Posted by: hencorner | June 1, 2015

Busy as Bees…

Buff Tailed Bumble Nest
A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.’*

*Kin Hubbard

I normally do tend to pack a lot into my time, but I think that this last week, being Half Term, really did buzz! We had arranged, during the previous week, to help out a local family who had discovered some bees in their garden shed. Guessing that it was a swarm, and that they may have been there some time, I took expert bee keeper Thomas with me in case they had become well established in their new home and required specialist removal. Of course, ‘You never can tell with bees’, as Winnie the Pooh famously said, and it was only upon opening the shed door that we discovered not a swarm of honey bees, but a nest of buff tailed bumble bees happily inhabiting a bag of hay for the guinea pig. Whilst this is not usually the prize for a bee keeper on a swarm call out, we helped the owners (one of whom is very allergic to bee stings) by removing the nest with a dustpan, Thomas did that bit, and have brought it back to Hen Corner in the hope that the bees will pollinate our tomatoes and strawberries. It’s safely tucked up warm under a big old flowerpot allowing the bees to explore the garden as they please.
Rich's shed swarmWhen you find some bees on your garden shed, who you gonna call?
Our Sunday morning surprise was a text from Andy’s brother, Richard, saying ‘When you’re up, give us a call – we’ve awoke to find bees all over our shed roof and filling the back of the garden’! Andy and I packed up the car/swarmobile with our bee suits, spare hive and other handy bits of equipment and went off to investigate. Our concern this time was that the bees had ventured under the corrugated roof and were nesting in a cavity, naturally, we asked Thomas to help again… Whilst we were watching the bees on the shed roof slowly seek the refuge of a cardboard box, we heard a tree branch spring back into place and were privileged to see another large swarm, that had been clustered in a nearby tree, receive the ‘Go’ order to move en masse to a new home as discovered by their scout bees. It was amazing to watch a cloud of up to 30,000 honey bees flying as one unit focussed on the goal of their new home, they followed the lead of the scout bees and were off, away and out of sight in less than a minute. I hope they found a bait hive, like Thomas’, and not another garden shed…
Duracell 7 buntingHug a Hen Time
Both of these bee adventures fell on the Bank Holiday weekend that we had earmarked for decorating and gardening projects. We’ve been keen to get the kitchen and conservatory, our main training areas, along with the garden in tip top order ready for a good run of courses. With children on holiday, we had planned several sessions for the week and were pleased to welcome seven guests to Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday followed by an Urban Hens course on Wednesday. We had the bunting up to give it that holiday feel – it was also a great boundary marker to ensure that our young guests didn’t venture too near to the bee hives…
Hands in doughOn your marks, get set, dough!
Our final course of Half Term was Pizza Together where adults and children alike got their fingers in the flour to learn basic bread making skills before designing our favourite toppings ready to be baked for lunch, with extra portions taken home for supper. Our next Pizza Together courses are in the Summer Holidays on Tuesday 28th July and Thursday 27th August. Budding bakers can practise pastry, bread and cakes in our Baking Together course on Thursday 20th August.
 Bread sweet and savoury
Coming up at the Corner…

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. The next few weeks brings Intro to Bee Keeping,  Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London and some new courses, Bread: Sweet & Savoury and Scones and Jam

Other News:

  • Sadly one of the chicks has died, but the other 9 are growing fast
  • We foraged for elderflowers and have made loads of cordial and Elderflower Delight (a bit like Turkish Delight)
  • The supers are on the bee hive and the bees are starting to fill them up with honey

Jobs for this week:

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | May 20, 2015

Restock the Flock

twelve fertile eggsDo not count your chickens before they are hatched.‘*

*Aesop

Please note: Cutest pictures are further down the page…!

Sadly, we’ve said goodbye to five of our chickens in five months this year. Well, for the small bantam that was whisked away by a neighbour’s cat, we didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye! My beloved Butternut, a Buff Orpington and star of BBC’s The One Show, was the first to go in January, she was one of our oldest girls and had delighted many children and adults alike with her cuddly appearance and gentle demeanour. Three of the tiny bantams were next, then Madge, another one of our cover girls featured on the front of our postcard, became very ill, unable to recover, earlier this month. On top of all these losses, my beautiful cat, Sapphire, didn’t make it through last month at the age of 19 years. I was very sad to lose Sapphire, I had lived with her longer than I’ve lived with my husband!
Bunty and chick nest I dried my eyes and began to hatch a plan.
We would restock the flock by giving Bunty, hatched here herself back in 2011, some fertile eggs to sit on. She had never tried this before but had been broody on many occasions in recent years. Telltale signs are that she refuses to leave the nesting box, growls if you try to remove eggs from under her, plucks the feathers from her breast (to remove all insulation from her warmth and humidity) and fluffs herself out to spread herself over as many eggs as possible.
Yellow chick in hands
As Aesop wisely said, ‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched’

You never can tell which are fertile, which will survive the 21 day incubation period and then how many are girls, who stay, and boys who go.

We have usually just bought 6 fertile eggs, delivered by post, from chicken breeders across the country and hatching rates have been as low as just 1 or 2 making an appearance in previous years.
However, this year we took advice from Gillian at South Yeo Farm East and tried 12 eggs under Bunty, who herself is a Bantam Chocolate Orpington hatched from eggs that I won in a Twitter competition!
Pekin chick in hand
So how many chickens can we count?
Out of the 12 eggs, 10 have safely hatched; 5 of each of the breeds that we chose; Pekin Bantams and Polish Frizzles.
We don’t know which are boys or girls and will just let them grow together, happily roaming around the garden as they get bigger.
So that takes us up to 21 chickens here at Hen Corner!
If you’d like to see them for yourself, and maybe have cuddle, check out the courses that we have coming up soon, or pop along to the Brentford Food Festival during Half Term.
We are running a workshop on Wednesday 27th May and will be bringing these cuties with us!

Coming up at the Corner – Half Term Specials!

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. The next few weeks brings Intro to Bee Keeping,  Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London and a new course, Bread: Sweet & Savoury. During Half Term, 25th – 29th May, we have all-age courses with Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday and Pizza Together on Thursday. I’m sure that Bunty will be proudly displaying her new chicks as a special treat to all our Half Term visitors.

Other News:

  • Our bees are doing well and seem to have accepted their nice gentle queen
  • We’ve had several school groups come to visit the baby chicks
  • The planting out has begun in the kitchen garden with crops neatly protected under net cloches

Jobs for this week:

  • Keep topping up the food and water for the chicks
  • Welcome Martin, our documentary photography student, to take pictures of our hive inspections
  • Look forward to our Half Term specials!

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | May 11, 2015

Completely Bowled Over!

Sourdough Sunday‘Bread is like humanity itself. We come in many different shapes and sizes, colours and guises, yet underneath the skin/crust, we’re all made of the same stuff.’*

*Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

As I’m typing this I have another batch of sourdough proving – it tastes so good! For those who have ever made it, you know that it is a labour of love; a process which takes days to make just a couple of small loaves. For those who have enjoyed the crisp dark crust and pungent chewy centre, please appreciate that this is not a fast food, true artisan skill brings us this delight and for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, find a farmers market, such as our local Brentford Market and look out for the artisan bakers who sell their wares. The process begins by making a starter, a jug or pot of flour and water whisked together to capture the wild yeasts from the air. This is then covered loosely to allow the starter to breath. As the yeasts begin to feed on the starches in the flour, volume increases and a sour taste develops from the carbon dioxide and lactic acid released during the long slow fermentation.
 Bowlover & Starter 1Bowlover & Starter 3

I was pleased to have been given a Bowlover to review recently and this was the perfect cover for my infant starter. I often find cling film fiddly, sometimes you don’t want an airtight seal and I worry about all that screwed up plastic going into landfill, but this new product has all the common sense of your grandma with the thoughtful design of someone who really cares about our environment (not saying that your grandma doesn’t!). Now that my sourdough starter is safe, and I continue to feed it, it will supply me with batch after batch of beautiful bread – let’s hope I can keep up with my family’s demand for

We love this cartoon which sums up Bowlovers in a minute:

 

FFF SkylarComing up at the Corner – Half Term Specials!

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. This month brings Intro to Bee Keeping,  Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London and a new course, A Day at Hen Corner. During Half Term, 25th – 29th May, we have all-age courses with Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday and Pizza Together on Thursday. Hopefully, we will be able to see Bunty proudly displaying her new chicks as a special treat to all our Half Term visitors.

Other News:

  • We are re-queening one of our bee colonies to insure that they are nice and friendly for visitors
  • Our latest article in Out and About magazine is out soon, talking afternoon tea, strawberries, scones and jam
  • The kitchen garden is neatly protected with net cloches over every raised bed – this means the chickens can free range more often and our seedlings stay safe.

Jobs for this week:

  • Plant the baby squash plants into the raised beds
  • Welcome some French journalist as they come to make a film about the rise of urban farming across the UK
  • Watch out for Bunty’s chicks which should be hatching any minute now!

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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