R.I.P. Specs …  Obituary

R.I.P. Specs … Obituary

Specs in spring 2013

Sadly, Specs our big old grand daddy Muscovy drake went downstream and into eternity in August.  He was very old and had struggled to maintain his  rightful place at the peak of the pecking order for some time – John had to help him out with the aid of a gentle broom in the spring battles with the new boys.

He was named ‘Specs’ because he looked like he was wearing red glasses.  He needed them really, as this year he lost the sight in one eye.  It only added to his allure with the ladies, a charming wink still won them over.  During the summer, we noticed he was missing his landings – a few scrabbles up the netting meant he made some ungainly entrances to dinner. But when he very publicly missed the fence at Quack Cottage and fell into the garden we knew he was not long for this valley.

He’s been our emblem for years, standing his ground with all doggies great and small and unfazed by most.  Specs was already here and senior when John and I arrived five years ago and luckily he took to us quickly.  Corn played a big part in his choice of ‘friendships’.

His progeny clearly go marching on …

Hail, Specs ….

Tikka Chicken Grows Up – Meet Rita and Ora

Tikka Chicken Grows Up – Meet Rita and Ora

Tikka Chicken

Well, Tikka the chick who hatched at Easter at Watermill Cottages, has turned into a handsome cockerel with a splendid plumey tail just like his Dad, The Red Admiral.  Tikka’s Mum is a white Leghorn (pronounced L’gorn, looks like a cartoon road runner) called Marigold because she looks like she’s got a rubber glove on her head. 

Marigold, Mum, and Tikka

Tikka has turned out to have the Rhode Island Red russet breast which is speckled with soft grey; his magnificent tail, is pure grey.  His voice is breaking, producing rather squeaky cock-crows which are increasing in consistency and decreasing in warble.

The Red Admiral

As Tikka hatched in a duck nest and was raised by us (we didn’t want the duck to leave her eggs; hens take 21 days and Muscovy ducks 34 days to hatch) we found some two day old chicks to keep him company so he was socialised as a chicken not a human.  They are pretty tame and still come running when I call them, and RonnieBarker and The Other One will happily let me cuddle them and enjoy perching on my wellies. 


Of the four chicks we bought, Versarchie with the fabulous feathers is a cockerel, Pingu is a hen and RonnieBarker and The Other One we’re not sure about yet.  If they start laying eggs before the end of the month then I’ll be right about my hunch that they’re girls…  The Red Admiral has done some tango around them so I’m going with his sense.

We think RB and TOO are Australorps,  Versarchie (we don’t want a copyright issue do we) has some Wyandotte in there and Pingu – who knows, though all possibly have some Bantam in there somewhere as they’re small. 

Rita and Ora

A few weeks ago, Rita the Buff Orpington, hatched a couple of chicks though one was too weak and died when its yolk sac food had run out as it couldn’t eat.  The survivor is a feisty auburn chick which is just beginning to grow adult feathers.  It’s with Rita in the fruit cage which we’re using as a broody coop as it’s netted to stop overhead predator attacks.

No sign yet of a plumey tail like The Red Admiral, dad again, so I’m really hoping this one’s a girl, as some of my other hens are getting a bit old and don’t lay as often. 

We’ve called the chick ‘Ora’ thanks to Megan in Quack Cottage who informed me there’s a pop star called Rita Ora… fancy! I like to think it alludes to her golden colouring …

Glow worms in the lane

They’re back!  Glow worms spotted at dusk last week and this week outside Rose Cottage in the four wheel drive track.  Last year, they appeared in the sage bush outside the old mill house.

Like everything else in nature this year, they’re a bit later than usual  and we’re so glad to see them 

We’re generating our own electricity now the water turbine is live!

We’re generating our own electricity now the water turbine is live!

The Turbine Shed

Well, we’ve overcome floods, high water and manufacturing delays and at last our new replacement water turbine is generating power at Watermill Cottages.

We’re generating enough power to run our house and Barleycorn Cottage which has an ‘Everhot’ Aga-style electric range designed to run on self-generated power.  Excess power is exported to the grid – a ‘Wattson’ meter shows us how much power we’re generating and whether it’s being used here or exported.  We’re trying to use as much as we can on site as it’s more economic.

The old mill leat which used to channel water to the long-gone waterwheel now channels water to the forbay from where it is fed by pipes to the turbine.  It is so lovely to see the water flowing along the leat and trout making the most of a new shady place to swim.  And to hear the conversation, it is a real chatter, as it runs over the old leat stones.

To stroll from Crownwheel Cottage over the plank bridge and along the short track between the leat and the stream through the woods is a delight to the senses – deciduous woods, water gurgling, wildflowers, and dappled sunlight.  The bench by the weir, made from a fallen tree pulled from the stream, offers a place to rest and nourish your spirit, it is so relaxing there.

So once again, the old mill is in production, not corn but electricity.  A few steps closer to being self-sufficient and living more sustainably, harvesting the power of what flows naturally. 

Power to the people, as John says!

Devon Restaurant Month is June!

Special offers this June at many of Devon’s leading restaurants – have a look at Devon Restaurant Month website for deals, discounts and taster menus whilst you’re staying at Watermill Cottages

Blackpool Sands – Venus Café every Thursday night in June (6, 13, 20, 27), Devon organic 28-day-aged grass-fed sirloin steak with half a Start Bay lobster at the special price £19.99 per person. Booking essential.

Gara Rock Restaurant offer is 20-23 June

Local to Watermill Cottages are Waterside Bistro in Totnes, the White Hart at Dartington (in the beautiful grounds of 13th Century Dartington Hall) , Venus Café at Blackpool Sands, Gara Rock Restaurant (dog-friendly, on the Coast Path too) and The Old Market House Brixham.


Chick, chick, chick, chicken….

Chick, chick, chick, chicken….

two day old chick, Tikka

Well, Watermill Cottages has a new arrival! A chick called Tikka. 

When we were away recently  Marigold chicken (so-called because she looks like she’s got an inflated rubber glove on her head) laid a little white egg in the nest of a sitting Muscovy duck.  We watched to see what would happen, and ten days ago,  I heard a cheeping and pecking and saw a tiny beak through a hole in Marigold’s egg.

hatching …

Great excitement with everyone here, as we all had a go at holding it to keep it warm until I put in a punnet on the Aga where it hatched as I cheeped encouragement as cooked dinner.
As Muscovies take 35 days to hatch and chickens just 21 we wanted the duck to sit on her eggs to the end and not abandon them for one rogue hen.

John made a cage with a heat lamp and we were advised to find it some friends or it would grow up to be anti-social and with the wrong species-patterning.  It instantly recognised my voice for instance and still comes running when I call it – strange being a surrogate hen.

hatched …

Eventually, last Sunday we found some 2-3 day old chicks, and brought four back where we spent an evening enjoying a live  ‘David Attenborough’ experience in poultry behaviour – one side of their box is perspex so we can watch them, and oddly, they can watch us. They’re currently in the sitting room so we can check their water and feed easily.

Our own chicken, a Rhode Island Red/ Leghorn cross, we’ve called Tikka as it’s quite russety.  It now looks like a raptor beside the younger ones but they grow so quickly and already have wing feathers sprouting. 

Watch this space for more news – please let them be hens not cockerels!

The swallows have returned to Watermill Cottages! I was digging some worms in the kitchen garden yesterday to see how our few-day old chicks would react to real meat (as they’ve been hatched in an incubator or Aga I’m having to teach them certain basic life skills) and I heard a new bird call above the long-tailed tits, grey wagtails and blackbirds.

Yes! I looked up and swooping above me were swallows, forked tails printed on blue sky. They’re back! It’s really spring!

We’ll be checking over the weekend to see for the return of the usual pair that nests in the porch at Barleycorn Cottage’s front door.

20% off Woodlands Family Theme Park when you book online

Woodlands Family Theme Park, near Dartmouth, is close to Watermill Cottages and a great place to take the kids if the weather isn’t kind.

There are all kinds of rides and attractions including a zoo farm and lots of water activities as well as cafes and restaurants.

Get  20% off ticket prices by booking online at http://www.woodlandspark.com/book-online

Woodlands is open from now until November 3 2013.

Have fun!

First twin lambs at Watermill Cottages!

First twin lambs at Watermill Cottages!

first lamb of spring at Watermill Cottages – we called him Lambo …
… he arrived in the Gara Valley on Sunday morning and had a bit of a struggle to start drinking as he couldn’t suck very strongly.  Jade had to milk the ewe and hand feed him so he digested the vital first mouthfuls.  One he started though there was no stopping him. 

 This afternoon, the second birth – twins this time!  The ewes are Lleyn sheep and the ram is Jade’s Jacob ram Jessie, hence they’re little black lambs.  One has a patch of white curly hair.  They were up and suckling immediately.  Eighteen ewes to go…

Watermill Cottages – now on Facebook and Twitter

Our five peaceful, dog-friendly self-catering cottages  Watermill Cottages are now on Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, we’ve finally joined so we can share more about what’s happening with the cottages and land, post pictures of this unique & beautiful coastal valley,  keep you up to date with our smallholding and how we’re trying to live more sustainably.

Local news, stories, offers and events around Slapton, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and the South Hams.

You can find out about last-minute offers, follow what’s happening, show your family and friends where you went on holiday. We promise lots of photo galleries and not too many words!

Like Watermill Cottages on Facebook and follow Watermill Cottages on Twitter

Thank you!