Welcome Back

I made you a cake in honour of the East Cambusmoon return to blogworld. Partly inspired by the new BBC2 series The Great British Bake-Off, which was easy watching TV last evening, and partly by some thoughts of entering the Gartocharn Flower Show this weekend, I used Mary Berry's Victoria Sponge recipe from the TV programme and it turned out a treat. Now if I get my act together and make another one for the show I realise that putting cream into the middle is not going to cut it with the judges on Saturday, apparently thats a big no-no, but today is the last day of our school holidays, we've had a bundle of people around and this sumptuous wonder is just about gone. The man of the house suggested more jam would be appropriate....but he caveated his comments in advance with plenty of praise. Hereabouts its traditional to use raspberry jam - is that the same everywhere? Here is another new project for us - 9 chicks, this photo was taken when they were about 3 weeks old. More of them another time.
Thanks for those of you who keep checking back in with this blog. Your patience has been appreciated.

Ex Battery Hen - 7 weeks on

Apologies for posting this photo again of 'scabby hen' as she's known by the children. When we first got hens we sweetly named them individually but after a fairly short while to be quite honest it was difficult to distinguish one from the other so the practice was soon dropped. Anyway here is scabby hen 7 weeks ago, very pale, fairly bald and with a very red sore chest and undercarriage. ...and here she is now....with lots of new feathers and a good appetite for the worms, grubs and greenery in the recently cleared potato bed. Nice happy hen story but its still sad to think that 85% of all eggs used in cafes, restaurants and pubs etc still come from battery hens.
Glad they and we are enjoying some sunshine for a few days. We got 8 eggs today, hurray!

The Good Life

Meet one of our new hens. Yesterday we went to collect and rehome some more ex-battery hens via the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. This bunch were in quite good form with a bit of strength and 'perkiness' about them despite the sorrowful state of their bodies. We first rehomed 10 battery hens 2 years ago and I'm pleased to report that some of those are still with us and have enjoyed a good quality life with considerably extended life expectancy.

It has rained since Sunday.

A bit of an update although I haven't taken any new photos recently. I'm sure the many many rainy days we've just had have limited such creativity. Actually we had sunshine at 5am this morning, a glorious start to the day, it held such promise!

Inspiration and 'eggsaperation'

We've had a great Easter holiday trip to Cornwall and return home with lots of inspiration from the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan as well as having well-earned time out and larks as a family. As the weather warms up we can get on with some garden creation of our own....always remembering how long it actually takes to create these things. Our growing season is quite a few weeks behind the SW of England so the only thing I've put in the ground so far are fruit bushes. The main thing for us this year is to create the framework of our gardens, particularly the fruit and veg areas but also the entrance which still looks like a derelict farm and the little jungle which currently sits between the house and the office. In that area of overgrown shrubbery lurks a vast ground elder mess. The area is surrounded by buildings or hard landscaping so I'm hoping we can contain it and maybe even eradicate it (over a few years!). With lighter evenings and better weather we're in that optimistic phase of Spring gardening. And we've had our first flurry of rhubarb crumble making from the patch. wonderful Victorian rhubarb forcing pots at Heligan

Spring Lambs & Other Creatures

The first phase of 5 raised beds took a bigger step forward this weekend with the final joinery and positions completed. Then followed the task of filling then wheeling lots (around 20 me thinks to fill the smallest bed) of barrows of well matured horse muck up the slope - Steve kept using the phrase 'the green gym' to keep me/us going! We popped a couple of hens into the first bed who worked diligently to create a finer till, the rest of the hens soon joined them in a frenzy to grab a few worms from the thousands wriggling in the muck. Later this week I'll be planting 3 blackcurrant bushes (Ben Lomond variety), 3 redcurrants (Jonkheer van Tets), 3 red gooseberrys (Red Dessert) and 3 green goosegogs ( Careless) in that particular bed. We'll also be putting a rabbit/hen proof wire around the perimeter to protect the crops. Next weekend will see a few more wheel barrows of muck shifting to fill the next beds

Fine days

Last week our good buddies from Norfolk came for a holiday. As always it was lovely to catch up with them and it was also fun to have the house busy with the noise, mess and activities of two families. This marks one of those transitions between this place being a home rather than a house. Other self-builders have commented on the time it takes to settle in after designing, planning and constructing a house. Tamzin and her family bought us a beautiful handcrafted box for collecting apples from the orchard in years to come and some herbs for the garden. The herbs are being planted in the beds we've created between the top of the stone wall and the hen enclosure until we have formed our raised beds. The trailer in the picture above is full of plants ready to be put into the bed.

We are in!

No news is good news..and also reflects the lack of an internet connection.

News Update

Optimism over realism. We'll be in this caravan for a while longer!

Hens eat fries!

The apple trees in position - if you look closely you can see 2 McDonalds fries on the cardboard, the scaffolders thought the hens might like a snack


One happy hen, good to see the sunshine again. Although freezing at night time. One house with vapour membrane complete. Imagine the condensation and damp here without a ventilation system in place. No draughts though.
One gorgeous view from our bedroom window.
One selection of electrical tagliatelle feeding into the utility room.One snapshot of infrastructure to the master bedroom en-suite. Heat recovery ventilation, hot and cold water feeds and returns, underfloor heating and soil pipe.

Rambling catch-up

Have realised that I haven't taken any new pictures in the past few days...sorry! Lots happening though so here's a random list....

Wild Weather

Last night was a hideous experience. Scotland is suffering from a deep low pressure system with wild hairy winds which buffetted us yesterday evening, through the night and only this afternoon is easing. Gusts were 60-80mph and I didn't sleep more than 30 mins last night. The children did well sleeping til 3am and 5am before coming to find Mum (Dad being ensconsed in a London hotel!) We cuddled and snoozed, wondering if it could get much worse.

Saturday morning

Its just turned 9am on Saturday and we've taken a further delivery of Pavatherm Plus insulating board so the joiners can finish off the external insulation layer. There was relatively little activity on site yesterday as we were waiting for this delivery and the sliding door sets (3 off). The latter is now likely to be next week, but apparently has arrived from Penrith. I think these are around 6 weeks overdue and it's dissappointing that the windows from Norway arrived some four weeks ago and are now installed having been ordered at the same time as the patio doors! The main front door is also late and is sourced from Sweden.
The other happening this morning relates to the lame hen. Although it had a couple of better days in the past week it has now gone lame in both legs and is incapable of independent movement. So we had to wring its neck. I thought I could do this yesterday when it probably needed to be done but hen started clucking at me and I just couldn't so now that Steve has returned from working away he did the deed this morning. No, we're not eating it. There's no meat to speak of anyway but as we're not sure what's wrong with it it seems the best move....anyone with greater knowledge please advise!
We've got a fox prowling around. I need to repair/replace a bit of wire at the bottom of the gate to the hen pen before we go out this morning. There are fox prints on the top of the nesting box and on the roof of the hen house so we need to be sure to lock up quickly at dusk.I wonder if that explains the dead hares and rabbit the other week although I thought there would be more damage to the prey?
Rural living!......... we're off to Edinburgh today to see Santa, reindeer, lights, ice sculptures etc.

Hens and Hedges

We've had company in the office today as one of the hens can't walk. At this stage we don't know if its a temporary state or permanent injury. Despite the impression created by this photo the hen's left leg has no power or weight bearing ability. So for today the hen has been in the warmth of the office in a box of hay with water and food; we're hoping the easy life will assist recovery but will see what tomorrow brings. On other matters I spent some time last weekend drafting a brief for tree and hedge planting around the farm. I've had good chats with the National Park landscape officer and trees person and a local contractor so hope to get some prices back soon. The planting season for bare root stock lasts until March time. The other element of this is really to get some trees growing - as to quote the original farmer's son "he didn't like trees" so there aren't too many round here. I'm keen to get a small orchard planted to reap fruit in years to come.

Daily Changes

The two joiners erected much of the ground floor on Monday and Tuesday which has been really exciting. Its terrific to see the rooms take shape and we are really pleased with the size of the window openings, particularly as we spent a long time last winter working through that element of the design. The joiners can't progress further until the steel arrives, this is delayed but due next Wednesday. In the meantime the scaffolders have been taking delivery of their kit and today have erected scaffolding on the west and south elevations. This photo is taken through the caravan window.

By and large we've had good weather since the start of the build, it is very mild at present which makes life comfortable for early mornings in the caravan.....however the past 2 days weather have included a large amount of rain and the area at the back of the house is somewhat muddy. Thankfully the caravans are on a concreted area.

Hen House Happenings

The hens have flourished in the past week. Their egglaying is quite haphazard, some are using the nesting boxes, others are more random. Some days we get several eggs, some days one or two. We've probably had around 25 eggs in the last week. In the past few days we've kept them in the henhouse for longer periods as, apparently, that is how they learn where to head for at dusk. Hens, especially battery ones, have to learn 'stranger danger' ie to keep out of the reach of foxes at night. This evening only 2 needed lifting into the house whereas last week we were chasing the little devils around their enclosure (immensely hilarious if anyone was watching!). Rather bizarrely they crowd into the 3 nesting boxes, this evening 8 of them were squashed into the 3 small boxes.


Our chickens have arrived! On Saturday we took ownership of 10 rescue hens from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust and they seem to be settling in well. The charity essentially comes to an arrangement with a battery egg producer to rehome hens which have reached the end of their maximum production cycle. They still have plenty of eggs to lay (the breed is Isa Brown which is a hybrid known for good egg production) and in our first 2 days we've had 10 eggs from them. Before too long we'll be selling them locally.
The hens have had 2 sunny days to get used to the big wide world, what a contrast to their previous living conditions. Some are distinctly more adventurous than others and are exploring their new environment, so far they have not ventured very far from one corner of the enclosed area. The children are throughly enjoying their new responsibilities and helping with looking after our new pets.On the building site - the men have finished laying the surface and rainwater run-offs into the lower field and the main house related activity is placing the 200mm of Jablite 70 polystyrene insulation board which is one of the key elements in keeping the house warm from the ground up. The sun is bouncing off the brilliant white polystyrene, its quite dazzling. Hopefully tomorrow the underfloor heating team arrive to attach the pipe circuits to the grid.

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