Hens aren’t always good mothers, and planting beans

Long day today, but a very nice one. There has been some drama around the chickens that I haven’t yet written about. Two of the broody hens were given eggs to hatch, and on Friday the chicken eggs started hatching. Not the duck eggs the second broody hen was sitting on — the ducks here are terrible mothers apparently, not surprising given the traumatic scenes preceding the laying of eggs. Though apparently it has more to do with the domesticated nature of the breed. Though it doesn’t look too likely that they have succeeded with the duck eggs either.

The hen started with 12 I think, broke three, and only 2 of the remaining 9 hatched. On Monday afternoon we thought that both chicks had been smothered or predated because they were not in the secure house with the mother. But a few hours later we found one chick with the mum who had incubated them, and another with another of the broody hens. So this morning, we had to set up two (rather than one) secure little houses with runs to allow mums and babies a little privacy and extra safety from jays and foxes.

The calm and competent new mum who rescued one of the chicks:

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I couldn’t even get a good picture of the nervous not-so-good-but-trying mum, but her chick is very cute as well and heads this post.

Then it was back to weeding and beans. We planted two more circles of french beans in the broad bean bed. These are white flowering heirloom beans — Cherokee ‘Trail of tears’ and Sarah’s Old-fashioned black beans. I am pretty sad I won’t be harvesting and cooking up these beauties to try them out.

The afternoon was spent digging a new bed for some scarlet runner beans. Two months ago they covered these two beds with plastic as they had been overrun with couch grass and nettles.

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We peeled back the plastic enough to plant a new row of beans crowding their seed trays. These are usually just planted into the ground, but the weather has been so strange and changeable the past few years given climate change and all, Rob planted a bunch in trays — and May’s snow and hail I discussed in earlier posts proved he was wise.

The couch grass had died back enough we didn’t need the azada, just a rake to peel it off the top. The nettles though, were well entrenched and required spade work.

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We put a line down with this brilliant victorian contraption that I forgot to get a picture of but I will, and then dug out a trench a spade wide and deep

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A sprinkle of seaweed calcium balls, some cut up comfrey plants, a layer of rotted horse manure, the old soil raked back over and we were ready to plant. We put in sticks using the trowel as a spacer

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In the bean plugs went, mostly scarlet emperor, one per stick.

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We planted out the seedlings most in need. Alongside them we also sowed one heirloom borlotti bean which will prolong the crop yielded by this bed as they will be ready for harvest weeks later. When we ran out of seedlings we continued sowing seed directly into the ground, two for each pole rather than one.

I learned that beans climb round the poles counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere, so that is how you should wind and tie them. That is quite cool.

I also learned how to make dumplings — a heaped tablespoon of self-raising flour per person, half that amount of suet, parsely is quite nice though not necessary, salt and pepper, water until it looks like dough, and then just drop them on top of your covered stew for ten minutes.

Yum. Imagine that, with scones and clotted cream and fresh strawberries for desert. A good day.

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