Amber died last week. It was on Monday, the start of a new term. She had been steadily losing weight for several weeks, she had a lethargy about her though she did show signs of energy at times. She ate less and spent a lot of time watching the world go by or her sisters, Ruby and Sapphire, feeding and scratching.

I had opened the door to their room and she was lying there, at first I thought she had already died but a closer look showed that she was still breathing, and her eyes flickered open and closed to greet me. I gathered her up and tried to make her more comfortable but a few minutes later she breathed her last and her eyes closed on the world for one last time.

I miss her. Of our three hens, all warrens, she was my favourite. Her feathers were more golden than the reddy brown of the other two girls, thus her name. She glowed when the sun caught her feathers and she had white eyebrows which made her very easy to identify even at dusk. She was the smallest of the three and was occasionally henpecked by the others but they got along really well together most of the time. I think Ruby and Sapphire miss her as well.

We rarely eat meat, and we would / could not eat Amber, especially as we don’t know what she died of, but as part of the cyclical economy that is nature, we may find ourselves consuming part of her at a future date as she is now buried several spades deep at the end of our vegetable garden.

Will we replace her? Amber is not replaceable! She was her own, unique being. But we will look to add to our small flock in time. We will first keep an eye on Ruby and Sapphire to make sure that they are fit and healthy and then we will probably introduce a couple of new girls since we understand that it is almost impossible to successfully add one chicken to a group.

And Amber will continue to live on in my memory as one of the most beautiful hens.

Worm Power

If food waste was a country it’s carbon footprint would be the third largest behind the USA and China. Therefore it is very important that we don’t waste food. There is always some waste such as vegetable peelings, apple cores, banana skins,etc and the way this is dealt with in many cities is to transport it away to compost, landfill or energy generation.

I believe it so much better to deal with your waste on-site if you can and make it part of a circular economy in your own back garden and so I compost as much of the waste that we generate as I can as well as receiving food waste from some of our neighbours through the ShareWaste scheme.

I currently have several compost systems on the go which I must write about sometime. There is:

  • a more traditional three bay “cold” compost system where garden waste goes into the first bay, is later turned into the middle bay, etc until it has composted down and is ready for sieving and using on the garden
  • a Hotbin which we use for most of our own food waste and neighbour’s ShareWaste
  • my new worm “bath” which replaces the old Dalek worm bin that was invaded by rats last winter.

The bath was recovered from a local skip and it is one where the taps and plug hole are at the middle rather than at the end. I have raised it off the ground with some bricks and timber plus fastened some supports at the front corners to make it more stable. An old, damaged metal casserole dish fits under the plughole to collect the “worm pee” and an old door recovered from another skip has been sawn down to size to fit on the top to keep rats, the dog, cat, birds and sunlight out and to keep the interior of the worm bath cosy for the worms. I have added wet cardboard waste, some older compost with worms in and some partly composted waste in it to provide the initial bedding for the worms and will shortly start adding small amounts of food waste mixed with chicken bedding (mostly wood chip) to see how the worms get on. I am fully expecting to have to order some “proper” composting worms in the near future but I want to see what the small red worms that have appeared in our compost are like first. Hopefully we will shortly be producing compost and liquid gold worm pee tea!

For more on worm composting see Red Worm Composting

Global Sharing Week

This one nearly passed me by, and not because people weren’t sharing the information with me!

Global Sharing Week this year is from 16 June to 21 June and the theme of the week is “The Power of Sharing to Change the World.” The week aims to encourage sharing but also to increase awareness of the concept of a real sharing economy – sharing goods, resources and ideas between people.

It always amazes me how much “stuff” we have that sits idle in our houses, garages and sheds. Our lifestyles and advertising encourage us to “have our own”, so I have a full size ladder, two step ladders, several power tools including two drills(!), a cupboard full of clothes I don’t wear, shelves of books I have read (and a few I haven’t) – and they all sit idle, gathering dust, until that one time in the year that I might want to use them. So much of the Earth’s resources tied up in idleness! And if we multiply that by the number of similar houses in my street then it is just plain stupid!

There are are lots of ways in which we could change this. We are involved in a car share so that our car is available for others to use rather than it being sat idle in the drive most of the time. I also joined several online groups to share my ladders and power tools and have offered them to others in my street. This hasn’t worked brilliantly so far but that is where Global Sharing Week comes in, it gives me a kick up the backside and gives me ideas as to how I can share my stuff more effectively and hopefully reduce the stuff I have sitting around idle.

So why not visit the website and see how you can share more.


Chapel Allerton Open Gardens 2019

Today is the day of Chapel Allerton Open Gardens 2019 and this year we are taking part! Between 1 and 5pm our side gate will be unlocked and visitors will be able to tour our garden for a donation to a couple of local charities – St Gemma’s Hospice and Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods.

We have been dodging rain showers, some torrential, to tidy the garden and remove all the trip hazards. Ours isn’t a manicured garden by any means, my description of it on the advertising blurb is:

“Inspired by Permaculture Design and a dog, this garden consists of part original garden, part disused tennis court and part disused bowling green. There are now about 30 trees, lots of fruit bushes and vegetables in a no dig garden, composting to grow soil, green manures, chickens and two ponds. Oh, and a friendly dog!”

Chapel Allerton Open Garden no. 12

Hops growing up south facing wall

The Inner Garden

Glass wand by Kev Trigg

Another glass wand

She’s not impressed!

The flower meadow

Another wand

And another

Pond 2

The Fruit Forest

Another view of the Fruit Forest

My favourite glass wand

The stained glass wands were made by Kev Trigg of Corvus Stained Glass and are available from the Glasshouse Gallery in Chapel Allerton

Hen Update (2)

Sadly we lost our remaining two hens. I forgot for once to close their outer door and they were taken in the night by a fox. I was woken in the night by noises but turned over and went back to sleep. It was very sad 8-(

We now have three warrens which we acquired from a relatively local breeder. Although all brown they do have their differences and now that I have watched them I can differentiate between them though I have also put coloured rings on two of them to help! They are Amber (the lightest and more yellow of the three), Ruby (the reddest) and Sapphire.

So far they have been amazing layers! They have each laid an egg a day, every day, all the way through December and January and are still laying! One of the girls is beginning to lay slightly later but there has been no other variation in their supply of beautiful eggs.

I am now looking forward to warmer days and introducing the girls to the compost heap.

Hen update

I haven’t posted much recently and certainly not about our hens. Sadly Beryl (the Bluebell) died a short while back. She seemed perfectly fine but one day she sat down and her head dropped to the floor. I saw her and picked her up, brought her into the warm but she died within half an hour. I understand that chickens try not to show illness as this highlights them to predators as easy pickings. We will have to consider what we do about replacing Beryl.

Sheila. our Light Sussex, continues to supply us with eggs on a regular basis thought the colour of the shell varies a huge amount. Just the other day we had a completely white egg followed the next day by a brown one!

Wendy (the Warren) has had a wheeze and a sneeze since last year and wasn’t laying. We have been trying to nurse her back to health and recently she has sounded a lot better and started laying mini eggs. Here are some next to one of Sheila’s eggs, you can see them getting larger.

Compost to compost

I’ve just had the joy of turning one compost heap into a new bay with the help of our new puppy Charlie. The compost looks fantastic this year, probably due to the introduction of chickens to the garden last year which has resulted in a lot of chicken manure rich wood chip which I have mixed with other garden waste and it has cooked up well. Charlie has had his nose in it and has given it his approval. It has taken twice as long to turn but that has given me time to observe his young puppy body as it tries to turn over worms and wood lice, plus a chance to notice the aches and pains in my body which is suffering from lack of exercise after being knocked off my bicycle several weeks ago.

I’m not sure what I / we would do if I were to be seriously injured or taken ill. Although the garden has had a lot of work put in to make it more low maintenance it still needs that physical input. Do I need to put more planning into that possibility? Or do I ignore it and hope that I will keep fit for another xx years? Perhaps that is what community is partly about? After all, one day they will be saying “compost to compost” over me and I will have to pass my small plot on – maybe that is better done as a gradual transition rather than a crisis step.

More thinking needed!


This year we have had a lot of Honesty appear in the woodland area of our garden. This was one of my mother’s favourite wild flowers.


Honesty is popular with insects and is often planted under fruit trees to encourage bees and fruiting bushes. In the US it is known as the “silver dollar” plant because of the appearance of it’s seed pods

Gooseberries and sawfly

After being reasonably successful last year with our gooseberries – we sheet mulched under the plants to stop sawfly – we are going to experiment with Poached Egg Plant this year. I came across this as a recommendation a few years ago and we now have enough plants to try them out under the gooseberries. Our chickens are also very fond of Poached Egg Plant and I wonder what nutritional value it has.

Poached Egg Plant under gooseberry plants

Poached Egg Plant under gooseberry plants