Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Outdoors, pembrokeshire, Pets

The Unlucky Chicken

There was an old chicken named Gertie

Whose feet were incredibly dirty.

To increase her allure

She’d a fine pedicure

And now she’s fantastically flirty.

She wasn’t called Gertie as it happens.  Her name was Scrat.  Do you remember Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age movies?  He never has any luck, seems to always get himself into bother, and is obsessed with hoarding one single acorn.

Scrat, the only one daft enough to venture out into the snow in search of our company.
Scrat, the only one daft enough to venture out into the snow in search of our company. Here she is trying to look at me through her bad eye.

We named our Scrat after Ice Age Scrat because she was an unlucky but likeable little chicken.  When we first collected her, she could barely walk because her feet were completely encased in rock hard chicken poo. She had great big solid balls of the stuff on each of her toes.  It took a lot of soaking her feet in warm water to finally get them clean, but then she could run around just as well as the others.  Almost.

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Helping herself to fruit salad

Scrat was accident prone.  She had somehow lost the sight in one eye before we collected her, but we don’t think she’d cottoned on to this fact.  She would get all excited and go hurtling around like a headless, well, like a headless chicken, only to crash headfirst into walls or trees or other chickens.  If you threw food for her from the wrong side she couldn’t see it, and by the time she’d worked out that she needed to turn around, the other chickens had often scoffed the lot.

She was the very definition of bottom of the pecking order in our little flock, bullied by all the girls, especially Tikka, who was a gobby little madam.  Even Kentucky the cockerel wasn’t as enamoured of her as he was the others.

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Scrat and Kentucky destroying the seedlings in my cloche
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Scrat assessing the damage

But, after a little settling in period,  she laid just as well as any of our ladies,  she was soon in great condition, she was curious, she was silly and she loved people. The main reason we picked her up in the first place was because she ran straight to us, so she was easy to catch.  (and the dirty feet helped.)

She was always first to greet you in the mornings.  She was the one that sussed out where the back door was and would often wander into the kitchen.  She was the one standing outside the kitchen window, just in case you felt the urge to throw out a few scraps, or under the bird table in case the wild birds dropped anything.  She was the one that didn’t mind being picked up and stroked.  She almost lost her head or a toe every time she dived in front of the spade because she’d seen a grub or a worm.  She was the one that would come running up to you as soon as you stepped out of the house, head held to one side so she could see you from her good eye.

kentucky looking out for his girls
Scrat in the centre with Gertrude and Beatrice and Kentucky looking out for his girls.

She was a clutz, she was a danger to herself, she was accident prone, and we never worked out if she was very brave or just very stupid.  But her self-preservation skills seemed to be paying off, she trusted us and she was by far our favourite.

Our first five chickens came from a barn and had never stepped outside before.  Next we rescued a couple of ex-battery hens, who were in a worse state.  But watching them take their first steps on grass and grow in confidence and feathers was an absolute joy.

tikka

Times have changed and we don’t keep chickens anymore, we don’t have the lifestyle that would allow us to keep them right now.

But, if you do have the opportunity, the resources and the desire to keep chickens, I can absolutely recommend it.  They are such characters with quite individual personalities, and they are a joy to have around.   And the eggs are a delicious bonus!

eggs

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Outdoors

Wild Haggis and Dangerous Perygls 

Today I read a Tweet from QI Quite Interesting @qikipedia, that told a fascinating fact about the humble Haggis.

Apparently, in a 2003 poll 1/3 of American visitors to Scotland thought the Haggis ran wild around the Scottish moors. When I looked through the comments thread below the original tweet, it became quite clear that this is obviously complete nonsense.

  1. Many found it hard to believe that only 1/3 of Americans believed this fact.
  2. The Haggis’s (or Hagi) roamed the Highlands, not the moors.
  3. Haggis no longer roam freely at all and are now only found on private farms and bred exclusively in captivity.

Fascinating fact number 2 about the Haggis – as it lives on the sides of mountains the legs perygl--danger--welsh-english-sign-on one side of its body are shorter than on the other, so they don’t fall down the hillside. Then they will forever travel around the mountains either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on their legs. To mate, there needs to be a breeding pair with opposite short legs so they don’t fall over, and in order to catch a Haggis you need to get them to change direction so they fall and roll down the hill, where the hunter can then easily scoop them up.

Several years ago, a friend of mine took a French colleague to Scotland on a research trip. He had never been before so, my friend packed a picnic, they went for a boat ride and he told his colleague all about the Haggis.

Whilst they ate their picnic, he handed across a scotch egg. The French visitor had never seen one before and asked what they were. He was told that they were in fact, Haggis testicles. The skipper confirmed this fact. Our French visitor who is used to eating such delicacies as frog’s legs and foie gras, (no stereo-typing here at all) declared “That is disgusting!” and refused to touch it. Weeks later when they were re-telling the story to everyone at work, he was adamant, he would never, EVER touch a scotch egg in his life. He’d be no good in a Bush Tucker Trial, that’s for sure.

The story of the Haggis reminds me of a similar tale from a Celtic nation not too far from downloadScotland. In Wales there lurks the dreaded Perygl. On cliff edges, mountains and at the edges of bodies of water, you often find signs warning of the dangers of the Perygl. Schoolchildren and city slicker’s on adventurous holidays are shown these signs and told to keep a look out for the Perygl, particularly at night if sleeping in a tent, whilst also staying away from cliff edges, looking out for trip hazards and other dangers, of course. No one really knows what they look like, but they are rumoured to be small and ferocious creatures, and they populate the whole of the Welsh nation. None have ever been seen in neighbouring England, though warning signs can be found on the border.

Original tweet https://twitter.com/qikipedia/status/1087016907759185920

Posted in Books, Life, Love and Laughter

Book Review – The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I have never written a book review before, but this blogging lark is all about new experiences, so here goes.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I picked up ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ from the Central Library in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, and with moving house and general busyness I have only just managed to finish it. Why did I pick it up? Well as with most books I choose, I liked the cover. I know, I know – but it was soooo pretty. Blue covers seem to do it every time, but this one also had an oriental style painting of a cat on the front. It was a winner from the off.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the story of Satoru who rescues a stray cat and then takes him around Japan in his van to visit his friends, but we don’t why know until later in the book. I tried to finish it on the bus tonight but I knew I was about to cry, so I had to wait until I got home and then blubbed away to my hearts content.

It’s a gentle, warm story that you just can’t put down (unless you are about to embarrass yourself on the Number 82) and tells of friendship and companionship between Satoru and his cat Nana, but also between him and his childhood and university friends as well. Satoru has had a hard time, but he is never seen to complain or bemoan his lot in life, and the writer doesn’t dwell on it either. He is a truly gentle, kind soul and the story depicts that perfectly. The humour comes mostly from Nana’s side of the story, looking into the strange human world that he has chosen to live in. Anyone who loves cats will know that you do begin to wonder who adopted who. Did Satoru adopt a cat, or did Nana adopt a lonely young man?

It is also a great introduction to a country I know very little about. From the changing seasons, to the diverse landscapes and the understated customs, it is an interesting and evocative read.

The author Hiro Arikawa lives in Tokyo and her book is a massive hit in Japan. It was translated from the original Japanese by Philip Gabriel and has since become an international hit too – and rightly so. In Japan the story has now been made into a film.

I was half way through the book before it occurred to me that the cover I love so much shows a picture of a black cat, but Nana is a white cat with a black tail. When I reached the end of the story I found out why. The painting is a work entitled ‘Man and the World’ painted by Shuai Liu, a Chinese painter with cerebral palsy. They simply fell in love with the picture, so used it for the cover. It obviously worked on me. The internal artwork was created by Yoco Nagamiya.

If you’re a cat lover, you will love this book. If you’re not a cat lover, you will also love this book. At just 247 pages long it is a truly lovely short novel that will find it’s way into your soul. Buy it, borrow it, gift it, but absolutely, definitely read it.

Posted in Liverpool, Outdoors

Sefton Park Sunshine

Autumn is by far my favourite season.  Crisp cold days, beautiful sunshine and the gorgeous colours of the leaves falling from the trees.  The last weekend in October was cold but filled with glorious sunshine, so I decided to take a walk around Sefton Park.

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Golden carpet
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So many colours
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Autumn trees clinging to their last few leaves in the wind

When the wind blew, sycamore shaped gold-leaf danced around my favourite part – the Eros Fountain.  The fish squirted water in the faces of the little cherubs, and Eros himself, glistened in the sunshine.  It was real brass-monkey weather, but beautiful all the same.

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Cherubs hiding in their shells
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Boulevard
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Eros
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Fish and cherub
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Chubby cheeked cherub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Outdoors, pembrokeshire

Grizzly Adams in wet West Wales

Over the last few years, there has been a push towards teaching Bushcraft, partly as a way to get back to learning about the natural world around us, but also for stag and hen do’s, birthday parties and team building events.  Bushcraft is a great escape from the mad, mad, world most of us live in, and a few years back I trained as a Bushcraft Instructor.  But before I did, I had to first learn it for myself.

If you don’t know, bushcraft is basically learning to survive and live in the wilds without the everyday trappings of life.  This could be in a jungle, on a mountain top or on the coast.  In the UK it usually means setting up camp near a water source, building a shelter and providing your own food and clean drinking water.  It is different to survival training, where you are taught to use whatever you can find in order to survive.  Bushcraft is where you use only the natural landscape around you.  I went to my first class with my teenage boys.

After finishing work on a Friday night, packing the car and ferrying younger kids about, we had a 5 minute turn-around before we had to leave the house again. Finally, after almost throwing the satnav and the phones onto the M4, we managed to find the place.  We were half an hour late.

woodland stream
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on Pexels.com

Bushcraft courses are often held in ‘out-of-the-way’ places, on private land and away from main roads if possible, so you can really get back to nature.   Therefore, they don’t necessarily have an address and can be difficult to find with an outdated sat-nav and a 3-year-old atlas of Great Britain.  Good directions, plenty of time and extreme amounts of patience are therefore a must.

We had none of those things.

As we’re late, the instructors had already taken the rest of the group down to the camp site.  We arrived in the dark to find an old farmer with a massive torch who showed us where to park and guided us down the hill through the mud.  He chatted away genially as we lugged rucksacks through the quagmire, over stones and through pony guarded gates until we reached the first of our instructors.

He took our names, gave us the obligatory health questionnaires and briefed us on health and safety.  Then he showed us to our camp site.  Everyone is sitting under a massive tarpaulin next to a camp fire with a kettle on it.  That’s a good sign.  We were warmly welcomed by the other instructors and students alike.  They seemed a friendly bunch, and after a brew and a chat we were asked to collect firewood.

Keep the home fires burning.

bonfire burning camp campfire
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

It’s useful to forage for firewood constantly.  The welcoming heat and light from a fire is a godsend and keeping a pot / kettle of water on it for a brew is a must, especially on a cold and wet evening.  The fire will provide you with food and drinking water as well as warmth and it’s also an amazing boost to morale if all else goes wrong.

After being introduced to the tools of our new trade, i.e. a knife and a saw, one of the first lessons we are given is designed to tune us in to what is going on around us.  We were taken, in the dark, away from the camp and told to sit in the hedges at various points.  Weird right?  We sat there, in silence, for about 20 minutes watching, listening, smelling, feeling, tasting and becoming generally aware of our surroundings.

gray and black folding pocket knife
A good bushcraft knife is an essential part of your tool kit. Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

This was by far my most favourite part of the weekend and we practised it each evening at dusk.  It is the most simple of things to try.  You can’t move a muscle,  you can’t make a sound and you can’t have any light.  You need to become invisible.  So you sit and you ‘hone-in’.  It takes a few minutes for the wildlife around you to forget that you’re there, but gradually they start to re-emerge.

Afterwards you gather together and discuss what you noticed.  The smell of the crushed bracken you were sitting on; the yip of a fox in the distance; a bug crawling across your hand; traffic on a road somewhere off over the hill;  owl’s hooting in the woods behind; tiny sounds of scurrying in the undergrowth; the guy next to you breathing; and, best of all, the bat landing a foot in front of you, oblivious to your presence.  Beautiful.

Then it was back to camp for a cuppa and, for one night only, we all sleep under the tarpaulin next to the fire.  Tomorrow we’ll be building and sleeping in shelters of our own.

woodland
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com