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July 18 2012 4 18 /07 /July /2012 12:48

Pod-ears.jpegCanine and human relationships go back for more than fourteen centuries. Probably the most important is that they provide companionship. Dogs are also not very demanding and offer us unconditional love, with their adoring eyes, wagging tails, and following us anywhere we go.

One important aspect of the dog-human equation is that we establish ourselves as boss upfront. Dogs by nature are pack animals and there is always a leader or “alpha” dog that the others obey and respect. When we adopt a dog, we become pack members and we must assume the alpha role or live to regret it.

One way of looking at dogs is to compare them to children. They both need rules and guidelines. You need to show leadership and establish boundaries. Dogs no longer need to hunt like wolves as their association humans provides them with food. Food and play treats therefore form the basic training lures for most dogs.

The Canine Communication System is one that is based on the principle of understanding your dog, before expecting it to understand you! We talk to our dogs and they “talk” with barking. It can be helpful for you if you know how to interpret the various barks that dogs have. Also important is your dogs ear position, facial expression, and tail action. Pod has several different tones of bark; barks of delight and another for danger. Tails up and wagging can be a sign of a happy or feisty dog so you would need to look for other signs.

A dog’s brain is completely different from humans in so much as how they interpret sensory information. A dog’s brain is far simpler than a human’s brain; it doesn’t have the capacity for speech or memory. Yet he will interpret, analyze and process information in order to act based on his senses.

Every pack has an alpha dog and he is the undisputed leader. When you bring a puppy or dog home they are naturally going to try and dominate the new pack which is you and your family. It’s up to you to show that you are in fact the alpha dog here and earn the dog’s respect, and therefore obedience. Being the Alpha dog is a very important concept to not only understand but to take action on.

Your dog can learn a lot about you from your body language, your mood, your facial expressions and tone of voice. The actual words you say to your dog or even their name is irrelevant to the dog it is the tone that you use that they respond to. 

Clicker training is often used in shaping the dogs behaviour. It starts by you teaching the dog to obey a command by using a treat as a reward. Gradually he will respond to the sound of the clicker at the exact moment the dog performed the task which will be closely followed by a treat. Apparently they use it to teach dolphins, did I really want my dog to jump out of water through a hoop??? Anyway I purchased a ‘clicker’ and taught him ‘down’ in 2 days…marvellous!!!.

Obedience training accomplishes two things: It establishes a bond of communication between you and your dog. Your dog learns that when you give commands, he needs to respond. When he responds appropriately, he’s rewarded for his behaviour. What he wants most is to please you, when you’re happy, he’s happy. Obedience training keeps your dog active, thinking and involved. Dogs that are active, both mentally and physically are less likely to be poorly behaved. Corrective behaviour involves both time and patience. You must be vigilant and correct your dog at times so as not to give mixed messages. Just like with children you can expect many disjointed conversations with people whilst you give a command to your dog. Fortunately, a dog learns skills faster than a child.

Some of the basic skills are maintain eye contact, sit, down, come, stay, heel, drop, fetch, ouch or leave it (the latter has been found to work with nipping puppies, if you yelp like a fellow puppy the pup will stop biting).

Most dogs are anxious to please their owners but sometimes the dog can become bored if not given enough stimulation, or frightened and intimidated if yelled at. Knowing about your dogs breed is also important, Pod is a West Highland Terrier, little dogs with a huge character making them mischievous and requiring less exercise that a Great Dane.

Sometimes dogs go through stages a little like children, the terrible twos. The dog will act up just to test you, to see if you really are the boss. But before you reach for the rolled up newspaper to discipline your dog please remember that if your dog misbehaves it is your fault for not teaching him/her correctly so hit yourself with it.Jan Fennell 

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July 1 2012 1 01 /07 /July /2012 10:49


The flower garden

Prune shrubs such as weigela, deutzia and ceanothus after flowering.

Pick off dead flower heads of rhododendrons, lilacs and azaleas.

Dead head roses unless they are valued for their autumn hips. Pick off any diseased leaves.

Trim early flowering alpines to keep them in shape.

Feed baskets and pots each week.

Keep picking sweet peas to keep them flowering.

Peg down shoots of honey suckle, clematis and golden hop to encourage new growth.

The kitchen garden

Harvest raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries.

Watch out for potato blight and cabbage white butterflies laying eggs.

Pick off damaged or deformed fruits on apple, plum and pear trees.

Regularly harvest courgettes and beans to keep plants fruiting.

The greenhouse

Boost tomatoes with liquid feed.

The pond

Keep an eye on pond levels and top up with rain water if required.


Set up earwig traps using upturned plant pots filled with straw.

Set slug traps using plastic bottles.


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June 5 2012 3 05 /06 /June /2012 12:36

Rivercottage logo

Living of the land, rearing livestock, consuming own grown seasonal food, fishing and foraging, being less dependent on the outside world. Self-sufficiency is the new ‘good life’.

With some effort growing your own fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs is easy to do and requires very little space. I grow many of my vegetables in pots and sacks outside and in an unheated greenhouse. Many of my plants are grown from seed, which is cheap as you can get a lot of plants from a packet of seeds.

Hedgerows and public woodland are good food sources, offering Elderflowers, wild berries, blackberries, chestnuts, mushrooms and truffles. Provided you do not remove the whole source no one will complain. You should have a good idea of what you are picking as many berries and mushrooms are not meant for human consumption.

Provided you have patience and a rod, sea or shore fishing can provide a good supply of fish. Mackerel, Bass and Red Mullet are some that can be found in local waters. Marine fisheries prefer that Bass caught under 40cms be returned to the sea to increase in size. Even seaweed is a great food source if you don’t mind a slightly salty taste.

Keeping animals is relatively cheap to do. Chickens, pigs and sheep will enjoy most kitchen scraps and vegetables that are not good for the table. What the animals are fed in will influence what they produce ie; healthy large chickens will produce large eggs.

When you grow and raise your own food you know what has gone into it, no pesticides or supplements. It give you a much better appreciation of food when you have grafted to get it. Anyone can select meat, fish, fruit and vegetables from the supermarket but what is the cost to the environment.

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June 1 2012 6 01 /06 /June /2012 10:47


The flower garden

Cut the foliage of spring bulbs once they die down.

Create a hanging basket.

Water tree ferns crowns which is where most of the roots are.

Divide bearded iris’s after flowering.

Remove old leaves and flowered stems on hellebores.

Deadhead camellias and rhododendrons.

The kitchen garden

Cover strawberries with cloches for early ripening.

Tie in new shoots of cane fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, loganberries.

Sow chicory seed so that plants are ready for next winter.

Pinch out side shoots on plums to about 6 leaves.

Prune wall trained cherries removing weak side shoots and diseased leaves.

Sow cauliflowers, endives and mangetouts.

Cease cutting asparagus and topdress with fertiliser.  

The greenhouse

Support tomato plants with bamboo canes. Remove side shoots and use as cuttings.

Sow biennials in pots in a cold frame such as honesty, wallflowers, Canterbury bells, foxgloves, forget-me-nots, pansies for planting out in autumn.

Fill the watering can before you leave so that it warms before you use it next time.

Damp down the green house floor to increase humidity.

The pond

Remove blanket and duck weed.


Water in warm weather.

Weed and hoe.

Mow regularly.

Apply a high nitrogen summer lawn feed.

Feed acid loving plants.


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May 28 2012 2 28 /05 /May /2012 13:47


Silkies - Look at the feathers on the chick's head. Males tend to have feathers that stand upright and curve towards the back, while the female head feathers tend to form in a rounded feather puff.

Look at the comb when it develops within two to three weeks of the chick's birth. The comb is the flap of tissue at the top of the silkie's head, and a male will have a larger comb than a female.

Compare chicks from the same clutch. Males are significantly larger than females, and this can be obvious a few days after hatching. This isn't considered a certain method of sexing though because you may just have a large female or a small male. It's also a poor method if you are trying to compare chicks from two different genetic lines.

Listen for crowing. The chicks will start losing the fluffly feathers around four of five months. At that time a male silkie will start attempting to crow.

Look at the saddle feathers just before the tail and the hackle feathers on the neck. These feathers will be long and sharp on a male and gently rounded on a female.

Pekins - At 4 weeks Peking chicks will start to develop the comb (this is on the top of the head). It may not be visible at first but can be felt with e light touch. The females will be yellow and the males red. In time they will go red but he females will always be smaller than the males. You may also see the deveopment of wattles. Red dashes will start to apprear under the beak. Again both males and females have wattles but he females are smaller. Female chicks tend to feather up more quickly and have bigger tail feathers. 

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May 17 2012 5 17 /05 /May /2012 11:26

chicks-playing-with-fruit.jpgWhen chicks reach about a month in age they will require some stimulation. They will be hardy enough to go outside in a covered small area on fine sunny days for a couple of hours. In between these outings, chicks will need some interest. They will be able to flutter onto logs where they can perch and scratch at the ground. Food and shiny things are top interesting things for young chickens. Hanging food items encourages the chick to jump for it. Foods that roll, like berries, peas, child safe mirrors and lightweight balls provide hours of entertainment for adolescent chicks. Pumpkin and squashes are natural wormers.

At night, they will still need warmth and somewhere cozy to sleep. It is a good idea to provide a warm hot water bottle under the sleeping area.

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May 11 2012 6 11 /05 /May /2012 10:31


Black mottled Pekins are small gentle birds that make good mothers. These chickens have very attractive feathers and are good layers, providing a small egg per day, weather dependent.

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May 11 2012 6 11 /05 /May /2012 10:28


The Blue silkie has black skin and is therefore not eaten in European countries. They are small friendly birds making good pets. Silkies are fair layers, providing 3 small eggs per week.

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May 4 2012 6 04 /05 /May /2012 11:22

silver-laced-polish.pngKornelia is a Silver laced polish chicken. We have given her this polish name, as its meaning is ‘horn’. This is because of the terrible cluck she has which sounds like she is being strangled.

Despite the name, this breed originated from the Netherlands. These chickens are bred as show birds and are not known for their broodiness. Feathers cover their eyes, making their vision poor, resulting in a poor temperament.

Polish chickens feed from January to September on grain, cottage cheese, celery and spouts; from February to May on grain, egg, greens and fruits; and from August to December on greens, veg and grain.

Much like the Silkies these chickens are fair layers, laying around three small, mainly yolk eggs per week.

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May 1 2012 3 01 /05 /May /2012 10:45


The flower garden

Transplant conifers.

Provide supports for annual climbers.

After flowering prune back stems that have carried blooms on forsythia’s.

Trim box hedging.

The kitchen garden

Earth up potatoes by drawing the soil over the emerging shoots.

Plant out new plants once fully hardened off to their final growing place.

Pinch out broad bean tips to discourage black fly.

Protect carrots from carrot fly, look for eggs around the base of the plants.

Remove strawberry runners as all the plants energy will go into producing them, straw will protect the emerging fruit from rotting on wet soil.

Plant out lemon grass sown in the greenhouse in September.

The greenhouse

Plant crops into grow bags.

Sow pots of outdoor crops such as sweetcorn, marrows, courgettes and squashes.

Water more regularly adding liquid feed.

Sow herbs in pots.

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  • : Poddington and P
  • Poddington and P
  • : Poddington and P is about life in the country. It includes their creations, the animals they raise, and the plants and produce that they grow in the kitchen garden.
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