NORMALLY at this time of year, I am perpetually pulling broody hens out of nest boxes as they refuse to vacate their place for a waiting bird to lay their egg. Frequently I find two hens squashed into one nest, one determined not to leave and the other just wanting a chance to squeeze in and pop one out.

My poultry is giving me quite a bit of grief at the moment. The last lot of hens we rescued from the pie factory have been overcome by wanderlust. John found two of them well out of the village when he was taking the dogs a walk and had to come home carting two squawking birds, plus two dogs impatient to have a go at biting their heads off.

As I was never sure if I was returning the same hen back home, or if we had a gang of birds with wanderlust, I have decided to mark the offenders with an iodine spray John uses on the sheep. As a result I have several hens in a run all sporting a purple A on their backs so I know who the sinners are.

My literary reference to the red letter A that Hester Prynne was forced to wear in The Scarlett Letter, when she is socially stigmatised by becoming pregnant after having an affair. So although my hens are so culturally connected, without any cockerels in my flock, that is about as far as they can get in their search for a bit of passion. Perhaps that is why they were all wandering off.

Warning signs are also quite a speciality of my friend Maggie. Having had five children, her house can be an eclectic mix of hotel/B&B, as friends and family and extended family visit or lodge there, me included at times. So in pursuit of keeping some sort of order and ultimate control of the kitchen, Maggie has resorted to stern notices to ensure her family toe the line.

For example, on a saucepan of what looked like to the family as murky water.. “This is stock. Do not throw away”...... following her husband’s Bill’s callous jettisoning of bone broth that had taken five hours to simmer to perfection. Her son George, though, who still lives at home and is also likely to sin by eating up left overs reserved for another meal, has the measure of his mum. Seeing a stern notice pinned on the oven door instructing the family to leave the cooker controls well alone so that no-one tried to use the grill mode and thus incinerate a pavlova that was drying out in the oven, he scribbled his own addendum. “Or mum will destroy you and eat your soul”.