Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

VE Day 2020

It is seventy five years since the end of the last World War and today on the anniversary of that day the whole country is paying tribute to those that came home and those that did not. The photo below consists of quite a few members of my family. The men who went to fight arent on that photograph. They weren’t back home yet and if they had been I wonder if they would have been in a party mood. I think maybe not.

I am 75 years old so I was born in that year in January and was present at the street party that took place in the street where I was born. However, I was shocked today when I heard of the dead of other countries that became involved and died to defeat the Nazi regime. As I have mentioned in my diary before, I heard no stories about the war as I was growing up. Indeed I heard more about the Great War. World War 1, that was fought by my grandparents’ generation.

Half Asleep

by Catherine Turner

The dawn is gently breaking,
The air serene and still,
No mans land, a grassy field
Just beyond the hill,
The battery, a homestead
With windows welcoming,
The tangled wire a 5 bar gate
Where bluebirds sweetly sing,
Each muddy trench a furrow
Furnished by the plough,
Each tortured cry of misery
The lowing of a cow.
The acrid stench of cordite
Like heaven’s perfume drifts,
To mingle with the belching smoke
Of Autumn’s cooling mist,
Faces dressed in terror
Are smiling as they rest
In crumpled khaki uniforms
As sharp as Sunday best,
This blanket torn, how soft, how warm,
A silken downy sheet,
How sweet, this quiet moment
With all the world at peace.
The dawn is gently breaking,
Sweet Saviour I implore,
Hold back the sun, and let me dream,
For just one moment more.

copyright Catherine Ann Turner, my talented sister……..2014

https://worldofremembrance.wordpress.com/

The Steep Price Of Victory In Europe

As the world celebrated victory over Nazi Germany and the boys eventually did come home, the war they fought thousands of miles away came home with them. It came home with them in their wounds, in their memories, in their daily life…in their nightmares.

My compassion today then goes to the 85,000,000 plus that died in that conflict worldwide. It was a terrible loss of life. What is even more heartbreaking is the fact that war is still going on. Our focus, as human beings, should be to heal our planet and then to heal ourselves. Death, famine and suffering are happening to someone every hour of every day. Not having any religion at all myself I feel very seriously that religion is at the root of a lot of dissent and conflict. Live and let live is an old adage but rings very true.

Quite a few of my neighbours are in party mood tonight but having just seen the latest death toll I can see nothing to celebrate. The next time that they think of breaking the lockdown maybe they should think of the virus as a Nazi.

Evergreen Climbing Plants

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, as opposed to deciduous plants that completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.

Clematis & Jasmine

I already have a few clematis in the garden that I have accumulated over the years but none of my current collection is evergreen. I also have a very old Jasmine which has served me well for many years but seems to have gone very woody at its base but I am hopeful of flowers this year nevertheless.

I recently bought a trio of evergreen climbers from smartplantapp.com and they were sourced from http://www.guernsey-clematis.com/. Smart plant has been set up by an enterprising chap who could see a problem and came up with an answer to it.

Guernsey Clematis is a wholesale nursery that is struggling during the pandemic lockdown as most of the garden centres that they supply are closed. Take a look at the website. I am truly impressed by how efficiently it is being run. Very futuristic things are happening there and it gives me hope for the future of growing in this country. I decided to help in my way by making a small purchase. There are two clematis and one jasmine in the bundle that I chose.

The genus Clematis can be a deciduous or an evergreen shrub/climber or an herbaceous perennial. They mostly climb by twining and clinging to trellis or trees and come in many varieties. The choice is endless with some beautiful colours and types of flower. Most also have attractive fluffy seedheads in the autumn.

Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines in the olive family. It contains around 200 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Eurasia and Oceania. Jasmines are widely cultivated for the characteristic fragrance of their flowers.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine

Star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides is a woody, evergreen climber with rich, dark green leaves that turn bronze in winter. From mid to late summer, pure white, fragrant flowers are produced. It can be grown against a wall in milder climates or in a greenhouse or conservatory in areas prone to severe frosts.

Clematis cirrhosa Wisley Cream

Clematis Wisley Cream

The Cirrhosa Group of clematis are evergreen woody climbers with bell shaped single flowers, produced from late autumn to early spring on the previous year’s growth. The variety Wisley Cream is a large evergreen climber with divided, toothed glossy dark green leaves which are bronze in winter. It has pale cream flowers that can bloom from autumn to early spring followed by silky seedheads.

The variety was introduced to the UK in the 1970’s after being raised by the late Ken Aslet at the RHS garden in Wisley from seed collected in Southern Europe. Although it is Cirrhosa, Wisley Cream can go dormant during the Summer but it will produce glossy foliage over the Winter months and flower during mid to late Winter.

Clematis Kimiko

Clematis Kimiko

I am assured that this special evergreen clematis is one of the easiest of all to grow. Apparently, apart from the removal of the odd broken branch in spring, Kimiko needs no pruning at all. It is vigorous, hardy and healthy. It should produce fragrant flowers from early spring to summer over the entire height of the plant. Perfect for growing on an obelisk in a large pot in a tree or on a fence. Whilst best in a sunny location it prefers its roots in the shade. I have the perfect pot and obelisk for this tiny new plant and can’t wait for it to be 4ft tall and covered in flowers.

A new introduction from the Evison/Poulsen breeding program this compact evergreen climber produces abundant spring flowers year after year. info from Guernsey Clematis.

I really hope that this company will continue to serve the public after things get back to normal, Whatever that may turn out to be.

Can’t wait

Blue Skies

The number of deaths recorded in the UK today is over 30,000. Extremely sad news. However, the government and the scientists are telling us that we are past the worst and that the first steps back to normality are in sight.

This Pandemic has brought out the worst and the very best in people. Strangely, there are signs that a new way of life may emerge following our release from ‘Lockdown’. The government’s recent buzz word since the suggestion and then the mandate for us to “Stay At Home”. Rather than going back to life as it was before COVID-19 it looks like we may have learned lessons about how best to spend the time that we have left on this beautiful blue planet.

At present, the idea is, as this disease is so very contagious, that we keep well away from other people to halt the transmission and hopefully stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

Air, Rail and Road transport has been drastically reduced, the consequences of which have given us blue skies and cleaner air. All countries are reporting less pollution. Businesses are closed and those people that can are working from home. Those that can’t have been helped financially by the government to stay at home. Key workers like the health services, military, delivery drivers, postmen, police, shop workers, etc have had to carry on to help the rest of us. They have shown that they are essential to our way of life and so we need to look after them in the future.

Schools have been closed too resulting in parents and children being able to spend time with each other at home. All over 70s have been told to stay at home as if they should contract the disease they are more likely to develop a serious illness. This also applies to any other sick or vulnerable person. Pubs, clubs, take away food businesses and restaurants are closed so more people are eating a home-cooked meal together. Some children’s school lessons have been held online so no school runs. No more rush hour!!! Less pollution.

Supermarkets are doing many more home deliveries to help with the ‘stay at home’ order. Garden centres were talking about destroying many plants as nurseries were closed. Now new websites have been set up where we can order our plants online. On second thoughts deliveries mean pollution but perhaps not as much as previously as most nurseries are delivering in their own area.

Farmers were having real problems as the restaurants and bars are closed and so didn’t need their usual deliveries. However, now they have changed their business methods and are selling to the public directly via a website or word of mouth.

I hope that some of these beneficial changes will continue when the battle with the pandemic has been won. I hope less travel will be the order of the day and those business meetings will be held virtually as is the new normal. I hope doctors’ appointments will continue to be carried out online too wherever possible.

Finally, and very importantly I hope that our government has realised that we need to carry out much more of our own manufacturing and not rely on buying in from abroad. When I was younger jobs were easy to come by as our manufacturing industry was flourishing. It seems that we have been a country supporting the rest of the world instead of looking after our own people.

Support for new emerging businesses is needed. Good affordable housing and jobs for people so that they can afford to live well. Also, much more support for the Health Services and other key workers that we have relied on so much throughout this crisis. They deserve higher pay and better conditions across all the sectors. This would encourage new nurses and doctors to fill the many vacancies we have in the NHS here instead of going overseas to work.

We need to hold on to cleaner air, less traffic on the roads and in the skies, and more sensible shopping. More local food producers delivering to their local area cutting down on carbon emissions. Blue Skies, that’s what we need for the foreseeable future.

Swiss Chard White Silver

Swiss Chard White Silver

I have sown seeds of white swiss chard today, May 1st, as I came across them whilst looking for herbs. Swiss Chard is a favourite of mine that we grew every year at the allotment. It is a very giving plant and needs very little maintenance once established. It is a member of the beet family. When we visited the allotment after being away for a whole year the chard was still there looking as healthy and inviting as ever. Day 7 and a few green shoots have appeared in the Chard pot. Potted on today 24th of May.

The variety of chard that I had seeds of is White Silver which has wide white stems. The early leaves can be used in salads. Later, use the tops as you would use spinach. Treated as a separate vegetable the stems can be sliced and cooked in boiling water and eaten with butter, salt and pepper – simple, tender and tasty.

I prefer to chop the whole stem and leaf and toss it in the pan with a little oil and lemon juice. Put the sliced stem in first and cook a little before adding the leaf as it takes a little longer to soften whereas the leaf wilts very quickly. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Perfect beside fish or steak.

Swiss Chard White Silver

White Silver is a classic Swiss Chard with thick white stems and glossy, rich green leaves. With an RHS Award of Garden Merit, this robust leaf beet is a versatile addition to the vegetable plot or even the flower border. Baby leaves can be used in salads while the juicy, mature stems can be chopped and steamed, or used to add a sweet crunch to stir-fries. Mature leaves can be used as a delicious spinach substitute. Sow Swiss Chard ‘White Silver’ up until August for cropping into the New Year. Thompson&Morgan.

Swiss Chard

Finally, Swiss Chard is very good for you being naturally low in calories and carbohydrates but very high in Vitamins K, A and C. A diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits has been shown to lower heart disease risk factors, Swiss chard is an excellent source of potassium, calcium and magnesium, minerals that help maintain healthy blood pressure. There is also current research that indicates that these leafy greens can actually lower LDL cholesterol.

Herbs – Parsley, Sage and Thyme

Inspired by Gardeners World I have sown a pot of mixed herbs. Just one large pot. The lady on TV had plenty of ready grown herbs and was potting them up into a large container. Expensive, instant herb garden. I only had a ten-inch pot and a few old seed packets plus a new bag of multi-purpose compost. I have searched through my seedbox and I don’t have any Rosemary seeds to make up the foursome.

The seeds are sown and now on the window ledge. I have watered them and enclosed the pot in a polythene bag to preserve the moisture. I estimate that germination should take place between two and four weeks.

Sage Broad Leaved

The perennial broad leaved variety of Sage that I have sown takes a little longer to germinate. I have grown this variety before at the allotment and as I remember it formed a beautiful shrubby bush with downy grey-green leaves and purple flowers. The taste is strong and distinctive and the aroma is wonderful. I will be happy if I manage to get one bush for the garden as the seeds are quite old.

The leaves of this herb are usually mixed with onion and breadcrumbs to make a delicious stuffing for pork or chicken. However, its unique taste and aroma enhance the flavour of many dishes.

Sage

Only seven days have passed and already many green shoots have appeared.

Parsley Italian Giant

Parsley comes in two main types, flat leaved and curly leaved. The seeds I had are of a flat-leaved variety and are the ones I prefer to use in cooking. The variety that I have sown is Italian Giant. This parsley has a distinctive flavour and is good with fish, salads and soups. It is easy to grow indoors or outdoors, as it is very hardy with good frost resistance.

Flat Parsley

Thyme English Winter

The variety of Thyme I have sown is English Winter. Thymus Vulgaris is a hardy evergreen perennial with dark green leaves that are followed by clusters of small pink flowers. This herb hails from the Mediterranean and can be picked all year round. The active ingredient in the leaves is Thymol which lends the herb its strong flavour and antiseptic properties. Thyme is used in cooking to flavour meat and stews. It is the classic herb used in bouquet garni and enhances the taste of most meats.

Thyme

In addition to livening up the flavour of food, the thyme plant is also the source of thyme essential oil. Thyme oil has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It is commonly used as a preservative in foods, cosmetics, and toiletries.

Zinnia Elegans – Sowing Seeds

Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico. Wikipedia

For early flowers Zinnia seeds can be sown under glass in early spring. Fill a seed tray or pot with compost and cover with a sprinkling of vermiculite or compost. Water moderately and when the seedlings are large enough to handle pot on and harden off before planting outside.

Alternatively, sow seeds thinly a quarter of an inch deep in a sunny bed in the garden. Wait until after all risk of frost has passed. Germination should take place in 7-14 days.

Zinnia are perfect for cut flowers. They should flower from early June until the first frost. I am going to try to sow them directly into the border this year. They like a sunny but sheltered position and once germinated don’t like to be moved. I have seeds of both Green Envy and Polar Bear.

Green Envy – The colour of this summer blooming annual Zinnia is a bright chartreuse green and acts as a wonderful foil to richer shades.

Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Polar Bear – A bright white double flower that shines out in the border.

Zinnia Polar Bear

Save seeds at the end of the season and in a couple of generations of seeds you will have developed your own strain of zinnia naturally selected to perform well in your conditions. Simply clip off a dried flower head from each flower type that you want to save. Pull the flower apart and remove the seeds inside or simply put the whole blossom full of seeds into an envelope. Seal and identify the flower colour. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until it is time to plant next year.

Changes In The Garden

Our modest garden is split into three sections. The woodland garden. A strip along the side of the house which is shady and is planted up with trees, climbers and woodland plants. The garden at the back of the house and the chicken area.

Shady Garden

The Back Garden

The main back garden, and the area that I can see from the big window in my office, is the main area where the growing goes on and has been reinvented many times over the forty-eight years that my family has lived here. At the back of this garden, there is a shed that, up until today, housed the chickens that I bought last Spring as day olds, but as from today they have been moved to the chicken area. We now have seventeen chickens. seven Silkies; three Pekins; two Araucanas; three Welbars; and two Wybars.

Chickens

2 Araucanas and 3 pekins
Wybar Cockerel Jack
Black Pekin Jet
Silkie Chick

The next big project for us will be to renovate the shed. Clean out all the bedding, varnish inside and weatherproof the outside. Sean fixed the roof last year for me so that should last a while. Laura’s plastic greenhouse is adjacent to the shed and in front of the greenhouse is the area where the pond is.

The Pond

The pond has really come into its own now and is teeming with life. I lost quite a few of the plants that I had planted around the pond last year so we need to do a bit of planning and improve the planting.

The pond has come on a lot since this photo
Elephants Ear
Viola Sororia Freckles
Baby Frog

Spring Bulbs In Pots

At present many of our plants are in pots and containers and I would like to increase the depth of the borders and get some of the plants into the ground instead. I have enjoyed the spring bulbs in pots so I shall do that again next year as they are easy to place around when they are at their best then move away when they go over.

Honey Bells
Allium
Tete-a-Tete
Tulip
Crocus Purple King

Perrenials

This year I have bought in some perennials and we have grown some from seed too so I am hoping to stock up the borders with them and cut down on maintenance.

Wax Flower
Japanese Anemone Pink
Erysimum Yellow Bird
Spectabilis
Kafir Lily
Astrantia Shaggy
Peony

Wild Bird Visitors

We have quite a few wild birds visiting the garden. There are a pair of Blue Tits nesting in Laura’s nest box again this year and as its right outside my window, I have a good view of the coming and going.

This baby fledgling lost his way

“This is War”

Richard J. Hatchett, MD, is Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a partnership of public, private, philanthropic and civil organizations that will finance and co-ordinate the development of vaccines against high priority public health threats and vaccine platform technologies to respond rapidly to emerging infectious diseases with pandemic or epidemic potential.

UK March 6th 2020. The CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, Dr Richard J Hatchett MD, explains the long-term dangers of the COVID-19 coronavirus, saying it’s the scariest outbreak he’s dealt with in his 20-year career.

This man warned the world on the 6th March and here we are on the 23rd of April. Personally, I decided to go back and have another look at this and having listened again, I am wishing that he was Scientific Advisor for the UK. ‘War is an appropriate analogy‘ to quote Dr. Hatchett and, based on the evidence so far, it makes sense to me. Over eighteen thousand deaths in the UK since the 6th March. He says that he thinks COVID-19 will be endemic on our planet forever. If the long awaited vaccine works maybe we can live with it but I think we shall have to adapt our lives according to COVID-19.

On 23rd February the UK government pledged 20 million pounds to CEPI to support them in their endeavour to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Update on 6th May from Dr Hatchett. “We have said from the very beginning when we started our programs back in January that we thought if things went well that we could anticipate vaccines becoming more broadly available potentially within 12 to 18 months. Obviously, several months have passed since then. We are seeing progress with our programs. Three of the vaccines that we’re supporting are in clinical trials right now. I think the timelines that we laid out then are still realistic. Possibly by the end of the year we might see some small amounts of vaccine becoming available but it’s hard to see how those timelines could be advanced much more quickly than that.

Today’s death toll is 616 hospital deaths reported in the UK in the last 24 hours making a total of 18,730 lives lost between the 6th March and today the 23rd April.

How long, I wonder, will I be reporting the daily deaths before it becomes the norm.

Our Woodland Garden

No, I haven’t won the lottery and moved house. I still live in a 70’s semi on a suburban estate. I do, however, have a shady bit of garden alongside the house that I have had several failed attempts to plant up. For the last two years, I have been planting with woodland shade loving plants and today I am feeling very pleased with how it is looking. We already have two established fruit trees, an apple and a plum, also some old, tall shrub roses plus a climber that have survived from my rose bed attempts in the past.

Primrose

Last year my son Sean came over and removed an enormous fir tree and an old silver birch from this area and the difference it has made to the number of flowers popping up is incredible. There was a pink Clematis Montana already there and Deb bought me a mile a minute vine and both have romped away with all the extra light and moisture that is there now the big trees are gone.

For the last two years, I have been underplanting with shade loving plants such as primroses, cyclamen, foxgloves, bluebells and whitebells, lily of the valley, hostas, forget-me-nots, marigolds, cranesbill, epimedium and aubretia. Its 19th May and there is a lot of growth. I am very pleased.

Whitebells
forget-me-not
Epimedium