Happy New Year! and see below for info about my Sale on Etsy & my series on The Twelve Days of Christmas …..

My “12 days of Christmas Sale” is running in my ETSY SHOP 

For more details, please see my post on  julzcrafts.com

I have also been writing a series of posts, on julzcrafts.com, linked to the Christmas Carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and following parts of a post that I found online, originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013).

I should have written it on this blog, as its about the birds & poultry featured in the Carol.  So I’m belatedly, copying today’s post here, and if you are interested, you can check out the rest of the posts, and the one’s planned to continue until the end of the 12 Days period between Christmas Day and Epiphany (6 January).

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

Five Gold Rings


Illustration of “five gold rings”, from the first known publication of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1780)


I’m deviating from the original article I have been basing this series on for the 5th Day of Christmas, as its difficult enough to relate Gold Rings to birds, although this “may have referred to Ring-Necked Pheasants, or perhaps to Golden Pheasants. Those original meanings unify the verses around a bird motif.

Both of them are natives of Asia but have long had successful populations in Europe and the British Isles. The Romans probably introduced them to Europe during their Empire. Pheasant were accepted residents of Britain by the 10th century.” 

I’m not convinced this is the best interpretation!  After all, the whole song is not just about birds, but it’s fun to try and link them anyway – and FIVE gold rings do seem to be a bit excessive, even if it was for a ‘true love’!

The Radio 4 “Tweet of the Day” has chosen another bird, and you can hear it here;



a British Goldfinch in flight showing the yellow ‘flash’ on wing feathers – some American Goldfinch have bright yellow bodies!

“As actress Alison Steadman outlines the refrain Five Gold Rings in the song is a recent thing, having emerged as an Edwardian addition to the song when Frederic Austen composed the music we know and love today. Yet in the century before that, a small colourful bird captivated Victorian society like no other. The goldfinch.”

PS:  In the past, some international readers have had problems listening to BBC iPlayer links – especially in the USA.  If you manage to get to the page without any problems, you may be able to download the file – its only 2 minutes long – and listen to it on iTunes.

Please do let me know if you have any difficulties, or even if you can access it – as its good to know.  You may have to register with the BBC site – this is a consequence of the new rules and regulations on paying for tv licences if you watch programmes online. A pity really, because the BBC always prided itself that it was available worldwide!


My Christmas Card With All Good Wishes to YOU

It’s one of my old photos, taken on a large format camera – the roll of film slipped.

A happy accident as  I liked the effect so much that I published it as a postcard, and as two different greetings cards.

see – the Julz Cards page, if you want to have a look at my other old cards – smile



A Guide to Duck Shelters for Winter

I’ve currently got two pairs of call ducks – unfortunately the two original white males have disappeared – I know not where – so I have been doing a bit of research, and as a way of keeping some of the information, I am copying this post that I found in the online Countryside Magazine – the original post can be found here.

With their double coat of waterproof feathers over thick, warm fluffy down and a layer of body fat, ducks (regardless of duck breeds) are exceedingly cold-hardy. They love being outdoors year-round in most climates, perfectly happy playing in the rain and even the snow. Duck shelters don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. But providing your ducks a place to occasionally get out of the elements, especially the wind, is important.

Older ducks, any suffering from one of the (fairly uncommon) duck diseases, those molting, or young ducks just growing in their adult feathers do run the risk of becoming chilled or suffering hypothermia in extreme cold temperatures. Here is some information about ducks and duck shelters to help you get your flock through the winter as comfortably as possible.

Your night duck shelter should be draft-free, but well-ventilated, since ducks emit a lot of moisture when they sleep, and that moisture can lead to frostbitten feet. Unlike chickens, who come equipped with vulnerable extremities in the form of combs and wattles that often suffer frostbite, ducks only have to worry about their feet, so be sure to line the bottom of the duck shelter with a nice thick layer of straw. Although you can use shavings or hay for bedding, straw is a superior insulator because of its hollow shafts that trap warm air inside and provide a nice soft bed.

Stacking straw bales along the inner walls of your duck shelter (if there is extra room), is helpful because they not only take up some of the cold, dead air space, your ducks often like to squeeze behind them to sleep, which also helps them to keep warm.


Duck shelters should never be heated. For one thing, the ducks don’t need it, being perfectly capable of pulling their feet up against their warm bodies and tucking their head under a wing to sleep, but more importantly, heat can cause fires so easily, and the heat also creates moisture – which can lead to frostbite.

Ducks are extremely vulnerable to predators, especially at night, so for their safety, they should be locked inside a secure duck shelter. A chicken coop, shed, doghouse or even child’s playhouse all can be converted into a great duck shelter with the addition of a solid door with a predator-proof latch on it and some ventilation spaces cut high up on the sides and covered in 1/2″ welded wire. Ducks don’t roost to sleep like chickens, they are perfectly happy making a bed in the straw on the floor, and they will lay their eggs in a corner of their shelter, usually in the pre-dawn hours, so neither roosting bars nor nesting boxes are required. I have had some luck filling wooden boxes with straw and having our ducks lay in them, but more often than not, they prefer to make their own nests on the floor.


Adult ducks don’t need feed and water overnight – and in fact, will just make a mess if you do provide them a nighttime meal. One caution though: If you remove the water from your duck house, be sure to take out the feed as well, because ducks can easily choke if they eat without having water to help wash the feed down.

When snow covers the ground, your ducks will still love being outside, as long as you create a wind block in a corner of their pen using tarps, sheets of plastic, landscaping (low shrubs, bushes, and trees), bales of straw or plywood. They don’t seem to mind the cold but don’t like the wind. Even banks of snow pushed up against the run fencing provide a great wind block for them.

It’s easy to build a few simple A-frame structures out of plywood and some scrap boards for your ducks to sit in during the day in the winter. They don’t have to be very large, just enough to fit a duck or two. These protect them from the wind as well as aerial predators (if you free range your ducks) and will encourage your ducks to spend more time outdoors getting fresh air.

Ducks love to sit in the snow too though. To protect their feet from frostbite, they will tuck them up under their feathers against their warm bellies, same as when they sleep in the winter, or stand on alternate feet, pulling the other foot up against their body to rewarm the blood. However, shoveling and then putting down some straw paths outside over the snow will help your ducks navigate outside more easily and give them a place to curl up more comfortably.

For the most part, these few tips should help prevent frostbite since ducks do have very elaborate, efficient circulation systems in their legs and feet, but if you notice a duck sitting and not moving around much, if she has ice forming on her feathers or her feet start to turn black, get her inside and warmed up. Smearing some coconut oil on a duck’s legs can help protect them from frostbite if you have concerns.


Brexit staggers under the burden of ignorance – and DUP leader Arlene Foster

I wouldn’t normally go on about the subject of Brexit, see my previous post, it’s a mess any way you look at it!

Britain PoliticsBut, just as there seemed to be some way through the tangle of money, egos, grandstanding, and the views of 27 European countries half of whom seem to want to  strangle Britain – simply because it NEEDS to leave the group (European Union) ……..  along comes Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP (Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party) who are now ‘propping up’ Teresa May’s fragile majority in the House of Commons, and refuses to play ball.

OK, she has a point.  After all those years when terrorism reigned in Ireland, and the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was a killing field, we have finally had a few years of peace, a peace that took years and much work to achieve, and no one wants to go back.


The border at Killeen (viewed from the UK side) marked only by a metric (km/h) speed limit sign

And yet. when we leave the European Union we will have a glaring weak spot.  Eire is not part of ‘Great Britain’ and therefore are able to stay in ‘Europe’, Northern Ireland is, and will be leaving Europe.  All that will separate the European Union and the ‘United Kingdom’ will be a rambling border that runs through a great deal of unpopulated rural country, and border security is almost impossible to regulate.

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Ireland–United_Kingdom_border)

Even worse, all the politicians and those wise people who would normally say “this is the answer to the problem”, literally cannot see any way to solve it.  So we were going to try and continue our negotiations with a “fudge” –  ie: give us time, we’ll solve it somehow!

As I said before, I want us to leave the European Union, but we will always be part of Europe.  Its nothing to do with immigration, as I see it, its about keeping our independence.  When we joined in 1973 – and finally had a referendum in 1975 – no one expected that most of our laws would be made by Europe, or that we would be so tangled  up with rules about how straight a cucumber should be!  Let alone how expensive membership has become.

The Leaders of the Union are not actually voted for by the membership, and those making the negotiations so difficult for us have no political validity for their role.  We have been gradually allowing them to have the decision making status for the UK, without actually realising where they are taking us.  Plans are afoot to form armies, and tighter regulations to keep the members of the EU from making their own laws, as well as fiscal decisions.

To my mind, its definately time to get out.  It’s been great at times, there has been a lot of collaboration across the continent, within individual businesses and universities.  There is no reason for us not to continue with those, but we have become rather like children, allowing the parents to make all our decisions.


If only we knew how to do it!  We seem to have lost the ability to make sensible plans as the recent budget showed, and to have run down the NHS and the social services so badly with the Austerity Programme, that we have very little left that works, and have sold off so many of our assets

that we no longer own a great deal of our country!

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Brexit, Austerity and Money

BRITAIN-EU-POLITICS-BREXIT-BUDGETWe have just had the latest budget from Philip Hammond – he’s trying to turn round the vicious effects of Austerity with one hand tied behind his back – or is it both hands?

He told us how badly the country was doing, Austerity didn’t work (I never thought it would) and we are still borrowing huge amounts to keep afloat. And that growth is likely to be slow or non existent for the next 5 years.

But really, its not that bad, somehow we are going to find the money to build lots of much needed houses, rescue the NHS, sort out the Universal Credit Scheme (by leaving the hardworking low income families without any money over the Christmas period) –  and giving lots of concessions to the rich.

AND at the same time we are preparing to offer the European Union 40 Billion (pounds or euros – does it matter?) as a ‘divorce’ settlement, so that they might condescend to talk to David Davies about future trading arrangements.

Are we are all swallowing this??  There is a major mismatch here, and yet, so far I’ve not heard any of the media point it out.

And then, there is the latest nasty little snub from the European Union, that despite the fact that we all knew we were leaving, they allowed various British Cities to spend money competing to become Cultural icons, designed to attract lots of tourists – and have only just told them that of course they won’t get picked – we won’t be in the European Union by then!

I want us to get out of Europe – if you had any qualms about it – just look at the way they are treating us – and always did if truth be known.  They seem to have just wanted us for our money all along……..and guess what!