Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Not 100% Convinced.....

On the left our pure-bred Cuckoo-Marans hen. On the right a
'possible' youngster. 
Followers of this blog will know that we are slowly trying to 'evolve' our chicken flock to one of pure bred Buff Orpingtons and Marans. This from our starting point of Sussex Pontes and via our current motley collection of weirdos which include some bizarre Araucana x Game birds and some hybrid, bantamised Buffs with odd, clumsy, short legs but who were/are, none the less, prolific egg layers. Those we called our 'Mini-Buffs'. The 'evolution' is being done mainly by natural wastage, just not bothering to replace the unwanted types and trying to hatch probable Buff or Marans eggs. Please draw a veil over the fact that we slid the 2 blue Araucana eggs under a Buff broody this spring to keep her sweet and then let her hatch 2 'black babies' - see earlier post.

Those young 'Marans' at 3 months.
For the Marans breed, we had only had our geriatric Cuckoo-colour hen, 'Squawk' and no Rooster, so we purchased 12 of the dark brown, speckledy eggs from the farrier who looks after the horses of our friend and sheep supplier 'Mayo-Liz'. We put them in the incubator we were 'keeping' for Charlotte while she moved house. With permission, of course. The farrier had said that he could not promise that these would be Cuckoo colour Marans, but they were definitely Marans, possibly of his other three colour options - Copper, Blue or Golden.

One of the geese fires up the new season
with this 179 g whopper.
Well, those babies are now 3 months old and we are not 100% convinced that they are pure-bred Marans. We do not claim to be experts, never having reared the breed before, but they seem so long in the leg and so upright that we worry that they will never fill out to the Orpington-style, rounded, Mumsie shape of Squawk. I even texted Mayo-Liz to check that Mr Farrier does not keep a few game cocks running around his place who might have been sowing wild oats but she assured me that he doesn't. In their favour is that the eggs were definitely Marans, so at least the Mum must have been. We have 3 grey-ish birds who I could believe could be the 'Blues' and the 3 darker birds are all starting to get a coppery hue to their cape-feathers, so they might be the 'Copper' Marans. Ah well, they will get the benefit of the doubt for now and we will try to ignore their upright, tail-erect, Tottenham Hotspur badge, fighting cock looks.

The Corporal's dark-tailed lacy lady. 
Meanwhile we also have a possible issue with one of the three hens from the 'Corporal's group. Although she is a perfect pure-bred (pb) Buff-Orp shape, she has a few dark tail feathers (with brown edges) and the feathers on her back each individually have a pale edge. This 'lacing' (as they say in poultry circles) and the dark tail are, I think, not allowed in the breed standard for Buff-Orps and may indicate that Mum was one of the mini-buffs or possibly our old Sussex Ponte, 'Enda' (both of whom lay the buff-coloured eggs).

Our young Golden Hornet crab apple tree
gave us almost 3 kg of good fruit and a few
splits for the piggies.
Outside of chickens we are more certain that we are on track. We have re-started our goose egg season with 2 found on the same day, and Liz has already had one of these as her breakfast 'dippy egg' - it weighed 179 g. I cleared the rest of the standing crop from the polytunnel and was delighted by some huge Sarpo Mira red potatoes. I struggle to get enough water into that part of the garden and generally expect light crops on the spuds, but these guys must have been growing near enough to the edges that they pushed some roots out to where the rain runs off the sides.

'Baker' sized Sarpo Mira from the poly tunnel.
We have been enjoying these as beautiful baking potatoes with stews etc or as mashed potato. The are a fairly resistant variety Blight-wise, anyway but growing them early or late in the tunnel helps you miss the worst blight weather. These were as clean as a whistle.

Soldier the Cat checks out the jelly bag.
Our little, young crab apple tree pleased us with a yield of 2.994 kg of good fruit plus a few splits and bruised one for the piggies. Liz combined this with an equal weight of our nice local blackberries and gave it all a good boil up. I then strained it through the 'jelly bag', added sugar and boiled it to set point. I say that as if it is easy - I have NEVER been good at getting jams and marmalades to set.

Crab Apple and Blackberry Jelly cooling.
The recipes say boil for 10 minutes, test for set point and, oh if it is not set, try another 5 minutes. I just assume it is going to be more like 30-45 minutes. This time I even didn't bother putting the Kilner jars into the dish washer for their 36 minute wash/sterilise till I'd started the brew. Happily I did eventually get a set point and the crab+BB jelly is cooling and setting nicely out in the kitchen on the worktop even as I write.

Log Rat nailed from 30 yards away
Finally in the archery department I am happy to report that in our (most likely) final outdoor shoot of this year I finally nailed that elusive sneaky target 'Log Rat'. That after 5 months of trying. Those arrows on the ground in the picture are NOT all my misses, by the way, they are arrows I have retrieved for other archers (we helpfully do that for each other). Mine are the ones fletched in a rather fetching (fetching fletchings?) bright orange and green. It was good to finally 'get' that pesky rodent. Now we move indoors and go back to target practise in the big Badminton hall at Castlerea's "The Hub" sports complex. The poor, much-pierced animals get a holiday through the winter.

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