so happy now that the long evenings means time with the chooks when we get home from town each day, we have to drag him away for dinner! They think his fingers look like worms and Floppy Comb makes a bee-line for the little person to have a peck at his fingers whenever he is out and about.