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 -8ºC 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...