On My Oasis – New Plants and Quails

Well, wouldn’t you know it; it’s cold, cloudy and blimmin’ windy – yes, it MUST be May Bank Holiday! I’ve managed to get out in the garden and weed the path, water the fruit trees and do a little potting on, but it’s definitely not the May warmth we should be having. The poor Japanese maple is getting blown all over the place; no wonder it’s not thriving. I’d move it to a more sheltered spot…but I don’t have one! The quicker I can swamp the trellising with plants, the better.

The Ornamental Garden

It’s my birthday tomorrow, but as both I and my husband have to work, we headed out on Friday for some plant shopping. As ever, it was completely unplanned and I bore none of my own advice. So, instead of going armed with a strict list of plants to help get that design look, I ended up buy one of this, and one of that, and another of the other. You know the drill, I’m sure.

There was some thought in my shopping. Firstly, I’ve had an old tin bath for ages that I’ve wanted to pop a small pine tree into. Despite looking, nothing’s leapt out at me over the past few months, but I finally found what I was looking for – this gorgeous mugo subsp, mugho. For now I’ll be keeping it in the planter, though I’ve not quite decided what will be planted around it. I have some lovely miniature cyclamen I’ll put in for spring colour, but the rest of the year? I’m undecided.


Pinus mugo subsp. mugho


I also keep a wish-list of plants on my phone, and the nursery had a huge selection. In the end, I ended up ticking-off (i.e. buying) an astrantia (Florence), a kniphofia (Orange Vanilla Popsicle) and Brunnera (Mr Morse). Of course, I should’ve bought multiple items of each, as well as limiting my buys for a more cohesive look but – ahhh, to hell with it, I just want lovely plants…says the plant hoarder. And I can propagate to my heart’s content. I also snagged a gorgeous and unplanned perennial geranium (Chocolate Candy). I’ve never seen one with such dark foliage before; simply beautiful!


Geranium ‘Chocolate Candy’

Brunnera ‘Mr Morse’, Kniphofia ‘Orange Vanilla Popsicle’, Bearded Iris ‘Rimfire’, and Astrantia ‘Florence’

The Poultry Yard

Life in the poultry yard has been extremely stressful. I bought in four new hens a few weeks back because I wanted to really ramp up egg production as selling has been going well. All the ladies were quarantined, all seemed fine, all were finally put in with the rest of the flock; that’s when the worse happened. The cheapo brown layer I’d just bought to ‘make up numbers’ became ill, and was snuffling. In my naivety I thought nothing of it…until the horrors of the Internet! It seems she might be a mycoplasma carrier and the stress of moving brought it out. I isolated her, but not soon enough. Now everyone has it.

That’s not so bad,’ you might think. ‘Just treat it‘. The problem is, it never goes away. Think of the cold sore. It lives in your system and comes out at times of stress; as does mycoplasma. It’s very contagious too. Chickens can spread it even when they’re not actively ill. It can also be passed vertically through eggs. It is FINE for humans to still eat eggs, but it means I cannot sell my chickens, sell hatching eggs or take birds to shows. It also all-but quashes any dream of developing healthy, pure breed stock lines of show quality birds like I’d intended to do with my Ayam Cemani’s, Barbu d’Anvers and Ixworth.

How to get rid of it? Cull my entire flock of 40 chickens. Burn all the bedding and detritus. Disinfect everything from food hoppers and nestboxes, to perches and coop flooring. Honestly, that fills me with dread. The other issue is mycoplasma is apparently EVERYWHERE, even wild birds have it. It also lives outside the hen for several weeks. I could cull my entire stock, only to get new hatching eggs that are in infected. Or have a wildbird poop in the run and pass it. Or miss the tiniest speck when I’m disinfecting – easy to do when I have the whole poultry yard, three coops and an old, tin shed to try and sterilise – and have my new birds catch it again. I should also say that my swabs from the vet haven’t actually come back with results yet but I’m pretty sure my diagnosis is correct.

So, instead I’ve made the decision to treat it with antibiotic Tylan and have a mycoplasma-positive flock. I can still sell eggs for eating, but no showing or selling. I can still breed chicks for meat birds, but they mustn’t leave my premises. And, when the eventual move to Brimwood Farm arrives, I’ll have to cull any remaining birds so I can start fresh.

It’s been fairly devastating, and I’ve not know what to do; especially as many people say kill, kill, kill. But to cull and have it happen again would be even worse. And to euthanise all my lovely hens – who, I might add are otherwise healthy and laying – all because they have something that might never rear its head again is something I also cannot feel comfortable with.

There has been some GOOD NEWS however, in that my quail chicks hatched. That, in itself was rather stressful though because three were crippled. I put booties on one to align his toes and help him walk…and then he drowned overnight. The other two were beyond help and I had to dispatch. When they’re this young and tiny you can simply snip their heads off with a pair of scissors. It’s still horrible. TIP: close your eyes when you do it. There are still 12 happy chicks though, as you can see below.


The Market Garden

Can you tell this has been a week of woe? Things haven’t exactly gone right in the vegetable patch either. My first batch of peppers never germinated, and my second batch have developed into wonderful seedlings…and then a chicken broke in and ate them all! DISASTER. It’s now too late to sow – I’ve done it anyway, just in case – but I’m going to have to buy some plants as a back up.

Luckily, everything else has been going rather well; minimal blackfly on broad beans, carrots coming up well, kale, beets, spinach etc all doing well. Lets keep our fingers crossed I don’t have a massive failure here too!

Owl Boxes

And, finally, the Owl Box campaign is coming to an end. So far it’s only managed to get 11% funded; not even enough for one owl box. So, if you can spare £2 (just the price of a coffee) please consider helping fund the project and get it off the ground! We’ve got 22 days to go and need to make £450; every penny is extremely important. Springwatch starts on BBC 2 today, so get in the spirit and help me out. 😀

Okay…enough begging. Until next time, may your gardens keep growing!

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.