Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Battery update

We have affectionately named the rescued hens, the batteries not very original, but it means I can talk about them and people know what I mean. They are all doing well, in fact far better than I imagined and are all still alive. Now, I am not shocked by this due to my ability to kill animals, but because of the overall condition of the hens.

Watching the batteries is amusing, and they perform the strangest of manoeuvres especially when something appears to be threatening to them, i.e a leaf, or a twig. Yes, I am being serious, these poor animals are terrified of everything, including their own shadows. It is like they have been in solitary confinement, and are unsure of what the outside world holds.

As they do their ninja moves throughout the orchard, well the two foot in front of the gate, as they have not ventured any further, they are amusing. However, they have two incredibly strange habits which cause use the most humour. Where they lay and where they sleep! these two factors cause me to chuckle, and I know its not their fault, but it is funny.

I understand that the batteries are used to small confined spaces which is why they feel comfortable sleeping in the furrow. For those not in the farm lingo know, the furrow is like a small, narrow ditch, which runs through the orchards to allow water to run freely through the farms. Thankfully at this time of year it is dry, however, unless they change their sleeping habits soon, they are going to get wet.

Now laying, I am used to feral chickens that lay everywhere, however, the batteries do it in style, as they lay EVERYWHERE. Thankfully in a two foot radius, making it easy to find the eggs! however, they just stand up and lay an egg. So wherever, they are stood, there will be an egg, which includes, by the water, in the food, in the furrow, by the gate, under trees, you are getting the picture now!

Unfortunately, this has made it easier for the egg thief to strike (see previous blog) causing me to have to perform an egg check every ten minutes! Whoever said farm life was easy, has obviously never lived here, however, they are good layers and they are now part of our mad world!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Capturing the egg thief

We had noticed that occasionally when we went to collect the eggs from the top nesting boxes there were a couple that had been smashed and the contents stolen. At first I put this down to clumsy chickens, and if you ever meet mine you will see why I consider them clumsy! However, these were either the most clumsiest of chickens, or something else was breaking and stealing the eggs.

I considered that it may be a chicken breaking the egg for food, as this can be a common problem, however, finding the culprit would be a challenge. How are you supposed to tell which chicken stole the egg? I asked a friend this question, and wisely he answered " she will be the one with egg dripping down her beak" He also advised collecting the eggs as often as possible, however, I pointed out that surely the chickens would have the "inside" information regarding egg production as they are the ones laying the egg.

I wasn't convinced that we had an egg eating chicken, and continued to ponder other possibilities, then one day we found a lizard in the nesting box, and considered this to be our egg thief. It made sense the lizard had discovered an all you could eat buffet at his fingertips. We knew there was no way to stop the lizards other than collecting the eggs regularly.

We seemed to have out witted the lizards as there have been no breakages for a while...until we caught the real thief. Our cats follow us everywhere including through the orchards, so when Diablo our smallest one decided to follow us one day and jump onto the nesting boxes this was normal. However, Diablo proceeded to jump in the nesting box, and gently tap one of the eggs against the side of the box until it smashed.

Next, he sat quite happily licking his golden prize, until there was no more egg, and only the smallest amount of yolk on his nose and whiskers! Well we found the animal with the egg dripping down their face, who would have thought it would have been a cat. However, in this mad house, nothing surprises me any more!

Where does the water go?

The duck pond vanishes every day and I often wonder where the hell the water goes, and before someone says it no we don't have a leak! I know the sun evaporates a lot, but I'm sure the ducks are drinking it, which is gross as I've seen the colour of the duck pond. The expression "like a duck to water" is often used, however, until you see the ducks in action, you will never fully understand what people mean.

Ducks are incredibly messy and they do like to make a mess of everywhere, including the pond, I thought my daughters room was disgusting, but the ducks make her room look like a palace. They poop everywhere and it is liquid, therefore, their bodies must absorb a huge amount of the water, and transform it into stinky poop.

Our ducks have been here now for over 2 months and they have grown into monster ducks, who care about three things in life: each other, food and water. They have drinking water and when they first arrived they would drink a pint in an hour, which is an achievement. Maybe ducks believe that they need to drink the recommended 8 glasses a day to remain healthy, however, they drink far and beyond that in a day.

I worked out that if I was to drink the same amount proportionally as my ducks, I would need to drink 150 gallons of water a day, which would mean I would never be off the toilet! God I thought 8 glasses was difficult, unless coffee is added. So, if the ducks aren't drinking the water, where the hell is it going? Obviously some of the water leaves the pond when they do their daily water aerobics up and down the pond.

The ducks are incredibly funny to watch as they splash and dive, which probably explains where the water is going, and as they enjoy drinking their own body weight in stinky water, which according to Google is natural I will leave them to it. Filling the pond daily, gives me the time to watch them perform and show off, so I don't mind really.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pig wrestling

Peppa has an incredible ability of getting out of her pen, usually just as we are walking out of the door! A bit like the way that a baby always throws up on you just as you have got changed...we considered her pen to be secure, but as she is getting larger, and her curiosity is growing she finds the strangest ways to escape.

Now escaping is one thing, but chasing her around an orchard is getting boring, and she thinks it is a fantastic game. We have considered allowing her to run around, but I am concerned that if she gets out of the orchard, the road is her next place, and she would make huge road kill!! Therefore, we have to catch her, which is not an easy task.

Peppa thinks the whole thing is an exciting game, where she runs around head butting chickens, eating the irrigation system and causing havoc, oh yeah that is the other reason she cant wander freely, she destroys everything in her path! As Peppa is growing she is becoming boisterous, which is no fun when you are faced with a 25kg pig.

If you have ever tried to round a pig up, you will know that it is like an Olympic event, where you need speed, agility, and to be completely crazy. Whatever direction you head in, Peppa runs in the opposite, and just as you get near her, she runs off. We always start off calm, calling her name, and trying to persuade her that her pen is better. However, within a short space of time I am usually threatening to stick an apple in her mouth, and throwing a feed bucket at her.

Thankfully my daughter is fearless when it comes to the pig, either that or too lazy to run around after her for hours. She quite often grabs the pig, in a rugby tackle manoeuvre, and carries  her back to the pen, which at the moment is possible, however, I'm not too sure that in a few weeks it will be as Peppa is expanding rapidly.

Operation build Peppa a new pen needs to commence soon, before she becomes too large to rugby tackle, and too boisterous to control. Anyone that ever thinks these animals are good pets needs their heads testing, she is a smelly, loud, lump of lard......but she is quite funny too watch :-)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A new life

My egg demand had increased so much that I needed more layers, and altogether I had many chicks they would not be laying for at least six months so the search for chickens begun. My knowledge of chickens knew that the best layers, and the cheapest birds were battery hens.

I spoke tot he chicken guy and ordered my 20 new chickens, which he assured me would be able to a) fit in my car b) lay eggs and c) look OK. We had to travel up the island to get the chickens, to an area which is not the nicest, and is considered to be one of those areas, that if you stop your car for too long the local kids will steal your wheels.

After getting really lost, we found the "dodgy" looking place which the chicken exchange was taking place. All that was going through my mind was would the policia find our bodies when the locals killed us and chopped us up into small pieces. However, in all fairness to the guy he is a helpful bloke, looking to earn a living like the rest of us, he just does his in odd ways.

Three small boxes were bundled into my car, at this point I doubted his counting abilities, as I would be surprised if all my chickens were there. However, didn't want to insult him, and had a general chat, where he told me that he had selected the best chickens for me, and only a few were missing feathers. We went onto to discuss ducks, bunny farming and "jiggy jiggy"...why do I end up discussing that subject with every Spanish man I come into contact with.

The journey home, was cold as the aircon had to up on full blast, and the smell was disgusting, however, we drove home with our new additions and anticipation of our "good condition" chickens. When we reached home, the boxes were placed into the orchard and slowly we opened the boxes...I took a step back and was shocked, which if you know me that takes a hell of a lot to achieve.

The emaciated 20 chickens that were in front of me, looked awful, beyond anything I have ever seen before. If these were good chickens, god forbid what a bad chicken would look like. The chickens stood in their boxes not knowing what to do, as we slowly tipped them out they stood and starred at the ground, with this puzzled look on their faces.

These chickens had never seen daylight, never felt dirt under their feet, and never had freedom to walk. They had been kept in cages the size of an A4 piece of paper, and through boredom had pecked their own feathers off. At this moment I understood why people campaign tirelessly to stop battery factories, and how every time all of us pop to the supermarket to buy our eggs, we are helping to put these animals in this condition. I am grateful that I could save these 20 from a non existent life, and will go back for more in the future.....

Friday, 27 July 2012

Nosey neighbours

People who know me well will understand this blog post more than others, as what might seem like friendliness to many people, irritates the hell out of me. My husband thinks that I should have  a Tshirt printed that says "Does not play with other humans well" and as I get older I tend to agree. I moved to cul de mundo to escape fraggles, tourists and anyone I do not want to speak to, however, I seemed to have moved to the core of nosey neighbours. I have decided that I need to learn how to deal with the neighbours without resorting to violence! 

Where our finca is you can only just see it if you stand on one leg, and squint through the bushes, however, we seem to have many people that find that a normal daily activity. Now, I would understand it if we were doing anything exciting, but picking fruit, or watering trees is not in my opinion very exciting. However, we are the talk of the village, and people will comment with "ooooo I saw you in the orchard" errr yeah I live there, now if they said "ooooo I saw Colin farrell in the orchard" that would be interesting.

In all fairness to the Spanish that live near us, they tend to point, laugh and grumble amoungst themselves, which I can cope with. They are stood over the road, on the gossip bench, and im sure i am not alone in their daily discussions. However, it is the few British that live near us that obviously have not had the nosey streak knocked out of them! 

There are several different forms of nosey neighbour, these include the passive snoops and the gargarrulous gossips. I have both near me, and god they drive me insane, to the point that I have been quite rude, but these people must have been born with thick skin, and no brains as they stand they smiling like some village idiot. 

Passive snoops are the ones that find any excuse to "have a nose" they observe every time we leave, who is in the car, how long we have gone for, and how long I am in the orchard. I can imagine this woman sat on her terrace with her bowl of popcorn on her lap and her binoculars primed. On the other hand the gossips are not ashamed about what they tell you, and if they don't know the facts then they make it up! (come on we all know one of these) They are the first t comment on anything, including every mundane task that happens.

Unfortunately, I have a combination of both that lives near me, and I have considered killing her, and burying the body in the barranco. I find nothing ruder than turning up on my drive un-announced and proceeding to plonk yourself on my sofa. This woman thankfully has only got in once, but she took 3 hours to remove, how many times can one person say " I have loads of work to do, shouldn't you be going

In the three house she gossiped, moaned, bitched and generally asked so many questions that my head hurt, and I was picturing how to shut her up with a heavy object. We now have the gates secured tightly, and she cannot get in, however, she does find time to stand at the post boxes waving like a mad woman trying to get an invitation back. 

Don't get me wrong the Spanish create a wonderful community, where people know each other and help when they need to. However, there are one or two that detract from the general nice feeling, and create this distrustful emotion. Unlike many I will say something, and I am sorry if I offend, but life is to short to tolerate stupid people, with nothing better to do than gossip. So, if you turn up at my place, remember I am like a vampire, you have to be invited, to be welcome!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Finally duck eggs

There was a huge event yesterday, for some it may not seem like a big deal, but for us it was excellent....we got our first duck egg! The ducks were bought to produce eggs, which we are hoping to transform into ducklings. Our ducks are still too young to lay eggs, however, Lucy our new addition has begun to lay well.

Lucy is yet another one of the many animals that appeared after a trip to the garden centre, however, on this occasion it was the garden centre man that asked us to take Lucy. On one of our many visits to the magical place of all things weird AKA the garden centre, my son spotted a duck, just one lonesome duck, no water no house just a duck.

The owner explained that Lucy was there to lay eggs, and he proudly showed us the big pile of eggs in a bush that she had layed. With this we enquired why they were there and he explained that he didn't like to eat the eggs, and he was hoping that she would sit on them and have ducklings. Now without wanting to insult his intelligence, we gently asked where the male duck was to help with the duckling process.

At this point I think he realised that he was missing the essential element of the baby making process, however, he knew we had a male duck. Lucy was offered to us, to take home and in his words "jiggy jiggy" with Billy! Pimping my duck out was a whole new area of farming, but we thought what the hell, Billy already had three female ducks, what harm would another do, apart from make him very tired!

So, Lucy came to live with us, but no eggs appeared, every day we checked and no eggs, back onto Google I went and searched for possible reasons, but in the end felt that it was just nature, and we had to wait. In a last attempt I got my husband to make Lucy her own nesting box within the duck house, and hey presto a duck egg appeared.

We are now the proud owner of two eggs, nestled safety in the nesting box, and as we wait patiently for more, lets hope that Lucy wants babies as much as us, and that Billy is not firing blanks!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Mango Allergy

We have hundreds of mango trees, which are full of fruit making them the perfect way to make money. Harvesting has begun, and we have all spent hours picking and boxes the mango's for various different places. However, this could be an issue in the future as it appears I am allergic to Mangos!!! Only me, and yes I am allergic to the sap, leaves, branches and skin of the fruit....fanf**kingtastic!

A couple of weeks ago I woke up and my head was the size of a small country, my lips, eyes and throat were swollen, and I was covered in hives. For two days I tolerated the itching and swelling, however, it got a lot worse and I ended up in hospital. The doctor was horrified at the size of my head, as was I and prayed that no one I knew saw me!

The hospital confirmed that I had an acute allergic reaction to something, and to avoid it in the future....well not knowing what it was this was going to be tricky. I blamed the fact that I had left the house for a long period two days previously, my son blamed drinking my best friends Desperado...(sorry will replace) and my husband blamed the cheap Baileys I had consumed...it was none of the above.

Just as my head begun to shrink, a week later it exploded back up and the itching was unbearable, this had to be something that I come into contact with every week. Then it dawned on me like a penny dropping through the money machine..clunk...clunk...clunk.it had to be Mangos!!! Sure enough through the power of Google it seemed I was not alone, and that millions of people suffer from the same allergy, however, I bet they don't live on a mango farm,

Mangos contain Urushiol, which is the same as poison ivy, and when this substance comes into contact with your skin it can have the same unbearable results as dancing through a patch of poison ivy! Surprisingly I can still consume Mangos, and once washed and dried I can touch them. However, I can no longer wander through the orchards, or help to harvest them without gloves on.

My husband has been his ever supportive self, which involved a huge amount of laughter and then the realisation that he may have to harvest all the Mangos by himself...he offered to buy me a bee keeping suit, so I can continue to pick the fruit....

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ice cubes anyone?

OK, every day my husband considers that I have reached a new level of insanity, however, this morning I excelled myself. We have been struggling with the heat out here, and the calima seems to be relentless this time. Therefore, I have to think of ways to ensure that everything has fresh clean water all day, and also make the ground bearable for the chickens to walk on.

Only last week one of the chicks died, and when we discovered him, his feet were all burnt from the intense heat. These animals do everything possible to stay out of the heat, however helping them is a huge priority, but it must be done in cost effective ways.  Trying to combine natural methods, with cheap ways to keep everything cool is a priority.

I was sent a fantastic link yesterday by a friend of mine in the UK, outlining how to make mint ice cubes for the chickens. Its not as crazy as you may think, and as I grow fresh mint, this seemed like an excellent idea....hence why my husband thought I was mad when he walked into the kitchen this morning to find me chopping mint, placing it in ice cube trays and topping up with water.

Innocently he asked what I was doing, which typically does end in a bizarre answer, and today was no different when I smiled, and replied "making ice cubes for the chickens!" at this point he shook his head, smiled back and wandered off chuckling....he who mocks!

So off to the freezer went the ice cubes, until they are set and ready for the chickens... apparently the fresh mint has excellent cooling properties. With the ice cubes set and placed into a bowl, I entered the orchard obviously more excited than the chickens. They stared at the latest offering from the mad woman, and slowly begun to peck at the ice. I decided that even if they didn't like the ice cubes, it would keep the chickens distracted for long enough to stop all escape attempts!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Escaping chickens

I spend many long hours pondering how to keep my chickens in, and sometimes feel like the lady from the movie Chicken Run. Patrolling up and down the fence watching for escaping chickens, muttering "No chicken escapes from our farm". I want to keep my chickens contained in the orchards, and like the idea of setting up a similar environment to a prisoner of war camp.

There have been many times where I have threatened the chickens that chicken pie will be their fate, if they do not lay enough eggs. Pacing up and down the fence, I feel like a prison guard, waiting for the under achievers to jump out and beg for forgiveness. Due to my harsh regime, and pie threatening manner, I'm sure that the chickens sit in their trees planning how to escape.

Now, it isn't every chicken, and like all large groups there are only one or two which are the main trouble makers. Thankfully, I know exactly which chickens these are, as being the stupid creatures they are, they can jump/fly out but cannot get back in to the orchards. Therefore, we often find the rogue chickens stood at the gate waiting to be let back in to POW camp.

As I make the chickens perform the walk of shame back into the orchard, threatening them with the pie fate, I'm sure that they begin to mutter amongst themselves. You can see the others rush over to the escaped prisoner, wondering what is so a magical on the other side of the fence. Who knows why some of the chickens feel the need to escape daily, however, I will win the war, and contain the chickens...regardless of the mutterings of, "I don't want to be a pie, I don't like gravy"

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Lazy Sunday mornings!

I remember a time that our Sundays would be full of lazy mornings in bed, followed by not a great deal else, and spending time together. How things have changed in such a short space of time...and now my Sundays like every other day are filled with chaos and early mornings.

Today is the perfect example, we need to pick 60kg of mangos for the market next week, and stupidly we have been putting this task off. Therefore, it has to be done NOW...it has been so hot recently that mango picking has not been top of my priorities, and typically I have no choice now.

Getting everyone up and organised in this house is a task which takes, threats, bribery and a lot of shouting, and this Sunday morning is no different. As I drag my arse out of bed and head for the coffee, I am trying to encourage everyone else to get up and venture into the orchards to pick mangos, as you can imagine the levels of enthusiasm are incredible.

Don't get me wrong I love my life, and the mangos make us money, however, what I wouldn't give for along lay in, watching crap TV and drinking coffee in bed...oh well better get on and finish the mangos, and venture into the chaos I call my life...on a brighter note we are off to the animal market later....I wonder if they have elephants hmmmm

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Playing farm......

I had a debate the other day with my dad regarding my little slice of paradise, as he argued that what I had was not a farm. Now I grew up on a farm, and we had animals, crops, and a hell of a lot of land, however, I consider what I have now to be the same but far smaller. My dad claims that I am "playing farm" and that I will get bored soon as I have the attention span of a knat!

This debate went on for a while, and my dad did have some clear points regarding what a farm was in his mind. As he begun to ask about our little farm, he begun to chuckle, as I explained what we did and didnt have. My dad is very old school, and believes that all farms should have a farmers wife, with a checked shirt, rosey cheeks and a piece of straw hanging out of their mouth, this is of course is not me!

I was smiling down the phone, as I wandered through the orchards in my shorts and flip flops thinking he would shudder at the thought of any "farmer" wearing such attire. However, his most adamant points about why we weren't a farm were clear.

Apparently, my dad had a list of what he considered to be a REAL farm, and he wanted to share this like a machine gun firing questions at me. Whilst snorting occasionally with that disapproving tone, which only fathers have. In his mind the biggest issue was I did not get up at 4am to milk cattle...errr hello dad we don't have any cows! and although I get up at 6am...4am is a stretch too far! 

His other comment included that I did not "work" on my farm full time, and did not have a tractor! At this point I got defensive, as I consider that what I do is full time, and hard work, and soon came back with why I considered this to be a farm. These reasons included:

There is dirt, which usually ends up on my jeans and under my nails
The animals out number the humans by over 5 to 1
My chickens lay eggs, which we eat or sell
and most importantly, it looks like a farm, and smells like a farm!

These were my reasons and I was sticking to them, now I get my strong head from my father, therefore, he came back witht he argument that if I could justify why we had the animals we do he would back down and admit we had a farm! I knew this was my chance, all I had to do was justify the animals and their purpose, easy right?

Chickens, for the eggs and meat....he agreed one to me
Ducks, for the eggs and cute ducklings...eggs yes, cute ducklings not very farm like
Peppa, for meat....big win for me
Cats, to keep mice and rats away...although mine don't but he doesn't need to know that
Dog, to keep all the animals safe , and every farm needs a dog!!
Rabbits, they are soft and cute....I feel I'm losing the argument now
Goats, they eat weeds! oh and are cute...

At this point I thought maybe he was right and I was in fact "playing farm" oh well its my game and I'm enjoying it :-) 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Building a disabled ramp

There are several things that I never thought I would hear myself say, however, when I asked my husband to build a disabled ramp for the duck, I knew I had hit a new level of insanity. It was actually my best friends idea to build Nellie (the cripple) her own ramp to get in and out of the pond, so I hold her responsible for planting that seed of insanity.

When we bought the ducks from the animal market, I used my expert duck buying skills and decided that yes they were in fact cute, yellow and ducks! OK, maybe there should have been more knowledge used, and we may not have a disabled duck. As the ducks were bundled into the box no one noticed that one of the duckings legs was bent at a funny angle.

We got home and opened the box and let the ducks out onto their new pond, and at this point I noticed that the little ducking had an odd bent leg. Off I went to my office to seek help and support from Google! who is god in our house, Google saves the day on many occasions alongside coffee! After much research it appeared that this bent leg was common in ducks, and we had three options...A) ignore it and let her cope, B) break the leg, splint it and hope or C) find her a nice plum sauce and some pancakes...

Nobody liked the idea of B or C, therefore A was chosen, and I even consulted with our vet who did suggest a fourth option and provided me with a nice recipe for orange sauce. So Nellie became our cripple duck, and she learnt to get around. However, as she begun to grow, I noticed that she was struggling to get into the pond, which was her safe haven.

In the pond she was like all the other ducks, and her disability was not evident, much to my husbands disappointment, as he wanted to see her swim around in circles! (you have to know him, to understand his sense of humour) Therefore, we had to find a way to get her in the pond easily, which is where the brain storm idea from my friend was suggested...a disabled ramp into the pond.

Nellie has her ramp, and uses it every day which is good, and although she is smaller than the other ducks, may never lay eggs for us, and is odd looking, she is part of the family. Also, she fits in well in this mad house we call home!

Its all in a name...

Naming animals has always been a challenge, and now we have rather a lot the choice appears to be getting smaller. There are several different ways to go about naming animals, however, the one thing I have learnt over the years is never leave this to your children. Small people always have a logic that is confusing, and your new pet will end up with a slightly bizarre on in our case strange names.

Now, we have had several animals over the years, with four children all wanting different pets, this lead to several hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, dogs and fish being purchased. Added with the fact we now have the pig, goats, ducks and chickens to name our available choices are becoming limited. Especially as we have lost several animals along the way...

My daughter when she was younger wanted a hamster, mainly because her older brother had one, unfortunately, she was like the serial killer of small domestic animals, and although she didn't intentionally kill the 4 hamsters, 3 rabbits and 2 guinea pigs, we did stop purchasing her these animals. What they died of, we will never know, but one theory was it was due to the awful choice of name.

Allowing a small child to choose the name for the new pet is a disaster from the start, and we had the evidence. My daughter choose the most stupid names including sooty, fluffy, bowwow, cat, Cecil, and stew (for the rabbit) after several bad name choices, this role was taken over by our youngest son, who in all fairness didn't do much better.

Therefore, the naming role was deemed to be yet another mummy job, and through guidance the children think they choose the names, but thankfully a sensible adult is at hand (daddy) There is always logic behind the name, although this may not be evident at first. Our current animals are called.....Felix (cat food) Yoda (youngest son is mad on star wars and Darth didn't suit the white cat) and Diablo..(you only have to meet him to know why)

Jack and Jill the goats...well we did spend hours in the car debating names that went together, and they nearly became flip and flop! Peppa the pig, well bacon seemed a bit harsh, Billy, Lucy, Jessica, and Nellie (the cripple) again you have to meet the duck to understand..the other names, who knows what is good for a duck...hoppity and bunny although this changes on a daily basis...

Now, the chickens were harder to name, and with over 60 of them I do draw the line at naming all of them, however, it does make it easier when you are trying to have a conversation in the orchard. Or you end up going round in circles, so we ended up with Houdini (always escaping) domino (her sister and we preferred this to dynamo) vicious muma (trust me once encountered you will know why, although I often refer to her as that f**king chicken) honeybun (or bitch to her friends) we then have Ruthie, Mcfly, G and Mark (this is what happens when you allow friends to name the chicks) the thirteen (although there is only 12 now)

As with everything here in our mad world, Google is often used, alongside other technical methods such as "oh god I don't know" Thankfully we didn't have this much stress choosing our children's names, although there were some strange choices there as well...Thankfully when I came off the gas and air I realised Yasmine Summer was not a good choice for our daughter!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Peppa is food not friend...

When we moved in here we wanted to try and be self sufficient, which would always mean eating some of our own animals. For me this was never an issue as I had grown up on a farm, and understood exactly where my meals come from, however, it soon became apparent that other people would not see this the same way we did.

I did my research and worked out that from a small piglet, we would get over 45kg of meat, which is a huge amount of pork. This would save us a massive amount, and provide top quality pork, which was hand reared and organic. Making the decision to eat one of your own animals does not happen over night, and you need to ensure that you are comfortable with the process.

You have to learn from the beginning that the pig is a food growing process and at the end of it the animal will need to be slaughtered. Now, before, you all think that I have lost the plot and want to re inact a scene from the latest slasher movie, I had no intention of butchering the pig. She will be collected and returned to me in bite size pieces.

Some people feel this is double standards and if I am not prepared to kill the animal, then what gives me the right to eat her. Well if that is the case every supermarket would go out of business, as 90% of people who shop there have no idea where the meat comes from. People told us not to name the pig, but why not she was part of our family for the five months she would be here, the clear difference was Peppa is food not a pet.

From the moment I posted pictures of Peppa the emails begun, how I was cruel, wrong and they couldn't believe that I was going to kill a pet. Believe me she is funny, entertaining, and fun at times, however, we have no use for a 45kg pet, so once she is ready she will go off to be butchered. As I pointed out to many people, one way or another they are doing exactly the same thing every time they buy the bacon for their sandwiches.

Surely it is better to know where your food comes from, what it ate growing up, and how it was slaughtered? Buying your pork from the supermarket may be far easier, and allows you to pretend that it is different, however, I know that Peppa is living in pig paradise, compared to the pigs which are mass produced for meat, so next time all you complainers bite into your bacon sandwiches, consider who is actually being cruel!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Coping with the heat.....

We have a calima here at the moment, (suspended dust throughout the air, causing intense heat) which we get quite often throughout the year, however, trying to cope with all these animals is tough. The air is incredibly hot, and it makes everything far harder to cope with on a daily basis.

Making sure that all the animals have enough water is a huge challenge, and watching the chickens pant is odd. The first time I saw them standing there panting, I wondered what on earth they were doing, however, they really do pant. Just as a cat or dog would, they stand with their mouths open panting. Unfortunately the heat is not good for the chicks, and we often lose one or two when this intense heat hits us.

All the animals have their own way of dealing with the heat, which usually means they head for cover, lay on the floor, or stand/sit in water.  This morning I was reading the best ways to help cool the chickens down, and the drastic measures people have gone to for their feathered friends. It never ceases to amaze me what people will do for these animals.

One website was selling air conditioning units and fans for chicken coops! Now I love animals, but I feel this is one step too far, and not a route I will be going down. Therefore, my chickens will need to be happy with the extra water, the sprinklers going on for longer, and the trees to hide in and cool down. If they want more, they may need to take advice from Peppa who sits in her water trough to keep cool, or diablo who lays on the floor for his power nap.

Wardrobe malfunction

After a day on the beach (yes I do leave the mud and the chaos occasionally) I realised that I still had to pick the last of the mangos for the market. With this in mind, and stupidly thinking it would be a quick job I decided that this job could be done in flip flops, shorts and a bikini top. This proved to be a huge mistake, much to the neighbours amusement.

Now fruit picking is not as easy as you may think, and it is never a case of simply wandering though the tress, slowly picking the fruits off the trees, as they are never all the same height. You need to be mastered in the art of contortion, and know how to use a fruit picker. The fruit picker is a basic pole with a bag on the end of it, which sounds straightforward, however, you need to be able to position this and convince the fruit that it wants to be in the bag.

On a normal day I allow myself plenty of time to pick the mangos, which results in mild cursing, and 60% of the fruit ending up where it is supposed to be, however, on this occasion I was hot, rushed and not in the mood to be in an orchard speaking sweetly to a mango.

I got on with the task in hand, and was filling the crates quite happily, when our neighbours begun to shout and wave. Now this happens quiet often, as they think we are mad. We have discovered that we are the local entertainment, however, I don't really care, and love to wave back and smile. This worries them more, and will often cause them to wander off back into their houses.

However, today they didn't go anywhere, and continued to wave, which became annoying rather than funny. Now my Spanish is not brilliant, and they know this, so often hand gestures and charades are played to communicate. as I stood watching the old guy grabbing his chest, I wondered if he was having a heart attack...then the penny dropped and I realised that my left breast had in fact slipped from the very small bikini that I had chosen to pick fruit in, and was on full display to the crowds!

At this point I grabbed my mangos, shouted gracias and delved deeper into the orchard, to fix the wardrobe malfunction, and wonder how long I would be the talk of the village!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Putting the kids to bed

When my children were younger, they used to have to go through an evening ritual of being put to bed, which could take hours, thankfully as they aged this got quicker. Now they are older, they put themselves to bed, which means I can sit on the sofa, glass of wine in hand and shout occasionally "are you in bed"

However, since moving here, bedtimes have become a very long event, and a process that I do question sometimes. Due to the fact that we have several small animals including day old chicks, which are a favourite food of the night time rats, we have to ensure that every single last one is in a nesting box, under their mums..

Many would say why bother, and there are times when I think the same, but I know that if I don't check they are all tucked up, I would sit upstairs pondering their fate. Within an hour I would have imagined every nasty scenario, and end up having to go down with a torch to check. Now checking chicks in the dark is far harder, and scarier, therefore, just getting on with it seems the better option.

So, every evening one of us has to go down, and do the bedtime circuit of making sure that the ducks, chicks, Peppa and the goats are in bed...this often feels like an episode of the Walton's as I stand in the drive saying goodnight to everything. I suppose this is just part of being responsible for all these animals....howeevr, saying goodnight to them, just proves I am going slightly mad!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Ducks truly are disgusting creatures

When we got the ducks, they were small bundles of fluff, and were incredibly cute, from the moment they came home they were funny, entertaining...but so messy! Again I hadn't really researched much about ducks, it had been the typical googling session in the car, on the motorway, on the way home with the animals in a box.

This method is proving to be quite successful, however, I do tend to skip bits as the screen on my Blackberry is quite small, and I have the attention span of a knat!, therefore, I tend to read, shelter, food, life expectancy and miss many of the vital parts..i.e how smelly ducks are!

Once we got our new buddles of joy home they jumped in the pond, entertained us for hours, and very quickly covered everything in duck poop! Now I fully understand that a duck needs to poop, but they do it everywhere, in their house, on the rocks, on the grass, and in the pond.

The pond is the biggest place I have an issue with, as the poop and water seem to have a chemical reaction and make the smell even more toxic. They very quickly turned their lovely water into a mass of green, sludge, very much like a giant new born babies nappy!

This unfortunately means that we have to clean out the pond quite often, and usually put this job of until the stench is too bad. At this point, we usually have many discussions about research, and why we didn't have a pump fitted to the pond. As we roll our sleeves up and begin emptying, I look at the ducks, and wonder would they look silly in little duck nappies!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

People used to bring me flowers...

I can remember at one time people used to bring me gifts of flowers, or chilled bottles of wine, however, these days I have bags of scraps. Now for normal people this would seem incredibly strange, in fact, for me I think it is odd as well. However, the Spanish think this is a normal day to day activity, and I can imagine them popping over to the neighbours and enquiring if they have a bag of scraps they can borrow.

Now before everyone rings social services, and declares we are on the poverty line, the scraps are of course for Peppa, who does consume her own body weight in food on a daily basis. When we first got the pig everyone kept saying just feed it scraps. I am puzzled though by the fact that these people think we can produce enough scraps to feed this ever growing pig.

If you have ever met my family you will know that they love food, and will fight for the last remaining pieces on each others plates. Therefore, our scrap bucket is often a pathetic offering, which wouldn't feed a duck let alone a growing bacon machine. Therefore, we are always grateful for these strange food parcels turning up (although wine would be rather nice as well!)

We have also discovered that the Spanish think nothing of it when you casually drop into a conversation at the end of a meal, "do you have any scraps for my pig" the waiters will very kindly pop off and return with a bag full of left over meals....it does ponder the question, why were these left laying around in the first place!

So, if you find yourself passing by my finca, or see me in the street, I wont be offended if you offer me some stale bread, or last nights dinner, and Peppa will really appreciate every mouthful.

Chickens are not as dumb as first thought

Chickens are not the most intelligent creatures on the planet, after all they push an egg out of their bum every day and are rewarding for this with corn, and eventually death. However, I feel that when it comes to chickens I really did get the dumbest of the bunch. As in my previous post my chickens lay everywhere including in cactus's so we discovered the other day.

My feral chickens are intent on having as many chicks as possible, I have no idea why as they don't get any more benefits from having money children, and don't move up the council house list. Therefore, they just like having babies. Every time I say no more, we find them with more chicks, I wonder if they do birth control pills for chickens. Now we usually find the chickens and transport them back to the maternity wing, after having risked life and limb to save these dumb creatures, however, yesterday one chicken amazed me. 

It started like any other normal day, which actually means it was total chaos, and I was attempting to do five things all at one. Now not a day goes by when I don't hear mummmmmmmmmmmmmmy screamed at some point, and this day was no exception. Up to my elbows in lemon curd (that's another blog) I hear my name. I pray that it is something simple that I can deal with easily, not having to leave the kitchen.

My son is shouting "mummy there is a chicken stood at the main gates with her chicks waiting to get in" now knowing that chickens are stupid, this really didn't seem possible, so I answered with a "are you sure" he continued to informed that there was a chicken, and should he let her in. I have taught my children not to let strangers in the gates, however, does a chicken count?

I deserted my lemon curd, and stomped down the drive, thinking how I was going to kill my son for bending the truth, however, to my shock there was a chicken stood with her 11 chicks waiting to be let in! everyday when I think I have seen it all, these creatures amaze me some more. Maybe they aren't as stupid as first thought, as she knew exactly where to bring her babies, for free food, and housing....sounds like a few people I know in the UK!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What not to wear on a finca!

I often ponder the question what is suitable attire for living on this finca, and no matter what I choose it seems to be wrong. Now farms in the UK have the issues of mud and rain, which usually qualify for wellies and boots, however, here I not only have mud, and water but I also have the heat! I also have an issue with wellies as I look stupid!

Now, I have never been an expert on fashion, and wouldn't class myself as girly, however, I do draw the line at looking like a frump. Sorry but wellies have this affect on woman, as my 16 yr old daughter proves, every time she puts hers on I cringe, and think she looks awful, however, they do save the expensive trainers that she used to insist wearing in the orchards.

This leaves me with the difficult question of what do I wear on my feet in the orchards. As a mother I know that my footwear should be sensible, and stop injury, however, I seem to end up in there in flip flops 90% of the time. I do question how this happens, however, I seem to pop in there for one thing, and end up staying, which results in dirty, wet feet.

After numerous cuts and extreme dirty feet, I purchased a pair of boots, now on this island shopping for anything remotely trendy is a challenge. It took 5 shopping trips, many swear words, and leaving the shop with a different pair of boots to the ones I wanted for me to achieve the task of finding suitable footwear. However, these nice new boots, have been worn once or twice, and currently sit on the shoe rack on the terrace. 

The problem with my lovely boots is that it is just too hot! I wear flip flops all year, with any outfit that I own, therefore, making them incredibly versatile, however, not great for mud. I have worn the boots and can see that they are far better and save my feet, however, the flip flops win every time. Maybe I should invent a pair of flip flops that are suitable for farm life, then they would be perfect.

Jack and Jill arrived!

The day finally arrived and I felt like an expectant mother without the contractions, and fear that I would have to push out a bowling ball within a short space of time. The goats were arriving, and everyone was excited. Now in typical Spanish fashion the guy had said 6pm which in all honestly can mean 6pm any day between now and Christmas.

The Spanish have a unique ability of having the worst time keeping in history, and everyone thinks it is ok, by smiling and saying "manana manana" however, this can be incredibly frustrating. Now we have lived here for over 6 years and 80% of the time I can go with the whole always late, never when they say they will however, when I want something I want it NOW!

So there we were sat waiting, and waiting, and waiting, in fact my son sat in the drive screaming random things like, "what time did he say" " are you sure he said today" when are the goats getting here" as only children can when things don't turn up on time... disappointment began to grow as I realised that manana really did mean manana on this occasion.

Suddenly at 9pm a van turned up at our gates and the garden centre man got out with a small box, puzzled I asked what was in the box. As he looked at me as if I was stupid, he told me my goats were in the box of course. Well yeah I would have guessed that anyone could have fitted two baby goats into a Spar box! However, there they were curled up and unsure of their new destiny.

As he tipped the goats onto the drive and announced welcome to your new home, everyone's reactions were the same "awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww" was all that could be heard. Well apart from my husband who appeared and went "god they are small" and wandered off again....in his defence they are tiny, in fact the same size as our Yorkshire terrier! Jack and Jill had arrived in the mad house, oh god what mischief are they going to get up to I wonder!

Monday, 9 July 2012

A new level of mad

My friends will tell you that I am far from normal, and have always done things different. However, when I found myself stood in the orchard the other day whistling for four little chickens called the Famous Four, I knew I had reached a whole new level of crazy!

We have had several batches of chicks over the months, however, the first ones that survived have always been close to our hearts. We have watched them grow from tiny chicks, to small chickens and when they began to try to fly out of the maternity wing, I knew it was time to release them back into the main orchard.

Now like any mother, this was a daunting time, these four looked so small alongside the larger chickens, and my biggest fear was that they didn't roost in the trees like the other birds. Sleeping on the floor in the orchard is a dangerous business, and I didn't want to lose the Famous Four to some wild animal in the night.

The first day we let them out, I watched as they ran out and observed their new playground, and like any small child, they very quickly ran behind me as the large roosters approached. After a few minutes, and some encouraging words they slowly made their way into the big world...

As night time approached I went to the orchard to find them huddled next to the maternity wing door, wanting to go back to the comfort of their cosy box. As I opened the door they ran in and never looked back, this was going to be harder than I thought. This pattern continued for several days where they would leave to explore but every night return to the comfort of the 5 star maternity wing.

After a week the famous four began to get braver, and would venture further and further back into the orchard, so much so, that one day when I went down, they were no where to be seen. I began to panic, had they got out, had they been taken, so, there I stood whistling and calling like a mad woman for four small chickens!

My doubting children stood in the orchard asking what on earth I was doing, and how on earth would chickens come by whistling, but they had forgotten I was the chicken whisperer! (I use this title when it suits me) My mad behaviour paid off, and from behind the trees emerged the famous four looking very pleased with themselves.

That night they didn't wait to be let into the maternity wing, and I thought they had finally grown up and learnt to roost, however, when I went down to check on them, they were quite happily tucked up with the pig in her straw! oh well, they were happy, and what better protector than a 20kg pig in a big pile of mud!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Ooops I did It Again!

I have a very bad habit of going out for one thing and returning with something entirely different. Now this wasn't such a huge issue when we lived in a normal house, and I would pop to the shops for butter and return with coffee. However, now I tend to pop out for say chilli's and return with goats! Which some would say was normal!

My husband has now got to the stage of offering to go out for what we need, in fear of what I return with on my next trip out, however, in my defence it could have been far worse than goats. Just in case you are wondering, no, you cannot get goats in the local supermarket. I popped into the garden centre again, which does seem to be my downfall.

I needed to discuss mango's with him, and had no intention of leaving with any animals, as I entered through the doors, I kept saying be strong! After the mango discussion had been had, the subject swiftly turned to animals....as it always does. As we wandered through his huge array of different animals, he offered me horses, dogs, cats, another pig, all of which  I remained strong and said no.

The problem was he was heading towards the goats, this was my biggest test of strength as these small cute animals are very tempting. The sensible part of me was saying no, what would I do with goats, however, milk, and cheese were popping into my head. I stood my ground for at least 10 minutes, explaining I had no money, and no where to put the goat.

Unfortunately, the garden centre man is fantastic at bartering, and by the time I walked out of the garden centre, I had in fact, agreed to have two goats.....if you are wondering where I suddenly got the money to pay for the goats, I swapped them for mango's of course!! This was going to be a difficult one to explain to the husband, oh well at least I sold the mango's sort of!!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mango Season :-)

Over the last few weeks I have been watching my mangos grow with anticipation of when they would need to be picked. As the trees begun to buckle under the weight of the amount of mango's I had, it suddenly occurred to me I was going to need help and a huge saucepan to make chutney. Now, as everyone knows Google is god, however, on this occasion I thought I needed a human being to guide me on the mango picking process.

We made a call to our friendly garden centre guy, who popped round to advise us on the mangos and mangas as it appeared we had. Now if like me you are a mango novice, you will be forgiven for thinking there is only one type of mango. God, no there are loads, in fact we have five different types of mango's just to make life even more difficult.

After an hour long walk through the orchards, being advised on different mangos, when to pick them, how to pick them, where to store, them, and how to eat them I was left even more confused. However, never one to turn down a challenge, the guy had said that if we picked the mangos's he would sell them at the farmers market.

This was excellent news and meant that we didn't have to eat mangos for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 6 months...the harvesting began, and the crates begun to fill. Fruit picking is far harder than you imagine, and takes a considerable amount of balance and skill. You have to perch yourself on top of  a ladder with a cutter and a fruit picker, and attempt to get the mango in the fruit picker.

Needless to say that this event took far longer than anticipated, however we discovered some monster sized mango's which would be perfect for the market. Three hours later with our 6 crates filled we felt happy, until we reached the orchard gates turned and realised that we had not even touched the tip of the iceberg, and had thousands left to pick...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Oh No Not Again!

Chicks were something that I hadn't really thought about, however, when we found one of the feral chickens and some chicks in a cactus in the barranco one day it was rather exciting. We pondered what to do with these small creatures and their obviously stupid mother, and knew that  we had to get them back to the finca.

We carefully transported mum and babies back home, and released them into what I considered to be a secure pen.Now yet again I am no chicken expert and was seriously confused what to do with these small but rather cute creatures..off to Google I went, and returned with knowledge about food, water and comfort...

The next morning I returned to my new mum and babies to discover they were dead..this was the first moment since arriving that farm life was not fun. Unfortunately my children consider me to be the animal whisperer and an expert on every animal in the world...I would like to clarify that I am not and spend a huge amount of time, saying "I just don't know"

Back to Google and it seems that chicks do just die, this made me feel slightly better, but I was still upset by the fact that these fragile little chicks "just die" rapidly after this we found another mum and babies, and another, and another, and another. One was 80ft up a mountain, another was on the roof...these chickens really are dumb!

We rapidly had to build a maternity wing for our new born chicks and their mums and learnt along the way what we could do with them and what was not good. Some have died, however, more have survived and we now have far too many chicks!! At one time it was exciting to find a batch of little chicks, now we simply groan and say "oh no not again"

Rookie mistake!!

When we arrived on the finca, there were many of the trees that had fruit on them which was an exciting thought. The concept of growing your own produce, and being able to wander through the trees picking the different fruits appeals to many people. Therefore, I was delighted that we had so many different fruit trees to enjoy.

Once I had moved away from the dilema of what to do with the lemons, I noticed that I had ripe mangos...now what to do with them? Being curry lovers the first thing that came to mind was mango chutney. I discovered the perfect recipe, began making this delicious chutney, and was delighted that I had found something that both us and other people would enjoy.

Now, everything that I do is a money making idea, so I set about marketing this delicious mango chutney with huge success. People were ordering the chutney, and more needed to be made, which was not a problem, I had mangos on hand or did I?

Off I skipped to the orchard with my basket in hand and a smile on my face working out the profit margin of a jar of chutney. However, there were no mangos! my first thought was that the Canary Island mango thief had struck, but on reflection this may not have been the right answer. As I walked back to the house feeling rejected and confused, I begun to consider where all the mangos were.

Just like a light bulb it came to me......it wasn't mango season! Living here in GC you learn that everything we grow is seasonal. It is not like Tesco's where you can pop in for some strawberries during December, it has to be the right time of year! Therefore, this was obviously not the right time of year for mangos, on telling my best friend this news she laughed and said "Rookie mistake" and trust me this was not the first we made!

Monday, 2 July 2012

So, what do pigs eat?

Peppa (the pig) was settling in well, however, I was concerned that she was not getting enough food and thought more hours on Google were needed. Everything I googled suggested that pigs will eat everything...now does that mean everything that is edible, or everything that she comes into contact with...

As I ponder this question, I remember reading once that pigs will dispose of bodies very easily, and considered if this could save Peppa from the dinner table, as we put her to work as an assassin. I'm sure there are plenty of people that would pay us for my pig to dispose of their "problems" Do you think this might be illegal??

Anyway , back to the problem in hand, I needed to ensure that Peppa ate enough to fatten her up, and ensure that in five months she would be  the right weight...Scraps was an option, however, if you have ever had dinner in my house, you will soon see that my family leave nothing! The Spanish families gather the scraps from friends and family, however, this is great in theory, until you have a bucket of cold, left overs in your car, which does stink! 

We asked a few restaurant owners we knew for their scraps, which they happily gave us...transporting these caused arguments from the children, who didn't want to be near other peoples left over food...I needed a plan B and fast, Peppa was stood at her pen door, bowl in hand like Oliver asking "For more please"

There was only one solution, I was going to have to cook Peppa lunch....yes I just said I was cooking my pig her own lunch!! Knowing that pigs will eat anything, I thought this should be an easy task, however, it became a daily headache. Will she get bored of potatoes, is she receiving too much starch, is there enough flavour, I found myself debating the pigs lunch for far too long everyday.

Currently she has a daily diet of scraps (if any) fruit mainly papayas as they smell of baby sick, and we cant find anyone that likes them! potatoes, vegetables, fruit and pasta, mixed with pig food....Someone once told me that organic pigs are far healthier, and will taste of what you feed them...I wonder if I feed her curry for the next five months she will taste of Madras...hmmmm now there is a delicious thought.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Lemons...so much more than just decoration in your gin and tonic!

Like many people lemons were a fruit that I would occasionally buy at the supermarket when I needed one for my gin and tonic. However, when we moved here it very quickly became apparent that due to the sheer numbers of this fruit that I had available, I would either need to become an alcoholic, or find some other uses.

Now laying in a pool of gin and tonic does sound appealing, however, I needed to be practical and had to use the huge amounts of lemons that I had ripe and ready to be picked. Cookbook ready, I discovered many different lemon recipes all of which sounded delicious. 

After lemon cakes, lemon meringue pie, lemon sauce, lemon cheesecake and lemons with everything, I turned my attention to lemon curd! this straightforward recipe would surely guarantee to use the lemons and stop me having cold sweats in the night about wasting food, and the many different uses that lemons are excellent for...

After we had eaten and drunk enough lemons to declare ourselves officially bored, I decided to research other things that you could do with lemons... Now, without boring you to death, lemons are an amazing fruit with  a huge array of different health benefits...ok, I've lost you already, but did you now that lemons have a strong antibacterial and immune boosting property. They can aid digestion, and help to cleanse your liver (after all the gin)

I began to see the humble lemon in a different light, and soon realised that this small, yellow fruit was fascinating. It can help with exhaustion, which I am in a permanent state of, and is ideal for anxiety issues, which I didn't have before the lemon issue!

Whether you have a sore throat, calluses, a fever or eczema, lemons are fantasticthey also taste delicious as a lemon drizzle cake...so next time you go to wander past the lemons in the supermarket, consider what else you can do with this humble fruit, other than sliced, alongside the ice...