Feeling Chicken

 

I realised the other day that a year has passed since I went to collect my chickens. This post is a dedication to my lovely ladies; Hatty, Lottie and Stuart (or Chicken Stu as she is otherwise known).

Some of my earliest, and fondest memories are of wondering to the farm next door to my childhood home every day to help feed the pigs and gather eggs. I still remember  the thrill of hunting for eggs; reaching a hand under a nesting hen  to find  a lovely warm globe nestled there. This was a feeling I wanted my children to experience and as soon as DW was old enough (and I pursuaded OH) I put our name down to re-home some recued battery hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust.

Re-homing day came and DW and I went off  to pick up four lovely ladies. It was quite a moving experience to drive up to a farmyard filled with a few hundred chickens all in various states of baldness experiencing daylight and the freedom to move for the very first time.

We brought 4 home, but unfortunately the lovely Esme didn’t make it through the first week,  about 1 in 6 rescued hens don’t.  Born onto conveyor belts,  they live 4-5 hens per 20 inch square cage, and never get the space to exhibit natural chicken behaviour. More info about their conditions can be found here.  It can therefore be quite a shock for a hen to come out of a cage and sometimes they don’t survive. As harsh as it sounds, Esme was heading for slaughter anyway so at least she got to experience daylight and fresh air for a few days before she passed.

The first egg was produced the next morning, and I must confess I was in a bit of a ethical dilemma – was it a battery egg or not? I ate it anyway, and it didn’t really taste much different to a shop bought egg. But a year on, with happy ladies, the eggs are amazing. Bright yellow, creamy and delicious, fresh eggs are hard to beat.

There are pros and cons to keeping chickens though, here are a few I have found

Pro’s

  •   Delicious eggs
  •   ….and plenty of them!
  •   Chickens are great fun. Battery hens in particular are known for being fearless, and they boss it over the dogs, which is quite amusing to watch.
  •   Easy to look after.
  •  Very few food miles are involved (only that of the feed.)
  •  You are responsible for the welfare of your own animals and can give them happy lives.
  •  Gathering eggs is fun (especially for little hands)!
  •  Children get to learn about where their food comes from.
  • Cons
  •  They need space.
  • They don’t smell too great.
  • Poo gets everywhere!
  • If you buy battery eggs they probably wont save you any money, but if you go for free range organic they might well do .
  • They wont leave you much left in the veg patch.
  •  ….. and they’ll probably decimate your lawn too!

I would recommend keeping chickens though, and if you are thinking about it please consider getting them from the BHWT.   Not only do they rescue hens, but also educate the public on battery farming, campaign for better labeling on food products,  and most importantly work with farmer to improve welfare standards, so your donation to the could make a real difference.

If you are worried about getting ex-batts because you think they may produce less eggs, well, my ladies are still churning out an egg a day each one year on from the date they were destined for slaughter because they were not considered ‘commercially viable’.  One of the saddest things I find about factory farming  is that a little life is considered so worthless that a hen will be slaughtered in case she goes for a day or two without laying an egg.

There is another reason to celebrate the day I went to pick up the chickens.  That morning I woke up feeling sick, and found the smell of the chickens overpowering……the first inkling I had that little NW was going to become part of our lives in 9 months time. 🙂

 

A Change in Seasons

Change is in the air.

There’s an autumn chill in the breeze. Hedgerows are heavy with haws and sloes and I’m desperate to get out there to fullfil some primordial hunter gatherer urges and stockpile provisions for the lean months to come.

I love Autumn. Although I still feel a little deprived of sunshine (what on earth happened to August?), I can’t help but look forward to the colder months. Bracing walks along windswept beaches, or days collecting colourful leaves and acorns followed by hot chocolate and log fires; there’s a lot to recommend this time of year.

And of course there’s the ‘C’ word.  Sssssh, don’t speak its name! I’ve heard it mentioned recently –  eek!  I used to hate the big ‘C’, but suddenly, now that I have kids I’m super exited, and can’t wait to make it special for the boys.

I’ve always felt a real sense of anticipation in Autumn. A sense of new beginnings, that stems, I’m sure, from my schooldays when September meant new uniform, new pencil case and most importantly of all new teachers!

This year I’m justified in my school-like anticipation, as, if you saw my pictures last weeks, little DW started playschool.

I must confess I felt quite weepy. Not just because I was going to miss him, but because his starting school symbolises yet another step he is taking to be less dependent on me; like weaning, walking and starting nursery.

But while I went home to mourn, he was, sociable little being that he is, having the time of his life, and the lovely leaders had trouble prising him out of the classroom when the time came.

Anybody else have little ones starting school? How did you feel? And how did it go?

We’ve had a lovely summer full of bubbles, butterflies and trains.

And more trains.

 

And a few more trains for good measure.

But with the seasons and our lives changing, I though this would be a good time to take stock of our situation, and consider the things that have changed and the surprises they have bought since I became the mum of two boys in May.

1. Worry turns to guilt – When DW was born the overwhelming emotion I experienced was worry. Am I doing things right? Is this normal? How do I do this, that and the other?

This time round I’m astounded by the guilt I feel. Guilty if I give DW attention, guilty if I give NW attention. Guilty that I’m co-sleeping with NW but didn’t with DW. Guilty that I may be putting NW at greater risk than DW for co-sleeping with him. Guilty for wanting time alone with NW and guilty for wanting time alone with DW, guilty for sticking CBeebies on while I feed NW and even guilty for bringing them into a world where I know they will experience pain. Guil, guilt, guilt!  I just hope it passes.

2. DW has grown up! –  OK, so not properly, but from the day NW was born, DW started taking on more and more responsibility.  Fetching nappies,getting the phone and picking things up for me, I find myself asking him to do more and more, and sometime have to remind myself that he is only two! Its clear that he is on the road to being and independent little man capable of making his own decisions and asserting his personality.

3. Every child is different – I know everybody says this, but I hadn’t expected it to be so true. DW and NW are completely different babies. DW was what people might call an easy baby. He hardly ever cried, has only vomited about 3 times in his entire life and slept through from about 8 weeks (I know miracle child!).  I thought this parenting thing was a walk in the park.

But NW on the other hand seems to have spent his first three months screaming in agony, vomits at least 3 times a day, and sleeps for stretches of about 30 mins at a time.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t change a thing about either of them, they are both my very special, lovely little boys.

4. What worked once may well not work again. This goes with the above really, but I do find that different things useful this time round. With DW, I couldn’t have lived without his vibrating chair, Ergo and if all else failed in the quest to settle him, a trip in the car, NW doesn’t like any of the above, and my stretchy wrap, which I found difficult and faffy first time round is a god send as are muslin squares and bibs which I just didn’t see the need for with DW.

5. We can love more than we think we can – I was really worried when I was pregnant with NW that I just couldn’t love another child as much as I love DW.  But, somehow, your capacity to love just grows.

As an only child myself, I was worried about how they would feel about each other too. But DW’s affection for his little bro was palpable from the off, and nothing settles my little screamer like some attention from his big bro. Sometimes just watching them together makes me want to cry with love, and I hope that is a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Anyway, there are some other major changes going on in our lives, but I can’t reveal all yet. They’ve kept me busy though, and I hope I can bring you another update sooner than the last.

Until then, I hope all your little cherubs are happy and full of hugs.

Toddler Time…..part 2

Hi all,

I hope the summer is treating you well with lots of sunshine and smiles!

Can you tell I’m in a good mood? Well, I’ve got a few bits of good news to kick things off.

Firstly, it seems the dairy free diet is taking effect- yipee!. Although we’re not completely colic free, NW’s been a lot easier to settle and the screaming and pain has been down to an hour or less a night, which is amazing!

The only day we had any trouble was the day I couldn’t resist an ice cream from my favourite shop in Beddgelert (check it out if your ever in the area). Anyway, that night he was in pain again, which suggests we we’re on the right track. Good news is I’m also getting into my soya milkshakes so this dairy free aint all bad! Yet again, thank you all for your advice.

A fantastic consequence of this improvement is that he’s hit that amazing milestone all mum’s dream of – he slept through the night! Granted, in reality he only slept for about 5 and a half hours, but he went to sleep at midnight and woke up in daylight, which is good enough for me. Unfortunately, DW decided to wake at 4am so it wasn’t exactly an unbroken night, but it really feels as if we are turning a corner.

And there’s been another magical first too – baby NW smiled for the first time! I’d taken the boys to see the playgroup DW will be joining in September, and the little girls wanted to see the baby. I knelt to they could see him, and he flashed them (and his mummy) the biggest gummy beauty! I think I have a heart breaker on my hands. 🙂

Anyway, back to my topic of last week, the question of how to entertain a toddler.

When I embarked on the journey of motherhood, I had this golden vision of long days in the warm sunshine and fresh air picking berries and gathering food with my kids. We’ve had the chance to do a bit of this recently, as discussed last week, but unfortunately, living in North Wales as I do, sunshine isn’t something you can always bank on.

So, what to do with DW on one of our many rainy days?

The easiest thing to do, of course, is reach for the remote control, and it’s a temptation I can’t pretend to be immune to, but I feel really guilty for sedating him with telly so I’m making a concerted effort to lessen our dependence on the goggle box.

Next easiest is to grab a colouring book and some crayons. DW’s happy enough colouring, and its relatively mess free so he can be left doing it while I see to/comfort NW, prepare dinner, put a load of washing on, blah blah blah!

However, he’s much happier if I go one step further and let him do some painting. It’s fortunate that I’m not particularly houseproud; painting with DW would be a somewhat stressful experience if I were! I do love to see him get creative though, and I was really proud the other day when he painted something rather than just dabbing paint on a page……. and here is DW’s crocodile!

Quite good I think, although I am, of course, biased!

We’ve tried other crafty things, such as making salt dough decorations (salt dough recipe), and making plasticine models. I’ve bought a bumper pack of crafty stuff; pipe cleaners, googly eyes etc so I’m ready to go, all I need now is inspiration.  I thought this blog looks interesting http://belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow/ , but I’d love to hear any recommendations you have.

Apart from crafts, we’ve tried cooking together, but so far this hasn’t been a massive success. We’ve made flapjacks and the classic corn flake cakes, but to be honest, DW looses interest quite quickly.  Either that or I end up taking over when ingredients end up all over the kitchen, given to the dogs or get eaten raw.

My other rainy day fallback is, of course, toys!

Now, this is where I have to confess to a bit of an addiction. DW has the usual array of plastic toy trucks, building blocks etc, but his favourites and most definitely mine are his growing collection of Plan Toys toys. I’ve lost count of how many we have; some might say too many (OH for example) but I say not enough!

I was introduced to Plan Toys through Babi Pur, and I was impressed straight away by how much imagination goes into their products. Not some singing, dancing plastic lumps that teach children nothing more than how to press a button are these. They are proper, well crafted and beautifully designed toys that encourage children to interact with them in creative play that is lovely to watch. Not only that, but they look fab in your home too!

My favourites must be the solid drum (which makes an amazing sound!), the dancing alligator and the walking elephant. Do you have any Plan Toys, and if so which are your favourites? I may well find myself checking them out!

The latest addition to the collection to arrive from Babi Pur was the Plan Toys farmhouse with a farmer and his wife. When it arrived, it was in loads of bits and looked a bit complicated.

But as we’ve found with so many of the Plan Toys we have, it was actually really easy to put together, and it’s lovely.

The house is easy to access as the roof comes off and the sides are open so little hands can get in, or you can add an extention! In many ways, it’s really simple, but I love little details like the hooks above the fireplace for hanging pots, and the really cute furniture.

DW’s favourite bit (and mine tbh) is the little porch with raised bed where little man gets to tend to the ‘blodau’ (welsh for flowers).

I think my next investment will have to be the Plan Toys farm animals . DW is like most two year old obsessed with animals and their noises so I’m sure he’ll love this. Until then, I’ll enjoy watching him play with the farmer and his wife, and enjoy all the compliments we get from people who come round and fall in love with it!

Anyway, before I go, I thought you’d be glad to hear that OH has braved the shed and detonated our elderlower bombs. Poor man was terrified (I can’t say I blame him) and was fully decked out in body armour complete with chainsaw helmet to face the task.

Thankfully, none of them exploded on him, but it sounded like there was a shooting range in our garden, and the process could have been dodgy for the weak hearted! Anyway, I now have a different and hopefully less dangerous recipe bubbling away.

So, from sunny Wales it’s  goodbye from me, or, as we say here: hwyl fawr!

Cat
xxx

Toddler time.

Hi everyone,

Thank you for all your kind words and comments about coping with colic.  It’s great to have so many new options to try.

Yesterday I cut dairy from my diet, which I’m finding more difficult than I’d anticipated. I’m really craving sweet things (was the same last time I breastfed) and have been reaching for the yogurt (and bananas) as a way to keep myself off chocolate. As from yesterday I’ll be reaching for the soya yogurt instead! Hopefully it’ll help.  Only a day down at the moment so too early to tell.

One of the many difficult things I find about coping with the colic, and in fact one of the most difficult things I find about having 2 children, is how to give them both the care and attention the need and deserve. In particular, how do I ensure that my toddler, DW, is stimulated and does not feel left out when I am feeding/comforting NW?

Daytimes are pretty easily sorted, and I try to take DW out of the house to do something he enjoys at least once a day. We do the usual run of mother & toddler groups, music class, toddler gym etc.

But while the sun’s been shining these past couple of weeks, my favourite things to do with DW has been to go foraging or to the local pick your own. He’s become become a master gooseberry picker, doing extraordinarily well at avoiding nasty thorns for a 2 year old! He’s less enamoured by the challenge of picking Elderflowers, but does enjoy a good run around the field while I’m picking.

This has lead to a flurry of late night preserve making on my part, and to be honest, I’m glad Elderflower season is nearly over as I’m shattered! Its not a good idea to take on all that work with a 5 week old colicy baby to look after; my health visitor thinks I’m mad!

I’m proud to say that it has resulted in us having loads of bottles of Elderflower Cordial . I love to have home made cordial in the house.  DW has unfortunately developed a bit of a sweet tooth and I hate to give him shop bought squash – way too many nasties in there.

I used a recipe almost identical to this one, except that you use 30 heads of Elderflower, and it’s really strong and delicious.

Less successful has been my attempt at Elderflower Champagne. I used the same recipe as I did last year, and bottled it in Grolsch bottles as recommended. But yesterday, a week into the fermentation, three of the bottles exploded! Fortunately, they were in the shed.  I dread to think what the consequences would have been if it had happened in the house with the boys about. Now we have a shed full of what are in essence glass bombs, and we’re not too sure what to do about them.

Anyway, I would recommend that you do not try the above recipe unless you have read the comments first (which I stupidly didn’t). In fact, I would say try a different recipe altogether!

I’d planned to talk about ideas about how to entertain a toddler when you are stuck in the house, as to be honest, this is what I’m struggling with, but this post is getting a bit long so I’ll leave it till next time.

If you have any suggestions about what your little ones love to do then please share them and I’ll try them out this week.

I quite enjoyed sharing what has made me smile with you last week. It made me focus on the good things I’ve got in my life which is hard to do when you are sleep deprived, trying to cope with screaming children and a messy house, two dogs that need walking, chickens than need cleaning out and a garden where the jobs are never ending – phew makes me tired just thinking about it! Anyway, I thought I’d do it again, so here are mine for this week:

1. DW’s face as he enjoys some giant bubbles at his first festival.

2. Pretty peas in the garden.   The flowers range from blue to pink, and the yellow pods are delicious!

3. NW’s first attempt at driving!

3. Elderflower cordial.

4. DW getting into graffiti, and looking good in his Frugi top.

Anyway, thanks again for the colic tips, you’re a lovely bunch of ladies and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

I’m off to bed for a precious hours kip now while the coast is clear. Much needed after NW woke every half hour through the night last night 🙁

Bye for now!
Cat

Introducing………

 

Monday was a good day. One of those days where you wake up and the sun is shining and everything goes right. Nice things arrived in the post, parking spaces were convenient and easy to come by, the kids were at their best, people were friendly and to cap it all, babipur phoned to offer me space as a guest blogger – woo hoo, thank you babi pur! Ever since, my mind has been racing; full of ideas (and apprehensions!) about what I will write about and more importantly where will I begin?

Well, I guess it’s only polite that the first thing I do is introduce myself. I’m Cat, and I’m lucky enough to live in the beautiful mountains of North Wales with my lovely husband, who for the purpose of this blog shall be henceforth called OH (or other half) and two dogs.

Two and a bit years ago, our lives changed dramatically with the arrival of our son, lets call him DW. Becoming a mother was the greatest, most exhilarating, wonderful and downright difficult thing I have ever done, but as frustrated and tired as my little man makes me, I can honestly say that little DW brings me more joy than chocolate, and that’s really saying something.

I’ve always been a bit of a greenie, and it seemed only natural that I try to raise my child in the most natural and sustainable way possible – breast feeding, baby wearing, cloth bottoming etc. However, things don’t always go to plan and our journey into green parenting was fraught with numerous dramas and setbacks as well as some fantastic success stories. Now that journey has taken a major new turn in the the dramatic natural birth (I’ll tell you about that later) of our second son, NW.

So now, we start on a new path, one that I hope to be able to share with you. I hope it will take us through a maze of ethical decisions and sustainable lifestyle choices to the final destination every parent dreams of – healthy, happy and confident children with a healthy planet to enjoy and pass on to their own offspring. We’ve already had our setbacks (the night OH and I both had food poisoning comes to mind as a particular low) but as with most things parenting we’ve had the most amazing, simple highs too, like look of joy on DW’s face when he met his little bro’ for the first time. I know that there are plenty more dramas to come, and hope that you’ll stick with us for a while to share them with us, and maybe offer us some guidance on the way too. Until next time, here’s hoping for plenty more sunshine and happy days!xxxx