Posted by: hencorner | April 5, 2016

On your marks, get set, GROW!

Broad Beans

Regular readers may remember reading about our renovations in the Kitchen Garden earlier this year, the hoops and nets are really successful at keeping the chickens/cats/pigeons/foxes/etc. off our raised beds and we’ve been extra organised and fitted a polytunnel over one of the raised beds to extend the growing season. Some say that crops start a whole month earlier and can extend another month at the end of the season. I’ve been very good at watering inside the tunnel (which lifts up on a hinge) and am pleased to see these strong broad beans plants thriving in the warmth after being sown as  seeds just 9 weeks ago.

Purple Mange Tout

Another plant that’s doing well is the purple mange tout, we sowed these seed in a propagator in the conservatory at the end of January and, as they were growing quite tall and thin, brought them outside to harden off in the polytunnel. They are still in pots as they will grow too tall for the tunnel, but are obviously happy as they’ve started to flower. I’ll have to move them to their permanent position soon, where I can plant them in the ground, they can grow as tall as they like and where their flowers can be found easily by the bees who are happy to pollinate them. We chose the purple variety as it helps the pea pods stand out clearly against the green foliage ensuring that you spot each one as they become ready to harvest.

Leaf ChicoryWe have a couple of other crops in the tunnel which have over-wintered well; some leaf chicory and some spinach. The leaf chicory, pictured, is quite bitter and I haven’t found a favourite way to eat it yet, any suggestions are very welcome, however, the spinach is earmarked for a Spanakopita Greek pie that will also include our homemade feta cheese and hen’s eggs. We are recording all of the food that we harvest from the garden this year and have already collected over £200 worth of eggs, now that some of our crops are nearly ready to harvest, I’m looking forward to planning many menus to make the most of their freshly picked taste.

Purple AsparagusOne of the talks that we did at the Country Living Spring Fair last month was A Fruitful Garden in the City which was based on a New Year blog post that I wrote back in 2014. From the list of top tip suggestions when planning your plot, I recommended the faithful rewards of perennials that feed us year upon year. Here at Hen Corner we have a good steady supply of rhubarb, artichokes, hardy herbs and horseradish, not to mention all our fruit, nuts and olives, which offer up a harvest every year with minimum work from us. The first crop, and our absolute favourite, is asparagus and, once established, a bed can feed a family every week from April to June. I’ve been peering at the plot every couple of days recently and am delighted to say that the season has begun! We should be cutting fresh spears by the weekend, perfect for dipping in a home made hollandaise sauce… I can’t wait.

Coming up at the Corner…

Now that Spring is well under way, we have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner. We currently have spaces on Cheese in a Day, Simply SausagesBread: Sweet & Savoury and Family Feathers and Fun!  Our new season of Full Day Bee Keeping starts soon, so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

We are also delighted to have been asked to support The Haven Celebrity Quiz on 20th April and bring a guest stall to Brentford Market on Sunday 24th April.

Other News:

  • Two of the new chickens, Coucou & Persil, have started laying, so we are now regularly collecting 12 eggs a day
  • The bees are flying most days and are bringing in brightly coloured pollen
  • Bookings are coming in for our Simply Sausages course next month

Jobs for this week: 

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | March 29, 2016

Egg, Eggs, Eggs…

M&S EggWe have enjoyed numerous egg hunts this week, searching for the tiniest eggs laid by our queen bees, through the colourful eggs of our hens to the largest chocolate eggs desired by adults and children alike…

Each March, we wait patiently for the signs that the bees have made it safely through winter; we begin by watching to see if any venture out of the hive, either earnestly searching for fresh forage or simply popping outside to ‘relieve’ themselves, on what we call a cleansing flight, to reduce the debris and waste left inside the hive.

The reassuring sight of worker bees returning with pollen on their legs is the sign that all should be well inside that box. Whilst female worker bees make up the vast majority of a colony, this time of year there are no male drones so it’s just the girls and their mum, the colony can not continue reproducing unless the one fertile bee, the queen, is happy, healthy and laying eggs. The arrival of gifts of pollen from her daughters will be used as food for the developing larvae before their metamorphosis into young sister worker bees.

Brood FrameOur first inspection of the year, when we open the hive to assess the colony, allows us to check on health, food stores and most importantly how the queen is faring. This photo is of one of our brood frames in March and we can see brood in all stages (eggs, larvae, sealed cocoons and new adult bees emerging), we can also see some cells packed as cupboards storing coloured pollen close on hand allowing the nurse bees to transfer it across the frame to feed the new brood as needed. Can you identify the different stages of brood on this frame? The eggs are very small, the shape of a rice grain and the width of cotton thread. The developing larvae is a translucent white, you can just see the purple/brown eyes forming on the larvae in the bottom left of the picture, and in the centre of the picture you can see fully formed adult bees wriggling out of their cells for a short life of hard work.

Spring HensSo the queen bee is laying eggs, but how are the hens?

We currently have 20 hens in the garden here at Hen Corner and have collected 10 eggs already today. We are hoping to see that number increase over the next couple of weeks as our new chickens haven’t started laying yet and, as hybrids, should give us reliable daily deliveries. Even our oldest chicken, Pearl the Cream Legbar, is delighting us with 3-4 perfect pale blue double-pointed beauties each week. We are often asked whether we eat our chickens when they stop laying, well if Pearl is still laying after nine years, she’s not ready to retire yet and even if she stops this year, we think she’s deserved her pension of pellets…

Home made creme eggsTell us about the chocolate!

Whilst the weather was wet on Saturday, we had a wild time with Easter at Hen Corner, 17 guests joined us to make chocolate creme eggs, followed by a search for foil wrapped eggs in the garden. Once we knew that all the hidden chocolate had been gathered in, we released the hens for a spot of free ranging, given every guest the opportunity to hunt for freshly laid eggs and cuddle a chicken whilst thanking them for the beautiful eggs that had been found. As the rain clouds gathered we returned to the conservatory for some very creative egg cup artwork followed up by a pot of tea and Katie’s wonderful hot cross buns.

As we look ahead to the coming months, we have a couple of new exciting courses that are open for bookings.

By popular request we are delighted to offer you Cheese in a Day on Wednesday 27th April and Simply Sausages on Thursday 12th May.

We are planning to include the following recipes for Cheese in a Day:

  • Soft Cheese with Fresh Herbs
  • Tangy Feta Cheese
  • Mould Ripened Camembert
  • Rosemary Biscuits (perfect with cheese!)

Whereas Simply Sausages allows you to choose your flavours from a few different recipes; we love chilli, fennel & red wine…

As usual, everyone goes home with a goodie bag including recipe sheets and your homemade products. Click the links for more information, we’d love you to join us…

Coming up at the Corner…

With the longer days, we now have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner. The next month or so sees Bread: Sweet & Savoury, Family Feathers and Fun!  and our new season of Full Day Bee Keeping so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

Other News:

  • We’ve got seedling sugar snap peas flowering in the polytunnel
  • The pear trees and apricot tree are starting to bud
  • There’s no sign of tadpoles, so I’m guessing that the February frosts killed the frog spawn

Jobs for this week:

  • Gather some ratchet straps as we are moving a whole hive from one friend’s garden across town to another
  • Make some blinds for our sunny conservatory
  • Practise timings for our new Cheese in a Day course

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | March 21, 2016

Boing! (the sound of Spring…)

cervenansky_hencorner_clsf_2016_004_@2x

Sara has just returned from a wonderful week contributing to the programme of talks at the Country Living Spring Fair, it was lovely to meet so many people who had been to our talks in previous years or read about us in the magazine features.

The biggest highlight of the show was our final presentation on Sunday afternoon, Turning a Hobby into a Business. On one hand I was very excited to have been asked to give this talk, as last year I remember watching Sophie Allport, who designed several items that we have at home, bring this session. On the other hand, it was the last presentation of the show and I expected a very small, if any, audience. I decided that the best visual aid that I could bring to the session was my husband, Andy, and we planned to lead the session together sharing the story of Hen Corner over the recent years. If there was no-one in the audience, at least I’d still have someone to talk to on the sofa!

Fortunately, I had underestimated the appeal of the session and we had a full house, both sitting and standing at the back, and were privileged, after the talk, to be able to meet and encourage several other individuals who are aspiring to start their own small businesses in the coming months.

IMG_0549Now that Spring has officially arrived, and the days are longer than the nights, we are more than ready for the long Easter weekend and the celebrations that it holds.

We have a few places left for Easter at Hen Corner where we will be cuddling chickens, hunting for eggs (real & chocolate), and get crafty in the conservatory before hot cross buns for tea.

We have also planned our Easter Microbakery to be a day early, on Thursday, allowing our customers to collect their bread and treats in time for the long weekend.

Looking ahead, after Easter, we have a couple of new exciting courses that are open for bookings.

By popular request we are delighted to offer you Cheese in a Day on Wednesday 27th April and Simply Sausages on Thursday 12th May.

Recipes for Cheese in a Day may include:

  • Soft Cheese with Fresh Herbs
  • Tangy Feta Cheese
  • Mould Ripened Camembert
  • Rosemary Biscuits (perfect with cheese!)

Simply Sausages allows you to choose your flavours from a few different recipes, we love chilli, fennel & red wine…

As usual, everyone goes home with a goodie bag including recipe sheets and your homemade products.

Click the links for more information, we’d love you to join us…

Sausage makingComing up at the Corner…

With the longer days, we now have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner. The next month or so sees Bread: Sweet & Savoury, Easter at Hen Corner and more Family Feathers and Fun! so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

Other News:

  • We very much enjoyed our time at St Mary’s School, Norwood Green, talking bees with their Reception and Year One classes
  • A friend of ours would like to start keeping bees, he’s bought a hive and asked me to be his mentor
  • We are collecting up to 10 eggs a day from our hens and that without the new girls who haven’t started laying yet

Jobs for this week:

  • Roll up my sleeves for all the extra Easter baking
  • Melt some chocolate for our creme egg craft on Saturday 26th
  • Mow that lawn before it gets too overgrown!

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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