Sunday, July 31, 2011

Deptford station: new facilities installed

Refrigerator Pickled Eggs

by Jennifer Sartell

Zach and I were married a couple years ago and we honeymooned along the East Coast. One of the most delicious places we visited was Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lancaster is one of the largest Amish settlements in the country. And my-oh-my is the food amazing! Everywhere you go there is some sort of hearty, home-cooked, buffet or family-style restaurant wafting mouthwatering smells out its door. And the food is hearty, plentiful, sticks to your ribs, Grandma's Sunday Crock-Pot, gravy soaked, slow roasted, crispy fried, carb laden-ed, warm cozy, fuzzy kittens sorts of food. It was here that I tasted my first pickled egg.

Had someone randomly handed me a bright-pink pickled egg and said, "Here, eat this," I would have politely placed it back in the jar and told them to take their alien, fuchsia, vinegar-smelling egg to the next wide-eyed schmuck. But because the first pickled egg I ever had came from this food paradise, utopia, garden of Eden called Lancaster, I thought why not, everything else tastes like heaven.

Pickled eggs are the perfect picnic food. Their beet counterpart layers the mason jar so beautifully it looks like a red-and-white checkered table cloth. The eggs are tangy, sweet and spicy, with hints of clove and cinnamon. To make them, you'll need:
  • 1 large beet
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Spices (a scant palmful of each of the spices listed below)
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 6 farm-fresh eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 quart mason jar
The spices:
  • Star anise
  • Mustard seed
  • Black peppercorn
  • Allspice
  • Clove
  • Cardamom
  • Red chili flakes
  • Caraway seeds
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
The spices are where you can really make the pickled eggs your own. This list is my favorite blend; it has a clove-y "sweet gherkin" or "bread and butter pickle"-type flavor. But you could use lots of things, such as dill and garlic, curry, or jalapenos and extra red chili flakes (to spice things up a bit). I like to use whole spices because they look pretty in the jar.

Start by washing your beet well. Trim the top, leaving about 1 inch of the leaf stems. This will help with the peeling process later and will help the beet from bleeding into the cooking water. You want to keep all that beautiful red juice to make the eggs pretty.

Boil the beet for about 30 minutes or until tender to the tip of a knife. Peel the beet running it under cold water, rubbing it with your thumbs. The stem will help get the skin started. Slice the beet into wedges.

In a pan simmer the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, spices and sliced beet until the sugar dissolves.

Cut up half the onion into thin slices.

Layer your jar with 3 eggs; half the raw onion slices; then the beet slices, strained out with a slotted spoon; the rest of the onions; and the final 3 eggs. Pour the pink pickling liquid over the top, making sure to cover the eggs completely. Store in the refrigerator for a few days before eating. (The eggs need to soak up all that delicious brine!)

Visit our website Iron Oak Farm to see what else we're cooking up.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keeping Roosters Together

by Jennifer Sartell

Many of my friends who keep chickens marvel at the array of roosters that we have living in harmony together. At one time we had 14 roosters coexisting happily in the same coop/yard.

It's getting to be that time of year when many of the cute little un-sexed chicks we raised in the spring are starting to develop those lavish tail feathers, the large wattles and the stunning plumage that many times their female counterparts lack. Roosters are beautiful, and can make wonderful additions to your flock, so don't start putting up the re-homing posters just yet. There are some options.

I feel like for the first few years I kept chickens, I actually sold myself short. I only bought chicks that were sexed pullets ... and prayed that we didn't get one of the 3% who could be males. One year we had a great opportunity to get our hands on some rare chicks that I had been searching after for many years. Unfortunately, they were straight run. I had been looking for this particular breed for so long, though, that I couldn't pass them up. I figured we'd hope for females and deal with the roosters when it came to that.

Sure enough, as the chicks got older, our batch of 10 chicks was split right down the middle: five pullets and five cockerels. Frantically, I started posting chicken pictures on every farm site I could find. I put up posters at the feed stores, and dropped hints to people I knew who had large farms that "we had some fine-looking cockerels that needed a good home."

But to our dismay, no one bit. As the chickens got older, I kept watching for the classic sparring signs, the flaring neck feathers, the jumping attacks with legs, spurs and feathers flailing. But other than the occasional peck on the head, everyone seemed to be getting on just fine.

"Maa-a-a-a get these chicken's outta here!"
We decided that we would keep the cockerels and pullets, unless something came up, and as any chicken owner knows, something always comes up. Once you seem to get down a routine, find something that works, the chickens change that all up, and you, in turn, must find alternative ways to do things. That's one of the bittersweet things about raising chickens. It seems they're always changing. Sometimes it's exciting changes, like collecting your first egg ... and sometimes it's not-so-fun changes, like when all the chickens decide one day that they are going to sleep in the goats' feed trough rather than their own roosts. (Then you find yourself washing dried chicken poo out of the goat feeders every morning. Yay!)

The "thing" that "came up" was, they all came of age. Everyone's combs and wattles were turning vibrant red, the unmistakable teenage crowing began as everyone struggled to perfect their own version of "cock-a-doodle-doo" (they sounded like they were dying), and needless to say the poor females were loosing quite a few feathers from all the ... ahem, attention. But still no sparring.

It was in the winter when I'd had enough, and so had the females. The chickens weren't being let out as much because of the snow and the females couldn't take the high ratio of males. So one by one I gathered all the roosters and put them in the barn. Surprisingly, they got along just fine. In fact, without the females as added jealous temptation, even the small pecking seemed to cease. Everyone lived out the winter in harmony.

So, needless to say you can keep roosters together successfully, but there are some things that I've learned over the years:

  • The first being, if you're going to keep roosters, you might have to think about separating them from your females. Too many roosters mating with the same females can really injure your girls. If you notice feathers missing from the back of the head or on their backs, it's time to remove the boys. There is a product called a chicken apron/saddle that fits over the back of the chicken and protects from "over-mating." (You can use a pattern to make one yourself.)

  • Another thing to remember is that where one rooster goes, all roosters must go, or forever shall he be separated. We've found that we can keep roosters together, so long as we keep the roosters together. Sounds redundant, I know, but if you separate one out for too long, like to pair up for mating, all bets are off. I separated a pair of my best Black Coppers to mate for a week. When I had collected the eggs I needed, and went to put the Rooster back with his "friends," relationships had changed. It was as if he was a whole new rooster invading the flock. Now I only keep breeding roosters with the females for a couple hours at a time. At night he sleeps with the rest of the flock.

  • Finally, introduce new cockerels to the males after they're feathered in, but before their wattles turn red and they start crowing. They will have to go through pecking order just like any other chicken, but chances are, the males will accept them without sparring. And, I'm not saying it can't be done, but I've never had success introducing an adult rooster to a new adult rooster.

We have a couple separation pens for breeding time. The roosters can still see the rest of the flock, which makes re-introduction easier.

But even following these guidelines, chickens will be chickens.

For example, there was the time our Bantam Cochin Rooster woke up one day and just decided he hated the world. He came at me like a mad hornet when I went in to feed everyone. Thank goodness he's pint-sized!

If you're thinking about keeping roosters, have your options handy.

Another example of a separation pen we use.
  • Make sure you have a couple of safe places to separate someone for a while until you can find a good, permanent solution.

  • Sometimes it's a good thing to keep the females out of site. Some roosters will get so fixated that they will pace back and forth obsessively trying to get to the flock of females.

  • And finally, keep in mind that re-homing a rooster can be difficult. Unfortunately, not many people are looking for pet roosters. It's a big step for some, but consider having them processed, and if it's too emotional to eat yourself, donate the birds to charity.
Check out our farm website at

Thames Tunnel proposals: upcoming events

Thames Water's proposals to possibly site an access shaft for part of its Thames Tunnel construction project on the green space next to Coffey Street has generated a lot of concern among local residents.

I was one of many people who attended the consultation event in June and came away with a lot of information (much of it only verbally communicated) and what I thought was a greater understanding of what the project would involve. I haven't had chance to blog about it yet, due to ongoing commitments (and the fact that it's a very complex subject), but in the meantime other local residents have organised groups to protest against the plans.

A couple of upcoming events may well be of interest to anyone in Deptford who either wants to find out  more, or wants to voice their objections to the plans.

This Saturday 30 July a group of residents will be protesting at the proposed site next to St Paul's Church from 11am onwards.

If you want to learn more about the proposals, or have unanswered questions that you would like to put to Thames Water's representatives, you should make a date in your diary for the public meeting that is being held from 7.30pm on 9 August in the Salvation Army Hall in Mary Anne Gardens.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guerrilla gardening in Deptford

Anyone living on the Evelyn estate in Deptford will probably recognise this depressing flower bed, which sits in the middle of the gyratory halfway along Edward Street. It's home to a few oversize trees and some grubby rose bushes that burst into flower once a year and are stagnant the rest of the time; it has lost a fair amount of its surrounding paving stones and a large chunk of the wall on the corner where it was knocked through by an errant lorry one morning; and yet it retains a magnetic charm for some people.

Magnetic because it's a large growing area that is hugely underused, one that is visible, available and free! Arguably its position on a gyratory makes it an unsuitable place for growing food, but perfect for some bright flowers to add a splash of colour and give passers by something to admire.

Which is why a friend of mine has been pimping it - May 1st is official sunflower planting day for Guerrilla Gardeners, and that's what happened on the Edward Street Gyratory. I understand the ground was a little hard as it had been hot and sunny for most of April, but the seeds got planted and watered regularly in the following weeks. I pass the bed every day on my way to work, so was able to keep an eye on progress and see if the flowers actually made it.

The seedlings started to emerge, and slowly reached skywards. Sunflower plants grow quite quickly and once they are established, can survive with relatively little care and attention - these are dwarf and medium-height sunflowers, not the giant ones which would have needed canes for support. A few clumps of poppies kept them company at times.

The sunflowers have just started to open over the last week or so, and add a lovely splash of colour to a very dreary corner. I was surprised to note that the area around them was actually weeded a few days ago - I'm not sure whether by Glendales, whom I presume are supposed to look after this bed, or by another guerrilla gardener.

My friend plans to expand the planting in this bed, to take advantage of its prominent location and huge capacity, and is looking for collaborators either for this site, or to form a Deptford guerrilla gardening corps to brighten up neglected flower beds across the area. If you live in this part of the Evelyn estate or Deptford/New Cross borders and are interested in doing a bit of urban gardening, or have ideas, seeds, unwanted plants, tools or time on your hands, please get in touch with me via the email in the top right-hand column and I'll pass your details on.

Monday, July 25, 2011

We're Having a Heat Wave

by Jennifer Burcke

We're having a heat wave and the animals (and farmers) living at 1840 Farm are not amused. Come on Mother Nature, we chose to relocate more than 1,400 miles away from our original home in Kansas to our farm in New England because we wanted to avoid days of 100 degree heat and seemingly 90% humidity. We expected harsh, cold winters that stretched for months without an end in sight. We didn't sign on for summers the likes of those we had chosen to leave behind.

Apparently Mother Nature has not been moved by our family's relocation. Her unyielding heat and humidity have found their way here and we've been stuck right in the midst of it this week. The thermometer in the greenhouse has been over its limit of 120 degrees so often that the UV greenhouse film has actually split right down the middle in an apparent attempt to make an emergency skylight and allow some of the smoldering heat to escape.

I was not too happy to find that the greenhouse was damaged with the intense heat and humidity. I knew that I wouldn't have time to fix it immediately, despite the fact that our beloved heirloom tomato crop is living within its walls. The greenhouse is important to our family's annual harvest, but the tomato plants will make it until next week, when the temperatures will cool off (we hope). Now's the time to focus on trying to keep all of the animals living here at 1840 Farm from succumbing to the heat.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to accomplish this necessary task. If I rewind our farm calendar 12 months, I see a farm without any livestock residing there. We had not yet become livestock farmers. We had no chickens living here. In fact, we were finishing up the coop that they would eventually reside in.

I decided to start with the easiest animal to tend to first. The dog was simple. Pete got a summer haircut and spent very little time outside. He was quite happy to oblige and spent most of his time in the farmhouse, avoiding the intense heat and humidity right outside the door. Yes, he missed his usual time playing ball in the backyard and chasing wildlife to the boundaries of his fence, but even he didn't want to be out in this heat. He flopped onto his bed, selected a favorite chew toy and waited for the heat to subside just like the rest of us.

Herbert, the French Angora Rabbit, was struggling. Angora fiber is rated to be at least seven times warmer than sheep's wool, and he is covered from head to toe in its thick blanket. We had already harvested what fiber we could to help him stay cool this summer. We took him frozen bottles of water every few hours to give him a chance to lay against them and cool off. It became clear on the second day of the heat wave that it wasn't enough. He was panting and begging for a little relief. Five minutes later, he and his hutch had been transferred from the barn to the garage, where it was only 80 degrees. It was just the relief he needed. He stretched out and took a nap, content with the fact that he had escaped the heat. I took a deep breath, happy with the knowledge that two of our animals were safe from the heat.

I was still at a loss where the chickens were concerned. They were spending most of their time in the shady portion of their outdoor run. We were providing them with fresh, cool water a few times a day and misting their run with water from the rain barrels to allow them to cool off in the mud. We fed them chunks of cold watermelon that they enjoyed, as usual. They were enjoying the relief, but it wasn't nearly enough. Clearly, we were going to have to come up with another way to cool them off.

Our Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats were showing signs of growing up in New England rather than Nigeria. They were panting and spending the bulk of their time in their stall, eating hay. It wasn't too difficult to give them the same treatment that our dog, Pete, received. Out came the clippers and in under 30 minutes, I had removed enough hair to give them a little relief. They were noticeably more comfortable as soon as their haircuts were complete. I was confident that with ample cold water and a little extra attention, they would be able to endure the next few days.

All of the four-legged creatures had been taken care of. They were happy to be a little cooler and we were happy that they were better equipped to cope with the heat. There was only one problem: What was I going to do to give our beloved hens a little relief? I couldn't give them a haircut or move their stationary coop into the garage. I had already ventilated the coop as best I could. Short of installing an air conditioner, I didn't have any tricks up my sleeve to reduce the temperature for our flock.

I took another round of cool water out to the coop and surveyed their condition. The hens were clearly struggling to cope with the heat. The temperature inside the coop had reached 105 degrees. They were standing outside, mouths open, doing the best they could to survive. It was only mid-afternoon and the heat wasn't expected to recede for another 48 hours. I worried that they wouldn't be able to make it that long.

I went back into the house and went straight to the refrigerator. I had more cold fruit, but that had only provided temporary relief. I needed something more powerful. It was time to look in the freezer. The answer was staring me right in the face: fruit Popsicles. I removed the Popsicle stick and cut them into small bites with a paring knife. Then I added a few handfuls of frozen blueberries for good measure. I took the dish out to the chickens' run and hoped that they wouldn't be hesitant to try my frozen concoction.

I should have known better. As soon as the pieces hit the bowl, they were clambering for a prime spot to grab a bite. A few minutes later, the Popsicles and blueberries were long gone and the chickens were looking for more. Even better, they were looking like themselves again. They were up and walking around, scratching at the ground and going about the normal business of their chicken day. I had spent the better part of two days trying to cool them off from the outside. Clearly, cooling them off from the inside had been a better way to solve the problem.

What a relief, for me and for the flock. I have already gone on record with my belief that chickens are a lot like toddlers. Apparently, I need to add a love of Popsicles on a hot summer day to my running list of supporting documentation.

For the next two days, we provided our chickens with frozen treats every few hours. They continued to enjoy fruit-flavored Popsicles and frozen berries. Frozen yogurt tubes were also added to the rotation. They happily gobbled up every frozen bite that we provided them. We happily watched as they not only enjoyed the cold refreshments, but seemed unfazed by the intense heat. While there was nothing I could do to reduce the temperature on the thermometer in their coop, I had found a way to reduce their internal temperature.

I am happy to report that the temperatures have finally returned to normal summer levels in New England. The forecast for this week promises temperatures almost 20 degrees cooler than last week. I am relieved and I know that all of the animals living here will be too. The chickens have returned to their daily routine of scratching about in their yard and enjoying the sights and sounds of the farm. Each time I walk by, they anxiously gather at their bowl in the hope that I am bringing them a frozen treat to enjoy.

I have added Popsicles, yogurt tubes and frozen berries to my running grocery list. I can imagine that I will begin taking the hens a cold treat when I am rounding up a frozen yogurt tube for my children at snack time each afternoon. I know that I could reserve the treats for the hottest of summer days, but I just don't see the point. If something as simple as a Popsicle or frozen yogurt can improve their day, then I am more than happy to oblige.

I know that it won't be long until these hot summer days are a distant memory and winter's chill will greet us every morning as we make our way out to the coop. Then I'll spend my time dreaming up ways to help our hens stay warm as the temperatures on their coop thermometer drop. I'll have my experience from last winter to draw inspiration from and home cooked oatmeal in my arsenal. Until then, you can find me on afternoon Popsicle duty.

You can follow the daily adventures of everyone living at 1840 Farm on Facebook, Twitter, and at

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Convoys wharf 'revised proposals'

When today's exhibition for Convoys Wharf revised proposals was announced a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people complained about the fact that they would be away and would miss it.

Well don't lose too much sleep over it - you didn't miss a lot! I went along briefly and picked up a brochure, but didn't hang around because there wasn't anything on the display boards that wasn't in the brochure, and not much detail to be seen.

Here in 'full', for those who missed the exhibition, is the content of the 'changes to the outline planning application' page:

Since submitting an outline planning application to the London Borough of Lewisham in November 2010, a number of design reviews have taken place, involving both Lewisham Council and the GLA.

As a result of those changes, a number of design-related alterations have been made to the application. While the broad fundamentals remain the same, we have tried to vary the layout of the streets and public areas to give the development more character and identity. The changes include:

- the main road in to the site from the top of New King's Street has been made less straight to create a sense of discovery
(wtf?) as you move into the site, with the Olympia building and surrounding square as a progressively revealing destination point

- the main public square now wraps around the Olympia Warehouse creating a more intimate, lively and interesting space

- the residential street pattern has been changed to reflect the local area and create a stronger identity for the development

- the landscaped park around the double dry-dock has increased in size to provide a more enjoyable open space for the local community

What exactly does all this flim-flammery mean, and what else has changed since last time?

The 'revisions' that the developers have actually pointed out, as the cynics among you will not be surprised to learn, are basically smoke and mirrors dressed up as 'revisions'. If the area around the double dry-dock has increased in size, it is by a very small percentage (not specified but I'm comparing the two plans - the previous one here and the new one in the brochure, which I intend to post as soon as I have a digital version).

The fact that the developers are still focussing attention on about the area around the Olympia Warehouse (which is a listed structure and they legally have to retain and protect it) and ignoring the hugely more historically-significant remains of the Royal Dockyard (still mostly buried, its full extent not confirmed and no commitment from any government bodies to investigate further) demonstrates where their priorities lie.
The brochure states that the heritage and cultural history of the site will play an important role in the development of the detailed proposals, but fails to say exactly how, except that it will 'reflect and reinterpret' that heritage. I don't really like the sound of that, do you?

The brochure also has a big section about affordable housing, since it seems London & Quadrant has been brought on board as the affordable housing partner in the development process. But 500 affordable houses (and we all know that 'affordable' is a very flexible concept) out of 3,500 total units is woeful, if I might be so presumptious. About 15% for those who don't have a calculator to hand, which is way less than the 25% they were touting last time. I'm not sure what Lewisham's current target for affordable housing quotas is, but I'm damn sure it's not as low as that!

I was also very interested to see that the introduction to the brochure, focussing on The Masterplan, has given the details of the outline planning application and its various types of land use in square footage, casting us back into the mists of Imperial units.

This is very curious. Or perhaps not; my inner cynic advises me that it's just to make comparison with the previous application a bit more onerous. And my inner cynic has also warned me that this is probably because they have got something to hide.

Well here it is folks: I've done the maths, as they say, so you don't have to. Check it here if you wish.

Original proposals:
Cultural & community space 14,400m2

New proposals:
Arts & cultural uses 100,000ft2 (9,290m2)

Of course there may well be an 'innocent' explanation for this, but my inner cynic has just chipped in with "Don't you think they would be bigging up the amount of arts and cultural space as much as they could, with whatever they could shoehorn into that category? And anyway why the hell do you think they have changed it to square footage now when they could have just cut and pasted the previous numbers?"

I'll be posting information, renderings and more comments on here when they become available - apparently by Thursday on the developers site here.

In the meantime, you can read my previous posts about this project by searching 'convoys' in the box on the right hand side.

Please add comments below if you found out any more interesting information at the exhibition.

Meanwhile the Shipwright's Palace has posted an incredibly beautiful and moving description of what things could be like if the imaginations and ambitions of our local experts, campaigners and visionaries are nurtured and allowed to participate fully in this process.

Jamaican food on Deptford Market

Deptford Market has a new food vendor selling home-cooked Jamaican food on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

I noticed the stall on Wednesday but didn't get to try the food as I had already eaten. Today I made a special trip to try it out for lunch, and decided to sample Jamaica's national dish, ackee & saltfish.

There's a range of dishes to choose from, including curry goat, beef & pepper stew, and curried chicken, as well as jerk chicken (which I have to say is next on my list to sample!) and some kind of fresh fish (perhaps it was red snapper, I'm not too sure) cooked whole.

For a fiver you get your choice of the dishes with rice & peas, a couple of slices of fried plantain, and some salad.

Portion size is impressive, and although there was a lot of rice, there was also a good helping of the ackee & saltfish. It was my first taste of ackee in particular, which I found extremely moreish (so much so that I've already looked up a recipe for making it at home!); the rice & peas was perfectly cooked and tasty, if a little more spicey than I'm used to, and the fried plantain added a lovely caramelly sweetness to the dish. To be honest the salad was rather dull, just a few slices of cucumber and tomato, and could have easily been omitted from my point of view, although would probably be a welcome companion to the jerk chicken.

Overall...? The following picture probably sums it up nicely.

The guy running the stall was very friendly and keen to explain the dishes and their ingredients, and overall the food hygiene seemed to be of reassuringly high standards.

At a fiver, it's a little more pricey than the other takeaway stalls on Deptford Market, I worry that they might find it difficult to attract the penny-wise shoppers in Deptford. They might want to consider making the jerk chicken available at a price per drumstick if they don't already, for those people who only want a small snack (and who might be persuaded to buy the whole meal if they like what they taste). I will certainly be going back to try the other dishes.

Community night at Silent Cinema; 30 July

If you fancy checking out the Silent Cinema at the Deptford Project but can't afford tickets, or if you just live in the area and fancy a nice freebie, Saturday 30 July has been nominated as this year's 'community screening'.

The film being shown is Grease which I think is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or you hate it. In spite of its dreadfully anti-feminist message and implication that bad girls get what they deserve etc, I loved it as a teen and still can't totally dispel this emotion. I blame it on weeks of being subjected to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at number one on Top of the Pops. Tell me about it, stud!

For those of you too young to remember it, and those too old to care, here's the fateful song. And while you are watching the actors (including Stockard Channing, future First Lady in West Wing!) strut their stuff, don't forget they are supposed to be teenagers...!

(you will have to click through and watch on Youtube)

To get your name on the guestlist, send an email to Doors open at 7pm and the film starts at 9.15pm. I believe food and drink will be available for purchase beforehand.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seager Distillery art gallery under threat

I'm sure many of you consider me an old cynic when it comes to developers and their particular visions for Deptford. And I worry that there seem to be a lot of people out there of the opinion that because Deptford is a poor and deprived area, any manner of improvement (for this read 'construction of new buildings/facilities') should be applauded and is almost certainly more than we deserve.

I'm afraid I don't subscribe to this view, and luckily I'm not alone in this. I can't see why we should settle for anything less than state of the art - of course mostly we do have to settle for something less, but there's no harm in setting your standards high in the first place. Set them at mediocre or low and there's nothing to aim for - and developers will soon exploit this lack of concern even further.

Unfortunately my cynical attitude is regularly reinforced by experience, and a recent application for a revision to the original planning permission by the developers of the Seager Distillery has continued that trend. 

The developer was originally granted planning permission to convert the old distillery building that fronts on to Deptford Broadway into a ground-floor art gallery and six floors of office space.

But now they are claiming that they've had no interest in the office space, but have been approached by a hotel chain wanting space for a four star hotel with 90 rooms.

The old distillery building would be perfect, if it weren't for that pesky art gallery on the ground floor which is putting the mockers on the plans.

Easy; just shift it round the corner into the ground floor of the newbuild on Brookmill Road.

So rather than giving it the promised high-profile location on a major traffic route, and the opportunity to signal Deptford's art credentials to the wider world, the developers want to tuck the gallery out of sight in a smaller, uninspiring space with limited marketing potential.

It's not difficult to see why the developers want to change the office space to hotel space - and pronto if they intend to cash in on the Olympics of course, as I think it will take some clever marketing to sell rooms in a 4* hotel on Deptford Broadway under normal circumstances - but it really should not be done at the cost of the gallery space, which after all is one of the few benefits that the local community will gain from the development.

If you wish to object to this application, you can find the documents here by searching for the application number DC/11/76500/X.

Objections should be sent as soon as possible, the target date for a decision is 3 August.

The Pecking Order

by Cortney Cogswell

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed personalities develop in the flock. We all know that there will be one alpha male and female, as well as one or two that will be “henpecked.” But nothing much is said about the other personalities that may show up in a flock. Just watching their antics have given me a little insight about the boys and girls.

One I’ve noticed in the evening is a hen that we’ve dubbed “the census keeper.” Each night she stands to one side of the chicken door to the coop and waits for everyone to make it inside. I can just almost hear her say, “Good evening, welcome home!” to everyone. And she is usually the first one out of the door in the mornings. If we wait too long to let them out in the mornings, we get a mouth- ... er ... make that a beakful! ... of noise while she exits.

Cogburn, one of our roosters, has taken the job of sentry. Throughout the day he will walk the perimeter and check out what’s outside the fence. If one of the dogs goes anywhere near the fence Cogburn is one of the first ones there. He is also the one to sound the alert when a predator flies overhead. With a sort of strangled chirp that he has right now, he lets everyone know to run. And they run right under the coop as a whole. They do the same when the sun comes out from behind the clouds. It’s funny to hear him give the warning, because he just hasn’t mastered the crow yet. He tries, but it sounds pathetic. We love him anyway.

Another rooster, who we named Hopper, hops around and tries to flirt with the ladies. He’ll jump on them and get in their faces, and right up in the lens of our camera. This ladies’ man is good at his job already but sometimes comes into a little resistance from the biggest hen we have. She makes sure everyone knows she’s the big momma around the pen.

We haven’t named her because she will make the dinner cut in time. As with any hierarchy, there are Top Chickens and the Lower Peons. So far we haven’t had a problem with bullying all that much. Which I’m very surprised about. We give the kids a lot to play with, such as things to climb on and things to push around the pen. There are a few stumps that are in the process of being uprooted that they love to scratch at. It’s a good place to dig up critters. We also put a huge timber, with tons of nooks and crannies, in the pen. I like to put treats and grass clippings in there. That will occupy a few of them for hours. Maybe this is why they aren't picking on one another. They are to0 busy to bully. Works for me!

From the very first day we started building the coop, Jim told me not to name many of the chickens. Giving something a name gives it a place in your heart, and my Jim knows me well. I have a big heart for almost any animal, and he knew if I named them all we would never be able to have chickens in the freezer. Some other chicken owners ask me how I could think about such a thing. Most of them treat their chickens as pets and only pets. While I love my boys and girls, I do realize that they are a form of self-sufficiency. And they are, by tradition, a way to provide fresh food for a family. But, as I explained to my friends, that doesn’t mean I love them any less. They're going to provide me with food. Why shouldn’t I love them?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living Streets campaign; make your views on betting shops known

Living Streets is billed as 'the national charity that stands up for pedestrians' but its latest campaign 'The local joke' is intended to address an issue that would probably be billed more appropriately as standing for local shoppers, residents, businesses, sustainable communities and so on.

I was delighted to come across this campaign, which includes a template letter that you can send to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities, who is apparently reviewing the planning rules for change of use in buildings such as pubs, banks and building societies.

Please visit the website and make your views known. It's a good idea to personalise the template letter with your own comments, perhaps bringing in the Deptford experience, to make it more forceful.

What's more, tell all your friends.

Meanwhile, as Sue has posted over on Crosswhatfields blog, we have also seen some action by our MP on this issue at last, with Joan proposing legislation to create a separate planning use class for betting shops and enable local councils to consider demand when a new betting shop applies to open.

Beetles, Berries and Buffs

Japanese Beetles ... they're every gardener's nightmare. These pests (similar in appearance to a June bug) have been in the United States since 1916, supposedly carried into our country inadvertently on plants from Japan. Since their introduction, they have been slowly making their way across the United States. I can't think of an insect I detest more and they arrived in full force to my Midwest garden about four years ago. At the gardening clubs I belong to, each avid gardener can tell you the exact date they saw their first beetle (and what plant it was destroying).

The adult beetle dines on more than 300 plants, with its favorites including: roses, grapes, crape myrtles, fruit trees, berry brambles, linden trees and Japanese maples. They defoliate the plants or trees by eating the tissue between the veins of the leaf, leaving the leaf with a lacy, skeletal appearance. The larvae, or white grubs, feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil (they're especially fond of turfgrass).

Control of these beetles is limited to a few options ...

  • Hand-picking and destroying the beetle is the cheapest organic method, but with thousands of beetles present at one time this option is limited in its effectiveness.
  • Plant selection: When possible, remove the beetles' host plants and replace with plants/trees that are not on their "favorites" list.
  • Japanese beetle traps work by emitting a scent that allures the beetle to the trap. You'll end up with a bag full of beetles, but this method can actually attract more beetles to your area.
  • Apply an insecticidal spray before their arrival and then reapply as needed when the adult beetles are present and active.
  • Organic control (aimed at controlling the Japanese beetle grub) includes milky spore, nematodes and a naturally occurring bacteria (Btj) added to the soil. These methods are somewhat expensive, especially if they need to be applied to a large area. In most cases they take a few seasons to be effective, but once established they'll control the beetle infestation for several years.
So what's all this have to do with chickens?

I grow blackberries, raspberries and blueberries that I love and wouldn't you know, the Japanese beetles love them too. Last year for the first time, we had to use an insecticidal spray to control the beetles and protect our precious berries. This year, however, I have my beloved free-range chickens ... who have developed quite an appetite for berries and beetles. When I open the run in the morning, they make a beeline for the blueberry bushes, jumping for any berry or beetle they can reach. If I use a poisonous spray, I would be also be poisoning my chickens.

So what am I doing to control the beetles? Hand-picking ... and then feeding them to the chickens! If you can't handle a handful of squirming beetles then you can knock them off the leaves into a bowl of water. It makes a disgusting beetle-soup that the chickens love. I've read where some chicken keepers purposely put up beetle traps and use the beetles as a free organic chicken feed. Some even freeze the excess beetles to use as a protein supplement during the winter or offer them as a cold treat in the summer.

I have to admit, I enjoy watching the beetles meet their death and it makes me appreciate my chickens even more!

Though my older Buff Orpingtons seem to prefer the Japanese beetles on my blueberry bushes, my younger flock would rather jump for the berries. Here's a video of the little girls demonstrating their blueberry-picking techniques:

To see what else is happening on our Southwest Missouri property, visit ...the garden-roof coop.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Old Haberdasher

Formerly known as the Rosemary Branch, having enjoyed more recently an infamous period as the Black Flag, this rather handsome corner pub on Lewisham Way is now renamed and reopened as the Old Haberdasher. Myself and the Geezer popped down there last night to check it out

Considering it's only been open a few nights, the pub was fairly lively - I suspect everyone else was also checking out this new arrival on the New Cross pub scene. Staff were very friendly, first impressions were good.

Having never been in the pub before I don't know how the interior differs to what was there before, but it's certainly very smart now. Wooden floors, 'heritage' paint colours, slightly mismatched furniture, mostly regular tables and chairs but with a corner of banquettes and some of those high chairs for people who like to view the bar from an elevated position. The area to the right of the bar had tables all laid out restaurant style, so this place seemingly has either aspirations or delusions of grandeur, however you like to see it. Personally I'm not a fan of restaurants in pubs - fine if they have a dining room, but if it's a pub it should be a pub - and if you want to eat, the staff can bring cutlery etc to the table. The decor was fairly bland, nothing offensive but nothing characterful either - reminded me rather of the Duke on Creek Road in this regard. There is plenty of outdoor space at the front and an enclosed garden at the back, could be quite nice on a sunny day.

There was a choice of two real ales - Greene King IPA (meh) and Timothy Taylor's Landlord. I chose the latter; nicely kept and reasonably priced at £3.20. A third handpump suggests other ales might arrive in due course - let's hope something a little more unusual. Lager choice was Staropramen, Becks and Stella, prices from £3.60 upwards. There was an extensive wine list too. I particularly liked the fact that the prices of all the beers were included in the menus on the table - for some reason it seems to have become fashionable of late to dispense with price lists in pubs. I find it rather irritating in places like the New Cross House where they sell some very expensive lagers and there's no way of telling the price of what you are buying without asking (and even then the bar staff don't always know, they just press the appropriate button on the till).

The menu was typical pub grup - burgers, steaks, fish n chips etc with a range of ciabattas too - priced slightly above the norm. We didn't try anything so I can't comment on the quality, intend to rectify this in due course. They also have a short specials menu which seemed a little more adventurous - pea risotto, sea bass, etc.

Two things grated - the music was rather patchy, ranging from acceptable to MOR ballady-type stuff which was just naff. Hopefully this can be fixed quite easily.

The second is a little more permanent - the smallest toilet cubicles IN THE WORLD! The positioning of pan and door in the ladies toilets means that in order to enter or exit the cubicles you have to straddle the pan so that you can open or close the door! At the risk of being caught in the act and branded some kind of pervert, I took a photo to more easily demonstrate this abomination. Please forgive the vulgarity - after all a Dame should never be seen in this kind of compromising position - but I thought it was necessary to prove my point.

It's galling that the rest of the washroom is quite spacious, so the teensy cubicles were not created just so they could be shoehorned into a tiny area. Gents don't fret though, the cubicle in the men's toilets is suitably capacious for your manly thighs and large feet (or so I am told!).

The Old Haberdasher
44 Lewisham Way,
SE14 6NP

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Would You Do? My Chickens are Eating All Their Eggs!!

A reader has asked for advice on what to do about his 1-year-old flock of two Rhode Island Reds and three Wyandottes. They have begun eating eggs as fast as they are laid, and he wonders if he will have to butcher his entire flock.

I’ve done a bit of research on this, as I think I may have a “closet” egg-eater in my flock. Occasionally, I will go to gather eggs and find yolk or part of a shell stuck to another egg in the nest box. In my henhouse, it doesn’t happen very often, and I’ve never caught the culprit in the act, but I am concerned enough about this to want to take preventive action.

I’ve found that there are several things that could be causing this behavior, but the usual basis is either a diet deficiency, boredom or crowded conditions.

Chickens need a variety of things to eat—bagged feed usually has sufficient vitamins, but calcium needs to be added to laying hens’ diets. Low calcium levels lead to thin or porous shells that are easily broken. Small bags of crushed oyster shells can be purchased at your local feed store; I have a two-bin feeder that holds oyster shell on one side and grit on the other. Chickens also need Vitamin D (this helps their bodies absorb the calcium more efficiently), but if your flock is outside during the day, they shouldn’t need supplements of this. A free-ranging flock will also have access to fresh greens, bugs and earthworms that add more nutrients to a diet. Chickens also need lots of clean, fresh water; sometimes egg-eating is in response to lack of liquid.

Egg eating is a form of cannibalism, and because boredom is one cause of chickens “picking” at each other, it makes sense that boredom could also lead to egg eating. Once chickens develop a taste for egg eating and learn how to break eggs for that tasty snack, it’s difficult to change that behavior.

If your chickens are let outside to roam each day, you shouldn’t have a crowding problem. If your flock is penned, however, your coop should allow up to 10 square feet of floor space per bird, depending on the size of your chickens (and Rhode Island Reds and Wyandottes are good-size birds). Your coop ought to have at least one nest box for every four hens, and most sources say you should have at least six nest boxes, no matter how many chickens you have. I have seven nest boxes for 18 hens, but they often only lay eggs in three or four of the boxes. Sometimes with too few boxes, eggs will be laid on the floor, stepped on and broken, and this is the first taste the chickens will have of that yummy treat.

A flock owner can try several approaches to curbing egg-eating behavior. First, be certain that the chickens have a varied diet, plenty of oyster shell for calcium, and daily fresh water. Some sources suggest adding liquid whole milk to their diet for a few days, too. Strong eggshells will make it much more difficult for accidental egg breakage. Only serve scratch grain as an occasional treat, and don’t mix it in with your bagged feed.

If you can’t free-range your chickens, you might try a chicken tractor or portable coop to ensure that your birds are getting fresh greens and other yard delicacies. I also take all my apple and carrot peelings, leftover watermelon and cantaloupe, and (right now) bolted spinach from the garden in to my hens as diet additions. There have been several recent Community Cluckers blogs that talk about extra treats, too, and one last spring gave directions for building a neat “boredom buster” from a cabbage. Look for Cortney’s “Variety is the Spice of Life, Same Goes for Chickens” or Jennifer Burke’s “Boredom Buster."

Gather eggs several times a day. Because my birds often choose to lay their eggs in the same few nests, I think that my heavy Buff Orpingtons, jostling around on top of several eggs, can cause one or two of them to crack. Leaving eggs in nests, particularly if you know your birds have an egg-eating problem, is asking for trouble. Also, make sure that your nests have plenty of nesting material in them. I use shavings as a bottom layer, and cover them with straw. Eggs landing on hard surfaces tend to crack, too!

Some of the resources I consulted suggested darkening the nest boxes, with a tacked up curtain. This is one way to keep egg-eating chickens from seeing if there are eggs in the boxes. Another suggestion, from a Mother Earth News article (February-March 2010) is to raise the nest boxes 18’’ off the floor so bored chickens won’t be able to reach in. This article also suggests using nests that allow eggs to roll to a tray behind the nests, so chickens will not be able to reach them.

I found, in three or four places, recipes for things to mix in with broken eggs to make them taste so nasty that chickens wouldn’t want to eat them ever again. I haven’t tried any of these, but the basic recipe is a broken egg mixed with (your choice) several teaspoons of black pepper or mustard and chili powder, served in a bowl on the floor of the coop. I’d be interested in hearing the results from you if you try this!

If you have just one chicken that’s eating eggs, and you can identify which one, it might be best to cull that one.

If you’ve tried gathering eggs frequently, checked the diet and added more calcium, darkened nests filled with lots of nesting material, made sure your chickens have plenty of room and lots to do … and they are still eating their eggs, as a last resort before sending them all to the stew pot, you might try this:

Take a pair of nail clippers or small, sharp scissors and clip the point off the top mandible of the birds’ beaks. Just clip the point off the top: Don’t clip far enough in to make it bleed, and don’t clip the bottom. They’ll no longer be able to break the eggs with their beaks.

I hope this helps solve any egg eating problems in your henhouse. While doing the research, I’ve picked up some ideas that I’m going to try out in my own coop: I may raise the nest boxes a little higher, add curtains to a few of the boxes, and be more conscientious about gathering eggs frequently. If I can be sure which hen is doing the munching, I may even see about clipping her upper beak. And if all else fails, I have a great recipe for chicken stew.

Tea party at the National Maritime Museum

Anyone fancy reminiscing over a nice cup of tea in Greenwich this weekend?

Tea Party at National Maritime Museum, Sunday 17 July, 11.30 - 12.30, 14.30 - 15.30

What are you earliest memories of Greenwich Park and the Museum? Do you remember the allotments here during the Second World War? Or maybe it was the scene of your first kiss? And how would you like to see the Museum and Park used in the future? With the opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing the main Museum entrance will move from Romney Road to the Park side, modifying the local landscape once again. We'd love to hear your stories about the Museum and Park over the years to help us plan our 75th anniversary celebrations next year.

Please join artist Sadia Ur-Rehman, local residents, and Museum staff and volunteers, for a cosy tea party in the new Sammy Ofer Wing café. Delicious complimentary teas and cakes will be served, while Sadia uses simple parlour games to get your table talking. The conversations will be recorded.

To book your free place please email Sara at specifying which sitting you prefer. Places are limited to 20 per sitting.

Convoys Wharf exhibition of revised proposals 23 July

The developers of Convoys Wharf are holding a public exhibition of their revised proposals at the Albany on Saturday 23 July. I can't say the renderings of the waterfront fill me with excitement - what about you?

Here's the full text of the invite:

The Albany, Deptford, SE8 4AG (The Red Room, Ground Floor)
Saturday 23rd July, 10am – 5pm

Hutchison Whampoa and the development team for Convoys Wharf would like to invite you to a public exhibition of the proposals to regenerate this key Deptford site.

The Convoys Wharf project will transform a 42-acre brownfield site into a vibrant riverside community, bringing in over £1 billion of inward investment in Deptford.

The development will provide 3,500 new homes; 120,000ft2 of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars; a 300-room hotel; a new primary school; 550,000ft2 of employment and wharf uses and 100,000ft2 of arts and cultural uses.

Since submitting an outline planning application for the site in November 2010, Hutchison Whampoa have been working with the London Borough of Lewisham to bring forward some amendments to the proposed development.

The amended outline planning application for Convoys Wharf is due for submission to the London Borough of Lewisham in the next two weeks and the exhibition will provide information on the finalised proposals.

Members of the development team will be available at the public exhibition to address any queries and listen to your views on the proposals.

If you have any queries in the meantime, please phone 0845 460 6011 or email your comments to

I will be interested to see what amendments have been made to the proposals, and indeed whether the previous public consultation had any effect. Presumably most of the amendments have been prompted by comments from Lewisham's planning department. In the meantime there is an ongoing campaign to try and get a more thorough archaeological investigation carried out, and hence to get the developers to make more of the unique historical remains at the site. Of which more later.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here a Chick, There a Chick ...

by Jennifer Burcke

In my last post, I told my tale of creating a three-dimensional chicken cake for my daughter's birthday. I also promised to share the chicken-themed crafts that were prepared
for the birthday girl. It's only fair that I follow through on that promise.

As my daughter's chicken birthday celebration approached, I decided to make her a few chicken-themed gifts to mark the occasion. I am a knitter, so I started looking for a pattern that was chicken-related.

I found several patterns for chickens that leaned more toward the cartoon end of the spectrum. While I appreciated their humorous bent, I was looking for something more realistic. I knew that my daughter would love whatever I made, but I also knew that she would really treasure something that resembled our flock of chickens here at 1840 Farm. I spent hours looking at patterns before finding exactly what I had been looking for.

The Spring Chicken pattern was the clear winner. I gathered my knitting needles and yarn and started to work up the first chicken. I planned for them to be about 5 inches tall when they were complete. My hope was that my daughter would be able to use them when she played with her beloved American Girl Dolls. As I knitted, I could picture her playing with her dolls and using these chickens to pretend that they were chicken keepers just like her.

There was only one problem. It would be difficult for her dolls to be successful chicken keepers if they didn't have a coop. I am a fairly crafty person, but I really wasn't looking to create a chicken coop from scratch. We had spent most of last summer building our coop and I was hoping to take a long break from chicken coop construction.

I set out to finish knitting the chickens before starting on a play coop. As I completed each row of knitting, I thought about my daughter and how much she loved to imitate real life when playing with her dolls. I knew that I was going to have to find a way to make a coop for these yet-to-be-finished chickens. How I was going to accomplish that task was still a mystery to me.

I finished the first chicken and moved on to the next. I was still unsure how I was going to complete this little flock and make them a home in time for my daughter's birthday. Then, as I was attaching the wattle to the last chicken, I had an idea. At first, it seemed like it might be too simple until I realized that it was exactly the answer I had been looking for.

A birdhouse was going to make a fantastic base for the play coop. I purchased one from a local craft store and set about reconstructing and decorating it to look more like a chicken coop and less like a $5 birdhouse. First, the perch had to go. Luckily, it was small and quite easy to remove with a pair of wire cutters. I used fine sandpaper to smooth the spot where the perch had been. By the time I was done, it was nearly invisible.

Of course, I couldn't stop there. I decided that a removable roof might come in handy for moving the chickens in and out of the coop. In order to separate the roof from the base of the house, I had to use a screwdriver to pry it loose. Once I had, I used a little craft glue along the seams of the individual pieces to help reattach them and stabilize the roof structure.

From here, it was time to decorate. I enlisted the help of my mother, who is an excellent painter for this duty. She painted the pieces and added a few details that we knew my daughter would enjoy. We thought of painting it to match our actual coop, but decided that this was the perfect opportunity to indulge my daughter's deep love of all things pink. While I had held firm last year when she requested that we paint our chicken coop pink, I gave in here and was happy to make her play coop almost entirely pink.

My mother meticulously painted the doors on the side of the play coop to imitate the doors on the nest boxes of our coop. She added a sunflower and used the remaining circle base of the removed perch as its center. She painted the peak of the coop red to match our coop's peak. In a nod to my daughter's love of all things Harry Potter, she even painted the name "Henwarts" on the front of the play coop.

Using a small length of wooden dowel, a decorative chicken button, and a little glue, we even constructed a realistic looking weather vane for the top of the play coop. For a girl who had chosen a chicken-themed birthday celebration, this was shaping up to be the perfect gift.

When my son saw the coop and the completed chickens, he pointed out the gaping hole in my chicken gift-giving plan. I hadn't made any eggs for this play coop. How could I have forgotten the eggs after waiting so long for our own chickens to lay their first batch?

Luckily, it was still a few days before my daughter's birthday. My son and I sat down at the kitchen table with a few packages of oven bake clay and set about making a collection of eggs. I started working with white and tan clay to make a few eggs until my son stopped me.

He didn't want to make realistic looking eggs. He reminded me that this was in fact a play coop for a girl who loves all things bright and colorful. He wanted to make eggs in the likeness of our colored Easter eggs. He was right, so we did. After they had baked and dried, we had a lovely clutch of multicolored eggs to accompany the play coop and chickens.

When my daughter's birthday arrived, she was thrilled with the chicken-themed cake and handmade gifts. While the cake is long gone, she has spent hours since then playing with the coop, chickens and clay eggs. All of the time spent knitting, painting, and planning had been well worth it.

Here's hoping that next year's birthday will be just as memorable. Until then, I'm going to take a break from play coop construction, at least for the summer. I'll return to my chicken-themed crafting once the snow starts flying outside, not that I'm in any hurry for it to do so. I'll try and get a head start on the next craft project for my daughter's play flock. Who knows, when next year's birthday comes around, I may need to build them a chicken tractor.

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