Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Felicia Amelloides Marguerite – Blue Kingfisher Daisy

This year Laura has introduced a new little gem to our flower collection in the form of a South African,  groundcover Marguerite. As well as being a pretty blue flower, the foliage is attractive and seems sturdy. Apparently although Felicia has a somewhat fragile appearance, this durable, pest-resistant plant requires little maintenance. Once the plant is established and shows healthy new growth an occasional watering is sufficient. Water deeply to saturate the roots then let the soil dry before watering again. Deadhead regularly to prevent the plant from going to seed for as long as possible. Prune the plant lightly when it begins to look tired in midsummer. The fluffy seed heads appear as late as November and can be collected or left to self seed. The common name of this little beauty is the Blue Kingfisher Daisy. I like it.

 

Peppered Steak in Red Wine


Ingredients

1 steak per person

4 heaped teaspoons of whole or crushed black peppercorns

4 tablespoons of olive oil

crushed garlic

300ml of red wine

 Method
For best results prepare your steak early and leave to marinate. Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a pestle and mortar.  Take a shallow dish large enough to hold your steaks comfortably side by side and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixed with half a clove of crushed garlic into the dish. Coat each steak evenly on both sides with crushed peppercorns, pressing them in firmly. Lay the steaks in the dish and spoon the other tablespoon of oil and the rest of the garlic over them. Cover with Clingfilm and leave them on one side for several hours, turning them over once.
To cook the steaks use a thick based frying pan. Place it over a very high heat and let it preheat the hotter the better. Sear the steaks quickly on both sides for about a minute each side. Then lower the heat and cook them how you want them. 1 minute before the end of the cooking time pour in the wine and let it bubble and reduce down to a syrupy consistency to about one third of its original volume. This whole process will be very quick. Sprinkle with salt and serve the steaks as quickly as possible with the wine sauce poured over. Serve with chipped or sautéed potatoes and green salad, beans or peas.

Clematis Cirrhosa Freckles Purpurascens – Winter Flowering

Clematis Cirrhosa Freckles is an evergreen variety that flowers from November to February. Freckles can reach a height of 12′ . This variety introduces a bit of colour and scent into a Winter garden. It is happy in a large container with support and some protection from strong winds. It is a group one Clematis so needs no pruning just keeping tidy. It carries attractive silky seed heads and green foliage with a bronze tint.

Scented, bell-like, cream winter flowers heavily speckled inside with reddish-brown freckles and glossy, dark-green leaves. This evergreen clematis is ideal for training over a sunny pergola or arch. This is the best way to appreciate the distinctive freckle-like markings, which are less visible when the plant is grown against a wall.  No routine pruning is necessary. If the spread of the plant needs to be restricted prune immediately after flowering, cutting back overlong shoots to healthy buds. Apply a slow-release balanced fertiliser and a mulch of well-rotted garden compost around the base of the plant in early spring.

 

 

Saucepan Boiled Fruit Cake

This recipe used to be a family favourite when the kids were all young. It’s a soft, moist fruit cake that can easily be adapted to become a celebration cake with the addition of treacle, alcohol, cherries etc. Another plus is that it does keep well if wrapped in foil or cling film.  I have the inclination to give it a go again.

Ingredients:

  • 12oz of dried fruit
  • 4oz margarine or butter
  • 1/4 pint of water
  • 4oz caster, granulated or brown sugar
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp mixed spice if you like it

Method:

Add the water, sugar, fruit and fat to a saucepan and bring to the boil stirring to keep from sticking. As soon as the mixture reaching boiling point turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir occasionally to stop skin forming on top or cover with cling film or greaseproof paper. When cool gradually add the beaten eggs, flour and baking powder, folding in and making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and a half. It does help to line the cake tin with greaseproof paper or as I do, wipe the tin round with margarine and shake flour so that the inside is coated evenly. At this point you could sprinkle with granulated sugar, decorate with almond slices or put a few candied peel slices on top. This cake also takes well to decorating with icing. All in all, a good all round stand by. My sort of cake.

Stardust


The subject of Adam’s ashes has reared it’s head again and I am no nearer to deciding what to do about it. Up until today the blue box containing all that remains of my beautiful boy has been sitting in the living room underneath his photograph. However, I am aware that I am not the only person with an interest in what becomes of them. He has three children and their two respective mothers, two brothers and a father, all of whom have genuine rights when it comes to making a decision about this difficult problem. I am his mother, This was his home, Where he is now is virtually the same place where he was set down when I brought him home from the maternity ward in a little blue carry cot. I don’t think I am ready to let him go yet. I still haven’t come to terms with the way he died  and I think that that is the crux of the problem.

Stardust

Fourteen billion years ago the whole thing was begun.
Time itself came into being, the clock began to run.
And in the crucible of space, all there is, was born.
The building blocks of all we know from some galactic storm.
Collapsing stars formed elements, the elements combined
To form the substance of it all, the earth, the trees, mankind!
So look into the midnight sky, creation on parade. . .
For what you see in starlight is the stuff from which we’re made.
For we are in the universe, The universe in us.
The two are indivisible. A thing most beauteous.
So hear the song of nature. The song that all things sing.
For we are truly stardust, everyone and everything.

By John Marsh © May 2015

 

Pumpkin Soup

Well, I’m told that Sainsbury’s are selling off the pumpkins left over from the Halloween mayhem. Laura is hoping to bring us back a bargain for 10p. I shall cut up the flesh and cook in a little water until soft then use my blender to make a puree. Add a chicken stock cube dissolved in boiling water and season to taste, Pumpkin is very bland so any type of flavouring could be added, even curry powder, but I prefer it as it comes with a shake of black pepper on top and plenty of crusty bread. I have added a potato and a stick of celery before when cooking the pumpkin flesh, it just depends on what I have in the fridge at the time. The Delia Soup Collection advocates roasting the chunks of pumpkin in the oven first. I haven’t tried that yet but may do one day.

Recipe:

I large pumpkin deseeded and peeled

Chop up the flesh, rinse and put into a saucepan with a little water

If preferred add a potato, carrot and chopped celery at this point

Add a little salt

Simmer gently until soft

Drain and mash or blend to make a puree

Dissolve a chicken or vegetable stock cube in boiling water

Gently add the liquid to the blended pumpkin stirring until you have a creamy consistency

Serve hot with a chopped chives or parsley garnish

Sprinkle with black pepper and serve with crusty bread

 

My Family And Other Animals

“Like a gentle, enthusiastic and understanding Noah, she has steered her vessel full of strange progeny through the stormy seas of life with great skill, always faced with the possibility of mutiny, always surrounded by the dangerous shoals of overdraft and extravagance, never being sure that her navigation would be approved by the crew, but certain that she would be blamed for anything that went wrong. That she survived the voyage is a miracle, but survive it she did, and, moreover, with her reason more or less intact. As my brother rightly points out, we can be proud of the way we have brought her up; she is a credit to us.”

A quote from My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

Kind words written by a son about his mother. I would like to think that my children could think of me in this way. It does seem to illustrate the rewarding journey that I have travelled to date with my wonderfully unique children. Never a dull moment during the ups and downs, adventures, heartaches and proud moments that have been my life up to now. Also, just like the Durrells, we have had a menagerie of various animals along the way. I was introduced to these stories when I was studying English Literature for GCE but feel I have appreciated them more since growing up and having my own family.

I hope that I have been able to be what I always dreamed of being when I was a girl. A good mother. Even when I was quite young I wanted children. I used to gather the children from our small post war street of prefabs and ‘mother’ them. I led small rag tag groups, which included my own little sister, five years younger than me, on various adventures amazingly surviving canals, disused coal mines, railway lines and bridges and water filled marlholes all of which were the norm around where we lived. We were happy with a milk bottle of water and jam sandwiches prepared by me which we would have half way through our adventure usually sat in a grass lined dip over the bank when I would teach them about wild flowers and other such gems. When I was twelve I was presented with a little brother and was able to practice with a real baby. I can remember running home from senior school to be with him.  I was twenty three, however, before I had the first of my own three lovely boys and that was the start of my life as a Mother. My raison d’etre.

 

Eglu – 13 years on.

The Eglu was the start of a big adventure for me as I ended up with fifty chickens, all bantams, and fifteen ducks, calls and runners. This adventure came to a crashing halt when my son was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I don’t regret a single minute spent caring for Adam and In fact feel very privileged to have spent that time with him and honoured to have been able to help him through, what was for him, a horrendous time. My new chicken venture is to help me through my grief after losing him in February 2016. Life will never be the same for us without him. However, he left me with three wonderful grandchildren, and they are a lasting legacy for which I am truly grateful. They love the chickens and the Eglu is really safe for them to use.

Today I received a refurbishment kit for the Eglu from Omlet. My Eglu was number seventeen off the production line when Omlet, the company, was born. It was delivered by their own chicken bedecked van and assembled in the garden in August 2004. It came with three large fowl, Araucana, which are blue egg layers. The students who designed and produced the chicken house have come a long way since then. I have bought plastic replacements for the originally wooden perching bars, a new green shade and an all weather transparent full cover for the bad weather to come. Other than that, thirteen years later, it is as good as new.

Well, I am a little disappointed as the replacement perches didn’t fit. They looked lovely too. Strong and easy to clean but just not the right size. However the Eglu is back together and looking safe and warm with the two new covers. The five new chickens look happy. They are all small breeds so have plenty of room and I feel confident that they will be warm and dry this winter.