Tuesday, 8 May 2012


The chicks have settled in well to their new broody coop, and have enjoyed a few trips around the garden with a ferociously maternal Blossom. She thoroughly resents any interference from me either in the coop or when they're roaming, to the point where I get roundly pecked when I am putting in their food bowls or retrieving a lost and cheeping chick from the wrong side of the herb bed.

She has got 5 chicks (the chipped egg didn't hatch unfortunately) but Blossom is obsessed with dust-bathing despite it being on the wet side of damp. There will be a bit of a change around soon as my cockerel Henry is going to live with a friend of mine who would like to breed from her hens, and I will hopefully have nextdoor's Barnevelder cockerel, Bruno. As Henry is the father of 3 of my flock, I thought it best to take the opportunity to mix up the gene pool a bit. I will get Bruno some hens of the same breed if I see them at any of the shows over the summer, not least because they lay the most beautiful brown eggs.

Still no sign of the ducklings...

Yesterday was typical Mayday Bank Holiday weather, but we braved the Spring Garden Show at Ardingly nonetheless. We bought a number of things, including a baby ginkgo tree. I love ginkgoes for their prehistoric heritage, and after a massive section on palaeobotany  for one of my degree courses, I find their presence (virtually unchanged) in the fossil record from the time of the dinosaurs rather incredible.

I have finished my owl sweater (designed by Kate Davies) and purchased the 34 buttons necessary for the eyes this morning, so I will sew those on once it dries. If it dries! I realise my knitting arm is also my vacuuming arm so I thought I'd better rest it: I've cast on some socks but I won't be hoovering the stairs...

My bees are flying whenever they get the chance and the little swarm seems to be doing ok. I don't know where all the bees have gone from the original hive; they must have continued to send out swarms until virtually all the workers had left. I now need to wait for the new queen in both the original colony and the new swarm to start laying eggs. During this time, the worker bees will gradually die off and if there aren't any newly-hatched bees to replace them, the numbers dwindle and it can be that there are not enough bees to look after the eggs and larva, meaning the colony won't survive. I really hope they make it. There is plenty of honey in there and looking at the varroa board underneath the floor, there are flakes of wax and plenty of frass so the swarm colony are building comb. I always feel like a 17th Century medic scrutinising the "humours" of some poor patient when I peer over the varroa board, but it's a good indicator of activity in the colony, not just to count them pesky mites. I try and observe what they are up to at the hive entrance as much as possible as that is also a good barometer of things in the hive. I don't want to take the lid off and have a look as it is cold and damp, and small colonies need all the warmth they can get. I am disappointed that I've lost the swarm though - it's not exactly what I planned!

Swifts are screeching overhead and I will take out my tea and sit with the livestock for a bit as it seems to have stopped raining.

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