Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Black Ice, Hot Mash

My decision to brave the elements in search of groceries on Sunday proved to be the right one. The rain that was beginning to fall as I returned continued overnight, and by Monday morning the rain falling onto hard-frozen ground had created treacherous black ice everywhere. The state of the drive looked like I'd have a hard job getting the car out, and when I walked up to check out the road it was clearly too dangerous to even attempt (it's a steep hill currently resembling nothing so much as an ice-chute!). I was supposed to be doing local voluntary work, but had to ring in and explain I was stranded for the time being.

A couple of hours later, I heard a straining car engine and voices. Looking out I could see a car slowly trying to climb the hill, but slewing all over the place. The two passengers had got out and were shouting advice to the driver - who I imagine was swearing colourfully as the wheels spun and the car slid unpredictably on the thick ice. The car pretty much came to a halt at the top of our drive and the occupants got out to survey the scene gloomily. They clearly weren't going anywhere - and having got this far it was going to be virtually impossible to turn around and descend again safely.

I went out and invited them in for a cup of tea, which they accepted gratefully. They turned out to be a family from Devon who had come to Wales to pick up a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder who lives further up the road from Halfway Up A Hill. Unfortunately their timing couldn't have been worse as far as the weather was concerned. And now they were stranded.

They stayed for about an hour, warming themselves and drinking tea. Eventually they phoned the breeder who said she would drive as far down the hill as she safely could, and they began walking up to meet her.

They were gone for a good couple of hours, and I began to worry, but at last they returned from their mission (I was quite disappointed not to see the pup, but it transpired the trip was just to choose it - they will pick it up in a few weeks when it is old enough to leave its mother). Luckily by then the sun had melted enough ice that they were able to turn the car around and gingerly descend the hill.

As for me, I'm going to stay put for now. Although the black ice has melted where the sun's rays reached, the hill is still pretty treacherous. And it was down to -8ÂșC last night!

So the chickens are more grateful than ever for their hot mash in the morning. Cynthia left a comment on my last post asking for the 'recipe'. This is what I give them, as recommended by my neighbour Olwen. I take a large, shallow bowl and cover the bottom with layer's pellets (the girls have access to a hopper filled with layer's pellets all day). Then I pour on boiling water and mix it until it is the consistency of sloppy mashed potatoes. Finally I stir in a couple of handfuls of mixed grain (currently wheat and oats, sometimes I have some maize in there too), which I know they love. The dish keeps my hands warm on the way down to the chicken run and the chooks absolutely love it. This morning all of them completely ignored the hopper of dry pellets and went straight for their hot breakfast instead (this delighted the four robins and couple of dunnocks who also await the morning food eagerly, as they had unfettered access to the layers pellets).
Some people also give their chickens porridge (oatmeal and hot water), although I have never tried mine on it, or another hot food chickens like is boiled up potato peelings. My understanding is that if you are in the UK the law dictates that none of this is supposed to be prepared in the kitchen, nor should your animals be fed 'kitchen waste'. So I guess you're supposed to peel the potatoes in the garden and then throw the spuds away! Hmmm...


Suze said...

I loved to read about your recipe for the chicken mash. We used to feed our guinea pig something very similar, when I was little. It outlived all small beasties around, living to the ripe old age of twelve. I still think my Dad's recipe had something to do with that.

And how kind of you to take the stranded visitors in. Many wouldn't have.

solsticedreamer said...

i have been in a car doing the same and it is quite scary.
suze is right not many people would have helped out~its a shame in this day and age we do have second thoughts about helping out. its a shame society has become this way but i guess needs must

Joanna said...

The law is an ass sometimes, but I suppose it's because there are people with no common sense (and worse) who push the boundaries. I think a little intelligent law-breaking is in order, so that you and your chicks can share your potatoes ;)

Happy New Year ...

Earthenwitch said...

I've been doing a similar recipe for our chooks these cold mornings - they do seem to really like a cooked breakfast, as it were!

Patty said...

I never thought of feeding chickens warm food, but I am sure they love it, especially in the cold weather. I am lucky that we do not get the snow and ice where I am at..brrrrr

Leanne said...

I make a pan of porridge every morning, I have my portion and the hens get the remainder... and they love it, they get so excited when they see me carrying it down to them! the gobble it all up enthusiastically, and i am happy they have some warm food inside them to help them through the cold weather...

leanne x

Anonymous said...

I love that pic of the chicken!
Adorable, and I wouldn't have a clue what to feed them.

I'm glad you were there to offer those stranded people a warm place and a cup of tea. There just aren't enough people like that in the world nowadays.

The weather here today is awful - freezing rain and it's supposed to get colder and snow on top of the ice - oy!

docwitch said...

That is a splendid chook you have there!

Sounds like very dicey weather indeed, so good call on getting supplies in.

Marya said...

The perils of black ice -- thinking of you as I follw your journey from the heatwave we are going through in Africa..



dragonfly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dragonfly said...

Hello Moonroot!
I can highly recommend www.cameras.co.uk as the best site for guidance on what camera. It is very thorough and accessable. I have decided on a Canon Powershot G10 as it is as close to a SLR without the size...bit pricey but I have decided to splash out.
Fog has decended on London this night. Thick feels like it's squeezing the air into the cracks where the fools gold of the artificial lamps shine in the frozen streets.
There is a feeling of reasurance and unerving when the elements push themselves further into the city.
The weather is milder, softer, warmer in London.
At this late hour I wonder if I can use the blanket of fog to take me further.
It is so quiet... I can hear my mind as it moves stretched to the edge of the city.
I love reading your blog.It helps me remember.
And as for learning to be single I rejoice in my friends as again I remember that I have many advisors :o)
And I'm finding my friends are freed up now that I am single to disclose when they felt unable to do so before.
Thank you

Reya Mellicker said...

There are times when you just have to stop, tuck in and stay at home.

What an angel you are to invite those people in for tea. Wow!!

Hope you stay warm and cozy until the weather shifts. love to you!

Loraine said...

Your blog is just lovely... a nice escape from the hurry- up- and- wait life here...

Andy said...

It's actually an EU rule that I have always deliberately ignored because it is stupid, and when one considers that the EU is currently trying to pass into law the feeding of dead chickens and pigs to poultry, somewhat alarmingly hypocritical - as in, what, we can't feed bits of lettuce to our hens but we can eventually legally feed them bits of each other? It's like BSE never happened....

We're a veggie household so whatever doesn't get eaten that's fresh and green goes to our little ladies. They also get bread, not very often, and have even once had a piece of cake (though we don't make a habit of giving them anything at all that is processed in such a way, and actual full-on processed foods are never to be found in our home).

Your Light Sussex is beautiful. We have two of that breed, and find them to be the noisiest of hens, unfortunately! Good layers, though. x