Chicken Run

Since I last wrote, the weather has been unpredictable to say the least, but our caravan home remains cosy and we have survived to date. The small living space has tested our patience more than a couple of times, but thankfully the respite of mum’s new home allows cooking and tv as home comforts during the evenings.

Caravan originally positioned to the side of the house

Back during the second week of April we took to demolishing the last structure in the walled garden that had remained from previous ownership. We had planned at some point to own hens and the opportunity to take some from friends on the island prompted us to rebuild the chicken coop. The mail order hen house arrived just in time to accommodate two black hens that we have re-christened Mavis & Mabel; M&M were shortly to be joined by a further four hens and a cockerel. The cockerel remains Rhubarb, as he was originally named, but is now king over Blondie, Rosemary, Sage & Thyme (the former being a white hen, the latter three brown hens that I still find indistinguishable).

The old and somewhat rotten structure that used to house hens and ducks (we think)
The newly built (& improved) hen house

What I do know however, is that however much we attempt to constrain hens with a six foot fence, netting, and walls they still manage to escape the coop. Well, M&M still do at least, Blondie seems to have stopped now with latest amendment, whilst the other three brown hens were always content to stay put until released. Since the relaxation of rules around poultry concerning avian flu, we have let them roam the walled garden during the day. This has only been a problem once, most out of character Rhubarb decided to try and assert his dominance over Karen and myself. The latter involves an amusing tale of the cock sneaking up behind me and screeching as loud as possible causing me to jump feet in the air!

The flock? Brood?
Escape committee prior to netting over the top of the coop

We must thank John and Kathryn for their help in the demolition of the original structure and John for a repair to our original garden tractor come lawnmower. Paul joined us for the construction of the new coop in what was a busy month for guests. We were delighted to be joined by family members en-route to Islay and an old work colleague & his partner who joined us for a day. The latter were treated to a walk to the South shores on a glorious day of weather.

John & Karen discussing tractors and how to start them

The garden is again advancing at us after much cutting back in the winter months and we need to be alert to not allowing the control we have gained slip back. There have been glorious sights of daffodils early in the season now replaced by a forest of bluebells. We learnt recently on a guided forage walk to hunt for Spanish bluebells diluting the crop of native bluebells – so I’ve been watching for that! To that end I bought a new (smaller) ride on lawnmower that is intended to run around the walled garden but there have been a few technical issues with it preventing me doing so to date. I did manage to mow the meadow this weekend on a glorious sunny Sunday but I am again trying to figure how to restart it after it failed near the end of that cut.

Native bluebells?
For me, no better place to mow grass with this view

At the beginning of May we committed to some major re-landscaping at the Old Manse. The render, stripped from the building, has been lying against it since last summer and we always knew we needed to find a solution. To that end, we decided to use it as a base layer for an expanded drive come car parking at the front of the Old Manse. Rather than do this ourselves we hired a man and a digger who completed that element of work within a couple of days.

A rubble free Old Manse for the first time since last summer
Caravan repositioned to front of house (unlevelled)

That left the dilemma of what to do with the remainder of the week. So attention turned to reducing the amount of blackthorn in the meadow and scraping back the area behind the Manse. We understood that at one time there was a path here so the challenge was to remove enough earth to reveal again the gravel path that was once a track down to the ferry. Donald, our digger man, had some degree of success but it doesn’t look as if the gravel path continues all the way back to the Manse itself. A good find made though in the external shut off valve for water and still time to remove both unwanted stumps from the orchard and unwelcome trees and roots from the outbuildings.

A big space created behind the Old Manse that we have yet to decide what to do with
An absence of blackthorn opening up the view

During the operation the caravan has had to move several times and we have had fun with both the motor mover and towing with the Hilux. We have realised the importance of a direct water supply to combat the heavy task of filling and moving a water barrel as a temporary reservoir. We have also realised the timely removal of waste for the equally heavy task of taking water away.

A chance to put our feet up and admire some of the work including a strimmed orchard

The last bit of news is that I am a working man again. Fortunately, the contract I have taken allows me to work from the Old Manse but it does frustrate me that I cannot spend as much time on the renovation as I would like. Needs must as Karen tells me. All a bit more mentally taxing, but I’m still making time for a brain workout of wordle, heardle, quordle & octordle!

A daily mental workout (still 100% on wordle since the change to the NY times servers)

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