Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Yearly Archive: 2008

Mantis 4-Stroke Tiller

My surprise gift to Rob this year is a Mantis Tiller. Hopefully this will alleviate the backache he gets when digging over the beds at the allotment. I bought it direct from Mantis online. I will do a follow up post about this when we have put it to the test.

Mantis 4-stroke Tiller

Update – Well the Mantis did everything we expected on the plot but what we didn’t expect was for it to be stolen when the plots were raided by thieves. They even took our spade and fork.

Christmas Surprise – Sansa Fuze

41ygmlbwunl__sl160_aa115_.jpgMy son Glenn bought me a nice present for Christmas this year. A Sansa Fuze. He had downloaded a few books by my favourite authors and I can now lie with my eyes closed and have a story read to me, bliss.

update – he seems to have started a trend, now my partner, Rob, my sister-in-law Jan and my Sister Cath are all to be seen wired for sound.

Rosa Pascali, Rosa Margaret Merrill and Crocus Ruby Giant

rosa pascaliThis morning was a little milder and so I planted a new rose, Rosa Pascali, alongside the chicken enclosure. There is already a rose there, Rosa Margaret Merrill, which has been in the garden for a couple of years. Both are white and both are scented so they should look good in front of the new Clematis I put in recently.

Pascali was bred in Belgium and introduced in 1963. Like its parent, Queen Elizabeth, it presents one fragrant, creamy-white bloom per stem. It is a modern bush rose that grows into a sturdy, upright plant and has pointed blossoms well suited for cutting,  blooming continuously or in flushes all season.


rosa margaret merril

Rosa Margaret Merrill has delicate, double, exceptionally fragrant, pale pink to white flowers from July to September and crisp, dark green leaves. This vigorous, cluster-flowered bush rose is perfect for an open, sunny site with fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Offering good resistance to disease, the beautiful high-centred to cup-shaped blooms make excellent cut-flowers.



crocus ruby giantI also divided fifty Crocus Ruby Giant between two pots

Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant was introduced in 1956 and is rich reddish purple with yellow-orange anthers.  It will naturalise readily. Bred in Holland, even when closed, the sturdy stems hold the flower heads up above their leaves.  It will flower early in Spring, and is attractive to insects. While needing a well-drained position and loving the sun, it is more happy in shade than most crocuses. Its capacity for spreading means it will establish itself wherever it is put.

Galanthus Nivalis – Snowdrop


The Common Snowdrop – They are extraordinarily hardy and can be depended on to flower very early whatever the weather,  the colder and gloomier it is, the longer the blooms last. Best planted in light shade. They will grow in most soils but make the best plants in heavier moist conditions. They are most successfully transplanted while growing in the green. Bulbs often take a season to settle down before flowering.

I have planted up some Snowdrops in the big blue pot by the back door. I have planted these before in the area around the pond but they were spoiled by the ducks and the chickens as soon as they popped their green shoots through the soil. I am hoping that they will have a fighting chance to multiply in the pot and then I will make another attempt to put some in the garden. We only have the two ducks and little YuYu the minature Silkie in the garden now as the bulk of the chickens are restricted to the trellised off area.

We made a quick visit to the plots this morning to take the chicken poo. We put it all on the top of the bean trench hoping that the worms will dig it in for us. I finally put the Dahlias to bed by cutting them off at about two inches above ground then covering them with straw to protect them from the wet and the frost. They really needed digging up and splitting this year but we just haven’t had time.

Garden Birds Brighten up A Grey Day

It’s grey, foggy and cold outside this morning so, after making sure that all the pets are fed and comfortable, to cheer myself up I have ordered the seed potatoes for next year. I am using Alan Romans again as we have always received reliable quality goods from them. I have ordered one bag of Charlotte, three bags of International Kidney and three bags of Vivaldi. We have grown them all before so no surprises. They are first and second earlies so they should be up before any risk of Blight. Despite the greyness of the day there was plenty of colour and entertainment in the garden this morning as the birds were busy feeding.



It’s Cold Out There

I have just come in from the garden. The duck pond is completely frozen over. Same goes for all the bunnies water bottles and the outside tap. Winter seems to have arrived suddenly with the rooves and the ground white with frost and ice. My fingers are still frozen. I think its time to dig out those gloves and scarves. On the bright side the sky is clear and blue this morning and the previously muddy lawn is frozen and easier to walk on. Yesterday was wet and windy with hail and snow showers which the ducks seemed to love as it makes it easier for them to dabble and find worms. I had a right game getting them to go to bed last night. The chickens however hate it and were on their perches before I went out to lock their shed.

We used Rob’s week off well and worked hard on both of the plots. All the onion sets are in and there are several beds cleared and dug ready for Spring. We made a gigantic contribution to the comunal compost heap as our bins are all full. The lean to is now empty and we are planning to get plenty of organic matter on the beds to rot down over Winter. There is a lot of mint in there and though we have pulled it up as best we can I think there are still lots of roots that may cause problems. This is a problem that we inherited with the lean to and at first we thought it was good to have a bit if mint in there but it is a very invasive plant and I think may have been the reason that the cucumber Carmen struggled to get going this season. I put the Rhubarb to bed by clearing out all old stalks and covering with a good layer of straw and a chicken wire cover to hold it in place. Next visit I shall have to give the same treatment to the Dahlia bed as we have had a couple of hard frosts this week that I would imagine will have finished them off.

Libbie will be here soon so I will have to stop but at least the typing has thawed my fingers.

Overwintering Onion Sets

Rob has next week off work and we have so much to do. We have to plant the overwintering onion sets. Onion Troy, a brown onion from Marshalls, Onion Red Cross also from Marshalls, Onion Snowball and Electric Red both from Focus. It’s back breaking work putting them in and there are a lot of them.

Onion TroyOnion Red ElectricOnion SnowballOnion Red Cross

The other big job is to make a start on the new fruit cage. I doubt that it will get finished next week however. We dismantled the old one and plan to make the new one half as big again. We also have to finish the first tunnel as the door end is still not permanent. The last of the pumpkins should be ready to cut. Matthew and Libbie have already had the two biggest ones ready for Halloween. The last time we visited the plots the Butternut Squash Avalon was still producing fruit and although the frost had taken a few leaves they still looked rampant. They have been one of our successes this year. The rest of the work will be digging beds and tidying up. There is a skip on site at this time of the year and also a bonfire so we can get rid of any clutter.

Tomato Soup

I hadn’t made made soup since I was at school. Whenever we wanted soup we bought a tin from the supermarket. However as we had rather a lot of tomatoes and they were ending up being thrown to the chickens I had a look how to make it. Simple. Why hadn’t I done it before? We are a family of stew lovers and over the winter I usually make one at least once a week. On Monday I decided to have a go with a few tomatoes that would be past their best the next day and we were pleasantly surprised by the lovely taste of the end result. Today I had a go with just yellow tomatoes and got a beautiful golden soup. There will be no stopping me now, until I run out of ingredients that is. The next experiment will be butternut squash soup as we have a few of those in store and then pumpkin. I will know better next season. I haven’t worked out yet how to keep it so we are eating it as I make it.

Chop the tomatoes and put into a saucepan. Add a little olive oil and cook the tomatoes for about five minutes. Use very ripe tomatoes for a better taste. Pass the soup through a seive with the back of a wooden spoon to get rid of the skin and pips. Season to your own taste. If the soup is too thick for you add a little water or vegetable stock. Carry on cooking the soup for a little longer stirring all the time. Serve with crusty bread. I know a lot of recipes suggest adding onion, potato etc but I prefer just the tomatoes. I have tried this method with other vegetables, whatever I have to use up and it always turns out to be very tasty.

Top Scorer

libbieWe had a bit of a darts match on Saturday night and after Jan had shown the boys how to do it by winning the first run, Rob turned out to be top scorer by winning the final match. We had a very good night with plenty of eating, drinking and laughing. Libbie stayed the night which was lovely as she hasn’t stayed for ages.

Sean and Deb couldn’t make Saturday so they came to dinner on Sunday with Jem. They always come loaded with presents and this time I got loads of flowers, a book to read. a sensitive plant, and a lovely chocolate cake chosen by Jemima. So all in all we had a busy but happy weekend.


Rob and I popped to the allotment at dinner time today to take the poo buckets etc and came home with a bag of beans the last of the tomatoes and the first of our new cauliflowers out of the tunnel on plot 8.