Thursday, 3 May 2012

Where's the Ark mum?

Well my girls need an Ark today, or perhaps wellies? Just as we'd hoped the sunshine would return in May it appears to have departed on a long vacation.

Our latest rescue ladies are all happy in their Eglu in the polytunnel, snug and dry. The other 13 ladies are not so lucky as they are outside but seem perfectly happy pecking around in the rain or shelter under Pondside Lodge when it becomes too soggy.

Buttons the bunny looks very fed up in her hutch as plans for her deluxe outdoor run are put on hold due to the deluge. We've built it but the ground is so sodden Buttons would need a life jacket before going in!

The kitties are wisely sheltering indoors, mostly snoozing in the laundry basket. Sounds like a good plan to me.

The dogs have returned soggy but happy from a walk with their dad. Heidi the retriever loves water and doesn't mind the rain, but Saffron our Jack Russell is not keen, even wearing her smart red waterproof coat.

Must do a sun dance, please bring back the warmth and blue sky.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Me and my girls

And then there were 17. How did that happen? We left Essex nearly six years ago with our two beloved cats, Marmite and Freddie, but little did we know we'd end up with 17 chickens, two dogs, four cats, a rabbit, two snakes and an axolotl called Squirty Benson Wilberforce III.

We started with two chooks, dear little golden Pekin Bantams called Charlie and Lola (our two girls were quite young at the time, hence the names relating to their much loved TV programme and books of the same name). Charlie is still going strong but Lola went to chooky heaven in the winter. They were closely followed by Hermione and Luna, our absolutely hilarious Polish bantams. Luna is top chook with her beautiful bouffant, while Hermione looks like a punk rocker with only a few feathers on her head. Luna's favourite food is bread or pasta and she runs around the chicken enclosure clucking to the others excitedly when she has a piece of bread/spaghetti in her beak 'you can't catch me, it's all mine!'

Our next pair were Bluebell and Bracken, two blue-laced Wyandottes, the noisiest hens I've ever come across, who told the whole neighbourhood if they were laying an egg. Bracken has sadly joined Lola but Bluebell is going strong although cross-eyed with broodiness and guards the eggs in the large Eglu, fondly known as 'Pondside Lodge' as it has a lovely view of our garden pond. I take Bluebell off the nest every so often so she can remember to eat and drink but she always looks bewildered and waddles back up the steps to her nice warm straw and clutch of eggs. What I love about the eggs is that they're all different sizes and colours.

Next we have our big girls - Hedwig (notice a theme developing here? my girls are just wild about Harry!) yes you've guessed she's big and white. Then we have Princess Elizabeth Banana (don't ask, oh okay do ask, named by my wonderful eldest daughter Phoebe (who also named Squirty the axolotl), Esther, Delia and Sister Wesley.

Our wonderful Little Hen Rescue girls from 2009 are no longer with us, having all passed away happily in the nest box over the years after a very happy retirement. We remember Ginny, Cho, Portia and Titania fondly. Ginny was almost completely bald when she came to us but had the most beautiful reddish brown glossy feathers in no time at all. At around the same time our 2009 ladies passed away, our lovely big black and white chook Delilah also died. RIP girls.

Our 2011 rescue girls are doing well and include Lady Gaga and Lady Luigi (yes, also named by Phoebe), along with Molly and Lily (named by my adorable Rachel, slightly more sensible in her nature).

This weekend's rescue ladies are real sweeties, welcome to the Gee house Miranda (wearing a tabard with sheep on it, bless), Aphrodite, Poppy and Bella. They are living in Bush House, the smaller Eglu, and seem very happy, developing a passion for Marmite sandwiches and pearl barley already.

Night, night ladies, can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Heartache and hope in Haiti

Watching the disaster unfold in Haiti a year ago I was moved to do something in order to make some kind of difference.

We already sponsor two children in Kenya and Sri Lanka through Plan UK and my first thoughts were to call the charity. However, I was informed that due to the chaos on the ground following the massive earthquake it was not possible to do this yet. At this stage I made a donation to Plan's work in the region.

The earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale, is believed to have killed more than 230,000 people and left millions homeless.

Charities such as Plan, the Red Cross. UNICEF, ActionAid and many others continue to work in the Caribbean nation which is suffering from problems with it's water supply, healthcare and sanitation.

I have visited the Dominican Republic, which shares the Hispaniola island with Haiti, and that is certainly poor but at least it has tourism to support its residents, who are some of the happiest people I've ever met. It is hard to imagine the poverty and misery of the Haitians.

Plan contacted me to say I could sponsor a child and a few days later I received a picture of a very serious looking young girl called Love in her best posh frock. My children have written to Love and sent her some pictures. We are excitedly awaiting her reply.

If you are able to please spare a thought for children like Love. There are lots of charities you can support who are still out in Haiti.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Will Branson's Project sink or swim?

Virgin boss Richard Branson launched his latest venture Project, a digital magazine for the iPad, in New York on December 1st and announced to the world it would "sink or swim" in the current turbulent climate.

It is billed as "a revolutionary multimedia magazine built specially for your iPad". You can download the reader app for free at the App Store and then get a full month's worth of content for £1.79.

The iPad-only magazine at first glance is colourful with some great visual and audio effects. For the movie-lovers amongst us it features Jeff Bridges talking about his new film Tron: Legacy.

Debate currently surrounds the magazine's touch-based interface and concerns have been expressed over this as well and whether Apple might bring in subscription options for any other magazines or newspapers in the future on the iPad. So far, reviews in the press have been mixed with some people saying it has left them frustrated,  while others are keen to stress how interactive it is and to praise the effects.

What I like about Project is that it encourages readers and all the bloggers out there to get involved by welcoming their contributions. Key areas in the magazine include: technology, culture, design and science.

Is this the future for magazines and newspapers? The investment of industry heavyweights such as Branson and News Corp's Ruper Murdoch - who is squaring up with his Daily digital publication - suggests that it might be. I've never met Richard Branson but he changed my good friend Lisa's life forever when he introduced her on one of his publicity events to her future husband Mark. They have been happily married for years and now have four beautiful children. Will Branson's latest venture be as fruitful? Only time well tell.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Be inspired by this 'Big Society' app

If you're in the voluntary and community sector then you will know about the work of v, one of the UK's leading youth charities. If not it's worth finding out more.

The charity has just launched a free app which delivers micro-volunteering to your mobile, with more than 6,000 volunteering opportunities listed on the vinspired website.

It's very apt for this time of year. I haven't got time to volunteer I hear you say. Well there are plenty of flexible opportunities which don't need a regular commitment. Fancy taking part in a Santa run, joining a group of carol singers to raise money for a good cause or sharing your business acumen to help young people with their CVs?

I downloaded the app on my iPad and was impressed by how easy it is to use. My search came up with volunteering activities ranging from being a digital switchover good neighbour, costume designer for the RSPB, to being a project leader with READ International or an Ambulance Service First Responder.

If you want to make a difference and be part of 'Big Society' and are not already doing this
(as many of us are) then please take a few minutes to download this app, it might change your life!

The vinspired app can be downloaded from the iTunes store. It works with the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and is free to download.

A catastrophe in Cromer

Let's write a blog I thought. I write for work all the time, my magazine is one rolling blog so how difficult can writing a personal blog be? I'm mad about social media and my chickens. What a combination - so The Musings of a Techno Chook was born.

Today has seen kittens causing disaster. Teddy the tabby loves to jump onto my laptop, remove keys and rotate my outlook and web pages, he really is a 'techno kitty'. Meanwhile, Elvis (brother to Teddy) has knocked a plant and ceramic across the room in his eagerness to see the snowy wonderland out of window.

Our 11 chickens are sheltering from the cold in the garden after the indignity of being covered with vaseline on their feet and wattles to help prevent frostbite. They have enjoyed porridge and grapes for lunch (one of their favourite winter treats).

My wonderful daughters are at school - while many schools across the country are shut - the North Norfolk schools stay open amazingly despite having to travel on treacherous roads to reach them. Hats off to the efforts of head teachers and staff today!

I have been busily editing the winter edition of the magazine run by a national volunteering charity, a job I enjoy immensely but which is likely to be no more next year due to spending cuts. I'm hoping there is an exciting new opportunity out there. I was once called the "paparazzi of the third sector" by the deputy editor of The Guardian when I was covering an event wearing my multi-media hat - any offers anyone?

Next post - a review of a new iPhone app...