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Bantam Hen v Blackbird Hen

Today was a great day to work in the garden and my birds are certainly very lively and frisky. There is plenty of spring activity going on and it is clear that the breeding season is well upon us. I was clearing a patch of ground  that the birds had really messed up and, of course, they were delighted to scratch even more once it was clear of debris.

Just before dusk, a blackbird hen was close by the bantams and was working on getting a lovely long worm out of the ground. She did it expertly and managed to get the worm out in one piece. Just as she did, one of my bantam hens launched an attack on her and drove her away. The bantam enjoyed the worm. The blackbird stayed around and was quite aggressive to the other birds but she was generally repelled by them. This was an interesting episode that I hadn’t seen before.


Have you seen blackbirds and chickens in similar confrontations before? If so, please leave a comment and let me know.

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Skerries GIY – Talk on Keeping Chickens

I was delighted to have been asked by Skerries Grow It Yourself (GIY) to speak to their group recently about keeping backyard chickens. About 25 enthusiasts turned up at Joe May’s on the Harbour Road and I would like to thank them for their attendance. There was a lively discussion after my talk about keeping chickens and I hope that many who attended will now be encouraged to keep these wonderful birds.

A suggestion was made to set up a “Chicken Support Group” to bring chicken keepers together for bulk buying, helping each other out, sharing tips and information, vacation cover for flocks, etc. What a great idea, and I will be very pleased to be part of the group. A similar group has already been successfully established in Donabate/Portrane called Chickenlink.

They were featured recently on RTE television in the video below, which is really great.

I was also very pleased to give those present at my talk samples of duck, hen and bantam eggs and hope that they enjoy them and experience the great taste and quality of a free range egg.

If you think you’ve got the poultry bug, this is a great time of year to get started. And with all the support available in Fingal, there is no excuse! And if you’d like more information on my talks to local groups, please contact me through the site. Contact details are at the top right.

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Unlucky Ducks

I was delighted to have bred my Ailesbury ducks during last autumn and had seven additions to the flock – four drakes and three ducks. However, I soon discovered that over half an acre of garden is far too small for so many ducks – 11 including the original four. In no time at all they destroyed my lawn with the amount of excreta they … well … excreted, the holes they dug and the feathers they dropped everywhere. I am very much gone off the idea of keeping ducks.

I was quite happy, therefore, when a friend offered to take the new birds off my hands last weekend. So I gave her six birds and she went merrily on her way to bring the flock to her large garden in Meath. They weren’t even there a week when the telephone calls came about the dirt and feathers messing up her garden and – most annoying of all – destroying the decking outside her back door. The rest of the family weren’t impressed, as the males in the house had to clean up the decking.

Her problem didn’t last long, however. A local fox discovered the birds the other night and all but one disappeared. Two were found dead in a nearby field (I believe it was not a pretty sight) and the other three have disappeared, feared dead also. A single drake was left a very lonely and troubled bird. It was certainly a bad end for the ducks and not how I would have liked their lives to end. I certainly would have preferred them on my plate rather than being killed by a fox.

I gave her another duck yesterday as company for the remaining drake.  Let’s hope she has better luck with them this time.

I’m back to the original four I had and am still making up my mind about their fate. If any reader would like them and can collect them, I’ll be happy to give them away, but be warned – they are not a great garden bird, so lots of room is required.

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Greater Dublin Drainage – Public Consultation Process

Fingal County Council has published a report (PDF) identifying nine possible land parcels for investigation as possible locations for a new regional wastewater treatment works, marine outfall locations and routes for the drainage system.

The marine area identified for the outfall in the northern part of the county stretches roughly from south of the Rugby Club in Skerries to Portrane. In the southern part of the county, the outfall is around the Velvet Strand at Portmarnock.

The proposed land parcels are located at:

  • Tyrrelstown Little
  • Rathartan
  • Newtowncorduff
  • Annsbrook
  • Baldurgan
  • Cookstown
  • Saucerstown
  • Cloghran
  • Clonshaugh.

The proposed routes for the drainage system run through the areas named above.

The report and accompanying maps is available at http://www.greaterdublindrainage.ie.

This major development has the potential to have a significant impact on the affected areas and I’d suggest that, if you live in an area potentially impacted by the proposal, you check out the website, attend the open days and let the council know your views.

The Council is currently undertaking a public consultation process, which started on 10 October 2011 and will continue until 18 November 2011. Two open days will also be held at the council offices at Main Street Swords on 3 November 2011 from 2pm to 8 pm and on 5 November 2011 from 11 am to 4 pm.

Written submissions on the potential land parcels may be sent, before 18 November 2011, to Greater Dublin Drainage Project Manager, C/O RPS Group, West Pier, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

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Dutch Vine Tomatoes – A Lovely Gift

Chip of TomatoesOne of our customers for our eggs very kindly gave my wife a gift of two chips of these magnificent Dutch vine tomatoes last week. They are so sweet and delicious and are so tasty that  eating them just on their own is a delight. As you can imagine, two chips of tomatoes would take some time to eat and it would be a pity to see them go off (though there are always the chickens and ducks to deal with that problem). So what do you do when you have too many tomatoes? You make soup, of course, and that’s just what I did.

Tomato soup is one of the quickest and easiest soups to make and I used a simple recipe from Delia Smith‘s book, Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, published by BBC Books. The well-thumbed and food-stained edition I have dates back to about 2001, while the book has been around and continuously revised since the 1970s or so. It is a great book and, unlike many of the modern “celebrity” chefs, Delia’s book is based in excellence, practicality and common sense while still giving some truly wonderful and very reliable recipes. Whenever I need a good recipe, I always turn to Delia first.

Here’s Delia’s simple recipe for Tomato Soup With Basil to serve four people. Preparation time was no more than 15 minutes, at most.

  • 700g ripe tomatoes, quartered with skins left on
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 1 medium potato, chopped small
  • 1.5 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 275 ml stock
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tomaotes 02Start by heating the olive oil and gently frying the onion and potato slowly for about 15 minutes, without browning. Then add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper and add the garlic. If you are using dried basil, add it with the tomatoes; if using fresh basil, add it at the end. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, and – voila! – you have lovely tomato soup. Delia says to  run the soup through a sieve to extract the skins and pips, but I blended it, which got rid of them and made it slightly thick but beautiful to taste. A little extra water or stock can be added to thin the soup according to taste. If using fresh basil, it is added now. The soup can be re-heated and served. I had mine with white soda bread, which my wife also got as a gift. It was delicious.

This recipe is so easy that you can simply increase the quantities proportionately to make more servings, freeze it or serve it cold.

With tomatoes now in season and Irish home grown ones also available, what great ideas or recipes do you have for this wonderful fruit? If you’d like to share your ideas, please leave a comment and let me know.

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