A few days ago a neighbour called bearing gifts, pink gifts for the little lady and gifts of stories about chickens and  foxes.  As she keeps chickens of her own she is very concerned about the foxes and was pleased to inform us that three foxes were caught and shot in the area just last week.  I pondered that it would probably not be long until they are replaced, as this seems to be the flow of nature.  We discussed the breeds of chickens and compared our winter egg count, not out of competitiveness but more out of wonder.  In years gone by the normal winter egg count would have been zero.  Spring had its symbolism of eggs deeply rooted in the sudden abundance of wholesome eggs when the chickens began to lay again.  After the fasting of winter the glut of eggs had us being so bold as to paint them and even roll them down hills.

The crowing of the our cockerel was brought up. We all laughed.  I made my rehearsed statement that it may find itself on the table when the days are longer and the sun rises at ridiculous hours.  This statement is thirty percent truth and seventy percent crafted to assess the response to its noisiness   She told me not to be too hasty with the knife as she likes the sound; a part of life in the country.

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Last night the lovely Sharon shouted at me as I was deep asleep, “ a fox, a fox!”  We heard its bark, then the crunching of hungry mammal against strained chicken wire.  We waited.  Then we relaxed as we heard the frustrated whimpers of the  fox, and the silence of uneaten chickens.

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While looking after the chickens today, a messy job as a result of the snowy weather, I noticed some signs that spring is slowly growing in the earth.  I let them out for a wander about the garden while I mucked out the coop. They have spent quite a bit of time in it instead of in the snow.  As they scratched about I noticed the snowdrops starting to burst out of the ground. This got me pondering; we really should start to think about the spring and the planting of things.

The thoughts came back in the evening as I dug out our last clamp of potatoes in the moonlight (and head-torch light).  The clamps have been an experiment for us this year.  We are finding that we are slowly growing in our gardening.  Books have been read, mistakes have been made, but we are still growing.  The clamps have turned out far better that we expected.  In the summer we spotted the blight starting in our untreated potato plants (probably one of those mistakes).  We dug them all up and formed them into clamps.  Small hollows were made and the potatoes were piled into them before they were covered with a layer of straw. Then soil was formed over them until the surface was smooth. All my book reading told me to ensure the surface was smooth but none told me why. My father-in-law revealed to me in a ‘sure it’s obvious’ tone that it was to spot if the mice had been at your clamps

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The small potatoes, marleys, will be picked out tomorrow and boiled up for the chickens.  The rest of the potatoes will be the main ingredient of our meals for the next few weeks.  It’s probably fitting that we will be thinking of this year’s gardening plans while feeding on the remnants of last year’s harvest.

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