Friday, 27 May 2016

chickens and Chelsea

When I shut the hens last night the old lady Maran was sitting at one end of the perch, and the four little hens were sitting together at the other end, as far away as possible.  All four were still alive and looking quite lively this morning, so they survived their second night.  They were reluctant to come out of the house, though, and I began to worry that they were not getting enough to drink.  I put an ice cream box of water just outside their door, where they could scarcely help noticing it, and they came out.  I soon discovered why they keep upsetting their boxes of water: one of them puts her foot on the side of the container when she drinks.  There's a market there for a topple proof chick drinking bowl.

The old lady continued to take a dim view of them, and I opened the chicken house a couple of times in response to the chorus of tiny frantic peepings to find the old lady Maran glowering over them and doling out the odd peck while they sheltered behind the food hopper.  I glared at her, and she stomped out of the house, so in her heart of hearts she knows she is not supposed to beat babies up.  I bribed her to stay out their way with sultanas, scattering some among the straw of the run in the hope that it would keep her busy for a while looking for them, and threw down some grain so that she could eat without going near the little hens.  Generally I don't feed them in the run any later than breakfast time, so as not to have rat-attracting leftovers at the end of the day.

By late afternoon the tiny hens had made it as far as the proper galvanised drinker, which was a relief.  I gave them some more water in the house when they were holed up behind the food and they upset that as well.  If they and the old lady can come to an understanding that they are allowed to come and drink that will be much easier all round.  Tonight they are perching again, still as far from the big hen as possible, but perching's a start.  It's better than if they were spending the night in the corner on the floor.

The joy of Chelsea is not yet over.  We have been watching the TV coverage, though we are still a day behind, and I was delighted that one of the nurserymen interviewed gave an account of how to overwinter Solanum pyracanthum.  My seed raised plants have started producing proper orange spines, and I am immensely pleased with them, but since they are originally from Madagascar I didn't know if they'd survive in a merely frost free greenhouse.  According to Graham Blunt of Plantbase they will, if kept bone dry through the winter months.  They will defoliate, when Wikipedia describes S. pyracanthum as an evergreen shrub, but come the spring they will grow new leaves.  I have never visited Plantbase, which sounds amazing.  It sells exotic and tropical plants, all propagated on the premises and grown with no more protection than some polytunnels.  Those that can't cope with the conditions die, and some turn out to be hardier than you would think.

It was a pity that in the interview with the designer of the modern slavery garden the questions were almost entirely about how it felt to be the first black woman designer at Chelsea, and not about her show garden.  And apparently all the judges were men.  That was unnecessary: off the top of my head I can think of lots of suitable female candidates to be judges.  Does the RHS not ask them, or do they not want to?

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