Today has felt a bit like the real start of spring. It has been warm, sunny and dry. This afternoon we found the first quail eggs of the year, one from each hutch. The warmer weather and increasing day length should mean more eggs so hopefully we won't need to buy any more eggs from the supermarket.
The last eggs we bought were actually from a house in the countryside just outside Allesley. They were advertised as fresh eggs rather than the free range we normally buy but we needed eggs and were passing so we thought we'd give them a go instead of stopping at Morrisons on the way home.
Today is definitely the sort of day when you don't want to touch any metal flagpoles with your tongue. It was very cold overnight so when I went out to check on the quail this morning, I had to bring their mushroom-shaped drinkers inside to defrost. The water had completely frozen in one of them. The birds seem to be coping with the cold weather ok though. They have shelter and they keep huddling together so they don't get too cold.
When I opened one of the hutches, my I moved the metal bar out of the way so I could open the door, and my hand started to stick to the metal. On a related note, the car door had frozen and was tricky to open. The door handle was very icy and kept sticking open, so the door wouldn't shut properly!
We have had a few days of freezing cold weather, but luckily very little snow. I went into the garden this morning to check on the quail, to make sure they have plenty of food and to make sure their water hasn't frozen.
Moving on to the veg - all of the remaining plants are looking a bit droopy and possibly dead. The parsley is very limp - we will be lucky if it recovers. The leeks have frozen solid. I was examining one pot and a leek snapped off. I have no idea what the garlic is like - all of the pots are frozen solid. I think I will have to harvest everything when the soil starts to thaw.
I planted some broad beans last month but nothing has happened. I expect it is the same story as last year when the beans rotted in the soil. I will try again in the spring.
I checked the compost heap and was surprised to observe that it hadn't frozen. In fact it was slightly warm to the touch. That is obviously a good sign, showing that everything is breaking down well. I gave it a good mix, to let extra oxygen get in and help it along.
I was in the garden watering the vegetables when I saw something round and brown hiding among the beans. I looked closer and noticed it was one of our quail. She must have escaped while they were being fed and neither myself nor Emma noticed. At least the bird had the sense to hide somewhere reasonably safe. She would only have been there a day or two and at least there was plenty of food nearby.
During May, I decided to avoid wheat to see if it would help my psoriasis. After a month there was no improvement. Some people have claimed avoiding dairy can help so last month I decided to avoid both wheat and milk-based products. I kept eating eggs because I don't really consider them to be dairy. They don't even come from cows. Since we keep Quail, if I stopped eating eggs then we would have hundreds of them going to waste.
Eating out made it difficult sticking to the diet but it wasn't to bad when I was cooking at home.
For lunch I usually had oat crackers and either sandwich meat or a tin of fish in sauce (such as tuna, sardines, mackerel or herring). I had to check to make sure the sauce didn't contain wheat or milk derivatives. I was surprised to find a pack of sandwich chicken which listed powdered milk as an ingredient but most were ok.
Most of our evening meals are cooked from scratch so it was fairly straightforward to substitute 'fake' pasta (usually maize based) for normal pasta. Obviously rice based meals were ok. Another surprise was when I found that the tub of chicken stock powder we were using contained lactose. They really do put some odd ingredients in things.
Our weekly pizza night was a problem. We tried using wheat free bread flour (usually rice and potato flour with xanthan gum to replace the gluten). We tried different recipes but none of them were as good as using normal flour. The worst part was avoiding cheese. I tried making 'soy cheese' by warming soy milk with a little lemon juice, but all I ended up with was a soft tofu which of course didn't melt but just sat on top of the pizza, looking grey and unappetizing.
I was going to stay wheat and milk free until the end of the month but since there was no improvement, we decided to give up. We used up the last of the 'fake pasta' tonight with a cheese sauce. It was nice to be able to eat cheese again. Next stop: cheese on toast. As soon as we've bought some sliced bread.
Our regular drive to Swanns near Allesley, to buy quail food, normally only takes a few minutes. It took rather longer today thanks to some surprise road closures, caused by some kind of road race. We normally drive up Washbrook Lane but it was closed. We turned around and drove the length of Browns Lane and tried a different way but encountered more closed roads.
We weren't the only people caught up in this. We drove about half a mile down one road before we met the road closed barriers. It would have been nice if they had put a sign up further down the road to stop everyone from wasting time and petrol. At least the people manning the barriers helped us find a detour to get to our destination.
One of the people we encountered on our travels lived in the area but didn't know anything about the race or which roads were closed. He was driving around trying to find his way home. The road closures should probably have been better publicised. I realise that closing country lanes doesn't cause as much disruption as closing part of the ring road for the Lady Godiva Half Marathon but it was still an inconvenience to a number of people.
Spring has taken a while arriving in our garden. The seeds have been slow to germinate but some green shoots have started to appear. The quails have realised it must be spring. In the last week they have gone from giving us 1 egg per day to about a dozen. The warmer weather also means we can put laundry outside to dry, which is quicker than using the clothes horse indoors. We don't have a tumble dryer, so everything takes longer to dry in the winter.
We have an automatic drinker system set up for the quail, where we have a bucket and a series of tubes which take water to drinking troughs inside the hutches. Yesterday when I went into the garden, I noticed that one of the tubes had a few small holes in it. I suspected that a cat might have been in the garden and might have chewed at the pipes. I put some tape over the tube to stop the leak, and scattered some 'cat repellent' pellets in the garden.
This morning I noticed that something had chewed the end off one of the tubes. Whatever did it, it must have been frustrated by not being able to get at the birds. If it was a cat, then either it has lost its sense of smell, or our cat repellent has stopped working.
It's a bit of a pain because we will have to replace the tubing and get something to make it cat proof. I'm assuming it's a cat rather than a fox because we often see cats prowling around the gardens. The few occasions when we've seen foxes in the area, they have always been in the roads between our house and the nearby fields.
We were at the Newark Showground to attend a bird show organised by the East Midland Bird Breeders Association. Most of the show was dedicated to cage birds such as parrots, finches and other 'decorative' birds. We were there to meet other users of the Coturnix Corner forum.
It was a long way to travel to just go to a bird show but we (me and Emma) went to some of the tourist attractions in the area yesterday. We also met a couple of the forum people last night and went into Lincoln for a Wetherspoons meal and a few drinks. We walked up and down the Steep Hill during the evening. I felt ok at the time but my calf muscles started aching today.
This recipe was based on ingredients we had in the freezer. It took a bit of time to prepare. The first stage was making the stock, which was based on a chicken stock:
2 chicken legs
Everything was simmered in a pan of water for about an hour, then the stock was strained and the meat was separated from the bones.
The following day involved making the soup itself. We had 2 bags of vegetables in the freezer which contained onion, leek, potato, carrot and swede. This was added to the stock, along with some more herbs and garlic. The veg were simmered for about an hour then everything was liquidised.
The liquidised soup was very thick so to serve it we diluted it down with water and a teaspoon of powdered stock. We added the shredded meat from the chicken and quail.
One of our Quail managed to escape today. Emma was trying to pick up one of the Bobwhite to take him indoors, so we could move one of the quail hutches. The Bob managed to wriggle loose and flew over the fence, and kept flying over several gardens.
We went walked along the back alley trying to find him. We managed to corner him in the side alley which lead back to the road. It took a couple of goes to actually catch him.
The Bobwhite quail can fly much better than the Japanese. When one of our Japanese Quail escaped it only got as far as a neighbours shed roof.
We obtained some Bobwhite Quail last weekend. During the week we built another quail run for them to live in - this means we've lost even more of the garden now. If we want to sit out, there's a small area between the quail and the vegetables.
The bobwhites make an interesting sound - they sometimes sound like an old shortwave radio being tuned in.
Here are some photos of the new quail chicks which have hatched within the last day
Tray full of quail chicks. The blue wire is a temperature sensor so we can make sure they aren't getting too warm or cold. The silver object on the right is the heat lamp to keep the temperature at around 37°C
The salad leaves are the only vegetables in the garden which are ready to eat. I picked a few this evening which we chopped and ate with our tea tonight. The seeds were described as 'herb salad mixture' and included cress and rocket, so there was something with more flavour than just lettuce.
The courgettes are slowly growing. The pepper plants are still a bit too small and don't have any fruit yet. The garlic from last year is still there and should be ready to harvest in the autumn. The leeks and 'land cress' were only planted a few days ago so haven't germinated yet.
The spinach beet is starting to look a bit past its best, but we only keep that for the quail. It might be worth planting some more soon.
I've also planted a few trays of grass seed for the quail. They enjoy sitting in the grass, pecking and scratching at it. We bought a roll of turf for them a few months ago but they destroyed it fairly quickly. We now give them a tray of grass for a few days, then remove it before they can irreparably damage it.
Emma was away at a conference so I was at home looking after the animals. I'd been outside to check the quail and collect any eggs. Later in the evening I heard a noise outside and went to the door to see what it was. There was a 'Maglet' quail sitting by the back door.
I picked it up and went to see where it had come from. Another quail was sitting next to the large hutch, and two of the golden quail were in the far corner of the garden.
The door on the bottom floor of the 'double decker' rabbit hutch was open about an inch. The bolt is quite stiff and it looks like I hadn't locked it properly. The 'Maglet' must have gone to the back door to attract my attention and snitch on the others.