Saturday, 24 May 2014

Wake Up And Invigorate Soap

Once again, home soap supplies needed replenishing and the beauty of home-made soap is you can change the recipe every time to suit current requirements.  I decided to make a "manly" soap for Mr Cocopopia to use in the shower, but at the same time I wanted something that would be good for my "gardener's hands".  As I stood in the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, wondering what I could do, the inspiration hit me as I spotted the coffee pot opposite me - and that's where I got the idea for my coffee grounds and cedarwood oil soap from! 

The coffee grounds make a great exfoliant for the skin and the cedarwood, apart from having a warm and comforting fragrance, is said to help certain types of eczema as it has antiseptic and astringent properties and it is also said to help relieve itching.  I also added some of my usual olive oil to the melt and pour mix to make the soap more nourishing on the skin.  A couple of teaspoons of coffee grounds (dried) were added to the soap to add fragrance and colour.  This time I also used a suspension melt and pour soap base which allows small particles added to the soap (such as flower petals, pieces of loofah or, in the case, coffee grounds) to be evenly distributed throughout the bar without all dropping to the bottom.

I also added a touch of orange soap colouring to some of the mix to try and make some striped bars, but this wasn't really necessary and it did tend to run out of the soap and leave a little orange stream in the sink.  Next time I'll keep it simple.

Have to say though, got the balance just right with the coffee grounds and its great for exfoliating and smoothing the skin.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Making the Most of the Situation

After 6 years of keeping chickens in the garden and now that we have none, things are defintely not the same - I miss their innocent, cheerful characters and I miss going out in the mornings to feed and water them and let them out for their day's activity and I miss tucking them safely back into their house in the evenings.

Things have come a long way since I had my first chickens and as local vets, at that time, had very little knowledge of diagnosing and treating sick chickens (this is now starting to change as more and more people start to keep chickens in their gardens again), it was up to chicken keepers to seek advice from other chicken keepers and share knowledge and support on chicken forums (where would be be without the internet now?!).  Over the past 6 years I have gone from hardly knowing anything, apart from the basics, to becoming a wise chicken keeper, able to diagnose various ailments and to know when (and how) to treat at home and when a visit to (a now more knowledgable) vet is required.

But I do have a plan.  We'll be a chicken-free zone for about 12 months - this will allow the ground around their run a chance to recover and it will also take the pressure off us to find chicken sitters as we take off on our travels.  It'll also give our compost bins a chance to "equalise" again as they are unbalanced and over heavy with chicken droppings and wood shavings.

With the new knowledge and confidence gained, I will re-home commercial hens destined for slaughter because they have reached the end of their usefulness commercially. They won't be particularly old hens, it will just be that they can't reliably lay an egg on a daily basis and so this makes them unprofitable from a business point of view.  It will be good to offer them a "retirement" home so that they can free range in the garden, dig for insects and grubs, bathe in the sunshine and lay eggs in their own proper nest.

So, last week-end, I cleaned out the chicken house and run, including disinfecting and jet washing.  I have plans over the summer to re-landscape some of the area around it.  But in the meantime, I have re-purposed the chicken walk-in run area to a temporary greenhouse (well, a greenhouse without glass sides).  But its reasonably sheltered, has a roof that lets in the light, has good ventilation and plenty of space for stacking temporary shelves.  There's also a table in there which is useful for planting out seeds and potting on etc.  So this week-end I went mad and planted sweetcorn, beans, fennel, squash for the autumn, mexican tomatoes, cucamelons, nasturtiums, thai basil, courgettes, peas, radishes, rocket and sunflowers.  There'll be more to plant next week-end.  

So, everything goes in cycles.  This year the plants benefit and the garden has a chance to re-establish itself again and by the time the new girls arrive, they'll have a wonderful garden and spacious new home to welcome them.

If you're in the UK and are interested in learning more about helping ex-commercial hens, here's a link to the British Hen Welfare Trust

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Goodbye Sweet Little Razzie

Sadly, almost 3 weeks after losing Juni, Razzi (our last remaining chicken) passed away today.  She had egg peritonitis, the same problem that Juni experienced.  Unlike Juni, who slowly just went to sleep, Razzi was starting to look uncomfortable and so a visit to the vet was required.  Out of all the chickens we've had, Razzi has always been the most friendly and sweetest natured.  Even when she was unwell, the vet remarked at how friendly she was.  Rest in peace Razzi, we will miss you x

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Art, Gardens and Afternoon Tea

Its that time of year again, when the Brighton and Hove Artists Open Houses Festival begins and runs every week-end throughout May.

When the weather's warm and sunny, its the perfect excuse to get out the bikes and cycle along the seafront into Hove to visit houses where a huge range of art and crafts can be seen.

Follow Your Heart
Follow Your Heart - Gill Copeland

We did an abbreviated version of the West Hove Arts Trail.  At our first port of call, we were given a warm welcome and loved the travel photography of Gill Copeland and appreciated being able to sit in the lovely garden and enjoy some home cooked Indian tapas.

I loved the sculptures in their garden and this was the perfect location to relax and regain some energy for the cycle ride home with some very delicious afternoon tea and cake.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Rest in Peace Juni

Sadly, Juni (Juniper) passed away last week.  She was 3 and a half years old but had been having problems with her "egg laying equipment".  Chickens usually stop laying, or at least slow down, over the winter months as the lack of natural daylight with the shorter days ceases to stimulate egg production.  This is a good thing as it gives their bodies a time to rest over the winter period.  However, sometimes there is a problem getting going again once spring time arrives and internal blockages can occur, as was the case with Juni.  A course of antibiotics helped her in the short term but she gradually started to eat less and less and sleep more and more and, in the end, she passed away in her sleep, cosied up in her nest.

Due to ongoing technical difficulties with my computer, I can't access a photo of Juni for the moment so will add one later, but above is a picture of her (on the left) with her best friend Razzie.