As I went out this morning to let the hens into their run, I saw the two straw bales next to it that the Systems Administrator moved last night and remembered I'd said I'd put them inside first thing while the hens were still in their house. I don't like strawing down when the hens are out, partly because I worry about them making a break for freedom through the open door, and partly because I worry about Mr Cool or Mr Fidget nipping inside to further their acquaintance with the hens. Now we're in government ordained poultry lockdown because of bird flu I don't have to worry about whether or not I should let the hens out for another tour round the garden. They do enjoy eating grass and scratching up my flowerbeds, but I do not trust Mr Cool's and Mr Fidget's intentions towards them.
The straw goes some way towards cheering them up, since they can poke about in it looking for insects. Plus, it helps keep their feet clean which is better for their health and in turn helps keep the eggs clean. Finding a source of small bales is always a problem, and I might start saving thin woody prunings to go on the floor of the run to help stop it being churned to mud, but at the moment we do have some straw. One of the bales had burst in transit, and the door of the hen run doesn't open fully due to general age, decrepitude and possibly a basic design flaw (it opens with about as much ground clearance as your average domestic door in a house, only your average house floor is not covered in grass that keeps growing). I got most of the straw in, but quite a lot stayed strewn around the grass outside or stuck to my front. The hens liked it anyway.
After lunch I roused myself to clean their droppings board and put down fresh sawdust. They should appreciate that as well, once they go to bed and notice what I've done. I was pleased to see an article in the Times extolling the intelligence of hens. I have long thought they were quite bright animals.
Apart from that, although the sun was shining, it was too cold to do anything outside. I stuck my nose out a couple of times, drawn by the blue sky and sunshine and lurking suspicion that it was not healthy to go on doing nothing indoors for ever. After all, look where that got Colin in The Secret Garden. But the cold air hurt my chest, my muscles ached, and I had to admit that gardening was going to have to wait to another day. Yesterday it was not so cold, and in the middle of the day I managed to finish wiring up the base of the compost bins, and refill our brown bin with nettle roots so that it should be all ready for when collections finally resume. And I deadheaded the little pots of cyclamen and pansies by the front door, and cut down the dead stems in half of the dahlia bed. But yesterday it didn't feel this cold.
Instead I had a look online for ideas to use up ricotta, but didn't get very far. Approximately half of all recipes for ricotta also include spinach. The Systems Administrator is allergic to spinach. Quite a lot are for cheesecake, but I wasn't sure whether we'd manage to eat a whole cheesecake, even supposing I'd felt like cooking one. Quite a lot more were for lasagne, which was the original plan, but I didn't really feel like messing about with layers of sauce or stuffing pasta tubes, though I suppose the unlikely sounding Brussels Sprouts Lasagne offered by the Huffington Post might have killed two birds with one stone, if the Christmas sprouts are still edible. I certainly wasn't going to start deep frying doughnuts, which was one popular suggestion from the Italian repertoire. Quite a few recipes demanded fresh strawberries: not in this house in January. The possibilities widened after the SA suggested he might go shopping tomorrow, in which case I would not be limited to the ingredients in the fridge, on the other hand buying lots of extra food so that I could use up a pot of cheese that in my heart of hearts I didn't want to cook with felt perverse. Baking it with an egg and some sugar and vanilla and quietly eating it myself for breakfast with some honey (ignoring the serving suggestion of dishing it up with figs) might be easiest. Or maybe just eat it with honey, and ignore the baking bit.